Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Putin Dictates US Defense Policy

Vladimir Putin, Russia's true Czar, on Dec. 29 in a web posting stated the following:

"The problem is that our American partners are developing missile defenses, and we are not.

But the issues of missile defense and offensive weapons are closely interconnected. ... There could be a danger that having created an umbrella against offensive strike systems, our partners may come to feel completely safe. After the balance is broken, they will do whatever they want and grow more aggressive.

In order to preserve a balance while we aren't planning to build a missile defense of our own, as it's very expensive and its efficiency is not quite clear yet, we have to develop offensive strike systems.

They should give us all the information about the missile defense, and we will be ready then to provide some information about offensive weapons."

- Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister, Dec. 29, 2009

Now, a real world translation;

Putin is laying down a line in the sand to Obama.

Russia has not developed (that we know of) any type of missile defense shield - not because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't afford it, and apparently have been unsuccessful in stealing the technology from us.

Putin regards our missile defense shield as an advantage - and Russia cannot stand for us to have an advantage.

Putin wants Obama to both give him all the technical details of missile defense (so they can build their own without paying for the development), and restrict our own use of missile defense. In other words, Russia wants the advantage ....

Putin is dangling a carrot/threatening to build more nuclear tipped missiles to point at us if Obama doesn't agree to both of these conditions.

Obama, who wants to unilaterally castrate US defense forces and policy, is likely to sit up and bark agreement to whatever Putin wants - because he wants to be seen as the force for peace in the world.

Now, missile defense, a completely defensive system with no capability to attack an enemy, should be a thing regarded highly by everyone in the world. The people whose weapons it makes irrelevant are scared of it, and are twisting world opinion against it in hopes of defeating it politically. Only in Obama's America would our own leadership think a defensive system is a bad thing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BRAC - Scheduled for Another Attack on Our Military

BRAC - the mere suggestion of the name causes almost everyone in the military to shiver, along with many politicians and civilians employed by the military. BRAC - Base Realignment And Closure.

BRAC was started as a non-partisan, independent affort to reduce military installations, eliminate redundant ones, and realign others for new missions. There have been several rounds of BRAC attacks on the military - hundreds of installations have been closed, thousands of people thrown out of work, hundreds of military communities devestated, and a lot of military capability lost.

BRAC is scheduled to surface again in 2013 for another round of closures. With all that has been closed and eliminated, there just isn't much more that can be cut - without drastically reducing our military capability. That doesn't seem to be a problem for the current administration ... time is almost here to whack away again.

Why is this an issue now? Because the poilitical wrangling has already started. Politicians go to war (almost literally) with BRAC, Congress, and the Admininstration to protect bases in the areas they represent. A politician who can claim to have defeated BRAC and saved a local base is guaranteed re-election.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-NE) is a moderate Democrat, one seen as a swing vote in the current Obamacare battle. He has been reported to have asked leadership of the Senate and the Obama administration to guarantee him that Offutt AFB, NE will be excluded from the BRAC list, in exchange for his vote.

Offutt AFB is home to about 10,000 Air Force personnel. It was the HQ of SAC. It hosts the 55th RW, which operates most of the Air Force's fixed wing intelligence aircraft. It is located in Omaha, which is very dependent upon the base for its economy. Offutt is also rumored to be a big target of the next BRAC list. Nelson would be pretty much guaranteed his re-election if he can secure Offutt's immunity from BRAC.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dec. 2, 1966

December 2nd, 1966 was another bad day for US aerial forces flying in SEA.

RF-4C 65-0829, 11TRS 432TRW, flying out of Udorn, was lost on a recon mission north of Hanoi after being hit by groundfire. Both crew members, pilot Capt. Robert Gregory and WSO Lt. Leroy Stutz, successfully ejected and were captured. Gregory was injured during the ejection and died shortly after being captured.

F-105D 59-1820, 34TFS 388TFW, based at Korat, piloted by Capt. Monte Moorberg, was lost on a raid on the Phuc Yen airfield. The aircraft was hit by groundfire, Moorberg did not eject and perished.

F-4C 64-0753, 480TFS 366TFW, Da Nang, was lost on the same mission, hit by a SA-2. Pilot Capt. Hubert Flesher and WSO Lt. James Berger ejected and were captured.

F-4C 64-0663, 389TFS 366TFW, Da Nang, was hit by another SA-2 during the same raid. Maj. Ray Burns and Lt. Bruce Ducat both ejected and became POWs, but Lt. Ducat died in captivity.

A-4C 145143, VA-172, flying from the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, and A-4C 145116, also from VA-172 were both lost on a night mission near Phuc Nhac. The exact circumstances were not determined, but it was thought that they were downed by SAMs. Pilots Cdr. Bruce Nystrom and Ens. Paul Worrell were both killed.

