Boots In The Air

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James gave a four-point summary Monday of the service’s role in President Obama’s declared effort to degrade and destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Giving the keynote address at AFA’s Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Md., James said the Air Force will “secure the battlefield as we eradicate, over time, this cancerous terrorist network.” First, USAF will conduct “systematic airstrikes” against the terrorists and “create space on the ground for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to go on the offense.” USAF has conducted “the lion’s share” of airstrikes and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance sorties so far, said James. In addition, USAF has flown up to 30 refueling sorties a day. Second, Obama “intends to increase our support to forces fighting on the ground,” through Air Force ISR and cyber forces, which have “already used remotely piloted aircraft and precision-guided munitions” to conduct “pinpoint strikes on targets around the Mosul Dam.” Third, USAF counterterrorism forces will work to prevent ISIS attacks, by coordinating with other parts of the US intelligence community. Fourth, “our humanitarian … effort will not stop,” as demonstrated by C-130s and C-17s already having airdropped thousands of tons of food and water to tens of thousands of refugees. “For all the talk about ‘boots on the ground,’” James said, she’s thankful “we have boots in the air.”