Fire Force

Does anyone think Fire Force could be adopted/adapted into today's operations? It was a blistering tactic in the Bush War, would it have any relevance in the sand pit ?
Yea well aparently from what i have read elements of it have been used in the british army. Dont know if its been used in the pit but certainly the integration and combined arms ( especially in infantry armoured, mech, light role and air assault all in one ) basically one of the main ideas of fire force in which the Rhodesians used so well.

What is an airborne QRF other than a version of Fire Force? Because that's basically what Fire Force was. The Rhodesians weren't the first to use the concept, though they certainly refined it and brought land-air integration to a new level. There were the US Marine "Sparrowhawk" 20-30 man QRFs in Vietnam, often called in by USMC Recon patrols, as well as the US Army Air Cavalry's various "coloured" platoons: the Whites being the scout helos, Red attack helos (one of each operating together made a "Pink" team), with the Blues being the heli-borne infantry, often used as a QRF, all operating under one troop HQ. (A US cavalry troop is equivalent to a Brit company or squadron).

This indicated the
need for a quick response by a highly maneuverable small force with adequate
fire power, which the 9th Marines met with the development of the SPARROW HAWK
concept in January 1966. Each forward battalion maintained a reinforced rifle
squad on daylight alert for immediate deployment by helicopter to any
destination in its zone of action to exploit contact with hostile forces.
Transport and armed helicopters were on strip alert at the Marble Mountain Air
Facility at Da Nang and upon request from the battalion,

were immediately deployed to a designated landing zone to pick up the "SPARROW
HAWK" squad. These Marines were then landed in the enemy's rear or flank.
This Marine tactical unit was utilized as a separate maneuver element on the
ground either in a mobile role or as a separate blocking force, but not as a
reinforcing element. By 30 June 1966, the 9th Marines had successfully
employed SPARROW HAWK 45 times and had achieved significant results.

EAGLE FLIGHT: (also PACIFIER, KINGFISHER, SPARROWHAWK) A package of aircraft, on either ground or airborne alert, designated to respond to emergency situations or targets of opportunity by either inserting ground units or attacking by fire or both. The group usually consisted of a command helicopter, troop lift helicopters and attack helicopters. In some instances, fixed wing attack aircraft were also added to the package.

A lot on Air Cav organisation and tactics:

The variety of aircraft organic to air cavalry permitted maximum flexibility in organizing for combat and enabled the commander to structure the assets into teams to satisfy mission requirements. One air cavalry troop was organic to the armored cavalry squadron of the infantry division, and three were organic to the air cavalry squadron of the airmobile division. Each troop consisted of a scout platoon equipped with light observation helicopters, an aerial weapons platoon with AH-1G armed helicopters, and a rifle platoon with organic UH-1H utility helicopters. In Vietnam the commander employed various teams in combat operations. A red team consisted of two gun-
ships, AH-1G Cobras, with a variety of armament. It was strictly an offensive weapon, readily available to the commander. A white team, consisting of two light observation helicopters armed with 7.62-mm. miniguns, was used to reconnoiter areas where the enemy's situation was unknown and significant contact was not expected. One of these helicopters flew a few feet above the ground or trees to conduct close in reconnaissance. The other flew at a higher altitude to provide cover and radio relay and to navigate. The higher ship also functioned in a command and control capacity. A pink team was a mixture of red and white, one light observation helicopter and one Cobra. The observation helicopter followed trails, made low passes over the enemy positions, and contoured the terrain in conducting its reconnaissance mission. The gunship flew a circular pattern at a higher altitude in the general vicinity to provide suppressive fire and relay information gathered by the observation helicopter. When outside of artillery range or in areas considered to be extremely dangerous, the pink teams were used in conjunction with a command and control helicopter. If one helicopter was downed by enemy fire, the remaining aircraft provided cover until a reaction force arrived. Pink teams could also adjust artillery fire, although the AH-1G with its twin pods of 2.75-inch rockets was comparable to a 105-mm. howitzer. Pink teams were the most prevalent tactical combination of aircraft in the air cavalry troop.

