Dec. 1, 2012

Thirteen Days

As of late, much attention has been turned to the U-2 program both old and new. Airman Magazine just ran a story about the current U-2 program, and the most recent media I have read is John T. Correll’s article titled “High Noon” (Air Force Magazine, October, p. 32). Correll’s overview of the famous 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis is extremely interesting to me as a historian. I felt he broke down the political and strategic situation very well. I actually found the information on Castro’s role very interesting and had not known previously about Castro’s apprehensions and frustrations with the Russians during this period. With his article, Correll almost brought the Cuban Missiles Crisis full circle for me.

I say almost because (and I admit I am partial) he left out Laughlin Air Force Base’s role in serving our nation during such a critical time in its history. In October of 1962, U-2s from Laughlin, belonging to the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, launched missions to photograph Cuba, and it was Laughlin’s U-2s that discovered the Soviet Union was deploying ballistic missiles into the country. U-2 pilot Charlie Kern remembers helping launch a five-ship mission in the dark on an early stormy morning Oct. 14, 1962. Four of the U-2s returned to Laughlin, while the fifth landed at McCoy AFB, Fla.

Not only were most of the approximately 35 (all individually handmade, making them all different) U-2s at Laughlin “forward deployed” to McCoy, but many of the aerial casualties suffered were from Laughlin. Needless to say, Maj. [Rudolf] Anderson was a casualty, and little known is the fact that he forward deployed from Laughlin. Another casualty was Capt. Joe Hyde Jr., who perished only days after the crisis was over as the United States continued to monitor the removal of Soviet forces and weapons from Cuba.

Jack G. Waid

Laughlin AFB, Tex.

I enjoyed and related to John T. Correll’s “High Noon” as it brought back memories as a 21-year-old student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla. In October 1962, I had to walk from my fraternity house across US Highway 90, a major east-west highway at the time (before Interstate 10), to get to classes. As a carefree and assuredly naïve student, I wasn’t aware of what was going on when crossing the already crowded highway, which was now clogged with slow moving convoys of military trucks with loads covered with tarps. I also recall a more than normal number of planes flying overhead. I later understood the traffic to be a part of the buildup for the Cuban missile crisis.

Jeff Allison

Ken Caryl Valley, Colo.

If It Looks Like a Drone …

In the October issue, a letter writer objected to the use of the word “drone” in the August issue’s article “RPAs for All” [“Letters: Droning On,” p. 8].

I was in the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, maintaining the photo and electronic intelligence variants of the AQM-34 family of Firebee drone variants. For security reasons, we were told to refer to the vehicles as special purpose aircraft (SPA), and this policy was not changed until the early ’70s. At that time we were permitted to refer to the vehicles as drones, and this term was commonly used until the term remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) was coined a few years later. Still later, the common term became unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Now we call them remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and the fact remains that it is still an unoccupied vehicle under computer or human control and fits the accepted definition of a drone.

CMSgt. David Matthews,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairborn, Ohio

Be Smart and Lucky

Mr. Dudney presents an excellent summary review of our current space order of battle, including missile warning, navigation, communications, and weather capabilities [“Game Changers in Space,” October, p. 49]. However, I am appalled at the uniform lockstep opinions of General Shelton and Lieutenant General Pawlikowski that the solution to the onrushing crunch to space funding is to go off on a new disaggregated architecture for our systems. The facts related in the article clearly show that evolved improvement in our space systems for missile warning (DSP), navigation (GPS), communications (DSCS and WGS), and weather (DMSP) provided steady improvement, in usable military capability, while revolutionary systems SBIRS, TSAT, and NPOESS provided disastrous budget busts, enormous schedule delays, and outright cancellation after high sunk costs. The concept of simple, proliferated small satellites sounds plausible, but the evidence we have is dismal. Motorola tried it with Iridium in the commercial realm without success, and the classified programs tried it with the FIA system, leading to total cancellation.

The nation enjoys a deep reserve of technical capability among our laboratory personnel, university scientists, and industrial research experts who look to these leaders for guidance for the future of our constellations. At a time when we have already seen a $500 billion reduction in the 10-year defense budget and the prospect of further cuts from “sequestration,” one ought to steer this capability to small subsystem improvements to our vital satellites for marginal capability improvements in performance, or to replace parts not available due to obsolescence. If we are smart and lucky, we might hold on to this vital defense capability while much of DOD suffers drastic downgrade.

Lt. Gen. Aloysius G. Casey,

USAF (Ret.)

Redlands, Calif.

Losing Altitude

I read your article “Losing Altitude” and came away quite dismayed. I have a hard time believing our Air Force leaders have mounted such a bad argument for air/cyberspace superiority that Congress and the American people are being led to believe the requirement for airpower is on the decline [“Editorial,” October, p. 4].

I realize the pilot-to-pilot dogfights are a thing of the past, but this country requires air and cyberspace superiority now more than ever before. We [use] pilot-less aircraft; our enemies are doing the same thing. Look at threats coming from North Korea in the development of their planned long-range arsenal. Because we are a superpower, our defenses are going to be chipped at, with increasing intensity. In order to maintain our status as a superpower, we require support for all forces, whether on the ground or in the air. I agree with the requirement for “boots on the ground”; however, reducing air support to the status of a glorified taxi service shows very limited future vision.

