July 1, 2019


I hope the decision to delete the roster of leaders of past Air Force commands in the 2019 Air Force Almanac is a “one-off” and you will restore them in future almanacs [“Leaders,” June, p. 77].

By eliminating these legacy commands you deprive readers a vast repository of iconic names and famous commands that built the Air Force. Why exclude the leaders of SAC, TAC, MAC, AFLC, AFSC, and other legacy commands? An almanac is defined by including, not excluding, the organization’s history and leaders. Readers miss seeing names such as Gens. Russ Dougherty, Bruce Holloway, Bennie Schriever, Jerry O’Malley, Al Slay, Chappie James, Bryce Poe, Bill Creech, and many, many more Air Force leaders that created our Air Force but no longer appear in the almanac.

Sending readers to an online listing, as you suggested, to find this major part of Air Force history is not the answer. I went online and found that you saved a mere four pages in a 144-page publication by excluding past commands and their leaders. Was it worth it? I think not.

Gen. John Michael Loh,
USAF (Ret.)
Williamsburg, Va.

It was disappointing that an Air Force Magazine editor didn’t jump in to gently correct retired Col. Don Hengesh when in his letter he misidentified Gen. Stephen W. Wilson’s AFA Air Warfare Symposium attire as “BDUs” [“Letters: Battle Dress Blues,” June, p. 4].

The Air Force’s battle dress uniform was phased out in 2011 in favor of the Air Force unique ABU—airman battle uniform. ABUs are now on the way out, to be replaced by the Army’s OCP (operational camouflage pattern) uniform that General Wilson was sporting at the symposium.

I share Colonel Hengesh’s concern as to the propriety of wearing a utility uniform at a public event involving civilians largely in business attire. That camouflage doesn’t work well in that setting. Would it not be more appropriate for airmen to exercise good professional judgment and respond in kind at such a gathering

Col. Bill Malec,
USAF (Ret.)
O’Fallon, Ill.


This letter is about the possibility of a Space Force, as detailed in the May 2019 issue of Air Force Magazine [“Questions Remain as Lawmakers Mull Space Force Proposal,” p. 20].

From the 1955 Aviation Cadet Corps program at Houston’s Ellington Air Force Base, I was commissioned and rated as a navigator at the age of 20. I learned a lot from my five years’ Active Duty. I learned that I needed to get a college degree if I wanted an Air Force career. So, I got off Active Duty and went back to the University of Illinois on the Korean [War] G.I. Bill in 1958, and got a B.S. in 1961 and M.S. in 1962, both in electrical engineering. My intention was to go back on Active Duty. But, I was then too old for pilot training, so my wife asked if we could go back to Houston, somehow. I told her we could go to this new outfit named NASA, which had just opened an operation in Houston in early 1962.

NASA taught me that manned space was interesting for someone with a military background. In fact, the first NASA pilots were mostly military. I learned a lot from them while I taught space radio theory to the second and third astronaut classes. What I learned from the astronauts and mission control guys was what the functional requirements were going to be for the design of their lunar radio system, both space and ground. And that design was going to depend on what flight operations were going to be done in deep space.

Now, some 54 years later, here we are, thinking about a military Space Force. And the design of that force is going to include a lot more than just hardware. My opinion is that the most difficult part of the design is going to be the design of the organization itself. In 1962, we had to design a Houston organization that could take us to the Moon. Nobody knew how to do that, and we had a seven-year deadline. So, we used the younger guys who flooded into Houston to not only manage the design of the hardware, but the organization itself. It worked.

I suggest that the Air Force get a lot of help from NASA in thinking this organizational design out. In fact, there will probably be a lot of younger NASA people who will want to transfer into the US Space Force. If I was in my 30s again, I would.

John H. Painter
College Station, Texas


The Air Force and this magazine overtly support new technology over numbers. The latest example being the vilification of the F-15EX [“F-15EX vs. F-35A,” May, p. 30].

The F-15 Eagle platform is combat-proven with at least 104 air-to-air kills versus no losses. The strike platform based on the F-15E is a world-class fighter bomber, and its variations are still being purchased by many allied nations.

Always waiting for the next greatest aircraft, be it a sixth-generation fighter or more F-35s, comes at the expense of current inventory fighters or upgrades, leaving the warfighter and this country woefully short of combat aircraft when the time comes.

It would be nice if all the early F-35s were combat-capable and were able to be easily upgraded, if the plane had been fully tested before purchase, if the software packages worked correctly, if we had air superiority fighters in the correct locations and numbers where needed, if we had high operational availability rates, or even an internal gun with enough ammunition that it could accurately hit its target. In the F-15 platform, particularly the F-15EX model being considered, we will get these things.

