Home » Wars » Afghan Update » Farah Hit Shows Need for COIN Plane

Farah Hit Shows Need for COIN Plane

by Ward Carroll on June 29, 2009

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I know it’s been out for a while, but I thought I’d give the recently released investigation report on the air strikes in Farah province Afghanistan a chop and post the entire report here.

You might remember this was the latest high-profile close air support strike on a village that allegedly killed as many as 140 civilians — but probably killed more like 60 (still a WAY too high number) during a day-long battle in Farah province in May.

I’m not going to get into the whole idea of using CAS in villages against an enemy that may (or may not) be deliberately hiding amongst civilians, the perception versus reality arguments and any doctrinal issues. We can cover that at DoD Buzz and Military​.com, but I have a purely defense tech-related issue I’d like to bring forward for you to consider as an outgrowth of the investigation’s findings.

The report states that there were essentially two rounds of air strikes called in by a Marine Corps Special Operations team which was acting as a QRF for Afghan forces and their “coalition” trainers (it doesn’t say where these trainers were from but they could have been other Marines or Brits) who came into contact with enemy forces around 3pm on May 4 during a patrol intended to secure a small village rumored to have been hassled by foreign Taliban.

The MarSoc bubbas took control of the CAS when they arrived on scene and talked in an escalation of force strike with four F/A-18Fs which popped flares, did a couple gun runs and eventually dropped some bombs on confirmed Taliban positions that the MarSoc commander observed and confirmed for each strike.

While the direct fire stopped for a while, the enemy was never completely suppressed. But the Hornets were running out of juice, so they had to RTB. In came our Soviet nuclear strike bomber to save the day.

Four hours later, as the Marines and Afghan forces were waiting for a medivac chopper and coming under intermittent fire from a nearby village, a B-1B Lancer called in on station. It dark by then and the B-1 spotted a group of military looking men walking toward the village to reinforce the enemy firing on the Marines and ANA. Of course, this was almost a mile away from the ground force commander, so he had to trust the B-1’s thermals and used “a variety of real-time intelligence resources” which probably means he was listening to a radio scanner and having the jibberish translated to confirm that the group was coming in for the kill.
Farah Province Investigation

Of course they hid in two buildings.

Boom! Three 500 pounders on air burst fuses destroy a mosque and a shrine. No one in the air or on the ground has any idea who’s taking shelter in the mosque and shrine aside from the Talibs.

Then the B-1 sees another group like the first one, tracks it for 20 minutes on the thermals moving toward the Marines’ front line and rallying near another building outside the village. Threat=strike. Boom: two 500 pounders and two 2,000 pounders (which must have looked like a nuclear strike).

More than two hours after the B-1 came on station, and spotting a third group of tactically-moving personnel take shelter and another building, the Lancer drops its last 2,000 pounder, destroying the building and killing everyone inside.

Again, we can debate the policy and tactics of CAS and target ID in another forum, but what this incident tells me is that we absolutely need a counterinsurgency aircraft. The F-18s could ID the targets themselves and get low enough to do strafing runs, etc. But they couldn’t stay very long and had to relinquish control to a strategic bomber sheep-dipped as a tactical support aircraft.

An A-10, or some other COIN aircraft would have done a much better job eliminating the enemy with graduated force and IDing the targets — and staying on station. They can be cheap, easy to field at FOBs and convenient to maintain (especially prop-driven planes). And I got no problem with the armaments either. Give me some Hellfires and a couple chain guns, and I’ll put your Talibs on the ground.

I hope that this incident arms those in the Air Force and Army to advocate for a “back to the future” focus on simpler, long-endurance, stick and rudder with a pair of binos CAS that is critical to keeping the population on our side in a conflict with an economy of force that demands a the careful use of precision airpower.

– Christian

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Hunter June 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm

How about a few UCAVs under the control of (optionally) Marine operators embedded with the QRF?

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Daniel Minor June 29, 2009 at 2:20 pm

I have to second above comment. Drones give more persistence and more control to the people on the ground at the pointy end. You can also take real risk with them, like getting close enough to actually figure out what is going on. At the end of the day drones are just an expensive form of ammunition, this is qualitatively different from a manned aircraft.

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Daniel Minor June 29, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I guess that is the below comment, the way this board works. :)

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Will June 29, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Agree with D. Minor, UAVs are the way to go for targeting – and for not targeting the wrong people. C is right that high performance fighter bombers are ill suited for COIN – that was known in VN over 40 years ago.

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Rick June 29, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Personally I’d like to see both the UAV’s under direct control of the people on the ground AND the COIN aircraft.
Hunter and Daniel hit the high points for the UAVs’, but current drones carry a very limited weapons load. I think you need the manned planes to provide more and heavier weapons than the UAVs’ can carry and also the sort of situation awarness that you only get from an actual human looking over the battle.

