Skip to comments.Afghanistan: When the Moon Sets, Watch Out (Michael Yon)
Posted on 09/18/2012 10:50:53 AM PDT by neverdem
Last Friday night, the moon phase left Afghanistan in near total darkness. Even with clear skies, the enemy knew that at the brightest moment, the moon would only appear as an irrelevant orange sliver. Such times are called red illumination, or red illum. Planning calendars in Afghanistan highlight periods of red illum because they hamper aviation.
Even though this is the year 2012, and the Curiosity Rover is beaming images from Mars more than four decades after astronauts first trod on the lunar surface, the moon phase remains important when planning operations. The moment that the nighttime attack on Camp Bastion was reported, the moon phase could have been safely guessed without looking up.
In every respect, Southern Afghanistan is a dark part of the world. Without moonlight, most villages are black at night. The brightest places in the country are our bases. Cultural lights present little danger to Taliban moving at night. Our air assets, including our aerostat balloons, are often their biggest concern.
This war is mature. The enemy knows us, and we know them. After 11 years, the Taliban realizes that most helicopter traffic ceases during red illum. Most birds will only fly for urgent MEDEVAC, or for special operations. The enemy closely observes our air traffic. Operations slow under red illum, so air traffic declines, and the chances of being spotted by roving aircraft are reduced.
There is a misconception that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) such as Predators can detect everything. They cannot. Their field of vision is like looking through a toilet paper roll. The UAVs are great for specific targets, such as watching a house, but imagine patrolling. It is like trying to visually swat mosquitoes using no ears, no sense of touch, and only the ability to look through a toilet paper roll...
(Excerpt) Read more at michaelyon-online.com ...
“...helicopter traffic ceases during red illum...”
As a former USMC helicopter pilot with quite a number of nightime hours, this is news to me.
Never heard of “red illum”, either as a pilot or a grunt in an earlier life.
Pilots talk about “pink time” the time after sunset and before total darkness which can be logged as “ night time” flight hours.
Don’t night vision devices enhance the low level of light available? So if there is absolutely no light - from the moon or electricity or candle or whatever - then aren’t they basically useless? Under those circumstances I could see where night flights would be especialy dangerous and something to be done only if absolutely necessary.
What did you fly? I flew phrogs at New River early to mid 80’s.
“pink time” = EENT or BMNT?
From article “When our IR lasers, our IR strobes, our IR illumination or our IR spotlights are radiating, they can easily be seen using cheap digital cameras”
OH so true and as well true for the friend or foe IR beacons used by boots mentioned and enhancers on NVG. These things make you a great target.
Thermal and FLIR can also be defeated by sheet plastic held overhead above column of people essentially eliminating heat signature of bodies underneath from above.
Many ways to defeat todays techno crap and these people, like the article says have had 11 years to do it in.
I got out of military flying just as night vision goggles were coming in, so not any experience there. I used a night scope in Vietnam, but it would have been useless for flying.
However, I’ve flown lots of tactical training missions at night, without goggles. New Moon or no moon or overcast, whatever, would not cancel all flying. Give me a break.
Night time flying can be hairy, make no mistake.
I don’t know what kind of training the security force had, but they taught me to continuously improve your defense. Trip flares? Patrols? Dogs? Mines?Move your OPs? Please don’t tell me they couldn’t put out mines.
You accidentally misquoted Michael Yon when you chopped off the word MOST helicopter traffic ceases. Chopping off the word MOST makes your quote inaccurate.
You cannot have any combat rotary experience in Afghanistan if you never heard the term red illum. That would be like saying you drive a car but never heard of the term steering wheel. The term really is that common.
For instance, it is used here: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/MilitaryOperations/RoyalNavySeaKingsFlyingOverAfghanistanForTwoYears.htm
Holy Carp, that’s one powerful report.
Very, very good report, with lots of info useful to any modern G.
What years were you flying USMC helos? What type?
"After 11 years, the Taliban realizes that most helicopter traffic ceases during red illum."