F-4B 151014, VF-154, based on the USS Coral Sea, was lost while flying a mission to Kep airfield in North Vietnam. It was hit by groudfire, which blew off the entire left wing. Pilot Lt. David McRae did not eject and died. RIO Ens. David Rehmann did successfully eject, and was captured.

4 Phantoms, 1 Thunderchief, and 2 Skyhawks were downed on this day, resulting in 6 aircrew members dying, and 5 being captured. Another crappy day in a crappy war .....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Midway SBD

This past week, I had the opportunity to pass through Chicago's Midway airport. Nice little airport. As I walked out of Concourse A, I was surprised to walk under a WWII era SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

This model aircraft was the US Navy's primary bomber aircraft when the war started. It is extremely rare these days - not very many survived the war and subsequent scrapper's torches. It was not a popular aircraft with post war aviation folks, so there just weren't many that were saved.

This particular aircraft was located in Lake Michigan in 1989, and brought to the surface in 1991. It was shipped to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, where it underwent a full restoration. Initially, it was displayed at the USAF Museum in Dayton, painted as an Army A-24.

The aircraft had been ditched in the lake on December 14, 1944, by Ensign Albert O'Dell, who had run out of fuel while practicing carrier landings on the USS Sable. Ensign O'Dell was recovered with minor injuries. His aircraft, BuNo 10575, sat on the bottom of the lake, preserved remarkably well by the frigid waters for 47 years.

In 2004, the SBD 10575(Scout Bomber Douglas) was repainted to represent one that had flown during the Battle of Midway. It was enshrined above the entrance to Concourse A, along with a very nice display honoring the Battle of Midway. (Midway Airport was given its current name in 1949 by the City of Chicago to recognize the Battle of Midway.)

SBDs played a key role in the Battle of Midway, sinking 4 Japanese carriers with dive bombing attacks, and turning the tide of the war. Having one pulled from Lake Michigan, then being restored and displayed at the airport named for the battle, is very zen-like, don't you think?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our New Breed of Aviator Warriors?

Drones have become an important part of our aerial might, there is no doubt about it. Global Hawks, Predators, Reapers, and more are becomming an integral component of aerial forces, particularly in recon tasking.

Uninhabited Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial vehicles, Uninhabited Combat Aviation Systems .... the names keep changing to make them seem more complex and capable. Notice Uninhabited is replacing Unmanned - PC is even invading the drone world ....

The Obama Administration, Deense Secretary Gates, and some of the Pentagon's brass is infatuated with these radio controlled things. They see them as cheap (with cheap being a relative term!) vehicles that can do jobs without risking pilots (which is a good thing). They see them as the perfect weapon to wage a low intensity war against widely scattered, poorly armed terrorist types. They also see a future expansion of drone operations, to include fighter and bomber missions, and aircraft landing on carriers at sea - I have heard quotes from several officials stating they want to see a completely pilotless aerial force.

There are mutliple problems with these things. We lose a lot of these things, and they do cost multiple millions of dollars each. Most of them are completely reliant upon radio communications through satellites to ground control stations that may be half a world away. While most of them are under live operator control, the operator only has as much information on the situation as he can get from the vehicle's sensors, and other observors, if any.

A big problem I see is with the pilots who control these things. Currently, they are fully trained aviators who have been 'demoted' to flying a joystick from an armchair. These pilots are pissed off at this. The government has spent upwards of a million dollars for each of these pilots for training. Pilots who spend time in 'the chair' are unlikely to fly a real airplane for the military again - there are simply too many pilots for too few airplanes these days, and it's going to get worse for them.

Pretty soon, the government is going to figure out they don't have to have fully trained pilots for drones, and they will begin training drone operators - not pilots. Very sad.

Cockpit of the future:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Give Me A F'ing Break - Forwarded

I'd like to share some thoughts from Outlaw13, posted over at threedonia, concerning the hazards faced by those flying drones over the war zones. Being a combat aviator in Iraq on his third tour, he is certainly entitled to this opinion ....

"I post this story from the newspaper for purely selfish reasons. It boils my blood to read about a person who wakes up every morning in their own bed, drives their car to work, flies an Uninhabited Aerial System (UAS) from a work station for several hours and at the end of the day returns to their home and then complains about how hard that is for them to deal with. I have been to Iraq three times for a grand total of 31+ months now, at last count I have lost at least 15 friends I have known over the years to this conflict. I have been mortared, rocketed and shot at with machine guns and assorted weapons of all types. In this article you will read of Airmen who will tell you how they have heard the sound of gunfire over the radio as they responded to attacks against our troops. I have as well, and I can tell you it has added meaning to you when you know you are going to be flying over that gun fire in minutes if not seconds and they are likely to be shooting at you next. "

You can read the rest at this link, if it is of interest .....


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Deadly Week for US Military Aviators

This past week has been a brutal reminder that our military fliers are constantly exposed to danger, whether in a war zone, doing normal operations, or just training.

