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JFACC Taking the

By M A R C U S H U R L E Y
The JFACC Role
Once a theater CINC or JFC develops a

he services accept and joint doctrine concept of operations and designates a
codifies the fact that a Joint Force Air JFACC, the air component staff translates it
Component Commander (JFACC) into a cohesive joint air operations plan. In
represents the best way to command and coordination with planners from other as-
control airpower in support of a joint force signed functional components (land, sea,
commander’s (JFC’s) campaign plan. While space, and special operations), air component
there may be differences among the services planners design a comprehensive master at-
on the degree of command or control, all ac- tack plan to meet the overall objectives of the
knowledge the importance of, and support, campaign plan. Air operations (which might
centralized planning and decentralized ap- include deep-strike helicopter missions, Tom-
plication of air assets to implement a JFC’s ahawk cruise missiles, and Army tactical mis-
concept of operations. The inherent flexibil- sile strikes beyond the fire support coordina-
ity of airpower makes it a powerful but not tion line) are then phased and sequenced in
infinite theater asset. It would be a grave an overall campaign plan to affect enemy op-
error to squander this valuable tool by using erational and strategic centers of gravity. As
it in the wrong place or at the wrong time. with all operational-level planning and exe-
Desert Storm was a true test of the JFACC cution mechanisms, a JFACC provides the
concept. In contrast to the fragmented appli- linkage between strategic objectives and the
cation of airpower in Vietnam, Desert Storm tactical application of combat power.
showed the benefits of centrally controlled General William Momyer, commander
airpower. Since the Gulf War we have seen of 7 th Air Force during the Vietnam War,
continual improvements in the concept. But noted that airpower can decide battles or
we can do better. This article examines these win campaigns. The commander’s dilemma,
improvements and discusses where we he said, is determining the proper balance
should go with JFACC. among competing demands, strategic attack,
interdiction, and close air support. All are
necessary elements and it is a JFC, with ad-
vice from a JFACC and functional comman-
ders, who decides the level of effort he wants


Designating a Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) has rapidly become the customary procedure
for exercising command and control of airpower in support of joint force commanders. This approach
enables JFACCs and air component staffs to develop joint operations plans together with staffs from other
assigned components. Though limited resources preclude maintaining large standing air component staff for
every contingency, it makes sense to have a small, trained cadre augmented by liaison officers from each
component as well as trained personnel seconded in times of crisis. Such a mix can foster mutual trust, ensure
the correct blend of capabilities, and furnish air assets to implement myriad requirements of the joint force
commander’s concept of operations. A review of the improvements made in the JFACC concept since the
Persian Gulf War points the way to a new age of centrally controlled airpower.

