If you’re conducting a dedicated air campaign against an enemy, that means constant strikes well coordinated with ground assets. History is replete with examples of focused air operations — and even recently we saw that from the United States as in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. I remember the opening night of the air campaign back in 1991. We used attack helicopters to take out front-line Iraqi radar sites in deep strike operations in order to enable fighter jets to punch through deeper into the country. And many of us recall the bombing strikes against the Iraqi army formations before we launched our ground assault — we refer to that as shaping operations.
This past weekend we learned about U.S. air strikes against ISIS. According to Fox News, “U.S.-led coalition forces conducted 16 airstrikes Saturday and early Sunday against key ISIS buildings and transit routes in the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, a U.S. Army official said. At least 16 airstrikes were reported late Saturday and early Sunday, triggering successive explosions that shook the city and created panic among residents, activists said.
The U.S.-led coalition often targets ISIS-held towns and cities in Syria, but the overnight strikes on Raqqa were rare in their intensity. “The significant airstrikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq,” Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. Gilleran, the spokesperson for the Combined Joint Task Force’s Operation Inherent Resolve, also called it one of the “largest deliberate engagements” executed in Syria to-date. “It will have debilitating effects on [ISIS’s] ability to move from Raqqa,” he said.”
I’m glad something was finally done in attacking the so-called ISIS capital in Raqqa. However, I would tend to doubt that 16 airstrikes will have a debilitating effect. If there were sixteen airstrikes every 30 minutes, every night, for the past six months, now that would have a debilitating effect. A sustained air attack is not just 16 airstrikes done in isolation.
Of course, without dedicated ground troops it’s hard to gather any real battle damage assessment (BDA) but there have been some reports. “An ISIS-affiliated militant website confirmed the strikes on the center of the city, saying 10 people were killed and dozens wounded. It also published purported photos of dead victims, including two of young boys suggesting they were civilians. A Raqqa-based anti-ISIS activist network reported eight civilians were killed by the coalition airstrikes, including a 10-year-old child. The report could not be independently confirmed. The network, called Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, said at least one airstrike targeted a group of ISIS members in the city center. Another targeted an ISIS checkpoint while a third destroyed large parts of an ISIS-held brick factory in the city.”
Consider this, how much ordnance and fuel goes into a single airstrike, now multiply it by 15, ponder the cost, and the result it seems is about 10 jihadists killed, some wounded, and a brick factory destroyed — a doggone brick factory! We launched an air armada to bomb an ISIS checkpoint? What doggone strategic or operational value does a checkpoint have folks?
Read more: allenbwest.com