Three things

1

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Paul Henry is back. Excellent! More excellent when they reunite him with Pippa to keep him honest…

2

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Stephen Hoadley has suggested that the best future for Afghanistan may be one split into North (for the normal people) and South (for the rabid nutjobs). This is one of the more coherent options to be put forward so far, especially as ongoing Karzai intransigence draws the US and NATO ‘zero option’ closer to reality…

dm claus…and in a timely and related comment, Doctrine Man reminds us that we need to think about outcomes before we launch into any knee-jerk good ideas for military deployments post- 2014 Afghanistan…like they used to say at the Tactics School “…every task must have a purpose…” i.e. it is not enough just to be or, worse, to be nice…

3

whaleHa-bloody-ha…there is such a thing as karma after all…while I don’t condone death threats at all – be nice to see proof of said threats though, Cam – I think that it is funny-as that this guy who quite happy lips off at all and sundry has been taken to take for being a dick…I can not believe that he had the gall to refer to someone else as ‘feral’…

Opinion: Training for war is not a precise science

…and Josh wrote another op-ed piece…

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Training for war is not a precise science.  By its very nature war is imprecise and unpredictable.  To make matters worse there tends to be an opponent who, in the words of American General George Patton, is trying his hardest to make you die for your country rather than him. Training therefore has to be relevant, intensive and invariably adaptive.

War since 9/11 has become increasingly characterised as being irregular in nature. Modern war has become less about the battles between states and their armies and more about defeating violent non-state groups. Terms and descriptions like peacekeeping missions or stability operations are often an attempt to re-categorise what are actually wars.

As military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz noted,  “The first, the supreme, most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature.”

While the term war may sit uncomfortably with many citizens, the fact is when bullets and bombs start to fly your way those on the front line have more regard for their survival than concerns for what their mission has been labelled.

The recent media reports about the training and the attitude of New Zealand forces deploying to Afghanistan raises a number of important issues. The fact that a soldier has raised concerns while observing the training of a contingent is actually a good thing. That is exactly the purpose of observing and making expert judgment on training for the contemporary warfare environment.

No doubt there have been training concerns in the past and there will be more in the future. Some may have missed the point that such observations are designed to make the team better, not worse. The response so far has been to put the comments into a wider context of training for Afghanistan, and rightfully so. What will be interesting however, is to see if any follow up by the Defence Force focuses on the message or the messenger.

Training in the military is a system. Those who present themselves for deployment are at the pinnacle of that system. The full suite of training courses and on the job experience they have previously undertaken is ultimately designed for them to deploy and succeed on operations. If things manifest as problems during the final training for operations it is sometimes difficult to recognise or even isolate where in the total system it may have gone astray. 

Attitude is acknowledged as affecting performance. A positive attitude tends to increase performance while a negative attitude can reduce it. Inextricably linked to attitude is confidence. Preparing for a military deployment requires confidence in those being deployed, confidence in the leadership of those deploying, confidence in those charged with providing the training and confidence in the training system itself.

Accepting that war is imprecise, and more irregular these days, it is hardly surprising that the training and attitude for today’s military forces is under immense and constant pressure. Ideally, the force will depart for their mission confident that they are well prepared. To assume that they are ready for anything however, discounts the actuality of unpredictability. There is always a very fine line between sureness and an hubristic approach. 

Having a winning, positive attitude, and implicit trust and conviction in your comrades and the training you have received are what define the profession of arms. While it is good to hear that the training is going well, it is not always a bad thing to hear that it is not. 

Josh Wineera is a teaching fellow at Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies and is planning to teach a new 200-level paper “Irregular Warfare”in the second semester.

Indicative of the articles referred to above are these:

Training for Army fighters blasted

Officer was ‘too aggressive’

Unfortunately, today’s media has of course selected deliberately inflammatory headlines without either considering or even probably understanding the core underlying issues…

The people that really count

What’s always puzzled me is that for all the bluster about these being population-centric wars, very few American reporters feel comfortable living with the people or listening to what they have to say.

