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In reviewing the history of the USAF in lesser conflicts, the authors of this report were struck by two facts: (1) The USAF has faced light infantry opponents (or light forces) many times over the years and (2) it is increasingly being called upon to detect and engage such forces (e.g., in Somalia and Bosnia). Despite the salience of this target set, light forces have received little attention from the USAF or aerospace community since the end of the Vietnam War. Although R&D has not been directed at this specific problem, the project team believed that many of the sensor programs designed to detect critical mobile targets or armor could be applied to infantry also. Major advances in detector material design and fabrication, combined with 30 years of progress in the computer field, suggested to the authors that, if it desired, the USAF could make a great leap forward in offensive capabilities against light infantry by applying technologies already developed for these other purposes. The objective of this effort was to explore the signatures and vulnerabilities of adversary light forces, to identify promising sensor and weapon technologies applicable to this target set, and to develop new concepts of operation (OPCONs) that would bring together sensors, weapons, aircraft, and tactics to defeat this opponent. This report presents the results of that effort, including 12 such OPCONs. It should be of interest to USAF personnel in operations, plans, intelligence, and acquisition billets. It also may interest Army, Navy, and Marine aviators, the Special Operations community, and scientists at DoD laboratories.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Infantry Operations and Signatures

  • Chapter Three

    Sensor Overview

  • Chapter Four

    Systems and Tactics for Air Operations Against Light Infantry

  • Chapter Five

    Alternative OPCONS for Air Operations Against Light Infantry

  • Chapter Six

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Characteristics of U.S. Endurance UAVs

  • Appendix B

    Light Infantry Air Defenses

  • Appendix C

    UAV Coverage Potential

  • Bibliography

Research conducted by

This study was conducted as part of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Force Structure Program of Project AIR FORCE and was sponsored by the Director of Plans, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force (AF/XOX).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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