Chapter 3: Air Attack (B-GA-403-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Aerospace Shape Doctrine)



Force application against targets on the surface shapes the physical and psychological battlespace in favour of friendly objectives. This includes aerospace operations that directly support friendly surface forces and those which target joint-priority or strategic targets independently of friendly surface forces. Just as in the counter-air battle, demand for an air-attack capability against surface targets nearly always exceeds resource availability. Centralized command, coordination, tasking, and control are vital to meet the many competing warfighting priorities.

By nature, aerospace Shape-related operations contribute to joint fires, manipulate the battlespace in support of the attainment of military objectives, and are normally associated with the operational and tactical levels of war. When deliberately targeting adversary centres of gravity (CGs), air attack missions can have significant strategic effect and typically involve:

  1. destroying adversarial surface forces and their supporting infrastructure;
  2. curtailing interference from hostile surface forces;
  3. inhibiting an adversary’s ability to manoeuvre;
  4. denying an adversary the ability to concentrate their forces; and
  5. disrupting an adversary’s command, control, and communications capabilities.

The aerospace characteristics of speed, reach, elevation, payload, and precision enable shaping of the battlespace in ways that surface forces cannot. Joint operations directly supporting the maritime, land, or special operations forces require detailed planning and synchronization at both the operational and tactical levels. Independent operations require an equal degree of planning but are synchronized at an operational level and conducted against prioritized targets in support of the joint task force commander's (JTFC’s) intent and desired end state.

Air-attack operations require enabling support from other air assets including air-to-air refuelling (AAR), command and control (C2), electronic warfare (EW), and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Air attack operations are in large measure condition dependent and demand an acceptable level of control of the air. Should an adversary possess a credible counter-air capability, these operations may be curtailed or rendered less effective.

This chapter provides a general overview of the aerospace air attack capability, which includes the aerospace roles of: counter-sea, counter-land, special air operations,[1] and strategic attack.[2] These roles, along with the associated aerospace missions, shown in Figure 3-1, are further described throughout this chapter.

This figure illustrates the aerospace air attack roles. The air attack capability is divided into four roles: counter-sea; counter-land; special air operations; and strategic attack. Each role conducts missions. The three counter-sea missions are: antisurface warfare; anti-air warfare; and antisubmarine warfare. The four counter-land missions are: air interdiction; aerial fire support; tactical security; and direction and control of fire. The three special air operations missions are: specialized air mobility / personnel recovery operations; aerial fire support; and overwatch. The strategic attack mission is precision strike.End of figure 3-1.

Figure 3 1. The aerospace air attack capability


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Counter-sea aerospace operations are conducted to attain and maintain a desired degree of maritime superiority through the destruction, disruption, delay, diversion, or neutralization of adversary air, surface, and subsurface threats in the maritime domain. Air operations that are not conducted in direct support of maritime objectives but overfly or occur in close proximity to maritime forces still require significant coordination.

Maritime forces are organized and deployed based on the general concepts of containment, defence in depth, and initiative, and maritime power is well suited to meet the challenges of each; however, by partnering with kinetic and non-kinetic aerospace power, the limitations of line of sight and relative slow speed can be mitigated or overcome. Aerospace power in the maritime environment extends the reach of maritime operations, facilitates manoeuvre, and enhances awareness, through the following aerospace characteristics:

  1. Elevation. An aircraft significantly extends the sensor range of traditional naval systems which are, practically speaking, near-surface based. By linking with an aircraft at 30,000 feet (9145 metres), the Navy’s recognized maritime picture (RMP) / radar horizon is extended to over 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres [km]); thus adding to the Navy’s defence in-depth and containment efforts. Furthermore, the ability to manoeuvre in elevation facilitates combatant identification, over-the-horizon targeting (OTHT), and independent attack, while remaining relatively safe from adversarial contact, thus contributing to a commander’s initiative.
  2. Speed and reach. Aircraft can rapidly investigate many areas of interest and can be dynamically re-tasked and moved to developing areas of vulnerability/breakout more rapidly than a surface vessel. Aircraft can detect, reach, and engage targets at distances that would require hours or even days of sailing to reach. Therefore, with the ability to reach further, react more quickly, and switch rapidly from defence to offence, aerospace power can greatly enhance the Navy’s ability to address the concepts of containment, defence in depth, and initiative.

From a C2 perspective, airborne assets may be employed on operations in the maritime domain either independently or integrated with a maritime force (joint):

  1. Independent operations involve aircraft operating remotely from a surface force and under shore control. These operations normally involve long-range patrol aircraft (LRPA), which can still interact with maritime elements but often operate beyond surveillance range and without direct communications requirements. Independent operations are normally planned and coordinated by the shore headquarters but will be synchronized with the efforts of the maritime force commander. The aircraft crew is responsible for navigation and collision avoidance and has tactical freedom to accomplish its task.
  2. Joint operations involve aircraft operating in the vicinity of a surface force under the control of a ship-based commander, known as the officer in tactical command (OTC).[3] Both LRPA and ship borne air assets (also known as organic air) can operate as an integrated element of the maritime force, prosecuting targets and conducting tasks based on the tactical and operational requirements of the force.

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Maritime aerospace operations. In the maritime domain, independent and joint aerospace operations are further defined using the terms direct support (DS), associated support (AS) and area operations.[4] DS is a joint operation; area operations are independent of the maritime force, and AS is a blend of the two:

  1. Direct support. Aircraft assigned in DS to a maritime force operate under the tactical control (TACON) of the OTC. Operational control (OPCON) remains with the tasking authority, and tactical command (TACOM) is normally delegated to the aircraft mission commander. The C2 of organic assets is somewhat different in that they are under the OPCON of their ship’s commanding officer (CO). Organic assets are assigned tasks as directed by the OTC or naval warfare commander[5] through the CO. DS operations are normally conducted in close proximity to the maritime force. The radius of direct support operations about the force will be determined by the OTC and will vary according to: 
    1. the threat;
    2. the aerospace resources available; and
    3. area coverage desired.
  2. Associated support. Aircraft tasked on AS operate independently of other maritime and aerospace forces; however, their tasking is in support of a specific maritime force and the force commander’s mission. The aircraft crew will interact with the maritime force, receiving and providing intelligence and establishing any required area deconfliction measures. Generally, aircraft on AS operate at a distance from the supported maritime force, but within surveillance and communications range. The OTC of the supported force cannot take TACON of the aircraft unless authorized by the aircraft tasking authority, who retains OPCON.
  3. Area operations are conducted in areas within which adversary forces are known to be located, through which they are likely to pass, or within which it is desirable to deny them freedom of action. Area operations may be related to the protection of maritime forces scheduled to enter the area in the future or to provide defence in depth to distant forces. Land-based aircraft on area operations are under the OPCON of a shore-based authority (this authority will often be the maritime component commander [MCC]). TACOM of the aircraft conducting the mission is normally delegated to the aircraft mission commander by the tasking authority. Aircraft mission commanders will be briefed on the whereabouts of friendly maritime forces and whether they may react to a request from these forces to assist in the prosecution of contacts within the aircraft’s operating area.

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In maritime aerospace operations, land- and sea-based aircraft work in close coordination with naval surface and sub-surface forces to ensure the most effective use of available assets. Their aim is to detect, monitor and neutralize/ destroy the opponent; achieve defence in depth; and seize and retain the initiative. Underpinning these efforts is the accurate and timely compilation of the RMP, which is shared electronically and aims to present accurate position and vector information for all units, friendly or otherwise, within a defined battlespace. It is fed by the sensors and the intelligence generated by all participating platforms, whether land, sea, air, or space based. RMP can be developed at a tactical level, as in the case of a single maritime task force, or on a strategic and national level. An accurate RMP enables the maritime commander to manoeuvre and address threats efficiently and effectively. The characteristics of aerospace power provide obvious advantages over surface-based assets in the development of the RMP.

