Nov. 1, 2007

Compass Call in Afghanistan

As an Air Force Association life member, I receive your magazine monthly. In your September issue, your article titled, “Watch on Afghanistan[p. 46] caught my attention and I immediately turned the pages to read it. As I continued to read the article, I soon discovered again that pervasive bias that comes through in your magazine articles—a bias focused on fighter aircraft and their missions. More saddening is the omission of other critical aircraft, missions, and organizations at Bagram Air Base. In this article, you totally missed even mentioning the Compass Call mission and those who fly the EC-130s. What’s so disappointing about your article is that the EC-130s have been in Afghanistan longer than most of the organizations you wrote about and, most likely, have recorded the most hours flown in-theater supporting crucial ISR missions. It would have been nice if you’d given credit (how about a paragraph at least?) to the mission and people who belong to Compass Call. Remember, they’re your readers too!

Col. Ronald P. McCoy,

USAF (Ret.)

Yorktown, Va.

Air Force Century

[In reference to “The Air Force Century 1907-2007: List of Ten,” September, p. 69]: I expect you will have many reactions to your lists of 10. Regarding key airplanes, I submit the B-24 Liberator as an important candidate.

Castle Air Museum, in Atwater, Calif., celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2006. When the museum was created, it inherited the traditions of the 93rd Bomb Group and its outstanding record in World War II. The B-24 made an immense contribution to victory in WWII. Castle Air Museum is proud to have one of the rare examples of the B-24 bomber at the entrance to the museum.

The B-24’s greatest strength was its versatility and capacity to adapt to a variety of operations, including bombing, transport, submarine patrol, reconnaissance, and many special missions.

The B-24 Liberator participated in many air battles over Europe with Eighth Air Force, resulting in the loss of thousands of airmen from 1942 to 1945. Jimmy Stewart flew 20 combat missions as command pilot in a B-24 with Eighth Air Force, and he was reported to say, “I think most of those who flew the airplane have a very soft spot in their hearts for the machine.”

More than 19,000 B-24 aircraft were produced during World War II by many different manufacturers. This aircraft served in many theaters of war in a wide variety of missions and many airmen lost their lives in this aircraft. It is incredible that any vestige of the immense contribution of this aircraft to victory has almost disappeared. Today there are only two B-24s still flying and only a few available anywhere in the world on static display.

This historic aircraft is a proud symbol of victory for all who served in World War II. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Castle Air Museum has recognized the B-24 Liberator’s historic contribution with a special pin with the image of the aircraft at Castle Air Museum.

Col. Edward R. Nacey,

USAF (Ret.)

Atwater, Calif.

The September issue of Air Force Magazine is wonderfully done. It covers the whole 100 years of birth and growth of our air arm with the major individuals, machinery, and dates that allow us to follow its development from inception to today. The magazine is a keeper.

During World War II, I served in Europe. Like many men who worked with her, I fell in love with the B-26 Martin Marauder, which was designed with short wings which were so highly weight-loaded that takeoffs and landings were necessarily at higher speeds than many pilots could handle. She had been described as the “Flying Prostitute” and the “Baltimore Whore” because she had no visible means of support. In addition, the Army kept changing features that added more weight to the plane that made it even worse. In fact, during flight training she was called names such as “B Dash Crash” and “One a Day in Tampa Bay.”

Despite all of the problems she had in the air, she was not only beautiful, she had all of the qualifications the Army Air Corps wanted in a medium-size, lower altitude bomber that could travel at pursuit plane speed. The Glenn L. Martin Co.’s design won hands down in the bidding on the specifications of such a ship. Seven of the major aircraft companies had bid, and Martin was far ahead of its competitor.

The contract was approved on Sept. 20, 1939. Before any test flight, much less the start of production, was made, the Air Corps increased the order by 139 planes. Probably the first moniker she won was the “Flying Torpedo,” because she had a very streamlined shape, the fuselage resembling a torpedo. Her flying problems began at the outset. But over the next two or three years, [we] learned that the fault was not in the design, but mainly in our failure to [ensure] that everyone who was responsible for putting the B-26 into the air and caring for her condition was as technologically advanced as she was. Until the planners, the mechanics, and the pilots learned why she behaved as she did, and then used her advantages, she was difficult. But when our people learned to handle her, she became a craft that did a tremendous job. She racked up a long list of aircraft firsts.