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Rick June 29, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Personally I’d like to see both the UAV’s under direct control of the people on the ground AND the COIN aircraft.
Hunter and Daniel hit the high points for the UAVs’, but current drones carry a very limited weapons load. I think you need the manned planes to provide more and heavier weapons than the UAVs’ can carry and also the sort of situation awarness that you only get from an actual human looking over the battle.

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Rick June 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Sorry about the double post. I got a message saying that the first one was rejected due to a verification error, so I reposted.
Maybe Christian needs to verifiy his verification software?

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Rick June 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Sorry about the double post. I got a message saying that the first one was rejected due to a verification error, so I reposted.
Maybe Christian needs to verify his verification software?

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DC2 Jennings June 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm

It seems the main reason these Afghan civilians were killed has nothing to do with what type of aircraft was circling overhead. If they had unloaded 30mm rounds from an A-10 into the buildings it still would have killed innocent people.
It seems that the issue here is targeting and determining who is or is not the enemy based on “movement”. If it is the middle of the night and buildings are blowing up around me, where are these people supposed to go? Stand outside? I can’t understand how you deterimine a group of people pouring into a building as bombs are exploding is the enemy.
This bomb first and ask questions later mentality is what the new head of ops in Afghanistan has been speaking against. It is also why we are no longer allowed to attack Taliban in civilian buildings.
But the evident lack of equipment is also a glaring issue on this report. The fact we had to go from FOUR F-18s to a B-1 four hours after first contact is rediculous. What this basically says is that in four hours (even though medivac was supposedly en route) the only air asset we could muster is a B-1. No Predator B, no A-10, no AH-64, but a friggin B-1.
Sounds like we still need a surge in Afghanistan.
DC2

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Daniel Minor June 29, 2009 at 2:55 pm

The problem with a coin aircraft is that crew endurance is about 8 hours regardless of aircraft capabilities. And for a slow, and therefore cheap and effective COIN aircraft you are going to waste a lot of that 8 hours getting to and from base.
The B1-B gets a lot of work in the STAN simply because one or two aircraft on station can respond to the whole country in an acceptable amount of time. How many slow moving prop air craft would it take to equal the response time. I have a strong general impression that drones are far cheaper per hour of operation on standby
The bigger drones are pushing 24 hours plus, and you don’t have to come home to rotate crews.

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DC2 Jennings June 29, 2009 at 2:56 pm

BTW Christian,
It is nice to see we are getting back to defense technology issues as you indicate on this post and not what Barbara Boxer (oops Senator Barbara Boxer) wants to be called.
But I guess it says a lot about your readers when that post had over 100 comments.
DC2

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J D June 29, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I also think we need to move away from using Hellfires, targeting trucks and buildings with anti-tank weapons is another mis-allotment of weapons that needs to be corrected. While they are working, it’s not what they are designed for. They are expensive and heavy – a lighter bomb or missile would allow larger numbers of them to be carried.
Second item – is it a good idea for operators on the ground to have to be controlling UCAV or other drones? Last thing I want to be doing in a firefight is to have my attention focused on a computer screen, my ability to take in my surroundings is seriously impared. Think about people who text and drive cars at the same time. Do we need dedicated operators who can see what the ground guys see (video comm maybe?) and then direct UAV strikes separately? A more vertical integration of data and how to use it seems necessary.

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flying fart proudly joned June 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I also think we need to move away from using Hellfires, targeting trucks and buildings with anti-tank weapons is another mis-allotment of weapons that needs to be corrected. While they are working, it’s not what they are designed for. They are expensive and heavy – a lighter bomb or missile would allow larger numbers of them to be carried.–
dude. hellfire is a long way not only an anti-tank boomer. its a boomerfamily.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGM-114_Hellfire

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CR June 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm

How about choosing the fight under your terms and not getting sucked into fighting near villages which inevitably produces civilian casualties and hurts the overall effort

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NeoConVet June 29, 2009 at 4:18 pm

A lifetime ago I recall fast movers flying along a river bed…jumping up and skimming a 250-500 pound hello-to-you bomb into a target. We just prayed that as they came by a t 400 mph that they actually saw the intended target….either marked by smoke and a talk or a FAC smoke. The point is..then and now we still need the eyes to confirm and strike a target from above and I never felt comfortable that a fast mover really saw what we wanted hit. MOre A-10′s have my vote.

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Crusader June 29, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Unfortunately, civilians die when the enemy hides amongst them and half the time, are them.
It is hard to fight a kindler, gentler war, when the enemy hides in mosques, dresses as civilians, and when we do kill them in a group, takes the weapons away, takes pictures and says how the American infidels murdered a wedding party.
Our guys in the B1 should be able to tell a group of Tali’s coming to re-enforce a position, to kill Americans, from a couple people taking their camels out for a midnight stroll.
This politically correct warfare is BS. You can’t engage a target outside city limits, when that is where the enemy, who dresses like a civilian, chooses to attack. Also, the Tali’s know that they will at least get a PR win with the battle, so they prefer to attack near populated areas. The Taliban know that the press is their biggest weapon, and they are very good at using it.

