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Better intel boosts Air Force munitions drops, sorties flown

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 06, 2007) -- In 2006, the Air Force dropped more than 1,700 munitions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

A year earlier, the Air Force dropped only 176 munitions as part of that same operation. The increase is due to better intelligence, said Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, the U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander.

"Our capability to gather intelligence on the enemy's intentions continues to increase," the general said during a recent Pentagon media event. "We have got better intelligence, we are finding the enemy, the enemy is presenting himself, and we are able to take the fight to him."

Cooperation between U.S. military, local militaries and civilian populations is one of the reasons for better U.S. intelligence about insurgents in the region, the general said.

"We have great collaboration with the Iraqi forces and the Afghani forces, and good portions of the Iraqi people are fed up with what is going on and they want stability and so they are helping us," he said. "There is what we would call an equivalent of a '1-800' call line where people who have information on insurgents can call in, and they do."

To further intelligence operations in the region, General North said the Air Force is looking for improved capability to provide full motion.

"Full motion video and the ability to download full motion video, is very important to our current fight, and will be to future fights," he said. "The ability to take from a platform, whether a bomber or fighter, and be able to transmit what the pilot or sensor operator or offensive or defensive systems operator is seeing and put that into the hands of the ground commander, so you have a complete common picture -- that is an incredible capacity. We are working to integrate full motion video and downlink capability into our targeting pod so we can put that picture -- basically, the 'John Madden view' -- from the ground to the air and the air back to he ground."

General North also said the Air Force is ready to support any surge that may be required in the CENTAF area of operations.

"We will meet whatever is required," he said. "Right now, we are meeting the requirements of the ground commander, and if we have to increase, either in airlift or in fighter or bomber capability, I'm sized appropriately to do that. My goal is that the ground commander doesn't come to me and say 'I need you to do more of this,' because I (will) have already anticipated their requirements and established the support effort and the overhead effort."

Being able to meet the mission requirements in Afghanistan and Iraq is nothing new for the Air Force, said General North. In fact, the Air Force has been meeting those requirements for about 17 years.

"We've got over 23,000 Airmen today, some 4,500 of those are in non-traditional roles outside of the wire, doing battlefield airmen tasks in support of ground forces," he said. "Will we be as the Air Force, size appropriate? You bet. We have been doing this in the AOR since 1990."