“Ground Based Deep Fires”

One of the most imminent military threats the Russian Federation (RF) has developed over the past decades is its anti-access and area denial (A2AD) capability. With a mixture of assets, the RF is capable not only of denying NATO forces access (by land, air and water/sea) to Russian territory, but also limiting maneuver space to NATO forces on their own soil. NATO is struggling with this new dimension in warfighting. The loss of air superiority and the lack of capabilities to apply effective suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) hamper our own possibilities to maneuver, which makes ground forces very vulnerable to enemy forces. The answer to this threat is not a single capability, but will be a combination of existing and new capabilities. Cyber, Electronic Warfare (EW), PsyOps and the possibility to strike deep into enemy territory are only a few of them.

Focus / Objective

This PP will focus on the latter capability: to strike deep into enemy territory with ground-based fire support. This PP does not claim to hold the answer or to provide the silver bullet to this threat, but is merely one of the answers and might be a starting point to combine beneficial aspects of several different capabilities to arrive at a comprehensive multi-domain approach. While the A2AD threat serves as a striking example of the necessity to be able to strike deep into enemy territory, deep strike capability is imperative in many more scenarios.


To address the concept of “Ground Based Deep Fires” (GBDF), first of all the delimitation of this concept within the overarching deep-strike capability will be dealt with. A working definition of GBDF followed by the operational and strategic environment and posture within the DMDP will follow. At the end of the PP the consequences for C4I, detecting, delivering and supporting will be briefly touched upon as well as a look at what may lie ahead.


Emerging operational environment. Four interrelated trends are shaping competition and conflict: adversaries are contesting all domains, the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), and the information environment; smaller armies fight on an expanded battlefield that is increasingly lethal and hyperactive; states face more difficulties in imposing their will within a politically, culturally, technologically, and strategically complex environment; and near-peer adversaries more readily compete below the threshold of armed conflict making deterrence more challenging. Dramatically increasing rates of urbanization and the strategic importance of cities also ensure that operations will take place within dense urban terrain. Adversaries, such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and RF, have leveraged these trends to expand the battlefield in time (a blurred distinction between peace and war), in domains (space and cyberspace), and in geography (now extended into the Strategic Support Area, including the homeland) to create tactical, operational, and strategic stand-off.

PRC and Russia in armed conflict. In armed conflict, PRC and Russia seek to achieve physical stand-off by employing layers of anti-access and area denial systems designed to rapidly inflict unacceptable losses on our military forces and achieve campaign objectives within days – faster than we can effectively respond. Over the last twenty-five years, PRC and Russia invested in and developed a systematic approach to “fracture” AirLand Battle by countering our increasingly predictable use of time-phased and domain-federated operational approaches in armed conflict. The resulting anti-access and area denial systems create strategic and operational stand-off that separates the elements of our forces in time, space, and function. Moreover, both PRC and Russia are continuing to improve these A2AD systems and are proliferating the associated technologies and techniques to other states. We have not kept pace with these developments. Our strategy is still designed for operations in relatively uncontested environments that allow for sequential campaigns based on predictable approaches that assume air and naval supremacy. It involves extensive shaping with air and naval strikes before the final destruction of severely degraded enemy forces through joint combined arms operations.

Long-range fires systems.

Within Russian combined arms ground formations, long-range fires systems are carefully concealed from friendly Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and well-protected by layered air defenses. In a continental theater, short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and long-range Surface to Air Missiles are the critical elements creating military stand-off, and are supplemented by long-range multiple rocket launchers (MRL), offensive cyber, counterspace, and unconventional warfare. Enemy long-range systems use intelligence gathered by Special Operations Forces (SOF) and espionage networks, space-based systems, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and ground-based sensors. The range of Russian long-range systems expands the battlefield into our Support Areas. In conflict, the enemy will target our command and sustainment capabilities to degrade friendly air and maritime superiority and reconnaissance, strike, and strategic lift. Long-range kinetic strike capabilities will also target our forward postured forces, prepositioned equipment, and munitions stocks. Russian offensive electronic warfare (EW), counterspace, and offensive cyber capabilities will jam, spoof, exploit, or destroy friendly space-based reconnaissance and communications platforms to prevent effective friendly mission command and ISR. Enemy long-range strike capabilities will also be used against civilian (critical) infrastructure and resources that support military operations, such as transportation networks, energy generation and distribution systems, and the defense industrial base. Destroying integrated air defense systems (IADS) to facilitate deep strikes, isolating enemy maneuver forces, and opening the theater for friendly strategic movement are the critical initial premises of current operations.