The saving grace of the October issue was the speech given by General Welsh, covered a few pages later in “New Boss, Bottom Line” [“Washington Watch,” p. 10]. In his speech he states no one else “can bring what we bring to the fight, and every real warfighter knows that. Don’t ever doubt yourself or this service.”

I think General Welsh and Editor John Correll should have met before the guest editorial was written.

MSgt. Dennis J. Dudley,

USAF (Ret.)

Medford, N.Y.

Emeritus Editor John T. Correll tells a compelling tale about the diminishing role of airpower in the military mix. His premise inadvertently exposes a more fundamental truth, i.e., the armed forces of the United States are not organized to meet 21st century threats. The following two facts are relevant: (1) The military services are currently organized along the same principles applied at their first formal organization in 1792, namely, the environment in which they fought, land and sea, with air added in the early 20th century, followed later by space and cyberspace; (2) and often overlooked, is that the current Chiefs of the four military services do not not command a single combat unit. Beginning in 1986, under the Goldwater-Nichols Act, combat forces were placed into unified commands whose commanders report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to the individual service chiefs. The nation’s wars are fought by integrated forces.

These facts raise the question of why do we need four separate military services, each with their own planners advocating tactical and strategic positions and hardware that appear to be at odds with the joint combat operational needs? Duplication between the services in areas of training, education, logistics, base operations, administration, etc., is no longer justifiable and the source of a large waste of scarce defense dollars. In turn, this causes a high level of interservice rivalry for those scarce dollars, fueled by military, industrial, and congressional special interests. Joint planning is compromised by competing interests.

The solution is simple to state but difficult to implement because of the many special interests. The solution is to create unified support commands that complement the unified combatant commands, thereby fully integrating the four services. This trend has already started but at a slow and reluctant pace. This is not a new idea, but it needs to be jointly planned, formalized in legislation, and implemented over several years. This will reduce the cost and size of the armed forces and actually make it a more “lean, mean, fighting machine” to meet 21st century challenges.

Lt. Col. C. W. Getz,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairfield, Calif.

After reading the [editorial] twice, I feel compelled to present some of my personal exceptions to the political game that has been going on for years to deplete the US Air Force to its lowest of readiness and upgrading of new aircraft.

Having been an avid aviation historian for over 65 years and also an avid historian of World War I, II, Korea, and Vietnam, I cannot believe that responsible leaders in our government seem to believe wars are won by the ground pounders. This is such an erroneous assessment. When the Air Force B-29 crew piloted by Colonel Tibbets and crew dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, it brought about an end to the war with Japan. Japanese leaders were prepared to defend their homeland at all costs if the American forces invaded Japan. The Japanese even buried some aircraft and hid tons of weapons in caves in the event of an invasion, with the intent of using such. I served in Japan at the end of World War II, and I witnessed what our atomic bombs did, which brought about an immediate surrender.

Correll’s comment: “A consenus developed among politicians in and out of the Pentagon that the Air Force’s main job was supporting boots on the ground. The QDR in 2005 declared ‘irregular warfare’ the dominant form of warfare. Funding was realigned and the Air Force and the Navy became bill payers for the ground forces.” This is where I take exception, as ground forces are not going to win any future wars! It takes the Air Force and Navy to provide sufficient airpower to destroy strategic targets of the enemy. The Air Force has played an integral part in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ground forces would not have achieved many of their objectives had it not been for the Air Force aircraft.

Panetta said the force would “no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations.” Correll also stated that the Air Force has already been cut so much that to bounce back will be difficult. This is not the position that our Air Force should be in today or in the future. China has increased its defense spending by 11.8 percent and Russia at least 12 percent; whereas in the United States we have decreased our defense spending by at least 10 percent. Our responsible leaders in Washington had better have another cup of coffee and give serious thought to ensure that America will be the strongest country on the planet, to ensure our safety and freedoms. Airpower is here to stay, and it must be the best in the world!

Lt. Col. Donald E. Evett,

USAF (Ret.)

Bountiful, Utah

Um, Sir

Thank you for taking on the Chief of Staff position. We need tough leaders. But ditch the zoot suit. Regarding October 2012 Air Force Magazine, “Washington Watch,” p. 10: General Welsh looks like a Russian crown prince at an embassy ball. What is it? Come on, General LeMay would never wear that!! I wouldn’t.

Michael W. Rea

Savannah, Ga.

I hate the uniform. It appears the general is or was a member of the Air Force Band. Why this uniform has not received wider publicity is a true wonder. Thank God I retired in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel. Let’s dump this Mitchell-era uniform.

Lt. Col. Ray T. Cwikowski,

USAF (Ret.)

Foley, Ala.

I realize that this is a ceremonial uniform for wear by the Chief of Staff, but I feel it sends the wrong message at a time when the Air Force needs to improve the image it projects. This costume would be more at home on a college football field at halftime than at a formal change of command ceremony for the USAF’s top uniformed officer. Hopefully, this preposterous outfit will find its way to the farthest back corner of the general’s closet—never to see the light of day again!

Anthony J. Rueber

Schertz, Tex.

What is General Mark Welsh wearing on p. 10 of the October 2012 issue of the Air Force Magazine? It looks like a costume out of a 1920s musical comedy. Or is he trying to compete with the Army for ridiculous dress? What has happened to the plain blue suit?

Lt. Col. Robert W. Riegel,

USAF (Ret.)

Littleton, Colo.