Remember Space and Cyber
In “A Force Rebalanced” (July 2012) [p. 28], Executive Editor John Tirpak does a masterful job of describing how and why our air domain forces must be modernized. However, in slightly over 3,000 words discussing our air, space, and cyberspace service’s “bedrock modernization programs,” he devoted only two—”and satellites”—to the space and cyberspace domains. While in many cases the air domain is rightly considered to be the pointy end of our business, it is increasingly true that the space and cyberspace domains provide foundational capabilities for our Air Force.
I often challenge audiences to think of an operational mission the Air Force performs that doesn’t require space and cyberspace capabilities. Our command and control is generated in, and passes through, cyberspace–and often through space as well. GPS enables precision in everything from aircraft navigation to bomb guidance to high-speed network timing. Satellite communications enable the reachback that allows us to bolster operations like the war in Afghanistan without deploying additional forces forward—avoids unnecessary exposure to hostilities and saves the resources that would be required for logistically supporting those forces.
Even the modernization efforts described in Mr. Tirpak’s article are likewise space- and cyber-enabled. For example, the F-35 is loaded with cyber assets; in fact, if we do this right, it could function as a node on the Air Force network. Its command and control, navigation, communications, weapons, and many other systems are space-dependent. The F-22, the ISR platforms, and the airframes remotely piloted from halfway around the globe rely even more heavily on support from the space and cyber realms.
It’s no exaggeration to say almost every military program operating in the land, maritime, or air domains is intimately intertwined with the foundational cyberspace and space domains. So it seems shortsighted that an article about modernization within the Air Force doesn’t mention two of the three domains we cite in our mission statement—especially when our space and cyberspace systems are in the midst of significant modernization as well. With the exception of our weather satellites, literally all of our satellite constellations are being modernized to respond to increasing threats and increasing demand. We’re concurrently revamping our cyber networks for similar reasons.
These modernizations will significantly enhance the space and cyber support for every other warfighting domain. However, in some cases, we’re the pointy end of the spear as well. I don’t think it’s a stretch to envision a time when decisive effects are the result of a few well-timed keystrokes. The modernizations we’re working now will facilitate some of these tip-of-the-spear operations.
The new Defense Strategic Guidance states that in addition to a shift of emphasis to the Asia/Pacific region, “DoD will continue to … invest in advanced capabilities to defend its networks, operational capability, and resiliency in cyberspace and space.” Our leadership understands the foundational nature of these domains. They understand the American way of war depends critically on information, and that much, if not all, of that information is generated in, stored in, or transits the space and cyberspace domains.
No question, our air domain systems are front and center of what is the United States Air Force, the best air force the world has ever known. But our space- and cyber domain systems also are strong contributors to what makes us the best. When discussing budget priorities and force modernization, let’s not forget such foundational capability in our service.
The thesis of Mr. Tirpak’s article is that there’s quite a lot good about the future of the Air Force. And to that thesis, I say, amen! But let’s make sure we balance the rebalance with coverage of the other two of our three domains.
Gen. William L. Shelton
Peterson AFB, Colo.
A better [subhead] for the article would be, “Through the declining budgets, the Air Force is becoming a third-rate US military arm.” The F-22 program is too small in numbers, and therefore is doomed in the outyears to become unsustainable due to cost vs. mission capability. It is time for DOD to stand up for the USAF air superiority mission with a follow-on F-22, as USAF cannot be in two places at once. Wouldn’t our key allies stream back under the USAF umbrella in an F-22 [foreign military sales] program? In the meantime, I am sure China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and others are playing out this weakness in their wargames. What do you have to say, new Air Force leadership?
Lt. Col. Sid Howard,USAF (Ret.)
Midwest City, Okla.
Poking the Hornet’s Nest
Fifty-two years after the mission, we are still writing about it: in the July issue of the Air Force Magazine, p. 4 editorial [“Long Roads to Redemption”], the first four paragraphs and the chart on p. 59 [“The Berlin For Lunch Bunch”]. I was a flight surgeon crew member on that mission. I have seen portions of the mission apparently declassified since 1999. Certainly it was appropriate for Capt. John McKone and Capt. Bruce Olmstead to have been recognized in 2004.
