Aug. 1, 2008

Bad Medicine

After the embarrassing firings of [Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley] it should be clear to all that some serious changes are needed in our Air Force. Your editorial, “Bad Medicine” [June, p. 2] is illustrative of the problem.

You suggest that the Air Force should be equipped to fight some illusory “threats” from China and Russia, when the evidence at hand suggests they are minimal. Let me offer some information for you to consider.

Regarding China, somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of that nation’s GNP is dependent on foreign investment. There are more than 300,000 foreign-owned factories providing millions of jobs for China’s workers. Given that, are they likely to pick a fight with the US or otherwise throw their weight around in the Pacific Rim area? No.

Secondly, don’t overstate their capabilities. Recently a Taiwanese defense official said, “We need F-16s in order to maintain our technological superiority over the Chinese Air Force.” Yet we continue to buy F-22s whose unit cost is such that we could buy five F-16s.

Regarding Russia, that nation still does not have an indigenous science and technology system, and that deficiency was behind its inability to integrate economically with Europe, a circumstance that consigned it to nonplayer status. [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin’s only playable card was to rattle his worthless nukes, and that will continue. The MiGs and Sus are good for air shows, but are “hangar queens” that cannot be sustained in combat.

The War on Terror will likely be with us for some time and could expand beyond the Middle East and Afghanistan. USAF systems should be modeled after the Navy’s littoral warfare scenario. It needs airlifters, tankers, and UCAVs, along with missile and satellite defenses. These are not the things that gladden a fighter jock’s heart, and there is the root of the problem.

Finally, the Air Force must realize that it works for the American taxpayer, not the other way around. If its leaders continue to try to put the service first, it will incur the wrath of the citizenry.

Richard Thomas

Dayton, Ohio

If Secretary [Robert M.] Gates is concerned that our Air Force leadership is too focused on what he calls “next-war-itis,” he should be aware that many American civilians are comforted that they are. We in business, education, agriculture, and other endeavors always have to be forward looking if we expect to compete efficiently in our respective fields. Perhaps we can be accused of having “next-market-itis.” Those who are not so infected will eventually fail in their missions. That goes for the leaders of our Air Force as well. Please allow them to remain “sick.”

Philip Davis

North Little Rock, Ark.

I don’t pretend to have any significant knowledge of the goings on in the Pentagon or the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. I do note the firing of the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force for their purported “lack of vision” and for questionable influence in the awarding of a multimillion dollar contract.

If the Air Force Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force were lacking in vision, what can we say of the Secretary of Defense? He constantly badgered the Air Force for looking too far into the future, while not participating wholeheartedly in the wars we are fighting today. Perhaps, but what of his apparent willingness to mortgage our future to finance today’s fighting? Perhaps he has not noticed we have slipped very quietly into a new Cold War with a surging China and a resurgent Russia. Perhaps he has been so busy looking at the immediate struggle that he has failed to recognize that China and Russia are investing their treasure in future weapon capabilities, while financing those responsible for the considerable spending of American blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan through intermediaries in Iran and North Korea. Perhaps the Secretary of Defense should stand back for a moment and examine his own performance of duty with the same lens he focused on the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force. Perhaps if he did, he might see fit to remove himself from office.

Lt. Col. George F. Turner II,

USAF (Ret.)

Warner Robins, Ga.

Tanker Endgame

The decision to award the tanker to a consortium using a foreign built aircraft is flawed from a strategic military viewpoint [“The Tanker Endgame?,” June, p. 30]. We must have total control of all our weapons systems and the tanker is a weapons system, because without refueling capability, our fighters and bombers will have an impaired operational capability. Today, this country does not know what our relationships with foreign countries will be 10 years from today. We must however be absolutely assured of the continuity of future support, spare parts, and replacement aircraft for the tanker fleet. The reliance of this support cannot be assured if we select a tanker primarily controlled by foreign interests. This strategic requirement overrides any economic analysis which might favor a foreign built aircraft. That it will be assembled in the United States is not sufficient. It must be controlled by our defense establishment which it is not under the contract as presently awarded. A second consideration is that given our country’s problem in job loss and economic status today and projected, we cannot afford to export yet another major project. Third, and finally, if the Air Force leadership believes our own technology is inferior to [that of] a foreign nation, we must reallocate our priorities to restore that leadership. It is unacceptable for the United States to have military technological leadership less than the best.

Gunther Karger

Palmetto Bay, Fla.

Maverick Miscue

I have worked with or around the Maverick missile for over 30 years. The photo on p. 42 of the June issue [“Not Fade Away”] does not show an AGM-65D IR Maverick, but, most likely, an AGM-65E Laser Maverick. The yellow band behind the guidance unit indicates the heavyweight (300-pound) warhead, and the red plastic nose cover is seen only on the “E” Maverick.

Sam Matthews

Eglin AFB, Fla.

The Robin Olds Factor

As a proud former member of the 8th Fighter Wing, “Wolfpack,” while stationed at Kunsan, South Korea, I read your Robin Olds article [“The Robin Olds Factor,” June, p. 44] with great interest. I had a chance to meet “Wolf 1” in 2003, and though somewhat up in years, he still had that “spit and vinegar” that made him a legend, especially amongst Air Force fighter pilots.

