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  • Afghanistan and Future Wars - What's the Connection?
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 2:00 PM on Apr 09, 2010

    U.S. Air Force planners, charged with fitting requirements into a shrinking budget, are looking at the common needs for irregular and conventional and cyber wars.

    So far, the operational pull from Afghanistan is for small, precise weapons.

    “The requests I have been getting is in the arena of limited effect [grenade size explosions without fragmentation] kinetic weapons that are all-weather, day/night, high precision and low collateral damage,” says Brig. Gen. Dave Goldfein, Air Combat Command’s director of air and space operations (A3).

    Specifically, troops want bombs that create grenade-size explosions without fragmentation that can make the best use of intelligence by destroying a very small area – perhaps one room in a house.

    “We have been doing that with different warhead fills and putting a composite body on the weapon and delivering it with a laser,” Andersen says. “We find the energy dissipates in single-digit feet instead of going out to 40-50 ft.”

    Those small, air-launched weapons of 250-lb. or less also would allow an increase in the number of bombs that future manned or unmanned aircraft could drop in a single mission. Or it could carry the same number of bombs, but the decrease in payload weight would allow unmanned aircraft to fly higher, faster and farther.

    “We’re working on the capabilities document for the follow-on to the MQ-9 [Reaper], Goldfein says. “If you line up the master schedules, it’s a capability that is delivered in 2020. You’ll hear modularity, sustainability, affordability, and it will be built with the idea of operations in civil air space in mind with see and avoid, for example. It will be much more suited for bad weather, operate in the mid-altitudes around 20,000 to 30,000 ft. It could be weaponized and carry sensors and it would have to be monitored. Stealth will be an affordability issue. It will probably be difficult.”

    Recent low-intensity conflicts give some clues how advanced unmanned aircraft may be used in large-scale future wars.

    ACC officials learned a lot from Israel’s current defensive preparations and Russia’s attack on Georgia. Some lessons are exotic and some are doing the basics well, they say. Georgia had a primitive, un-integrated air defense network. But the Russians didn’t develop an electronic order of battle and flew into battle un-briefed on Georgian air defense. Another piece of data about future tactics is Israel’s planning for their communications and military networks to be disabled by electronic attack in future conflicts.

    That’s a lesson the American are taking to heart.

    “We also are making sure that we can still fight with our networks degraded,” says Maj. Gen. Tom Andersen, ACC’s director of requirements. “If I lose my connectivity to locations in the [combat area], how do I continue to deliver [critical information]? There are a couple of major projects that commanders are focused on. One that reported out at the four-star and service secretary level was the ability to operate in denied environments. That includes the survival or quick reconstruction of datalinks, secure and insecure communications including radars, long-distance transmission, sharing of information, the ability to tie into command and control systems and the coordination of real time decision-making and the ability to adjust to dynamic targets. That’s what we’re training toward.”

    Tags: ar99, Afghanistan, UAVs

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