Small Wars Journal

How the USAF Should Adapt to 21st Century Irregular Warfare

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 10:15am

Penny Packets Revisited:

How the USAF Should Adapt to 21st Century Irregular Warfare

by Ben Zweibelson

Download the Full Article: Penny Packets Revisited

This white paper will argue that C2DE in irregular warfare conflicts should be replaced with decentralized control, decentralized execution (DCDE) in a 'penny packets revisited' format utilizing lessons drawn from the French military in Algeria. This is a three part argument and requires the Air Force to adapt turbo-prop platforms in lieu of their preferred F-22s/F-16s and decentralize them at locally positioned forward operating bases within each irregular area of operations requiring ground assets. Lastly, the Combined/Joint Force Air Component Commander (C/JFACC), Joint Air Tasking Cycle, Joint Air and Space Operations Plan, Air Operations Directive, and Master Air Attack Plan all need significant dismantlement and refinement in irregular conflict environments for this 'penny packets revisited' to work.

Download the Full Article: Penny Packets Revisited

Major Ben Zweibelson is an active duty Infantry Officer currently attending the School for Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has a Masters in Liberal Arts from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Military Arts and Science from the Air Force. He participated in two deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

About the Author(s)

Ben Zweibelson is the Program Director for Design and Innovation at the Joint Special Operations University and is a doctoral student at Lancaster University. A retired U.S. Army Infantry officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ben has provided design education across USSOCOM, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Government, academia and industry as well as internationally. He was named “design conference ambassador” for the second year in a row for the upcoming IMDC, and has recently lectured on design at the Polish and Danish War Colleges, the Canadian Forces College, NATO Schools at Oberammergau, the National Counterterrorism Center, the IBM capstone SPADE conference for NATO in Copenhagen, as well as numerous Special Operations and strategic level defense assets in 2018. He resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife and three children. He can be reached at



Squat (not verified)

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 6:39pm

Discounting some intellectual dishonesty about the composition of our military and lore (the Al Udeid CAOC has not ran on a 72 hr cycle for nearly ¾ of a decade now), the C2 piece of the argument is fairly well presented.
The Advantages of Penny Packeting:
- It does tie aircraft to terrain--something useful when your mission must have air to be successful. In the case of AFG, the RC commander would allocate his apportioned air forces to his priority operations regardless of the ISAF Fires prioritization process (which incentivizes gaming of Joint Tactical Air Requests (JTARs) making the determination of these kinds of missions difficult).
- Aircraft can be hard scheduled to a single JTAR regardless of other higher priority missions (i.e., Troops in Contact (TICs)) in other areas.
- Over time, there could be tactical innovation between dedicated units. The Army Aviation community has done a great job of this. This is huge, but really isnt brought out in the piece. Ill take the point that there is little unit to unit coordination between AF and Army units. But it isnt for the reason you think. Comms are available. When I have tried it, no one seemed interested on the other end. "Just be there... .Roger."
(Sorry, but the terrain familiarity and "maps" advantages just arent there... in AFG, most TICs occur in predicable areas, so callsigns and terrain do, in fact, become very familiar. Most cockpits have moving maps either in avionics or on laptops. Some (like the B-1) can derive mensurated coordinates anywhere in theater on a laptop.)
The Disadvantages of Penny Packeting:
- Limits pool of aircraft for Troops in Contact (TICs) response. One of the things you would lose is the ability to swing aircraft quickly to support troops in contact. This happens frequently in the current fight. Some days the east is hot, some days the south is hot. Could you accept the loss of this capability?
- Lose flexibility to swing between different areas and mission types. In AFG, SOF gets second call on aircraft after TICs. Under the present system, we can (and do) swing aircraft between different commands when SOF ops are ongoing to provide balanced coverage. Not everyone is happy, but not everyone is left alone without air either. If a SOF mission cancels, those aircraft are reassigned and flown and not left on the ground "hard scheduled" to SOF.
- What happens when the Navy has a down day? Carrier operations require down days on occasion to allow for reprovisioning and catapult maintenance. What happens to ground units these assets support during this period? The present C2 structure allows county-wide shifting of air assets to accommodate these periods.
For the commander, the key question is what problem is more important: optimizing air for JTAR coverage or optimizing air for flexibility. If you want to optimize JTAR dwell, then penny packeting works well. On the other hand, if you want to optimize for TIC response and have flexibility to support SOF, then the centralized control approach works best.
Its A Moot Point Given Today's Demands
What the article fails to indicate is that it is not just Airmen choosing centralized control--it is also US Army commanders.


