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[BOOK REVIEW] Fire Strike 7/9 - A JTAC in Afghanistan

julianj

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Fire Strike 7/9
Grahame, Paul; Lewis, Damien
"Meet Sergeant 'Bommer' Grahame. He's just an ordinary squaddie but on the battlefield he wields more power than any other soldier. 'Fire Strike 7/9' tells the story of Bommer and his five-man fire support team on their tour of Afghanistan." [blurb]

I got this out of the library as I am playing Shockforce 2 and CMBS, and I wanted to know more about controlling air attacks.

Bommer's callsign is Widow 7/9. He calls in a wide variety of aircraft including Apaches, F16s, A10s, Harriers and even Spooky. At first I was very interested as the modelling of what happens in CMBS is not quite accurate:

The JTAC gives very precise instructions to the attacking aircraft, the line to take, where the friendlies are, the target and what munitions to use, and confirms/stops the ordnance drop. He also uses the "sniper optics" of high flying aircraft for recon to find targets, before bringing them down low to attack. Attack runs by fast jets are in a straight line. It's only helos that can orbit around and pick targets. (there's one incident where a couple of US Apaches go on a rampage, and Bommer gets some earache over the radio, but he laughs it off, as they "smashed" lots of enemy. It's a very precise process, and Bommer calls off strikes occasionally if he thinks something is wrong, and the "stores" might fall on our own troops or the wrong target.

So in game terms, it might be good [I don't mean BF, I mean as a player] to restrict jets to Linear or Point targets and only allow helos and UAVs to do Area attacks. Obviously the use of jets for recon and the precise orders from the ground are not modelled.

Bommer, according to his account, soon becomes an expert at ordering attacks very "danger close" on enemies right near embattled British forces, aiming the attack runs so that the bomb blasts will be directed away from the friendlies.

At first this is all fascinating, but it does get a bit repetitive: Brit Forces get into trouble, Bommer pulls stunts to get air support quickly, he manages a "danger close" drop which "smashes" the enemy, everybody goes home for tea.

So it did get boring towards the end.

On another level, I started to admire the bravery of the Taliban, who had no anti-air so were going to get dumped upon by everything from a Gray Eagle to a B1B, yet still were able to close and use small arms and RPGs. It doesn't seem like war, more like assassination, when IR optics find them in the treelines and wipe them out.

Without air supremacy, I think it wouldn't be so much of a walkover, and I think it is an unrealistic picture of wars to come, where the NATO side might not have this massive advantage, and could come unstuck in a big way.

There is a bit of squaddie humour, and Bommer's slang, which includes such gems as "fit as a robber's dog".

There is also the way that Bommer breaks every rule when he needs to, for example "borrowing" an Apache from a neighbouring JTAC when he has no air available, and then gets a b*ll*cking from HQ, which he usually replies with an attitude of "What do you prefer, dead squaddies or adverse paperwork?"

So I'd say overall, a qualified recommend.

(one thing that it could do with is a glossary - that's the same with many of these books, there are lots of acronyms, and some foreign words - Afghan in this case - and you forget what they mean and have to flick through pages. That's the same with the Desert Sniper book I reviewed a while ago. Annoys me, and its easy to fix)
 
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mcmortison

Guest
Thx for the tip. Bought it as ebook. looking Forward to dig into it
 
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CMFDR

Guest
Interestingly enough, that book triggered Commandant Marc Scheffler to write his own book about how things were from a French pilot's point of view. It's a very good read, albeit in bloody French. He talks about his training, Red Flag, his deployments over Afghanistan and Libya and so forth.

It's well written and very informative. It comes in both paperback and Kindle ebook format.

La guerre vue du ciel: Les combats d'un pilote de Mirage 2000D
16506
 
C

CMFDR

Guest
I've often wondered what other NATO force members thought of US led training excercises and combat operations. Anything noteworthy?

Well, he's quite dithyrambic about it. He uses the word "mythical" twice, regarding the exercise and the Aggressor Squadron.
He comes to the "temple of air warfare" nonetheless. The enormity of the "American's" resources ("démesure des moyens américains") is something that strikes him when he arrives at Tampa, FL, on his way in.
He says that Red Flag was created with the "usual American pragmatism", the range is "immense" and offers a "very realistic" hostile environment (more than what is allowed in France within peacetime regulations' constraints).
Being allowed to participate in the exercise is a token of "the Americans'" trust, he mentions. It is a unique opportunity to practice tactics at such a level (with hundreds of planes involved and live ammunition) and it brings actual challenges.
He mentions that "the Americans" have quite demonstrative ways ("big slap on the back, "good job, appreciate" said as a greeting) and do have a result-oriented culture "pushed to the extreme".

As for the combat operations, I'll get back to you back once I'll have reread that part. From the back of my memory, and from other sources as well, most sizeable aerial operations couldn't be performed without the U.S.' support, especially the tankers.
 
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