NORFOLK, Va. – More than 350 representatives from across the U.S. Services and 21 partner nations met recently to discuss current issues impacting the Joint Close Air Support and Fires communities.
The 16th Joint Close Air Support & Fires Symposium was held May 11-12 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Joint Staff J6 Joint Fires Division sponsored the event, following a three-year hiatus. The symposium enabled participants to discuss and exchange relevant information within the international Joint Fires and CAS communities.
The Joint Fires Division is the secretariat to the Joint Fire Support Executive Steering Committee (JFS ESC), tasked with analyzing and recommending solutions to joint fire support issues.
The theme, “Optimizing Fires in a Contested Environment during Strategic Transition,” highlighted the intent of the symposium, according to Mr. Stuart Whitehead, deputy director, JS J6 Cyber and C4 Integration (C5I).
“This is your opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences to improve our collective Joint Close Air Support and Joint Fires capabilities,” he told attendees during his welcoming remarks.
“This year’s symposium analyzed CAS and Fires in a contested environment, provided lessons learned, generated discussion, and developed a way forward to incorporate issues into the JFS ESC action plan,” said Lt. Col. Byron Sullivan, Joint CAS officer with C5I.
The symposium featured service perspectives on CAS and Fires from Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis; Deputy Commanding General Futures and Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster; and Air Combat Command’s Director of Operations, Maj. Gen. Thomas Deale.
The symposium generated partner nation interest as senior leaders from Canada and Saudi Arabia attended as well. All of whom noted the importance of the CAS and Fires missions and see the JFS ESC as the vehicle for improvement in these areas.
In his remarks, General McMaster noted the importance of CAS as part of integrated air-ground operations that poses enemies with multiple, simultaneous problems.
"Events exactly like last week's CAS Symposium and Curriculum Review provide validation for the need to routinely gather joint and multinational Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Joint Fires Observer, and Forward Air Controller (Airborne) fire support professionals at a single venue to discuss training and operational challenges that lead to developing holistic, innovative and synergistic solutions,” General Davis said.
“The past decade and a half of warfare, while relevant and relatively successful against the threat, has degraded our ability to execute fires in the growing complex near-peer kinetic and non-kinetic environments,” he added. “We have embraced an over-centralized, process-driven approvals mindset that has eroded our confidence and desire to execute properly decentralized fire support.
“We all must learn from, plan and train, and innovate with one another as joint and multinational signatories of the JTAC, JFO, and FAC(A) Memoranda of Agreement to be ready in the future, “ said General Davis. “It is vital that we foster one common vision of overwhelmingly successful mission execution that leverages special relationships and trust we have developed through shared endeavors. It is the only way which we will tangibly promote effective fires cooperation from the strategic to the tactical level of warfare."
Representatives from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and partner nations rounded out the event providing their individual perspectives on future fires and close air support issues. The agenda also included discussions on key topics such as training in a multinational environment, CAS/Fires integration, optimizing the use of Joint Tactical Air Controllers and 5th generation aircraft for future conflicts. The symposium ended with several panels to discuss challenges about current operations and preparing for future conflicts.
“The ESC hopes to draw from the Joint Fires and CAS communities issues that it can include in its future action plans,” said Lt. Col. Sean Monteiro, Joint CAS officer. “This symposium is an excellent opportunity for attendees to understand how critical the ESC is — that it constitutes 21 partner nations to develop the means to solve issues impacting our Fires and CAS communities. We hope attendees will return to their units and spread the word on the ESC’s road map to improvement.”
"The JCAS Symposium provides a valuable and much needed forum to exchange service perspectives, challenges and future operating constructs as we continue to improve the integration of air and land capabilities,” General Deale noted. “The Air Force looks forward to continue working across the joint force and with our international partners to ensure we remain ready to execute CAS in any environment and across the full range of military operations."
Mr. Whitehead concluded the symposium thanking all participants and stated, “They are critical to the success of the JFS ESC and future symposiums.” Indicating the success of this event, he noted, “Planning for next year’s symposium is already underway.”