Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits


Nov. 3, 2022

We love letters! Write to us at To be published, letters should be timely, relevant and concise. Include your name and location. Letters may be edited for space and the editors have final say on which are published.

Risky Space

The article [“Targets in Space,” September, p. 36] spoke to kinetic and nonkinetic risks to military and commercial satellites and called for international cooperation on a number of fronts. Sadly, author Amanda Miller missed a great opportunity to discuss a prime example of such cooperation in space by failing to mention NASA’s DART mission to the double asteroid system known as Didymos with its orbiting moonlet, Dimorphos. While the asteroid was no immediate threat to the earth, the DART mission was a proof of concept experiment to gather data useful in possible future intercepts of asteroids on collision paths with the earth. 

On Sept. 26, 2022, the 10-month mission resulted in a spectacular kinetic strike upon the moonlet. The last three photos sent by the 1,345-pound impacting probe were absolutely stunning! Further, the 31-pound LICIACube satellite (which had hitched a ride upon DART until it separated 15 days prior to impact in order to establish itself in a relatively safe 600-mile orbit around Didymos) followed up with even more stunning photos of the impact. The LICIACube was manufactured by Italy. What better example of international cooperation could there be?

Capt. S. John Facey, 
USAF (Ret.)
San Antonio

 “Targets in Space” by Amanda Miller raised an interesting thought. According to,“As of 2021, the United States Space Surveillance Network was tracking more than 15,000 pieces of space debris larger than 10 cm (4 inches) across. It is estimated that there are about 200,000 pieces between 1 and 10 cm (0.4 and 4 inches) across and that there could be millions of pieces smaller than 1 cm. … Objects below 600 km (375 miles) orbit several years before reentering Earth’s atmosphere. Objects above 1,000 km (600 miles) will orbit for centuries.” Every time a satellite reaches orbit, more “orbital buckshot” is generated, and when satellites collide either with each other or with pieces of this debris, the number of objects traveling at 17,000 miles per hour-plus increases dramatically.

This poses a problem for both manned and unmanned space ventures. Orbiting debris has already collided with the International Space Station, and as the density of debris increases there only be more such potential disasters.

The Space Force could play a crucial role in reducing this space trash. Light carries momentum, and when it is absorbed by or reflects off objects some of that momentum is transferred to the object. A powerful laser in orbit could therefore de-orbit a lot of the smaller junk. The Space Force could markedly reduce the amount of space trash while honing its skills in tracking and illuminating objects for tomorrow’s space conflicts while doing a truly useful task today. Yes, there are those who would claim that the real intent was to introduce a satellite-blinding weapon into space, and while it’s true that the same laser that could illuminate a piece of space junk to de-orbit it could also be used to blind a spy satellite. But, so be it. The Space Force should not miss an opportunity to prepare for tomorrow’s space conflicts while doing a truly useful task for all spacefaring nations today.

Col. Terrence Jay O’Neil,
USAF (Ret.)
Johnson City, Tenn. 

Democratic Republic?

I have been an AFA life member since 1976 and like the new AFA magazine title. It supports reporting air & space operations to the membership. Well done.

And Tobias Naegele’s “National Treasure” [September, p.  2] is on point except for one thing, mentioning “our democratic republic.” Our federal government is a democratic nothing. It is a pure republic, or at least it is supposed to be.

When the founders organized the original United States, they knew the average citizen did not have enough <fill in the blank> to legislate the Union’s actions effectively. Those that did would be chosen to represent the state’s citizens in federal matters. And it was thought that they would not be elected but selected by the state leadership for the citizens of that state.

Over time, and especially since the mid-1890s, the democratic party has commandeered the use of democracy to represent our federal system of government. I discovered this while researching a book I wrote on War Department Technical Manual 2000-25. The title of my book is “Citizenship 1928.”

You could argue semantics, but I know the truth. We are a republic at the federal level. That we have morphed into a democratic anything is the result of years of effort by the democratic party.

Please stop using any modifier to describe our national government. It’s time to go back to the republic.

Maj. James L. Tippins,
USAF (Ret.)
Rockledge, Fla.

Slow Burn

For several reasons, I kept getting angry while reading your recent issue [“Raptor Rebellion,” September, p. 40].

I got to pondering why the solution to the fact of the F-22 fleet being too small to efficiently upgrade is to retire more of them. Something has been “not right” about the treatment of the F-22 program for decades now.

I got to revisit the lamentable days of the Moseley/Wynne firings by acclaimed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates over “Next-war-itis.” Well, whatever that term means, it looks like we’re nearly there 14 years later in the Taiwan Straits with a too small fleet of fifth-gen fighters. Remind me again why Gates is so acclaimed.

Finally, I was left again to wonder why there’s not a boomer “lying face down in the rear and looking out the back” of the KC-46. That video system sure is going great, huh?

I haven’t even mentioned the whole sequestration fiasco.

