By lex, on December 8, 2006
I’ve mentioned before how very demanding close air support can be, the precision required when friendly forces are close proximity to hostiles with the outcome in doubt, how challenging it is to communicate the picture adequately and synch the pilot’s bird’s-eye view to the engaged landsman’s.
Performed correctly it’s a two-man dance in the round between the strike aircraft and their forward air controller, a high speed, high stakes merengue with destruction and death posting in the middle. Performed precisely and in a timely fashion, CAS can save the day and from the pilot’s point of view, there’s nothing more rewarding. Absent precision and timeliness it is useless or even worse than useless.
Good CAS can make things better, bad CAS can makes things much worse.
Sometimes it does both:
A British Marine killed during a 10-hour battle with Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan this week may have been killed by friendly aircraft firing in support, the military said on Thursday.
Several Royal Marines and soldiers who fought in Garmser in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday told a Reuters crew at the scene they believe Jonathan Wigley, 21, was killed by fire from friendly aircraft…
The Reuters reporters at the scene of Tuesday’s battle in Garmser saw fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters firing into the area around the time the Marine was killed.
The Apache attack helicopters were flown by British pilots, the A-10 and F-18 fixed-wing planes by Americans.
One British soldier, who witnessed the death, said he believed Wigley was killed by an American plane…
The men were hit about midday as the Islamist militants launched an unexpectedly fierce counter-attack and the British forces called in air strikes from helicopters, and F-18 and A-10 fixed-wing planes.
British spokesman Price said that, even if friendly strikes were found to have killed Wigley, “there is no question that close air support also saved the lives of many of our men that day”.
When they need it bad, they call for CAS. When they can, they ask for bombs. When the enemy is too close for bombs, they ask for guns. Sometimes there’s no safe option, the enemy is too close, sometimes the friendlies are over-run and often the battle lines are ragged. Sometimes when that happens the only choices are between bad and worse.
This is hard. Hard all the way around.