Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits

Letters

April 1, 2020

We love letters! Write to us at letters@afa.org. To be published, letters should be timely, relevant and concise. Include your name and location. Letters may be edited for space and the editors have final say on which are published.

Mission Impossible

As a civilian, I read with great interest Rachel Cohen’s article “Space Force is Here” [January/February, p. 44] and the editorial “Launching the Space Force” by Tobias Naegele about the challenges facing the newest branch of the military, from its operations to its public image.

As a science fiction fan, I was admittedly intrigued by speculation over what the future uniforms for the sixth military branch might entail. Suggestions included necktie-less suits and naval-style sleeve lace to create a distinctive military culture for the information age.

My 2 cents is that a uniform along the lines of the 1990s minimalist Merrill McPeak service dress—but fly-fronted with a mandarin stand-up collar—would look sharp. A retro peaked bell-style cap and black pants could complete the uniform.

On one hand, such a streamlined service dress uniform would be akin to those seen in “Star Trek” and “The Expanse,” yet it also would be descended from historic uniforms—the blue service dress worn by the U.S. Navy from the 1880s through World War I and the U.S. Army “shell jackets” of the Civil War.

Benjamin Turon
Ballston Spa, N.Y.

I would hope that Gen. [John] Raymond and his transition staff will turn to original source documents prepared in the mid-1970s by Gen. Bob Herres and Maj. Gen. Stuart Sherman Jr., who designed the original Space Command from several major Air Force commands under the watchful eye of CINC/SAC Gen. Russell Daugherty. Their bold leadership laid the groundwork for what became Air Force Space Command, under the command of a four-star general. While none of these leaders are alive today, Gen. Lance Lord, who was at one time commander of AFSC, is alive and well.  I am sure he could provide a wealth of hands-on, organizational, and operational perspective that might be helpful. I hope that General Raymond will turn to the current space operators and earlier generations to work out the knotty details he is facing..   

Col. Quentin M. Thomas,
USAF (Ret.)
Woodstock, Ga.

Gene Roddenberry based “Star Trek” on Project Solar Warden—“The Secret Space Program.” It is said that Roddenberry attended a meeting at the Pentagon just before receiving a call from Desilu Productions (Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball)—the truth is stranger than fiction. The reason for the similar logo is because of Roddenberry’s vision (along with some real intel). Of course, the public will not see things this way. The public has no idea that the “new Space Force” is about 40 years old. 

Donnie Brooke
Grovetown, Ga.

McGee’s Flights

The January/February issue mentioned Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee being given an honorary promotion to the rank of brigadier general, an event that I applaud, partly because I have known him for many years. I have spoken with him many times. Having worked at the Air Force Historical Research Agency for 37 years, I have written multiple books and articles about the Tuskegee Airmen. There is one error in your article I would like to see corrected. The article claimed that McGee’s 409 combat missions remains a record, suggesting that no other Air Force pilot who flew fighters in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, had more combat missions. At least two other USAF pilots, who also flew fighters in the same three wars, flew more combat missions in those wars: Col. Ralph S. Parr, with 641 combat missions, and Col. Harold S. Snow, with 666 combat missions.

Daniel Haulman
Montgomery, Ala.

Speed Limits

I just read the excellent article “The Bone is Back” by Brian Everstine [January/February, p. 34]. It was a great summary of the B-1B recovery from “overuse” through the devotion of devoted maintainers. Unfortunately, one piece of questionable information was repeated several times describing the B-1B as being “supersonic”—including attributing its rapid deployment to these supersonic speeds.

The original B-1A was a supersonic bomber. For the production B-1B that was resurrected years later, the variable intake ramps were removed for cost reasons. This limits the B-1B to high subsonic speeds in virtually its entire envelope. The only exception would be a very high altitude dash—which doesn’t help the rapid deployment. Deployability is based on range, fuel capacity, fuel burn, and refueling capability. High subsonic is good enough for now.

This, by the way, leaves the FB-111A as the last U.S. supersonic strategic bomber. Back in 1975, we had a training requirement to make a supersonic high-altitude dash at 2.2 Mach. We never exercised the low-level speed capability, but like its TAC (Tactical Air Command) cousins, it could perform low-level, terrain-following cruise at 1.2 Mach. If you wished to go faster (up to 1.5 Mach), you had to hand-fly the bird.

Cdr. John C. Hall,
U.S.N. (Ret.)
Newcastle, Wash. 

OK, Boomer

The KC-46 tanker issue is a worrisome one for USAF. Boeing has left no options but to stop production on a platform that doesn’t meet the specifications set in the contract. Convene a critical-design review panel and look strongly at the boom pod as it’s currently on the KC-10. The remote visual system isn’t working, and everyone knows it!

Ask yourself this: Would you like to be refueled by a system that requires multiple cameras and have anyone of them go inoperable while on the boom? What about when the tanker goes through the clouds and the receiver is on the boom? And don’t tell me it hasn’t happened because it’s against regulations, because there isn’t a fighter pilot out there that has not had that happen to him to her when a tanker went through the clouds and they stayed on the boom to get the gas they desperately needed to complete the mission. The same goes for the other platforms that are receivers. It happens all the time. Nothing beats the boomer with Mark One Eyeball when you need fuel, especially at night.

Gen. Maryanne Miller has the power to fix this

Do the right thing, stop production on a platform that isn’t meeting the specifications set forth, and send Boeing a message. 

Col. Clyde Romero,
USAF (Ret.)
Marietta, Ga.

What is the “operational requirement” that drove moving the boomer from the rear of the KC-10 and KC-135 to the front cockpit of the KC-46? How were the KC-10 and KC-135 failing with the boomer in the back of the aircraft? No one has ever answered those questions. For over 60 years, boomers have admirably performed the refueling mission from the back of the KC-10 and KC-135. There haven’t been any glitches with that system. 

Now, for some unknown reason, there’s a requirement for them to be in the front cockpit, looking at a TV screen that gives them 20/50 vision with no depth perception, which is delaying full employment and deployment for years. I really hope they can articulate an operational requirement, because if it was for the sake of technology and cool points, we have failed.

Col. Seth Bretscher,
USAF (Ret.)
Lafayette, In.