Air Support- Show of Force?
November 19, 2018 at 11:31 am #76527
I’ve learned of many instances of ground combat units with attached JTACS or FOs using “shows of force” with on station air support, on known enemy positions.
My question is, why? Sure, it gets some effect, with Taliban/insurgents often deciding to run away to fight another day- but why not actually go kinetic?! Hamstrung w/ ROE? Weak CoC? Just an opening move?
This might be a hot topic, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. Those qualified to answer, help me understand.
November 19, 2018 at 10:09 pm #76528
I can only remember doing it 2 or 3 times. All other times we had CAS they were there to drop ordnance.
The first one was while we were doing a cordon and search on village. We had intel that there were Taliban there with weapons and IED making materials. The village set in a bowl, surrounded on all sides by high ground. We knew that they were on the high ground due to us picking their radio transmissions via ICOM scanner. We did not have enough combat power to secure the high ground. We had an A-10 come in and do a show of force to either get them to commit, locate them or get them to leave. They left.
Second time was after a 9 day mission to clear a valley. The only time we weren’t in contact was the afternoon of day 8 and nothing on day 9. The morning of day 9 we started our return to the FOB. We had to go through some pretty crappy terrain and some very narrow roads. Think roads so narrow that he mirrors on either side of the HMMWV would scrape the buildings and mud walls as we drove through. Any of those areas were perfect for an ambush. We had to go about 20 klicks through this. Again, through ICOM chatter we knew they were in the area. We had Apaches, an A-10 and a couple of Blackhawks fly shows of force and cover for us as we drove through. We didn’t get hit.
Sometimes with a show of force the pilots can see stuff on the ground that we can’t. They can they relay that info to us.
Just for info purposes, the Talibans code name for a B-1 bomber is “The Master”. Sometimes danger close distances are “flexible”, meaning if you have a good JTAC and he has a good handle on where everyone is, you can get a lot closer than what the manual says. That gets pretty interesting with a B-1 dropping 2,000 lb JDAM’s or a Specter on station.
One of the most “funny, not funny” moments I ever had with CAS was hearing a radio transmission from a B-1 saying “Oops, just had a smart bomb go stupid”. We all heard it as the JTAC’s radio was on speaker as we watched them do runs on positions on a ridge line. That one fell no where near where it was supposed to.
Signal Out, Can You Identify
Je ne regrette rien
In Orbe Terrum Non Visi
November 20, 2018 at 1:46 am #76529
If the enemy changes their behavior in a way that is advantageous to you, then you win whether you kill the SOB or not.
The idea is the enemy does not know if you are going release the weapons or not. You therefore can get them to bail without the risk a bad release if they feel threatened by the aircraft. You can also do a show of force with aircraft that may not be configured for CAS.
Obviously you have to wreck someone’s day with an actual strike enough to make the enemy believe an aircraft on station is a threat. That is why you don’t just do scary flybys.
But, if your ultimate goal is to stop a TIC then a fly over might do the trick. Also, there is no reason why an on station aircraft can’t drop hate after the show of force if it didn’t do the trick (assuming they have the gas and ordinance to do so).
November 20, 2018 at 4:11 am #76530
November 20, 2018 at 7:49 am #76531
November 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm #76532
Smart weapons occasionally miss. Otherwise missiles would be called HITiles (Dad joke brought to you by the nerds at Raytheon Missile Systems).
We had a test missile get a fin stuck as it left the rail. It careened off into the wild blue yonder in a spectaculatlrly erratic manner. Since it was a test and we were on a range, the missile wound up splashing harmlessly into the Gulf of Mexico but it was an interesting day to be at range control.
We try to find all the Gremlins in either developmental or operational testing, but sometimes stuff just breaks. Hence there are geometric and temporal limitations to employing airpower in and around things you don’t want to destroy. It is similar to the idea of safety angles Max uses on his ranges and in class.
November 20, 2018 at 8:35 pm #76533
November 21, 2018 at 9:56 am #76534Sam BradyParticipant
In my day, on the ground, our CAS would sometime run dry preserve ammunition or to get the enemy to duck while we ran to increase the distance. On the next pass they would be able to drop as we were out of the danger close distance.
A good idea sometimes to confuse the enemy. Sometimes gunships on station would do dry passes, mixed with hot runs to preserve ammo while another rotation of guns were enroute to us. CAS saved my bacon more times than I care to remember when operating as a LRRP.
November 21, 2018 at 2:00 pm #76535
In my day, on the ground, our CAS would sometime run dry preserve ammunition or to get the enemy to duck while we ran to increase the distance.
Not quite the same, but I know of at least one instance of a EA-6B Prowler that did a few high speed/low altitude flybys allowing a small team to break contact in Afghanistan.
Only asset in vicinity at the right time, the Prowler is Electronic Warfare aircraft with no CAS capability beyond this bluff. Worked well.
The old A-6 and EA-6B are extremely loud aircraft.
November 21, 2018 at 2:06 pm #76536
November 21, 2018 at 10:48 pm #76537
In the First Gulf War there was an Iraqi tank unit that surrendered to decoy flares dropped by A-10s.
November 23, 2018 at 8:36 pm #76538
November 23, 2018 at 8:46 pm #76539
November 25, 2018 at 12:16 pm #76540RobRoyParticipant
The A-6 being a cool as heck aircraft, at Camp Las Pulgas on Pendelton they would fly over in the evening to the impact zone a couple of miles away to drop and they made a distinctive noise an airbrake or something maybe. That they were still flying in AfPak is something because they were old back in the 80s.
B-1s are loud, I used to hunt in WY next to their flight path and even way up in the air it was loud.
November 25, 2018 at 1:49 pm #76541
There is little in life that is more fun to watch than a B-1 screaming in fast and low over an airfield only to rise into the heavens on four pillars of blue flame at the end of the run. Having witnessed that fisrt hand, I can see why an enemy my want to scedadle when such a display is made. You feel the airplane more than you hear it when they do that.
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