July 1, 2009

Like It or Lump It

In your May 2009 editorial, “The Air Force That Comes Next” [p. 2], you suggest that “the future Air Force won’t be what its leaders expected it to be.”

I would contend that it will be exactly what the Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, and the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael B. Donley, expected it to be when they took their new positions—positions [that were available], in part, from previous officeholders not embracing guidance from the Secretary of Defense and the White House.

The Air Force and other services have enough evidence to show that resisting the Defense Secretary’s desire for a focus on “irregular” wars is not a course of action that will succeed. Neither will falling on our sword over our belief in the necessity for force modernization. Time has passed, as well, on the viability of the argument that jobs and economics make the case for beginning or continuing funding of weapons systems.

Quite simply, what we believed in the past is not acceptable to the nation’s political leadership as a course to follow, and the sooner we get on board with their thinking—à la the guidance in the 2008 National Defense Strategy—the more relevant the US Air Force will be as an instrument of national policy. It’s not a course we chose, but it’s one we need to embrace.

Ronald K. Sable

Tucson, Ariz.

With respect to your May 2009 editorial, in which you state, “This is not the Air Force we wanted,” who is the “we” that you are referring to? Is it the “we” that settled for a subsonic B-1? The “we” that has been wanting to retire the A-10? The “we” that has not given due importance to joint assignments?

I am not sure that I know who you are invoking. I welcome the fresh focus of USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz.

It is certain, as you suggest, that our enemy has resorted to a different type of warfare because of our dominance, but the fact still remains that we have a current enemy who is not devising air battles and strategies, or even discussing air superiority models. We must engage that current enemy, or at least contribute to his defeat more heartily.

While it is a good thing to think about fighting future air armadas in some sort of epic battles à la Britain in 1940, it is also important to fight the enemy with boxcutters that can turn airliners into weapons of destruction before they get off the ground and/or once they are in the air.

Maj. Hector I. Chavez,

USAF (Ret.)

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Thank you for keeping our Air Force constituency updated. Yes, probably never in the history of the US armed forces has a Secretary of Defense so blatantly targeted the Air Force over all other services for force structure and equipment cuts. I believe Mr. Gates has found his soft target and this will reap great benefits to his former organization, the CIA, using Air Force dollars deferred to intelligence activities. Secretary of Defense Gates’ shortsightedness will eventually backfire, as this country has more inputs into the national defense sector than just him. As a former member of the USAF Special Operations Command, the first thing I would do to counter the Secretary’s blatant attack on the USAF establishment and programs is remove his newly entrenched CIA agents from the J-3 sector of USAF Special Operations Command. We didn’t need them before Iraq and we don’t need them now. Thank you, AFA editors, and keep the news flowing.

Lt. Col. Sid Howard,

USAF (Ret.)

Oklahoma City

Meeting Jimmy

John Correll’s excellent article, “Doolittle’s Raid,” in the April issue of Air Force Magazine [p. 56] certainly jogged my memory on my first and only meeting with Doolittle.

It was in the mid-1970s. Doolittle was once again a civilian. The meeting was at a small private airfield in Rochester, Minn., home of the famed medical center, Mayo Clinic.

I was a newspaper reporter specializing in aerospace medicine and a close friend of Dr. Chuck Mayo, one of the sons of the founders of Mayo Clinic, Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Chuck Mayo and Doolittle were on the same board of directors of a large West Coast insurance company.

Chuck had tipped me off that I might want to go down to the airfield and interview some VIP. It turned out, of course, to be Doolittle. But I didn’t know that.

I drove down in my beat-up Chevy and headed to the operations shack, where I met up with Chuck. He asked me if I’d had my interview and laughed at my puzzled expression. I hadn’t seen anyone else around the C-47 that landed to pick up Chuck.

At his suggestion, I went over to the plane, but didn’t see anyone who looked like a VIP.