Mid-range and short-range systems.

Within Russian combined arms ground formations, mid-range systems provide the majority of fires. Advanced mid-range radars and SAM, capable of integration with long-range systems, pose a significant threat to friendly air forces. The weight of fire produced by standard MRL and cannon artillery employed in mass present the greatest danger to friendly ground forces, which can be destroyed before closing with enemy maneuver forces. Networked multi-domain reconnaissance forces deployed in depth disable our mid-range fires. These forces consist of numerous ground observation teams, unmanned aerial systems, radars, and signal intercept units. Additionally, the enemy can commit offensive cyber, SOF, space-based air strike, and maritime capabilities to reinforce combined arms ground maneuver formations when they are the main effort. Mid- and short-range air defenses severely limit friendly air surveillance capabilities, air assault, attack aviation, and close air support by forcing them to either operate at increased risk locally or with reduced effectiveness from stand-off ranges.

Within the stand-off created by mid-range systems, enemy short-range systems (ground maneuver forces) maneuver to occupy key terrain, and create defensive positions that protect both the enemy long- and mid-range fires systems. In the offense, enemy short-range systems are designed to find and fix friendly forces to be destroyed by their long- and mid-range fires. Once in defensive positions, Russian combined arms ground formations employ camouflage, concealment, and decoys to defeat Joint Force surveillance and reconnaissance.


GBDF is a working title derived from other more frequently used terms such as Deep Strike or Deep Fires. To date, NATO has had no uniform definition of these terms. Instead, many national definitions are used. The scope of this PP is shown in this picture. This picture not only illustrates the focus of this PP but also the interdependencies with other capabilities, which often occur within the discussion on Joint Fires, Deep Fires, Deep Strike and so on. This delimitation is obvious and clear, but one should keep in mind at all times that it has to be addressed in a professional way and will not be forgotten. The solutions in the PP cannot exist without looking at the broader picture of Fires. So effects of Air, Maritime, Cyber, Space, EW etc. need to be kept in mind and remain in a later stage as a conditio sine qua non.

In line with the previous topic the involvement of other stakeholders is essential. ASG cluster Artillery has been tasked to write a common vision on Deep Fires. This task is the primary basis for the rest of the work. Next to the ASG there are three important other stakeholders, 1(GE/NL)Corps, the USA/NATO and the ICG IF.


The Corps should be the promotor in the ongoing work. The Corps is not only the primary user level, but also essential in mirroring the outcomes of the concept. How does the concept fit in existing strategic and operational concepts of the Corps? Where within the Corps MDMP are the already existing keystones to make implementation of the concept logical? Implicit in the relation with the Corps the development of a BCE will have further impact on the concept on GBDF. The further integration of the DEU and NLD armed forces will also reflect on Corps Troops and the essence of Corps level Organic Joint Fires Command elements.


The USA is a very important partner when it comes down to the acceptance of new concepts. Where the USA is moving towards their MDO concept, this concept agrees on its essence and seek to align both concepts. GBDF fits perfectly within the MDO concept. Experiences and lessons learned of USAREUR´s Artillery exercise DYNAMIC FRONT with other NATO partners should be considered. The key objective of this US led exercise is deep fires for the Europe theatre scenario. One way of keeping on the same track will be through the chain of command to USAREUR, another way might be to go through the ICG IF.