MSgt. Bill Brockman,
USAF (Ret.)

Help for Ukraine

In 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea the U.S. thought it would be able to persuade Russia to give it back to Ukraine, whose nukes were snatched by the U.S. (which has emboldened Russia to invade Ukraine) and whose territorial integrity’s protection is the responsibility of the USA under ‘Budapest Memorandum 1994’. On the contrary after eight years after recognizing the independence of Donbas (Donetsk & Luhansk) on Feb. 21 and after entering Ukraine militarily on Feb. 24 (killing many innocent Ukrainians) now Russia is the assimilating Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions of Ukraine through referendum under coercion of Russian military. 

If the people of the U.S. are left with any sense of sanctity and responsibility toward international political commitments of the U.S., then in the 2022 congressional elections they should send only those political parties to both the houses of the U.S. Congress that will authorize the U.S. President to wage war (assisted by U.S. allies) against Russia under the War Powers Act for protecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine (by getting all Ukraine’s territory back from the possession of Russia).  

Hem Raj Jain
Shakopee, Minn.

Remembering Korea

I’m pleased—and honored—to share my birth anniversary with the USAF, al-though I do predate it by a few years. I’m 93.
I was privileged to serve on Active duty with the 131st Fighter Bomber Wing during the Korean conflict at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, and George Air Force Base, Calif.

I found Doug Birkey’s article “Air War Over Korea: Lessons for Today’s Airmen” [August, p. 86 ] most interesting—probably because I was quite close to it. The aircraft photos on p. 86 and 87 are those our pilots flew when MOANG was activated in 1951 and what we then used after deactivation. Formidable aircraft!!!

G.B. (Jerry) Ketcherside,
USAF (Ret.)

More on Chiefs

Just finished the September issue. Although I really enjoyed “Chiefly Speaking”, [p. 52], it did give me some pause in two areas. It’s fair assessment that the Air Force was not a fan of then Secretary of Defense Gates, which is clear in the article. The other issue (for me) is that while part of my job was assisting with AEF rotations of Reserve Aeromedical Evacuation personnel, I kept seeing stories in the open press about how well the Air Force was supplying the deployed troops via airlift. 

At the same time, my then-Active duty son (also in the Air Force) was driving convoys in Iraq. The practice of vehicle operators began under Gen T. Michael Moseley and continued under Gen. Norton A. Schwartz. Just my opinion, but this is a textbook example of “mission creep.”

Col. John M. Starzyk,
USAF (Ret.)
Summerville, S.C.

Gen. Mike Ryan should go down in our Air Force history as the top Chief in the 20th century!

In 2001, Mike led the charge in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and on the Hill to fix the Tricare program and create the Tricare for Life program. Not a one-year budget fix … an entitlement health care program for life!

Working closely with Sen. John Warner on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mike championed the Tricare for Life entitlement program, which covers all retired service retirees for life. One can talk about how the former Chiefs worked hardware issues, F-15s vice F-35s, but Mike was the JCS champion that made a lifetime change for the entire military establishment! Thanks General Ryan!

Col. Alex “Zak” Zakrzeski Jr.,
USAF (Ret.)
Satellite Beach, Fla.

Plane Talk

I know that navigators have been replaced by technology as USAF aircrew members, but thousands of us were trained in the T-29A Flying Classroom and its replacement the T-43, and these aircraft were omitted from the trainers section of your August issue [“75 Years of Innovation in Flight,” p. 62].

In addition to being used by the Air Training Command to train Navigators, the the T-29 was also used at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and at other places back when we all had to get at least four hours flight time to get our flight pay.

Lt. Col. Paul O. Kronbergs,
USAF (Ret.)
Austin, Texas

Like it or not, the F-35 is the replacement F-16. We may still be buying them in 2030 [“World: Modernization: Air Force Keeping F-16s, For Now,” September, p. 25].

If USAF tries to simultaneously development the NGAD and an MR-X, there will be no NGAD. The supposedly cheaper, foreign-military-sales candidate will usurp the real air-superiority fighter—as the F-16 did the F-15 and the F-35 did the F-22.

Col. Ron Andrea, 
USAF (Ret.)
Glen Allen, Va.

On p. 80 of the August issue [“75 Years of Innovation in Flight”], the name associated with the C-32A is “Air Force Two.”  This is incorrect.  When I was the C-32 Acquisition Program Manager at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 1997, we held a basewide naming contest for the upcoming new aircraft. The 89th AW/CC, Brig. Gen. Arthur “Art” Lichte and the 89th OG/CC, Col. Randy Larson went through all of the entries and they chose the appropriate one for this airframe.  They named it the “AMBASSADOR.”  The “Air Force Two” call sign one applies to only one of the aircraft’s many potential passengers. Like Air Force One, the call sign stays with the passenger on whatever Air Force Aircraft the VPOTUS flies on; whether it is an C-21, C-32, or a B-2. This aircraft today, as noted in your article, is routinely used as “Air Force One.”

