Archive for August, 2008

America’s Allies Need An Appropriate Defense

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Russia has violated Georgia. A Russian invasion force–thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks–scattered the ill-prepared Georgian military. The Russian air force bombed Georgian cities and then occupied some of them. They stole the small boats of its navy. Pillaged and destroyed army bases. Pushed civilian police cars aside with tanks. Robbed banks. Put citizens in work details. And then scoffed at the international response.

America, its military stretched thin between two theaters of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)–Iraq and Afghanistan–reacted with diplomatic sternness. The American stance might have been respected by the Russians if NATO had offered a solid front. However, they only offered the threat of diplomatic reprisals due to some of its members being energy dependent on the Russian Bear.

Then in a diplomatic surprise, the new leader of the European Union–French President Nicolas Sarkozy–echoed the American position. Suddenly there was a ceasefire deal. American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saw to it that Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakshvili and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev both signed the treaty this weekend.

Once the agreement was signed, the Russian invasion force was supposed to begin leaving. But “surprise” — they didn’t. Who’d a guess it? Who wouldn’t have?

The Russians said they would leave Monday, but they didn’t. They continued to position themselves to control Georgia–taking over villages and a power plant.

They continued to assert moral ascendancy on the people of the small country. The Russians even said they were leaving as some rumors spread that more forces were moving into the region. Hard to trust those Russians, ain’t it?

This is troubling, as most of the civilized community is trying to find a solution to an evil force that is bent on destroying the world as we know it.

Terrorist organizations are waging war against the civilized nations of the world. Suicide terrorists do what their label implies. Attacks are launched, just about everywhere. The Chinese are not immune. Terrorists blow up civilian aircraft, even in Russia.

The terrorists see little difference between the Russians, the Americans, the Chinese, or the Jews. But instead of cooperating and putting as quick as possible of an end to the GWOT, we have to revisit old wounds. What causes that? If we ever get it under control we just might have peace in our time.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to established a hedge against Iranian missile threats–especially with the imminent development of nuclear warheads–America has agreed to build a missile defense system in Poland.

While this might be part of a master plan to avoid having to depopulate Iran in order to stop their weapons development program, Russia has stated that it is just an attempt to weaken Russia. They rattle their saber and spout not-so-veiled threats of attack on Poland and others. So we’re going to put Patriot missiles in Poland to protect them from Russian missiles. Well, that’s a start.

This is getting complicated. Russia is a threat to its neighbors that are American allies, or are considering to become so. It’s a good thing to protect them from missile attack, but that’s not enough.

If our allies are to be safe from Russia, they need a tank defense system.

America has had success in stopping Soviet-technology tanks in the past couple of wars. Its probably safe to say, “Nobody does it better.” We should share our techniques and some of our hardware with our allies.

Did somebody just whisper, “It might be good for the economy.”

There are a vast array of stop-the-tank weapons out there. The Army says the best anti-tank weapon is a tank. Maybe so, but airplanes do a pretty good job of stopping tanks too–ask any Hog-driver.

Of course, all of that needs air superiority to happen. Come to think of it–America does that quite well too. If we feel up to the job, we might want to reconsider the number of F-22s we’ll need. I know that’s not a popular stance in the wake of the UAV craze. But can UAVs shoot down the Su-35 and MiG-29?

Some folks will say that these suggestions are needlessly extravagant. They will say things like: It will cause a war! It will never work! It will cost too much!

Georgia is being snuffed as we speak–and not because they were too strong. They were without the resources to stop 10,000 soldiers and 350 tanks who enjoyed air superiority. If they had, let’s say 20,000 combat soldiers and 400 tanks and air defenses to stop Russian airpower technology–or at least slow them, would it have been different? Could they have defended themselves long enough for the US or NATO to have moved an air superiority shield over their territory? Maybe.

In addition, the Russians would have had to muster a force of about 3 to 1 to be confident of success. Forces in that number don’t assemble quietly or cheaply–maybe that in and of itself would have been enough to have prevented the invasion of Georgia. Who knows?

What we do know for certain is that what was done wasn’t enough. We have to do something different. If we keep doing the same thing, we’ll eventually see all the border states around Russia forced to surrender to the Bear. Do we really want an imperialistic Russian Empire expanding its sphere of control with hot lead and cold steel? When they eventually clash with China’s ambitions, will the EU and US be influential enough to get them to sign a ceasefire treaty? Or will we see the Dragon and the Bear wear each other out with massive bombardments of nuclear weapons? Which one of them would you like to win? Would that be a better world than we have today?

No way. We have to do something else.

It just makes sense.

