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Thread: Airpower’s Crucial Role in Irregular Warfare

  1. #21
    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Default Flash backs to TAC and SAC

    Adam,
    Once upon a time, there were Tactical Air Command (TAC) and Strategic Air Command (SAC). If I'm following your argument correctly, you're asking 'Why doesn't the AF to SAC stuff and the Army take back TAC?'

    To an extent, this is a defacto situation. The Army has some short range fixed wing airlift, and CAS capabilities in the form of the AH-64 Apache and other attack helicopters. The AF has the big stuff; nukes, space stuff, stealth aircraft, long range airlift like the C-17s etc. AF Fixed wing CAS is already closely coordinated with Army folks through the Air Operations Center (AOC) which has an Army element participating in the Integrated Tasking Order (ITO) process. In short (and probably over simplified) a mess of CAS is at the joint land forces component commander's disposal already.

    In COIN, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, communications (much space based), and mobility are the AF's big strategic contributions, as well as operating as a 'firebase in the sky'. Given the AF's internal politics (the majority of the general officers being fighter pilots) this doesn't sit well, as it causes people to question the value of the F-22. Ironically, the ISR, Comm, and mobility capabilities provided by the AF are staggering advantages for us in COIN, and make the AF's contribution to current ops absolutely essential to any chance for success, even though their contribution doesn't get the big air play in the media (hence support from elected officials). These poor folks are between a rock and a hard spot trying to balance what Congress is forcing on them, their internal culture, the needs of COIN, and vigilence against future competitors in air power.

    I've met GEN Peck but haven't spoken with him much, and I know one of his peers at AU, GEN Miller and have spoken with him a bit. GEN Miller is the smartest fighter pilot I've ever met, and consistently demonstrates a thoughtful long range vision not limited by service parochialisms. I would be very curious how much GEN Peck talked about this article with GEN Miller, as it demonstrates a similar level of thought and consideration to that consistently displayed by GEN Miller. GEN Peck was trying to strike a balance between the ugly realities of small wars and the needs of the Air Force to preserve its capabilities for conventional exercise of airpower. Given the bigger considerations of the AF, I think he did a pretty good job.

    I was especially impressed with the penultimate section; "Developing Airmen for Irregular Warfare". For a pilot to emphasize the need for developing people is a bit of a change as they normally focus on their air machines. Stressing the development of leaders and human capabilities in the Air Force is a step in the right direction, and I hope the AF acts on these thoughts.

    Not bad for the successors of Army officers like Carl Spaatz and "Hap" Arnold (had to let the Army voice out of its box after talking Joint for so long )

  2. #22
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default Fixed Wing Close Air Support

    In repsonse to Van:

    Not really. What I was asking is why close air support (most effectively A10's) and any aircraft which is necessary for COIN operations are not available to the Army. I believe this is only to become more of an issue as I strongly believe that there will again be propellared support aircraft in service. They will most likely be operated and maintained near the front. Recent aviation diesel technology advances will allow it to use fuel used by almost any vehicle. Within 10 years we could have a scenario where an aircraft and small support crew are indeed attached to individual companies. I do believe the AF should be repsonsible for most of the issues you mentioned. I believe the AF should focus on air supremacy, transport and larger ordinance bombing. On the other hand the army should never be forced to, as in Vietnam, purchase fixed wing craft against congressional spending rules.

    Generals Peck and Miller may be excellent examples of the kind of men needed to ensure inter-service cooperation, but unfortunately men of their caliber can not be ensured. That is what I am concerned.