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T-Ed June 29, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I think the services should look at producing the Scaled Composites ARES fighter as a sort of “A-10 Lite”. Perfect plane for the ANG units losing planes due to BRAC, and they would be cheap, easy to maintain and effective given the terrain in Afghanistan.

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seeker6079 June 29, 2009 at 5:12 pm

We’ve been over this before, but it needs repeating. It doesn’t matter what the boots on the ground need. Not even a tiny bit. Even if the heavens opened up and God Herself commanded the need for a budgetary and doctrinal readjustment to to COIN, the USAF will still fight it every single goddamned inch of the way. They. Don’t. Give. A. Damn.
I think it’s a fairly safe bet that there’s an awful lot of starry-shouldered suits in the Pentagon who are holding off any and all COIN reorienation and discussion until the current wars Just Conveniently Go Away.

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CR June 29, 2009 at 5:14 pm

2000 pound bombs are bound to cause collateral damage and extensive civilian casualties in fights such as this. When engaging Taliban fighters in a village where the structures are predominantly mud structures and/or lightweight building material a 2000 pound bomb will likely destroy much of the village.
And as an “oh by the way” for Crusader, this is not ‘politically correct’ warfare, it is counter insurgency warfare……big difference. If people can’t figure out the difference we might as well pack up and go home now. Fortunately, McChrystal gets the difference.

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jetjunkie June 29, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Why not field aircraft that would basically be modernized P-51s or A-1 Sky raiders for counter insurgent CAS missions, or begin to use the Predator UCAV more often, it would minimize civilian casualties and give the liberal press less depressing news for a change?

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CR June 29, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Yeah, and stop the Air Force from screaming that they need more F-22s?? Please, the Air Force will NEVER, I repeat NEVER buy an aircraft such as that JetJunkie. Despite the fact that more and more conflicts call for this type platform, the Air Force will never buy them for the simple reason that they are not supersonic, supercruising fighter aircraft.
The Air Force is really in touch with the demands of todays battlefield……..

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jetjunkie June 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Yeah, but I bet the USN/USMC, or maybe and, I stress maybe the Army, might look into it

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citanon June 29, 2009 at 7:16 pm

“How about a few UCAVs under the control of (optionally) Marine operators embedded with the QRF?
- Hunter”
EXACTLY! And, unlike the CAS aircraft, there won’t be any crying widows when the thing gets shot out of the sky by a 20 year old stinger.

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Crusader June 29, 2009 at 7:36 pm

CR,
At least McChrystal has the Special Forces background to deal with the insurgency. He also knows that interrogating bad guys sometimes can become a little ruff. My biggest complaint against him though is his involvement in the Pat Tillman flap…
I agree with you about fighting on our terms. We just need to get the Taliban’s to pinky promise not to attack within 400M of any village… And while we are at it, get them to agree not to impersonate a normal villager, and get them to believe that America is not the great Satan. Should be easy to do…
For Close air support, I like the A-10 all the way. It’s slow, flies low, packs a huge punch and can really take a beating.

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Mike June 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm

The A10 would make a lousy COIN aircraft. What the A10 is, is an excellent close air support aircraft and tank buster. Close, but not the same. The B-1, providing it had smaller ordnance makes a great COIN aircraft. Other great COIN aircraft would be a c130 gunship or an attack helicopter.
What all good COIN aircraft have in common is great optics, and at least a secondary crew member aboard to observe the ground. They also need good insurance, and smaller ordinance like a 30mm cannon or smaller bombs. Having the ability to step up to a bigger ordinance is always a plus. Again, I believe your logic is flawed with the concept of a COIN aircraft, and I believe with the correct size bombs, the B1 is excellent at this role.

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SMSgt Mac June 29, 2009 at 9:23 pm