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Chuck and all,

 

 

Yes the WIFF… as a said I flew the WIFF with Yuke Smaby.  Don’t remember the specifics of the maneuver other then the purpose of the demo was to show you that if the two aircraft and pilots were in sinc with each other and they both understood the aerodynamic interaction between the jets, that “any” attitude could be achieved successfully in contact.  It was a confidence and teamwork maneuver. I remember that we did get just a bit past the 90 degree bank on one of the series of maneuvers.  The WIFF was a dynamic process, not just one big turn.  It was a series of lazy-chandelle type maneuvers (without the 180 degree turn reversal) that started out small and increased with each reversal until the target attitude was achieved –or sometimes exceeded—hence the name WIFF.  This concept was re-enforced on the subsequent CFIC MITO sortie where we had to do a 12 second MITO with the tanker and achieve a contact shortly after flaps up – below 2000 feet  – on the departure, then fly contact through the climbing turn on the CID.  Also I remember Yuke abusing me hard on the night sorties when we re-fueled and had to maintain contact thorough many turns, climbs and descents over and over again.  I remember never being so tired and wrung out post flight.  I also remember some harsh thoughts I had for my instructors every time the tanker turned and started climbing or descending.  At the time I didn’t understand the purpose of the pain…only that it was painful.  As on my last BoB this level of training and the detail involved was to prepare us for any mission and any situation in the future.

Mine came just three months after returning from CFIC.  We ended up in IRAQ short on gas and carrying a load of new weapons on converted cruise missile pylons… yes a WESP.  The drag was more then expected, hence that’s why we where short on the gas… big time….enough so we needed an extra refueling to make it to the post strike base.  We asked the AWACS and we got a snap vector to a group of tankers holding south of the border.  Well snap vector was not part of the SAC lexicon and neither was the anchor refueling that we where headed for.  I don’t think any one in SAC could spell anchor let alone fly it with the jets in the configuration we had.  Oh bye the way… did I mention it was at night and the tankers were orbiting right in the only cloud deck in this part of the world.  Well Andy and Bob worked their magic and got us close enough behind the tanker to make visual contact.  I can’t remember how many times we had to chase the tanker around the orbit with radar before we got close enough to see them.  I do remember that every time we made an orbit, chasing the tanker, the fuel gages got lower and lower.  We were already well below what we needed to get to the post strike.  When we finally got contact the vis in the clouds was to the point we could not afford a disconnect and pre-contact position.  We would not have been able to get back.  I remember a feeling of relief when the gas started pouring in to the tanks…until the crazy turns started as we went around and around.  It took every bit of concentration I had to stay connected.  Then out of the soup, an F-4 showed up on our wing in full afterburner yelling on guard to “GET THE BUFF OFF THE BOOM NOW!”

I guess he snap vectored to the biggest return he had on his radar…which was the two of us… with only fumes left.  We had enough gas to afford a little break but not enough to get were we needed to go.. so I backed off the boom.  No way could I afford to loose sight of the tanker and go through the blind man’s bluff rendezvous again…so I opted to slide to the right on the tanker wing then back off to the F-4’s wing position to wait our turn, again.  A few more turns in this formation and the F-4 took a disconnect, rolled inverted off the end of the boom, and disappeared into the night soup with not even a thank you.  We slid back into contact and started suckling again.  By this time I was exhausted.  We had already been airborne long enough to see the sun rise and set and it was already near sunrise again.  We discussed our low fuel state with the whole formation of tankers (we were a three ship with Russ Bennet and Gary Konnert on our wing) they agreed to drag us towards the post strike base while we were refueling.  I remember being filled with gratitude for the gesture and told them we owed our first borne or what ever they wanted.   

The whole point of the story is that we were prepared for this by the blood and sweat at CFIC.  The confidence and skills that it took to do what none of us had ever done before, under the most adverse scenario you can think of, was forged by the tough curriculum at CFIC.  This curriculum – including the WIFF – was the creation of men who had their turn in the meat grinder and understood the need for blood sweat and tears during training to forge aircrew who had the confidence and skills to do anything.

 

Cheers

Ponch

60-019 is in Final Parking

Friday, August 15th, 2008

(click on any thumbnail to see a larger view–use your browser’s back button to return to this posting)

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The march to the Bone Yard continues. Like all old soldiers eventually do, it is time to let the memory of B-52H tail-number 60-019– a.k.a. “Balls-19”– start to fade away.

Billy Bob, Bush, and Stretch flew Balls-19 down there on 7 Aug. She had 17,885.7 “glorious hours” after the flight was over. Of course that is just flying time, which doesn’t take into consideration the myriad hours she stood nuclear alert with the crews of SAC.

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Some folks don’t consider “alert” as combat time. That would be the folks who didn’t live it back when the Air Force was a “Great Way of Life.”

Deterrence is the art of war without combat. You can’t have deterrence without sufficient force structure to back up your words. Just words don’t cut it, if the antagonist doesn’t believe you will act. A Joe Lewis mouth with a Mickey Rooney butt just gets you spanked three out of five times–maybe four.

Balls-19 will be missed. Billy Bob said that she was “One trusty fella.” Somebody will figure out how to make a UAV do the job she leaves behind– never.