Our primary mission of a flight of three RB-47Hs was to provoke the Russians and do radar mapping of their flight path. We were attacked by two Russian MiGs over the Barents Sea. All six crew members exited the RH-47 that was shot down, five with open parachutes.
We should remember the four men who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The pilot, Maj. Willard G. Palm, was the only crew member whose remains were returned to the United States. I was told that he had a fatal bullet wound. Maj. Eugene E. Posa, Capt. Oscar L. Goforth, and Capt. Dean B. Phillips’ bodies were not recovered.
We returned fire on an attacking MiG and one was shot down. The other MiG broke off the attack. We stayed in the area as a search and rescue until low fuel made us return to base. I was ordered to say nothing about the mission and I have not until now.
Col. R. J. Black Schultz,USAFR (Ret.)
Your editorial about the Silver Star being presented to Gary Powers posthumously [“Long Roads to Redemption,” July 2012] brought to mind some information I read about the Powers story many years ago that I have never heard discussed. The book The Trial of the U-2 is the transcript of the trial.
Powers’ trial was certainly a show trial, conducted in front of a 2,000-person international audience with simultaneous translation into six languages. The transcript seems very fair for Soviet trials, except of course that Powers was compelled to testify. Powers pleaded guilty and, in fact, was guilty. Powers’ “testimony” seems very factual but he played the part that he was a simple pilot who turned switches on and off over various places shown on his map.
The US government seemed certain that Powers did not survive whatever happened to him when he failed to reach Bode, Norway. Five days after the shootdown, the Soviets announced that they had shot down a spyplane, but didn’t mention the fate of the pilot. On the same day the State Department announced that a NASA U-2 weather research airplane had had trouble with its oxygen system on May 1 and may have strayed into Soviet territory on autopilot and was missing. Of course, the Soviets had Powers alive.
The airplane was not hit by the missile, although the tail was blown off from the blast behind the aircraft. The U-2 is a fragile airplane and disintegrated from aerodynamic stress as it tumbled from the sky. At the trial Powers testified that he was hit “at the maximum altitude, at about 68,000 feet.” Powers testified in response to the question, “How did you leave the airplane?”:
“I was unable to use the ejection seat because of the forces originating in the falling plane. I remember I was at a height of 30,000 feet and I realized I could not use the ejection seat. So I opened the canopy and loosened the straps. The centrifugal forces pressed half of me against the instrument panel while the other half hung outside. I had forgotten to disconnect the oxygen hose and they held me in. I had to struggle to get out. The parachute opened automatically immediately after I left the airplane. By that time I was at 14,000 feet.”
The Soviets collected all the parts they could find and studied the prize. A special committee of experts was selected to study the destructor unit that was found intact in the wreckage of the plane. They discovered the destruct device was operated from the cockpit. There were two ways the plane could be destroyed. On the instrument panel near the electrical instruments there was the word “explosion” which they assumed referred to a special switch for remote control destruction. However, elements of the remote control wiring were not found.
The other device operated with the ejection seat in one of two ways. It operated (1) either with electrical control with a timing mechanism or (2) with an electrical control without a timing mechanism. The experts did not find any timing mechanism in the wreckage.
When Powers flew on the mission he carried a “blood chit” (I am not sure of the exact nomenclature) that consisted of ample escape and evasion material, but he was also given a needle loaded with curare sufficient to cause a quick death if captured. He was not instructed to use the needle but it was an option for him.
So why was the State Department so confident their cover story about the faulty oxygen system would stand? Why did Powers elect to get out of the cockpit manually instead of with the ejection seat? The book shows a photo of the destructor unit on display with the caption: “Destructor unit Powers didn’t use because he believed he would be killed instantly.”
Maj. Charles W. Hinton,USAF (Ret.)
Satellite Beach, Fla.
