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  W. A. MENNER 90  JOHNS HOPKINS APL TECHNICAL DIGEST, VOLUME 18,NUMBER 1 (1997) P The Navy’s Tactical Aircraft Strike Planning Process William A. Menner lanning tactical aircraft strikes aboard the Navy’s aircraft carriers is a complexprocess involving many different organizations, people, data, and computer systems.The process occurs within a series of events called the strike planning cycle. Thisrepetitive cycle begins with the reception of a task and ends with the collection of strike assessment data. Within the cycle lie steps for strike planning that are dividedinto functional areas such as weaponeering and asset coordination. Planners areassisted by organizations that perform functions such as intelligence analysis andweather forecasting. Automated systems are used in the aircraft carrier’s intelligencecenter to process the high volume of data that influence planning decisions. Thisarticle describes the Navy’s tactical aircraft strike planning process and providesinsights into the challenges facing future strike planning efforts.(Keywords:Aircraft Carrier Intelligence Center, Strike planning, Tactical aircraft.) INTRODUCTION “Basher 52, this is Basher 11.”“Basher 52, this is Basher 11. Are you up on thisfrequency?”“This is Basher 52.”“Say again. Understand this is Basher 52.”“This is Basher 52. I’m alive.”“Say again, Basher 52. You are weak and unreadable.This is Basher 11.”“This is Basher 52!” [Pause]“Basher 52, what squadron were you in at Kunsan?”“Juvats! Juvats! I’m alive!”“Copy that. You’re alive! Basher 52, sit tight and comeback up at 15 past the hour.” At 0200 on 8 June 1995, this radio conversationoccurred between Air Force Captains Scott O’Grady(Basher 52) and T. O. Hanford (Basher 11). 1  It was thefirst contact with O’Grady since a Bosnian Serb SA-6surface-to-air missile (SAM) slammed into his single-seat F-16 fighter aircraft, forcing him to eject intohostile territory on 2 June 1995. The contact occurredduring Hanford’s reconnaissance flight, and it touchedoff a furious round of final preparations for a rescuemission. 2 During the 6 days before the rescue, the Navy andMarines convened a crisis action team onboard theUSS Kearsarge  (LHD-3) in the Adriatic Sea to plan acombat search and rescue (CSAR) mission. Manydecisions had to be made in these planning sessions.   8. GatherBDA7. Executethe mission6. Conductbriefings5. Createdetailed plan4. Brief CAG3. Brainstormrough plan2. Task striketeams1. ReceivetaskingStrikeplanningcycle   JOHNS HOPKINS APL TECHNICAL DIGEST, VOLUME 18,NUMBER 1 (1997) 91 THE NAVY’S TACTICAL AIRCRAFT STRIKE PLANNING PROCESS How large a force and precisely which aircraft withwhat weapons were needed? What threats were presentin the rescue zone, and how were those threats bestcountered? Which routes would optimize use of terrainmasking? What time was best for the rescue? What rulesof engagement were needed? What were the “no-go” GLOSSARY AICAtlantic Intelligence CommandAIMAir intercept missileAPSAfloat Planning SystemATOAir tasking orderATPAdvanced tactical processorAWACSAirborne Warning and Control SystemBDABattle damage assessmentCAGCarrier Air Wing CommanderCCDBCommon cryptologic databaseCCTVClosed-circuit televisionCIACentral Intelligence AgencyCMSACruise Missile Support ActivityCOMINTCommunications intelligenceCSARCombat search and rescueCTAPSContingency TACS (Theater Air ControlSystem) Automated Planning SystemCV/CVNAircraft carrierCVICCarrier Intelligence CenterCVWCarrier air wingC 4 ICommand, control, communications,computers, and intelligenceDIADefense Intelligence AgencyDIWS-ADigital Imagery Workstation Suite-AfloatDMADefense Mapping AgencyDoDIISDoD Intelligence Information SystemELINTElectronic intelligenceEOElectro-opticalEOTDAElectro-optical tactical decision aidsFLIRForward-looking IR receiverFOSIFFleet Ocean Surveillance Intelligence FacilityHARMHigh-speed Anti-Radiation MissileIRInfraredIREPSIntegrated Radar Effects Prediction SystemISARInverse synthetic aperture radar JACJoint Analysis Center JDISSJoint Deployable Intelligence Support System JICJoint Intelligence Center JICPACJIC Pacific JMCISJoint Maritime Command InformationSystem JMEMJoint Munitions Effectiveness Manual JSIPS-NJoint Services Imagery ProcessingSystem-NavyLSPLaunch sequence planMETOCMeteorological and Oceanographic CenterMEUMarine expeditionary unitMIIDS/IDBMilitary Intelligence Integrated DataSystem/Integrated Data BaseMISREPMission reportMSIMultisource interpretation NIPSNaval Intelligence Processing System NISNational input segment NSANational Security AgencyOOBOrder of battlePCPersonal computerPPDBPoint-positioning databasePTWPrecision Targeting WorkstationRECCEXREPReconnaissance exploitation reportSAMSurface-to-air missileSAOSpecial Activities OfficeSARSynthetic aperture radarSEADSuppression of enemy air defensesSIACStrike intelligence analysis cellSIGINTSignal intelligenceSPAStrike Planning ArchiveSPINSSpecial instructionsSPRACSpecial Processing and Reporting Activity NetworkSSCSurface surveillance coordinationSSESShip’s signal exploitation spaceSTREDStandard tactical receive equipment displaySUPPLOTSupplemental plotTAMPSTactical Automated Mission PlanningSystemTARPSTactical Airborne Reconnaissance PodSystemTDPTactical