Agile Combat Support
Overview: The Agile Combat Support (ACS) core competency stretches beyond traditional logistics concerns. As stated by the Air Force Chief of Staff, "air and space power relies on a myriad of combat support activities that occur on the ground, [These include] functions like force protection, engineering, other combat support functions and military medicine. Agile combat support is a vital part of what the Air Force provides the nation. This will contribute to our efforts to make Air Force units more expeditionary in nature, so that we will continue to be the instrument of choice when the national command authorities want to engage quickly and decisively anywhere on the globe." As a core competency, ACS forms the blueprint of the Air Force's new strategic vision: "Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force." In Joint Vision 2010 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls for the Air Force to be able to perform its core competencies by 2025 in the shadow of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons, or after the use of NBC weapons.
Mission Area Assessment (MAA): ACS plays a central role in enabling air and space power to contribute to the objectives of any Joint Force Commander. Effective combat support operations allow combat commanders to improve the responsiveness, deployability, survivability, and sustainability of their forces. The efficiency and flexibility of agile combat support emphasizes responsiveness over massive deployed inventories. The basis for ACS support of all campaign and operational objectives and tasks is performed through the following types of mission area functions:
Deploy Personnel and Equipment. Includes packing, palletizing, assembling technical data, mission equipment, tools, spares, consumables, POL, munitions and personnel for deployments.
Develop, Maintain, Recover, Close the Base. Includes measures to plan, beddown, and employ survivability, operations and maintenance (O&M), and recovery after attack. Also includes base closure activities such as preparing equipment and materiel for redeployment, cleaning, repair, and reconstitution of assets, environmental restoration, hazardous material and waste management, ordnance disposal, and NBC decontamination.
Defend the Base. Includes providing flightline and facility security, base defense, and point air defense.
Provide Base Services. Includes providing food service, billeting, laundry service, fitness/recreation services, field exchange services, mortuary services, mail and distribution services, and legal services.
Provide Base Medical Services. Includes preventing, treating, and aeromedical evacuation of casualties.
Provide Base Communications Support. Includes providing base operations C4I infrastructure, joint service interfaces, and major communications support facilities.
Mission Needs Analysis (MNA): The Khobar Towers bombing and the subsequent Downing Commission findings affirm major shortfalls in force protection. Providing for force protection is not just a matter of airbase operability and security, as important as they are. It also involves the redesign of our power projection forces through ACS, to reduce the size of the force protection problem. These efforts must harness advanced technologies to support the force protection mission in the 21st century.
To minimize the impact of the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) on our forces, we will need the capability not only to deter their use, but to counter them. This will require new and improved capabilities to allow our forces to survive and fight under contaminated conditions. Major shortfalls remain in our ability to detect, warn, report, protect against, and decontaminate NBC agent contamination.
Due to quantity and quality deficiencies in bare base assets, ACS will have difficulty providing a 100% capability for a two MRC scenario. Existing inventories contain obsolete technology and equipment that is airlift intensive and difficult to erect and sustain. The concept of focused logistics will improve airlift capabilities, reduce depot cycle times, and contribute to a leaner infrastructure.
Mission Solution Analysis (MSA): Deficits in training must be eliminated through the design and execution of in-depth training platforms for all deployed personnel. Through this effort, anti-terrorism initiatives, simulation modeling, and the introduction of unique force protection systems, improvements in situational awareness, operations security and total force protection of deployed personnel and infrastructure can be realized. Through exposure and absorption of individual interactive training, quick, responsive techniques can be employed, allowing deployed forces supporting mission imperatives to fully utilize anti-terrorism countermeasures with confidence. On another scale, full employment of early warning tactical sensors permits the detection of ground threats both inside and outside deployed location perimeters. Early detection and warning are key attributes in the engagement and defeat of enemy forces, and employment of force protection training, equipment, and strategies are critical to this mission.
The realities of NBC warfare weapons pose a significant, though not insurmountable threat to agile power projection. It is imperative that we field the leading technological ability to detect, warn, protect, and decontaminate our people, their weapon systems, and equipment. A comprehensive, jointly-compatible suite of detectors, masks, ensembles, and decontaminators will add immeasurably toward protecting aircrews, groundcrews, and critical equipment. Personal equipment that is light enough and cool enough to enable sustained sortie generation and contingency operations for extended periods of time is both desired and achievable. With mission success as the highest priority, the inability to sustain air operations in an NBC-contaminated environment must be confronted with a fundamental and highly effective mix of the proper proportions of chemical and biological agent avoidance, detection, protection, and contamination control.
The systems approach to bare base management emphasizes focused, leaner logistics, with integratable systems, enabling technologies to incorporate planned lifecycle, sustainment, and rapid repair capabilities. By focusing heavily on common fuels technology, plasma waste treatment concepts, and deployable airfield subsystems, we can employ technological advances in these areas to eliminate long-standing deficiencies in these subsystems and reduce airlift requirements aa the same time. The strategy to replace labor intensive, bulky, overweight and cumbersome bare base assets will ensure the ability to support agile power projection. Through improved airfield systems, modernized medical facilities, advanced deployable field kitchens, and the latest shelter systems, mission responsive and supportive force beddown can be achieved without sacrificing speed or flexibility or creating vulnerabilities.
Bottom line impact:
In order to create an effective combat support operation which complements and enhances combat capability, there are solutions which make significant contributions toward improving the responsiveness, deployability, and sustainability in this core competency. Through readiness and training initiatives, force protection can be enhanced. Without the ability to detect, protect against and decontaminate NBC warfare agents, all ACS objectives and some if not all other core competencies objectives are at risk. Further, without a nimble re-supply, focused logistics, and a toned, combat ready infrastructure, air and space power will be neither agile nor responsive.
On a larger scale, the task of supporting all campaign and operational objectives and tasks at contingency base and AEF locations will be severely hampered without addressing the dramatic shortfalls in force protection, NBC warfare defense, and focused logistics concepts applied to combat support.
Last Updated: 25 September 1998