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I was going to tell a specific story about Raz’n Hell II but I decided to tell you one from my G-model days instead.

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By mid 1989, I was nearly finished with my last full line in the 328th Bomb Squadron at Castle. I had been “on the line” longer than any other IP in the 328 by that time. And I’d had many great students up till then, but those two were definitely top-drawer.

The copilot was a former B-52 navigator. He had done well enough in UPT to get his first choice of assignments–the resolute BUFF.

The pilot was a T-37 first assignment instructor pilot (FAIP) who was the first natural pilot I’d ever seen. He was proficient with AR on his second flight–never seen that before or since. You could show him something once and he could do it as well as you could. It must have been my excellent instruction, yeah, that’s it.

They each went on to win top-graduate award for their crew-position in the class, but not before they almost killed me. The whole thing taught me something very important.

Only three or four flights away from their check-ride, everything was going well. Base operations–error free. Preflight–error free. Start-engine, take-off, and level-off at cruise–no errors. Air refueling was picture-perfect. For me–as an instructor pilot–it was just about as boring as I could stand. Then we went low-level.

It was IR-300, a place that should still be familiar to many of you that flew the BUFF. The route was very mountainous at the beginning. Which is perfectly boring, because the calibration peak for the terrain avoidance (TA) equipment wasn’t until the very end of the leg. One constant altitude until cross-over. Yawn.

As per standard procedure, the studs were in the seats for low-level. I was in the IP wearing a chute but leaning forward to keep an eye on things. Weather was clear and a million. Eyes can get heavy on a navigation leg like that.

No problems. Same old thing. Here we go again. Eyes so heavy …

Through my lashes I watched a picture-perfect peak calibration. Good job. Yawn.

Shortly after the peak-check, the low-level route turned slightly left and descended about 7000 feet down the mountain range into the Black Rock Desert–probably the flattest spot in North America. No trees, no bushes–at least none you can see at 800 feet. The challenge was to get down to the desert early enough to take advantage of that flat area to accomplished a “flat and rolling calibration”. Why do two? Because you can. Never miss a chance to train.

If pilots followed the newly-calibrated TA trace down the mountain, they’d lose several miles of the desert. The standard technique back then was for the pilot to announce “Disregarding the trace,” and then descend using visual procedures. Which is exactly what all pilots did, every time on IR-300.

I was struggling with a boredom-induced near-coma as we descended down the backside of the mountain. The TA trace was at the top of the screen. Impact point in the EVS. I remember my “spider-senses” starting to tingle or maybe it was a guardian angel telling me, “Wake-up!” My eyes were wide open.

With only 1000 feet on the radar-altimeter, we still had a pegged VVI. Not good. Then the IP in me had something to do–and I did it. My picture-perfect pilot responded as directed and even with the aggressive 2-g pull-up–we dished out at 250 feet.

We climbed back to 800 feet and the rest of the ride was perfect. I remember the two pilots giving each other the “Oh no, we just hooked a ride” look. I was busy kicking myself in the butt for the next twenty minutes.

A perfectly good B-52 with a crew of ten warrior Airmen–almost a smoking-hole. What would the accident report have said? I’m glad that one was never written.

No matter how good an unqualified student is performing–they’re still unqualified. I remember something an old instructor pilot once told me, “The primary job of an student is to kill his instructor. If he can’t kill you, he wants to at least confuse you, so you’ll look stupid.”

To that I add, “It’s not the weak student that will kill you. It’s the picture-perfect student who lulls you into a false sense of comfort and security that will kill you–and it’s your fault if you let that happen.”

That desert excitement was all my fault. And I knew it. That day, I silently pledged to change my attitude and actions as an instructor from then on. As an instructor I would remain on the sharp edge. I knew then and forever that no matter how boring things appeared on the surface–sheer terror could raise its ugly head at any moment. Be prepared.

During our dedicated critique-day, I explained to them how to prevent something like that from ever happening again. After I shared those techniques, I told them that while they would have “busted” a check-ride, it wasn’t necessarily unsafe. After all, we still had another 250 feet to go.

I wish I’d had a camera to capture the look on their faces. They had expected to bust the ride, but instead they–no–we had all learned something that would stay with us forever.

So, unsafe? Probably not. A lot of pilots have flown at 250 feet. In 1987, I flew a Maple Flag sortie over Canada at 250 feet for almost two and half hours. And that reminds me of another story I’ll save for later.

If this story about the day I almost died helps anyone be a better instructor–it was well worth the effort to tell it.

Remember, the primary job of an instructor is to keep the student and the airplane reusable. Be careful out there.

It just makes sense.

Yak Checking In From CO

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Greetings from Pueblo, CO.

 Tammie, Morgan and I have completed the move to Pueblo and we’re getting settled in nicely.  We attacked the boxes pretty aggressively and have emptied the house of them.  We also got the posts set for the pasture last weekend and will string the wire this weekend.  It will be nice to get the horses on our own place. 

