Your article “The Forgotten War” [June, p. 28] brought back memories, [especially when] I turned to [the chronology] under April 12, 1951. I was bombardier in the deputy lead ship that day in a formation of four B-29s. Our target was a bridge at Sinuiju, North Korea.
The weather was beautifully clear. We turned on the bomb run but something was not right. As we got nearer to the target, we were being blown off course to the right. As we passed adjacent to the bridge, our fighter cover—two F-86s—joined us; we had been briefed for 12. We turned back to the IP. It seems the lead bombardier had his secondary clutch engaged and the corrections for drift were not going to the autopilot. One of the crew called our attention to the airfield across the Yalu River in China, and you could see the MiGs taking off four at a time. We finally arrived back at our IP and turned on the run again, and, looking up, we could see about 20 contrails. Our fighter cover dropped their wing tanks and bored up into the enemy formation. Just then, two MiGs went through our formation from the rear, and you could see flame coming out of the right wing of our No. 4 plane.
We never did get that bridge but turned back south to get away from the fighters. Probably the only thing that saved us that day was that the enemy commander sent down two MiGs at a time and as they came down they were shot down by either our cover or our gunners. Our tail gunner, Earl Kanop, was credited with one MiG, and I got rid of our bombs over Pyongyang. [We] plotted a course for home.
We learned that one of the other planes had augured in just north of the 38th parallel, and the other had crash-landed just to the south of it. We were the only ones to get home after that fiasco. The other two crews were picked up by helicopter and returned to [base].
Maj. Fred W. Butler Jr.,
As one who served with the 19th Bomb Group, Kadena AB, Okinawa (1952–53), I wish to commend you for your excellent article on our “Forgotten Victory.” As one of only two [USAF] members on the Korean War Veterans Memorial Board, [retired] Col. Floyd Cherry and I had to point out to our colleagues from the other branches that [Far East Air Forces] played a very significant role, as reflected in the [Walter] Boyne article.
When going through USAF archives for selection of scenes to be depicted on the wall at our memorial (dedicated in July 1995), I came across a picture of one of the 19th BG crews with their B-29 prior to takeoff on their 50th mission. I submitted it for the wall, and [the image is] placed there in the Air Force section.
No criticism intended, however I have never read or seen pictures of the 502nd [Tactical] Control Group, [Air Control and Warning] Tactical Air Direction Post, or, as they were later known, Target Direction Post, in any history of the air war in Korea. Yet there were three sites just behind the lines that operated during 1952 and 1953.
My unit, the 608th AC&W, Det. 1 of the 502nd, helped drop 2,425 tons of explosives during the major battle for Old Baldy in July 1952. The 502nd received the Distinguished Unit Citation on July 8, 1953. It was the second citation for the 502nd.
These units during training in the States were known as radar bomb scoring sites, using an early Army radar set known as the SCR 584 in conjunction with the MSQ-1 plotting van. Later the radar was upgraded to the Air Force MPS-9. I also believe improved versions of these sets were used in Vietnam, according to Tus-kegee Airman [retired] Lt. Col. Charles Lane of Omaha, Neb.
John H. Schuck II
The article gives a good overview of what our forces went through in that conflict. However, I was there and I think what our Air Force personnel went through while not in the air fighting battles would make a good story.
I was on a ship halfway across the Pacific on June 27, 1950, when we received word we were at war. I was assigned to Itazuke AB [Japan] and given the job of maintaining the landing field, which was separated from the base by three miles.
The field consisted of an asphalt runway with 2 inches of asphalt on a base that was 11 inches above the water table; [there was] a flowing well under the south end. The F-80s’ high pressure, narrow tires kneaded the runway so badly that I had to continually remove and replace [the asphalt].
I did this at night by working one-half of the runway while the other half was being used by F-82s. I was in the control tower directing my men by radio. Yes, there were accidents.
[Later] at Pohang Dong [South Korea], my arrival with equipment and preconstructed tent frames and floors was greeted with glee, as our crews had been living in tents in the mud.
War is hell and our heroes are those who fought the battles (I flew B-24s in Europe in 1944). But we have many unsung heroes who provided the support that made them capable of winning the war.
Col. Elmer J. Romigh Jr.,
I have just read “Nine Myths About Kosovo” [June, p. 50] by Rebecca Grant. I think her detailed defense of air operations in Kosovo misses the point.
