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Fighting Deep with Joint Fires

by MAJ Roy Sevalia, Kuwait, Third U.S. Army

It is imperative that we strike fast, deep and often to dictate our will upon the enemy. We must own the enemy decision cycle by attacking him through the depth of the battlefield with all joint and coalition fires available. Deep fires is the collective and coordinated use of indirect fire, armed aircraft, and other lethal and non-lethal means in support of the commander’s battle plan that give us the competitive edge to dominate the air, land and sea.


The National Command Authority (NCA), with the advice and assistance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), establishes the chain of command to commanders of combatant commands for missions and forces assigned. The senior Army commander in a unified or sub-unified command beneath the combatant commander is designated the Army Service Component Commander (ASCC). Within a theater of operation, the ASCC operates within the chain of command and answers to the Commander in Chief (CINC) of the theater. Within U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Commander, Third U.S. Army/Army Central Command (ARCENT), conducts operations as the ASCC.

Deep operations are those directed against enemy forces and functions beyond the close battle. They are executed at all levels with fires, maneuver, and leadership. Deep operations affect the enemy through attack or threat of attack. The objective is to expand the battlefield in space and time to the full extent of friendly capabilities. Effective deep operations require the commander’s guidance (concept and intent) to facilitate overall mission success and enhance protection of the force. The measure of our success in deep operations effectiveness is simple: either we work faster than the enemy’s decision and execution cycle (we own his cycle), or the enemy will own our cycle.

The focus of this article is to highlight Third U.S. Army/Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT) Deep Operations Coordination Cell (DOCC) responsibilities and procedures for planning and executing deep fires (lethal and non-lethal), specifically addressing functions and procedures for orchestrating the use of operational fires within the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Commander’s View

Deep operations are the principal means of shaping the theater battlefield. The commander’s interests are those theater-wide enemy forces, functions, facilities, and operations that impact on future ground/land force plans and operations. He focuses on enemy operational level centers of gravity (and to a very limited extent, strategic level) using all joint and multi-national lethal and non-lethal resources available to shape the battlefield to achieve a decisive impact on the conduct of the campaign or major operations.

DOCC Mission

The mission of the DOCC is to apply operational fires (lethal and non-lethal) in accordance with the commander’s guidance to create the conditions for success on the battlefield. The DOCC is chartered with three tasks to achieve the commander’s intent: (1) Facilitate maneuver in depth by suppressing the enemy’s deep strike systems, disrupt the enemy’s operational maneuver and tempo, and create exploitable gaps in enemy positions; (2) Isolate the battlefield by interdicting enemy military potential before it can be used effectively against friendly forces; and (3) Destroy critical enemy functions and facilities that eliminate or substantially degrade enemy operational capabilities.

Within the CENTCOM area of operations (AO), the Third Army commander is designated as the Land Component Commander (LCC) and is the supported commander for all ground/land operations. He is specifically responsible for synchronizing air and ground operations to support his operational objectives within his AO. This is accomplished through top-down planning using the decide, detect, deliver and, assess (D3A) methodology for targeting. Using this process, the LCC establishes targeting guidance and objectives that focus on attacking enemy centers of gravity, and identifies target categories for attack.

The targeting guidance and targets are passed to subordinate commanders and joint organizations for execution. The Third U.S. Army/ARCENT commander accomplishes this targeting mission through the Deep Operations Coordination Cell (DOCC).

DOCC Organization

The G3 is COMUSARCENT’s executive agent for deep operations. All other ARCENT staff sections are responsible for coordinating deep operations actions with the G3. Within the G3 is the Deep Operations Division which comprises the DOCC. The DOCC coordinates targeting guidance and objectives, develops a candidate target list for integration with the air tasking order (ATO), and monitors ATO execution and fire support coordination measures. The DOCC is divided into five branches (see Figure 1): Deep Operations Branch consist of Plans, Target Development (TDS) and Operations (OPS) sections; Electronic Warfare (EW) Branch; Command and Control Warfare (C2W) Branch; PSYOP Branch; and the Fire Support Element (FSE). The current MTOE for Third Army/ARCENT authorizes 45 positions for the DOCC (Figure 2). Each branch within the DOCC performs a critical role in accomplishing this mission. During several past deployments and training exercises, the requirements for a more robust FSE and a Combat Assessment Team were discovered. These changes to the MTO&E are needed in order to truly execute fires in support of the LCC (Figure 3).

