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Thread: Moving the Rhod. Fire Force concept to Afghanistan?

  1. #121
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Default "Bug basher COIN aircraft" point

    In reference to both Wilf and Rhodesian on the expense/ capability debate (expressed in regards to aircraft, but I imagine it applies equally to AFVs and even the lowest-level infantry capability) - there is substantial benefit to platforms based off the environment we are in. A turbo-prop aircraft, ala a A-1 Skyraider or even an old Mosquito type of WW2 vintage, would be more beneficial in delivering CAS than an F15E, and far cheaper to procure and easier to maintain than the likes of the F-15s or AH-64s.

    Inevitably the opportunity cost for a force fielding equipment intended for low-intensity conflict (i.e. a turboprop meant to hammer enemy positions 'low and slow' that is unable to deal with enemy AD or enemy aircraft) will not be as effective in fielding a high-tech force intended to fight against an equivalent force.

    Perhaps the answer, then, is that the effort should be on creating an Afghani air arm able to fight their war, the way it suits them. Instead of creating a RAF or USAF air-wing-lite, as we seem to be doing in focussing on their rotary wing capability, we should be worrying about their ability to beat the Taliban their way (not that I'm being original here, this is obviously Kilcullen's 23rd article - Local forces should mirror the enemy, not ourselves). Do we need the ANA to be able to conduct expensive helo ops, or is it better for us and for them if they were able to sustain economical infantry/ light armour operations with effective fire support from a suitable CAS air wing?

    We don't have to field and deploy the COIN-specific platforms ourselves. We can procure and deploy them to the host nation forces, thus getting the best of both worlds.
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  2. #122
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    - there is substantial benefit to platforms based off the environment we are in. A turbo-prop aircraft, ala a A-1 Skyraider or even an old Mosquito type of WW2 vintage, would be more beneficial in delivering CAS than an F15E, and far cheaper to procure and easier to maintain than the likes of the F-15s or AH-64s.
    The A1 Skyraider was the A-6 intruder or JSF of it's day - and you actually have to compare like with like as concerns weapons. An AH-64 can deliver all the same weapons as turbo-prop COIN-aircraft, and do it more accurately, in worse weather and/or at night.
    No COIN bug basher can track and kill an RPG-team on motorcycle through a village, at O-dark-thirty on a stormy night, unless it has a remote weapons station, with an EO sensor. The OV-10D -Dog model is about the closest candidate, and they are all, IIRC, long gone.
    Can you do that with a cheaper helicopter? Yes. Maybe the AH-1, or similar.
    If you want the performance, it costs what it costs.
    We don't have to field and deploy the COIN-specific platforms ourselves. We can procure and deploy them to the host nation forces, thus getting the best of both worlds.
    Concur. As the UK did with Oman and the Strikemasters.
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  3. #123
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Sorry, but the UK has over 50 Apaches available. They can only deploy 8-12, because they have no money and a man-power ceiling.
    Given more money, and manpower, I suggest deploying the available existing Apache and not investing in a new type of A/C that is less capable.
    Sorry William but that sounds like the Brit NHS (National Health Service). Sounds wonderful until you hear about the long waiting lists.

    There is quite frankly no point in mentioning that there are 50 if only 8 can be on ops in Helmand at any time.

    There was some talk a while back of outsourcing the helo lift capability to an outside contractor. I heard the Air Force nearly had a collective heart attack at the thought.

    Now that the Brit are leaving Sangin it may well be important to reassess what he actual need for Apache support will be after this "consolidation of British forces".

  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    PS - Much of the discussion seems focused on the terrain. Here are pictures of the greenspace of Southern Afghanistan where most of the fighting takes place for those unfamiliar with the area to get a perspective.


    OK, I'm looking at this one. What exactly is the problem with this terrain?

  5. #125
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    This certainly is an interesting conversation. I'll add my two bits.

    [snip]

    Point 1.
    The biggest thing to remember is that, relatively speaking, the areas where fighting in the Greenzones takes place are actually quite limited. You can get the whole Kandahar Greenzone - From the Dhala Dam in the north, through Arghandab, Zharei, Panjwayi and Maywand districts in the southwest with Kandahar City in the southeast - pretty much on a single workable 1:50,000 map. We have training areas in Canada that have maps larger then the Kandahar AO. Things are a little more stretched in Helmand, but not by much. Most of the area in the south is either very sparsely inhabited mountains or uninhabited desert (the Reg).

    So any airmobile force doesn't have far too travel. If it's prowling for TICs, it ain't going to go very far before it turns around and heads the other way.
    That's good because the response time to any incident would be minimal. The problem is that these helos could not be airborne all the time and would have to park off somewhere to provide the best response time. Where would that be and would it be secure?

