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

May 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.

Boomer Sooner

Those with a twisted sense of humor must have been responsible for the cover graphics of the most recent magazine issue. The description of an acquisition process that is “Faster, Cheaper, Better” [cover story, March 2020] certainly does not jibe with the story on p. 28 detailing the ongoing saga of the KC-46 [“World: KC-46 Delays Impact Readiness”].

This ultra-embarrassment of acquisition and fielding must be given top priority and solved immediately. The aircraft’s primary mission is to air refuel, and for Air Mobility Command to state that fixes to the remote vision system (RVS) won’t be in place to allow for fully mission-capable deployment for “three-to-four years” raises serious questions about leadership in this program. Why is the Air Force continuing to take delivery of aircraft that cannot perform their primary mission? Units slated to receive the KC-46 have lost their reliable KC-135s and now sit in limbo wondering what comes next.

While I understand that the Air Force must field aircraft capable of performing multiple missions, how can Boeing have laid such an egg developing an aircraft that is, in essence, an off-the-shelf airframe? Multiple countries have already fielded fully capable B-767 tanker aircraft with proven technology. Why did the Air Force allow for production to proceed when testing clearly showed that the RVS was critically flawed? What do you call a tanker that can’t refuel?

The Air Force and Air Mobility Command must solve these deficiencies today. Functional aircraft and trained capable crews are being shelved and replaced by ramp queens. If this is an example of how the Air Force’s acquisition program is faster, cheaper, better—some serious review is needed. Our Airmen and the U.S. taxpayers deserve better.

Lt. Col. Carl Roediger
USAF (Ret.)
New Castle, N.H.

Permit me the obvious, but can 3D-vision capability for the boomer be achieved the same way it is provided in 3D movies? There would be two cameras, on opposite sides of the rear fuselage, having different color filters. The boomer would have the different color lenses in the goggles. The camera sets could be multispectral for night and weather.

Orin L. Humphries
Lynnwood, Wash.

When is someone going to state the fact: The “boomer” should be at the tail end of the refueling aircraft and not sitting somewhere looking at a video screen?

If someone had the nerve to make this happen when the whole process of procurement started, where would the Air Force be at now?

How much money? How much grief? And how much sooner would the KC-46 been in service correctly?

Sometimes egos should be left at the door and not brought inside. Try not to reinvent the wheel in this case. Just a new airframe and “keep it simple, stupid.”

        Gary Oien
Gardnerville, Nev.

Sorry, Tyndall

I read [“Q&A: Reconstruction and Resiliency”] in the January/February 2020 edition with interest. When the Air Force announced they were investing billions in the Tyndall [Air Force Base, Fla.] recovery, I shuddered. I couldn’t understand the rationale for spending billions in Tyndall recovery beyond saving the local economy with DOD/AF jobs; a political decision in lieu of what’s right for our nation.

The Tyndall investment once again highlights our lack of political will to make tough decisions.  

It’s my opinion we’re investing/leaning heavily on ‘smart city’ technology to inform when facility maintenance is required to avoid costly full-scale repairs when the civil engineering community possesses this capability today. What smart city technology doesn’t do is provide the funding to make the known/planned/programmed repairs and/or replacement.

The civil engineers develop pavement, roofing, facility by mission category, mechanical systems, repair/maintenance plans with projected optimal replace [each] year to avoid system failures, costly repair/replacement, and mission risk. They document risk if funding isn’t provided in the year-of-need. But they don’t control the budget process and instead are forced to showcase their abilities to “Band-Aid” infrastructure to function well beyond its life expectancy. How is the facility investment at Tyndall going to change the budget/funds allocations process? The Air Force civil engineering community will capture more data, but for what purpose?

USAF has 32 percent more base capacity then required. This would have been the opportunity to shed some of that excess capacity. Instead we divert investment dollars from other unfunded infrastructure requirements to rebuild a base we don’t need.

We read and hear about investing our DOD/AF dollars smartly, yet leadership doesn’t walk the walk. SecAF Barbara Barrett stated in the March issue the need to discipline cost and the need for creative solutions. But unfortunately, neither are forthcoming. Without the political will to make tough decisions, the Air Force will continue to cry wolf with regard to infrastructure funding shortfalls. USAF cries should fall on deaf ears when dollars are not being optimized.

