CAS or Close Air Support is a staple of the Marine Corps combined arms approach to battle. For the grunt on the ground that is in contact the roar of a big radial engine, or a Cobra, or an A-10 is a sound that lifts the spirits and supports the overall team / family concept that is so precious to our Corps.
Sitting in wood paneled chambers, located inside a marble edifice magically situated in our nation’s capital some 7000 miles away from the battle, our lawmakers have decided that they know better than the professionals, what is need by the troops in the field.
Lawmakers continue to reject the Pentagon’s attempts to deploy light-attack aircraft to Afghanistan as part of a combat experiment.
The House Appropriations and Armed Services committees and Senate Armed Services Committee rejected a $17 million U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) request for the Combat Dragon II program, according to a Pentagon reprogramming document.
For more than a year, the Pentagon has wanted to test propeller-driven planes outfitted with reconnaissance sensors and precision-guided weapons in combat to see if they can improve coordination between ground troops and aircraft.
We know from our experiences in Vietnam that the most effective close air support was delivered by slow moving aircraft that were designed for CAS. The Skyraider, and the Bronco were very effective in this role. Before that, the Corsair was one of the premiere ground support aircraft in Korea, and the Pacific. While the A-10, and the F/A-18 are very good jets they just seem to be less than ideal for close air support. Attack helos do a good job but they can be slow to get on station. A “low tech” solution seems to me to be a good solution. Relatively fast to get on station, that can move freely in an environment where there are no high speed / high tech opponents and that can put their ordinance on target accurately, consistently. These weapons platforms would be relatively low cost to acquire and maintain compared to the high tech platforms.
This maybe one of those situations where we have lost the common sense of building tools that are “lower tech” and like the 16″ naval guns of history, we may have lost the capacity to manufacture an aircraft like the Skyraider. It’s a shame because it’s the right tool for today’s job.