The Air Force Job and How We’re Doing It

Last October, when the Soviet Union launched the first of its several satellites, reactions in this country were mixed. They ranged from surprise and embarrassment to consternation and panic. In some quarters, confusion seemed to be the order of the day. Common sense and intelligent evaluation were discarded and emotion took over. For example, articles soon appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States to the effect that the flying Air Force was finished and the capability to engage in “push-button” war was around the corner. Other self-appointed “savants” expressed the opinion that our modern military forces were no longer of deterrent value and that the Free World was doomed. Actually, the great Soviet technical achievement was a challenge – one that knocked the props out from under any existing complacency in this country. It did not negate the strength of this nation’s modern military airpower, but it did serve notice that additional effort was required if United States airpower was to remain a strong guardian of freedom.

The last ten months have given us the opportunity to further assess the situation. As this is being written, the army’s Explorers and the Navy’s Vanguards are in orbit. Admittedly, they are not as large as the Russian satellites, for they are but small tokens of the scientific know-how that exists in this country. It is pertinent, however, to point out that the United States satellites are scientific products designed in accordance with plans for the International Geophysical Year. They are not the result of intense military application.

Some people wonder why the USAF has not placed a satellite in orbit. The answer is quite simple. The Secretary of Defense decided that Air Force efforts, experience, and capabilities should be oriented entirely toward the development of military capabilities, which will assure that we can extend our air superiority into space. The triad of science, industry, and the Air Force is doing just that.

The Air Force, of course, is interested in “pure” science and the benefits that new discoveries in space could bring to everyone. But, the air force mission in space is first a military mission – one which requires us to develop and produce militarily useful vehicles. Obviously, fulfilling this requirement will take added time and effort and will lag behind the purely scientific exploratory vehicles.

The primary threat facing the free nations is Soviet airpower, which is being expanded rapidly, into aerospace power. To counter this threat, our country needs an Air Force second to none – and one, which is capable of effectively performing eight major tasks. We must:

1. Maintain a deterrent to general war.

2. Maintain sufficient power to defeat the enemy if general war should be forced upon us.

3. Maintain a deterrent to local wars.

4. Posses a local war capability.

5. Participate in the cold war.

6. Employ our airpower for peaceful purposes.

7. Keep our forces modern.

8. Expedite research and development for our forces of the future, including those vehicles required for our future in space.

Each one of these tasks requires close coordination with the other services, with industry, and with government as well as the understanding and support of all Americans. Furthermore, each task represents a continuing requirement, which must be accomplished concurrently with each of the other tasks.

General War

There is no threat to the security of the United States that can remotely compare with the ever-present possibility of general war. Nuclear weapons coupled with advanced delivery systems emphasize that general war would be a struggle for survival in near absolute terms.

The military posture of the Communist bloc is a clear example of dedication to the principle of overwhelming force. They have a large air-nuclear capability – modern and effective – backed up by very sizable conventional forces. They can mount a two-sided offensive in peacetime. Their air-nuclear striking power can be used for atomic blackmail, and Communist bloc conventional forces can be used as pawns in lesser conflicts.

Various arguments have been advanced to the effect that the general war threat is lessening. One argument is that relative nuclear parity between the great powers will act as a constraint on general war. There is constraint on general war, and in fact on all conflict, when nuclear weapons are clearly understood to be involved. But this constraint, derived from strong nuclear capabilities, is a far cry from “mutual deterrence.”

When it comes to the use of aggression as a national instrument, there is no similarity between the United States and the Communist bloc. We will not enter into conflict except in defense of ourselves or the Free World. The Communist bloc will aggress whenever and wherever the opportunity looks profitable. We did not aggress while possessing nuclear monopoly or while we had clear superiority. Communist aggression in Korea and Hungary demonstrated to the entire world that they are under no such moral restraint.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that, ever since World War II, the United States Air Force with its long-range nuclear striking power has served as the Free World’s deterrent to general war. It so serves today and will continue to do so if it is given proper support and kept modern.

The primary deterrent power of the United States exists in our Strategic Air Command. This is truly a formidable force. Its medium and heavy bombers supported by its tankers and a worldwide system of air bases are capable of carrying nuclear weapons of varying yields anywhere on the globe. The Strategic Air Command’s main offensive punch is contained in its B-47s and B-52s. The B-36s are being phased out of the operational inventory as B-52s become available. Our first supersonic bomber, the B-58, is now in production and undergoing operational evaluation tests.