Stuart A. Nelson
San Antonio

Humble Suggestions

I enjoyed your report on your conversation with our new Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Barbara Barrett [“Q&A: Nukes, Space Force, and Change,” March, p. 8]. Based on her comments and responses, my personal opinion is Barrett will serve extremely well as Secretary. 

I’ve been in favor of establishing a Space Force since the idea was first proposed and am happy legislation was drafted and signed to create our United States Space Force. As for the “pass-through” items in the Air Force budget, anyone who has any accounting experience would agree we should STOP doing that—plus it makes it appear as if we’re trying to hide, or cover up, something. Are we? 

Then your conversation with the Sec- AF veered into nuclear modernization, how to get it done, and how to discipline the costs. You quote Secretary Barrett: “There is complete understanding that nuclear modernization is a huge bill, coming due now, and is no longer deferrable. Creative solutions are welcome, and, unfortunately, missing.” Well I have a creative solution I’d like to propose, but you Air Force Magazine editors and readers, hold on to your hats, ‘cause your first reaction will probably be, NO WAY!

Amputate one USAF leg of our nuclear triad. Amputate, as in eliminate in its entirety, either the air leg or the ground leg of the nuclear triad. A serious study would have to be conducted to determine which leg would best be severed. Upgrading all three legs (and their C2 structure), and continuing to pay for all other defense items is simply not feasible. Period, dot. Amputating one leg of the triad would “discipline the costs” of modernization by ~1/3. One-third, Madam Secretary. Cutting off one leg of our triad would be a step toward an overall objective of eliminating all nuclear weapons at some point in the future. That means our nukes, and everyone else’s too. 

The same issue of your magazine reported progress in hypersonics and directed-energy weapons. When the United States has fully functional hypersonic delivery of conventional warheads packing the same punch as a nuke, and directed-energy defensive weapons, why will we still need three legs of nuclear capability? The United States was the first country to develop and use nuclear weapons. How about let’s be first in eliminating them. Start with a third.

Capt. Daniel J. Purdy, 
USAF (Ret.)
Trenton, Ill.

The Wages of War

John T. Correll continues his inimitable style to relate the horrors of German buzz bombs in his article in the March issue [“Hitler’s Buzz Bombs,” p. 54]. It brought back a memory of one evening in late 1944, while visiting London on leave, I took a Royal Air Force red-headed WAF (Women in the Air Force) by the name of Pat to dinner. She suggested a very small restaurant on a narrow street by Charing Cross Tube Station. She had heard they served steak, unheard of in war-torn England, and which turned out to be horse meat, although delicious­—also rationed. As we sat at the table eating, we heard the ominous and distinctive sound of a German V-1 buzz bomb approaching. We knew once the engine stopped, it would dive to the surface and explode. It grew in sound until it seemed overhead. Very scary. I immediately dove under the table with little gallantry. Pat, in her enviable English manner, remained calmly eating her steak. There was a lesson there that I did not appreciate at the time; the indomitable and resolute British spirit in the face of a ferocious enemy and the stubborn determination to finish her rationed steak!

Lt. Col. Bill Getz,
USAF (Ret.)
Fairfield, Calif.

I was born in Ilford (northeast London), England, in March 1943, and while I have no personal memories of the buzz bombs, they terrified my mother. Thirty-four fell on Ilford and the surrounding area in the 30-day period between June 16 and Aug. 16, 1944, and by the end of the war, 35 V-2 rockets had exploded in the area. On March 3, 1945, just shy of my second birthday, a V-2 destroyed the entire block just down the street, killing 10 people and doing enough damage to our house that we had to move out until repairs were made. The falling plaster ceiling had destroyed my crib, but my life was spared, only because I was sleeping with Mum that night.

According to the U.K. National Archives, 2,340 V-1s actually hit London, causing 5,475 deaths, with 16,000 injured. However, the injuries were not always physical. I’m sure that my mother suffered from what we now call PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and the psychological damage likely contributed to her eventual suicide 14 years after the war was over. War is hell, and not just for the military.

