As a USAF facility engineer, I was reading with interest about the plans for Tyndall’s reconstruction ["Tyndall’s New Rebuild Plan: The Base of the Future,” April, p. 18]. Little did I know that the author and the Air Force Magazine editorial staff decided to devote a quarter of the (otherwise fine) article to the “what if” game of a Washington lobbyist.
Sure, if there is another Category 5 hurricane that makes US landfall, and if it heads toward a USAF base, and if it scores a freaking direct hit, then USAF might have a problem with that base—maybe. In the last 50 years, a direct smack-dab hit on a USAF base has happened twice—Homestead and Tyndall. Twice. However, everyone needs to go back and spend billions of dollars to retrofit our facilities (oh, and thank you for the nice retainer).
But, climate change is coming and that means that number and intensity of storms are going to increase.
Really? What do the statistics say?
The number of hurricanes by either year or decade has been stagnant since the US started tracking them in 1850 (note, this includes the last 40 years when the climate change experts have said the world is smack-dab in the middle of it). And, if you throw the outlying years (both high and low), as is typical for statistical analysis, the numbers have been even more steady. Conversely, in 1990 and 2000, there were zero hurricane landfalls in the US (uh oh, that doesn’t fit our model ... ).
Sure, there have been multiple Category 5 hits in 2005, 2007, and 2017, which implies—to the shortsighted—that larger storms are becoming more frequent. However, 1932 and 1933 had multiple Category 5s each year, and then there was a 28-year lull until 1961 and then a 44-year lull until 2005. So, what does this tell us? Nothing, other than we are probably due for another several-decade lull. So how about we slow our roll a little, and devote less article space to lobbyists with clear agendas.
The article on the DOD climate change report in the Aperture section of the March issue [p. 12] was interesting—but misleading. It is true that there is flooding at JB Langley-Eustis and Hampton Roads in Virginia, but it has nothing to do with recent climate change. Approximately two-thirds of the apparent sea level rise is, actually, the result of subsidence of the land. That is a common phenomenon all along the Atlantic Coast. The remainder is the result of the rise that has been nearly constant for more than 100 years.
The DOD report appears to show acceleration of the sea level rise after 1993. But, 1993 is the year when sea level measurements were first done by satellite. Before that, the level was measured by tide gauges. The tide gauges show a rise of 1.4 mm per year for the past century. The satellite measurements indicate 3.3 mm per year after 1993. If you tack the curves together in a single graph, your eye will detect an acceleration at 1993. But, there is no reason for the satellites to be more accurate than the tide gauges, and if you just continue the tide-gauge measurements past 1993, there is no acceleration. I do not know whether this was intentional in an attempt to support a climate change argument, or if it were just an error. In any case, I recommend ignoring that section of the report, consulting the government data on line, and drawing your own conclusions. Some of the other sections have problems, too, when the conclusions are compared to data.
Aligning plans for the defense of the nation with such a flawed report is likely to be costly, and the results are likely to be disappointing.
I enjoyed reading and reliving some of the adventures of a Pedro pilot [“Bring ’Em Back Alive,” April, p. 56].
At Pleiku RVN in 1966-67, we had over 80 recoveries from March to October 1966. [We] lost one Pedro, copilot (Lt. Spike Bonnell), crew chief (Airman Rice), and four who had been recovered during a night operation. The PJs were invaluable to our operations and one, Al Stanek, went on to be the No. 2 PJ in the ARRS (Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron) before he retired. The last Pedros operated out of Udorn AB, Thailand, made their last pickup of an F-4 crew in August 1975, and flew for the last time on Sept. 20, 1975. A long and storied career from the first deployment to Nakhon Phanom in June 1964. “These things we do so that others may live.”
I flew HH-43s out of northern Thailand in the early (1965) part of the war. The B model had a short [one hour and 45-minute] flying time so we fashioned a range extension system from 2-inch x 12-inch cradles that would support three 55-gallon drums of fuel, gravity fed into the in-cabin fuel bladder opening, which when empty, could be jettisoned out the rear clamshell doors. NO SMOKING ALLOWED!
Later, I flew the HH-43F model that had its own in-cabin 150-gallon fuel tank with armored pilot seats and protection for an in-belly fuel tank—quite an improvement.
The very nice tribute to Medal of Honor recipient Col. Joe M. Jackson written by John A. Tirpak in the March 2019 edition of the magazine [“World: Joe M. Jackson, 1923-2019"] asserts that Jackson flew 107 combat missions in the F-84 Thunderstreak during the Korean War with the 524th Fighter Squadron. This is not correct. The 524th Fighter-Escort Squadron flew combat in Korea between Dec. 7, 1950, and Aug. 1, 1951, before it returned to the United States. During that time, the unit flew the F-84D and E versions of the straight wing Thunderjet. The F-84F was the swept-wing Thunderstreak version of the aircraft, and it was never assigned to the 524th or available for combat during the Korean War since it was not operational in the USAF until 1954.
