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B-1 (Bone) questions

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It was significant enough for them to release a Flash Bulletin about it.

One thing that nobody ever factors into "safety record" is bad shit that could have been avoided had a proficient crew, flying a purpose built aircraft, been onstation.  People only consider it a black mark on your record if you frag the friendlies or strike an invalid target.  What about the FKIA resulting from enemy contact that nobody saw coming, but should have?  They're less tangible because you can never really be sure if any given situation was the result of substandard support or just the unavoidable cost of war, but it's a huge factor in my preference for the assets I want overhead if I'm the GFC.  Two of my most memorable missions didn't involve any air-to-ground employment and yet I'm sure we prevented loss of life where no other asset in the inventory would have.  Had we not been there the friendlies would have been in a world of hurt, but there wouldn't have been any congressional inquiries into the performance of the other aircraft onstation for those missions.  People only pay attention when missions are actively bungled (e.g. fratricide), not when things go south as a result of something that wasn't done.
As for 60 Minutes, portions of the story were cringeworthy, but I wanted to strangle the GO who tried to minimize the significance of a crew not knowing the basic capabilities of their aircraft.  The fact that they were in combat without that knowledge indicates a systemic failure.  Insufficient training or failure of the system to enforce standards, or both.  Either way it's a system wide problem and the primary causal factor despite the military's insistence on laying overall responsibility at the feet of the GFC for anything/everything that happens in their general vicinity.  There's blame to go around, but the aircrew was in the best position to break the chain by a massive margin.
A simple "Copy, you're marked by IR strobe.  Understand we're unable to see that visual mark with our equipment, request [XYZ]." in response to the JTACs first mention of strobes would have absolutely changed enough moving forward to prevent the whole incident.

Read the report. Not saying the aircrew were faultless by any means, but based on the chain of events the same outcome could very easily have happened in daytime. Adherence to JPUB by all members of the CAS team is the best way to prevent this.
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13 minutes ago, magnetfreezer said:

Read the report. Not saying the aircrew were faultless by any means, but based on the chain of events the same outcome could very easily have happened in daytime. Adherence to JPUB by all members of the CAS team is the best way to prevent this.

 

The most egregious active mistakes came from the controller, for sure, but they were just the start of the error chain and the aircrew was still in the best position to put things back in order after the mission began to jump the tracks.  I know we put ultimate responsibility with the JTAC/GFC by doctrine, but I can't recall an employment scenario where I didn't have more SA than the controller (not a dig; given the tools at my disposal there's a big problem if that's not the case).  By doctrine the JTAC is at fault, but the reality is that the aircrew has, or should have, more SA (4 brains vs. 1, and a bunch of equipment) than the controller and is better equipped to put a stop to it.  If the JTAC passes info that is vague, contradictory, or incomplete then the aircrew needs to pull the proper info out of him.  And if he passes information that insinuates he believes something to be true that is not, then the aircrew needs to address it immediately.

Given the circumstances there should have been, at an absolute minimum, some concern over the level and validity of information the aircrew had been provided.  In a pinch, the aircrew could have suggested that they mark their intended impact point to confirm the target with the JTAC.  That, also, would have immediately clarified things.  And that's the kind of the suggestion that is usually going to have to come from the crew.  If they fail to suggest such a thing the AAR will never mention it as a failure, because it's something that wasn't done.  In my experience the reports focus 99% on the things that were done, just improperly.  But that doesn't make it any less of a failure.

I hate to Monday morning quarterback, I really do.  I fully understand that things are different in the heat of the moment, with the fog of war, with the urgency in the JTACs voice, etc.  But sometimes a pig is a pig.

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So not to knock the bone, it’s done some great work but it’s got some HUGE drawbacks in anything other than a simple bombs required on coords scenario and this is why 5 dudes are dead.

Every jet has strength/ weakness but a strength of the hog other than having all the nice technology designed for CAS is you have diverse weapons. So when there is a question of “is this the right target” you can send a marking rocket or do 2-ship “hit my IR mark” tactics.

These type of options provide steps to break the chain of errors if a JTAC is overtasked/wrong.

