As a 40-year-plus AFA member, I found your “Team B Tackles the CIA” article very interesting and informative [June, p. 136]. Anyone who read the annual Soviet Aerospace Almanac you published for years recalls that it was obvious the Soviets were trying to greatly surpass US military capabilities. As a missile combat crew member (MCCM), the Soviet almanac was “eye-opening” and reaffirmed my decision to cross-train as a MCCM.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
The May 2019 issue proves that Air Force Magazine still packs a punch at 64 pages. I try to catch up on my “professional reading” at lunch while eating at my desk and have thoroughly enjoyed this month’s articles, even if I am a bit behind. As a retired space ops officer, as well as being on the Northrop Grumman/EADS Request for Proposal Team for the KC-46 Tanker in 2005-2007, I found so much to dig into in this issue. I loved the profile of Andrew Marshall by John A. Tirpak [p. 26] and have added a podcast he mentions to my listening queue. He also wrote the profile of the last of the Doolittle Raiders, Dick Cole—fantastic and inspiring reading.
The articles on current issues with the mobility fleet (including tankers and references to the KC-46) [“The Biggest Needs in the Mobility Fleet,” p. 39] always make me shake my head a bit at the decision the GAO made to overturn the award to NG/EADS in 2008.
My time spent working with the 505th Command and Control Wing while at a HQ/FOA (as well as a student at the 505th of the Joint Air Operations Command and Control Course), along with duty at Air University as an instructor for the Joint Air Operations Planning Course, made the story “Moving MDC2 from Research to Reality” [p. 42] relatable on so many levels.
As a current defense acquisition corps member, I was also intrigued by the story “Instant Contracts” [p. 34] and hope to learn more from the Air Force in my current position with a sister service.
The beautifully written article on Operation Allied Force [p. 56] is a great reminder for today’s younger generation of men and women serving who are as far removed from that period in time as I was from Vietnam upon commissioning in 1991. I had the privilege to hear Lieutenant General Short speak at the AFA Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando shortly after the OAF—I still have those notes.
But the one topic that keeps me scratching my head the most, due to the current considerations of a separate Space Force or Corps, was the story by Rachel S. Cohen, “Questions Remain as Lawmakers Mull Space Force Proposal,” [World, p. 20], which was interesting from several perspectives. I spent two years at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, Colo., with USSPACECOM and was later amazed (and perplexed) when USSPACECOM was disbanded, or reorganized, into USSTRATCOM, mostly as a result of Title 10 restrictions on the number of COCOMs and the desire or need to stand up NORTHCOM following 9/11. So, 20 years later, here we are again. The 1990s’ report from the “Space Commission,” chaired by the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, regarding the future of space warfighting capabilities, and the recommendations and lessons learned from that, seemed to have been forgotten in the past 10 years. The proposal of a Space Corps does, however, comes directly from that commission, as does the possibility of a separate military department for space. In the interim, returning the space domain to a COCOM is the right thing to do.
Whether or not a separate Space Force is required is another matter. Goldwater-Nichols provides a good structure for presenting forces to the COCOM that all of the military services understand perfectly. To organize, train, and equip those forces should remain a service-level responsibility, with a lead service most suited to USAF and Air Force Space Command. The recommendation that has been left in the dust is acquisition authority for space capabilities. The growth or creep of space acquisition across all of the services should be the center of gravity that is addressed first (and most efficiently). A single acquisition authority for space capabilities, with a set number of Joint Program Offices (JPOs) at the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles and Colorado Springs, Colo., seems to be a logical FIRST step.
I thoroughly enjoyed the picture on pp. 6-7 showing Scat VII [“Airframes,” July/August]. Robin [Olds] and I were in the 479th Fighter Group based at RAF Wattisham, UK, and we were both in the 434th Squadron. I was a lowly second lieutenant while Robin was a first lieutenant. Robin was a graduate of West Point, I was a graduate of Pasadena High School. I met Robin in May 1944 when I was assigned to the 434th. We started in P-38s before switching to P-51s in September 1944. I saw his plane on the tarmac many times and sat with him through many a preflight briefing. I remember in July 1944, Olds and I flew in a P-38 Droop Snoot, Robin at the controls and me in the “bombardier” position. We flew up to Scotland with Olds doing a series of lazy rolls just to make sure I did not fall asleep in the nose. I flew with the 434th until November 1944, before cycling back to the US as a training pilot while Robin re-upped and stayed with the squadron. Robin was a bigger than life individual who we could always count on when wheels up. He was an amazing leader that all of us enlistees would fly with regardless of the flak.