First, the overall impact of this article is to say that airpower can win by itself. The US military is a joint force. It has been for years. The history, as Grant points out, goes back to World War I. We have a specialized aviation component in the Army, the Navy and USMC have air arms, and we have a great USAF. Airpower is a full partner in winning wars, and everyone recognizes that. I have never heard a single soldier say he does not want airpower as part of the team. Warfare is a team effort and that is the thrust of joint doctrine.
I am not sure why Grant insists on trying to prove that airpower can win solo. It makes no sense to me unless it is a bargaining position for Pentagon budget battles. If that is the aim, joint doctrine would hold that promoting solo ventures undermines war-fighting effectiveness by having DoD build forces that are less than optimal for the range of missions we face.
I have been in combat and I cheered every friendly aircraft that flew overhead. I blessed every contribution they made that paved the way for me. I am grateful for every allied life they saved. If we need to halt someone so we can hold–deploy–win, and air-power can take the lead in some circumstances, I will be the first to stand up and salute, but insisting that any arm can go it alone is a flight of fancy.
Doctrinal debates are healthy, but USAF and its supporters are doing her and all of us a disservice by arguing they don’t need to be part of the team.
Lt. Col. Richard R. Caniglia,
After reading the article, my initial reaction was, so what? It would have been far better had she addressed the truly relevant issues of whether the employment of forces supported a valid national security objective and whether the use of such forces really accomplished any lasting results.
In Kosovo and Yugoslavia our airmen carried out their orders in an exceptional manner. And, yes, we did inflict damage on the Yugoslav army, didn’t have too much of a problem with decoys, etc. But so what? For what end was all this energy expended
The entire population of Kosovo was driven from their farms and cities, their homes were looted and destroyed, and once the bombing stopped the region returned once more to the centuries-old ethnic strife that had precipitated the action in the first place. What is different is that the US is spending billions of dollars and spreading our dwindling resources even thinner just to keep the level of violence at a lesser level. That will only last as long as we have troops there, as is also the case in Bosnia.
What really needs to be addressed is the fact that our current civilian leadership is totally inept when it comes to using the military effectively. Perhaps it is the complete absence of previous military experience in the civilian ranks that leads to this state or the need to create a spectacular media event for political purposes. The end result in either case is that our military forces are being sent into battle for dubious reasons, only to be committed to follow-up police actions for years to come.
Our military leadership needs to be more forceful in making sure that we do not end up patrolling a border for 50 years as we are doing in Korea or sending our troops into another Vietnam where incompetent civilian leadership cost 58,000 lives.
Lt. Col. James V. Kelso III,
Peachtree City, Ga.
[The article] contributes little to an understanding of the important issues of our involvement in the Bal-kans. By ignoring those issues, the author and Air Force Magazine help to perpetuate the real myths about the Kosovo operation.
The fact is, our civilian and military leadership could not justify the loss of American lives in a war not supported by Congress or the American people, against a sovereign nation which had not harmed a single American. They chose, instead, to increase the chances of killing innocent civilians, including ethnic Albanians we were supposedly protecting.
Of all the straw men Grant constructed, the myths regarding damage to the Yugoslav military and the effectiveness of their decoys were the most disingenuous. Where are the burned out hulks of all those tanks? I guess those wily Serbs spirited them away without a trace, along with the bodies of the 100,000 victims claimed by our civilian leaders to justify an illegal, immoral war.
Facts: In the year prior to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia approximately 2,000 people on both sides were killed in a low intensity civil war. The mass exodus of Albanian civilians did not begin until days after the bombing began, as much to escape the bombing as it was a result of being driven out by Serbian forces. If the Serbs are so set on cleansing their country of ethnic Albanians, why is it that nearly 200,000 Albanians live in Yugoslavia proper, many of them refugees who fled to Serbia and Montenegro to escape the NATO bombing
Facts: Rambouillet was designed to ensure an attack on Yugoslavia. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright publicly stated that the Serbs would sign the “agreement” with no negotiations or be bombed. Even so, the Serbs were ready to accept UN forces in Kosovo but refused to accept the provisions in the agreement whereby NATO forces would have complete access to all of Yugoslavia as a virtual army of occupation.
Facts: Claims that the 78-day bombing campaign forced Milosevic to accept the terms of the Rambouillet agreement are false. The key factors in Milosevic’s decision were a loss of support from Russia and the US–NATO backing off from the demand that NATO occupy all of Yugoslavia and a timetable for a vote on independence for Kosovo.
Operation Allied Force is a sad chapter in our history; we should not make matters worse by distorting the facts.