    Point 2.
    This is a huge one and, in my view, decisive. The insurgents do know CAS times and will bug out when aviation/air gets on station. Bugging out is quite easy for them. As well, there is usually something always overhead. Near permanent air coverage is largely a reality and the enemy is used to it. One only has to look up to figure that one out. He is adept at hiding as highlighted by this:

    You don't really see armed bands of Taliban just roaming around in the south. If there was, they'd be dead fast. Cache, hit, run, cache, blend is usually how things work. Afghan insurgents will only fight if they have an advantage or they are caught off-guard. Any shift in that and they usually just cache and farm. Anyone in the south expecting to mount a helo to roam around looking for bands of 50 insurgents to pin down and destroy will, unless he has a time machine to 2006, likely cruise around waving at farmer-insurgents in their fields.
    This all depends on the CAS response time and how quickly you could get a gunship or QRF overhead.

    The principle that should be explored is to maintain contact with the TB so as to inflict maximum number of casualties per contact.

    Are they managing to "bug out" because the ground troop they make contact with can't close with them and they leave before the fast air can arrive. Yes then it is good to use the ground troops as a decoy to draw the TB into making contact when you have the gunships and men of a QRF just over the next hill about 5 mins (or less) out.

    Then they will try to set up air ambushes. So having analysed the ground carefully and identified the most likely areas for these air ambushed you figure out a countermeasure. Its a game of chess and the TB are figuring that the US and NATO will get tired of playing long before they do.

    Point 3.
    Someone else mentioned local forces "beating the bushes" to push insurgents out of inhabited areas. This is hard to do largely due to cultural reasons. Unlike Africa, every Afghan's home is, quite literally, a castle. Access behind the high walls is limited. Afghan soldiers and police are usually not very comfortable going into the compounds of locals (they usually make searches as brief as possible) and everybody goes bananas if Westerners move in (Karzai has forbidden it unless absolutely necessary). Compounds usually have 20-30 people occupying them, so finding 5 fighting age males isn't going to do much for your cause anyways. Not discounting the value of local intelligence, just saying the "beating the bush" technique in the unique environment of Afghanistan would be hard (I know this from personal experience).
    This "beating the bushes" is a job for the AMA I believe. Let them go in and stir it up and when the TB respond your QRF is ready and waiting.

    One just needs to read up on the counter measures used against Soviet "Cordon ans Search" operations to see what to possibly expect as a response.

    So, in my view a "Fire Force" concept would be handy if it could be used to provide rapid cut-off insurgents in the two situations mentioned above (advantage/off-guard)
    It all depends on the nature of the firefight/contact you are responding to. You can drop off cut-off groups at likely places but should always maintain a mobile reserve in case of a breakout. The principles remain the same it is just the deployment by helo is rapid and effective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Sorry William but that sounds like the Brit NHS (National Health Service). Sounds wonderful until you hear about the long waiting lists.

    There is quite frankly no point in mentioning that there are 50 if only 8 can be on ops in Helmand at any time.

    There was some talk a while back of outsourcing the helo lift capability to an outside contractor. I heard the Air Force nearly had a collective heart attack at the thought.

    Now that the Brit are leaving Sangin it may well be important to reassess what he actual need for Apache support will be after this "consolidation of British forces".
    All or most ISAF countries including both the US and UK use civilian contractor helicopter support to an extent, for resupplying forward operating bases. These are mainly Eastern European companies using Mi-8 and Mi-26 aircraft. They do not carry troops.

  7. #127
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    There is quite frankly no point in mentioning that there are 50 if only 8 can be on ops in Helmand at any time.
    Well you'd be wrong. There is every point in holding up to the light the reality of having the world's 2nd largest Apache fleet, "sitting on bricks" because the constraint in deploying them is funding, yet have you any idea of the cost of just "storing" an Apache?

    This is one of the issues that strikes to the heart of the UK's mismanagement of defence issues, and has a direct impact on operational effectiveness. I'd actually have thought this would be something you'd understand.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Well you'd be wrong. There is every point in holding up to the light the reality of having the world's 2nd largest Apache fleet, "sitting on bricks" because the constraint in deploying them is funding, yet have you any idea of the cost of just "storing" an Apache?

    This is one of the issues that strikes to the heart of the UK's mismanagement of defence issues, and has a direct impact on operational effectiveness. I'd actually have thought this would be something you'd understand.
    Don't get me wrong, I think it is a disgrace and there should be a massive stink kicked up about this waste of resources.

