April 1, 2009

Chilton on “The Cyber Menace”

As always, I enjoyed the March edition of Air Force Magazine. What a great publication to keep us all informed of the news and issues concerning the world’s greatest Air Force.

With anticipation, I read the article by Dr. Rebecca Grant, “The Cyber Menace” [p. 24], because cyberspace is a critical domain to our US military, and as you know, the United States Strategic Command is the combatant command charged with the defense of our .mil and .smil domains.

There was one item in the article that did not accurately portray the recent changes to the two components that support USSTRATCOM and our nation’s military networks. The article stated that “the NSA director is in charge of US Strategic Command’s Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations.” In fact, the commander of USSTRATCOM’s Joint Functional Component Command-Network Warfare (who also is dual-hatted as NSA’s director) is in charge of USSTRATCOM’s Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations. While a subtle nuance, this reflects the broad capacity of STRATCOM to better integrate its mission areas, both network warfare and defense of the global information grid, under a single commander. The changes that better align the NW and GNO relationships will, in the long run, help USSTRATCOM better execute the defense and offense activities to protect our military’s networks.

Thanks for your help in clarifying this important fact. Keep up the great work keeping our nation informed about some very vital issues.

Gen. Kevin P. Chilton,


US Strategic Command

Offutt AFB, Neb.

The Nuclear Force Revival

Thank you for publishing the article regarding “The Nuclear Force Revival,” February 2009 [p. 24]. As a 20-year missileer, it was good to know the specific steps the Air Force is taking to beef up the nuclear operations, maintenance, and sustainment issues. It’s important that our taxpayers understand the stringent requirements that our airmen are entrusted with.

I beg to differ on one point, however. On p. 30, under the heading of “More To Come,” there is an error. The article references the activation of the A10 office on the Air Staff. The error as written states, “Creation of the office elevated nuclear matters to the highest levels of the Air Force, replacing the post-Cold War organizational construct in which no general officers across the Air Force occupied themselves daily with nuclear issues.”

On Dec. 1, 1996, I was privileged to help stand up the Directorate of Nuclear and Counterproliferation (AF/XON). Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Neary was the first director and he did a magnificent job of making sure the Pentagon could pass the “Yellow Pages” test regarding having an office designated to handle any and all Air Force nuclear matters. These were USAF nuclear missile and bomber issues that General Neary worked on a daily basis. That was his charter.

AF/XON was later deactivated, which proved to be a mistake. I applaud USAF leadership for establishing the A10 office and I have no doubt that Maj. Gen. [C.] Donald Alston will do a great job. He knows his nuclear stuff.

I am concerned that the nuclear experience and expertise that the Air Force yearns for simply isn’t there. I believe we’re going to have to grow our nuclear expertise (at least on the missile side of the house). For approximately 25-plus years, the Air Force wanted missileers to also get space experience. We did everything we could to move missileers into the space field. Air Force personnel boards also selected field grade space officers for command assignments at missile wings-groups-squadrons, and in many cases, they had never pulled nuclear alert or maintained a nuclear weapon. While some were successful, it was unfair to put them in a culture where nuclear surety is paramount. I’m not saying these space officers were not capable of the leadership challenge, but rather, nuclear operations, maintenance, and security procedures are a different breed and require years of experience before assuming command of a nuclear unit.

Col. Mike Lehnertz,

USAF (Ret.)

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Lehnertz is correct about the AF/XON organization, but as he stated, the office did not endure. Nor did it stem the continued dilution of focus on the nuclear mission. As the Schlesinger Panel on DOD Nuclear Weapons Management wrote in September 2008, “The seniority level of individuals who are accountable within the enterprise and who concentrate day to day on nuclear deterrence has been reduced: General officers and members of the senior executive service have been replaced with colonels and midlevel civilians.” This, of course, has changed, with the creation of the Air Staff’s Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office.—Michael C. Sirak

12 Miles High, Changing Course

Thanks for the newsworthy article on the status of the greatest reconnaissance aircraft ever flown, the U-2. [See “12 Miles High, Changing Course,” February, p. 32.] Yes, I am very delighted to see the real story of the unique capabilities of the U-2, which at this point is overshadowed by none. I had the not-so-pleasant experience, while working at Intelligence Center Pacific, 1984-88, of seeing the SR-71 not being supported by the Intelligence Community and the operational commands, resulting in its quick demise and, in my mind, premature reliance on overhead systems.

