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Old 10-28-2005   #1
SWJED
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Default Aviation in COIN (merged thread)

The SWJ received this RFI via e-mail:

Hello ... I'm a reporter for Flight International magazine. I am travelling next week to Central Air Forces Command at Shaw AFB to interview the planning staff charged with standing-up the new Iraqi Air Force. I'm told they have been given swift marching orders to complete job. At the moment I'm looking for experts who can assist me with background on the needs of an air force with a primarily counter-insurgency mission. Please let me know if you or others you know would be able to help me out. Thank you,

Stephen Trimble

East Coast Editor

Americas Bureau

Flight International

I directed him to contact Dr. Wray Johnson (COL USA Ret.& SpecOps Aviator). Dr. Johnson is currently a professor at the USMC Command and Staff College and a co-author of Airpower in Small Wars. I also told him I would post his RFI here for any additional leads / expertise the SWC might provide.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-03-2010 at 12:01 PM. Reason: Merged from an old RFI
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Old 03-16-2006   #2
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Default Pentagon Boosts COIN Air Missions

16 March USA Today - Pentagon Boosts Number of U.S. Air Missions by Steven Komarow.

Quote:
Persistent insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan are prompting the Pentagon to rely more heavily on warplanes and air transports to attack the enemy and move troops and supplies.

The increase in airstrikes is most dramatic in Afghanistan, where they nearly doubled to 157 last year, compared with 86 in 2004. In Iraq, strikes increased 7% from 285 to 306, with a surge before the December national elections...

That's “an admission that U.S. and coalition ground forces, three years into the war, can't make movement on the ground safe,” said Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University.

While the air power helps, “the war is going to be decided on the ground,” said Bacevich, a Vietnam War veteran...

Air power will stay strong in Iraq even if the Pentagon proceeds with plans to reduce ground forces, said Air Force Secretary Michael Wynn. The Air Force is taking over security at Balad, a major air base north of Baghdad, he said.

As U.S. ground troops hand security over to local forces, U.S. and allied aircraft will back them with airstrikes. But the military is cautious about who will call for the strikes. It worries that warring factions could try to use U.S. air power against their internal rivals...
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Old 05-07-2006   #3
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Default Book Review: Airpower in Small Wars

Airpower in Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists

by James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson

Reviewed by LTC Lester W. Grau, USA (Retired), Military Review, Nov/Dec 2004

Despite catchy phrases like "surgical strike" and "precision bombing," airpower remains a blunt instrument in unconventional and small wars. Air strikes against guerrillas fail when guerrillas cannot be precisely located. Bombing civilians in retaliation (or error) is ineffective and counterproductive. The pre- World War II aviation concept of "air control," in which aviation occupies and controls a small country by airpower alone, is clearly outmoded and wrong. What then is the role of airpower in small wars?

James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson have a clear vision of this role and have written extensively on air and ground power. Corum is a reserve army officer and a distinguished historian and professor at the U.S. Air Force (USAF) School of Advanced Airpower Studies. Wray R. Johnson is a retired USAF colonel who spent a career in special operations and is now professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University.

Airpower has been a player in small wars and counterinsurgencies since French aviators bombed Moroccan rebels in 1913. Sometimes airpower has been a key player; at other times, it has promised much more than it could deliver. In the case of French Indochina, airpower's failure to deliver as planned at Dien Bien Phu lost the war for the French. Air Power in Small Wars, the first comprehensive history of the subject, analyzes numerous conflicts with guerrillas, bandits, rebels, and terrorists in colonial wars, police actions, counterinsurgencies, and expeditions.

The book's pre-World War II section describes General John J. Pershing's expedition into Mexico; U.S. Marine Corps expeditions into the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua; British Colonial expeditions in Somaliland, Aden, Transjordan, Iraq, and the Northwest Frontier Province of India; Spanish Colonial expeditions in Spanish Morroco; French Colonial expeditions in French Morocco and Syria; and Italian Colonial expeditions in Libya and Eritrea.

