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The Air Force Special Operations incentives strategy in the direction of great power warfare

File photo – An undated file photo shows an AC-130 gunship. (REUTERS/U. S. Air Force Photo JDP/)

The attacks of the enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, the use of ground laser designators to “paint” targets for the aircraft and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-victim-close-in battle — they are all U. S. Air Force Special Operations Force skills are tested and refined in the past decade and a half of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the basis of these Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), the Air Force Special Operations Command is the acceleration of the strategic shift of the recent counterinsurgency focus on the preparation of the “high-end” combat – or large force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.

“I would tell you to be sure of the strategic value of Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside the box and about the way in which dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt-Gen Marshall Webb, Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said Sept. 17 years with the Air Force Association Convention.

Webb stressed that the Command’s counter-terrorism focus will not diminish in the coming years, but likely to increase if existing threats continue and new arise. At the same time, he made clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and is currently adapting the established TTPs for the support of the great power of the warfare.

“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.

It is interesting that the migration to combat-tested TTPs a high-end battle doesn’t seem like a difficult piece, but rather an expansion of sophisticated control practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency, are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the Air Force Special Operations, Special Tactics Squadron, uses advanced targeting techniques to assist aircraft in an attack on the Taliban. This is included with the help of Forward Air Controllers, radio strike coordinates to orbiting attack aircraft and the use of laser designators to paint targets on the ground.

AFSOC’s contributions to the war in Afghanistan are marked with 2017 Special Operations Annex part of the Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.

“AFSOC CCTs [Combat Controllers] were instrumental in the first big win of the conflict, the use of airpower which led to the conquest of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on November 9, 2001—a major breakthrough in the fight to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.

This type of integrated air-to-ground operation, which in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict. The prospect of the need of close air support to strengthen the advancing units on the ground, or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the scenarios expected in the great war.

The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for example, often encircled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire his 20mm side-firing cannon to the attack of Taliban fighters. Although there are of course great differences between the attacks of insurgents and the establishment of large air battle with a near-peer enemy, a part of the tactics, approaches and technologies seem to cross and the offer of value to both types of conflicts.

Webb further elaborated AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the emerging Light attack aircraft. The unit is designed for intensive counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the air force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for this type of attack missions are at least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare.

“The need for the Light attack aircraft is an excellent condition for AFSOC,” Webb said.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a significant intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and provide a crucial battle-detail to the larger force. The advise of the allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in the great war. A part of this intel mission includes the air and on the ground exploration with the help of sensors, scouting strengths and unique positioning in the combat area in support of the larger battle.

Work in small units, often somewhat autonomous, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise difficult to reach, the combat areas. This skill is also, quite naturally, would add value at the large force-on-force warfare, as well.

SOF is there in the hinterland and don’t have the luxury of a F-16,” Webb explained.

The Air Force Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, also cites the full range of Special Operations mission, many of which are specifically designed for large-scale war. Control of the areas, mentioned in the Doctrine of the text are provided a variety of missions relevant to both the CURRENCY and the great war, such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control, and specialized air mobility.”

The general strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written in special ops leather materials. The Lemay Center 2017 Leather Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat action” for Special Ops missions, including low-intensity conflict, such as security cooperation, and deterrence, limited risks, and the large operations.”

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