Figure 1. DOCC Organization

Figure 2. Current MTOE

Figure 3. Proposed DOCC ASCC MTOE

Deep Operations Branch

Plans Section. The DOCC Plans Section has the responsibility for the planning portion of the deliberate targeting process. This section begins the targeting process through its participation in future plans (96 hours and beyond) and future operations (24-96 hours) Operational Planning Groups (OPG). This staff synchronization initiates the decide phase of D3A during the planning process. In conjunction with the G2/G3 planners, the DOCC Plans Section conducts high-value target (HVT) and high-payoff target (HPT) analysis and develops the draft targeting guidance and objectives. The Plans Section continues refinement of the recommended objectives and conducts detailed staff planning during its daily Target Guidance Working Group (TGWG). Additionally, the TGWG considers Fire Support Coordination Line (FSCL) placement and other Fire Support Coordination Measures (FSCMs) as needed.

The Plans Section presents the results of this battle staff synchronization to the Deputy Commanding General (DCG) during the Daily Targeting Board (DTB). The DTB provides an opportunity for the DCG, staff, and components to synchronize and deconflict operational fires. The DTB is the forum used by ARCENT to obtain approval of the 72-hour targeting guidance and objectives and receive additional guidance for the 96-hour planning period. The DTB also provides the subordinate MSCs specific guidance and direction for joint fires and targeting. Additionally, the DTB prepares the DCG for the CENTCOM Joint Target Coordination Board (JTCB). This ensures that the DCG has visibility on the CINC’s concept of joint fires, ensuring joint synchronization from the LCC perspective. The DTB presentation is tied in detail to the ATO cycle, the estimated enemy and friendly situations, the concept of fires, and the recommended targeting guidance and objectives. The following diagrams represent a few of the products used during this presentation and demonstrate the staff synchronization which occurs prior to the presentation and the utility of the DTB.

Before the 72-hour targeting guidance is presented, the DOCC Chief reviews the current combat assessment (Figures 4 and 5) against standing targeting objectives. Examples of this information is as follows:

Figure 4

Figure 5

This sets the stage for the 72-hour targeting concept and recommended guidance and objectives. The Staff Weather Officer (SWO) displays the effects of weather on friendly and enemy actions for future ATO periods. This presentation focuses on joint fires resources and specific weather effects within the ATO period. The following diagram (Figure 6) is an example of the SWO’s input to the DTB:

Figure 6

The main portion of the DTB begins with estimated enemy and friendly situation presentations by J2 and J3 planners. This includes estimated enemy courses of action and planned friendly force arrays. Additionally, any planned fire support coordination measures (FSCMs) are presented in relationship to time and battlefield geometry. Most importantly, this includes the anticipated location of the FSCL and any possible movements or shifts during the ATO period.

Once the baseline information is presented, the details of the targeting effort are displayed through a concept of fires paragraph and identification of targeting objectives synchronized with the enemy situation and friendly concept of operations. The following diagrams (Figures 7 thru 10) are basic examples of the products used during the DTB:

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 10

The targeting guidance and objectives are finally captured in a single slide known as the Battlespace Shaping Matrix (BSM). This product becomes the source tool for the remainder of the targeting effort to include execution. The BSM articulates the targeting objectives in priority, the target sets in support of each objective, and the associated high-payoff targets (HPTs) for each target set. The BSM also provides time-sensitive target (TST) priorities and attack guidance as well as Kill Box priorities beyond the FSCL. The following diagram (Figure 11) is an example of the BSM:

Figure 11

The final check and balance of staff synchronization regarding competition for limited resources occurs when the Collection Manager (CM) displays the collection asset programming slides. These slides demonstrate the nesting of collection systems to the targeting objectives and the coverage provided during the ATO period. The following diagrams (Figures 12 & 13) are examples of these products:

Figure 12

Figure 13

Upon approval of the targeting guidance, the Plans Section coordinates the LCC targeting guidance with the Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD) Plans Section to ensure that the LCC commander’s guidance and intent are accurately represented at the Joint Air Operations Center (JAOC). This occurs during the daily Joint, Guidance and Apportionment Targeting (JGAT) meeting within the AOC.