Master Sgt. Stephen L. Childers,
USAF (Ret.)
Wyoming, Del.

Loose Fasteners

This article brings back memories when I was stationed at the USAF Ballistic Missile Office, Norton Air Force Base, Calif., from 1984 to 1989 [“World: Lockheed Mixed Up Structural Fasteners in F-35s,” March, p. 22]. 

I was a quality assurance program manager responsible for the Peacekeeper Missile System Boeing Basing Contract and the Westinghouse Peacekeeper Launch System quality assurance contract oversight. As part of my oversight responsibilities, I made many trips to conduct on-site reviews and inspections at prime contractor and subcontractor facilities. The kind of problem highlighted in the article is not an uncommon occurrence when similar parts get mixed up. What concerns me is there is a bigger problem with parts control throughout the assembly process of the F-35 that the on-site Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) did not identify with their plant audits and inspections.

 The commingling of threads and fasteners is a big no-no on any production/assembly line, much less at the F-35 assembly facility. How does the Lockheed on-site quality system and all the state-of-the-art material control equipment and software that is used, not identify this production assembly gap? One of my questions is how the parts are pushed or pulled from stock and issued to the assembly kit or to a work planner and what is done with the parts that are not used. It is my experience having walked many Boeing assembly facilities that there should be strict control of all threads and fasteners. If Lockheed uses a work cell manufacturing concept and konbonpractice to stock the work cell, mixing up of parts that were not used is a very big breakdown of the manufacturing assembly process. 

In the article it states that there were similar problems with the F-16, where workers threw leftover fasteners into the wrong bin. Quoting the article, “Such problems can often take months to discover.” This statement by Lockheed is totally unacceptable and should have raised red flags across the Lockheed and the DCMA quality assurance organizations. This problem should have triggered a company-wide Lean Six Sigma Project to identify how widespread this practice was at all Lockheed manufacturing, production, and assembly facilities. Part substitution has been a problem­—especially when one is dealing with a lower-cost fastener vs. a very high-priced fastener. Is DECA sure that someone at this Lockheed plant did not purposely substitute the $5.00 part for the $20.00 part, when the more expensive part was not available in order not to stop production? I hope there is a follow-up article on what the quality- assurance/quality-control root cause and correction investigation discovers.

Senior NCO Robert J. Wiebel,
USAF (Ret.)
Melbourne, Fla. 

I read, with a great deal of interest and concern, John Tirpak’s article on Lockheed’s fastener mix up on the F-35. I understand the feeling that no restrictions may be needed at this time, but that leaves the door open for these things to occur in the future. The key will be what will cause the JPO to pull the trigger on implementing these actions. Since the issues revolve around structural integrity, unless you have a system in place and procedures to check the areas where the wrong fasteners were installed, on a regular basis, you have to wait until some form of corrosion, cracking, or heaven forbid catastrophic failure occurs before action is taken. 

This is supposed to be the front line fighter for the defense of the nation going forward, and we can’t even get it off the assembly line without major problems. The article highlights that commingling of these fasteners was not restricted to the assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, but also at the Italian FACO facility—but not in Japan. You have to ask, why not in Japan? The fact that these two fasteners are similar but significantly different should have been a dead giveaway that they needed to be controlled to prevent cross commingling. 

The article says aircraft inspections were conducted and high levels of fastener compliance were found, but doesn’t say who did the inspections or how many aircraft were inspected. If you want transparency, have a team of Air Force personnel inspect a large cross-section of aircraft, in the field and at the assembly facilities, and have them verify these results. The report to DCMA should have been completed by now, so what were the results? DCMA also stated that Lockheed implemented corrective actions starting back in November 2019, but there is no mention of what these corrective actions are. Going forward, the question will be—after significant time has passed and the aircraft are engaged in combat or peace-keeping missions stressing the aircraft—if cracking develops or we lose an aircraft to catastrophic failure, who will be held responsible if the incident is caused by this fastener mix up? Local inspections will put additional stress on Active-duty personnel who are already straining to meet current operational taskings, and for those of us that were in the maintenance community, they don’t give you additional manpower to accomplish these inspections. 