    In repsone to jcustis:

    Able is not always what it should be. Also, getting people on the same page as I am sure you know and have experience with is no small task. This is especially so when you have generals on either side having a a pissing contest. Whether more men have died meaninglessly because of generals incompitence or arrogance is unkown. We only have to look at the last fifty years to see this. The goal of this concept is to accomplish what the creation of the AF was supposed to do, reduce inter-service fighting.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam L View Post
    In repsonse to Van:

    Not really. What I was asking is why close air support (most effectively A10's) and any aircraft which is necessary for COIN operations are not available to the Army. I believe this is only to become more of an issue as I strongly believe that there will again be propellared support aircraft in service. They will most likely be operated and maintained near the front.
    Adam,

    What is the problem you are trying to solve? Van presented the current joint solution pretty well, so what is the issue? I see two major problems with your thoughts:

    1. I don't believe the next 10-15 years is going to have massive amounts of US ground forces employed around the world executing COIN operations...instead (and this is backed up by national security documents) we should prepare for numerous small teams of US forces conducting FID (including ground, maritime, and aviation FID) around the world to help other partner nations execute their own COIN/CT operations. Therefore, why conduct another drastic overhaul of Army force structure for a situation that is not expected to be encountered.

    2. Are you saying that current US Army field units are not being properly supported by the air component (both USAF and USN)? The only reason I can see a requirement for change is if the status quo isn't working.....and I think it is (there have been numerous studies that support that point as well).

    Bottom Line: COIN is hard and the Army has a large challenge in organizing, training, equipping, and employing ground forces to handle irregular warfare...while still being able to counter major combat operations (FCS anyone). I think the last thing our nation needs is to make the US Army a COIN-only force, and instead we must always operate in a joint interdependent team. (i'll step down off my soapbox now:-)

  4. #24
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default

    First

    Quote Originally Posted by TWC View Post
    1. I don't believe the next 10-15 years is going to have massive amounts of US ground forces employed around the world executing COIN operations...instead (and this is backed up by national security documents) we should prepare for numerous small teams of US forces conducting FID (including ground, maritime, and aviation FID) around the world to help other partner nations execute their own COIN/CT operations. Therefore, why conduct another drastic overhaul of Army force structure for a situation that is not expected to be encountered.
    1. I do not believe we will have massive amounts of US ground forces involved in many conflicts. I believe that we will have US forces conducting FID around the world in supprot of other nations COIN.CT efforts. This I think is given.

    2. I believe that we will be forced to conduct operations in many nations (especially African nations with out legitimate governments) without their consent. In those cases we will most likely be using a small force of men. Air support will be crucial. Looking at the history of many such operations conduct by many nations is that top heavy commands that integrate forces or different sections of services have caused problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by TWC View Post
    2. Are you saying that current US Army field units are not being properly supported by the air component (both USAF and USN)? The only reason I can see a requirement for change is if the status quo isn't working.....and I think it is (there have been numerous studies that support that point as well).
    Yes and No.

    1. I beleive that all efforts and capabilities are being exhausted in support and have been adequite.

    2. With the exception of A10's and C130's current fixed wing aircraft are too fast to give supprot in an urban environment. They also can not take abuse. The F35 (when it enters service) with its composite construction will be a write off with even small hits. It is almost impossible to repair carbon fiber peices in this case. A single scratch or bullet hole no matter how insignificant WILL lead to structural failure unless dealt with. Composite material are unimaginably strong and can deal with unimaginable streses, but not shock. Due to the high cost of the construction and repair of these aircraft Congress will not take kindly to losing any.

    3. Helicopters are very effective but have thier limitations especially in endurance and capacity. They are slower flying and more vulnerable to ground fire. Due to the inherent instability of their design they are difficult to keep aloft when severly damaged.

    4. Although ordinance like the JDAM are impressive they are far from perfect, and a 2000 lb. bomb that misses can kill a lot of non-combatants. Any bomb guided or unguided will be more accurate from lower altitude and lower speeds. Collateral damage whether from artillery shells or bombs helps the enemy.

    5. I should have been more accurate in what I said. First, I do believe the Army should have more fixed-wing capabilities. Second, the USN and USMC should have A10's for CAS. With their structural rigidity, low stall speed and engine power there is no reason a variant capable of naval landings can not be developed. After a few discussions with aeronotical engineers I am convinced with a few aerodynamic tweeks it can be made capable of STOL.

