The Corner

The one and only.



From my other military guy who shall henceforth be known as “Air Power guy”:


Just to add a little to your Military Guy’s response to the decoy and concealment issue, the Serbs weren’t the only ones learning lessons in the air war over Serbia.

I tried a little experiment with two sergeants, a TACSAT radio and a frequency to one of the JSTARS crews. We found what we were looking for (self-propelled rocket launchers and towed artillery on the Kosovo/Albanian border no one could pinpoint) using good old teamwork. We radioed the coordinates of the holes they were hiding in to the CAOC (Combined Air Operations Center) in Vicenza and would have had a pretty good go of it. By the way, they were firing the tubes (conventional arty) at night then pulling them back into house cellars before daybreak.

The bad news was, some (not in the CAOC) wanted to do more “target area analysis” that completely negated what was our on-the-fly solution to the attack pilot’s Holy Grail: true time-critical targeting (see it and shoot it within minutes).

End of experiment.

We could have gone USAF-to-USAF and just recommended missions on our own but that would have not been right. Before we could make a case up the Joint chain for it, the Serbs threw in the towel.

I just hope the kids that we did this with in Albania are in the 3rd ID TOC (Tactical Operations Center) and whispering in their ALOs’ ears about this sort of exploitation of assets in new and undocumented ways. I’m confident they are. If there is one thing that drives our traditional adversaries crazy, it’s our ability, when confronted with a problem, to make stuff up.

The Soviets, especially, hated that.

What your Military Guy didn’t mention, and I’m sure he was aware of it but he can only say so much in an email (unlike me), was that even when we knew we had ‘em, the ROE forbade an attack because we couldn’t physically see the target, even though we knew it was there. This led to some pretty interesting CAOC-to-pilot conversations but, in the end, everybody complied…there was never a hint of a question about that (at least not that I could see) because they were (and are) real professionals.

One more thing. You don’t have to kill something to neutralize it. No, we didn’t find all the SA-6s in Serbia, but we didn’t have to. The ones that weren’t found were (obviously) hiding, but that’s fine. If they’re hiding because we’ve got F-16CJs with HARMs that will be ALL OVER their a**es the minute they start to emit, they’re useless. (Yes, you can launch optically, but that’s a degraded mode.) In short, we will have achieved the same effect as a missile through their command van–they SAMs are no good and we will retain air superiority, if not supremacy, at the places and times of our choosing. They can hide, and spoof, and shuck and jive but when they try to do something for real with anything remotely resembling conventional forces and sophisticated systems, it’s gonna make Cosmo’s squirrel chasing look tame…they’ll regret it, a lot. So I wouldn’t worry too much about them husbanding their resources for The Big One in Baghdad–we’re looking forward to them trying.

If this sounds like bragging, I do not meant it to–I am confident, at least on the air side, that we have the means to quickly and effectively suppress significant resistance, no matter how much they managed to hide so far. The biggest enemy is complacency. And bad luck is what you get flight pay for.


Sign up for free NR e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review