One last question: Who at these assembly facilities are performing in-process quality assurance inspections to ensure maintenance and assembly are being completed according to manufactures guidelines and procedures? In-house inspectors who value their jobs are only going to reveal what they have to.

Chief Master Sgt. John P. Fedarko,
USAF (Ret.)
Xenia, Ohio

AD ASTRA

 All things come to he/she who waits. I earned my Space Badge in 1975 and wore it proudly for the next 25 years through several space operations and teaching assignments. In 1999, as I was completing my last assignment as an instructor on the Air War College faculty, I wrote a reading for the space block of instruction titled, “The Next Force.” It was not meant to be predictive but rather to get students talking about what things would need to occur to enable the formation of this new organization. Briefly, these criteria were dreams, visions, leadership, do-able roles and missions, access to space, and the significant emotional event.

The last item might be either an alien threat, hazards from either asteroids or comets, or a space-based threat from a rogue nation. In the movie “Deep Impact,” the President was briefed on an extinction level event. This would occur when a NEO (Near Earth Object) intersected the Earth’s orbit to result in a catastrophic impact. In the 1990s, two CSAF studies were conducted at Air University titled Spacecast 2020 and Air Force 2025. In each study, we made room for a Planetary Defense Working Group. The idea was that if the dinosaurs had a Space Force they would be around today as the dominant species in Dinotopia. Anyway, this mission morphed into a Planetary Defense Office within NASA HQ now run by one of our former AWC students.

So the dream of having a Space Force was finally formalized in December 2019, much like Billy Mitchell and the Air Force pioneers achieved [USAF’s] beginnings in 1947. Perhaps the hard part will be the name that is chosen to describe the members of this 6th service.

I would suggest a scan of our best Sci-Fi authors to discover the appropriate title.

Finally, congratulations to Gen. [Jay] Raymond, the Chief of Space Operations, and all the service members and civilians who join him in truly slipping the surly bonds of Earth. AD ASTRA.

                Col. Victor P. Budura, 
USAF (Ret.)
New Market, Ala.

As a long time reader of Air Force Magazine, retired aerospace worker, and father of a member of the Air Force, I respectfully suggest that personnel of the Space Force be known as “Space Techs.” Nothing catchy, but it encapsulates the location of their operations and the nature of their work.

Ralph Bruce
E6 Ex-Navy Swabby
Marietta, Ga.

You recently asked what would we call personnel in the new service, I say they should be called Airmen. Sailors operate on the sea, Soldiers operate on land, and Airmen operate above the ground, regardless of the altitude.

Tech Sgt. Charles E. Mims,
USAF (Ret.)
Chesapeake, Va.

Naming Rights

I enjoyed reading the “Airman for Life” synopsis highlighting World War II pilot Ollie Crawford. Crawford obviously had a full and renowned career and was a life-long staunch advocate for the Air Force and its members. To show their appreciation, the Air Force recently dedicated the building where undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft training takes place at Randolph Air Force Base [Texas], as “Crawford Hall.”

Crawford was a P-40 pilot during World War II who went on to log over 13,000 hours in nearly 100 different types of aircraft. An internet search didn’t yield any indication of a direct relationship between Crawford and RPAs. 

Known as unmanned aerial vehicles in the early days, not everyone in the Air Force flying community was exactly “all-in” on UAVs. Many “white-scarf” pilots like Crawford might actually think that an aircraft without a pilot is like a Texas day without sunshine. 

Like a protégé of mine, it’s hard to imagine how Crawford would have reacted had he been on the fighter track in pilot training only to be matched with RPAs upon graduation. It’s not beyond the realm of the possible that as a new RPA student Crawford would have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the very training building that now bears his name. 

My protégé summed it up in an e-mail, “Maybe when the time is right we can dedicate a building to someone as a memorial to their lifetime achievement related to that building or what the building represents. Until then, so what if it remains Building 1602? Focus on the real mission … training aviators, and leave the naming business to the historians.” After all, in the illustrious history of Air Force flying operations, RPAs are only in their infancy.

Col. Bill Malec, 
USAF (Ret.)
O’Fallon, Ill.