    6. Is the status quo working and effective? Yes Could be improved? That's why am talking about this. Please, do everthing tou can to destroy every illconcieved or illegitimate idea I have. If we come across 1 in a 1000 that you can't destroy perhaps its something to look at.

    Quote Originally Posted by TWC View Post
    Bottom Line: COIN is hard and the Army has a large challenge in organizing, training, equipping, and employing ground forces to handle irregular warfare...while still being able to counter major combat operations (FCS anyone). I think the last thing our nation needs is to make the US Army a COIN-only force, and instead we must always operate in a joint interdependent team. (i'll step down off my soapbox now:-)
    I am not saying make the US army a COIN-only force. I am saying they should have and are wing(s) that are trained specifically for the operations. Also, I am not saying the Army should go out and create its own training program. Use the AF and USN/USMC training programs and find out what works best.

    I really am talking more about CAS in urban environments which are quite often COIN situations. In open battle the US Army and USAF are going to blow the hell out of anything in the way. I hold the uptmost confidence in them.

    I also should note that the discussions about the development of a prop driven aircraft for COIN support is a bit tunnel visioned. Prop driven support due to its lower cost, endurance and abilites will become more prevelant in CAS. It is unlikely we will be fighting a war in the future without air supremacy (thanks to the AF.) Due to this we have to worry less about their vulnerabilities due to their low speed. Prop driven CAS aircraft can be operated and maintained much closer to the front.

  5. #25
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default Fyi

    I am not trying to be on a soapbox or anything, sorry if I come off that way. I am aware I am coming at everything from an odd and I must admit nieve point of view. I felt odd posting on this site initialy but after Rob's post I decided it was OK. My hope is that every idea I come up with goes down in flames. I just figure that perhaps 1 in a 1000 times it may give somebody an idea or cause them to look at something a little differently. I have a somewhat odd background. I have had the chance of meeting some very unique people over the years. I've had the privilege of meeting a lot of very interesting aeronautical engineers let alone just engineers. I admit I am probably looking at problems from fourty years ago but most of the veterans I have had the honor to known and met are from that time if not long before. I am very critical of modern technology and composites because I have worked with them and know just how fragile they are. One of my greater paranoias is that modern technology is actually devolving the military. Over the last 100 or so years the military has slowly moved away from its staunch seperation of officers and enlisted men and has realised that most of the battle is fought and won at a lower rank. With modern communication, gps and cameras I am afraid more and more officers will override the judgment calls of men in the field not understanding that they are not getting everything.

    Again I am calling it paranoia. On the other hand just because you think everybody is out to get you doesn't mean they aren't. LOL.

  6. #26
    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Not much to add to the philosophical piece of the discussion, the ATO/ITO process works well, and there are enough Air Force guys who "get it" that I am confident that things will work well for the next 10-15 years.

    Re: air frames - A S**t hot tactical air control party (TACP) and an on-call B-52 stacked with PGM small diameter bombs sounds like a robust CAS capability for COIN. It stays above air defense, has a good CEP, and enough payload to service a bunch of targets. The A-10 and AC-130 are awesome, but not the only tools in the kit.

  7. #27
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    PGM small diameter bombs
    Saw those for the first time on that Military Channel show Weaponology. They look pretty versatile. They need to get them within payload specs for Global Hawk, Predator, and the future generation of UAVs if they are not already there.

  8. #28
    Council Member pcmfr's Avatar
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    Default

    SOCOM is in the process of arming just about everything that flies in their inventory, both manned and unmanned, with some sort of PGM. Within a couple of years, the SOCOM CAS/ISR joint Air Force will be remarkably capable for COIN, not to mention CT.

  9. #29
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default PGM Small Diameter Bombs

    They are certainly impressive devices and a bargain (30K a piece) for what they are. My only concern is that from the videos of their impacts that I've seen on the Military Channel, and people say there's nothing to watch with 500 channels, or any literature that I've seen on it I don't believe they were designed, more accurately programed, to significantly increase their angle of atack before impact. I am concerned about their abilites to avoid obstacles, in an urban scenario, when released from a longer distance (the claimed 60 miles.)

