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


Jan. 25, 2021

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Scud Hunting

I am writing to express my disagreement with [Tobias] Naegele’s disparagement of the Army’s pursuit of long-range weaponry [“Generating Fires, Not Hype,” November 2020, p. 2].

Let us stipulate that the Army bears the responsibility for defense of forward bases, regardless of whether the forces emplaced are Army, Air Force, or ally. Among the deadly threats are cruise and ballistic missiles, against which the Army has invested greatly in perimeter and area defenses: Nike Ajax, Nike Hercules, HAWK, Patriot PAC-1 and PAC-3, THAAD, and Arrow. Let us not kid ourselves that the Air Force can defend against ballistic missiles and give credit for the Army’s efforts.

As we say in the strategic defense business, the best active defense is in the “pre-boost” phase, and it is reasonable for the Army to desire a means of shooting back at the enemy launch site. But when we tried to do that with air power in the Great Scud Hunt of Gulf War 1, the results were miserable. I and a colleague were tasked with conducting an analysis of that mission in order to understand why the results were so poor. We modeled the mission segments as functional blocks characterized by time and probability of success. Once we plugged in the architecture fielded in Gulf War 1, we came up with … miserable results. The main contributor was time delay, both from the mission-planning and strike-planning process and from the target-search process. It became obvious that a responsive defense such as a Scud Hunt must be on a separate track from the theater battle planning and coordination process. There was simply too much valuable time lost in being part of a massive plan. That time lost allowed the target to egress from its launch coordinates and imposed a significant time penalty for reacquisition. Faster reacquisition was important, but not necessarily faster weapon delivery. We were able to show several orders of improvement in mission productivity by implementing an architecture that had a stand-alone planning cycle and weapons that incorporated reacquisition sensors.

Given these results (now 30 years old), it is no surprise to me that the Army wants the ability to engage at theater distances with weapons under its own battle management and control. It cannot afford delay of response. And it cannot afford slow delivery. Calling in a B-2 strike from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and waiting 12 hours for bomb on target is not operationally useful (assuming the B-2 was even on runway alert). “When minutes count, the Air Force will be there tomorrow.” And when you fail to negate the target, all this talk about range, stealth, mobility, cost, and efficiency misses the point, which is: responsiveness and kill probability.

There is no airplane that travels as fast as a ballistic or hypersonic missile. There is no responsiveness better than being fired out of a canister. There is no substitute for being in time to make a difference. The Army does not think in terms of conveyor-belt attrition warfare. They are fighting a ground battle whose circumstances can change within hours or minutes, and they may need to negate targets at 1,000-mile ranges in order to keep threats suppressed, traffic nodes out of commission, communications disrupted, or supplies and reinforcements at bay. The Army would be happy to assign non-urgent targets to the Air Force, but they do not want to miss critical opportunities. A 1,000-mile missile weighs only 8 tons (Pershing II), but an M-1 Abrams tank weighs over 70 tons. Such missiles are “affordable” both in dollar terms and in logistic burden.

All the virtues of frontal aviation require that the aircraft be collocated with the Army, with the same penalties of logistic chains, so it is bait-and-switch to say that the Air Force is less vulnerable—so long as you are willing to await backup from halfway around the world.

Don’t misunderstand my criticism as being partisan against the Air Force. I have studied, analyzed, and supported Air Force missions for the dominant part of my career. There is much for it to do. But this argument against the Army is misconceived and really amounts to a case of “screw you, buddy.” If the Army is wrong in its approach, they are the only ones who know better, as attested by their experience: Corporal, Redstone, Sergeant, Jupiter, Pershing, Lance, Pershing II, GSRS. Give them their due, and let them do their job. They don’t accept the Air Force’s response time and, frankly, they have grounds for that, even though they are dependent on the Air Force for the success of ground campaigns. So, they are not seeking to do your job. Please give them the professional respect and support to do their job as they best see how to do it.