It is quite apparent that there are quite a few here who either 1. Did not read the report or 2. Did not understand it.
This isn’t a platform issue, this is a C&C, frag order, and ROE issue. Lots of links in this chain of events prior to the weapons release can be pointed to as the ’cause’.
C&C Issue……
Ground commander pressed the initial mission against advice of his advisor. Once engaged, it was eyeballs on the ground that OK’d every strike. Talk about R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y.
Frag Issue…..
Sounds like 2000lb bombs may have been a little much. Fine use 500 pounders and SDBs next time, cut down on the collateral damage a bit.
ROE issue…
If we kill civilians because the Talib and AlQueda are using human shields it is unfortunate, sad, regrettable…and the Talib/AlQueda’s fault. Remind the civilain populace if you feel you need to, but they already know it. This is only a problem to people who do not understand war and are ignorant of history. Always express lament for what is neccessary, but do not stop doing what is neccessary, and kick any post-modern idiot who blames us instead of enemy for the evil that transpires right where their huevos would be if they had them.
Now as to Platforms…..
All this speculation as to alternative platforms with various sensing capabilities is freakin’ hilarious. Any of them PROVABLY better than a heavy bomber w/Sniper Pod, at night remember, covering that large of a battle area? Ahem. No.
So…..
RE: “An A-10, or some other COIN aircraft would have done a much better job eliminating the enemy with graduated force and IDing the targets — and staying on station.” Sorry Christian, but that is (atypical for you) an assertion unsupported by fact.
I defy anyone to show me an A-10 that could have been standing by for any length of time and then provided the same persistence. Any of you boys ever calculated how many aircraft are needed to maintain persistent presence within x miles of target objectives? Professionally? Thought not. (I have BTW)
It would have taken a slew of A-10s or other hypothetical ‘COIN’ platforms to perform the same task as that one B-1 on that one overall mission.
Finally….
Yeah, the whole Effin’ Air Force doesn’t care about the poor, downtrodden Grunt, an never has(/sarc). That canard gets smacked down over and over again but I’ve heard it for thirty-six years, I’ll hear it until the day I die, and the people who complain about that are STILL full of S***.

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Ptsfp June 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Good stuff SMSgt Mac…
Wouldn’t the AC-130 have a much better time on station than an A-10?
Also, what is the availability of air support in Afghan now? I know that during the Iraq war they had planes in the air with no orders other than to support ground troops in their area.
My brother-in-law was an Army reservist in Afghan and they saw quite a bit of combat. They did not have air support, but they had the Marines on speed dial. Man did he love those guys!

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Scott June 29, 2009 at 11:04 pm

SM SgtMac makes some excellent points (I also read the report), but I am unable to entirely agree with him regarding the value of the B-1 in this role (COIN). The sensor suite that the B-1 has available is excellent, true, but it is hardly unique here, and numerous other platforms (including Predators, my personal choice) can provide similar capabilities. In an similar vein, a UAV can easily provide the persistence (and thus the overall coverage) that the B-1 provides at this time.
What a Predator (or for that matter a Reaper) can do, and what a B-1 cannot do, is use something smaller than an SDB, which is pretty clearly overkill for this sort of work. Hellfires, Spikes, or the Dagr would be excellent choices for this sort of environment, and while none of them will solve the problem completely, all would reduce the collateral damage and provide useful opportunities for better precision in attacks.
With those things said, the most important point is one that the Sgt made regarding the regrettable deaths of civilians. It is time that we start telling the truth about who is to blame (the Tali) and why, and keep retelling it till it sinks in. Right now the only story being told is by Po-Mo types who despise the military and think that even if the Tali are not the nicest guys in the world, somehow all of this is our fault, and that we can do no good. Until we change that message (or at least challenge it), no amount of care in selecting ROE (and I certainly believe that we should attempt to limit civilian casualties where feasible) is going to have the slightest impact. The Tali understand this, and choose their tactics accordingly…

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siconik June 29, 2009 at 11:45 pm

What about brigade-level, rotary-wing or VTOL, truck-transportable UCAVs that can be lunched from FOBs? Bring your own CAS, if you will.

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Daniel Minor June 30, 2009 at 12:41 am

SMSgt Mac does make some excellent points, and he obviously knows more about it than I do.
However I did allude to the value of the B1 being able to cover the whole country with reasonably quick CAS.
The point I am trying to make is that
1) Persistent video over the battlefield is absolutely critical.
2) Drones do that better than anything else.
If the Marine QRF, or better yet the ANF advisors had had persistent UCAV coverage the whole battle might have gone a lot better. If we are going to fight this war we need to write the checks to make that happen.
The Sgt is entirely correct about the world needing to get grip on reasonable expectations for what happens in the middle of a shooting war. Not explaining that more often and more loudly just sets us up for failure.

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BritTankie June 30, 2009 at 4:12 am

