Feb. 1, 2009

Air Supremacy in a Downdraft

I must point out an error in your recent editorial, “Air Supremacy in a Downdraft” [December, p. 2]. You state that there have been no fatal air attacks on US ground forces for over 56 years. I believe that is wrong; on Feb. 25, 1991, an Iraqi Scud missile killed some 28 service men and women sleeping in their barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Is that what you call total, unquestioned, and suffocating air dominance provided by USAF for 56 years?

Lt. Col. Tim Trusk,

USAF (Ret.)

Kansas City, Mo.

Losing the War of Ideas

Has anyone wondered why the Air Force has not been winning the war of ideas with respect to recapitalizing our fighter forces [“Losing Air Dominance,” December, p. 24.] Some airpower advocates blame “foolish” policies by our civilian leadership. I submit that we, the Air Force and advocates of airpower, have not presented credible arguments, given political, economic, and threat realities of the past decade plus.

Our credibility will rise when we acknowledge that “air dominance” extends beyond the F-22 issue and beyond major theater war with a near peer. Let’s get a seat at the table and publicize all the things that airpower IS doing and CAN do in the small wars arena. This is not a zero-sum game—American airpower can and will succeed across the spectrum of conflict, due to its flexibility. Pushing for capitalization in the realm of permissive air environments to maximize effectiveness in COIN and irregular war will pay dividends on the ground and in the halls of political power.

Traditionalists fear not—airmen will need to articulate better the historical fact that the character of war is cyclical as adversaries probe each other for weaknesses. As the US becomes inevitably better at fighting COIN, more conventional foes will seek advantages in traditional forms of military power. We must be ready. This is not “next-war-itis”; it is simply an understanding of the phenomenon of war and human nature (an area airmen can certainly improve in). By increasing our credibility in the broader context of the current national security debate, we can show our leadership that we are not unreasonably clinging to past paradigms, but are rationally assessing all the available data and historical facts to form a coherent, achievable way ahead. I think in the end, we’ll prove that reports on the death of air dominance are greatly exaggerated.

Lt. Col. Geoffrey F. Weiss,


Edmond, Okla.

Focused Lethality

I found “Focused Lethality” a fascinating update [December, p. 36]. [There is a] minor error: On p. 37, you say “GPS-guided 250-pound warhead.” I think you mean a 250-pound bomb with a 60-pound warhead. [Regarding the] second increment of the SDB [and its] ability to hit moving targets at 46 miles: Wow!

“Planners also are pursuing the idea of weapons that can carry out air-to-air and air-to-ground functions”? Please, this sounds like another F-111 which tries to do everything. The differences between an AIM-120, which has to track another aircraft, and an SDB that has to penetrate a target are just too great. Let’s avoid spending money on this concept.

William Thayer

San Diego

Rex Remembrances

It’s always fun to read John Correll’s articles, like the one on the B-17 intercept of the Italian liner Rex 70 years ago [“Rendezvous with the Rex,” December, p. 54]. In these days of political corruption, obscene CEO ripoffs, and the chase of the almighty dollar, I am reminded how much we owe to our military: Air Force, Navy, and Army. They have always put their country first. Giants like LeMay and Eaker set an example our leaders, enlisted and commissioned, keep going today.

Bill Lehmann

Port Aransas, Tex.

The excellent article “Rendezvous with the Rex fails to mention the part played by the Army Air Forces on the sinking of that vessel on Sept. 7, 1944. Two flights of Mustang fighters from Fifteenth Air Force escorted the British Beaufighters and strafed Rex before the rocket-bearing Beaufighters attacked. The fighters were assigned to the 52nd Fighter Group, and were led by Maj. James Tyler, commander of the 4th Fighter Squadron.

Col. Thomas L. Thacker,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairborn, Ohio

Parr Belonged There

In your November 2008 article “Airpower Classics” on the F-86 Sabre [p. 88], under the Famous Fliers section, I believe there should be at least one more name added to the list. Col. Ralph Parr should be listed under the Air Force Cross (he also holds the Distinguished Service Cross), and the Aces. The Randolph AFB, Tex., Officers Club was recently named for him and is now The Parr Club, and the San Antonio Pack of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association renamed our pack The Ralph Parr Pack.

Col. Tom Moe,

USAF (Ret.)

Universal City, Tex.

Thanks for bringing back some fond memories of the old “Dollar Nineteen.” In 1967, as a young buck sergeant, I was assigned to Hamilton Field in northern California and handed my very own airplane, a “beaver tail” C-119J. I was in heaven, and the next two years were some of the most satisfying of my career.

After a distinguished assignment snatching satellites out of the air with Project Corona, our nine aircraft had endured the humiliation of a sentence to the boneyard (excuse me, AMARC). After getting a reprieve by Air Defense Command, “045” was pretty shabby, and I spent a lot of time trying to make her look better. I ordered a case of spray paint and, a little at a time, I carefully repainted the entire flight station AF blue.

Whenever the plane was scheduled to fly, I made sure it was as spotless as possible, and I quickly discovered that the flight crews responded with less maintenance discrepancies. In fact, they once flew it on a week-long trip to the East Coast and back with zero write-ups! Forty years ago, that was a really big deal, and it taught me something that realtors have known for years: Make a good first impression.

MSgt. Stephen L. Childers,

USAF (Ret.)

Wyoming, Del.

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