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August 14, 2006

Comments

Did they ever consider just turning the A-10 over to the army? I know that there's some kind of restriction on the army having fixed-wing aircraft, but this seems to be an obvious candidate for an exception.

Andrew, I have a question that is sort of related to this: if "winning" in Iraq means achieving a peaceful society there, one that is not at war with itself or anyone else, is winning possible?
I think we have to give up on making Iraq a democracy; they'll make their government be whatever it is going to be. Also, things are likely to resolve themselves at a level of religious conservatism unintended by the neocon daydreamers. I also think we will have to give up on controlling their foreign policy. In other words I don't think the victory the Bush admnistration had in mind is possible. But is an end to the violence and the formation of a stable (meaning not involved in active fightng) society possible?. This question relates to your post in that the violence in Iraq, I assume, can't be ended through airpower. And of course I mean within a reasonable time frame since anything is possible if you just wait for several generations.

Thus the Air Force's ongoing attempts to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, one of the best ground support aircraft ever design

A-10 is going through retrofit right now, Andrew. We've been flying our targeting pod on the upgraded airplane for over a year, now.

See here, for instance.

Local legend has it that in Panama we actually did fly a Hellfire or two through an open window (or two), and those were pretty dumb (but, needless to say, highly accurate). Smartness helps in other ways, though, and smartness can indicate higher autonomy and adaptability.

Juding from the Human Rights Watch report from August 3 and just the geographical location of some of the targets, you're overemphasizing the extent to which Lebanese civilian casualties can be blamed on Hezbollah's style of fighting. Many of the civilians died because Israel didn't care, or possibly wanted to send a message to the Lebanese--crack down on Hezbollah or suffer the consequences.

Did they ever consider just turning the A-10 over to the army?

That would be "heresy," to use the technical term.

Future strategic historians will doubtless look back on the creation of a coequal Air Force as a grave error in U.S. military history. There is nothing the Air Force does that it couldn't do under the Army's governance, and that governance would eliminate this happy-crap about ground support's taking a back seat.

lily,

If we define victory in Iraq as a stable, peaceful society, I think we are unlikely to get there. If we define victory in Iraq as an Iraqi government capable of defeating the insurgency after we leave, I think we have a better chance. I think that the insurgency would lose a lot of support once the U.S. leaves, although I can't prove it.

Slartibartifast,

That's great news about the A-10. But I'm confident the USAF will continue to try to scuttle it. They just don't like that plane, mostly because they don't like the ground support mission.

In my experience, most Air Force guys are convinced they can win a war with airpower alone, the past 65 years of war notwithstanding.

Donald,

I don't know how many or few of the Lebanese civilian casualties are due to Israeli aggressiveness as opposed to Hezbollah staging. My point is that, even if all of them are due to Hezbollah's target placement, Hezbollah's IO campaign allows them to claim victory even when Israel is striking wholly legitimate targets.

Anderson,

I disagree. The problem is that Congress forbids the Army to use armed fixed-wing aircraft. The Air Force likes to do air superiority and operational bombing missions, two areas the Army has little to no interest in. If the Army could operate its own ground support air corps, I think we'd both be a lot better off.

But I'm confident the USAF will continue to try to scuttle it. They just don't like that plane, mostly because they don't like the ground support mission.

Once you've sunk a decent chunk of cash into upgrading it, the old jalopies have a tendency to hang around. They even get new missions, sometimes. Even the B-1 is getting revived and given a new mission.

If the Army could operate its own ground support air corps, I think we'd both be a lot better off.

How is that coordinated at present, Andrew? You can't simply have Army helos sharing airspace with the zoomies without some sort of coordination.

Slartibartfast,

Army Airspace Command & Control (A2C2). There are staff members at Division and higher whose job is to divvy up airspace for helos, fast movers, and artillery (since the USAF never went along with the 'big sky, little bullet' theory). Something I hope to avoid, as it's a complex business.

So, logistically there are already hooks in place, so to speak, to handle the fantasy scenario where Army is flying the A-10s. That's the message I'm getting, here.

As for the A-10 upgrade: by refitting the A-10 with a precision nav system (and this is really just about as good as it gets, outside of the big Navy systems), upgraded avionics and the addition of communications buses to all of the weapons stations, and by developing targeting pod interfaces, they've by design made A-10 into a more flexible antiarmor platform. In doing so, though, they've made the A-10 into a potent heavy ground-attack aircraft that can carry a ton (eight, actually) of weapons and still have stations left to carry Sidewinders. I wouldn't use it for SAM suppression missions against a trained opponent, but it can do lots of other things.

Actually, I was talking command and control. But I think we could probably handle the logistics aspects as well; I assume the A-10 flies on something similar to what helos use, so we've already got the assets to tank the A-10s. The weapons systems are different from what attack helos carry, but we already have the infrastructure in place to that type of weapon. We'd need to transfer over some of the mechanics to handle the avionics, I suspect, but I think our infrastructure could support it.

"In my experience, most Air Force guys are convinced they can win a war with airpower alone, the past 65 years of war notwithstanding."

Kosovo. Although admittedly it's arguable that the threat to bring in ground forces was necessary; hard to prove that without finding a diary of Milosevic's, or some other record or testimony, though.

And, to be sure, one exception in a sea of other outcomes isn't a strong case. It's merely worth noting that at least one significant war and defeat of an entire country does seem to have been accomplished solely by air power.

Anderson: "There is nothing the Air Force does that it couldn't do under the Army's governance, and that governance would eliminate this happy-crap about ground support's taking a back seat."

I think that's a little strong. In a very great many cases, the disregard for the other service is held as strongly by ground-pounding Army types for the Air force zoomies as vice versa, and thus it's easy to argue that air power, solely under the control of the Army, would wind up more devalued than it should be, which is, of course, amongst the strongest reasons the Air Force was created in the first place. (See also General Billy Mitchell's career, and the early disregard of the Navy for air power, insisting that major ships could never be sunk by it, since they'd just shoot the widdle pwanes out of the sky.)

I find attempts to claim Kosovo as a victory somewhat specious. Sure, eventually the Serbs pulled out, but only after months of bombing and continuing their program in Kosovo. In that time ~800,000 people were displaced from their homes and who knows how many were killed. (Not to mention the embarassing little aftermath, in which the Kosovar Albanians did a little ethnic cleansing of their own.) Politically, yes, it was a win. From a military perspective, not so much.

the disregard for the other service is held as strongly by ground-pounding Army types for the Air force zoomies as vice versa

Yes, but the difference is, we're right and they're wrong.

The problem is that Congress forbids the Army to use armed fixed-wing aircraft.

And Congress got this notion from whom, exactly?

"Politically, yes, it was a win. From a military perspective, not so much."