    The fact that they have been able to get the guidance systems costs down so much is by far the largest leap made by this project.

    I love the Global Hawk concept but I don't know if we want to spend $48 million a piece.

    If they can get these things to fit on the Predator they have a real masterpiece.

  10. #30
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default B-52's

    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    Not much to add to the philosophical piece of the discussion, the ATO/ITO process works well, and there are enough Air Force guys who "get it" that I am confident that things will work well for the next 10-15 years.

    Re: air frames - A S**t hot tactical air control party (TACP) and an on-call B-52 stacked with PGM small diameter bombs sounds like a robust CAS capability for COIN. It stays above air defense, has a good CEP, and enough payload to service a bunch of targets. The A-10 and AC-130 are awesome, but not the only tools in the kit.
    How many B-52 bombers are still in service? With the empasis and publicity on UAV's and fighter-bombers how many do you think will be in service in 20 years? I don't think we even have any bomber concepts in development these days.

    Also, it only takes a few at the top to screw everything up.

  11. #31
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The answer to your first question, about 100

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam L View Post
    How many B-52 bombers are still in service? With the empasis and publicity on UAV's and fighter-bombers how many do you think will be in service in 20 years? I don't think we even have any bomber concepts in development these days.

    Also, it only takes a few at the top to screw everything up.
    To answer the second, probably none.

    As to your first statement, see this LINK. Note it does not go into detail; manned / unmanned, etc.

    The answer to your last statement is; true -- but no one has figured out a way to not have some folks at the top in one form or another...

  12. #32
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default I thought they cancelled that.

    I was under the impression that they killed the 2018 bomber plan about 6 months ago and that the plan is to skip this in favor of an interim concept for now, entering service in 2018 (based on either f22, x23, f35 airframe,) with a next generation bomber entering service after 2030.

    I'll look for the press release I saw.

  13. #33
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Moving target, changes frequently

    as is true with all big ticket programs. Plus, the news media are not a reliable source on that (or much of anything, for that matter...)

  14. #34
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default The Media

    True, I can't decide who's more trustworthy the media, public relations people or politicians. They're all rotten in my book.

    I am pretty sure about this though. I don't think congress was going to be willing to fund a high cost program of this sort without imediate cause to do so. Even if there was I think they would claim otherwise. Congress has turned in to one big affirmative defense trial with the battle of the "expert testimony." Only differences is instead of psychologists (we don't know what happened to the psychiatrists*) we have "experts" and "thinktank analysts." May I present you the hired guns of the 21st century.

    *I understand cognative psychology(ists) and the area but I just don't trust anyone who calls themselves a "mental health proffesional" and hasn't had to spend much time with real nutcases (in the psych ward) like psychiatrists have to during residency. For that matter even the psychiatrists are going down hill today. They seem to have lost all site of the reality that sometimes common sense trumps psychobabble. Sorry, I'm on a soapbox.
    Last edited by Adam L; 09-09-2007 at 09:28 PM. Reason: typo

  15. #35
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Congress, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and the Media

    Interesting and fortuitous juxtapositioning...

    Spooky, even...

    I'd say the answer to your conundrum is "all of the above."

    You may be correct but hard to say what the future might hold with respect to perceived cause or need -- not to mention that Congress is usually willing to fund high cost goodies that are produced in multiple Districts. Pork is pork, whether it's in WV or Johnstown for the 'public good' or in Costa Mesa and Spartanburg for 'protection for the American way of life.' We have a long -- too long -- history of not buying an item due to Congressional failure to see a need only to buy it later in large quantities for more money...

    I have a neighbor who's a practicing Psychiatrist and based on numerous conversation the last few years, she totally agrees.

  16. #36
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default Congress and Money

    I can't stand the pork. It just ain't Kosher.