Maritime forces have three distinct warfare areas: antisurface warfare (ASUW), anti-air warfare (AAW) and underwater warfare (UWW), which is further sub-divided into antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and mine countermeasures (MCM). In order to more efficiently use available combat systems and resources against threats, the OTC can establish C2 sub-groupings along these lines, often appointing naval warfare commanders responsible for fleet ASUW, AAW, and ASW as well as a warfare coordinator for mine countermeasures. This division of responsibilities varies with the complexity of the tactical situation faced and will be detailed in mission message traffic. Aircraft supporting the maritime force will be assigned to one of these commanders and tasked accordingly. This assignment is often specified by the tasking authority but can also be made flexible in order to allow reassignment during a single mission. In all cases, execution of these operations requires deconfliction measures, particularly in littoral/ near-land waters.[6] These deconfliction measures are critical to avoiding blue-on-blue situations in a complex operating environment.

Maritime forces may be assigned operational areas that underlie or are in close vicinity to civilian air traffic areas/corridors. The situation can be further complicated if the force is within range of an adversarial air or maritime force. In these situations, maritime forces will comply with regional airspace control procedures and must be linked into any friendly air defence network and conversant with the defensive counter-air operation (DCA) plan. This is a situation where the OTC could be expected to assign a separate anti-air warfare commander who will be in charge of the surface force’s air defence.

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The term "littoral" can be defined in many ways, but most simply, it refers to coastal zones. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) defines the littoral as coastal areas and that portion of land which are susceptible to influence or support from the sea, generally recognized as the region which horizontally encompasses the land-watermass interface from 100 km ashore to 200 nautical miles (370 km) at sea, and extending vertically into space from the bottom of the ocean and from the land surface.[7] This roughly equates to the nearshore area within which conventionally armed naval vessels can exert an influence. Carrier-based aircraft, helicopters, and surface-launched land attack missiles change this dynamic, significantly extending the range and impact of a naval force on the land battle. The littoral battlespace is uniquely complicated in that littoral operations require close coordination of the capabilities of all three environments: air, land, and maritime. While littoral operations are often associated with some form of coordinated attack from the sea where friendly forces conduct an amphibious or marine air assault operation, a friendly coastal defence position or a friendly land force—with integral tactical aviation assets in support—advancing along the coastline with naval and air assets in support would also qualify. Each of these examples implies significant overlap between capabilities, effects, and operating areas, particularly those of the assigned aerospace forces. The littoral battlespace also offers an adversary opportunities in terms of using terrain and shallow waters to mask attacks conducted by land-based fires, mines, aircraft, fast patrol vessels, and submarines. Friendly aerospace forces play a significant role in neutralizing these threats. Ensuring the most efficient use and effective deconfliction of aerospace assets and effects in this complex environment requires robust joint doctrine and the close synchronization of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP).


Shipborne air assets pose unique C2 challenges, whether they are fixed-wing carrier-based air assets, helicopters, or unmanned aircraft  (UA). Shipborne air assets are often identified as "organic air," a term that emphasizes their close link to their respective ships. In many navies around the world, shipborne air assets are collectively known as naval aviation. This differentiates these assets from maritime aviation, a term which refers to aircraft operating in a maritime role but under the command of non-naval forces. Currently, Canada’s only organic air assets are maritime helicopters (MH), which are detached from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to the RCN on-board surface combatant or support ships.[8] Despite these close links, within the Canadian Forces (CF), maritime helicopter (MH) and LRPA are still considered maritime aviation vice naval aviation assets. While operating from a ship within littoral or joint operating areas, organic assets must nonetheless conform to the external aerospace structure. The greatest weakness of these assets is their sensitivity to the environmental conditions at sea. Aerospace power is typically sensitive to inclement weather, but at sea this can be exacerbated. While MH can operate effectively in conditions of very poor visibility and low ceilings, the lack of precision navigation aids can significantly limit carrier-based air operations. High sea states can also limit air operations.

MH and LRPA have similar capabilities and roles, particularly the more modern examples of each, such as the CH148 Cyclone and the CP140/A Block III Aurora. Each aircraft type provides a maritime force with an extensive array of sensors, including acoustic sensors and sonobuoys, radar, EW, and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) cameras. MH possess an advantage, given their ability to hover and high degree of integration with the supported force. LRPA possess an advantage in speed, range, endurance, and operating envelope, providing significant flexibility in terms of overall responsiveness and the ability to conduct very diverse missions.

Tactical air support for maritime operations (TASMO)[9] is that support provided by land-based fighters to maritime forces. While not normally considered maritime aviation, appropriately armed fighter aircraft can be significant force multipliers, particularly for a maritime force that does not include carrier-based air assets. TASMO can be offensive or defensive in nature, encompassing both the ASUW and AAW missions described in the following paragraphs, and is similar in scope to the counter-land air interdiction mission and the control-of-the-air DCA role. Detailed TTP govern and guide the use of fighters during these operations, streamlining the C2 challenges and minimizing the potential for fratricide.

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ASUW employs airborne, surface, and subsurface assets to locate, deter, track, and/or destroy maritime surface targets (surface combatants, merchant shipping, and coastal facilities). Aerospace capabilities of differing types and roles may be placed under control of a single commander to maximize weapon effects, minimize own losses, and optimize mutual support, while causing maximum attrition and saturation of adversarial air defences en route and in the target area. Aerospace assets armed with stand-off precision weapons (particularly when armed with maritime-specific weapons) are ideally suited for the ASUW role. Besides striking directly at an adversary’s shipping, aerospace assets can also be used to restrict an adversary’s freedom of movement through aerial mining.

The aim of ASUW is to prevent an adversary from effectively employing their surface forces and weapon systems. Fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, submarines, and surface vessels can carry out this task independently, but preferably as part of a coordinated attack. Aerospace assets extend force capabilities far beyond the line of sight of surface ships. Over-the-horizon targeting, conducted by both LRPA and maritime helicopters, significantly enhances a ship’s offensive effectiveness, allowing the vessel to engage with long-range weaponry while remaining relatively covert and outside of counter-engagement range. Historically, targeting information was passed by voice communications, but the advent of modern data-sharing systems such as Link 11, 16, and 22 simplify ASUW engagements significantly, providing all assets on the link with precise targeting information. ASUW action culminates in the targeting and attack of an opponent’s vessels, attacks which can be carried out by surface forces, both land- and sea-based, or by other airborne assets (an example of this is the TASMO mission mentioned previously). These operations can be carried out as offensive or defensive actions:

  1. Offensive surface action. To destroy, neutralize, or deter adversarial forces in order to maintain control of the sea area involved.
  2. Defensive surface action. To prevent adversarial surface forces from locating, pursuing and/or engaging friendly surface forces, convoys, or high-value units.

AAW involves operations intended to destroy or reduce an adversary’s air and missile threat. From a naval perspective, this is a defensive posture rather than an offensive one; therefore, all AAW missions conducted by aerospace assets are DCA missions focused on protecting the fleet. However, maritime power in the form of carrier-based air assets, naval surface fires, and surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) may be called upon to participate in the OCA campaign or be part of a larger air defence network.