I also remember attending an international air show many years ago, where the U-2 overshadowed unmanned vehicles on the viewing ramp, such as the Global Hawk, and the words of a U-2 pilot briefer who politely said, “You think one of these is going to take over our mission anytime soon, you are mistaken.” Yes, I am pleased that USAF realizes the great value of this platform, has updated it to the most advanced U-2S configuration, and, even though it has been on the chopping block several times, [is] keeping the Intelligence Community from “looking through a soda straw” for the targets. [The U-2] remains unsurpassed in feeding the operational commands with state-of-the-art intelligence products.

Lt. Col. Sid Howard,

USAF (Ret.)

Midwest City, Okla.

Stealth’s Midwife

Rebecca Grant’s recent article, “The Murky Future of Stealth,” (February) [p. 52], clearly hit the target. She highlighted many of the key players that made stealth a reality. I just wanted to add one more piece of information to her story—Dr. William J. Perry [Secretary of Defense at the time] was not only a big fan of stealth—he was the primary reason that the B-2 was successful in Kosovo in 1999. Let me explain.

Back in 1995, when I had the pleasure of taking him for a B-2 flight, he asked about the JDAM integration schedule for the B-2. At that time, I informed him that the B-2 was far down the list for JDAM integration with Air Force and Navy front-line fighters at the head of the line.

After his successful B-2 flight, Dr. Perry returned to the Pentagon and directed the Air Force to revisit the JDAM deployment schedule and put the B-2 first on their list for JDAM integration. The Air Force ultimately followed his guidance and the B-2 became the first platform to carry and release JDAMs in combat. If it had not been for Dr. Perry’s intervention in 1995, the B-2 may have sat out the Kosovo affair (without a precision weapon to deliver), and who knows how damaging that might have been to the stealth story

I just wanted to make sure that Dr. Perry got some recognition for this insightful and visionary decision.

Col. Tony Imondi,

USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio

The Right Booster

[Regarding the February article “The Flying Tomato Can,” p. 66], paragraph six on p. 68 states, “The ASAT’s first stage was a modified Boeing anti-radiation missile.”

The first stage was a Boeing AGM-69A SRAM booster, which is clearly evident in the picture on p. 67. The unique tri-fin flight-control actuator assembly (FCAA) with phenolic fins is evident under the enlarged fins of the ASAT.

Lt. Col. David J. Wallace,

USAF (Ret.)

Kokomo, Ind.

They Wanted Wings

An aircraft in the photograph featured on p. 71 of Walter Boyne’s article, “They Wanted Wings” (February) [p. 70], was identified as a North American AT-6 Texan. A careful perusal of the photograph will reveal that the aircraft is in fact a North American BT-14, which was a fixed landing gear basic trainer. Note the fairings over the landing gear struts.

Joseph G. Handelman

Annapolis, Md.

Walter Boyne’s excellent story in the February issue concerning aviation cadets missed an excellent opportunity to mention the staff sergeant pilot program that coincided with the cadet expansion program. In 1941-42, approximately 2,500 enlisted personnel were screened into the pilot training program, underwent the same discipline, ground schools, and flying training as the cadets but graduated as staff sergeant pilots. In December 1942, most were commissioned to the rank of flight officer, but by then, they were involved in all aspects of the Army Air Forces flying operations. Many modern day pilots may not be aware of the contributions of “we few,” who also wanted wings and took the only route that was possible to reach the goal. I would hope that Mr. Boyne would do a similar story on staff sergeant pilots and their accomplishments.

Lt. Col. David D. Campbell,

USAF (Ret.)


Needed: UAV Pilots

Only two months after retiring as an Air Force pilot, I was not surprised to receive an e-mail asking me to re-enter active duty to help fill a shortfall in ISR pilots. Your article about the incredible work done by Reaper and Predator pilots and sensor operators (“UAV Pilots,” January) [p. 34] aptly describes the current shortage of pilots and the scramble to plus up those weapon systems. The MC-12W Liberty ISR aircraft will generate yet another levy from a much-reduced pool of available pilots.

