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Thread: America's Asymmetric Advantage

  1. #41
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default Same old song

    My senior thesis in Political Science dealt the B-2 bomber, and the Air Force's history of parochialism in spite of other options. This type of blind lunacy can be seen in their fighter programs, ICBM development in the 50s and 60s, and manned bomber exploits.

    The fact that the Armed Forces Journal's editors didn't say, "thanks but no thanks," is almost unbelievable.

    The Air Force does have good chow though.

    Edited to add: The only enemy air attack Marines or Soldiers have suffered in the last 50 yrs might arguably have been at the hands of their sister service.
    Last edited by jcustis; 10-11-2006 at 05:45 PM.

  2. #42
    Council Member pcmfr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson View Post
    Air power is transitory... It is the transitory nature of air power that makes it unable to cut lines of communication or control ground battle space. Combined arms operations are going to continue to be the most effective way to dominate and control a battle space.
    For the most part, I agree with you. However, I'd say with persistent armed UAVs, this paradigm is shifting. At the very least, they enable us to leverage a much smaller ground force -- say an SR team with a laser designator on a ridge overlooking a valley -- to dominate a much larger battle space.

  3. #43
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default New Air Force Doctrine Pub

    Just saw this on the Secrecy News Blog:

    "Counterland Operations" (pdf), Air Force Doctrine Document 2-1.3, 11 September 2006, refers to the use of U.S. air and space assets against enemy land-based forces.

  4. #44
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    Just saw this on the Secrecy News Blog:
    This also surfaced a couple of weeks or so ago on the Joint Electronic Library site. http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/service...force_pubs.htm

    One of the few sites they haven't locked down for .edu domains yet, and a wealth of interesting stuff.

  5. #45
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    Default Important Read

    Please see Jedburgh's post under the Deuce Shop, Hezbollah TTP, post 16. There are two excellent articles on Israeli Air Force's performance during their fiasco in Lebanon. It is telling and very relevant to this discussion. Air strikes against non-state entities, especially well established ones such as the Hezbollah have minimum positive impact, and maximum negative impact. I would enjoy hearing one our Air Force members comment on these articles.

  6. #46
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Jedburgh's Post...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Please see Jedburgh's post under the Deuce Shop, Hezbollah TTP, post 16. There are two excellent articles on Israeli Air Force's performance during their fiasco in Lebanon. It is telling and very relevant to this discussion. Air strikes against non-state entities, especially well established ones such as the Hezbollah have minimum positive impact, and maximum negative impact. I would enjoy hearing one our Air Force members comment on these articles.
    Reposted here:

    Here's the first two parts of a three-part series being published in the Asia Times:

    12 Oct 06: Part 1: Winning the Intelligence War

    ...Our overall conclusion contradicts the current point of view being retailed by some White House and Israeli officials: that Israel's offensive in Lebanon significantly damaged Hezbollah's ability to wage war, that Israel successfully degraded Hezbollah's military ability to prevail in a future conflict, and that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), once deployed in large numbers in southern Lebanon, were able to prevail over their foes and dictate a settlement favorable to the Israeli political establishment.

    Just the opposite is true. From the onset of the conflict to its last operations, Hezbollah commanders successfully penetrated Israel's strategic and tactical decision-making cycle across a spectrum of intelligence, military and political operations, with the result that Hezbollah scored a decisive and complete victory in its war with Israel...
    13 Oct 06: Part 2: Winning the Ground War

    ...Moreover, and more significant, Hezbollah's fighters proved to be dedicated and disciplined. Using intelligence assets to pinpoint Israeli infantry penetrations, they proved the equal of Israel's best fighting units. In some cases, Israeli units were defeated on the field of battle, forced into sudden retreats or forced to rely on air cover to save elements from being overrun. Even toward the end of the war, on August 9, the IDF announced that 15 of its reserve soldiers were killed and 40 wounded in fighting in the villages of Marjayoun, Khiam and Kila - a stunning casualty rate for a marginal piece of real estate...