BATTLE DRESS BLUES
On p. 12 of the April edition of Air Force Magazine, Vice Chief of Staff [Gen. Stephen W.] Wilson is pictured wearing BDUs, speaking at the AFA Air Warfare Symposium this past March, speaking to Air Force and industry leaders [“Q&A: The Vice Chief’s Challenge”]. Was this a combat zone that he needed to wear BDUs?
It use to be fatigues (now BDUs) were worn in the field or as a work uniform, certainly not in public or at events. From pictures I’ve seen, other Air Force personnel were wearing various traditional blue uniforms. I believe wearing BDUs at such an event shows a lack of professionalism and respect for the audience.
PILOT TRAINING INERTIA
How unfortunate that Secretary of the Air Force [Heather] Wilson is leaving the Air Force before fixing one of its main problems today—an ineffective initial pilot training program [“World: Secretary Wilson Will Resign, Lead University of Texas at El Paso,” April, p. 28]. She could have teamed up with USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein to streamline and simplify USAF pilot training. Looking back to the classic Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) and comparing it with todays Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) could have provided their senior staff with some easy alternatives to the current training process. Why does SUPT take 15 months to complete? UPT, the course that General Goldfein took in 1984, only [lasted] 11 months. So the training process has morphed into a longer training footprint with built-in periods of non-flight activity. In UPT, student pilots used to fly Monday through Friday, once they were on the flight line. In SUPT, there are several week-long periods during the flying phase where students don’t fly a single mission. Perhaps this is what causes many students to drop out—an obvious lack of the repetition that is sorely needed during this early learning process.
By reading “The Future of Pilot Training” article (Jan/Feb 2019 issue), I can see the obvious hint that future pilot training could be relegated to civilian contractors. Perhaps that is exactly what the Air Force needs today—an outside entity to take over an essential training function that has strayed off course over the years. However, I still think that the Air Force could simply bring back UPT, shave off six weeks or so due to improved computer-based training, and end up with top-notch pilots who have experienced 180 to 200 hours in training aircraft when graduating from a 10-month-long program.
Good luck to Heather Wilson as she returns to academia.
FIRST, LOOK IN THE MIRROR
In the October/November 2018 issue of Air Force Magazine, I read with interest, “The Chappie James Way” [p. 70]. It brought a memory to mind of my first “dining-in” as a USAFA Cadet Squadron-01 doolie (4th classman) in the fall/winter of 1971-72 at the Dublin Dinner Playhouse, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Our guest of honor was someone I had never heard of, much less had had the chance to meet, Maj. Gen. Chappie James. The one thing I have remembered for the rest of my military/civilian careers and voluntary efforts was the essence of his speech (paraphrasing): “… When things go wrong around you, start the search to find out what went wrong by beginning with your own desk and then expanding the search in ever-increasing circles until you’ve identified the culprit(s), whatever or whoever it/they may be. Then work to fix it so it does not repeat.” That’s the “Chappie Way” I remembered and tried to make a part of my life. Good advice to a then-18 year old, now a 65 year old, and all the intervening years.
ROLES FOR BOTH
Obviously, the Air Force is planning to never use the F-35 as a weapons carrying platform [lest] we become “visible” to enemy defenses [“Aperture: F-15EX: Be Careful What You Don’t Ask For,” April, p. 13]. Yet, the Air Force is planning to re-engine the almost 70-year-old B-52 design, while planning to retire the newest B-2 bomber? My guess is that what is stealth today will be reasonably visible by new technology in the pipeline in only a few years; that leaves us with UAVs and cruise missiles to fight in complex air defense environments. However, none of our needless wars like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria [really] needed fighters flying in their stealth mode, but rather fighters able to carry weapons to deliver on targets.
I fully support technology development, but DOD is missing the mark by not improving and buying more F-22s, A-10 type aircraft, and fighters with proven capability to deliver weapons. The F-35 can carry a large payload if you fly it as a conventional fighter, but is compromised except in a BVR (beyond-visual-range) environment, since the 50-year-old F-16 is clearly a better close-in fighter. I question the survivability of the F-35 versus the F-15X when both are loaded to deliver weapons on target. I would suggest that any new F-15s probably should be more focused on adding to the F-15E mission area, letting the F-35s become more air defense oriented, augmenting the F-15Cs. Just thinking.
