Air Defense: September 27, 1999


DEPLOYING AIR DEFENSE: The new Bradley Linebacker (air defense vehicle) is demanding a new look at how air defense assets are deployed. The previous Vulcan cannon was often detailed down to company teams and (because the US never faced a serious air threat) was used as a direct-fire support weapon and all thought of air defense coverage went out the window. (This was, to some extent, necessary because the M113 armored personnel carrier had almost no offensive weaponry able to destroy, for example, a bunker. The Vulcan 20mm gattling gun was quite good at this, and infantry units devoid of direct-fire cannon weapons were only too happy to use the one that showed up with the air defenders to make up this shortage.) 
The new Bradley Linebacker is a standard M2A2 Bradley with two changes. Instead of carrying two TOW missiles on its launcher, it has four Stingers. Instead of six riflemen with one light machinegun in the back, there are two men with one Stinger missile launcher. The Linebacker doesn't really provide any kind of direct-fire support that the Bradleys of the unit cannot provide for themselves. What the Bradley Linebacker can provide is a fan of coverage against increasingly deadly enemy helicopters, and some protection against jet attack planes. To do this, the air defense unit needs to be deployed as an air defense unit, not as an assault gun unit that occasionally pretends it is providing air defense coverage. This will usually mean bringing the air defense lieutenant into the battalion planning cycle, telling him where it would be most critical to have air defense coverage, and then letting him do the job. Keeping the air defense lieutenant in the battalion tactical operations center is a waste; he is provided with his own Bradley so that he can lead his platoon forward to maneuver it where it needs to be. Maps are not always accurate and do not always convey all of the necessary information; the air defense platoon leader must look at the ground and the developing battle and put his Linebackers where they will do the most good. This may require extra supervision from the S3 (operations) section, since the same percentage of air defense platoon leaders will be inexperienced as any other type of platoon leader.--Stephen V Cole


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