  7. #47
    Council Member jonSlack's Avatar
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    Default MG Dunlap: Airstrike (Response to Collins)

    http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2006/10/2101598

    Professor Collins' spirited defense of the ground perspective is exactly the kind of discussion I hoped my article would catalyze. His views are predictable, and not just because he is a retired career Army officer. Beginning in 2001, he served as a special assistant to former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for, of all things, "stability operations." During his watch, the Pentagon made decisions that produced the "stability" issues we have in Iraq today. I evaluate Collins' assessments of the future in that context. Regardless, he is a respected pundit who provides much worth considering.
    Collins makes the weird claim that "colossal" boots-on-the-ground efforts are "likely" in the next decade. Yikes! Is that the "likely" scenario they are teaching at the National War College? If so, here's a reality check: Given Iraq and the budget, it is abundantly clear that neither the American people nor their elected leadership are "likely" to green-light a "colossal" deployment of American troops abroad, especially in the near term.
    The Air Force is support. Part of the support provided is similar to the indirect fire provided by Field Artillery. However, the planes only major advantage over the field artillery pieces is mobility. Another part of the support provided by the Air Force is airlift capability. Another part of the support is the capability that UAVs and other ISR assets contribute. Finally, the Air Force provides specialized personnel such as Combat Controllers and JTACs, PJs, meteorological specialists, and other low density skills that directly and indirectly support the Soldiers and Marines (and Sailors and other Airmen) on the ground. Yes, they provide valuable support, but they are still just support.

    COIN/Small Wars require boots on the ground interaction, lethal and non-lethal. Cops cannot do effective police work without leaving the squad car and the military cannot accomplish COIN/Small Wars without being on the ground.

    Concerning the writing of the piece, I do not like the disrespectful tone. Words like "yikes!" and "weird" to describe the points raised by Collins and the use of the pejorative label "pundit" to describe him take away from the article. Mr. Collins is a professor and a retired officer, the author should treat him with the respect he deserves.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 10-25-2006 at 02:54 AM. Reason: Merged into original discussion thread, added link to Prof. Collins' referenced article.

  8. #48
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonSlack View Post
    Concerning the writing of the piece, I do not like the disrespectful tone. Words like "yikes!" and "weird" to describe the points raised by Collins and the use of the pejorative label "pundit" to describe him take away from the article. Mr. Collins is a professor and a retired officer, the author should treat him with the respect he deserves.
    I would second that point. Personally, I thought Gen. Dunlap's final paragraph

    All of this said, Collins very ably represents a valuable perspective on America's security needs. We need more such lively exchanges!
    was one of the most lovable ways of translating "and would you like cyanide with that port?". Honestly! I read Gen. Dulap's original article and wasn't impressed with it at all - his "rejoinder" has all of the gentility of a politician being asked to step away from the trough. In the words of my grandmother - "A pox on his house!".

    Back to professor Collins' article for a bit. One point he makes stands out

    The U.S. should continue to transform all of the armed forces for a complex future that might include war at any point on the conflict spectrum. The top priorities should be the development of a balanced force, mastery of joint and combined operations, networking the force, improving our understanding of foreign cultures and educating our young officers to see war in all of its many guises.
    This resonates with a thread on this board a couple of months back about rebuilding along the lines of the Roman Legions. The problem, of course, is political will and the consequent cost.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  9. #49
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    This dismissive tone is common with the Air Force when they send someone out to shoot down a message they don't like or conflicts with their perception of reality. This little bit
    Unfortunately, many former armor and infantry officers such as Collins mistakenly read "air power" as exclusively "Air Force." That is a huge mistake. Actually, it is the tremendous air and missile arms of the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard — along with the Air Force — that together form America's air power capability. Air power is, in fact, not just the most versatile war-fighting tool in the U.S. military, it is also the most joint. Trying to turn the air power debate into an interservice rivalry simply will not — pardon the expression — fly.
    is a very common retort the Air Force uses, ignoring the fact that Marine air is joint by nature, and through no effort or cooperation on the part of the Air Force. And laying claim to the Army's assets (which the AF fought kicking and screaming every step of the way) under the blanket generalization of "air power" is for me the biggest lump of horse you know what in the entire article. The AF has for many years been claiming to be the most "Joint" of all the services. In fact, a recent book by the Air Force History Project "Air Force Roles and Missions: A History" has this as one of its most basic "points."

