Jan. 21, 2019


Your editorial in the December 2018 issue, entitled “The Air—and Space—Force We Need” [p. 2] was very interesting. It provides a light on the thinking behind the Air Force’s position on the need for a Space Force. It is reminiscent of a piece that could well have been written in 1947 with regard to the need for an “Air Force.”

I am certain that while the Army saw little need for the creation of a new service, it undoubtedly saw the likelihood for a reduction in size and mission after the end of World War II and realized that much of the new strategy would place an emphasis on air supremacy (especially the doctrine of massive retaliation). In light of the possibility of a threat from the Soviet Union, some of the statements in your critique could have been lifted verbatim from the Army’s perspective on the need for an Air Force. For example, “The logic is that space (air) is a unique domain, that prior administrations underinvested there, and that a new bureaucracy is needed to guide development of space- (air) based capabilities,” or “America does not need a Secretary of the Space (Air) Force. Adding a Space (Air) Force Chief of Staff will not increase the lethality of the US military. The Joint Chiefs will not become wiser with the addition of an eighth four-star general.”

There are others, but why belabor the obvious? It is obvious that the Air Force is biased in favor of the air domain, just as the Army was of the land. It is organizationally incapable of providing a responsible estimate of the cost of creating a new service and it is not reasonable to ask organizations affiliated with the Air Force (such as RAND or the Air Force Association) to provide reasonable analyses as to the cost, or the need, for a new Space Force. The cost estimate from some are ludicrous ($13B).

I have been employed by the Air Force in some capacity for 40 years, including duty as an ICBM crew commander, and I believe that it is indeed a great organization. It is not, and should not be, confused with having the needs of the space mission and capabilities at its forefront. The services battle for missions, roles, and responsibilities, not to mention funding and allocation of personnel. The competition for funding for an F-35 with a SBIRS satellite will never be a fair one as long as pilots make the bulk of decisions as to where funds are to be allocated.

The future of this country will rely more and more on the ability of the Department of Defense to provide safe and secure space assets. Our adversaries are investing heavily in space in an attempt to overtake our advantages in air, land, and sea. Eventually the triad will require a fourth capability for the nations defense, and it will be stationed in space.

It will take true visionaries to recognize that, as the Air Force came from the Army, the Space Force will come from the Air Force. It is inevitable if the nation is to survive. Don’t wear these blinders too long.

P.S. If you want proof as to the bias against Space in the Air Force, take a look at your magazine in which this editorial was contained to see that there are no articles on the threat from space, or the history of space, or the acquisition of space weapons.

James H. Gill

Manhattan Beach, Calif.


The photo of the F-35 Elephant Walk in the Dec. 7 edition of the Air Force Magazine Daily Report [“F-35’s Final Milestone Before Full-Rate Production”] evoked a strong memory of mine that I’d like to share.

Elephant walk is a USAF term for taxiing airplanes in close formation before takeoff, so you can launch the most planes in the least amount of time possible.

When I was an aggressor pilot flying F-5s, simulating Soviet air tactics at Clark AB, Philippines, circa ’79-81, I remember a McDonnell Douglas F-4 elephant walk. I was driving home to my Carmenville housing area on the perimeter road, but I paused, and then escaped and evaded my lime-green BMW 2002 onto an airfield access road, and parked at the departure end of the runway—probably no more than 150 feet from centerline and slightly past the overrun.

And watched, then stared, then stood stupefied as 44 F-4 Phantom IIs, nicknamed “Rhinos,” rumbled in the distance—obscured at the other end of the runway by the heat haze shimmering above the runway—and then sent a rooster tail upward of black JP-4 aviation smoke as full afterburners were stroked, and the beasts started a slow surge down the concrete.

Each jet in slow motion emerged from the oily smoke-and-haze stew and took on the familiar F-4 “Double Ugly” look with hovered inlets, an ominous yet sleet humpback, a bit of curve on the wingtips, and then the chicken-leg landing gear slowly folding upward and seemingly securing the crew.

The three bags of petrol on the under­side of airplanes were high drag, so these were 60,000 pounds of machine that hovered in ground effect until they captured enough speed to then limp into the sky; but really only making a sliver of altitude by the time they thundered by me.

Roiling acrid-stinky smoke descending upon my cranium while I shuddered into a continuous vibration as airplane after airplane after airplane—44 times—went by with two afterburners spitting 15-foot cylinders of flames against the afternoon backdrop of a darkened tree-green Mount Pinatubo.

Wow, what a privilege to watch. A marvel of man’s making. Steel, pungent smells, roar of noise, tropical landscape, wonder of flight (how can that hunk of metal simply, slightly, lift off into the air?), and brotherhood. I was in love with it all, each separately and as a collective imprint upon my identity. But to this day I most cherish the unbounded feeling of kinship I had with the men inside those “Double Ugly” flying machines. I was on the ground, in a different squadron, and flew a different type of airplane with a different mission, but I knew I was their wingman. Fly safe, then and today. Always.

Carl Van Pelt

Falls Church, Va.


The article “Best Bargain in Military History” [December, p. 56] was very good and interesting. But after spending the majority of my 30 years in SAC, I was surprised to see the SAC motto had changed. I recall that the SAC motto was: “Peace Is Our Profession.”

CMSgt. Jon R. Lindgren, USAF (Ret.)

