The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan

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Neutered Jet Fighters
by James Dunnigan
February 12, 2011

In Afghanistan, Italian Tornado fighter-bombers can only use one weapon, their 27mm automatic cannon, and then only in emergencies and only with permission from higher commanders. No smart bombs or missiles can be used by these Italian fighter-bombers. The primary mission of the Italian Tornados in Afghanistan is reconnaissance and surveillance, but on rare occasions they go low to use their cannon (and expose themselves to enemy fire.) Italian helicopter gunships, however, may use both their 20mm automatic cannon and TOW missiles, but have to get permission from headquarters first.

This sort of thing can get worse. Some nations are not allowed to leave their bases, and other simply have lots of restrictions on how they can use their weapons. For nearly a decade, NATO commanders in Afghanistan have been frustrated by all the strings attached to their authority by politicians back home. The ROE (Rules of Engagement) for NATO troops contain dozens of restrictions on how the NATO commander may use troops assigned to him. Most of these have to do with where national contingents can be moved, and how much they can be exposed to danger, and even what weapons can be used. These restrictions render nearly half the NATO troops in Afghanistan useless for combat, but they are there because their governments promised to send troops to Afghanistan to fight Islamic terrorism.


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