Archive for the ‘Military Nonsense’ Category

ABOUT FACE Book

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

All,

 

 

“Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” 

                          Bilbo Baggins

    

Ok the face book thing is interesting.  I’m still trying to learn what the sections like wall and such are about.  I am conflicted on the whole concept though.  I like the idea of being able to look up old friends and acquaintances, However, I suspect like most people, there are some folks that I am happy to never see again i.e. Creepy Big MAC Mac Pherson showed up on my potential friends list.  Seeing that thug again…even a still picture… was like a swift kick in the nut sack.  And what’s with the advertising with the good looking chicks with big hooters that want to be my friend or supposedly are looking for me? Again with the conflicted thing…I added Brian Bartels to my friends list as well as PWN3.  B2 was an experiment just to keep tabs on the stupid pecker…and maybe an attempt to stick it too him that I’m doing pretty good in life without him and his peckerwood ideas and lack of leadership.  As for PWN3…like Bilbo, I liked PWN3 perhaps better then he deserved.  Also it kind’a creeps me out when people I don’t know request a friends thingy with me.  Either I’m showing my age and am not comfortable with the “new” electronic media or I’m showing my age and can’t remember I once knew the person…or maybe they know me and have the same design’s on revenge as my pseudo friendship with B2.  Either way inerconflict….maybe I’ll just stay off the computer and get back to real life, no wait…damn conflicted!!

General Georges Sada Shares Saddam’s Secrets

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Did Saddam Hussein’s Iraq have weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? If so, what happened to them?

Was Saddam Hussein ever planning to attack his neighbors?

Was Saddam Hussein really a bad guy, or was he just misunderstood?

I know it’s difficult for most of us to believe, but since some time has passed, more than a few Americans have forgotten who Saddam Hussein was and what he did. They probably only vaguely remember the leftist mantra, “Bush lied, people died.” So a quick history lesson is in order.

Here’s an extract from the CIA country study on Iraq:

In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait’s liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime.

Yes, I know.

They spelled Saddam’s last name wrong. I don’t know if the spelling was changed when the page was updated on 6 November 2008 or some time earlier. After a little research I discovered that there are multiple acceptable spellings since it is merely a transliteration of the Arabic language. I don’t think it was intended to disassociate the dead dictator’s last name from the middle name of our President-elect.

Did I say dead dictator?

Yes I did.

Iraq’s High Tribunal found Saddam Hussein/Husayn guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to hang in 2006. The trial wasn’t about WMD or any intent to invade his neighbors, instead it was about some of his murders in 1982. To have tried him for all his crimes, would have taken many years–maybe decades. As it was, it only took one conviction and one hanging to put an end to him.

But we’re stuck with those lingering questions. Was it all a sham? How will we ever really know?

Come to think of it, how do you know anything? Think about it.

There’s only two ways to know anything. You either have to experience the event or believe somebody else’s account of what happened. Most of the stuff you know, you know because you’ve taken someone else’s word for it. The challenge is to decide who to believe.

In legal proceedings and in historic research, the closer the witness is to actually experiencing the event, the more reliable they are as a source. For instance, the personal testimony of an eye-witness is considered more reliable that the testimony of a person who read about the event in a newspaper or saw it on an edited television news cast. Even somebody who talked with an eye-witness of an event is more creditable than someone who formed an opinion based on a collection of news reports and documentaries. And when the testimony is supported by circumstantial evidence, greater credence can be given to the witness.

So what about the Iraqi WMD?

Many blogs and news reports declare that there weren’t any. But how could they know? And who has disagreed with them?

Bill Clinton did in 1998 and still did as late as 2003. Maybe he was wrong. Do you think? Several other people disagreed also, such people as Nancy Pelosi, Sandy Berger, and Madeline Albright. Maybe they were wrong too. Certainly they weren’t all liars. No, they had to believe what they were saying, which had to be based on some reliable source they had access to. So much of that high-level stuff remains unavailable to the average American due to classification levels.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could talk to an eye-witness about what was going in Iraq. Or at least be able to read a book written by a witness. Maybe then we could have some certainly about whether there were WMD in Iraq.

Well, now there is.

A retired Iraqi Air Force Vice Air-Marshall (a.k.a. General) Georges Sada has written his testimony called Saddam’s Secrets. It answers the questions I asked at the beginning of this column. If you’d prefer to read the book and find the answers yourself, you need to stop reading now. Otherwise, here goes:

Did Saddam Hussein’s Iraq have weapons of mass destruction (WMD)?

Yes (page 71).

Then what happened to them?

Some of them were found by occupying forces, but most of them were transported to Syria in the summer of 2002. Pretending to provide humanitarian support in response to a collapsed dam in Zeyzoun, fifty-six flights on modified commercial 747s and 727s transported hundreds of tons of WMD (pages 260-261). I found an article referencing an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story about 20 plane-loads of aid from Iraq to Syria on 9 June 2002. There are some people who say they know where the WMD in Syria are today.