The ICG IF is momentarily developing a new NATO STANAG on Counter Battery Fires (A ARTY P2). Though the concept of GBDF is of a higher conceptual level, both topics are very much interrelated. USA is the custodian on this new STANAG. DEU and NLD are co-writers of the A ARTY P2. Relation to AArtyP-5 (doctrine) and AArtyP-3 (ASCA) should be considered within the ICGIF.



“GBDF is the ability to target and strike any combination of point, area, moving, static, armored and soft targets across every operational and strategic echelon focused on reducing capabilities or disrupting command and control of enemy forces by surface to surface fire IOT overmatch the ENY threat stand-off by their long range fires, unconventional warfare, ground-based air defense systems and EW, space and cyber, to regain the competitive advantage and own freedom of maneuver”.

It is imperative to strike fast and deep and often to impose our will upon the enemy. We must own the enemy decision cycle by attacking him through the depth (even beyond the feasible range of movement for conventional forces) of the battlefield with all joint and coalition fires available, ICC with SOF, InfoOps and virtual capabilities. GBDF is the collective and coordinated use of indirect fire in support of the commander’s battle plan that gives us the competitive edge to dominate the air, land and sea. The objective is to expand the battlefield in space and time to the full extent of friendly capabilities. Effective GBDF require the commander’s guidance (concept and intent) to facilitate overall mission success and enhance protection of the force. The measure of success in GBDF effectiveness is simple: either we work faster than the enemy’s decision and execution cycle (we own his cycle), or the enemy will own ours.

GBDF are the principal means of shaping the theater battlefield. The commander’s interests are those theater-wide enemy forces, functions, facilities, and operations that impact on future ground/land force plans and operations. There are three tasks to achieve the commander’s intent: (1) facilitate maneuver in depth by suppressing the enemy’s deep-strike systems, disrupt the enemy’s operational maneuver and tempo, and create exploitable gaps in enemy positions; (2) isolate the battlefield by interdicting enemy military potential before it can be used effectively against friendly forces; and (3) destroy critical enemy functions and facilities to eliminate or substantially degrade enemy operational capabilities. GBDF is not limited only to strikes against fielded enemy units, but they also encompass a broad spectrum of targets that attack all of the enemy’s centers of gravity such as the enemy’s leadership, infrastructure and key production components like transportation, energy, command control communications computers and intelligence (C4I), nuclear biological and chemical (NBC, also known as weapons of mass destruction or WMD), theater ballistic missiles (TBMs), enemy air defense, armaments industries, and non-lethal methods targeting the population. Effective GBDF produce effects beyond the proportion of effort expended in execution. GBDF are long-term efforts that have both immediate and long-term effects on the enemy’s capability and will to prosecute the war.

To be able to effectively strike deep, a profound integrated and orchestrated balance between C4I, detecting, delivering and supporting is of the utmost importance. Only in this way it will be possible to break the enemy’s decisions cycle and thus to always be one step ahead. This highly sensitive process requires a clear commander’s intent, a fully integrated planning process prioritizing assets, and the full attention as a priority within the commander’s targeting cycle.

GBDF task / mission

Up to this moment Ground Based Fire Supports (GBFS) tasks have been defined as:

  • Direct Support (DS);
  • General Support (GS);
  • Reinforcement (RI);
  • General Support / Reinforcement.

These tasks merely tell us something about their organizational relations within the Concept of Maneuver of the operational commander. Within their own context, these tasks remain applicable, however, describing GBDF in the same way we look at derived tasks like Counter Battery Fire as a new derived task for GBFS assets focuses on the uniqueness of this capability. In the traditional tasks for GBFS the relation with time and range is implicit. The derived task GBDF much more relates to effects and specific HVTs in the changed operational environment characterized by the A2AD threat and enemy hybrid warfare (also in GS to brigade and division level deep fires). The application of GBDF is a very complex and asset-consuming capability. Though bringing this capability to bear is also possible in other operational environments, the complexity of planning and the integrated use of all theatre intel from target acquisition (TA) means makes GBDF primarily a Corps or LCC capacity.

