At the height of fighting during the Korean War in 1950, American troops faced artillery barrages, bitter winter cold, and massive human waves of Communist troops.
But they had a secret weapon: aircraft overhead that could slam enemy forces.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the commander of U.S. forces at the time, said the close air support had “perhaps never been equaled in the history of modern war.”
If a serious ground war (however unlikely) did break out on the Korean peninsula again, the Hermit Kingdom would be facing an even more deadly American opponent.
Closely following the air war, the ground element would sweep north — working in tandem with those same air assets.
The use of close air support — aircraft to directly support troops on the ground — goes all the way back to World War I, except it’s gotten much better since then. We spoke with a number of combat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and asked them what they like to see when the fighting starts.
There are plenty of air assets that can do the job, but some Marines have their own personal preferences.
But the aircraft that many appreciate is one dedicated solely to supporting ground troops: the A-10 Thunderbolt.
Then there's the fighter jets (like this F/A-18), initially built for air-to-air combat, but reconfigured for supporting troops on the ground.
The Marine AV-8B Harrier can take off vertically, and provide plenty of rockets, bombs, and chain gun fire once on station.
And with upgrades to old 'dumb bombs,' the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) uses global positioning to hit the bad guys.
But perhaps the king of close air support is the AC-130 gunship series, a converted transport that circles around a target and rains down hell.
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