Dec. 1, 2007

Irregular War

During my military service, I was attached to or associated with Navy and Army units, as well as spending 21 years on Air Force active duty. In retirement the same has been true of my aerospace business associations. I have learned to highly respect all of the talented and dedicated warriors that served with me. I also witnessed a good deal of unbecoming competition for resources, political power, publicity, and respect, most often at flag rank positions.

It seems to me that mature and competent officers and men and women of the armed forces should now move past such provincial thinking and learn about each service’s strengths and how to best integrate and apply them to our complex challenges around the world.

The subject editorial [“On Fighting Irregular War,” October, p. 2] certainly points out some real truths about Air Force capabilities and their special suitability for “small war” applications, but how are all the services going to convince each other’s senior officers and Congress of these kinds of facts for each service?

I have read consistently outstanding informative editorials in Air Force Magazine over the years, some addressing this subject. I suggest that this fine publication solicit cooperation from similar media from each service, including the Coast Guard, and exchange informative editorials each month for publication in each other’s magazine.

Lt. Col. Craig A. Hutzler,

USAF (Ret.)


COIN Airlift Redux

I enjoyed the article about COIN airlift [“Washington Watch: COIN Operated Lift,” October, p. 14] in Air Force Magazine. I note, with a chuckle, that the Air Force brass is now wisely considering an “assault airlifter.” The Spartan C-27J looks very similar to the often maligned C-123 of olden times (circa 1952 to around the early 1980s when the last of the C-123Gs were decommissioned). At the time I thought someone in high places had made a mistake in planning, but who would listen to the rantings of an old retired C-123 pilot from Vietnam days when everything was centered around a 100 percent all-jet Air Force? After all, it’s just money!

I have heard the C-123 compared to the C-130 many times. Why, I don’t know, since there is really no comparison at all. Both performed sometimes similar type missions, but never the same, all factors considered. Either aircraft could outperform the other in some ways and both were sorely needed in Vietnam.

Time after time in Vietnam during the ’60s we operated casually but very carefully into and out of, let’s say, “unusual airfields,” fully grossed out, and these were in the A and B model 123s. Without jets. Some readers will still recall the history of the original Fairchild C-123 which started out as a glider—yes, a glider (all C-123s still had the original towing ring installed under the nose cap)—and then progressed on through to the last G model that was fitted with two jet engines mainly to assist taking off.

The C-123 was never very fast and was sometimes a maintenance headache (but what airplane never had a problem?). This ugly old bird was seldom mentioned in aerospace articles, and was never really appreciated by others (mainly due to looks) and always downplayed by the “all jet Air Force” crowd. (The exception was, of course, the air commandos.) Yet this ugly old bird pulled many a flight crew and Army Special Forces team out of harm’s way in Vietnam and still could take punishment delivering supplies under fire that would be the demise of lesser aircraft.

Too bad the designation wasn’t TOBC-123, i.e., Tough Old Bird Cargo-123.

Lt. Col. Rolland S. Freeman,

USAF (Ret.)

Longboat Key, Fla.


In “The Big Squeeze,” Lt. Gen. [David A.] Deptula was quoted as heralding the F-22 at the Capitol Hill symposium as not just an air-to-air platform, but as a flying ISR sensor that can help carry a broader set of responsibilities [October, p. 32]. Thirty-four pages later [USAF Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley is] declaring that training F-22 pilots for any mission other than air superiority and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD) is “wrong.” I expect that expanding the “sales envelope” of the F-22 may help justify the airplane, but the Chief will quickly revert to the narrow mission theme of air dominance when it comes to making the tough decisions and allocating that precious resource.

Touting the F-22 as the early eyes and ears of the fight has merit in a limited sense, but to think this system will provide any sort of reliable ISR is almost comical. It may provide a serendipitous capability, but I don’t think it will ever be significantly available for expanded applications. Even if available, many other ISR platforms designed with specific size, weight, and power allocations provide capabilities that simply cannot be duplicated on a smaller platform. [Deptula’s] use of the term “an F/A/B/E/EA/RC/AWACS-22” in the first article is unfortunate and entirely misleading.

Lt. Col. Kirk Streitmater,

USAF (Ret.)

Burke, Va.


