Chuck Spinney: Analysis of Kunduz Hospital Bombing — Is the USAF Incapable of Doing Close Air Support (CAS)?

Ineptitude, Military
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

The author, a long time friend, is a retired Marine Lt. Colonel and, as a junior officer, served as forward artillery observer in heavy combat in Viet Nam.

Key questions unasked in the news about the US attack on Kunduz Hospital

By David Evans, Fabius Maximus Website, 22 Oct 2015

10 Hard Questions Below the Fold

Questions abound, like these tactical issues…

  1. Has it become routine to conduct close air support missions without an on-scene FAC?
  2. Exactly who in the FSCC authorized the airstrike?
  3. Was the location of the hospital not known in the FSCC? If not, why not?
  4. Why did the AC-130U gunship make repeated attacks on the hospital over a period of more than an hour?
  5. What assessment of the target was made after the initial firing pass?

There are larger questions…

  1. Has anyone in the chain of command been relieved pending the completion of an investigation (the AC-130U aircraft commander, the AC-130U squadron commander, the senior watch officer in the FSCC)?
  2. What other no-fire areas are unknown to the FSCC?
  3. Is close air support at night even necessary when the friendly ground unit is in no danger of being overrun?
  4. What does this say about friendly forces’ tactical awareness of potentially sensitive no-fire targets throughout Afghanistan? About their awareness of Taliban whereabouts in general?
  5. Is the altitude at which the AC-130U began firing driven more by the need to avoid damage to the airplane than the need for unequivocal target identification?

Read full post.

Phi Beta Iota: The US Air Force has for a very long time been trying to eliminate the A-10, the one aircraft in its inventory that is both proven in the Close Air Support (CAS) role, and cost effective.  The lack of integrity of the US Air Force in relation to the A-10 has been documented many times in the public media. Separately, the US Air Force culture is simply not conducive to being successful in the CAS role — the Air Force lives in a culture that a) wants aircraft far from the fight, never mind the loss of effectiveness in supporting the ground forces; and b) lives and breathes peacetime rules, such as crew rest, in one instance leaving a Marine Corps unit in Somalia, engaged in combat, unprotected so its pilots could fulfil their rest requirements.  Now the Air Force is seeking to reduce its airborne paratroop transport obligations. The time has come to call into question the Key West Agreement, and consider a transfer of all direct support missions related to ground force combat, from the Air Force to the Army. A properly done Bottom Up Review by the next Administration would start with three questions:

  1. What increase in diplomatic and development funding will radically reduce future requirements for military engagement?
  2. What are the force closure and time/distance/weight implications of pulling back from all bases overseas?
  3. What are the mandatory needs of a CONUS-based Army from the Air Force and the Navy?

See Especially:

2015 Robert Steele: The National Military Strategy – Dishonest Platitudes

2014 Robert Steele On Defense Intelligence – Seven Strikes

See Also:

A-10 @ Phi Beta Iota

450-Ship Navy @ Phi Beta Iota