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Thread: The Never Ending Airpower Versus Groundpower Debate

  1. #21
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    What I really think you're missing, LawVol, is the disconnect between some of the people in the AF and how the AF acts when it is on the policy stage. Jimbo brings out some good examples, and I could reel off many others from the historical perspective. What it often comes down to is the AF's institutional inability to deal with any situation other than the one they feel is ideal or desired. They have also had an historical tendency to claim that they have the only true understanding of joint service or operations (take a look at "Air Force Roles and Missions: A History" if you don't believe me...it has an interesting spin on this).

    As an organization, the AF tends to swing from one extreme to the other. SAC's dominance of the AF from its first days until the 1970s is one example, the rise of fighter pilots from the early 1970s to today another. There are some fine thinkers and doers within the AF (easy to see if you look at the Air University's paper collection), but this thought does not seem to rise up to the higher levels. As a result you get JAG generals claiming that airpower CAN win a COIN situation by itself, and in an earlier generation you got claims that one E-3 served the same deterrent purpose as a carrier battle group.

    What can the AF do to change this perception? For one they should take a long, honest look at the real situation we face today and come up with some real answers. We need tanker capability and airlift. Period. Even the AF has admitted that their main role in an Africa Command would be lift. There should be the same level of focus on this as there is on the "next generation" bomber. They could also focus more attention on their personnel issues and consider cutting programs instead of people next time budget decisions need to be made. They could also stop the "airpower won the war" record. The AF, like all other services, is a supporting arm. It supports national goals. It cannot win everything on its own, any more than the Army can win everything on its own.

    As a historian I understand this is a difficult thing for the AF to deal with based on its own history and culture. Tilford makes some interesting comments about this in his book "Setup."
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  2. #22
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LawVol View Post

    120mm: I found your last three sentences quite humorous in their rather sophomoric attempt at framing the rules of a debate. Let me see if I get this straight. I read criticism of my branch of the service and by rising in its defense I validate it? I guess I should saying nothing? But then this simply validates it as well. Silence is acquiescence. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Of course, those three sentences could simply make you feel better about your argument. In my experience, statements such as these come from a position backed by emotion and feeling rather than facts. It's akin to the argument in political circles right now that if you criticize anything about the war, you're unpatriotic or somehow providing aid and comfort to the enemy. My comments are based in fact and from having spent a number of years on active duty in two different branches of the service.

    Actually, LawVol, I don't know a soldier who will get his hackles up if you criticize the Army. In fact, he'd probably throw out a few of his own in good humor. I can criticize the Navy and Marines, and I get back either good-humored repartee or a throw-away line. In my experience, though, if you criticize the Air Force, Airmen will come out of the walls with a response similar to yours. It wasn't meant to be a "sophomoric attempt" at anything, I was stating it as a "fact". And I am serious about suggesting it has to do with the criticism being to close for comfort. Speaking of sophomoric, you only have to be in a locker room for about 30 seconds before you learn that the guy who takes offense the quickest has something to hide.

    To address your "criticisms" specifically:
    1) You are absolutely right. I have never seen an officer's club or golf course on an Army base. But what is this? (http://www.theleafchronicle.com/news...on/204061.html) Brace yourself, it seems like the Army has established a golf course in Mosul. I wonder where the money came from? I think all branches waste money. Sure, I'd like to stop it and if you have a solution, let's hear it. It would certainly be more constructive than picking and choosing the facts.

    The problem being, the Air Force has done it from it's inception, and as a modus operandi. Hell, some pretty senior AF officers have gone on record joking about it. I would be willing to bet that the "golf course" was done by soldiers on their own spare time and for little or no funds expended.