Col. George Jatras,
From Rebecca Grant:
Operation Allied Force accomplished its objectives: to wage an aerospace campaign and inflict enough damage on key targets, both fixed and mobile, to get the Yugoslav army out of Kosovo and the refugees back in. When Rambouillet failed, the diplomats were out of options—don’t forget, the Russians were co-sponsors of the peace talks. By late March 1999, airstrikes were NATO’s only option. The campaign got off to a rough start but NATO’s airmen ultimately made it work. They proved they were not “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” even though it must have been difficult to do a tough job to help out people they did not know in a place that few of us could find on a map. Milosevic and his army gave in, and diplomacy got another chance. The peacekeepers on the ground will be at the job for years. But without Operation Allied Force, NATO would still be trying to help Albania, Mace-donia, and Bosnia deal with more than half a million refugees while Milo-sevic gloated over occupied Kosovo. As Gen. Michael E. Ryan, USAF Chief of Staff, has said, airpower may not be able to do everything, but there are very few things that can be done without it.
Recruiting and Retention
The Air Force is off the mark with their monetary incentive programs, notably the Aviator Continuation Pay. [See “The Recruiting and Retention Problems Continue,” June, p. 64.] I am an Air Force pilot with 5,000 hours in three different commands. In my 15 years of service, I have never met anyone who decided to remain on active duty based on ACP. Those who stay, stay because they still find the Air Force satisfying and rewarding.
The Air Force cannot compete with civilian sector pay, benefits, or life-style. The bonus may decrease the pay gap a bit, but USAF can never offer the lifestyle or other fringe benefits associated with the airlines.
When the economy is doing well and airlines are hiring, the scales are tipped toward the civilian sector, and pilots leave regardless of the bonus. During the airline hiring slump in the early 1990s the bonus take rate peaked above 80 percent, while during the recent hiring boom the bonus take rate was at a low of 28 percent, [despite] the fact that the bonus had almost doubled in the same time period.
Increasing the initial pilot training commitment to 15 years, as the French have, would create an atmosphere of staying for the long haul. From Day 1, pilots would be thinking USAF career instead of airline career.
Bottom line: The ACP program is a waste of money that has not affected retention. Rather, it has sent a negative message to the Air Force community that aviators are the only ones who count. Bonus money would be better spent on the quality-of-life programs that would benefit the entire Air Force.
Maj. Dale R. Huhmann,
Assistant Air Force Attaché
As a participant in the Fiscal 1978 Air Staff Training Program, I saw many of my fellow trainees, allegedly the best and brightest the Air Force had to offer, leave in disillusionment and frustration. As a staff officer in the mid-1980s working rated force management issues at the Air Force Military Personnel Center, I saw the impact of low retention and the measures the Air Force took to combat it.
As a junior captain for a major airline, I now fly with many former military officers (separatees and retirees) who have chosen to leave the service for a civilian career. During the longer legs, the topic of “why I got out” inevitably arises. The common element in all these experiences, and a major perceptual blind spot for the Air Force, is a lack of effective leadership.
As early as 1978, senior Air Force leaders correctly identified ineffective leadership as a major factor in the decision for separation of many rated officers. However, back then they simply stopped at measures purportedly designed to enhance the capability of those already in leadership positions. Today, the lack of effective leadership is not even publicly acknowledged as a problem by senior Air Force leaders. Yet, time after time, from former officers flying my right seat, ranging from mid-level captains to retired colonels, I hear stories of mistreatment and disrespect at the hands of officers who are “on the way up.”
As the force continues to shrink, the importance of retaining every member possible increases. Yet, we persist in promoting the very people who, by their demonstrated behavior, are contributing to the problem. As a result, perhaps it is time to closely examine both how we promote and who.
Lt. Col. Peter M. McCarthy,
The June edition has an otherwise fine article [“The Problem of Outdated Avionics,” p. 70] on the obsolescence problems faced by USAF in avionics.
I am certain that the intent was to identify the venerable 80286 microprocessor, but it was nowhere near as fast as 286 mHz. Actually, in the view of a good many folks, the old 286 is a workhorse well-suited to a number of avionics applications, many of which do not need the computational speed of today’s premium microprocessors now running at up to 1 gHz (with a 2 gig coming down the line). Certainly very few flight control systems need that much speed, although there are a good many avionics applications requiring a lot of computational power.
The component obsolescence prob-lem is far from limited and is a plague experienced by all services with both depot repair programs and re-pro-curements. Most firms are more interested in making money with consumer products than satisfying the limited number of obsolescent device replacements; thus the cost can be very high to set up a line.