The capability of the Air Force’s Tactical Air Command and theater air forces is another important element of United States deterrent power. The ability of these forces to react quickly with great flexibility and mobility, plus possession of high-performance aircraft with nuclear capabilities, gives them tremendous punch.

If deterrence fails, for any reason, and general war does occur, I have confidence in today’s capability to win the air battle. There are many reasons for this. As I have mentioned, our offensive forces are formidable. We are dispersing our strategic forces and constructing special alert facilities to improve reaction time. Our goal is to have a physical setup whereby one-third of the strategic forces can become airborne and on their way to enemy targets with fifteen minutes of initial warning. This is a big improvement from the long time it took to launch, assemble, and send on their way the huge B-17 and B-24 formations of World War II. Coupled with this physical setup is the fact that our offensive forces know their job, know their equipment, and possess a background of long experience in the conduct of strategic air warfare. Close control and coordination of the attacks of both strategic and tactical forces will permit the concentration or dispersion of effort as required. The wide range of tactics, which could be employed, and the variety of our nuclear delivery capabilities would present an enemy defense with some serious problems.

Closely allied to the reaction capability of our offensive forces is the air defense buildup now under way. The main portion of our Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) was completed July 1, 1957. The Aleutian extension to this line is under construction, and contracts for constructing the eastern extension have been accomplished. This early-warning network, in combination with the North American radars and our Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, will provide an excellent warning control system for defense against jet aircraft. Prompt congressional action on our fiscal year 1958 supplemental budget request also has enabled us to expedite the development of our ballistic missile early-warning system. Adequate warning will enable us to launch a heavy retaliatory strike and precludes our forces’ being caught on the ground. Thus, adequate warning is also a key element of deterrent capability.

Our manned interceptor force now contains F-86Ls, F-89Js, and the supersonic F-102s and F-104s. All of these aircraft are responsive to the SAGE electronic-equipped control system. The first sector of SAGE became operational July 1, 1958. Effective air-to-air missiles are available for use in air defense against manned jet bombers. The Falcon radar-controlled and the Falcon infrared missiles, the Genie or MB-1 nuclear weapon, and the Sidewinder, which was developed by the Navy, and which the Air Force is using, are now in our combat units. Another very important air defense weapon soon to be added to the Air Force arsenal will be the Bomarc. This is a long-range surface-to-air missile, which has attained excellent accuracy, high altitudes, and extended ranges in tests.

The constant readiness of our offensive forces, our improves alert and dispersal posture, the erection of an effective warning and control system, and the employment of high-performance air defense weapon systems are all important segments of our total airpower strength. A necessary ingredient of each of these segments is well trained and dedicated people.

Personnel have been, are, and always will be the Air Force’s most precious asset. As all of us know, weapon systems are no better than the people who develop, maintain, and operate them; and the United States Air Force has made great strides along the road to a truly professional force of high caliber. It is my earnest hope that the military pay adjustment legislation recently enacted will result in better retention rates, increased interest in career military service, and over-all improvement in our efficiency and effectiveness.

The question of what effect the integration of missiles will have on the makeup of our forces is frequently raised. The value of missiles as an important adjunct to the piloted force should be obvious. Reliable missiles will enable the Air Force to do certain jobs better because of their alert potential, quick reaction time, and their reduced vulnerability to enemy attack. As the missile systems are proven out, they will be used to augment our piloted forces. When we learn more about them, they will undoubtedly replace a portion of the manned systems as we know them today. It is difficult, however, to forecast what percentage of our forces will be missile equipped. Many factors have to be carrying capability, reaction time, cost, and the type of targets to be attacked. As far into the future as I can see, I feel we will have forces composed of both piloted and unpiloted delivery and reconnaissance systems. Such forces will add much to our flexibility and effectiveness and complicate the enemy’s task greatly.

In looking into the future of offensive forces, I feel that real promise lies in the development of the long-range airborne missiles, which can be launched against targets from bomber aircraft. Successful development of such missiles with ranges on the order of 1,000 miles and the use of high-performance, long-endurance chemical or nuclear-powered bombers could give us the capability to maintain a constant patrol of the Free World skies. Such aircraft could fly at long distances from enemy territory, but still provide almost instantaneous reaction to aggression. A constant airborne patrol augmented by ICBMs and IRBMs launched from land and sea bases would represent a truly flexible force that would be practically impossible to neutralize, even I a surprise attack.