A blue team was a structured number of UH-1H aircraft transporting the air cavalry troop's aerial rifle (aerorifle) platoon or part of a ground cavalry troop of the cavalry squadron. The blue team normally worked with pink teams. The aerorifle platoon of the air cavalry troop was transported in its organic aircraft in a great variety of roles. When the aerorifle platoon was employed, a rifle company from one of the battalions in the area was designated as the backup, quick reaction force. The air cavalry troops were normally assigned ground and aerial intelligence, security, and economy-of-force missions.
Didn't fireforces deploy by parachute from dakotas?
would this have been quicker than helis?
smallbrownprivates said:
Didn't fireforces deploy by parachute from dakotas?
would this have been quicker than helis?
Quicker maybe, but the potential 'injury factor' of the air drop is that much higher. The low level drop also has the 'scatter factor' of the guys on the DZ plus the time involved to re-group.
smallbrownprivates said:
Didn't fireforces deploy by parachute from dakotas?
would this have been quicker than helis?
Only as a supplement to heli-borne forces and only because they had no choice. Remember the Rhodesians for the most part relied on the Alouette III as both a gunship (K-Car with 20mm cannon) and troopship (G-Car with twin .303 machine guns and a stick of 4 soldiers). A typical Fire Force had 1 K-Car (carrying the army and air force FF commanders), 3 G-Cars, 1 Lynx (Cessna 337) light attack aircraft and half a company of infantry. So the FF could only land 12 soldiers in a single wave, which as the war hotted up wasn't nearly enough. So in 1977 the ParaDak was introduced, typically carrying 16 paratroopers, thus 28 soldiers could be landed in one wave. In 1979 Rhodesia acquired a few Huey helicopters but these were used mainly for external operations.

When we Saffas introduced our own version of Fire Force in SWA/Namibia and Angola, known as "Valkgroep" (Hawk Group), it was based on Alouettes as gunships and Pumas for lift, no paratroopers needed.

More links:
smallbrownprivates said:
Didn't fireforces deploy by parachute from dakotas?
would this have been quicker than helis?
They used both the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) use to deploy by helicopter and elements of the SAS would deploy by Dakota. The Auloettes would stay in and act as a fire support and then even sometimes other infantry or the selous scouts would join in if the battle lasted for quite a while.
To elaborate on the use of both G-cars and Daks and how the sticks were broken up and utilized ( and yeah I know it’s wiki but as far as I can tell/remember it seems accurate)…….

Tactics of Fire Force Operations
The following paragraphs are for the standard Fire Force assault of one K-car, three G-cars, a Dakota and the Lynx. Often there was no Dakota involved, or more G-cars. When in 1979 Cheetas (the Bell Hueys) were introduced, a Commando might go into action with two or three of these, each carrying two (sometimes three) stops. There were many times when no Lynx was used.

The K-car was always the first to arrive at the scene. The K-car Commander, using the radio callsign One-Nine, Two-Nine, Three-Nine, or Four-Nine, depending on the Commando, had to first attempt to confirm the precise area where the enemy had been spotted by the OP (Observation Post). Usually the terrain was extremely broken and covered in vegetation, which made this task particularly difficult. The K-car Commander then had to make a plan - where to position the first stops, where to make the main sweep, and in what direction. The first stops to arrive were always transported in by the G-cars, which followed the K-car in column (sometimes a long way behind, for they were a little slower than the K-car).

Sometimes the stops were dropped immediately, but on many occasions the G-cars would circle the scene several times (to the delight of the troops) before #-nine made his final decisions. Very often the K-car occupants would see the enemy (or any perceived enemy), and then the Helicopter Gunner/Technician would attack them with his 20 mm cannon, using bursts of two to four shells (but no more than five). The accuracy of this firing was extraordinary, due to the machine flying in tight anticlockwise circles just a few hundred feet above the ground. The 20 mm cannon poked out of the port side, thus there was no "lead in", and the exploding high velocity shells would impact right next to and often on their intended targets, very few persons caught by this fire were ever found alive by the troops.

Usually the G-car stops were positioned in areas where the enemy would most likely run through (often a riverbed or dry "donga"), where there was more vegetation, therefore attempting to surround or cut off enemy movement. If there was a hill or ridge that gave outstanding observation, then more than one stop might be placed there. Sometimes G-car stop groups would form the main sweep line immediately they were deployed instead of the Paras, depending on the circumstances at hand.

Whilst the K-car was looking for, or engaging the enemy, #-nine also had to decide on where to drop the Para-stops (and direct any strikes by the Lynx). The Drop Zone (DZ) position was of course dictated by the enemy's own position, and the terrain, but often there would be no clear DZ nearby, in which case the Para-stops would be dropped a mile or so away to be picked up and repositioned by the G-cars. Usually the Para-stops were dropped as close as possible, which resulted on numerous occasions with the Paras being fired at whilst floating down for a few seconds (drop heights normally varied from about 400 feet (120 m) to 600 feet). This firing was always ineffective, as no troops were ever hit. There was also a great variation on the dropping patterns of these stops, as sometimes they were all dropped at once, sometimes individually, or any combination thereof.