Yes, but in the real world, political wins are what matter, not military wins. See, as you know, Vietnam, amongst innumerable examples.

"Yes, but the difference is, we're right and they're wrong."

I rest my case. :-)

In any case, without making the extreme case that air power can generally win wars by itself, which I agree is a very dubious claim, as a rule (absent "nuking them back to the stone age" hypotheticals), presumably we can agree that air superiority is a necessity in modern war, and that while terror bombing of civilian populations is a tactic of dubious effectiveness at best (setting aside the moral issues), that bombing of strategic assets can be an invaluable part of modern warfare? Or not?

I'd note, for instance, that without air power, there's no way that Israel could have won either the '67 or '73 wars, although, of course, without armor, they also couldn't have won.

And while strategic bombing in WWII was ultimately found to be considerably less effective than it was thought at the time, nonetheless, Germany's industrial power was severely degraded by it, greatly harming their war-making ability; same for Japan. It couldn't have won the war(s) on its own (absent the nuclear weapons), but it was a major contributor.

Inside baseball link find: Joint Readiness Training Center humor.

I get about half the jokes.... (What would the military do if acronyms were banned?)

And an Iraq A-10 II story.

Anderson,

It dates back to when the Air Force was created from the Army Air Corps. Congress didn't want the Army to simply rebuild its own air force and render the new service obsolete. The law is, obviously, somewhat dated now.

Gary,

Touche. Still, Kosovo is a very bad example for use for future conflicts. I suppose it might be valuable if we face another conflict where we really don't care about saving anyone, but want it to look like we're doing something. (Hmmm...Darfur?)

I'm not sure I concur that air superiority is necessary for victory. As long as the other side cannot achieve air superiority, I think either side can still win. But (obviously) I'd much rather have air superiority if I can get it.

I am not trying to denigrate air power, btw. It's a great combat multiplier. But, just like armor, artillery, MPs, etc., we're all just there to help the Infantry get the job done.

Loved the JRTC humor. I've seen a similar one for NTC, which I understood better. I've only done JRTC as an O/C.

Nice article. To add a bit on reduced lethality weapons, during Operations Northern and Southern Watch (the Iraqi no-fly zones) the Air Force dropped laser guided rocks (LGBs filled with concrete) on Iraqi SAM radars to reduce collateral damage. They would take out the radar van without taking out the neighborhood.

http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/concrt.htm

Donald Clarke

the Air Force dropped laser guided rocks

Bombing them with the stone-age rather than back to it, eh?

divvy up airspace for helos, fast movers, and artillery (since the USAF never went along with the 'big sky, little bullet' theory)

It took me a minute to picture what 'big sky, little bullet' must mean, and then it took me just as long to stop laughing. Does the Air Force reciprocate with a 'big ground, little bomb' theory?

Does the Air Force reciprocate with a 'big ground, little bomb' theory?

They say they don't...

actually - it did not degrade germany's industrial capacity - that's why they started the terror raids on cities and civilian populations - german industrial production peaked in late 1944.

I'm not sure how well the laser-guided rock would work as an easy change from an LGB. Concrete is about 50% more dense than Octol, so either you'd have to cast the concrete in the casing with enough void to mass properties work out, or you'd have to reprogram the guidance kit. Or, possibly, you'd simply use a different-sized casing that interfaces with the kit in the same way as the standard casing.

Oooh, Gary gets a link from Instapundit!

Re the Gunter Grass thing (in the Gary link Slarti provides)--Sometimes it's good to be ignorant and not very well read in some areas. You can't feel betrayed if you only know a writer's name and nothing more. Somehow I feel vindicated.

Slarti, unfortunately, Gary gets compliments from strange quarters and for the wrong reasons.

I do not agree with the very leftist political views of Grass, but he has worked tiredlessly in promoting humanism and peace for decades. Whatever wrong he did in the war, he atoned for it with his work.

His opponents love to tarnish his lifework and reputation (see the glee in ip's link) for actions not completely of his own choosing and when he was 17. Perhaps one should consider that Grass himself was deeply ashamed of belonging to the SS, voluntarily or not. He outed himself, repented and seems deeply troubled about it. The only sensible argument is that it comes rather late.

I find it dubious that a warmonger like instapundit accuses a (after 20) lifelong dove for war activities. Another swiftboating, war is peace moment.

"Oooh, Gary gets a link from Instapundit!"

First in close to two years. He picked it up from Tim Blair, which was my first link from him in more than three and a half years or so.

In this case, I'm being used for their purposes as a convenient Left-like critic of Grass, which I roll my eyes at, but since my opinion is my opinion, I have no complaint.

"His opponents love to tarnish his lifework and reputation (see the glee in ip's link) for actions not completely of his own choosing and when he was 17."

He did volunteer, eagerly, to serve in Hitler's forces, in the submarine service, and has lied about that for sixty years, as well.

But the point isn't what happened in 1944-45; it's his consistent lying for all these decades. As I said, one could excuse him doing that for a few months, or even a couple of years, but for 60 years? Nah. Not me, anyway.

"Perhaps one should consider that Grass himself was deeply ashamed of belonging to the SS, voluntarily or not."

That's fine, if true. Although he himself said that "at the time that there was nothing 'repulsive' about the SS to him," and that's pretty inexcusable.

But there's nothing incompatible with having been ashamed of having been in the SS, and owning up to it; that would have been the right thing to do, let alone what a moral icon needs to do to be a moral leader.

That, instead, he wanted to avoid the public international opprobrium seems an unavoidable conclusion. (And it's not as if he'd have been stoned in Germany for owning up; there's no shortage of former Waffen SS men.)

"Whatever wrong he did in the war, he atoned for it with his work."

But he can never atone for hiding this until the year 2006; it's too late.

"The only sensible argument is that it comes rather late."

No, "rather late" would have been 1949, or 1950, after four or five whole years to consider the issue.

2006 is several decades too late to be taken seriously as anything other than a lifetime liar about belonging to one of the most atrocious organizations in the history of the planet, regardless of how he entered into it (and at this point, given his lying for 60 years about the fact, and his lying about ever fighting, and his lying about volunteering to fight, why anyone should believe any other claims he makes, I have absolutely no idea).

Call me over-sensitive for being aware of what being an enthusiastic German Nazi meant, and what spending a lifetime never owning up to that means, if you like.

I just wanted to say that it's posts like this that make me grateful that Andrew has been added as a front-pager here. Thanks.

(Sorry for thread-jacking) Exact wording is crucial in this minefield of nuances. Unfortunately, the English translations are hastily done often without getting at the root of the German meanings or using charged words not present in the original. It is an ongoing story (since Saturday) and it will take some time to see all angles of it.