    2) Ahh, leadership, the sin qua non for any argument disparaging the USAF. I find it remarkable when I hear this argument from people who havenít actually served in the USAF. Just as my time as an Army-brat doesn't give me any special insight into the leadership qualities within the Army, neither does the fact that you have an uncle retired from the USAF give you any special insight on the USAF as a whole. I've never actually heard the flying is leadership comment (perhaps it has the same mythic qualities as the GPS comment from the same post). However, I would say two things. First, it apparently came from a new lieutenant. Enough said I think. Second, there are leadership roles within a flying squadron and those pilots are responsible for their plane and others. Every mission has a lead. Maybe itís similar with tanks? I don't know, I wouldn't presume to make such an unequivocal statement since I've never driven a tank (I assume you've never flown an F16?).

    I work with the victims of AF "leadership" every day. The AF enlisted men I know are of two flavors. Those that are completely pissed off by some stupid #### that their "leadership" has done to them, and those who aren't very bright.

    3) I'm not a personnel guy but I do know that some of these volunteers are trying to get in to career fields that are already overmanned or in danger of being so. Besides this is driven by funding issues (or maybe we built an extra golf course).

    These are two sets of personnel trying to get into the same "shortage" career field. One guy WANTS to be a widget gobber, but cannot (though he is perfectly qualified) and the other guy DOESN'T WANT to be a widget gobber, but is being FORCED to become one. And for some insane reason, they just can't swap....

    4) There is a deference to the checklist, I'll give you that (see I can admit problematic issues with the USAF; I don't see my branch as perfect like some apparently think theirs is). However, it isn't as prevalent as some think. We're working it. We're being forced to because the current threat isn't what we're normally geared to.

    5) There is some truth here. USAF leadership (read pilots) views the world through an airpower-centric lens. It's what they know and what they are comfortable with. Other branches are just as guilty. The older guys see airpower as solely lethal and try to make the fight fit the capability rather than adapting your capabilities (or uses of those capabilities) to the fight. Some of the younger generation are moving away from this (I've actually written on this (January issue of Armed Force Journal)). The over-reliance on lethal power, however, isn't confined to the USAF. I've read a little about the perceived over-reliance on lethal power by the 4th ID in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad. I wasn't there, but I've read it is several places (I think Fiasco mentions this if memory serves). Most of us that frequent this site realize the hearts and minds aspect of COIN, but that is not shared by a great number of people in all branches of the US military. So I guess some house cleaning is due everywhere.
    But especially for the service with the history of expending the most and getting the least in return.

  3. #23
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Before we get too deep here, keep one thing in mind: reliance on firepower is an American military tradition going back many years. It's not any more exclusive to the Army than it is the Air Force. I did read your article, LawVol, and found it very well-informed. The problems I see deal with the overall AF cultural mindset that tends to keep the sorts of changes you discuss locked down tight and subordinated to a "bigger picture" that may or may not be relevant to the real world picture.

    If you haven't read them, I'd strongly suggest you pick up Tilford's "Setup" and "The 11 Days of Christmas" by Michel. Both give an interesting insight into the mindset I'm talking about. Both are also written by former AF officers.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  4. #24
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    Default LawVol fights back

    I love a good debate, and although you may have felt some of my statements were shot below the belt, they are based on years of working with the Air Force in varying capacities, so they are not unfounded. I could list tens of examples, but won't unless challenged again. I would argue that the Air Force has a serious perception problem they need to work on; however, when your recruiting incentive is based on we're more a corporation than a military service (my words, not the Air Force's, but in short it is quality of life, what can the Air Force do for me, etc.), then you have a hard time selling the point that the Air Force has a warrior culture. There is always a danger when you speak in generalities, because like everyone else in this council I have worked with a number of professional Air Force officers and NCOs, and even commented in a previous post on the unsung heros flying the wings off the C17s (probably receive minimal recognition in the Air Force) to support the war effort. You have seen numerous posts from soldiers and marines here, and I'm sure you have heard complaints elsewhere, and generally where there is smoke there is fire, maybe not as bad as the smoke would indicate, but none the less there is some fire.

