Feb. 1, 2013

Sniveling, Immature Whiners

[“Editorial: Walking on a Cliff,” December, p. 4] should be mandatory reading for every member of our “moaning-groaning” legislative and executive branches to inspire them to quit the argumentative partisan attitude and get this matter resolved in a mature and timely manner. The ramifications of letting this matter slide are treasonous. Our legislators (and President) are paid the “big bucks” to act on such legislative matters in a timely, reasoned, and mature manner. If they cannot, we need new people now. The quality of this group has degraded over the past few years into a sniveling bunch of immature whiners who are afraid to put their feet to the fire and would rather play the blame game. They should be ashamed!!!

Lt. Col. Richard C. Johnson,

USAF (Ret.)

Columbia, S.C.

Tiger Not Toy

I was quite surprised the “Airpower Classics” feature (December, p. 72) on the F-5 did not mention the Northrop F-5G/F-20 Tigershark. This remarkable aircraft (which unfortunately never entered production) more certainly owes its origins to the F-5 than does the YF-17. Northrop’s proposed P-530 Cobra, which only reached the mock-up stage, led directly to the YF-17. The text should’ve also mentioned the N-156F prototype developed prior to the F-5A, as well as the RF-5E Tiger Eye recce variant, and the F-5’s family relationship to the T-38. I’ve met no pilots who referred to the F-5 as the “Tinkertoy.” Despite its limitations in range and payload, the F-5 was (and still is) a popular mount for its pilots.

Lt. Col. Barry A. Miller,

USAF (Ret.)

Poquoson, Va.

A Piper Cub Over Hanoi

As the former aide to CINCSAC Gen. John C. Meyer, I met with him right after Linebacker II was completed in January 1973. He told me his version of Linebacker II ending the Vietnam War [“Linebacker II,” December, p. 52].

He related that after six days of bombing and isolating Hanoi, President Nixon called him and questioned the continued use of B-52 bombing due to the loss of aircraft. Nixon told Meyer that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had recommended the bombing be stopped. Meyer told Nixon that he needed “only three more days of bombing and you will be able to fly a Piper Cub over Hanoi.” President Nixon agreed to continue the bombing. Le Duc Tho told [Henry S.] Kissinger to stop the bombing and he would agree to sign a peace agreement. Kissinger told Tho to sign an agreement first and they would stop the bombing. The rest is history.

Lt. Gen. Richard A. Burpee,

USAF (Ret.)

Oklahoma City, Okla.

Your article on Linebacker II on the 40th anniversary of the 11-day bombing campaign made it appear that the B-52s were the only aircraft engaged in the campaign. There was very little discussion on the SEAD, CAP, rescue, and Navy and Marine fighter-bomber support sorties, not to mention the KC-135 air refueling support out of U Tapao and Kadena. I was a KC- 135 crew chief on the ground at Kadena. We had tankers parked in every available space, taxiways, hangar aprons—anywhere we could place a jet, before the days when planners worried about MOG. They were wingtip to wingtip, nose to tail! When we’d launch the missions out, the ramp was like a ghost town with only the “hard broke” (one tanker with a cracked left main landing gear trunnion bearing, its MLG assembly removed and left wing stacked up on railroad ties) jets staying behind. In his book We Won And Then There Was Linebacker II: Strategic and Political Issues Surrounding the Bombing Campaign, Albert Atkins said, “Without the dedicated tanker crews, Linebacker II would not have been possible.” The BUFF crews did an amazing job and sustained the majority of the losses, but LBII would have never succeeded without the hard-working support missions and ground personnel out of Thailand, Kadena, and Guam.

Col. Charles R. Tupper,

USAF (Ret.)

Edisto Island, S.C.

Some of the losses of Linebacker II could have been prevented if the CINCSAC staff had listened to their experienced combat veterans, i.e., 8th Air Force at Andersen Air Force Base and its subordinate units. But in 1972, SAC still employed a top-down policy that only CINCSAC could make and approve the most minute of details involving mission planning for Linebacker II—the result being for the first three days there was virtually little to no change of tactics from mission to mission. One of the more egregious tactics was the Post Target Turn (PTT). One rationale for the PTT was that “we have always done it that way.” Most likely it was developed in World War II when the two B-29s dropping the atomic bomb needed to exit the target area rapidly to avoid atomic blast.

The PTT was an immediate turn of 100 degrees at a 45-degree bank angle just after weapon release. The result of this maneuver was 30 to 60 seconds of no electronic countermeasure support because the jamming signals were being beamed away from NVA tracking systems. This was conducted in one of the most heavily defended areas in the world, Hanoi. The aircraft became highly vulnerable to SAM acquisition when the bomb bay doors were opened at the one-minute (B-52 Dash-1 procedures) mark—a fact that did not go unnoticed by aircrews that began to modify opening times to the absolute minimum. The PTT for the first days also resulted in turning into 100 knot headwinds which simply extended the vulnerability time. The majority of the losses in Linebacker II (to include damaged aircraft) occurred during the PTT. The bomb bay door open time plus the PTT was just too much.

There was one true leadership hero during this campaign, Brig. Gen. Glenn R. Sullivan, commander, 17th Air Division, U Tapao Royal Thai Navy Base, Thailand. After the first night he (as did the leadership at 8th Air Force) realized that the directed tactic of using the same IPs, routes, altitudes, etc., was a disaster in the making. Finally, after night three (known to some as the “slaughter of the Gs”), Sullivan sent a flash message direct to SAC that their tactics were going to result in more losses than already experienced unless changed. By this time, SAC was completely at a loss on what to do and criticism was coming from the JCS. Changes were made, planning was directed to 8th AF, and losses were reduced.

