For Want of a Night-Targeting System, the War Was Lost

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Marine photo / Lance Cpl. Robert R. Carrasco

Here's Looking At You, Taliban: A Marine AH-1W Cobra lifts off for a close-air support mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Sure, we’ve all heard of that “for want of a nail” after-action report. It’s a fable dating back to the 14th Century that makes clear that today’s little actions, or, more likely, inactions, can have big impacts tomorrow.

But the Navy says it’s really true now in Afghanistan. That explains why it’s letting the Marines (the Navy buys the corps’ weapons) procure night-targeting systems for their AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships without competition (how many and for how much from Elbit Systems of America’s Kollsman subsidiary in Merrimack, N.H., have been redacted from the contracting document).

Three Marine AH-1W Cobras are currently grounded because they don’t have the night-targeting system, which the Navy says is “directly related to mission success of forward deployed aircraft.” Lacking these night-time and bad-weather scopes would “severely degrade…the readiness of the AH-1W Cobra community currently engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,” the sole-source justification says.

Still unconvinced?

“All of the attached NTS components are a critical part of the AH-1W weapon system are urgently required,” the justification continues. “Without this capability, mission success is impossible.”