    That said, if there really is no chance in their being used in Afghanistan because of cost constraints and a shortage of pilots then they should not be brought into these discussions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon6 View Post
    All or most ISAF countries including both the US and UK use civilian contractor helicopter support to an extent, for resupplying forward operating bases. These are mainly Eastern European companies using Mi-8 and Mi-26 aircraft. They do not carry troops.
    Thanks but I was talking about hearing about troop lift helos, did I hear wrong then?

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Ok, let just make a comment here.

    What made fire force was not that the use of helicopters to carry the troops into battle and as a gun platform but rather how the the troops and the firepower were deployed. Airmoble does not mean fire force (in the Rhodesian sense). How to survive a fire force action was to either show incredible land speed ability and get out of the area before the troops could be placed in stop positions or crawl into a cave or something like that and lie low and hope not to be found.
    This is an excellent point that I think is often lost on the casual observer of Fire Force ops. There was usually a considerable ballet involved, that started with the sensor (OP, Selous Scout element, etc.) calling in a spotrep. That sensor provided continuous updates to the C2 nodes to fill in details as the call-out proceeded and the shooters (Fire Force) got aloft and on its way to the obj area. The sensor provided critical terminal control of sorts, and once it got the K-car in the area and the battle was joined, the Fire Force commander performed the unique job of controlling all ground movement. There are new sensors that could be use in lieu of the standard OP of that day - but only to a point. I have not been aloft over the green zones down my way, but I have watched plenty of UAS feed, and it is like watching a firefight through a soda straw. That does not give us the sensory perception and depth required to coordinate heavily synchronized ground effort in the same fashion as Fire Force elements of old, in my opinion.

    We do not train to a typically high enough standard to control battlefield geometry all that well, and I fear we have simply lost the art of commanding heliborne inserts and follow-on maneuver from an aerial platform. That's another matter I think we would have a hard time overcoming.

  11. #131
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    This is an excellent point that I think is often lost on the casual observer of Fire Force ops. There was usually a considerable ballet involved, that started with the sensor (OP, Selous Scout element, etc.) calling in a spotrep. That sensor provided continuous updates to the C2 nodes to fill in details as the call-out proceeded and the shooters (Fire Force) got aloft and on its way to the obj area. The sensor provided critical terminal control of sorts, and once it got the K-car in the area and the battle was joined, the Fire Force commander performed the unique job of controlling all ground movement. There are new sensors that could be use in lieu of the standard OP of that day - but only to a point. I have not been aloft over the green zones down my way, but I have watched plenty of UAS feed, and it is like watching a firefight through a soda straw. That does not give us the sensory perception and depth required to coordinate heavily synchronized ground effort in the same fashion as Fire Force elements of old, in my opinion.
    We do not train to a typically high enough standard to control battlefield geometry all that well, and I fear we have simply lost the art of commanding Claiborne inserts and follow-on maneuver from an aerial platform. That's another matter I think we would have a hard time overcoming.
    Absolutely. Fire Force was an integrated combat system that could shoot,move and communicate in order to destroy the enemy. The Marines did it in the pacific by using battleships as floating artillery to support the ground force. Air,land,Sea are simply mediums to be crossed to get to the right place at the right time. Getting hung up on a specific platform to do this will just get us into trouble, it is more important to combine all of them based upon the situation and terrain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    This is an excellent point that I think is often lost on the casual observer of Fire Force ops. There was usually a considerable ballet involved, that started with the sensor (OP, Selous Scout element, etc.) calling in a spotrep. That sensor provided continuous updates to the C2 nodes to fill in details as the call-out proceeded and the shooters (Fire Force) got aloft and on its way to the obj area. The sensor provided critical terminal control of sorts, and once it got the K-car in the area and the battle was joined, the Fire Force commander performed the unique job of controlling all ground movement. There are new sensors that could be use in lieu of the standard OP of that day - but only to a point. I have not been aloft over the green zones down my way, but I have watched plenty of UAS feed, and it is like watching a firefight through a soda straw. That does not give us the sensory perception and depth required to coordinate heavily synchronized ground effort in the same fashion as Fire Force elements of old, in my opinion.

    We do not train to a typically high enough standard to control battlefield geometry all that well, and I fear we have simply lost the art of commanding heliborne inserts and follow-on maneuver from an aerial platform. That's another matter I think we would have a hard time overcoming.
    On the route in as Airborne Cmdr one would try to get a briefing from the OP as to where they thought the likely escape routes would be (as our maps were basic 1:50,000 with no photogramatic overlay to show accurate vegetation cover). Mostly there would be a preplanned set of individual (an separate) drop-offs for the first wave sticks. So if the gunship came overhead and engaged the insurgents a simple "go with plan A" instruction could be given. When a pilot has to find his own LZ, get in and out quickly on his own its amazing quick and slick the whole operation becomes. The flaring before landing in just enough and not a moment is wasted. Everybody gets "slick and quick". The troopies want on the ground ASAP.