It is interesting to note that Lock-heed Martin and their subcontractors on the F-22 program are experien-cing the obsolescence problem with avionics even before they have a contract to mass produce the aircraft. This is borne out by contracts issued specifically to tackle obsolete component problems. There is no doubt in my mind that the same will be true for the [Joint Strike Fighter] before a production contract is let to either Lock-heed Martin or Boeing. Clearly, avionics being developed now for those aircraft will suffer obsolescence problems at [Initial Operational Capability], unless somebody is really watching the store.
I was very pleasantly surprised today, reading your article, to find out that we have almost caught up with current technology, in that we have 286 mHz processors in the B-2. Although today’s processors run at up to 1 gHz, processors did not exceed 200 mHz until approximately three years ago.
Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of any such speed. I have also heard the processors on the B-2 compared to IBM 286 processors (which ran at about 8–10 mHz), but they are not even that capable. The processors on board the B-2 are best compared to the old Commodore 128 computer, which ran at 2 mHz and which I owned one of in the mid-1980s. This same basic processor is also the brains in the B-52 and B-1 fleets.
Lt. Col. Ken Charpie
Wright–Patterson AFB, Ohio
Having read “Flying the Unfriendly Skies of America” [June, p. 76], I was not surprised to see that the airspace structure in the US is as screwed up today as it ever was. I was the chief flight planner for two F-111 wings between 1985 and 1991 and have experience dealing with the way Europe (especially the UK) and America deal with military low-level training flights.
In the UK, we were told where not to fly (cities, noise sensitive areas, airfields, etc.). There was enough flexibility in their system that we could train effectively, even in that congested country. Sure, there were noise complaints, but everybody suffered pretty equally and they were generally good sports in putting up with the jet noise. We just used the noise sensitive areas as threat sites to be avoided.
In the US, we apparently are still told where we can fly. For those who aren’t familiar with the low-fly structure, it consists of a number of narrow corridors that have had to pass muster with the FAA, tree huggers, and other special interest groups. To top it all off, the training [isn’t] very good. There are only so many times you can get good training out of a patch of terrain you know so well that you don’t need a map to navigate it. It’s the difference between driving to work and driving someplace you’ve never been before.
What would be a fair system that would promote good low-level training? How about drawing a 200-mile circle around each bombing range? Each day of the week, a different 72-degree arc defines the low-fly area. Each week, shift these arcs 10 degrees or so. That will keep the edges moving and discourage canned routes, which are bad for training and also generate noise complaints. Within 50 miles or so of the bombing range the arc should become a circle to allow for the maneuvering necessary for different attack tactics.
Maj. Jim Rotramel,
Lexington Park, Md.
I have encountered military aircraft flying low overhead while hiking in the serene wilderness many times. Upon looking up, my only comment is, “Thank God they are ours.”
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
What About Rescue
The graph on p. 12 of the June issue [“The Chart Page: When the Air Force Goes Gray”] accurately reflects the attitude of the Air Force brass (and apparently AFA also) regarding rotorwing aircraft in general and Combat Search and Rescue in particular.
The HH-60G is continually being upgraded and the strain of this additional weight is seriously affecting structural integrity and service life. If the [Air Combat Command] commanders really meant what has been stated, that they know CSAR is broken and it will be fixed, then there would be a robusting of existing units through the procurement of additional tankers (either through new purchases or modification of existing C-130s) and helicopters. The Reserve and Guard have the majority of the experience and would thus be an excellent asset to train active duty aircrew and maintenance personnel (as is already being done to a limited extent) by creating reverse associate units.
For the cost of one or two F-22s or JSFs, rescue can receive much needed assets and system upgrades, which would provide an increased worldwide capability with less strain on this overextended asset.
Value of JROTC
I am a proud member of FL-941, Pine Ridge High School’s AFJROTC program. In the June issue, p. 89, you will find my picture along with cadet Evie Dunbar. I was extremely delighted to see our accomplishment published for Air Force Magazine readers to see.
I am very grateful to those whose idea it was to initiate a JROTC program. Hopefully, they and everyone else know of the life teaching, memorable experiences, and upstanding values that are gained by the youth in these programs.
Cadet Col. Serena Wilson
What’s the Real Need
Phil Weissburg’s letter [June, p. 4] states that the B-29 cost the taxpayers less than $60,000 each. This is a far cry from what I was told when I was flight crew during World War II. The high brass told us that the plane cost $1 million each, at that time a staggering sum.
This is not to say that Weissburg does not make a good point. But it takes away from his position to not base statistics on actual facts.
Overland Park, Kan.