The post-World War II section includes the Greek Civil War; the Philippine Anti-Huk campaign; the French Colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria; the British Colonial wars in Malaya, South Arabia, and Oman; the war in South Vietnam; southern African insurgencies in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Namibia, Rhodesia and Malawi; Latin American insurgencies in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Columbia; the Egyptian expedition in Yemen; the Soviet War in Afghanistan; and the Israeli excursion in southern Lebanon. While it is an ambitious undertaking, it succeeds.

Among the book's key findings are that in small wars, the political and economic instruments are often more important than the military instrument. Reconnaissance and transport are usually the most important and effective aviation missions in guerrilla war. Airpower's ground attack role becomes more important as the war turns conventional. Aviation high-tech and low-tech systems might play an important role in small wars. Joint operations are essential for the effective use of airpower. Small wars are long and intelligence-intensive. Training for major wars does not translate into readiness for small wars.

This is an important book and, hopefully, one on which ground power and airpower advocates can agree. Insurgencies, expeditions, and other small wars might occupy the attention of the U.S. Armed Forces in the near term. The time to prepare is now, and getting the air and ground component to work together harmoniously is part of that preparation. This book should be a basic component of that preparation and of that harmony.
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Old 03-07-2007   #4
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Default New AF COIN Doctrine

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The Air Force wasn’t thrilled about the Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency document, which the service said gave short shrift to airpower’s capabilities, as proved in the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Allen G. Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Center at Maxwell AFB, Ala., said he had seen the doctrine penned by Petraeus and Amos, and said that it reflected “a very two-dimensional view of how to fight a counterinsurgency.” If airmen had written it, it would be “different,” Peck observed.

The Air Force provides “maneuver” capabilities by backing up ground troops with kinetic and nonkinetic means, Peck noted.

The Air Force is working on its own COIN doctrine and is proposing to the Pentagon that a joint doctrine be developed. The Air Force version is on a fast track to be finished in August. The service is simultaneously pushing for a joint doctrine.

When that process is under way, “it will be helpful for us to have our Air Force doctrine in hand,” he said.

USAF agrees with Petraeus and Amos that air mobility is a powerful “asymmetric” capability and certainly endorses the view that ISR—air and space-based systems alike—are critical.

However, Peck said he was concerned about the doctrine’s tendency to low-rate the value of force applied from the air. He said FM 3-24 does “probably a bit too much hand-wringing over the potential for collateral damage,” because the Air Force exercises great care in selecting targets and uses the minimum explosive power possible to achieve the desired effect.
Full article can be found here http://www.afa.org/magazine/march2007/0307watch.asp

Just curious what the experts think...

Thanks for any replies.
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Old 03-07-2007   #5
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Default Better late than never

There is no doubt that the USAF needs to play in the development of Joint COIN doctrine. We/they still haven't figured out how best to use their firepower capabilities. Dropping 2x2000lb bombs on a farm house that may or may not have had insurgents in it doesn't produce collateral damage, it produces more insurgents. (carefully selected targets -- minimum explosive force)
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Old 03-07-2007   #6
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Default How the US Air Force Ignores Counterinsurgency

Hi Jesse !

I've been Army all my life, so don't take this to heart if you are/were AF

Going to the Air War College's site can be amusing (for the Army types):
www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-lesn.htm

But better yet, Air & Space Power's Spring 06 Journal hits home:

"The Air Force's Missing Doctrine: How the US Air Force Ignores Counterinsurgency"

Quote:
CONSIDERING THAT THE U.S. military has extensive experience
in using airpower against insurgents, and that the United States
will almost certainly be involved in fighting insurgents and terrorists
and will no doubt assist other nations in their own fights
against irregular opponents in the future, the lack of attention in military
colleges and in doctrine regarding this subject is scandalous. The U.S. Air
Force in particular, has tended to ignore and downplay air operations in
small wars in its education system and in its doctrine.”
more here on page 27:
http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/a...pr06/spr06.pdf

Quote:
To a large extent, the Air Force has ignored insurgency as much as possible,
preferring to think of it as little more than a small version of conventional war.
Regards, Stan

Perhaps Old Eagle is right, better late than never !

