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


Feb. 16, 2023

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.

When I read this article [“The Near Nuclear War of 1983,” December 2022, p. 47] it brought back memories of the NORAD False Missile Warning event on Nov. 9, 1979. On that morning a technician used a disk pack to check out a device called the Message Generator Recorder. This equipment  was routinely used to transmit TEST events to the external users like SAC and NMCC [National Military Command Center]. 

The disk pack contained an accurate portrayal of a mass missile raid from the USSR. Without the TEST tag enabled the external users of this data had to assume it was REAL. The safety valve was called Confidence Reporting. On that morning, Maj. Paul White and his crew in the inside Warning Center implemented voice tell confidence reporting procedures with all the Missile Warning sensor sites who reported “No Confidence” which meant they had not detected or sent any launch messages. I was part of a small group who investigated this event and prepared recommendations up to the CJCS.

In Sept. 27, 1983, False Warning indications appeared in the equivalent Russian Missile Warning Center. On that day, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov used his knowledge of the Soviet missile warning sensors to determine that reports of U.S. launches from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., were internal false alarms hence preventing a possible retaliatory launch.

In 1983, I had moved on to the Surveillance Officer position in the NMCC. I was on duty when the Russians shot down KAL 007 over Sakhalin Island. At the time this looked like a single tragic event but viewed in the context of this article it is clear it was part of the paranoia of the time in the USSR.

Col. Victor P. Budura Jr.
New Market, Ala.

Boom Not Ready

With regards to the continuing saga of the problem-plagued KC-46 remote vision system [“Eye on the Boom: Re-visioning the KC-46,” January/February, p. 48], I would be curious to know how the RVS in the competing Airbus A330 MRTT works.  Does it have similar problems? I have heard nothing at all about this. Since there seems to have been no complaints about that system, has anyone thought of simply transplanting it into the KC-46?  

Who is the contractor for the A330 RVS? I know the KDC-10 that the Dutch used had a RVS, and those two tankers I believe are now operated by Omega as contract tankers. How has that system operated over the last 20 or so years? I think it would be very interesting to hear answers to these questions.

MSgt. Chris Dierkes,
106th RQW
Westhampton Beach, NYANG

 The 2.0 vision article still doesn’t answer the fundamental question? Who is responsible for the camera approach? 

Was it the Air Force or Boeing that thought it was a good idea? Was it a contract requirement to delete the reliable window seat,  literally, and replace with a series of unreliable video stations. 

After all this time and it isn’t fully operational including the boom itself—no excuses accepted!

KC-46B with a rear window. No more video games.

Charlie McCormack,
Danville, Calif.

All In

 Sen. Joni Ernst, speaking at the Reagan Defense Forum, Dec 3, 2022, noted the “push and pull between the administration and Congress” regarding support to Ukrainians.  She went on to say, “If we’re not helping the Ukrainians win … what happens next with Taiwan or another hotspot?” [“Verbatim,” January/February 2023.]  

 While I agree with her overall intent, I believe she missed the point of how and why we are in this predicament. If the U.S. had established a strong deterrent policy against a Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war could have been prevented. The policy could have stated that the U.S. would stand behind the commitment we had made to defend Ukraine if they would get rid of the nuclear weapons that they maintained under the USSR.  

 To execute that commitment, the U.S. should have deployed U.S. and EU forces to Ukraine while Russia built up their forces before their attack of Ukraine. The policy should have stated that any attack on Americans, American business and U.S. forces would be an attack on America.  In turn, such an attack would invoke the NATO Article 5 defense response, which states that an “attack on one (NATO country) is an attack on all.”  

 Instead of such a deterrent policy, the administration executed a series of sanctions against Russia that evidently did not prevent a war.  

 In regards to Taiwan, the U.S. needs to deploy forces there to defend Americans, U.S. businesses and U.S. government entities. Any attack on these entities should be considered an attack on America. Also the policy should state that any attack on Taipei would be countered by an attack on Beijing, Finally, the U.S. State Department needs to update any plan to evacuate noncombatant Americans from Taiwan.

Lt. Col. Russel A. Nogchi, 
USAF (Ret.)
Pearl City, Hawaii

Make Ready

I am a retired Vietnam-era Thud Wild Weasel and former commander of the Air-to-Air Weapons System Evaluation Program. I have been following the dialogues in these pages and at the September AFA Air, Space, and Cyber Conference.  While decades ago I debriefed any access to classified information, I note from open sources the Chinese retention and converting of hundreds of retired Gen-3 fighters to unmanned drones, and their basing and sheltering on the five mainland air bases closest to Taiwan. 

This is an ominous development, for it telegraphs a Chinese intent to overwhelm and exhaust Taiwan’s air defenses in advance of any assault on the island, similarly to our use of drones against the Iraqi air defenses in the opening hours of Desert Storm. Loading those five closest bases with sacrificial drones in lieu of their front-line fighters is a pre-attack posture, not a defensive basing configuration.