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a JFACC and his staff to dedicate to each element by and sequence the different operations which
plan and execute the air phase of the campaign plan. make up theater campaign plans, maximiz-
This apportionment of air as- ing the potential of airpower to achieve cam-
operations necessary sets tells a JFACC what to plan paign objectives. Students learn and practice
to achieve campaign and tells other functional com- fundamental concepts, principles, and proce-
objectives manders what sort of air sup- dures needed to plan and execute joint and
port they can expect. multinational theater air operations. The
After a JFC’s apportion- course stresses center-of-gravity analysis, air
ment decision is made, a JFACC and his staff objectives, and force apportionment.
plan and execute the air operations necessary Officers attending the Air Command
to achieve campaign objectives. The air com- and Staff College receive a more in-depth ed-
ponent staff is made up of trained and ready ucation in campaign planning and execu-
men and women who develop and execute a tion. They use the air campaign planning
JFACC’s strategic and operational-level plans. tool to build comprehensive theater air oper-
Being an effective JFACC or air component ations plans and, by wargaming tactical and
staff member, however, requires theater-wide operational-level scenarios, they design and
vision and rigorous study and practice. The phase independent and supporting air oper-
Air Force has taken the lead in developing ations to achieve a JFC’s objectives. The stu-
the training, education, and exercise pro- dents must try to resolve the dilemma Gen-
grams that airmen from all services need to eral Momyer posed. In an academic setting
become JFACCs and effective air component these officers deal with the tough apportion-
staff members. ment issues that bedevil JFACCs who they
will serve after graduation.
JFACC Training
After spending a year at Air Command
Training people is as important as giving
and Staff College, a small group of officers is
them the proper tools. General Colin L.
then selected to spend another year at the
Powell, USA, indicated in Joint Pub 1, Joint
School of Advanced Airpower Studies
Warfare of the U.S. Armed Forces, that training
(SAAS). The students (including 25 Air Force
the team as they will fight helps build the
officers and one Army officer in academic
bonds of trust which are absolutely critical
year 1994–95) take an intensive course on
in joint operations. Each functional compo-
the operational-strategic levels of war. SAAS
nent (land, sea, air, space, and special opera-
combines theory, history, and wargaming to
tions) must understand and believe that air-
train and exercise a cadre of air strategists
power will be used where and when it is
who can develop effective theater air opera-
needed to achieve a CINC’s or JFC’s objec-
tions plans. These officers will become air
tives. That is the promise which we airmen,
planners for theater CINCs and air compo-
regardless of our service, must keep. We
nent commanders.
begin by training to a common standard and
The Air Warfare Center conducts bat-
then maximizing airpower during contin-
tlestaff exercises for numbered Air Force
gencies and exercises.
commanders and their assembled joint staffs
The Joint Doctrine Air Campaign Course
in the command, control, and intelligence
(JDACC) taught by Air University is a special-
procedures of JFACCs. The computer-based
ized course in air operations planning for
exercises, known as Blue Flag, replicate the-
company and field grade officers from all ser-
ater conditions by using friendly and enemy
vices who serve on theater and service air
orders of battle, war plans, and theater oper-
component staffs. JDACC addresses the sup-
ating procedures. Participants regularly in-
porting and supported roles of a JFACC and
clude members of other services and allied
integrating airpower into a CINC’s or JFC’s
nations to provide a realistic employment
campaign plan. It teaches officers to develop
experience. State-of-the-art computer tech-
nology allows ground, enemy air defense,
and maritime simulations to run simultane-
Major General Marcus Hurley, USAF, is Director
ously with offensive and defensive air opera-
of Plans and Policy at Air Combat Command.
A fighter pilot who has commanded an F–4 squad-
tions. Distributed wargaming makes it possi-
ron and an F–16 wing, he also has served as the ble to direct exercises from other sites and
commander of Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia. include geographically separated units as