I have been lurking on the Small War Journal for a while and decided to weigh in on this argument. A little background for the moment, I am an Air Force Helicopter Pilot, currently serving in Afghanistan as an imbedded mentor for the Afghan Air Force.

So for the current ongoing argument it is an example of the long running point of view differences between the United States Army and the United States Air Force since the inception of the Airplane. Everyone agrees that airpower is a key and critical part of any military operation in the world today. Where the disagreement comes down is who should be in charge of the assets. This is one of the issues I deal with daily working with the Afghan Air Force, which is a collect of 15 Airlift assets (C-27/AN-32s) and rotary wing assets (28 Mi-17 and 8 Mi-35s). Essentially the argument in this article boils down to the Army wanting more control of the kinetic aviation assets. However, where the author is failing in his analysis is an understanding of the strengths airpower brings to the table in an irregular warfare environment. If you reference Airpower in Small Wars by James Corum and Wray Johnson you will see a number of examples of how Airpower influences irregular warfare operations. First, the general agreement is that in small wars airpower is subservient to the ground forces, but usually not in a direct chain of command sense as depicted in this article. Second, in small wars airpower is generally most useful in the supportive roles of transportation/resupply, intelligence/reconnaissance, psychological operations, and finally in direct combat applications. Unfortunately this is where I see much of the U.S. Army's failure here in Afghanistan. Counter-insurgencies are most often about political and economic corrections with some military operations involved. So the actions of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and advisors are key to the defeat of the insurgency, not necessarily direct kinetic operations. However, since I have been here the majority of the U.S. Army's focus has been on Kinetic operations. In fact in the last 8 years the U.S. Army has gone through a major transition from purchasing M1s and the Crusader heavy artillery system to purchasing armored cars/IED resistant vehicles like the MRAP. But the author's argument that the Air Force is taking its time reconfiguring its force is actually true in certain cases, but it completely glazes over examples like the acquisition of UAVS, like the Predator and the Reaper. These systems have been rapidly prototypes, produced and deployed in support of U.S. Army ground forces to provide advanced ISR capability to ground commanders. I could make the argument that the U.S. army is taking too long getting ready of its heavy armor battalions and that the M-1 Abrams and the MLRS are dinosaurs of a Cold War centric organizational scheme that will not survive 21st century irregular warfare. The problem overall is that the U.S. Department of Defense suffers from an antiquated procurement process that does not keep pace with current or future conflicts. Nor does the Department of Defense have a structured doctrine that covers the full range of conflict from policing actions and humanitarian assistance to Full Peer on Peer State combat. This has been the same problem since Korea, we have built a military designed for full scale industrial combat, so we had to fight all of the small war with a military that was not suited for that application.

In the end, the Air Force actually agrees with the author. The Air Force should be awarding the Light Attach ISR Aircraft contract within the next year for deployment to Afghanistan by 2013. But it will not change the existing command and control schema anytime soon. That would be like asking the army to turn over the 101st Air Assault Battalions to the Air Force because it understands how to employ airpower more effectively.

Sean T. Masters, Capt USAF

Geez. Where to begin?
1. This paper is NOT designed to 'stimulate' discussion. The sheer number of trigger words employed (<i>Enslaved, Dreadful, Slave, Dogma,</i> etc) tells me it was designed to inflame.

2. Contrary to many ground observers' wishes, Airpower does NOT nor ever has = CAS. Now acknowledge that budgets are finite. If the Major is willing to provide sufficient budget to provide all the airplanes, people, and support infrastructure to field specialized organic airpower, in addition to the aircraft/weapon systems needed to perform other AF responsibilities, then I'm certain the Air Force would be delighted to do so. That the cost comparisons between 'high' and 'low' systems are provided as somehow relevant only reveal the Major has ZERO understanding of Total System Life-Cycle Cost.

