July 1, 2007
More on Long-Range Strike

The Air Force seems hopelessly confused about the purpose of its new bomber. Secretary Wynne argues that this should be a system that can be both unmanned and manned for nuclear missions and those requiring man-in-the-loop [“Washington Watch: Long Road to Long-Range Strike,” May, p. 14].

Firstly, let us observe that UAVs do not leave the man out of the loop. A man is always in the loop—he’s just in Nevada, not in the cockpit.

Leaving that aside, why does the Air Force want a new nuclear-capable bomber at all? The United States does not lack the capability to deliver nuclear weapons. What the nation lacks is the capability to conduct persistent surveillance and conventional precision strike operations against time-sensitive targets at long ranges and in denied areas. A stealthy unmanned bomber best provides this capability, and giving such a bomber provisions for a pilot in order to conduct nuclear missions is simply a waste of weight. Why suboptimize the aircraft for its everyday mission (persistent surveillance-attack) so that it can conduct a highly improbable mission (nuclear attack)?

Meanwhile, Secretary Wynne also announced the retirement of the Air Force’s stealthy, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles [“Washington Watch: You Cruise, You Lose,” May, p. 12] on the grounds they are too costly, they have a very low probability of use, and there are other alternatives like the B-2 and ICBMs. Since we have these alternatives, and nuclear missions are very rare, tell me again why the new bomber must be nuclear-capable? Why not just keep the cruise missiles instead of going to great trouble and expense to put a cockpit in the future “optionally manned” bomber for the nuclear mission

Quite obviously, the Air Force needs to think more clearly about long-range strike and nuclear deterrence. Otherwise, these mission areas may well be removed from its portfolio.

Dexter Scott

San Diego

Happy Hooligans

Thank you very much for your quick response to the concerns we had regarding the May 2007 issue of Air Force Magazine, which serves as the USAF Almanac. In this issue, there is only one mention of the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard—and that is in the ANG installations section. Having very recently retired our F-16 aircraft and its associated missions, I can understand how the almanac couldn’t be updated in time for publication. I’d like to provide you with a synopsis of where the 119th is today.

Currently, we fly the MQ-1 Predator, 24/7/365, in support of Air Combat Command missions and are able to support any tasking where this system could be utilized, whether in support of the GWOT or for CONUS missions including emergency response or homeland defense. We are also maintaining and flying eight C-21 aircraft, assigned to us as a “bridge mission” until the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) is acquired. We understand we are to be the first ANG unit to take delivery of the JCA upon its acquisition and look forward to that mission with great enthusiasm. Additionally, we have just activated the largest Air National Guard security forces squadron in the nation as a GSU of the 119th and located it at Minot AFB [N.D.], to assist in the Space Command mission there. All of this we have done while simultaneously supporting USAF with continual AEF volunteers and our state missions when called upon by the governor of North Dakota.

As you can see, the BRAC and Total Force initiatives have had a dramatic impact on our unit and it has been, and is, a very dynamic period for us. But the Happy Hooligans of the North Dakota Air National Guard are proud to excel in these new missions, despite the radical cultural change we are enduring after 60 years of flying fighter aircraft so successfully for this nation.

Col. Robert J. Becklund

Commander, NDANG

Fargo, N.D.

Not Rocket Science

Am I the only one whose head was spinning after reading your April 2007 issue? First, “Washington Watch” starts out with a background interview stating that USAF needs $20 billion per year for 20 years to “get well” for budgetary shortcomings dating back to the early 1990s [“Washington Watch: USAF Readiness: Going, Going …,” p. 10]. This was immediately followed by an article where Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) (of all people!) is begging for a list of needs so they can be funded [“Murtha Demands, ‘Give Us a Number!’ ” p. 10]. Then you had not one, but two articles (“For the Air Force, the Bill Comes Due,” p. 28, and “The Risk Goes Up,” p. 34) whining—for lack of a better term—about how the force is being underfunded.

Excuse me, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but if Congress is begging for a shopping list to fund, isn’t it the job of our leadership to give it to them? This doesn’t seem like rocket science to me—if our generals aren’t up to the task, I’m sure their wives could put together an adequate shopping list for Representative Murtha! In all seriousness, whether or not the list gets funded or not is one issue, but the least USAF should be prepared to do is make the case to Congress—not just to the readers of your magazine, which is kind of preaching to the choir.

Maj. James E. Rotramel, USAF (Ret.)

Lexington Park, Md.

Precursor to Constant Peg

In late 1969, Lt. Col. Joseph J. Maisch and I, members of the 175th Tactical Fighter Group, Maryland ANG, were given orders to proceed to Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in a classified flying program. The project, code-named “Have Drill,” lasted three days and involved a series of canned maneuvers between our aircraft, the F-86H, and a captured MiG-15 or -17 (my memory is not that good). One of the things I observed was that while the MiG had us beat all to hell in turning radius, it had a rather slow rate of roll. It was obvious that a rapidly reversing scissors would create problems for the MiG. In almost all other categories—turn radius, acceleration, deceleration—it was more than a handful. I particularly remember the Marine Corps major running the project for the US Navy. He was a good fighter pilot and could really fly that MiG. I must admit it was a most enlightening experience (and quite a few years before the “Constant Peg” missions) [“Constant Peg,” April, p. 86].

Col. Leslie H. Waltman, USAF (Ret.)


Tanker Voices

[I wish to elaborate on a reader’s comments in] “Letters: Tanker Voices,” April, p. 6. I was maintenance supervisor in the 421st Refueling Squadron at Yokota AB, Japan, during the fall of 1964 and want to add to, and clarify, several points relating to the tanker crashes.

The August KB-50 crash in Japan was over unpopulated low mountains while night refueling near Misawa Air Base. The uncontrollable fire in No. 3 and 4 engines, plus [the pilot’s subsequent] dive of the aircraft to blow out the fires, caused the No. 3 engine chin cowl to separate down and back, tearing the right horizontal stabilizer and elevator off. The tail did not break off as stated in the letter. After the October KB-50 crash at Takhli, Thailand, all aircraft returned to Yokota and were grounded.

Inspections later revealed heavy inner granular corrosion of the rear wing spar on several aircraft, plus pitting corrosion on all large fuel lines in the flap well of most of our KBs, which was the real reason for premature retirement of all KB-50Js. Our TDYs at Wake Island were regular, where the salt and spray took its toll, even with continuous wash jobs. I was disappointed that the article made no mention of SAC KC-97s. Thanks for articles about KB-50s.

CMSgt. Laddie Ondracek, USAF (Ret.)

Tulsa, Okla.


In reference to “Tin Ear Revisionists” (“Verbatim,” May, p. 27): I heartily agree with Mr. Thompson. What exactly do “sovereign options” have to do with the Air Force mission statement? When Gen. John Ryan was Chief of Staff, he had a wooden hand-carved plaque hanging in his office that read: “Our mission is to fly and fight and don’t you ever forget it!”

Take that to Congress and see if they can understand it.

Maj. Gen. James B. Currie, USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio

Almanac Correction

The May 2007 Air Force Almanac, on p. 107, lists Maj. Gen. Scott Mayes as commander of 1st Air Force. General Mayes has retired and Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow has been assigned as commander.

MSgt. Jerry D. Harlan

Tyndall AFB, Fla.

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