AAW operations protect maritime forces, high-value units, or other vital assets from attacks from the air. Air threats represented by armed aircraft and anti-ship missiles generally develop rapidly; anti-ship missiles in particular can originate from air, surface, or subsurface and constitute a significant threat to surface vessels. Integrating airborne assets into naval AAW defences requires a significant degree of coordination and control due to the nature of this threat. Naval formations often possess significant anti-air capabilities in the form of point- and area-defence weapons. Aerospace power can contribute to the air defence mission by delaying, disrupting, or destroying the launch platform (ship, submarine, aircraft, or UA) before it launches a weapon. Deconfliction zones must be established around the fleet to delineate a transition from this airborne defence to a ship-based defence. In this way, the maximum effectiveness of all defensive weapon systems is ensured and blue-on-blue engagements can be avoided. These zones will normally be based on the longest range, ship-based anti-air weapon. DCA operating areas are established at an appropriate range beyond this zone along the threat axis. Picket ships may also be positioned up-threat of the force to act as either a passive or active tripwire. These are normally smaller units such as frigates, possessing effective point-defence and radar systems but no area-defence weaponry. This layered approach to air defence serves to increase the reaction time available to the maritime force and impair an adversary’s ability to develop a targeting solution or reach a firing position.

ASW denies an adversary the effective utilization of their submarines. The ASW protection of a force depends on the defence in depth and close coordination between ships, aerospace assets, shore-based facilities, and friendly submarines. Submarines are a significant strategic threat to shipping of all types, and countering this threat demands an extensive range of specialized capabilities to search for a submarine, localize, track, and then attack it.[10] ASW tactics are driven by whether the main aim is to detect or to simply deter the submarine from conducting operations in a given area. Blocking key avenues of subsurface approach (also called barrier operations), sanitizing a vital area through constant patrolling, and prosecuting submarines located by subsurface arrays are examples of ASW operations.

MH and LRPA are equipped specifically for ASW, carrying surface search radars, electronic warfare support measures, magnetic anomaly detectors, EO/IR, and both passive and active sonobuoys. In the Canadian context, the maritime helicopter (MH) is the only aircraft organic to the ship. Taking advantage of an aircraft’s speed, range, and on-board sensors and weapons, the ASW warfare commander is able to seize the initiative by rapidly searching large areas, sanitizing the planned route of travel, or establishing barriers to protect the maritime force. These operations can be done independently or in cooperation with other air, surface, and subsurface assets; the most effective ASW team is actually a combination of MH, LRPA, and submarines. LRPA can be assigned independent ASW operations where strategic lines of communications (LOC) can be blocked (such as the Greenland–Iceland–United Kingdom [UK] Gap in the North Atlantic) or intelligence generated by subsurface arrays can be prosecuted. The long range and endurance of an LRPA is critical to its ability to conduct these missions. Close coordination between maritime and air assets as well as sound water and airspace management through effective deconfliction measures are essential to the ASW battle.

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Counter-land operations are conducted across the land domain against land-based targets in order to achieve the JTFC’s intent. This can be accomplished either independently of, or jointly with, land-component operations. Aerospace counter-land operations produce effects in the short, medium, and long terms by delaying, diverting, disrupting, or destroying adversarial forces in close proximity to friendly forces, or follow-on forces, before they can be brought to bear. These efforts degrade the adversary’s overall ability to execute a coherent land campaign. When conducted independently of tactical objectives or where no friendly land forces are present, these missions target operational and strategic objectives such as an adversary’s LOC; command, control and communication (C3) nodes; and support elements located in the deep battle area.[11]

Aerospace counter-land operations enable friendly manoeuvre and freedom to attack while denying an adversary the same. These operations can be conducted across the battlespace from the close battle to the deep battle within an adversary’s strategic areas. Aerospace forces are generally unconstrained by battlespace boundaries and the topographical limitations that hamper land force manoeuvre and sensors. Aerospace counter-land missions can be executed by a variety of aerospace platforms; some are purpose built for the mission (such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II or Su-25 Frogfoot), but almost any air asset (fixed and rotary wing, manned and unmanned) with a counter-land force application capability can be utilized.

Aerospace power is fundamental to the success of the land battle, and when true integration of aerospace and land capabilities is achieved, mission success is likely to follow. In the littoral/near-land battlespace, naval capabilities such as ship-based air assets, naval surface fires, and surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) must also be integrated. Dedicated air and aviation specialists embedded within the headquarters and operational elements of supported land forces are key to achieving synergy and effective integration. The level of coordination required to successfully integrate and conduct the mission largely defines the type of counter-land mission undertaken. Aerospace component commanders must be intimately aware of ongoing surface operations and their rationale.

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The critical factor in the success of joint air/land operations is mutual understanding. For the supporting aerospace force this means a comprehensive understanding of the aims, intent, plans, and objectives of the supported land force commander. For the supported land force, this means a detailed knowledge of the strengths, constraints, limitations, and capabilities of the supporting aerospace force. This mutual understanding is fostered by integrated liaison, detailed joint planning, and effective communication.

The principal air-land coordination elements within the RCAF are the tactical air control party (TACP) and the G3 Aviation (G3 Avn) or air liaison officer (ALO) detachments. The TACP is an air force unit which forms just one component of the overall theatre air control system (TACS).[12] TACS includes various RCAF C2 elements, all of which are more completely explained within B-GA-401-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Aerospace Command Doctrine and its subordinate publications. An RCAF TACP is staffed with specialist personnel and embedded within the HQs of subunits of the supported formation.[13] In the context of the Canadian Army (CA), a TACP, G3 Avn, and/or air liaison officer is normally established at the brigade level or higher but may be established at a lower level where and when feasible and effective. Each layer is operationally subordinate to higher-level detachments.

The TACP is responsible to the air component commander (ACC) but responsive to the designated supported commander. The TACP has two principal roles:

  1. for the supported commander: advise on aerospace matters and enable the safe, effective, and efficient integration of aerospace capabilities with surface forces to achieve the tasks, missions, intent, and desired end state; and
  2. for the ACC: provide an intermediate-level aerospace C2 capability for airspace and aerospace assets and enable the safe, effective, and efficient execution of aerospace operations at the tactical level.

The G3 Avn detachments have similar responsibilities as mentioned above for the TACP; however, they are primarily focused on providing advice and C2 assistance for rotary-wing (RCAF tactical aviation) assets. ALOs may represent any specific aerospace asset or capability which may not be satisfactorily represented by either the TACP or the G3 Avn detachment, or in some instances, one or more ALOs may be the only aerospace coordination element provided to a specific land formation or unit.

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Many allied armies have aerospace forces (primarily rotary wing, but in some cases smaller fixed wing and/or UA) which are integral to their organizations in order to provide dedicated force application, mobility, and reconnaissance capabilities. Attack helicopters are examples of aviation assets which normally belong to an army. In the Canadian context and similar to the RCAF MH force which is considered an organic air asset of the RCN, the 1 Wing tactical aviation force[14] is the RCAF element whose primary function is "to support land force operations through the provision of aerial firepower, reconnaissance and mobility."[15] Hence, they are closely associated with the Canadian Army, are normally assigned tasks under the OPCON of the land force during operations, and provide a key air/land integration function on behalf of the RCAF.

Certain tactical aviation operations include elements of both the Shape and Move sub-functions. Air assault operations, defined as "airmobile operations in which combat forces land within direct fire range and conduct an assault,"[16] imply the use of a mix of air assets and normally involve transport helicopters supported by armed helicopters or other aerial fire support assets. Albeit these joint operations shape the battlefield, both the airmobile operation[17] and the related air assault operation are covered in more detail in B-GA-404-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Aerospace Move Doctrine.

