Dec. 1, 2006

The Ten Truths

Regarding “The Ten Truths,” by Editor in Chief Robert S. Dudney, October 2006, [“Editorial,” p. 2]: Sounds a lot like [a] hymn “How Great We Art.”

In the 1950s, I would argue with my brother. I said, “He who controls the air controls the ground.” That was our air doctrine then. My brother, an infantryman veteran from World War II, stated emphatically, “The only way you can control the ground is to have a guy on the corner with a weapon.”

I am a blue-suiter, but I think my brother was right.

Lt. Col. Tony Weissgarber,

USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio

Washington Watch

Reference RAND’s study “Learning Large Lessons” [“Washington Watch: RAND’s Advice: Let Airpower Lead,” October, p. 8]: Given the tremendous importance maneuver plays in successful land operations, the contributions of air operations should be obvious. Thanks to the unprecedented moving target indicator capabilities provided by Joint STARS, beginning with Desert Storm the Air Force has demonstrated that airpower can create an intractable dilemma for enemy land forces. If the enemy attempts to move, he can be seen and targeted; but if he does not move for fear of being seen and targeted, friendly land forces can use their maneuver to achieve the advantages of surprise, position, and mass. If joint warfighters have not been designing wargames and exercises to refine the ability of US forces to create and exploit this dilemma, Congress should be asking why not.

Lt. Col. Price T. Bingham,

USAF (Ret.)

Melbourne, Fla.

A Better Way to Run a War

Maj. Gen. [Charles D.] Link, USAF (Ret.), is exactly correct. Whatever benefits or gains accrued from the enactment of the Goldwater-Nichols Act [“A Better Way to Run a War,” October, p.36] with regard to increasing jointness or strengthening the role of joint theater commanders have been terribly offset by how the politicians have misused the act’s increased role and power for a civilian Secretary of Defense.

Iraq is the greatest mistake this country has made in my lifetime—not in how the occupation has gone (that is a secondary set of disasters), but in the decision to start a war with Iraq on the basis of “cherry-picked” intelligence by a cabal of naive, militarily inexperienced politicians. It appears the military and the normal centers of competence within the government were not consulted as to the decision to offensively engage; they were told. The real reasons for the war have never been adequately or fully explained, but all of the false, headline grabbing claims have now been exposed as being untrue. Those who made those claims, led by the vice president, knew or should have known they were false when they were made.

No military or Defense Department head resigned over the charge to war. No one has been fired or paid a price of self-punishment for a murderous policy of engagement which has cost some 24,000 casualties [and that], even if successful, will not result in a regime friendly to us or supporting our policies; has taken over twice as long as it was originally estimated it would and is still ongoing; and is costing 10 times as much per year (in our deficit spending dollars) as the total was supposed to have cost when it was started.

Civilian politicians like Rumsfeld, and McNamara before him, belong in the peacetime chain making [budget], production, and bureaucracy decisions. They are civilians kowtowing to their party and the President who put them in office. Wartime decisions involving strategy, casualties, and force levels are the proper role only of the experienced and trained military who have no party and owe allegiance to the nation and not its temporary, and military unqualified, office holders.

Short of rescinding the act and specifying the proper roles for the CJCS and the Defense Secretary, the Congress should mandate that an inexperienced, non-ex-service-qualified SECDEF must have a deputy who is an ex-uniformed theater commander and that the CJCS must be a voting member of any decision to go to war. Nothing less will save us from a similar politically motivated war declaration in the future. Having once mastered how to take the nation into a war which was not in its interests, the politicos will not willingly surrender that power without public and organizational pressures.

Bill Barry

Huntsville, Ala.

**On Nov. 8, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned.—the editors

Aeromed Evac’s Forefathers

I enjoyed reading your article “The 90 Percent Solution” [October, p. 60], and although Lt. Gen. Paul K. Carlton Jr. was a great Air Force surgeon general, the genesis of the current aeromedical evacuation system predates him. The ideas were formed in a cauldron that contained numerous strong-willed, intelligent, strategic thinkers that had the courage to break the paradigms of the times. Look back at the work in the Reinventing Aeromedical Evacuation, Aeromedical Evacuation 20XX, and the Aeromedical Evacuation Tiger Team reports. A small group of dedicated individuals at the 374th at Yokota AB, Japan, Hq. PACAF at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, 452nd and 4th AF at March ARB, the Air Force Reserve, and at Hq. AMC worked hard to forge the current system. There were also some other great generals in the aforementioned organizations that had the foresight and leadership to enable these great individuals to succeed. Keep in mind that the portion of the plan that is currently in place works well in a low to medium intensity conflict but in a high to extremely high intensity conflict, in multiple theaters with massive casualties, and where resources are stretched to their limits, it would require full implementation of the original plans. Hence, “The 90 Percent Solution.”