What a Mess
I have read and reread Rebecca Grant’s article “End of the Cold War Air Force” [July, p. 40]. It treats the changes to the operational Air Force in considerable depth and discussion. However, the treatment of subsuming AFSC, the Air Force Systems Command, into AFMC, the Air Force Materiel Command, gets fairly minimal treatment.
AFSC was an attempt to create a strong, knowledgable system development, engineering, and production organization as a counter to a Lockheed, Boeing, or Grumman. At various times it was led by Ben Schriever, Sam Phillips, and Al Slay. It took calculated risks and pushed us into the future. It produced the Titan and Minuteman ICBMs well ahead of the Soviets, and the B-52s, F-15s, and F-16s dominated the skies well before our adversaries. AFSC was a training ground for fledgling program managers, military and civilian, and the best from captain on up were tracked and positioned to grow. I had 11 years of increasing acquisition experience before I became the program manager for the SRAM (Short Range Nuclear Attack Missile) for defense suppression carried by the B-52s and FB-111s.
On the contrary, AFMC is the logistic support for all Air Force systems. It was and is, of necessity, risk averse and must support the fighting Air Force units today and every day around the globe. The two organization missions are not compatible, and priorities will change, sometimes dramatically, on a day-to-day basis.
We have been arguing the role of acquisition in the Air Force for the last 40 years with no uniformed breakthrough or enlightened motivation. So let me just focus on just two critical aspects.
Experience and continuity:
Experience—if we truly believe that we need experienced Air Force military and Air Force civilian program managers, then we need to grow them, save them from the predatory personnel system, get them some ” real world” experience in dealing with the aerospace industry, and lead them up the growth curve. A few “hits” along the way will be good conditioning. … It was for me! There is no substitute for knowing you are in a management chain in which you are expected to grow, become accountable, and learn through exposure to the “real” acquisition world.
Continuity—continuity is critical. We have it in industry in “spades,” but not in OSD or the military. In the military we do have an essence as program managers grow up, if left to do so! One of the great errors of Goldwater-Nichols was to remove acquisition from the military and tie it to the selected officials in the OSD and service hierarchy, who are first and foremost political appointees. When Gen. Ron Yates, USAF (Ret.),was principal deputy to the Air Force undersecretary for acquisition, he was involved in every program. When he got his fourth star as commander of AFSC, he was automatically excluded by Goldwater-Nichols from having anything to do with Air Force acquisition programs! His experience of years of USAF acquisition was cast aside! Did that make sense? No complaint from the political side.
Furthermore, as political candidates were ushered into key OSD and Air Force acquisition roles, they mostly lacked any practical experience, but instead of policymaking, which is a legitimate headquarters function, they ventured into the acquisition details that USAF had lost to Goldwater-Nichols. Program details and trades are now managed out of the Pentagon. Hoorah for Goldwater-Nichols! I could have never successfully managed SRAM and AWACS in today’s stifling system. Is it any wonder that General McPeak would say to Air Force Secretary Don Rice, “Are you now going to tell me how sharp the bayonet should be?”
Gen. Lawrence A. Skantze,USAF (Ret.)
Readers deserve more than the uncritical pablum served up in Grant’s article on the reorganization of the Air Force under then Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill McPeak and Air Force Secretary Donald Rice. Much of what was done had to be undone. What comes across in the article is the enormous ego of McPeak. Lost in his rush to dismantle SAC was any appreciation that the strongest justification for an independent Air Force was the strategic bombing mission. A more balanced analysis of the reorganization would have highlighted the danger of too much ego in decision-making. McPeak’s legacy would have been even worse had it not been for the approach of his successor, Gen. Ronald Fogleman, who took to binding up the open sores left by McPeak. It is a shame that Grant’s article does not represent something of lasting value in cataloging the lessons of the reorganization.
Col. Michael R. Gallagher,USAF (Ret.)
