| Army Aviation
– Counterinsurgency Lessons –
Strategy & Tactics – 22 June 2008
Counterinsurgency Legacy – US
Army Aviation Supports its Own
US Air Force turns out to be
too Tardy to be Tactically Useful
Edited excerpts from an article published
in The Sunday New York Times 
US Ground Forces dissatisfied with their dependence on far off USAF Commander Centres
Ever since the US Army lost its warplanes to a newly independent US Air Force after World War II, soldiers
have depended on their sister service for help from the sky – from bombing and strafing, to
transport and surveillance. But the [counterinsurgency] warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan have frayed
the relationship, with US Army officers making increasingly vocal complaints that the Air Force is not
pulling its weight.
In Afghanistan, Army officers have complained about bombing missions gone awry that have killed innocent
civilians. In Iraq, US Army officers say that the US Air Force has often been out of touch,
fulfilling only half of their requests for the sophisticated surveillance aircraft
that ground commanders say are needed to find roadside bombs and track down insurgents.
The US Air Force responds that it has only a limited number of those remotely piloted
Predator UAVs (left), and other advanced surveillance aircraft [ manned or
remotely piloted ], so that priorities for assigning them must be set
by senior commanders at the local headquarters in Baghdad. [
Those Baghdad commanders must then, in turn, consult ] with their counterparts at the
USAF Regional Command in Qatar.
In Iraq, the US Army quietly decided to 'go it alone', especially in the surveillance
[In response, the US Army has] organized an 'all-Army' surveillance unit. [This US Army unit] represents a new
move by the ground forces towards self-sufficiency, and away from 'joint' operations. Senior
aides to US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates say that he has shown keen
interest in this US Army initiative as a quick way to improve battlefield surveillance.
The work of the new aviation battalion was initially kept secret, but Army officials involved in
its planning say it has been exceptionally active. [They used] remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to call
in Apache helicopter strikes [using Hellfire missiles and
30mm cannon fire].
The US Army aviation task force became fully operational last July, setting up its
headquarters at Camp Speicher, in the north-central Iraq city of Tikrit.
[The aviation task force] has focused its efforts on insurgents [who have been found ]
planting roadside bombs [IEDs]. However, it has also located and attacked insurgents in battles with US and
Iraqi troops. [ In additon ], it has supported Special Opera- tions missions
intended to capture or kill high-value targets in Iraq.
The battalion is called Task Force ODIN. The name is that of the Norse god, but it is also an
acronym for ' observe, detect, identify, and neutralize '. The
task force of about 300 people and 25 aircraft is a 'Rube Goldberg'  collection of surveillance,
communications, and attack systems. [ It is a lash - up ] of
manned and remotely piloted vehicles, commercial aircraft with
infrared sensors strapped to the fuselage, along with attack helicopters
The US Army cobbled together small civilian aircraft, including the Beech C-12
, fitting them with advanced reconnaissance sensors [infrared and radar]. Small, medium, and large remotely
pilo- ted surveillance vehicles, including Warrior and Shadow UAVs  – carrying
infrared cameras for night operations and full-motion video cameras – have
also been assigned to TF ODIN.
All are linked by radio to Apache attack helicopters, with Hellfire missiles and
30-millimeter cannons – and to infantry units in
The Army claims that civilian casualties are lower when they perform local airstrikes
Civilian casualties are always a risk in air raids, particularly those attacking
bomb-placing teams that operate in cities and villages. Army officials declined to say whether they believed
the casualties from the new US Army raids included innocent civilians, but they
sought to pre-empt some criticism by screening an aerial surveillance video that they said
showed the precise nature of the raids. The video showed an insurgent who had escaped attack and hid
in a courtyard a few feet from a grazing mule. It then showed Apache helicopter fire,
killing the insurgent, while the mule was left grazing beside the
In contrast to Predators, which are assigned by the top USAF headquarters
for missions all across Iraq, TF ODIN is 'on
call ' for commanders at the level of brigade and
below. [This is] an effort by the US Army to be responsive
to the needs of smaller combat units in direct contact with adversaries – [a clear
divergence from the USAF concept of readiness].
The Pentagon's press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said that Secretary Gates
"wants to make sure that we are looking at, not just top - down solutions,
but also ground - up solutions. We need to pay attention to
anything that works."
Counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq have strained relations between the services
Army and Marine Corps officers in Afghanistan have complained that Air Force pilots flying attack missions
in support of ground operations do not come in as low as their Navy and Marine
counterparts. Instances of civilian casualties from bombing and missile attacks have increased tensions
among the local people. These tensions must then be eased by ground commanders, adding to their burden of
winning hearts and minds in the counterinsurgency.
"We are supporting the Army as best we can," Michael W. Wynne, the departing Air Force Secretary, said Friday.
He said that, as the Army and Marine Corps increased ground forces in Iraq as part of the so-called
'troop surge' over the past year, the Air Force quadrupled its number of sorties and increased its
bombing tenfold. The number of surveillance flights by Predators and Reapers
over Iraq and Afghanistan has doubled since January
US Army officers who are promoting the new concept have shown senior Pentagon officials classified [ targetting
sights ] video clips intended to advertise the service’s increasing 'go-it-alone ' ability. One
clip from a remotely piloted vehicle shows an insurgent using palm fronds to smooth dirt over a bomb he had buried
late at night along a major convoy route. Moments later, he disappeared in 30- millimeter fire
from an Apache, alerted by the Army - controlled UAV overhead. The
Army is asking for money to create a similar unit in Afghanistan
within the next six (6) months.
 Article published under the title, 'Edging away from Air Force, Army adds Air Unit',
in The Sunday New York Times, 22 June
 ' Rube Goldberg ' is an American anachronism for the
' Red Green ' approach to
It involves a lot of duct tape and a cheerful, unrelenting
in one's own technical abilities.
 US Army Raytheon Beech C-12R Huron transport aircraft have been modified into ARMS
(Aerial Reconnaissance Multi-Sensor) carriers known as 'Horned Owls'. A C-12 is a
powerful version of the C90B King Air, used to train Canadian Forces
pilots in Manitoba.
 "Warrior" is the General Atomics MQ-12 Sky Warrior (which the US Army prefers to call
the Warrior-Alpha). "Shadow" is the much smaller AAI RQ-7 Shadow
200 Tactical UAV.