As far as air defense is concerned, missiles such as the Bomarc, which I previously mentioned, show great promise. However, range is still a most important factor. The ultimate in air defense would be to destroy the enemy forces before they get off the ground. The next best air defense is to attack the enemy forces immediately after they have been launched or at least as far from the target area as possible. To do this, we need very long-range missiles and very long-range interceptors. Both are under development. The F-108, now under development by North American, will be our first truly long-range interceptor. The F-108 will far exceed anything we have previously known in speed, altitude, and range.

Local War

There is no way of knowing how successful Air Force deterrence of local wars really is. Deterrence – when successful – is never spectacular. The number of local wars, which may have been deterred, and the number of local wars which may have been prevented from developing into general war – because of the existence of strong United States airpower – will always remain an unknown quantity.

Actually, it is very difficult to define a local war. In fact, anything less than a general war has been given many names such as local, limited, small, brush fire, and police actions. The Air Force has never claimed that it possesses the power to deter every type of localized incident. We know what our capabilities are – and so do potential aggressors. And in a potential aggressor’s knowledge of our capabilities and our national determination to use them, if necessary, lies a great part of the deterrent.

A primary Air Force deterrent to local wars is contained in our tactical forces – the Tactical Air Command and theater air forces. While the planned reduction in our over-all force structure to 105 wings by the end of fiscal year 1959 is mainly a reduction in the size of these tactical forces, I feel that their over-all combat strength will be at least equivalent to current strength. This is because higher-performance aircraft will be available, firepower capabilities have increased, and inflight refueling techniques have been brought to a point where greater flexibility and mobility is a reality.

One of the most important features of our tactical force’s usefulness as a deterrent, as well as its capabilities in a local war situation, is its ability to react quickly. We have developed a procedure to provide composite air strike forces from our tactical forces, which are capable of extremely fast reaction. Weapons available for these composite strike forces include all types in Tactical Air Command’s arsenal. Such a force might contain tactical bombers and fighters, transport aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft, although the composition could vary widely in accordance with the situation and objectives. These forces are equipped and supplied to operate promptly upon arrival at destinations far distant from the United States.

One of the most important features of our tactical force’s usefulness as a deterrent, as well as its capabilities in a local war situation, is its ability to react quickly. We have developed a procedure to provide composite air strike forces from our tactical forces, which are capable of extremely fact reaction. Weapons available for these composite strike forces include all types in Tactical Air Command’s arsenal. Such a force might contain tactical bombers and fighters, transport aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft, although the composition could vary widely in accordance with the situation and objectives. These forces are equipped and supplied to operate promptly upon arrival at destinations for distant from the United States.

There must be a calculated expectation of probable success in any aggressive move. If a composite air strike force can get to a trouble spot fast enough, there is a good possibility that the aggressor either might not make a move or might discontinue further aggression – because the probability of his success will have diminished. Should fighting be involved, however, a small group of men and aircraft, acting under a central control, can deploy and strike with tremendous effect against selected targets. The employment of such forces represents true application of the principle of “economy of force.”

The composite force concept has been subjected to extensive and realistic training for several years. In many practice exercises and deployments our tactical fighters and bombers have demonstrated the speed with which they can deploy their heavy firepower capability to remote spots in the world. For example, flights of F-100s have landed in Europe and North Africa within eight hours after leaving Langley AFB, Va., and B-66s have flown nonstop from George AFB, Calif., to the Philippines in less than eighteen hours.

Backing up the local war deterrent capability of the Tactical Air Command and theater air forces is the Strategic Air Command. The Strategic Air Command plays a large part in local war deterrence just by being in existence. I feel that Korea was a good example of this. The war in Korea remained a localized conflict primarily because of the demonstrated and in-being capability of our Strategic Air Command. SAC forces can be used in a local war situation as was demonstrated in Korea. This doesn’t mean of course, that the entire force has to be utilized. Any part of the strike capability can be employed, depending on the situation and national objectives. Thus, a great part of our local war deterrent and our local war capability exists in our general war capability. If we don’t maintain the latter, we cannot possibly have the capacity to handle local situations.

