By Air Force 1st Lt. Kim Schaerdel
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 3, 2009 - Air combat operations in Afghanistan are "the most precise" ever used, and airmen are doing "an incredible job there," an Air Force general said. "This is the most precise combat operation the world has ever seen," Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, commander of Combined Forces Air Component and 9th Air Force, U.S. Air Forces Central, told online journalists and bloggers during an April 1 "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.
"[Weapons] are dropped in direct response to intelligence where we have got absolutely positive indications," North said. "Clearly, the enemy forces will shoot and hide and run into a village. They will use noncombatants as human shields, or they will hide among them and continue to fight."
Because the enemy uses these tactics, U.S. forces use full-motion video capability from manned and unmanned aerial systems to track them, he said.
"We track the enemy for days or weeks to ensure that we have got positive [identification], proper legal authorities, proper command authorities to ensure that we can release a weapon to get the desired effects from our ground commanders," North said.
With the announced troop increase and expansion of military and civilians in Afghanistan, Air Force officials have sent additional C-130 Hercules transports and more helicopters, and are prepared to bring in more fighter jets if needed, the general said.
"We will see an increase of our airmen based on the requirements that the increase in ground forces bring in," he said.
North explained how airpower fits into the combined battle against the threats in the region.
"We will see an increase of airmen," North said. "There is construction going on in Afghanistan to meet the bed-down of the ground forces to be able to have expeditionary airfields and facilities for airmen to operate from throughout Afghanistan to maximize our capability for our ground forces."
North said U.S. and coalition forces have been able to translate what was learned in Iraq to the operations in Afghanistan.
"Everybody doing it their own way is not the way it works in warfare, and we've been synchronized in both Iraq and Afghanistan collectively throughout," he said. "We are apportioning and allocating the appropriate amount of overhead capabilities, such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch, the appropriate amount of tankers, air drop, etc., to make sure that we are meeting the desired scheme of maneuver."
Communication between the ground commanders and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center is paramount, the general said.
"It is a ballet in action every day and on our Combined Air and Space Operations Center floor, where we execute the daily air tasking order," he said. "Our airmen ... and coalition partners are doing incredible work every day over the skies of Afghanistan."id.
(Air Force 1st Lt. Kim Schaerdel serves in the Combined Air and Space Operations Center public affairs office.)