March 1, 2006

Battle Damage From the QDR

Thank you for [the] excellent summary of the QDR battle taking place in Washington [“Editorial: Battle Damage From the QDR,” January, p. 2]. I am continually amazed that the Air Force must keep justifying its existence and that the policy-makers do not see the crux of the issue at hand. There are two ways to destroy an enemy—in hand-to-hand combat or with firepower.

The ancient warfighters, such as the Roman legions, destroyed their enemies using hand-to-hand combat methods. However, with the advent of firearms, every army that could employ firepower used it in place of hand-to-hand combat. Firepower offered the obvious advantage of killing the enemy before he could reach you—unlike hand-to-hand combat where both combatants are about equally vulnerable to being wounded or killed. The ultimate goal when employing firepower is to use something lethal with longer range than what the enemy has so that you wipe him out before he can employ his firepower or close-in hand-to-hand combat. Ground armies all adopted firepower in the form of improved firearms, artillery, and other weapons.

Air forces offered even greater advantage as the firepower could be employed from the sky, generally out of reach of the enemy on the ground. The only disadvantage of airborne firepower, such as a bomber aircraft, is that it is harder to identify and hit the enemy than it is with a man on the ground, such as a rifleman. However, this disadvantage is fast disappearing as the US Air Force keeps perfecting intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets, which can find and see the enemy, and precision munitions, which can hit the enemy.

We can foresee the day in the near future when a nearly invulnerable airborne platform can employ firepower that is as deadly and as pinpoint accurate as a sniper with a perfect view and perfect cover, picking off individual enemy soldiers—or terrorists—at will. The advantage of this type of combat force is plain to anyone who thinks for a moment.

Rather than using the centuries-old method of employing firepower, where we put a man with a rifle in harm’s way to try to find and kill the enemy, now we have an airborne weapon—and eventually a spaceborne one—from which we can employ firepower with relative impunity. The QDR described in the editorial will sadly delay this development and instead perpetuate the old method of firepower, using ground soldiers who have proven to be more and more vulnerable to our enemies.

Lt. Col. Bryan Holmes,

USAF (Ret.)

Watertown, Conn.

“Battle Damage From the QDR” leaves me saddened and very disappointed. After 24-plus years of service, I believe I am on safe ground when I say, “The military is our very finest citizens.” More is expected of them than any group of Americans.

My second tour to [Southeast Asia] was in EB-66E jamming aircraft, modified RB-66Bs from the 1950s. We night-refueled from KC-135A tankers, and they were 15 years old at the time. That was then; this is now!

It is, indeed, sad to realize that the world’s wealthiest nation, the world’s most noble nation, cannot or will not provide the very best to those who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to protect this great nation. To not give them the best (and the most) is unconscionable!

Corrosion, metal fatigue, and lack of spare parts are prime indicators that the old must go and the new be made available. This is good economics. The F-22A, F-35, KC-767, and C-17 are all proven aircraft, and the E-10 will be proven capable as well.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that reason will prevail, and our fine aircrews will be given these fine aircraft to protect us all. Failure to provide the best will put this nation at great risk.

Perhaps two wise sayings would describe this situation. One: “You have never lived until you have almost died. For those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor the protected will never know.” Two: “Nothing is more terrible to see than ignorance in action.”

Maj. James S. Stipe,

USAF (Ret.)

Apache Junction, Ariz.

Strategy of Desert Storm

In “The Strategy of Desert Storm,” January 2006 [p. 26], John T. Correll has once again written a superb account, as is customary for him. He is an exceptional writer who does excellent research and uses great support materials and interview quotes to flesh out his articles. I always enjoy reading John’s work, which generally leaves me feeling better informed.

Having said that, however, his Air Force bias generally comes through in his articles. In a lengthy, but well written article, John devotes just three paragraphs to Army claims. Just once I wish someone would write a fair and balanced account that acknowledges Desert Storm was a joint effort that could not have been won by any single service. Each contributed to the mosaic whole that made victory possible.

Unfortunately, each time we win a war or battle or police action, or whatever terms are politically correct at the moment, each service rushes to take a disproportionate share of the credit. Because each service is in a constant struggle to justify its budget and mission, most of the articles tend to read with a decided slant toward the bias of the writer. Air Force Magazine articles invariably read as though the Air Force won Desert Storm single-handedly and the Army just mopped up after the battle was won. But articles in Army Magazine read as though Desert Storm was won in 100 hours of armored combat in the desert, and the Air Force contribution was only incidental to the victory.

I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle of the hyperbole. It is also interesting that neither Air Force supporters or Army supporters give even passing mention of the Marine Corps contributions to that war, which is a shame because the Marines engaged the enemy in some of the most spectacular main battle tank clashes in history.

Can’t we just acknowledge that all the services played important roles in that historic victory?

Lt. Col. Donald L. Gilleland,

USAF (Ret.)

Suntree, Fla.

