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Illustrative Scenario (Niche)
To illustrate a future war with a niche competitor, imagine the following hypothetical scenario. Nigeria attacks Zaire with 10 armored divisions (including 5,000 armored vehicles). Nigeria's operational goal is to capture Kinshasa, thereby cutting Zaire's access to the Atlantic.
Drawing on its oil wealth, Nigeria has built a substantial military. In addition to the ground attacking force, Nigeria's military consists of:*
- 200 fighter aircraft (half are front line: MiG-29, Rafael, Su-35), equipped with advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) and precision ground-attack munitions,
- Five nuclear weapons (100 kilotons), and
- 100 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) with a range of 1,000 NM and CEP of more than 500 meters.
*Such a force is notional; it bears no relation to current Nigerian inventories. In total numbers it's similar to the force structure used by RAND in The New Calculus, 16.
Also, Nigeria has integrated three emerging weapons into its military. First, it uses COMSATs (commercial satellites) for photo reconnaissance and communications. These satellites are majority-owned by the European Community, the Arab League, and an Asian business consortium. Nigeria is a minority owner of each system. All refused US requests to shut down Nigerian access. These satellites allow encrypted communications throughout Africa. They also provide imagery directly to mobile ground stations in Nigeria and with the attacking columns. This imagery has one-meter resolution. In addition, the Nigerians have two backup ground stations in sympathetic third countries. These facilities are connected to Nigeria by fiber-optic cable.
Second, Nigeria has stealthy cruise missiles (purchased from Israel, Brazil, and France with these capabilities:
- Inventory: 5,000, with 100 mobile launchers.
- Guidance: Integrated GPS/INS en route; terminal guidance uses millimeter wave seeker, infrared, or antiradiation. CEP is <5 meters.
- Range: 1,000 NM.
- Warhead: 1,000-pound conventional warhead, cluster bomb unit (CBU), zirconium disk, napalm, infrared cameras with data burst transmitters, multichannel jammers, decoys, HPM, MHD, or EMP.
- RCS <.001 (frontal aspect only).
Third, Nigeria bought five ASATs from Russia. The ASATs launch from Su-35s. They are kinetic kill with IR sensors. These ASATs can only reach satellites in low earth orbit.
Zairian forces are moving to reinforce Kinshasa but are considered far inferior to the Nigerian military. Countries between Nigeria and Zaire (Cameroon, Gabon, and Congo) either ally with Nigeria or give Nigerian forces free passage. The US decides to unilaterally enter the conflict on Zaire's side.* The president orders the US military to assist Zaire's army in halting the Nigerian advance north of the Congo River.
Figure 10. Map of Africa
*This is only an illustrative scenario. The specific reason for intervening is not important for scenario purposes. What is important is to outline a contingency where the niche enemy is superior to its regional opponent. Also, the fight is thousands of miles from US territory and there's little in-place US military infrastructure.
The theater CINC levies the following specific aerospace taskings:
- Establish air supremacy over US forces.
- Establish air superiority over Zaire and the Nigerian LOCs.
- Airlift US units to the theater.
- Attack Nigerian military forces south of the Nigerian border.
- Provide near-real-time information on Nigerian military movements to Zaire.
Assuming this war starts in summer, weather is not much of a factor. Throughout the year, ceilings are above 3,000 feet more than half the time. The rainy season around Kinshasa is early winter, especially November and December. Precipitation in July and August is practically zero. Temperatures are always above freezing.
Kinshasa Weather (Ceilings in Percent)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Ceilings
22 19 19 19 25 49 40 45 33 30 16 16 Ceilings
1 1 1 1 1 1 - - - - - - Inches
5.0 5.6 6.7 8.4 5.4 .2 .1 .1 1.3 5.5 9.3 6.7
Source: USAFETAC/DOO (Now AFCCC)
The US begins deploying two armored divisions and 10 fighter squadrons, with their associated C4I, into Zaire and southwestern Congo. One ARG and two carrier battle groups position themselves off the coast of Gabon. Defensive systems against cruise and ballistic missiles deploy with these forces. Batteries position around the land bases. Improved AEGIS-type ships escort the battle groups. Both rely on airborne aircraft equipped with long-wavelength radars for missile detection and cueing. Surface radars guide the actual intercepts.