We did well selling the house in Louisiana (for sale by owner).  There was a real advantage in having bought that house seven years ago.  On the CO end, we did well, also.  We moved into a buyers market. 

I am flying USAF initial flight screening with Doss Aviation.  It is like the T-34 flying I did down in Pensacola in many ways and unlike in many.  Bottom line, I’m enjoying it quite a bit and it (combined with my retirement) leaves me netting about what I did last year. 

Well, folks I have a student at my desk…so back to it.  I’ll stay in touch.

Cheers,

Mark “Yak” Maryak (Lt Col, USAF, RETIRED).

Cell 318-401-2122

Home 719-647-2122

Let’s Be Mindful Of Georgia

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Russia’s brutal invasion of Georgia is seen by some as a cry for respect–like a shout in the darkness, ”The Bear is not dead, it was merely hibernating.” But now that the dastardly deed is in progress, how the world deals with Russia will set the tone for future imperialist schemes.

Georgia is a small nation–about the size and population of South Carolina–in the Caucasus region of Asia. It became independent during the breakup of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) following the Cold War. Since then, Russia has supported two break-away regions within Georgia: Abkhazia on the coast of the Black Sea and Ossetia in the middle of its northern border with Russia.

On August 7, the fighting started in Ossetia. Well, at least the shooting and killing started then. Georgia had been under an intense cybernetic attack since July. While its difficult to prove, much of the attack appears to have come from Russia. It was the cyber-equivalent of a blockade of Georgia. No cyber-business or commerce in or out of the cyber-ports–the government was cyber-crippled. Then kinetic shots were fired, a few people died, and Georgia reacted.

Their reaction against the Ossetia separatist forces was the “moral high ground” Russia needed to launch their invasion of Georgia. They just happened to have hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers ready to roll. Probably just a coincidence.

The Georgian forces were chased out of Ossetia but the Russians kept coming across into the rest of Georgia. They quickly took control of the air and their invading army was free-to-attack and free-from-attack by the diminutive Georgian air force. The United States has officially denounced the invasion, telling Russia to return to their August 6 positions.

Russia has sent various mixed messages. They said they would stop, but they didn’t. They said they had stopped, but they hadn’t. They said it was just like 9-11, but it wasn’t. They say they’re merely defending the independence of “Southern” Ossetia. Defending as they leveled buildings across Georgia, bombed airports and pipelines. They call their forces “peacekeepers”. They’re acting a bit like the old USSR did, invading any of their occupied nations when resistance stood-up. Hungary in 1956. Chechoslovokia in 1968. But our Secretary of State reminded the world today that things had changed.

“This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it.”

Wow! Smart, beautiful, and tough.

But the toughest stuff is yet to happen. If the world is not shown that those words she spoke are true, millions of people could suffer. If Russia can invade and gobble up Georgia, why not the Ukraine? If Russia can have Georgia and Ukraine, why can’t China invade and conquer Taiwan? Once Taiwan goes, the United States will no longer be creditable as a superpower. Our allies would never take a chance on siding with us, because we will be seen as hollow and worthless.

Now, there’s a change we don’t want.

So what do we do? We need solutions not just criticism.

First of all, every member of NATO needs to publicly denounce Russia’s action. They need to make similar statements as our President and Secretary of State have. In an election year everyone seems to have some words to say but this challenge will either be fixed or broken–maybe beyond repair before January 2009. The official opinions of the NATO members need to be congruent with the official opinion of the United States.

That opinion must include, “[We] stand with the democratically elected government of Georgia. We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.”

If the members of NATO can’t do that one simple thing–and do it quickly–then NATO has outlived any usefulness. NATO would need to either expel the dead weight or the United States would need to resign. I think NATO can belly-up-to-the-bar on this in the next day or at the most two.

That might be all it takes. But maybe not. What if Russia calls the bluff? What then?

Well first of all, it’s not a bluff. NATO would need to declare a no-fly zone over the entire country of Georgia. The Russian ground force would no longer be protected by an airpower umbrella. They would be subject to attack. Georgian forces defending their towns would have the freedom to maneuver for positional advantage. The Russian response would determine what would happen next. Columns of T-80s are no match for what could come their way. And if Russia pushed NATO in the air, there would be a new generation of Aces to put on playing cards for years to come.

NATO would only have to press as hard as was required, remembering the objective would be to stop Russian aggression–not kill them all. Ironically, we would be teaching the Russians how to respond with appropriate force. Some lessons are tougher than others.

But could this lead to a nuclear war? Would the Russians respond with nuclear weapons, forcing NATO nations to depopulate the Russian homeland? It could. But it won’t.

Vladimir Putin’s job pays a lot better than most. He’s the richest man in Europe, maybe the world. He’s also the Russian decision-maker. And he cares about himself–doesn’t smoke or drink to excess–has two well-educated daughters, has a lovely wife, and a little poodle named Tosca. Life is good for him. He doesn’t want a big war between Russia and NATO anymore than America does. But he does want more.

