The Atlantic covers B2 Libya strike

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The Atlantic covers B2 Libya strike

I don't normally read the Atlantic, as I don't usually read pieces from their equivalent magazines on the right of the political spectrum, but this piece, despite a slanted view on some things, was actually quite excellent.

Standard caveat applies here, I'm not sure I agree entirely that we shouldn't use every weapon in our arsenal to take out bad guys.  Yes, it might very well be some overkill to use a stealth bomber to kill some guys out in the desert.  But, at some point it might be a real strike on a real military with actual anti-aircraft assets and a more dangerous mission set, and when that day comes, I would hope we had a few dry runs before that and get some of the lessons learned.  So, I disagree with some of the tone of this piece.

Nonetheless, if (like me) you are just some Army guy (or gal) or served in the Navy, and had no idea how these strikes go down, this is it.  I'm not sure I get the whole napping or showering thing when it was only 1.5 days long, but it does give some pretty good insight:

It looked different on the ground. The isis camps consisted of a few small structures with walled dirt yards—too small to serve as living quarters, but useful for the storage of weapons. They stood along a rarely traveled track, in terrain that for all its desolation allowed for a scattering of bushes and scrubby trees. For several weeks, the Air Force drones had watched the scene from above, establishing detailed profiles known as “patterns of life,” which mapped out daily activities, mealtimes, and the outdoor locations to which individuals dispersed in the darkness to sleep—typically by certain bushes or trees. The images in daylight were high resolution and in full color. The images at night were of the ghostly night-vision kind. There were no women or children. The combatants spent their days talking and sometimes handling small arms, or perhaps explosives. They had some Japanese pickup trucks, which they tried to hide under camouflaged tarpaulins.

It was a chilly night on the ground, with temperatures in the 40s. From my own experience in that desert, I imagine that the isis fighters were sleeping fully clothed and wrapped in blankets, and perhaps were nestled for comfort in undulations of the terrain. If any were awake, they would not have heard the jets high overhead; the only forewarning of the attack would have been a brief sound of rushing air before the first bomb hit.

The most expensive tool in the Air Force arsenal had been deployed against a group of fighters asleep in the desert. When the crews got back to Missouri, they found a meal of steak and eggs and beer laid out for them.

For the next 30 seconds, the bombs came at them with demonic accuracy. Each 500-pound bomb was set to detonate just above its target for maximum lethality, operating more through overpressure than fragmentation. The resulting vacuum condition sucks air from the lungs while the shock wave pulverizes bone and ruptures or liquefies the internal organs of anyone within about 50 yards. That is how most of the isis fighters died: hugging the earth to no avail as their innards turned to mush and the night was ripped apart by the explosions.

For the handful of survivors, the ordeal was not yet over. The dust had hardly settled when the Reaper drones moved back in, looking for squirters. Figures could be seen in real time, running frantically. With their Hellfire missiles, the Reapers began picking off anyone spotted trying to get away. Killing with Hellfires is very different from killing with GPS-guided bombs. It requires the Reaper crews to get personal, laying a laser device on magnified images of each individual victim and then watching the missile as it strikes. A Hellfire missile has a blast radius of 50 feet and a “wounding radius” of up to 300 feet. It could kill hundreds of people as easily as it could kill one. Once the Hellfires had mopped up, the only sound in the desert was the hum of the Reapers’ engines.

The whole thing is quite good, and I enjoyed it immensely, other than I guess the point they were trying to make with the title which is "An Extraordinarily Expensive Way to Fight ISIS" which is itself a pretty loaded title.  Wouldn't seem very cost effective to me to allow them to train and attack elsewhere, but again, even if it is an expensive way, I am fine with bad guys being sent to their eternal "reward" no matter what the cost.

I found this video on Youtube today that shows many of the things discussed in the article:

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.