Eyes of the Eagle:
101st Airborne Division (AASLT) DISE
by Lieutenant Colonel John DeFrietas, III
As with any division today, the 101st Airborne
Division (Air Assault) is ready to project its force anywhere, any
time. Providing intelligence during force projection operations
requires a tactically tailored military intelligence (MI) element
capable of conducting split-based operations. Doctrinally, this
element is called a deployable intelligence support element (DISE).
Its composition is based on mission, enemy, terrain and weather,
troops, and time available (METT-T) and on the division, corps or
joint task force (JTF) commander's intelligence requirements.
This is the next in a series of articles concerning the DISE. (See
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Brian A. Keller's article, "Building a
Division DISE," in the January-March 1996 issue of the Military
Intelligence Professional Bulletin (MIPB); LTC Victor M. Rosello's
article, "The Airborne Division's Initial Entry DISE," in the
April-June 1996 MIPB; and in the same issue, LTC John R. Brooks'
letter to the editor on the 4th Infantry Division (Mech) DISE.)
Consequently, I will not further review the basic concepts
governing DISE employment. I will focus instead on the requirement
to use multiple DISEs to support deep air assault operations.
To understand how we employ the DISE concept, you must first
understand the unique capabilities and requirements associated with
a deep air assault operation. A deep air assault is conducted
approximately 300 or more kilometers (km) from the division's
tactical assembly area (TAA) (see Figure 1). Its purpose is to
strike deep in the enemy's operational or strategic rear at a
geographic point or against a force that will unhinge the enemy's
efforts. The corps, JTF, or theater commander designates the
target(s) of the deep attack.
To be successful, the air assault force commander must synchronize
several actions occurring simultaneously in time and space. First,
the commander must have precise battlespace visualization in depth
to enable him to locate, track, and kill the enemy. He must gain
and maintain information dominance to enable him to concentrate
lethal and nonlethal fires from joint and organic aviation and
artillery against designated high-payoff targets. He must be able
to quickly assess the effects of his fires to determine where and
when to concentrate future fires.
The air assault force commander must build and protect a forward
operating base (FOB) to use as a springboard in launching the air
assault deeper into the enemy's rear area. (The force establishes
the FOB no deeper than 150 km, the maximum range of the CH-47
helicopter.) While the FOB remains operational, the commander must
protect the force located there. As forces and equipment flow into
the FOB, the commander must simultaneously conduct deep attacks,
coordinating Army aviation assets with joint assets to set the
conditions for future air assaults.
The air assault commander must focus simultaneously on the threat
These threats include special purpose forces,
artillery, air defense artillery (ADA), and maneuver forces.
- To the TAA.
- To the air routes between the TAA and the FOB.
- To the FOB.
- To the air routes between the FOB and the objective.
- In and around the objective area.
Multiple DISEs Lead to Success
As you can imagine, the demand on the intelligence BOS
is tremendous and constant. To succeed in
satisfying the intelligence demands of the force, the G2 and the
ACE must fuse information from
organic resources with information received from corps and
higher-level resources. (These resources include the cavalry,
scouts, Apache helicopters, acquisition radars, airborne warning
and control system (AWACS) downlinks to the ADA battalion, the
long-range surveillance unit, and the MI battalion.) The G2 and the
ACE must tailor the products to satisfy the intelligence
requirements of subordinate commanders. They include the aviation
brigade commander conducting the deep attack focused on one threat,
the infantry brigade commander located in the FOB focused on
another threat, and the commander of the division support command
in the TAA worried about yet another threat. The G2 and ACE must
then push the required information where it is needed throughout
the division area of operation, most of which is on the enemy side
of the forward line of our own troops. Pushing information to three
locations spread over an area of 300 km or more requires us to
integrate multiple DISEs into the operational scheme of maneuver.
While the division is in the TAA, information comes into the ACE,
is processed, and is pushed to the All-Source Analysis System
Remote Workstation (RWS) located with each brigade and the assault
command post. At this point, it is easy to ensure everyone has a
common view of the battlespace due to collocation and access to a
mature communications structure. However, when we assault to
establish the FOB, maintaining a common intelligence picture
requires an additional DISE.
Depending on the size of the force used to establish the FOB, at
least two RWSs, a TROJAN Special Purpose Integrated Remote
Intelligence Terminal (SPIRIT) II (TS II), and additional analysts
as required move with the assault force. The TS II provides the
critical conduit through which the commander at the FOB receives
intelligence updates. Augmenting the DISE with more RWSs, the
Mobile Integrated Tactical Terminal (MITT), a Commanders' Tactical
Terminal (CTT) for Guardrail Common Sensor feeds, or a Joint
Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) Ground
Station Module (GSM) would depend on the mission, threat, and
available transportation. Establishing the FOB around a flight
landing strip clearly provides the commander with greater DISE
configuration options than if all resources must arrive by
The S2 of the assaulting brigade, supported by the MI battalion's
analysis and control team (ACT) and any other tailored intelligence
resources, provides intelligence support to the forward location.
They maintain connectivity with the G2 and the ACE, still located
in the TAA, for intelligence and database updates passed in the
form of external database coordination messages. Initially, the S2
passes information to the assaulting force and receives reports
over tactical frequency modulated (FM) radios. When the FOB
establishes the tactical local area network (TACLAN), the S2 is
then able to pass record traffic and graphic products over the
Mobile Subscriber Equipment. By August 1996, all battalion S2s in
the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) will have laptop
computers that tie into the division TACLAN.
A third tailored DISE supports the assault on the final objective.
At this time, the commander must decide where he is willing to
accept risk in his intelligence architecture. Since there is still
a need to receive and process intelligence at three different
locations (the TAA, the FOB and the objective) and since there are
only two TS IIs in the division, all the locations cannot receive
equal support. Consequently, the evolving situation will dictate
whether the assaulting force at the final objective receives a TS
II, and if it does, whether it comes from the TAA or the FOB. At a
minimum, the S2 of the assaulting force assaults with his
supporting ACT and his organic RWS, updated with the latest
database information from the ACE. Tailoring the DISE with a CTT,
MITT, GSM, and so forth will also depend on METT-T and available
A DISE embodies two tenets of MI operations yet it is not a section
found on the modified table of organization and equipment.
Consequently, anyone who participates in split-based operations
uses a DISE. Most leaders today understand that the DISE is a
natural outcome of tactical tailoring required to support force
projection operations. Within the air assault division, forming a
DISE is not only necessary to support force projection into a
theater of operation, it is also required to enable the
intelligence BOS to fully engage in deep air assault operations.
LTC DeFrietas is attending the Army War College. He
has held a variety of command and staff positions including G2,
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky;
and Commander, 519th MI Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
and deployed with the unit to Haiti. Readers can address questions
concerning intelligence support to air assault division operations
by calling the G2 office at (502) 798-4802/3022, DSN 635-4802/ 3022
or sending E-mail to [email protected] You could
contact the author at [email protected]