A large part of our local war deterrent strength and our local war capabilities is also tied into the ability to operate in conjunction with the other services. In addition to performing its first-priority counter-air function, our tactical air forces are responsible for attacking tactical ground targets, interdiction operations, reconnaissance, support of ground operations, and short-range airlift of Army troops. The tactical airlift function is one, which is not generally understood. The troop carrier aircraft possessed by our tactical forces are relatively short-range transport aircraft. They are the ones that are used to airlift troops over comparatively short distances and which can be used in paratroop and resupply operations. The troop carrier forces contained in the Air Force Reserve units, like those in the Tactical Air Command, are all short-range transport aircraft.

Transoceanic or strategic airlift, necessary to move troops and heavy equipment over long distances, is a job for the Military Air Transport Services (MATS). Backing them up is the emergency airlift capability we have in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). To airlift large numbers of troops and equipment over long distances takes a fantastic amount of airlift. An airborne division, with its equipment, totals many thousands of tons. A little imagination and some simple arithmetic shows that it would take literally hundreds of our largest aircraft to airlift such a division and its equipment simultaneously. It also should be remembered that airlift is not solely a question of numbers of aircraft and crews, but of route capabilities measured in terms of landing fields, fuel storage, refueling units, and operations and maintenance facilities.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion concerning the amount of airlift, which the USAF can provide in an emergency. This is understandable because all forces and all commanders are concerned about support and, in many cases, airlift is the quickest and most economical means to transport men and equipment. An unlimited amount of airlift would certainly be desirable, but not very practicable. For very obvious reasons, there has to be a limit on all types of forces. These limitations, in turn, require the exercise of judgment as to where, when, and how the available airlift will be employed. There were many examples of this during World War II. Perhaps the most outstanding occurred in France during the summer of 1944, when commanders in Field Marshal Montgomery’s 21st Army Group on the north and General Bradley’s 12th Army Group to the south were all clamoring for airlift support. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his book, Crusade in Europe, wrote:

“When action is proceeding as rapidly as it did across during the hectic days of late August and early September every commander from division upward becomes obsessed with the idea that with only a few more tons of supply he could rush right on and win the war… As we dashed across France and Belgium each commander, therefore, begged and demanded priority over all others and it was undeniable that in front of each were opportunities for quick exploitation that made the demands completely logical.”

In this case, a top-level decision had to be made as to where to best use the available airlift. There was not enough to furnish major support to all.

Cold War

Air Force capabilities have also proven very useful in the cold war. There have been many examples. The Berlin Airlift was one. Another was the action our government took when a large group of Moslems, making a pilgrimage to Mecca, was stranded in Beirut in 1952. Moslems look forward all their lives to making this very important pilgrimage. In this particular year, an unusually large number was waiting at the Beirut airport with insufficient planes to go around – and time was running out. The Air Force sent fourteen C-54 aircraft from Germany to Beirut and transported 3,763 Moslems to within a few miles of their holy city. There is not doubt that these flights made many friends in the Middle East. In fact, the Beirut press observed: “We are glad to acknowledge this humanitarian mission made possible through the American government… God, the Almighty, will certainly recompense this mission.”

Another example of the Air Force’s cold war capability is evidence in the deployment training of its composite show the whole world how quickly such forces could reach emergency areas anywhere in the world. I feel sure that the existence of this capability bolsters the morale of free nations and raises their confidence in the strength and ability of the United States to fulfill its commitments.

Airpower for Peaceful Purposes

When the Air Force is discussed, its capabilities for promoting peace are not normally recognized as readily as are its capabilities for deterring war. However, over the years, the Air Force has employed its airpower as a constructive instrument for peace in many ways. There are many examples. For instance, people in the United States, and in many foreign countries, benefit from the work of the Air Weather Service through the international exchange of information used in forecasting storms and other weather conditions. Our weather reconnaissance aircraft fly about 15,500,000 miles a year all over the Free World. A single one of our units made 135 typhoon penetrations in 1957. Another good example, of course, is the Air Force’s Air Rescue Service. Time and time again, this organization has assisted people of many nations throughout the world.