3. The quad-chart is an EPIC "Fail". Cherry picking 'failures' by using conflicts where failure of national policy or resolve can be more easily identified as the 'cause' and airpower's irrelevance in comparison to other failures is laughable. To then inject the 'French Example' that is held up as a model to follow in the body of the text as a 'tactical' success yet 'strategic' failure is simply <i>Sublime</i>. Let us know how the 'surgery was a success but the patient died' argument works out. There's a couple of other problems with the slide, but I'll hold them in reserve for now, except somebody should tell the Major that his CIC has declared Iraq a 'victory' so he needs to screw up his narrative even more and change the color.

I could go on (and on), but let us close with an observation on the literary vehicle the Major has chosen, i.e. how the Tedder quote: ..."galvanized the United States Air Force institution in terms of doctrine, organization, procurement, and joint operations from 1947 forward." Sorry, but...No. The AF was already using the C2DE concept as an evolved construct that sprang from 20 years of effort in the Air Corps Tactical School (1920-40) and summarized in the public writings of Hap Arnold by 1942 at the latest.

Andy (not verified)

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 12:09pm

The problem is that for HIC, the operational "deep battle" is the USAF's bread and butter. Is this role something the Army is really prepared to take on? What about SEAD? Are these areas the Army would devote sufficient resources to? I have my doubts.

Personally, I've got no problems letting the Army buy fixed-wing for the CAS role. The Air Force could then focus on the deep battle, air supremacy and whatever strategic targets might exist. With that change I would transfer the non-tactical ADA over to the Air Force (Patriot/THAAD).

Of course, CAS today isn't the same as CAS even 20 years ago. The idea that the best CAS is delivered with low-flying, slow aircraft while using the pilot's MK-1 eyeball for targeting is a bit antiquated but still seems to be a popular idea. It does works great until the enemy introduces even rudimentary air defenses.

Of course, none of that is going to happen because it would upset too many Congressional rice bowls. I'm also not sure that such structural changes (which would be disruptive) are strictly necessary as there are other ways to solve the problem of air-ground coordinated ops.

GoldenKnight03 (not verified)

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 12:06pm

Interesting article; so Major Zweibelson is arguing that the USAF insists on using high performance aircraft in conficts despite whether they are the best tool for the job. His paper suggests that the centralized control and decentralized execution application in all levels of conflict may not be the right method. However, I think that the author is getting at a core problem in our military; he is talking about military culture.
Does the Air Force prepare and execute war differently than the Army, Navy, and USMC? They certainly do. Does the USAF have some deep cultural values on air platforms, control of those platforms, and employment of those platforms in conflict? Absolutely. While reading his paper, I thought of an interesting way of depicting his argument.
This is a bit of a stretch, but indulge me here for a moment. Say you owned a chain of restaurants and an expensive VIP limo service under the same business. Both services require different tools, and have different missions, different 'desired end states.' You might purchase expensive stretched limos and train drivers to work for the limo service, but you would not want to use those drivers and vehicles for delivering pizza. Your pizza drivers should drive cheaper economy vehicles which reflect your selection of the right platform for the right mission.
If I get the Major's argument correctly, isn't he asking why the USAF uses the expensive limo to deliver pizza as well as VIPs around? A limo can deliver a pizza as effectively as a fighter can drop ordinance onto a target in a COIN environment, but it costs you significantly more. It would be cheaper to save your limos for one particular role (say winning air superiority with North Korea, Iran, etc) and tailoring in COIN environments such as OEF/OIF/Africa some cheap pizza delivery economy cars to do the job more efficiently.
This example might not fit just right, but I think our services need to start looking hard at our bottom lines and accept where our country is heading shortly in terms of future military budgets.
Either way, good work here; excellent discussion thread!


Thu, 09/30/2010 - 11:22am

<i>If taken a step further, perhaps what this paper is suggesting is a radical restructuring of the USAF...perhaps dissolving the USAF as currently configured, returning all fixed wing CAS capabilties to the Army, and reorganizing the USAF into a primarily space-based force that controls all air/ space assets above 30,000 feet, leaving to the Army all air assets below that....?

