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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Air Strikes vs Air Lift

With shows like CIS or 24 making fiction appear to be reality, it is no wonder why the citizens of the world cry foul every time civilians die in air strikes. (trust me I moarn them also but....)

Viewers of these TV shows see instant communications and imagery via satellites being used in real-time by the characters like Jack Bower. Sorry I don't actually watch these shows, never have, never will (to fake for my blood). Yet the social consciousness of the world cries out when real life does not happen like on TV. I admit it would be nice in a perfect world where only bad guys die, but we don't live in that world. Our air power has come under tighter and tougher scrutiny by people who don't understand our capabilities. Yet the most damaging is most peoples lack of understanding about what we are “not capable of” and about the road bumps in the systems (both mechanical and human).

The U.S. Air Force has begun to look at its role in the future, and what changes will need to be implemented. The most specific immediate need for change in the Air Force has been outlined by Rand (click here for the PDF file) in 2006. In brief we will need to train men to be advisors and trainers of air forces for countries who are fighting insurgencies. The first country that will visibly benefit from this will most likely be Iraq. Of course Afghanistan will also need this soon as well as many other countries such as in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. These new national air forces most likely won’t look like ours. Instead we should expect a focus on drone spotter style unmanned vehicles (UAVs) and heavy lift cargo aircraft. The heavy lift cargo planes play many roles including humanitarian aide during disasters (manmade or natural).

With the recent air strikes in the Kurdish Northern Iraq and the growing voices against air strikes in Afghanistan. We should expect to see our military branches continue to work towards smaller payloads and limited air assaults. Meanwhile, insurgents continue to hide amongst civilians (weather they be family or servants or innocents) compounding an already bad problem.

Places like Serbia in 1999 are an example of air power overused and abused. When governments opt to take the easy way out (both politically and financially) they send in the air force to carry out air strikes that backfire on us in the public arena. From the cockpit we carry out attacks relying on information from ground forces, central command, and politicians. Until the decision makers are forced to confront the issues we will continue to see mistakes and abuses. These mistakes often create more of a problem then what existed prior to the action.

Yet for now the public cries will continue to go unanswered until we can create a fundamental change in thinking of the politicians and the pencil pushers.

In the mean time our troops come home to no fanfare, no parades, no heros welcome. Yet they have served their country, put their lives on the line, and in many cases achieved great deeds, that go unsung. I salute these brave men who during this holiday season continue to fight the good fight. – Ian Bach