It is ironic that this is the third time I have been offered a return to active duty. I separated in 1992 during the first post-Cold War drawdown and was asked twice, in 1995 and again in 1997, to come back. I accepted the second offer and served 10 years (and eight deployments to Southwest Asia) before I reached mandatory retirement last November. Despite the current offer, I have chosen to continue serving my country as a civilian pilot instructor on the JCA/C-27J program. It makes little sense for retirees or separatees to return to active duty and consciously leave their family for a position that offers only one guarantee: six-month deployments with a one-to-one deploy-dwell time.

The sad fact is that the current crisis in pilot manning cannot be blamed on airline hiring or a 9/11-style event. OEF and OIF have been ongoing for over seven years, yet it took a change in Air Force leadership to drive home USAF’s lack of support for the warfighter. Those of us who shook our heads at PBD-720 and force shaping to fund certain high-dollar weapon systems now marvel at a personnel system that once again is displaying 20-20 hindsight. While serving a 179-day deployment last year as an air advisor to the Afghan Air Corps, I noted that most of my colleagues were deferred majors like myself, all serving one more deployment before mandatory retirement. We all gave it our best, filling a delicate and demanding role, and now we are all civilians.

The exception was our Canadian armed forces helicopter pilot who casually told us how their system allows a major-equivalent to serve much longer than our system allows.

I fully commend the young warriors who are making a difference flying or supporting the increasingly vital UAV fleet. But I also fear we are sending the next wave into the fight with minimal training simply to fill an “orbit.” I only wish the OV-10 Bronco I flew as a lieutenant was still available to contradict the one F-16 pilot who lamented “manned weapons systems simply do not offer the same persistence.” What the Air Force really needs is persistence, not just in ISR assets, but also in rated officer management. Those who go “outside the wire” deserve that benefit.

Maj. William K. Fiedler,

USAF (Ret.)

Waco, Tex.

John Young’s View

I would like to take an opportunity to comment on the article “The John Young View,” in the January 2009 issue of Air Force Magazine, particularly his comments related to combat search and rescue (CSAR) [p. 51].

As a recently retired airman who spent 20 of my 26 years associated with combat rescue and special operations rotary wing aviation, I think this is very insightful of how the current senior leadership at OSD thinks and feels about USAF and CSAR in particular.

Mr. Young correctly states that there are lots of different forces that could conduct a personnel recovery (PR) mission, but I think he’s missing some key points. None of our sister services train to and posture their assets to conduct the PR mission. They either don’t have the capability to go deep into enemy territory in poor weather or illumination or they take too long to plan and execute the mission. None of this is bad; it’s just the way it is.

The enemy has proven it will kill our isolated personnel when captured, and then use the remains for propaganda purposes. So, I’m not sure Mr. Young wants to take the additional risk of leaving any injured or isolated soldier, sailor, airmen, marine, or civilian on the battlefield for too long while the combined force air component commander cobbles together a force to plan the event and then execute the pickup. This could take hours or days with a force that doesn’t train to execute the PR mission. I’m afraid Mr. Young is setting DOD up for exactly this scenario if he decides to kill any effort for a force dedicated to PR.

Additionally, a force dedicated to PR provides our operational commanders and the Secretary of Defense a myriad of tailorable and scalable operational capabilities to respond to any crisis in both wartime and peace.

That being said, I don’t think USAF is doing a great job at getting our PR story out to the DOD senior leadership. We must do a better job in that arena, and we are getting there, in that USAF is redefining what we mean by CSAR. We are in the process of doing that with a new functional concept for personnel recovery (currently in draft form and in bottom-line review). The document states that “with the advent of today’s War on Terror and the continuing emphasis on our ability to conduct major combat operations, … a new strategic emphasis is placed on reducing the varying degrees of operational and political risks that stem from captivity and hostage situations. … Consequently, USAF’s rescue force has evolved beyond the traditional images of recovering downed combat aircrew or rescuing special operations forces isolated behind enemy lines. Rescue is now a highly adaptable resource with the ability to mitigate the operational and political cost created when isolated personnel are exploited by an adversary to gain propaganda, gain intelligence value, or to restrict our physical freedom of action or maneuver.