Years ago, the author Ben Bova (I'm pretty sure it was him) wrote of the creation of the US Aerospace Force, an organization that dominated the skies from space. Our Air Force has no match is the skies. We own the air. What better way to maintain mastery of the air than from space?

While the strategically focused Aerospace force watches the planet, the airspace directly over contested ground will be in the hands of a resurrected, tactically-oriented Army Air Corps that, like USMC aviation community, has a close link, both professionally and personally (like our Apache pilots), to the bubbas on the ground. The Army would control acquisition of CAS-focused fixed-wing airframes and would array them on the battlefield as described in the paper.


If an Aerospace Force can indeed maintain air superiority in some manner, I like it.

Pilots and ground bubbas need to "Speak the same language". I saw an Air Force pilot walk an Army squad right into the kill zone of the ambush because she didn't recognize their formation as an ambush and reported it as "a group of men hanging by the road." Not really her fault, I doubt she'd be trained in small unit formations. But I doubt an Army pilot would be so unfamiliar with ground tactics, and I know a Marine pilot would recognize it immediately.

If taken a step further, perhaps what this paper is suggesting is a radical restructuring of the USAF...perhaps dissolving the USAF as currently configured, returning all fixed wing CAS capabilties to the Army, and reorganizing the USAF into a primarily space-based force that controls all air/ space assets above 30,000 feet, leaving to the Army all air assets below that....?

Years ago, the author Ben Bova (I'm pretty sure it was him) wrote of the creation of the US Aerospace Force, an organization that dominated the skies from space. Our Air Force has no match is the skies. We own the air. What better way to maintain mastery of the air than from space?

While the strategically focused Aerospace force watches the planet, the airspace directly over contested ground will be in the hands of a resurrected, tactically-oriented Army Air Corps that, like USMC aviation community, has a close link, both professionally and personally (like our Apache pilots), to the bubbas on the ground. The Army would control acquisition of CAS-focused fixed-wing airframes and would array them on the battlefield as described in the paper.


Matt Lengel (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 5:25pm

As one of BZ's classmate for going on 2 years now, I can tell you that this paper is having the effect he was looking for--to start a discussion. The moment we go immediately to our service's cultural foxholes we lose the real battle. We must put critical thought to those uncomfortable situations and questions that have ugly answers. Our government and our enemies are going to be make us have tough discussions like this in the future.

While I am a proud Air Force officer (albeit a heretic at times), I ask all of you who defend C2DE "to the death" to be intellectually honest. Do you really think that C2DE is a one-size fits all concept? Will it work all the time? Do you have the intellectual fortitude to come up with an instance that it is not the best option? If so, what stipulations would you attach to it (i.e. Div CGs need to work well and be prepared to assist each other)

While I do not fully agree with BZ's recommended implementation, those differences come from my service's knowledge of doing the things he asks in a slightly more efficient and effective manner. Those minor differences do not invalidate the entire concept.

So lets challenge our closely held beliefs (whatever they may be). Whether you job is to think about tactics or strategy, give the opposing view equal time with your intellectual horsepower. Our enemies are working hard to challenge our methods. Let's beat them to the punch and do that work ourselves while we are close to 1g and zero knots. This will help to give our Nation the best strategy, plans and tactics possible.

Maj Matthew Lengel, USAF


Wed, 09/29/2010 - 5:10pm

Why do all the good topics come up when I having a busy day?

While I support the endstate of being able to offer 'horses for courses' air support to deployed land forces, this paper really feels like it has been written by someone who has done some reading and picked up on a few buzzwords but hasn't really spent a lot of time in the air environment to get a feel for issues from 'the other guy's' perspective.

In discounting the Berlin airlift from his control/execution matrix, the author indicates that perhaps he hasn't really thought his approach through - if the Airlift has been discounted purely because it was non-kinetic, then he does really have a good handle on the broader irregular environment: there is somewhat more to air support in that environment than simply providing bombs on the ground in support of Army kineticists (who are probably every bit as narrow minded as air kineticists!).

