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phil b
07-04-2007, 12:21 PM
US Air Force Special Operations Command
(AFSOC) planners have called for the stand-up of a new "irregular warfare" wing (http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2007/07/02/215281/us-air-force-planners-want-irreguar-warfare-wing.html) dedicated to fighting insurgents and terrorists with an aircraft fleet numbering 44 airlifters, 20 helicopters and 20 turboprop strike fighters.

AFSOC's proposal, which is described in a recent internal White Paper obtained by Flight International, would dramatically increase the air force's assets dedicated to the counter-insurgency mission, which now includes a single squadron equipped with two Bell Helicopter UH-1N utility helicopters.
...
The irregular warfare wing concept seeks to introduce the first dedicated strike aircraft for fighting insurgent forces since the Douglas A-1 Skyraider in the Vietnam war.

"One possible candidate for the light strike role is the air-to-ground modified [Beechcraft] AT-6B. Other candidate aircraft include the [Embraer] Tucano or Super Tucano," the AFSOC paper states. The authors add that a Cessna Caravan "might be useful as a light mobility, strike, or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft depending on its configuration".

Perhaps more important than the light strike component, the new wing should operate four Lockheed Martin C-130s in a "heavy mobility" role, as well as 20 medium lift and 20 light mobility aircraft. The latter can be comprised of Cessnas or EADS Casa C-212s, while the former might be the Alenia Aeronautica C-27J Spartan Joint Cargo Aircraft.

(Via Murdoc Online (http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/004951.html))

Ski
07-04-2007, 01:19 PM
I'm somewhat surprised it took this long for the USAF to try and get in the COIN game.

Good idea.

Jimbo
07-04-2007, 01:48 PM
It will be interesting to see where this concept goes, not that it is necessarily new. Hopefully it doesn't wind up in the circular file.

SteveMetz
07-04-2007, 01:55 PM
I'm somewhat surprised it took this long for the USAF to try and get in the COIN game.

Good idea.

This is just one of many efforts. Maj Gen Charles Dunlap is leading a conceptual attack on 3-24 (mostly, in my opinion, because of the Air Force's institutional interests). He advocates a model of counterinsurgency which relies on stand off force. After all, the firepower model worked so well in Vietnam. I believe this is a reflection of the Air Force's proclivity to equate war with servicing targets. Strategic success comes from destroying the "right" targets. Any time that doesn't work, airpower true believers contend that either the right targets were selected or "political" concerns kept them from effectively destroying the right targets. After all, we wouldn't want to mix politics and war.

Abu Buckwheat
07-04-2007, 02:01 PM
This is just one of many efforts. Maj Gen Charles Dunlap is leading a conceptual attack on 3-24 (mostly, in my opinion, because of the Air Force's institutional interests). He advocates a model of counterinsurgency which relies on stand off force. After all, the firepower model worked so well in Vietnam. I believe this is a reflection of the Air Force's proclivity to equate war with servicing targets. Strategic success comes from destroying the "right" targets. Any time that doesn't work, airpower true believers contend that either the right targets were selected or "political" concerns kept them from effectively destroying the right targets. After all, we wouldn't want to mix politics and war.

Hmmm Lets see if this has worked anywhere recently ... Israel ... Lebanon ... Summer 06 ... Abject Defeat by Guerillas ... 114 Soldiers dead. Nope can't think of anything right now. :rolleyes:

SteveMetz
07-04-2007, 02:08 PM
Hmmm Lets see if this has worked anywhere recently ... Israel ... Lebanon ... Summer 06 ... Abject Defeat by Guerillas ... 114 Soldiers dead. Nope can't think of anything right now. :rolleyes:

I suspect Dunlap would argue that it worked in Afghanistan--the use of firepower with locals. Of course, that kind of overlooks the fact that we have not solidified strategic success there.

Tom Odom
07-04-2007, 02:17 PM
I suspect Dunlap would argue that it worked in Afghanistan--the use of firepower with locals. Of course, that kind of overlooks the fact that we have not solidified strategic success there.

And that the opening phase of OEF was not a COIN operation but rather an offensive using irregular forces and overwhelming firepower. The latter was of course was largely air and would have been completely ineffective if forces had not been on the ground to direct its use.


Best

Tom

Maximus
07-04-2007, 02:20 PM
This whole discussion brings to mind LtCol Nagl's comments in Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife on how slow military organizations can be to learning and adapting based on the demands of the day. An IW-specific Air Wing now 6 years into Afghanistan and 4+ years into Iraq... I'm doubtful that this force will have much influence on either of these conflicts, but maybe the next IW conflict in the future?

Bill Moore
07-04-2007, 02:32 PM
"The USAF should establish an irregular warfare wing capable of providing assistance to partner nations across the full spectrum in developing and employing indigenous air and space power to defeat irregular internal threats," says the AFSOC document, which includes a foreword signed by its commander, Lt Gen Michael Wooley.