I find the truly frightening part of Weissburg’s letter to be his unawareness. I suppose I can understand how a lay person could believe that any aircraft that drops a bomb is all that is required. In the real world, though, as any one with any military background is aware, this just isn’t the case.
As an analogy, a new automobile in the 1940s cost less than $1,000. A new auto today can cost $50,000. That is simple inflation. The other issue to mull over is technology. An automobile built in the 1940s provided basic transportation much like a 2000 model automobile does. The question to ask here is, “Are they the same?” Of course they aren’t. The improvements in safety, reliability, security, efficiency, and capability in a 2000 vehicle are a quantum leap ahead of those found in a 1940s vehicle.
When a person then considers that technological improvements are also being applied in defense systems fielded by potential adversaries, this concept becomes even more poignant. Imagine, if you will, that the rest of the drivers on the road aren’t necessarily following the same rules of the road that you follow. In fact, to think about it in relative terms, a few of those other drivers out there are enthusiastically trying to kill you. Suddenly the money spent in safety and security features would in all probability become moot.
I suppose in the long run the fault partially lies with the military community. Perhaps we need to do a better job of educating the general public as to what we do and why we do it. Then again, some of the accountability must lie with the general public as well. Unless the civilian population is willing to devote time to actually gathering facts and not just spouting hackneyed, worn-out phrases, these sorts of misconceptions will continue to exist.
Maj. Randall A. Nordhagen,
True War Machine
I am writing [about] a letter entitled “True War Machine” [June, p. 10] by Maj. Charles “Sammy” Samuel, ANG.I would like to share my experiences as crew chief.
I always had a clean and polished aircraft in my more than 20 years in the Air Force. When I was stationed in Thailand, I had a Wild Weasel F-105 (63-8341). The pilot was Maj. Merlyn Dethlefsen and the Bear was Capt. Mike Gilroy. In April 1967, Dethlefsen found himself in a hornet’s nest, surrounded by MiGs, anti-aircraft artillery guns, and surface-to-air missiles. Dethlefsen’s aircraft sustained damage but landed safely back at Takhli. He and Gilroy both claimed that they would not have survived if they had not been in an airplane that was clean and polished, [which] allowed them extra speed when they needed it most.
So, as for us crew chiefs who spent endless hours cleaning and polishing, it was for more than looks. It saved lives, saved fuel, and let the pilots do their jobs.
MSgt. Harold Seibel,
Kosovo Retro II
Having just read the June issue, I’d like to reply to the letter written by T. Curtis Goodwin [“Letters: Kosovo Retro,” p. 4]. He was quick to fire a shotgun blast at intelligence support to the warfighter.
First there is no such thing as intelligence for intelligence sake. I don’t have an intelligence requirement—my commander does and my operators do. My intelligence specialists and I are there to service those requirements.
Goodwin confuses national, theater, and tactical reconnaissance and intelligence. National assets are just that—national resources that also entail priority in tasking, exploitation, and dissemination. The guy stepping to the jet is at the back of the line behind the President, Secretary of Defense, theater commander, [Joint Force Air Component Commander], and the other theater component commanders. Theater assets are assets owned by the theater commander, unless that control is delegated (like targeting) down to the JFACC. The JFACC may do the care and feeding, but they service the collection deck established by the theater/[Joint Task Force] Daily Reconnaissance Board. Now, the air boss does own the [Air Force forces tactical] recce, and he can send those wherever he wants.
Now that we established the recce food chain, which of the five Int brothers (Imint, Sigint, Masint, Humint, or Osint) do you want direct in the cockpit? Remember, now, if you want it raw hot from the sensor you’re getting information not intelligence. Do you want every Elint hit? What’s the confidence level? Imagery? Oh, the raw stuff is full frame. Do you want a north arrow, mensurated points, annotations of the target area? Then it’s not hot off the sensor. Do you want “dot-ology” from the Joint STARS direct or talk to the operator
How much exploitation and evaluation do you want the flier to do en route to the target? I’m all for giving the operator what he needs rather than what he thinks he needs and that’s just both intel and ops getting closer to establish the requirements. Current technology can send an image into the cockpit. You can get Elint into the cockpit, but you need to understand that it’s not [radar warning receiver] gear that sees 150 miles. Perhaps what you’re really looking for is a data feed where relevant intelligence and threat updates can be provided by the wing since it can flight follow its tasked sorties better than the [air operations center].