We just have to convince him that less is more. The less Russia invades its neighbors the more airplanes Russia will have.

What about the people of Southern Ossetia? Russia is just helping those people to have their liberty and independence, right? Okay, lets solve that problem too.

The people of Southern Ossetia are said to have a culture tied to the people of Northern Ossetia (a province in Russia). What do you say we have Georgia and Russia let all the Ossetia people have their liberty. The two regions could be united and allowed to be a sovereign, independent country. Maybe after a while they too, would like to join NATO.

It just makes sense.

Georgia,
Georgia,
No peace, no peace I find
Just this old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

I said just an old sweet song,
Keeps Georgia on my mind  

 

 

Anybody Remember the WIFF?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

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An F-15 driver asked me about my 10-23 story where I tucked in behind a Phantom then stayed with him through the first part of a lazy eight. He didn’t think a B-52 could do a lazy eight. Then I told him how we used to WIFF during AR. He said he’d have to see a video or picture to believe it. Can you believe that? He thought I was making it up.

The WIFF was a confidence maneuver designed to separate the men from the supermen until the end of the Cold War.

Some of you have to be old enough to remember the WIFF from Castle. (Heck, some of you are old enough to remember Polesti.) My first time was in mid-1987. Al Doi (remember him?) was my instructor on three of my five sorties, so he’s the one I remember most. I also flew with Smith (the famous dragging brake during takeoff into the overrun Smith) and another guy, I think it might have been Gordo Balanski but my memory is cloudy there.

Anyway the WIFF wasn’t exactly a lazy-8 like in pilot training, we adjusted power during the maneuver. We pulled some power on the downside after the turn to keep the speed from building too much and we pushed it in at the bottom as we came back up. We weren’t looking at the attitude indicator back in the bomber, eyes were on the tanker. But it sure looked pretty much about 90 degrees as we sliced down.

After I was at Castle and assigned to the 330 CFIS–around 1989–they changed the regs and tried to limit the bank to 55 degrees. I remember the initial scoffing at the limit, because the airplane couldn’t slice down until at least 70 degrees. The maneuver became outlawed after SAC was foreclosed-on and we weren’t based with the tankers anymore.

If I remember some more details of the maneuver correctly, the tanker started to roll with about 20 degrees of pitch. But I can’t remember how nose high we wound up. I do know that we stayed within aircraft limitations at the time (now the bank is limited via regulation).

Portable cameras weren’t as common back then. The only picture I have is the one posted–taken from a tanker and used on the going-away plaques at CFIC for years.

Anybody have any better pictures–Andy or Britt or Yak? Anybody got any better stories–Ponch or Doug or Larry? Anybody remember when they first started doing the WIFF–Elwood or DB or Dragon? Anybody know if WIFF stands for something–James or Bob or Moses? Maybe obscene–John or Pat or Ted? Or is it just a variation of wifferdill?

Anybody?

 


11 August 2008 – The Chuck

Monday, August 11th, 2008

dsc00118.JPGdsc00119.JPGThis has been a tough month. This morning, our oldest pulled out of our driveway with a U-Haul heading for Kansas City to work for Cerner Corporation.

She sold the townhouse she’s been living in for the last 4-years. She only spent one night with us before she left. She hired some local muscle to pack the truck after packing everything into boxes. Mom helped a lot. I helped a little.

I’m filled with mixed emotions. We hate to see her live so far from us, but we are happy she has found a job with a large company, good opportunities there. You know how Dad’s can get. Darn Dads.

We went with her to pick up the truck. It’s a 26 footer, the largest one they offer. The U-Haul manager explained a few basic things about driving a big truck. Then I spent about 5 minutes, or was it 3, telling her everything I knew about driving oversized vehicles. From the moment we pulled out, she drove better than I used to drive a M-35 in Korea. Must be because it was an automatic. Yeah, that’s it.

All her shoes and everything else fit inside.

Cindy is driving her Scion with the cats. Oh yeah, let me tell you a cat story. First I have to tell you how she got the two cats.

The first one she rescued from the middle of the street near Shriners Hospital about 3 1/2 years ago. It was maybe 4-weeks old and felt like a collection of bones inside a fur pouch. She thought it might still be breathing, so she took it to the vet. They told her, “If we manage to save it, it is probably going to be blind. Do you really want to do this? Do you really want a blind cat?”

She said, “He doesn’t have anyone. So, yes.”

They said, “Well give us a bunch of money . . . “ and the rest is history. She named him Louie, because he always turned left when he was a kitten. He was blind in the right eye for quite a while. He still has a pretty big blind spot on the right side, but gets along fine now.

The second cat, was also a stray. It was maybe 5 weeks old and looked like a snowball with legs and a stubby tail. Covered with fleas and a couple of ticks fighting over what blood was left in it. So filled with worms, nobody thought it would live. But with the right vet and enough money, it is still with her. She named her Nim after a character in the second novel of my yet unpublished series.

