6. Understanding of following definitions is necessary to study the subject in detail:-
a. Air Assault. Is an attack against a terrain feature or other objective held by enemy forces executed by a force carried to the place of the attack by aircraft or by a helicopter .
b. Airborne/Airmobile/Air lift Operations. These are the operations characterized by an assault on enemy forces immediately after the respective dedicated troops have landed from aircraft .
7. Airborne forces can be divided into three categories which can be defined as follows:-
a. Paratroops. These are the forces landed by parachute from an aircraft .
b. Air Landing Troops. These are the forces landed usually by glider .
c. Airmobile Infantry or Air Assault Troops. These are the forces transported to the battle field by helicopter or by an aircraft.
8. Early History
a. Individual Contributions
(1) Benjamin Franklin. An American inventor, Benjamin Franklin, (17 January 1706 – 17 April 1790), envisioned a time when soldiers would be delivered from the sky, with a crude, rudimentary understanding of parachutes .
(2) Napoleon. When Napoleon was massing his barges at Boulogne, it was suggested that balloons should be used to carry assault troops, across the English Channel .
(3) Brigadier General Billy Mitchell . The first modern consideration of the use of what we now call a Paratroops force dates back to 1918. Towards the end of World War I, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell suggested dropping elements of the United States 1st Infantry Division behind German lines near Metz.
b. Development of the Airmobile Force Concept – Involvement of Nations
(1) Italy – The Pioneer in the Field. The first true paratroops drop was carried out by Italy in November 1927 . Within a few years two elite Forgoer and Nembo divisions were formed.
(2) USSR Joins the Race. To train enough experienced jumpers, parachute clubs were set up all over Russia with the aim of being able to transfer skilled members (or at least the men) into the armed forces if needed. The plan had progressed to the point that their large drops were demonstrated to foreign observers in 1936 .
(3) Germany Makes Advancement. In 1936, a parachute school was established. The German army had already purchased large numbers of Junkers Jug 52 aircraft which were now modified (slightly) for use as Paratroops transports in addition to their other duties .
c. Employment of Airborne Concept – WW II. Air mobility has been a key concept during World War II. Various operations conducted by Axis and Allied forces are as under:-
(1) German Operations
(a) Operation Weserübung – Invasion of Norway . In 1940 a company of paratroopers was dropped to seize Oslo’s undefended airstrip in support of impending naval operation. Owing to sheer y more and more on the use of third dimension. The art of warfare is ever progressing and military commanders are looking forward to achieve ascendancy over their rivals. The face of conflict is ever changing and so are the doctrines and concepts.
With the changing trends in the art of warfare the importance of air power and vertical dimension to the ground manoeuvre is ever increasing. Reliance of modern armies on air power, cyber warfare, heliborne troops and aerial weapon platform gives ample evidence to the dimensions of future battlefield.
The concept of Air Assault is getting credence due to its obvious integration with other members of the combined arms team to form a powerful punch with the field commander to achieve his defensive or offensive task. The ever-increasing defensive capabilities with hardened defences, intriguing water obstacles, accurate and lethal defensive fire has made the task of assaulting troops most difficult. Ground friction so created has made the army rely more and more on the third dimension at least to gain the first foothold or to expedite the culmination of the operation on a favourable note.
This paper encompasses the concept of Air Assault from historic perspective emphasizing its impact on future battlefield. To this end, an endeavour has been made to study the whole gamut of Air Assault concept underlining the organizational structure and employment doctrines of contemporary armies, thereby laying down the efficacy of this concept for Pakistan Army, signifying measures to harness the true purport of this concept for implementation at Army and Formation level.
THE CONCEPT Definition 6