Try again, Chuck advised me. I walked back to the plane, but the only person in sight was a below-average-height guy in a plain suit and a fedora. Not anyone special, I concluded. Then, Chuck showed up to board the plane and asked me about my interview. With whom? He nodded in the direction of the stranger in the fedora, who seemed to be examining the plane’s tail.

“That’s Jimmy Doolittle,” Chuck said, his face wreathed in smiles.

I was tongue-tied. So close to one of my lifelong heroes, and I didn’t even recognize him.

Chuck introduced me to Doolittle and told him I was a staff sergeant journalist in USAF during the Korean War, attached to the 76th Air Rescue Squadron of the 11th Air Rescue Group (ARS), home base Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

Doolittle shook my hand warmly and pleasantly answered whatever questions I could mumble. Me and Medal of Honor recipient Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the raid off the carrier Hornet in April 1942 that was later depicted in the film, “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.” Wow!

I apologized for not recognizing him and said I always thought he looked like actor Spencer Tracy, who played his part in the movie.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m always being mistaken for him.” He said he jokingly mentioned the frequent mistaken identity to Tracy once and the actor laughed and said, “Funny, I’ve never been mistaken for you.” They became good friends.

Ken McCracken

Chatham, Ontario, Canada

Unmanned F-106

I enjoyed the article on the F-106’s unintended pilotless flight and landing [“Gary, You Better Get Back in It!” April, p. 68].

I have one comment, however, about the F-106 involvement in a real shooting war. Unless I am so very mistaken, the F-106 did participate in the Vietnam War, but it may not have fired a shot at the enemy. There was a detachment of F-106 aircraft stationed at Udorn RTAB, Thailand, in the 1967-68 time frame. I was not connected to that organization but was aware that they flew CAP missions and on at least one occasion had a max-out effort after the 432 TR Wing experienced a multiple aircraft loss one day. I don’t know the outcome of those efforts but do recall seeing them taxiing out for takeoff several times. Thanks for so many good articles and an outstanding publication at all times.

Maj. William M. Wellman,

USAF (Ret.)

Warner Robins, Ga.

May Almanac

I have been an AFA member for quite a few years and enjoy the coverage you provide in the annual Air Force Almanac issue. I have just received your 2009 Almanac issue and would like to offer a correction to the “Gallery of USAF Weapons [May, p. 121]. I am a retired and former B-52 IP who is very interested in its continued saga. I work with B-52 weapons even now. Let’s not belittle the B-52’s awesome presence by misinforming the readership of its performance.

You have listed the B-52 (H only now) speed “(approx)” as “max level speed 449 mph.” I have had it almost that fast on the deck, but that was a special case and not allowed by TO. This “max speed” has been in your annual Almanac issue since at least 2002. The ole’ BUFF is capable of 650 mph as derived from TO 1B-52H-1-1. I know from personal experience that this is very true. The BUFF can actually exceed this in level flight, but the Boeing structural engineers will not bless it. The B-52H has the engine power to exceed Mach 1 in level flight, but again it is not a good idea, and that’s one of the reasons for a thrust gate.

Lt. Col. Bill Barton,

USAF (Ret.)

Niceville, Fla.

Most of the time you all get it right, but on p. 84 of the 2009 “USAF Almanac,” there is an error. The wiring diagram shows Maj. Gen. Michael C. Gould as the 2nd Air Force commander, [but] as of May 2008, Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers was the 2nd Air Force commander.

Col. Kenneth S. Klein,


Montgomery, Ala.

CSAR Is Always Joint

As a member of the Air Rescue Service for over 20 years I was upset by the comments by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates about the CSAR program [“Washington Watch: The President’s Budget,” June, p. 8]. His comment [that] we need a more joint outlook indicates that he has absolutely no concept of what CSAR is about. Over the years, as a flight engineer on H-3 and HH-53s, I participated in many rescues, some of Navy subs, many soldiers, marines, and our own Air Force [members], as well as more civilians than I can count. I have been refueled by Marine Corps KC-130s, and escorted by Army Apaches and Marine Corps Cobras, as well as our own HC- and MC-130s. I cannot think of a more “joint” endeavor than air rescue. The motto is, and always will be, “These things we do that others may live.”

