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Thread: Aviation in COIN (merged thread)

  1. #261
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Agreed with all of the above.

    Also, I think it's a bit absurd that Singer talks about partners for the Air Force to support, and ignores ground forces. Of course an AF general (no doubt in flight suit during the interview) wants more high-performance fighters. Ground troops of any stripe - coalition or indigenous - I assume would prefer the COIN aircraft to drones or more strike jets.

    Then again, it's hard for me to understand the Air Force when I can only (unfairly) think of their role as one of supporting other services. . .

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

  2. #262
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Singer is pretty much out of his depth with that commentary...I would think he knows better.

    Oh yeah...and what Ken said too.
    Last edited by jcustis; 09-24-2009 at 04:33 AM.

  3. #263
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Surely there is a happy medium between the firepower and speed of a jet and the responsiveness and precision of a Kiowa.
    Can I get an A-10, Brothers and Sisters?

    My battle buddy here is widely known as Mr. Excalibur, making him an icon of precision indirect fires in the close fight. He advocates first round precision as the new standard for indirect and has delivered that standard to troops in contact.

    Let's face it. Having been in the write for your life game on the USG side, sometimes guys like Singer gotta scribble something and the old rule something needed bad gets delivered bad comes into play.

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 09-24-2009 at 09:14 AM.

  4. #264
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    I think the real problem here is that Singer has no idea of the dynamics of CAS. Singer gets it half right in the absence of understanding.

    a.) JDAM, AGM-114 and similar does not care what airframe it comes off, so all the Low and slow stuff is pretty moot. "Rolling in on the Smoke," ready to loose 18 x 2.75, is not really relevant to modern operations. - We can do better.

    b.) Your sensor does not have to be the shooter - the IDF use UAVs to cue Apache and F-16, but "allegedly" do not wish to arm UAVs - and for normal operations do not. A UAV can cue GMLRs - why differentiate between "Air Support" and Fire Support?

    c.) If you want to use 30mm, DAGR (guided 70mm) and similar, Armed helicopters would seem a sensible choice. USAF has none, so human, emotional and organisational bias, get in the way.

    Personally, I am against specialist fleets of "COIN bug bashers." unless they bring a lot more to the party, as a true multi-role platform. I'd want OV-10 capabilities as an absolute minimum - eg: Observation, transport, para-dropping, and specialist sensors.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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  5. #265
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default It's all in the desert

    Wayback when I visted Davis-Monthana airbase, Tucson, Arizona and went on the public tour of the mothballed USAF fleet apart from the size of the stock, more interesting was the commentary that regularly the AF returned to take old planes out of mothballs and into active service. I cannot now recall which planes he cited. The USN and USMC have similar stockpiles.

    I would suggest whatever "slow" airframes needed are there, including then dozens of OV-10s; moot point if all the spare parts etc are stockpiled too.

    Fascinating place.

    davidbfpo

  6. #266
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    Wilf gets it right I think, but tack on two points:

    1. Platform is much less relevant than it used to be for delivering good CAS.

    2. Each situation is different and METT-TC dependent. There isn't one ideal platform and weapons load that works for every situation - In other words, the air support that one gets is probably going to involve some compromise.

    I think I COIN aircraft will be better in a few niche areas but won't bring a dramatic improvement in CAS in most cases. It would seem to make more sense, to me at least, to bring A-10's out of mothballs and upgrade them to the new "C" standard.

    Finally, it's kind of funny, to me at least, how stereotypes of pilots are used in arguments about procurement. I'm not sure who to believe - Singer, who thinks pilots pine for the good ol' prop days, or many AF critics who think the AF doesn't want anything that won't go Mach 1+ and pull 9G's.

  7. #267
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quick question: What's wrong with this AF COIN doctrine:

    We support allied ground forces on their demand.
    ?


    (KISS)

  8. #268
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    Default Big Blue in the Back Seat

    BLUF: Air Force senior leaders fail to grasp the fact that if the Air Force wants to contribute to winning COIN, we should be looking to our airmen, not our iron.

    Discussion: The problem is that the Air Force views IW and COIN as a means of employing iron instead of people. Yes, COIN requires the disciplined use of Air Force iron IOT execute kinetic strikes and ISR. However, the idea that Big Blue should just sit back and let the ground-pounders execute population-centric COIN while we sit inside the wire is a by-product of years of indoctrination inferrring that any movement back towards the ground will inevitably lead to re-establishment of the Army Air Corps.

    Recommendation: Get out of the back seat and into the driver's. Train, equip and deploy airmen tasked with supporting Air Force ground operations ISO unified COIN strategy. IW, and by association, COIN, are population-centric and require people, not planes.

