Close air support – CAS – is called when friendly troops are in contact and the outcome in doubt, or when the cost of taking a heavily defended objective is outweighed by the value of the objective itself. CAS means groveling in the weeds with people who can shoot back. CAS is not a long-range assassination. CAS is a knife-fight in a crowded room.
And because CAS means soldiers on the ground are in danger, there is nothing quite so demanding, nor quite so satisfying as precisely delivered support. Nor is there anything quite so dangerous: CAS means getting down there with them, endangering yourself for them, hazarding your craft, putting it all on the line. Because they need it, because you’ve got it. You’re on the edge of the battle line, so there’s at least a 50% chance that if you go down, you go down on the wrong side of the line, in the company of people who moments before very much resented your presence on the battlefield.
From the CENTCOM PAO:
SOUTHWEST ASIA The interim safety investigation board convened by U.S. Central Command Air Forces has begun its efforts to gather evidence to determine what caused a United States Air Force F-16C to crash approximately 20 miles northwest of Baghdad at about 1:35 p.m. Monday.
The single-seat jet was in direct support of extensive coalition ground combat operations when it crashed in an uninhabited field.
Coalition reconnaissance assets and fighter aircraft were overhead when the crash occurred and confirmed that insurgents were in the vicinity of the crash site immediately following the crash.
Ground forces secured the crash scene Monday as soon as the extensive ground combat operations in the area had ceased. The primary concerns of USCENTAF in responding to this incident have been the safety of Coalition forces and the recovery of the pilot. The pilot was not found at the crash site and his status cannot be confirmed at this time. The investigation board has collected DNA samples from the crash site and will release results upon completion of testing.
The F-16 was deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The accident investigation convening authority is Air Combat Command.
From the WaPo:
(V)ideotape footage obtained by AP Television News appears to show the wreckage of a U.S. single-seat F-16CG jet in the farm field where it crashed Monday and the remains of an American serviceman with a tangled parachute nearby.
U.S. forces investigating the crash said that insurgents had reached the site before American forces could and the pilot is missing. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman, said there was no indication the plane, deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base in Iraq, was shot down.
Al-Jazeera satellite television showed similar pictures Monday, but declined to include the scenes of the dead pilot, saying they were too graphic to air.