Sept. 1, 2010

Superpower No More

I am in total agreement with the thesis of your [editorial] “Superpower No More?” only I think you have been overly kind to this current Administration’s policy as it deals with world conflicts [July, p. 4]. It is of no use to possess the most sophisticated defensive weapon systems and strategies if the foreign policies undermine it. I wish more people in the print media had your insight and boldness to report what is really happening to our great country.

Paul Tannehill

Corsicana, Tex.

Since when is it liberal or conservative to attempt to lessen the world’s nuclear stockpiles (remember Reagan)? Does not the available scholarship tell us that as stockpiles decline, so does the temptation, as well as the perceived ability, to use them—at least for the “established” nuclear states? Ignore the so-called nuclear renegades in this calculus because they respond to stimuli other than the relative stockpile size. The bottom line is that it is simply wasteful, provocative, and distracting to maintain stockpiles beyond “deterrence,” especially when both former enemies are in agreement to continue to find ways to reduce stockpiles, and thus overall risk. This seems a good policy when, according to most scholars, the odds of a superpower nuclear gambit or first strike have by most estimates sunk to near zero—with odds continuing to lower, by hypothesis, as stockpiles diminish.

R. D. Truitt

Westfield, N.J.

Nukes For NATO

This was a good article on a subject area not widely known and still less talked about [“Nukes for NATO,” July, p. 42]. Other NATO nations not mentioned were involved in this mission, including one that “withdrew” in the mid-1960s, in a fit of pique.

Hardly mentioned was the widespread employment of F-84Fs and F-100s. F-101A/Cs were not mentioned at all. Though certainly not fighters, the B-45s and B-66s of the 47th Bomb Wing (TAC), and RAF Valiants and Canberra B (I) 8s played a part in their day, as well.

The B61s planned for life extension were first fielded in 1968. Tough, rugged, and normally requiring minimal field maintenance (other than an occasional exterior detail job), they are getting long in the tooth, and I am concerned a computerized modeling test program may not be adequate to detect aging problems, metal embrittlement, etc., no matter the updating. How many of our policy-makers are driving 1968 limousines, even with air-conditioning, stereo, and electric seats added? It still performs like a 1968 limousine with its attendant age-related problems.

SMSgt. George A. Boyce, USAF (Ret.)

Gulf Breeze, Fla.

I would add my thoughts to Ms. Rebecca Grant’s article in the July issue of Air Force Magazine. I have long enjoyed Ms. Grant’s articles but feel she neglected one major aircraft in her article, the F-105D and its early role in the nuclear deterrent in Europe during the hot years of the Cold War.

As a retired member of USAF and New Jersey ANG, and a 1,000-hour-plus F-84F pilot, and an 800-hour-plus F-105B pilot, I am fully aware of the nuclear role these two aircraft symbolized. The NJANG and other ANG units were nuclear delivery qualified for several years in the late 1950s and early 60s and the F-105D units in USAF were also nuclear capable in those years and later. There were, I know for a fact, at least two F-105D units based in Germany in the late 50s and early 60s with the nuclear mission as their primary one.

In 1961, the NJANG and many others were activated in President Kennedy’s response to the Berlin Wall and were sent to bases in France in what, up to that time, was the largest deployment overseas to bases in France in the conventional weapons role while those F-105D units stood nuclear readiness in Germany and elsewhere, I suspect.

Not to include the F-105 aircraft in that article about nukes for NATO was an unfortunate over sight.

Maj. Robert V. Thompson, USAF/NJANG (Ret.)

Punta Gorda, Fla.

Ms. Rebecca Grant left out one of the most important aircraft the US Air Force had in theater during the turbulent 60s. The F-105D fighter-bomber played a major role as a deterrent during two periods in the 60s. F-105Ds stationed at Bitburg Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base [in Germany] were on “Victor Alert” during the Berlin Wall crisis and later during the Cuban Missile Crisis. These aircraft standing Victor Alert’ were fully loaded with nukes in their internal bomb bay. Pilots were briefed and ready to go if the word to scramble was sounded.

Their presence in Europe armed with nukes certainly sent a message to Russia that the US was serious in protecting Europe.

F-105D/Fs were one of, if not the only, nuclear capable aircraft that could “Toss Bomb” a B61 nuclear bomb. Toss bombing was established and tested using F-105 aircraft.

Nowhere in her article was the F-105 aircraft given credit for being the workhorse that she was, or a nuclear capable aircraft, and that’s a shame.

I was stationed at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, from 1960 to 1964 as a jet engine mechanic and worked the Victor Alert area many times.

MSgt. Paul R. Soucy, USAF (Ret.)

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Take It Down!

I read with great interest your article “Take It Down! The Wild Weasels in Vietnam” [July, p. 66], and offer the following for thought from the standpoint of a crew member flying in EB-66s starting Dec. 7, 1971: I was on my first mission as an EB-66 EWO, flying cover for a flight of two F-105s that were “trolling” the border, clearly well out of Vietnam. I was assigned to search the band that the guidance signal would use to direct a missile. Our aircraft was about 10 miles farther away from the border than the F-105s, and they were some 15 to 20 miles from the border. At no time during the mission did we receive any missile warnings through our quite good receivers. We heard Falcon One (F-105 call sign) call out that Falcon Two (numbers could be in reverse) had been hit by a missile. We immediately flew around the location to listen for beepers; were refueled twice in the air and once when we landed at NKP; and assisted in the search and rescue attempt, logging about six hours total flying time.