Hmmmm. I’m going to avoid talking about the article because a few people further down the list from this post need a little bit of educating because it is clear to me that they are speaking without practical experience… especially about UAV’s
Ever controlled one? Well I havn’t, but i’ve stood next to the RAF bloke who was, and it’s like peering through a letterbox, unless it’s zoomed out. Zoomed IN you have NO special awareness of the target AREA just the specific 100ft box you’re looking at. Something a MANNED aircraft will have.
Secondly, the CONTROLS, for a large UAV which would be capable of carrying enough stores to make it useful, is uite bloody big. So you’d need a truck to carry it around. Not so useful if you’re infantry, and need to go somewhere it cannot.
Now I HAVE been in contact, and I can tell you the last thing i’d like to have been doing (as someone has already mentioned) is peering into a couple of screens. I’d dread looking at me on the screen with a Taliban standing behind me raising an AK…
Also someone mentioned stingers – their a threat, but not quite the threat everyone makes them out to be, because (and this made me laugh) their a status symbol amongst the Taliban. If they have one, their a big man. If they actually shoot the thing, they suddenly loose all that respect they have for having it.
YES a cheap prop aircraft will be slow, but they can be based CLOSER. A-10s NO, they ain’t for this. Something like an A-1, new engines, TWO seats, and 30mm bushmaster off an Apache mounted under the fuselage on a rotating mount. Like a mini Spectre.
SmsSgt makes some excellent points about B1′s too. Although 2000ibs is overkill, trust me, 1000ibs is enough for any target out there in Afghan. I wish the RAF could afford some (B1′s I mean)

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ELP June 30, 2009 at 4:51 am

It isn’t about the aircraft it is about target I.D.
A B-1 can stay on station a long time and can provide a lot of weapons. That same Sniper pod setup on the B-1 in that case should have had ROVER and so should the ground commander on scene making the decisions. Lots of platforms have ROVER capable appliances for SNIPER, LITENING etc….
The question is- was procedure followed? – and just as important was ROVER present in the B-1 and the ground controllers? If “No” is the answer, that is the problem. ROVER can had off the video feed to other decision makers… i.e. the ground guy needing support and give him the opportunity to give an opinion if what is shown is a treat.
The problem with the A-10 if it is a 911 call for emergency CAS is that it is slow getting there. Time is lives. A B-1 can get there a lot faster and stick around until the job is done.
Small COIN striker? The Apache will do too. Based close to the troops with two aircrew and some very share video quality to think about what they are looking at and oh by the way… video feed sharing again with other interested parties in newer Blocks.

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bigtrief June 30, 2009 at 6:58 am

We have the UCAV which can loiter over the target area. These things have hellfire capability which can get the job done. The real time intel is the key as this cam be shared via current communications capability. So, order more Drones.

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DC2 Jennings June 30, 2009 at 7:11 am

So it is more efficient for a B-1 flying from either Diego Garcia or Qatar in terms of dollars spent and support services from tankers and other aircraft? It is more efficient than an A-10 to remain on station? It is more efficient than an AH-64? No. The B-1 was on station because no other air asset was available. There is a big difference in the optical capability of the Sniper targeting pod with regards to altitude. An A-10 or any other attack aircraft for that matter will flow LOW and SLOW, providing better optical resolution. The B-1 is 30,000 feet in the air at least, flying HIGH and FAST. The fact we have B-1s flying CAS with FOUR gas guzzling engines and known to cost more than any other aircraft in theater to operate and maintain tells a lot.
It is a correct statement that we in the US need to get over the fact that civilians are killed in war. It is totally different to expect the Afghans to have that same mentality. If a mass murderer baracaded himself in your house and the police (as a matter of self preservation) blew your house up with your family inside of it how would you react? I mean if they didn’t want this guy in their house they should have either left or kicked the guy out right? The Taliban intimidate the local populations, the same local populations we cannot protect because of our forces being spread too thin. In learning from history as Mac references, we also need to learn from the conflicts that are applicable here. That conflict would be Vietnam. Patraeus did it in Iraq and it worked. McChrystal is trying to do it here.
Bottom line, we don’t have the assets available in theater to do the job properly.
DC2

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Jock Williams June 30, 2009 at 7:30 am

There is no doubt that the U.S. could use a bunch more A10s -but not in this scenario.
This was not an accuracy problem -nobody claims the target was missed -but everyone claims that there were civilian casualties.
Look to your history and you will find there were one or two civilian deaths in Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo -but if you live in a target area you have to expect to take some losses. Somehow we have forgotten this fact. There were civilian casualties in Gettysberg and Antietam too. Not many -but some! Ever heard of the “Blitz” of London?
Warfare is a brutal thing -but if you can kill a bunch of the enemy and frighten the rest -you have some hope of eventual victory.
Victory will be achieved through a mix of weapons platforms and tactics. The U.S has a pretty good mix right now -and is refining the tactics.
I suggest we leave the chouices to the experts on the ground and in the air. I used to be one of them myself -but ten years of retirement has taken away some of that qualification.
A B1 overhead, possibly backed up with an AC130 on call and some Apaches on call would have been a good mix -but was is a “come as you are” party -and our guys did pretty well with what they had!
Regards
Jock Williams
Yogi 13

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ron pond June 30, 2009 at 8:20 am

I think that the Civilians were very well aware that the insurgents were there and that they were foreign insurgents. And that they were welcome in the village. What needs to happen is put the Afghan Army up front and make them do the clean up operation. And we the U.S. Military secure the Perimeter.