We who flew as her crew members learned to love her as the best. I was not a pilot. I had “washed out” of pilot training. My combat missions were flown as an armorer-gunner. Since we bombed in formation and bombardiers were needed only in the lead ships, I flew in her pretty Plexiglas nose and dropped the bombs on signal. We called ourselves “toggliers.” But I know that the pilots loved her, too. The pilots who stuck with her and became confident in her, deserve a snappy salute and thanks. To top it all off, she recorded the lowest combat loss record in the ETO, of any other bomber.

Jim Taylor

Norway, Maine

I enjoyed the article “The Air Force Century: Key Dates in Air Force History.” I noticed that the advent of radar interceptions in fighter aircraft was not mentioned. [Too bad,] since this was the birth of our present day software for the fighter weapons systems.

I volunteered for the night fighter program in 1942 at Orlando, Fla. I later flew the RAF Beaufighter.

Maj. Rayford W. Jeffrey,

USAF (Ret.)

Cherokee, Ala.

Enlisted at Kasserine

A comment: Rebecca Grant’s article “Up From Kasserine Pass” did not mention the role played by enlisted pilots.

The 316th Troop Carrier Group, with the 36th, 37th, 44th, and 45th Squadrons commanded by Jerome B. McCauley, a 1932 staff sergeant pilot, and a large majority of the air crews being enlisted pilots, arrived in the Middle East in November 1942, just after General Montgomery’s British Eighth Army push from El Alamein began.

Ninth Air Force, under General Bereton, assigned our 52 C-47s to support the British Eighth Army, which we did through Tunis. We were issued British uniforms, but wore American insignias. They also painted red, white, and blue squares on our aircraft tail so as not to confuse the RAF. This allowed the British press corps from Cairo, Egypt, to take pictures of us from a distance and inform the world that the Middle East was a total British show.

We enlisted pilots from Classes 42-F and 42-G flew as enlisted pilots in the 316th Troop Carrier Group supporting British General Montgomery’s Eighth Army until the middle of February 1943 (three months), when the flight officers’ rank finally caught up with us. We were later promoted to second lieutenants, over a year after graduating from flight school.

When General Patton made a bet with General Montgomery concerning reaching an objective, General Patton lost, and a C-47 was given to Montgomery, with Eddie Russell, Class 42-G Ellington, a former enlisted pilot, [assigned] to be his personal pilot.

The Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall at Maxwell AFB, Gunter Annex, in Montgomery, Ala., has a very large biography of most of the enlisted pilots.

Brig. Gen. Edwin F. Wenglar,

USAF (Ret.)

Enlisted pilot, 1942-43

Francitas, Tex.

Excellent time line article on the history of the Air Force. But I question the caption on the picture of the Minuteman launch on p. 66. In the caption you state, “The Minuteman II version remains the backbone of the nuclear missile force.” I disagree. Minuteman IIs were deactivated years ago. Currently the Minuteman III is the backbone of the nuclear missile force.

I was assigned to Minot Air Force Base, 740th SMS, in late 1970 and was one of the first group of Minuteman III missile combat crew commanders there. 91st SMS was the first missile wing to get the Minuteman III, AKA Minuteman modernized.

Lt. Col. Boyd C. Yaden,

USAF (Ret.)

Clackamas, Ore.

Chopper Requirements 101

[Regarding the article “The Struggle Over CSAR-X,” September, p. 80]: I am a retired master Army aviator and instructor pilot with 22 years’ experience in the planning and operation of helicopters. My last tour of duty was in Afghanistan as an aviation planner for the 101st Airborne Division, which conducted the air assault on al Qaeda and Taliban forces entrenched along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border during the Battle of Anaconda.

Over the past months, I have witnessed the protestations of the losing contractors on the Air Force’s selection of the HH-47 as the winner of the CSAR-X competition for replacement of the Air Force’s HH-60G combat rescue helicopters.

Having personally been involved with CH-47 in combat operations, and witnessed the saving of many lives by this versatile medium lift helicopter, I cannot sit by and watch the desperate political campaign to besmirch the capability of this well-proven combat helicopter to perform the combat rescue mission.

It is not an overstatement to say that the US would have not been able to successfully conduct combat operations in Afghanistan if it were not for the unique capabilities of the CH-47 helicopter. These advantages include combat proven survivability and unsurpassed payload and range performance, which, due to its tandem rotor configuration, can be maintained even at the high and hot environments specified in the Air Force CSAR-X requirement.