In regard to the KC-46 tanker [“Pegasus Takes Flight,” April, p. 48]: The next new car I get, I guess I should be willing to pay for it even if everything isn’t functioning correctly.
The dealer will let me fix these things myself, at my expense. What a farce this whole purchase of a new airplane is.
Brian Everstine’s article states, “..did not anticipate the need to continue to refuel the A-10 Warthogs that date back to the Vietnam Era.” The first A-10 was accepted by TAC on March 30, 1976, according to Wikipedia. The Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975—one year earlier. So, obviously, the A-10 was a post-Vietnam War aircraft.
BIG 'UNS KNOCK DOWN SMALL 'UNS
Maybe there is a cheaper way to knock down a swarm of drones than with a laser [“Swarms: Why They’re the Future of Warfare,” April, p. 35]. Just use a bigger drone with a strengthened nose/wing and put the propeller in the back. Then just use the bigger dumb drone to ram the smaller swarm of drones, one by one. One rugged drone could knock down an unlimited number of smaller drones.
KEEPING THE PEACE (KEEPER)
The subject article in your March magazine by John Correll was an accurate portrayal of the tortuous process to select the basing concept for the deployment of the Peacekeeper weapons system [“Peacekeeper by Fits and Starts,” p. 55]. Mr. Correll has a fine grasp of history and the ability to tell a complex story well. I note two omissions RE: the Peacekeeper story that I believe are of major import.
While the dates of first test flight, production decision, and IOC are given; he makes no mention of the fact that all were accomplished in less than four years in a remarkable acquisition performance not seen since the original Polaris and Minuteman I Systems.
In addition, he fails to note the (MX) Peacekeeper with the floated Ball inertial guidance provided revolutionary accuracy for warhead delivery at operational ranges. At the time, neither the US nor the Soviet Union encrypted the telemetry used in flight test, thereby allowing each to understand approximately the accuracy of the adversary’s system. I believe the Soviet estimation of the precision of Peacekeeper was a factor in the subsequent arms control agreement to take down the most powerful war fighting systems.
IT'S A GAS
I offer no comment on the opinions William Sayers expressed in “Operation Allied Force: How Airpower Won the War for Kosovo” [May, p. 56], but I can’t let the accompanying graphic on p. 59 stand without a very loud objection. Likely unintended, the graphic, titled “Air Force Bases During Operation Allied Force” is still a smack in the face to all of the tanker folks involved in that endeavor, absent which the operation wouldn’t have been remotely possible.
As the airman who deployed from CONUS to the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Vicenza, Italy, as the Tanker Director, responsible to Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short for, as he put it, “every aspect of things tanker—from beddown locations to planning to maintenance to opstempo to whether or not the boom operator sprains his ankle climbing into the airplane, ... ” I can tell you that tanker deployment and employment operations were massive—our assigned 200 NATO tankers flew over 8,800 sorties during the operation. These forces operated in a very challenging environment from 13 bases in 11 different countries and most undoubtedly deserve recognition by showing those locations on any map purporting to show “Air Force Bases During Operation Allied Force.” There are other communities within the Air Force that have claim to supporting the operation from additional locations as well, but as this graphic implies aircraft basing, the absence of the bases from which the essential tanker forces operated can be described thusly (to borrow a famous line): “It’s outrageous, egregious, preposterous.”
Post-Kosovo and as a senior mentor, Lieutenant General Short was a very strong tanker force proponent, whole-heartedly embracing the fact that reliable air refueling is absolutely vital to almost any air operation. As it was certainly vital to Operation Allied Force, I felt compelled to comment and I appreciate the opportunity to stand up for the proud men and women of the tanker force.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
In the May Air Force Magazine, the leader of the Skunk Works opined (roughly) in five or 10 years “the threat’s going to move and … you need something to defeat an IR threat” [“Strategy & Policy: Growing Skunk Works, Without Losing Skunk Works Culture,” p. 18]. I am sure he’s right, but wow, about five years from now we will be less than halfway through our F-35 production and barely in to the fielding of the B-21 Raider. I hope we are thinking—right now—in the Skunk Works, DARPA, RCO, and everywhere else, on this problem. Somehow, I think the Chinese, Indians, Russians, and even the Israelis are noodling away at this in a serious way ( I understand there is a Pirate system coming out on the Typhoon even now). Are we facing real vulnerability for the future of our fifth-generation combat aircraft fleet? I hope not, but I am sure we are suffering from an acquisition process causing us to take nearly 15 years to get operational rubber on the ramp. As the Ghostbusters song goes, (sort of), “There’s sumthin’ wrong, in the neighborhood!”
We need a Ghostbuster!
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