Col. Michael A. Fleck,

Commander, AFROTC Det. 75

San Diego State University

The Missing Astronaut

Mr. Boyne’s article in the October 2006 Air Force Magazine was excellent [“Air Force Astronauts,” p. 72]. However, he overlooked one individual whom I had the pleasure to meet and beat at racquetball, that being Col. Frederick Gregory, USAF (Ret.).

He was selected as an astronaut in January 1978 and has logged 455 hours in space: as pilot for the orbiter Challenger (STS-51B) in 1985, as spacecraft commander aboard Discovery (STS-33) in 1989, and as spacecraft commander aboard Atlantis (STS-44) in 1991.

Mr. Gregory retired as a colonel in the United States Air Force in December 1993 after logging 7,000 hours in more than 50 types of aircraft, including 550 combat missions in Vietnam. His 30-year Air Force career included serving as a helicopter pilot and as a fighter pilot. He graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School and served as an engineering test pilot for the Air Force and for NASA.

Thanks again for an excellent article.

CMSgt. Robert G. Wheeler,

USAF (Ret.)

Incline Village, Nev.

Bomber Talk

I enjoyed Frederick Johnsen’s article, “The Making of an Iconic Bomber,” in October [p. 78]. I, too, have been intrigued by the same question, and I spent a lot of time speaking to former Liberator and Flying Fort pilots whenever I could. I think the “elephant in the room” answer to why the B-17 is more famous is simple—the B-17 was easier and more fun to fly—even the most devoted B-24 pilots I met spoke of the Liberator as “flying like a dump truck.” That is my theory!

Col. Bud Vazquez,

USAF (Ret.)

Bedford, Mass.

My husband [Carroll W. Guy] and I enjoyed reading the article “The Making of an Iconic Bomber.” However, the information would have been more complete if activity of the Fifth Air Force and Thirteenth Air Force in the Pacific Theater during World War II had been included.

As a second lieutenant and later a first lieutenant, Carroll Guy flew B-24 bombers in New Guinea in the 43rd Bombardment Group, the 65th Bombardment Squadron, from 1943-44. Geographically, this was the largest theater in the war. In 1942, the Fifth Air Force only had a few B-17s. Later the B-24 was the bomber most often used on the many raids on Japanese bases since it had a greater fuel capacity and thus a longer range. Some of the missions my husband was on lasted as long as 14 hours.

After the war, my husband was assigned to Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, for a year from which he checked on three radio transmitter sites above the Arctic Circle. These were used for commercial flights to home in on for polar flights to Europe. He also dropped supplies and mail to the men stationed there. He felt privileged to be flying the B-17. Despite the grueling weather conditions, the B-17 performed beautifully.

Sallie T. Guy

Murray, Ky.

Much of the article confirmed what I know about the B-24 and B-17 debate. I fly the Commemorative Air Force’s B-24 Diamond Lil. Mr. Johnsen’s assertion that there is only one flying B-24 in the world is incorrect. I believe Mr. Johnsen is referring to the only flying B-24 as the one flown by the Collings Foundation, currently named Witchcraft. That “only one flying B-24” misconception is incorrect and those of us who maintain and fly Lil are working to undo the common belief that Lil is an LB-30 and not a B-24. Lil was built as a B-24A, paid for by the British Air Commission (BAC), and signed for as an LB-30 in May 1941. When delivered, she had bomb bays and gun positions in the nose, both waists, an upper gunner, tunnel gunner, and tail gunner. She had no turrets. She still has B-24A data plates on her engine oil tanks. Had she been delivered to the Army, her serial number would have been 40-2366. The British gave her serial number AM927 and intended her to be a training airframe for RAF Liberator aircrews. She was based at the Trans World Airways training center, “Eagles Nest,” in Albuquerque, N.M. In July 1941, with TWA pilots at the controls, AM927 experienced a landing mishap in Albuquerque when her right brake was either locked or turning slowly. The tire blew out, she departed the right side of the runway, the right main landing gear and nose gear collapsed, and her days as a bomber were over. The British wanted the airframe repaired and AM927 Lil became the prototype airframe for the C-87 Liberator Express.