Enjoyed your article on Sputnik [“When Sputnik Shocked the World,” October, p. 42]. Great archive material and photos. Was it true that we could have been first with a satellite? I believe Dr. Wernher von Braun (US Army) had a Redstone missile mounted with our Explorer satellite months before Sputnik, but President Eisenhower nixed the idea since it was the IGY [International Geophysical Year] of peaceful scientific study, and he did not want a military rocket (Redstone) to place the satellite in orbit. Thus we were assigned to use the Vanguard, which was probably more advanced (definitely more complicated), but not developed enough by launch time.

Dan Rinaldo

Akron, Ohio

New C-130s: Another Must-Have

I just finished reading the article “Desert Airlift[October, p. 48]. I had previously read about the problems the Air Force is having with airlift. While the Air Force has its priorities set on buying new fighters, such as the F-22 and F-35, and the much needed new tankers, it’s time [the service] spent some money replacing the C-130s. With today’s technology, it should be relatively easy and inexpensive to work with Lockheed and produce new C-130s with upgraded engines for greater speed, avionics, and larger airframes for increased cargo carrying. This should all be able to be accomplished while still maintaining the C-130’s ability to take off and land from short and unimproved runways. I understand budgets are tight, but why isn’t the Air Force making this a priority

MSgt. Javier Padilla,


Santa Clarita, Calif.

Happy Hooligans

Thank you for the great October Air Force Magazine article on the North Dakota Air National Guard [“The Hooligan Trade,” p. 52].

The Hooligans, in fighter competition through the years, often waxed the tails of regular Air Force pilots. No doubt some of the past and present Air Force leadership are still smarting from such occasions.

Carl Hemstad

Stanley, N.D.

The Eve of World War II

I read with great interest John T. Correll’s piece in the October issue [“The Air Force on the Eve of World War II,” p. 60]. It is generally accurate and makes a complex subject understandable in a short article. However, when it comes to his assertion that “World War II would eventually prove the Tactical School right,” I must quote ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friend!”

First, it would have been more accurate to say that the ACTS was a hotbed of Mitchellism-Douhetism-Trenchardism in its promotion of long-range bombing. Capt. Claire Chennault was, of course, the notable exception.

Second, it would have been more accurate to say that World War II proved those faculty members, who were responsible for AWPD-1, partially right. One of the tenets of the interwar ACTS doctrine was that bombers would always get through and wouldn’t need fighter escort for protection. Brig. Gen. Kenneth Walker (then a captain) wrote, “A well-planned, well-flown bomber strike will always get through.” He paid for that mistake with his life. Maj. Gen. “Possum” Hansell paid for his mistake with his career. That, coupled with the fact that the most dangerous job in World War II was to be an Eighth Air Force aircrew member, strikes me as falling far short of vindication. The problem wasn’t solved until the P-51 came on the scene. And, unfortunately, those are the kinds of errors that are committed when doctrine is allowed to congeal into dogma. Intellectual flexibility is the father of strategic and tactical flexibility—and that didn’t exist at Maxwell Field in the 1930s. Chennault knew it then; we all know it—or at least should know it—now.

Lt. Col. Frank Howe,

USAF (Ret.)


Honors Rendered

I enjoyed “The Eagle Squadrons” article in the October issue [p. 72].

It brought back a nostalgic evening at the Columbia Club in London in the early 1960s that I attended with other USAF and Allied officers. I bummed a ride to England on permissive travel orders, with what is now a lifelong friend, in a B-66 from Brookley AFB, Ala., where we both were then stationed.

Suddenly somebody yelled, “Ten Hut!” and everybody hit the deck, even the ladies. What was happening? Some dignitary? Head of state

I looked over towards the door to the huge bar, and there was a self-conscious, gray-haired American USAF colonel, who, I quickly learned, had been through this many times before. I also noticed immediately the RAF brevet, as shown on Eagle pilot Dunn in the article photo, p. 72, in addition to the colonel’s USAF wings and many ribbons. I was then told something that I will carry with me all my life: This American officer was one of only a few American fliers still on active duty who had flown with an Eagle Squadron for England. I was told that when Queen Elizabeth heard about them still being on active duty, she ordered that, to them, honors would be rendered.

