2003 February 13 Thursday
US Air War To Spare Iraqi Infrastructure

Some US Air Force officers are upset that the targetting list approved by General Tommy Franks will spare so much infrastructure that ground soldiers will be at greater risk.

The officers said the plan, as of a few weeks ago, would largely spare infrastructure targets, such as bridges, and most, if not all, telephone communications.

I wonder whether it would be possible to do things to the infrastructure that wouldn't cause major damage but which would render it unusable for days or weeks. The infrastructure doesn't have to be wiped out entirely. It just has to be put into a state that is hard to fix in a short period of time.

For instance, electric power plants are useless without power cables to deliver the electricity. Could a low flying aircraft dangling a long cable make passes over power lines and rip them up? Or could thin cabling be designed that would flutter down onto power cables and short them into the high tension line towers that keep them off the ground? Or could a bomb release a highly electrically conductive chemical that would coat the insulators in order to short out the cables?

Similarly, imagine a slippery chemical that could be used to coat the surface of a bridge to make it impassable. Or how about metal spikes that could be dropped to partially embed into the asphalt so that the spikes would rip up tires that passed over them.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 February 13 02:54 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War

Bob said at February 13, 2003 7:13 PM:

Does anyone else think it's strange the Air Force officers are the one's upset?

I should think it would upset the infantry a lot more. Unless, of course, the army already has plans to secure those resources from the enemy without destroying them.

Hell, I think it would be outrageous to sacrifice American soldiers in the preservation of foreign capital assets. Everyone who even knows somebody in the armed services ought to fire off a concerned letter to the White House explaining how much more that American soldier's life means to the voting citizens and taxpaying residents of the United States than ten thousand bridges.

The only legitimate goal of war is victory as quickly and as decisively as possible. If that means rebuilding some bridges and replacing some telephone equipment, so be it.

Richard R. Fernandez said at February 14, 2003 3:18 AM:

The whole idea of "leapfrogging" (Ralph Peter's term) the enemy's army in order to strike directly at the hostile leadership is so new that it hasn't found its way in SOP yet. The capability arrived almost unnoticed in the last decade, but the organizational practice in using that capability has been somewhat laggard. Armies (and airforces) have traditionally been used to destroy other armies. The idea of using them as monumentally potent engines of regime removal (aka assasination) still hasn't filtered down to training. The airforce does bridges, powerplants, buildings very well, but this airy-fairy stuff, well, it isn't in the technical pubs -- yet. At least I don't think.

But it will have to be and now's a good a time as any to start. It's the true revolution in military affairs finally making its way into the FM series.

When you think about it, the problem is control. Aircraft have become 10 times more potent since the Gulf War because of JDAM-type weapons. We have the equivalent of 40 1991 aircraft carriers and 20 or 30 1991 Airforce wings out there. In principle, that unbelievable volume of firepower is to descend upon the inner circle of Saddam Hussein. If that can be done properly, anything that stands in the way of American troops will be pretty nearly vaporized -- instantly. Not to mention the directed energy and EMP weapons.

I don't think the world as a whole has any idea what kind of brute force is going to descend on Saddam.

Tom Roberts said at February 15, 2003 7:58 AM:

Richard: This assumes the C4I assets to control the whole circus. Which is a parlous assumption given the folks who are running MILSATCOM (I know the civilian Clinton era product of preferences based selection that is in charge of MILSATCOM and she is a scary legacy of that period).

Nonetheless, if we can agree that the critical issue is the US abilities to:
a. have a decision loop an order of magnitude faster than Baghdad's, per Boyd's prescriptions, despite MILSATCOM's deficiencies
b. focus superior firepower at will through the zone of operations, which was your point

Then the folks in charge at 3rd Army, who are NOT USAF plane jockeys, will be able to do one of the first 3D campaigns in history. I never thought that Air-Land Operations would be feasible in 1980's Central Europe, but Iraq might be a feasible test case.

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