Monday, March 27, 2006


Our military has has been in a state of transformation in recent years. The war on terrorism has accelerated change. Necessity, as the saying goes, is the mother of invention. Check out this example of innovation:
Air Force drops more data than bombs in Iraq

Reconnaissance work from above lets military branch, ground troops work more closely.

BALAD, Iraq -- Air Force Lt. Col. Pete Gersten, an F-16 squadron commander here, is presiding over air operations that have surprisingly little in common with those of other recent wars.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or the bombing campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, Air Force B-2 bombers commonly flew 8,000 miles to drop their payloads. These days, fighter jets based at Balad air base, in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, sometimes drop 500-pound bombs just two miles from the fences and watchtowers that surround the base.

Gersten says he spends most of his time in the cockpit of his F-16 helping U.S. troops below with reconnaissance and intelligence. He recently helped track an automobile for half an hour through the streets of the northern city of Mosul before the suspected insurgents driving it were apprehended. Piloting a high-performance aircraft while keeping an eye on traffic in a busy city was "a surprisingly complicated mission," he said.

The F-16s, with sensors and imaging devices, are also proving useful at detecting roadside bombs -- and sometimes at bombing the insurgents planting them. Air Force planes also are being used to patrol oil pipelines, electricity transmission lines and convoy routes. As a result, most of the Air Force's time aloft is being devoted to what it considers nontraditional missions.

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