- Jul 9, 2006
AT Odds with Air Force, Army adds it's own Aviation Unit
read on.....Ever since the Army lost its warplanes to a newly independent Air Force after World War II, soldiers have depended on the sister service for help from the sky, from bombing and strafing to transport and surveillance. But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have frayed the relationship, with Army officers making increasingly vocal complaints that the Air Force is not pulling its weight.
In Afghanistan, Army officers have complained about bombing missions gone awry that have killed innocent civilians. In Iraq, Army officers say the Air Force has often been out of touch, fulfilling only half of their requests for the sophisticated surveillance aircraft that ground commanders say are needed to find roadside bombs and track down insurgents.
The Air Force responds that it has only a limited number of those remotely piloted Predators and other advanced surveillance aircraft, so priorities for assigning them must be set by senior commanders at the headquarters in Baghdad working with counterparts at the Air Force’s regional command in Qatar. There are more than 14,000 airmen performing tasks on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Air Force civil engineers replacing Army construction engineers.
But now in Iraq, the Army has quietly decided to try going it alone for the important surveillance mission, organizing an all-Army surveillance unit that represents a new move by the service toward self-sufficiency, and away from joint operations.
Senior aides to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates say that he has shown keen interest in the Army initiative — much to the frustration of embattled Air Force leaders — as a potential way to improve battlefield surveillance.
The work of the new aviation battalion was initially kept secret, but Army officials involved in its planning say it has been exceptionally active, using remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to call in Apache helicopter strikes with missiles and heavy machine gun fire that have killed more than 3,000 adversaries in the last year and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.........................................................