I felt you were a little remiss in printing that great photo (p. 47) of Olds on the occasion of his final flight at Ubon, without identifying all his supporting cast that were pictured. You did recognize Maj. William Kirk, who went on to attain four-star rank and commanded 9th Air Force, and later USAFE, but you failed to identify Maj. Joe Moore (far right) and Maj. Bill MacAdoo (far left). Moore later served as commander-leader of the USAF Thunderbirds, retired as a major general in 1986, and lost a tough battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2001. MacAdoo retired as a colonel and passed away around the same time as Moore from lung cancer.

Col. William A. Malec,


O’Fallon, Ill.

It was a thrill to see my father, Robin Olds, on the cover of June’s issue of Air Force Magazine.

For the sake of accuracy, I have one small correction to make to my dad’s biographical information. Although Walter Boyne’s information came from a seemingly impeccable source, my father was indeed separated from my mother, Ella Raines, in 1975, but they were divorced the next year. He did not remain married to her until her death in 1988. He married Morgan Barnett Olds in 1978 and they were married for the following 15 years. Morgan is a lovely lady and we are very close and we’d like to have her correctly acknowledged.

Christina Olds

Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Nuclear Fallout

I can only hope that the recent humiliation visited on the Air Force by the removal of its senior leadership marks the final turning point in the long trend toward erosion of the service’s most important custodial responsibility [“The Nuclear Wake-Up Call,” June, p. 50].Thirty years ago, in Congressional executive sessions in which I participated, the Air Force’s leadership in nuclear security and safeguards was touted as the standard by which other service activities in this area should be measured. The focus on that responsibility within Strategic Air Command was the genesis of that standard. The system of no-notice inspections at both the wing level and in a separate but complementary security test program, helped maintain not only war readiness, but a constantly reinforced effort on preventing deterioration in the nuclear security and safety mission. I always thought of it as staying a step ahead of the relentless law of averages that could lead to disaster.

While the dissolution of SAC may have been fundamentally proper from an overall organizational and functional perspective, the impact on distributing the nuclear responsibility should have been foreseen. Restoring, and retaining, the process and procedures that served so well under SAC in this functional area should receive the highest priority the service can impose. If not, the implications today, perhaps even more so than before, are too horrendous to contemplate.

Maj. John E. Siedlarz,

USAF (Ret.)

Easton, Md.

From what I’ve read, it seems that the Defense Logistics Agency was the basic culprit here in the four classified nuclear warheads being misrouted [“Air Force World: ICBM Parts Mistakenly Sent to Taiwan,” June, p. 15]. How about canning some of the civilians at the top in DLA that packaged the four as unclassified and labeled them batteries? That was a gross error. Are their civilian heads rolling too

Lt. Col. Neil McGuinness,

USAF (Ret.)

San Diego

Hail and Farewell

I am the commander of the 43rd Flying Training Squadron here at Columbus AFB, Miss. I noticed in your article that you missed mentioning my squadron as one of the squadrons who trains student pilots here [“Hail and Farewell,” June, p. 54]. I currently have 103 instructors—by far the largest squadron of instructor pilots on the base. My IPs fly the T-37, T-6, T-1, T-38C, and Identification of Friend and Foe. They are all reserve officers, a combination of AGRs and traditional Reservists. As referenced in “Hail and Farewell,” Maj. Phil Stoll was the T-6 project officer for the transition. Maj. Dave Vipperman was the first evaluator. Maj. Kevin Wolfe designed the pattern operation. Maj. Phil Trahan was the last T-37 OGV side chief. We, the Firebirds, have a proud tradition of supporting the SUPT mission here at Columbus for over 10 years. We are the Total Force integrated into every Air Force mission. Hometown Patriots, Worldwide Force. Air Force Reserve.

Lt. Col. Michael J. Gibbons,

Columbus AFB, Miss.


Few pilots today know that the Lancaster had no autopilot and was flown by just one pilot [“Airpower Classics: Lancaster,” June, p. 80]. I knew such a pilot; he was a fellow flight instructor with the RCAF in 1955. He looked younger than I did and sported a Distinguished Flying Cross. I quipped to him, “They don’t give those away and you are too young to have been in WWII, how did you earn it?”

His modest answer: “We were in a thousand night-bomber raid over Germany in 1944, and the biggest fear I had was colliding with another Lanc. Halfway to Berlin, I had an explosion on the port side and thought it was flak. I had to use full aileron and rudder to keep it straight and level, and as I was already halfway there, I proceeded to target and back home.

“When I landed at dawn, I stepped out to check the damage and found that the whole left wing, past the outboard engine, was missing—like gone! I later found out that another Lanc had collided with me and he returned to base. It was a 10-hour flight and my arms and right leg were locked into position for days afterwards. My squadron leader thought I did a bang-up job, though I told him my flight engineer took spells with me, but he didn’t get anything.”

He showed me his logbook. He was then 19 years old and had 330 hours in it.

George Fulford

Mill Valley, Calif.