As with a lot of situations in the military, there are a lot of unsung heroes that help out behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. Pilots in wartime do not just hop in their aircraft and go bombing targets or providing close air support; every pilot in every aircraft, whether the aircraft is armed or unarmed, will get a briefing on potential threats to their safety. No matter how small a threat may seem, the briefers of these aircrews play a major role in mission success and keeping the pilots, crews and their aircraft safe.
Air superiority is a strange military terminology to say the least, and a lot of people misunderstand what it means when they hear it used. Most people seem to think that it means our US aircraft can do anything they want once they are up in the air, but that is hardly the case. The best definition of air superiority is that the enemy we are fighting against no longer has an airborne capability to attack our aircraft; we are at the point where they have very few air assets left, and if they use them, they will quickly be shot down.
That does not mean there is no more danger to our air crews from the ground, because even the poorest militaries in the world can always mount a ground threat to flying aircraft in some way. A great example of this is when the powerful Russian Army was fighting in Afghanistan several decades ago. Their MI-24 ‘Hind’ helicopter gunships were the only thing the Afghan Mujahedeen feared and they were getting torn apart by them. That all changed when the Americans supplied the Afghan forces with shoulder fired Stinger Missiles. Even though the Soviet Army had established air superiority, almost its entire Hind helicopter fleet that was stationed in Afghanistan was brought crashing to the ground.
So any aircraft in any war scenario is vulnerable to enemy air attack no matter how little the threat on the ground may be. It reminds me of the opening scene in the movie Air America, where the Cambodian peasant farmer was walking along with an old style rifle; an American C-130 came flying low overhead and the peasant playfully takes a shot. A few seconds later you see the C-130 smoking and starting to crash. All it takes is one strategically placed bullet to bring even the most sophisticated multi-million dollar aircraft to the ground. That is what makes the job of air crew briefers so critically important.
These briefers will look at intelligence reports and aerial or satellite imagery of the areas the day’s missions will fly to and assess any threats that the aircrews may run into. They will note such things as previous missions in the area where there has been heavy ground fire, AAA activity, or even an occasional shoulder-launched or other type of surface-to-air missile activity. This information is then passed on to the aircrews it concerns, and the pilots will then know to exercise caution when they enter the areas that were pointed out in the briefing.
So the next time you are watching TV and you see aircraft returning safely from a successful mission somewhere in the world, take a second to tip your hat to the skilled aircrew briefers that helped make it happen.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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