One week after deployment begins, Nigeria launches 200 stealthy cruise missiles with CBU (plus four with electronic decoy packages and four with jammers) against the Brazzaville and Kinshasa airports. They overwhelm the limited number of fully operational air defense batteries.* In addition, some of the intercepts are hampered by software shortfalls; the Nigerian cruise missiles present slightly different signatures from those expected. The simultaneous arrival of three tactical ballistic missiles further confuses the defenses. As a result, half the cruise missiles penetrate. Multiple AWACS, J-STARS, KC-10s, and B-747s are destroyed on the ramp. A large tent city is heavily damaged. US casualties are high. Television crews transmit pictures of Zairian soldiers looting the bodies of dead Americans. Stealthy cruise missiles also cripple three USN ships off the West African coast and one RO/RO supply ship at Kinshasa harbor.
*For example, a single Patriot battalion is normally equipped with six batteries, each of which can fire up to eight missiles before reloading (total: 48 missiles).
In the wake of this disaster, public support for intervention polarizes in the US. The president reaffirms the US commitment, but replaces the theater CINC and requests a new strategy. Planning is constrained by basing restrictions. All countries within 1,000 NM of the AOR refuse US overflight and basing requests. The US must rely on Ascension Island (United Kingdom), Azores (Portugal), Canary Islands (Spain), South Africa, Kenya, and Zaire for land bases. Bases in the CONUS, Europe, South America, and at Diego Garcia are also available.
US Aerospace CONOPS
In this scenario, a hypothetical enemy (Nigeria) launches a land invasion of a nation 700 NM to its south (Zaire). This operation is a land force-intensive attack, with 10 divisions of armor and infantry.* Its size and capability far outmatch the defending (Zairian) army. To protect US interests in the region, the president orders the US military to assist Zaire. The military task is to stop the Nigerian advance short of the Congo River.
*Current demographic projections estimate Nigeria's 2010 population at 240 million.
Anticipating American intervention, Nigeria bought high-technology weapons. It has stealthy cruise missiles with 1,000 NM range, access to civilian satellite information and communications, and a robust air defense system (radars, fusion centers, surface-to-air missiles, and manned interceptors).
In accordance with guidance from the theater commander, the US aerospace CONOPS contains a baker’s dozen of major themes.
- Limit the number of targets vulnerable to attack.
- Command US aerospace operations from Cheyenne Mountain.
- Protect US space systems.
- Collect NRT information on enemy maneuvers.
- Degrade Nigerian stealth cruise missile accuracy.
- Attack strategic and operational targets within Nigeria.
- Defend against Nigerian stealth attack.
- Defend against Nigerian ballistic missile attack.
- Attack Nigerian information at all levels of war.
- Attack Nigerian ground forces.
- Airlift critical supplies to Zairian forces.
- Support the ground counteroffensive.
- Prosecute a parallel war.
Limit the Number of Targets Vulnerable to Attack
Absent a direct threat to US vital interests, it is doubtful the American public will support a casualty-intensive war (e.g., Vietnam, Korea. Therefore, casualties are a US strategic center of gravity. US forces must accomplish their mission while (1) minimizing the number of US forces deployed within range of Nigerian stealthy cruise missiles, and (2) protecting those forces deployed to the area.
Accordingly, most US aerospace forces base more than 1,000 NM from Nigeria, outside the range of Nigeria's cruise missiles. They launch from bases in the CONUS, Europe, islands in the Atlantic (Azores, Canaries, Ascension), Brazil, South Africa, southern Zaire, Kenya, and Diego Garcia. This basing structure puts a premium on long-range bombers and missiles. Short-legged, nonstealthy aircraft (e.g., F-16, F-18) have little use.
To support Zairian forces and to coordinate actions, a limited number of US forces deploy near Kinshasa. These forces provide “enhancing” capabilities: C4I, air defense (including spoofing and jamming teams), surface-to-surface missile batteries (e.g., cruise missiles), UAV launchers, and airlift infrastructure. One squadron of close-air-support helicopters also deploys for emergency assistance.
These forces disperse after landing. They remain mobile, shifting location every day or two. They have robust aerospace defenses. Where possible they use Phalanx for point defense and reactive armor to decrease warhead explosive effect. For sustenance they require only a few airlift sorties a day.