So if you have a JTAC who needs a pod and maybe a BOC, bone is fine. If you need complex deconfliction (read the CAS definition...it’s not 99% of Afghanistan) then you want a aircraft with the tools, weapons and training to do it.

Again, not knocking the bone, it has done some fine work but every jet has its limitations. The A-10C has terrific avionics designed for the mission...some features were a result of lessons learned where feat happened in the past.

F-16 block 30 is a CAS machine compared to other blocks.

Strengths and limits.

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The most egregious active mistakes came from the controller, for sure, but they were just the start of the error chain and the aircrew was still in the best position to put things back in order after the mission began to jump the tracks.  I know we put ultimate responsibility with the JTAC/GFC by doctrine, but I can't recall an employment scenario where I didn't have more SA than the controller (not a dig; given the tools at my disposal there's a big problem if that's not the case).  By doctrine the JTAC is at fault, but the reality is that the aircrew has, or should have, more SA (4 brains vs. 1, and a bunch of equipment) than the controller and is better equipped to put a stop to it.  If the JTAC passes info that is vague, contradictory, or incomplete then the aircrew needs to pull the proper info out of him.  And if he passes information that insinuates he believes something to be true that is not, then the aircrew needs to address it immediately.
Given the circumstances there should have been, at an absolute minimum, some concern over the level and validity of information the aircrew had been provided.  In a pinch, the aircrew could have suggested that they mark their intended impact point to confirm the target with the JTAC.  That, also, would have immediately clarified things.  And that's the kind of the suggestion that is usually going to have to come from the crew.  If they fail to suggest such a thing the AAR will never mention it as a failure, because it's something that wasn't done.  In my experience the reports focus 99% on the things that were done, just improperly.  But that doesn't make it any less of a failure.
I hate to Monday morning quarterback, I really do.  I fully understand that things are different in the heat of the moment, with the fog of war, with the urgency in the JTACs voice, etc.  But sometimes a pig is a pig.
Agree that the crew should be pulling/maximizing SA, just pointing out that focusing on a strobe/pod mismatch as the major cause does a dis service in deriving lessons learned and preventing it from happening again. Tarnak Farms and multiple other OIF/OEF/Desert Storm incidents reinforce that we all need to train/focus on it as a CAF.

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Not blaming the equipment at all.  The fact that the crew doesn't know the basic capabilities of their aircraft is indicative of the root problem.  Insufficient training or failure to enforce standards as I said in my first post.  And there's no way that a crew with such a fundamental gap in knowledge about their aircraft is peak performing at all the other aspects of "CAS".  Effective communication being the most critical among them.

Having said that, there's no doubt that the equipment in question is inadequate for anything beyond the most rudimentary "CAS" support.  Which is to be expected for a platform that wasn't designed for the mission. I wish the generals would just admit to that fact when questioned about it rather than spitting out a bunch of verbal chaff designed to obfuscate reality.  It's okay to acknowledge that we can't afford 1000 AH-64s, A-10s, and AC-130s, so we make do with what we have.

On a related sidenote, it was always frustrating to see how the gunship's LLLTV/ALLTV was ignored as outdated technology.  It didn't produce a picture that looked pretty on the big screens at the TOC, so it was worthless to anybody who mattered.  But for the crews it provided instant and nearly total battlefield SA of all friendly positions, and the positions of any enemy that were brave enough to take a shot.  If you could get the right general in the aircraft for the right mission to see what that sensor provided, Big Safari would be pushing out new variants of it for every platform in the inventory.  Instead, because it doesn't generate an intuitive image like the FLIR that everybody is used to, nobody cares.  And, no, the fusion systems (as they're currently being implemented) are no replacement. There were plenty of opportunities to prevent the incident being discussed given the circumstances at hand that night, but a LLTV system (or suitable equivalent) would have made it functionally impossible from the beginning.

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B-1 Bomber Crews Defend Sniper Pod After Friendly Fire Incident (11 Jan 2018);
https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/01/11/b-1-bomber-crews-defend-sniper-pod-after-friendly-fire-incident.html

"It wasn't B-1 specific. If it was an A-10, or an F-15 or F-16 in that situation, they would have had the same issue. I think it was just a misconception," he said.
 