Having served as an aircraft maintenance officer at Luke AFB, Ariz., during the USAF reorganization in the summer of 1992, I can vouch that General McPeak’s comment that “others might call it turmoil, even confusion” rang true at the time (all office furniture was to remain in place during the reorganization, but pickup trucks were spotted with desks and chairs all over the base on the big day). The amazing thing is that we effectively continued our mission despite the relentless speed of the reorganization. In my opinion we succeeded because of the truly outstanding professionals we had, from the wing commander to the dedicated maintenance professionals on the flight line and in the shops. We were successful due to the way USAF had organized to train and fight during the previous decade. Had we not been so well prepared, the reorganization may not have gone so smoothly. In my case, having already had the opportunity to command two aircraft maintenance squadrons, I felt I was well-prepared to take command of a 1,200-person maintenance squadron that had been created from four existing squadrons (in just a few weeks) supporting both F-15s and F-16s. While it was certainly a challenge, we prevailed due to the professional dedication of all the men and women in the new super squadron.
I believe the otherwise excellent article should have pointed out that not all of the changes made during that period turned out to be good for the Air Force and had to be reversed in subsequent years. McPeak said it best in the last sentence of the article, “Are we properly organized? That’s something every Chief should ask.” In fact, every Chief did ask, and USAF has changed some small things, i.e., officer rank back on the shoulders; some big things, i.e. Global Strike Command; and some very fundamentally important things, i.e., flight line aircraft maintenance under the maintenance group.
Col. Steve Sylvester, USAF (Ret.)
I survived the McPeak era but it wasn’t easy. It was like “shock and awe” before its time. … So much, so fast, so landscape altering. The relatively uncomplicated graphic display that accompanies Rebecca Grant’s article doesn’t do it justice. If you overlaid all the additional Majcom and organizational changes that occurred during McPeak’s reign you’d get a truer picture of the uproar caused, and all in a relatively compressed time span. Military patch manufacturers were by far the biggest winners and undoubtedly made a fortune!
I was a young field-grader and career ATC officer at the time and survived the disruption of my professional world with the disintegration of Air Force Communications Command. I consequently went from a career of largely working for communications officers, in direct support of the operators (pilots), to working directly for the operators themselves. It was quite a cultural shift and not without a fair share of pain and suffering for all involved.
As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger,” so perhaps I owe General McPeak a vote of gratitude. Maybe I’ll buy his new memoir, Hangar Flying, the first of a planned three-volume series, as a fitting payback.
Col. Bill Malec,USAF (Ret.)
Having worked for the air staff and Rand, I can see why Dr. Grant is so positive on former Secretary of the Air Force Rice and former USAF Chief of Staff McPeak. Her July article reflects a certain familiarity. Personally, I have a different perspective. I’m not sure that that fighter pilot and that McNamara era “Whiz-Kid” were the perfect pair to reorganize the Air Force in the early 1990s. Too much ego.
In the article, McPeak appears as “me,” the saving avenger. He rushes into the SAF’s office and says, “Let’s reorganize the AF.” The SAF said, “OK … how do you want to do it?” This suggestion from a general officer, who admitted that he didn’t know the difference between tactical and strategic weapons application, who saw USAF’s core mission as “manned wing combat,” and believed that “no one was better at keeping track of them [nuclear weapons] than me.” The admission of needing to get rid of Gen. John T. Chain (CINCSAC) because, he “would never have acquiesced” also says a lot about the individuals involved. If you don’t agree, let’s just get rid of you. As stated in the article, “McPeak wanted to move fast. He felt a four-year term was not much time to drive change into the fabric of USAF.” Note the use of terms like “drive change” and “fabric” of the Air Force. In the trenches, we saw false starts, jerk stops, and in many cases arbitrary approaches that would have been comical if they hadn’t been so damaging and costly. We waited in anxious anticipation for the next crazy decision.
Considering ICBMs as “shooters” shows complete lack of understanding of weapons application, unless we can apply them like iron bombs and 20 mm cannons. The ICBM movement to ACC HQ reinforces one of the monumental blunders. The comment by McPeak speaks volumes, “That was stupid and I undid that as quick as I could, without it looking like I spilled ketchup on my tie.” Would that be the new uniform tie? These were real weapons and real people. Even today, USAF is correcting some of the blunders. Using AFI’s resulted in a series of near disastrous incidents. We finally stood up Air Force Global Strike Command to bring control back to our strategic nuclear forces. With AFGSC, we have decided that clear guidance might be better than operational suggestions. General Chain could have offered that perspective.