    On Collins' article, I found this part quite interesting:

    General Dunlap's central conclusion that land forces "will be of little strategic import in the next war — the one we ought to be thinking about and planning for now" is questionable for three reasons:

    First, we have a poor track record of predicting the locale and character of the next war. Some examples: Because of the atomic bomb, we were convinced that ground forces and surface navies were outmoded in 1949. The Korean War (for which we had no plans) proved otherwise. The force that did so well in Desert Storm was designed to meet an enemy on the plains of Europe. Afghanistan was the last place on earth that the Pentagon thought we might have to fight. Sadly, our advances in technical intelligence have not improved our ability to predict any specific war.

    Accordingly, we ought not prepare our forces for a single war scenario — neither "the one" in East Asia, as Dunlap would prefer, or the global war on terrorism, as some single-focus, ground-force advocates would advocate. Rather, we must be prepared to fight whatever war is deemed by the president and the Congress to be in our national interest. We must have a full-spectrum military for a full-spectrum world.

    Second, Dunlap's misunderstands what ground forces are supposed to do. He believes ground operations should be adjuncts to air operations, but the opposite has been the more usual case. Even in the 21st century, the seizure of territory and its occupation will be essential in wars of various stripes, even if it increases our casualties and opens us up to the possibility of the abuses attendant to close combat.

    Third, counterinsurgency and stability operations will likely be a significant part of many future conflict scenarios. Post-Desert Storm, we marched into the 1990s content with our conventional general-purpose forces, only to find that peacekeeping, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and stability operations were the dominant items on our agenda. Nearly 15 years later, that trend shows no sign of letting up.
    Dunlap is, in spite of his protests to the contrary, a spokesman (perhaps a willing, unconscious one rather than a deliberate one) for the standard Air Force line. You could take many of his assertions, print them in an Air Force magazine from the 1950s or 1960s, and never notice the difference.
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 10-25-2006 at 01:39 PM. Reason: Clarification of one point

  10. #50
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    And in what seems like an interesting counterpoint to Dunlap's article we find this in the same issue.

    One paragraph that stood out for me was
    Experience over theory

    It should be clear, then, that the big-war mind-set of the ACTS interwar theorists led to far more interest in theories espousing attacks of a strategic nature than in the practical application of air power during this period. Kennett accurately assessed that "the United States learned no clear and indisputable lessons on air support from the limited wars of the late thirties." To be fair, however, some airmen in the Army Air Corps were skeptical, choosing to err on the side of experience. For example, Gen. Orvel Cook explained that, as a student at ACTS in 1937-38, "some of us had more experience than some of the instructors and, consequently, we took a lot of this instruction with a large grain of salt, and we more or less made up our minds, ... no matter how dogmatic the instructor might be." In a 1936 letter, Lt. Col. M.F. Harmon and Maj. Oliver Gothlin expressed concern about an ACTS theory that lacked supporting evidence: "This has never been done. ... A note of caution should be sounded against the too ardent adoption of peace time [sic] theories and hypothesis when they are not supported by actually demonstrated facts nor by the experiences of war in the only war in which aviation was employed." In making one good observation, however, these two officers missed another point that is arguably more important: Air power had, in fact, been employed many times since World War I, the "only war" they chose to recognize. It was this type of omission that led to an interwar theory, uninformed by interwar experience, that would ultimately dictate the U.S. approach during World War II and lay the foundation for air doctrine in the decades that followed.
    The author is also a student at the Marine Corps War College.

  11. #51
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    I would say that the US Air Force is, indeed, an important asset in the GWOT...For the terrorists. I would say that unlike the author, air power is one of the LEAST versatile weapons... The man on the ground is so much more versatile. Aircraft can bomb or not bomb... period. The man on the ground can actually DO SOMETHING other than kill/destroy. And infantry remains the most Precision-guided Munition known to man.

    Frankly, even the most "precise" PGM results in exploitable "collateral damage" which is used by the terrorists/insurgents/whomever to drum up anti-US sentiment.

    Secondly, the dependence on airpower and PGMs is seen as weakness and cowardice by the islamic extremists we currently face - which they use to drum-up anti-US sentiment.