Thursday, a Coast Guard HC-130H collided with a Marine AH-1W off the Southern California coast, killing all 9 people on both aircraft. The USCG Hercules, s/n 1705, operating out of USCG Station Sacramento, was involved in search operations for a missing small boat. The Cobra, one of two escorting a pair of CH-53E troop transport helicopters, was operating out of Camp Pendleton on a routine training mission. The collision occurred at night. Extensive SAR efforts found debris, but no survivors.

On Wednesday, a Navy T-34C training aircraft, went down off the Texas coast. The two seat aircraft was on a training flight out of NAS Corpus Christi. As of late Friday, no trace of the aircraft or crew had been found.

Monday, two seperate accidents occurred in Afghanistan. There is no indication, at least so far, that enemy fire was the cause of either incident.

First, Marine AH-1W Cobra and UH-1N Huey aircraft collided in the southern part of the country, killing both on the Cobra and two of the four Marines on the huey.

Second, an Army CH-47D Chinook crashed during an anti-drug operation, while carrying service members, Afghan soldiers, and civilian (DEA/CIA) agents away at the conclusion of the operation. Seven US service members and 3 civilians on the chopper were killed. 26 more people were injured in the crash. Some reports state the chopper was under fire at the time, other reports say it was an accident.

Flying in the military is a dangerous game. No matter how much effort is given to safety, the nature and sheer amount of flying being done for operations and training mean that accidents will happen - no comfort to the loved ones of those who were lost, but it's the nature of the business.

Update - I missed one. A Navy TH-57C Jet Ranger training helicopter assigned to TAW-5 at NAS Whiting Field crashed near Milton, FL. The aircraft was on a normal training flight when it went down. Fortunately, both crew members got out with minor injuries.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Castration of the USAF: Part Trey - the ANG

The Air National Guard are units that belong to each state, giving the states their own individual military air assets. The main purposes of the ANG is to supplement the regular USAF as needed, and to provide emergency assistance within their own states during times of disaster.

In the 40's, 50's, 60s, and '70s, the Air Guard were very much considered weekend warriors. Using hand me down aircraft and equipment from the regular USAF, the units were rarely called upon to support their active duty counterparts. Most times ANG units were called up for active duty service, they went to stateside bases to backfill for active duty units deployed overseas.

In the '80s, a change started to occur, where the ANG was more closely integrated with active duty forces. Their equipment was upgraded, and though in many cases not the same capability as the active duty units, it was getting much closer. ANG units made more and more overseas deployments, to train in real world situations. These efforts were about to pay off.

The first Gulf War saw the first large scale use of ANG units on the frontline of combat operations. Transport, aerial refueling, and combat units were counted on heavily during the buildup, war, and aftermath.

Throughout the '90s, ANG units became critical components of frontline operations. With the military drawdown imposed by Clinton in 1994 and 1995, active duty units simply weren't enough to cover the commitments. Post 9/11 this became even more critical. OIF and OEF operations simply could not have been sustained for as long as they have been if it hadn't been for ANG units.

Now, for the bad part....

During the '90s and '00s, the ANG was upgrading its aircraft, to where it was flying almost the same stuff as active duty units. Fighter aircraft in particular were pretty much equivalent both in capability and age. However, very few new aircraft were being purchased for ANG use, and very few new ones were being bought for active duty use. Hence, aircraft in both sides of the service were being used up, to the point of having to be retired, and not being replaced. There are no more aircraft for the USAF to hand down to the ANG.

The ANG's limited fighter resources (and pretty much everything else) are running out of service life, and are going to end up retired to the Tucson desert long before they can be replaced. There are already units shutting down because they don't have aircraft to fly.

The USAF's efforts to buy new aircraft have not included any efforts for the ANG. Even though the active duty folks count on the Guard, they aren't helping them out at all with aircraft procurement. With a shortage of dollars to spend on the military these days, the ANG is being forgotten.

The ANG is fighting this, and actually, for the first time in its history, trying to procure aircraft on its own. They are talking about purchasing new build F-16s, F-15s, and even F-18s, to meet its own needs and to cover its active duty commitments. Whiel the Pentagon is hung up ont he F-35 being the answer to all its aircraft questions, there will not be any F-35s made available for the ANG for at least a decade. The ANG needs aircraft now, and they are smart in trying to pursue new build aircraft that are cheaper, and proven in design and capability.

Title photo - 111th Fighter Squadron, 147th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, based at Ellington ANGB in Houston, painted up this F-16C, s/n 84-1393, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the base. Photographed the day before it was retired in June of 2008 by yours truly. The unit's F-16s ran out of service time, and were all retired to the desert. With no replacement aircraft available, the unit converted to drone operations - now its remaining pilots spend their time in trailers 'flying' drones located halfway around the world. This unit, with a long, proud history of service used to fly F-16s, F-4s, F-101s, F-102s, F-86s, P-51s ... all the way back to Jennys .....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oct. 20, 1966

US aviation forces suffered a bad day in Southeast Asia on this day. One incident shows with clarity the lengths to which Search and Rescue efforts for downed aircrew would go.

