Special Operations: May 19, 2004


Since the late 1990s, the U.S. Air Force has been keen to make greater use of the U.S. Army Special Forces and commandos to find and pinpoint targets on the ground so that the air forces increasingly accurate smart bombs could quickly destroy those targets. The air force called this precision strike." 

But in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the Special Forces had a chance to try these tactics under combat conditions, it quickly became apparent that the key to making all this happen was something more fundamental and difficult; precision maneuver. That means making it easier for the Special Forces A Teams on the ground to know more about what going on in the area they are traveling through. This means having more information on where the enemy is (both to avoid getting ambushed, running into a fight of any kind, and where the best targets for the smart bombs are.) In other words, it wasnt just a matter of the guys on the ground finding the targets for the smart bombs carried by warplanes overhead. No, you had to plug the Special Forces teams into a more powerful intelligence network. And thats what happened, first in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq. UAVs had a lot to do with, both the large ones, like Predator and Global Hawk, and the small (under ten pound) ones like Pointer, which A Teams can carry with them. Special Forces can also make use of their own helicopters for air reconnaissance, plus the access they have to space satellite photos, and recon missions run by air force and navy aircraft. Satellite phones, which the Special Forces got for their A Teams in Afghanistan, enable the troops to get instant  updates about who is where. Equipped with this knowledge, the Special Forces teams can climb into their dune buggies, pickup trucks or SUVs (or mount their horses) and head off along a precise route that avoids possible opposition, and takes them close enough so they can use their binoculars and laser rangefinders to confirm that key targets are nearby, and then call in the smart bombs. Precision strike without precision maneuver does not work. And for the Special Forces to move precisely, they need precision, and timely, intelligence. 


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