Note: This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of Air & Space Power Journal
This article argues USAF leadership remains too focused on developing the force based on an outdated paradigm of advanced state actors fighting force-on-force on uncluttered battlefields. It postulates that the USAF "next generation" fighter proponents ignore their own, combat-hardened force warnings of the complexity of asymmetric warfare. Years of combat have uncovered a glaring need to conduct a new type of close air support (CAS). This new CAS or "gunship effect" is the direct result of changes in warfare and can be analyzed by examining the AC-130 gunship and its high demand. We investigate enemy tactics to avoid our force strengths and intermingle with noncombatants who are attacking our forces piecemeal. We review the strategic center of gravity, "collateral damage," and how our enemies focus on eroding public support-at home and abroad-by exploiting our inability to identify their actions on a complex battlefield and respond appropriately. In summary, critical analysis unveils the true nature of twenty-first century warfare and the need to develop a balanced force, using proven aircraft and future systems capable of this new CAS, defeating both the enemy's most dangerous and most likely course of action.
Special operations air/aviation in NATO is coming of age. Within the alliance, NATO member nations have devoted significant resources to enhance the capabilities and maintain the relevance of their ground and maritime Special Operations Forces (SOF). That has not always been the case with the special operations air and aviation elements, though. The good news is that times are changing. It is encouraging to note that air-oriented SOF within NATO are growing in numbers and in capabilities. This bodes well for our alliance as we transform defense capabilities to enable an expeditionary force.