F-4C 63-7518, 433TS 8TFW, was lost during an attack on a truck park in southern Laos. The crew, Maj. Breckenridge and Lt. Merrick, were able to eject about 10 miles south of the target.

HH-3C 65-12778, 38ARRS, flown by Maj. Youngblood was hit repeatedly by automatic weapons fire while trying to hoist one of the Phantom's crew aboard. It crashlanded about a mile away, with no casualties. The crew and the Phantom pilot were picked up under heavy fire by a second HH-3C, which then found and picked up the second Phantom crewman. The downed HH-3C helo was destroyed to keep it from falling into enemy hands.

A-1E 52-132410, 602ACS 14ACW, was lost to enemy fire while involved in covering efforts during the rescue of the Phantom's crew. The pilot, Capt. Wagener, did not make it out of the aircraft before it crashed, and died on the scene.

In other action:

A-4C 147775, VA-172 USS Roosevelt, was lost on an armed recon mission over North vietnam. The pilot, Lt. Purrington, successfully ejected and was captured.

A-4C 148592, VA-153 USS Constellation, was shot down after dropping its bombs on a railway bridge in North Vietnam. The pilot, Lt. Edwards, rode his aircraft down and was killed on impact.

F-104C 56-0918, 435TFS 8TFW. Another Stafigther lost during the type's miserable SEA performance, Capt. Tofferi's jet was shot down by automatic weapons fire while on an armed recon mission in northern Laos. He did not eject, and was killed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama Orders Second Nuke Disarmament Study From Pentagon

President Obama, Airhead in Chief, has ordered the Pentagon to produce a second study detailing unilateral nuclear weapons cuts by US Armed Forces.

The study is to identify nuclear weapons systems that can be elimintated from our arsenal. Ths second study was ordered after the first study didn't make cuts deep enough for Obama's tastes.

For those who don't understand, unilateral disarmament means that we put down and eliminate weapons systems without any agreement from other countries that they will do the same.

Obama is doing this because the far left kook fringe wants us to be unarmed and helpless. He also wants to get praise from all of his buddy tinpot dictators around the world. Does he actually think that Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, Iran, Britain are going to say "gee whiz, we ought to do the same"? No - they're going to be praising him in public, while laughing their asses off in private at the stupidity of this buffoon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Take a Flight in Thunderbird

Lone Star Flight Museum offers rides in several of its aircraft, notably the B-17, B-25, T-6, and PT-17. The flights aren't cheap, but very high in 'bang for the buck'. Many veterans and their families visit LSFM regularly to experience the flights - some to remember times past, others to experience what their fathers knew.

I found this video on Youtube - I have no idea who shot it, but it's pretty neat.

If you are in the Galveston/Houston area, a visit to the museum is highly recommended. Check their website to see if your visit would coincide with one of their designated 'ride' days - if it does, I think it would be well worth your time and money to go up in one of these grand old birds.

(BTW - I've flown in the B-17 and B-25 - it's a hoot!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September 1, 1966

Three USAF aircraft were lost on this day in SEA, all on the same mission. The lunacy of using the F-104 Starfighter for missions it had no business being sent on claims another casualty.

F-104C 57-0913, 435TFS 8TFW, flying out of Udorn AB, Thailand. Maj. Norman Schmidt was flying an armed recon mission in North Vietnam, when his aircraft was hit and downed by AAA. Maj. Schmidt successfully ejected, was captured, and subsequently beaten to death by his captors.

A search and rescue effort was mounted to try and recover Maj. Schmidt. Two A-1E Skyraiders were lost during the effort.

A-1E 52-132648, 602ACS 14ACW, Udorn AB. Maj. Hubert Nichols was shot down by AAA, and died at the scene.

A-1E 52-132624, 602ACS 14ACW, Udorn AB. Capt. A. Minnick was also hit by AAA, but managed to nurse his stricken aircraft almost back to base. He successfully ejected and was recovered.

