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.

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 heliborne means.
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 transportation.


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]