Receptive to the fact Understanding that the Air Force is has been busy across the globein other parts of the world and budgets are tightamid strenuous budget cuts, the head of Air Forces Central Command on Thursday said he weighs all options before requesting committing to more fighters, bombers, or close air support units for deploying to the Middle East for operations. But more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drones wcould likely ease the pressures put on manned aircraftunits, and would lessen the risk of for civilian deaths, he said. 

"I understand it because it does have an impact if I ask for more, for more assets," said Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, the leader in commander of the air war against the Islamic State group. "Which is why I want to be a good steward about what I ask for, is realizing that it's going to have an impact on a unit and the readiness of a unit back home, in order to have …, you know, the next rotation to be ready."

Since March 2015, the U.S.-led coalition — dominated by the U.S. Air Force —  has consistently flown about 4,500 sorties a month, AFCENT spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns told Air Force Times on Thursday. 

"On average, the coalition flies about 60 strike sorties a day and expends around 2,000 weapons a month," Karns said in an email.

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft like the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and the Global Hawk have flown 12,000 sorties since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve, he said. The Predators and Reapers, armed with Hellfire missiles and flying about a third of the Air Force's sorties, have hit ISIS targets on 17 percent of those sorties, according to AFCENT statistics provided to Air Force Times in March.

The Predator, expected to be out of service by 2018-2019, officials have said, will begin its phase out this year. The Air Force wants to move its airmen onto more MQ-9s and has requested 24 more Reapers in its fiscal 2017 budget.

Brown explained that more ISR is one capability that would significantly aid boost the needs of the mission. 

"I would actually like to have more ISR and really be able to use it," he said, "Because what it helps me to do is develop targets [and] ... strike at the same time, you know, as we develop those targets. The more ISR I have, I can minimize the risk to civilian casualties and continue the precision air campaign that we have."

Karns elaborated, "We are able to track Da'esh, build a picture of who they associate with and where they go, and then strike on our terms ensuring maximum success with minimal collateral damage," he Karns said, using the Pentagon-preferred name for the militant group. 

The U.S. is working to change the process rules for approving more airstrikes down to lower levels, giving the commanders on the ground more authority the power to call in lucrative strikes on the extremists militants, defense officials said last month, which could pose higher-risks for civilians in the area. 

Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman in Baghdad, explained this would allow for a more "rapid execution of strikes because we don't have to send requests all the way to Tampa anymore," he said, referring to the Central Command headquarters location.

"As our higher headquarters starts seeing the same type of target-set come up, over time they will say 'OK, in this case we're going to delegate the authority. You don't need to show us that anymore'," Warren said on April 20.

Unmanned flights could better identify needs on the groundspecify ground-to-air needs, Brown said. Intel platforms, like "airborne and space ISR," Karns added, have allowed the coalition to soak up and document the battle environment.

"I will tell you that there's never enough ISR," Brown said. "If there's one piece that I know that the [Combined Joint Task Force] and the ground component ask for, it's more ISR."

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East and Europe for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at opawlyk@airforcetimes.com.

BROWN we're able to range the entire battle space and strike in a number of different locations, you know, simultaneously on the same day type of thing, which allows us to be able to continue to put pressure on Daesh.

And so, when there's a ground maneuver, you tend to put a little bit more, whether it's a strike it, really there's ISR there to support that part. But we don't really strip everything away from one location to go with another. We have the capability to cover both.

BROWN I think the weapons we have today are flexible enough. And, you know, we actually work with all the squadrons and wings and the coalition partners so that the -- when they load their aircraft, we kind of work with them to say, here's the type of weapons we think we're going to need on a day-to-day basis.

KARNS We have been targeting Da'esh in Mosul throughout the campaign. To date, we
have conducted about 1,500 strikes against all types of targets. The
objective is to place continuous pressure on Daesh and help create the time
and space necessarily to help enable the indigenous ground forces to
prevail.

KARNS We're not fighting the last war, we're fighting this one. Critiques being provided are based on a different set of circumstances and a different environment. Sheer numbers do not necessarily translate into operational success. Every strike is not equal. It's the quality of the targets that matter most. Effects may be kinetic or non-kinetic. In this campaign, we need to think of kinetic airpower (and I think we need to start making that distinction--there is kinetic and non-kinetic airpower in action) as the surgeon's scalpel seeking to remove cancer cells while impacting as few healthy cells as possible (to extrapolate on the SECDEF's metaphor).The effects behind the numbers is what needs to be considered. The most relevant measure of effectiveness is not the number of strikes necessarily, but the effect one is having on the enemy's ability to wage war. However, the numbers and pressure being applied to Da'esh has been consistent and persistent since July 2015 with noteworthy effects. The fact is today we're hitting more lucrative targets while having increased success placing stress on the enemy and impacting their decision-making calculus.
    
Da'esh has lost about 45 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq. Their territorial loss in Syria is about 20 percent. It is reported that Daesh's oil production has been reduced by about 30 percent with oil revenue down by as much as 50 percent. Da'esh finances and revenue streams have definitely been impacted. It appears they are reverting to their roots by resorting to terrorist attacks in an effort do discredit the Government of Iraq, and shift attention away from their battlefield setbacks.
    
The appropriate amount of military force is applied against military targets such that we minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties. Employing all the munitions on an aircraft is not a meaningful metric, especially in a war where the enemy wraps itself around the populace whenever it gets the chance to do so. This war requires  precision and accuracy.

While the weapons employed creates an effect, the non-kinetic amount of high-impact ISR we are providing to the ground commanders and the coalition has provided an enhanced understanding of enemy activity and contributed towards striking more lucrative targets. We are able to do that because we have saturated the battle environment with airborne and space ISR.  We are able to track Da'esh, build a picture of who they associate with and where they go, and then strike on our terms ensuring maximum success with minimal collateral damage.