  17. #37
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam L View Post
    True, I can't decide who's more trustworthy the media, public relations people or politicians. They're all rotten in my book.
    It may just be because I'm a political scientist ...but I think its enormously easy to blame the "politicians" for things. Most--certainly not all, but most--that I know or have worked with show enormous commitment, energy, and intelligence.

    If they appear to pander to the narrow desires of their constituents, it is because of the way we've designed the system, and because we reward at election time those that do most successfully. Surely that makes it our fault if we feel they're pursuing wrong-headed priorities.

    I could offer a defence of the media as well, but I try to limit myself to one unpopular group per post

  18. #38
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default All true. Well, maybe except for the last paragraph

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    It may just be because I'm a political scientist ...but I think its enormously easy to blame the "politicians" for things. Most--certainly not all, but most--that I know or have worked with show enormous commitment, energy, and intelligence.

    If they appear to pander to the narrow desires of their constituents, it is because of the way we've designed the system, and because we reward at election time those that do most successfully. Surely that makes it our fault if we feel they're pursuing wrong-headed priorities.

    I could offer a defence of the media as well, but I try to limit myself to one unpopular group per post
    with respect to any meaningful defense.

    I basically agree on the Politicians and the fact that much of the apparent venality of most 9nat all, as you said) is simply systemic -- in both our countries, different as the systems are. However, I think there's another factor that intrudes and is little appreciated. Their Staffs.

    Most legislative staffers are hired for their nominal expertise in the area of concern, this is particularly true in the Committees of the Parliament or of congress. Most such staffers have an agenda and the legislator, lacking subject matter knowledge, is pretty much at their mercy. This has an often pernicious effect. Most often, I'd say...

  19. #39
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Default Yes, but!

    Yes, in our republic with its strong democratic tradition the people are too blame in the end. Still, that does not excuse the actions of politicians.

    Most--certainly not all, but most--that I know or have worked with show enormous commitment, energy, and intelligence.
    1) I would say that most politicians, since I don't know the politicians you have know or worked with I cannot comment on them, are above average intelligence but, they are not as far above as they used to be. Most are unaware of their own ignorace, and too many lack humility. At the time Jerold Ford was considered unintelligent for his position and now look at where we are. By todays standards he's Nixon. There used to be a higher standard.

    2) Yes, the people are responsible. Too many districts are electing people who are, "One of us." Not in that they are truly from their district (unlike Hillary who is NOT a NY person) but as in being average. Districts (a long, long time ago) used to send the best they could offer. It was a point of pride. They sent the person best qualified to make decisions on their behalf. People where willing to admit their ignorance of government and the issues before it, but at the same time they took it as a matter of pride to send someone who could meaningfully contribute to government. Part of the standard for a politician used to be that they should be better than us, not in a personal sense but in their ability. Part of the reason Congress has always been filled with lawyers is because they were often the best educated and qualified. I should note that I do not believe that one necesarilly has to be that intelligent, but they must know their limits and posess humility. Reagan didn't have much up there but he somehow pulled it together by finding people who were qualified. A few good examples of people who just don't belong in politics: Mayor Nagin, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pellosi, Harry Reid, Dan Quayle, John Ashcroft, Tren Lott and of course he who shall not be named. Like you I do not wish to be too unpopular.

    3) Yes, the people are responsible. We only care about our district, not the country.

    I could offer a defence of the media as well, but I try to limit myself to one unpopular group per post
    I must admit I do have respect for the press, but unfortunately they don't exist any more. They have been devoured by the media, and giant conglomerates.

    Sorry, I'm on a soapbox. Its just CNN, FOX and all of them are eating my brain and shooting the TV just doesn't help!

    Why do we defend politicians?

    If they can't defend themselves how can they defend America? LOL.

    Wouldn't that be a great Anti-Campaign add.

    Sorry, if I sound serious I'm not actually this rough in real life. I'm just kvetching.

  20. #40
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Dave Kilcullen on USAF's critical role in COIN (From the Charlie Rose Show)

    CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, but we what, 300, or 110 CIA and 200 special forces, the combination of that. But we had the Northern Alliance troops too.