Nim is a bit resistant to change. As the townhouse emptied, she felt the pressure. When everything was out of the house, except the big basket of goodies Jennifer had put out for the new owners to find …. we couldn’t find Nim.

Jen searched the house while I looked around the outside. Then Jen looked around the outside, while I looked in every cabinet, beside the fridge, stove, washer and dryer … every shelf in every closet, in the tub, in the toilet, under the sink, in the heater/blower closet … couldn’t find Nim. Darn cat.

We searched the storage-area on the patio. I walked the drainage ditch outside some more. It was dark. LA is hot. Too bad I don’t like to sweat in the LA heat at night–if I did–it would have been fun. Then I reopened the back of the U-Haul. Could she be in one of the boxes?

I listened, and listened again. Nothing. Shook a few boxes. Then Jen started telling me which ones looked like they might have a cat in it — I opened a few, we had to find the cat.

After a while I remembered something Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “Become the tea-pot.” Or was that Bruce Lee? Either way, I asked my self, “Self, where would I hide if I were Nim and wanted no one, especially me, to find me.”

I went back inside and looked behind the dryer. Nothing. Then behind the washer. Nothing … no wait. It’s dark in there, but there was a whiter spot on the light-colored tile under the hoses … I hissed and goofy Nim looked up at me. One blue eye, and eye green. Darn cat. But Jen loves her. Its her cat.

So she has both her cats and all her stuff.

I’m going to load a couple of pictures with this letter. Not sure how many of you had met her before. She was busy with grad-school or work most of the time we’ve been living here.

Cindy is going to be with her for two-weeks to help her settle in. So that leaves me mostly alone at home. What to do?

I built a fort in the den with some old ammo-boxes and a parachute. Set up some reloading equipment, smoked a cigar while I watched 300, Patriot, and Dr. Strangelove. Checking out my green-laser sights on my AR-15 when I remembered it was almost the 11th of August.

Holy-cow, one of the Band of Brothers might beat me to the posting!

I rushed back to my office–spilling some popcorn along the way when I tripped over an ammo box, but that’s okay. I’ll get it in a week or so. Or Smokey will get it when we’re playing frisbee later.

Just kidding. Smokey doesn’t fetch. Darn dog. But I love him anyway. He’s my dog.


Odds Are Stacked Against Air Force Cyber Command

Friday, August 8th, 2008

The greatest military force in all of history–the United States Air Force–is poised to fail in an attempt to project and protect national interests in the cyberspace domain. Despite its valiant attempt to do the right thing, enemies–foreign and domestic–will not rest until the Air Force fails.

The United States Air Force represents the harvest of the airpower seeds planted by visionaries and tended to by Airmen over the ages. In the first global war of the twentieth-century, armies discovered they could no longer mass without being noticed. Twenty years later, armies and navies alike were not free-to-attack without the freedom-from-attack provided by air superiority. During the global Cold War, Air Force bombers and long-range missiles standing nuclear alert kept the Soviet-bear’s claws contained until other national elements of power could sap its threatening might. Desert Storm showed that modern airpower was unstoppable. Airmen commanded airpower and that was threatening to the sister Services.

In the years that followed, the Air Force’s three sisters did just about everything possible to fight the concept of Airmen having any command over their air assets. Even when centralized command was proven over and over to the be the most efficient way of doing aerospace business, they were against it. The Air Force made many concession to help its Airman-phobic sisters. It even abandoned the long-standing term “aerospace”. But alas, even saying “air and space” wasn’t enough to satisfy the inter-service rivalry.

The competition continues even as the Global War on Terrorism is being fought.

When the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force were recently fired, former Secretary Wynne told Air Force Times that a naval officer, Admiral Donald, had influenced Defense Secretary Gates’ decision. “They [the Navy] just see things differently than we do.”

It was a complex situation, but Wynne’s statement underscores the conflict among the Services. From my experience on the Air Staff, it has been mostly the other three Services against the Air Force.

Since they oppose Airmen commanding air assets, how do you think they will feel about Airmen commanding or even coordinating cyberspace assets?

They are going to hate it.

One solution might be to establish a separate Service to project and protect our national interests in cyberspace. It could be called the Cyberspace Force. With that suggestion, there are probably throngs of entrepreneurial spirits already designing uniforms and badges. But not so fast.

The Defense budget goes in cycles of feast and famine, since the Cold War ended it has mostly been famine. While the national budget continues to grow in leaps and bounds, the defense budget often falls short of requirements. In addition, it is the first place socialist politicians like to loot between their tax-hikes on the American working class. Cutting the barely sufficient pie into more but thinner pieces won’t lessen competition between the Services or increase defense efficiency.

