The future of air defense artillery

Actual graphic from FM 44-8: Small Unit Self-Defense Against Air Attack, a very interesting document that was first issued at a time (1981) when the U.S. was not so confident in its ability to maintain air superiority. The manual begins with the following:

In the past US Army forces have fought on the battlefield with little concern about attack from the air. Troops and convoys were occasionally bombed or strafed with machinegun or cannon fire, and our forces enjoyed the luxury of air superiority most of the time.

The days of total supremacy are behind us. Our potential enemies could have more aircraft than we do, and we can expect that they will gain control of the airspace over sectors of the battlefield from time to time.

Don’t tell that to Secretary Gates; you might lose your job.

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6 thoughts on “The future of air defense artillery

  1. I need to point out that Gen Mosley for fired for reasons other than the fact that he argued for a robust fighter force. Some things that he did:

    (a) he chastised the Army for levying manpower requirements upon the Air Force for things like convoy duty and provincial reconstruction teams, while at the same time cutting over 40,000 personnel from AF ranks to support some of his pet programs (see below). I can tell you first hand that our combat capabilities have been significantly decreased as a result of those cuts and we struggle on a daily basis trying to keep the mission going. Gen Schwartz has been unable to leverage the forces necessary for further personnel expansion.

    (b) while one of the really good things that he did was removing USAF CSAR forces from SOCOM (SOCOM was trying to take away the AF’s helicopters and move them into the 160th, thus eliminating the USAF’s CSAR capabilities), he neglected AFSOC’s requirements for new airframes. Many of the HC-130s and MC-130s that are being used are almost 50 years old, yet he did not allocate money to purchase new J-models to replace them. Gen Schwartz has since done so

    (c) it has been argued that Mosley’s support for the F-22 is what brought him down, but Schwartz argued very intensely for more F-22s when he was selected to be the CSAF, and was not fired.

    (d) he downplayed the importance of the nuclear mission and diverted assets away from those missions, thus resulting in the numerous nuclear surety issues that developed under his term.

    (e) he seemed more focused on things like mottos and heritage uniforms than on the current missions the AF was fighting.

    (f) he neglected the acquisitions problems that we had and did not dedicate resources in an attempt to correct it.

    Those are a few of the reasons why he was fired. Was it fair how he was treated? Probably not. But he didn’t get fired just because he supported the F-22.

  2. Can’t speak on Mosley’s case, but I can say that in the most likely wars in the future we could expect control of the air. Presuming that most of our combat is against insurgents or hybrid forces they probably won’t have much ability to contest control of the air. I will admit that this does not take potential enemies like China or North Korea into account, but I have some comfort in the fact that neither nation has fought a major war in over thirty years.

  3. Fair comments about Mosley. I would agree that the U.S. will have air dominance for the next 15 years or so, but what disturbs me is the seemingly blasĂ© attitude of our recent defense leadership (including Rumsfeld) concerning the matter, as if they consider air superiority to be guaranteed in future contingencies. As RADM J.C. Wylie commented, “planning for certitude is the greatest of all military mistakes.” I appreciate that the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan require trade-offs in our acquisition priorities, but Gates is using the current wars to justify procurement decisions that make no sense whatsoever. He was able to cap the F-22 at 183 units because he promised a large production run of the cheaper F-35. Now the unit cost of the F-35 is approaching that of the F-22 – a vastly superior aircraft – had it been purchased in the quantities originally desired by the Air Force. As a result, the F-35 buy will probably be reduced, leaving us with an insufficient number of fighters in the future. Some stories out of China suggest that – in the event of war – they plan to negate our technical advantage by simply overwhelming us numerically until our own aircraft run out of ordnance.

    It’s not just the Air Force that is suffering. Air defense artillery is a dying branch in the Army. An entire generation of military modernization has now been sacrificed on the altar of COIN to fund wars of dubious strategic value. Even worse, the rationales used to publicly justify these cuts are insulting to anyone with half a brain. For example, Gates’ comment that F-22 lobbyists were endangering the troops, and that the program should be killed because the aircraft hasn’t seen action in Afghanistan. Or his recent speech at the Navy League, where he justified possible cuts to the fleet on the grounds of its vast superiority over any possible opponent, which led me to believe that he actually has no clue how the U.S. employs its Navy. But of course that’s not true; these arguments are just facades used to mask the underlying reality that is driving these decisions: the U.S. cannot afford to pay for both military modernization and the ongoing wars. Instead of indulging in this Orwellian doublespeak and forcing the military to eat its own seedcorn, he would be doing a great service to the country if he gave a speech and said, “We can’t afford both. It’s one or the other. Make a choice, America.” At least that would inspire a meaningful strategic debate.

    Come to think of it, I’m now governed by the UCMJ, so I should probably shut up.

  4. I agree with 100% of what you said, NerveAgent. You are DEAD ON.

    Also, if you’re writing in a private capacity and state as such, you don’t have much to worry about when it comes to the UCMJ.

  5. This post has kept me thinking for the past few days. The thing that keeps popping up in my head is how there seems to be no unified force structure document anywhere to be seen. Everybody making decisions in the Pentagon act as if they are in a vacuum.

    Forces are now being leveraged against the F-35, while at the same time Army ADA capabilities are being allowed to degrade because air superiority is an assumption. Have the program managers of the Air Force ever spoken with the program managers of the Army? It appears not…

    I fear for the future of our country, my friend.

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