    My question re the photo (in post #124) was because that was a lot like a view from an OP or from the gunship as one started lifting on arrival at the target. Every contour ridge (or bund) is a massive potential problem for infantry on the ground as are the mud walls but are nothing from the air.

    John you must get yourself at least 30 mins in a helo to get the picture of the ground from 1,000 ft over various terrain types. What kind of lens to the UAS have. The US can put a man on the moon, they can give you the right lens.

    The problem with the air mobile stuff in this context is that all that is happening is the unit/sub-unit is being delivered on to the ground together so as to act like normal infantry (think Ia Drang). That is good for many more conventional applications but not for small groups who can be encircled and dealt with accordingly. (Suggest the use of encircled rather enveloped as enveloped has existing connotations.)

  13. #133
    Council Member Rhodesian's Avatar
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    Default Mud wall and 30mm

    Someone mentioned 30mm canon shells struggle to go through those walls, how thick are the ceilings etc, would they be as difficult?

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhodesian View Post
    Someone mentioned 30mm canon shells struggle to go through those walls, how thick are the ceilings etc, would they be as difficult?
    The ceilings are even more stout, as they are made from reinforcing timber laid across to support the layer of mud that forms the actual cover.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhodesian View Post
    Someone mentioned 30mm canon shells struggle to go through those walls, how thick are the ceilings etc, would they be as difficult?
    If its an HE round it will explode on impact with very little if any penetration.

    But unless its the walls of a house the gunship can take out someone hiding behind such a wall from a different angle or part of the orbit.

    As to the buildings, if there is someone inside who needs killing then either pull the troops back and bomb the place or get at them using the modern equivalent of our bunker bombs then go in through the door.

    We had the same problem with our 20mm in that on soft ground where penetration of the round happened the spread of shrapnel was much reduced and when firing through tree cover many rounds detonated on the branches with the resultant failure to penetrated the cover. Thats why the quad .303 guns was such a success with the only drawback being the number of stoppages on individual guns. The current miniguns are certainly a great improvement.

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    Default Q-cars, fire force and pseudo operators

    In a wide ranging review of what is happening in Nimroz Province FRI ends with a comment that could re-open this thread:
    I ask one of my brother Marines what he would do were he given this problem to solve under the historical constraints normally faced by Marine commanders fighting a small war. He replied immediately ; Q-cars, fire force and pseudo operators.

    (my inserted break)Which is exactly the same thing I would say as would all of my friends who are in the business. But the only way a regimental or battalion commander could even think of doing that now would be if we sent a vast majority of the troops deployed here (along with every colonel and general not in command of troops) home. There are legitimate, very good reasons to see this thing through but we donít have to spend billions we donít have to do it.
    Link:http://freerangeinternational.com/blog/?p=3805

    FRI are well aware of OPSEC, as are SWC members; it is just that I as an observer do not know if such tactics are being used and after eight years of direct Western intervention I simply do not think we are.

    A leaner, thinner and cheaper strategy IMHO is required and maybe such options the USMC officer sought are components?
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Probably one of the Board's airplane driver types can add more (certainly more current than the views of four ORFs, one of whom is dumb grunt ) and far better info.
    I've been thinking about "what makes a hard charger pilot?" I have no military flying experience but a lot of plain old flying experience. It is probably well to consider this. Most pilots get into the game because they want to fly and zoom around the sky. Everything else is secondary. Perhaps you should be looking for a pilot whose desire to fight is as strong or stronger than the desire to fly.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...1&d=1277872106

    OK, I'm looking at this one. What exactly is the problem with this terrain?
    I just looked again at the photo.

    It does now remember me of Normandy, with all those walls (~bocages).


    It seems as if somehow walls play a larger than normal role in countries which were visited by Mongols a lot.

  19. #139
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Talking The item in the lower right

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    OK, I'm looking at this one. What exactly is the problem with this terrain?
    You miss that?

    That's a small hill from whence the picture of that nice level easy in which to operate terrain was taken. Said hills are the principal problem and, as Fuchs says, the bocage like walls aren't helpful. Nor are the long range fields of fire offered by said hills or in the relatively flat valleys where there is no farming..

    Terrain is, as always, what one makes of it.
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2011 at 01:20 AM.

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    Default Terrain is the first enemy to overcome

    and no picture does Afghanistan any justice untill you've had to move from 3000 ft to 1200 ft to get to where you have to go. Also Helicopters are easy targets in that terrain.
    "Soldiers who are lacking in basic training, discipline, poor leadership and inadequate command and control will not be able to win wars with technology and firepower alone. When their technology fails, they will find themselves in a vacuum they cannot easily extricate themselves from."- Eeben Barlow

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