Target Development Section (TDS). The Target Development Section is the focal point for deep operations target nominations. Upon receipt of the approved commander's targeting guidance, TDS coordinates with subordinate land component units for joint fires target nominations and develops a consolidated Candidate Target List (CTL). The CTL includes all of the Joint Forces Land Component Commander's (JFLCC) nominations to the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) for integration with the ATO. TDS reviews each target nomination for adherence to the targeting guidance and to avoid duplication. Individual targets are plotted using the Global Command and Control System Army (GCCS-A) and the target history is reviewed and updated to ensure that every target meets the Commander’s guidance and objectives.

Digital communications are the primary means for subordinate units to submit target nominations to the DOCC. The Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) is a multi-service (Army and USMC) system which provides automated command, control and communications for fire support operations. The AFATDS is the principal means by which Army Corps and the USMC pass target nominations to the DOCC. This system also has limited interface capability with other systems, such as the Contingency Theater Automated Planning System (CTAPS). CTAPS contains several modules that assist with the targeting process. The primary module utilized within the CENTCOM AOR is the Rapid Application of Air Power (RAAP). RAAP is a target development tool, which supports targeting through a variety of functions. This module receives externally generated intelligence data, assists the operator in target nomination and validation, provides access to local target, threat, and order of battle databases, and integrates high-level knowledge of enemy operations and intelligence with current and historical data. The DOCC utilizes RAAP to collect and prioritize target nominations and to create the CTL. Currently RAAP works within the CTAPS common operating environment, but the newer versions will be capable of operating in a "stand-alone" configuration, outside the CTAPS environment

After TDS consolidates and prioritizes the proposed CTL, it is reviewed by Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) representative within the DOCC. The SJA representative is responsible for providing Rules of Engagement and Law-of-War legal review and analysis of all targets nominated on the CTL. The SJA representative uses TARCHECK, a DOS based program which provides a list of key facilities (collateral) within a two (2) to four (4) kilometer radius of the nominated target, to assist in the legal review. With this information, the SJA representative makes recommendations to the DOCC Chief as to whether striking a nominated target may run afoul of the Law-of-War and standing Rules of Engagement (ROE). If there is a great potential for collateral damage and the target maintains its military necessity, a recommendation to use precision guided munitions may be included on the CTL for that specific target request.

Finally, the TDS briefs the DOCC Chief during the CTL Review Board for approval of the CTL prior to forwarding it to the Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD). The BCD is the LCC representative at the Air Operation Center (AOC) who advocates to the JFACC the CTL for inclusion in the ATO. This review board highlights each target category related to targeting objectives and summarizes the consolidated CTL, verbally and graphically. An example of the CTL review board summary slide is as follows:

Figure 14

Operations Section. The Operations Section (OPS) is responsible for battle management within the DOCC for ATOs which are 48 and 24 hours out from execution. This includes monitoring the execution of the ATO, other planned deep operations, and coordinating the complementary actions required to support the LCC guidance and intent. The routine functions and actions performed by the OPS section are synchronizing current operations with future operations. The OPS Section recommends changes to approved targeting guidance for the next 24-48 hours, as well as changes to planned FSCMs based on unanticipated enemy actions effecting friendly force operations. Other functions include: (1) Prepare Air Interdiction (AI) divert list based on targeting guidance changes (24-48 hour time period); (2) Integrate Theater Missile Defense (TMD) Attack Operations with deep battle operations; (3) Receive and parse the Air Tasking Order (ATO) / conduct ATO hand over briefing with the FSE; (4) Receive feedback from the BCDthe BCD on LCC AI nominations submitted to the JFACC; and (5) Assess the Commander’s guidance and objectives through the Combat Assessment Board.

