Ramping Up Kinetics in OIR

Answering critics of the scale and disposition of OIR strikes on ISIS forces, Lt. Gen. John Hesterman told ASC15 attendees Sept. 16 that airmen are taking out enemy forces at an unprecedented rate, and that the last two months have been the “most kinetic on record” in the conflict thus far. He pointed out on Sept. 8 three B-1Bs emptied their entire weapons loads over Iraq and Syria on 80 targets in 20 minutes, and strike packages such as this are enabled by the intelligence community “coming together… and turning a lot of that exquisite intelligence capability into targetable data.” Targeting packages for a 24/7 air campaign are the real tough part of the operation, he noted. “We are getting better at that. But in my humble opinion … Our ability to do that had atrophied a little bit before we started this campaign,” he noted. Asked about how strike approval processes were affecting the campaign, Hesterman again stressed targeting. “The environment on the ground is not clear,” he said. Bad information in many instances would have led to friendlies killed. “The number of times the initial call on the enemy on the ground was incorrect was over 100 times by the time I left the theater,” Hesterman noted. ISIS forces were often dressed similarly to friendly Iraqi forces, for example, or pretending to be friendly forces. This meant sometimes letting Iraqis do some organization to make sure air planners “knew where they were,” Hesterman said. This may lead to some sorties going home without dropping weapons, but the next aircraft to show up often will get to hit the target. The coalition would be gone “in a week” if even some percentage of the time, air assets dropped bombs on Iraqi soldiers instead of ISIS, he stressed.