*John Correll replies: “The Strategy of Desert Storm” was not basically about the competing service “claims,” as you call them. It was mainly about the development of the strategy, and the article treated the Army perspective at length. There was considerable pressure—some of it coming from Tactical Air Command—to go with a traditional ground strategy. The individual most responsible for rejecting that was Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, a soldier to the depths of his soul, who chose to begin with an offensive air campaign and stick with it until the enemy had been cut down to size.

I would agree that the final ground attack was necessary to finish the war, and I have the highest respect for what the Army and Marine Corps forces did. By that time, though, the Iraqis were reeling. They were no longer capable of the actions that had been anticipated by some analysts six months earlier. The predicted US casualties had not occurred. The war was long since past the point of decision.

You call for truth “somewhere in the middle.” You seem to accord equal weight to the contributions of the 42-day air campaign and the four-day ground campaign in determining the outcome of the war. I don’t think you can make the facts fit with such a conclusion.

John T. Correll’s article on Desert Storm is excellent, though the introductory paragraphs seem too generalized. Parts of the Pentagon did see Iraq as an urgent problem—namely the services’ intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) saw clear indications and warning (I&W) that Iraq was going to invade Kuwait.

Following the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam had a large competent army that was also capable of overthrowing him, so he had to do something other than let them into Baghdad. Sending them to play “mad dog” on the Kuwaiti border every few months kept them occupied. In the game of “mad dog,” you race your forces toward an opponent, stop short of the border and declare “military exercise.” After playing wargames for a week or so, forces return to barracks. The Kuwaiti response was questionable diplomacy of asking Saddam to move his exercise elsewhere, and Kuwait would help “underwrite” the additional logistics expense, which can also be interpreted as payoff. As long as the games remained just games, then Iraq was indeed perceived as not likely to attack its neighbors, merely extort [them]. But after several rounds of “mad dog,” the opponent is lulled into a false sense of security, whereupon the dog’s chain is “slipped” for the last round, which becomes a full-scale assault.

As an intelligence applications officer at DIA, among the volume of I&W showing Iraq’s invasion was imminent, the most prominent I recall was that the quantity of artillery rounds shipped to the Kuwait border in early July 1990 was 12 times that of previous exercises. No one ships that tonnage of rounds, consuming enormous logistics resources, for a mere exercise.

Mr. Correll’s statement that intelligence assessments did not change appreciably when Saddam threatened military action on July 17, 1990, is counter to the fact that Pentagon concern about Iraq invading was urgently raised through the chain of command such that President Bush had US Ambassador April Glaspie meet with Saddam Hussein on July 25. Not to say that everyone in the Pentagon had the same level of concern, nor to discount the complex nature of Ambassador Glaspie’s meeting with Saddam, which was influenced by State Department and CIA and included other important topics, but to say that the Pentagon “did not see Iraq as an urgent problem” does not seem correct.

Paul Nanko

Herndon, Va.

The picture on p. 31 is not “as seen through the nose of a laser-guided bomb.” This is an image from the IRADS targeting system on the F-117 stealth fighter. Images such as this one, and others, such as “the Luckiest Man in Iraq”—a truck just making it over a bridge before an F-117 destroyed the bridge—showed the folks back home what a great job our US armed forces were doing with precision targeting and laser-guided weaponry in the Desert Storm airpower campaign.

The debate of airpower vs. the ground war will continue, but perhaps the article would be more balanced if it also contained mention of the outstanding success of the US Army’s M1 tank in the ground war. The M1’s combination of “fire on the move” and long-range targeting against Iraq’s Russian T72 tanks was key to the quick conclusion of the ground war. M1s were able to destroy T72s well beyond the range of the enemy’s systems, resulting in a quick, decisive end to the “mother of all tank battles.”

The bottom line is that all of the US armed services performed well in Desert Storm, the Kuwaitis were liberated, and the American public was supportive and well pleased with the results.

D. Gill

McKinney, Tex.

Terminal, Not Tactical

[In reference to] John A. Tirpak’s article, “Eyes of a Fighter” [January, p. 40]:

You are not the only individual-organization guilty of butchering the acronyms ETAC and JTAC. A couple of years ago, I e-mailed the Air Force Chief of Staff concerning one of his “Sight Pictures” that gave kudos to the brave Air Force warriors who saved the Army’s bacon during Operation Anaconda. Back in those days, they were known as ETACs, enlisted terminal attack controllers. The Chief was gracious enough to respond to my correction and apologized for his oversight. Although it might not seem like a big deal, rest assured that the men in the 1C4 career field notice the all-too-frequent instances of careless (lazy?) journalism. JTAC is the acronym for joint terminal attack controller, not “joint tactical air controller” as published in Mr. Tirpak’s article.

Maj. Todd A. Craigie

Eielson AFB, Alaska

What a great article, what a great mission! Manned Predators? You’re damned right we’re manned, and we’re armed and dangerous! You guys at 9th Air Force, CENTAF, and “Hog Drivers” everywhere should be proud of your ability to provide real-time intel to the ground commanders to kill the enemy and to defend our troops in harm’s way. You are carrying out a time-honored mission of supporting troops in contact (TIC), per the Vietnam era vernacular.