    We need airpower for national defense, and as a sort of super-mobile artillery, but c'mon.... I for one am all for paying our infantry more than pilots....

  12. #52
    Council Member Mondor's Avatar
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    I would agree that the misapplication of any weapons system is wasteful and can cause more harm than good to the war effort. However to classify air power assets as counterproductive is going too far. The current application of air power may be flawed, I for one have trouble understanding how sending in a PGM to a residential area for a “surgical” strike can be considered a good idea, but to dismiss air power as irrelevant to modern war just puts one in the same camp, though on the opposite side of the camp, as the adherents of the Douhet Model. They believed, some still do, in the flawed assumption that modern air power made ground combat forces irrelevant. To dismiss virtually all air delivered munitions as strategically irrelevant is an equally flawed position. Air power is just as versatile as a rifle. Remember the old saying about rifle fire accuracy, it is not the dope on the rifle, but the dope behind that is the problem.

    While the enemy keeps on talking about how unmanly air strikes are, they fear them. Air strikes alone will not win any conventional or COIN conflict. But as part of a combined arms approach they are very helpful. The challenge is to think of air power in its combined arms role in a non-traditional way that benefits the guys on the ground.

    A SF team in Afghanistan was having a disagreement with a group of armed men, who said they were Pakistani para-military border guards. The disagreement was that the border guards were about 500 meters west of where the border was the day before and they were pointing their weapons at our guys and telling them to leave or they would open fire.

    The combat air controller put out a call to find out if there were any friendly aircraft in the area and found a B-52. The B-52 went into a holding pattern over the area. All our guys had to do then was to ask the self proclaimed border guards to go home for the day and then look up in the sky. The border guards looked up, saw the little spot in the sky that was the B-52, and decided that the border was about 500 meters to the east and that it was indeed time to call it a day. Interestingly, the folks on the Pakistani side of the border no longer pointed their weapons at US and Afghan forces, and there was no more confusion as to where the border was in that area
    Last edited by Mondor; 11-20-2006 at 06:06 PM. Reason: Edited for Typo
    It is right to learn, even from one's enemies
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  13. #53
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    Default Transitory power

    Air power is by its very nature transitory. That is why air power attacks used to be called raids. However in a combined action approach it is extremely valuable in this war. It has been devastating the Taliban in Afghanistan where the Taliban units have been "fixed" by troops on the ground. It would not surprise me that a considerable number of the Taliban losses in the last year were from air strikes after the Taliban unit made contact with ground forces.

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    Upon reading this, I kept seeing RAF bi-planes "patrolling" vast stretches of the Indian Sub-Contentinent during the 1920's being replaced with F22s and JDAMs in the 21st Century. Somehow I think large numbers of smaller, inexpensive COTS planes flying COIN missions rather than silver-bullet F22s would give the general fits.

    I must admit, though, the General has done an excellent job at co-opting the term "asymmetric".

  15. #55
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default PGMs Equal Efficiency Rather Than Precision

    Frankly, even the most "precise" PGM results in exploitable "collateral damage" which is used by the terrorists/insurgents/whomever to drum up anti-US sentiment.

    Good point 120mm. Also there has been much intellectual drift on the subject of PGMs as they were designed and as they are now used, or at least advertised.

    The drive to develop PGMs was as much based on efficiency in costs and lives as anything else. That is to say how many missions and how many aircrew lives did it take to destroy a target. As the accuracy increased, the standard language of "surgical" strikes racheted up, tied to the idea of limiting collateral damage and thereby making the use of PGMs more acceptable, especially when advocating or defending their use.

    But when it is all said and done, a precision guided 1000 pound bomb has the blast radius of a 1000 pound bomb just as a rifle grenade has the blast radius (roughly) of a grenade. Inside that blast radius, there is no such thing as precision. Yet we continually hear that advanced aircraft with PGMs can put a bomb through a window, suggesting that such a strike is "precise" because it may indeed go through the window. It is precise in that it only took one bomb to destroy the target; it is not precise as in "surgical" if civilians or friendly forces are within the blast area.

    All of this assumes as well that PGM guidance systems are unerring in their accuracy; they are better but they like any mechanical-electronic system do fail, partially or totally.

    Best

    Tom

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