The B-24 line started with the XB-24. The Army wanted certain modifications, and that airframe was redesignated XB-24B. Consolidated produced seven YB-24 preproduction airplanes. Six went to Britain as the LB-30A. The seventh went to the Army as 40-702. The B-24A production run would have been 38 airframes. The first block of 20 B-24As were delivered to the British due to France no longer being in a position to take delivery of them when the first B-24A rolled off the production line in May 1941. Had France not been defeated by Germany, the French would have owned Lil. Lil was the 18th airframe of that first block of 20, called LB-30B, the Liberator I. Of that block of 20, two went to BOAC, one was crashed nine days after delivery, and the other 16 airframes were converted to submarine hunters and assigned to 120 Squadron in Coastal Command. Lil’s sister airplane two numbers behind her, AM929, was credited with five U-boats sunk before she was crashed in Canada in the later stages of the war. The Army took delivery of nine B-24As; one, 40-2371, was destroyed at Pearl Harbor on 7 December. The last block of nine B-24As rolled off the line as B-24Cs.

After AM927’s landing mishap, the BAC and Consolidated had an agreement that Consolidated would operate the aircraft in the US delivering parts and personnel. We have pictures of Lil when she still had the B-24A short nose, B-24 greenhouse canopy, and round engine nacelles. We have another picture of Lil, circa late 1945, with an extended nose and the current two-piece windscreen you see when you view the airplane. When the war concluded in Europe, the BAC gave the airplane back to Consolidated. Consolidated worked to get AM927 on the civil register. Lil received civil certification as NL 24927 on 1 April 1947. I can’t be certain, but I believe the type certificate data sheet (TCDS) that can be found on the FAA’s website TCL-6-3, 21 February 1947, is the one from when Lil was being put on the civil register.

Those of us who love, fly, and maintain Diamond Lil realize she is a very unique airplane. No other aircraft has a history like hers—she is the only B-24A that survived the war, either flying or in a museum. The misconception that she is an LB-30 and not a B-24 is one that has been entrenched for all her life. We are working to restore her bomb bays and gun positions, return her to the B-24A she once was, and end that misconception forever. On paper she is an LB-30. Even Witchcraft is as there is no B-24 TCDS. Diamond Lil is very much a B-24 and the older one of the two left flying in the world.

Maj. Robert Prater,


Will Rogers ANGB, Okla.

We pilots who were privileged to fly both of these great planes in what is considered to have been the major air battles of World War II regret that what we consider to be one of the most important factors in comparing these two planes is so often left out, and I would be grateful for a chance to bring this to the attention of Air Force Magazine readers: In the interest of brevity, may we state that there were two major air wars in World War II—Europe and the Pacific? With this in mind, let’s make some comparisons between these two great warbirds.

The Fortress was best at high altitude because the Liberator, with its narrow Davis wing, did not perform well above 15,000 feet. Add to this the fact that the Lib was about 10 knots faster than the Fort, making formation with the two planes difficult. The Liberators had to constantly S to keep from overriding the Forts. This S-ing at high altitudes resulted in poor formations. Altitude, not pilots, made for loose formations. Once Eighth AF Headquarters separated them into their own groups, this problem was pretty well solved. Although the B-24 was not as “light” on the controls as the Fort, [the Lib had] a bit more muscle [and] did well in formation.

Now we come to the different theaters of war: The European war was done at high altitude, while the Pacific was mostly medium altitude. One can immediately see a difference in performance, but take careful note of the following: The war over Europe was, to a great extent, a fight with the enemy all the way to the target and back home. This made more exciting news for the “folks back home,” giving the Flying Fortress fantastic publicity. Not so with the long over-water flights in the Pacific. So the B-17 became the “star” bomber.

But note this important information which the folks back home were not fed: The B-17 could never fly as far, with as great a bomb load, as the Libs did in the Pacific. Ask some of the Navy B-24 crews what it was like to fly a 12- or 18-hour mission. The B-24 accomplished amazing missions in the Pacific which were never told to the public. I honestly believe that my fellow pilots who flew both would agree that regardless of which plane the pilot might prefer, it is simply not fair to make comparisons without considering the theaters of war.

Maj. J. Charles Macgill,

USAF (Ret.)

Salisbury, Md.

A Better Warthog

Regarding the September 2006, p.16, “Building Better Warthogs” [“Washington Watch”]: Latest edition to the A-10 series is the A-10C with all the bells and whistles that will greatly increase the aircraft capabilities. Added now are structural improvements (new wing), precision engagement upgrade, [ability] to carry advanced targeting pods, new networking gear, along with new cockpit displays and digital equipment. All this is great for its warfighting abilities, but at what cost in terms of added weight and decreased performance as a result of this extra weight?

The A-10 entered the Air Force in the early to mid-1970s and it’s seen many improvements over the years. Each improvement adds just a bit more weight. As we all know, add weight, lower performance. Today’s A-10 engine thrust is just a bit over 9,200 pounds, same as when the aircraft first entered service. How much weight has been added to the aircraft since then? It’s no wonder the aircraft stops when the gun is fired. So what can be done to increase performance and give the pilot a bit more edge? Simple: Increase engine thrust with new updated engines.