BTW, I'm not German nor am I defending his wartime record. My message is: His admission comes late but given his tremendous and important work, it is a minor human failing in his youth he now atoned for. He did not tell the public (he told fellow writers in the 70ies) but his only cover-up was that it was an SS not a FLAK unit. He said (and I believe him) that he never fired a shot in anger. Grass is no Waldheim. There is a difference between not telling the whole truth and actively lying or denying. I think, regarding the public, after condemning Nazism and the SS for years, he got caught in a catch 22.

That Germany is no longer a militaristic society can partly be attributed that most have read works by Böll and Grass.

Or it could be due in some small part to getting the living hell bombed out of them in WWII, and then having their country divided in two for the next few decades.

But sure, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Oooh, Gary gets a link from Instapundit!

Damn! And was thinking about buying one of his Blogads. Think about the bargain I missed out on.

"He said (and I believe him) that he never fired a shot in anger."

He was in the 10th SS Panzer Division for many months; here is their chronology. He was wounded in the fighting. What, he was just standing around, waving greetings to the Russians, and sending pacific messages of good cheer towards them during the fighting? Month after month after month? This man who eagerly volunteered to fight for Fuhrer and Deutchland? The man who "said at the time that there was nothing 'repulsive' about the SS to him"?

Think about that last sentence again. This was Hitler's Germany. The Jews were gone between the time he volunteered to fight, and the time he fought. And he was eager to fight, regardless.

You believe him because of his 60-year record of lying? How is this different from folks who want to believe George Bush and Dick Cheney still trusting them, despite their record of lying?

Answer: people believe what they want to believe. Truthiness triumphs, regardless of ideology. Being in the Waffen SS is a "a minor human failing in his youth he now atoned for"

He lied for sixty years. In 2005, he was lying. At the age of 77. This is not a "failing in his youth"; this is a lifelong cover-up.

And he's atoned for it by what? Confessing at the age of 78?

Sorry: clearly the facts aren't foremost in your mind as regards Grass. You want to believe him, so you believe him, you want to forgive him, so you forgive him, and nothing else matters.

Someone can be in the Waffen SS, and, hey, it's just a minor youthful indiscretion.

It could happen to anyone; why, you might not even notice.

"Damn! And was thinking about buying one of his Blogads. Think about the bargain I missed out on."

I haven't changed the prices. Act now, act without thinking!

I am, of course, biased in favor of ground power. That is what I do, after all.

Sorry for asking a n00b question, but what exactly is your occupation, Andrew?

"Sorry for asking a n00b question, but what exactly is your occupation, Andrew?"

He's a Major in the U.S. Army (Reserve). See here.

He's a Major in the U.S. Army (Reserve).

Not to mention a total Babylon 5 freakazoid (NTTAWWT), but there's little money in that.

Wow! cool. Thanks, guys.

Sorry: clearly the facts aren't foremost in your mind as regards Grass. You want to believe him, so you believe him, you want to forgive him, so you forgive him, and nothing else matters.

Mind-reading, Gary. Ten yards.

"That's great news about the A-10. But I'm confident the USAF will continue to try to scuttle it. They just don't like that plane, mostly because they don't like the ground support mission."

Agreed.

Even more strongly: the evidence that the USAF doesn't get the importance of ground support is not really best measured by whether they do or do not support some upgrades (basically avionics) to the A-10.

Look the A-10 airframe was first flown in 1975. That's 31 years ago now. If the USAF was at all serious, they would be developing a new ground support platform from the ground up.

I mean, how many iterations of the basic fighter have they gone through in that same three-decade period?

"I mean, how many iterations of the basic fighter have they gone through in that same three-decade period?"

If you mean new model planes, not just upgrades, well, none, actually. The F-22 is just coming into active service.

The F-15 began service in the mid-Seventies. Same for the F-16. The F-18 was late Seventies.

Since then, nada, until the F-22. You did specify fighters, and not upgrades, but new platforms.

Mind-reading, Gary. Ten yards.

I thought we were going for a more D&D™ system of losing 10 hitpoints for mindreading rather than using the hairy sports metaphors.

Man, I gotta start reading the memos.

double-plus - Mindreading gets football penalties, saying "Republicans think this" or "Democrats think that" get the aforementioned D&D™ penalty, calling for the assassination of any person gets the death penalty (ironic that eh?), defending the indefensible gets a five minute major penalty, and not checking to see if Amygdala blogged it first gets the Farber penalty. I'm not sure what one has to do to get the Thullen penalty, but I think it's encouraged.

I missed a hell of a lot of memos.

well, whack me with an almanac.

Looks like I got my facts wrong--all of the major fighters in common use today date to the same Carter-era period of production that gave us the Warthog.

So my suggestion that there is something significant in the USAF's failure to develop a new ground-support platform doesn't prove as much as I'd hoped. Thanks for bringing the facts to bear, Gary.

Except...

There *is*, after all, the F-22, as you mentioned, and nothing at that stage of production for ground support.

So isn't it still fair to say that the USAF has put more of its time into developing new fighters, bombers and ground attack aircraft (e.g. F-117) than into ground support aircraft?

"There *is*, after all, the F-22, as you mentioned, and nothing at that stage of production for ground support."

Also the Joint Strike Fighter, JSF, which is a big kitchen-sink compromise between the Air Force and Navy and the Marines. It works for all of them! Sort of. It's also what the Air Force has touted for a replacement for the A-10, among other uses. Of course, it's also a replacement for the early model F-18s! And the European Tornados! And the British Sea Harriers! And the Marine AV-8B Harriers! And the F- 16s! And the A-6 Intruder!

It's a floor wax and a desert topping! It's the miracle plane! (Read the tout sheet.)

(Cynics suspect it will indeed do all of these jobs: badly, compared to mission-dedicated craft, but, then, no one wants to advocate four or five new aircraft, either, given how much new designs and production winds up costing these days.) (Some preferred the alternative Lockheed-Martin proposal (hello, Slarti), and some the Boeing version.) (Then there was the rejected F-23 fighter proposal....)

"So isn't it still fair to say that the USAF has put more of its time into developing new fighters, bombers and ground attack aircraft (e.g. F-117) than into ground support aircraft?"

Sure. Absolutely. Aside from the F-117, there's been nothing in fixed wing for ground support; nada. It's probably worth mentioning that there was the Comanche attack helicopter program, but that was cancelled by Rumsfeld.

There's some talk of an AC-X program, but there's not even a serious proposal at present, apparently (probably some engineers at the usual companies have some dream blueprints they play with, though, I bet -- and it would probably incorporate air-borne laser (ABL) systems).

But mostly, for now at least, the future of airborne ground attack seems to be drones.

"Aside from the F-117, there's been nothing in fixed wing for ground support;"

That was poorly worded; the F-117 is pretty much for SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) and small-scale precision bombing; it's not really for ground support, although one sort of, kind of, might use it in very unusual circumstances, in a limited way; really, I shouldn't have mentioned it in proximity to the phrase "ground support."