You carry on a mission lineage of the “long blue line” of your immediate predecessors, the A-1 Sandy drivers, and of the Navy AD-6 pilots who flew the attack and ground support missions in Vietnam. My friend, college roommate, fellow Air Force pilot, and AC-47 AC, the late Maj. Peter A. Larkin III, used to tell me how they supported TICs by spraying VC and NVA with mini-gun fire using iron sights and antique airplanes, while [the VC were] trying to kill our American soldiers and marines on the ground.

It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to know you would be supporting our [folks] of the 3rd Infantry Division here from Savannah and Hinesville, Ga., and the new marines being turned out at Parris Island, S.C., with real-time intelligence about enemy activities. Get to know your ground counterpart; you’ll like them.

It makes the saying “Forewarned is forearmed” hit close to home.

Michael W. Rea

Savannah, Ga.

McVicar’s Legacy

The caption of your recent “Pieces of History” page titled “Miller’s Legacy” [January, p. 80] contains an error. While you state that the depicted items are from the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, they actually are part of my personal military memorabilia collection, left to me by my late father, CMSgt. Malcom W. McVicar Sr. They and other items were photographed by Paul Kennedy last summer.

My father was extremely proud of our rich Air Force history, as I am today. I have enjoyed seeing many items from his collections depicted within your magazine over the last several months, as they educate people on the pride we have in our heritage and history.

CMSgt. Malcolm McVicar

Director, USAF Enlisted Heritage Research Institute

Enlisted Heritage Hall Maxwell AFB, Ala.

*Chief McVicar is, of course, 100 percent correct about the items portrayed in “Miller’s Legacy.” Each one of them came from the personal McVicar collection. We regret the editing error which produced the caption mistake. We might add that artifacts from Chief McVicar’s collection formed the basis of not only “Miller’s Legacy” but also the previous four back pages: “Stripes Through the Years” (September 2005); “From Air Forces to Air Force” (October 2005); “Milestones” (November 2005); and “From the Lithograph” (December 2005). While we noted the connection with Chief McVicar’s collection in the first item, we did not do so in the others.—the editors

Tim Keating’s Words

Regarding “A Few Words From Tim Keating” in the December 2005 issue of Air Force Magazine [p. 68]:

“The guys and girls who are flying the jets”?

With all due respect to the admiral, it seems to me that he might want to consider dropping back 10 and taking some “sensitivity training.” With all of the problems that have come to light at both the Air Force Academy and [Annapolis], thoughtless remarks like these are the last thing we need.

David Wyllie

San Francisco

Khobar Towers: One More Time

I have read the various attacks and defenses of Brig. Gen. [Terryl] Schwalier’s performance with great interest over the years. I am sure that General Schwalier and his predecessors did everything they could to enhance the security and survivability of Khobar Towers. But I believe (and have not seen this aspect of the story discussed) that everyone has missed asking the most important question: Why were any troops living in Khobar Towers

It is not widely known that the Khobar Towers buildings are not on the air base. The complex is across a road from the base, in a civilian area. It is also interesting to note that the Khobar quarters were four-star plush, resembling the DV suites at Langley.

I was the 1st CSG commander at Dhahran during Desert Shield-Storm. I and my SP commander (Army trained, Vietnam experienced, and a total professional) were greatly relieved when Khobar Towers was offered to the 1st TFW and turned down. While we were adamant that the Towers were impossible to defend, a primary reason for not moving to the Towers was that there was not a nearby gate into the air base. The logistics of moving people in and out through the existing gates was not workable. Whatever the reason, we were happy not to have to defend the place, which we saw as another Beirut waiting to happen.

As a remedy for our housing problems during Desert Storm, the Saudi base commander built a new complex, called Eagle Town, deep inside the base, behind many yards of deep sand and wire, complete with a new pool, dining hall, recreation, and air-conditioned billets.

He built similar facilities next door for the Army, called Camp Jack and Camp Jill.

I went back to Saudi Arabia in 1992 as part of Operation Southern Watch. When I passed through Dhahran on my way home from Riyadh, I was appalled when I had to stay the night in Khobar Towers, in an outside room, facing the parking lot that is now so infamous. A new gate had been cut in the air base fence, fixing the travel problems of Desert Storm. Curious, I went to see Eagle Town and Camps Jack and Jill. They sat empty. Why did someone choose to use the off-base, difficult-to-defend Khobar Towers over the Spartan but comfortable on-base quarters that were so easy to defend? That is the question that should be asked. That decision doomed General Schwalier’s career, not any deficiency on his part.

The critical question remains unanswered: Why were the on-base “cities” not used? Did someone choose plush over safety?

Col. David L. Peebles,

USAF (Ret.)

Huntsville, Ala.

Do you have a comment about a current article in the magazine? Write to “Letters,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198. (E-mail: letters@afa.org.) Letters should be concise and timely. We cannot acknowledge receipt of letters. We reserve the right to condense letters. Letters without name and city/base and state are not acceptable. Photographs can­­not be used or returned.—the editors