Command US Aerospace Operations
from Cheyenne Mountain
Given (1) the dispersed nature of US forces, (2) the need to minimize US exposure to casualties, and (3) the lack of a need to coordinate aerospace actions with other air forces, the JFACC remains in the CONUS.* From a secure, well-exercised base the JFACC commands the worldwide attack on Nigeria and its invasion/occupation forces.
*Cheyenne Mountain has the advantage of proximity to USSPACECOM. Other candidate locations could include Falcon AFB (also has excellent connectivity with USSPACECOM);Langley AFB (wealth of personnel with operational expertise); and the Pentagon (ready access to satellite downlinks, intelligence, political leadership). In all cases, significant parts of the JFACC's staff could be located elsewhere. For example, logistics could be coordinated from Langley AFB while CHECKMATE in the Pentagon drafts strategic targeting.
JFACC HQ receives all sensor data from satellites and UAVs via SATCOM relay. JFACC tasks strike aircraft in the CONUS (e.g., stealth bombers at Whiteman AFB), strike aircraft in theater (e.g., FB-22s at Nairobi), air defense and battle management units in theater (based in southern Zaire, cruise missile-equipped ships at sea, and air refuelers at Ascension Island, Tenerife (Canary Islands), and Lajes Field (Azores). JFACC HQ works closely with USSPACECOM to manage and position reconnaissance satellites, plus deconflict communications satellite requirements.
As a backup to SATCOM links, the Joint Force Information Component Commander (JFICC) deploys HALE UAVs with communications relay packages to the AOR. A bridge of three HALE UAVs connects theater assets with a downlink station on Ascension Island. Fiber-optic cable moves this data from Ascension Island to the US information grid (through Europe). However, due to successful attacks on Nigeria's space-tracking facilities, this alternate routing is unnecessary.
ATOs contain taskings, support data, and intelligence information. A central intelligence management staff attaches relevant information to ATO taskings. Units retain the authority to query the database for more information, but the normal procedure—facilitated by computer software—includes applicable intelligence with each tasking.
The theater CINC deploys forward. The CINC gives general guidance (e.g., apportionment, overall objectives) through a liaison office to the JFACC. The JFACC puts staff elements forward in Kinshasa to liaise with Zairian forces (especially army units and ADA).
Protect US Space Systems
Nigeria's nuclear weapons (i.e., EMP) and ASATs threaten US space systems, particularly those in LEO. To preclude an EMP burst in space, US cruise missiles attack Nigerian space launch facilities on day one of hostilities. Space launch facilities are fragile. They do not stand up to multiple explosions.
Figure 11. Operational Distances
To deal with the air-launched ASAT threat, the US takes three approaches. First, JFACC gives a high priority to attacks against those airfields where ASAT-capable aircraft (i.e., SU-35) are based. Both lethal and nonlethal weapons go against aircraft shelters, storage facilities, C4I, barracks, and power sources. Despite this effort, some ASATs survive. As a second approach, the US readies replacement platforms (satellites and UAVs). Because the niche enemy has a small, finite ASAT capability, the US does not need a robust space protection regime (shielding, maneuverability, stealth, escort satellites, etc.), as would be required for war with a peer competitor. In this case, relying on replacement satellites is cheaper than incorporating robust defenses on each satellite. Third, the US destroys Nigeria's space tracking facility. Without the means to observe normal orbit variances, Nigeria's ASATs become too inaccurate to be militarily effective.
Collect NRT Information on Enemy Maneuvers
High-value airborne platforms (AWACS, J-STARS, TR-1, Rivet Joint) launch and recover from airfields in southern Zaire (Katanga Province). Bases include Kolwesi, Likasi, and Labumbashi. SIGINT platforms operate from Ascension Island. Co-based fighters escort surveillance platforms, although orbits remain outside the combat radius of Nigerian fighters (unrefueled).
J-STARS proves exceptionally worthwhile in this scenario. From orbits 150 NM either side of the Nigerian advance (outside of SAM range), J-STARS maps advancing columns. It identifies tracked versus wheeled vehicles. It provides adequate targeting information to long-range strikers, and identifies logistics sites through history traces of supply vehicles. No substantial forces move without detection by J-STARS.