  9. #269
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coindanasty View Post
    Recommendation: Get out of the back seat and into the driver's. Train, equip and deploy airmen tasked with supporting Air Force ground operations ISO unified COIN strategy. IW, and by association, COIN, are population-centric and require people, not planes.
    That is happening for personnel with relevant skill-sets: SoF, Rescue, MP, OSI, transportation/logistics, etc. What more should be done?

  10. #270
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    I disagree - case in point, just spent some time with an OSI det downrange, as well as their parent leadership. When queried aboit their contribution to COIN, the answer was that it wasn't really up to them. Their perspective was CTO, and if it fit into the localized COIN strategy, then great. It takes nothing away form the outstanding job they do - but one of the much-touted tenets of COIN is unity of command/effort. What does it tell me when the leading edge of the AF ability to contribute to localized intelligence collection receives limmited direction outside find/fix/neutralize targets?

    Again, all the specialties you mentioned contribute to COIN as Joint Expeditionary Taskings (JET). However, strategically, those assets are fire-and-forget i.e. the ground pounders want this, we (the AF) give them that.
    What we should be doing is taking all elements capable of executing population-centric ops (which in my mind is every specialty), train them and push them outside the wire ISO a unified COIN strategy. You've got thousands of airmen who serve in only a support capacity, folks who have no perspective on the population they are supposedly their to win. Galula addresses exactly this - the idea that force protection and permanence do nothing but isolate the force from the people and lead to the perception of The Invader. And according to the big G, every specialty contributes to the fight. Under his model, an electrician would be focused on supporting first, the needs of the populace and second, that pesky AC unit that keeps going out at the morale tent.

  11. #271
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    We'll know the AF is truly serious about COIN not when they write doctrine for COIN that shapes the mission to validate the force they have; but when they build a capability to support the mission that the guys on the ground need them to provide.

    I had an AF instructor at the War College who challeneged a position I had made in a paper that the AF had provided critical support to the SF teams that were our first boots on the ground in Afghanistan. He was quite serious in his case that it was actually the other way around, that the SF teams on the ground were the ones supporting the AF bombers by providing target locations.

    When I see SPADs rolling off the assembly line again instead of UAVs and F-35s/22s, then we will know the AF is serious about supporting COIN operations. Even then it should probably be a relatively small aspect of their capability, with the majority focused on being able to gain and maintain air superiority against a near-peer opponent.

    But the AF has bigger challenges, as the technological advantages once measured in and amortized over decades; now are far more fleeting and just can't justify the massive outlays of $$$. They have a new paradigm and there is no easy answer to address it.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  12. #272
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    Default Joint Doctrine?

    That's funny; sounds like someone needed a lesson in supporting vs. supported...was that at Air War College?

    But I still disagree with you (slightly). The smallest portion of a USAF COIN doctrine should be understanding ground support. I still firmly believe it should be rooted in developing organic ground support. The disparate pieces exist; all that is lacking is the will to employ it as such.

    Billy Mitchell fought maverick-hard for the separate Air Force; I believe if he were alive today he'd be pretty torqued to see his mantra used to further a digression from relevance. Airpower? More like "Airman-power."

  13. #273
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Army War College. When I see such bias in others it mostly serves as a reminder that I too must possess similar biases and to guard against the same as much as possible.

    I recently heard GEN Schwartz speak, and he is convinced as well that the key to the future of the USAF lies in the Airmen who make it up.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  14. #274
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    I'm very tired of the AF acting as if it has been sidelined. I personally think this has a lot to do with Nagl's talk of winning the wars your fighting. The AF primary duties should be maintaining the ability to have air superiority in all conflicts which we might enter. (For example: China or India in 20 years time.) Also, maintaining a sufficient bomber and air lift capability. Personally, I think the AF will be lacking in all of these areas in a few years even if they are not now. This may not be the war right now, but it is the one we must be ready for.

    The job of the AF in COIN is to maintain air supremacy (not a problem right now,) provide airlift and whatever air support is necessary (a flyover, an SDB or a MOAB.) After that the AF provides whatever assets/personnel/capabilities it possesses that may be useful to the forces on the ground. (Entropy has already commented that this is occurring.)

    Recommendation: Get out of the back seat and into the driver's. Train, equip and deploy airmen tasked with supporting Air Force ground operations ISO unified COIN strategy. IW, and by association, COIN, are population-centric and require people, not planes.


    If this is what should be done, then the AF might as well be reintegrated with the Army, latest to some extent. That may not be such a bad idea. We might be able to get beyond this whole argument of Air vs. Ground. It shouldn't matter whether the SF on the ground are supporting the air strike, or the other way around. What matters is that the target got blown up and they both were supporting the mission.

    Adam L
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-28-2009 at 12:14 PM. Reason: Get quote right.

