June 1, 2011

Gin Rummy

Not once in his memo does Secretary Rumsfeld mention Afghanistan, al Qaeda, or Osama bin Laden [“Keeper File: Rumsfeld’s ‘Parade of Horribles,’ ” April, p. 71]. This was 2002. Whether deliberately forgetful or incredibly stupid, to talk about the next war with no mention of the ongoing war shows extreme incompetence. We Americans are still paying for the actions of the worst Secretary of Defense since McNamara.

William Larson

Universal City, Tex.

Airplanes of the Century

Your article “The Century Series,” last sentence, reminds me that I was the first Wright-Patterson Air Force Base power plant lab project engineer on the dual-cycle engine system for the XF-103 [April, p. 44]. The system consisted of a turbojet tucked in a ramjet duct system that theoretically allowed Mach 3 flight when the rest of the Century Series was barely supersonic.

I was a very young engineer in the ramjet section of the Nonrotating Engine Branch in the 1951 time period. The turbojet selected was the Wright Aeronautical J67. The ramjet burner would be the jet’s afterburner until ramjet speed was reached. Then vanes in front of the turbojet would switch the incoming air to the ramjet burner.

The airplane was mocked up to include a periscope for the single pilot, although the Republic designer, Alexander Kartveli, preferred a conventional windscreen.

The airplane was canceled before building one, but I believe I saw the complete engine in an AEDC test cell in 1957. I don’t know the test results, but I’m sure the AEDC archives would.

I finished my eight-year Air Force career in the Ballistic Missile Division under General Schriever, followed by 36 years at the Rocketdyne Division under various company logos in program management on various rocket engines, including Atlas, Thor, Delta, and the space shuttle. The XF-103 dual cycle was undoubtedly the most exciting, considering the time frame.

Frank Klatt

St. Marys, Ohio

[The] final sentence in the last paragraph—”Other Century fighters were felled by being too technically ambitious or by changing missions”—should not be accepted as having any relationship to the truth. Though not much is known or remembered about the F-107, -108, or -109, the F-110, for one, became quite famous in many of the world’s air forces and battles.

The US Air Force’s original designation for the F-4C was F-110A and I, for one, remember using the F-110 as a designation while at Holloman Air Force Base during the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing’s changeover in the 1964-65 time frame from the F-84F to the F-110—which, as we all now know, became the F-4C.

Additionally, I would state that the F-111 also became a well known and highly respected member of the Century Series of fighter aircraft.

CMSgt. Jerome T. Czeikus,

USAF (Ret.)

Victorville, Calif.

The F-4 and F-111 are not generally considered part of the Century Series.—The Editors

Look at It Like This

Your “Chart Page” on p. 68 of the April issue of Air Force Magazine is simple and straight forward, but how long have defense advocates used “as a percent of GDP” as the gauge for sufficient spending? It seems like that technique started in the early ’90s as a result of the pressures put on the budget by the “peace dividend,” and has continued as the yardstick to argue for maintaining or increasing defense’s share of the budget. Since GDP in the US has generally increased over the years, significantly in some years, your argument is for ever-increasing defense outlays, regardless of the threat or needs of the services. It would be interesting to see the chart on p. 68 redrawn using constant 1986 dollars—dollars from the peak of the Reagan buildup, unbiased by an active war.

I am no “dove,” but if my 20-plus years in the service taught me anything, it was how inefficient and wasteful military budgeting and spending could be, especially in the definition and administration of major weapons programs. Instead of arguing for the shiniest new watch, every five years, with the most bells and whistles, let’s define the needs of the services based on our best knowledge of the threat and needs of the operators, spending what we need to spend to do the mission. Let’s streamline the development and procurement process to get systems in the field in time and in sufficient quantities to actually make a difference. Systems and training are now flexible enough to be modified over time to respond to changes in the threat, extending service lives and effectiveness regardless of how the adversary plays the game.

Maybe we can restore a reasoned approach to our appropriations. If that means an increase in the defense budget, fine, but it shouldn’t be based on some arbitrary number based on a minimum percentage of our country’s entire economy. We should spend what we need to in order to get the mission done, not, supposedly, what the country can afford.

Lt. Col. John D. Barringer Jr.,

USAF (Ret.)


US-Japan Relations

Richard Halloran’s article, “Japan at a Crossroads,” continues an unfortunate trend in your magazine lately: sensationalizing a story at the expense of facts [April, p. 60]. Halloran paints a dark picture of the current state of US-Japan relations. That’s hardly the case. Let’s look at some specifics:

“It [MCAS Futenma] has become an”open sore in the US-Japan alliance.” An exaggeration and an extremely poor metaphor. While moving MCAS Futenma has certainly been a long-term problem, it is merely one single issue. As Mr. Halloran states, the Alliance Transformation and Realignment Agreement (ATARA), commonly referred to as the “Roadmap,” outlined 19 independent initiatives to further strengthen our bilateral military relationship. Many of these initiatives are now complete—USS George Washington arrived in 2008 and is home-ported at Yokosuka Naval Base. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force Air Defense Command facility at Yokota Air Base is built, and operations will transition from Fuchu Air Base later this spring. MCAS Iwakuni opened a second runway (paid for by the government of Japan) last May, and carrier aircraft will move there from largely urban Atsugi Naval Air Station in 2014. In fact, 18 of the 19 ATARA initiatives are either complete or moving smoothly toward completion. Only Futenma is stalled. Overall, that’s a 95 percent success rate.

