Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 85

AIR FORCE TAKE NOTE Historical Precedence— Generals Bradley and Quesada The air and land components have compromised before. During World War II, Gen. Bradley commanded First Army. His Army Air Corps counterpart and the commander of IX Tactical Air Command was Gen. Quesada.1 Thomas Hughes, author of Overlord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II, summarizes their relationship: “The two had a common zeal to win the war and to ignore the bitter history of air-ground animosity.”2 Bradley and Quesada helped enable the effective innovation of CAS during World War II. At the outset of the war, the United States did not have the capability to conduct efficient CAS. During the interwar period, political maneuvering and a focus on strategic bombers took the Army Air Corps in a direction away from CAS. Dr. Richard Muller, professor of airpower history at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, states, “The strides made in aircraft technology during the 1930s virtually expunged close air support from the Air Corps’ roster of capabilities.”3 Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold believed CAS should not be the Air Corps’ focus. He felt even the name—close air support—indicated the Air Corps was subsidiary to ground forces. Arnold placed CAS sixth on his prioritized list of air tasks.4 Quesada and Bradley overcame these hurdles. By the end of World War II, CAS operations became a key element in the defeat of Axis forces. An example from D-Day helps demonstrate this claim and shows the fruit of the cooperation between Bradley and Quesada. Close air support, or tactical aviation, was a key enabler of the breakout from the beaches of Normandy. Specifically, CAS helped link the two American footholds at the Utah and Omaha Beaches.5 The town of Carentan, located thirty miles inland, quickly became a key piece of terrain. Controlling Carentan would bridge the two American beachheads and avoid a potentially nightmarish fight in regions flooded by the German defenders.6 Securing Carentan became the task of the 101st Airborne Division. Unfortunately, the lightly equipped 101st faced Germans equipped with much heavier weaponry.7 Tactical airpower provided the 101st the firepower it needed. Planes from Quesada’s command spotted a two-division-sized group of Germans known as Kampfgruppe Heinz. P-51 and P-47 aircraft brought these German reinforcements to a near standstill.8 Even Field Marshall Erwin Rommel recognized MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 the impact of U.S. tactical air support. In a letter to his wife, he lamented, “The enemy’s air superiority has a very grave effect on our movements. There’s simply no answer to it.”9 Kampfgruppe Heinz eventually limped into Carentan, but most of the force was more than a week late. The Germans had to evacuate Carentan because of CAS’s decisive role. The German army commander, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, believed they lost Carentan due to the “unbearable” air attacks making daytime movement “impossible.”10 Quesada’s fighters answered 184 CAS requests during the first week following the invasion. Tactical aviation grew rapidly from 1941–1945. The relationship between Bradley and Quesada facilitated that growth. Throughout this discussion, other examples from their excellent working relationship will shed light on how Air Force leaders can focus decision making to support the rapidly changing Army. Army Size and Restructuring Requires Air Force Critical Thinking Sometimes innovation is a luxury; sometimes it is a requirement. The Army is drastically reducing its size, which is driving significant changes in organization. Although some of these changes are required, the Army is using the opportunity to innovate. Air Force leaders must understand these changes and think critically a bout how to support future Army operations. On 30 July 2013, U.S. Army Forces Command issued a warning order (WARNO) regarding brigade combat team (BCT) reorganization. The WARNO reiterated an Army end strength of 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2017.11 The order goes on to provide specifics on a new force structure and the number of BCTs—the Army’s primary fighting element. When considering these new numbers, it is important to consider remarks by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. On 31 July 2013, Hagel indicated that sequestration budget cuts could drive the planned end strength to 380,000 soldiers.12 These changes are significant. What are they? And, how do they impact the Air Force? Over the past two years, the Army significantly reduced its active strength from approximately 570,000 soldiers to just under 495,000—a loss of 75,000 personnel. As this is happening, the Army is shifting to its 2020 BCT design.13 The Army has three categories of ground maneuver BCTs: infantry, 79