Air Power

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INTRODUCTION
Establishment of air superiority early in a campaign is a fundamental ingredient in the recipe of modern warfare. This was universally accepted as a general principle by the beginning of world war two. Different countries, however, applied the concept differently.  For instance Imperial Japan, as an island nation knew the importance a modern navy. She built a Navy centered around the carrier task force, a big shift from the battle ship concept. They then developed the light and agile Mitsubishi Zero in anticipation of a quick war in the Pacific. IJN commanders, with the additional advantage of having the element of surprise, employed the novel Carrier task force with relative brilliance in their December 1941 offensives in South Pacific

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German Junkers Ju-88. A bomber designed for many roles but perfected for tactical support

In Europe the hard lessons learned in the Great war about trench fighting influenced contemporary military thinkers in the inter war years, with each proposing a faster way of concluding hostilities in a favourable manner. Inspired by science fiction novelists such as H.G Wells who told of bombers obliterating whole cities, a school of thought arose that believed air forces alone could win a war .The americans built huge long range bombers for use in strategic bombing, targeting industry, infrastructure and at times civilians.
German insistence on solely the tactical aspects of air power initially looked like the work of pure genius. Their Light Tactical Support Bomber concept, which played huge key  role in the total defeat of France, Poland and the low countries in the first two years of world war two, proved unable to achieve the core objectives of Sea Lion.

The use of air power was further developed in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The most important was the introduction of rotary wing aircraft. These helicopters were used in tactical transport, replacing the costly massed para drop of world war two with airmobile cavalry, utility transport and close combat support . Over the years the Argentinians, Israeli’s and South Africans have all used air power in various conflicts, with each modifying the constitution, tactics and doctrine  to fit the threat facing each of them with varying results. The Coalition armies in the both Persian gulf wars smashed the Iraqi air force, air defenses and armour so completely that troops in the subsequent ground invasion encountered no cohesive resistance from regular army units. But with trial and error, the formula for achievement and maintenance of air superiority has, mostly been elucidated. But it is war at its most expensive. Acquisition and more so development of  aircraft, missiles, communication systems and the training required by the people that use them is costly,  and in a high intensity conflict such as the Ogaden war, and the Ethiopia~Eritrean  flare up in 1998 might put a severe strain on a nations strategic resources. But the recent trend globally, since the cold war has seen the state verses state threat diminished slightly with increased focus on the threat posed by non state entities waging irregular war. This has led to the creation, by Regional and Kenyan military and police services, of several measures to counter this threat, with creation of elite and highly trained units, creation of metropolitan commands and increased interservice and intergovernment cooperation.
Low intensity conflicts such as  Nigeria’s war on Boko Haram and our very own  Operation Linda Nchi still require a significant chunk of air force resources for  tactical transport and support, logistics and intelligence.

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Operation Linda Nchi. Soldiers on convoy duty

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Kenyan troops in Somalia during Operation Linda Nchi

One of the most important roles of airforces is close air support. Fire support from helicopter and fixed wing gunships for troops in contact increases the probability of achieving the primary objective, in a general offensive such as Operation Anaconda or a local defensive action such as that fought by the U.S rangers in Mogadishu
Special operations are a relatively new concept in kenya and the east african region at large. The operations carried out recently against the alshaabab in Somalia, the LRA in southern CAR among others have provided opportunities to learn a few lessons concerning the importance of air superiority in low intensity conflicts and special operations:
1. There is need for increased insistence  on special air units such as,

I) Acquisition / development of aerial direct fire support platforms. This could be by increasing attack helicopter numbers or a radical shift to fixed wing gunships.
Blogger’s Question Is it feasible to convert several of the DHC-5 Buffalo transports into weapon heavy platforms for use in close air support, air interdiction and force protection? Is there any cheap locally available technical know how, in air frames, weapons and computers to do it? This aircraft could probably be fitted with a pair of 40mm and two pairs of 20mm guns. This would need to be accompanied by a good on board computer (capable of running the hardware, fire control etc),  optics, and what not. After all, budget wise and politically,what is cheaper? Readily available and accurate cannon fire systems or similarly accurate but expensive missiles, keeping in mind the recent shift to 4th generation warfare? The cannons can provide a large volume of fire in support of security operations in remote areas, be it against cattle rustlers, bandits, poachers or insurgents. The long range, slow speed ( for loitering and multiple pylon turn strikes) means that this aircraft can also be used to carry out long range reconnaissance and border patrol operations

