Army Snubs Air Force, Takes On Air Duties in Iraq

Surveillance battalion became active last July
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2008 8:00 PM CDT
United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Friday June 13, 2008.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Fed up with what it sees as shoddy help from an overstretched Air Force, the Army has begun an unprecedented operation to provide its own air support in Iraq, the New York Times reports. The year-old Army program uses a hodgepodge of about 25 aircraft—some manned, some operated by remote control—mainly to provide surveillance, find roadside bombs, and hunt insurgents. Much to the dismay of the Air Force, defense chief Gates is on board, and plans are under way for a similar program in Afghanistan.

The battalion—called Task Force Odin—was at first kept secret, but Army officials say that the surveillance planes have been responsible for 3,000 enemy deaths and the capture of almost 150 insurgents. The move is a fundamental shift away from the usual separation of powers in the armed services, but "we need to pay attention to anything that works," said a Pentagon official.