Jane's Defence Weekly has a fascinating analysis of what U.S. and British forces are trying to do over the next few days of the Iraqi campaign. The idea, Jane's says, is to "prepare the battlefield" for the advancing columns of U.S. armor. This is done through a process called "find and fix."
The Apaches of the 11th Aviation Brigade have been in action, trying to find and destroy Republican Guard tanks in the towns and villages south of Baghdad. E-8 Joint STARS surveillance aircraft and Hunter surveillance drones, flying from a forward airfield, are helping this effort, trying to locate Iraqi tank and artillery positions for coalition air strikes.Once these efforts to 'find' the main Republican Guard positions have been successful, reconnaissance forces, including attack helicopters, will be sent into action to 'fix' them in their positions while the 3rd Infantry Division's three armoured brigades position themselves to strike.This choreographing of forces on the battlefield is highly complex and tense for US commanders, but thanks to their new 'tactical internet' technology the problem of keeping track of US and Iraqi forces is proving far easier than in the 1990-91 war. Then US commanders had to track the movement of their forces on paper maps from fragmented radio reports. Now all their M1 MBTs have radio tracking devices so their positions are automatically displayed on computer screens in US headquarters.The 'find and fix' phase of the battle is the most crucial for US commanders because they have a numerically inferior force to the Iraqis and have very exposed flanks and supply lines. If US reconnaissance forces and surveillance assets fail to find the Iraqis or misidentify the main Iraqi defensive positions then the US armoured brigades could be committed in the wrong place, exposing them to counter-attack while refuelling or re-arming. For this reason the US Army commanders are keen to bring up the 1st Marine Division from the Basra region as rapidly as possible. The force has been advancing along the northern bank of the Euphrates in two long columns.