That Air Force "Surge"
Former Spook argues that the numbers don't support the argument that the Air Force is surging sorties to match their ground counterparts in Iraq. If any place is "surging" in sorties flown, he claims it is Afghanistan. The AP story he critiques maintains there has been a sharp increase in air activity recently.
Statistics tell the story: Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped 437 bombs and missiles in Iraq in the first six months of 2007, a fivefold increase over the 86 used in the first half of 2006, and three times more than in the second half of 2006, according to Air Force data. In June, bombs dropped at a rate of more than five a day.
But, looking at the figures from 10 July 2007, and 30 July 2006, Former Spook finds no support for the theory that there are more sorties. But he notes, that's not exactly what the AP is measuring. They are measuring bombs dropped. And the number of bombs dropped is responsive to factors other than sorties flown.
In Iraq, Mr. Hanley's report of an "airpower" surge is based (in part) on a noticeable increase in the number of munitions dropped. According to information provided to the AP, Air Force and naval aircraft expended 437 bombs and missiles against Iraqi targets in the first half of 2007, compared to 86 during the same period last year. That's obviously an indication of the on-going troop surge, but it's also a product of better intelligence (from UAVs and ground-based sources) and introduction of the new, small-diameter bomb (SDB), which minimizes collateral damage, even in densely-populated urban environments.
Which makes sense because munitions delivery is probably less bomb-carrying capacity limited than targeting limited.
In reality, the number of available Air Force assets in theater has increased only slightly over the past 12 months. The service has long had the capability to carry out a sustained bombing campaign, using aircraft and personnel deployed to the region (as part of the Air Expeditionary Force concept), and other resources that could be dispatched with relatively short notice.