The tactical intelligence part is a tougher nut to crack. Right now the experience pool in Air Force intelligence is getting pretty shallow. For Operation Allied Force we ran out of trained targeteers! Will it matter what you put in the cockpit if the talent isn’t there to mission plan with and give you the threat data? Down at the wing/squadron is where the fight begins, where the intel toads build the tactical picture for the aircrews to mission plan with. Theater joint intelligence centers provide the strategic picture for the theater commander, the JFACC’s A-2 provides the operational air and missile order of battle, but it’s your wing/group intel guys who condense and fuse that information into a tactical picture for the guy stepping to the jet. Coupled with the strain on experienced intel specialists, we’re currently without a functioning intelligence system that does Elint and route analysis or passing orders of battle to the fliers’ mission planning systems!
So there you have it—my view from the field. Next time, aim before you shoot because there are a lot of us busting our humps out here to see that our operators get the best intelligence available. I take it personally because they’re my aircrews, too. You can’t brief a combat premission brief and not care; they’re your friends and squadron mates.
Maj. Tom Imburgio,
RAF Mildenhall, UK
Not a B-36, No
A B-36? Not in the picture. [See “Flashback: Goblin,” June, p. 47.] Even I know the difference between a B-36 and a B-29.
Lt. Col. Ione Hamman,
Civil Air Patrol
London Mills, Ill.
What we failed to do in the caption was identify the aircraft—a B-29—used for the flight tests. The caption was incomplete.—the editors
Please note the error in the text of “Pieces of History: Tuskegee” on p. 96, June issue. The text [says that] nearly all of the 2,000 black fighter pilots in World War II came from the Tuskegee Institute. This is not correct. Actually 992 pilots graduated from Tuskegee Army Air Field. There were 673 single engine pilots, 252 twin engine, five foreign, 51 liaison, and 11 service pilots graduated from the school during its existence.
Tuskegee Institute had nothing to do with the training at Tuskegee AAF where basic, advanced, and other training took place. The institute, now known as Tuskegee University, was very involved with Moton Field where the cadets took their primary training.
We erred. Thanks.—the editors
Newsweek and the 14 TanksThis letter responds to two articles by Stephen P. Aubin. The first, “How Newsweek Missed the Target,” appeared May 19 on AFA’s Web site. A fuller and somewhat different version, “Newsweek and the 14 Tanks,” appeared in the July issue of Air Force Magazine.
Aubin has a problem. He hasn’t seen the documents, so he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Responding to Newsweek’s story of the suppressed Kosovo report, Aubin first parroted USAFE’s initial line: no such study. The Air Force having abandoned that, Aubin, too, has to switch. The study not only exists, he now says, but was widely circulated. Both stories can’t be true; and in fact neither is. Yes, the study exists. No, USAFE didn’t circulate it. Aubin is wrong: The GAO wasn’t given it.
Aubin’s history is wrong, too. SACEUR sent the team into Kosovo precisely to check out Serb claims of minimal damage to the VJ [Yugoslav army]. USAFE wanted to survey fixed targets, but had zero interest in mobiles. After a SACEUR/USAFE tussle, the team split-some looking at fixed, some at mobiles. (Aubin quotes Lt. Col. David Duvall. Wrong man. Duvall ran the fixed targets group.)
The mobiles group anticipated briefing their report round NATO. It was killed. SACEUR’s actual words to CINCUSAFE [Gen. John P.] Jumper were: “I can’t go to Javier Solana and all those political leaders and people who have said we destroyed this [much equipment] and say ‘Um, we made a mistake. You know, we just went around and took a hasty look on the ground and we didn’t see a whole helluva lot.’ “
Those are the facts. None of Aubin’s huffing and puffing–“Not since CNN’s Tailwind fiasco,” etc.–changes them.
Defending the higher figures then confected by [Brig. Gen. John] Corley’s team, Aubin again shifts ground. He claimed in his May 19 Web response that each pilot’s mission report (misrep) of a kill “had to be corroborated by multiple sources.” Corley certainly said that in his Sept. 16, 1999, SHAPE presentation. He even claimed: “Frankly, more than 85 percent of the time three or more sources were present.” But, as Newsweek pointed out, that wasn’t true. So Aubin now says the misrep itself counted as a source which only “had to be corroborated by at least one other source” to give the “multiple sources” Corley claimed.
That’s a huge climb-down; but the new version isn’t true either. Corley & Co. asserted flatly to Newsweek that “the misrep was a point of departure. We never used the mission report from the pilot as a source of validation” of a kill. And: “We call it an empty claim. … To validate that claim we had to get something else … multiple sources, two other validating sources.” But in reality: “assessed hits based on multiple sources … represent 45 percent of the total assessed hits.” (No names, I’m afraid. The Air Force insisted the long session be on background. So much for Aubin’s jibe about Newsweek’s unnamed sources.)