No, in those jets designed for visual lookout and maneuvering you can easily/quickly descend if you need a better view and see where your pod is looking to verify outside your nice bubble canopy possibly aided with a HMCS.

They “could” have the same issue but Chances are they “would not”.

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A bigger issue is the fact that we are wasting airframe life on the B-1(and B-52s/F-15Es, etc.) doing CAS in Afghanistan when the AF should have bought the Tucano/AT-6 a decade ago to use instead.  Or if you just want a coordinate bomber with long on-station times, we could have hung JDAMs on a 737 (i.e. Navy P-8) a decade ago.  

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7 hours ago, Mark1 said:

On a related sidenote, it was always frustrating to see how the gunship's LLLTV/ALLTV was ignored as outdated technology.  It didn't produce a picture that looked pretty on the big screens at the TOC, so it was worthless to anybody who mattered.  But for the crews it provided instant and nearly total battlefield SA of all friendly positions, and the positions of any enemy that were brave enough to take a shot.  If you could get the right general in the aircraft for the right mission to see what that sensor provided, Big Safari would be pushing out new variants of it for every platform in the inventory.  Instead, because it doesn't generate an intuitive image like the FLIR that everybody is used to, nobody cares.  And, no, the fusion systems (as they're currently being implemented) are no replacement. There were plenty of opportunities to prevent the incident being discussed given the circumstances at hand that night, but a LLTV system (or suitable equivalent) would have made it functionally impossible from the beginning.

I’ll bite on this and say absolutely, 100% the sensors on the AC-130U are outdated technology that should not and do not have a place on modern aircraft. There is a good reason why the W and J gunships that replaced the Hs and will eventually also replace the U-boats have different sensors.

There’s absolutely no comparison between U-boat sensors and something like a VNIR MTS-B or SWIR-fusion on an MX-20 or MX-25. Those are the kinds of sensors that BSSG is rightfully buying for the aircraft they support.

I do agree with you that better sensors and knowledge of how to use them could have helped prevent the B-1 frat incident being discussed. 

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Here's a visual of what it looks like when things go wrong. I believe this incident happened in late 2015. I personally don't know who was at fault or what type jet dropped the ordnance.

 

 

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JTAC passed friendly grid in 4/6, aircrew didn't recognize/process that fact (and clearly JTAC didn't intend to do it).  Turns out plotting shit on a map is a still a good idea; it's a team sport, back each other up out there.

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19 hours ago, Mark1 said:

It's okay to acknowledge that we can't afford 1000 AH-64s, A-10s, and AC-130s, so we make do with what we have.

 

"Make do".... By proffering strategic heavy bombardment assets as the answer to that supposed deficit? Joseph on a donkey, that's equally as derelict and/or egregious imho. I know I know, everybody wants their turkey shoot commemorative t-shirt, but this goes beyond individual egos. Some of this CENTCOM shit borders on FWA.

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11 hours ago, nsplayr said:

 

I’ll bite on this and say absolutely, 100% the sensors on the AC-130U are outdated technology that should not and do not have a place on modern aircraft. There is a good reason why the W and J gunships that replaced the Hs and will eventually also replace the U-boats have different sensors.

There’s absolutely no comparison between U-boat sensors and something like a VNIR MTS-B or SWIR-fusion on an MX-20 or MX-25. Those are the kinds of sensors that BSSG is rightfully buying for the aircraft they support.

I do agree with you that better sensors and knowledge of how to use them could have helped prevent the B-1 frat incident being discussed. 

NS, I agree 100%.  Mark1 I am curious— what is your experience with fused imaging to make you think it is not a replacement?  I haven’t seen a single thing LLTV alone does better.

For the wider debate, PBARs post wins.  

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15 hours ago, nsplayr said:

I’ll bite on this and say absolutely, 100% the sensors on the AC-130U are outdated technology that should not and do not have a place on modern aircraft. There is a good reason why the W and J gunships that replaced the Hs and will eventually also replace the U-boats have different sensors.

There’s absolutely no comparison between U-boat sensors and something like a VNIR MTS-B or SWIR-fusion on an MX-20 or MX-25. Those are the kinds of sensors that BSSG is rightfully buying for the aircraft they support.

I do agree with you that better sensors and knowledge of how to use them could have helped prevent the B-1 frat incident being discussed. 