The light blue-dark blue command structure of USSTRATCOM borders on diabolical. We made groups into squadrons, then back to groups. Where was the considerate, professional forethought and planning that the Air Force had such a respected reputation for? Seems like too many “mes” and “Is.”
Bottom line … How is that change working out? I believe the Air Force is still recovering from the early 1990s reorganization. “See you on the flight line!”
Col. Quentin M. Thomas,USAF (Ret.)
Concerning the article by Rebecca Grant, I believe the breakup of the Strategic Air Command was a tragic mistake. This was only done to appease the Russians and Chinese and nothing more.
Now as these two countries greatly build up their military forces, our defense department is being gravely cut back, SAC is gone, and the greatest deterrent to war is nowhere to be found.
The Chinese, Vladimir Putin, and the mullahs in Iran must be overjoyed.
Speak No Evil
Brian Shul and Walter Watson Jr. have never had their their day in court. They deserve one.
I am saddened and disappointed by the statements made by Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Halloran, USAF (Ret.), about Brian Shul in the July 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine [“Letters: Famous or Infamous?” p. 7]. For a senior officer with such a distinguished career and so greatly admired to impugn in a widely read professional journal the reputation of an equally fine man is inappropriate and unfortunate.
Well-known to many, both inside and out of the Blackbird community, are the negative comments that, for the past 25 years, have continued from the head of the Blackbird Association concerning Brian Shul—perhaps the “landslide” the general is referring to. Had the general bothered to inquire of other sources or, better yet, interview the two people directly involved in an event that took place 13 years after he left the SR-71 program, he might have learned what many members have long known but are unwilling to discuss for fear of being ostracized by the association’s leadership. It has been far too easy for these few leaders to use their positions and titles as added credibility in launching slanderous attacks of half-truths and innuendos against Shul and Watson. General Halloran failed to mention two of these, an SR-71 operations officer and a wing commander, now prominent members of the association, were both summarily fired from their positions. Shul and Watson were never fired. Watson continued a distinguished career and retired as a colonel. Shul, though removed from flying the SR-71 without a hearing, flew the T-38 at Beale until retirement. No official, punitive action was ever taken against either, simply because there was absolutely nothing, aside from poor judgment, to charge them with. These are facts and matters of official record. One can only assume from all this that the “Blackbird standards” mentioned in General Halloran’s letter are applied in a very selective manner.
Walter J. Boyne made an excellent choice in including Brian Shul and Walter Watson as a notable crew [“Airpower Classics: SR-71,” May, p. 152]. Ironically, though vilified by a select few within the Blackbird community, this crew has done more than any other SR-71 crew to promote the message of extraordinary achievement this great aircraft represented through their informative, inspiring, and highly acclaimed presentations. Their books, like their message, are world class. Regardless of how anyone feels about Brian Shul, General Halloran’s heavy-handed remarks reflect negatively on the Blackbird Association as there is much that is left out, and they bear the stain of vendetta or even jealousy. As “Godfather,” he has allowed this sort of reckless behavior from senior members of the association to go on far too long. Regrettably, it has also been witnessed by many in aviation circles in this country and overseas to the detriment of the association’s reputation and the truly legendary achievements of its members.
In all of their books and public speaking, Shul and Watson have never spoken ill of anyone in the SR-71 program nor chosen to air the politics that consumed the squadron in its final days. Apparently, some in the Blackbird Association felt it necessary to enlist the aid of one of their most respected and admired members to publicly slander Shul for simply being mentioned as “notable” by a renowned aviation writer he has never met. Watson and Shul would never write these things in a public forum. Perhaps it’s time someone did. For those with heartburn from what I have said or the way I have said it in this letter, there’s no need to ask General Halloran to haul your water again. Contact me directly.