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DC2 Jennings June 30, 2009 at 8:22 am

Jock,
Your most recent conflict of reference is WWII. Enough said. BTW, this isn’t a world war we are fighting. That is why all references are made to COIN operations.
Also, we learned that mass killing of civilian populations is not the way to fight wars (it tends to piss the people living in said countries off).
And last but not least, I don’t think we had precision guided weapons back then either.
DC2

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Mark June 30, 2009 at 9:22 am

According to the elders of a typical village in the video you posted all their sons are Talaban. So this information mixed with the performance of the big damage attack means that even if we only killed just the “Talaban” within the village we would have killed of their sons, brothers, and cousins. How do you save a group of people from another group when they are one family?
The only way to save these people from themselves is to change their hearts and minds. How does a military do that?

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SMSgt Mac June 30, 2009 at 11:38 am

Actually, it is quite efficient to base out of an AF MOB like Diego or Guam instead of a more forward base because you don’t have to worry about resupply complications near as much. two of the biggest commodities that are difficult to get enough of at every possible base are fuel and bombs. Use of a major base with an established infrastructure is a lot easier than basing out of Podunk Bare Base. Its a lot cheaper than basing out of a dozen Podunks. There’s reasons Qatar has been built up into what it is, not the least of which is it was worth it to build a MOB closer to the action than Diego. Best of all is when you have a permanent station within practical striking distance of your objective.

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DC2 Jennings June 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Mac,
I was comparing the usefulness of having B-1s flying from Qatar or Diego in lieu of smaller fighter and/or attack aircraft flying from Bagram. You had mentioned it was more efficient for the B-1 for a number of reasons. My point is I disagree with that statement.
But I will reiterate my main point. We don’t have enough assets to do the job properly in theater. That is why the B-1 was called in and that is why they PROBABLY used the 2000 lb. bombs in lieu of smaller ordinance.
DC2

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Coolhand77 June 30, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Heres a thought…if you are going to use an “airborne battleship” why not take a page out of the history books and send it it with “spotter planes”? Before Radar was all the rage, battleships would use light aircraft to spot targets and direct their artillary barrages. Why not have the backseaters on the B1B or B52 do the same thing with Predator drones? One or two guys tasked with target confirmation via drone, and THEN they release the bombs and guide them in.
I agree though, long loiter COIN aircraft would be helpful too…just looking for a way to keep the usefulness of the airborn battleship concept

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DC2 Jennings June 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Ron,
You have not read the report. The report is replete with indications the Taliban forced the local population into capitulation. In fact, the ANA, ANP, and their Marine spec ops imbeds ran across the displaced villagers as they came up to the battle. So I guess those that were forced to stay and hide in their homes deserved to die.
What was that comment from Full Metal Jacket: a gook that runs is a scared gook, a gook that stands is a brave gook? How did that one work for us btw?
DC2

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shawn June 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Personally, I think this is proof that we need more AC-130s and/or similar type craft-
*multiple viewing sources (IR, Thermal, Night, CCTV, etc.),
*multiple ordinance options (from the equivelent of a mini-howitzer to a rapid fire machine gun),
*and high fuel capacity
Another question: We know that trying to fit everything into 1 package rarely gives us the ‘best of all’ and usually we get ‘worst of all’. So why that here? Maybe the solution is a combination: a small long-endurance (UAV?) that can spot/identify targets and reports back to a second platform which takes care of elimination

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DC2 Jennings June 30, 2009 at 5:24 pm

OK, thanks to MAC I have read the report and had a little time driving to think about some things.
1. This was an Afghan operation planned and spearheaded by nationals (army and police).
2. This mission was planned in just hours, even after the Marine spec ops guys recommended planning of a couple of days.
This lack of planning is the event that caused all of the events that followed. I am quite certain that air assets would have been available if proper procedures were followed. I mean there was intel indicating 300 Taliban were in the area.
That would also explain the lack of medical evacuation helos.
Another item to consider is a Marine imbed team is to expect this sort of support. These guys are out on an island training the nationals they fight with.
Sucky situation all around in my book. But I doubt any responsiblity will be put on the Afghan government. They can’t afford the bad publicity with how fragile their government is.
DC2

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jp June 30, 2009 at 6:20 pm

yes loss of any life in war is bad, but remember not that long ago the brit’s were carpet bombing germany. It.s going to happen. Just think what would have looked like if a BUFF made the pass.
jp

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paul June 30, 2009 at 10:54 pm

What about the Harriers? What’s the Corps doin’ with those birds? Maybe the Air Force could come up with a updated Super Tweet.

