“As long as the body politic or president or whoever is making decisions absolutely refuses to put American air controllers on ground, essentially pilots are flying with one eye closed.” And losing one eye makes it very, very difficult to take any effective action.
But hey, Obama says we’re winning! He wants you to spark up a fattie and relax!
“U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout,” by Jacqueline Klimas, The Washington Times, May 31, 2015:
Nearly 75 percent of U.S. bombing runs targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria returned to base without firing any weapons in the first four months of 2015, holding their fire mainly because of a lack of ground intelligence and raising questions about President Obama’s key tactic in pushing back an enemy that continues to expand its territory in the war zone.
Key lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated by the slow rate of U.S. bombing sorties, a frustration shared by a former Navy pilot who said in an interview that U.S. forces are clearly needed on the ground in Iraq to help provide targets for these pilots to hit.
Without ground forces, argues Cmdr. Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy helicopter pilot, U.S. airmen are essentially flying half-blind and, as a result, are returning to base with their bombs still in the bay.
“As long as the body politic or president or whoever is making decisions absolutely refuses to put American air controllers on ground, essentially pilots are flying with one eye closed,” Cmdr. Harmer said. “It’s almost impossible for pilots to designate between [Islamic State] fighters and coalition fighters.”
The U.S. conducted 7,319 sorties over Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in the first four months of 2015. Of those, only 1,859 flights — 25.4 percent — had at least one “weapons release,” according to data provided by United States Air Force Central Command. That means that only about one in every four flights dropped a bomb on an Islamic State target.
The slow tempo of strikes has long been a source of frustration for Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The Arizona Republican said at a hearing this year that missions that don’t drop bombs needlessly put American pilots in danger and that U.S. boots on the ground would produce better intelligence that could lead to more effective bombing missions.
Cmdr. Harmer, who now serves as a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study for War, said airstrikes can hit big, static targets such as bridges, runways and tanks without on-the-ground guidance. But to be effective in hitting moving targets such as enemy troops in a firefight, U.S. pilots need American joint terminal attack controllers to give specific directions from the ground to guide their missiles precisely.
Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told reporters Friday that while pilots can often place bombs on targets “within minutes,” it’s very important to be very precise and exercise tactical discipline to protect civilian populations.
“We’re dealing with a hybrid adversary who often hides among the population,” he said. “It’s more important for us to accurately target the enemy with a high degree of precision in order to minimize civilian casualties than it is to strike with such speed or force that would risk disenfranchising the very population we’re there to protect.”
Although most defense analysts agree with Cmdr. Harmer, not all agree that the absence of more U.S. forces on the ground is the only reason many of these airstrike missions are coming back with their bombs still in tow.
There may just be fewer targets that pilots can hit in a war, and all agree it cannot be won by air power alone, said Janine Davidson, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council for Foreign Relations.
“It makes sense that, over time, you’re going to run out of targets,” she said….
Yeah, that’s it.