Comanche was going on for...well, I worked on it two decades ago, and it just got the boot a couple of years ago. Right before working on Comanche, I worked on a sensor package for what was to be the F-22. So these things can go on for decades, and sometimes in the process of going on for decades, the customer changes its mind, then changes its mind again, then again, and oops, we're rethinking the whole thing.

So, sometimes programs get cancelled because there's just no getting from the original need and what the product has morphed into.

But to get back on topic (which is hard if the topic has thrown you off in a particularly brutal fashion), I don't see the Army (or USAF) investing in any ground-support fixed-wing aircraft anytime soon. There's just nothing in the pipeline that does what A-10 does. And A-10 is going to be with us for a long, long time, given that it's gotten a modern set of avionics.

Speaking as someone way, way outside the military experience, but who knows a bit about military history, I had formed the impression that everyone of what you might call military seriousness (practical or scholarly) agrees with that Fehrenbach quote, which I've seen variants of from many sources.

I also had the impression that it was widely acknowledged by the serious that the US' (over)-emphasis on airpower is for political reasons: principally, because it reduces (or is perceived by politicians to reduce) US casualties. There is also the factor, especially since Vietnam, of what I might call the "video-game mentality" -- Donald Rumsfeld IMHO is a classic example. These guys have been persuaded that war can and should be very shiny and distant, with none of that messy blood stuff where they can see it.

I am, in my innocence, surprised that you say the USAF command thinks "Ground support is dangerous, it's not sexy, and it requires too much coordination with the Army."

I mean, they joined the *military* and they're opposed to something because it's *dangerous*?!?! What the *#%@%@(%* line of work did they think they were going into, Extreme Pinochle? And "not sexy"!?!? Again, what the Sam Hill?!? Who precisely is having sex with whom, here?

I'm not sure if you're making the USAF look more ignorant, or more psychotic. Worse yet, I don't know if you're *right*. I would certainly like to believe that the USAF generals have more understanding of the realities of war than you attribute to them.

Lockheed's Skunk Works wanted to deliver the F-117 with a mottled grey color because that color choice was apparently optimal for making the plane hard to see by humans at night.

USAF insisted that the plane be painted black, on the grounds that "Stealth fighter pilots fly black planes."

given that the USAF has been worried about its image since it was formed, i'm not surprised that it's reluctant to recognize any ground support role.

"I mean, they joined the *military* and they're opposed to something because it's *dangerous*?!?!"

Frankly, I suspect that's as much in regard to planes, these days, as fliers, given the unbelieveable cost of modern U.S. warplanes, and their relatively limited number due to that cost.

"And 'not sexy'!?!?"

He didn't mean that, you know, literally. It's an expression. Pilots, at least before they're assigned, and when they're young, tend to be more excited at the idea of fighters and bombers than, say, transports and tankers.

"Not sexy" also means that it's not, you know, bombing key enemy targets (say, Saddam Hussein, hisself, or the enemy military HQ, or or whathaveyou) and thus contributing to Winning The War By The Air Force Itself; tank-plinking is seen by some as sort of petty.

I'm not defending this; I'm just relating what I've read innumerable times.

And, similarly, nothing has been more glamorous in military flying since WWI than being an "ace," and throwing a scarf around your neck, and saluting the Red Baron.

Hmm -- I would have thought that if the question is: what can you do with air power alone?, then there's not just the problem of having to use great big bombs and missiles as opposed to little tiny precise bullets, but also the fact that you can't see everything you might need to see from the sky.

But then, I don't know much about this, having always thought: well, isn't it common sense that you can't do everything from a plane, and that some of the things you can't do, like kill a specific person, or inspect a cave or the bed of a truck, are things you might very well need to do, if you happened to be a military force.

I would have thought that Kosovo wasn't so much about wanting to make it look like we were doing stuff, but about some people in the government wanting that, and others wanting to actually do something, and policy splitting the difference. But I don't think I know as much about this as some of the other commenters.

Pilots, at least before they're assigned, and when they're young, tend to be more excited at the idea of fighters and bombers than, say, transports and tankers.

Of course, but I had a naive hope that generals might be able to act as adults who are in a -- *the* -- most serious business.

It's most striking when I compare your reports to the behavior of people I know in another extremely serious, life-and-death-type line of work. Doctors are also quite capable of petty rivalry, ignorance, and self-glorification, but dick-measuring is less pervasive.

My first reaction was to wonder if it's something about the military mind, but then I realize that the most parsimonious assumption is that the unseriousness of military leaders is no different from that of any other people on top of extremely large organizations: corporations, government agencies, religions, etc. If most doctors seem more serious about the realities of their work than most generals, it may be because doctors hardly ever boss more than a few dozen people, while generals boss tens of thousands. Naturally, inter-service rivalries and bureaucratic coup-counting will be more important than what actually *works* -- that's what human beings *do*.

"Hmm -- I would have thought that if the question is: what can you do with air power alone?, then there's not just the problem of having to use great big bombs and missiles as opposed to little tiny precise bullets, but also the fact that you can't see everything you might need to see from the sky."

It depends what sort of war one is talking about. In WWII, bombs were, of course, all dumb, and the way to hit targets was simply to drop large numbers of them. (An even more effective technique was found late in the war, which was to use incindiaries on cities in such numbers as to create massive firestorms, such as in Dresden, and much of Tokyo, and many Japanese cities; it was particularly effective with Japan, given that the overwhelming majority of their structures were built with light wood and cloth.)

Huge areas of a city could be destroyed at a time with carpet-bombing. Typically, pathfinder planes would first drop incindiaries, and then later planes could see their targets, generally even in cloudy or poor weather. (There was a huge strategic difference and argument between the British and Americans, once the Americans got in, as to whether night bombing or daylight bombing was more effective, and whether daylight bombing was too dangerous; the Germans and British started off with day bombing, but rapidly switched to nightbombing after losses were unsustainable; the American command didn't like the loss of accuracy, and touted daylight bombing; America lost a lot of bombers, until fighter escorts were available; as well, American industrial might and population numbers were simply able to sustain greater losses than the British, particularly after a few years of fighting.)

That's the sort of bombing that kills large numbers of civilians (tens and hundreds of thousands) and destroys cities, which, it should be needless to say, but isn't, is entirely different from Israel's efforts, which though they certainly can be criticized and questioned (and I have plenty of questions of my own), resulted in something on the order of 1,000 deaths (which however many of them are true civilians is terrible, of course), out of a population of 3,874,050, over ~30 days, for an average of about 33 people killed per day, and a tiny fraction of the populace; it's a horrible thing, of course, including the destruction of infrastructure, just as the fact that over a million Israelis have been forced to spend a month living in shelters, with rockets crashing in constantly, setting much of Northern Israel ablaze, and destroying vast amounts of Israeli infrastructure, is also terrible.