By Dec. 25, Korat was on full-scale flying operations, presumably taking out any sites that emitted signals, regardless of geographical location. The speculation at the time was that the Vietnamese were either triangulating and firing the SAMs, turning on the guidance signal at the last moment, negating the dodging tactics the aircrews used. They could also stay silent, defeating any attempts to destroy the sites. It is my belief that the shooting down of the F-105 was the seminal event that led to the missions against the North Vietnamese that led to the unjustified sacrifice of Gen. [John]Lavelle. Most of the crew members I flew with at the time thought it was a cover-up and that high-level leaders had to know about the “raids.”

Lt.Col. Bobby O. Welch, USAF (Ret.)

Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

See “Air Force World: Obama Orders Lavelle’s Two Stars Restored,” p. 26.

Washington Watch

Regarding a possible future armed conflict with China, the author assumed that China would strike first [“Washington Watch: Path to AirSea Battle.” July, p. 8].

Such a war between major powers is the end of the world as it exists. Openly identifying China as our adversary is horribly wrong!

Russia and America chose “containment,” and we now have agreements in the reduction of nuclear missiles that are valid and measurable.

Budget for peace, for there has to be a way to achieve agreements with China. This war-weary world surely needs to see an agreement between the US and China and then many more with other nations.

CMSgt. Leroy Y. Hassler, USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio

Money Savers

I am writing in response to the quote from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in the July issue of Air Force Magazine. Gates was addressing the Navy League on May 3 [“Verbatim: Is the Navy Affordable?” p. 34]. What he said made a lot of sense, but it just did not go far enough. Prior to the last Presidential election, I was jokingly telling people I thought I might run. If elected, my platform would be one which could save the country trillions of dollars. I would start immediately closing every military base which we now have in a foreign country. Why do we need all of these bases? Can you name one foreign country that has an operational military base in this country? If we are helping to defend these countries, then they should be footing the bill. If it’s for our own defense, it is unnecessary because with our B-2 bombers, B-52 bombers, nuclear-powered carriers, and submarines, we can defend our own country from within our borders. Why do we have thousands of military people in South Korea? They’ve been there for 50 years. Will we do this for the next 100 years? If it’s for their defense, they should be footing the bill. Think of the money which we could save and which we really need.

Lt. Col. John W. Glenn, USAF (Ret.)

Elizabethtown, Ky.

Global Strike Command Steps Up

The SAC no-notice ORI teams went to great extremes to surprise an air base [“Strike Command Steps Up,” June, p. 26]. Once, while stationed at Glasgow AFB, Mont., this happened, but was foiled by some sharp-eared air refueling tanker crew members on alert:

The C-97 transporting the IG team circled and landed at the municipal airport near the town of Glasgow, 16 miles away, and rented transportation to the air base. Some of the tanker crew members had previously flown the KC-97 and were outside on alert and heard the engine noise. They alerted the command post, and the battle staff was called together and were in session when the IG team arrived.

Similarly, the IG team was sent packing due to a higher headquarters-directed mission: After the capture of USS Pueblo, the Glasgow Air Force Base’s SAC 91st Bomb Wing’s 322nd Bomb Squadron and 907th Air Refueling Squadron were ordered to prepare for “unit move” deployment to Kadena AB, Okinawa.

In the early hours of the preparations for deployment, the SAC IG team arrived. Again, the team was surprised to find that the staff was in session. Upon arrival, the team was told that the unit was immune to an ORI, but they wouldn’t take the wing commander’s word. They were invited to use the “Red Phone” and check with HQ SAC.

The team called SAC and left without knowing the reason—since they didn’t have a “need to know.”

Lt. Col. James Bradley, USAF (Ret.)

Westmoreland, Kan.

The “Global Strike Command” section in “Letters” affirms the contention that SAC (General LeMay’s Strategic Air Command) is alive and well [July, p. 6]. Its name was changed, but clearly not its mission, when reactivated in 2009 as Air Force Global Strike Command.

The excellent letters from CMSgt. Donald W. Grannen, USAF (Ret.), and Daniel L. Haulman (Air Force Historical Research Agency) concisely affirm that “SAC is back.” The purpose of this letter is not to applaud their efforts, which are substantial, but to remind Air Force readers that General LeMay made a telling case for SAC, years ago, in his book Mission With LeMay, published in 1965 as an autobiography—assisted by author MacKinlay Kantor for editorial polish, but contents described by General LeMay as: “This is the way I remember it.”

I don’t know why I had left the book on the shelf for almost 45 years until a news item about some current Air Force changes stirred my interest. Once opened up again, I found it hard to leave alone—and I believe those of us who lived through his era of a constantly changing military aviation picture will be fascinated by his recollections and surprised by his uncanny managerial talents, as well.

I believe Mission With LeMay deserves to be made widely available once more. Although he is gone, he has left us with the means to do some heavy thinking about how to run a Defense Department.

Robert C. Dick

Castine, Maine

Delta Dagger

I always thoroughly enjoy the coverage of “Airpower Classics.” The July issue [p. 80] was of special interest in view of the fact that I was a ground crew weapons control specialist for the F-102 Delta Dagger. I served with the 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base from 1957 to 1960. Our radar officer at the time was 1st Lt. Alfred M. Warden. He was a pilot and should have been included in your Famous Fliers/Notables paragraph. As a matter of record, Lieutenant Worden ultimately became the command pilot on Apollo 15.

Ed Cunnie

North Kingstown, R.I.