Bombs Squandered Truck-Busting, USAF Begs for More

It turns out, even a desultory, half-hearted and micromanaged “attack” plan that runs a half-dozen one-ship sorties a day, can wear out gear and run down stockpiles. Who knew? None of the empty suits in the E-Ring, that’s for sure.

Here’s the target: typical ISIL military vehicle, a HMMWV, only driven once on Sunday by a little old Iraqi soldier to surrender, and now flying the black flag of Islam. Other typical targets include Ford and GM pickup tricks, also a benevolent gift from the US to the enemy via the nutless Iraqis.

ISIL TRuck

And here’s the anatomy of a strike, in this case a September 2014 British Tornado IDS strike against a Ford pickup. First, we lock the target, after making it obvious enough what’s up that the jihadi driver parks the truck and runs for cover.

ISIL truck locked by Tornado

Next: FOOM. Couldn’t happen to a nicer truck, eh?

ISIL TRuck FOOM

Assuming Hadji didn’t go up in the FOOM, he’s on his way to your neighborhood as a “refugee” now. Don’t forget to thank the President! And smoke rises over another Coalition victory.

ISIL TRuck smoke

Aftermath of an attack: Peshmerga fighters in Kurdish northern Iraq examine what’s left of a similar truck after a similar strike.

Peshmerga fighters inspect the remains of a car, bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, which belonged to Islamic State (IS) militants after it was targeted by an American air strike in the village of Baqufa, north of Mosul, on August 18,2014. Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by federal forces and US warplanes pressed a counter-offensive Monday against jihadists after retaking Iraq's largest dam, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

Peshmerga fighters inspect the remains of a car, bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, which belonged to Islamic State (IS) militants after it was targeted by an American air strike in the village of Baqufa, north of Mosul, on August 18,2014. Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by federal forces and US warplanes pressed a counter-offensive Monday against jihadists after retaking Iraq’s largest dam, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

Problem is, we just spent somewhere between a half million and a million, and risked at least four aircrew lives, to engage an enemy that wouldn’t exist absent the power vacuum created by us bugging out, and to blow the living daylights out of a (probably empty) $25k truck.

And now we’re running low on the essential ingredients of FOOM.

The U.S. Air Force has fired off more than 20,000 missiles and bombs since the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS began 15 months ago, according to the Air Force, leading to depleted munitions stockpiles and calls to ramp up funding and weapons production.

Wow! Twenty thousand sure is a lot. Isn’t it? Or are we wrong about the old-man-in-a-walker crawling rate of sorties and the pinprick nature of these truck-busting attacks?

Well, mathematics has the answer, kids. Relax, we’re not going to be doing fast Fourier transforms here… instead, we’ll just do some maybe third-grade arithmetic, multiplication and the dreaded Long Division. We’ll do it in en cabeza; you can follow along with your calculators if you’re from the Tee Ball Participation Trophy generation.

20,000 is our first number, and the other is 15 months. Now, the average month has 30 point something days, but to keep it round, we’ll go with 30, which gives us 450 days’ of attack, which has so far beaten ISIL back from Syria and Iraq to Paris and San Bernardino. 20,000 divided by 450 is about 44… that’s our average ordnance drop per day in the “war” on ISIL.

Nobody has added up the cost. Some of the trucks are being busted by $1 million Tomahawk cruise missiles. And having run out of smarts about bombing, we’re now running out of smart bombs:

As the U.S. ramps up its campaign against the Islamist terror group in Iraq and Syria, the Air Force is now “expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a statement.

“B-1s have dropped bombs in record numbers. F-15Es are in the fight because they are able to employ a wide range of weapons and do so with great flexibility. We need the funding in place to ensure we’re prepared for the long fight,” Welsh said in the statement. “This is a critical need.”

The bombing campaign has left the U.S. Air Force with what an Air Force official described as munitions depot stocks “below our desired objective.”

Funny, that’s the way we feel about our .22LR stock, and we have two .22 rifles and one pistol. We’d like to shoot the pistol more, though. That’s probably what the Air Force fighter and bomber crews feel when they fly with empty pylons, multiple-ejector racks or internal stations because our political masters don’t want to bomb ISIL too much; just enough to “send a message.”

Funny, last time we used jets instead of Western Union to “send a message,” we ran out of bombs too, and we didn’t seem to get the message across to Ho Chi Minh, either.

Going Downtown: F-105D heading to North Vietnam with just one or two bombs during the bomb shortage of 1966.

