Command and Control
On the brink of liberation.


Coalition forces are dominating the battlespace that constitutes Iraq.

Using the Baghdad airport as a base of operations, Coalition ground forces made a “Thunder Run” probe of some 25 miles or so into Baghdad, meeting moderate resistance (much of which was precluded by accompanying airpower). This successful reconnaissance in force was followed by a substantial (130-plus armored vehicle) assault that captured several Iraqi regime symbols (palaces and grounds) and established a new base of operations for Coalition forces in the city proper. This effort, too, was enabled by the urban-warfare air-support concept now being employed over Baghdad.

The urban-warfare air-support concept (Urban Close Air Support) is founded on exceptionally precise weapons, superior intelligence capabilities informing the warfighters of Iraqi targets and threats, superior command and control between the supported and supporting forces, and a modern (perhaps transforming) joint doctrine of urban warfare. The concept includes having a variety of munitions appropriate to the urban setting immediately available on aircraft stacked in orbits above Baghdad. Such munitions include GPS-, laser-, and TV-guided bombs (ranging from 500 to 2000 pounds). It even includes inert concrete-filled bombs whose energy will destroy a tank or artillery piece parked beside a mosque and not damage the mosque. The concept includes well-rehearsed coordination processes between ground and air forces from all military services.

These capabilities, technologies, and concepts are illustrative of the new ideas coming out of the Pentagon and the combatant commands over the past ten years. The modern U.S. military speaks of information superiority and dominating maneuver. Information superiority is about knowing (and understanding more) about yourself and the adversary than the adversary knows and understands. It is about having a command-and-control system of systems that allows you to act on that understanding faster/better than the adversary can. Dominating maneuver is about speed, agility, and combat capability that can leverage the information superiority and act in ways that overwhelm and otherwise defeat the enemy.

The secretary of defense is either accused or praised for urging a major transformation of the U.S. military; we may have seen some the tensions related to those ongoing efforts in the issue of what was/is the right number of troops to send to Iraq earlier in the war. We are certainly seeing the results of the on-going transformation.

The current campaign is certainly different from the last war. Campaign phases are proceeding nearly simultaneously. Such phases include strategic, operational and tactical air strikes (Air Force, Navy, and Army assets); island hopping past Iraqi cites (conducting detailed fighting and force screening missions with coalition Army and Marine capabilities), coalition warfare with Kurds, intelligence gathering, and numerous other missions by the largest collection of special-operations capabilities in military history; and urban operations to include probes, strikes, occupations, and humanitarian support. All of these operations are being undertaken across a geographic area the size of California, in a coherent, disciplined fashion. Individual Military Services capabilities are being blended into what the military calls a synergistic and synchronized campaign. This growing jointness was the goal of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation of the 1980s.

Within one hour: 1) intelligence was gathered and processed that Sadaam and family members would be meeting in a bunker in a Baghdad neighborhood; 2) a B-1 bomber on-orbit over western Iraq and carrying special bunker-busting munitions was tasked by an AF airborne command-and-control aircraft, and 3) four 2,000-pound bombs were placed exactly where desired. The information was reportedly provided by at least four special-operations operators on the ground and operating inside Baghdad. While the damage was massive (a huge crater and apparent damage to immediately surrounding houses) it was precise. The entire neighborhood was not bombed. Hundreds of innocent civilians were not killed.

— Charles E. Miller is a retired Air Force colonel.


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