Blackwater, the military contract that may be about to be expelled from Iraq, is a rightly controversial company. Though it is far from the bogeyman it has been painted by the media and the Left, it does have a fair share of trigger-happy Soldier of Fortune types in its ranks and its men have been involved in many unfortunate incidents. While its men performed invaluable and brave service during the al-Sadr rebellion, they have also been responsible for many unnececessary casualties among Iraqi civilians. Moreover there was something decidedly fishy about the way the CPA and Paul Bremer chose to pay through the nose for Blackwater bodyguards instead of using an Army, Marine, or Secret Service security detail.
That said, the American military bureaucracy could learn a lot from Blackwater. Unlike the Pentagon, Blackwater has thought carefully since 2003 about how best to equip and protect its employees in the specific environment of Iraq, and has acted swiftly to buy appropriate vehicles, aircraft and weaponsFor a start there are the LittleBirds. Blackwater’s speedy little choppers are understandably popular among U.S. personnel in Iraq. Indeed you would be hard pressed to find a U.S. Army platoon commander there who doesnt wish that the army had a fleet of the small, fast, well-armed scout helicopters (similar to the ‘Loaches’ used in Vietnam) spotting insurgents and ensuring that our munitions hit the right targets. (The army’s big vulnerable Blackhawks, and invaluable Apache gunships, were designed for a different war, and there aren’t nearly enough of them).
To ferry its mercenaries and to escort its convoys along Iraq’s highways, Blackwater has long used the South African Mamba vehicle. (See below).
This is an armored truck used by military organizations that are serious about protecting their human assets. Unlike an up-armored humvee it is designed to survive mine and IED blasts, it’s high enough above the road to provide superior visibility, and it has fire ports so that its passengers can return fire from within the vehicle.
Blackwater is also buying the super-Tucano counterinsurgency plane from Brazil. Designed for Counter-Insurgency, the super Tucano is ideal watching porous borders, patrolling long stretches of strategically important highway, and bringing ordnance to bear on small pockets of insurgents. It can stay up in the air much longer than the USAF’s FI6 and F15 jet fighters and, like the OV-1 Bronco that the US Army foolishly got rid of in the late 1990s, it’s a slower, cheaper, and generally superior platform for forward air control and close air support.
Far too much of our war effort may have been privatized — we have an army that can no longer cook its own meals or do its own laundry and pays contractors through the nose for both. But if Blackwater is anything to go by, the private military sector can be much more thoughtful, flexible and responsible than the Pentagon when it comes to buying equipment for the real world.