In the modern era, you can see a lot from the sky, with modern optics, and satellite-guided bombs, laser targeting, and such, but of course you can't see everything, such as what's inside a structure, or vehicle (are those missiles, or vegetables?; is that a house full of fighters, or children?), so tragic mistakes are inevitable, even setting aside the debate about using innocents as shields.

"But then, I don't know much about this, having always thought: well, isn't it common sense that you can't do everything from a plane, and that some of the things you can't do, like kill a specific person, or inspect a cave or the bed of a truck, are things you might very well need to do, if you happened to be a military force."

Sure. We didn't use ground troops in Kosovo almost entirely out of fear that American casualties would end support for the war in America, and the conviction (proven correct) by Air Force boffins that air power would be sufficient (although we came fairly close in the end to send in ground forces, and you may or may not recall the big debate about whether helicopters should go in, or whether too many would be shot down). There's good reason to think that part of the reason Milosevic surrendered is that he believed ground forces would be coming in shortly, and that that would be the last straw; I'm not clear that this is fully proven, though.

Also, it's worth noting that the U.S./Nato air forces grossly over-estimated the damage they did in hitting Serbian tanks and gun emplacements; studies after the war showed that the overwhelming majority of "tanks" they hit were fakes, and that the actual number of vehicles hit were something like under 20 or so.

Here is a useful short look at the use of airpower in the war.

Here is a cite for the fact that air power could usefully hit fixed targets, but not military mobile targets.

NARRATOR: As the air war drew to a close, NATO studied its own video footage, aerial and satellite photographs, and put together a picture of a stunning victory for air power. NATO claimed to have destroyed more than 120 tanks, 400 artillery pieces, and 200 armored personnel carriers. NATO also claimed to have caused between five and ten thousand Serb military casualties.

But NATO peacekeepers observing and counting the Serb forces withdrawing from Kosovo spotted a disturbing trend. Light infantry, artillery, and armored units, which made up the vast majority of Serb forces in Kosovo, had been virtually immune to NATO attacks.

BERNARD: "The forces they put in came out in the same number, and they looked as though they hadn't been beat up on for 78 days. They hadn't been damaged."

NARRATOR: NATO observers reported that Serb forces appeared to be orderly and in good spirits, with nearly all of their vehicles, equipment and personnel intact. Since then, NATO has dramatically scaled back its estimate of the damage done to Serb forces.

After 78 days and 11,000 strike missions, in which 20,000 bombs and missiles were delivered, NATO may have destroyed or damaged fewer than 20 Serb tanks, along with 'a few dozen' artillery pieces and armored personnel carriers.

NEWMAN: "So now people think that NATO airplanes didn't destroy nearly as many tanks, artillery pieces, and armored personnel carriers, and other types of heavy equipment like that, as they once thought. And the difference, they think, can be accounted for by decoys."

NARRATOR: NATO's decision to avoid using ground troops in Kosovo allowed Serb forces to use a variety of techniques to divert and deceive NATO war planners. One such method was to build crude silhouettes of military vehicles, bridges, and even roads, which look like the real thing in satellite photos and radar images. NATO pilots repeatedly bombed these decoys, believing each time that they had destroyed a military target.

NEWMAN: "If you drive around Kosovo now, you see these things. I mean they are oddities, curiosity pieces just sitting out in a field. You'll be driving down the road and see what looks like a toy tank from up close. But from the air, it just has the outline of a tank."

NARRATOR: Serb forces were also able to deceive NATO's heat-seeking radars and missiles by placing large drums of liquid in the sunlight. After dark, as the liquid gave off its stored heat, it would divert missiles and radar away from nearby Serb troops and equipment.

Another tactic used by the Serbs was to place damaged vehicles or equipment out in the open. Bombing the same pieces of equipment over and over again accounts for part of NATO's inaccurate estimates of Serb losses.

NATO's early estimate of Serb casualties was also grossly inflated. Rather than five or ten thousand, NATO peacekeepers now estimate that less than 1,000 Serbs were killed in combat. It is widely believed that the figure would have been even lower had NATO not coordinated its attacks in the final weeks of the campaign with the Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA.

The KLA, a guerrilla army of ethnic Albanian militants, is dedicated to Kosovo's independence from Serbia. The majority of Serb casualties in the air war are believed to have resulted from two American B-52 bomber attacks on Serb units which had been driven into the open by KLA troops.

NEWMAN: "And in the end, in order to really do some damage to these people, it required, it did require ground force. It just wasn't a NATO or U.S. ground force, it was the KLA fighters that were forcing the Serbs to come out in the open...."

NARRATOR: Ruling out the use of NATO ground forces in Kosovo is now viewed by many as a grave tactical error. It allowed the Serbs to enlarge their forces, adapt their tactics, and all but complete the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.

I haven't seen anyone defend the notion that announcing at the start of the war, as Clinton did, that ground forces were ruled out, was a good idea, though I suppose there's a clear case to be made that it was a good idea insofar as it cause there to be far more political support for the war in America than there might otherwise have been. And, as I noted before, political wins are what matter far more than strictly military victory. But from a strictly military POV, it was fairly indefensible.

"Doctors are also quite capable of petty rivalry, ignorance, and self-glorification, but dick-measuring is less pervasive."

I do have the impression that there's quite a bit, nonetheless.

"If most doctors seem more serious about the realities of their work than most generals, it may be because doctors hardly ever boss more than a few dozen people, while generals boss tens of thousands."

I think there's a lot to that.

"Naturally, inter-service rivalries and bureaucratic coup-counting will be more important than what actually *works* -- that's what human beings *do*."

Yep. Although it's not as if everyone, whether in the military or as a doctor, is dedicated only to that. But bureaucracy, and its tendencies, is always a problem in modern military organizations. (There has been plenty of critical writings on this issue, from a variety of POVs, most pungently from the late David Hackworth, who started as a grunt enlistee at the age of 15 in WWII (he lied about his age), and worked his way up to Colonel, was forced out of the Army during Vietnam when he started speaking out against the war, and became the author of innumerable books, and a newspaper column, and much journalism, championing the grunts, what he and his kind liked to call the "warriors," over the "ticketpunchers" (and REMFs), until he died in 2005. ("He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times; the last application is currently under review at the Pentagon. He was twice awarded the Army’s second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, along with 10 Silver Stars and eight Bronze Stars. When asked about his many awards, he always said he was proudest of his eight Purple Hearts and his Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

A reputation won on the battlefield made it impossible to dismiss him when he went on the attack later as a critic of careerism and incompetence in the military high command. In 1971, he appeared in the field on ABC’s “Issue and Answers” to say Vietnam “is a bad war ... it can’t be won. We need to get out.” He also predicted that Saigon would fall to the North Vietnamese within four years, a prediction that turned out to be far more accurate than anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff were telling President Nixon or that the President was telling the American people.