Also, the date associated with the C-32A is wrong. I flew the first C-32A, tail# 98-0001, from Boeing Field to Andrews on June 22, 1998, on it’s delivery flight to the Air Force. Just six weeks later, on Aug. 4, 1998, I flew the first “Air Force Two” mission on a C-32A on that same tail number.  Our passenger was Vice President Al Gore, and we flew him from Andrews to Allentown, Pa., then to Philadelphia, and then back to Andrews on the same day.  So the year of the C-32A Acquisition was 1998—the same year as it’s IOC with the 89th AW.  

The base model airplane, the Boeing 757-200, went operational in 1982 so I don’t know where your “1975” year came from.  For the technical geeks out there, the USAF C-32A is a Boeing 2G4 aircraft and four of them were produced on the contract with the Air Force.

Lt. Col. Karl Blackmun,
Former 89th AW
USAF (Ret.)
Minden, Nev.

Joint Powers

I agree totally with Lt. Gen. Deptula, USAF (Ret.) and Col. Mark Gunzinger, USAF (Ret.) in their article entitled “Rebuilding America’s Air Power,” [September p. 60], on how Congress and DOD should fund and rebuild the Air Force. The problem with Congress is politics; the problem with DOD is parochialism; and the problem with the Air Force is leadership acquiescence. So how do you achieve the goals identified by the authors?

I think all of the goals the authors list are attainable through the joint system rather than just a purely service system. In my 44.5 years doing Air Force planning through the joint operations planning system, I often saw other service officers support Air Force weapons systems while I saw Air Force officers kill off air force systems. Granted, aircraft that carry more air-to-ground weapons survive better than purely air defense aircraft. But, that’s nothing the air defense folks cannot handle with dual purpose aircraft and munitions.

Basically, I would suggest DOD be encouraged to reinstate a joint operation planning system, whereby intelligence determines the threat, operations determines the weapons systems to fight the threat, and planners establish the execution. Shortfalls in weapons, munitions and personnel should be identified in the joint theater plans where funding should be programmed and allocated as required.

To accomplish the goals stated in this article, when COCOMs do not have an Air Force four-star commander, I suggest the Air Force assign four-star generals as deputy commanders of the major COCOMs. Some of the “non-warfighting” Air Force majcoms would have to do with three-star commanders, but that has been done before.  If the Air Force cannot perform its assigned missions for any given joint operation plan due to a lack of Air Force resources, it’s on the joint command system, Congress or the DOD, and not the Air Force. Not a cop-out, just fact.  

Lt. Col. Russel A. Noguchi,
USAF (Ret.) 
Pearl City, Hawai

Khobar Towers and More

I spent 34 years on Active duty and since my blood flows Air Force blue I have been a member of the AFA for all that time and in retirement, so I look forward to the AFA posts on the Internet and the magazine. 

I am going to really vent later so first I will complement on this issue (August 2022). I liked the pictures of the airplanes since I flew many of them. I liked the tracing of USAF Chiefs of Staff. Tony McPeak was a contemporary. He was “different.” But I want to skip ahead to Ron Fogleman and the Khobar Towers.
I flew with the RSAF in both the F-5 and the F-15. They did a lot of ACM down over the Southeast part of the country known for many years as the Empty Quarter. No problem with air traffic control. 

The Saudi Royal family had to find a slick way to transfer money from the government to them and it worked very well. The government would give them land in half dozen cities and they would hire a contractor with a large kickback to build high rises for the Bedouins. The Bedouins didn’t want to move in because there was no second elevator for the women or their goats so we referred to them as “The Empty Quarters.”

When I was asked to confer on U.S. loads to Saudi if we were needed, I said why bring tents and stuff since there were perfectly good quarters with water, electricity and all, which I thought would be available if we were invited to come, but this was a sensitive issue as they worried that we might try to take over the oil fields as a safety concern and we were still considered to be an enemy because of the Jihad declared against Israel and its allies. We had to take the role of a contractor to satisfy the religious folks. 

So that’s why Khobar Towers came on the scene. The attack occurred many years after I left, but I sympathize with Brig. Gen. Terryl J. Schwalier, who was made the scapegoat for political purposes. Ron put in for early retirement as Chief and no matter how he calls his action, the Air Force folks respect him for it.

Lt. Gen. Spence M. Armstrong,
USAF (Ret.)
Fort Belvoir, Va.

Correction:The August Editorial, “Milestones,” incorrectly characterized the risk faced by Airmen flying in the Vietnam War. More than twice as many Airmen were killed in Vietnam—2,580—compared to the Korean War, which cost 1,180 Airmen their lives. The error has been corrected online. Thank you to alert reader Lt. Gen. Spence M. Armstrong for alerting us to the mistake.