The F-15EX has the family history, the current updates, the new technology, the maintenance base, the AESA radar, two engines, longer range, a large and diverse weapons load, a new IRST system, and an Eagle pilot base requiring limited training to get them to speed. Maintenance costs will be significantly lower over time than on the F-35.

The F-15EX will sweep the skies of almost any current enemy aircraft in the world, would be an excellent interceptor for the continental United States, and will add modern platforms into the inventory.

The Air Force and this magazine have many times supported retiring the A-10 and F-15 aircraft and even replacing F-15s with F-16s. The Air Force is all over the map as long as they spend a ton of money on F-35s that so far have been rather unavailable for prime time. The F-35 is not an A-10 and it is not an F-15. It never will be. Hardworking, reliable, and capable aircraft that can quickly go to war are needed. The F-15EX is one of these aircraft, and they will be the most capable F-15s ever produced. Buy them.

Scott Shannon
Leawood, Kan.

I’m extremely skeptical about the numbers presented for the F-15EX in [the May] issue regarding combat radius and weapons capacity. With a max takeoff weight of 81,000 pounds, I don’t see how you can achieve a weapons capacity of 29,500 lb, let alone the advertised combat radius of 1,100 miles. With an internal fuel capacity of 13,550 pounds, over half of the max takeoff weight would consist of fuel and weapons. There clearly needs to be some disclaimers added to these numbers, such as the advertised combat radius is achieved with conformal fuel tanks, which will decrease the weapons capacity so as not to exceed the max takeoff weight. Or how about citing what a realistic combat load would be, e.g., conformal fuel tanks plus 5,000 lb of ordnance with a combat radius of 1,100 miles. The same can be said for the F-35A external weapons capacity of 22,000 lb. It’s just not realistic given the max takeoff weight of 70,000 lb and an internal fuel capacity of 18,250 lb. These are both fighter aircraft, they’re not designed to carry large loads of weapons, so why advertise that capability? In an actual combat situation, they’ll be loaded with a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance (designed to match that target/mission) and a full internal fuel load. Any combat radius numbers should be based on that. Not some unrealistic number of weapons that can be loaded on a jet that never leaves the parking ramp.

Lt. Col. Greg Nowell,
USAF (Ret.)
Stafford, Va.

Although the F-15 is arguably the best air superiority fighter ever built, I think the money could be put to better use on more advanced systems. Maybe the Silent Eagle

Mike Hupence
Schnectady, N.Y.


Having read the article, “For USAF Bases, Hard Choices Follow Storms” in the May issue [p. 23], I really had some questions about what was actually meant about some of the bases mentioned. I live a couple miles from Offutt [Air Force Base] and witnessed the destruction caused by spring 2019 flooding. Two of the buildings where I worked while stationed there in the mid ’80s were engulfed by 8 to 10 feet of water. I can’t imagine what the inside of them looked liked—the many tools, equipment, personal items, etc., floating around the buildings.

As I continued to read the article, I found it difficult to understand how the Air Force determined the 10 facilities most at risk for weather-related damage, especially with no explanation whatsoever what that damage might be from. Malmstrom? Hill? Greeley? Andrews? San Antonio? The others, I could imagine—hurricanes and tornadoes. But really—the others? What weather conditions would affect them so badly as we experience here in the Midwest

Yes, the weather is an adversary, but let’s be reasonable in determining what bases are really in danger!

Maj. Dean Hayes,
USAF (Ret.)
Bellevue, Neb.


Nuclear weapons are back on the front burner [“Time to Update NC3”, April, p. 52]. China is modernizing their nuclear weapons and continuously adding to their nuclear arsenal. For many years, Russia has given top priority to modernizing their nuclear weapons increasing range, accuracy, and novel delivery systems. North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapon capabilities and its long-range missiles. All are aimed at the US or our allies. Let us look reality in the eye and see the world as it is.

We are behind in nuclear modernization. The US put off modernizing the three legs of its nuclear deterrent for 25 years. We thought we might get a peace dividend when the USSR collapsed in 1990 and when China adopted some trade and capitalistic ways. That was not to be. It is essential we modernize our air, land, and sea nuclear forces to guarantee our safety and security by regaining technological superiority over China and Russia.