These words were part of a comment by Carl Prine in response to the link posted up by Doctrine Man this morning  U.S. military to pass oversight of embedded reporters to Afghan security forces . My care factor over the subject of the article is fairly low – I think the whole embedded media idea is in need for a fairly severe overhaul to ensure that reporting is fair and truthful and that a. isn’t simply a clumsy extension of the campaign information operations plan, and b. protects the hosts from Mikey Yawn ‘biting the hands that fed them‘ or Paula Broadwell ‘I have ideas above my station‘ style embarrassments…

However, on the subject of population-centricity…

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…the Hector’s Dolphin population is much like the populations of in COIN theatres, places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Malaya, France, etc. Like those populations, the poor old Hector’s Dolphin can do what it likes to ensure the survival of its way of life but all that is large;y meaningless without the support of the population(s) supporting the intervention/COIN campaign  In Fact, when you think about it, much the same applies to the insurgent forces as well…without the support of the populations caring, caring nations like North Vietnam, Great Britain, Iran or Pakistan (yes, there will be a test later on to match up supporters with supported!), many, and most, insurgent campaigns would fade away like a five year olds ice cream in the sun…and conversely, with the support of the COIN/intervention force domestic population, the same will occur. Perhaps, the melted ice cream could become the 21st Century version of the classic COIN inkspot, one that transforms rapidly into a sticky spot of the map that just attracts flies?

ImageSo, when we talk about population-centric warfare, we are not referring to the population of the nation, province or other area where the insurgency is physically occuring – or we shouldn’t be if we have a good handle on this COIN thing – but instead we should be referring to the populations that support their nation’s participation in any given COIN campaign. When these populations stop caring, either by simply allowing apathy to run its course, or by actively opposing support, that nation’s effective contribution to the campaign is doomed…

Reversing the Oil-spot

Possibly winding off the Thursday/Friday War for 2012, a short item from Josh Wineera wondering what the reverse side of the popular COIN theory of the inkspot might look like in 2014…

Reversing the Oil-spot:How does the concept apply when leaving Afghanistan?

Josh Wineera

November 2012

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For professional military planners, and even armchair strategist, the oil-spot concept for responding to an insurgency appears to be well understood. The counter insurgent objective of extending the security environment to establish and entrench a sustainable economic and political situation has been a particular feature of the latter stages of the War in Afghanistan. Conceived some 100 years ago by French Army Generals, Gallieni and Lyautey, the modern oil-spot concept is expressed in the form of a ‘Clear, Hold and Build’ strategy. Clear, Hold and Build has been the mainstay of ISAF coalition operations since the release of the 2006 US Army field manual, FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency Operations.

Afghanistan experts have fiercely debated the merits of fighting the enemy, aka the Taliban, verses focusing on protecting the population. Recent ISAF commanders, such as Generals McChrystal, Petraeus and Allen, all recognised the necessity to engage in both. Kill-capture missions sit aside missions such as training and mentoring Afghan security forces – such is the nature of contemporary counterinsurgency operations.

As the exit date rapidly approaches for coalition governments to withdraw their forces, plaudits for the successful application of the oil-spot approach still proliferate. Manifestly the surge of an additional 30,000 troops in early 2010 provided better force ratios and counterinsurgent density to implement the expansion in to previously held Taliban-strongholds. At this time however, with transition and withdrawal leading every major conversation about Afghanistan, a natural question arises.

Having applied the concept, moving forward has any thought been given to what happens when the oil-spot concept ceases, or rather the ISAF forces contract and concentrate to leave? Granted, a critical precondition to leaving has to be the successful training of the Afghan Army and Police forces to take full responsibility for their own community’s internal security. They after all, are the most important counter insurgent force in Afghanistan – a point often missed. Regardless, the degree of their success is still open for debate. One measure has been the quantity of Afghan security forces being trained. As to the quality, plainly numbers do not convey the whole story. Recent insider attacks, known colloquially as a ‘green on blue’ incident, have placed immense pressure on the trust and confidence within those partnered ISAF and Afghan units. It would be unfair to generalise these extreme tensions across the whole country. In many places, such as the Arghandab River Valley in the Kandahar Province, conditions are in place to enable the Afghans to take the lead. Certainly in his address to the US Army Irregular Warfare Centre last month, former ISAF battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Michael Simmering explained the rational for his unit’s achievements.