John T. Correll is to be congratulated on his important article [“The Counter-Revolution in Military Affairs,” p. 52] in the July/August issue. He calls attention to the threat to our national security that is created by those Army and Marine officers who have been continually working to ensure American airpower is kept in a supporting role to land forces. Their parochial efforts are focused on protecting ground force budgets and ensuring that only soldiers and Marines are theater commanders, rather than on making America’s military more effective and efficient. To counter these parochial efforts it is critical that all officers (soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen), civilians in key Defense Department positions, as well as members of Congress have a much better grasp of military history and theory.
Examination of history and especially the opinions of those soldiers who have been on the receiving end of American air attacks can do much to help explain how and why American airpower has contributed to our successes in past wars. The opinion of German, North Korean, Chinese, and Iraqi soldiers is different from that of many American soldiers, Marines, and even some airmen who believe that attrition caused primarily by close air support has been airpower’s main contribution to the defeat of the enemy army. Being on the receiving end of both close air support and air interdiction caused enemy soldiers to see that air interdiction was the major threat because of its ability to prevent them from using maneuver to achieve their objectives. This was the case in Korea when United Nations ground forces retreated after being ambushed by the Chinese. As had been anticipated by Far East Air Forces Commander Gen. George Stratemeyer, but significantly not by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Chinese attempt to complete the destruction of UN ground forces with a rapid pursuit put the Chinese troops out in the open even during daylight—exposing them to devastating air interdiction attacks. The massive losses inflicted by these attacks soon forced the Chinese to break off their pursuit and hide by day, allowing UN ground forces to break clear and prepare defenses further south.
Theory is equally important because it helps identify those developments in technology that are changing key assumptions critical to airpower’s efficiency and effectiveness. Until the Gulf War, an important assumption was that American airmen relied on their vision to find an enemy’s mobile ground forces, especially those not in close proximity to our forces. This assumption helps explain the need for the targeting of fixed key transportation infrastructure like bridges. Reliance on aircrew vision not only made the search for enemy mobile ground forces not in contact with our ground forces inefficient and dangerous, it generally limited the search to the hours of daylight and good weather. And when the visual search did find enemy forces, it was often difficult to determine whether these forces were decoys or had already been damaged or destroyed. Moreover, once found accurate air attacks against these forces required dangerous low-altitude weapons deliveries that increased exposure to point air defenses.
But in the Gulf War it began to become apparent that developments in ground surveillance technology, especially the Joint STARS ground-moving target indicator radar, were transforming American airpower by significantly reducing reliance on aircrew vision for finding the enemy’s mobile ground forces not in contact with our ground forces. When this ability to find ground forces moving throughout a large area, even during the hours of darkness or in bad weather, was combined with developments in precision munitions and night vision capabilities, American air interdiction’s effectiveness and efficiency in targeting and destroying Iraqi ground forces was dramatically increased, as the Iraqis discovered during the Battle of Al Khafji. The Iraqi reaction to our air interdiction’s increased capabilities was to disperse and avoid movement, even at night and in bad weather, which seriously degraded on their ability to resupply and train. The result was a demoralizing paralysis that does much to explain why the defeat of the Iraqi Army was far less costly in terms of American lives than most soldiers and Marines expected.
Today, advances in technology are continuing to increase the ability of our airpower to find and precisely target an opposing army’s mobile forces, and this is creating valuable new opportunities for how we can defeat an opposing army. Providing we change our joint and service doctrines to include service roles and missions in order to use our ground forces in support of our airpower—rather than in the reverse as most Army and Marine officers would prefer—we will have the opportunity to defeat an opposing army at even less cost than was the case in the Gulf War. To achieve this success faster and at less cost than is currently the case, the maneuver of our Army’s forces needs to be used in support of our airpower by putting the opposing army’s commander on the horns of a dilemma with no satisfactory answer. His dilemma is this: If he attempts to move in order to counter our Army’s maneuver or threat of maneuver (which could be in the form of retrograde operations as in Korea, as well as by offensive operations), he would make his forces even more visible and vulnerable to devastating air attacks, but if he attempts to reduce the vulnerability of his forces to these attacks by dispersing and not moving as the Iraqis did, he provides our airpower with even more time to complete the destruction of his forces.
The result of these air attacks, as was the case in the Gulf War, would be to provide the opportunity for our Army to use its maneuver to complete the opposing army’s defeat by overwhelming his isolated and demoralized units at the lowest possible cost in American lives.