          Michael J. Dunn
Federal Way, Wash.

Unintended Consequences

In the September issue [“World: As DOD Leaves Germany, Spangdahlem Left Hanging,” p. 33] (former) Defense Secretary [Mark T.] Esper talks about increasing deployments overseas and reducing permanent stations abroad. It is supposed to improve mission capability. I would agree it could reduce costs in the long run, but would use the following example of this tactic in the 1970s as a lesson learned. The then-USAF Security Service (USAFSS), which was largely an intelligence-gathering organization, decided to implement a MOB/FOB (Main Operating Base/Forward Operating Base) concept for its airborne reconnaissance component. Its crew members flew on Strategic Air Command RC-135’s. The “front end” crews from SAC had used this deployment system for decades with seeming success. So Security Service would do the same with “back-end” crews. Pull people back to one main base in the U.S., scale down the existing field units, and then deploy crew members for various lengths of TDY (temporary duty). The SAC and USAFSS crews would be on the same stateside base. 

 But much of the USAFSS workforce did not buy into this concept. Highly trained and motivated technical experts in overseas units were centralized into one stateside location. The lure of an overseas tour in some desirable locations (England, Germany, Greece, Okinawa) disappeared. There were more and longer TDYs. The downsized theater units were now part staff and enough technicians to process high-priority intel. Morale dropped, senior people decided to retire and look for more stability, and the impact on families was evident. Not to mention the challenge of crew scheduling. The USAFSS crews were at least twice the size of the SAC crews.

Within a few years, the Security Service embarked on a “de-MOB/FOB” program to undo some of the negative impact. Overseas units were strengthened, more skilled technicians were sent there PCS (permanent change of station) and morale seemed to improve.

The lesson learned is to do the research before implementing change. Know your workforce. What looks good on paper and works for one command may not work for another. 

Capt. Hank Whitney,
USAF (Ret.)
Custer, S.D.

Remember the First

The article “Erasing Artificial Barriers” by Amy McCullough [November, p. 40] quickly caught my eye. Although it was a nice tribute and review of the progress of Air Force women pilots in entering the fighter pilot arena, what was conspicuous by its absence was any reference to the historic first group of Air Force women pilots, who started this long journey to its splendid fruition. 

I was likely, as the cliché would say, in the right place at the right time. In the summer of 1976, I was assigned to Officer Training School (OTS) Medical Services, Medina Annex, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as the Chief of Dental Services. The arrival of that first group of women Flight Screening Program (FSP) students there in July of that year caused quite a stir—locally and of course nationally. I had the privilege of performing their first active Air Force flying training dental examinations—even before they entered UPT (undergraduate pilot training) on Sept. 26, 1976, at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz. (They had to pass FSP before entering UPT.) 

These officers all deserve recognition: K. Cosand, V. Crawford, M. Donahue, C. Engel, K. La Sauce, M. Livingston, S. Rogers, C. Sherer, C. Schott, and S. Scott. Although their first operational assignments after graduation from UPT in 1977 did not include fighter assignments, they surely paved the way for their successors. I believe they need to be recognized accordingly.

Col. Fred W. Benenati,
USAFR (Ret.)
Norman, Okla.

I Object

I’ve been a member of the Air Force Association for 50 years. Air Force Magazine has always been the hallmark of both technical information and reasoned political opinion, until now. Your editorial staff’s decision to print Wayne Grane’s repetition of false and disparaging slander of President Donald Trump in November’s “Letters” violated every standard of taste, judgment, and honesty for which this magazine has always been respected.

You allowed Mr. Grane to echo the most scurrilous accusations against the President. The fact that your editors granted Mr. Grane an avenue to do exactly that shakes my faith to the core. If they worked for me, they wouldn’t work for me anymore.

Lt. Col. Gary Peppers,
USAF (Ret.)
Cape Coral, Fla.