Some critics have pointed to the forced landings of two MH-47 aircraft during the Battle of Anaconda to suggest that this aircraft is somehow more vulnerable than its competitors in combat operations. To the contrary. I was directly involved with the Battle of Anaconda, [for which] I was awarded a Bronze Star, and can attest that rather than a demonstration of vulnerability, the fact that both MH-47s were able to make controlled landings after being directly hit by anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) is firm testimony to their robust ability to take battle damage. The operational commanders sent these helicopters directly into harm’s way, because enemy heavy machine gun fire was raining down on the 101st Airborne troops below, and no other helicopter could make the 10,500-foot insertion. While these MH-47s were able to take direct RPG hits and still make controlled landings, direct RPG hits on smaller helicopters, such as the HH-60s in Somalia, ended in catastrophic loss. None of the other candidate CSAR-X helicopters can claim anywhere near the HH-47’s level of combat proven capability.

In addition to proven performance and survivability, the HH-47 also enjoys the tandem rotor’s unique capability of being able to hover with its nose at any aspect relative to wind direction that the pilot chooses. This flexibility can be critical in recovery operations and getting into and out of difficult recovery areas as well as operating off of ships. Single rotor helicopters, particularly when they are being operated at their maximum performance capacity, are often restricted by their tail rotor control limits. This often requires pilots to keep the single rotor helicopter’s nose into the wind during recovery operations.

The tandem rotor CH-47 also enjoys a much wider center of gravity envelope. When operating in Afghanistan, I witnessed firsthand how critical the CH-47’s tremendous flexibility in loading-unloading in combat conditions was, where crews did not have the time to tailor load outs to fit within narrow center of gravity envelopes typical of single rotor helicopters.

All of these attributes, coupled with the combat proven reliability of the CH-47 helicopter, has made the CH-47 the helicopter platform of choice for combat commanders not only in Afghanistan, but Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, and many other areas where helicopters have been critical to combat and humanitarian relief operations.

Critics of the Air Force’s selection of the HH-47 might concede all of the above, but still maintain that the HH-47 is not the best platform for the Air Force’s CSAR-X requirement. Almost all the arguments I have seen put forward against the HH-47 are misinformed or unsubstantiated assertions. Following is my perspective on the most important ones:

Size does matter. The limited cabin size of the H-60 is in fact one of the principal reasons the Air Force chose not to simply buy new H-60s to replace the old ones currently being used for combat rescue. While larger cabin size is desirable, larger external size is not, because it can make it more difficult to load the helicopter onto strategic airlift platforms and can result in a larger landing footprint, limiting landing zone opportunities.

Downwash is an important feature of a helicopter’s suitability for conducting combat rescue operations. If downwash is too high, it can negatively impact personnel on the ground or being winched up. Downwash velocities are a function of rotor disk loading, and the HH-47 of all the candidate platforms has the lowest disk loading. The CH-47 has been in operation for years, and the downwash velocities it generates are a question of fact that have been demonstrated in actual flight tests to meet the Air Force’s CSAR-X requirements, even in the maximum velocity area where the two rotors overlap. In the areas where personnel will be hoisted or recovered, i.e., front door or rear ramp, the downwash velocities are substantially lower than required by the Air Force’s specification. What is more, in real world operations, the Army special operations’ MH-47 routinely conducts combat insertion and extraction operations without difficulty. The CH-47demonstrates on a daily basis the ability for personnel to routinely operate under and around the CH-47 without difficulty. Some have suggested that there is an issue with downwash turbulence caused by the tandem rotor configuration. This is absolutely preposterous. Tandem rotor helicopters have been performing combat rescue for decades. In fact in over water operations, where downwash is an important factor in not drowning the person being recovered, the US, Canadian, and other Navies, have been operating the CH-46 tandem helicopter in the combat search and rescue role for decades. To suggest that the tandem rotor down wash is somehow incompatible with combat rescue operations is totally at odds with decades of real world experience.

Brownout is a phenomenon that plagues all helicopters in desert and dusty terrain, and the CH-47, along with all other helicopters, has experienced its share of brownout mishaps. To suggest that this is somehow a problem unique to the CH-47 is ridiculous. The CH-47 has been out fitted with an Army certified brownout system, and is proving itself operationally effective in brownout conditions on a daily basis.

Some critics have suggested that the HH-47 will somehow be less survivable than its competitors. I have not seen any data to substantiate this claim. To the contrary, the CH-47 is the only candidate platform with decades of actual combat experience. The CSAR-X HH-47 variant will have five gunners vice the required three, and significant payload margin so that each can carry enough ammunition to meet the Air Force’s objective capability of 10 engagements per gunner. The latest versions of this platform being operated by Army special operations, the MH-47E and G models, as mentioned previously, are being used in combat assault operations on a regular basis, and have been doing so successfully over the past 10 years.

