The Nuclear Powerhouse
There have been many articles about the mission, history, and future of the B-52, but none that describe what it is like to fly it. With six years experience flying it as a crew commander (pilot) and instructor pilot, let me say: “It is impressive” [“Strategy & Policy: The End to Nuclear ‘Kick the Can,’ ” January/February, p. 12].
Oddly enough, despite its size, the B-52 is easy to fly. It is very stable. During air refueling, once in the refueling envelope, you can fly it with your fingertips. In my six years in it, even during combat crew training at Castle Air Force Base, California, I don’t remember ever having an inadvertent disconnect. Likewise, landing is easy. In those same six years, I don’t recall one bounce. Of course, the crosswind landing gear is unique and tricky, as is the bicycle landing gear. When you flare, you need to hold the plane off until you gently set the aft main landing gear, which is about 100 feet behind and 40 feet below you, gently on the runway. That crosswind landing gear can be set up to 15 degrees off the runway heading. And, you hold the crab all the way through touchdown. You really have to fight the urge to kick out the crab just before touchdown, as you would in any other aircraft. And, yes, I have landed while looking at the far end of the runway out of my left side window.
Having started my career as an F-80 Shooting Star fighter-bomber pilot, I always considered myself to be a fighter pilot. As such, I hated the idea of being a “BOMBER PILOT.” But, when I completed all of the requirements of the entire training program at Castle on my very first flight in the B-52, I realized that, like it or not, I was meant to fly the B-52. As much as I hated to admit it, I loved the airplane, and I loved flying it.
At the beginning of this letter, I referred to flying the B-52 as “impressive.” Well, it is impressive to get something as big as that off the ground and back down again without breaking something. And—it’s fun.
Lt. Col. Alfred J. D’Amario,
More Ribbons, Not Fewer
The US Army uniform shows unit citation awards above the right pocket [“Letters: Trophy Culture,” January/February, p. 4]. These citations are obtained mainly for being in the right place at the right time. But, if anything, they do balance out the uniform.
The Air Force uniform is basically bare over the right pocket, except for a commander’s badge or very rare unique foreign badges. As a reflection of one’s educational background, professional military education [PME] and civilian degrees could be shown by ribbons over the right pocket.
Each PME course should have its own ribbon. Devices could be used to reflect whether a course was completed by correspondence (C), seminar (S) or residence (R), and if an honor grad. Different ribbons could reflect civilian education for associate, bachelors, master’s, or doctorate degrees with devices for business, arts, sciences, engineering, etc. Professional degrees, such as medical, law, etc., could have their own ribbons with devices as needed.
If the ribbons are uniquely colored and/or striped, promotion boards would have an easy time reviewing completion of PME requirements and noting civilian education just by looking at black and white official photos.
More importantly, these ribbons would reflect personal achievements and self-determination to excel.
Lt. Col. Russel A. Noguchi,
Pearl City, Hawaii
Star Wars Shy
The United States Space Force moved a step closer to reality recently with the passing of the Defense Authorization Bill [“Space Force is Here,” January/February, p. 44]. As part of the laundry list of tasks required to stand up a new branch of the military will be the selection of uniforms. I would like to offer the new leadership a few suggestions.
First, the likelihood of the need for a jungle camouflage uniform is virtually nil. My suggestion would be to go with a dark blue or black utility uniform. USSF could pattern it after the uniform style worn by the ground crews for the F-22 demo team—they’re functional, sharp, and with a coolness factor that’s over the top (a quick Google search will give you the idea). And while they’re at it, shelve the itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny grade insignia, and put it back on the sleeves (normal size) for the enlisted and on the collars for the officers (where God intended). “Good morning ur, uh, oh wait, let me put on my glasses; why good morning Chief, now let me get out of your personal space and we can exchange greetings properly.” And those few threads that look like they might be out of place: That’s not a stitching flaw, that’s the micro insignia for the CMSAF.
For the service dress, they can also start with a clean slate and undo the fiasco of the 1990s (from which we still haven’t fully recovered). With no effort whatsoever, the new Space Force could reinstate the pre-McPeak service dress (and from what I can tell, it is still being put to good use at USAFA). From what I’ve heard from current Airmen and potential future (Spacemen?—good God, that’s a whole other discussion) it would meet with virtual instant widespread approval. But please, shy away from anything Star Wars-ish or Star Trek-ish; we’re not there yet.
Port Saint John, Fla.
It is ironic that in the November 2019 article “Mosaic Warfare” [p. 51], the drone in the photo on p. 54 is manufactured by the Chinese company Da-Jiang Innovations, or DJI. Wonder how this purchase was approved?
David F. Zehr
F-100’s Dog Fight
The two letters in the January/February 2020 issue concerning former Editor-in-Chief John Correll’s “Against the MiGs in Vietnam” article discussed several events of interest [p. 5]. The second letter, from Mike Dean, about the unconfirmed kill by F-100 pilot Capt. Don Kilgus on April 4, 1964, against a MiG-17, reminds me of examples of previous coverage in print of the F-100’s only aerial engagement, although it saw considerable action against ground targets as a Fast FAC and CAS/ground-attack type during the long war. Enthusiasts, and especially former Air Force Hun pilots who are not aware of them, might want to know about two publications that have highlighted this event.
Combat Aircraft No. 89 in the highly successful series published by the UK’s Osprey Publishing, written by Peter E. Davies with David W. Menard, [including] the fine cover illustration by Scottish artist Gareth Hector of Captain Kilgus firing his 20 mm cannon at the distant MiG. He received credit for a “probable,” perhaps because then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who found himself in an unexpected and rapidly expanding involvement in a major conflict, somehow didn’t want to publicize the destruction of a communist MiG.
The equally fine journal The Intake, of the F-100 Super Sabre Society, borrowed Hector’s excellent illustration for its spring 2012 cover for a feature article about the engagement. Can’t do any better than these two great sources on one of USAF’s most historic combat aircraft, definitely for former F-100 pilots and maintainers, as well as aviation enthusiasts interested in the Vietnam War or the Super Sabre itself.
Cmdr. Peter B. Mersky