Lt. Col. Raymond B. Tucker,USAF (Ret.)
Panama City, Fla.
Regarding Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Halloran’s commentary, I find his comments about Walter Boyne’s choice of Brian Shul as a “famous flier” in the “Airpower Classics” section of the May 2012 issue Air Force Magazine, inappropriate and unprofessional.
General Halloran’s objection to Brian Shul should not have been mentioned in the letter. Rather, his objection and reason should have been directed to Walter Boyne.
Shul’s flying the El Dorado Canyon mission seems, to me, a reasonable qualifier for a “famous flier.” Shul’s book, with stunning images and narrative about the mission, enhanced the mission’s notoriety, in my opinion.
It seems inappropriate for the “Godfather” to have character assassinated Shul’s service. To provide the reader with open-ended verbiage such as “removed for cause” with reasons as “long and appropriate list of negative activities” doesn’t belong in this magazine.They suggest career-ending political issues. Where’s the connection to flying successful missions, the stick and rudder skills needed to harness the Blackbird, and hours spent in a pressure suit over hostile territory?
“Not a member of the Blackbird Association” sounds like political censure to me. General Halloran, along with the Blackbird Association’s “former crew members” come across as jealous ax grinders.
Brian Shul gave us nonplayers a frontseat view of the Blackbird in action with his stunning crisp images and descriptive prose. Likewise, Shul and Watson gave the US government stunning images of the bad guys!
I’ll speculate the squadron commander, wing commander, and Blackbird Association naysayers didn’t like Shul’s photography and subsequent success.
I was an aircraft commander in the KC-135Q at Beale in the early days of the SR-71 program. I knew General Halloran and in the intervening years have had the opportunity to meet Walt Watson and Brian Shul—all very fine men of the highest caliber. Walter Boyne is spot on in his inclusion of Watson and Shul as one of the notable SR-71 crews as they have served to benefit the SR-71 community as a whole with their unique presentations and beautiful depictions of the SR-71 in their widely read books. I found General Halloran’s remarks disturbing in tone and intent. Shul and Watson paid for their indiscretion and have moved on with their lives quite successfully. It appears that professional jealousy has appeared in the Blackbird community. In every organization there are incidents that occur that will be classified as indiscretions or professional lapses of judgment. The Shul-Watson incident doesn’t make the top 10 among SR-71 pilots. The 25-year-old ax that the Blackbird Association continues to grind can only reflect poorly on the many exceptional people who served in that program.
Lt. Col. Wilbur L. Tracy,USAF (Ret.)
Yuba City, Calif.
Having worked in the aviation museum business for 20-plus years, it has been my honor and privilege to have met both Brian Shul and Walt Watson and to have enjoyed their excellent multimedia presentation on the Blackbird … many times. I was surprised to see Brian’s name mentioned in General Halloran’s letter to the editor in less than exemplary terms.
Since 1992, whether speaking to capacity-filled museums, or patiently answering questions from the endless masses at air shows across this country, I believe Brian has singularly accomplished more for the proud legacy of this stellar aircraft, and the pilots who flew her, than any other individual, in or out of the service. I think Walter Boyne was spot on. The Blackbird Association, in my opinion, should be thanking Brian and Walter as honorable torchbearers for their namesake jet, instead of getting all spooled up over some dusty, decades-old event, and attempting to now cast aspersions.