Going Downtown: F-105D heading to North Vietnam with just one or two bombs during the bomb shortage of 1966.

Even though the Arc Light B-52 missions had priority for bombs over tactical air command fighters in theater, the USAF may have spent much of 1966 flying B-52 sorties with only a couple of bombs per plane apparently; the year’s average was 5,000 sorties and 8,000 bombs a month, according to official history. (It is possible that sorties that didn’t drop are counted also, which would skew the data). Still, Vietnam bombing is no great success to emulate today.

bomb_shortage_desert_sun_27_apr_66

Like our defense suits today, Robert S. MacNamara denied the perilous state his own unrecognized incompetence had brought about, and blamed the critics who pointed out his shortcomings.

Let’s let go of that 50-year-old example, and go back to our CNN story:

The official told CNN that the Air Force has requested additional funding for Hellfire missiles and is developing plans to ramp up weapons production to replenish its stocks more quickly. But replenishing that stock can take “up to four years from time of expenditure to asset resupply,” the official said.

via The U.S. is running out of bombs to drop on ISIS – CNNPolitics.com.

We hate to bring up other examples from a half-century ago, but since nobody in the E Ring seems to have heard of them, somebody has to do it. Later on in the Southeast Asia War Games, McNamara had built a high-tech wall of sensors and engaged the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN; NVA) with pinprick attacks, busting trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail.

It was a mug’s game. The PAVN Central Office for South Vietnam had modest logistical requirements — about 6,000 pounds of cargo a day, so unless the Air Force could stop even two trucks’ worth of cargo from getting by the attacks, then the interdiction campaign was destined to fail.

Likewise, pinprick attacks on ISIL won’t work. ISIL needs to get the treatment Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan got, because it not only has to be beaten, it has to be so thoroughly beaten that everyone can see that it was beaten. 

It’s amazing how many universities will turn loose a graduate in International Relations or even Strategy without any understanding of what victory conditions look like.

Berlin July 1945 II

This is what victory looks like. Berlin, 1945, destroyed by Allied bombing, Soviet artillery and ground attack, and seized and divided under the angry boots of the occupying armies of four Powers. Defenders and citizens alike died, or were imprisoned de facto if not de jure. If you’re not envisioning something like this, you’re not envisioning victory; what you’re envisioning is some kind of stalemate at best, and it’s criminal to waste lives for it.

Academics and “public intellectuals,” civilian “strategists” in book-filled studies, and various bellicose commentators for whom war is always something the other guy did, do not get this; they neither understand it at an intellectual level, nor grasp it in the gut at a rhetorical level. Hence their lame “sending messages” and game theories of war.

The only message the military is equipped to send is, “Die, mother******.” Used within those parameters, it works. Nazis today exist only in pathetic prison gangs and in the shallow imaginations of Hollywood screenwriters, seeking villains that won’t offend Arab, Chinese or Russian audiences, and unwilling — so far — to remake Jude Süss. And slaveowners only exist any more where Islam holds sway.

33 thoughts on “Bombs Squandered Truck-Busting, USAF Begs for More

    1. Toastrider

      That was pretty much my reaction. Using smart bombs on what amounts to jumped up technicals strikes me as astonishingly stupid.

      Then again, we seem to have backslid into stupid, arrogant thinking in the Beltway once again, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

    2. Distant Thunder

      We use ’em, but sending them in for gun runs on vehicles that may be armed with 23mm cannons carries the risk of an A-10 being shot down, with the further risk of the pilot being subsequently killed in Daesh’s hideous fashion. Which would result in President Obama catching an immense amount of political blow-back, which he doesn’t want.

  1. Neil S.

    This is what victory looks like. Berlin, 1945, destroyed by Allied bombing, Soviet artillery and ground attack, and seized and divided under the angry boots of the occupying armies of four Powers.

    You know what’s truly criminal? This is what Iraq looked like in 2009. We absolutely had won; the country was occupied and peaceful to an extent that I couldn’t have dreamed of in 2005 or 2006. Peaceful due to the threat of immediate American violence directed at those who got out of line, of course, but that’s an occupation for you. The American public has only itself to blame for electing an idiot who threw away years of blood and sweat for percieved political gain.

    1. H

      Is also what Hanoi looked like in 1973, when the South was more peaceful since anytime after what, 1960 or so?