Last edited by Stan; 03-07-2007 at 08:09 PM. Reason: forgot something again
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Old 03-07-2007   #7
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Default Airpower in Iraq 1920s

On seeing these posts I recalled discussions in the 1980s with and air force officer whose name I forgot about the use of the RAF in Iraq COIN in the 1920s. A Google search turns up quite a bit of stuff but it doesn't support and optimistic use of airpower as a primary direct action weapon. Even smart bombs do have a tendency to blow up more stuff and people that we desire.
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Old 03-07-2007   #8
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Stan, no worries as I am a USMC officer candidate heading down to PLC this summer.

Better late than never? The article reads as though the AF brass is suddenly paying attention to COIN because FM 3-24 got all sorts of press, the guy who wrote it is now commander of MNF-I, and when they actually sat down to read it it said horrible things like: "Air strikes are probably too blunt an instrument to be of much value, and ground commanders should think twice before asking for them."

Do the experts here think the AF is going to sit down and produce a thoughtful, nuanced COIN doctrine? Or will they try and protect their turf by overemphasizing the role of airpower and muddy the waters when all the services have to sit down and come up with a joint document?

Maybe their criticisms of FM 3-24 are valid?
Quote:
The views in FM 3-24 reflect a limited knowledge of airpower’s true role in the current operation and suspicion that airpower can all too easily prove counterproductive.
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Old 03-07-2007   #9
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Default Air Force COIN

Funny, COIN wasn't a real hot AF topic until FM 3-24 was written...

My fear is that the Air Force counterinsurgency doctrine will be penned by guys who grew up in the ACC (old SAC/TAC) community. While the Air Force is great at delivering ordnance in target, and ISR is a no-fail mission, effective COIN requires so much more than that.

The AF Special Operations community is making great strides in developing a more robust FID capability (teaching the indigenous population to fish today keeps us from buying them a fish later), and their AC/MC-130 platforms provide highly effective support to the trigger-pullers for the type of ground combat we're encountering today (and likely tomorrow); much more so than the fast-burners...(Mobility platforms moving humanitarian supplies play a key role in developing stability as well.)

Air superiority is a wonderful thing, but specialized airpower brings more capability to the ground fight. At least until the insurgents get EuroFighters wry:
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Old 03-08-2007   #10
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Default Disappointing spin

Quote:
The Air Force provides “maneuver” capabilities by backing up ground troops with kinetic and nonkinetic means, Peck noted.

The Air Force is working on its own COIN doctrine and is proposing to the Pentagon that a joint doctrine be developed. The Air Force version is on a fast track to be finished in August. The service is simultaneously pushing for a joint doctrine.

When that process is under way, “it will be helpful for us to have our Air Force doctrine in hand,” he said.

USAF agrees with Petraeus and Amos that air mobility is a powerful “asymmetric” capability and certainly endorses the view that ISR—air and space-based systems alike—are critical.

However, Peck said he was concerned about the doctrine’s tendency to low-rate the value of force applied from the air. He said FM 3-24 does “probably a bit too much hand-wringing over the potential for collateral damage,” because the Air Force exercises great care in selecting targets and uses the minimum explosive power possible to achieve the desired effect.
Many Air Force General Officers have a tendency to present themselves more as corporate defenders than defenders of their nation. Perhaps the author's intentions are well intentioned, but the tone of this article indicates otherwise. While I agree that the Air Force does play a critical role, and could do more, especially on the non-kinetic side, this article reads like a plea to justify their continued budget on kinetic capabilities (I support that too, but not using COIN to justify it). To accuse a muddy boots officer who was on the front lines as a division commander of ringing his hands over collateral damage clearly marks the words of someone who doesn't understand the principles of COIN, and is clearly attempting to undermine the author of the doctrine.

Hopefully the Young Turks coming up through the Air Force ranks will eventually transform a service that is badly in need of reform. This reminds me of the same mentality that General Motors's management displayed when they ignored the new competition and changes in the market, and they simply tried to discredit the truth until they were ousted.
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Old 03-08-2007   #11
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Using Air Power against insurgents does more than create collateral damage and more insurgents. Using Air Power delegitimizes our efforts to fight and beat the insurgents. In the minds of the folks who want to defeat us, our use of Air Power means that we are too chicken#### to close with, and defeat them. It leads them to believe that THEY are the morally and tactically superior fighters, who, once it AGAIN appears as if they are "kicking our butts", we turn tail, like the soft, western infidel cowards we are, and call in an airstrike to save our craven butts.