The OPS Section manages a variety of systems to accomplish its assorted tasks. The DOCC must integrate into the CENTCOM joint-targeting cycle, which requires the capability to communicate and interface on a multi-echelon, multi-service level. To meet this requirement, the DOCC currently maintains and operates several targeting systems and related applications. AFATDS is used to build and pass battlefield geometry, enter fire support coordination measures and monitor subordinate unit status. The CTAPS is used to receive and parse the ATO and any other AOC products such as the Air Control Order (ACO). Targets which were submitted by the MSCs that made the ATO are then transmitted using AFATDS. Finally, the Global Command and Control System Army (GCCS-A) is used to receive the Common Operating Picture (COP) to monitor the current friendly and enemy situations.

Fire Support Element (FSE)

The FSE serves as the current operations section within the DOCC. It is located in the Operations and Intelligence (O&I)Section where it can fully interface with the G2, G3, and other Battlefield Operating Systems (BOS). This positioning provides the FSE the capability to advise the Battle Captain on the proper and effective use of operational fires resources. Target management is the most important function performed by the FSE. It is the process of monitoring the execution of the ATO and other planned deep attack missions.

The FSE monitors the execution of LCC targets for each ATO cycle by reviewing air mission results through both mission reports (MISREPS) and pilot reports (PIREPS) on CTAPS. Additionally, the FSE uses the AFATDS to monitor indirect fire activity.

Based on the current situation, and with the Battle Captain’s approval, the FSE coordinates "diverts" (re-directing airborne aircraft from striking one target to striking another), and "re-roles" (changing the mission (CAS, AI, etc) of airborne aircraft to attack a new set of targets). These actions are coordinated through the BCD Operations cell to the JFACC for approval. In line with these actions, the FSE also serves as the adjudicator of CAS allocations for subordinate ground forces which involves shifting assets as necessary to support the different MSC fights.

Attack of Time Sensitive Targets (TSTs) is another FSE function. The FSE is responsible for establishing quick-fire links via digital means (AFATDS) and voice (MSE). These links are connected to various sensors and shooters in theater such as Army Air Missile Defense Command, MSC Force Field Artillery (FFA) Headquarters, and the BCD. Attack of TSTs is solely driven by the asset that can service it in the most expedient manner, be it by a JFACC aircraft or ATACMS missile. The figures below show examples of the procedures used to process a time sensitive targets.

Figures 15 and 16

The FSE also serves the current operation by establishing and controlling Fire Support Coordination Measures (FSCMs) to facilitate the effective use of fires in support of the LCC. The Fire Support Coordination Line (FSCL) is the predominant control measure established and controlled by the FSE. It serves as the line of coordination for engagement of targets in the Joint Operations Area (JOA). The MSCs generally target short of the FSCL, while the ARCENT DOCC focuses on targets beyond in an effort to shape the battlefield for future operations. During the offense, the FSCL is generally placed further forward of the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT) to facilitate rapid advance of ground forces with minimal coordination. In the defense, the FSCL is generally placed closer to the FLOT to allow the JFACC maximum opportunity to employ air power with minimal coordination. The FSE, in close coordination with the Battle Captain, monitors the positioning of the FSCL to ensure its placement facilitates the current fight. If changes are deemed necessary, they must be identified a minimum of six hours prior to allow for thorough dissemination to all units operating in the theater.

Command and Control Warfare (C2W) Branch

The C2W branch coordinates and manages the Information Operations (IO) function. The C2W branch integrates all aspects of IO (Physical Destruction, OPSEC, EW, Deception, PSYOP, PAO, and CA) into a comprehensive plan for the Commander. Establishing priorities and planning the execution of IO between joint and Army organizations, the C2W branch provides input to the CTL for lethal and non-lethal targeting through a comprehensive nodal analysis. Finally, the branch represents the LCC at the CINC’s IO board or convenes an IO working group (IOWG) for the LCC if designated as JTF (see Figure 17).

Figure 17

In addition to ARCENT personnel, the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) provides augmentation to the C2W branch. The Joint Command and Control Warfare Center (J2C2W) and Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC) may also augment the C2W branch when Third Army functions as a JTF.

