Close air support

Close air support (often abbreviated "CAS") is the use of military aircraft in a ground attack role against targets in close proximity to friendly troops, in support of ground combat operations. In this role, aircraft serve a purpose similar to that of artillery.

Close air support is a part of the modern combined arms doctrine. It should be noted that military aircraft can also attack tactical ground targets that are not in close proximity to one's own troops; such attacks deeper in the enemy's rear are now referred to as air interdiction.



The Luftwaffe were early pioneers of close air support, integrating it heavily into the doctrine of blitzkrieg used in World War II. Artillery was slow and required time to set up a firing position. Aircraft were better able keep up with the fast advances of the German panzer columns. The aircraft used most famously in this role was the Ju 87 Stuka, famous as much for its psychological effect as for its direct military capabilities.

Close air support was also important in World War II amphibious operations, where aircraft carriers could provide support for soldiers landing on the beaches.

The air contingent of the United States Marine Corps specializes in close air support, using primarily the AV-8B Harrier V/STOL fighter and the AH-1 Cobra gunship in this role.


Various aircraft can fill close air support roles. Helicopters are often used for close air support, so closely integrated with ground operations that in the U.S. military they are operated by the Army rather than the Air Force. Fighters and ground attack aircraft like the A-10 Warthog provide close air support using rockets, missiles, small bombs, and strafing runs.

In World War II, dive bombers and fighters were used in close air support. Today, close support is typically carried out by fighter-bombers or dedicated ground attack aircraft, but even large high-altitude bombers can occasionally fill close support roles thanks to precision guided munitions.

In the Vietnam War, the United States introduced fixed-wing gunships, cargo aircraft refitted as gun platforms to serve as close air support and air interdiction aircraft. The first of these was the AC-47 Spooky. Later models include the AC-119 and the AC-130.

See also

External link

  • DOD dictionary ( definition of close air support

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