In the Boonies at PSAB
Thanks for a walk down memory lane. I could not help but smile as I read Rebecca Grant’s article [“The Short, Strange Life of PSAB,” July, p. 52]. The article was well-written and contained several familiar names. However, I wanted to highlight one unit in particular that was not mentioned at all: the 5th Combat Communications Group from Robins AFB, Ga. Back in 1996, in the aftermath of the Khobar Towers bombing, the “5th Mob” was placed on alert in anticipation of executing their mission to set up communications and air traffic services in bare base locations. Within 48 hours of receiving the execute order, the 54th Combat Communications Squadron departed on Aug. 6, 1996, in six C-5s carrying over 275 short tons of equipment and over 130 airmen. After two aerial refuelings and a crew swap in Ramstein, we arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base 36 hours later under visual flight rules. There was a tanker and airlift control element on the ground and not much else. So, in 120+ degree heat, the 5th Mob crew proceeded to unload the aircraft of everything we needed to sustain ourselves for a few days. During the next 30 days, as RED HORSE and other units began arriving, the 5th Mob crew established a fully functional airfield (TACAN, tactical ATC Tower, and RAPCON) and a communications infrastructure consisting of 44 miles of telephone and networking capability, satellite communications connectivity, and AUTODIN messaging services. We even brought a CTAPS terminal online to pick up the air tasking order. It was an amazing accomplishment and a tribute to combat communicators then and now.
Fast forward six years, and I found myself back at PSAB in June of 2001, for a year-long remote. It was a much different operation from the humble beginnings of 1996. Once again, as we ramped up for Operation Iraqi Freedom, PSAB became even busier. With the combined air operations center just a couple of miles away, and the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing bursting at the seams with people and aircraft, it was an amazing time to be there and a testament to teamwork at its finest. What was more amazing is how fast the drawdown began as combat operations start slowing. We began tearing down infrastructure and shipping it to al Udeid just as fast as we could. Again, thanks for highlighting a special place in our Air Force history!
Col. Gary McAlum,USAF (Ret.)
I deployed to Desert Shield in late December 1990 from Holloman AFB, N.M., arriving in early January 1991 to the 4th Fighter Wing Provisional. At that early stage, there were already two squadrons of F-15Es, one of F-15Cs, two squadrons of F-16As, and a detachment of C-130s. Also the base was active from November 1990 through June 1991 when as the recently constituted 4404th Provisional Wing, it moved to Dharan. As members of the advance party, we were housed in mobile trailers, as Khobar Towers was just being turned over to US forces. I redeployed back to Holloman in July 1991, after 183 days in theater.
SSgt. Rodney June, USAF (Ret.)
I read the article about PSAB and was reminded of the time I spent there in 1991. The second paragraph, however, makes it sound as if the Air Force left the base after January 1991. A small error, but it should have been more specific. I was a member of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing Provisional and the group I was with left PSAB for Dhahran where we joined the 4404th. As I remember there were still Air Force troops working at the base pre-positioning equipment after my group left.
The article was right about the place being remote. All you could see in any direction were sand dunes. I was very proud to be a part of the wing. There were two squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagles from [Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.], a squadron of F-15C from Bitburg AB, Germany, and one squadron each of F-16s from the New York Air Guard and the South Carolina Air Guard. There was also a detachment of C-130s—I believe from Texas. We meshed as a unit. We weren’t Active Duty or Air Guard. We were all Air Force.
SSgt. Jack Driggers,USAF (Ret.)
Indian Trail, N.C.
Parking on the Down Low
I wish to comment on “The Berlin For Lunch Bunch” article written by retired Col. Walter J. Boyne in your July 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine [p. 56].
There was another mission being conducted by USAF aircrews concurrently with the aerial spying of Soviet forces during the Cold War.
From October 1960 to October 1963, I was a C-47 airborne radio operator (AFSC A29352) assigned to the 7350th Support Squadron, Tempelhof Central Arpt., West Berlin. While I was stationed at Tempelhof, there were two C-47 aircraft assigned full-time to Tempelhof Central Airport.
During many of the Tempelhof C-47 missions that I participated in, our aircraft carried (civilian?) East Bloc passengers (refugees and defectors) to Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, through the Berlin air corridor. We called ourselves “The Frankfurt For Lunch Bunch” and we did, in fact, eat our lunch at Rhein-Main AB, West Germany, before flying back to West Berlin. By the way, we never parked in front of Rhein-Main base operations to let our passengers disembark. We were always escorted to a remote part of Rhein-Main where we parked and then let our passengers disembark to board waiting buses or limousines. After our passengers disembarked, we then taxied to a spot in front of Rhein-Main base operations.