Converse, Texas

I enjoyed reading the history of the B-52. Truly it has served us well. Many of my classmates from the Air Force Academy (1969) flew it in combat from the base at which I also was stationed (U-Tapao AB, Thailand).

I do take issue with one point. On p. 58, Boyne and Handleman write that “ … the US decided once and for all to remove Saddam from power.” The “US” did not decide this; it was one man, then-President George W. Bush, who made that decision, despite his anti-terrorism czar, Richard A. Clarke, assuring him that Saddam had no WMD—which we learned later was the truth.

Capt. John C. Miller, USAF (separated)

Fairfield, Iowa


I found your recent article, “Retaining Future Air Force Women Generals,” [December, p. 38] to be thought-provoking. As a male, prior-enlisted, nonrated, married, and now-retired Air Force colonel, I felt a strange kinship.

Many of the challenges listed in your article are similar for any other Air Force officer trying to be all that he—or she—can be in their Air Force careers.

My wife was a civil servant when we married and [she] accompanied me through four PCS assignments before she had to resign and become a full-time mother. We endured our share of family separations during two of my remote assignments and a long deployment.

As a nonrated-ops type, I had to go that extra mile to gain leadership experiences to make myself competitive for promotion. For example, I volunteered for a squadron operations officer position at Kunsan, thereby letting a previously tagged, rated, nonvolunteer off the hook. While my career was fairly successful, it took over 40 years to complete my Active Duty journey.

Over my career I had four female supervisors, two were O-6s. I can testify that there was no doubt of their competency or motivation as it led to professional success.

Bottom-line: It is the “Air” Force. Pilot wings seem to be the silver bullet toward promotion, both early and often. Historically, of 214 Air Force generals, only a generous baker’s dozen ever attained that rank without being a pilot. Gen. [Ellen M.] Pawlikowski was spot on with her observation that female pilots got a late start but will be coming of general officer age soon. No doubt they’ll catch up!

In the meantime, the likes of Martha McSally and Heather Wilson exemplify that the Air Force is truly a gateway to a great way of life.

Col. Bill Malec, USAF (Ret.)

O’Fallon, Ill.


With all due respect to my fellow Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col. Gerald P. Gilbert, “Letters: North Korea Nukes,” October/November 2018 issue, p. 5), I disagree that President [Donald J.] Trump is inept in dealing with North Korea. Living in Hawaii, I can say that President Trump’s initiatives, despite his roughshod tactics to show America’s resolve to stop North Korea’s threatening ICBM tests within bounds of Hawaii, were well appreciated.

Whether or not Trump understood North Korea’s intent to denuclearize, Trump’s actions were necessary to bring the issue to the table and to pursue it.

Previous administrations did not prevent North Korea from nuclearizing, and Trump now has no other choice.

Trump may discount daily intelligence briefings but he really does not like issues that are repetitive. Intelligence briefings should be just that, “brief,” and just delve into issues that affect imminent presidential/CINC decision-making. His use of the display of US military capabilities effectively and speedily brought diplomacy to the forefront. Diplomacy alone is not an effective form of getting international issues resolved. The reduction of US military strength and readiness over the past administration was totally ineffective and put the US in a bind that required the US to break out of a losing diplomatic-only process.

Trump, giving Kim Jong Un an equal footing internationally, was the impetus needed to raise the issue of denuclearization to the highest level. Trump’s tactics were instrumental in getting the UN’s—including Russia and China—support for unprecedented sanctions against North Korea, for the first time ever. Nothing wrong with that.

If Kim does not start to denuclearize, the US should return tactical nuclear munitions and missiles to South Korea and Japan and post permanent nuclear subs and carriers in close proximity to North Korea. The US should encourage Japan to deploy defensive missiles to counter North Korean missiles. The US should also develop “launch on notification” procedures when North Korea prepares to launch missiles.

Lt. Col. Russel A. Noguchi, USAF (Ret.)

Pearl City, Hawaii


Thanks for the excellent Chappie James article in your October/November issue [“The Chappie James Way,” p. 70]. My father, Lt. Col. Arthur G. Beach, Jr., was stationed with General James at Clark Air Base in about 1950. I was told by both my father and mother about the prejudice shown to General James and his wife at the Officer’s Club. Only a handful of officers and their wives would associate (much less dance) with the couple. Dad said that Chappie and Dorothy were very friendly and fun to be with. Mom and Dad enjoyed dancing with them, and Dad said it was always a good time socializing with both Chappie and Dorothy. At the time, my father was on flying status, but not in fighters with Chappie. My father had flown mostly C-46s and C-47s out of North Africa during WWII, and he went on to become a SAC bomber/tanker pilot during the Cold War. I hope (and believe) my parents have renewed their friendship with the James couple and other Air Force friends in the wild blue afterlife.

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

Albuquerque, N.M.


While Mr. [Chris] Brown notes that the E-6 flies just above stall speed when deploying its trailing VLF antenna, it is not a consequence of straining at the drag of the massive antenna, but is done intentionally to result in as close to a vertical deployment of the antenna as possible [“Letters: Four-in-One,” October/November, p. 8]. Slow-speed orbits result in a more vertical attitude of the antenna, which is optimal for communications in very low frequencies.

John L. Fenton

Kaneohe, Hawaii


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