I have asked my comrades if they have ever bothered to ask if they were going after Air Force or members of other services. Their answer, like mine, was no.

I hope that we can create enough controversy to get this program back on track. As was posted on the revetment in Da Nang, “Fighter pilots have no fear, Jolly Green Giants are always near.” I never remember an “Air Force only” there.

SMSgt. Russ Griffith,

USAF (Ret.)

Preston, Idaho

Vulnerable Bases Here at Home

The letter in the May issue [“Vulnerable Bases,” p. 4] hit it. There is concern [here, stateside] that the move of NORAD to Peterson AFB [Colo.] is not a good move. Cheyenne Mountain is one of the most secure facilities in the US. On the other hand, Peterson Air Force Base is vulnerable because it is adjacent to the Colorado Springs Airport and nearby roadways.

A 9/11-like incident could destroy Building 2 at Peterson, and car bombs make it vulnerable as well.

The move makes no sense!

Jim Johnson

Colorado Springs

A Square, Not a Box

In the “Air Force World” section of the May 2009 issue is a photo of a 100th ARW KC-135 with the title “The ‘Box D’?”[p. 15]. The tail marking originally belonged to the 100th Bomb Group (H) which flew B-17s from Thorpe Abbotts Air Field in England during World War II.

The 100th BG always has (and still does) refer to the tail marking as “Square D.”

Jim Bittle

Naples, Fla.

Gorgeous and Deadly

To state that the Hustler’s crews were “fiercely loyal” is an understatement. Anybody who flew the B-58, and survived, typically will tell you it was the highlight of their aviation career. It was an honor and privilege to be a crew member in the Air Force’s only operational Mach 2 bomber. There was, however, an error in the article under crew description: pilot, bomb-nav, weapon system officer. The Hustler did not have a WSO, the third member of the crew was a defensive systems officer (DSO) who operated the electronic countermeasures equipment (ECM), fired the M-61 20 mm Gatling gun, and was the performance engineer for takeoff, landing, and the entire flight envelope, including supersonic bomb runs at 50,000 feet. I was lucky enough to be part of the B-58 team at Grissom AFB, Ind. (formerly Bunker Hill), from 1966 until the aircraft was retired in 1970.

Maj. Tom Daniels,

USAF (Ret.)

Coral Gables, Fla.

As one crew member who is “fiercely loyal” to the B-58 Hustler, I would like to thank Walter J. Boyne for his presentation of the B-58 Hustler [“Airpower Classics: B-58 Hustler,” May, p. 152]. He mentions the “high accident rate” two times in his article, and it’s true that there were 26 of 116 lost. But a lot of those accidents were caused by “crew error,” and not attributable to aircraft problems.

I recall an aircraft lost because the crew flew into a thunderstorm and encountered hail. The aircraft was abandoned, but two crew members survived and one was killed because his ejection capsule malfunctioned. In another instance, the crew computed takeoff information using less fuel than they actually had on board. The aircraft rotated too early—aircraft and crew were lost. One pilot lost control leveling off at altitude. He ejected—later the navigator/bombardier and DSO ejected. The aircraft was destroyed. There were also a number of accidents attributed to “bad landings.” All in all, there were approximately 11 accidents that could not be blamed on the B-58.

Good pilots, good navigators/bombardiers, good DSOs, good maintenance, and good training made the B-58 one of the best bombers in Strategic Air Command. Our adversaries knew there were 40 Hustlers on combat-ready alert, each loaded with five nuclear weapons. The B-58 was gorgeous but she was also deadly!

Lt. Col. B. J. Brown,

USAF (Ret.)

Mountain Home, Ark.