    DAVID KILCULLEN: Exactly. And my old boss, Hank Crumpton, who was a key player in that campaign, often says that, you know, the Afghans won against the Taliban. All we did was to enable them, using very flexible, agile approach, with small numbers of troops on the ground, and linking that to the (inaudible) system.

    CHARLIE ROSE: And how much air power?

    DAVID KILCULLEN: Well, air power -- there is a fascinating debate going on right now in the counterinsurgency community about the role of air power in counterinsurgency. Let me just -- we can talk about that later if you like. But let me just kick off that topic by saying that one of the things that Hank says is the most useful air asset they had in that period was, in fact, the C-130, that could deliver -- they could talk to a tribal leader or.

    DAVID KILCULLEN: . and say, hey, what do you need? Well, people or assistance of various kinds, or food, medical supplies.

    CHARLIE ROSE: And the Taliban had no means to shoot them down?

    DAVID KILCULLEN: Yeah, well, they did, but we had air superiority. I mean, this is the thing. And I'm sure we're going to get into this. A lot of Army guys say, you can't solve complicated social and political problems from a flight level of 20,000 feet using guided bombs, and therefore the Air Force doesn't have a big role in counterinsurgency. OK?

    That is so not true. For a start, the armies of the Western world haven't shown ourselves particularly good at solving those problems either. So it's not an air power-land power thing. It's about how we adapt to a very complicated environment.

    But secondly, everything is easy if you assume air superiority. You don't need an air force to deny air superiority to a modern joint force. And you know, guys.

    (CROSSTALK)

    DAVID KILCULLEN: Sorry. Guys who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan will tell you that one of the most fundamental elements in that campaign was working out the system that allowed the Soviets to maneuver and operate in the hinterland of Afghanistan, and overstressing that system, particularly the air system, by the introduction of high-tech surface-to-air weapons that allowed us to essentially overstress the Soviets.

    CHARLIE ROSE: Which we provided for the mujahideen?
    DAVID KILCULLEN: Yes. And so you know, there's this assumption that if air power doesn't have a role in counterinsurgency. If air is doing its job right -- and you need a big air force and a powerful air force to do that -- if it's doing its job right, the ground guys shouldn't really notice it. What they should notice is the air support, the close air support for them when they are fighting the enemy. They should notice the ability to move troops around. They should notice the logistic support. But that sits under a bubble of air superiority, and I'm not -- we ignore that factor at our peril, because any smart insurgent knows that we require that, and will turn against us.

    And this from SWJ’s COIN round up
    It is a strong presentation, showing that USAF’s thinking has deepened and matured. It delivers a sharp punch to the view that the US needs only ground forces —small, simple, and mostly suited to commando raids. Indeed, airpower is portrayed as pivotal.

    This claim does not sit well with everyone. The Army and Marine Corps concept of irregular war ascribes far more value to, well, themselves. That is, to say no more, a debatable proposition.

    Without question, certain valuable capabilities are unique to airpower. The doctrine paper cites three advantages that, while not always obvious, may prove vital to US success.

    Minimal intrusiveness. Introduction of a large US ground force is a highly visible act, often breeding political resentment, especially in Muslim lands. US troops quickly become targets for attack by insurgent bullets, bombs, and broadcasts. This amounts to a grave weakness for a force engaged in irregular warfare, in which support of “the people” is of paramount importance.
    These are two very good discussions on what Airpower can be used for in COIN. I could do without the rhetoric in the second piece:

    This claim does not sit well with everyone. The Army and Marine Corps concept of irregular war ascribes far more value to, well, themselves. That is, to say no more, a debatable proposition.
    However, there is some truth to it - and unfortunately service parochialism is not an uncommon attribute unique to any one institution. It does not diminish the the value of the questions and observations put forward in the larger article, and when read in conjunction with Dave Kilcullen's piece I think it provides a tool for leveraging the Joint force.

    Best Regards, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 10-09-2007 at 10:25 PM.

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