Related to my earlier post on the rivalry between Army and Air Force UAV controllers is this story on a Rand study of air support:
The Rand think tank’s study, “Beyond Close Air Support,” which was commissioned by the Air Force, found two problems with how coordination lines are used.
The Army can extend the line far beyond its troop positions, slowing Air Force interdiction efforts, the report said.
For example, at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the line was about 90 miles ahead of the advancing Army V Corps. If the Air Force had targets within that 90-mile zone, the service needed permission from V Corps headquarters to strike the targets.
The problem was that the V Corps headquarters staff of soldiers and airmen didn’t have enough people or communication gear to coordinate both the ground and air attacks over such a wide area, Rand found.
Rand also questioned the effectiveness of control lines on battlefields where there are no clear boundaries between friendly and enemy forces.
Rand advocated replacing the coordination line with a grid system. The Rand proposal would open and close grid system boxes depending on where friendly forces were. Aircrews would see the boxes on their display screens change colors as the status changed.
Rand advocated that when a coordination line is used, it should be just beyond the areas where close-air support was needed, not tens of miles in front of friendly forces.
Say what you will about military “transformation”, it is studies like this and the implementation of the solutions suggested that will have the greatest impact on the way our military fights. New rifles and vehicles are great (sometimes), but lessons learned from experience with existing systems will be felt more quickly and more strongly.
That’s not to say that this Rand study has the answers. But it demonstrates that the military is actually doing more than spending loads of cash on fancy new gadgets. Maybe not as much more as they should be, of course, but they aren’t totally ignoring today’s battles. And improved close air support today will make a far bigger difference in the practical world than FCS vehicles or stealth destroyers will in ten years.