Our laws present a bigger problem than funding. Title 10 of the United States Code and many others are designed to keep the military in check. The same laws that prevent the Army from putting armed guards around Wall Street to stop thieves also prevents military cyber-soldiers from defending Wall Street’s information grid. And repealing those laws could be as dangerous to our freedom-based society than our enemies are.

Cyberspace is just too important to be left to the Defense Department. We need something else. Something higher up. 

What about something like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)? Couldn’t a federal cyberspace administration regulate the use of cyberspace and police violators, much the way the FAA does civil aviation? Nope. The problem isn’t just with civil hackers and phishers.

Sovereign nations like China are using cyberspace to digitally disrupt, degrade, and destroy our interests around the globe. They do not operate with the same legal restrictions we place on ourselves. They target us as individuals, businesses, and governments. The FAA doesn’t intercept Bear bombers or police international airspace. Likewise the cyberspace challenge is too much for a mere federal administration.

Would a cooperative measure between the DoD and a federal administration be the way to go? Nope. It would just add another cat to the fur-ball fighting for funds and fame.

It has to go higher.

The President’s Cabinet currently includes the heads of 15 executive departments.

If America really cares about cyberspace, there needs to be one more. The Secretary of the Department of Cyberspace would advise the President on all cyberspace matters in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution.

Projecting and protecting American interests in cyberspace would then be somebody’s primary job. Cyberspace shakers and movers would function as an extension of American national policy. If Americans wanted to restrict our cyberspace activities, laws could then be drafted, voted-on, and approved with specific purposes in mind. Then we wouldn’t need lawyers to interpret the existing laws we’ve placed on our military over the last two centuries in order to apply them to cyberspace activities.

And then Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines could go back to breaking things and killing people the way they know best.

It just makes sense.

61-023 Goes to Final Parking

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Another’s one gone. After 47 years the photogenic B-52H tail-number 61-023 (a.k.a “Ten-23”) flew its last sortie. Kind of a sad day for those of us who were fortunate enough to have flown her. She’s the first of 18 B-52s the Air Force is removing from the bomber force. When the cutting is done, we’ll only have 76 B-52s to carry on. I could talk about force-structure but instead let me tell you a story about the old girl.

Most bomber aviation connoisseurs already know about Ten-23 losing her tail when Chuck Fisher went looking for mountain-wave turbulence over Colorado in 1964.

If you’re not familiar with the story, you can get a good review of it on Boeing’s web page or Ed Marek’s “Talking Proud” with more details and some nice pictures.

In a nutshell, the vertical tail was snapped off. The crew almost bailed, but using skill and cunning they were able to recover the aircraft. I’m glad they did, because I flew that particular jet several times during my service.

Here’s a few details from one those. I never kept very good personal logs, but I think this happened on Ten-23.

I had just finished the Central Flight Instructor Course (CFIC) back in the mid-1980s. Lt Colonel Tom Ellers, my squadron commander, was evaluating me. He wanted to know if he could trust me as an instructor pilot (IP). Most aspiring IPs would have flown a conservative mission–but I just couldn’t roll like that at the time.

We had a fighter v bomber event planned on that day. We started mixing it up with the F-4 Phantom with Colonel Ellers supervising from the IP seat–which is between and slightly behind the two pilots ejection seats.

Fighters usually come at you in pairs. But on this day, one of the F-4s had problems. We were one verses one (1v1). Better for us.

I know that sounds silly to the needle-nose drivers, but back in the 1980s the B-52H had a fire-breathing 20 millimeter gatling-gun of a stinger. You didn’t have to like us, but you had to honor our tails. And while our ECM suite didn’t compare to what the BUFF has today, it sure as heck could handle the trons of an F-4.

So for a single F-4 to get a kill on a Buff, he needed a special-blend of skill and luck.

After a few failed attempts to get us, he moved in for a close-range gun-pass on us. My gunner wanted him, but he had settled in our four o’clock high. A B-52 pilot can’t see that spot from the left seat because of the cockpit design. Fortunately, we’re issued a copilot when we go fly. That day I had “Smokin Joe” McBrearty in the right seat. He was keeping close tabs the F-4.

The F-4 matched our velocity, preparing to make a raking gun-pass across the top of old Ten-23. But we weren’t going to just hang there and let him have his way with us. As soon as he committed to the diving left turn–I banked hard to the right and then pulled up.

Colonel Ellers was a little concerned about my aggressiveness, but not nearly as much as the F-4 driver was. A speeding freight-train was headed for him and he was standing on the tracks. What could he do?

Yep. He had to move, which made him abandon his gun-pass. No longer the hunter. He pushed his nose over and dove under us. As he did that, I reversed our turn. Then rolled into his six o’clock, probably just inside of 2000 feet away. Way too close for his comfort. He was now the prey.

Imagine his surprise. Embarrassing. What could he do?

He pushed in some power and pulled up into steep climb. So did I. We weighted less than 250,000 pounds at the time, which is very lightweight for the Buff. As his energy ran out, he converted into a lazy-eight. I followed him.