    If the Air Force is looking for ways to contribute to small wars I would love to discuss it, but as you may recall (I need to find the article), a high ranking Air Force officer went on record shortly after the initial phase of the Afghanistan conflict ended, stating the Air Force won the war? First off we're a long ways from winning that war, second the Air Force played a critical role in breaking the back of the conventional Taliban forces, so the Northern Alliance to take the ground, and eventually push their conventional forces out of Afghanistan, but it was a "joint/interagency/multinational effort", so to further state that the only thing Special Forces did was provide security for the Air Force's TAC P's is simply silly. If that came from a drunk Air Force junior enlisted guy I could understand it, but coming from a senior officer who represents the culture and values of the Air Force it means something else entirely, and this is exactly what irks so many of us.

    I concurred with your comments on projecting out for the defense of U.S. interests in the air and space, and understand it is expensive to maintain the technological edge, and I think the Air Force can provide more than just lift in the support of small wars, but the fire support aspect needs to be more along the lines of A10s, than B1 bombers. We all know in our system that every service needs to make it arguments for their slice of the pie, but they need to logical and honest, not an attempt to rewrite history.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 02-23-2007 at 08:02 PM.

  5. #25
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Law Vol, answer this. Why does the Air Force pass laws to prevent the Army from owning fixed wing aircraft, while the Navy and USMC can have them?
    Why is the air force doing everything possible to cut the Army out of the missile business when it was proven beyond any doubt in the 1950's that there is nothing a plane can do that an Army missile can not do better and cheaper and safer. Do you remember Desert Storm when the Air Force could not find or hit the mobile SCUD missiles using 1950's style mobile lauchers? The only place for the Air Force is back under the Army like it used to be and should be.

  6. #26
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Again, guys, let's keep this reasonably civil.

    We do need a separate air force for a number of reasons, not the least is preserving the capability to provide hard-hitting deep strike (such as that provided by manned bombers and ICMBs with conventional warheads). I also like the idea of having a service with the full-time job of dealing with air superiority. That said, we also need a force that can provide real CAS and not just lip service to the concept. We also need a robust airlift capability, which is one of the most under-rated jobs in the AF no matter how much they tout the legacy of the Berlin Airlift.

    I think many in the Army command structure feel betrayed by the lack of attention to CAS by the higher levels of the AF, although this was called for by the Key West Agreement. There is also some lingering bad feeling about the lack of tactical airlift. By the same token, the AF has yet to shed the "everyone's against us" mindset that helped them form their own service in the first place.

    Perhaps we would be better served if the Navy and Marines got to operate A-10s and the Army was allowed to operate a limited airlift fleet, freeing the AF to focus on air superiority and other concepts that are of more corporate value to them. Of course, this would also lead to the defense budget being adjusted, but you can't have everything.

    As I've said before, there are good people in the AF. Many of them. But I'm not sure that they as an organization have left the Cold War or even the legacy of WW2's strategic bombing campaigns. The Army has similar pains, though they are struggling to make changes. Perhaps this is what throws the AF into a darker light. In Vietnam both services refused to change with a deep determination. This time around the Army's actually looking at itself and making changes (possibly not the right ones, but that's a different thread). Perhaps that's part of the problem.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  7. #27
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Law Vol, answer this. Why does the Air Force pass laws to prevent the Army from owning fixed wing aircraft, while the Navy and USMC can have them?
    This one's pretty simple. The navy refused to give theirs up, and retaining them was part of the deal for them supporting the creation of the AF. Likewise, the Marines managed to keep their aircraft through the same deal, and resisted several attempts before the Korean War to eliminate the Corps altogether.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  8. #28
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Civil War against The Air Force

    By Steve Blair Again, guys, let's keep this reasonably civil.

    Steve, Ok I am for declaring civil war against the Air Force.

  9. #29
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Default Not Perfect

    You'll never hear me say the AF is perfect. I will welcome any constructive criticism aimed at improving the AF and assisting it in making a better contribution to our security. However, when the discussion turns to unwarranted criticism of the dedication of Airmen in general, I have to say something because that type of critisism is not warranted. After all, aren't we all on the same team? At least that's what I routinely hear when others call an airpower advocate to task for ignoring ground contributions. Although I almost always enjoy a combative debate, I'll follow Bill Moore's example and resist the temptation unless challenged.