The latest U.S. National Defense and National Security strategies characterize China as the pacing threat, yet seem sanguine about its immediacy. AMC Commander Gen. Mike A. Minihan and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul have publicly questioned those premises that the burgeoning Chinese threat and preliminary air and naval exercising around Taiwan portend only a remote likelihood that China will act on Xi Jinping’s rhetoric and, if it does, it will be years away.  

I submit that it may even be more immediate than those gents—better informed than I—warn.  Why?  The coming mass Russian offensive in Ukraine, and western rushing of equipment to the Ukrainians, along with Russian nuclear sabre-rattling, has seized the attention of the western world, and depleted its weapons stocks.  Our business-as-usual drawdown of 18th Wing legacy F-15s at Kadena Air Base, Japan, without permanent replacement, and “divest to invest” approach, gapping current “fight tonight” capabilities by the early retirement of F-22 squadrons, the B-1s, and B-2s, and halving the F-15EX buy of potentially Raptor linked AIM-260 missile trucks, before the fielding of Next Generation Air Defense systems and the B-21 bombers, all send precisely the wrong message to the Chinese. And, I think they combine to present a summer of 2023 Chinese perceived window of opportunity for an attack on Taiwan. 

Our current actions, like allowing uncontested the air sovereignty violation by the Chinese surveillance balloon across or within sensor range of all three legs of our nuclear Triad, and recapitalization vectors, are failing to deter, and may actually be inviting through waning Northeast Asia capacities, a cataclysmic air battle over Taiwan we must win to forestall an air-and-seaborne invasion. We are setting the stage for a “fair fight,” that would cost our youth dearly, as the Center for Strategic and International Studies wargames predict. We had one of those in Vietnam, and it is a mistake America must avoid repeating.  And, as General Kelley said in remarks at the AFA Conference, a second-best Air Force, like WWII Germany’s, with exquisite capabilities but insufficient capacity (to win) is ultimately much more costly than a world-beating, fully funded, Air Force like ours that dominated Desert Storm.

Numbers matter.  We should be maximizing, not reducing, ours and our allies’ in Northeast Asia.  “Divesting to Invest” will entice the Chinese with nearer-term perceived windows of opportunity to achieve sooner, rather than later, at lowest cost its “one China” ambition and hegemony in Asia. The first such window seems just months away, unless we now drastically alter course and messaging.             

Col. Lucky Ekman,
USAF (Ret.)
Alamogordo, N.M.

Respect the Position

I really enjoyed the compilation of articles on the seven Air Force Chiefs of Staff in the August and September 2022 issues by Tobias Naegele. They were both enlightening and informative. Each of those individuals who served in that position brought their own gifts to the table as well as their personality and style. They were groomed by the society they lived in, their career experiences, and the world events they were involved in. 

Whether you liked or disliked what they did they were each trying to make the Air Force better. Having served under some, but not all, allowed me to see firsthand how their actions directly impacted the Air Force and its Airmen. In most cases they improved things but there were some things that would have been better left alone. 

The articles also provided a lot of background that the Chiefs had to deal with while holding their positions. From meddling by individuals who didn’t have the background to be involved or those that didn’t do what they were supposed to do and that’s listen to the warriors who have actually experienced combat and know what their Airmen and the Air Force need to maintain the finest combat Air Force in the world.

 I read many of the letters from members commenting on the articles and many of the comments I would have made, have already been presented by other Airmen. The future individuals who fill this position need to look back on their predecessors and make sure they learn the lessons they did and become the advocates the Air Force and this country needs to be able to protect the liberties we have today while protecting and defending our country in the future and the Airmen who make it all happen. 

We are not an employment agency, social experiment, or pawn in a political chess game. We need to return to the values that made the Air Force the best in the world. That starts with the people who fill the Chief of Staff position. The person who will make the fight to get the Air Force what it needs to modernize, train, staff, and equip their Airman with what they need to fight and win our countries wars and defeat our enemies. 

I firmly believe that you must respect the uniform the man is wearing and the position he holds, but if you respect the man in the uniform, knowing he will do what’s right even when its not  politically correct or popular, you will give more than 100 percent. This is the kind of leadership we need going forward.

CMSgt. John P. Fedarko,
USAF (Ret.)
Xenia, Ohio

Level Up

The  December issue’s interview with the new head of Space Operations [Gen. B. Chance Saltzman] was disappointing in what was said and not said. The new commander speaks correctly about the need to think differently about the command structure in the mid-grade spectrum. The difficulty in finding people at that level up to O-6 will probably mean “pull someone from commercial industry.”  