Back a couple of years, I was employed with a major engine manufacturer and was part of a team working towards re-engining the existing A-10 aircraft. The goal was to convince the Air Force that we (the engine company) could re-engine with new commercial engines at very little or no cost to the Air Force for the new engines. In addition, and included, we would also accomplish all the field-level repair and spare parts of these engines. The pilots and maintainers all thought it was a great proposal. The cost to the Air Force: the O&M funds allocated to maintain its existing engine program.

Why would the Air Force not jump at a chance to finally fix the A-10 performance at no or little new engine cost? In order to upgrade to a new and increased thrust engine, the aircraft fuel system would require modification at the tune of $1 million. The Air Force wanted the new engines, but just could not come up with funds for the aircraft modification.

Today’s commercial CF34 engines exceed 18,000 pounds of thrust and, with the latest electronic technology, more than double the existing A-10 TF34 engine thrust with its old outdated analog controls.

If the Air Force would delay just one F-22 or F-35 into service, they would have more than enough funds to re-engine today’s A-10 fleet. We owe our pilots more protection than they are now getting. There is no aircraft in today’s inventory that can do what the A-10 does and that includes the upcoming F-35, which cost between $48 million to $63 million a copy depending on model type. I wonder if an F-35 can reduce its flight speed to around 150 miles per hour, almost stop when its gun fires, and ramp up to getaway power quickly?

[Of] course the proposal would still have to be on the table from the engine manufacturer.

MSgt. Paul R. Soucy,

USAF (Ret.)

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Under Lockdown

After persevering for 40 years and winning the Cold War, we were attacked at home on September 11th, 2001 by a new kind of enemy. To meet this new challenge, we’re using tools that are, by and large, the same ones used 25 to 50 years ago. [See “Under Lockdown,” September, p. 54.]

Many of the front-line F-16 fleet are 25 years old, as are the “modern” B-1 bombers, F-15 air superiority fighters, and the A-10s now supplying close air support capability for our ground troops. The KC-135—backbone of our aerial tanker fleet—and our remaining B-52 bombers are 45 years old. Imagine sending your son or daughter on a long trip with a car that was 25 to 50 years old. Now imagine watching your child flying out to fight for our nation in an aircraft of the same vintage. For most of us, either concept is simply unthinkable.

Rebuilding our capabilities as a nation and arming our sons and daughters with world-class tools must be a national imperative. To do this we must do three things:

Divest Now: When our Air Force leadership tries to do a “spring cleaning” to pay for the modern tools of its trade, interest groups close ranks and thwart the professionals—time and again. These are hard words to write and reflect on—I’ve been there. As a vocal community advocate for Utah throughout both the 1995 and 2005 Base Realignment and Closure deliberations, I often asked myself whether the national and our local interests were in harmony.

Interest groups and communities across the nation need to educate themselves and understand what our sons and daughters need to meet the enemy and survive. They should check their local interests at the door and do the right thing, even when it becomes personal. If this means accepting a change to missions, retiring aircraft, or closing a local base, so be it.

Invest in the best capability possible: Unfortunately, eliminating aged systems is but a small component of financing the major overhaul needed. Even if all the Air Force’s proposed divestitures were embraced by DOD and Congress, a huge bill remains. For this reason, the Air Force has proposed cutting its force by 40,000 active duty and reserve people (from over 350,000 to just over 315,000 active duty, from over 72,000 reserve to about 65,000 reserve) almost immediately—and plowing the pay and entitlements those people would otherwise receive back into new systems. Money gleaned from these reforms is now reflected in the budget lines for new systems: finishing the F-22 buy; developing and buying a new tanker (USAF’s top acquisition priority) to replace those old KC-135s; developing and buying an advanced bomber to replace the B-52s and B-1s along with a new fighter, the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter; developing and buying unmanned surveillance and combat systems; updating the intercontinental ballistic missile fleet, deploying the next generation of space assets; and expanding and modernizing the special operations forces and their related systems. Popular support for the Air Force strategy is crucial.

Stay the course: Finally, it should go without saying that, having embarked on the modernization path, we ought to see it through. Unfortunately, in the business of defending our nation, there are frequent examples of fickle behavior. Every time we change, things slow down and the price goes up—delaying critical capability and increasing its cost. The challenge to interest groups, communities, and our elected representatives is simple—stay the course. Plan the buy, and then buy the plan—on time, on cost, on target. The result will be swift, affordable modernization of our Air Force.

As a nation we must preserve a balanced armed force. Some investment in large ground forces is necessary for the short term. Recent modern history and any reasonable reading of the tea leaves, however, tell us that air and space power will remain the dominant national security instrument.

Vickie McCall

Ogden, Utah

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