data processorTEAMSTactical EA-6B Missile Support SystemTESSTactical Environmental Support SystemTISTactical input segmentTOPSceneTactical Operation Preview SceneTRAPTactical recovery of aircraft and personnelTRETactical receive equipmentTSATarget Selection Analysis (publication)TSCMTactical Strike Coordination ModuleTTPsTactics, techniques, and proceduresTUTTechnology uprade to TEAMSUAVUnmanned air vehicleUSACOMU.S. Atlantic CommandUSCINCPACU.S. Commander-in-Chief PacificVTCVideo teleconferencing5DDemand-driven direct digital dissemination criteria for calling off or delaying the rescue? Thesewere just some of the critical issues that had to beaddressed.This article describes the Navy’s process for answer-ing these (and other) mission planning questions.Specifically, the planning process for tactical aircraft  W. A. MENNER 92  JOHNS HOPKINS APL TECHNICAL DIGEST, VOLUME 18,NUMBER 1 (1997) strikes is presented as it occurs onboard the Navy’saircraft carriers (CVs). For our purposes here, “missionplanning” means preparation to provide a crew with allnecessary information and material to successfully de-liver a weapon against an assigned target or completea non–weapon-related objective (such as CSAR);“strike planning” means the coordination and collec-tion of missions into packages that allow the successfuldelivery of multiple weapons and the completion of multiple objectives.The information in this article was gathered by theauthor during interviews with Fleet experts and viaobservations at training centers and exercise sites, thehighlight of which was a cruise aboard the USS Enter- prise  (CVN 65). Numerous interviews and observationswere necessary because the entire strike planning pro-cess draws upon many different organizations, people,and data. Whereas most related literature describesonly a narrow part of the process, this article shows theinterrelationship of these seemingly disjointed ele-ments of strike planning, which is essential for systems-level evaluations of the overall strike planning process.To this end, the final sections of the article focus onimprovement initiatives for ensuring continued strikeplanning success. As a prelude to these initiatives, thefollowing sections describe the four primary compo-nents of the strike planning process:1.The strike planning cycle2.Strike planning functions3.The CV Intelligence Center (CVIC), intelligencegathering, and support functions4.Automated support systems THE STRIKE PLANNING CYCLE The strike planning process occurs within the con-text of a sequence of events called the strike planningcycle. This repetitive cycle begins with receipt of a taskand ends with the collection of strike assessment dataas shown in Fig. 1. This figure will be expandedthroughout the article to graphically depict the rela-tionships among various strike planning activities,spaces, and systems. In this section, we place the strikeplanning cycle into perspective with the commanddecision process and describe the cycle’s individualcomponents. Air Tasking Order Before strike leaders of tactical aircraft ever assembleto plan the details of a strike, many decisions havealready been made at a national level by the NationalCommand Authority, Joint Chiefs of Staff, andCommanders in Chief. These decisions, which approvetargets, weapons, strategic objectives, etc., are passed tothe military services and are progressively refined by the Joint Forces Commander, the Joint Forces AirComponent Commander, Strike Warfare Commanders,and Battlegroup Commanders. For tactical aircraft, thisprogressive refinement leads to an Air Tasking Order(ATO), which, along with special instructions (SPINS),serves as the foundation upon which CV-based striketeams begin their planning.Depending on the nature of the conflict being ad-dressed, the ATO and SPINS can provide very specificinformation, down to the desired mean point of impactand basic encyclopedia (a compilation of identifiedinstallations and physical areas of potential signifi-cance as objectives of attack) designation. In othersituations, tasking may only state objectives fromwhich specific target data must be determined onboardthe carrier.Generation of an ATO is cyclical, and at anyparticular time, several ATOs may be developing. 3  Ittypically takes 72 hours to complete a single ATO.Contingency strikes are developed throughout deploy-ments, however, and in emergency situations the timeline can be compressed to 4 to 8 hours. Strike Teams Once the ATO and SPINS are complete, they areprovided to CV-based strike teams via the ContingencyTheater Air Control System Automated PlanningSystem (CTAPS), usually about 12 to 18 hours beforelaunch. A strike team generally includes one represen-tative from each air wing squadron. Each squadron isresponsible for the role of a particular aircraft (e.g.,EA-6B, ES-3A, E- 2C, F-14, and F/A-18), a role com-monly referred to as an element  of the strike. Strike 8. GatherBDA7. Executethe mission6. Conductbriefings5. Createdetailed plan4. Brief CAG3. Brainstormrough plan2. Task striketeams1. ReceivetaskingStrikeplanningcycle Figure 1. The strike planning cycle (consult glossary for thedefinition of acronyms in this and subsequent figures).   