Although their orbits are within range of Nigeria's cruise missiles, and these cruise missiles have antiradiation sensors, Nigeria's cruise missiles do not pose a threat to emitting surveillance aircraft. The AWACS has a limited ability to detect stealthy cruise missiles within a few miles of its antenna. Once the AWACS detects a cruise missile inbound against it, the AWACS causes the antiradiation sensor on the Nigerian cruise missiles to break lock by “blinking” its radar and changing its flight path. Unlike the missiles of a peer competitor, Nigeria's missiles have only a single air-to-air sensor (antiradiation). Manipulation of the AWACS signal causes the cruise missile to break lock. Other emitting surveillance aircraft (such as J-STARS) orbit close enough to the AWACS to receive similar warning information. They also use blink and maneuver to defeat antiradiation sensors. Finally, both the AWACS and J-STARS have active defenses against missiles (e.g., chaff, flares, EW).
HALE UAVs launch from Kinshasa to patrol Nigerian maneuver forces, especially those beyond J-STARS range. For the most part, UAVs patrol 100 NM to the east and west of Nigerian ground forces. These UAVs fly parallel to the Nigerian advance but outside the range of Nigerian SAMs. Data collected from all UAVs are uplinked to communications satellites for relay to the CONUS JFACC.
Sensor suites include beam radar, EO, phased-array radar (with MTI), and IR. The beam radar is the lightest and cheapest. It sweeps likely areas with its radar beam. It filters returns through a wide-area ATR package on the UAV looking for certain patterns. When it identifies these patterns, it transmits suspected target locations and types to the JFACC. The JFACC then tasks UAVs carrying more defined sensors (EO, SAR, and IR). These sensors can discriminate between tanks and trucks with high confidence. They have sufficient resolution to identify vehicles by type (e.g., T-72 versus T-60). This dual UAV approach allows wide-area coverage with only a few high- cost EO, phased-array radars, and infrared-capable UAVs.
The JFACC orchestrates atmospheric systems and satellites to effect 24-hour conflict surveillance. Revisit times are 30 minutes or less. State-of-the-art computers fuse this data. Zairian liaison officers review the resulting information and distill what’s necessary for transmittal to Zairian units. The US furnishes the transmission means (e.g., computers, satellite links, receivers) plus liaison officers to Zairian forces.
Degrade Nigerian Stealthy Cruise Missile Accuracy
Nigeria's cruise missiles use GPS to update their en route navigation system. The US degrades Nigeria's cruise missiles by manipulating GPS civil mode within 1,000 NM of Nigeria. For political reasons, turning off the civil code (course acquisition [CA] code) on those satellites within the field of view of the route/target area is not an option. Civil authorities throughout Africa require GPS for everyday functions. Signal manipulation is through a combination of local jamming and spoofing. Ten- to 25-watt jammers deploy around and among US forces and key target areas. Jamming is accomplished without affecting the military GPS signal (Y code) that is needed for US operations.
Degrading cruise missile accuracy is not an “additional duty” for aerospace defense units. It is performed by units specifically structured, trained, and dedicated to this job. They direct intelligence services to identify weaknesses in Nigerian cruise missile hardware and software. Nigerian cruise missiles’ target recognition software is a prime essential element of information (EEI). By disturbing the expected pattern electronically and by positioning decoys, air defense units degrade the accuracy of Nigeria's cruise missiles.
Attack Strategic and Operational
Targets within Nigeria
The JFACC orchestrates an aerospace campaign against weapons stores, airfields, infrastructure (including civil electrical and communications grids) and strategic C4I targets in Nigeria. Primary means are long-range stealthy bombers and long-range cruise missiles.
Cruise missiles launch from surface ships and submarines. The US Navy deploys with 1,000 stealthy cruise missiles, each with a range of 1,000 NM. Their warheads include 1,000-lb conventional warheads, CBU, and EMP. They have brilliant sensors (with ATR) and inertial guidance. They operate 24 hours a day.
Stealth bombers launch and recover in Recife, Brazil.* Aircraft fly a 0.5 sortie rate carrying 16 PGMs per sortie.** Their air refueling support comes from Ascension Island. Bombers are the primary platform for attacking hard targets. They operate over the target area only at night, escorted by stealth fighters and UAVs (for jamming and suppression).