I still hold an image from a “public service message” on AFRTS (American Forces Radio and Television Service) in Iraq in 2010 showing a Navy admiral visiting with moms and children in a military day care center. I wondered who was watching the Med, the South China Sea, the Strait of Hormuz, and other troubled spots. General Brown gives an A-priority to taking care of Airmen and their families [“Strategy and Policy: Brown’s A-B-C-Ds for Accelerating Change,” November, p. 12] and assuring their quality of life while mission capability of all our aircraft is abysmally low. 

I’m reminded of the oft-seen slogan on commercial work vehicles, “Safety Is Our Top Priority.” Whatever happened to MISSION—killing bad people and breaking their stuff? In my 16 months as commander of the 479th AGS at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., in 1980-81, I imposed more Article 15 punishments monthly than the larger maintenance squadrons on the base, and I discharged 50 unsuited and unfit members. 

Somehow, my emphasis on mission and on strict discipline cut emergencies in half and brought our MC rate from the low 60s to the high 80s and low 90s. I cared for quality of life, and it was reflected at the end of my tenure in the highest re-enlistment rate of all Tactical Air Command maintenance squadrons. But mission identification and mission pride probably had more to do with the squadron’s success than any other factor.

Lt. Col. John F. Piowaty, 
USAF (Ret.)
Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The Thanh Hoa Bridge 

In their worth-reading article, “A Better Way to Measure Combat Value,” [September, p. 60] Lt. Gen. David Deptula and Douglas Birkey, on p. 62, used a photo of an F-4D of the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In my opinion, two things need a correction. (1) The 435th TFS was stationed at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, all right, but only when the squadron was flying the F-104C Starfighter. When it was decided to return the F-104s to CONUS and to reequip the 435th with brand-new F-4Ds, the squadron PCS-ed WOPE (Without Personnel and Equipment) to Ubon RTAB on July 29, 1967, where the 435th ‘inherited’ the personnel and equipment of the newly arrived 4th TFS. The 4th designation was then returned to Eglin Air Force Base. Both at Udorn and Ubon, the 435th TFS was assigned to the 8th TFW.

(2) It is stated that laser guided bombs expended by F-4Ds were finally successful in taking down the notorious Thanh Hoa Bridge in Vietnam. It is correct that Ubon F-4Ds struck the bridge in April and May 1972 with M-118 and Mk-84 LGBs and with Mk-84 EOGBs (Electro-Optical Guided Bombs), and damaged it, but certainly did not take it down. On Oct. 6, seven-and-a-half years after the first strike against the bridge, it took two pilots and their A-7C Corsair IIs of USS America’s Attack Squadron (VA) 82, Cmdr. Leighton ‘Snuffy’ Smith and Lt. j.g. Marvin Baldwin, one AGM-62B Walleye glide bomb each, to get the bridge finally into the Song Ma River.

Theo van Geffen,
Utrecht, the Netherlands

Questions … Answers … Questions

Your magazine is excellent. It certainly keeps ORFs (Operational Reserve Forces) like me informed and at least mentally involved. It probably keeps the Active duty-types better informed than they otherwise would be. [In the October 2020 issue] the article on the ABMs was exciting, but the article on air bases was troubling. It certainly laid out General Saltzman’s “what?” and “so what?” but failed to address his “what’s next?” final question.

It seems that whenever the commercial world confronts a showstopper, they tend to rely on the advances in material sciences to move the ball. Can we do the same? It would appear that between DOD and the national labs, there is enough brainpower to concoct a solution.

I look forward to the article written about the day we have to operate out of a base at XYZ and there is no base. So, we chopper in and airdrop the 502nd Bare Base Squadron, and they erect the solar arrays, the tents and portable buildings, string wires, and pour plasticized runways, taxiways, and hardstands—and two weeks later, recover their first fighter squadron.

How do you say, ‘They did what?’ in Chinese?

Lt. Col. Fred H. Williamson,
USAF (Ret.)
Venice, Fla.