The assistance, which the Air Force is able to render in time of peacetime disasters, is another instance of the constructive use of airpower. Many people will recall when the Air Force went in the aid of western ranchers in 1949. For more than a month, feed was airdropped to sheep and cattle on snowbound ranches that could not be reached by other means. Our airpower also has been used to demonstrate the innate friendliness of Americans and their concern for the welfare of people of foreign nations. Typical was the action taken in Pakistan in 1954, when floods threatened a national disaster. The United States responded immediately and Air Force planes flew in supplies, medical teams, and other badly needed aids. That same year in Laos, our planes reacted quickly to airdrop tons of rice in famine-stricken mountainous areas, which could not be reached by any other means.

There is no doubt that airpower can be powerful affirmative influence as well as a powerful deterrent influence in the quest for secure peace. Disaster operations, mercy missions, supply flights, and storm reconnaissance are all evidence of readiness and strength. But although great strength is evidence, the acts themselves hold no direct threat to anyone. They are benign shows of strength, which impress the friendly and unfriendly alike. In the past, the United States has made good use of its airpower for peaceful purposes – but we have not made optimum use of it. I believe that more can be done if we use our imagination and take advantage of opportunities as they occur.

Modernization and the Future

So far I have been discussing Air Force concepts and current capabilities. Obviously, if we are to continue to do our job, our forces must be kept modern. All services, of course, are faced with the problem. But in the Air Force, the problem is much more critical. Our forces must not only be combat-ready but on constant alert. Yet we must remain flexible enough to integrate continuously new weapons as they are proved.

Rapidly changing technology in recent years has complicated our problem in this respect by reducing the time interval between development – first line – obsolescence – and antiquity. On land and sea there has been relatively little change in basic equipment – but in the air, great technical advance have resulted in sweeping changes in performance capabilities.

You may remember that the Army’s famous 1903 Springfield rifle was used during both World War 1 and World War II – our P-38s, P-51s, B-17s, and B-24s – would be sitting ducks today. A current example of the situation that faces us is that not one fighter aircraft we considered first line during the Korean War will be in our combat units at the end of this calendar year. Another illustration is the fact that, under current plans, a complete conversion of air defense interceptor aircraft will have been accomplished within a three-ear period. Furthermore, our warning and control system is being given a complete overhaul, and our strategic striking force will soon see the last of the B-36s. Such continuing modernization is necessary if we are to survive in air and space.

In addition to keeping our forces modern, we must keep an eye on the far-distant future so that one day we wont wake up to find our weapons completely outdated by new discoveries. That is why continuous research and development is so essential to the Air Force. Research and development has given us increased thrust and improved structures, which have resulted in the high performance we know today. Better thrust and better structures are coming, if we maintain our research and development as a very high-priority program.

Air Force progression from the very low altitudes and low speeds we flew in the early 1900s to the recent high altitudes and high speeds flown by the F-104, has been evolutionary – and natural development and extension of speed, altitude, and sustained flight. These qualities have been our stock in trade throughout the fifty years of Air Force history. We have strived continually to fly faster, to fly higher, and to remain airborne longer. This evolutionary process, which has brought the Air Force to its present high state of development, is not going to change in direction because there are additional challenges in space. The continuation of USAF operations beyond the reaches of the earth’s atmosphere is a natural development.

The missiles and unmanned satellites we are developing are literally “raw recruits” in our forces of tomorrow. They will get better. But we have a long way to go to make them fully effective, reliable, accurate, and proven weapons. Complementing the unmanned vehicles of the future is the need for manned systems, because man’s skills and judgment will continue to give us capabilities continuing our work on the B-70, a chemically powered bomber in the 2,000-mile-an-hour class, on nuclear-powered bombers which will have almost unlimited endurance, on long-range interceptors, and on the X-15, the DynaSoar, and piloted satellites. All of these developments include the use of man. The Air Force of the future, like the Air Force of today, will require well-trained, skilled and dedicated personnel.

Progress in space is essential to our ultimate national security. The vital role played by airpower in the past twenty years resulted largely from the fact that the modern airplane gave man direct access to all points on land and at sea. Flight in space will in due course provide access, not only to the land, sea, and atmosphere of the earth, but to outer space and other planets as well. Vehicles that can travel in air and space will clearly exceed the capability of those now limited to the earth’s surface and the lower atmosphere. As such they will, in turn, become a dominant factor in the military strength of our country.

The space era opens up a wide realm of possibilities – both for the deterrence of war and the promotion of peace. The project now in work, and a vital and continuing research and development program, are required for the United States to win and maintain the capability to control space. The Air Force is pledged to exert every effort to win and maintain that capability.