Having expanded the security environment, in many cases literally being the outlier force, ISAF strategists and even regionally based planners must surely be conceiving a plan to reverse the oil-spot concept? Ideally, the full extent of ISAF control of the environment is manageable for the Afghan forces but common sense would suggest they are in for a very tough time. The absence of ISAF will almost certainly be a cue for prospective power brokers to demonstrate their credentials for control. In some provinces this demonstration has already begun.

Drawing back to a concentration area, or a central hub, for departure might seem like a logical method to reduce the ISAF footprint in the provinces. For this to be achieved an assumption would need to be made in terms of the previously held (by ISAF) security zone remaining intact. That is an assumption that will hold up in some provinces, for others it will remain questionable – certainly a major risk consideration. Possibly some ISAF contingents might contemplate holding the outer security areas in place and hollowing out the main force from the rear first. The last element to withdraw would be the outer security forces having provided a ‘shield’. Military proponents would recognise these two options as merely tactical methods of withdrawing from a main defensive position, and so they are. Could they however, become the basis to start conceptualising and visualising what ISAFs oil spots could look like in reverse?

For those ISAF soldiers still patrolling their area of operations, the time for theoretical conceptions matters little. Familiar tactical tasks, such as the options to withdraw or allowing the Afghan security forces to relive them in place, may not be considered particularly elegant or intellectually innovative. But they, in some way, will feature in every planning consideration. So might a new metaphor be coined to explain reversing the oil-spot? In an age where anything can be rebranded and often is, where the old can be made new age again, the likelihood is high.

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Major Josh Wineera is a serving military officer on secondment to the Centre for Defence and Security Studies,Massey University. He can be contacted at j.wineera@massey.ac.nz

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies or the New Zealand Defence Force.

The media look after their own

Oh, woe is me…the combination of Kiwi, stick and snake apparently works for leftos as well

There is a story in the Herald on Sunday on the Sumner Burstyn issue. Unfortunately it’s not a very good one and really only serves as a platform for Ms Burstyn to plead ‘oh, woe is me…why are people angry with me?” We wondered last night if the media lack of response to the issues were a case of them looking after their own and based on THIS article that would seem to be the case…

The author, Joanne Carroll, does not appear to have made any attempt to interview or seek comment from the creators of the page and seems happy enough to simply regurgitate what she has been told by Summy Bear, coupled with some lightweight comment from the defence Force which does not seem to have any opinion on whether it is OK or not for people to slag off fallen soldiers before their final journey is complete. And that is the real issue here, folks, NOT the hows or whyfores of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan…

There is an email link at the end of the article and I would suggest that anyone with concerns about the standard of NZ media reporting on this and other issues, use it. Pick your 1200 characters carefully and, as always, keep it seemly and remember that soldiers are discplined but mobs and rabbles are not…

Dear Joanne

Thank you for making the effort to cover the erupting Summer Burstyn issue however I don’t believe that you have provided a balanced perspective at all and have simply latched onto the issue for some cheap ratings. You have made no effort to portray fairly the feelings of those who have expressed their outrage at her comments on Facebook and elsewhere online but have just focussed on the minority whose comments are aggressive. Is not the fact (if the Herald still deals in such?) that over 20,000 people have joined the FB page in less than two days an indicator of where public feeling lies on this issue? The NZ media was very quick to climb aboard when similar outrage was expressed occurred over the Kahui twins.

There was a belief expressed yesterday that the NZ media’s lack of response to this issue was a case of the media covering up for its own. Your article has done nothing the assuage that belief and merely provides a forum for more of Burstyn’s self-righteous self-pity.

I hope that the Herald and the rest of the NZ media community will get it together and offer a balanced view of what the issues are.

Here’s a view from the FB page that I think presents the balance absent from the article:

Sumner Burstyn: post an antiwar comment and get 120 death threats – funny how that works.

