Saturday, January 31, 2015

Think Defense Blog slams RAF Operations against ISIS.

via TD...
Just shy of a months worth of operations and the RAF has expended;
  • Hellfire; 20
  • Brimstone; 5
  • Paveway IV; 12
The target descriptions are equally interesting, a truck, a heavy machine gun position, an armoured personnel carrier and excavator. These targets fall definitely into the ‘tactical’ column rather than attacking ‘strategic’ targets.
What conclusions can we draw (if any) from the number of targets, types of target, launch platform and weapons expended?
  • Reaper is doing just as much of the heavy lifting as Tornado without the massive logistic effort involved with refuelling Tornado?
  • Paveway IV seems to be the referred option for those sorties flown by Tornado?
  • How many Reapers can we buy for a single F35?
  • The effect delivered (destroying an excavator or trucks in singles) are insignificant compared to the cost?
  • Air power used in this manner satisfies the ‘something must be done’ brigade but not much else?
  • Any others?
Now you know why the effort against ISIS is .... a joke.

The US, UK and our allies are all involved in tank plinking.  This air campaign is NOT designed to provide a decisive outcome to the war.  Its just a political game being played with peoples lives.  Why commit a pilot to combat if you're not serious about winning the war?

An interesting sidenote for me is the use of Hellfire vs. Brimstone.  Hellfire is much more popular it seems.

My guess for the ISIS conflict?  Someone in leadership is hoping that they burn themselves out and then attempt a political resolution.


  1. The use of Hellfire over Brimstone will be due to platform rather the weapon performance.

    A Reaper has far higher loiter time then a Tornado so a target can be observed for longer, allowing commanders to make the decision to engage more frequently.

    It has nothing to do with popularity and everything to do with availability.

    1. A Brimstone II would indeed be an interesting capability, if coupled w/ a Reaper.

  2. Couldn't you also say the targets are tactical as opposed to strategic simply because of the nature of the enemy? ISIS doesn't have massive columns of armored forced with supply depots, logistics, command and control, ect. Since we started bombing them their advance has been stopped and we have destroyed a lot of the MRAPS and heavy weapons they took from the Syrian and Iraqi forces. It's not ideal but it could be a lot worse.

  3. Reaper carries Hellfire, Tornado Brimstone
    The "excess" Hellfire usage is a reflection of the utility of reaper and the inappropriate usage of Tornado in the area.

    Very much "tactical" "something must be done"
    But what else is there?

    Free Kobani!
    Flatten Raqqa!

  4. Reaper has no utility ina contested airspace, F-35 does.
    I would love to see how long Reapers lasted if they ever got used against Russian or China. Reckon you could measure it in minutes!
    Different conflicts demand different platforms

    1. Mickey b,

      F-35 has no utility at this time. Nor will it for many years, if ever. 2019? Later? Remind me, what is the JSF program track record for sticking to projected milestone dates?

      Talking about the F-35 as if it is in true operational service right now is a pervasive trend in the mainstream media, think tanks, and blogs. It isn't, and people will see the early Marine IOC declaration for the smoke and mirrors it is.

      Quote: 'Different conflicts demand different platforms'

      Exactly! Manned tacair was not the solution for Afghanistan nor Iraq. Squadrons of fighter-bombers costing many tens of thousands of US dollars per flight hour per aircraft is no enduring solution when there is no air threat nor a credible GBADS threat. Nor are strat bombers. When all we are doing is plinking Toyota pickups or bulldozers or dump trucks, or individual machine gun positions. Day after day. Year after year. Super Tucano can do that just fine, and it costs barely $1k per hour to run, and can stay up for hours without gulping expensive fuel from airborne tankers. As can other LAS equivalents such as the AT-6B and AT-802U. As can Reaper, Predator, etc.

      The numbers above in the OP tell the tale.

      Out of the 37 weapons, JSF would have been able to drop just 12, or 1/3rd. If operational. If cleared for the PW-IV. If deployed. All while costing US$31000 per AC per flight hour - at a minimum.

