Death from Above

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 12 months ago

In Air Power in Small Wars and A-10s Aid in Counterinsurgency we discussed the controversial topic of air power in so-called “small wars.”  In reality, the issue of collateral damage is a straw man, as has been demonstrated by recent history in Iraq.  Several recent examples involve combat action near Karmah in the Anbar Province, in which both air power and artillery were used:

Marines from Regimental Combat Team 6 observed and engaged an armed group of al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists killing 12 and destroying two vehicles near the town of Karmah Aug. 29.

A group of three men was seen loading objects into a bongo truck from a nearby growth of weeds 11 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, in an area known to be a historical weapons cache site. A second group of four men arrived in another bongo truck, followed by a third group of six men on foot through the reeds.

A team of Marines was dispatched to better observe the scene and a third cargo truck carrying three men waving weapons and wearing ski masks approached the group a few moments later.

The Marines called for air support and a section of AV-8B Harrier jets dropped two precision-guided bombs, destroying the initial two cargo trucks. Marines called for artillery fire on the dismounted enemy personnel immediately following the air attack.

Twelve members of al Qaeda were found dead upon investigation of the scene… Numerous weapons and roadside bomb making materials were also found.

The example below is in an urban setting, and collateral damage was completely avoided.

Task Force Marne attack helicopter crews destroyed an al-Qaeda safe house in Arab Jabour Sept. 2.

Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, were told by local concerned citizens that al –Qaeda was killing civilians behind the Qhurfar Mosque. The family of a man killed by al-Qaeda reported the insurgents went to a nearby house.

An air weapons team was called and engaged the house in two separate runs. A total of two hellfire missiles, seven rockets and one burst of .50 cal fire were expended on the house.

The mosque incurred no damage.

There is no question that the final stages of counterinsurgency involve a heavy emphasis on nonkinetic operations.  However, combat against rogue elements remains an essential part of small wars, and these operations can rely heavily on air power.

  • http://www.fumento.com fumento

    Do you think you may have created a straw man, Herschel? I thought everybody agreed that tac air was good but strategic air was overplayed. This originated with the massive multi-thousand plane attacks on Germany in 44-45 during which time their ability to produce equipment INCREASED. Of course, a lot of that bombing was out of vengeance (and I’m not talking Hamburg, which had some real military value but rather quaint little towns that produced nothing militarily)and a lot of that was “We’ve got all these bombers; may as well use them.” But I’ve seen Air Force people argue against putting much faith in strategic bombing and it’s interesting that the B-52, which has “strategic” built right into its name, has proved such a good tactical support weapon even in Vietnam when they finally realized they could use it to wipe out the tunnels of Chu Lai rather than send in those poor tunnel rats.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    The counterinsurgency “experts” and professionals, in the main, have much heartburn over the use of air power in COIN. I have seen many incredulous and insulting comments even about artillery in urban settings.

    Now, this isn’t to deny the viability of the right use of classical COIN tactics such as proper governance, gated communities, and so forth. Certainly, all of these things are necessary in a constabulary operation.

    But sometimes robust kinetic operations are still necessary, and when they are, my argument is that air power (Army helicopter gunships, Marine Harriers, A-10s and other AF aircraft) is part of the picture and can be used assuming sound wisdom is applied.

    This argument, even supported by evidence above from OIF, might seem simple and straightforward. But the COIN community balks at the idea, in the main.

  • http://www.fndbook.com mmannske

    Hirschel, I enjoy your posts and have subscribed to your blog. One thing I noticed in my trips here is that you seem to like A-10s a lot. So do I. In fact, I like them so much I wrote a book about them. Foreign and Domestic is a futuristic war-thriller about the coming US-UN War and the patriots who rise up to fight them by raiding the Air Force boneyard in Arizona. Of course, the A-10 winds up being the workhorse of the story since they are the only jets that don’t have computers (there are no A-10Cs in my book. Hillary cancelled the program when she became president).


You are currently reading "Death from Above", entry #599 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Air Power,Iraq,Small Wars and was published September 6th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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