Goldfein talks air coalition ops during CENTCOM region visit
By Kiley Dougherty, Air Force Central Command Public Affairs
/ Published August 16, 2016
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein recently visited the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to get a sense of not only how the campaign is going as a member of the joint chiefs but also to get an understanding of how he can better support Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and coalition partners regarding the impact on the service today.
To date, the air coalition has flown over 107,500 sorties and participated in more than 14,400 strikes in Iraq and Syria since operations began in August 2014. In addition, over 800 sorties and more than 140 strikes were conducted in Afghanistan since June 2016.
The U.S. Air Force has played a significant role as part of the 20-nation air coalition. Each Airman’s ability to evolve and innovate remains key to the joint fight, as the air coalition continues to adapt while using legacy systems in different ways, Goldfein explained.
Since its first sortie in April, the B-52 Stratofortress has flown nearly 270 sorties, employing in excess of 1,300 weapons during more than 325 strikes in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. In addition, the B-52 recently flew two sorties in Afghanistan, employing 27 weapons in two strikes in support of counterterrorism operations.
“We got the B-52 back in the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Goldfein said. “We have the B-52 contributing to a significant ground effort and employing weapons in close proximity of friendly troops who are under attack, who are preparing the battlefield in new ways.”
An integral part of the strike process has been the success achieved by indigenous ground forces. However, with limited coalition forces on the ground, it drove innovation as a coalition. Innovation in thought led to new tactics and advancements in doctrine.
In this campaign, real-time video now feeds information to joint tactical air controllers who work in various strike cells coordinating with aircraft to execute procedures to employ airpower. JTACs and strike aircraft confirm targets and look to minimize the time required to help those in need.
“We are going to fly to the sounds of the guns or we are going to die trying,” Goldfein said. “Whether you are a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman JTAC on the ground, if you call for air, we will be there. We will throw everything we have at it and you can always count on us to deliver.”
The flexibility of coalition airpower continues to enable forces on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, shaping the battlefield and further degrading ISIL’s combat capability and capacity for sustainment. The air coalition is working to maximize the capability it offers.
“This is not about coalition partners following an American effort,” Goldfein said. “It’s about Americans being part of … an effective coalition that brings the best capabilities of each coalition partner to the campaign.”
Momentum is occurring as airpower is effectively shaping the battlespace. In late June, ISIL members fled Iraq in several large convoys of up to 120 vehicles. Over the course of the two days, the linking of capabilities enabled the U.S. and international aircraft to destroy an estimate of 175 suspected ISIL vehicles, resulting in Iraqi forces declaring the city of Fallujah fully liberated.
Operating in the AOR for 24 years, the air coalition today has more than 750 coalition aircraft assigned throughout the AOR that could be called upon for operations at any time to support OIR, NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and as needed in theater.
Goldfein describes airpower as the oxygen the joint force breathes.
“Have it and you don’t even think about it. Don’t have it, and it’s all you think about,” Goldfein said.