Some of the 'facts' presented on the advantages/disadvantages are questionable at best.

Without researching it myself I think the cost comparisons between F-22 and A-10 are flawed and have been ramped up and ramped down respectively to support the argument - don't get me wrong, I'd love to see new-build A-10s rolling off the line at $13mil a pop, I just can't see it happening any time soon at that cost.

The bibiliography is uber-short, so short as to indicate that a lot more research was really necessary to develop a balanced argument...maybe at least some reading of 'competing' air and land doctrine.

For another discussion of a DCDE model, track down USMC MAJ Michael Morris' 2000 CSC paper Fighting Columns in Small Wars. If the aim of this paper was actually to argue for aircraft better suited to contemporary operations, then it should have done that based on that environment and the requirements of those operating in it and not strayed off into what is a largely irrelevant area of C2DE versus DCDE. A paper that led into a user requirement for a dedicated COIN aircraft for today's environment would be useful...the designs from the 60s like the OV-10 would probably be a good start point...

Andy (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 4:51pm

Average Joe,

<blockquote>This author tosses out a very interesting arguement, but it also is a bit of a grenade in the room for the USAF in particular. There isn't anything wrong with that because these sort of debates are necessary for keeping the entire military force intellectually honest.</blockquote>

Well, I disagree. There's nothing intellectually honest about that kind of grenade tossing and all it does is detract from and obscure the merits of an issue, particularly when those grenades are factually dubious and impugn motives.

<blockquote>What jazzes me every time SWJ or JFQ or another acceptable journal publishes an essay that has some bite to it, folks start digging into their institutional defensive positions and start calling in counter-artillery strikes to defeat the argument.</blockquote>

Or maybe what's good for the goose is good for the gander? If the object is to get an audience to seriously consider one's arguments, then grenade method seems to be a strange way to accomplish that.

That said, my primary objection is that the use of those opinions and the "biting" language appears, to me at least, to have come at the expense of substance. If one is going to write a persuasive/argumentative essay then I think it's important to built a solid argument before adding the grenades. I don't mind wading through a few grenades if the argument is compelling, well written and supported. In this case I felt like I was wading through grenades to even find a coherent argument of which there were precious few. And note that I did mention some of those substantive problems in my initial comment.

<a href="… an example that is very well done IMO that covers some of the same territory</a> (PDF File).

Average Joe (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 2:50pm

I want to hold your feet to the fire a bit concerning your first post on this one; here's the perspective from my foxhole. This author tosses out a very interesting arguement, but it also is a bit of a grenade in the room for the USAF in particular. There isn't anything wrong with that because these sort of debates are necessary for keeping the entire military force intellectually honest. Your first post consisted of simple mud-slinging with little on the counter-arguement side. Your second post is much more appropriate for fueling a sound intellectual debate on this topic. What jazzes me every time SWJ or JFQ or another acceptable journal publishes an essay that has some bite to it, folks start digging into their institutional defensive positions and start calling in counter-artillery strikes to defeat the argument. Instead of prattling on about word choice (of which your first post was equally guilty of), how about we talk about the ideas behind the words. The graphics in this paper are pretty interesting in that they argue some trends in air power engagements- I haven't seen any others so well dipicted (although I am a picture guy so I am enjoying this paper perhaps more for that). Another earlier poster just mentioned the AH-64, a war machine near and dear to my heart- and that is precisely the sort of discussion we need to have between big Army and big Air Force. Why does the Army use attack helicopters today in the same manner that they employed fighters in WWII? Did the seperation of USAF from USA after WWII create that tension, and does that tension still exist today? I can attest that in current conflicts, there are problems with ground forces getting air platforms not from their organization to support them with the precision that the ground would like. Will there ever be a perfect system? I doubt it- but is this author identifying a valid problem today? Is centralized control the best way to influence a low intensity environment? These are great concepts to explore, despite the use of words you clearly are uncomfortable with. I thought the 'yoke' phrase was spot-on.

Andy (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 2:29pm

Average Joe,

The paper is ostensibly about reforming the JFACC system, its processes and decentralizing the air component's command and control. As I mentioned, that is a legitimate topic for debate. However, the essay actually contains little that specifically addresses that topic except in a superficial way.

