The Redleg S2: The Fire Support-Intelligence Link

by Captain Jameson R. Johnson

Editor's Note: The terms operations other than war, low-intensity conflict, and LIC used throughout this article are no longer doctrinally accurate within the Army. Precise terminology while discussing peace operations, humanitarian assistance, and operations in aid of civil authorities should replace OOTW. This guidance was released in a message from Joint Staff, DJS, 311514Z AUG 95. The field artillery (FA) battalion S2 is one of the most overlooked and least used assets on the modern military intelligence (MI) battlefield today. This article will address the FA battalion S2's assets, examples of good use of the FA battalion S2, and some suggestions for units.
Often the brigade collection plan is handled completely with the standard MI collection assets and scouts. Once an operation is under way, reports come in from a variety of battlefield operating systems (BOSs), and an information landslide may overwhelm the S2s. This leaves real intelligence overlooked or ignored. In today's changing face of warfare, a key to success for the brigade intelligence effort is to diversify the overall collection plan, and use as many different assets as possible. Some of the most diversified and most numerous assets on the battlefield belong to the direct support FA battalion intelligence officer. Like that of a brigade, the equipment possessed by the FA battalion S2 spans the entire sector. The difference is that the FA battalion S2 has direct control over all of the assets as well as direct communications with each asset in the battle. Due to the mission of the artillery and the table of organization and equipment assets, the FA battalion S2 has the unique ability and responsibility to monitor the entire battlefield and all of the engagements on it, from the forward line of troops (FLOT) to the rear. The assets of the FA battalion S2 comprise two different categories equipment and personnel.


The AN/PRQ-36 Firefinder radar, designed as a countermortar radar, was later updated to counter artillery fire as well. Using a horizontal beam, the PRQ-36 can acquire with pinpoint accuracy any type of artillery round that penetrates that beam, from a .50-caliber bullet up to and including many air defense weapons. With indirect fires, the PRQ-36 can predict where the rounds will impact and give prior warning of incoming artillery to a protected area. In large-scale warfare, the PRQ-36 is an excellent predictive analysis tool. With only a few enemy acquisitions, the FA battalion S2 can accurately predict the placement of the regimental or divisional artillery groups (RAGs and DAGs). When the RAG or DAG has been identified, the S2 can easily template the rest of the enemy force using doctrinal distances. During low-intensity conflict (LIC), the PRQ-36 can play an even greater role. A few well-placed mortars can bring an entire task force to a standstill. The PRQ-36 is the most effective way to identify the position of those mortars, and to analyze the patterns of the mortar crews. Once identified, the target can be attacked with artillery or by a Quick Reaction Force which can attack the mortar, crew, and cache site. The FA battalion S2 is the best intelligence officer on the battlefield to track those mortar crews and predict where to send in a mortar attack force. In operations other than war, the PRQ-36 can identify mortars, heavy machineguns, and air defense weapons. In built-up areas, this is an invaluable asset to the patrolling force because it focuses the effort in an often congested and confusing environment.
The Tactical Fire Direction System (TACFIRE) system is an organic fire direction system that links all levels of the Artillery BOS digitally. TACFIRE allows for the expedited clearance of fires, fire planning over the radio, and the ability for the user to send a text message to any of his subscribers. The key importance of TACFIRE to the FA battalion S2 is that this officer has a digital communications link which provides the ability to get information from the soldier in the observation post (OP) or battle position (BP), and to talk directly with the fire support officers (FSOs) at any level, right there in the tactical operations center. This ability to communicate digitally with both maneuver and support elements at the same time, allows great analysis ability for the FA battalion S2. The Ground/Vehicular Laser Locating Device (GVLLD), Ground Global Positioning System, thermal site, and laser rangefinder of the Combat Observation Lasing Team (COLT), can be one of the most accurate information packets on the battlefield. If the COLT team is given survey support or a GPS, they can establish a known point on the ground. With the GVLLD and the thermal sight, they are able to acquire targets up to 5000 meters. Then, using the laser rangefinder in the GVLLD, the COLT team can send an S2 a ten-digit grid coordinate for a target with absolute accuracy. For a battalion in the attack, the ability to pinpoint an entire defense is invaluable. For the S2 trying to watch an named area of interest (NAI), or fight the counter-reconnaissance battle, the accuracy of the GVLLD allows for the easy and accurate targeting of the enemy reconnaissance elements.