Search and Rescue for downed aviators was one of the most dedicated and sacred missions flown during the Vietnam war, and ever since. Of all the things that were done wrong in the Vietnam war, SAR was a shining example of what was done right. Every man flying a mission over hostile territory does so with the knowledge that his fellow US military personnel will do everything within their power (and many times above and beyond) to find and recover them. Search and Rescue operations picked up hundreds of aviators, many times very deep inside North Vietnam. Many SAR aircrew and aircraft were lost on these missions.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Apache Fly Bys

A pair of AH-64 Apache low flybys, both supposedly taken in Afghanistan. Although this is the vehicle of choice for Outlaw13, I can say with reasonable certainty that he is not in the driver's seat on either one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

US Navy Faces Critical Shortfall of Combat Aircraft

Currently, the US Navy has only one fixed wing combat aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet. Originally fielded in numbers in the early '80s, A, B, C, D, E, and F model Hornets have been manufactured. All A and B models have been retired from frontline service. Some of the lower time A models have been modified into A+ models. Many C models are running out of airframe life, and are on the short leash to retirement. D models (two seaters) are used for training purposes only. E (single seat) and F (two seat) models are called Super Hornets, and are currently being manufactured by Boeing - however the last of these aircraft on order will come off the production line soon. For now, the numbers of Hornets (around 600 aircraft) are sufficient to fill the Carrier Air Wings with their full complement of strike/fighter aircraft, and all of the ancillary squadrons in the Navy that require the jets (though it requires using the A+ rebuild airframes to meet the needs).

The F-35C is due to come into squadron service with the Navy in 2012. the Navy's version is specific for carrier based operation - it is a very different version from the Air Force's version, or the Marine's vertical takeoff version. The Navy is currently planning on buying 360 of the jets, which are intended to replace all of the Hornets except for the E and F models. 2012 is a very optimistic date - no new aircraft has reached operational status according to the original schedule in many, many years.

What this means is that the Navy will experience a shortfall in fighter aircraft, beginning this year, and growing each year until 2020 at least. The numbers vary, according to who you listen to, but the most credible ones I've seen place the shortfall at around 240 aircraft by 2018. An operational Navy squadron has 12 aircraft in it, so this is equivalent of being short 20 full squadrons of aircraft. There are only about 40 front line operational squadrons at present ..... do the math ....

The Navy currently has 11 carriers. This figure will stay the same for many years - the future launching of the latest carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, will allow the USS Enterprise to finally be retired. The Navy has 10 Air Wings to deploy on those carriers. 11 Carriers and 10 Air Wings has been a handicap in this era of two conflicts - equipment is wearing out, personel are deploying much too often. The projected aircraft shortfall will mean that 5 of these carriers will have no combat aircraft to deploy on them.

Some members of Congress and Boeing (the Hornet's manufacturer) want to build more E and F model airframes, to help offset this shortage, and plug the gap until the certainly to be delayed F-35 comes on line. Other members of Congress and Lockheed are fighting this suggestion, afraid that it will take funding away from the F-35 program.

The Navy and its carrier force are the most mobile, most deployable force projection tool our country has. Every President, Republican or Democrat, gets constant updates on where the carriers are, what their availability is - so they can be used to protect American interests around the world. This pending shortage situation is going to severely hobble, if not cripple, that capability.

Title photo - F-18A+s of VFA-201, NAS Ft. Worth, photographed shortly before the squadron's disestablishment due to budget cuts in 2006 - by yours truly.

Friday, July 31, 2009

August 1, 1966

Another long day in a long air war, during the year the US should have won the Vietnam War ...

Four US aircraft were lost in SEA:

F-104C 56-0928, 435TFS 8TFW, flying out of Udorn AB, was lost to a SAM while flying CAP for an Iron Hand mission over North Vietnam. The pilot, Capt. John Kwortnick, was killed.

F-105D 62-4380, 13TFS 388TFW, Korat AB, was lost to AAA fire eroute to attack the Thai Nguyen rail yard. Pilot Capt. Ken Walter, ejected and spent 7 years as a POW.

F-104C 57-0295, 435TFS, 8TFW. The 435th had a run of bad luck on this day, losing two of its Starfighters. This one was was also lost to a SAM while covering the Thai Nguyen rail yard attack. Lt. Col. Arthur Finney was killed instantly.

O-1E 56-2550, 20TASS 505TACG was downed by groundfire near the DMZ. Pilot Lt. Col. E Abersold was recovered with light injuries.

A side note - the F-104's deployment to the Vietnam theater was nothing short of a disaster. the aircraft was useless for ground attack. It was used primarily as an anti-MiG defender for air strikes, and as point defense for airbases from attack from the North Vietnamese Air Force (a threat that never materialized). Every mission it was used on in SEA was a testament to the aircraft's inability to perform any of those missions.

Longbow Apache - Outlaw13's Current Ride

Good friend Outlaw13 is currently on his third vacation over in the sand box. His office while over there is this awesome aircraft, the AH-64D Longbow Apache ...

Bad guys do not want to see this helicopter near them. Unfortunately for them, they rarely see it until it's much too late to run......

XB-70 Valkyrie - Awesome!

Here is some Youtube footage (courtesy of SonicBomb.com) of the XB-70 Valkyrie, North American Aviation's Mach 3 nuclear bomber prototype. Designed in the early '60s, this awesome flying machine was obsolete before it left the ground.

Despite it's incredible performance, the Valkyrie was designed as a high altitude bombing platform, specifically to strike the Soviet Union. Development of SAMs (surface to air missiles) made this approach to delivering nuclear weapons invalid - the aircraft would have been shot down before it reached the target.

