Submarine Collisions
"Ren-Faire" Real Number One: Ralph Peters

"Ren Faire" Three: Afghanistan: The Air War

Speaker is Maj. General William J. Rew, director of Operational Planning, Polic and Strategy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operaions, Plans and Requirements, U.S. Air Force.  His title is "Air Power Supporting the Irregular Warefare Fight in Afghanistan"

What you may have picked up is that I am on staff in the Pentagon, I am not fresh from the field...  Therefore, brought along a friend (Bill Hyatt, Brig. Gen.) who has field experience. 

Five months ago, Kern and others went out on patrol.  Travelling down the road, explosion, disabled vehicle, then began taking fire.  Best he could tell, enemy close (few hundred feet?), casualties mounted.  Familiar sound came in, planes, made a pass, then bombed enemy allowing Kern and company to escape.  Talking about the fighter pilot, female, and a bit on her actions that day. 

Not an air war, but joint war; air power versus air war.  Talking about not just about bombs and supplies, but the people.  Emphasis on how live side-by-side with ground troops.  Talk of terrain, how difficult the terrain is, lack of infrastructure -- troops often have to make their own way since only one real highway.  Almost size of Texas, much larger than Iraq.  Airpower provides asymetric advantage to overcome these obstacles. 

Discussion of JTARs (request for air assets), limited access so not all requests can be met; discussion of broad versus focused coverage.  Focus on one request as part of the discussion, what was needed, why it was needed, and how met.  Environment very unfriendly to keeping aircraft running.  Contingency planning.  How critical tankers are.  Talk of how much fuel, enough to take a Toyota Camry a billion miles with avg. mileage.  TACS Theatre Air Control System.  TICs (Troops in Contact).  Tactical Air Controllers and what they do.  Some discussion on enlisted and all they do.  Prepared statement, being read.  How things work, process used, who does what where, when, and how.  Checks and balances.  Mitigation of unintended consequences.  Talk of golden hour, how Air Force helps rescue wounded warriors and others.  Task Force Med, hospital system in Afghanistan.  More on who all is involved along with Air Force on Task Force Med.  Get the troops to the best care possible.  Other supplies as well. 

JPAS system for precision air drop.  Similar/same technology as precision guided bombs now being applied to air drops of supplies.  Allows expansion of where and what can be dropped.

PRTs and how AF is involved, leading many of the teams.  How working on building an Afghan air force.  By 2015 will be up to light attack and intelligence gathering aircraft.  Teaching how to utilize air power.  Continued emphasis on AF people next to soldiers and Marines on the ground.  Three topics not open to discussion:  Pakistan, air base being closed, and AF budget in upcoming presidental budget request. 

What supply challenges do you face in Afghanistan?  Supplies are difficult because of limited access, land-locked.  Major increases of supply sorties as well as operational sorties.  Lots of generalities.  Follow-up asking for more detail.  Some provided. 

Request for additional troops, what is AF part of that?  Will depend on troops, AF is part of enabling forces and level of troops will determine how many.  Not a large number of airfields, will require work to support higher levels of troops and operations.  Some notation on local political sensitivities. 

Inquiry on new control system, copied from Marines?  Well, system came out of WWII and the Brits, did go see the Marine system, discussion of what Marines have to deal with, how are theatre-wide unlike Marines (who can tailor forces), so are making changes to the system (tap dance, IMO), kinetic fighting emphasis, RDS, non-kinetic (move over Bo Jangles), now into irregular warfare, more discussion on how have had to adapt. 

How is pilot-oriented culture adapting to increase use of unmanned, and how about all the other services using them?  Unmanned is hardly unmanned, pilots just not in vehicle.  Take off and land under local control, flown from the States after hand-off.  Talk about where all the video is streamed.  Globalhawk discussion.  To be honest, the thought that the Air Force (both are fighter pilots), but the fact that UAVs are part of our business now is old news.  Now so ingrained in culture -- drop off into discussion of first UAVs and Iraq  More on how amount of data/video increased, targeting pods, and on...  My enthusiasm let you know that the more we can do, we will.  Follow-up, what about other services?  All for it, not a problem (very paraphrased), talk of a recent meeting, again Army having is not a problem/issue -- just need to synchronize use. 