So, let me see if I understand: We’re going to add insult to the F-22 unit production debacle by considering the purchase of fourth-gen F-15EXs at the expense of F-35 production units [“F-15EX vs. F-35A,” May, p. 30]. We’re talking about a 50-year-old design, albeit significantly modified, competing against a gen-five system that is greatly advanced. And get this, the projected procurement costs and the cost per flying hour of the F-15 are projected to be slightly higher than the F-35! So why is this even a discussion? Propping up the industrial base is given as one reason, but I’m certain that Boeing’s future doesn’t hinge on a warm F-15 production line. And thanks to the quagmire that is our acquisition system, that rationale left the barn when it started taking decades to get a bird on the ramp. We know from experience that industry can produce highly capable and sophisticated systems in a timely manner with streamlined government oversight, a la the Skunk Works’ U-2, SR-71, and F-117, to name a few. It would be transformational if the acquisition community did more than talk about such measures and implement them, once and for all. The other reason behind this absurdity is detailed in your side-by-side comparison, specifically regarding congressional support. The guys and gals on Capitol Hill need to remove the bacon sunglasses and act responsibly for the nation’s defense posture. We’ve got finite resources and limited time to field systems that will dominate now and well into the future. To watch our elected officials use that treasure to garner votes is beyond infuriating. So is the prospect of yet another panel on acquisition reform. We’ve been doing rounds of that navel-gazing for half a century, and to no avail. We’re running out of airspeed and altitude on this matter. I pray that we don’t make the same mistake with the F-35 that we did with the F-22. Here’s hoping that rational heads prevail on this and future requirements.
I read the article “Namesakes: Creech” in your magazine [June, p. 144] and respectfully disagree on a number of points. During the first few years he led Tactical Air Command, the Air Force did suffer from lack of resources. The budgets under the Carter administration were austere and placed the Air Force in a position that strained their readiness. It was not his vision and management decisions that brought the Air Force out of this precarious situation. The Reagan administration was the driving force behind the increase in flying time, resource allocation, and a return to a readiness posture that made the Air Force more than the ‘Hollow Force’ we had under the previous regime. He was instrumental in killing the F-4 Phantom by excluding it from future upgrades, and he was equally influential in selecting the F-16 over the superior F-17 as the newest fighter aircraft for the Air Force.
He presided over Tactical Air Command during the most tragic incident to fall upon the Thunderbirds Demonstration Team. When the entire four-ship diamond formation crashed, Creech took charge of the team and instituted a series of conditions to micromanage their performances before allowing them to resume operations. During his tenure, and in the years to follow, the team had to demonstrate a show and obtain approval prior to the start of each show season. Beginning with Creech, the leader of Tactical Air Command often modified maneuvers and formations flown by the Thunderbirds for their shows. This did not serve the team well as the ambassadors in blue. The Blue Angels gained popularity during this time, performing shows in the A-4Fs with little interference from their leadership.
Creech was a mentor for the crop of four-stars that ruled the Air Force for several decades after his retirement. These generals, naturally, had great praise for their benefactor, but these same officers were referred to as the ‘Fighter Pilot Mafia’. Their ideas and visions were solidly entrenched in single-seat, single-engine mentality, and they were instrumental in prejudicially removing nonpilots from the cockpit of every airframe they had control over. The Air Force suffered under their oppressive tenure for years. Eventually, their policies were instrumental in eliminating electronic warfare platforms like the F-4G Wild Weasel and EF-111A Jammer. They also removed the navigator from the KC-135, the gunner from the B-52, and retired the only tactical reconnaissance platform, the RF-4C, from the inventory. These men did not transform the Air Force into a better, more inclusive fighting force. They concentrated their efforts on the pilot core and treated everyone else as an afterthought.
General McPeak, as an example, nearly ruined the Air Force with his radical views on everything from new uniforms, physical standards (modeled on himself), and his composite wing concept that proved to be a disastrous failure. Introducing a new uniform that looked like a cross between an airline pilot and a Navy uniform—it did not get positive reviews. In a show of support for Total Quality Management, which was in vogue at this time, he instituted a period when the uniform would be evaluated and receive feedback from the field. After the evaluation period, the results were overwhelmingly negative. In the truest sign of the times, McPeak declared that the Air Force was not a democracy that was beholden to popular opinion and switched to the new uniform anyway.
These were the kind of leaders General Creech placed in positions of authority. Generations of pilots will continue to sing their praises, but the rest of us were not impressed.
MANY FACES OF WAR
I found the group photo of glider pilots spread across pp. 10-11 of the 2019 Almanac (June) very interesting. I was fascinated by the variety in the photo. I did not attempt to count them, but there must be a dozen or more varieties of uniforms! And the headgear, or lack of it, is amazing! Some men are bareheaded, some have on service caps, some flight caps, some ball caps, some steel helmets, and at least one has goggles on his head! One man has suspenders and another appears to be wearing a parachute. And the expressions on their faces varies so much also—from laughing and smiles, to concern and grim! What a great record of the men in the Army Air Forces at the time! Thanks so much for publishing this photo. I keep going back to it to see what else I can see in it!