Two XB-70s were completed. They were used as test and research platforms. One was lost in a mid-air collision during a photo-op. The other survived, and is currently enshrined at the USAF Museum in Dayton.

Some folks think this thing is wierd looking. I think it is one of the most beautiful large scale aircraft ever built.

SR-71/D-21 Launch/Accident Footage

The SR-71 Blackbird was one of our greatest aeronautical achievements. A Mach 3+ spy plane, designed in the early '60s, gave the US a manned recon platform unequalled by anyone else in the world. The aircraft, though long retired by budget cuts, still holds many world speed and altitude records.

A program was initiated in the early '60s to use the SR-71 as a mothership/launch platform for the D-21 - a ramjet powered spy drone, that would extend the reach of the Blackbird well into Soviet territory (without endangering the crew). the D-21 looked much like a miniature Blackbird.

Although development was finished, and the D-21 used operationally for a few times, the program was not successful, and the D-21s were retired (long before the Blackbird).

Here is a video of the first test launch of a D-21, along with a fatal accident where the launch was not successful. It is narrated by Kelly Johnson, Lockheed'd genius aircraft designer and founder of the 'Skunkworks'. I can't embed the video directly, the person who posted it disabled the embedding feature. However, it can be reached via this link:


There is some amazing stuff out on Youtube!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama Threatens to Veto Additional F-22s

Obama the Immaculate has threatened to veto his own defense bill, after Senators added funds to build an additional 7 F-22 fighters.

Obama, and his lackey in the Defense Department Gates, have stated they want to cap production at 187 aircraft. This figure is far less than the Air Force had previously determined was the minimum combat effective number of aircraft, 381, and lightyears from the original planned production run of 700+.

The F-22 is an air superiority fighter. It is intended to fight and defeat the latest Russian and Chinese fighters, which are used by those nations and dozens more around the world. Without the Raptor, air superiority over the battlefield cannot be assured, putting our ability to win a major conflict in serious doubt.

The F-22 is extremely expensive - it has been overengineered, the victim of poorly structured contracts, and low production numbers. Economy of scale never came into play with the Raptor, simply because of the low numbers. The additional 7 aircraft would have cost about $350 million each. That's a lot of money, but a drop in the Obama bucket.

7 aircraft is about half a squadron's worth. Their procurement would mean another combat deployable unit in the USAF, and with the incredible shortfall of aircraft the Air Force is facing, that could be critical in upcoming conflicts.

Update - Both House and Senate versions of the upcoming defense budget deleted all funding for the F-22, except a small amount to be used to shut down the production line. So, F-22 production will end after 187 jets have been completed. Arrogant, short sighted idiots ......

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Castration of the USAF, Part Deaux

The Air Force is running out of airplanes ....

Aircraft retirements, due to age or to budget cuts, have far outstripped new aircraft procurement since the early 1990s.

Let's take a look at the particulars:

F-15A/B/C/D - The Eagle is the air superiority fighter for the USAF. A late '60s design, first production examples reached the front line in 1975. Almost all A and B models have been retired. Most C and D models have been retired. The last air superiority Eagles were built in the mid '80s. After the next round of retirements, coming this next year, less than 200 of these will be operational in USAF and ANG service. This aircraft's direct replacement is the F-22 Raptor.

F-15E - Strike fighter version of the Eagle, was built in the late '80s and early '90s. These aircraft are not being retired yet, but they are not numerous. The operational force hovers around 200-225 aircraft. There is no direct replacement for the Strike Eagle on the boards, though the F-35 is supposed to take over some of its missions.

F-16A/B/C/D - the Fighting Falcon is a mid-70s design. All A and B models have been long since retired. Most C and D models have been retired. Appx. 300 more will be retired in the next year or so. The last USAF Falcons were produced in 1994. Due to its numbers, the Falcon has been the backbone of USAF/AFRES/ and ANG fighter strength for almost 3 decades. The F-35 is to replace the F-16.

A-10 - The Thunderbolt II has risen in importance since the first Gulf War. It was thought to be on its way to the junkyard in the late '80s, but the need for a dedicated close air support platform resurrected it. Multiple upgrades have been performed to extend service live and lethality - the Hog is now expected to serve well into the 2020s. About half of the original production run has been lost or retired, but the remainder is a highly thought of, highly used asset. There is no direct replacement on the board, though some tout the F-35 as its followon.

C-130 - the Venerable Hercules has been around since the early 1950s, and still provides the military with the majority of its theater level transport capabilities. The latest model, the J, continues in slow production, in spite of Pentagon efforts to kill it off. Hundreds of Hercs have been retired, hundreds more will need retirement in the coming decade. There is no replacement on the boards.