II) Developement of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program. Their extraordinary success in recent years , not to mention operator safety, of the various drone programs around the world is to this blogger a subtle hint on how the next great war will be fought. The accuracy of their weapons, clarity of optics and sensors combined with all the advantages that come with being unmanned make this way of waging war very accommodative. Countries such as Ethiopia and Iran have shown that locally developed drones don’t have to be expensive and are pretty effective too
 One might argue that both of the above require fighter cover and also effective anti- air defence capabilities to operate in their conventional role. But it is also important to remember that the most immediate threat in the region comes from non state entities with few resources and are there fore in no position to contest mastery of the sky, even from the ground. These non state entities possses only the basics in weaponry. They have no armour, no Air defense systems and are particularly vulnerable to air attack. Both of these weapon systems would make a huge difference in the cost and success of future operations, beneficial to both the defence forces and internal security.

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Kisimayu

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The question that keeps repeating itself on the collective Kenyan mind is how the upcoming Kisimayu assault will be delivered. It is universally accepted, at least by the brass, that the fall of Kisimayu will be, to Shabaab, what Waterloo was to Napoleon.
A friend recently suggested, with all the enthusiasm of an amateur, that we make use of the 20th Para battalion. This was a good suggestion in as far as the unit to be used. However he wanted a world war two-type massed Para assault and it took me awhile to explain that doesn’t work anymore. If any troops will be inserted by air it will probably be 20th/D company members or the new boys on the block, the Rangers. They will probably go in HALO near the target area for Intel gathering purposes. The Intel that Col. Nyaga will want most will be enemy troop movements, enemy deployment, strong points, and enemy counterstrike capability among other things.
I digress. It is, again universally accepted, that the Kisimayu showdown might deteriorate to the old knock down and drag out fights that characterize most assaults on high population density areas. These kinds of Operations require a high degree of planning, both military and otherwise. The Kenyan force in Somalia is obviously dependent on mechanized mobility. In urban warfare there is nothing as silly as putting APCs and MBTs on the streets. The reasons why not are numerous. Just ask the Russians about their foray into Chechnya in the nineties. An experienced guerrilla fighter will form highly mobile tank-hunter teams comprising of RPG gunners, machine gunners to suppress infantry and rifle men to carry extra ammo for the RPG tubes.
Despite claims by the KDF that Shabaab’s command structure is in tatters, Kenyan High Command seems to tread with great caution. This is probably a good idea. The intel that Kenyans have been receiving seems to be accurate so far and it is this blogger’s opinion that there is something about Kisimayu that is being censured. Thus, the creeping pace of Operation Linda Nchi.

Kenya Army small arms guide (for amatuers)-Part 1

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Hello, its really good to be back. This new blog is dedicated to demystifying the Defense Forces and all things military. I would love to discuss the common weapons that are found in the ranks their specifications, and in my opinion, pros and cons. I would also love to answer any and all questions any one might have (God knows I have some of my own!). In recent months, we have seen evidence of a new rifle……carbine really. This is the pretty little M4. A direct descendant of the M16 and by extension AR15, this gun was first spotted in public with the elite G.S.U recce unit during a visit by a foreign dignitary. For those used to seeing the aging G3, AKMs and AK47s it was quite a pleasant surprise.( I guess we couldn’t humiliate our special ops boys in front of the secret service, could we?). The M4 is part of a large family of weapons sharing a common ancestor, the colt AR15.

M4- left view


After the AR15 came the M16 and its variants A1,2 and 3. The M4 has similar characteristics as the M16 the only difference being size and the fact that the M4 has a telescoping butt.
Main specs are:
Caliber: 5.56mm NATO standard round
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Rate of fire: 700 – 950 rounds per minute
Overall length: 838 mm (stock extended); 757 mm (stock fully collapsed)
Barrel length: 370 mm
Weight: 2.52 kg without magazine; 3.0 kg with magazine loaded with 30 rounds
Maximum effective range: 360 m
In my opinion, the M4 is a sound rifle. Maybe it’s slug does not pack the punch of a 7.62mm like the G3, but it still does a lot of damage. It also has several good points, with additions such as specialized sights like the ACOG 4X telescopic, ACOG Reflex red-dot, laser pointers (visible and infra-red), detachable sound suppressor (silencer), M203 40mm grenade launcher (can I hear an Amen!),detachable front grip and tactical light.
The cons are that it is primarily designed for non desert/arid combat. In recent tests, against three other rifles, the M4 came last. It actually jammed 3.5 times more than the 2nd runners up. Therefore, in my view this weapon should only be issued to the paras, rangers, spec forces and M.Ps. Issue of such a rifle to front line units especially with the Kisimayu assault looming might be a little too much.