Tags: Fox News | Iraq | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | Syria | War on Terrorism | US military

Fighter Pilots: Long, 'Frustrating' Wait for OK to Hit ISIS

By    |   Thursday, 28 May 2015 10:54 AM

U.S. military pilots involved in the airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) are experiencing growing frustration that the rules for engagement are preventing them from operating effectively.

According to Fox News, there is increasing discontent that excessive bureaucracy is preventing the quick decision-making needed to strike targets in Iraq and Syria.

"There were times I had groups of ISIS fighters in my sights, but couldn't get clearance to engage," a Navy F-18 pilot who has flown missions against ISIS told Fox News.

"They probably killed innocent people and spread evil because of my inability to kill them. It was frustrating."

Sources told Fox News that the process for ordering strikes is slow, with approval for strike missions taking an hour on average and sometimes up to five hours.

But a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force's Central Command disputed the accusations of long wait times.

"We refute the idea that close air support strikes take 'an hour on average.' Depending on how complex the target environment is, a strike could take place in less than 10 minutes or it could take much longer," the spokesman told Fox News.

"As our leaders have said, this is a long-term fight, and we will not alienate civilians, the Iraqi government, or our coalition partners by striking targets indiscriminately."

Nevertheless, a former U.S. Air Force general who led air campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan contends that pilots are being "micromanaged" and that the excessive process to order strikes are hindering them from hitting targets.

"You're talking about hours in some cases, which by that time the particular tactical target left the area and or the aircraft has run out of fuel. These are excessive procedures that are handing our adversary an advantage," said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan in 2001.

In the past year, U.S. and coalition pilots have carried out an average of just 14 strikes a day. By comparison, the U.S.-led airstrikes during the first Gulf War averaged 1,125 strikes per day, Deptula said, while the "shock and awe" campaign in Iraq in 2003 averaged 800 strikes per day.

A senior defense official suggested it was misguided to make comparisons to past air campaigns.

"In those instances, we were fighting conventional forces. Today, we are supporting a fight against terrorists who blend into the civilian population," he said, according to Fox News.

"Our threshold for civilian casualties and collateral damage is low. We don't want to own this fight. We have reliable partners on the ground."

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain on Sunday complained that 75 percent of those engaged in combat missions against the Islamic State return to base without having fired a weapon.

He blamed the situation on delays in decision-making up the chain of command and called for more air controllers and ground troops to direct operations. 

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U.S. military pilots involved in the airstrikes against the Islamic State are experiencing growing frustration that the rules for engagement are preventing them from operating effectively.
US military, pilots, airstrikes, ISIS, bureaucracy, frustrating, wait, permission
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2015-54-28
Thursday, 28 May 2015 10:54 AM
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