C-5 - the largest transport plane in the USAF, the Galaxy comes in two basic models - A and B. the A models were built in the late '60s and early '70s. They are maintenance nightmares, and their in service capability is miserable. The B models were built in the mid-80s, and provide an important long haul capability for large cargo. Numerous attempts to upgrade the C-5s have been proposed over the years, and all of them have been stalled by budget cuts. As a result, the USAF is seeking congressional permission to retire all the A models. There is no replacement for the Galaxy on the boards.

C-17 - The Globemaster III is the current mid-level transport for the USAF. It has filled a critical need for moving cargo, and is still in low rate production, in spite of Pentagon attempts to kill it off. The USAF will end up with a fleet of around 200 of these critical aircraft, far less than needed if the C-5 and C-130 retirements planned come through. There is no replacement for the C-17 on the boards.

KC-135 - the primary (and only) aerial refueling aircraft in the USAF/AFRES/ANG. Hundreds of this workhorse were built by Boeing, with the last ones coming off the production lines in 1964. Hundreds of A and E models have been retired due to age. Hundreds more A models have been rebuilt as R models, and will continue to serve for decades to come. I have seen estimates that tsome of these aircraft will reach 80 years old by the time they are finally retired. Strange as it may seem, aerial tankers are the most important aircraft in the USAF - without them, the Air Force could not function. Replacement has been a hot project for years now, but is not decided. Competition between Boeing and Airbus to produce its replacement has been marred by corruption, political fighting, changing specifications, and international gamesmanship between the companies. The contract for development still has not been awarded.

B-52 - The Old Fort has been around for over 50 years. The newest one off the production line was purchased with FY 1961 money! The only model still in service is the H, and it is seen as a critical component of worldwide force projection. Less than a hundred of them still serve. Upgrades are constant. Projections see the last of them being retired in 2040!

B-1 - The USAF has several times tried to get rid of the BONE. 100 were originally produced, about 60 remain in service today. Numerous upgrades have kept the airplane current - it is a great bomb truck. Will it continue, who knows - it seems there is a new effort to get rid of them about every 5 years or so.

B-2 - This wonderplane is a '80s design. Less than 20 of them are operational at any given time. They are a powerful force, but their lack of numbers would make them ineffective in a prolonged major war.

There are other, more minor aircraft in the mix, but those are the main players.

In addition, in the late '80s and '90s, several aircraft types were retired out of the inventory, with little or no replacement: C-141, KC-135A/E, F-4C/D/E/G, RF-4, A-7, F-111A/D/E/F, EF-111, B-52G, SR-71.

It's a sad state of affairs ... The USAF is running out of aircraft, and the few replacements that have been identified are years away from being available.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Castration of the USAF, Part One

The United States Air Force is at a critical crossroads. At no point before in its 62 year history has it faced such fundamental changes in its makeup, mission and future. Lack of funding, aging weapons systems, incompetent civilian leaders making conflicting decisions, changes in the conflicts we are fighting, and the stress of long lasting ongoing operations are raising troubling questions about how the USAF will exist in the future.

Volumes can be written about all facets of this discussion. I will try to boil it down to a bit smaller equation. It will take me a few posts to do so, but if you have any interest in this key component of our defense forces, you might be interested.

First, a very basic lesson on how the USAF is organized these days.

The active duty Air Force consists of major Commands. Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, AF Special Operations Command, and Air Education and Training Command are the ones I will concentrate on. They control the vast majority of aircraft and crews used operationally.

Air Combat Command controls offensive, combat oriented aircraft. Fighters, bombers, attack aircraft, and command and control aircraft fall under their control.

Air Mobility Command controls transport aircraft.

Special Operations Command controls aircraft designated for use in special operations, duh....

Air Education and Training Command controls aircraft and operations that train USAF personnel, be it pilots, maintainers, or others.

In addition ...

The Air Force Reserve Command controls various units kept in 'reserve' status. These units consist of personnel and aircraft that can be used to bolster active duty units as needed.

The Air National Guard consists of units organized as units controlled by their individual states. They are part of the individual states' defense and service structure, and are nominally controlled by each governor. ANG units can be called to active duty service (federalized) by the federal government as needed for national defense.

Prior to the Gulf War, active duty units, reserve units, and Air Guard units pretty much kept to themselves. Reserves and Air Guard units were truly 'weekend warriors', using hand me down aircraft and equipment after it was deemed unneeded by the active duty forces.

Extensive requirements of the Gulf War caused this seperation of forces to end. Reserves and guard units augmented active duty forces as never before, and set a standard that continues today. Reserves and Guards now provide a large percentage of Air Force assetts under the Total Force concept.

Is that boring enough for you? Stay tuned ....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Title Photo

I shot the title photo of the Lone Star Flight Museum's B-17 while leaning out the side port of the museum's B-25 Mitchell. This photo was out over the Gulf of Mexico, off Galveston.