 

3 hours ago, tac airlifter said:

NS, I agree 100%.  Mark1 I am curious— what is your experience with fused imaging to make you think it is not a replacement?  I haven’t seen a single thing LLTV alone does better.

For the wider debate, PBARs post wins.  

The response was predictable, but I'm sorry, it's wrong.  First, let me emphasize what I actually said:

23 hours ago, Mark1 said:

And, no, the fusion systems (as they're currently being implemented) are no replacement.

Of course I'm not suggesting we should hang a half-century old system on a modern aircraft.  I'm advocating replicating the capability with the benefit of 50 years of technological advancement.  A LLLTV-like system could be miniaturized and would only be a component of a greater visual sensor system.  That is, as part of a fusion-like system...but implemented effectively.  And I should note that the U-model ALLTV was significantly worse than the H-model LLLTV at the aspects I'm heralding.  The ALLTV presented a picture that was more usable for people who wanted it to function like a second (shitty) IR system (i.e. making pretty pictures for the TOC), but it had shortcomings in critical areas.

Your response to my comment is the same that the LLLTV got from everybody who didn't have experience with it.  And don't get me wrong, for most things I'd rather have had a brick strapped to the side of the aircraft.  But it was indispensable for others.  Two things made it fantastic for battlefield SA.  But as I typed them out I couldn't avoid moving into OPSEC grey areas.  I don't much mind talking about the LLLTV itself given it's no longer in the inventory, but contrasting it to modern system capabilities in detail became a problem.  Suffice to say this:

Any weapon system discharged within effective range of friendlies (or discharged outside and simply traveling through that region) would be immediately and unmistakably apparent on the LLLTV.  It would be almost trivial to locate the POO.  I have operational experience with fusion up through MX-20, and the same can not be said of it.  The technology is there, but it's not implemented correctly.  I assume because the engineers are satisfying the desire of poorly trained operators and the ecosystem that made them that way, which thinks fusions greatest utility is being able to stare down a soda straw at an individual and confirm that his head is twinkling.  Whatever is going on in the universe outside of 20m from that individual is of no concern.  If that's what you want, then the existing fusion systems are great.  I hope that's not what you want.

In principle the modern systems give you the big-picture view, but in reality they don't do it effectively...for reasons that I won't get into.

In all of my experience since fusion systems were widely fielded I have not once heard a fusion equipped asset identify a rifle round or other weapon system in flight once separated from its muzzle and accompanying IR signature.  It was a routine occurrence with the LLLTV and it saved many lives.

It's the reason that the gunship could routinely pinpoint the source of enemy fire 400m away from friendlies before they ever even knew it was directed towards them, and while all the other assets onstation happily stared away at their area of responsibility, oblivious to the world around them.

People that haven't experienced a proper near-IR system see the fusion balls and think they're great, but only because they have no point of reference.

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Mark1, your post is a lot to disgest.  I am wondering if your experience with current LL fusion technology is limited to the MX on gunships or if you’re also familiar with the myriad other systems?  Because seeing hot projectiles is really just a matter of spectrum sensitivity and imaging resolution (along with operator raining I suppose).  That capability exists on platforms that aren’t 1960s H models.  What am I missing?

On another note, I’ve been out of the ops world for a few years but I’m glad the hubris of gunship superiority in all things is still alive and well!  You guys saving the day while the rest of us are happily oblivious reminds me of fond memories.  If you could shout at me with a shit radio while your feed is intermittent, then spend an hour trying to hit a single squirter, then not attend the debrief because of crew rest (even though I’m flying again in 10 hours and you’re off the next day) our trip down memory lane would be complete.  :aviator::beer::drinking: 

Just having some fun bro!  Don’t send your 28man alchoholic crew to kidnap me & shave my head.

 

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3 hours ago, tac airlifter said:

Mark1, your post is a lot to disgest.  I am wondering if your experience with current LL fusion technology is limited to the MX on gunships or if you’re also familiar with the myriad other systems?  Because seeing hot projectiles is really just a matter of spectrum sensitivity and imaging resolution (along with operator raining I suppose).  That capability exists on platforms that aren’t 1960s H models.  What am I missing?