Whilst all this was taking place, one of #-nine's main concerns was where the main sweep would occur. In a perfect scenario, the Para-stops would form the main sweep, and the G-car stops would carry out blocking actions. In reality, there was vast variation, so that there was little difference in being Para, or in the First Wave Helicopter assault. First Wave strikes in the G-cars however were generally the best stops to be in for those wishing action.

The Sweep
Each stop made a sweep every time it moved to a new location. This meant (usually) all four soldiers moving in a sweepline formation, spaced apart according to the terrain. In flat open land this may mean as much as twenty five metres or so. In heavy vegetation this dropped to several metres. Even then it was common to lose sight of comrades, pushing alone through the denseness. It was more effective to be spaced as far apart as possible.

Whether in the main sweep (which might be composed of any number of stops available) or in a stop's sweep, the tactics were the same and very simple, to sweep ahead observing your line of sight ahead through the bush and undergrowth.

The speed of this movement varied. Where it was thought (usually deemed by #-nine) the enemy lurked, the sweep would slow very much. When the troops sensed enemy ahead the sweep became even more slow, edging forward inch by inch, rifles held at chest level, pointed ahead with the safety catch off. MAG gunners would bear the gun at the hip, held by a sling from their shoulders.

Usually encounters with the enemy were resolved with great speed (a typical Fire Force action could take hours, whilst a fire fight might take just a few seconds). In the great majority of cases, the enemy were killed outright by swift shooting (sometimes hand grenades were used).

Prisoners were taken on occasion. Although the Commandos were requested to take prisoners wherever possible, in a close-quarter fire fight and in thick bush, it was sometimes difficult to determine an enemy's intentions. Prisoners were usually extremely valuable as they might reveal important intelligence to Special Branch or Selous Scouts. Captured guerrillas were frequently turned to work for the Rhodesian Security Forces, sometimes as Auxiliary Forces (Pfumo Re Vanhu) from 1979.

The Stop Position
The other main experience was for an individual stop to sweep to a position thought most likely to intercept a fleeing enemy, and stay there for up to several hours (perhaps being moved around and maybe later on joining the main sweep). More often than not nothing happened but on many occasions one or more of the enemy came down the (usual) stream bed, or nearby. If there was a clear view then it was easy, once again just a few seconds shooting. Sometimes the process was repeated in the same spot, with fire being opened a bit earlier. Sometimes the enemy were seen behind in which case the stop immediately pursued. There were many occasions where the action was not so tidy due to terrain/vegetation, or even the sunlight blinding them.
Stewi said:
smallbrownprivates said:
Didn't fireforces deploy by parachute from dakotas?
would this have been quicker than helis?
They used both the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) use to deploy by helicopter and elements of the SAS would deploy by Dakota. The Auloettes would stay in and act as a fire support and then even sometimes other infantry or the selous scouts would join in if the battle lasted for quite a while.
When the first fire forces were formed yes, but the vast majority of the time the SAS were used exclusively on external ops in Zambia and Mozambique. By the end of the war most members of the RLI and Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) had been para-trained.

Selous Scouts sticks on the ground were often the guys the guys that called the Fire Force in. They avoided contacts during FF ops if they could- they could easily be mistaken for terrs by other Rhodesian troops. Read the article by J R T Wood I linked to- very comprehensive read on Fire Force organisation, tactics and experiences.


Book Reviewer
smallbrownprivates said:
Didn't fireforces deploy by parachute from dakotas?
would this have been quicker than helis?
They only did that because they lacked choppers - I think they had about 9 for the whole of the Daks actually flew at Arnhem.

Was war on a shoe string - gave up 20mm in the Kill Cars (K car) and went to Brownings as 20mm was too expensive to waste.

On bad days they would reload mags on their way to the next drop.
If things were active it could also be incredibly wearing on the soldiers themselves.

From fireforce base into combat sometimes 5 or more times in a day for prolonged periods was difficult to sustain mentally.

Many of the young guys who served in this way faced serious problems post war adjusting.

As good a reason as any to get your O levels, otherwise call up papers arrived and off you went.
Even with all the equipment problems they were still extremely effective, I think thats what makes/made the Rhodesian forces so highly regarded.

In a book I read about the bush war less than 200 Selous Scouts and about 90 RLI took on a major ZANLA base in Mozambique which held (according to the book) over 6000!! The result: only two Selous Scouts KIA and one seriously wounded. The RLI and Selous Scouts thrashed the ZANLA base over a 3 day battle called the battle at New Chimoi (I think).

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