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In broad terms and in the Shape context, aerospace forces have four missions in the counter-land battle: air interdiction (AI), aerial fire support, tactical security, as well as direction and control of fire. AI is distinct in that it requires a much lower level of integration with friendly land forces than the other missions. The remaining counter-land missions occur in closer proximity to land forces and, therefore, demand varying degrees of integration, specialized procedures, proficient crews, and specially trained ground personnel.

Certain key conditions tend to produce more favourable results for counter-land missions:

  1. a high degree of control of the air, either theatre-wide or local (an OCA intensive effort);
  2. the existence of target sets critical to an adversary and vulnerable to attack (an intelligence intensive effort);
  3. sustained pressure from ground combat and continued air attack (the requirement for the synchronization of effects and the concentration of fires); and
  4. favourable environmental conditions.

Counter-land missions require significant planning and coordination at the operational and tactical levels as well as significant levels of support from enabling resources such as air C2, AAR, and others. Similar to OCA and DCA in the counter-air context, different counter-land missions can often be accomplished by the same platforms and draw upon common resources. The four missions, however, are distinct with respect to the targeting process, TTP, and degree of integration with surface forces.

Air interdiction is defined as "air operations conducted to divert, disrupt, delay, degrade, or destroy an adversary’s military potential before it can be brought to bear effectively and at such distance that detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and manoeuvre of friendly land forces is not required."[18] The aim of AI is to attack an adversary’s fighting capability; targets may include adversarial combat capability and manoeuvre elements in the field or supporting components such as operational C2 nodes, communications networks, transportation systems, logistic nodes, supplies, and other vital infrastructure. Interdiction attack is a term which aviation assets integral to land forces use to describe their AI-related missions and tasks.[19]

The AI mission reflects the flexible and lethal nature of aerospace power. An effective AI campaign must be directed by a single commander who can exploit and coordinate all the forces involved. This may be conducted in support of surface operations or as a main effort against an adversary without the presence of friendly land forces. When integrated into a ground campaign, AI is used to channelize movements, disrupt logistics and communications, and deny terrain. AI can have a profound effect on the morale of an adversary and may lessen the requirement for ground combat. The AI mission can be conducted by a range of aerospace platforms including fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and unmanned assets.

In the joint counter-land battle, land commanders[20] will nominate specific targets, either individually or as target sets, for the respective phase of a campaign. Once approved, these targets will be integrated into a joint prioritized target list (JPTL), and deliberate AI targets will be assigned to the available AI assets. AI missions can also be planned within a geographic area where lucrative targets are known or suspected to exist. The area may be defined by geographic boundaries or other spatial dimensions. In this case, aircrew would be tasked to locate, identify, and attack valid targets of opportunity in the assigned area.[21] Finally, AI assets can be tasked with on-call air interdiction (XINT) with no designated target or operating area. In this instance, specific targets are assigned dynamically, using time-sensitive or dynamic targeting procedures. XINT can be an inefficient use of resources unless there is an abundance of assets and only a small number of pre-planned (deliberate) targets available. This condition is typical of the late stages of an aggressive and successful AI campaign. As demand nearly always outstrips capacity, overall AI efforts are prioritized by the JTFC.

Aerial fire support includes two main mission subsets: close air support (CAS), which is traditionally associated with fixed-wing assets, and close combat attack (CCA), which is a rotary-wing mission that is very similar to CAS in terms of effect but quite different in terms of execution.[22] The proximity of the action to friendly ground forces and the required level of integration with those forces differentiate aerial fire support from AI.[23]

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Vignette 8: Broken Arrow. The battle of la Drang was the first engagement between regular US Army forces and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN, the regular army of North Vietnam); it was fought in November of 1965 in the la Drang Valley of South Vietnam.

The US force, 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry Division (the 1/7th), was an under-strength infantry unit consisting of approximately 450 soldiers with light squad support weapons, all lifted by 12 helicopters. The 1/7th was deployed on what amounted to a "reconnaissance-in-force" operation to ascertain the disposition of PAVN forces along the Cambodian border. Unbeknownst to United States (US) intelligence, a People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forward operations base had been established in the area (all underground) housing over 1600 soldiers. Both belligerents were surprised by the presence of the other; fighting along a hasty and irregular front erupted upon first contact. By the morning of the second day, after a full day and night of fighting, the situation for the 1/7th was desperate; low on ammunition and with mounting casualties, one platoon (now down to eight men) was completely cut off and surrounded, and remaining forces were dug in facing a 360-degree perimeter. Throughout the early morning, PAVN forces probed the American lines while their main fighting force moved into position; the all-out assault on the American position began at 0730. Enemy fire was intense and evacuation or resupply by helicopter impossible. As the battle intensified, it was clear the perimeter was in danger of collapsing. The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (his command position now receiving direct fire), transmitted the phrase "Broken Arrow," code signifying that a US unit is about to be overrun.

All available aerospace power in the theatre (either airborne or on ground alert) was immediately dispatched to the battle area. This included bombers, fighters, gunships, and attack helicopters and amounted to a substantial amount of firepower. Lieutenant Charlie Hastings, a United States Air Force (USAF) forward air controller embedded with the 1/7th, controlled the aircraft and conducted strike after strike with guns, rockets, bombs, and napalm (some engagements occurring with no more than 20 metres between combatants); the attacks successfully kept the PAVN forces at bay throughout the morning.

Their attack blunted and casualties mounting, Vietnamese forces withdrew at 1000 after two-and-a-half hours of fierce fighting; hundreds of dead PAVN infantry littered the battlefield. It is estimated that more than 60 per cent of the Vietnamese casualties from the battle occurred during this engagement. At the end of the third day of fighting, the US position was secure and the 1/7th was ordered relieved. They suffered 234 wounded / killed in action (W/KIA), 50 per cent of the original force. The PAVN suffered over 1300 W/KIA, 80 per cent of their original force. Aerospace fire support is credited with saving the 1/7th from being overrun by a significantly larger enemy force and avoiding certain defeat for US forces in the valley.[24]

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The CAS mission is "air action against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and which require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces."[25] It is generally understood to refer to air action conducted by fixed-wing platforms. The term "close" does not strictly entail a physical distance; rather, it is situational, and proximity may relate to time, space, or effect. Therefore, the determining factor as to whether CAS techniques and protocols should be used is the need for detailed integration rather than proximity.[26]

CAS missions can be defensive and/or offensive in nature, but in either situation are intended to fix, delay, disrupt, or destroy adversarial forces. CAS missions ordinarily target adversarial combat elements and are one of the most flexible and dynamic force-application means available on the modern battlefield. The firepower and mobility of aircraft can make an immediate and direct contribution to the land battle, especially against targets that are either inaccessible or invulnerable to available surface weapons. CAS can be used to rapidly mass a lethal capability at decisive points in order to achieve local ground superiority or as a flexible reserve, allowing the commander to take advantage of battlefield opportunities. CAS effects can be kinetic or non-kinetic,[27] and as such, CAS should not be considered as simply another type of artillery. CAS missions can be used to deny key terrain, influence an adversary’s operations (this is particularly true with unsophisticated or inexperienced troops), and assist friendly forces with navigation or by marking targets. CAS has applications across the spectrum of ground operations, including offence, defence, stability, and enabling operations.