I have no experience with the MX on the gunship...so yes, I'm familiar.  And you're very right.  It's just a matter of spectrum sensitivity.  Further, all the modern systems have the requisite detection sensitivity, so it's really just a matter of display sensitivity.  But the widely fielded fusion systems as they're implemented put a premium on the pretty picture, and simply augment it with the other information.  The limits to which the user can modify this are too tight.  If you've got a 1km radius area on display in your peripheral vision and a round travels through, it's not going to jump off the screen at you.  It could be made to do so.  But I've never seen one of the modern systems that is configurable to do it.  And I doubt there's one out there that I'm just not familiar with, because as I said, not once have I heard another asset key in on such a thing.   

3 hours ago, tac airlifter said:

If you could shout at me with a shit radio while your feed is intermittent, then spend an hour trying to hit a single squirter, then not attend the debrief because of crew rest (even though I’m flying again in 10 hours and you’re off the next day) our trip down memory lane would be complete.

Sounds like you were forced to work with a lot of U-boat crews.  I feel your pain, and I'll be right behind you at the complaint department.

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24 minutes ago, Mark1 said:

I have no experience with the MX on the gunship...so yes, I'm familiar.  And you're very right.  It's just a matter of spectrum sensitivity.  Further, all the modern systems have the requisite detection sensitivity, so it's really just a matter of display sensitivity.  But the widely fielded fusion systems as they're implemented put a premium on the pretty picture, and simply augment it with the other information.  The limits to which the user can modify this are too tight.  If you've got a 1km radius area on display in your peripheral vision and a round travels through, it's not going to jump off the screen at you.  It could be made to do so.  But I've never seen one of the modern systems that is configurable to do it.  And I doubt there's one out there that I'm just not familiar with, because as I said, not once have I heard another asset key in on such a thing.   

So then do you see the root problem as more a matter of training, or is it more related to w/dependent BAH?

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4 hours ago, 50ScoopsofWhey said:

Somewhat related question, does anyone know if its possible to drop a B-1 out of the heavy T-1 route?

It's starting to happen, yes.  Both Buffs and Bones are dropping to the T-1 side. 

Edited by 08Dawg
coz

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2 hours ago, 08Dawg said:

It's starting to happen, yes.  Both Buffs and Bones are dropping to the T-1 side. 

Happened to FAIPs. The T-1 SP direct B-52 was a unique case.

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5 hours ago, Mark1 said:

I have no experience with the MX on the gunship...so yes, I'm familiar. 

Wut?

BL on this thread derail: we’ll have to agree to disagree on the idea that somehow the H-model LLTV is a superior sensor when compared with modern 20” sensors like the MX-20 or MTS-B. Is there some niche in the spectrum where that old ball excelled when paired with tons of SO training and experience? Probably. Would anyone flying today rather have that obsolete tech over the sensors we actually have in the field? I would not at least, and I’ve watched over lots of eagles taking small arms fire.

I’m confident that the proof is in the pudding and that the operational crews and specialized procurement programs are making good choices on sensor tech. Good day to you sir 🇺🇸

Edited by nsplayr

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The T-1 to BUFF kid had a spouse who was already at Minot for missiles IIRC.  He did well in T-1's so his command made a case for him and got it approved.  Don't take this as something that happens on the regular, above average student with a unique case.  That being said I've heard rumblings/rumors that they were going to open bombers up to T-1 bro's for quite a while.

Concerning the FAIP's to bombers.  A couple dudes I know were T-1 FAIP's and are headed to the BUFF, but that was almost 2 years ago.  Can't recall any T-1 FAIP's got bombers last year (or at least at Vance).

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4 hours ago, LookieRookie said:

Happened to FAIPs. The T-1 SP direct B-52 was a unique case.

Not so.  I think the one YoungnDumb is talking about was the first, but definitely not the only as of late.  Our FTU SQ/CC made a trip to Columbus specifically to scope out the product coming out of the Tone side.  Shortly thereafter, our FTU inbound roster (at least before I deployed) had T-1 FAIPs and studs listed as coming to us for upcoming classes.  I can't say with certainty whether this is happening for the Bone or not, but  I had heard rumblings at one point not too long ago. 

Edited by 08Dawg
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