GBDF as part of an entire LCC campaign prepares the contested and congested battlefield to allow the LCC forces to take favorable positions to start either defensive or offensive operations on their own and on enemy territory. By suppressing the enemy air defense, striking other HVTs like enemy C4I knots, enemy long-range rocket assets and long-range TA systems, the enemy A2AD capability will be compromised. Also enemy targets related to enemy hybrid threats are priority targets for GBDF.


As already addressed, GBDF are merely a Corps or LCC capability. Other NATO partners such as the USA are, because of their endless amount of assets, capable of creating a Fires Command at all levels. From the divisional level with a DFC to an Operational Fires Command (OFC) on Corps level, and at last a Theatre Fires Command. In the DEU-NLD context we envisage, as main effort, Corps level Organic Joint Fires Command and control elements (OFC) with organic and non-organic delivery and target acquisition units. To allow especially the C2 to work flawlessly and to realize near real time sensor to shooter capability, a robust network is a precondition. This network is not only a robust technical multi domain communication network, but also a networked planning and joint targeting environment where all domains are embedded and networked, integrated and interoperable procedures in all domains. Though in this context, the Theatre Fires Command is not applicable, the GBDF (Command) elements should be easily connectable and interoperable with that kind of Command to interconnect when necessary with all allied Multi Domain Fires capabilities.

C4I, detecting, delivering and supporting

There are several buzzwords in the field of C4I to take into account for further consideration, exploration and development of an operational concept for GBDF: joint; integrated, long range capability; real time; networked; MN; operational availability / mobile (tactical) / force protection; CDEM; NLOS; targeting; decision aid tools; human in the loop; HPT.

There are several buzzwords in the field of detecting to take into account for further consideration, exploration and development of an operational concept for GBDF: autonomous; land and air; active and passive; LOS and NLOS; 300+ km; identification and classification; target pursuit; geo-reference; Precision Cat 1-3; urban; RPAS; assess; loitering; target mensuration, RAS, sensor fusing.

There are several buzzwords in the field of delivering to take into account for further consideration, exploration and development of an operational concept for GBDF: all types of targets; all terrain; urban; 300+ km; precision; scalable; loitering; abort; angle of impact; (N)LW, area denial ammunition, EW payloads.

There are several buzzwords in the field of support to take into account for further consideration, exploration and development of an operational concept for GBDF: force protection; MET, RAS.

The way ahead

With these conceptual thoughts this PP intends to pave the way for further doctrinal work. One of the implicit challenges will be the ability to narrow the focus as laid down in the delimitations. In essence, a more integrated, joint approach would on the one hand lead to a more comprehensive product on “Deep Strike”, while on the other hand developments in other military areas are still in their infancy and would hamper the rapid development of already existing thoughts on GBDF. The answer will possibly be to further elaborate doctrinal and operational thoughts on GBDF and make sure other essential capabilities remain within the working scope. When possibilities occur to incorporate other capabilities (see delimitation picture, from inside out) these opportunities should be seized with both hands.

Point paper

Dit point paper is het resultaat van onderzoek en overleg tussen vuursteun specialisten uit Duitsland en Nederland in het kader van een opdracht uit de Army Steering Group (ASG). De ASG is hét forum waar de samenwerking en integratie tussen de DEU en NLD landmacht wordt gepland en uitgevoerd. Zowel de DEU als de NLD landmacht hebben ingestemd met de inhoud van dit paper. Op dit moment vinden de eerste gesprekken met 1(GE/NL)Corps om te komen tot het operationaliseren van de conceptuele gedachten. Dit moet leiden tot het testen van het concept in een oefening op Corps/LCC niveau. U zult in dit document geen organogrammen en de toewijzing van “staal” terugvinden daar eerst het conceptuele gedachtengoed naar de mening van de auteurs dient te worden omarmd vooraleer over te gaan naar het “hoe”. Wij zijn benieuwd naar uw mening over dit gedachtengoed. U kunt uw reacties opsturen naar m.v.weerd@mindef.nl of

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