Finally, critics have discounted the superior range and altitude performance of the Chinook as a minor factor not worth consideration in the selection process, since the Air Force has C-130 refueling tankers and most of the globe involves elevations that are much closer to sea level. This position against the H-47 is the furthest from tactical reality. Our enemies specifically use remote higher elevation areas as a means of gaining “sanctuary” from our forces. In addition to Eastern Iraq and Afghanistan, a quick analysis of the areas where our forces are most likely to be deployed, like North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran reveal that, as with our present combat zones, range and elevation will no doubt play a significant factor in future conflicts. Selecting a less capable helicopter that depends on C-130 aerial refueling and cannot operate well at high altitudes adds significant operational risk and vulnerability to the rescue operation, not to mention cost.

The extraordinarily demanding mission requirements established by the Air Force for the CSAR-X platform require a “maximum performance” helicopter readily found in the combat proven attributes of the tandem rotor HH-47. The fact that the H-47 is already in service substantially reduces development cost and risk. Further, this platform already has a well established infrastructure supporting the Army and SOCOM H-47 fleets and as such responds to DOD policy encouraging commonality with other services to reduce the added logistics burden of service unique platforms. In light of these facts, the CSAR-X selection board would have been hard pressed to justify any selection other than the HH-47.

Lt. Col. Charles A. Jarnot,

USA (Ret.)

Milford, Kan.

Reader to Reader

This is in response to Lt. Col. Sid Howard’s letter (September, p. 4) [“Letters to the Editor: Well-postured?”], which refers to “Comeback in the Pacific” by Executive Editor John Tirpak (July, p. 24), also “‘Overmatch’ in the Pacific,” (box, p. 26, same issue).

I agree with everything that Howard says about our continual drawdown of military forces, both air and naval assets in the Pacific. What did Congress call this back in the 90s? The “Peace Dividend.” Also, I believe that in the same article [was news about] the F-15s that came from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, to Kadena, Okinawa.

The AESA-equipped F-15Cs were so much more powerful that Kadena has decided to reduce its assigned squadrons from three to two. At some point, our pilots will be involved with a “target rich environment”—meaning that our enemies will outnumber us 20 to 30 to one. That “extra” squadron will be sorely missed by our pilots having to engage enemies at the rate of 20 to 30 to one.

No matter how good our F-22As or F-15Cs equipped with the AESA radar are or will be, we must maintain force levels that will allow for terms where we are closer to one to one with the enemy, not 20 to 30 against our one aircraft. This means that we will need greater numbers than we are now projecting to buy.

Congress, the Pentagon (DOD), and our Air Force need to have a deep understanding of this critical issue for our time. We cannot afford to let simple budgetary statistics and logic drive our strategy and procurement policy. We have a bow wave of costs that are coming due to replace and re-equip all of our services. We cannot afford to “win” future wars on the cheap.

Congress, the Pentagon (DOD), and our Air Force have debated hotly whether or not we should plan on fighting a one or two MRC [major regional conflict]—budget-wise, the best case scenario—when in reality, we need to be planning on fighting (prosecuting) a three to four (or more) MRC strategy. Additionally, thrown into the mix, we should plan on fighting three to four of them simultaneously or near simultaneously (worst case scenario). It is quickly becoming apparent that our future will entail something closer to the worst case scenario than the best case scenario.

That is what our future is more likely to hold for us. I believe in deterrence. Deterrence means that we must maintain more military than we think that we will need. Deterrence means that we must maintain more military than we can realistically “budget for.” Deterrence means letting probable threats (strategy) drive the budgeting, not the limited amount of money that we have.

Because we have a history of letting budgetary concerns drive (down) the size of our military it goes a long way to prove to foreign nations that we have “no designs” on conquering and running the world (or their country). Economically it is a different picture (we do appear to be economic imperialists) and this is partly why we run into trouble overseas and accounts for most of our overseas military excursions (adventures).

Looking at our history, it would be easier to say about the American country and its people than any other country that we are LESS likely to want to invade and conquer a foreign country than almost any other nation on Earth.

The way to preserve the peace, our country, and freedom is through deterrence, plain and simple. I believe that Strategic Air Command’s motto says it all: “Peace is our Profession.” What did some killjoy write underneath the SAC sign standing outside the SAC base? “Peace is our profession, but war is our hobby.” What the killjoy said may sound funny, but it is so true. It is precisely that stance, that attitude, and that posture that has worked and will work to keep us free.

By the way, thank you for providing the forum that you do. Special thanks is due to retired Lt. Col. Sid Howard for his timely and insightful letter about our “Comeback in the Pacific.”

Timothy Forde,

Westfield, Mass.