    Steve Blair hit the nail on the head. Our leadership (and no I don't mean the lone guy in a jet) is stuck in the Cold War mindset. As a result, they view war through that prism and ignore all else. I agree that this is a fault. However, there is a new breed coming along that sees the need for change in AF thinking to meet the challenges of small wars. Just recently a Viper driver told me that he believes airlift plays a more important role than he in small wars. For those that understand the pecking order in the AF flying community, you know this is a huge statement. I've also had these conversations with rated leadership and essentially been told to shut up and color. It'll take time, but we'll get there. Those dedicated junior officers will make sure we do.

    The change in mindset that Bill Moore speaks of is beginning to happen. The steps have been small, but at least its in the right direction. We're adding more combat skills training and placing more emphasis of physical training. It's a start.

    Bill Moore, I'll take you up on your offer. I've been toying with an idea and your thoughts (as well as anyone else's) would be welcome. I think we can all agree that security is job one in a post-conflict environment and many argue that a constabulary-type force could be what is needed. If such a force had been in place and functioning just prior to the looting after the fall of Baghdad, we might have a different Iraq.

    Since the Army and Marines aren't trained in law enforcement, we could adapt Air Force security forces to handle this job. They already have law enforcement training that could be adapted to account for the differences between military and civilian law. This serves at least tworposes: (1) it provides a much needed reduction in the mission for Army and Marines (yes, I realized they are extremely overtasked) and (2) it puts a ifferent face to the indigenous population. Let me explain. As we know, infantry is trained to fight an dwin battles. This often requires maximum firepower downrange. This also creates a mindset that isn't necessarily conducive to the hearts and minds campaign (please don;t read this as a swipe at infantry as it isn't intended). By using AF in a constabulary role, the public sees a different uniform that clearly demonstrates differing roles. While the constabulary force is employed in fighting crime and maintaining law and order, the infantry would be used as backup as needed to handle insurgent groups and to secure the borders against foreign intrusion. I would also augment the constabulary with teams to assist in setting up the court system and try cases. Thus, the law enforcement would initially be done by US military but transition to civilian control as people are trained and ready.

    Thsi is a nut shell description. I actually have some other ideas to fill it out, but you get the idea.

  10. #30
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
    Since the Army and Marines aren't trained in law enforcement, we could adapt Air Force security forces to handle this job. They already have law enforcement training that could be adapted to account for the differences between military and civilian law.

    What!!!!! LawVol you never heard of the Military Police or CID? However me and Bubba really like ya for two reasons; you got guts to stand up for your service and you come from Tenn. Which means there is hope for you. Maybe you could one day become an Army helicopter pilot. And for your listening pleasure.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZenN39fP98
    Last edited by slapout9; 02-23-2007 at 11:32 PM. Reason: air force song oops army air corps song

  11. #31
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Default slapout

    I should have chosen my words more carefully. I meant that Marines and Army aren't trained in a constabulary role. This essentially combines light infantry and law enforcement. While the Army and Marines certainly have infantry skills, they are not trained to conduct criminal investigations. Similarly, to my knowledge, your MPs/CID aren't trained extensively in infantry tactics. A constabulary force would need to have the capacity to deal with small scale insurgent-type activities. I envision something along the lines of the Italian Carabinieri.

  12. #32
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Smile

    Thanks for the tune. Without reading the posts below, I immediately noticed the Navy jet. Obviously it wasn't made by an Air Force guy. Oh, and Corps was spelled wrong too! There's a joke here, but I'll pass so I'm not accused of being a hypocrit.

  13. #33
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    Default Constabulary Force?