Was Saddam Hussein planning to attack his neighbors?

Yes. As most people know he initiated an eight-year war with Iran and then in 1990 he invaded Kuwait. However, he also planned to attack Israel with a air-armada of 98 aircraft all using chemical WMD (pages 128-129, 135, 140). And he intended to attack Saudi Arabia with twelve combat divisions (pages 171, 172). The primary reason he canceled the attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia is because of the US-led attack which neutered his military power (page 173).

Was Saddam Hussein really a bad guy, or was he just misunderstood?

He was about as bad as a human can be. See pages 299 and 300 for a summary, but multiple accounts are scattered throughout the 315-page book.

Who is this General Sada and why should we care about him?

He graduated from Iraq’s Air Academy in 1959, received training in Great Britain, Russia, and the United States, trained many Iraqi pilots, and was the second ranking officer in Saddam Hussein’s air force. He was forced into retirement in 1986 because he was a member of the Baathist party, but was recalled during the First Gulf War to interrogate coalition pilots. He placed his life on the line by refusing to execute the coalition pilots as Qusay (the son of Saddam) ordered him to do (pages 181-187).

Without General Sada’s actions, no coalition pilots POWs would have survived to tell their tales.

When was this book, Saddam’s Secrets, published?

2006. 2006! Why haven’t I heard about this book before now?

He was briefly interviewed on Fox News’ Hannity and Combs, and then again on the comedic Daily Show. He has talked to a few churches around the country. But otherwise, he’s mostly ignored. I suggest there are at least six reasons why Saddam’s Secrets hasn’t been given much press coverage.

First of all, it is filled with little stories about Georges Sada’s life. For the reader who is searching for information about WMD, these stories can be annoying. Initially, I found them to be so, but the more of them I read, the more I grew to like the author. His account of his first flight in the MiG-21 on pages 54 to 62 was the turning point for me. As an Air Force pilot I understood what he went through as a 28-year-old aviator trying to do a mission without being fully trained for it. From there on, he was a friend telling me about his life. A life which had a connection to an evil dictator.

Saddam’s Secrets in not complimentary of the United Nations (UN). From high-level leadership down to the lowly blue-helmeted UN peace-keeper, they are all portrayed as bride-seeking individuals supporting nothing that relates to peace or justice. Some people might think it could bolster the traditional anti-UN sentiment of many Americans, whose tax-dollars pay 22% of the UN operating costs.

Georges Sada also talks about a Chinese connection in a deal to supply nuclear weapons to Iraq. Saddam offered them $100 million, but the deal was squashed when coalition-efforts prevented the transfer of funds. This information might set back the progress of elected officials working to convince Americans to accept China as a strategic partner and friend.

Probably the second worst offense in the book is that he warns us about a cultural invasion by the followers of Islam. Ever since shortly after 9/11, President Bush has repeatedly insisted that Islam is a religion of peace. Sada’s discussion on pages 285 to 291 suggests America and Europe are under going an assimilation that if ignored will soon transform our customs, history, and languages. This type of talk is not popular in an age where tolerance is culturally demanded, even written into our laws.

He criticizes the American handling of Iraq after the defeat of Saddam’s military. Not only were their major mistakes made after the 1991 war it was worse after the 2003 war. Disbanding the military the way it was, depleted the resources that could have been used to expedite stability and even worse encourage thousands of former officers to join the violent opposition. Shortly after the war, General Sada offered to establish security for Baghdad if he could have 40,000 UNARMED former Iraqi air force personnel assigned as police to him. The plan was rejected by the Americans in charge.

But Georges Sada’s greatest offense to the popular media might be that he is an Assyrian Christian. As an Assyrian, his ancestral claims to live where he does predate those of Arabs. It’s like a 2000-year trump card on the “evil-Crusading-invaders” argument used by many non-Christians. Greater than being Assyrian, the “Christian” descriptor is an obvious offense to non-Christians in the 21st century.

General Sada does more than just say he’s a Christian, throughout his book, he often gives thanks to Jesus for things that went right in his life. He also suggests that others should seek the truth of Christianity in several places throughout his book. He even has a small lecture for young people concerning their dress and sexual behavior–how dare he.

Personal testimonies of Christians often make non-Christians feel uncomfortable. I discovered through other sources that while Georges Sada was raised in the “old-style Christianity” of the middle-east, he actually became a born-again Christian in 1989. That was after an American preacher from California visited his church and taught about the individual relationship a person can have with Jesus. That explains a lot to those who understand what it means.

So Georges Sada has at least six reasons for people not to promote his book. Nevertheless the book is published and you might want to read it. If you don’t have a friend to lend one to you, it might be in your local library, or you can order a copy on-line at Amazon.com for about $17, it retails for about $25.

