The anatomy of an airstrike
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — If a report of a possible enemy target came in to the air operations center at Osan Air Base, the staff would be able to pinpoint and attack it even if it wasn’t on a list of planned targets.
To do that they’d follow a process called “F2T2EA,” for find, fix, track, target, engage, assess.
Air Force Col. Rob Evans, 7th Air Force chief of staff at Osan, used the example of enemy ground movement to illustrate the process.
In his example, an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft flying above the battlespace equipped with electronic sensors detects ground movement.
Center staff dispatch an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, that discovers what appears to be an enemy armored column moving down a road and headed for battle.
“So now we’ve found the target and we need to fix the target coordinates,” Evans said.
The UAV taps into global positioning satellites to send the target’s precise geographic location to the center.
While personnel track the column, the center’s chief of combat operations gauges what assets — fighters, for example — are operating in the area and can be assigned to attack.
The chief also can ask military lawyers about laws of armed conflict and for advice on international treaties that may apply to the situation.
Meanwhile, the center’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance division has determined the vehicles are enemy tanks.
But further analysis is needed. Is the target a priority based on the commander’s direction?
“It has to be for a specific reason,” Evans said. “We don’t strike any target unless it has some direct linkage back to the concept of operations” outlined by the senior commanders. “Every target has a purpose.”
After examining weather conditions and deciding on the best aircraft for the mission, the pilots tear apart the convoy, engulfing it in fire and roiling smoke.
“Now we’re assessing this formation on the road as it burns,” with the UAV or other aircraft providing footage and other indications as to damage, Evans said.
“The convoy has stopped,” Evans said. “It’s no longer moving.”