“Work on most of the initiatives came to a halt, however, when Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) became Prime Minister in September 2009.” Another exaggeration. Only the Futenma initiative essentially stopped when Hatoyama was selected Prime Minister (PM). All other 18 continued forward as planned. Indeed, Hatoyama’s backpedaling on the original agreement with regard to Futenma was considered a major foreign policy blunder, on both sides of the Pacific—and was the primary reason for his subsequent downfall and exit as PM.

“Even though the Japanese were jolted by Chinese and North Korean belligerence in recent months, Kan and his government have done little to persuade the Americans that Japan intends to be a reliable ally.” A curious statement, given this past January US Ambassador Roos and then-Foreign Minister Maehara signed a renewal of the Special Measures Agreement, where the government of Japan will continue to fund construction, labor, utilities, and training relocation costs associated with the alliance—covering 75 percent of US stationing costs—the most generous host nation support of any of our bilateral partners.

A good one-fourth of the article introduces us to retired Gen. Toshio Tamogami, who is described as some type of renaissance figure who enjoys broad support. That’s nonsense. Most Japanese, including members of the Japan Self-Defense Force, view General Tamogami for what he is, a member of the far right-wing fringe. Irrespective of his views on Japan possessing nuclear weapons, in every recent poll, over 80 percent of the Japanese public state their country should retain its non-nuclear principles. Given the current disaster at Japan’s nuclear power plant, one could faithfully assume that figure will no doubt grow higher.

Mr. Halloran couldn’t be further off the mark when it comes to an accurate assessment of US-Japan relations and the state of our bilateral security alliance. Look no further than our current ongoing Operation Tomodachi, where US civilian agencies and all four of our military services are engaged in one of our country’s largest ever humanitarian/diaster relief efforts—an amazingly successful bilateral endeavor that I hope will be chronicled by your magazine in a future edition.

Col. James Brophy,

USAF (Ret.)


Remember the C-27A

Given the fact that the subject article indicated that C-27s are slated for deployment to Afghanistan, whose air arm has already been equipped with refurbished G.222s, the C-27J’s predecessor, it seems rather odd that apparently no attempt has been made to take advantage of lessons learned and experience gained through the operation of USAF’s own version of the G.222, the 10 C-27As based at Howard AFB, Panama, for operations in Central America during the 1990s [“Spartan Beginnings,” April, p. 40].

While the C-27J and C-27A may have different engines (AE2100 vs. T64) and presumably different cockpit avionics, it would seem shortsighted, to say the least, for the collective USAF memory to consider the C-27J as a totally new airframe never previously in the active inventory, and not take advantage of prior experience gained with actual operations of the same airframe. Of course, this assumes that some means exists within USAF/ANG to tap into former Southern Command personnel involved with operating the C-27A, and transmit their knowledge gained to the ANG C-27J units. Maybe I’m just looking at things too logically, being an old field service rep or “tech rep” (707/727/737, DC-8/9/10, and F-15)!

Incidentally, I photographed one of the retired C-27As, 10103 with tail markings “AMC-Howard,” in a surplus yard on the southern edge of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on Jan. 7, 2002. It would be interesting to know what became of these 10 presumably low-time C-27A airframes (used for 10 years or less). You would think some use of them could be made for training aids if nothing else (as the Army has done with some early test or crash-damaged Apaches), rather than just being discarded as a bad investment or unwanted “orphans.”

T. J. Gibson

Taylor, Ariz.

Hindsight, 20-20

As a former Army Guard air defender (Stingers) who transferred to the Air National Guard for 44 months of active duty with a NORAD-gained command, post-attacks, and as someone who has spent the last 27 years studying air and ballistic missile defense systems and operations, I found Mr. Bailey’s letter (“Who Makes the Call?” April) [p. 6] interesting and well written. Having said that, I disagree with many of his tenets, but take particular personal and professional exception to this comment: “Foolishly, NORAD expected the opposite, an external attack.”

Hindsight is truly a wonderful personal attribute. If Mr. Bailey had researched NORAD’s air sovereignty laydown, he would’ve learned NORAD had no detection, tracking, or C2 capability within the United States, due to a lack of data tie-ins with the FAA’s interior radars (since corrected). In addition, NORAD was tasked with defending against external threats violating the continental air defense identification zones (ADIZ). The day of the attacks, NORAD and its subordinate organizations did their job and then—assisted by other services and combat commands—quickly adjusted in a magnificent fashion.

