Close Air Support Strategies are obselete

There are some exceptionally bright people in the Defence community – I know this for a fact. I can only guess then, that change is impeded by a disproportianate amount of red tape – or – there are too many people saying BTTWWADI (But that’s the way we’ve always done it).

A10 Warthog - King of the Blue on Blue

I’m an ex-mud mover. To those of you out there unfamiliar with military aviation terms that is the derogatory name for a close¬†air support pilot. I also did “Liaison” which means you are a glorified air taxi-driver.

I learnt a lot in the Rhodesian Air Force about aviation and about counter insurgency (COIN) since most if not all our operations were counter insurgency. By the time I joined the RhAf in the late ’70’s we had refined our procedures to suit the environment and type of warfare. This was the greatest strength – in my humble opinion – of the Rhodesian military, the ability to be flexible.

In the RAF/FAA/Nato alliance – there seems to be far too much inflexibilty. Just like any large organisation competing against smaller, more dynamic and fluid “competitors” – they are destined to lose.

What is also a tremendous concern for those of us with family members on the ground is the high incidence of blue-on-blue. (A lot of A10s….why?)

It’s time – high time really to review the concepts of FAC (Forward Air Controller) and general Close Ground Support. In the RhAF we did away with FACs in the ’60’s! They are suited to conventional warfare NOT COIN. More effective by far were Ground to Air Controllers (Any Sgt., Cpl or Lance Jack could do this) and on many occasions the target was marked with a simple flare and then any deviation passed onto the pilot. This was very effective where radios had been damaged or where there was insufficient time to mark FLOT.

Different colour flares were not used (only red) but in our modern day environment with so-called precision munitions we could use this to let the pilot know the proximity of FLOT if the radio was US.

It’s a rare thing for the radio to be hit but it happens and the present day tactics provide little or no procedures for this. The flare could be substituted for something a little more modern, (laser flare?) but it has the advantage over making smoke, especially in low light or night conditions.

My point is that Nato is using – collectively – a horribly outdated technique which goes back to WWII! I am sure that with a bit of thought (I’ve dedicated a whole 10 minutes) they could come up with better ground support tactics. Defence thinktanks aren’t just for strategy are they?