LAS SAGA: RIGHT WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS FINALLY ON THE RIGHT TRACK…

STUSAFThe Senate has cut funding for 20 Light Air Support aircraft meant to backfill the precision fire support role for the Afghan Army once we have pulled the vast majority of manned airpower out of the Afghan theater.

This is a passionate topic for me. It shows just how poor America’s plans are for exiting the never ending war in Afghanistan when the most powerful nation in the world, and the occupying force of that sad country, cannot even field few dozen or so turboprop light attack aircraft, and indigenous pilots to fly them, over a 12 year timespan. How can we leave a country that was originally invaded sucessfully using rudimentary indigenous forces and high end precision fire support from the air when the military we leave behind has no such luxury? The whole thing is just a political farce. If I had a kid who was being shipped over there right now I would be irate. What is the point?

Once again, we originally accessed that country and kicked the Taliban out of power using local militias and cutting edge air combat assets, yet we leave those forces, now developed into the fledging Afghan National Army, without the game changing capability that proved effective against the Taliban in the first place. I mean really, how much worse of a strategy can we come up with?

The LAS issue was supposed to be settled after years of industry haggling and xenophobic propagandizing of one of the competitors outstanding products, and protest lawsuits over who deserved to win TWICE, only to have the Senate attempt pull a large portion of the funding for this indispensable program. We do not deserve to “win” this war, or even retreat amicably from this theater by allowing everything but winning to get in the way of actually winning. Young American men and women gave their lives and limbs for this cause, and this is how we “wrap it up.” A squandered opportunity and an American disgrace in progress for the world to see. Spend a trillion dollars in national treasure there but do not, under any circumstances, leave any insurance policy in place so that this investment will have a lasting effect. How much are 20 Tucanos? Maybe $350M? The cost of TWO F-35Bs.

If you were a Taliban fighter would you even pick up a rifle right now knowing full well that your adversary is exiting the war in months while leaving a hodgepodge local force, much of which is motivated more by a paycheck for the time being than their own tribal, ancestral, or nationalistic values, with just a shadow air combat force to back them? What the hell are we doing, and even more importantly, what the hell have we done????

Sure, we may still have multiple Predator orbits over the country at any given time, but the Predator’s soda straw field of view and limited engagement capabilities are no replacement for manned close air support assets. Especially when the forces they are supporting on the ground are nowhere near as disciplined or well-trained than the NATO forces they replace. Once again, those in power, and their misunderstanding of drone technology and their application, think that a 5,000lb powered glider with a couple of anti-tank sized missiles can replace a ground force and an actual air force. “Screw it, just throw up some Predators” seems to be the easy political foreign policy crutch of this young millennia. It may be the easy way out but it will come back to haunt us. What will we do when the FLIR tapes start leaking of Afghan units being overran by Taliban forces, or even worse, throwing down their arms and joining their aggressors as engagement is just futile? What then? Maybe we will “put more pressure on the Karzai Government?” Laughable.

I could care less if reports say that the Afghan Air Force is not yet up to the task of widespread employment of such a machine. We have built nation’s air forces from the ground up before, we can do it again. There should be no time-table for our withdrawal of manned air support assets and the message should be that the Afghans WILL have an air arm capable of consistently putting bombs on the enemy’s forehead PERIOD.

We went from putting a man in space for the first time to landing on the moon within a smaller timeframe than that of our activities in Afghanistan. The fact that we are openly admitting that we cannot train a few dozen air crew how to make a Tucano the bane of the enemy is outrageous and is clearly yet another symptom of the cancer that resides in Washington and in the Pentagon. Shameful and sad.

Even if Afghanistan ended up with 20 Tucanos, how is this even near enough airframes to fight an enemy that has kept NATO busy for a decade? Wake up Congress, fund an excess of precision air support capabilities for the Afghans so that we can one day be done with this war. If not, and the war has actually been lost before every battle has ended, than just bring our troops home immediately. Why allow one more American to lose a limb or their life over what has become a debatable, bordering on disgusting, political-military adventure.

I have said it for years, the best we can wish for in that dismal land is a feudal narco-state, ruled by a weak but fat central authority. Anything else seems impossible, especially when you look at the Senate’s asinine decision today.

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/senate-strikes-super-tucanos-mi-17s-from-appropriations-bill-389041/

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10 Responses to LAS SAGA: RIGHT WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS FINALLY ON THE RIGHT TRACK…

  1. Ian Hall says:

    I love to see passionate and well thought out items and this is an eloquent piece of angry writing.
    I do wonder if Congress would have pulled the plug on the Hawker offering.

    It does seem from outside the US that there is rampant Xenophobia about protecting the US Defence and Civil Aviation Manufacturers-witnessed by the fact the Boeing have yet to build a single 767 based air refuelling aircraft whilst other air forces are in receipt of their Airbus equivalents.

    Given that Airbus were willing to build the aircraft in the US it does make me wonder.

  2. AspenTwoZero says:

    I saw this story come across my Twitter feed yesterday and the first thing I thought to myself was, “Ty is going to be rather unhappy.”

  3. The writer seems to forget who obama works for. He is a muslim terrorist, he would prefer the taliban win as he preferred the muslim brotherhood in Egypt.

  4. Ed Timperlake says:

    A point of clarification-

    Funds for the LAS order of 20 A-29 SuperTucanos -picked in the USAF LAS source selection process (that required several “do overs”) have been both Appropriated and Aithorized. Delievery will begin in around a year.

    An Additional 20 is what the article appears to be referencing –that buy was what the Senate cut. I totally agree with the point made on the need for airpower Afghanstan

  5. Alex says:

    Bob, spare us the ‘birther’ movement spiel. This is an aviation website, not a forum for views like those you happily vomited on us here. Thanks.

  6. nico says:

    I am more concerned about the fact that the premier air force in the world with a budget over $100 billion a year, which is more alone than what most countries spend on their ENTIRE defense took so long to buy 20 LAS…..Doesn’t quite inspire a lot of confidence on other currant/future projects…

  7. Mitchell Fuller says:

    Look at actions, USAF does not want CAS role, see A-10 history (and thank you A-10 pilots for valuable support and dedication you provide, because it is not a career enhancer), this type of platform (tucano) and loitering bird dogs directing them should have been all over the skies of A-stan from year one. USAF instead has spent billions flying CAS with aircraft (besides A-10) not suited for role and burned up valuable hours on these airframes.

    The CAS role should be given to the army (Marines have their own air wing) along with inter theatre air lift. Appropriate airframes and cost of operations should occur under this scenario.

    In relation to the article, there is not a strategic plan for NATO / U S exit and this funding cut is just one symptom of this.

    • aviationintel.com says:

      Mitchell: I agree with all of this and have written about it extensively, especially on the history side, how we CHOSE to significantly diminish our fast jet fleet at great cost instead of building hundreds of light support aircraft that can do the UAV surveillance role at a fraction of the price as well. Read some of my older LAS saga posts, you will dig them.

      Great thoughts.

  8. Mitchell Fuller says:

    Thanks Ty. Will do on previous articles.

  9. Dan says:

    The Congress pulled the funding because of the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan (SIGAR)report 2013: Afghan Special Mission Wing: DOD Moving Forward with $771.8 Million Purchase of Aircraft that the Afghans Cannot Operate and Maintain. The report basically said to freeze all funding of the Special Mission Wing program (LAS program name in Afghanistan) because of supposed disarray in Afghan Airforce. Essentially it’s the same argument you stated in the article of the impression of the Afghan forces not being “at that level” so to speak. The argument is weak though, how can a force be prepared an proficient if they have no equipment to hone the necessary skillsets to get “at that level”?

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