My cousin (by marriage) Gumby is driving the Flying Fort. He is the Museum's Chief Pilot. Standing behind him is Tuna, an ex-USAF pilot with substantial flight time in the F-4 Phantom and F-117 Nighthawk.

Gotta tell you ... doing this is fun!

July 1, 1966

On this day in 1966, four US aircraft were downed in Southeast Asia by enemy fire.

F-105D 59-1722, 354TFS 355TFW, flying out of Takhli was shot down over North Vietnam. The pilot, Capr. Lewis Shattuck, was lucky enough to eject and was picked up by a USAF HU-16 Albatross amphibian. Capt. Shattuck's luck ran out 10 days later, when he was again shot down, this time being captured and becoming a POW for 7 years.

F-105D 62-4354, 13TFS 388TFW, flying out of Korat, was also lost over North Vietnam. The pilot, Lt. Burton Campbell, was captured and spent 7 years as a POW.

A-4E 150017, VA-155, flying off the USS Constellation, was shot down over North Vietnam while attacking a POL site. The pilot, Navy Cdr. Charles Peters, ejected from his stricken craft, but did not survive.

A-1E 52-133890, 602ACS 14ACW, based at Udorn, was lost during a SAR mission. The pilot, USAF Maj. Robert Williams, did not make it out of the craft before is crashed.

One day in a long air war ....

Friday, June 26, 2009

GAO Pronounces That V-22 Falls Short

Michael Sullivan, Director of the GAO's Acquisition and Sourcing Management, on June 24 told the Democrat controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the V-22 Osprey is " ... incapable of performing the original way it was intended".

In case you've been in a vacuum for the past two decades, the V-22 is a tiltrotor aircraft. It takes of and lands verticaly like a helicopter, but flies like a conventional airplane. The Marines are currently using the Osprey operationally, the Air Force is just starting to. The Osprey has had a difficult road to production, with inumerable technical issues, high profile crashes during development, and the subject of a tug of war in Congress and the Pentagon.

The Marines use the V-22 as a troop transport. It is a replacement for the Vietnam era H-46 helicopter. They have around 60 of them in service so far.

The Air Force uses the V-22 as a Special Operations aircraft. They have only a few of them so far, and seem to be in the mode of figuring out how to use them.

The Marines have completed two combat deployments of the Osprey in Iraq. There have been no serious incidents. Many lessons about operating the Osprey, tactics needed in that environment, and maintenance considerations have been learned - which was the primary purpose of the deployments. Some goals of the deployments were not met, primarily due to the reluctance of command staff to risk the aircraft in certain situations. The loss of an operational Osprey would be a serious blow to the program, and certain career death for the squadron commander. The Marines, justifiably so, are being very careful with their transport of the future.

To date, the Air Force has not (at least to public knowledge) deployed any of theirs outside of the US.

The GAO's primary complaint seems to be that the aircraft had not been proven to be able to perform some of its intended missions. So far, those missions have not been operationally attempted. The operational test for those missions will be Afghanistan, and the aircraft has not been deployed to that theater yet. A valid point by the GAO, but it should result in an "I" for incomplete - not "F" for failure. Just because some bozo in Congress chose this moment to have the GAO testify about it, does not mean that the operational/test/deployment schedule for the aircraft revolves around the date of that testimony.

As an aviation fan, I do have concerns about this aircraft. It is wonderful technology, and a marvel to watch. It leaks hydraulic fluid like a sieve out of the engine nacelles. A crew chief told me that they don't worry about it unless the puddle on the ground reaches a certain diameter. Standard equipment, at least for the Air Force versions, is two push brooms - when it lands off pavement the rotor blast fills the cargo compartment with whatever is on the ground, including dirt, rocks, grass - whatever. The intricate mechanisms for nacelle rotation and (especially) power routing in the event of an engine failure are complex. How hard it will be to maintain them in field operations would be a concern to me, as would their vulnerability to enemy fire.

The development and test period for this aircraft have been very long, due to it's complexity and the huge changes in tactics and doctrine necessary to employ it.

It is too early to determine if it will be a success. Likewise, it is far too early to call it a failure.
Update - “It’s time to put the Osprey out of its misery, and time to put the taxpayers out of their miseries.” Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.
The Democrat chariman of the committee said this Friday, which is no surprise - the conclusion was made before the hearing was ever convened.

Photo above is an Air Force CV-22B of the 71SOS, 58SOW, photographed last summer by yours truly

What's This All About?

This is an offshoot of my 'normal' blog, Voodoo Warrior. I've got a lot to say about the military, but my huge audience on the normal blog (three, at last count) may not be interested in that. Mostly, they are looking for my completely logical and insightful (cough, cough) comments on politics and the world in general.

I am an Air force brat. I've been interested in the US military for many, many years, particularly military aviation. From time to time, I'll drop a pearl or two of wisdom here for those bored enough to read it.