I was excited to see the A-26 featured in “Airpower Classics” on p. 136 of the September issue of your outstanding magazine. The A-26 truly is an airpower classic. As I reflect back on flying combat missions in the Vietnam War, I believe that I had the privilege of being a member of one of the most unique combat units in American military history. In 1967-68, I flew 182 combat missions with the 609th Air Commando Squadron (renamed the 609th Special Operations Squadron in 1968) out of Nakhon Phanom RTAB, Thailand. Our call sign was Nimrods, and we primarily flew nighttime dive-bombing missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. We also flew missions in Barrel Roll in northern Laos, and in North Vietnam and South Vietnam in areas adjacent to Steel Tiger and Barrel Roll. The aircraft we flew were the 40 rebuilt B-26Ks, called “Counter Invaders,” and we flew those 40 aircraft in countless high-intensity nighttime dive-bombing missions until the remarkable “A-26 Invader” was withdrawn from combat service in late 1969.

Col. Roger D. Graham,

USAF (Ret.)

Acworth, Ga.

September Wrap-up

Your September issue is more than interesting. Two items in particular caught my attention. The first, a letter from my good friend Larry Benson responds to an article by Christopher Bowie on a hypothetical war with the Soviet Union [“Letters: How the West Would Have Won,” p. 10]. In my opinion, the only time that there was a threat of war was in 1962, with the second Berlin crisis and especially the Cuban Missile Crisis. Once President Kennedy convinced Khrushchev that he would use force if necessary, it became a stalemate that would last for almost 30 years. I first came to USAFE as a historian in 1962 as a result of the second Berlin crisis. At the same time, I began performing my Reserve active duty tours as an intelligence officer at both USEUCOM and various NATO headquarters, which I continued until 1989. After the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and for decades to follow, neither J-2 nor POLADs at these headquarters ever found any indication that the Soviet Union would invade Europe. True, they made a big effort in the Third World and the Mediterranean, but like al Qaeda in Anbar Province, they soon wore out their welcome.

The second item that caught my attention is the article by Rebecca Grant on air tactics during the North Africa campaign [“Up From Kasserine Pass,” p. 72]. She gives due credit to Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham for his role in correcting the air war in Tunisia after the disaster at Kasserine Pass, but failed to identify him as the “RAF commander” who drafted Field Marshal [Bernard L.] Montgomery’s definitive pamphlet on air support. As Vincent Orange wrote in his biography of Coningham, “Montgomery was much given to rejecting ideas and then promulgating them as his own” (p. 134).

One minor correction as it pertains to her story: French North Africa was not “German-held,” although there were small German and Italian commissions in Tunis, Algiers, and Casablanca. At that time, Vichy France was considered neutral under international law and retained sovereignty over its African possessions. As a final note, it is clear that the North African campaigns, their failures and lessons learned, provided absolutely vital training needed for air, ground, and naval forces to achieve victory in Europe. Had the American military leadership had its way in mid-1942, with a cross-Channel invasion either in late 1942 or 1943, it would have been a disaster.

Col. Robert L. Swetzer,

USAFR (Ret.)

Red Rock, Ariz.

Space Almanac

Regarding the “Space Almanac 2007[August, p. 74]: Upon reaching the EELV performance statistics on p. 86, I noted a couple of errors. The Delta IV launch vehicle stage 2 engine, a P&W RL10B-2, has a thrust of 24,750 pounds, not 1,750 as indicated in the propulsion section. Secondly, the payload section lists the LEO capacity of up to 22,950 pounds, while in fact the heavy vehicle can lift approximately 55,000 pounds from the Eastern Range as noted in the Delta vehicle Payload Planner’s Guide. While I recognize not many would catch (or find relevant) these errors, for those of us in the industry it matters.

Thanks for a great magazine!

MSgt. Mark Bender,

USAFR (Ret.)

Lakewood, Calif.

Photochart Correction

The September edition of Air Force Magazine featured a photochart depicting Air Force leadership, which incorrectly identifies Gary E. Payton as the acting undersecretary of the Air Force.

With the departure of Ronald M. Sega from the position of the undersecretary of the Air Force, and while the position is vacant, Michael W. Wynne will carry out all roles, responsibilities, and authorities previously assigned to the undersecretary.

Mr. Payton is the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs. He will assist Secretary Wynne with the oversight and execution of his Department of Defense executive agent for space roles and responsibilities, as well as the Secretary’s roles and responsibilities as the senior acquisition executive and component acquisition executive for Air Force space acquisition programs. Mr. Payton will also have other duties as assigned.

Col. Michael G. Caldwell,


Deputy Director of Public Affairs


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. (E-mail: letters@afa.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.—the editor