It is a joint forces coordination measure enabling air assets to engage surface targets without needing further coordination with commanders and without terminal attack control. The space is defined by an area reference system, but could follow terrain features, be located by grid coordinates or a radius from a center point.
Such a joint coordination measure can help commanders focus the effort of air and indirect fire assets, and also restrict the trajectories and effects of surface-to-surface fires. There may be no-fire areas (NFAs), restricted operations areas (ROAs) and airspace coordination areas (ACAs) included. No friendly ground forces should go into a kill box unless covered by a no-fire area.
A type of Fire Support Coordinating Measure (FSCM), a Kill Box is often defined by a grid reference system – based on lines of Latitude and Longitude – superimposed upon a map of an area of operation. Each square of the grid may be sub-divided into smaller boxes, each of which may carry its own level of permission – or restriction – on the use of air-to-surface or surface-to-surface weapons.
First developed by the U.S. Air Force in the late 1980s, the technique gained notoriety through its use during the first Gulf War (1991). The tactics, techniques, and procedures of Kill Box employment were further refined by the U.S. Air Force throughout the 1990s, leading to more efficient prosecution of targets.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, they were once again used with devastating effect to prosecute the air war in support of the initial invasion. Use of Kill Boxes is now part of Joint U.S. Doctrine and is used by many of the U.S.'s allies.
Types of Kill Boxes
- Blue – permit air-to-surface fires in the Kill Box without further coordination or deconfliction with friendly forces.
- Purple – reduces the coordination requirements for air-to-surface fires, while still allowing surface component commanders to employ surface-to-surface fire. It allows the maximum use of joint fires, creating a synergistic effect and maximum potential for neutralizing enemy forces.
While engagement authority is automatically granted by the establishment of a Kill Box, it does not relieve weapons system operators of the responsibility for complying with requirements such as commander’s designated target priority, Positive Identification (PID), Collateral Damage Assessments, Rules of engagement (ROE), and Special Instructions (SPINS).
Notes and references
- Air Force Doctrine Document 3-03, Counterland Operations, 11 September 2006 (Change 1 incorporated 28 July 2011 Pages 85-88.
- Joint Pub 3-09, Joint Fire Support, 30 June 2010 Pages 69-70.
- MAJ James E. Mullin III, AR; The JFA: Redefining the Kill Box, FIRES Bulletin Mar-Apr 2008 Pages 38-41.
- Interagency Airspace Coordination Guide, Chapter 7: Airspace Deconfliction, 29 July 2003.
- Ruth Walker, Feeling conflicted about deconfliction, Christian Science Monitor, 22 October 2015.
- LTC Karl E. Wingenbach, Kill Box: the newest FSCM, Field Artillery Magazine JUL-AUG 2005, Pages 13-15
- Army (Field Manual) FM 3-09, Field Artillery Operations and Fire Support April 2014, Pages 121-123
- The use of kill boxes may be considered to fall under the general category of Joint Targeting. This broader topic is addressed here: Joint Publication 3-60, Joint Targeting, 31 January 2013.
- Inside the Kill Box: Fighting the Gulf War (2001, Discovery Channel, 1h44m). This documentary film defined the concept of the kill box in the context of Operation Desert Storm. (This film is also discussed in this Los Angeles Times interview, conducted by Susan King, of the documentary's writer/producer/director, Kurt Sayenga; 13 January 2001.)