The key factor to success of the CAS mission is detailed integration between each air mission as well as the fire and movement of the supported surface forces. This minimizes the risk of fratricide while achieving maximum effect. CAS control requires specially trained and experienced ground personnel; these personnel are authorized and accredited by the air component commander to integrate aerospace fires. These personnel may be attached to surface formations as a TACP or be integral to the land unit as in the case of a forward air controller (FAC).[28] Effective CAS demands strict adherence to established TTP as well as highly disciplined and thoroughly proficient aircrew and controllers. Effective CAS also demands a high level of friendly control of the air; CAS is much less effective in cases where adversarial counter-air capability exists. Pre-planned CAS missions are scheduled and planned via the air tasking order (ATO) planning process but must always be reactive to the dynamic situation on the ground. CAS assets often assume an alert posture on the ground or airborne as on-call CAS (XCAS), allowing them to be more reactive to the commander’s requirements.

Close combat attack is a rotary-wing mission defined as "coordinated attack by armed aviation against targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces."[29] close combat attack (CCA) represents firepower used to destroy, neutralize, suppress, or harass an adversary. In land force terminology, firepower is viewed as a joint concept; it encompasses the collective and coordinated use of target acquisition data from all sources, the use of direct and indirect fire weapons, attacks by armed aircraft of all types, and the use of both lethal and non-lethal means. Tactical aviation resources may contribute to the firepower function as independent manoeuvre elements or may add their fires to those of the ground commander. Tactical aviation units enhance the firepower function by acquiring and designating targets, adjusting indirect fire, and directly engaging targets.

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CAS and CCA are largely synonymous in that they both apply kinetic and non-kinetic force in support of friendly ground forces across the spectrum of land operations. Each demands detailed integration with, and occurs in close proximity to, friendly forces. CCA procedures differ from CAS in control methodology and in the tasking process that assigns the mission to assets. Any armed rotary-wing asset may execute the CCA mission. These assets may have a direct command relationship with the supported land force unit, and the provision of CCA may only be one of a series of fire support tasks assigned. In terms of tasking, a CCA mission will not be identified as such on the ATO; the helicopter tasking will normally be much more generic, allowing the supported commander greater tactical freedom. In terms of control, the CCA crew is assigned a target and then conducts the attack relatively independently of the controller. By contrast, fixed-wing CAS missions are controlled quite rigidly.

Tactical security includes the armed overwatch and aerial escort missions. While the gathering of information about an adversary is primarily an element of the Sense function, these missions provide early warning, manoeuvre space, and protection for the main body, which are elements of both Shield and Shape. A tactical security mission is an ISR operation that is focused on providing protection for a specified force. The advent of new sensor technologies—in particular, electro-optical devices coupled with video downlink capabilities—has enhanced ISR capabilities and their application in the battlespace. Tactical security missions use ISR TTP but they are sufficiently distinct; thus, it remains useful to define them separately. A wide variety of aerospace assets can be tasked to conduct these missions, from helicopters to UA (armed and unarmed), LRPA, and fighters.

The armed overwatch mission can be considered part of the aerospace Shield function, but as it often involves the potential of offensive as well as defensive action, it is considered here as part of the aerospace Shape sub-function. The primary objective of armed overwatch provided by an aerospace force[30] is to deter attack and deny an adversary the opportunity to interfere with a friendly unit’s movement (dismounted patrols or ground convoys) or defence of a fixed location. These missions may be executed over any type of terrain and in all weather conditions; however, missions involving urban centres present unique hazards and substantial challenges. Normally, in built up areas, there are more obstructions and fewer landing spots for helicopters. Communications between land and aerospace forces may be interrupted by buildings or high ground. Traffic presents unpredictable hazards and may obscure otherwise predictable threats. The use of force in urban areas also comes with substantial collateral damage challenges and rules of engagement (ROE) considerations. Aerial convoy escort, one specific type of armed overwatch, operates in close proximity to both the route of advance and the convoy itself and requires close coordination between the aerial escort and the ground convoy. Armed overwatch missions routinely demand highly dynamic use of airspace and air C2, sound intelligence, and comprehensive surveillance.

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Vignette 9: Griffon armed overwatch. With the addition of the Dillon Aero M134 Minigun and the WESCAM MX-15 sensor, armed overwatch in support of troops on the ground became a viable task for the CH146 Griffon helicopter. The M134, with its precise, high volume of fire, is an ideal anti-personnel weapon in a counter-insurgency environment such as Afghanistan, where the enemy is dismounted and often in close proximity to civilians. The M134/MX-15 pairing allows the Griffon crew to positively identify contacts from a stand-off position and then manoeuvre to engage. Armed overwatch tasks fall broadly into two types: deliberate—where Griffon crews plan the mission in advance with the supported ground forces and develop a common understanding of terrain, threat, and ground scheme of manoeuvre—and hasty—where crews respond to a developing situation such as an improvised explosive device (IED) strike resulting in a troops in contact situation—and are initially handicapped by limited situational awareness (SA).

By 2010 during Operation ATHENA, a Griffon weapons team (GWT) section of two CH146s would typically launch on a routine armed overwatch mission in support of a Canadian battle group. Standard configurations saw each aircraft equipped with one sensor and two miniguns with ammunition. Additionally, one of the aircraft would be TCDL (tactical common data link) equipped and thus able to downlink its video to a ROVER (receive-only video enhanced receiver) station. While observing an area where a patrol had been ambushed by insurgents earlier in the day, the call "contact, wait out" comes across the radio: a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) has been monitoring the lead Griffon’s MX-15 feed using their ROVER laptop back at the combat operations centre and, thus, will be able to watch the entire contact unfold.

The section lead immediately asks for a grid reference, and the ground unit responds. The aircrew can hear the crack of a rocket-propelled grenade explosion and automatic weapons firing in the background of the radio call. Each MX-15 operator immediately inputs the grid into the sensor system, slews their sensors onto that location, and starts recording the video for later intelligence and operations analysis. The troops can be seen in a line, firing from behind a low mud wall a few kilometres to the south of the Griffons’ location. The troops are firing to the west, and the GWT can see the impact of the patrol’s rounds near the treeline from where they are taking fire. The GWT, en route to the troops in contact, calls the patrol and requests the enemy location be marked with smoke. On the way, the GWT section lead conducts a quick scan of the tree line, seeing that the intervening field is empty and confirming there are no locals caught in the crossfire. Within seconds, an M203 smoke grenade lands just short of the treeline, and via a series of short radio calls, the GWT verifies the exact location of the insurgents.

The same talk-on occurs in the second aircraft, to ensure that all crew members have shared situational awareness. The section lead conducts a quick attack brief on the shared communications link, and then the GWT rolls in overhead of the patrol’s position to allow the troops to continue firing without endangering the aircraft. The Griffons fire a 20-second burst, putting thousands of rounds of 7.62 millimetre fire into the treeline. The enemy is now being engaged from the ground and from above. While the GWT executes a sharp 180-degree turn to set up for an attack with the left-side weapons systems, the left gunner observes two insurgents with weapons running towards a hut. The MX-15 operator slews the turret to the new location and spots the insurgents; when cleared to engage, the gunner fires another 10-second burst—the firefight is over.

While the GWT continues to circle overhead of the patrol to scan for additional threats, the situation report goes out, and they standby to continue their support to the patrol.[31]

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The aerial escort of tactical aviation assets again overlaps between aerospace Shield and Shape. It is similar in principle to the OCA escort or DCA high-value air asset (HVAA) protection missions, with the exception that the escorting platforms are focused on protecting the escorted asset(s) against ground activity. Should an adversary possess a credible counter-air capability, counter-air fighters must be assigned to protect the entire aviation force, which would be a counter-air HVAA protection mission. Aerial escort missions are flown to protect aircraft when commanders determine the threat is such that intimate protection must be provided to utility and transport aircraft. The escorted force is referred to as the protected force (PF) and may be a single aircraft or a large formation. The purpose of aerial escort is to facilitate the safe passage of the protected force, allowing it to complete its assigned mission by detecting, suppressing, and deterring ground-based threats. Within tactical aviation doctrine, the three basic aerial escort techniques are attached, detached, and combined.[32] Regardless of the specific technique, the escort plan must be flexible, fluid, and capable of changing escort coverage as the situation dictates.