To tie in the performance of NORAD, 1st Air Force, the Northeast Air Defense Sector, and the crews and personnel of the 101st and 119th Fighter Wings to questions of the effectiveness of the ballistic missile program was at the least a major stretch on Mr. Bailey’s part. It also constitutes an insult to those who served and continue to serve in the air sovereignty mission.

However, I do agree with Mr. Bailey that re-examination of the missile defense system should continue, along with additional testing, rigorous evaluation of the threat, and ultimately, full deployment of the system at Fort Greeley and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Mark L. Morgan

Manchester, Mo.

Tanker, Tanker, Tanker

As a former Air Force maintainer, I have been following the new tanker issue. I didn’t work on KC-135s but had some experience with EC-135s that had booms. I’m glad Boeing got the contract for the new tanker, but I have some questions about the timeline for delivery [“Air Force World: Boeing Wins KC-X Contest,” April, p. 16].

Boeing has been in the tanker business since the KB-50. Then came the KC-97L. Then the KC-135. Great planes, each and every one. Now, we have the KC-46 based on the 30-year-old 767 airframe design. No problem there. Tried and true is good. Now it is going to take until 2017 to deliver 18 aircraft to the Air Force. From 1956 until 1961, we built probably 750 KC-135s. At the current delivery rate, it will take about a hundred years to replace the KC-135. Where is a man like Kelly Johnson when you need him

George Keeler,

USAF (Ret.)

Pine Plains, N.Y.

Many people got scared when President Eisenhower remarked, upon leaving office, to watch out for the “military-industrial complex.”

Nowadays, we have to watch out for the “political party complex,” which awarded Boeing the tanker contract.

Boeing got the KC-46A even though they rigged the lease, which ended in people being put behind bars and careers ruined! USAF then awarded the contract to Northrop Grumman’s KC-45. Washington state politicians got USAF to back down, and now Boeing wins the tanker deal. This is not what USAF wanted. Makes the voters sick!

David Chigos

San Diego

The KC-45 contract was overturned after the Government Accountability Office determined the Air Force did not follow its own selection criteria in awarding the program to Northrop Grumman.—The Editors

Long Legs Voodoo

I am still smokin’ over having pulled VA (Victor Alert) for almost four years, every fourth day, yet there was no mention of the most formidable force ever assembled [“Victor Alert,” March, p. 58]. The F-101 Voodoo,with its long legs, carried the force to do the job by penetrating deep into the heart of the Red tide. We launched when the klaxon sounded in any kind of weather, day or night, with our ground mapping radar. No other aircraft had this capability, not the F-100, not the F-105, only the F-101A. During the “Berlin Crisis,” the 81st Fighter Wing was the first to come on line, having flown eight aircraft from Libya to Bentwaters RAF station in record time, nonstop. No other aircraft matched that record.

Col. James B. Ramsey,

USAF (Ret.)

Austin, Tex.

During the 1970s, I spent five years at an air base in West Germany, first as the radar strike officer, then as the operations plans officer. We always had three Victor Alert aircraft loaded with nuclear weapons and ready for launch. From time to time, higher headquarters would send down an alert message that would send the Victor aircrews to their aircraft, where they would start engines, copy the alert message, and then shut down. Those three aircraft covered our three top priority targets. They were never scrambled into a training mission. If they had been, who would have covered those targets

It takes time to generate an aircraft, a weapon, and an aircrew. Nuclear alert was a 24/7 operation. There was no time to pull any of those aircraft and aircrews off of alert. They flew their training missions when they were done with their time on Victor Alert. Rebecca Grant’s article misses the whole point of Victor Alert and does not give the Victor Alert aircrews and support personnel the credit they deserve.

Maj. Vern J. Pall,

USAF (Ret.)

Tucson, Ariz.

Evolution of De-evolution

It does not take a rocket scientist or airman to simply understand that the February 2011 article about Secretary of Defense Robert Gates leadership should have been titled “The deterioration of airpower under Gates” [“The Evolution of Airpower Under Gates,” p. 54]. Simply, Mr. Gates has exhibited a lack of logical understanding and leadership under his tenure on most fronts, and has put our nation’s defense posture and air superiority at risk with his lack of management and warrior philosophies. This is evident through the past years of articles in Air Force Magazine. I must state sarcastically that the “Taliban or Iraqi air forces” are not an immediate threat to the United States of America. Our politicians and bureaucrats should let the military clean house on those fronts, in order to bring our servicemen and -women home. A military campaign in a sandbox that is twice as long in tenure as World War II is ridiculous. China and Russia are real threats with their conventional forces and airpower. Those “frenemies” are more than happy for us to use up our resources (fighter/bomber hours, munitions, fuel, personnel, etc.) and to be occupied on those insignificant fronts and ignore their advances. Mr. Gates’ initiatives today have put in motion tomorrow extended future conflicts and the significant loss of American/allied lives in the years to come. Second best air forces do not receive trophies, write history, or survive. Without superior airpower and their ample munitions and support aircraft platforms, the United States Air Force, along with its incredible country, is on course of having a very bad day. It is time to get serious again about winning and being intelligent.

Bill Johns

Knoxville, Tenn.