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players. Blue Flag is a world class opportu- In the Gulf War, U.S. Central Command
nity for joint and combined air forces to Air Forces (CENTAF) used the 72-hour plan-
train as they will fight. ning and 48-hour tasking cycles outlined in
The crown jewel in JFACC training will Joint Pub 3–56.1, Command and Control for
be the JFACC Theater Air Strategy Sympo- Joint Air Operations. While air operations
sium, a week-long event that will introduce were driven by the JFC’s intent, mission
general and flag officers who serve or may guidance, and combat assessment, the critics
serve as JFACCs to the available air opera- of the ATO process viewed the air operations
tions planning tools. It will prepare partici- plan as too inflexible. They claimed the ATO
pants to seek and exploit synergism through could not adjust to changes based on re-
centralized planning and decentralized exe- ported battle damage assessments (BDA), in-
cution of joint air operations. They will flight reports, or the ground commander’s
study service-unique capabilities and the requirements. But every night during Desert
means of integrating them to maximize Storm CINCCENT personally reviewed and
available combat power. This course will be revised the next day’s air operations plan to
JFACCing from a warfighter’s perspective. address changes in the enemy order of bat-
tle. Moreover, he adjusted the next two days’
Air Tasking Order
targeting priorities as well as apportionment
The central tenet of airpower is that
totals to meet new threat assessments and
planning (control) must be centralized and
revised target lists.
execution decentralized. Centralized plan-
It is understandable how one might per-
ning is key to coordinating efforts among all
ceive an ATO as being too rigid. The docu-
available air forces. Decentralized execution
ment is a theater-wide tasker to strike as
makes it possible to generate the tempo of
many targets as possible in a 24-hour period
operations required and to cope with the un-
and achieve a CINC’s or JFC’s campaign ob-
certainty and disorder of air combat in bat-
jectives. Air component staffs usually work
tle. Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery,
three ATOs simultaneously: one being exe-
who commanded Allied ground forces at
cuted (today’s), one in production (tomor-
Normandy, noted: “Airpower is indivisible.
row’s), and one in planning (for the day
If you split it up into compartments, you
after tomorrow). Differences in intelligence
merely pull it to pieces and destroy its great-
and post-mission reporting which are avail-
est asset—its flexibility.” Airpower’s speed,
able to functional components and subuni-
range, and flexibility give it the ability to
fied commands mean that many targets
mass combat power throughout a theater of
nominated by one component may not be
operations. Massing combat power is the
serviced when requested since they have
goal of all commanders. Compartmentaliz-
been hit previously or are no longer viable
ing or dividing command and control re-
targets (though the component’s intelligence
sponsibilities for airpower degrades the abil-
organization does not know it). With hun-
ity to mass.
dreds of targets and thousands of sorties to
One difficulty in achieving centralized
schedule, deconflict, recover, regenerate, and
control of theater-wide air operations arises
relaunch, the ATO is large, comprehensive,
from the fact that command and control
and imposing. Today, with the command,
structure has not been responsive enough
control, and communications systems
for centralized planning and rapid execu-
fielded since the Gulf War, the current ATO
tion. In Desert Storm advanced technology
process allows greater flexibility. We have
offered this ability. Linking computers with
worked on the training, now we need to give
theater planning, communications, intelli-
our people better tools.
gence, reconnaissance, and targeting systems
gave the air component commander the Contingency Planning
ability to use the intent of the Commander As in Desert Storm ATOs can and will be
in Chief, U.S. Central Command (CINC- changed during daily targeting reviews con-
CENT) to produce a comprehensive air oper- ducted prior to their execution. A new com-
ations plan, adjust the air tasking order mand and control tool, the Contingency
(ATO) if retargeting was necessary, and exe-
cute the plan via the ATO.

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F–14 being launched The Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force
in the Adriatic during have expended tremendous efforts to ensure
Deny Flight. that CTAPS meets the needs of theater air
component commanders—regardless of a
JFACC’s service. The system has been desig-
nated the joint standard for ATO generation

Combat Camera Imagery (Raymond T. Conway)

and dissemination by the Joint Staff. In addi-
tion, the software used to develop, transmit,
and execute the ATO meets DOD common
user standards. While the hardware may be
different, both ATO inputs and the products
available will be the same among all forces
participating in theater air operations.
Initial versions of CTAPS hardware and
software have been fielded. The services use
the system for exercises and actual deploy-
Theater Automated Plan- ments. Interoperability and system connec-
ning System (CTAPS), re- tivity simplifies the job of air component
places the automated staffs and intensifies the effectiveness of air-
power. CTAPS represents a great leap forward
U.S. Army (Gil High)