Barbara, the thing is, your comments were not antiwar comments (I greatly respect anyone’s right to make those). Instead they were a personal attack on a young dead female soldier just after her body was returned to New Zealand for burial.
While I am sorry that the responses from 20,000 of her closest friends and collegues became personal and in some instances threatening, surely you can see that they mirrored the language and feeling of YOUR original post.

While I respect your opinion, your target, tone and timing were highly inappropriate in any civilised society. Despite your apology we continue to see similar messages from you, including personal attacks on dead service personnel in your earlier posts. As a NZ Herald columnist I would have expected a more considered approach to posting such views. I guess that’s now a matter for your employer and tomorrow’s talk back radio callers to consider.

More words from activist filmaker Sumner Burstyn

More words from activist filmaker Sumner Burstyn.

This makes great reading. It derives from a comment made about  Lance-Corporal Jacinda Baker, one of the three Kiwi soldiers killed by an IED in Afghanistan last weekend:

After the first pushback from the community the comment was removed however as the exchange with a soldier on the link above shows, that wasn’t through any sense of remorse. It is really interesting to note, when reading this transcript that the socalled journalist very quickly descends into abuse while the infantry soldier continues to put his case in clear and articulate terms…

The issue is not whether or not we should or should not be in Afghanistan, or the whys or why nots of having a defence force; the issue is simply that someone has stooped to a vicious personal attack on a young woman who is no longer able to speak for herself – but there are, at the time of typing this, 13752 people prepared to speak on Jacinda Baker’s behalf.

While the freedom of the internet allows someone like Sumner Burstyn to publish her slander, it also allows for that slander to be challenged and not be allowed to become the new ‘truth’ and here a community has come together again to see that wrong righted.    I say ‘again’ because this is a very special community, one that spans across the world and across decades – there are names appearing here that I have not seen for years and years and that bring back such memories. We might not meet regularly or even often but we can carry on a conversation that started in a hole full of mud and bugs in South East Asia, or while shivering in the tussock of Waiouru as if that were only yesterday. And certainly we can come together again to speak on behalf of those who can no longer…

There is a lot of anger on the community page and there probably would be at any time but in this month, where we have lost five of our own, a lot of folks are venting. It isn’t an unreasonable expectation that the mollycoddled left leaning loony community couldn’t give it a rest at least til the funerals and grieving are done…

A sad day for New Zealand as Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris arrive back home. (c) NZDF 2012

Jim Hopkins of the NZ Herald ends an article yesterday:

Yet, somehow, we still get soldiers. Who don’t hide in other people’s houses or make self-serving speeches or expect everyone else to “do the right thing”. They do it themselves, whatever the cost. On the Stuff website, beneath its report on the death of SAS Corporal Doug Grant last year, readers have posted their comments. One says this: – “Rest in Peace – We shall remember them. If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier.”

That’s the essence of the debt every generation owes its troops – a debt unpaid by those who hide in embassies.

Age shall not weary them

I started work this morning, only to learn that three more Kiwi soldiers have been killed in Bamiyan Province when the last vehicle in a convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Bamiyan, north west of Do Abe on the road to Romero about 9.20am on Sunday (Afghanistan time).  The remaining personnel in the patrol secured the location and awaited additional support. A second bomb was found and defused.

Many people are sharing a quote from US Army Major John Hottell, who was killed in Vietnam…it sounded familiar and I found a Time article that concludes with that quote:

…you have five in a row from the class of ’64. One belongs to John Hottell III – a Rhodes scholar, twice a recipient of the Silver Star – who was killed in 1970. The year before, he had written his own obituary and sent it in a sealed envelope to his wife. “I deny that I died for anything – not my country, not my Army, not my fellow man,” he wrote. “I lived for these things, and the manner in which I chose to do it involved the very real chance that I would die…my love for West Point and the Army was great enough…for me to accept this possibility as a part of a price which must be paid for things of great value.