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SMSgt Mac July 1, 2009 at 1:17 am

RE: But I will reiterate my main point. We don’t have enough assets to do the job properly in theater. That is why the B-1 was called in and that is why they PROBABLY used the 2000 lb. bombs in lieu of smaller ordinance.
DC2,
I totally agree with you concerning numbers of assets. We (all services) were slashed way below what is neded in the real world after the Base Force was superceded by Aspin’s (spit) first BUR.
I suspect the B-1 was loaded for a variety of target types that might have needed attack that night. Why the 2k pounders were used in this case? – I have no idea. Maybe the bldgs looked a little more robust, or they were big enough that some would be left standing with another weapon. To my thinking the critical question on that attack was as someone mentioned earlier: Were excessive civilian losses caused because the BONE driver had to ask “Mother May I?” up some chain of command due to a well-intentioned yet inevitably tragic ROE that prevented earlier attack in the open? Inquiring minds want to know.

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subby July 1, 2009 at 3:12 am

The aircraft that fits this NEW niche (actually 7 years old) doesn’t exist yet. A new aircraft needs to be designed, and more likely a whole fleet of aircraft designed for this type of war. We are not fighting conventional army soldiers, I repeat, we are not fighting conventional army soldiers.
Is it feasible that the army could field their own propeller support/striker aircraft? That are cheap, easy to maintain and easy to fly?.

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Russ July 1, 2009 at 3:41 pm

OK a B-1 is a major mud mover, it is designed to remove thing from the face of the earth. What muppet thought it was suitable for CAS in a COIN environment needs re-educating.
Rember 80% of COIN is a mind game. Only ever heard an A-10 ‘burp’ with it’s 30 at a firepower demo; it really gets your attention.
The one thing I dont see is the ‘rush’ to take out the opposition. It COIN your going to be there for 10+ years. Just set up the sniper teams plus get the Mini-MAG and MAG teams ready for breakout and settle in for a day or two. The enemy don’t do much in the way of multi-day ops, so use the advantage that we can 24/7.
Just my 50c worth :-)

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Russ July 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Not a great supported of UAV as an attack platform in COIN.
COIN is much more personal. Basicly you set uo in the enemy’s patch and send out that you aint leaving.
Remote weapon systems are almost a ‘we too scared to meet you face to face’ message.
Now I know that Army/Marine, any country, doesn’t have that attitude. Politicians scared of ‘bad’ PR tend to influence way too much in ROE an casualty limitation.
Thing is if you not taking casualties in a COIN Op then you r probably not in he right place.

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Russ July 1, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I agree with Daniel a UAV gives you persistance and is an expendable scout,
However the ‘video game kids’ that run them have neither the background or vision to see the total picture, so I don’t think they are a suitable CAS/COIN platform.
We have criminals who justify killing because of the ‘respect’ thing. The people you deal with in COIN are at the same level. If you don’t get up front and personal they don’t think your worth of ‘respect’.
I may noyt be the conventional ‘hearts and minds’ but the ‘toughest mother in the valley’ approach doe shave it’s place.

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Matt July 1, 2009 at 7:19 pm

we need A-10′s, Broncos, and even a Skyraider replacement.the A-10 was probably one of the best investments this country ever made and we need to build more or a replacement ASAP.Rough field capability, long loiter time and something you can pretty much fix at a Ford dealer that can carry a Gatling gun, a dozen or fourteen 250 lb bombs, and some rockets. make it a blast to fly and durable. KIS.

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Peter Buckton July 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm

How about a mini-Spectre, with a good “eyes” package, Backed up by high flying/orbiting UAV’s acting as bomb trucks.
The mini Spectres can carry some guns and several hellfires as a reasonably light weapons load and ensure a decent loiter time. While some large UAV’s, also with a long loiter, can orbit far overhead and just need to be able to peal off a large PGM when commanded by the Spectre and guided in by the Specter too.
One platform doesn’t have to do it all, make it a combined package. And hopefully cheap enough that you can have them in some numbers too.
Using a B1 is nuts.

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DC2 Jennings July 2, 2009 at 7:16 am

Peter and Matt,
SOC is currently looking at the C-27J being utilized as a mini-Spectre gunship.
The Navy has currently leased at least one Super Tucano from of all people Blackwater. They are using this to develop CAS requirements for an aircraft of this size.
Also, there are rumblings the Air Force is looing at the AT-6B Texan II (attack variant of the T-6A) for this CAS requirements. Interestingly enough, the Iraqi Air Force just purchased some of these aircraft.
The Iraqi AF is also looking at putting Hellfires on their Cessna FAC aircraft. Something we might adopt for our own.
But I will reiterate this mission was doomed to create civilian casualties from the beginning due to piss poor planning. There were no CAS or ISR assets used in this operation because it was planned in hours and not days.
Imagine if we had Project Liberty ISR assets available for this operation. They would have been able to track all personnel within the area of operations.
DC2

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seeker6079 July 2, 2009 at 2:01 pm

“A Modest Proposal” from the Canadian American Strategic Review:
http://www.casr.ca/mp-army-aviation-coin.htm

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Ptsfp July 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

What about an X-Hawk type vehicle? Israel is still working on it, payload and protection are issues. But the ability to hover and fly among buildings would be beneficial for large urban environments. Also the ability to land and pick up casualties would be a big plus.
It would need to come a long way, but a future version could be the ticket.