Bottom line: Fewer than half the “validated” kills were backed by “multiple sources.” Worse: Among the 55 percent backed by only a single datum point, just over four in 10 had as lone source a bomb flash picked up by IR sensors on the DSP satellite. Which confirms only that the pilot dropped a bomb; in most cases it says nothing about what, if anything, the bomb hit.
“Corley’s team was conservative in its approach,” says Aubin. Huh? Take artillery. NATO pilots claimed 857 hits on Serb artillery positions. The Joint Analysis Center (JAC)–NATO’s scorekeeper–estimated that, at most, the pilots might have struck 341. But, their report says, the on-site team “did not consider ‘artillery positions’ because USAFE/IN could not confirm the position contained actual equipment.” USAFE didn’t know what had been down there. Yet Corley and his team “confirmed” that artillery pieces had actually been struck in 389 positions. How
Or take Corley’s claim of 93 confirmed tank kills. USAFE documents show that Corley’s team actually managed to construct a case for 77 only. Then, in a final flurry, 16 strikes initially logged as multiple hits were reclassified as separate kills. That’s “conservative”
Aubin tries to rebut Newsweek’s “accusation that the Air Force was flying too high” by pleading that laser-guided bombs work fine from 15,000 feet. But LGBs were only a tiny fraction of the munitions used against mobile targets. Take tanks: NATO pilots claimed 181 hits. USAFE considered 124 of these plausible; the JAC figured 110. Against these NATO had dispatched 956 munitions. Just 40 were PGMs: 27 laser-guided bombs and 13 Mavericks. The other 916 were inaccurate dumb bombs.
Altitude also bedeviled target ID, as the team found: “Many locations reported to have a tank or APC kill had numerous destroyed [military and civilian] vehicles. … It is reasonable to assume a number of the military vehicles [we] counted, and even many civilian vehicles, were incorrectly identified … as APCs or tanks.”
Aubin’s explanation for the missing equipment? The Serbs removed it. Please. That’s been the Air Force line ever since Allied teams in World War II Normandy first catalogued massive discrepancies between pilot claims and kills found.
The Kosovo team visited virtually every site where NATO pilots had claimed a kill. Not merely did they find few bombed-out hulks; though they scoured the sites and craters, they found no debris either. That the Serbs might remove damaged vehicles is plausible. That they would vacuum every crater is not.
The VJ had no heavy lifting gear in Kosovo. Their only option would have been to drag damaged tanks to the nearest road. The team looked for drag marks, but reported “no evidence of equipment removal such as tracks, HET [heavy equipment transporter] marks, or the presence of V-bar equipped tanks used to tow a disabled vehicle.” Corley misrepresented this at his Sept. 16 presentation: “The team further discovered that equipment had been towed out of bomb-damaged revetments to the main road and transported away. The ground earth scarring is clearly evident in multiple examples.” A distortion that adds weight to the charge of suppression.
NATO intel analysts reckon they monitored perhaps 90 percent of the Serb withdrawal. Analysts have pored over the imagery. They’ve identified a few damaged vehicles, but nothing on the scale posited by USAFE.
Aubin’s final assertion is that since the “combined effects” of military and other actions brought victory, “the number of tanks destroyed” is irrelevant as a metric. Rubbish. If airpower is poor at finding and destroying scattered mobile targets in difficult terrain covered by multiple air defenses-the challenge in Kosovo-let us acknowledge that and either improve Air Force capabilities or resolve not to fight such battles again. Aubin does nobody a service, least of all the Air Force, by trying to fudge the problem.
Newsweek National Security Correspondent
From Stephen P. Aubin:
Newsweek’s John Barry and Evan Thomas claim that NATO aircraft, during the 78 days of Operation Allied Force, struck a mere 14 tanks, 18 APCs, and 20 artillery pieces. That is the crux of “The Kosovo Cover-Up” (Newsweek, May 15), but it is untrue. They were wrong when they reported it then, and they are wrong now. NATO aircraft struck 93 tanks, 153 APCs, and 389 artillery pieces. At least.
Barry and Thomas based their claims largely on what they termed a “suppressed” NATO report. The claims, in essence, were three: NATO airpower didn’t hit much. NATO covered up that fact. And NATO invented higher numbers. Barry’s letter repeats all three claims. They are false.
I will take each in turn, but I’ll first deal with a somewhat minor Barry claim-that I initially denied the existence of a NATO report. I didn’t, as is plain from the text. I denied the existence of a “suppressed” NATO report, and still do.