There's no cost-benefit analysis for example - it's simply assumed that decentralization is better. There's no discussion of how forces would be allocated to decentralized locations and who would decide which locations get priority on forces. There's no discussion of how theater assets and low-density/high demand assets should be managed. There's no discussion of how, in a decentralized system, a theater Commander could focus a majority of assets in one geographic area in order to support a major operation (like Operation Moshtarak). That is frankly easier to do under the current system. Furthermore, it's simply assumed that centralized basing of aircraft is more expensive than decentralized basing. That may or may not be true depending on circumstances and geography - in Afghanistan, for example, decentralized basing is very expensive because of supply issues. Those are just some of the relevant issues that could have been discussed but weren't.

Instead we get the author's conjecture that an operation was scrapped because the "Air Force" (and the author seems to use the Air Force and JFACC interchangeably for some reason) was "self-serving," among other dubious and irrelevant claims. I fail to see how those opinions, peppered throughout the essay, have any relevance at all to the question of air component decentralization, but maybe you can enlighten me.

George (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 2:28pm

I agree with some of the points made in this paper, namely that the ATO cycle and the planning process should be completely reexamined in light of the speed of modern warfare, although I think that point could be made regardless if whether or not we're talking about irregular warfare or high-intensity conflict. I know that from personal experience in the opening phases of OIF, nobody from my squadron, nor myself, hit very many ATO-assigned targets, but rather were almost exclusively tasked on the fly.

I do find that some of the assertions made in the paper to be debateable, however. The first one is the implication that the USAF's planning process was part of the reason for the defeats or uncertain outcomes of Q4 conflicts. This seems to be a large leap of logic at best, and doesn't ring true for at least one of the examples, that of Somalia. IIRC, the only USAF fixed-wing support in that conflict were AC-130s, and if memory serves from my days as a Ranger Battalion ALO, the gunship guys were always deeply involved in the planning process and the ground commander's scheme of manuever from the get-go, much like the author desires from the USAF now.

Second, as I was looking at Figure 3, it struck me that this is exactly what the AH-64 Apache provides, and it makes me wonder what exactly a small turbo-prop aircraft could provide much beyond the Apache in terms of close air support? Maybe a bit more on the top-end in terms of speed to get there quicker, and maybe it can lug a couple 500-lb bombs where the Apache can't, but that would seem to be about it.

The analysis should really also consider the downside to the notion of forward, austere basing concepts. There is no free lunch, and when you take your assets and distribute them from a single large, centrally located base to many, smaller bases, you add a fairly large logistics burden that should be considered. You now either need more land convoys to haul fuel, weapons, parts, etc (which are fairly vulnerable to insurgent attack), or you need more intra-theater airlift, which you may or may not have or may need for other purposes. Forces that are also divvied up to commanders or specific AOs may be needed elsewhere on any given day, depending on the tactical situation in theater (so, in some ways, flexibility is taken away with this).

Lastly, the F-22 vs. turbo-prop debate...I find this interesting in that I've observed this very issue debated on this forum, albeit with an Army slant with regards to training for irregular warfare vice HIC. The USAF is in the same to support the fight we've got at the moment while being prepared to fight a HIC. The simple fact is, the USAF's inventory is older now than it ever has been in the past, and will get far older before the legacy aircraft have been retired; putting off new aircraft buys to replace older F-15s and F-16s in order to buy limited capability turbo-props is not a wise choice, IMO. You can adapt jet fighters to irregular warfare, although imperfectly, as the author points out; you cannot adapt a T-6 Texan II to fight in the face of any sort of air defenses, and so would be useless in almost any phase of a HIC.

duck (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 1:26pm

The OV-10 is one of the best FAC/A, TAC/A, CAS platforms ever made or used. Not coincidently, the OV-10 boys got their assess shot off in the first gulf war.

Average Joe (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 1:12pm

You sling alot of mud at this; makes me think of Shakespeare; the lady doth protest much...