      Seems like I recall we cut off funding and participation in that unpleasantness after things quieted down, and the quiet lasted about as long, too.

      1. Cap'n Mike

        There is no victory so complete that the next administration cant come in and screw it up.

  2. Keith

    That’s because the vast majority don’t notice what’s going on unless it hit’s them personally through the death of a service person in there family or close to them. Much more concerned that the football game start on time and what ever the Kardashian’s are up to online.

  3. PBAR

    We are forced to use precision guided munitions by the overly restrictive rules of engagement foisted on CENTCOM by this Administration. When I was deployed over there recently, I talked to some Marine fighter pilots who told us they had been dropping guided bombs on dirt. Yes, dirt, er, I mean, “vehicle revetments” or “assembly areas”, which are the euphemism du jour over there now. Sounds suspiciously like suspected truck parks in the jungle from Vietnam, doesn’t it? The pilots certainly weren’t happy about it and bitterly complained of seeing ISIS guys in their targeting pods nearly every sortie that they weren’t allowed to attack because of collateral damage concerns.

    To Hognose’s other point about Germany-from 1900 to 1945 both Germany and Japan engaged in a lot of war making that lead to the deaths of millions. After their cities were firebombed, behold, they’ve been pacifists for 70 years now. Just saying…

  4. Old0311

    Every L/Cpl knows you can’t trust any officer who isn’t crapping in a cat hole. DC is full of useless turds.

  5. Jim Scrummy

    So I guess Arc Light Missions are off the table with the ROE? The ghost of Bobby Strange “Mac” and his whiz kids really does haunt the 5-sided puzzle palace.

  6. Stacy0311

    But the airstrikes are taking out ISIL leadership. We always seem to get the #2 guy. Unfortunately, the rank and file asshats are still alive and killing people.
    The entire NCA needs to read T.R. Fehrenbach

    1. Hognose Post author

      It never occurs to them that militaries — and whatever you think of them, ISIL is organized as a military — are designed to be antifragile and redundant. The Washington panjandrums think the next Hadji on the list is not expendable, because they believe that they themselves are not expendable. Most military officers lack any such illusions.

  7. Alan Ward

    It’s always a numbers game for the empty suits, both civilian and military, in the e ring. Push the sortie count higher…wing cdr LT.col Upgefuked gets noticed by some bootlicker who in turn gets him promoted to full chicken. Empty sorties are just that. No effect on the enemy, except for temporary cover taking, which leads to their lack of fear of USAF.
    McNamara always had his toadies pump up the numbers by including all support sorties in the mission count, so refuel lees, weather, photo recon etc got added to FA and Wild Weasel missions.
    Only good thing this achieved was to leave the enemy unprepared for the full power deployed by Nixon later in the war.
    Friggen bean counters always stop warriors from completing the mission.

  8. James

    Interesting that we’ve been on path of limited war = no victory since the sacking of MacArthur during Korea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tuagi9kZe8A

    His words will haunt us from the grave until our country realizes
    “..once war is forces upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.

    In war there is no substitute for victory.”

  9. Andrew Benghazi

    Instead of using $100K+ missiles, they could use APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) made by BAE Systems. These cost $28K each and were proven in Afghanistan. But Generals have become managers and managers have their worth determined by the size of their budget, so there is no incentive not to waste the tax-payers money. These are the Generals that should face a firing squad.

    http://www.economist.com/node/21563702

    https://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/It-Works-Great-But-Nobody-Wants-It-4-7-2014.asp

      1. Jjak

        Yes. And I believe it doesn’t require anything of the firing platform beyond a compatible laser designator. Ie, it goes into any 2.75″ rocket pod out there with no mods.

      2. DSM

        The Air Force cracked off a few from A-10s some time back and is supposed to be, or, is already fielding them. If they’re being used in theater though is unknown to me. So, in my book, if their sole goal is to just shoot up trucks then strap a couple 19-shot pods to the Reapers, fly around and poke holes in stuff until the gas runs out. They already carry AGM-114s so as I understand it’s the same target designator, though an ammo troop can correct me. Cheaper yes, but still a lopsided trade off when you add in the maintenance and logistics involved to get just one missile on target.

        Unstrap all that JDAM stuff from the Mk84s and give the Buffs from Barksdale a chance to relive some Linebacker II action. Remove the problem several grid squares at a time.

    1. Y.

      But Generals have become managers and managers have their worth determined by the size of their budget, so there is no incentive not to waste the tax-payers money. These are the Generals that should face a firing squad.

