The threat perception during and after the First and Second World War was against the regular armies which have high number of manpower and high-capacity of conventional arsenal. Also during the Cold War the situation was nearly same. The World witnessed a huge arms race between the regular armies. Borders and sides of this conflict was clear, proxy wars were not on scene.
After the Cold War, extremist movements around the world began to rise. The threat perception had begun to change. Especially after the 9/11 attacks, the operation environment has faced a new threat; without a visible army, no borders and rules. It is not so easy to fight against an insidious enemy, because armed forces were shaped for a conventional war. The airpower was not also well-organized for irregular warfare (IW). So actors have to think again and transform airpower training programs to have high level of combat readiness for the new operational environment. The presence of terrorist threat is not only exists at the period of war but also exists periods of peace and crisis. Actors have to realize that we are already at war against world-wide terrorism.
It is very important to being flexible against dynamic and time sensitive targets in the IW environment. According to its nature, airpower is the indispensable tool in IW because of using high-tech equipment and capability of fast-moving. Conducting operation without airpower coverage in IW arena is impossible.
Especially during the Cold War, the airpower was equipped for a possible conventional war. The situation for combat training program of airpower was also same. Even today, the effects of this situation continue. So, what have to be done to make airpower more effective for this longstanding and dynamic struggle?
1. Reviewing the Syllabus
Actors have to start from squadron level training to make airpower more effective. Combat readiness program of airpower is generally designed for conventional conflict. There are different types of air missions for conventional conflict. But in IW, Close Air Support (CAS) and ISR missions are the dominant ones. CAS is one of the most complex missions of airpower. High-tech sensor equipment and precision type of munitions have to be used in IW. So, the pilots, planners and operators have to improve their knowledge and tactics. To increase the experience and the capabilities of all players in IW, planners have to review the squadron level mission syllabus and increase the repeat number of air to ground missions.
2.Range Area Perception Need to be Changed
Actors have to change opinion about constructing classic type of range areas. To improve the reality of CAS missions, actors have to build new kind of range areas to simulate the difficulties of finding, fixing and identifying the targets in IW. There are examples in US and Israel.
The main task of CAS missions is support the troops on ground and eliminate the enemy’s desire to continue the war. So, actors have to produce new IW exercise scenarios.
It is impossible for airpower to handle with IW threats alone. For this reason, actors must arrange joint level exercises which include different branches of airpower, other forces and also law enforcement units to improve air-land integration. These exercises should also be planned with allied states security units to share experience and keep information up to date.
The interoperability level of all forces would be high. All units of armed forces must know the technical capabilities and limits of each other. Joint technical capability catalogues should be easily reached by all units.
Even actors have similar technical equipment, speaking same language is the key element in operational area. So, actors have to improve joint standardised terminology.
5. Accessible Lesson Learned
It is likely to encounter variable situations at dynamic IW environment. To keep doctrines and syllabus up to date and sharing experiences can be done by creating a lesson learned mechanism for airpower.
Lesson learned mechanism have to be at joint level and easy accessible by all security units. It can be created as an online portal which allows comments for airpower players and planners. Reviewed solutions should be used to change IW documents.
In the new era of conflict it is impossible to claim that a conventional war possibility is low. But it is also impossible to say that IW environment is a temporary situation. In order to respond dynamic threats of IW, regular armies of the states have to be trained and transformed. It should not be forgotten that the most dangerous weapon is well-trained personnel.