1. Newsweek asserts NATO airpower didn’t hit much. The claim rests largely on the so-called “suppressed report” containing low figures. Barry doesn’t tell you the true nature of the document. It was a working draft report prepared in July 1999 by SHAPE’s Munitions Effectiveness Assessment Team (MEAT). It presents results of a postwar Kosovo ground survey–a snapshot of a cold battle area, nothing more. It makes no pretense to being the last word on the war. It will never yield the whole picture. For that, one must go to the final SHAPE report, NATO’s Kosovo Strike Assessment, which Newsweek essentially ignored. More on that below.
What Barry has in his possession is a document that lists only the number of vehicle hulks found in Kosovo at least one and as many as three months after the strikes took place. Newsweek’s claim that the ground survey represents the totality of NATO’s successes is, on its face, ludicrous.
2. Whatever Barry claims, nobody “killed” any study. The “mobiles” part of the MEAT draft report is still very much alive. It and the final report are archived in Europe and Washington and at Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Ala. They are available to anyone who has a proper security clearance.
Moreover, the draft report has been widely circulated. It was provided to the US Army, Center for Naval Analyses, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and General Accounting Office.
In advancing his “suppression” claim, Barry suggests the existence of factions, one focused on fixed targets, the other on mobiles. In reality, there was one Munitions Effectiveness Assessment Team. The leader of the Kosovo Strike Assessment, Brig. Gen. John Corley, USAF, said the same team member names are found on both fixed-target and mobile-target working drafts.
Lt. Col. Michael (not “David,” as Barry says) Duvall was deputy leader for the entire team, not just for fixed targets. He noted to me that team members were divided each day into “fixed” and “mobile” survey groups. Team members were interchangeable and came from all over, not just from USAFE, as Barry suggests.
3. Newsweek evidently believes NATO conspired to produce inflated strike data, arguing that NATO airpower did not kill 93 tanks, 153 APCs, and 389 artillery pieces.
What is the source of these figures? It is NATO’s Kosovo Strike Assessment, the fruit of a nine-week-long, round-the-clock effort by 200 personnel. Its sources of information included not only the MEAT draft but also national satellite images, cockpit video, UAV video, and other intelligence. Data were correlated to establish what happened. For some reason, Barry simply refuses to accept use of such sources to confirm or disprove strike claims.
It is true that 55 percent of NATO’s validated “successes” are based on a pilot’s mission report and one additional source. Barry implies they are weak cases. However, these strikes make up what Corley calls the “definitive” category; the second source was strong enough to erase all doubt.
Each remaining NATO “success” (45 percent of total) also began with a pilot mission report. However, validation required at least two more sources. This caused confusion. Corley, in his September 1999 SHAPE briefing, did say three or more sources were available “85 percent of the time.” I asked Corley about this discrepancy and, as it turns out, the 85 percent remark refers only to the 45 percent requiring two or more additional sources. Corley concedes that his statement was not very clear.
As Barry says, Corley’s team did validate 77 tank strikes. However, these 77 were in addition to the 26 hulks of the MEAT draft report. It turned out, however, that 10 tanks were double counted. Basic arithmetic–add 26 and 77, subtract 10–yields the figure of 93 tanks. There was no “final flurry” to add 16 fraudulent tank kills, as Barry claims.
Barry also confuses readers about NATO’s use of dumb bombs and precision munitions. When a Serb vehicle or vehicles (tanks, for instance) were in the open and risk of collateral damage was low, NATO might use a profusion of dumb bombs. NATO tended to use PGMs to hit single vehicles hidden near civilians. USAFE credits 81.7 percent of tank kills to PGMs, the rest to dumb bombs. The fact is, though, that either type can be “accurate,” even from 15,000 feet. It depends on the nature and location of the target.
Barry scoffs at the idea that the Serbs “cleaned” the battlefield and greatly reduced the number of vehicle carcasses left in view. Yet Corley, in his SHAPE briefing, showed actual video of Serb transport vehicles hauling out APCs and other equipment covered by tarps. Barry’s “NATO intelligence analysts,” who are said to have “monitored perhaps 90 percent of the Serb withdrawal,” were monitoring only Serb equipment still in Kosovo at the end of the 78-day campaign. By definition, they didn’t see what was already gone. The Serbs had ample opportunity to move equipment during gaps in NATO surveillance.
There was no “Kosovo Cover-Up.” Barry and Thomas were used by individuals whose desire to discredit airpower is obvious.