Col. John L. King,

USAF (Ret.)

Tulsa, Okla.

Giant and Fly

Regarding the article “Capital Defenders” [December, p. 28], I would like to comment on how I see the overall vetting of air traffic in the Washington area. The article outlines the procedures quite well regarding low altitude VFR traffic and the prevention of incursions into the “target rich environment.” My concern centers on IFR traffic in, around, and over the Washington ADIZ, which covers the airspace only from the ground to 18,000 feet. While most traffic below 18,000 feet cannot approach the inner areas of Washington, IFR aircraft at 18,000 feet or above can and do fly near and over the D.C. area on a regular basis. You do the math: 18,000 feet is just three miles from this “target rich environment,” at 240 knots in a dive (typical for a midsized turboprop aircraft) less than a minute. Now, how is an F-16 going to cope with an attacker with this lead time? Can’t and won’t happen. I point out this chink in the armor so that maybe someone has a solution or an answer. One answer would be to restrict the airspace above 18,000 feet, much like the lower altitudes, to increase the time available for interception. This solution would cause an air traffic nightmare. Another solution and less certain is intelligence and awareness. Practically every airport I visit has posters encouraging aircrews to be aware and to report suspicious activity. Perhaps General Sasseville has observed this lapse in defense and has an answer. I well remember the wringing of hands on Sept. 12, asking how did we let this happen. Let’s not have a repeat. Intercepting Cessnas with an F-16 is questionable PR, like a giant swatting a gnat.

Maj. Dudley H. Johnston,

USAF (Ret.)

Germantown, Tenn.

Yee Haw and Cowabunga

I enjoyed reading the very interesting article in the December issue about the two C-17s “sky surfing” over California—saving fuel by flying in the vortex of the lead aircraft [“Air Force World: California Sky Surfing,” p. 18]. It sounds a lot like they were actually drafting like cars have been doing for years in NASCAR racing. Maybe the good ol’ boys were way ahead of their time, and what goes around surely comes around.

SMSgt. David R. Caron,

USAF (Ret.)

Las Vegas

Thor Was Innocent

Walter Boyne’s article about Operation Dominic (“Big Bang”) is a fascinating account of the atmospheric nuclear test program [December, p. 57]. However, one sentence on p. 60 should be corrected. The statement “the vehicle and weapon blew up on the launch pad” implies that the explosion was the fault of the Thor rocket. In fact, an inexperienced missile flight control officer (MFCO) erroneously issued the destruct command. This was the Bluegill Prime launch attempt on 25 July 1962.

As the Air Force launch control officer for the final Thor launch from Johnston Island, I reviewed the official accident report and discussed the incident with several McDonnell Douglas engineers who were involved. The main engine LOX valve did not open fully, preventing the Thor from achieving sufficient thrust. Upon realizing that the missile was not lifting off, the MFCO should have issued only the destruct arm command, which would have immediately shut down the engines and likely would have prevented the explosion. Instead, the MFCO sent the destruct command as well, which triggered the flight termination ordnance and “single pointed” the weapon. The damage and contamination were considerable and caused a significant delay in the nuclear test program.

Eric G. Lemmon

Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Been There, Done That

I read with much interest the “Reserve Reset” article [December, p. 34] by Marc Schanz. Very well presented. Lieutenant General Jackson presented his and the Reserve views very well. I believe there is something of importance missing. Let’s go back for a moment to the very beginning of the Air Force Reserve—July 1949—and back to calendar year 1947.

I write with some personal history. Long before General Jackson was even a twinkle in his father’s eye, I enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, Dec. 8. 1943. Graduated from flying school April 15, 1944, with a reserve commission of second lieutenant and as a rated pilot. Was placed on the Air Force retired list May 11, 1974, with an accumulated 7,707 flying hours and 31 years, five months, six days of Active Duty and Reserve time.

During 1947, a large gathering of past Army Air Forces members began an evening meeting in a downtown Portland, Ore., theatre. At Portland Airport, a contingent of AFTRAC was established by the new Air Force with a few flying machines(AT-6, AT-9, AT-11).

We pilots were checked out in the aircraft and renewed our flying proficfiency. On July 1, 1949, the Air Force 403rd Troop Carrier Reserve Wing was activated with three squadrons of 16 new C-46 aircraft each and the aircrews and support groups. We flew for free in support of the Army airlift transportation needs. Some pay was created for specific training sessions. These combat Ready Reserve troop carrier wings were recalled to Active Duty during the Korean War. At the time I was in Korea, 1952, more than 90 percent of the Air Force personnel supporting that war were Reservists. During the Berlin Airlift, the Air Force recalled a large number of Reserve personnel. The Cuban Missile Crisis saw a large number of Reservists called to Active Duty.

When the Associate Program was established, this was the “proof of the pudding” that the Reserve forces could provide air transportation needs with far less costs. Then came the Total Force concept, recognition of what a resource it is to have highly qualified personnel from the reserve forces provide more services with less funding.

Let’s educate our younger leaders on the history of the Air Force Reserve.

Col. Norm Happel,

USAF (Ret.)

Elizabeth, Colo.