    LawVol, I concur our military needs a constabulary force, and your point about the different uniformm reflecting different roles is valid, but I don't think the Air Force should own this mission for the following reasons:

    1. There will be serious C2 issues if the Constabulary works for the Air Force, because the Air Force is not (currently) structured to command forces on the ground. Ideally the constabulary would fall under the JFLCC, not the JFACC. I know the Air Force is capable of defending Air Bases and conducting limited operations outside the base in support of base defense, but the intelligence, maneuver, logistics, etc. that go with owning turf outside the base would be tremendous.

    2. The Constabulary is a key role, so it couldn't take a back seat funding wise to developing a new Air Craft, and I think we all agree the Air Force currently is not people focused.

    3. The growth required to fill the support roles mentioned in 1 above fits more logically in the Army and the Marines, but would argue that Army should own it, since they are established to stay for the long haul (though the Marines obviously have proved their staying power also, but I believe they're supposed to be more focused on relatively short duration (a few months) expeditionary missions in a perfect world).

    I think the Air Force could contribute in several areas, but will mention one here that I think would be a good fit, because they're already doing it, and that is their expeditionary medical capability. You already have fly away packages for medical support, but I don't think you have enough. If you have seen the articles recently on the USS Mercy (a hospital ship) providing extraordinary service in SE Asia (especially in support of Indonesia and the Philippines), and the positive ground that has gained for our in the critical hearts and minds campaign, I think you would agree we need more capability along those lines. The Air Force could obviously reach a lot of areas that the Navy can't touch. Food for thought anyway, more coming, I promise.

  14. #34
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Looks like an F-5 to me

    LawVol, MP's are trained pretty well in infantry tactics, CID is not at all. However your point about a Constabulary force is well taken and has been talked about at SWC extensively. Both the Army and USMC have alot of experience in setting one up in days gone by. The small wars manual has a whole section on it. Which just goes to show you that you are an Army and Marine guy at heart. As for the video I think that is an F-5 that gets blown out of the sky by an Army secret missile They wouldn't let us shoot down Tom Cruise. As for spelling Bubba says "thats cause they ain't got no schoolin"

  15. #35
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Default proper fit

    I see the point of having a constabulary force with green forces, but my purpose is two-fold. First, I already mentioned the need for putting a different face on the constabulary force. Part of doing this requires a different mindset. I can't speak for the Army, but my USMC training taught me to kill the bad guy and that type of thinking permeates all action. Infantry doesn't tend to be very meek and are probably more inclined to use a heavy hand. The Air Force, however, uses a more gentle means of accomplishing things (obviously I'm not talking about the business end of our aircraft). Our culture doesn't necessarily meld well with a total warrior concept (this was mentioned earlier). This could actually be a benefit when dealing with the public. The first reaction may be something other than going to guns, most beneficial in a COIN environment. However, I am still thinking this through.

    I agree that C2 would be an issue, but my idea accounts for that. Okay, I'm probably going to get my USAF designation taken from me, but I envision these constabulary teams being OPCON and TACON to the Army or Marines, depending on who owns the AO. After all, if we USAF guys preach centralized control of airpower, we can't really argue the opposite if we start getting into ground operations. BY doing this we'd also gain some serious street credibility when we talk about jointness.

    The next purpose is for the USAF to play a greater role. Sure we do the airpower thing, but we can do more and I think the green forces could use the help. While some of our guys are as overtasked as you Army and Marines guys, a great number of us are not. If I'm not mistaken, I believe the Army and Marines have non-grunts performing grunts functions. I'm essentially thinking along the same lines.

  16. #36
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
    I see the point of having a constabulary force with green forces, but my purpose is two-fold. First, I already mentioned the need for putting a different face on the constabulary force. Part of doing this requires a different mindset. I can't speak for the Army, but my USMC training taught me to kill the bad guy and that type of thinking permeates all action. Infantry doesn't tend to be very meek and are probably more inclined to use a heavy hand. The Air Force, however, uses a more gentle means of accomplishing things (obviously I'm not talking about the business end of our aircraft). Our culture doesn't necessarily meld well with a total warrior concept (this was mentioned earlier). This could actually be a benefit when dealing with the public. The first reaction may be something other than going to guns, most beneficial in a COIN environment. However, I am still thinking this through.