To defeat the insurgents, we must defeat them politically and militarily, in terms that they understand. Failure to do this, makes airpower a recruiting tool for insurgents. Whether Airpower creates "collateral damage" or not, it serves as a recruiting tool and a disincentive to give in to the "cowardly west".

Perhaps if the insurgents valued airpower, it would be useful in a COIN fight. Or their fear of airpower exceeded their motivation for fighting.

I don't think it's necessarily a personal thing, but the best thing the AF could do is to "man up" and just support the fight in the best way they can.
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Old 03-08-2007   #12
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Default Counter-insurgency aircraft plans gain momentum in Defense Dept.

I found this, unattributed, at BCKS COIN forum

Development of sensor packages could aid Pentagon's plans for dedicated COIN air fleet
A shift in Defense Dept. focus and the development of advanced airborne sensor packages just might provide the U.S. military with a platform that has eluded the Pentagon for decades--a dedicated aircraft fleet mix especially designed and deployed for counter-insurgency operations.
Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and insurgent battles abroad have reawakened Pentagon interest in developing a dedicated counter-insurgency operations (COIN) fleet and capability. Aviation counter-insurgency experts and would-be COIN contractors have been gravitating to the Pentagon to brief officers of the need, capabilities and potential requirements for such aircraft.
The Rand Corp. recently completed an unclassified report, "COIN Aircraft Systems for the USAF and Friendly States Facing Insurgencies," this summer as part of the organization's Project Air Force. Rand notes that there will be a need for such a capability for some time to come. "Insurgencies are likely to be an enduring feature of the international security environment."
Rand also says USAF is using aircraft designed for other needs for COIN missions, but that aircraft specifically geared for such needs would be better.
The Air Force historically has modified high-tech jet fighters or bombers for COIN operations instead of investing in a counter-insurgency fleet, which would consist mostly of transport planes or lower, slower-flying turboprop aircraft for fixed-wing needs. Jets can be used for limited COIN work, while it would be difficult if not impossible to do the reverse.
The Air Force also has been loath to rob its fighter or bomber accounts for what it considers "fringe" work, such as counter-insurgency operations.
Now, some say the anticipated need for COIN fleets is greater.
And growing capability of precision munitions and other sensor packages is making it possible to develop more-effective COIN fleets.
"With sensor packages, that's where we could be able to do it," said Wray Johnson, a former Air Force special forces colonel who helped develop counter-insurgency operations. Johnson teaches at the U.S. Marine Corps College in Quantico, Va.
He also is the co-author of the 2003 book Air Power in Small Wars, Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists, which is on the USMC commandant's supplemental reading list, intended for majors and lieutenant colonels deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
High-flying, fast jets would be at a disadvantage for COIN work, which requires more loiter time, often closer to the ground. Jets are also expensive to operate and maintain, and the Pentagon and Congress are looking for ways to cut costs.
A turbofan light attack-trainer such as Argentina's AT-63 Pampa would have a flyaway cost of about $11 million, the Rand report says; a utility plane, even less. Utility planes could provide more cost-effective transportation than other airlifters such as C-130Js, according to Rand.
"Many in Congress may question the wisdom of future Air Force budgets unless they include investments that clearly contribute to fighting non-state actors," says Christopher Bolkcom, aviation expert for the Congressional Research Service.
To prove they're not simply modifying legacy platforms, the services are jointly developing programs for new aircraft to meet needs they say reflect the growing counter-insurgency requirements. One of these is the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA), a tactical airlifter meant for austere environments that can't be accommodated by current fleets.
But some of those programs have failed to get off the ground.
"In the case of the Army, the JCA program will probably falter for lack of money early in its execution, especially given Air Force resistance to buying anything other than C-130s," the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson says. He notes that other COIN aircraft could meet similar fates.
"In the case of the Special Ops Command, it's hard to understand why an organization already buying the C-130, the V-22 tiltrotor and the next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopter also needs a twin-engine turboprop. It sounds like special operators are 'overkilling' the short-hop airlift mission while neglecting more pressing needs."