Electronic Warfare (EW) Branch

The EW branch is the G3 proponent for planning, coordinating and integrating EW operations with other combat disciplines. The EW branch coordinates the G3’s EW non-lethal fires. The EW branch conducts a 24-hour watch in the DOCC to maintain centralized information on current and future EW operations and assist in staff/component EW coordination.

EW is an element of Information Operations (IO) and works to ensure maximum synergy in support of the overall IO effort. The G3 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) is a member of the Third U.S. Army Information Operations Working Group (IOWG).

When Third U.S. Army/ARCENT performs its role as a C/JTF, a Joint Force Commander’s Electronic Warfare Staff (JCEWS) is formed to coordinate EW activities within the staff and with components. The JCEWS will review EW target nominations and ensure frequency deconfliction.

Primary responsibilities of the EW branch include: (1) Coordinate among EW, intelligence and operations agencies to determine whether expected advantages of EW operations outweigh potential losses of intelligence capabilities; (2) Assess friendly and enemy effects of EW activity on operations; (3) Recommend and develop EW targets for inclusion into the ARFOR CTL; (4) Coordinate inputs for the Joint Restricted Frequency List (JRFL) and assess situations requiring frequency deconfliction; and (5) Chair daily JCEWS meetings.

Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Branch

The PSYOP branch serves as the G3 proponent for planning, coordinating, assessing, and deconflicting PSYOP activities in support of operations. The primary responsibilities of the PSYOP branch include: (1) Plan and coordinate PSYOP activities among military and governmental intelligence and operations agencies, (2) Assess friendly and enemy effects of PSYOP activity on operations, (3) Recommend and develop PSYOP targets for inclusion into the ARFOR CTL, (4) Deconflict PSYOP activities with other lethal and non-lethal disciplines. The PSYOP branch also serves as a standing member of the OPG and the IOWG as well as other internal and external coordination boards.

Battle Rhythm

Joint Interdiction is COMUSARCENT’s primary tool for deep operations. COMUSARCENT receives joint interdiction support by nominating targets for inclusion in the Air Tasking Order (ATO). The ATO timeline for CENTAF (JFACC) is a three day cycle. Target planning is based on this ATO cycle. The daily meetings and decision points necessary to support ATO cycle target planning are referred to as the Battle Rhythm.

ARCENT Battle Rhythm. The intent of these meetings is to ensure that COMUSARCENT has sufficient information to make decisions about targeting priorities and resources, and that these decisions are disseminated to the staff and MSCs for execution. COMUSARCENT must provide input to CENTCOM with sufficient lead-time to affect the distribution of joint resources. He must also be aware of the progress of the current and previous day’s ATO so he can shift resources if they are not meeting his objectives. The key meetings that define the Battle Rhythm are described below. Times are approximate and vary with each operation.

0200 (local): Combat Assessment Board
0600 (local): Target Synchronization and CTL Review Board
0930 (local): OPG
1100 (EST): CENTCOM Joint Target Coordination Board (JTCB)
1200 (local): Daily Targeting Board (DTB)
1500 (local): Combat Assessment Board
1600 (local): Information Operations Working Group (IOWG) meeting
2000 (local): Target Guidance Working Group (TGWG) Meeting

CTL Review Board - 0600. The CTL Review Board is used as a final review of target nominations before the CTL is submitted to the BCD. The CTL Review Board members are the DOCC Chief, TDS representative, OPS representative, SJA representative, C5, IO Officer, PSYOP Officer, Engineers, LNO REPs, and the CA representative. The members will review the target nominations to ensure they meet the Commander's targeting guidance, objectives and the ROE. The DOCC Chief will then approve the CTL for submission to the BCD.

Combat Assessment (CA) Board - 1500 & 0200. The CA Board is conduct twice daily prior to the commander’s daily update. The board is used to review and assess the commander’s targeting guidance and objectives. Board members conduct detail analysis to measure and assess the effectiveness of our targeting effort in meeting the Commander’s endstate.