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Rick July 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm

A Spectre would have been ideal here. Or maybe the hypothetical mini-spectre. Or a good old fashioned AC-47 Puff upgraded with night vision gear. In fact, pretty much anything armed with a resonably small weapon that does not flatten an entire city block when it is dropped and can be used against moving targets near the line of contact, would have been better. Putting smaller bombs on the B1 might have made a difference, but probably not. The bad guys were not bombed while they were out in the open. The strike was made after they stopped moving at the buildings.
One thing that some of the posters may not understand here is that the civilian deaths did not occur as part of an actual firefight. You can not drop 2000 lb bombs within small arms range of your own forces without fragging your own guys. These Taliban were attacked because they were moving toward the battle, not because they were in it.
Although this was a Marine operation (well ANF/Marine), several people have questioned why the Army does not use COIN planes. The answer is that they would love to, but are not allowed to operate armed fixed wing aircraft. There is a link below to a story that describes some of the situation. It also gives an idea of how the Army brass feel about it :-)
http://www.casr.ca/ft-coin-army-aviation-1.htm
I’m sure that if the Army had their way you’d see a whole lot more A-10/Spectre/OV-10 type aircraft in the theater.

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freefallingbomb July 5, 2009 at 5:48 am

To the poster “SMSgt Mac”:
You wrote: “Remind the civilain populace if you feel you need to, but they already know it. This is only a problem to people who do not understand war (…) Always express lament for what is neccessary, but do not stop doing what is neccessary”
Others wrote: “This politically correct warfare is BS” and “So I guess those (Afghans) that were forced to stay and hide in their homes deserved to die”.
That’s right: Kill the very civilians you’re supposed to protect from the enemy, and murder them preferrably massively, at night and with M.O.A.B.s, even 8 years after the war began, discuss even the ideal “platforms” for that, and all that because the U.S. Armed Forces are just too COWARD to fight the enemy on the ground with its own Infantry (Army, Marines), house to house, man to man, even as the enemy is still WALKING FOR 20 MINUTES towards the village! Then “explain” the massacre of innocent civilians with “enemy lies”, “self-defense” and of course with “11 / 9 / 2001″ and “Enduring Freedom”.
No, it’s spelled U.S. American C-O-W-A-R-D-I-C-E . Now go back to your tables and eat the fouling scraps of your 4th of July celebrations!

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freefallingbomb July 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

Which former Empire of Evil ever called in a heavy bomber to drop tons of ordnance on a small column of guerillas returning home to their village at night: The Nazis, the Japanese or the Soviets?! You U.S. Americans even killed a single heroic R

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Rambo_Lives July 5, 2009 at 11:11 am

freefallingnitwit,
I am not sure if you are Obama or Ahmadinejad…
I know, you had some free time, all your friends were at 4th of July parties and you needed to take a break from trying to overthrow democracy right?
Okay, maybe you are just a Taliban or some other misguided youth. Well, now that you are here, and I have a chance to talk to a Taliban, there is a question that I always wanted to ask you…
You are willing to kill yourself in a suicide bombing so you can have 70 virgins. Well, why would you do that when you make your women, here on Earth, cover themselves from head to toe so you can’t see them??
I mean, come on, you like Camels right??

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freefallingbomb July 5, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Serious question: If you war-heroes already employ platforms like the B-1 heavy bomber against SUSPECTED rankless Taliban foot-soldiers, what platform are you gonna use if you finally find and want to kill Osama Bin Laden?
A Death Star?

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Rick July 5, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Rambo,
Please do not feed the trolls.
Thanks

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freefallingbomb July 6, 2009 at 9:42 am

To the poster “Rick” :
You wrote: “Rambo, Please do not feed the trolls”
What’s wrong with (feeding) us trolls?!
Do you know what the r

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matt July 7, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I spent the 4th of July with an old friend, a former CG of Marine Air way back when. He flew everything from F-6′s to Phantoms including rotary. We had a long discussion about he AD-1, which he loved. Said it was one of the best aircraft he flew and could deliver huge amounts of ordnance precisely at 400kt. Capable of flying for 10 hours. Could take a lot of damage. Moderate fuel cost. Reliable as hell. Sounds like a good idea these days.

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Rhyno327 July 11, 2009 at 11:17 am

Wasn’t a prop driven plane looked at recently? That would be a big help in ID’ing hodtiles. It has the capacity to carry a fairly big load, has about 8 hardpoints, i just cannot name the aircraft. Just a thought-but it makes sense.

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Rhyno327 July 11, 2009 at 11:21 am

SUPER TUCANO. Thanx. Sounds like a good move.

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