Others disagree, saying the current aircraft don't meet COIN needs.
Johnson says, "What we need is something rugged, reliable, survivable and multi-dimensional."
While the Air Force has often directed its focus and funding on fighters and strike aircraft, COIN operations take on more indirect roles--intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), transportation, air ambulance, psychological operations, communications and providing cover for convoys and other ground operations.
Some COIN-type aircraft and missions include propeller-driven or jet trainers for light attack, helicopters, utility and armed unmanned aerial vehicles, Rand notes.
Aircraft that have proven effective in COIN operations include OV-10s, A-37s, T-37s, AC-47 gunships, UH-60s, C-123 transports and such newer entries as Embraer Tucanos.
EVEN SUCH SMALL planes as turboprop civilian transports, including the Spanish CASA C-212, Pilatus Porter, Cessna 17 or Piper Arrow, have proved useful.
Many of these are analyzed in the Rand report, which also notes conceptual designs, like that of Idaho-based Stavatti Aerospace Machete.
Resembling a black shortened F-15, the Machete will be able to handle strike, ISR and other missions, says Stavatti Aerospace Chairman/CEO Christopher Beskar.
The plan is to build on many of the capabilities of the A-10 or even the old A-1 Skyraiders, Beskar said on Aug. 16. But the aircraft also is incorporating modern sensor packages and construction standards. The plane is made of only about 12% traditional aluminum, while a third of it is titanium, Beskar said. "It's built to have a lot more survivability."
After two years of briefings with Pentagon, Air Force and Rand officials, Beskar has altered the Machete design to better address COIN requirements for more cannon firepower, ISR capability and a more rugged aircraft.
Another indication of what the Air Force may require was the proposal requests issued this spring for an Iraqi counter-insurgency ISR aircraft that can also be tasked for communications work.
WHILE KEEPING an eye on the possible U.S. or American-backed markets, Stavatti has its sights elsewhere.
"[We're] export oriented," Beskar said, noting Colombia, Chile and other Latin American countries, which are looking to replace aging A-37s or OV-10s, are promising.
Latin America, with its history of insurgencies and drug-trafficking battles, provides the perfect backdrop for COIN airframes. The same type of aircraft that's been successful for battling drug traffickers--mobile, quick, persistent--would be effective against insurgents.
Johnson agrees the Latin American market would be a target-rich environment for COIN aircraft. But he argues the only way U.S. allies will buy into COIN fleets is if the Pentagon does first.
Stavatti Aerospace says its Machete concept, which resembles a black shortened F-15, can handle strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other missions important to the COIN initiative.
~~~~~~~~
By Michael Fabey, Washington
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Old 03-08-2007   #13
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Default The Ghost of General Gavin

We already have them or used to anyway. They were originally going to be part pf the Air Cavalry Division as conceived by General Gavin but was finally stripped out. The SLAR side ways looking radar was the father of JSTARS. I think the new AF COIN manual will have a lot of General Gavin's and Billy Mitchell's ideas in it. Here is a link with pics and back round data. http://www.armyav.org/board_ov-1b.htm
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Old 03-08-2007   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
There is no doubt that the USAF needs to play in the development of Joint COIN doctrine. We/they still haven't figured out how best to use their firepower capabilities. Dropping 2x2000lb bombs on a farm house that may or may not have had insurgents in it doesn't produce collateral damage, it produces more insurgents. (carefully selected targets -- minimum explosive force)
AMEN

See my article (when it comes out) on collateral damage

Tom
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Old 03-08-2007   #15
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Quote:
However, Peck said he was concerned about the doctrine’s tendency to low-rate the value of force applied from the air. He said FM 3-24 does “probably a bit too much hand-wringing over the potential for collateral damage,” because the Air Force exercises great care in selecting targets and uses the minimum explosive power possible to achieve the desired effect.
I fear this means the "new" AF COIN doctrine will be more of the same. It will likely extoll the virtues of lethal airpower and largely ignore non-lethal roles. Flying small Cessna-type planes just isn't sexy.

This quote alone shows a complete ignorance of what works in a COIN environment.
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Old 03-08-2007   #16