With almost five years in-country, Col. Hackworth was the only senior officer to sound off about the Vietnam War. After the interview, he retired from the Army and moved to Australia.")

You mangled the URL to that Azmi Bishara article, mattbastard, which is here.

It's interesting that Al-Ahram chose to not identify Azmi Bishara as an MK, a Member of the Israeli Knesset.

Whoops; somehow wound up in the wrong thread. Sorry.

And, as I noted before, political wins are what matter far more than strictly military victory. But from a strictly military POV, it was fairly indefensible.

I actually go with Clausewitz's dictum that war is the pursuit [or continuation, or expression, or what have] of politics by other means, with all that that implies.

"I actually go with Clausewitz's dictum...."

I thought I covered that with this link:

Mark Clodfelter’s insightful book, The Limits of Air Power, describes an innovative way to appraise an air campaign. He looks back to the great military strategist Clausewitz to evaluate modern air power. According to Clodfelter, you cannot appraise air power by its battlefield effects or even its impact on the enemy’s field forces. Instead, he argues "the supreme test of bombing’s efficacy is its contribution to a nation’s war aims."15 Clodfelter reminds us that what Clausewitz published 170 years ago is still relevant today and more importantly, applies to air power as well: "War is merely the continuation of policy by other means….The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose."16

Anarch --

I find the Clausewitz-O'Neill dictum even more useful: "War is the continuation of politcs", and "All politics is local", so: "War is an extension of local politics."

Thus, USAF procurement decisions are not based on distant factors such as "will this work against the most probable enemy?" but on local factors, such as "how does this improve the Air Force's position vis-a-vis the other services?"

A couple of points. Aircraft age matters, but not always as much as you might think. I think the A-10s can be with us for quite a while, and at least as long as we want them.

The B-52 is currently expected to be retired about 2038. The H models will have seen service for over 70 years. This is roughly equivalent to an Air Force flying Sopwith Camels in the 1980s.

It is not a crazy as it sounds. The B-52 is still among these best aircraft in the world for carrying large quantities of bombs a long way. Its "replacements" offer improvements in survivability (B1, B2) and speed (B1), but in the effective absence of any air opposition in recent wars, they do not matter as much.

The ability to carry a large bombload coupled with JDAMs and other precision weapons made B-52s and B-1s important CAS aircraft. They carried much of the load in Afghanistan, since most other aircraft did not have the range, or needed excessive amounts of inflight refueling. They provided the firepower for the special forces working with the Northern Alliance that let them break the Taliban.

This is one of the more respectable reasons for why there hasn't been a new CAS aircraft. The traditional variety has been like the A-10, able to fly low and relatively slow, with lots of firepower and heavy armor to shrug off the ground fire. This has been a good model since WW1.

Afghanistan showed an alternate model, one where bombers cart large numbers of LGBs and JDAMs around at 40,000 feet until they get a target. If anything, it is even less glamorous then regular CAS, but the relative effectiveness is still being argued. It is not as fast, and depends on eyes on the ground. On the other hand, the enemy can see an A-10 coming, where bombs from 5 miles up are generally a surprise.

An A-10 that is flying low, strafing and bombing can be very effective. On the other hand, a ground commander seeing the enemy digging in superior numbers on a hill a kilometer away thinks seeing the hill explode 20 minutes after he pointed out the target is pretty effective too. There was another instance where a Taliban force was threatening an attack from a ridgeline. The threat evaporated when a B-52 dropped 1,000 lb bombs every 100 meters along the ridgeline for over a mile.

Expected losses are also a factor. We have had A-10s shot down in the Gulf War. I don't think we have lost a B-52 in combat since Vietnam. This is not really about the Air Force's willingness to take risks either. CAS platforms that get shot down are not flying any more CAS missions. Portable SAMs and light flak systems are probably going to become even more effective. Given that, should we buy more A-10 style aircraft, or more bombers? I don't know, but I expect the smart thing right now is to keep both types of aircraft while we gather information about which way to go.

Donald Clarke

Gary: I thought I covered that with this link:

Well yes, but the point I was trying to make was really "with all that that implies." As in, I don't believe there's such a thing as a "military success" (or "military failure") in itself at all; there are greater and lesser operations that exist within a hierarchy of tactical and strategic schemes, but they all ultimately live within the enveloping scheme of political strategy. Which to my eye is a stronger claim than the one in your link, which only claims that the one must be considered in tandem with the other, not that one is subservient to (or indeed, nonexistent without) the other.

[It's one reason I get so irked at people who proclaim that, e.g. Tet was a military victory for the US forces. I suppose it was inasmuch as that makes sense (i.e. at the operational level); but it was a political failure and that's ultimately just as important, if not more important, in the grander, inherently political, scheme of things.]

"It's one reason I get so irked at people who proclaim that, e.g. Tet was a military victory for the US forces. I suppose it was inasmuch as that makes sense (i.e. at the operational level); but it was a political failure and that's ultimately just as important, if not more important, in the grander, inherently political, scheme of things."

Obviously, I agree, as I made that point above here.

On the other hand, I wouldn't go so far as to say "I don't believe there's such a thing as a 'military success' (or 'military failure') in itself at all," myself. That seems to me to be something of an unhelpful exaggeration. YMMV, of course.

Military successes don't matter in the real world if they're not political successes, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Certainly if you're studying tactics, they're quite important, regardless of the political context.

Is Kosovo an example of airpower alone winning a war?

Not really. It was more of a matter of raising the stakes for Serbia, and the Serbians deciding that they did not want to fight the war at that level -- they decided to quit instead. It was not worth it to them to risk destruction of their infrastructure in order to hold onto Kosovo. If they had wanted to fight a total war, no amount of bombing would have ended the conflict.

The threat of uping the ante further with NATO ground forces may have played an important factor, but I think it was more a matter of weighing whether or not to undergo destruction from the air in order to hold onto Kosovo. The Serbians decided to throw in the towel before the real fighting began.

"Not really. It was more of a matter of raising the stakes for Serbia, and the Serbians deciding that they did not want to fight the war at that level -- they decided to quit instead. It was not worth it to them to risk destruction of their infrastructure in order to hold onto Kosovo. If they had wanted to fight a total war, no amount of bombing would have ended the conflict."

Y'know, I'm pretty sure that's called "winning a war."

That thing where you decide that you've had enough destruction from enemy power, and you decide to flee and accede to the enemies' terms? That's called "losing a war."

I've looked into this whole "losing/winning" thing, and I think I'm on fairly solid ground here.