Some day I might copy the whole article in here but that’s not appropriate today…in getting my head around these losses in Bamiyan, I did come across the site from which I borrowed the image above…the author talks about memories of ANZAC Day and the simple act of placing an RSA poppy on the cenotaph, one of the many scattered across this nation, reminders of those who did not come back from the nation’s struggles…

Leading from the Front

Major Wilson pictured here in 2010 speaking with then Defence Minister Wayne Mapp. (c) Dean Kozanic

The following statement has been issued by the New Zealand Defence Force on behalf of Major Craig Wilson, the officer commanding Kiwi Company at the time of the gun battle with insurgents in Bamyan, Afghanistan, on 4 August.
“I am writing this statement for release to the general public. Until I am well enough, these words will have to take the place of me speaking directly.

“All six of us wounded personnel are incredibly pleased at the way LCpls Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone were honoured by their Army units and the nation more generally over the weekend. We are thinking of Rory and Pralli and it gave us great comfort to see them appropriately honoured.
“Our first thoughts are with the families of Pralli and Rory and I look forward to meeting the families in person on my return to New Zealand. I appreciate the support being provided to the families of our fallen, which I know will be coming from so many compassionate people in the country we serve and love.
“We are very much thinking of the Durrer and Malone families and their friends, as well as the families of all the guys still out doing the job in Afghanistan. We really appreciate the support of the New Zealand public, and I am hopeful that that public support will be ongoing to the families of the men and women still delivering the mission in Afghanistan.
“With regard to the other injured men of Kiwi Company, I have been very proud of their conduct. We have tried to be as strong as possible. I am sure I speak for us all when I talk about the support we have received.
“This initially came from our mates on the ground, who in some cases risked their own lives to get us out of immediate danger and provided immediate first aid. Then from our medics – who have been consummate professionals all tour and stood up yet again.
“Finally, from our headquarters and support personnel who brought all the external support to bear that we needed; who made the best of what was an incredibly difficult situation; and, as always, made the troops on the ground feel supported.
“I would like to also publicly praise the coalition troops who responded in support of the situation – especially the MEDEVAC helicopter pilots and crews who are some of the most skilled and brave unsung heroes of the Afghan theatre.
“Thanks also goes to the many coalition medical teams through the chain of evacuation that in some cases saved our lives. In all cases they made us feel safe and secure. The public of New Zealand should know that these Dutch, German and American medical teams treated us like their own countrymen, working tirelessly and with great skill.
“I would like to thank our military leaders and their staff back in New Zealand, who through their hard-working liaison officers have made us feel as though heaven and earth is being moved to keep us supported, and getting us home to our families quickly, where we all want to be. We look forward to reuniting with our family and friends, getting our medical treatment finalised, and getting back on with things just as soon as we can.
“With regard to the incident itself, I and the other wounded look forward to formally passing to the New Zealand Defence Force, at the appropriate time on our return, the knowledge and detail of this battle that we possess. This battle was very fast, very complex, and came down to a pitched gunfight where the insurgent force had many advantages over us at that moment. The full story is yet to be pieced together.
“Judging by the nature of my wounds, my days as an operational soldier are probably over but I will continue working for my soldiers now and over the next while to ensure that they are accredited the respect and recognition that their actions in Bamyan deserve.
“While this was a major combat engagement, it is what our men and women work and train for. I know Kiwi Company will have continued on committed to their work in Afghanistan because they are a professional group, and that’s what soldiers do. 
“Finally, I wish to thank the public of New Zealand for their support of all our service personnel on operations everywhere. It is really important to us, especially when times get tough.”

About the incident:
On 4 August, Kiwi Company came to the support of the Afghan National Directorate of Security who were under attack by insurgents. The NDS sustained two deaths and a further 11 personnel, including one civilian, were wounded. The New Zealand Defence Force sustained two deaths and a further six wounded.

About Major Wilson:
Major Craig Wilson was shot in the shoulder and received multiple wounds to his lungs, ribs, collarbone and shoulder-bone, as well as artery and tissue damage, and has lost the use of his right arm. However, doctors anticipate that he will regain some if not all function after likely many months rehabilitation. All of Maj Wilson’s wounds have been effectively treated, except the nerve damage where treatment/rehabilitation will commence after his return to New Zealand.
Maj Wilson is a married father of three, who lives in Burnham.
In 2007, he received the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration – NZGD – for events while serving with the New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan in 2004.
The NZGD is the third-highest military decoration for New Zealand. It is granted in recognition of ‘acts of exceptional gallantry in situations of danger’ while involved in war and warlike operational service.

