As I sat in my backyard Wednesday I heard at least a dozen supersonic fighters scream overheard, probably on their way from Nellis Air Force Base to exercises at Fort Irwin, Calif., called Green Flag West.
According to an article by longtime military reporter Keith Rogers, the exercise exposes pilots and troops to “real-world battle scenarios” in which troops on the ground pinpoint targets for the fighter pilots.
A couple of Nellis’ F-35s, several F-16 fighter planes, A-10 gunships and other weapons are being used. The exercise includes about 5,000 military personnel.
So, this was an odd exercise considering what is happening in a “real-world battle scenario” in Iraq. According the Washington Times, nearly 75 percent of U.S. bombers and fighters seeking out Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria are returning to base without firing a shot or dropping a bomb, because there is no one on the ground to point out targets.
“As long as the body politic or president or whoever is making decisions absolutely refuses to put American air controllers on ground, essentially pilots are flying with one eye closed,” Cmdr. Christopher Harmer is quoted as saying. “It’s almost impossible for pilots to designate between [Islamic State] fighters and coalition fighters.”
The newspaper reported that the U.S. sent 7,319 sorties over Iraq and Syria in the first four months of 2015. Only 1,859 flights — 25.4 percent — released a weapon, according to data provided by United States Air Force Central Command.
Then there is the little matter of White House policy requiring pilots to seek permission before attacking any, which can take an hour on average.
“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,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula was quoted as saying. “These are excessive procedures that are handing our adversary an advantage.”
I often wonder how much the fuel being burned by those Nellis jets costs. Now we can add the question of how much fuel is being wasted in the Mid-East.