Andrew: great article. But airpower is not limited to dropping bombs. You've skipped over a couple of areas in which aircraft can be fantastically useful in COIN.

First, ISTAR. Put the right optics on the right mounts and you can sit in a hovering helicopter or an orbiting fast jet and conduct surveillance from XXX miles away or XXX thousands of feet up. If it's a reasonably permissive environment (Basra or Belfast) then the population will be used to seeing helicopters buzzing around the place. Even if they suspect they're looking at something, they won't know what. (See: panopticon). Even if the environment's too hot for low-level hovering (say, Mogadishu), you can use an orbiting fixed-wing platform like a Nimrod or a P-3.

Second, transport. Some areas won't be accessible by land at all, due to culvert bombs and snipers. South Armagh, for example - putting a land convoy through to XMG in the 1970s/80s would have required, probably, an armoured battle group. Helicopters are great for this - also for QRFs, rapid deployment of snatch teams/blocking forces, casevac and so on.

Military successes don't matter in the real world if they're not political successes, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Certainly if you're studying tactics, they're quite important, regardless of the political context.

That presumes that you can distinguish between the military levels and the political levels which I don't think one can. [Always; obviously, there'll be individual exceptions.] That's my point; there are only different levels of tactical/strategic schemes, shading their way from what we conventionally describe as military to what we conventionally describe as political. Those are merely labels of convenience, though, that we tack on what I see as a continuum.

[More or less. It's complicated.]

And since I doubt there's more I can say productively on the issue, I'll bow out now.

I mean, they joined the *military* and they're opposed to something because it's *dangerous*?!?! What the *#%@%@(%* line of work did they think they were going into, Extreme Pinochle? And "not sexy"!?!? Again, what the Sam Hill?!? Who precisely is having sex with whom, here?

Here's what it means: ground support doctrine has, up until fairly recently, meant flying low and slow, with the pilot picking out targets by eyeball. Given the WIDE availability of handheld surface-to-air missiles, this presents a certain hazard to pilot and equipment. I believe Gary mentioned equipment cost, but cost to train the pilot is also a major consideration.

Current ground support doctrine is evolving into a higher-flying observer that only descends, on an as-needed basis, to attack a target with guns or short-range missiles, or (again, if needed) get closer to assure positive ID of the target. As I've mentioned numerous times, I work on targeting systems, and these are good enough to identify vehicles and buildings from far outside handheld SAM range.

Now, in my opinion, this sort of approach needs to be developed and refined with the same amount of vigor as was applied to SAM suppression doctrine. The danger here is what I like to think of as "cockiness". Fortunately, our pilots tend to be rather fond of their own lives, and tend to spend a great deal of time planning on how not to die.

Doctors are also quite capable of petty rivalry, ignorance, and self-glorification, but dick-measuring is less pervasive.

In my experience, the "dick-measuring", as you call it, is almost entirely cultural. Real pilots (not the kind you see in the movies, mind you) tend to be anal-retentive nearly to the point of mania, and competent to the point where they're as good as what they do as anyone else could be. These are attributes that tend to keep them alive long enough to see and survive combat. I'm not an expert on military pilots, but I've been around them quite a lot, and the jokes stop just as soon as the job starts, if not sooner.

Thus, USAF procurement decisions are not based on distant factors such as "will this work against the most probable enemy?" but on local factors, such as "how does this improve the Air Force's position vis-a-vis the other services?"

I'd say it's a mix. The last time I looked, USAF acquisitions tend to concentrate mostly on fighter aircraft, because the top brass tend to be fighter jocks. It's a matter of mentality more than anything else. However, the notion that mentality dominates somehow fails to explain how the B-2 and B-1 got built; those were extraordinarily expensive programs. And, if I recall correctly, SDIO was run out of the Air Force. So it's probably best to think of it as a bunch of different, competing influences, some of which win out more often than others. That said, nearly the only thing USAF competes with other services on is money. And let's not forget that there are Navy and Marine aviators out there, too. I've been around some of them as well, and they tend to be equally serious when on the job.

Come to think of it, I know quite a few people in (or formerly in) the service, and without exception they are serious and as competent in their job as they can be. If they weren't, they would not have risen to the position they hold, and wouldn't be able to hold it for long if they began to screw up. Obviously there are exceptions to this, as we've seen in the last few years, but what you don't see much are the people who do their job well; you don't see it because it's the norm.

I should probably note that, despite my complaints about the Air Force, I have no doubt that Air Force Generals are trying to find the best way to do the tasks they are given. It's just that their mandate includes a lot of stuff that doesn't matter much for us CDATs; we're more interested in CAS and BAI (Battlefield Air Interdiction), missions that are very high payoff (in high-intensity conflict) and that we tend to want very much when we're trying to figure out the best way to destroy the enemy.

ajay brings out a good point, too; I forgot to get into the many other really interesting things air power can do as regards transportation and surveillance. Our ability to gather intelligence prior to launching missions relies heavily on the Air Force, and they do a tremendous job.

Finally, it should be noted that the Air Force isn't really a military organization. They're more like a corporation with weapons. ;)

I should also point out that, when it comes to COIN, we're all working with tools that were designed for high-intensity conflict, and all services are working very hard to figure out how to utilize those tools in a COIN environment.

"Real pilots (not the kind you see in the movies, mind you) tend to be anal-retentive nearly to the point of mania, and competent to the point where they're as good as what they do as anyone else could be."

`There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.'

There's a lot of truth in that. I've worked with Army pilots, and it is simply amazing the amount of planning they put into every mission. They've got a tough job and they work very hard to do it right. I'm confident Air Force pilots are no less meticulous.

The last inattentive Army pilot probably walked into a tail rotor.

Which is to say that NOT working-hard-to-do-it-right can have some serious consequences.

Indeed. I'm always amazed that the Army can turn out mechanics who can make sure that helicopters are fully-mission-capable all the time, but when my tank has a problem will tell me to 'run it until it blows.'

Your tank doesn't tend to fall as far when the engine goes, probably.

But yes, I see your point. You'd like to have equipment that never breaks, just like the helos. I'm wondering: how many mechanics do tankers have at their disposal, on a per-tank basis?

I'd guess it all boils down to cost, and I'd hope that tanks are FMC when going into battle.

Your tank doesn't tend to fall as far when the engine goes, probably.

And you can't get out and push a helicopter.

"And you can't get out and push a helicopter."

Well, you can; it just doesn't work that well. Even if you flap your arms very hard.

You can get out and push a tank, but that doesn't work so well, either.

After all, an M1A2 masses nearly 70 tons, so you'd need quite a few more than the crew to get it going.

After all, an M1A2 masses nearly 70 tons, so you'd need quite a few more than the crew to get it going.

Huh, I was sure Gary was going to point that out first.

