Search and Rescue
Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) is a specialized task performed by specially
trained and equipped rescue forces to effect the recovery of distressed
personnel during wartime or contingency operations. The Search and Rescue
Task Force (SARTF) may be a sizeable force or simply a single rescue helicopter,
depending on the threat and the friendly forces available. Although rescue
helicopters may operate independently, certain scenarios dictate the use
of a larger SARTF. The rescue task force may include A-10 SANDYs, Rescue
Combat Air Patrol (RESCAP), HC-130 tankers, recovery vehicles, AWACS, Airborne
Forward Air Controllers (AFAC), pararescue personnel, and AC-130s.
A SANDY is a specially
qualified and dedicated A-10 pilot trained in search procedures, survivor
location and authentication techniques, and helicopter support tactics.
The lead SANDY will be the On-Scene Commander (OSC) for CSAR missions.
The SANDY mission is extremely complex and demanding. Careful consideration
is given to the pilot's skill and experience level when designating an
Hog pilot SANDY qualified. Each pilot in the four-ship SANDY flight is
specially trained for his individual role. SANDY One is the overall On-Scene
Commander (OSC) and coordinates communications with the SARTF and the survivor.
SANDY Two is his "book keeper" and assistant in the coordinating
process. Sandy Three and SANDY Four are trained and are responsible for
rescue helicopter escort into the pickup area.
and Communications. USAF CSAR efforts are controlled by the USAF
component Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in coordination with a Joint
Search and Rescue Center (JSRC). The RCC obtains survivor authentication
information from individual unit intelligence sections for use during actual
combat recoveries. Throughout the CSAR mission, the RCC monitors the status
of all employed assets. The On-Scene Commander (OSC) -- typically SANDY
One -- is the individual designated by the senior controlling agency to
coordinate efforts at the rescue site. Any aircraft commander may assume
OSC responsibilities upon observing or contacting a distressed aircraft,
a bailout, or survivors on the ground. It is preferable to use an OA-10
Airborne Forward Air Controller (AFAC) in this role until relieved by a
qualified SANDY. If a SANDY-qualified A-10 pilot is on station, the AFAC
will pass on-scene command to the SANDY-qualified flight. The AFAC will
normally remain on station to support the CSAR.
Voice radio contact
with the survivor is highly desirable, although not mandatory. If the survivor
has a personal survival radio (or if an electronic search is conducted
on the assumption that the survivor does), the recovery task force may
have to use Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) radio transmissions for at least
a portion of the mission. However, everyone can monitor UHF transmissions,
including the enemy. If the survivor has a specially designed PRC-112 survival
radio, location of the survivor can be accomplished with minimum communication
with special locating equipment carried aboard some A-10s.
No fighter pilot plans to get shot down behind enemy lines and no special
forces teams plan to be isolated with no escape route. Planning for a CSAR
is therefore a reaction to circumstances rather than a deliberate act.
The SARTF is organized before hand to deal with this time-sensitive contingency.
Roles and missions are carefully designated and participants constantly
trained to perform these critical missions:
The Airborne Mission
Commander (AMC) Role. The AMC role can be divided into two phases:
(1) the airborne coordinator and organizer of assets for the mission and
(2) the manager and director of these forces. The AMC can be located aboard
the Rescue HC-130, Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC),
AWACS, Naval assets, or as dictated by the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).
When the AMC is on the HC-130, the call sign may be KING.
The AMC will respond
to any distressed aircraft. If the aircraft is still flying, the AMC will
locate an escort for the damaged aircraft, alert ground personnel, and
coordinate with all necessary agencies to ensure safe arrival and landing
of the aircraft. If an aircraft is missing, the AMC will organize a search
and coordinate for additional support. The AMC will continue to coordinate
the search until the evaders have been located or until the search is abandoned.
Once the survivor(s)
have been located, the AMC will coordinate forces needed for a successful
pickup and appoint an On-Scene Commander (OSC). This can be a fighter (SANDY-qualified
A-10 preferred), AFAC, or any other aircraft that has pinpointed the survivor.
The AMC and OSC will decide if an immediate pickup is possible. If the
evaders are located in a relatively secure or friendly area, the AMC will
attempt to coordinate for the nearest helicopter or ground party to effect
the pickup. If the evaders are located in a hostile area, the AMC and the
OSC will determine what forces are necessary to neutralize the threat.
Finally, the AMC will coordinate for a SARTF via the Rescue Coordination
Center (RCC) network. Once the SANDYs arrive on the scene, SANDY One will
accept OSC responsibility and work with the AMC, the AFAC, and other forces
to ensure a successful pickup.
SANDYS can be launched or diverted from another tasked mission. The A-10
can carry most of the ordnance required in CSAR operations (e.g., rockets,
CBU, GP bombs, and PGMs). Also, the 30mm cannon is excellent for precise
standoff suppression or for marking targets for supporting attack aircraft.
Whenever possible, SANDY ordnance loads will be tailored to each CSAR mission.
Fighter aircraft, other than designated SANDY aircraft, may assist CSAR
forces by suppressing ground threats and cutting lines of communication
(LOCs). These forces can significantly increase the chances of mission
success. Dedicated Combat Air Patrol (CAP) fighters may be assigned to
There are two primary recover vehicles used in USAF CSAR operations; the
HH-60G Pave Hawk, and the MH-53J Pave Low III. Other recovery vehicles
may be used depending on the circumstances.