system used in the Gulf

War. CTAPS makes it eas- in technology, ease of operation, communi-
ier for a JFACC to redi- cations flow, and customer support. Modern
rect sorties and missions technology has enhanced the ability of a
even after the ATO is JFACC to support a theater campaign strat-
AH–64 Apache at
Saudi port. published and distributed since it allows egy. These tools will undergo refinement as
real-time communications among opera- technology and combat change.
tions staffs, including naval aviation aboard Standing Organization
carriers. Additionally, by assigning primary CENTAF planning and execution staffs
and secondary taskings in the ATO, sorties during the Gulf War were augmented by
can be redirected to hit assigned secondary hundreds of Air Force planners and liaison
targets or diverted to address unexpected officers from other services. Since then,
battlefield situations. Procedural and sys- CINCs and JFCs have used ad hoc joint staffs
temic changes allow a JFC to add or shift to plan and execute air operations in contin-
combat airpower to main or gency and exercise scenarios. This puts a
supporting efforts and af- tremendous training burden on air compo-
CTAPS allows real-time
ford unprecedented flexibil- nent commanders who are assigned JFACC
communications among ity to meet sudden changes responsibilities. In a crisis training time may
operations staffs, including on the modern, dynamic be unavailable or inappropriate because of
battlefield. operational security concerns. An even
naval aviation aboard
Air Force computer sys- tougher problem occurs if a CINC requires a
carriers tems used to plan and exe- JFACC to execute initial air operations and
cute air operations in the plan others while the staff is deploying. This
Gulf War were incompatible with those of is extremely difficult for a trained and ready
other services and coalition air forces. The air component staff and nearly impossible
systems were not intended to address unique for an ad hoc group.
requirements of joint and multinational air We can overcome such problems by as-
operations in a contingency theater. To over- signing members of all services to a theater
come the systemic obstacles to a single inte- CINC’s air component staff full time. This
grated air operation, paper copies of the ATO joint staff would live together and work as a
being executed were hand delivered to ships team every day, most likely at the air compo-
and certain coalition forces. This was a great nent commander’s headquarters. The staff
source of frustration for planners, operations would then be a trained and ready core
controllers on the CENTAF staff, and
squadrons tasked with flying missions.

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around which a full JFACC staff could be Central Command, and Commander, U.S.
formed in crises. This requires training more Central Command Air Forces. This arrange-
people from all services to act as members of ment gives the JTF–SWA commander local di-
air component staffs. Even if they are not ac- rection and control of sorties. In addition, he
tively serving on a joint air component staff, ensures airspace is laid out in a coordinated,
they will be available to augment the as- disciplined manner. By articulating the level
signed staff. of effort required and focusing all players on
Numbered Air Forces (NAFs) have several the mission requirements, the JTF–SWA com-
hundred people assigned to form an Air Force mander is able to execute the air operations
core around which a theater air component required to achieve CINCCENT objectives.
staff can be built. NAF commanders train and While it may be desirable, fiscal reality
exercise assigned Air Force people to build an prevents us from forming large, new air com-
air operations plan, coordinate plans and op- ponent staffs in each theater. The JTF–SWA
erations between service components, and ex- experience has shown that a small, trained,
ecute initial and subsequent ATOs in the and ready cadre, augmented by quality liai-
event of crisis. This capability has been tested son officers from each component and
successfully in real-world contingencies, the- trained augmentees, can transform the com-
ater exercises, and at Blue Flag with liaison mander’s objectives into a comprehensive air
personnel from other services and some allies. operations plan and an executable ATO.
What is missing is full-time representatives Effective airpower, capable of meeting
from other service components who will pro- the strategic needs of a JFC and addressing
vide airpower in response to a regional con- direct air support requirements of land and
tingency. JFACCs need this full-time service maritime component commanders, depends
expertise to wage the joint warfare which on a solid foundation of communications
General Powell said is essential to victory. It is and trust. When a JFACC clearly articulates
up to the services to recognize the need and his goals and focuses components and his
assign the right people. joint staff to achieve them, we can be suc-
In the ongoing commitment to South- cessful. As seen in Southern Watch and
west Asia, Operation Southern Watch, 150 Air other contingencies, properly trained,
FA–18s taking off from Force and Navy officers augment CENTCOM equipped, and motivated personnel (as-
Aviano Air Base. and CENTAF staffs. signed or augmenting) can become a
Personnel on tem- formidable JFACC team when trust is estab-
porary duty with lished and communications are maintained.
the joint task force
The Future
staff plan and exe-
While the nature of future conflict is
cute air operations
Combat Camera Imagery (Steve Thurow)