      Also, I doubt the generals chances of getting a cushy job at some defense contractor would be improved if they saved money. A penny saved is a penny earned, but not when you are playing with other people’s money.

    2. laker

      APKWS has a few warts, most notably that it is not safe by modern standards. To field it past what they have done (I believe there are a small number in inventory, but I may be mistaken) either a two-star in the pentagon or a service undersecretary would have to sign personally accepting responsibility for the lack of safety in the weapon, depending on where the risk was set. Needless to say, both are usually political beasts and will usually not sign such a document. There are some of us who have been pushing to make the platform safer, but we (thus far) have not been able to get the money to improve the weapon, and the people responsible seem to be content jamming their fingers in their ears and screaming “la la la, can’t hear you” any time this comes up.

      Other attempts to make small, cheap weapons for taking out technicals have usually bogged down in the morass of politics and limited funding. It’s a shame, but the bureaucracy has decided that they would rather waste $100K (for a JDAM) to $2 million a pop (for a tomahawk) to kill a truck equipped with farmer armor and a HMG in the bed ($10k, maybe).

      FYSA: Zuni/Hydra are not safe. One notable accident involving a Zuni killed 134 sailors, and created the safety process we have today.

  10. Jjak

    Ahh but you’re conflating two different things here. Defeat of ISIS, AQ and franchises, etc SHOULD be the objective, but it isn’t at the moment. The political objective right now is to create the APPEARANCE of effective action with minimal effort, which the current actions are achieving (at least as far as most people who know nothing about military matters can see). For that objective the current orders and restrictions are perfect.

    This was the same thinking in announcing the withdraw from AFG to coincide with the last election, or pulling out of IRQ all the way, or closing Gitmo, or reducing our force structure, or “normalizing” relations with Cuba, or the so-called “Pacific Pivot” – it’s all about the appearance of things, not actually achieving anything.

    Scream all you want, but this policy of “glamour governance” won’t change before 20Jan17 at the earliest.

  11. 6pounder

    How many days/sorties would it take for a wing of B52s loaded with dumb bombs to make Isis extinct? Carpet bombing just seems to make bad things go away.

  12. Jeff Fisher

    There’s a system that has great potential here. Take a stock Hydra 70 FFAR rocket, modify it for a “cold” launch, install an APKWS guidance package and a DIME warhead, stuff seven of them into an M260 and attach it to a Reaper hard-point.
    Congratulations! You’ve got a UAV with heavy anti-armor capability in the form of the one remaining AGM-114, and SEVEN shots with what amounts to a high-altitude “sniper rifle” with very little to no collateral damage potential. Perfect for HVTs in urban areas.
    Increase the time-delay for rocket-motor ignition, throw a 19-round pod on a center-line hard-point on a Global Hawk and you could pot-shot HVTs from “Angels 80” for HOURS! :-)
    Remove the 105mm from an AC-130, replace it with a few nineteen round pods and you’ve got the option to either “snipe” one target with a DIME warhead, or ripple-fire enough rockets to level almost any compound out there. You don’t even have to worry about gas ingestion in the engines.
    By the way, I was an E-3 0331 in a USMC weapons platoon. If I can come up with this stuff in my SPARE TIME, why the HELL can’t our vaunted officers, SNCOs and generals think these things up? What are those guys doing?
    Oh right.
    “Gender Equality.”
    I’m glad I’m out now. I don’t relish the though of being left out in the middle of an insurgent beaten zone because my squad-mate isn’t strong enough to drag me to cover.

    1. Hognose Post author

      AC-130 community will be learning directed energy weapons in the near future. First, though, I think, as defensive weapons, because AC vulnerability to MANPADs and light AA scares the crap out of the command. Laser has a high potential as an anti-MANPADS system if the miniaturization stays on track.

  13. Jeff Fisher

    Hey, whatever happened to the old “Lazy Dog” weapon system? I thought those were pretty cool.
    Hey Hognose, how about that for one of your research articles?

  14. Docduracoat

    If the U.S would arm the Syrian Kurds with towed artillery and MRAPs, they would advance on the Isis capital of Raqqah in no time.
    How much is a few howitzers and ammo for them?
    But we refuse to give them heavy weapons, even though they have a proven track record against Isis.

    1. DSM

      And happily launch their own sorties to bomb the same Kurds we’re supplying. Kurds in power give them a bad case of the jeebies.

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