Slide 8 of 12
SLIDE 5: Force Structure – The Players Isolated personnel are time critical targets: the only difference between a downed airmen and a Scud TELs is the action we take on the objective. We drop a smart bomb on one set and we bring the other one’s back and force feed them cold beer. The other parts of that kill chain are identical: the command and control, the rapid acquisition of critical elements of information (location, identity, verification, etc.) and the speed into action. Like attacking time critical target, combat rescue requires a system of systems -- That tailored force package. It consists of the following elements -- each with a different contribution to the success of a rescue mission.
.Pararescue – Pararescue Jumpers ( or PJ’s for short) are at the very core of our combat rescue capability. By analogy, just as bombs and missiles do the job of global attack and the platforms exist to deploy them, PJs are the sole weapon of choice for USAF combat rescue. The rest of the forces exist to deploy and protect them. They are charged with physically recovering survivors and keeping them alive throughout their ordeal of being rescued.
.Recovery Vehicles and Crews –Until we are able to mid-air retrieve flyers under parachute canopy or beam them out of their burning cockpits, we have to retrieve them from the earth’s surface. Few places are suitable for over-land ingress, runway landings or even vertical landings. Our helicopters have the job to deliver and retrieve rescue teams and survivors to and from all surface conditions. We always plan to use alternate insertion and extraction techniques (hoists, ropes, ladders) from hovering helicopters to get PJs in and survivors out. Helicopters give a range of flexibility in the tactical area that nothing else does. They can also provide very close range limited fire support for PJs on the ground. Until we can teach fixed-wing aircraft to hover better (and we’re working on it) helicopters will be the recovery vehicles of choice.
.Airborne Rescue Support – Like any element of air power, combat rescue forces need reach – reach in the aspects of lift, forward replenishment and command & control. To get that reach the HC-130s and crews function as a sixth man or Swiss army knife; they’re charged with getting the essentials forward to the point of action so the mission doesn’t fail for want of logistics. They provide aerial refueling to the helicopters, an air-land/air-drop platform for personnel and equipment and a communications relay between the geographically scattered components of a rescue effort. This mandates a vehicle with range, endurance and great payload capacity as well as a communications suite interoperable with any and all potential participants in a mission.
.Airborne Fire Support – Survivability is a key aspect of combat rescue, and fighter and attack aircraft have that charge when the threat level dictates armed intervention. Attack aircraft provide rescue escort (RESCORT) to neutralize ground threats to dedicated rescue forces and fighter aircraft provide local air superiority to protect rescue forces from air attack. RESCORT aircraft also have the job to visually identify survivors, command forces on the rescue site and assess the local situation.
.Command and Control – Tying all this together are the theater C2 forces. They consist of AF Rescue Coordination centers or Joint Search & Rescue centers, Air Operations Centers, and airborne C4I platforms like AWACS and Joint STARS. They’re charged with committing rescue forces, gathering & distributing critical information, and synchronizing support for the effort.