OPG -0930. Plans, IO and OPS participate in the Future Plans Operations Planning Group (OPG). The intent for Deep Operations during this meeting is to begin development of the operational fires concept 96 hours and beyond. The battle staff may visit the less than 96 hour friendly and enemy estimates, but the details of the 96 and 72 hour projections are finalized during the Target Guidance Working Group (TGWG).

CENTCOM JTCB (1100-local Tampa time). The DCG represents COMUSARCENT at the JTCB. The JTCB, chaired by the CENTCOM DCINC, provides a forum for CENTCOM and its components to review broad CINC targeting guidance out to 96hrs. It is also an opportunity for components to raise critical targeting issues that may exist. The G3 Plans section prepares the ground situation briefing slides for the DCG to present at the JTCB.

Daily Targeting Board - 1200. This meeting will be chaired by the DCG and is the principle time for the Components and ARCENT staff to synchronize and de-conflict operational fires issues. Specifically, the targeting team will focus on operations during the 72-96 hour time period. The primary goal is to obtain approval of targeting guidance for the 72-hour planning period and receive additional guidance for the 96-hour planning period.

Information Operations Working Group (IOWG) -1600. The IOWG sole purpose is to provide offensive and defensive IO integration skills to achieve information superiority by protecting friendly decision making processes while influencing neutral and adversary decision making processes. Board members develop and disseminate guidance/plans for IO that is passed to the components, supporting organizations and agencies. The IO board must integrate, coordinate, and deconflict across the full spectrum of the commander’s battle plan. The IOWG ’s efforts should result in synchronized IO capabilities and related activities, and produce a synergistic IO campaign plan.

Target Guidance Working Group (TGWG) - 2000. The TGWG reviews and modifies the draft guidance and provides it to their organizations and staff sections to initiate planning. The DOCC Plans Section revises the Guidance, Objectives, and Tasks as recommended by TGWG.

JFACC Battle Rhythm. These JFACC daily meetings impact on the ARCENT Deep Operations planning and execution. The Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD) represents ARCENT at each meeting.

JFACC Strategy Session - 0730. The JFACC and key senior air planners develop targeting guidance and plan apportionment for the 96hr time period at this meeting. The BCD provides COMUSARCENT’s input to the apportionment recommendation.

Joint Target Working Group (JTWG) - 1400. This group of component targeting representatives, led by the JFACC Targets Chief, produces the Target Nomination List (TNL) for presentation at the JGAT.

Joint Guidance, Apportionment, and Targeting (JGAT) - 1600. This Joint group, led by JFACC Plans Section, takes the TNL and produces the Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List (JIPTL). The BCD provides feedback from this meeting (# of ARCENT targets that made JIPTL) to the DOCC Ops section.

Mobile Target Work Group (MTWG) - 2100. This meeting, chaired by the JFACC Close Air Support Planner (CAS), analyzes the mobile target nominations, and assigns CAS/AI sorties to areas on the battlefield based on the target nominations and COMUSARCENT’s Weight of Effort decision. The BCD will provide feedback to the DOCC Operations section.

Night Guidance, Apportionment, and Targeting (NGAT) - 2200. This Joint group, led by JFACC Plans Section, develops the Master Air Attack Plan (MAAP) which ultimately becomes the ATO. The BCD will provide feedback (# of ARCENT targets that made the MAPP) to the DOCC Operations section.

Figure 18. DOCC Battle Rhythm


The success of the Third U.S Army / ARCENT Commander’s battle plan depends heavily on the ability to plan, coordinate and execute deep operations using joint and coalition fires. To maximize effectiveness, it is imperative to understand the capabilities that each U.S. Service and coalition nation brings to the fight because effective deep operations demand the proper application of these assets. In order to ensure success, it is vital that the Land Component Commander’s guidance and intent is clearly understood by everyone from the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) down to the executor. The DOCC is the agency responsible for understanding these concepts and applying the appropriate tactics, techniques and procedures for employing deep fires in support of the Commander’s targeting objectives for us to be successful on tomorrow’s battlefield.

For further information contact MAJ Roy Sevalia by email at <sevaliar@arcent.army.mil>.