Close air support

Close air support (Engl to: close air support, CAS), also close air support or Erdkampfunterstützung called in military affairs tactical missions of fighter s own or in direct support of allied ground forces – troops in contact. The containment of the battlefield made ​​by Gefechtsfeldabriegelung (English: battlefield air interdiction, BAI).

E purpose attack aircraft or fighter-bomber used. These are constantly kept ready with a standard load of weapons in the battle space. Rarely bombers (even stealth bomber) is used. The aircraft are usually equipped with napalm – or other incendiary n, n cluster bomb, cluster bomb n or laser-guided bombs and missiles equipped, their use is coordinated s (FAC) under the control of a Forward Air Controller.


World War I

Had the use of aircraft for close air support originated in the First World War, the first significant use of aircraft for the war at all. The initial drop is less than 25-pound bombs had less of a tactical rather than a psychological effect. In contrast to the aircraft artillery are a visible enemy that poses a direct threat to enemy troops and your troops gives the assurance that their superiors to deal with their situation.

Although combined air-ground operations only go to the end of the First World War, many successful attacks between 1917 to 1918 already included the coordination between air and ground forces.

The Royal Flying Corps and the United States Army Air Service considered the close air support as an additional order for their existing aircraft, such as the SE 5a and the Sopwith F.1 Camel and developed until a few months before the war ended without this specialized units or equipment. Since it lacked the Anglo-American pilots special training and their aircraft were relatively susceptible to fire, they suffered when flying over enemy positions at low altitude high losses. Such as lost No example. RAF 80 Squadron 75% of its aircraft in the last 10 months of the war.

In contrast, the French and the Germans developed special tactics, training, and formations for close air support. The German Air Force modified the Junkers J 1 for protection against small arms fire light through additional armor on the dashboard. In the spring of 1918, the German Empire already had 18 specialized battle squadrons for the bombing and shelling enemy troops at altitudes below 200 feet.

Interwar period 1918-1939

During the interwar period, different perspectives on the role of air power in warfare emerged. Pilots and ground officers developed contrasting views about the importance of close air support, which are the basis for the operations of the 20th Century s formed. During this phase, there was a variety of conflicts, mainly built up the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War, the states later on their experience participating in the Second World War their strategy.

Pilots preferred a general independence from the Army, which prevented integration into the land forces and the aircraft was operating as an independent force. They saw close air support as difficult and inefficient form of air warfare, since such operations on the one requires the identification and distinction of its own and enemy forces, and spread to the other attacked ground targets and camouflage, which reduces the effectiveness of such attacks. Such orders can also be also performed by the artillery, whereas air superiority is a unique ability.

Ground officers argued, however, that artillery sufficiently available and the flexibility of aircraft was more suitable for concentrated fire at critical points, also with regard to the psychological effect of own and enemy troops. In contrast to massive artillery barrage, the relatively small air bombs can affect the mobility of the enemy, however, hardly.

World War II

The Second World War marked the turning point in the integration of air power into the combined warfare. Although the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were here live until the war all belligerents effective air-to-ground fighting techniques were developed.

ForceDue to its central inland location and the intention to offensive operations, Germany could not ignore the need for close combat air support. In joint exercises with Sweden in 1934, the Germans made ​​first experience with the tactic of dive bombing bombing, which achieved a greater accuracy and the anti-aircraft fire made ​​it difficult to attack the attacking aircraft.

The head of the German air force development, Generalluftzeugmeister Ernst Udet, initiated on the basis of this experience, the tender of the American Curtiss Hawk II dive bomber comparable aircraft from the Junkers Ju 87 unique emerged. The experiences of the Spanish Civil War in 1938 led to the formation of five Erdkampfeinheiten, four of which were equipped with Stukas. The Air Force adapted its military procurement to the advances in air-ground coordination. General Wolfram von Richthofen organized detachment of the Air Force’s, which were directly under the soil units and their requirements further initiated by air support, were not trained to the fire line of the Air Force.

These preparations could be the Polish campaign in 1939 not yet prove, as the Luftwaffe concentrated in Operation “Fall Weiss” on the Gefechtsfeldabriegelung and paid little attention to the close air support. The effectiveness of the tactical air war then showed up at the crossing of the Meuse during the western campaign in 1940. General Heinz Guderian, one of the developers of the battle of the combined arms and the Blitzkrieg s, kept permanent bombardment of the French defense lines by ground attack aircraft as the best protection for the translated ground troops.

Although few cannon e were taken, the permanent air attack kept the French under attack and prevented the occupation of their weapons. The psychological effect of the dive bombers with their fearsome engine sirens was disproportionately greater than their actual destruction. Confidence in the air support and their preference over the artillery simplified the logistical support for the march through the Ardennes. Although there were some difficulties in the coordination of air forces with the rapidly advancing ground forces, the Wehrmacht proved their tactical superiority over the British and French defenders. Later, on the Eastern Front, the Wehrmacht took visible ground signals to mark the direction and distance of enemy units for the Air Force.

Aside from these skills, the German close air support was not without problems and suffered from the same misunderstandings and rivalries between the branches of the armed forces of other nations like. How about abandoned tank commander Heinz Guderian at the height of the Meuse offensive on the implementation of its plans and called for close air support bombing s instead of medium to heavy bombers, which would have required a halt to the ground offensive to end the bombing. The command was issued, however, too late to be executed, so that the originally agreed with Guderian’s plan was successfully implemented by the Air Force leadership.


Various aircraft s suitable for close air support. Military helicopters are often directly involved in ground operations, so most of their forces helicopter units integrate directly into the army. Fighter-bombers and ground-attack aircraft s put missiles, bombs and machine gun fire one against ground targets.

During World War II dive bomber s were mainly used for close air support in the air force initially. The swoop allowed a greater accuracy than s and difficult carpet bombing of air defense target tracking. The Junkers Ju 87 is a system developed for this purpose aircraft. The low-wing aircraft was equipped at its chassis with a head wind driven siren to enhance the psychological effect. With the exception of the A-36, with an air brake n modified North American P-51, the United States Army Air Force and Royal Air Force used a no specialized aircraft for close air support. Instead took fighter and fighter-bomber like the s Republic P-47 such tasks.

In the 1960s and 70s for the first time military helicopters were used for close air support. Though helicopters were initially armed only for self-defense and had to protect the troops settled, the importance of this task exactly led to the progressive upgrade of the helicopter gunship to see Although rotorcraft are slower than fixed-wing aircraft e and much more susceptible to attack by anti-aircraft, helicopter in terrain can best relate coverage and remain longer on the battlefield. Newly developed air-to-ground missile n increased the effectiveness and combat range of helicopters and anti-tank capable of this for the first time, as experience from the Yom Kippur War of 1973 showed.

During the Vietnam War, the United States Air Force called for close air support gunship developed s to weapon carriers converted cargo plane e The first aircraft of this type was the Douglas AC-47 Spooky, followed by the Fairchild AC-119 Shadow and Stinger and the Lockheed AC-130H Spectre gunship, which are also in the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan.

Nowadays attack aircraft like the A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support for the most used, but also bombers can perform this function by means of precision-guided munitions.

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