  15. #275
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    CSAF is a breath of fresh air. Check out his reading list at http://www.af.mil/information/csafreading/index.asp

    Exciting to see Galula's tome at the top of the list.

    I read an interesting article recently by a STO; will post it if I can find it. It posited that the USAF's tech-heavy approach and failure to cultivate indepent leaders (like Mitchell) currently hamper our ability to shape the the future and stay relevant in the now.

    My IW mentors in the AF believe the same re: people vs. planes. Tell the Air Force to do COIN, and we give you the MC-12. Tell us to shape ourselves for the future and we give you the F-35. The paradigm you mention above has been shaped by decades of looking back, and it's leaving us on the hind mammary in the current fight.

  16. #276
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    Coindanasty,

    Most of the personnel mentioned are used to fulfill requests by the ground forces. Many others fill PRT billets. Some of the people in my unit have filled these taskings and my previous unit (rescue) directly supported the ground forces. It appears to me the Army would rather have sailors and airmen doing some of the necessary, but perhaps not directly COIN-related, tasks that are within their core competencies to free up Army personnel for direct COIN. As I'm sure you're aware, both the Navy and Air Force have limited capabilities to operate independently on the ground. There are probably some areas where more personnel with appropriate training could embed with the Army, but I don't know what they are.

    What we should be doing is taking all elements capable of executing population-centric ops (which in my mind is every specialty), train them and push them outside the wire ISO a unified COIN strategy.
    I disagree that every specialty can do pop-centric COIN outside the wire, even if pop-centric COIN is the way to go. For Afghanistan there are real limitations to the number of foreign (ie, American) troops that can conduct such operations, the most important being interpreters. There aren't enough good terps as it is.

    I had an AF instructor at the War College who challeneged a position I had made in a paper that the AF had provided critical support to the SF teams that were our first boots on the ground in Afghanistan. He was quite serious in his case that it was actually the other way around, that the SF teams on the ground were the ones supporting the AF bombers by providing target locations.
    To me such parochial debates are kind of pointless. It's like a bullet and a rifle arguing about which one of them is "support." The early stages of OEF could not have been accomplished absent either the SF teams or the fire support (and transport and logistics) provided by coalition air forces. It's more accurate to say that both were supporting the joint force commander which is, doctrinally, what we're supposed to be doing anyway.

  17. #277
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    Adam L: The AF sidelines itself, not the other way around. Hence CSAF's "all in" approach to the joint fight. I agree with your assessment of priorities, but I do believe that wars of the future will look a lot like the wars of the present (outside of the whole PRK/RUS/PRC debate, which is way outside what I'm talking about here). Hence my belied we need to take ourselves off the sideline.

    USAF/Army integration? Heresy! I can tell you I made it work, ad hoc, in '02. Translating tactical success to strategic formulization is the real trick...

    Entropy: You're right that when it comes to the JET/supporting world, the Air Force is supporting. However, ask a Rescue guy, especially the ground guys, right now (I just did on my last trip) if they're doing all they can and you might get a different answer. I understand your concern that not all specialties are capable (or desired) for pop-centric ops. Qualified terps - yep, felt that pain in my prior worlds. But, I still think your point reinforces mine: IF we manned/trained/equipped, we COULD do it. Remember that whole IW Wing idea in 2007 that had the traditional airpower folks in such a tiz?

  18. #278
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    Coindanasty,

    I spent five years in a rescue unit including an Afghanistan deployment. What PJ's may want to do is not the same thing as what they need to do, which depends on their unit's assigned mission. I know that some PJ's would rather be outside the wire full time than sitting on alert at some FOB waiting for someone to get hurt, but sitting alert and saving lives is a mission that has to be done. Besides, I know my unit saved many Afghan security forces and local nationals, which is pretty "pop-centric" in my book.

    Let me ask you this - if more personnel are needed for pop-centric COIN on the ground, why should those forces come from outside one of the ground services? It seems like it would be better to plus up capability in the Army/Marines than try to create some Air Force COIN ground force. The ground forces already have the training, doctrine and mindset for that mission - what "value added" would AF and/or Navy personnel provide beyond the discrete support missions they do currently?

  19. #279
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    Entropy,

    Point 1 taken; love to debate it further with you at another venue since I could chase the rabbit ways from this thread.

    Point 2: Now that's a question worth asking. In order to buy myself time to formulate an educated response, please tell me if I am judging your POV correctly:

    You believe that if more ground-centric capability is needed, it should come from the ground-centric branches i.e. USA/USMC. They are the SMEs on all aspects of IW and COIN and are best manned/trained/equipped to do so; gaps can be RFF'd from sister branches as needed but COA 1 is to plus up those existing capabilities.

  20. #280
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    CSAF...does that stand for the Confederate States Air Force

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