Murphy's Law: December 3, 2004

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Close Air Support will never be the same. And not just because of the introduction of JDAM (GPS guided) smart bombs, but because of new tactics, and new surveillance equipment on aircraft. Since World War II, the United States has used air power to help troops fighting in cities, by bombing buildings where there is resistance. This has kept down American casualties, but caused lots of property damage, and dead civilians. The introduction of new ground combat weapons (like shells for M-1 tanks 120mm gun that can do a lot of damage to buildings, and do it precisely), and new sensors for aircraft (night vision targeting pods), have reduced the dependence on bombs. Take the new targeting pods. Sometimes the troops just want the pilot to just let them know what he sees. Such information can be more valuable than a few bombs. Troops also find low flying aircraft, which are not using any weapons, useful for dispersing crowds, or herding hostiles in the right direction. The pilots usually oblige, but many report going days or weeks without dropping any bombs. The bomb handlers back at the air bases and carriers dont care for the extra work (bombs have to be removed from the returning aircraft), but you have to do what the troops want. 

Other types of aircraft are increasingly popular just the way they are. U.S. Army AH-64 attack helicopters are always a welcome sight (or sound, as they are most effective at night.) The latest AH-64s have superb night vision gear, and they also spend a lot of time just being the overhead eyes for the troops below. Same with the air force AC-130 gunships. Crewmen report feeling like radio announcers at a baseball game. They spend so much time just reporting to the troops below what they see. The AC-130s rarely come back with any ammo to unload, but then they often stay in the air all night, using their night vision cameras more than their weapons.

Information is power, and in warfare, its often more useful than firepower. 

 


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