*This profile assumes an unprogrammed deployment capability on the part of the B-2. If no such capability exists, the B-2s would have to sortie from the CONUS, which would cut their sortie generation in half. Operating from the CONUS might also degrade operational responsiveness because the longer flight times would require earlier aircrew mission planning, which would require an earlier posting of the ATO. This profile also requires a high (4.0) crew ratio.
**A force of 20 B-2s would result in 160 precision bombs per day (20 x .5 x 16 = 160). A force of 40 B-2s would equate to 320 precision bomb deliveries per day.
Defend Against Nigerian Stealth Attack
Air defenses use multiple types and layers of area sensors to detect enemy stealth, then fuse this information to allow rapid cueing and focused targeting. Understanding that stealth systems reflect or emit signals intermittently during flight, the US deploys a mix of sensors to the AOR. Long-wavelength radars deploy to Kinshasa. Within Zaire and the Congo, the US deploys high-power, short-range radars and lidars across likely attack corridors. They’re arranged in a circular, overlapping fashion to detect stealthy cruise missiles from the side and rear aspects. Radar reflections from pulses emitted from one location can be received in a second location, allowing wide dispersion between sensors and shooters. Finally, UAVs launched from austere airfields (e.g., highway strips) patrol likely launch and penetration areas with a mix of sensors. All transmit data to SATCOMs for relay to the JFACC in the CONUS.
JFACC fuses this data and retransmits taskings and information to air defense units. Stealth interceptors, flying in a CAP role, respond. The interceptors are equipped with multispectral seekers on their air-to-air missiles. Radar solutions remain possible at short range. Imaging sensors prove decisive against cruise missiles. In addition to air defense fighters, a limited number of air-defense batteries protect key US forces. They also receive direct tasking from JFACC. Finally, Zairian liaison officers relay the threat picture to Zaire's forces, along with information on US responses.
Defend Against Nigerian Ballistic Missile Attack
Nigeria has 100 IRBMs with 1,000-NM range. Because they’re launched from mobile TELs, attacks on launch sites are impractical. Instead, the JFACC directs a five-stage defense:
(1) Bombers and cruise missiles attack Nigeria's ballistic missile C4I. These attacks degrade Nigeria's ability to employ its missiles to maximum effect. (2) Space-based systems (e.g., DSP, SBIR) detect ballistic missile launches, then cue radar trackers. (3) Airborne and ground radars use this cueing to detect and track the missile. (4) Intercepts are accomplished by airborne lasers and ground-based missiles. (5) Because Nigeria's ballistic missiles are equipped with maneuvering warheads, manipulating the GPS and the use of spoofing signatures in target areas lessens warhead accuracy. Despite these efforts, one in 10 missiles penetrates. Of the successful penetrators, half hit valuable targets.
Attack Nigerian Information at all Levels of War
Because the goal of these attacks is to dominate information at the strategic and operational levels of war, the JFICC orchestrates these attacks; the JFACC executes only its aerospace aspects.
Aerospace operations center on two areas. One is destroying nodes (such as collection platforms, relay networks, and fusion centers) in the Nigerian information network. The other is distorting information in the Nigerian information network by viral insertion and spoofing.
Missiles and bombers attack all aspects of Nigeria's information system. This includes political, economic, and military information systems. Targets include the information aspects of leadership, production, power, transportation, public information, and the military. Aerospace forces also target all UAVs and satellites the niche owns.
In most cases, targets require precision. Targets include connectivity (e.g., fiber-optic lines and radio/cellular antennas), nodes (e.g., switching stations), repair assets, downlink stations (e.g., satellite dishes), fusion centers, platforms (aircraft, UAVs, and satellites), and C2 personnel. Munitions cover the gamut of the inventory: earth penetrators, MHD, EMP, HPM, CBU, HE, and so forth. Bombers and cruise missiles deliver the munitions.
Attack Nigerian Ground Forces
The goal is to “hollow-out” the Nigerian advance to a point where indigenous defenses can hold. This point can be accomplished by denying the Nigerians mass, maneuver, and effective C4I.
The Nigerians must move 10 divisions over 700 miles, carrying all their logistics with them. Due to the distance from Nigeria, these forces move without air cover. The terrain is difficult. The area between Nigeria and Zaire is mountainous and laced by major rivers. Choke points abound.