That is a cute technique to not actually address what the paper talks about (which I found quite refreshing in today's landscape of 'blah-blah-blah we need more advanced aircraft') but instead you pull some quotes out of it and sprinkle some equally "irrelevant and blatantly parochial opinions" in your response. And to add another nice pedantic touch of flair that you also employed here, in your short response you used 'hyperbolic' twice, 'parochial' three times, 'strawman' twice, 'assertion' three times, and 'allergation' twice. Good criticism stands on the logic of the counter argument, not the passionate vocabulary of those still consuming the kool aid.

Andy (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 12:16pm

Unfortunately, I think this essay undermines it's own arguments with strawmen, unsupported assertions and excessive use of hyperbolic and parochial language and arguments.

First the F-22 is used throughout the piece as strawman to beat up on Air Force doctrine and "dogma." In particular there is a continuous and ludicrous comparison between it and the T-6. It's one thing to suggest the Air Force needs a greater diversity of platforms, or lacks capabilities in certain areas, but it's quite another to beat the dead F-22 horse time and again.

Secondly, there are several unsupported assertions in the essay. Here is probably the most glaring:

<blockquote>"Perhaps one reason why Operation Together Forward was scrapped shortly after its successful start was due to the Air Force self-serving fear that it could prove wildly successful. Such success would throw into question the entire JAOP and C2DE in current and future complex irregular warfare environments." </blockquote>

Perhaps? No evidence or citation is given for this allegation.

Later, the author makes an argument about the limitations of the C2DE system and then says:

<blockquote>"Referring back to the French in Algeria for a moment, the French ground forces likely did
not face these same problems for several considerations."</blockquote>

Did they or didn't they face those same problems? Asserting they "likely" did means nothing, even assuming the original characterization of current operations is accurate, which is debatable.

This trend is capped off in the conclusion with this:

<blockquote>"Figure 4 offers one consideration why the Air Force would oppose any meddling with airframe selections. One F-22 in estimated purchase costs alone would equal 11.5 A-10 Warthogs, or 30x T-6 Texan IIs (2x squadrons worth)."

A highly parochial, unsupported and tired assertion to say the least.

Finally, the overuse of hyperbolic language does not do the essay's arguments justice. For example "enslaved" is used four times in the essay to describe the Air Force. Also used: obtuse, dogma, mantra, slave; the Air Force is "stubborn," "refuses" to see the clear wisdom of the author's assertions, has a "yoke" around it's neck. Etc. Etc. This is not, in my opinion, the language of serious criticism.

So, we get to the end and what is the conclusion to all of this?

<blockquote>"The current ATO cycle is truncated in the irregular warfare environment, and while it does function, it remains less efficient and responsive than if ground forces had ¾penny packets¸ of T-6 equivalent airframes that were based in their respective areas of operation."</blockquote>

So after all those assertions and hyperbole, the bottom line is that the ATO cycle is getting the job done but is inefficient? That's it?

What's unfortunate is that there are real merits to decentralizing at least some JFACC air operations. This essay could have examined the costs <em>and </em>benefits of doing so and may have concluded that decentralization, in whole or part, would be demonstrably superior. Instead, this essay does none of that, preferring to simply declare the superiority of decentralization using, as support, a bunch of irrelevant and blatantly parochial opinions masking as arguments.


Wed, 09/29/2010 - 12:02pm

What the author describes would require the Air Force to operate not just surrounded by austere conditions outside the wire from Bagram Air Base (& Pizza Hut), but from those austere environments as well - having the capability to arrive with everything ready to set-up, operate and maintain an expeditionary airfield in support of ground operations 24/7, and move again as required.

The Air Force acquiring the appropriate turbo-prop airframe issue aside, does the Air Force have an expeditionary mindset - because without that mindset, everything else is a moot point.

Chuck (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 10:46am

Once again another reason why there is a disconnect from the ground pounders to the support element. In iregulare warfare we must begin thinking outside the box like Major Zweibelson has indicated matching the war with the equipment and strategies to win over a small but serious enemy.
This type of warfare will be the mainstay of American warfare for years to come. Lets finally begin to look at this type of warfare with ours eyes open. We need the lower ranks to make the decision not generals who are far from it.