JOHNS HOPKINS APL TECHNICAL DIGEST, VOLUME 18,NUMBER 1 (1997) 93 THE NAVY’S TACTICAL AIRCRAFT STRIKE PLANNING PROCESS teams—as many as eight or nine—are designated beforedeployment to facilitate training and to ultimatelyprovide rapid response when an ATO is received andthe Carrier Air Wing Commander (CAG) assigns aparticular team to plan a real strike. Each strike teamhas a designated leader, who, with help from squadronrepresentatives, is responsible for generating a strikeplan to satisfy the ATO. Planning Overview Initial strike planning is dynamic and interactive.Each squadron representative provides a particular ex-pertise that allows the strike team to quickly brainstorma reasonably complete, but rough, high-level plan. Thisbrainstorming process involves such activities as select-ing appropriate ordnance, determining threat avoid-ance and suppression techniques, exploiting terrain,and determining the best approach and timing for thestrike. Brainstorming fosters consideration of multiplealternatives to determine the best overall approach forachieving strike objectives.Once developed, the rough plan is briefed to theCAG by the strike team leader. This briefing, common-ly called the laptop brief, is essentially an informalprogress report. The CAG’s questions and suggestionspresent alternatives and contingencies.Having incorporated feedback from the CAG, thestrike team leader tasks all members of the team to planthe details in their areas of expertise. This process in-volves a wide range of activities including weaponselection, determination of waypoint (point or series of points in space to which an aircraft may be vectored),fuel usage calculation, time line development, andcommunications planning. Throughout the planningprocess, it is also important to assess the likelihood of various risks, to carefully consider go/no-go criteria, andto plan alternative courses of action. The strike teamleader ensures that each part of the plan is integratedinto a cohesive and comprehensive whole.Several computer systems aid the planning process,most notably the Tactical Automated Mission PlanningSystem (TAMPS). This interactive, graphical systemgives aircrew planning tools for integrating aircraft andweapon system mission roles. Connected to TAMPSare databases that supply information on mapping,charting, geodesy, imagery, intelligence, the environ-ment, and aircraft and weapon performance. (Computersupport for the strike planning process is discussedfurther in this article under Automated Support Systems.) Briefings About 3 hours before the strike is executed, a seriesof briefings is initiated. The overall briefing is given bythe strike team leader to all strike participants. Thestrike is placed into perspective within the ongoingconflict, and the strike plan, along with its associatedmaterials (e.g., aviator kneeboard cards; see section onProducts of the Seven Functional Steps), is explained.During the briefing, a representative from the Meteo-rological and Oceanographic Center (METOC) willprovide weather-related flight data. An intelligenceofficer will also brief strike participants regarding theorder of battle (OOB) and threats. The overall briefingis typically conducted in the CVIC and viewed in readyrooms and command centers throughout the CV viaclosed-circuit television (CCTV).Element briefings, which commonly occur in readyrooms immediately after the overall briefing, allowstrike participants with a particular responsibility todiscuss details specific to an individual element. Thefinal portion of this cascade of briefings occurs as theflight crew for each aircraft meet to discuss personalresponsibilities within the cockpit. Mission Execution With details firmly in mind, flight crews and aircraftlaunch off the deck of the CV to execute the strike.Before launch, the aircraft’s weight and weapon loadout(the particular set of weapons attached to the aircraft)are factored into fuel usage calculations. The amountof fuel at launch is often based on weight and routeparameters, and airborne refueling with tankers (e.g.,KA-6 and S-3B aircraft) is carefully planned. Despiteexceptional attention to detail, however, the plan mustbe robust enough to accommodate unexpected eventsranging from undetected SAM sites to weather changes.Replanning may also occur during mission execution, forexample, in response to target or threat movements. Battle Damage Assessment In campaign operations, multiple strike planning cyclesmay overlap. Thus, the quick acquisition of battledamage assessment (BDA) data is a critical part of target prioritization efforts for subsequent strikes. With-out proof of success, targets often must be restruckbefore the campaign can proceed. Because a conflictcan frequently cease as soon as a strategic advantage isachieved, rapid feedback is also necessary for politicalreasons. Returning strikers provide BDA data in twoprimary forms: verbal debriefings and data from flightimagery recording systems. Both forms are processed inthe CVIC. The BDA data can also be obtained fromnational and theater sensors. STRIKE PLANNING FUNCTIONS Creation of a single-strike plan typically begins withtargeteering (see below). Once targets and target char-acteristics are determined, weapons are assigned toachieve an objective level of damage, and threats are
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