“This makes USAF rescue forces a key component of the US government’s ‘whole of government’ approach to addressing a pressing need for rescue … before, during, and after a crisis situation/event involving isolated personnel—an approach now referred to as ‘personnel recovery.’ … Therefore, to further unify and synchronize the USAF vision, message, and approach to PR as a USAF core function, and better prepare and present a rescue force that far exceeds any other DOD component’s ability to conduct PR across the full spectrum of military activities, this functional concept describes how the USAF develops, organizes, and sustains a highly skilled, adaptable, flexible, tailorable, and multifunctional collection of operational capabilities designed and integrated with others to rescue anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

I’ve had a chance to review this draft, and it is exactly what we need to ensure America has a highly trained force capable of timely rescue of isolated personnel, whatever the situation. It will also ensure that USAF “CSAR” will continue to remain relevant in today’s fight.

Air Force CSAR personnel are highly trained to conduct the deep recovery in higher threat environments while conducting some of the planning on the fly. And when postured correctly (like we are in the current fight), the PR recovery force will normally launch within 15 minutes of notification of an injured or isolated person. I firmly believe that the USAF PR force is keeping more of our Army and Marine brothers and sisters from dying on the battlefield because we can execute this critical mission at a moment’s notice.

We don’t delegate other important military missions to whatever force happens to be in the area unless they are specifically trained in conducting those missions. Personnel recovery should be no different.

Col. Michael Korcheck,

USAF (Ret.)

Nellis AFB, Nev.

Cold War Assets

As the Air Force public affairs officer at Beale AFB, Calif., in charge of highlighting the SR-71 return to flight—and, sadly, the re-retirement of the still unsurpassed Blackbird, I wanted to thank you for the “Cold War From on High” article in the January 2009 issue [p. 38]. I did want to point out that the caption of the main photo of the SR-71 #971 on p.39 is incorrect. The caption identifies it as a photo of the SR-71 over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the 1980s. That photo was actually shot on the same flight as the shot you featured on the cover. I coordinated the flight where [the photographer] took the U-2 photo over Beale on p. 39. SR-71 #971 was one of the SR-71s brought back from retirement and was accepted by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.

I’m very proud to have been associated, even in a small way, with the proud program and lucky to have worked with the aircraft that was my favorite since I was a young boy. It is still remarkable to me how such a marvel was created in that era.

Maj. Wilson Camelo,


Westover ARB, Mass.

Six Phases: More Comments

In her article entitled “The Six Phases of Airpower” [January, p. 46], Rebecca Grant argues: “Some may still plead the case that a ‘low-tech’ or ‘right-tech’ aircraft should be developed and fielded by the Air Force and sold to foreign partners. The main reasons cited are to reduce cost and provide tailored capability. Rarely contemplated is what those American or allied aircrews would do given the sudden introduction of an SA-6 into the battlespace—much less those S-300s in Venezuela.”

Grant is correct. The heart of the argument does not center on technology but on cost vs. survivability. However, she seems to overlook possible long-term benefits of fielding a right-tech ground attack aircraft for Phase IV operations. Fighters like the F-16, F-15E, and A-10, in addition to the KC-10s and KC-135s that support them, currently fly missions in the CENTCOM area of operations at triple the average sortie duration typically flown during training. Flying $50 million fighters with operating costs in excess of $6,000 per hour to hunt down insurgents driving $2,000 pickup trucks on terrain dominated by a permissive air environment doesn’t make sense. We must invest in the recapitalization of our fighter fleet while simultaneously preserving the health of existing aircraft until we can produce a strategically significant force of F-22s and F-35s.

Fielding an aircraft combining lower purchase prices and hourly operating costs with excellent close air support capability in order to take on the lion’s share of work in Phase IV operations may be one way to accomplish this goal. The savings garnered from the lower hourly operating costs alone would quickly pay for several squadrons of these right-tech, low-cost aircraft.

In addition, due to the resulting reduced annual contingency requirements, the retirement timelines for existing fighters could be pushed back in order to accommodate realistic acquisition timelines for new F-22s and F-35s. In the case of a limited number of SA-6 or S-300 systems appearing in the battlespace during Phase IV operations, USAF would obviously turn to a more survivable force package to regain air dominance. However, the risks associated with this short-term scenario do not outweigh the benefits of preserving the backbone of the fighter force.

Maj. Steven J. Tittel,


Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.