uncertain, U.S. participation in it and the

in support of U.N.
need for responsive and flexible airpower is
Resolutions 687
not. Operations other than war (OOTW)
and 688. In return,
constitute a growth industry in which the
they are practicing
Nation will be involved. Thus airpower will
their skills in an
also be involved in some form. Ongoing op-
operational setting.
erations in Bosnia, Southwest Asia, the Horn
The JFACC for
of Africa, Haiti, and other regions are be-
Southern Watch is
coming the norm rather than the exception.
also the Joint Task
Experiences in these and other crises are
Force-Southwest Asia (JTF–SWA) commander,
helping us transform the lessons of Desert
the Area Air Defense commander, and the
Storm into experience for present and future
Airspace Control Authority. Operational con-
air commanders.
trol over Navy and Air Force flying units as
We are witnessing the first steps towards
well as Army Patriot missile batteries in the
controlling all theater air operations via the
theater is retained by the respective service
ATO. The Chairman recently changed Joint
component commanders. The JTF–SWA com-
Pub 3–56.1, Command and Control for Joint Air
mander exercises tactical control over Navy
Operations, to require positive control of all
and Air Force sorties made available for plan-
ning through Commander, U.S. Naval Forces

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air operations in a the- personnel could serve as deputy JFACC and

ater, including Army heli- in liaison functions, providing expertise in
copters, on the ATO or a areas such as space warfare, airlift, and strate-
flight plan. Special Opera- gic attack. Another possibility is to structure
tions Forces have demon- theater exercises to provide for an Air Force
strated that they can JFACC afloat with a predominantly Navy
make significant contri- staff. Linking and sequencing service training
butions to the deep bat- simulations such as the Navy’s Fleetex and
tle. We have the ability to the Army’s Battle Training Program with Blue
regularly include special Flag to accomplish a CINC’s joint training
operations missions on objectives is yet another area with tremen-
the ATO. During OOTW, dous potential. Phased simulations, keeping
the consequences of not key players in their respective roles, more
exercising positive con- closely approximates the real execution of a
trol over all air operations campaign plan. With other innovations like
U.S. Air Force (Andy Dunaway)

could be disastrous. Posi- the distributed wargaming system, we can

tive control helps avoid and will do more to simulate and exercise
fratricide by giving all joint procedures that will be in use should
team members a copy of we go to war.
the game plan. The con- The future of airpower is optimistic for
F–16 returning from
tention that doing so both airmen and other functional compo-
Cope North 94–1 makes a cumbersome document even more nents. The new tools and training we are
mission off Japan. unwieldy fails to take into account CTAPS giving to JFACCs and their staffs will make
and future command and control systems. airpower more capable and flexible. Short-
We should also expect to encounter and comings identified during and after the Gulf
exercise more frequently with JFACCs who War are being addressed and initial results
are not Air Force officers or who have a mo- are very promising. As new systems and
bility rather than a combat background. A training programs mature we will see better
primary reason for such joint training pro- and more responsive air operations to sup-
grams is to prepare for scenarios when a non- port a JFC’s concept of operations.
Air Force service will have the preponderance With newly acquired capabilities, how-
of air assets and the command and control ever, come responsibilities to act as an equal
mechanisms to plan and execute theater air partner beside both land and maritime com-
operations. It is not difficult to imagine a sce- ponents as a supporting as well as supported
nario when a Navy admiral is the initial component. This means seeking innovative
JFACC in a contingency and ways to sequence and phase air operations
new tools we are giving then passes his responsibility to achieve theater objectives. It also means
JFACCs will make air- to an Air Force or a Marine massing airpower to delay, disrupt, and de-
general as operations move stroy enemy combat forces before they close
power more capable and ashore. As the commitment to with ground and naval forces. And finally, it
flexible a particular contingency ma- means being available to put steel on target
tures, the JFACC may again be when a JFC needs to add or shift weight to a
an admiral or general responsible for plan- main or supporting effort.
ning and executing mobility and sustain- Future JFACCs will wield more control
ment activities. This would be difficult to ac- and provide better airpower capability to
complish in a large operation today, but JFCs and other components of a joint force.
standardized planning and execution tools In the past centrally planning the execution
and joint training programs will make the of limited air assets has been a difficulty, but
hand-off easier in the future. Now we need enhanced training and enhanced command,
practice. control, and planning systems will help us
It is possible and advisable to test this realize the theater-wide benefits of flexible,
concept. Under different funding and spon- responsive, and lethal airpower. JFQ
sorship Blue Flag could be run with a non-Air
Force JFACC and his principle staff. Air Force

Spring 1995 / JFQ 65