Technology you are describing has/should have cut down friendly-fire dramatically, have you calculated this and is info available to public?  Very large and serious issue, personally involved in mitigation of collateral damage (2000 lb bomb is a big boom), tech changes, study intel real time to mitigate; Taliban has staged things ways they didn't happen, sometimes things done right but innocents in vicinity that weren't detected.  Number of attacks that have not happened because of detection of innocents is thousands though metrics not collected on that.  Follow-up, wouldn't keeping metrics of call-offs help with Karzai and others?  Well, they may have it but we don't/aren't aware. 

Aren't civilian casualties unavoidable in this type fight, and how does this impact with Gates/others saying totally unacceptable?  Collateral damage never acceptable, discussion of Iraq again during invasion.  But the enemy knows the weak points, what will be used against us in the next day's news clips, and do tactics that will mingle themselves with non-combatants.  Do we drop and protect or not?  No easy answer.  Agree with Gen. Rew, it's tough.  We do all we can, but you still have tough decisions to make.  Collateral damage is significantly reduced from even five years ago.  Iraq is quiet, not same in Afghanistan.  May get worse before gets better. 

Gates question, on rebuke to AF.  Was mainly on nuke end, not this, but Rew is addressing.  AF is joint force, have been for some time, will continue to be. 

Stress on airframes/aircraft?  Concerns about AF recapitalization needs being overshadowed by Army, Navy, and Marines?  Combat aircraft 25 or so years old, the age of fleet is significant, amount of wear-and-tear is significant.  Balance has to be struck between recap of AF and rest of armed forces.  707s bulk of tanker fleet, 50s design.  Flown most craft at very high rate.  Very concerned, but have to balance against budget and (limited) defense budget.  Big issue though. 

Follow-up on Gates critique.  been any re-evaluation of strategic vision?  Irregular warfare task force.  Results gathered over last year, being presented this week.  Spectrum from global thermonuclear warfare to irregular to humanitarian and what our leadership has said we will be as capable in irregular warfare as we are on traditional (paraphrased on last word).  Talk of future capabilities of unmanned.  Now manned.  Adapting.  Tradeoff has yet to be determined. 

F-22.  How do you buy that many (381?), how do you replace all the others mentioned?  Why did you stop cutting personnel?  First off, our current leadership (and before ) realized that cuts were too drastic and could not go to levels and still do all needed.  Stopped force shaping and related, asked to reverse.  Flying F-16 against F-22 was not fun experience.  Just a totally different fighter, operates at a different (higher) level than anything else in the world.  How many needed is the big question.  Non-irregular threats increasing, and F-22 only thing that can go up against them.  What is balance between irregular and high-end air warfare (which is proliferating).  AF has stated position, but what will happen will be trade-off and is unknown. 

In Afghanistan, that Golden hour is really two hours because of terrain and such.  What are you doing to reduce that time?  More helicopters or other?  Forward staging being used to reduce response time, other things going on.  Big emphasis item, how to get the time down.  Nothing except better is good enough.  Forward surgical teams. 

Similar restrictions on use for air assets as some nations are placing on their ground troops?  National caveats are a fact, comparison to ROE.  I don't want to pick on the French Oh, go ahead laughter.  Lot of key decisions that depend on caveats and restrictions.  Price of doing business in coalition warfare. Can't think of a situation where caveats held anyone back.  Probably something out there, but nothing comes to mind.

How important is it to get Bin Laden these days?  Personal opinion is what you are asking?  We are pretty much in the business of following orders, think that if we knew where he was would go get him.  Make a lot of people happy.  Not trying to be flip.  Lot of people say we (US) don't have the persistence, I disagree.

Not a concise question, rambling on, is there ramble ramble ramble.  Think I get where you're going...  Improvements constant from start, always trying to increase infrastructure of two main bases and other options are always being evaluated.  Infrastrucure more than runway and hangers - logistics, communications, etc.  Will bring in as much as we can, but is a very tough environment and logistics a bear (very paraphrased). 

Another rambling, resources and all the new tasks and old, what are you willing to give up to get things done.  Where will pressure break?  Not in that part of AF, but personally think that more to do, same amount of money and people, will have to get more flexible and better.  Not free, will come at a cost.  forces focused only on one mission will take on new tasks.  Multi-role and multi-tasking (paraphrased)  Have a situation where we will have to make tradeoffs, baseball analogy, personal opinion, only way to operate across range.

What do you think about DOE labs becoming part of DOD?  You're ending a great session with stump the dummy, you win.