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Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
I fear this means the "new" AF COIN doctrine will be more of the same. It will likely extoll the virtues of lethal airpower and largely ignore non-lethal roles. Flying small Cessna-type planes just isn't sexy.

This quote alone shows a complete ignorance of what works in a COIN environment.
Agreed.....

"Hand-wringing?"

See the SENLIS Report posted here by Marc Tyrell some months ago to get a sense of what "hand-wringing" really means.

Tom
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Old 03-08-2007   #17
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Default Hand-wringing

I'm just getting the overwhelming sense that, with the forthcoming "AF COIN Doctrine," the job of changing the AF mindset will become even more difficult. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I anticipate some form of an air control theory with a new name.
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Old 03-08-2007   #18
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Originally Posted by LawVol View Post
I'm just getting the overwhelming sense that, with the forthcoming "AF COIN Doctrine," the job of changing the AF mindset will become even more difficult. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I anticipate some form of an air control theory with a new name.
Hence my concern that this "doctrine" will be written by fighter/bomber jocks with advanced degrees in Airpower Studies as opposed to guys who cut their teeth working FID/SOF missions out of Hurlburt Field.

Speaking as an Airman with a Marine Corps background, I'm consistently surprised by the lack of awareness the Air Force possesses, not only of the other services, but of the changing nature of warfare. For those of you out there with boots on the ground, are you more in need of an air superiority fighter, or a C-130? Which will have the most impact on achieving the objectives of the "Long War?" While I am concerned that China is increasing their military spending 18% over the next year, I just can't help but believe that by the time they acquire an air superiority fighter in any appreciable number our F-22s will be obsolete. Our mobility fleet is limping, our special operations fleet should be doubled, and we're buying fighters.

As Charlie Brown used to say: "Good Grief."
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Old 03-08-2007   #19
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Originally Posted by Loggie View Post
Hence my concern that this "doctrine" will be written by fighter/bomber jocks with advanced degrees in Airpower Studies as opposed to guys who cut their teeth working FID/SOF missions out of Hurlburt Field.

Speaking as an Airman with a Marine Corps background, I'm consistently surprised by the lack of awareness the Air Force possesses, not only of the other services, but of the changing nature of warfare. For those of you out there with boots on the ground, are you more in need of an air superiority fighter, or a C-130? Which will have the most impact on achieving the objectives of the "Long War?" While I am concerned that China is increasing their military spending 18% over the next year, I just can't help but believe that by the time they acquire an air superiority fighter in any appreciable number our F-22s will be obsolete. Our mobility fleet is limping, our special operations fleet should be doubled, and we're buying fighters.

As Charlie Brown used to say: "Good Grief."
I deployed with a couple (Marine) Harrier pilots in 2005 to IZ. Good dudes and great guys they are, but even as Marines they lacked the understanding of what a hinderance CAS can be to a long-term COIN campaign. I recall a conversation I witnessed.

Friend of mine: "So, what are you going to do when you deploy?"
Harrier Pilot: "I'm going to pick a fight, that's what!"

The harrier pilot had a warrior's mindset, but probably not the right temperment.

If I need to fight, I'll be honored by an invitation to brawl. But otherwise I doubt the utility of deliberately and bombastically looking for ways of starting said fights. We're fight to end the fight, not begin more.

For more on this, see Chuck Spinney (@ d-n-i.net):
http://www.d-n-i.net/fcs/successful_...n_lost_war.htm

Spinney's attitude is a bit too caustic, but I think he makes some good points.
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Old 03-08-2007   #20
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Default Boots on the Ground

Ask Tom what an EC-130 could have done to mitigate the genocide in Rwanda. The hate/kill message was propagated primarily from one radio station.

Lift is almost always the biggest shortfall when it comes to AF support for this ground pounder.

For COIN we have sufficient fire support, I would like to hear more ideas on non-lethal fire support that the AF could provide. We won't hear it from their generals, nor will see it on their budget proposals, unless they intend to put it there to get Congressional support, then shift it to bombers and fighters later.
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