In my backyard, Grand Forks AFB, N.D., was host to 150 silos with the Minuteman II and III nuclear missiles for 34 years, from 1964 to 1998. Based on the 1995 START II agreements, three missile fields were deactivated, including Grand Forks. Our 1970s Minuteman III missiles were sent to Malmstrom AFB, Mont., to replace their outdated Minuteman II missiles. They remain there 20 years later.

There is no more can to kick down the road. The US Air Force has figured out ways to keep our nuclear missile system going for another 10 years—49 years beyond its intended life—but we have to use that time to replace it with a more modern system soon.

How do we know deterrence works? No one has dared use another nuclear weapon in 75 years. That is the evidence of effectiveness.

We have to maintain a nuclear force modern and large enough to be capable of absorbing an enemy nuclear attack, yet retain enough surviving nuclear force to retaliate with a devastating counterattack, knocking out their ability to strike again with nuclear or conventional weapons. Nuclear superiority means our enemy loses everything. Our losses would be high, but we would remain viable and strong. Bullies do not hit— or play chicken—if they know they will get hit with a lethal force.

To prevent nuclear proliferation, the US provides “nuclear umbrella” protection to over 30 allied countries with whom we have treaties, which includes NATO members, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other distant nations. We protect the free world from dangerous authoritarian rivals.

Can we afford to modernize? The Congressional Budget Office’s report “Projected Costs of US Nuclear Forces, 2019 to 2028” estimates DOD needs to invest $326 billion over the next 10 years to modernize the nuclear triad. That is a lot of money. But it is 6.4 percent of the defense budget at its peak, and just 3 percent most of the years. This is less than 1 percent of our federal budget. Effective defense and strategic deterrence are affordable. Let your senators and congressmen know nuclear modernization is of vital importance.

President [Donald J.] Trump called for a nuclear force that was “at the top of the pack.” I agree. We need to modernize to reduce US vulnerability to nuclear war to the greatest extent possible, while simultaneously maximizing adversary vulnerability. With strong deterrence, the world’s most destructive weapons will likely never be used again.

Bruce Gjovig
Grand Forks, N.D.


Thank you for providing Amy McCullough’s take on the Air Force’s interesting new method to overcome time issues in military contracts [“Instant Contracts,” May, p. 34]. Use of credit cards isn’t new, perhaps the release of credit limits might be! But it is good to see a creative attempt to overcome the cumbersome nature of our military contracting system.

I was a pilot that entered the contracting world through the old “gates” system of the ’70s and ’80s Air Force. I wasn’t at a super high level of contracting, but was taught by some great and knowledgeable experts about the demands of the field. I understand that we need to be more responsive in our new era … and that this article’s process can help fill a void in reacting to innovation from our technical, IT, and/or AI communities, or those similar technological advances of our enemies.

There are two factors that don’t seem to be addressed. One of the reasons our system is so “clunky” is that there are safeguards set up throughout the process. Contractual oversight is important. The Pitch Day winners will be new to government requirements for safety and quality. Do these new methods provide for this “other side” of the purchase? How many times have we (with weapon systems or personal home products) not received what we thought we had bargained for? Secondly … with all the constant criticism and cynicism about government contracts, what do we do if someone didn’t negotiate with an honest intent? Most of our [procurement] laws are written because someone stretched the legal limits with questionable ethics. Exciting new methods will help, but human nature is human nature.

Are these startup companies vetted enough that these issues will be addressed? I hope the new process works, but I have seen too much stretching by contractors, even with oversight, to think we will succeed without some further filters.

Lt. Col. Robert A. Turk,
USAF (Ret.)
Fort Worth, Texas


I have to admit I enjoyed Major Nordhagen’s letter [“Tanker Tops BUFF Bargain,” May, p. 3]. He is absolutely right that “we are a team.” BUFF crews could not have done their planned SIOP [Single Integrated Operational Plan] missions deep inside the Soviet Union or conventional operations in Southeast Asia or Afghanistan without the KC-135 crews doing theirs safely outside of SAM and MiG range.

He should have ended his comments there in my opinion. Instead he goes on to mention costs and how many more KC-135’s are still flying today while BUFFs are being retired to the boneyard to justify why tankers were a better bargain. He neglects to mention the total number of BUFFs are limited to 74 by [the] SALT treaty and the tankers aren’t. Tankers exist for one reason and one reason only, and that is to pass enough gas to get warriors to their targets. BUFFs are programmed to remain in the inventory to 2050, a legacy aircraft by any measure. I doubt that the KC-135s will still be around to pass the gas when the last BUFF goes to the Boneyard.

Pete Gandy
Pace, Fla.


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