Hey, the horrible physics of The Hulk still haunts me. Like when Hulk hammer-threw the M1A2; that was fun. And right after that he hopped a ride on an F-22.

Man, that Raptor must rock, TOTALLY!

Didn't see the Hulk, but that's nothing compared to what shapeshifters can do on Deep Space 9--Odo, it seems, was differently abled, but the normal shapeshifter can become a flame, a seagull, or a starship that masses in the hundreds of tons at least.

I didn't start this tangent. Just want to be clear on that.

Yes, if you can get out and push an M1, you have my respect.

Though come to think of it, a rather cavalier attitude towards the concept of mass is what the Hulk and DS9 scriptwriters have in common.

Andrew--
All you need is the faith of Pat Robertson and Sri Chinmoy, my friend.

Yes, if you can get out and push an M1, you have my respect.

All I'm hearing are problems here. I want SOLUTIONS, people!

Now, to get back on the airpower track -- conventional wisdom in my circle of war nerds (we're "gud at flite sims") is that the strategic bombing of Germany was just as much about killing the pilots of the Luftwaffe as it was about degrading German industry.

Killing the experienced pilots established Allied air superiority for the Normandy invasion and afterwards. I don't think it's coincidental that Germany's big offensive maneuvers after D-Day happened when the weather was too bad for air support -- Mortain demonstrated what happened to mass troop movements in the open when the fighter-bombers were prowling.

"Huh, I was sure Gary was going to point that out first."

I do actually sleep sometimes. (And even occasionally don't read blogs, although in this case it was that "sleep" thing.)

"Hey, the horrible physics of The Hulk still haunts me."

That's not 'orrible physics! That's the physics of Earth 616 (Marvel universe). Everyone knows the Hulk can throw tanks around, for miles, with ease. It's what the awful tv show got so wrong. The Hulk can hold up a bloody mountain range, if Molecule Man drops it on him and other heros, if someone taunts him to make him angry.

Nobody stronger than Hulk. Hulk strongest one there is!

Remember: argue with Hulk about physics, Hulk smash!

Donald: "...but the normal shapeshifter can become a flame, a seagull, or a starship that masses in the hundreds of tons at least."

I don't recall a shapeshifter ever being a starship that size. I recall one flying through space without being very large, but that's all; do you have a particular episode in mind? (I'm not saying they can't, though; it's all about the extra-dimensional mass/energy the shapeshifter [or Hulk] channels in, as everyone knows; what the size limits might be, I dunno. It's not "cavalier"; it's extra-dimensional!)

Phillip,

That is true. But the world has changed quite a bit since 1944. Aircraft attempting to hit troop movements now have to worry about SAMs, which are incredibly cost-effective relative to the aircraft and pilots they can eliminate.

I haven't read very deeply on what the strategic bombing of Germany was about, but I think the idea that it killed off the good German fighter pilots sounds like something someone came up with as an after-the-fact justification. Presumably if the Allies had focused on bombing German military positions instead you still would have had German fighters trying to shoot them down.

What little I have read is that strategic bombing in WWII was all about destroying industry and lowering civilian morale (after Hamburg, starting firestorms in cities was thought to be an excellent way of achieving the latter objective). The same for the bombing of Japan. And presumably in Korea, which from what I've read, may have been hit harder than either Germany or Japan (and if you take the highest civilian death toll estimates, harder than both put together).

We're probably remembering the same DS9 episode, Gary. My memory is vague--I thought the thing might have been the size of a Star Trek shuttle craft, which I now that I think about would probably be in the low tens of tons. A full-sized Star Trek starship is probably like a real-life aircraft carrier, I think--tens of thousands of tons. I'm geeky enough to glance at a Star Trek manual in a bookstore if no one is looking, but that kind of surreptitious (sp?) manual-reading doesn't give one time for detailed study.

There's always google, of course, but then they're likely to leak the results of all that I search for and oh, the embarrassment.

Finally, it should be noted that the Air Force isn't really a military organization. They're more like a corporation with weapons. ;)

How is this different from the other services, really?

How is this different from the other services, really?

One, as the emoticon was intended to indicate, that was said mostly tongue-in-cheek. However, there is a grain of truth in it: the Air Force is a lot less combat-oriented and a lot more systems-oriented. It's just how they operate.

Let's say you ask a member of each service to secure a building for you. A soldier or a marine will surround the building with an inner and outer cordon to ensure that nobody can get in or out, then will proceed room to room to make sure the building is clear of the enemy. If you ask an airman to secure a building, he will arrange for a three-year lease with an option to buy.

How is this different from the other services, really?

One, as the emoticon was intended to indicate, that was said mostly tongue-in-cheek. However, there is a grain of truth in it: the Air Force is a lot less combat-oriented and a lot more systems-oriented. It's just how they operate.

Let's say you ask a member of each service to secure a building for you. A soldier or a marine will surround the building with an inner and outer cordon to ensure that nobody can get in or out, then will proceed room to room to make sure the building is clear of the enemy. If you ask an airman to secure a building, he will arrange for a three-year lease with an option to buy.

I can't really speak for the Navy, but the Army and Marine Corps live by the ethos we're all riflemen. We all ought to be able to close with and destroy the enemy through fire and movement. The Air Force is a service of specialists, so they just don't have the same mentality.

"If you ask an airman to secure a building, he will arrange for a three-year lease with an option to buy."

I've watched a lot of Stargate SG-1 now, which inarguably makes me an expert on all things Air Force, and I've never seen them do that.

;-)

I don't use Google Desktop, Donald, and I switch cookies from time to time; the episode turns out to be Chimera. And DS9 used runabouts, not shuttles. Should I also point to the web page on comparative starship sizes? :-)

A full-sized Star Trek starship is probably like a real-life aircraft carrier

depends on the series. but, according to this (http://www.merzo.net, a "Constitution" class Enterprise is 289m long. that's 50m longer than the Hindenburg, or 30m longer than a WWII battleship.

Andrew
Aircraft attempting to hit troop movements now have to worry about SAMs, which are incredibly cost-effective relative to the aircraft and pilots they can eliminate.

That's true, but counterbalancing that effect is the increased availability of stand-off weapons and countermeasures. In 1944, you had to get really close and if a good gunner got you in his sights, you were going to get hit.

That's not to discount the danger of SAMs, though. Though they can be evaded, that's about all you're going to do until you lose it, and they do have a longer (in many cases, much longer) range than most of your stand-off weapons.

Donald
I haven't read very deeply on what the strategic bombing of Germany was about, but I think the idea that it killed off the good German fighter pilots sounds like something someone came up with as an after-the-fact justification. Presumably if the Allies had focused on bombing German military positions instead you still would have had German fighters trying to shoot them down.

True, but the troops could dig in or move. Aircraft factories couldn't (at least not on any timely basis,) and thus had to be defended.

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