The FA Forward Observer (FO), military occupational specialty 13F, is one of the best field soldiers there is. The FO understands the operations of both the artillery and the maneuver element, and integrates both elements. Fire support communications are legendary. Battlesare often fought over fire support nets because they are often the only nets open for communication. This is due to both the maintenance of the radios and their dispersion over the battlefield. An FSO's ability to communicate and his presence in every battalion, company, and platoon allows the FA battalion S2 to talk directly with any element on the battlefield. There are also GPSs and laser rangefinders with FOs down to the platoon level. This allows the 13F to conduct targeting at a very accurate level, as well as sending information to the FA battalion S2 directly from an OP or a BP. There are fire support elements (FSEs) in each infantry, armor, and cavalry battalion. There are FSEs in the aviation brigade and attack squadrons. There are FSEs in the BS. The amazing fact is that at every level from the division commander's side to a battalion scout OP, there is a 13F that the FA battalion S2 can speak to at any moment. No other intelligence element can operate with that ability to gather information.
The Combat Observation Lasing Team is a brigade asset that allows a direct artillery strike on a specific vehicle or target using a laser and a Copperhead round. COLTs operate throughout the entire brigade sector and often are used as scouts in the defense. The fire-support net also links them to the FA battalion S2. This allows the FA battalion S2 to speak with yet another element on the battlefield that is able to see the entire battlefield. The COLT can also play the role of an air-to-ground ordinance controller; using the GLLVD, the team can match pulse repetition frequency PRF codes with jet aircraft and guide munitions on to the target directly. This is invaluable to an S2 as a targeting tool.
The Survey Platoon is another element that has movement over the entire battlefield, and is controlled solely by the artillery. This platoon provides an accurate location to any element on the battlefield, and is primarily used by the firing batteries of the artillery. The platoon may be used by the mortar platoons, COLTS, or maneuver elements. What the survey platoon brings to the intelligence battle is the ability to operate all over the sector in areas not covered by standard collection assets. They can provide critical information about the dead space or the geographical center of the battlefield, especially the routes and conditions of roads within the sector. Firing batteries can also play a role in route selection, as they move around constantly between the FLOT and the rear. Battery commanders spend a great deal of time searching for new firing positions within the brigade area of operation. These two elements can provide good reconnaissance information on areas not often watched.
The Meteorological Team (METT) Section gives the FA battalion S2 an accurate and readily accessible weather report. Each division artillery (DIVARTY) has their own METT section. An S2 does not have to depend on the Air Force, local sources, or old data when data less than an hour old is available 24 hours a day, direct from the area of interest or operation.


Somalia is an example of nontraditional use of artillery assets. Despite the lack of artillery guns in the country, the forces deployed there took a PRQ-37 radar from the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized). Primarily, the radars were brought to acquire warlord artillery. There were no artillery strikes by the forces of Mohamed Farah Aideed. What his forces did well, however, was to employ technicals, mortar tubes mounted in the back of pickup trucks. Farah Aideed's crews, through the use of handheld radios, were able to bring in limited mortar fire on coalition forces. The PRQ-37 radar at the airport was able to monitor the entire city of Mogadishu. Not only was the PRQ-37 able to track the mortars and give the maneuver elements the ability to set up roadblocks and apprehend the mortar trucks, but it proved useful in finding heavy machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades, and air defense weapons used against coalition aircraft.
One of the most successful links between the fire-supporter and intelligence I have seen was a light-heavy rotation at the National Training Center in February 1993. As the battalion FSO for the __5-9 IN, I placed an outstanding FO sergeant with the battalion scout platoon during the train-up, and on a deployment to Japan for Exercise Keen Edge. This sergeant was able to become part of the platoon. He participated in physical training and in daily training. In return, we had a personal scout who reported back to the FA battalion. At the same time, I took the time to build a good relationship with both the Infantry S2 and the FA battalion S2. The result of our relationship was the ability of either S2 to call on the radio and get a spot report on the enemy situation 10 to 12 kilometers beyond our present positions. This led to the scout platoon killing 43 light fighters infiltrating our defenses, an enemy artillery battery, and a motorized rifle company in one night with indirect fires. The communications link allowed the two S2s to drive the deep fight long before a light task force could formally engage us.
Another successful use of the FA battalion S2 in the overall collection plan was a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation of the 2d Brigade, 6th Infantry Division, in October 1993. The brigade commander determined that the destruction of the enemy's mortar systems was the key to the success of the initial operation. Therefore he placed the PRQ-36 radar, a firing battery, and an entire platoon of infantry to guard them on the initial air entry. Further, the Brigade S2 and the FA Battalion S2 established a designated counter-fire net with the other S2s in the task force. On this net, the S2s used the acquisitions from the PRQ-36 and reports from patrols to, as a complete intelligence community, recommend an entire battle plan to the brigade and battalion commanders en masse. Once the concept was accepted, the S2s were able to direct the effort of ground forces, aviation assets, and indirect fires. The result was 50-percent kill ratio of the enemy mortars before the rest of the task force was on the ground. Within 24 hours of the task force's arrival in country, we had shut down the enemy indirect capability for the rest of the LIC operation. The direct line between the brigade S2 and the FA battalion S2 continued to be effective as the assets in the artillery battalion played a regular role in the entire brigade collection plan doing route and area reconnaissance and limited patrolling, while continuing to dominate the enemy's indirect-fire capabilities. The artillery played a continuous role in the intelligence cycle, giving the brigade new weapons and eventually, victory.


Below are some suggestions to the task force planning a deployment to either a training center, or more importantly, a real-world mission. Units should make use of artillery assets in collecting intelligence information by


On today's modern battlefield, the key to success is to coordinate all assets to give the maximum effect of their capabilities, and delegate the workload to all the different BOSs. No other combat arm has more eyes,ears, and radios in more places than the Artillery. No other combat arm has more organic killers and links to killer systems than the Artillery. Because of the assets and unique abilities of the FA battalion S2s, they can bring new depth and width to the brigade task force battle. At present, however, they are a vital but under-used link in the intelligence makeup of today's battlefield.
Captain JR Johnson is currently the XO in the G3 Office, 702d MI Group, Army Special Operations Command, at Fort Gordon, Georgia. His previous assignments have included command and staff positions in Alaska and Turkey and service in Operations DESERT STORM, DESERT SHIELD, and PROVIDE COMFORT. Captain Johnson has a bachelor of arts degree in History from the Citadel. Readers can reach him at DSN 780-9175, or via E-mail at