    I agree that C2 would be an issue, but my idea accounts for that. Okay, I'm probably going to get my USAF designation taken from me, but I envision these constabulary teams being OPCON and TACON to the Army or Marines, depending on who owns the AO. After all, if we USAF guys preach centralized control of airpower, we can't really argue the opposite if we start getting into ground operations. BY doing this we'd also gain some serious street credibility when we talk about jointness.

    The next purpose is for the USAF to play a greater role. Sure we do the airpower thing, but we can do more and I think the green forces could use the help. While some of our guys are as overtasked as you Army and Marines guys, a great number of us are not. If I'm not mistaken, I believe the Army and Marines have non-grunts performing grunts functions. I'm essentially thinking along the same lines.
    That's getting pretty close to what's happening now with the AF's security forces. For the cultural reasons mentioned earlier, Big Green takes the SF guys under their wing and makes sure they're functionally TACON for ground ops.

    The SF guys I'm familiar with feel overly stretched by the law enforcement mission and want nothing to do with it. Go over the Lightfighter.net and click on the thread called "F*cking Air Force" if you want some feedback on the guys on the ground.

    I've always felt that National Guard guys have a similar advantage as AF personnel have when executing a COIN mission. They tend to have better empathy and less of a "mission uber alles" mindset regarding working with "the natives". Better people skills, etc..

  17. #37
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    Default Navy and Air Force Roles on the ground in COIN

    I mentioned this elsewhere today, but in case you're not reading the other threads, I thought it best to mention it here also. I think the Air Force and Navy both have the ability (the Navy already has the capability to some extent) to provide technical experts in various types of engineering, medicine, construction, etc. to the Provinicial Reconstruction Teams, which is the "primary" effort. The Air Force and Navy don't shy away from long technical training programs, and that is what is required to produce the type of experts we need for the major reconstruction and stability efforts we'll be supporting for years. This allows each service to continue to focus on their core compitencies, without trying to assume completely new missions, such as the Air Force in a ground combat role (constabulary). Thoughts?

  18. #38
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I mentioned this elsewhere today, but in case you're not reading the other threads, I thought it best to mention it here also. I think the Air Force and Navy both have the ability (the Navy already has the capability to some extent) to provide technical experts in various types of engineering, medicine, construction, etc. to the Provinicial Reconstruction Teams, which is the "primary" effort. The Air Force and Navy don't shy away from long technical training programs, and that is what is required to produce the type of experts we need for the major reconstruction and stability efforts we'll be supporting for years. This allows each service to continue to focus on their core compitencies, without trying to assume completely new missions, such as the Air Force in a ground combat role (constabulary). Thoughts?
    I, for one, liked your ideas in the other thread. "Flyaway hospitals?" Brilliant. I don't mind the other services "getting in the game", especially when it's firmly "in their lane."

  19. #39
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    At the risk of stirring the pot, here is a prime example of why the Air Force pisses off so many of us:

    http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/20...rlosses070223/

    Basically, the Air Force is using it's own high loss rate as an arguing point as to why they should control all UAVs above 3500 feet.

    And I have NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that if the Air Force gets control of them, the Army will get ZERO UAV support and wouldn't be surprised if that is the end of UAVs altogether. I hate these duplicitous bastards.

  20. #40
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    Default poorly written article

    120mm if this is an attempt by the USAF to take over the UAV program, then I agree with you, and together we can go down to the nearest Air Force O-Club and start kicking butt because this would be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

    However, the article wasn't clear, and it may be an attempt to clarify who owns the space (AO if you will) over 3500 feet. Do our rotary wing assets have to get clearance from the AF to fly over 3500 feet? If they do, then it makes sense that we would also have to clear that space for flying UAVs.

    Again if it is an attempt to take our UAVs, then down with the Air Force. If it is an attempt to better manage air traffic, then "maybe" they have a point.

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