      How many dollars could have been saved over Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 12-14 years had the right assets been procured and used for the job at hand? How many lives saved on the ground - on all sides? How many needed systems could have been procured for those high-end threats rather than being cancelled or truncated on the altar of light-blue suits and blinkered airpower theory?

      What fixed wing air support is the ANSF going to have, when western forces are finally removed? What utility will Iraq derive from their F-16s while fighting an insurgency? The USAF couldn't even manage the simple procurement of 20 A-29s for the Afghans.

      When the only tool at hand is a hammer...

      We - western nations - need to do better.

    2. Very well said, AM! The most articulate I've seen on this specific (A-29 and more 'prudent asset procurement') topic, perhaps. Absolutely nailed it...

      With the money saved, even the Brits could have been procuring Brimstone, Hellfire, and PW-IV like no tomorrow, putting actual fear into ISIS.

      Truly, those spent munitions numbers as quoted above -- at just over a single munition/bomb per day -- is arguably not too effective in the overall fight, let alone cost-effective in terms of cost per bomb dropped or missile fired per say, $100k in actual operational flight operations?

    3. Yeah I have my criticisms of drones too, but there is no doubt they are suitable for conflicts such as this. AM vaporized the nail with a sledgehammer.

      that is what is really puzzling about the Iraqi armed forces.I could be mistaken, but I haven't read about them acquiring Tucanos or other more useful COIN aircraft, instead buying MI28s and other more expensive kit.

      Assuming the F35 works as advertised, it will be equivalent to a literal silver bullet for shooting bears.

      IF we can accomplish a task just as effectively with substantially less money, then we should do so. Its not like we are facing "sequestration" or any other such business stateside or anything /sarc/

  5. Executive Outcomes knew how to put an enemy like this on the run.

  6. Or maybe thr UK is expecting further cuts in their Fighter Inventory and are trying their best to bestow more Utility on this platform, make it less cut-worthy.

  7. When the U.S. was in Iraq, the U.S. Army sponsored a fleet of some 4,200 tanker trucks to bring gasoline into the country out of Kuwait and elsewhere because refinement capacity was so short and the rebels kept blowing stuff up.

    Fuel was nonetheless, just $.05 per gallon at a time when the average America was paying 3-5 dollars. It is now 17 cents /per liter/, which may not sound like much until you realize the average Iraqi makes 1,000 dollars a year or less.

    Find out where the fuel is coming from, in Syria or via Saudi or out of (completely corrupted) Iraqi government depots, overrun or selling their monthly stocks. Shut it down. And wait. Anything which is on the road after a week will be ISIL driven and this, by itself, will self-contain the insurgency.

    Now go into the local towns where there is a known ISIL presence with black bag teams ad start slicing the cell networks or landlines. Again, something the U.S. has been doing since at least Vietnam when the entire VPAF GCI network and parts of China were wired for sound. This will give you a radial out from the closest cell tower and a phone number. Call them up. When their phone rings at X house, take their picture. Hellfire the house and compare the bodies to the photo.

    We aren't stopping ISIL because we don't want to. A threat in hand is better than two in the bush.

  8. The object here has been the same the entire time - to facilitate regime change in Syria, with the conflict in Iraq providing the most effective base for the extremist dupes (behind basing out of Turkey, and to a lesser extent Jordan).

    The reluctance to rain fire upon these extremists is because this would undermine the 'best opportunity', strategically speaking, to eliminate Assad. The Incompetence explanation, when it comes to running a largely ineffective air campaign whilst pretending to stop ISIS, only goes so far.

    I would guess that people in military intelligence and civilian intelligence agencies, if honest, would be able to, and have, accurately described the failings of the current air campaign. The problem is that not everyone in positions of authority (decision makers) IMHO, want to see an immediate end to ISIS.

    Consider the fact that Obama is further supporting the 'moderate' rebels in Syria, who openly admit they co-operate with Al Nusra and sometimes ISIS. Anyone can see where the arms will end up - just as happened in previous incidents when equipment intended for 'moderates' was either taken, or shared, with more extremist elements.

    It all comes back to recognising there is a campaign of regime change targeting Syria. The fact that people are being killed, tortured, beheaded (etc) is incidental to the overall objective. The only problem for those running this policy is being publicly pressured to stop.


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