Direction and control of fire is another counter-land mission that has evolved greatly with the advent of new technologies. In the Canadian context, this mission has traditionally been conducted solely by tactical aviation forces but is now expanding into the LRPA and fighter communities. Subordinate tasks, requiring specialized training or additional crew members, include air observation post (air OP),[33] airborne forward air controller / forward air controller (airborne) (either ABFAC or FAC[A]),[34] and strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR). The airborne adjustment of fire, whether these fires originate from field artillery, mortars, naval gunfire, armed helicopters, UA, or fighter aircraft, is an important force multiplier, dramatically enhancing responsiveness and overall accuracy.

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Special operations may be described as "military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained, and equipped forces using operational tactics, techniques, and modes of employment not standard to conventional forces."[35] These activities are conducted across the spectrum of conflict independently of, integrated with, or in coordination with the operations of conventional forces to achieve political, military, informational, and/ or economic objectives. Politico-military considerations may require low prominence, covert or discreet techniques, and the acceptance of a degree of physical and political risk not associated with conventional operations.[36]

Within a Canadian context, SOF units and personnel are organized, trained, and equipped to accomplish the following operations:[37]

  1. Counterterrorism (CT) operations. CT refers to the offensive and defensive measures taken to prevent, deter, pre-empt, and respond to terrorism. CT measures are mostly offensive actions such as hostage rescue, recovery of sensitive material, and strikes at infrastructure, but additionally, they can include mitigation and deterrent activities.
  2. Maritime counterterrorism (MCT) operations. MCT refers to operations within the maritime domain that are extremely complex, requiring a high level of expertise and special equipment to effectively and safely insert, fight, and extract from a target area.
  3. High value tasks (HVT). HVT refers to other operations, at home or abroad, that may be assigned by the Government of Canada (GC). They may be kinetic or non-kinetic and could include tasks embedded across the entire spectrum of conflict. Some examples include tasks such as:
    1. Counter-proliferation, which refers to actions to limit the possession, use, acquisition, or transit of weapons of mass effect (WME). It includes actions to locate, seize, capture, and recover WME and in some instances under the Proliferation Security Initiative, prevent the improper employment of dual-use materials.
    2. Special reconnaissance, which are tasks conducted to collect or verify information of strategic or operational significance. These actions complement and refine other collection methods but are normally directed upon extremely significant areas of interest.
    3. Direct action, which are short-duration strikes and other precise small-scale offensive actions conducted by special operations forces to seize, destroy, capture, exploit, recover, or damage designated targets. Direct action differs from conventional offensive actions in the level of physical and political risk, operational techniques, and the degree of discriminate and precise use of force to achieve specific objectives.
    4. Defence, diplomacy, and military assistance, which refers to operations that contribute to nation building through assistance to select states through the provision of specialized military advice, training, and assistance. Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) contributions are managed within the command’s areas of expertise.

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Special air operations (SAO) are activities conducted by specially organized, trained, and equipped air and aviation forces to support military strategic or operational objectives by unconventional military means in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas. SAO differ from conventional air operations in degree of physical and political risk, operational techniques, methods of employment, and independence from friendly support.[38] A special operations task group/force/unit (SOTG/SOTF/SOTU) is usually supported by a special operations air task unit (SOATU) or a formation of SOATUs in a special operations air task group (SOATG). A SOATG is a tactical-level group of special operations forces and conventional air and aviation elements that are specially trained and equipped to conduct or support special operations.[39] When conventional air/aviation units are assigned to support special operations forces (SOF) for the duration of an operation or a campaign, they are called a direct support aviation task unit (DSATU).[40] While some SAO may require discreet, covert, or low prominence techniques that may include air/aviation operations by, with, and through indigenous forces, which a SOATU could provide, other air/ aviation operations may only require habitual relationships with the ground or maritime SOTUs; thus, a direct support aviation task unit would suffice.[41]


There are a range of fundamental operational activities conducted by organic and direct support air and aviation forces in support of SOF to achieve operational and strategic effects. Specialized air mobility is one of the primary missions of SAO forces and can be conducted by fixed-wing, rotary-wing, or tilt-rotor aircraft. These missions might involve air-to-air refuelling (AAR), forward arming and refuelling point (FARP) operations, and personnel recovery operations. Other SAO missions include CAS, CCA, air-land integration (ALI), and ISR support.[42] Additional aircraft in a direct support role, but not certified as specifically SAO qualified, may augment the airlift, fire support, or ISR capabilities of a special operations force. These resources offer an important additional capability that helps the SOF commander address the full range of threats, environments, and requirements.[43]

In Figure 3-1, the following three air attack SAO missions summarize the wide range of missions that can be conducted in support of SOF operations:

  1. Specialized air mobility / personnel recovery operations. This mission includes the range of air mobility as well as the three personnel recovery operations of combat recovery (CR), combat search and rescue (CSAR), and hostage rescue.
  2. Aerial fire support. This mission includes both CAS and CCA as described earlier under the counter-land role.
  3. Overwatch (armed/unarmed). This mission includes overwatch by manned and unmanned aerospace ISR platforms, often operating as integral parts of a SOF operation. During the Finish phase of a Find-Fix-Finish direct action mission, manned ISR assets are considered critical to success.[44] This mission overlaps into the Sense (the ISR aspect) and the Shield/Shape (tactical security) functions as previously discussed.

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Aerospace strategic attack utilizes aerospace forces that can generally penetrate deeper into adversary territory than other forms of military force and, thus, can threaten, disrupt, or destroy adversary CGs at the military, political, or economic levels.[45] Such operations can involve destructive and non-destructive actions, or a combination of both, to create effects that result in the disruption of an adversary’s cohesion, will, or ability to wage war. By simply possessing the capability to conduct such operations, an air force can deter aggression, signal resolve, and reassure allies. When the willingness to conduct aerospace operations for strategic effect is demonstrated through presence or the suggested use of force, these deterrent and reassurance effects are multiplied. Force application in a controlled and graduated manner can and has been used to convince an aggressor to cease undesirable behaviour. Aerospace forces can conduct coordinated parallel attacks aimed at overwhelming an adversary or specific critical portions of their system, thereby inducing decision-making paralysis.[46] A pronounced strategic success may also erode the adversary’s civilian support for government, national policies, or aggressive activities.[47]

The key advantage of aerospace power is its ability to strike directly at the heart of an adversary, while avoiding both symmetric force-on-force attrition battles and the need to sequentially fight through layers of surface forces. Expected effects—not the specific weapon system, delivery platform, or the type of target attacked—define a strategic attack.

Strategic attacks can be part of a campaign, major operation, or be conducted independently as single missions. Used in this sense, the term "strategic" does not limit the strategic attack to the strategic level of warfare. Strategic attacks may be targeted against both strategic- and operational-level CGs and associated critical vulnerabilities, depending on what the JTFC’s overall objective is. Equally, when targeted at the strategic level, such attacks may achieve strategic objectives without necessarily having to achieve operational objectives as a precondition. Ultimately, the focal point of strategic attack is an adversary’s C2 system and their ability to render decisions or carry out a cohesive strategy or operational plan. The strategic importance of a target may either be its practical output or the psychological impact of the attack itself. Precision and target discrimination are crucial requirements of a strategic attack, as undesirable strategic effects can result from poorly planned or executed aerospace operations, undermining friendly strategic objectives. The unrestricted use of force and resulting collateral damage can sway public opinion against friendly forces and serve as a rallying cry for an adversary.