But in another part of the interview he looks to the senior management of the other services and finds himself light on generals. Where is he going to find qualified people to fill those slots? The result could definitely be just another top-heavy bureaucracy. 

The people at the top being more concerned with form over function trying to maintain the respect of the operational force who recognize that those giving the orders or “guidance” really have little concept of what is essential to perform the mission. General, you have a pretty clean slate. Build it from the factory floor up, not the general offices down. Many were leery of the creation of a separate Space Force. Let’s make it more than “just another branch of the service.”

Col. Edward G Moran,
USAF (Ret.)
Charleston, S.C.

Vietnam Veteran’s Legacy

A great Vietnam Vet legacy is bringing respect back to our military.

Fifty years ago today, the Vietnam peace treaty was signed at the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973. Most would say respect for the U.S. military was rock bottom then.  

 Twenty-seven years later in 2000, the U.S. military took first place in many polls (Gallup) as the most respected institution. 

It typically takes 24 to 26 years to make brigadier general. Twenty-seven years after the Peace Accords, virtually all generals and senior NCO’s were Vietnam vets.  

 Military leadership the 10 years leading up to 2000, building respect for the military were Vietnam vets, 17 years after 1973. They were the core of senior NCO’s and field grade officers who were building respect for the military.  In 1991, 18 years after the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, Vietnam Veterans led and fought Desert Storm, which many think is the best U.S. combat campaign of its time.  And it began to reestablish respect for the U.S. military.

In 2000, Time Magazine identified their 100 Most Influential “People” of the Century. The American GI was on that list.

 In 2003, the American GI won Time Person of the Year.

 In 27 years, Vietnam vets transformed the military from rock bottom to number  one in respect. They changed our society from being spit on and called “baby killer” to being told, ‘Thank you for your service.’  I am personally grateful for this.

 When I see a Vietnam vet, I also say, ‘Thank YOU for bringing respect back to our military.’

 That is one hell of a legacy of Vietnam veterans. Vietnam veterans, you should know this and hold your heads high. Thank you. Vietnam vets brought respect back to the military!

Mike Sumida,
AFA Mel Harmon Chapter #128 
Pueblo, Colo.

In Plain Sight

Retired Lt. Col. Allan G. Johnson’s letter to the editor (“Hidden Truths,” January/February 2023) writes in response to my article “The Near Nuclear War of 1983” (December 2022). Colonel Johnson rightly states that the effort to declassify U.S. records of the 1983 nuclear war crisis required researchers to “doggedly pursue release of key documents.” The work of George Washington University’s National Security Archive to get many documents declassified has enriched our understanding of the entire Cold War period, not only the 1983 crisis. That work was not the focus of my article and to dwell on it would have diverted attention from the main points. That said, the work of the National Security Archive is valuable enough to deserve an article of its own.

Colonel Johnson refers to my comments about the Biden Administration’s apparent ignorance of the 1983 crisis. It’s true that, as Colonel Johnson writes, “it is impossible to forget what one never knew.” Nonetheless, there is no reason for senior governmental officials in the Biden White House or in any administration since Ronald Reagan’s to have been the dark about the 1983 crisis. Indeed, President Reagan himself was aware of the severity of the 1983 episode as early as May of 1984. 

The classified record of the 1983 crisis, particularly as it is memorialized in the 1990 report of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, has been available to every president since George H.W. Bush. It may be the case that current officials have not been briefed on the 1983 crisis.  If so, it isn’t because the record is unavailable to them.

Maj. Brian J. Morra,
USAF  (Ret.)
Sarasota, Fla

Human Factor

The possibility of a single USAF fighter controlling several attritable collaborative combat aircraft (CCA) is a real force multiplier. I certainly think Heather Penney’s recommendation [see “Crewed-Uncrewed Teaming,” December 2002, p. 32] on including consideration of human factors in the development of the control software is vital. I have a couple of thoughts with regard to CCAs.

 First, these CCAs could have an advantage in the Pacific Theater if they used RATO (rocket-assisted take-off). They would not require an airfield. They could be launched from land including Taiwan and the Ryukyu Island Chain.  Thus they might be closer to the Taiwan Strait than a collaborative aircraft which could come from a distant air base. They could also be launched from a ship. If their landing was by parachute, they would not require an airfield to land at but they would require some land.  

Second, the CCAs could be sensor gathering or weapons equipped aircraft.  In the case of sensors the logical step would be to send the data collected up to a satellite system and back to a HQ which collected data from multiple sources.  This HQ could also be a means of controlling the CCAs in addition to a fighter.  The HQ might have a better idea of which area needed to have sensor data collected.

The good news today is that we are getting four Philippine bases. It would be easy to use these to launch CCA with RATO and return the CCA for landing by parachute to these bases. If our fighters were based further back they could just approach the Taiwan Strait from the south and pick their team of CCA launched from the Philippines.

William Thayer
San Diego