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Posted: 3/5/2002 11:30:16 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/5/2002 2:15:04 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
Analysis: Afghan air power revolution The US has revolutionised use of air power in Afghanistan By Tim Robinson Aerospace International The downing of an American special forces MH-47 Chinook helicopter, the first US aircraft to be shot down in the "war on terror", highlights the risks of this unconventional war, even for the world's most advanced military. The helicopter - a heavily modified troop transport with air-to-air refuelling probe, defensive miniguns, night and low-level flying capability - represents the cutting edge of US technology that is being brought to bear in Afghanistan. Similarly, in Afghanistan's Gardez region, the US Air Force has used prototype fuel-air thermobaric weapons in an effort to wipe out remaining hardcore al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters sheltering in caves. The development of these weapons, along with advanced "bunker-busting" bombs with warheads that can tell the difference between concrete, earth, air gaps and living spaces is no accident. They are products of US Gulf War experience, and were originally intended to destroy underground stocks of weapons of mass destruction. Pointers for future However, hi-tech helicopters and new lethal bombs are only half the story. The Taleban possessed no air force and had very limited air defences And although the US continues to strike al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, the initial rapid success of US military might and its Northern Alliance allies already suggest pointers for future defence planners, both for the US-led campaign and air power generally. Prior to the beginning of the US attacks on Afghanistan in October most armchair pundits and military planners had expected a long drawn-out war against the al-Qaeda network and their Taleban hosts. Yet, in December, the fearsome Taleban regime had collapsed and al-Qaeda's terrorist cells were on the run - what happened? Key lessons The answer is the United States' "transformational" use of air power, which throws up some key lessons for future conflicts. The first lesson is that large stocks of precision weapons (or smart bombs) are now essential for any modern air campaign. In the 1991 Gulf War the percentage of smart weapons used was 9%. In Kosovo in 1999 this had risen to 29%, but cloud cover hindered employment of the laser-guided types. In Afghanistan the figure is now between 60-70% with a large proportion of these being the low-cost ($18,000 a kit) 24-hour, all-weather satellite-guided JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) bombs. What this means is that, while in previous conflicts smart weapons were carefully rationed out for high-value targets like bridges or power stations, now even targets as small as perhaps a few Taleban fighters in a trench can now be considered a valid target to attack. This, coupled with the ability to reduce the "sensor-to-shooter" loop - the time between a target being spotted and it being attacked by an aircraft, - means that US air power is much more lethal and precise than even a few years ago.
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Link Posted: 3/5/2002 11:30:54 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/5/2002 2:16:17 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
More importantly, while the Gulf War demonstrated the revolution in accuracy, Afghanistan has demonstrated the revolution in cost. Precision is affordable and therefore available to all. The second lesson follows on from this - in that the heavy bomber is back. The B-52 is a 50-year-old design, yet it can carry a phenomenal bombload and can orbit over the battlefield waiting to be called on to bring down massive firepower on a helpless enemy. In Afghanistan it has also been joined by B-1 and B-2 Stealth bombers. This use of heavy bombers and precision weapons has made the line between what is strategic bombing and tactical close air support increasingly blurred, and to all intents and purposes meaningless. Tactical bombing may have strategic results, while heavy strategic bombers can now perform close air support. The third lesson is that information is key. Without good intelligence and surveillance from satellites, unmanned spy drones and special forces on the ground, all the US investment in precision weaponry would have been useless. The US Air Force is therefore investing heavily in these capabilities, particularly in space and unmanned aircraft sensors, to give it "information dominance" in any future conflicts. Gap widening Is Afghanistan then a new kind of war? On the one hand it is important to remember some unique factors: the Taleban possessed no air force, had very limited air defences and was, despite its fundamentalist bluster, a very weak regime. The US also had lots of support on the ground in the form of the Northern Alliance. But what this conflict does show is how far the US, or more specifically the US Air Force, is ahead of its friends and enemies in terms of its revolutionary application of air power. [red]It is noteworthy that its nearest allies in Europe lack large stocks of smart bombs, heavy bombers or unmanned reconnaissance aircraft that were so critical in Afghanistan.[/red] What is more is that, as the Pentagon's defence spending increases, this air power capability gap between the United States' abilities and the rest of the world is certain to get wider and wider.
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[i]Think of how far ahead we would be if we hadnt wasted so much money on single purpose ICBM's. Or if the first Bush and Bill Clinton hadn't savaged military spending. Even as we are though, the PLA and NKPA must be quaking in their boots. No wonder that the North Koreans got so riled up when Bush included them in his "Axis of Evil" speech.[/i] [i]I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. As things stand today, in March 2002, the Peoples Republic of China does not have a viable nuclear deterrant force. Their tiny force of antique liquid fueled ICBMs could be destroyed by our Air Force before they knew they were being attacked and could issue a launch command- which takes them a half hour minimum to act on since the rockets cannot be stored fueled. They have fewer ICBM's than we have B-2s and we know where they all are, they haven't moved anything in the last 30 years and we watched them build their whole ICBM base and its defenses from space- AND DO IT ALL WITH CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS- no need to go nuclear. It also is no wonder why they are trying desperately to get new nuclear technology and build new weapons in a big hurry right now.[/i]
Link Posted: 3/5/2002 11:43:01 AM EDT
As things stand today, in March 2002, the Peoples Republic of China does not have a viable nuclear deterrant force. Their tiny force of antique liquid fueled ICBMs could be destroyed by our Air Force before they knew they were being attacked and could issue a launch command- which takes them a half hour minimum to act on since the rockets cannot be stored fueled. They have fewer ICBM's than we have B-2s and we know where they all are, they haven't moved anything in the last 30 years and we watched them build their whole ICBM base and its defenses from space. It also is no wonder why they are trying desperately to get new nuclear technology and build new weapons in a big hurry right now
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I think for me that I will take that article with a dose of salt, sure the US is ahead. And his point about the Taliban has no Airforce,etc. Is valid and not valid at the same time. It is true that their have none of those things, and that led to phase 2 and three of a ground war in Afghanistan, but what is also true is Phase 1 of any US military campaign of an attack nature is to Gain AirSuperiority, Destory all C3, and All Ground to Air threats. Then they proceed whith what you see here. Having said that a war in Checnya is comming, one where our laser guided munitions will have less of an impact and close in airsupport will have more CCIP piper dropped dump bombs and an IR component added as well. At first I thought your statment concerning Chinese nuclear weapons was off a little but once I thought it through I can see that you are indeed correct at least in one particular scenario I can imagine.