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With this discussion in mind, the single aerospace strategic attack mission is identified as precision strike.[48] The characteristics of aerospace power enable aircraft to strike almost anywhere within the battlespace. Key to modern warfare, however, is the precision with which these strikes are carried out.

All too often in the recent past, poorly coordinated air strikes have resulted in significant collateral casualties or damage with an equally significant negative impact on the overall mission and popular support. Events such as these are the battlefield equivalent of an own goal and must be avoided.


Generally speaking, CGs are categorized as follows:

  1. Leadership. The purpose of war is to compel an adversary to act in accordance with friendly will. Thus, adversarial national command authorities and military-strategic leadership are attractive and natural targets. The other CG targets discussed in this paragraph will indirectly affect an adversary’s leadership, but the individual leaders and their C2 systems may also be subjected to direct lethal, psychological, and/or electronic attacks. These operations could be called strategic counter-C2 operations. The effect desired from a strategic counter-C2 operation could be strategic paralysis, with the purpose of giving the opponent a sense of futility and isolation.
  2. Production consists of two related sub-categories:
    1. Industry. Counter-industry operations are conducted against an adversary’s key industries. The prosecution of the right target complex will eventually affect an adversary’s ability to wage war. In an industrialized society, attractive strategic targets could include facilities supporting the generation/distribution of electrical current, oil production, and oil refineries.
    2. Economy. Counter-economy operations are closely related to counter-industry operations but are conducted for the desired effect of causing a collapse of an adversary’s economy. With the increased dependence in industrialized countries on information technology for the conduct of all economic transactions, the offensive application of all the facets of command and control warfare make it an attractive target option.
  3. Transportation. Strategic targeting of an adversary’s vital transportation centres and transport means, both civilian and military, may have a decisive effect on their overall ability to wage war.
  4. Civilian population. International humanitarian law prohibits attacking or threatening violence against civilians and civilian property. However, the opinion of the civilian population can have an impact upon the will of adversary forces and, therefore, remains a key CG. Information operations, which conform to the provisions of international law, may be directed towards civilians within adversary territory. Air power has the ability to support these types of operations.
  5. Military. Strategic counter-military operations are conducted against those adversarial military forces and weapons systems, which, if used, have the ability to achieve strategic effect and pose a direct threat towards our own strategic CG. Since a country’s CG defines its strength and will, such a threat automatically gives counter-military operations a high priority. For example, strategic counter-military operations can be directed against weapons of mass destruction for the purpose of destroying an ability to use these weapons.[49]

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The goal of air attack operations is to achieve the JTFC’s intent and desired end state by dominating the surface battlespace from the air. Aerospace forces are particularly well suited to the counter-surface mission in that the characteristics of aerospace power (speed, range, surprise, manoeuvrability, flexibility, and lethality) provide significant advantages over surface-based forces. Effective counter-surface operations demand a high degree of friendly control of the air.

Missions may occur in close proximity to a maritime force or be focused on areas of open ocean, maritime lines of communications, or strategic chokepoints (such as the Strait of Hormuz). Counter-sea operations conducted close to land in the littoral are complicated by the presence of land-based weapons systems, higher concentrations of civil traffic (both air and maritime), and the defensive advantages that coastal waters and topography can provide an adversary. These operations are particularly complex, requiring robust joint doctrine and the close synchronization of TTP. The three counter-sea missions are ASUW, AAW, and ASW.

The aim of counter-land operations is to employ aerospace Shape capabilities against land targets to achieve the JTFC’s strategic, operational, or tactical intent. Counter-land operations enable friendly manoeuvre and freedom to attack while denying an adversary the same. Aerospace forces offer the advantage of targeting adversarial surface forces across the full depth of the battlefield, generally unconstrained by battlespace boundaries and topographical limitations that can hamper land force manoeuvre and sensors. Aerospace operations can be conducted across the battlespace from the close battle to the deep battle and into an adversary’s rear areas. Aerospace power is fundamental to the success of the land battle, and when true integration of aerospace and land capabilities is achieved, mission success follows. The four counter-land missions are AI, aerial fire support, tactical security, and direction and control of fire.

Special air operations and support to SOF include aspects of both the counter-sea and counter-land missions. Specialized training in SOF techniques and procedures will normally be required, and operations of this sort may be limited to specific aerospace units using unique equipment. Execution requires clandestine manoeuvre and high precision and occurs in environments of lower-level control of the air and higher level of risk. Nevertheless, additional aircraft in a direct support role, but not certified as organic SAO qualified, may be offered and accepted to augment the airlift, fire support, and ISR capabilities of a special operations force. The Shape SOA missions are specialized air mobility / personnel recovery operations, aerial fire support, and overwatch (armed/unarmed).

Strategic attacks are aimed at an adversary’s CGs, and targets are carefully chosen, not for their tactical value but for the potential strategic effect of the attack. Strategic attacks weaken the adversary’s ability or will to engage in conflict or continue an action. Strategic attacks can be carried out by any platform, and targets can include any facility, person, or platform deemed to yield the strategic effect desired. Precision strike is the sole mission within the Shape aerospace strategic attack role.

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1. Within the Move function, "special air operations" is considered a mission within the airlift role. This mission encompasses the insertion, extraction, and resupply of special operations forces, often via covert means. Within the Shape function, the significance and span of potential special air operation missions raise its profile to that of a role within the air attack capability. Within this special air operations role, the specialized air mobility / personnel recovery mission equates to the special air operations mission defined within the Move function doctrine.  (return)

2. Special air operations and strategic attack have been separated from counter-sea and counter-land in order to emphasize their importance within the air-attack capability. (return)

3. See DTB record 4961. (return)

4. NATO AJP-3.3.3, Air-Maritime Co-ordination (2005), 0503. (return)

5. The OTC may delegate responsibility for a specific area or maritime warfare to a subordinate commander. The three principal areas of maritime warfare are antisurface warfare (ASUW), anti-air warfare (AAW), and anti-submarine warfare (ASW). (return)

6. Deconfliction measures incorporate safety of flight considerations for aircraft operating in the same general area of operations. They can include geographic restrictions as well as altitude restrictions or blocks and will dictate standard joining procedures, timings, routes, altitudes, and speeds to follow inbound to the force and outbound after mission completion. Additionally, where a naval force is concerned, deconfliction measures will govern the use of antisubmarine weapons in particular, restricting their use in geographic areas where friendly submarines may be operating. These last are termed water space management (WSM) procedures. (return)

7. This definition is found in the RCN’s strategic-level document: Leadmark: The Navy’s Strategy for 2020 (PDF, 4.56 MB), 3,  (accessed August 20, 2013). (return)

8. Various UA are being tested in the maritime role, one of which is the Boeing Scan Eagle. Whether this capability is considered maritime or naval aviation is somewhat academic, though the assets would certainly be considered organic. (return)

9. The term TASMO is no longer used by the CF’s NATO allies, who have begun using the more general concepts of air-maritime coordination (AMC) and air-maritime coordination procedures (AMCP) to encompass all interaction between aerospace and maritime forces. See NATO AJP 3.3.3, Air-Maritime Co-ordination and its subordinate ATP for a more detailed treatment of this subject area as a whole. (return)

