101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Gold Book

ANNEX D - Air Assault Operations in a Desert Environment


1. Daylight staging is desired for hookup teams, PZ controls, and personnel. If possible, aircraft should be staged during daylight as well. In the desert, there are no visual references (such as hardball roads, defined treelines, etc) to guide either loads or aircraft to the PZ. To plan for loads to arrive at night ensures friction. Because aircraft are flying off GPS grids, the PZ can call in updated lead touchdown points to PZ control, which forwards the updated grids to the aviation elements.

2. Aircraft serials coming into a PZ for the first time should be sequenced in five minute intervals. Usually aircraft are finding the PZ using GPS, and there may be two touchdown points marked on a PZ. By sequencing in the serials, staging problems can be solved before too many aircraft are on the ground. There is no rush to enter into the PZ take ample time to sequence in.

3. Serials should work the same PZ. The goal is to keep the operation as simple as possible. If serials fly into the same PZ every time, the operation is simpler.

4. The PZ control officer must maintain the ability to reconfigure the PZ at short notice in response to wind changes and terrain wearing. Contingency PZ set-up plans should address anticipated seasonal or cardinal direction wind changes. Pilots must also be prepared to adjust headings based on wind direction when picking up loads.

5. Separation in PZs (minimal distances): Due to blowing dust and sand, aircraft separation must be increased. 150m for UH-60 in staggered/echelon formation, and 250m for CH47 external loads.

6. ACLs: Ensure that altitude constraints on weight are considered and briefed. (it is not unusual for a UH60 to fly only 6500 lb. and a CH47 only 16,500 lb.) Also load times must be adjusted: 3 min for pax onload for UH60, 10 min hookup for external load UH60, 15-20 minute hookup of external load for CH47.

7. Crisis action teams (CAT): No fewer than one CAT per every two loads is standard, due to the distance between loads and the transit time involved. CATs are the decisive factor in PZ operations. They need to send timely, accurate spot reports, know the layout of the PZ, and act quickly to solve any problems. They and the hooker teams must see the PZ during the daylight.

8. Slingload considerations: In the desert environment, use of extended slings for CH47s is not recommended due to loss of contrast and depth perception under goggles at higher altitudes. Normal slingloads can be accomplished during 0% illumination with a slightly dusty PZ or LZ. Similarly, secondary loads (i.e. cargo nets below gun tubes) are not recommended. Lastly, PZ recons must be done early by aviation crews to check and confirm suitability.

9. Light PZ: The multiple touchdown points technique allows two serials to pick-up simultaneously. Also, incoming serials do not need to wait for dust to settle on the PZ, (as with normal one touchdown point PZs), because of the separation of the two touchdown points. This technique allows units to mass within a short amount of time.

10. Recommended enroute airspeed and altitude is no more than 80 knots and 80 feet at night due to loss of contrast.

11. PZ planning factors:

a. PZ control in a desert environment is more difficult due to increased distances.

b. Wind changes must be planned for in contingency PZ layouts.

c. PZ rehearsals are critical.

d. The AMT needs to allow longer pick-up times and exit times.

e. Blowing sand and dust will obscure PZ activity; plan on time between serials to allow dust to settle.

f. Alternate LZs have an increased likelihood of execution due to difficulties of terrain selection without ground reconnaissance.

g. IR lighting is preferred for PZ marking.


1. Time separation: 1 minute between serials at different touchdown points within the same LZ grouping. 5-8 minute between serials at the same touchdown points. Offload times: 1 min UH60 seats out, 5 minutes CH47 external load.

2. Minimize internal loads as much as possible. Difficulty loading and unloading increases time on the ground and dust effects.

3. LZ groupings and branches allow for flexibility. Multiple touchdown points put forces on the ground quickly in the same AO while avoiding brown-out conditions. Multiple touchdown points also throw off mobile anti-landing forces.


1. Aerial and ground reconnaissance of FARP locations is essential in determining size, environmental suitability, and landing directions.

2. Distances. As with the PZ and LZ operations, landing distances will be increased at the FARP. An additional 50 feet between each refuel point (one hose) is recommended. Time separation: 20 minutes for UH60 serials, 25 minutes for CH47 serials.

3. Equipment should be maintained using plastic bags and 100 mph tape around hose joints and connections to reduce the effect of sand in creating fuel leaks. Hoses should be inspected following every refuel operation.