But the idea for standing up an irregular warfare wing with a strike and mobility fleet dedicated to the counter-insurgency mission is clearly gaining some momentum. Earlier this year, Rand's "Project Air Force" published a monograph also calling on the service to create an irregular warfare wing within its force structure. In April, top air force leaders also held a counter-insurgency aircraft summit at the Air University at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

While I rarely miss an opportunity to poke fun at the Air Force, this article doesn't provide the fodder to do so. Yes it addresses fire power, but it also addresses mobility, and I bet if we could look underneath the covers we would find they're looking at intelligence, CMO, HA, and other areas. Most importantly they're looking at expanding the 6th Sqdn's capability to develop capacity in designated partner nations.

LTG Wooley is an impressive officer, and I am confident he'll push AFSOC in the right direction. Additionally, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Those smaller fire power platforms could be essential if we start putting smaller U.S. elements in remote, uncertain environments to work with host nation forces. The ability to call for a more surgical (and of course available) fire power platform will be essential to enable this strategy.

It is an unfair characterization to compare special operations air platforms with big blue's bombers dropping naplam on villages. The Special Ops platforms should be relatively surgical. I think we need a capability beyond our little birds to provide CAS in an urban environment, and to disrupt insurgent activity in their so called safe havens. I agree with a population centric strategy, but we still need the stick, and the sticks that AFSOC are looking at are probably appropriate.

SteveMetz
07-04-2007, 02:56 PM
While I rarely miss an opportunity to poke fun at the Air Force, this article doesn't provide the fodder to do so. Yes it addresses fire power, but it also addresses mobility, and I bet if we could look underneath the covers we would find they're looking at intelligence, CMO, HA, and other areas. Most importantly they're looking at expanding the 6th Sqdn's capability to develop capacity in designated partner nations.

LTG Wooley is an impressive officer, and I am confident he'll push AFSOC in the right direction. Additionally, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Those smaller fire power platforms could be essential if we start putting smaller U.S. elements in remote, uncertain environments to work with host nation forces. The ability to call for a more surgical (and of course available) fire power platform will be essential to enable this strategy.

It is an unfair characterization to compare special operations air platforms with big blue's bombers dropping naplam on villages. The Special Ops platforms should be relatively surgical. I think we need a capability beyond our little birds to provide CAS in an urban environment, and to disrupt insurgent activity in their so called safe havens. I agree with a population centric strategy, but we still need the stick, and the sticks that AFSOC are looking at are probably appropriate.

Point taken. Personally, I think initiatives like this are useful. Less so the parallel attempts to cast F22 as an IW platform.

Steve Blair
07-04-2007, 03:26 PM
Point taken. Personally, I think initiatives like this are useful. Less so the parallel attempts to cast F22 as an IW platform.

Agreed. There's also just enough vague muttering about the Air Force's "indisputable contributions" (whatever they are...oddly enough they're never directly mentioned) to COIN efforts that it smacks of politics as usual to me. I read this paper a while back (I think LawVol might have linked to it), and at the time it struck me as having a very "one size fits all" character and the standard assumption that the AF needed to be there building a host nation air force from the beginning.

What will be interesting to me is seeing how much traction this gets in the AF proper. AFSOC isn't really considered part of the "big Blue" force, and this could set off something of a turf war within the higher ranks. We'll see. It would be a shame if it did, because there are some good ideas in the paper.

Abu Buckwheat
07-04-2007, 06:28 PM
I suspect Dunlap would argue that it worked in Afghanistan--the use of firepower with locals. Of course, that kind of overlooks the fact that we have not solidified strategic success there.


Dunap would argue that but President Karzai and the Shura would beg to differ considering that the UN estimate that the same number or more Afghan civilians have been killed in airstrikes than Taliban this last year. Airpower is not a direct applicaton COIN tool, it is supposed to be a tool to support ground forces that execute the military aspects of bringing the population to our side ... because this article, if true and it looks true, can't be good for the reputation of precision airpower in COIN.


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces fighting insurgents in Afghanistan have killed at least 203 civilians so far this year surpassing the 178 civilians killed in militant attacks, according to an Associated Press tally.

Insurgency attacks and military operations have surged in recent weeks, and in the past 10 days, more than 90 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and artillery fire targeting Taliban insurgents, said President Hamid Karzai.

On Sunday, another civilian may have been killed when British troops opened fire in a populated area after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb, officials and witnesses said.

Separate figures from the U.N. and an umbrella organization of Afghan and international aid groups show that the numbers of civilians killed by international forces is approximately equal to those killed by insurgents.

After a seething speech by Karzai on Saturday in which he accused NATO and U.S. forces of viewing Afghan lives as "cheap" NATO conceded that it had to "do better." Coalition spokesman Maj. Chris Belcher suggested that some civilians reportedly killed by foreign forces may in fact have been killed by insurgents.


I love the AF but I have to ask ... is the great Sheik of Kafiristan, Lt Milo Minderbinder working airstrike deals with AQ for war carpets again!? In light of the potential negative impact a JDAM has on the community its striking I again ask, so hows that COIN airpower working out for us so far? Its definately keeping our losses down but is that the principle mission?

Ski
07-05-2007, 11:09 AM
I'd much rather have a few squadrons of these aircraft instead of using fast movers to bomb the locals. Cheaper for one.

Dunlap is off his rocker IMO.

max161
07-05-2007, 07:00 PM
LTG Wooley is an impressive officer, and I am confident he'll push AFSOC in the right direction. .

FYI. Lt Gen (SEL) Wurster is taking over AFSOC from Lt Gen Wooley.