SHOW AND TELL
I keep seeing these reports of debris in the pre-delivery of the KC-46 tankers [“World: Debris Causes 2nd KC-46 Acceptance Pause,” May, p. 25]. How about someone taking a few photos of the debris, in place, at the time of discovery so we can all see what is being called debris? I’d like to know if the Air Force is using this as a device to delay acceptance and delivery of aircraft because it does not have the capacity to accept the aircraft as they are delivered. Let’s have an accounting of the stuff that is being found as to quantity, size, effect of debris on flight qualities, and so on.
Now that Congress (in all their wisdom) has the top 10 list of Air Force bases that are most vulnerable to climate change, we have given them a list of bases to start looking at either for relocation or closure before they are all destroyed [“World: For USAF Bases, Hard Choices Follow Storms,” May, p. 23]. Maybe we should provide the bases in the northern tier that are impacted by winter storms as well. I can’t wait for the Air Force Green Plan.
BOOTS NOT AIRPLANES
I take exception to Tobias Naegele’s assertion in “A Space Force for the Future” [“Editorial,” June, p. 2] that, “Airpower had already won a war” upon creation of the US Air Force. This is just not true. While the strategic bombing campaign in Europe hurt Germany, fact is production was up in the later stages of the war. It took a massive invasion with boots on the ground to defeat the Axis. And while the atomic bombs accelerated the end of the war with Japan, they did not win it. It was won through the actions of the US Navy on the high seas and the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. As for the essence of the article, I agree that it would be premature to create a whole new service. We are just not there yet.
IS ZEALOTRY SUCH A BAD THING
In reference to “Doolittle Was a Zealot” by Lt. Col. Mike Daetwyler [Letters, May 2019, p. 4], I say ditto, but the temper of the time in World War II demanded zealotry to win the war.
Gen. Curtis E. LeMay’s method of air warfare—destruction of the German factories—was uppermost to that zealot.
[Zealotry] was a necessary evil. The Arnolds, Mitchells, LeMays, Doolittles, MacArthurs, and Pattons are never to be forgotten, the best the era had.
Lt. Col. Daetwyler mentioned that the Chinese and Russian militaries have delved into space, so we in the US must seek zealots to bring us into the future or we will be cut short as we were in World War II, where we had to bring “Rosie the Riveter” and the other women ferrying airplanes and the rich guys with their own private planes looking out for German submarines close to our shores, which brought about the Civil Air Patrol, credited with sinking one U-boat and which was a menace to the [German Navy].
Our zealots of yesteryear were necessary. Because of them we overcame and defeated—it was the excessive devotion to a cause that was just.
NOT MADE IN AMERICA
A newer aircraft having parts shortages did surprise me [“Fighter Force Struggling to be 80 Percent Mission Capable,” April, p. 20]. Two things came to mind: Original parts in the airplane are not meeting standards or all parts are not manufactured by American companies, and foreign manufacturers are needed—I can see where America does not have the material to make all parts. So we need to fix this area.
I see an additional concern—retaining experienced maintenance people. Are we still some 17,000 short in people? It seems the first re-enlistment is the [problem] area … just get people trained and they leave.
I believe we have a major problem.
A soldier returning from World War II might wear three ribbons, General Pershing had only two rows [“Almanac: Awards and Decorations,” June, p. 48]. A World War II airman with combat experience might have five or six ribbons, as might a sailor serving in Korea, the last war in which we had any significant naval operations—the Inchon landing. The last war in which we faced aggressive airborne and AA opposition was VIetnam. Our present engagement is in the Middle East, the longest in our history, and has been ground combat in small numbers as compared to previous wars with close air support. This makes me wonder why I see senior military members with ribbons going from left pocket seam almost up to the shoulder. What do all those decorations mean? Any Active Duty or retired military member knows the answer—they mean essentially nothing—a medal for doing your job, another for doing it well, and yet another for doing it really well. I met a young female airman second class with two years of service, none overseas, wearing three rows of ribbons. Swimmers, hoist operators, and flight nurses have received DFCs, the aircraft simply being the bus taking them to the site of their operations. Soon a Distinguished Potato Peeling Medal will be awards to KFs! It’s ridiculous and has to stop.
In World War II, we laughed at Hermann Goering and his decorations. We made fun of North Korean generals with awards going down the front of the their tunics to the trousers. Now, foreign military laugh at us.
The military must sit down in committee with intent of making draconian cuts in awards enacted in the past 50 or 60 years and limit eligibility of prestigious decorations to combat-only. “Staff Hero” awards must be drastically reduced and made junior in precedence to those related to armed conflict. Let us try to return the honor and dignity to the military decorations.
WRITE TO US
Do you have a comment about a current article in the magazine Write to “Letters,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be concise and timely. We cannot acknowledge receipt of letters. We reserve the right to condense letters. Letters without name and city/base and state are not acceptable. Photographs cannot be used or returned.