US bombers deliver high-explosive, penetrating bombs (e.g., I-2000) against bridges and tunnels in advance, behind, and between the Nigerian divisions. They scatter mines and unattended ground sensors (UGS) along likely routes of advance. Bombers then hit the resulting tie-ups with a mix of munitions: sensor fused weapons, WAM, BAT, and CBU. Trucks (especially tank transporters, fuel carriers, and food wagons) are the highest priority.
US bombers launch from Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya, hit their targets (armored columns, LOCs, logistics), and return.* They fly a 2.0 sortie rate.** Aerial refuelings are not required.
*Requires overflight approval by one of the following: Sudan, Uganda, or Tanzania.
**Quick turns made possible by high (4.0) crew ratios. Due to minimal infrastructure in Kenya, spare aircraft and attrition reserve would base at Diego Garcia.
Fighter-bombers based in southern Zaire escort these strikes over the target area. Escorts carry a mix of defense suppression missiles, air-to-air missiles, and precision bombs. These fighter-bombers need long legs. Due to minimal airport infrastructure in southern Zaire, the JFACC would prefer not to base large numbers of tankers at these bases. Tankers take up ramp space and drain limited jet-fuel supplies.
Note: Nigerian forces routinely carry low-power jammers tuned to the GPS frequency. The jammers degrade US systems that are dependent on GPS in the target area (e.g., munitions such as JDAM).
Airlift Critical Supplies to Zairian Forces
Once Nigerian C2 is stressed and its NRT surveillance destroyed, airlift operations into Kinshasa and Brazzaville resume. Because Nigeria retains its stealthy cruise missiles and access to civilian overhead, airlifters must vary arrivals and limit ground times to only a few hours.
Airlifters fly either directly from the CONUS or stage from Lajes (Azores). Their air refueling support comes from Lajes, Tenerife, and Las Palmas (Canary Islands). Because these airports have limited fuel supplies, the US offers to pay “spot plus 50 percent” to private firms to keep each base flush with jet fuel.
Support the Ground Counteroffensive
Aerospace forces support the ground component commander’s (GCC) campaign. The CINC’s guidance is to drive advanced elements of Nigeria's army away from Zaire to at least the Cameroon-Congo border. In accordance with the GCC’s plan of maneuver, aerospace forces provide heavy firepower support while continuing to interdict Nigerian army elements.
Although an amphibious landing in Cameroon has the potential for cutting off the Nigerian army from its home base, Nigeria's remaining cruise missile inventory and access to civilian overhead imagery dissuades the CINC from this option.
Prosecute a Parallel War
The US attacks key nodes of Nigerian power across all levels of war nearly simultaneously. Operational and strategic attacks offer the most leverage.
At the operational level, the idea is to defeat the attacking 10 divisions—not just by attacking individual units—but by concurrent attacks on their invasion LOCs (especially the tunnels and bridges in Cameroon, Gabon, and Congo), their C2 (the mechanism for directing repairs), and logistics stocks of fuel and food. When these target sets are attacked at the same time, the attacking divisions have too much to fix, too few resources to fix it, and no way to efficiently direct what’s left.
At the strategic level, the idea is to defeat Nigeria's ability to wage war. Due to its possession of nuclear weapons, the NCA does not permit decapitation attacks on Nigerian leadership. However, the NCA permits attacks intended to isolate the Nigerian leadership from its elements of power. These attacks sever normal communications between the national leadership and its elements of power. Simultaneous attacks also degrade the leadership’s access to near-real-time information, strip homeland air defenses, effectively stop all centralized electrical production, cut the national transportation grid, and place the populace at risk—all in a short period of time. As a result of these simultaneous attacks across all strategic centers of gravity, the Nigerian leadership finds itself unable to orchestrate an effective war with Zaire.
At the tactical level of war (where individual attacks actually occur), aerospace forces attack all elements of a unit’s strength nearly simultaneously. In addition to attacking individual weapons (e.g., a tank, airplane, or ship), aerospace forces attack the C2 for that weapon, its communications, intelligence support, defenses, morale, and supplies. Attacks on the weapon system, as opposed to just the weapon, within a short time period reduces that weapon’s ability to adapt.
This aerospace campaign, across levels of war and all target sets, would destroy the Nigerian offensive.