I’m sure he was irritated when he saw us follow him up, over and then started down with him. But not as much as when I made the call, “Guns, guns, guns. Splash one Phantom.”

And you’re right. The Buff didn’t have forward firing guns–not even then. But it really sounded cool at the time. In my years of flying that followed, I taught that maneuver to a few Buff pilots. Warning–it won’t work on the new fighters, unless they really get stupid on you.

What happened to the F-4? Well, he converted into a split-S and the day was over for the F-4. He RTB’d, but we still had some adventures left.

I went on to make a series of overly-aggressive decisions, all of which were debriefed in the sober atmosphere of Colonel Ellers’ office that evening. But that’s what colonels are for–helping aggressive captains mature into dependable instructors.

I could share the details of how I almost ran out of fuel later on that same sortie, but not today. The low-fuel story is not nearly as much fun as one about shooting down a fighter. But it would be more fun than hearing about another reduction in our heavy-bomber force structure.

Seventy-six B-52s. Sixty B-1s. Twenty B-2s. That’s all our heavy bombers. All.

Global war in progress. Enemies like Venezuela acquiring modern weapons and rattling sabers. Nuclear weapons being developed in Iran. How long can we trust North Korea to behave? What is China thinking–planning? Is Russia really talking about putting forces in Cuba?

Seems like we need more heavy-bombers–not less.

It just makes sense.

The 8888 Uprising*

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

We’re fast approaching the 20th anniversary of an infamous massacre of people who were protesting against socialist rule. And yet, the majority of Americans won’t even notice.

However, the United States government is well aware of what has been going on in the country calling itself Myanmar since 1989. Last week, President Bush extended our import ban on Burma. The goal of our sanctions is to convince the military dictatorship to stop suppressing democracy and to release Noble Peace Prize winner Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

She is the daughter of General Aung San. He’s basically the George Washington of modern-day Burma. Following WWII, he led the negotiations with the United Kingdom which resulted in the establishment of the fledgling democracy. Life was good. But democracy was strangled in 1962.

General Ne Win led the coup which transformed the once prosperous nation into a beggar. He set up “the Burmese Way to Socialism” which extinguished the flame of economic freedom and banished Chinese and Indian businessmen. Officially, he stepped down from power in 1988–but ruled in a veil of obscurity until his death in 2002. During that period he transformed the government with a strong hand into one with an iron fist.

Myriad people demonstrated in the streets. Some say it was chaos, but the students and monks used peaceful tactics. Their civil-disobedience was countered with cold steel and hot lead on August 8, 1988. Some reports say more than 3000 people were killed, the junta counters that only a few were killed. You’ll have to decide who you believe.

Regardless of how many were killed during the 8888 Uprising, it didn’t stop the movement toward freedom. The National League for Democracy (NLD) won the 1990 election with a landslide. The only problem was that the junta refused to step down. It seems they had a monopoly on guns–no second amendment over there. Its hard to argue with a government that doesn’t mind shooting its citizens.

Americans learned that lesson in the 1770 Boston Massacre. History records that those demonstrators were not all that peaceful. And only five were killed. But it was enough to help fuel the movement that resulted in the American Revolution. Of course, Burma’s struggle is not over.

In September 2007, the government suppressed protests over fuel prices by killing at least 13 and arresting throngs of people. Since then, government thugs continue to roll through houses and monasteries to arrest anyone they think is associated with the pro-democracy movement. Most Americans didn’t hear much about Burma/Myanmar until May 2008.

That was when category-four cyclone Nargis hit Burma at 135 mph. Causing more than $10 billion in damage, it killed more than 100,000–some extreme reports say nearly a million were washed out to sea. The junta initially resisted foreign aid, maybe fearing they might lose their iron-fisted grip on their people. In response, President Bush encouraged the world to condemn Burma’s military leaders. Under diplomatic pressure from all directions, they eventually allowed aid to flow in. And nobody really knows how many people died lacking timely aid. But it had to be more than a few.

The junta does its best to keep reporters out of the country. They say the people’s unrest is caused by foreign media reports and radio broadcasts in exile. But like a bad movie, the current regime uses those old-time despotic favorites: slaughtering, raping, and displacing to control the folks who oppose them.

But still they oppose.

The people in the democracy-movement in Burma will no doubt do something to remember August 8, 1988 on the 20th anniversary of the massacre. Anyone with even a vague familiarity of the military junta’s iron-fisted tactics should not be surprised when the charge to remember the 8888 Uprising is paid in blood.

But of course, that has been the price of freedom throughout the ages.

It just makes sense.


* (August 8, 1988 – a.k.a 08-08-88 – Thus 8888)

A few opinions about the situation in Burma from people much more famous than me:

Jim Carrey on Burma

Sylvester Stallone on Burma

Will Ferrell on Burma

Damian Marley on Burma

Kim Kardashian