Home are the hunters…

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Home to rest, forever in hearts of those who served with them, and those who loved them.

Lance Corporals Paralli Durrer and Rory Malone who were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday have arrived home to New Zealand.

They were met by members of their families, senior military officials, and personnel from 2/1 RNZIR and QAMR during a ramp ceremony in Christchurch.

It’s dorky, it’s ugly and…

…and it serves no useful purpose…

A solution in search of a problem

OK, so, yeah whatever, it’s technically very cool and it’s not REALLY an aircraft so you can let a couple of NCOs operate it – and of course save a bundle on what you would actually have to pay a proper crew…

I’m clearly a big fan of unmanned systems – in entirely the wrong job if I wasn’t – but it’s like they used to teach in the good old days at the Tactics School ‘..task with a purpose…’ that is, you don’t just do stuff simply because you can…

So what are my issues with the unmanned cargo aerial vehicle:

Even the acronym is dodgy as UCAV also represents unmanned combat aerial vehicle and I’m not sure we want to be getting to two confused. Maybe a good rule of thumb could be that if you have two acronyms that can be applied interchangeably but mean totally different things, then one of them has to change. Litmus test: would anyone be upset if the US announced it was deploying ‘UCAVs’ to Libya? (Let’s not go near the whole Syrian debacle…

It’s optionally manned i.e. the cockpit is still there and functional so that if required a pilot (one only as it is a single seater) can operate it. Sounds like someone is hedging their bets but who’d want to be flying a single seat unarmoured helicopter at low level in the badlands…possibly keeping it sellable so keep an eye out for some slightly used optionally manned K-Maxs on eBay.

It’s meant to save lives. How is not exactly clear. The greater numbers of casualties in a helicopter crash come from the passengers – this thing isn’t carrying passengers and it’s only doing ash and trash tasks which are not noted as being amongst the more dangerous helicopter missions unless all of a sudden boredom is actually a hazard.

Oh, I see, it’s meant to save lives by reducing the amount of ground traffic that needs to be exposed to the IED threat. But haven’t we been doing the airborne resupply thing for years now? What has K/Max really brought to the party except another aircraft type to maintain and operate?

This whole thing of we’ll only travel by air because of the IEDs gives the lie to ‘war amongst the people’: having come in and screwed up your country, we happy for us to have the luxury of free air travel…whoa, you locals step away from the aircraft – you still get to travel by land and risk the threat aimed at us. Yeah right, much as we don’t want our people to go in harm’s way, this is simply ceding the ground to the bad guys which bad. What’s worse is that validates IEDs as valid and effective tools to employ against ground forces. Expect to see (LOTS) more of them until they go the way of the Zeppelin and and made untenable as weapon systems. That means putting more resource into countering IEDs to the left, well to the left of the BANG. the K-Max UCAV isn’t going to help you there.

The K-Max might actually add to the problems created by ceding the land environment (great for air forces though!!) because every boring mundane MANNED ash and trash mission puts eyes on the ground, and the more that they cover the same area on a routine basis, the greater the familiarity they build up and the more likely they are to be able to detect and identify some form of anomaly or indicator that might need to be followed up.

Every manned helicopter currently doing the ash and trash mission can be reroled on the fly for emergency dust-off of casualties or to provide airborne ISR for troops in contact…can’t really do that with the K-Max UCAV. You also can’t use it to provide quick fires with its door guns because it doesn’t have doors let alone guns…can’t toss an airborne sniper up in it either…

There are hidden costs. This thing is not fitted with any form of self-protection system so its only really any good where there no air threat to helicopters. One also wonders how good the flight control system is once the aircraft has been damaged in flight – will it be able to autonomously divert to an alternate LZ or even opt to make an emergency landing in the field?

So sorry, close but no cigar…UAVs are useful but they are not a universal panacea for all ills and they certainly do make the IED issue ‘go away’…but everything has to actually contribute meaningfully to the war effort and, as writ to date, the K-Max UCAV simply doesn’t…