I suspect they may have gone to their great fighter base in the sky. It was a memorable moment for me as a young lieutenant.

Lt. Col. Don M. Gulliford,

USAFR (Ret.)

Mercer Island, Wash.

Back to Squadrons: Two Views

The Chief of Staff, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, is right on target with his pushing forward to put the maintainers (crew chiefs, flight chiefs, maintenance inspection dock people, line chiefs) back in the operation squadrons [“Aerospace World: Maintainers Back to Squadrons?” October, p. 17]. The squadron commander would be responsible for all the operations and maintenance personnel. The gains from having the maintenance people and pilots, navigators, boom operators, load masters, etc., in one squadron are multifold. Closeness of crew chiefs to flight crews, individual pride in ownership by the ground crew, getting to know each other on a daily basis, and respect for each other’s abilities and performances are just a few of the advantages. I retired from the Air Force after 30 years in the aircraft maintenance field. For something like 12 years, the maintainers and operations personnel were under the same commander. And in some cases the field maintenance people (specialists) were also under the same commander.

As technology advanced, and aircraft systems became more intricate, it became necessary to establish a specialist squadron. When that happened, the relationship between the flight crews and the specialist grew to the same magnitude as the flight crews and the crew chiefs. I know today’s Air Force is different, but some things never change; they just get better. And putting the maintainers and flight crews back together will only be better for the Air Force.

CMSgt. Donald W. Grannan,

USAF (Ret.)

Benbrook, Tex.

One must wonder these days at all the changes we see in our great Air Force. Some changes are purposeful and have led to greater efficiencies and effectiveness, but lately, some seem to be simply the result of people who just want to leave their mark.

The most recent example concerns the idea that flight line maintainers should be back under ops, yet again. Did we not learn our lesson when Gen. [Merrill] McPeak did just that after we fought and won the most successful air campaign in the history of the world? There simply was no logic in his reorganizing our wings, especially after Gen. [W.L.] Creech led the way in building our service into the greatest Air Force the world had ever seen.

First, I’d like to ask the current leadership where the problem is that reorganizing yet again is supposed to fix. I served long enough to see this reorganizing thing come full circle and start again and I can tell you we had the best aircraft availability when maintainers worked for maintainers. There isn’t a problem today that reorganizing will fix.

As far as needing to mirror the structure of deployed flying units, we never had a problem in our aircraft maintenance units relating to and responding to the requirements of our ops warriors, and I think they would be the first to tell you that. Putting maintainers in an ops squadron is not the right thing to do.

Leave our maintainers working for maintainers and let operations concentrate on their primary function of flying. As Gen. [John] Jumper once said, we need Ph.D.s in maintenance and we need Ph.D.s in flying. I promise not to try to tell you how to fly our airplanes if you promise not to try to tell me how to maintain them.

Col. Frank Alfter,

USAF (Ret.)

Beavercreek, Ohio


I really enjoy the “Airpower Classics” section of Air Force Magazine, and I would like to make a couple comments on the F4U Corsair featured in the October issue [p. 88]. Walter Boyne states: “The powerful Corsair dominated the Pacific air war, racking up an 11-to-1 exchange ratio (2,140 kills v. 189 losses).” I respectfully disagree, because the Grumman F6F Hellcat, both aboard ship and land based, was responsible for the almost 75 percent of all the Navy’s air-to-air victories. Hellcats claimed the destruction of 5,156 enemy aircraft, with the ratio of kills-to-losses exceeding 19-to-1.

Concerning the F4U, there are also a few other comments that might be worth noting. The Navy also originally used the Corsair from land bases and, in fact, the first operational Navy F4U-1 squadron was VF-17 flying from New Georgia in September 1943. The wings of all versions of the Corsair developed and produced during World War II, outboard of the wing-fold and aft of the main spar, were covered in fabric. The last Corsair produced, an F4U-7 for the French Navy, came off the Vought line in Dallas on Christmas Eve, 1952. At least one young Navy pilot flying Corsairs in Korea discovered (rather disconcertingly, I’d imagine) that he was actually flying the very same F4U (same Navy Bureau Number) that his father had flown in World War II.

Lt. Col. Henry R. Kramer,

USAF (Ret.)

London, Ky.

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