DoD Buzz

COIN Air Wing Looks Likely

Michael Vickers provides the Pentagon one of the most creative brains around, especially in his area of expertise -- irregular (hybrid etc. etc.) warfare. What's really nifty about Vickers, who largely ran US operations in Afghanistan when we were working with the local insurgents against the Soviets, is that he gets to use that experience as the Defense Secretary's top advisor on special operations and low intensity conflict. Vickers had breakfast with Christian Lowe and a small group of defense reporters and told them that OSD will probably support the idea -- first offered publicly by the Air Force CoS Gen. Norton Schwartz -- of a COIN air wing during the QDR. Of course, that would mean the Air Force will have to buy one or more versions of an increasing slew of propeller planes designed for counter-insurgency operations.

Here's Christian's story:

The Pentagon's guru for special operations and low intensity conflict, the renowned Michael Vickers, told us that he believes a light strike, light reconnaissance aircraft would be useful to troops in an unconventional fight.

"That's one of the issues that this QDR is looking at about how to create these sort of irregular warfare air units -- should we do that, number one, because nothing has been decided -- then what that mix might be. But it might not reside in the special operations forces, it might reside in the general purpose forces as sort of a counterinsurgency capability," Vickers said July 23.

Of course, this jibes with the Navy's Imminent Fury initiative and rumblings from Norty Schwartz (USAF-COS) to create an irregular air wing in the Air Force.

Vickers went on to raise an interesting point -- one that the brief I posted yesterday from the Navy's IWO hinted at in the section on Imminent Fury -- that an aircraft like that could also be an advantage to training local forces in counterinsurgency air techniques.

"One of the advantages with that kind of aircraft being adapted to the counterinsurgency battlefield is that they tend to be very inexpensive and something that a partner nation could afford. ... They're getting a look," he said.

But before you think Vickers was hedging on the creation of an irregular air force, listen to what he said later when pressed.

"I think there is a need for that kind of capability. I think that capability is being looked at in the QDR. But the question is how much, and exactly the mix," Vickers added. Notice he didn't say 'whether' it would be created or part of the recommendations from the QDR.

And then this more demonstrative statement:

"I'm fairly confident we'll end up with something. The question is how large a force and what capability to we put in there and whether we put it in over time. But some kind of irregular warfare something or other -- some Air Force unit, whether it's a series of squadrons or a wing or a group or whatever -- I think is an idea whose time has come."

Looks like the Spads will be back!

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