It's the third sentence of the fourth paragraph. Go check the excerpt for yourself.
Never heard of that, either, and I do have military night flight training and fly most of my flight time at night.
Also, the UAVs do have more than tunnel vision for sensor systems including wide field viewing. They can scan and entire valley looking for hot spots.
Yeah, many ways to defeat our tech:
“They killed two US Marines, one of them a commanding officer, and they wiped out roughly 8 percent of our Harrier jet force.”
That’s unbelievable. We’re on the defensive there. Obama’s ROE’s and strategy is a formula for defeat.
I was enlisted 67-69, 81mm mortar FO and radio operator, then OCS in 72. I flew ‘73-’78, mostly CH-53D (my MOS), but a bit of time in UH-1N, CH-46s, and a little U-11 Station Bird time. I caught a FAC tour in Oki, which killed my hours and also spent 6 months on the USMC Orienteering Team, likewise. I did get a few hops with HMX-1, but not the white-top birds.
I did get to fly the “Special VFR Route” around the Beltway in DC in an HMX CH-53. “Stay below 300’ AGL when crossing the National Airport approach” - Legally flat hatting it up the Potomac at eyelevel with Abe Lincoln in the memorial, hopping over the bridges!
1) Sorry I left off “MOST”.
2) Never claimed to have combat helo experience in Afghanistan
3) I stopped military flying in 1978, well before the US was operating helos in Afghanistan
4) You reference for “red illum” is a to British article. US folks generally use different terms than “spanner”, “boot”, “split pin” as used by our cousins across the pond. Does this also apply to “red illum”?
5) All my military combat experience was on the ground, in Vietnam. I did have a tiny bit of helo combat experience in Uganda, having been fired on by a ZU-23-2 at very close range. They missed. ;-)
Red illum conditions occur when illumination is less than 25 percent. For aviators who operate with night vision goggles, this poses a problem because NVG's heighten ambient light such as starlight or moonlight enabling them to see. With a lack of light, air crews must strain to see the faint outlines of small landing zones and towering mountains making their missions increasingly hazardous.
Motion detectors, Microphones, NVG on sentries. Dogs, Barbed wire, Inner wire, Outer Wire, Dead Zone, Mines, Radar, Watchtowers, Guard Patrol, WTF? Over. I get the creepy feeling that this attack would have been spotted and dealt with summarily in WWI.
Am I nuts or is this "Apaches sneaking up on the fort" stuff? What, exactly, TF happened here? Officers and men killed. 8 Harriers destroyed. Some heads ought to roll here.
That was also among my first questions. However, the author of the posted article is trying to tell us that our ROE have responded to NGO political pressures and that non-metallic mines are not to be used. Political correctness will kill us all.
I must confess I do not understand how the enemy achieved surprise at a fenced and fortified base.
It will probably discovered unexpectedly (crazy word) that this was allowed to happend from within by “friendly” Afghan trainies.
We already know they were wearing GI uniforms.
Not only Odinga’s ROE, Panetta and Dempsey should be marched out in chains along with him in front of a tribunal, convicted of sacrificing the lives of our young men and women and summarily executed. Odinga enjoys seeing Americans die.
Our boots spend more time watching their backs against these goat humpers they are training than the enemy they are supposed to be hunting and doing this sometimes without proper protection.
I say to hell with the ROEs, pull our boys and girls out now and EXPEND ALL ORDINANCE IN THEATER WHEN EXITING.......... ON ANY TARGET.
This old dog learns new terminology.
Just before I got out of the Corps my squadron received two sets of night vision goggles to test. I never flew with them. Looks like ‘red illum’ is a term that came into usage since then. Cockpit lighting is, of course, red. I never heard of low level nighttime outdoor ambient light being called ‘red illum’
Back in my day, in the words of our Night Tactics Instructor, Capt. Ollie North, (a bit of gratuitous name-dropping there), “Nighttime is characterized by periods of DARKNESS!”