10. The five phases of an ASW prosecution are search, localize, track, attack, and re-attack. (return)

11. These types of missions were extensively employed during Operations DESERT STORM (Iraq and Kuwait) and ALLIED FORCE (Kosovo). (return)

12. TACS (also known as the tactical air control system) is a network of systems and organizations necessary to plan, direct, and control tactical airspace and tactical aerospace operations and to coordinate the same with other components of the joint force. It is composed of control agencies and centres, communications systems, sensors, and computer networks which provide the means for centralized control and decentralized execution of aerospace operations. (DTB record 1430.) (return)

13. The land component commander has traditionally been the supported commander; TACP capability nonetheless applies equally to any supported force including units from the maritime component, special operations component, or allied forces. The TACP capability may also be seconded to work with other government departments / the civil authority or even NGOs who have been allocated military support. (return)

14. This tactical aviation force comprises the helicopters, personnel, vehicles, and equipment integral to 1 Wing HQ and its subordinate units. (return)

15. B-GA-440-000/AF-000, Tactical Helicopter Operations ( (PDF, 1.26 MB), Change 1, (February 24, 1999), 1,(accessed August 20, 2013). (return)

16. DTB record 43604. (return)

17. There are two accepted definitions for airmobile operation in accordance with DTB record 196: "An operation in which military forces and their equipment are transported about the battlefield and landed by aircraft, in support of tactical objectives on the ground" (Army Terminology Panel); and "An operation in which combat forces and their equipment manoeuvre about the battlefield by aircraft to engage in ground combat" (NATO). They are both acceptable, but the recent Army definition is the most applicable from an RCAF Act doctrinal perspective. (return)

18. DTB record 3343. While there is no pressing need for detailed deconfliction of AI with friendly movement and operations, there remains an enduring requirement to synchronize all counter-surface missions with the joint commander’s aims. (return)

19. AI is considered synonymous with the term "interdiction attack" (IA), which is used by NATO when discussing attack helicopter operations in support of land operations. See in NATO ATP-49(F), Use of Helicopters in Land Operations Doctrine (October 15, 2012). (return)

20. While any CC can nominate AI targets, the LCC will normally lead in this regard. Targeting processes are discussed in more detail in Chapter 5 of this manual. (return)

21. The majority of AI missions are against deliberate targets. AI missions of a dynamic nature include the AI subordinate tasks of armed reconnaissance (AR), strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR), and XINT. AR tasks are solely dynamic, in that aircraft seek and engage targets of opportunity. While SCAR is primarily a direction and control of fire task with aircraft identifying and handing valid targets to AR-tasked aircraft, SCAR aircraft can also execute strikes (if so equipped) as a secondary task. (return)

22. Current RCAF tactical aviation doctrine (e.g., B-GA-440-000/AF-000, Tactical Helicopter Operations and its subordinate publications) presents counter-land missions differently from those presented in this manual, in part due to their direct links to Canadian Army doctrine. For example, the provision of helicopter fire support is defined as a specific mission and the terms AI and CCA are not included or defined. This emphasizes the evolving nature of doctrine and the current effort to make RCAF doctrine less platform specific than it has been in the past. Both approaches are valid but serve different purposes, with RCAF doctrine addressing the operational level and tactical aviation doctrine the tactical. (return)

23. An evolving ISR mission that underpins both aerial fire support and AI is the SCAR mission, which is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5 of this manual. (return)

24. For more, see Harold G. Moore and J. Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young: la Drang - The Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam (San Francisco: Presidio Press, 2004). (return)

25. DTB record 23335. (return)

26. Proximity is not necessarily linear distance between mission effects and friendly forces. It may also mean mission effects in terms of impact on friendly operations and the achievement of their mission. A force application mission far removed from friendly forces may have an immediate impact on friendly operations in a mission-achievement context and thus require detailed integration and/or deconfliction. (return)

27. One example of a non-kinetic CAS mission is a low-level show of force. This is also a form of information operations and is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4 of this manual. (return)

28. The term "joint terminal attack controller" (JTAC) may be used synonymously with FAC. FAC in the Canadian context generally refers to a member of the Land component who has been trained in the ground side of the CAS mission. The term JTAC refers to a member of USAF who is employed in the same role with the US Army. UK forces also use the term JTAC. In any case, this person is imbedded within, or integral to, surface manoeuvre forces and specializes in the integration of aerospace power on the battlefield. (return)

29. DTB record 34045. (return)

30. The aerospace force may be rotary or fixed wing, or a combination thereof. UA are the normal type of fixed-wing asset, whereas manned fighters conducting this overwatch mission are more routinely considered to be conducting a non-traditional ISR mission. (return)

31. Adapted from Canada, DND, Project LAMINAR STRIKE, Canada’s Air Force: Post Op ATHENA (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2011). (return)

32. Further information on these techniques can be found in B-GA-442-001/FP-001 Tactical Aviation Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (, Change 5, (June 2010),  (accessed August 20, 2013). (return)

33. DTB record 3351. (return)

34. DTB record 36620. While the CF has officially adopted the abbreviation ABFAC, USAF owns the accreditation for the CF’s FAC capability and the US joint publication, JP 3-09.3, Close Air Support uses the abbreviation FAC(A). Within NATO, the term FAC(A) is most commonly used. (return)

35. DTB record 18752, modified. (return)

36. NATO AJP 3.5, Allied Joint Doctrine for Special Operations, January 2009, 1-1. (return)

37. Canada, DND, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), An Overview, 2008, 9. (return)

38. Ibid., 2-5. (return)

39. Within the RCAF, 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS) is an SOATU which has been placed under the operational command of CANSOFCOM. (return)

40. NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) 80-004, Special Air Warfare Manual, March 2012, 1. (return)

41. Ibid., 3. (return)

42. Ibid., 5. (return)

43. NATO AJP-3.5, Allied Joint Doctrine for Special Operations, 2-5. (return)

44. CF SOF experience in Afghanistan indicates that manned ISR assets retain specific advantages over unmanned assets, particularly during the final phases of a SOF mission. Generally speaking, these advantages are reduced latency (of communications, imagery, and analysis), reduced vulnerability (to jamming and weather effects, primarily), and increased trust (between SOF leadership and the individuals operating the asset; in the developing unmanned model, the operators can be well removed from the theatre of operations and are thereby less aware overall and less engaged in the fight). (return)

45. The concept of the centre of gravity originates from the writings of Clausewitz, who expressed it as "the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends." Even today, there remains some debate over how Clausewitz’s concept should be translated and interpreted. For a summary of this discussion, see Antulio J. Echevarria, Clausewitz’s Center of Gravity: Changing Our Warfighting Doctrine – Again! (Carlyle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, September 2002). (return)

46. While this idea was expressed as early as 1954, the modern understanding of parallel attack is based on the writings of Colonel John Warden. See John A. Warden III, "The Enemy as a System," Airpower Journal 9, no. 2 (Spring 1995). (return)

47. While aerospace power can have significant morale effects on adversary populations, this is only important if that will is necessary for governmental continuity. Japanese public morale in the spring of 1945 was very low and their support for continued aggression was nil; however, the psychological conditioning of the Japanese populace was such that they would do whatever the emperor (through the government) told them to do. (return)

48. In this context, the term "strike" is considered synonymous with "attack." (return)

49. K. Noedskov, "Systematizing Effect Based Air Operations," Air&Space Power Journal - Chronicles Online Journal, May 24, 2000 (English only), (accessed August 20, 2013). (return)

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