Of course, these missions were all (close-hold) top secret and I never mentioned what I really did in West Berlin to my family and friends until long after the Cold War was over.
I’m sure that many other Cold War aircrew veterans have their own stories to tell about flying classified missions in and out of West Berlin during the 45-year Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.
CMSgt. Ken Witkin,USAF (Ret.)
Fort Washington, Md.
Walter Boyne’s article about airborne intelligence collectors in the Berlin air corridors provided a lot of history not many are privy to. But Boyne’s article is misleading. He states, “Three air routes to West Berlin … were … for 44 years, how the allies collected intelligence on the densest concentration of Soviet military forces in the world.” This leads one to believe that airborne corridor collectors were the only in-theater collectors. What a surprise to all the ground-based Russian, German, and Polish linguists, Morse interceptors, electronic signals exploiters, and radar operators working at places in Belin like Marienfelde, Teufelsberg, and Tempelhof Central Airport. Likewise, this article overlooks the contributions of the Military Liaison Mission troops in Potsdam.
Capt. William F. Sims,USAF (Ret.)
Scanning the article reminded me of one of the best kept secrets in Air Force assignment. While assigned to Tempelhof in the 80s, I’d talk with these crew members. They always looked forward to Tempelhof because we had a “killer” ice cream stand at the airfield entrance. They’d change their patches to one that said, “Eat ice cream or die.” If I’d known we’d be going home as fast as we did in 1989, I’d have tried to get one.
Um, That’s Not a Panther
On Sept. 21, 1953, I was a lieutenant stationed at Kimpo AB, South Korea, when the MiG piloted by Lieutenant No landed there [“Lt. No,” July, p. 60]. As assistant base operations officer for the 4th Air Base Group, I was in a Jeep observing work being done on the north end of the runway when Lieutenant No landed to the south. A flight of F-86s was in the break to land to the north when the MiG flew directly over me. Fortunately for all concerned, the -86s broke off immediately and unceremoniously went around. The MiG taxied into the alert pad on the south end of the runway in the middle of the alert aircraft, where the pilot shut the engine down. I recall he showed pictures of what at the time was assumed to be relatives as he climbed out of the cockpit. The story quickly spread around that a crew chief using the accepted hand signals, calmly parked the MiG then turned to an utterly flabbergasted alert pilot sitting in one of the -86s and said, “Hey, Lieutenant! What’s with the Panther jet?” The MiG did vaguely resemble a US Navy Panther.
Maj. Gen. James L. Gardner,USAF (Ret.)
More McNamara Slamming
Your article on p. 45, “Stenner Slams McNamara,” July 2012 issue [“Keeper File], was right on target. McNamara was a disaster as a Secretary of Defense. He overly micromanaged the bombing of North Vietnam. He canceled the F-108 fighter and B-70 bomber. He messed up military aircraft designations. The Douglas AD-1 Skyraider attack had to be the A-1, to standardize with Air Force A-1, etc. He insisted that the F-111 had to be an Air Force fighter and Navy carrier fighter. It was in fact a bomber. Far too heavy to be a Navy carrier fighter. It was far to heavy for this mission. Enough said!
George La Salle
That’s Not Heavy
The photo presented as “a C-17 Globemaster III drops heavy equipment supplies” is a misrepresentation [“Air Force World: Whoa, That’s Heavy, Man,” July, p. 17]. Any ol’ loadmaster will recognize that shown is the standard drop of 2,000-pound canvas container delivery bundles presented for most “dog and pony” shows. There is nothing heavy! Heavy airdrop of vehicles, armor, artillery, etc., is much more complicated and is not typically provided except during an operational readiness inspection/exercise. Heavy airdrop is a beautiful demonstration of Army and Air Force riggers, loaders, aircrew, maintenance, and command and control professionalism and cooperation. Watching a vital piece of equipment being extracted from the ramp of your airlifter is cause of great pride. Having your load land on the drop zone in operational condition means success. Airborne!
CMSgt. Vic Skaar,USAF (Ret.)
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