HH-60G Pave Hawk. The
HH-60G is the USAF primary rescue vehicle. HH-60G aircraft are equipped
with in-flight refueling, Bendix weather radar, Night Vision Goggles (NVG),
and an INS/GPS/Doppler integrated with the navigation system to provide
precise low-altitude navigation and display on the pilot's integrated map
reader. The HH-60G has a suite of radios and one satellite communications
(SATCOMM). The SATCOMM is useful in relaying information such as survivor
coordinates to the Rescue Center. All HH-60s are equipped with forward-looking
infrared (FLIR). The HH-60G is lightly armed with two 7.62mm door guns
and is equipped with a hoist.
MH-53J Pave Low III.
Although the MH-53J has a primary mission of supporting Special Operations
Forces, it may be tasked to recover personnel from enemy-controlled and/or
politically-sensitive territory. MH-53 aircraft are equipped with in-flight
refueling, forward-looking radar with terrain following/ terrain avoidance,
FLIR, and inertial/Doppler/GPS navigation systems to provide precise low-altitude
(PJ). Specialized personnel are assigned to Air Force combat rescue
units with responsibility for ground search, rescue, and recovery. Pjs
have skills in aircraft insertion/ extraction methods, aerial gunnery,
aerial scanning, scuba, surface team operations, land search/ adverse terrain
operations, emergency medical treatment, and survival, evasion, resistance,
and escape (SERE). Specialized pararescue teams possess the capability
for advanced parachuting techniques, open-sea recovery operations, extended
low-visibility or clandestine surface operations, and high-altitude mountain
recovery operations. During a rescue operation, the pararescue team leader
will be the On-Scene Commander (OSC) for surface operations. PJs will carry
various specially designed communications radios.
AWACS. If available,
the AWACS can significantly increase the effectiveness of the rescue force.
Its long range, mobility, look down radar, surveillance coverage, and communications
capabilities are useful assets in CSAR operations. As an extension of its
normal command and control duties, the AWACS can function as a CSAR coordinator
unless relieved by a dedicated AMC.
Air Controller (AFAC). The availability of a AFAC gives the rescue
force several significant advantages. The AFAC may be able to locate and
authenticate the survivors before the arrival of the CSAR forces if the
survivor is in the area where the AFAC is controlling. The AFAC may be
able to provide a current and accurate assessment of the threat in the
recovery area; the AFAC can control available diversionary and suppressive
attack flights, can direct battle-damaged aircraft to a nearby safe bailout
area, and will assume initial on-scene command of the rescue effort when
no dedicated SANDY assets are available or present.
En route to the
Target. A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) effort is multi-dimensional
and complex and each scenario is different from another. The A-10 SANDYs
will try to accomplish these tasks as early as possible in the rescue effort:
Survivor. CSAR forces in contact with a possible survivor must authenticate.
Authentication ensures the person on the radio is indeed the survivor and
not enemy personnel trying to lure the CSAR force into a trap. The techniques
include used in authenticating the survivor center around a document called
the ISOPREP card. The ISOPREP card contains statements and numbers memorized
by that individual and that only the actual survivor would know.
Assisting the Survivor.
Survivors are often injured, disoriented, or in shock and may not be familiar
with their survival equipment. SANDY One must assess the survivor's physical
and mental condition to determine how much help the survivor can provide
in the CSAR effort. SANDY One can help the survivor maintain composure
by establishing a professional atmosphere and by making survivor instructions
as specific as possible. If possible, SANDY One should have an inventory
of the survival gear carried by pilots on his mission. SANDY One will advise
the rescue helicopter of the survivor(s) condition. This will allow the
pararescue personnel to prepare medically and give them advance notice
of the need to exit the helicopter and carry the survivor(s) back.
Information. This high priority information is provided by OSC/AMC
and considered necessary for mission execution. Information for the SANDYs
to collect about the survivor include the aircraft call sign(s), number
of survivors, their location, survival equipment, and their physical condition.
It is important for the pararescue personnel to know if the survivors can
walk or need medical attention.
Area Information. Information such as recovery area threats, elevation,
terrain, and enemy activity will help the rescue force know what to anticipate.
Rescue Plan. This rescue plan will include such things as an Initial
Point (IP) for the helicopters to use, a safe route in and out of the survivor's
area for the helicopters to use, and any ordnance or tactics the SANDYs
will employ during the rescue.
The Target Area.
Once in the recovery area the SANDYs will usually split into two elements
of two aircraft with SANDY One and Two moving near the survivors and SANDYs
Three and Four joining forces to protect the rescue helicopters. The efforts
of the entire rescue force are directed towards getting the helicopter
to the survivor for the pickup. Since the helicopter operates in a low-altitude,
low-airspeed regime, visual lookout and suppression of enemy defenses is
vital. The helicopters have advanced navigation systems that can guide
the rescue helicopter to the survivor with little assistance. Helicopter
escort missions will normally consist of rendezvous with the helicopter(s),
ingress, helicopter escort/suppression, cover/suppression during the pickup,
and egress escort/suppression to a safe area. SANDY one will initiate each
phase of the pickup and coordinate all actions with the CSAR force and
the survivors on the ground.
Egress from the
Target. Once the survivor(s) are on board the rescue helicopter
the SANDYs will escort the helicopter quickly out of the area toward friendly
territory. All four SANDYs are back together now and join forces to ensure
the safety of the rescued survivor(s) and helicopter crew.
The Combat Search and Rescue mission is one of the most difficult
and rewarding missions. Recovering survivors from behind enemy lines is a critically important mission.