Link Posted: 3/5/2002 12:06:27 PM EDT
The helicopter - a heavily modified troop transport with air-to-air refuelling probe, defensive miniguns, night and low-level flying capability - represents the cutting edge of US technology that is being brought to bear in Afghanistan.
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A thirty year old helicopter with some gadgets bolted on is the "cutting edge of US technology"? [>:/]
Link Posted: 3/5/2002 12:14:27 PM EDT
I'm with Renamed. The Chinook's OLDER than I am, and I'm 36. The Pave version of the Blackhawk was bought, when, the early 80s? Even the "next" generation, the Osprey, was flying in prototype form nearly 20 years ago. Not only is the Chinook OLD, it's HUGE. Remember Blackhawk down? Comparatively, those birds were tiny compared to that flying cow. I'd hate to be flying through a hot area in one of those, whether the thing could be air refueled or not. It's weakness are the selling point for the OSPREY, the new bird is faster and can fly farther. Who is this guy?
Link Posted: 3/5/2002 12:34:17 PM EDT
I think he may be talking out of his ass a little. the Chinook was big, but I don't know where it was flying and I don't know if they thought they were in a combat zone or not. I can't remember ever seeing anything other then BlackHawks, H-53 Jolly Green Giants, Cobras, Apaches, and Hughes 500MD's in a hot environment. Usually The sky Cranes and Chinooks and other transport helos are relagated to Rear End Maneuvers where speed is not the issue such as it is in the front lines. What the hell do I know though?? And the more I think about it there really is no need for Dumb Bombs outside of cluster munitions in Afghanistan. This is not a theatre wide conflict, we don't have Any heavy ground assetts in place. They could probably really use some A-10 Warthogs more then anything.???? Does anyone know if any of those are over there. The only cargo planes I have ever seen in operational areas are C-130's. The line about Strategic and Tactical bombing he made is I think not really necessary. Everyone uses those terms to denote the context in which they are used. CAS is right in front of your troops. Strategic bombing still is a big thing and will be as long as any enemies use C3, Industry,etc. And just because they can mount a guidance system onto what overwise would be a dumb munition doesn't merit changing the rules just yet. Nothing has changed here only the munitions employeed and granted different munitions use different employments I don't think we have reached a place to say their has been a revolution in AirPower. F-22s are still 2/3 years away from their first operational squadron. What you are really seeing here In my view is America becomming even more proficent in the Combined Arms operational concept. Our military is gaining a bunch of experience working with Nato Allies, Indigenous personell all over the world, Working with each other, Airforce,Navy,Marines,Army all working together sometimes on the same mission.
Link Posted: 3/5/2002 1:13:59 PM EDT
The US did use dumb bombs to take out long trenchlines. The airpower use is reflective of the decline of surface-to-air missiles. Since our recent opponents have had few, the planes just fly above 10,000 ft. With the advent of precision weapons they're accurate. The use of ground spotters opened up the other end of the equation, the sensors. If you can see it now, you can hit it, and the guys on the ground can see quite a bit.
Link Posted: 3/5/2002 2:32:41 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/5/2002 2:40:27 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
Benji, read the article again. It doesn't say the Air Force won this war all on its own- for one thing it isn't over yet. It does say it made it impossible for the Taliban to win. And allowed them to be beaten by ground forces that were far inferior in size and firepower to theirs. This is makeing the use of airborne and airmobile units more practicable, since now we can back them with enough firepower to ensure they arent rolled over by armor or human wave attacks. Remember we have had to FLY in pretty much everything and everyone we have sent there, and we have to keep them supplied the same way. That puts a very serious limit on how many ground troops we can run there, and how heavy their armament. No M1's, no M109's for fire support like in the Gulf. Even though we could lift up to one battalion team, keeping them supplied would be a disporportionate drain on airlift. Although, if the Bush Admin can wrangle a increase in the C-17 production run, we could lift more heavy armor and artillery AND keep them supplied. But we have a shortage of lift assets right now, because the Clintons decided to streatch out C-17 production, and the C-141B's are suffering from wing fatigue problems that limit them to only carrying 16 tons (they were designed for twice that) and to carrying parachutists only in a emergency (to avoid the specter of loosing 164 men in a single accident). Just since this war has started the C-141's have been grounded once for a week after one had a wing collapse while it was being fueled on the ground!
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