Another subplot in the book dealt with Saddam’s leadership style. Specifically, he placed very incompetent people below him in positions of great authority. While this tactic resulted in national leaders who were terrible at their jobs, they were totally loyal to Saddam. Without the power of Saddam to support and protect them, they would never be followed by the people they supervised. Thus revolution was impossible.

Doesn’t that make you wonder?

If you ever worked for an incompetent boss, did you ever wonder how he got there? Was it just a fluke, or was it a parallel of the Saddam principle of leadership?

Kinda makes you think about what your boss’s boss is thinking.

It just makes sense.

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.

You’re Fired

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

While those words have been heard in millions of homes when Donald Trump said them on his television reality show The Apprentice, they’re not the words anyone wants to hear their boss say to them. In The Donald’s show, he fires a competitor each week, based on poor performance, leaving only one final winner at the show’s finale.  The collection of losers go off to find other jobs on their own.  At least television gives us that perspective.

That they are losers.

But are they really?  How many people are chosen to be a competitor on a quality reality show?  As each round of elimination progresses, the ones that survive become a member of a smaller, elite minority.  Until there is only one.

They all want to win, but there can be only one.

We all know reality shows are edited, directed, and optimized for entertainment value in order to keep audiences interested in them.  So honestly, they’re just entertainment and not reality.

In reality, all those people who make the sets, run the cameras, provide the meals, edit the film, and basically carry the water for the stars make everything work.  It’s a team effort, but only a few are chosen to be stars and to get the camera focused on them.

The principle is clear.  The ratio of pretty-faced stars for the camera have to be balanced with the number of water-carriers who do the work that make it all possible. Not everyone is destined for fame, but the ones that are, can’t do it without the ones who do the work.

Entertainment is big business.  After all, what would the rest of us do in our spare time if we didn’t have entertainers singing, dancing, posing, or pretending to be somebody else for us?

Entertainment is most interesting when it parallels reality.

Somewhat like a reality show, the career path of an Air Force officer is an exciting competition that most often ends with something like being fired.  Oh, we don’t call it being fired, we use “retired” as the code word.

I think Air Force officers come in something like 256 shades of type-A personalities.  Everyone of them has the secret desire to become the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, but there can be only one.   Most will not get their star, but all of them have their story.

Some of them are told to either take an undesirable assignment or to retire.  Others are told they are too old and they should retire.  Too many are told they aren’t part of the in-crowd, “You’ve done a lot of good things, but I don’t know you and you should retire.”  A few might hear, “I can’t believe you’ve embarrassed me this much–time for you to go.”  It all boils down to, “You don’t fit the mold, you’re fired.”

It’s about as fair as any system can be.  We can’t promote everyone.  There are not enough stars.  Somebody has to go.  At least that’s the mantra.

Operating the Air Force is much more complicated than running a television series, but a common principle applies.  You have to keep enough people around to carry the water or the stars will fall from favor.  As the Air Force has down-sized, the number of stars should have reduced also, but that’s a hard idea for some to understand.  They’d rather cut the water-carriers.

In the process of making room for the clones of themselves, they pushed hundreds of superior officers with great leadership potential out the door to retirement.  They denied them school slots, leadership positions, and commander jobs in order to groom their hand-picked people.  Critical mass was achieved.

For the last 12 years or so the battle-cry has been, “The only thing you need to know about the nuke mission is, it’s easy.”  Well, that kind of thinking has started an earthquake in the Air Force.

How many after-shocks will follow is anybody’s guess.

To use an already over-used Naval metaphor; if an aircraft carrier runs aground, it is certain the captain will be fired, even if it takes a few months to figure out who the captain is.  It is also certain that the replacement captain will not come on-board trusting the crew like the last captain did.  Heads will roll. Planks will be walked.  Keels will be hauled.  DD214s will be signed.

It just makes sense.

Obama on Defense

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Most people agree that Barack Obama, the first-term Senator from Illinois and front runner for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee, is a handsome man with a voice tailor-made for public speaking. Even with all that going for him, the 137 words he used during a 52 second Youtube video suggest great peril awaits America if he should ever have the power to implement his ideas.

Here’s what he said:

“I am the only major candidate who has opposed this war from the beginning, and as President I will end it.

Second, I will cut tens of billions of dollars of wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems, and I will institute an independent, defense priorities board to ensure that the quadrennial defense review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.

Third, I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal I will not develop new nuclear weapons I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert, and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.”

A lot of Americans have grown weary of the war of attrition in the Iraqi theater of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). That’s actually part of attrition-war strategy–wear down your opponent physically and mentally. If that was all there was to it, we probably could just cut and run, unfortunately for Americans the other part of our enemies strategy is to kill us all. Surrender certainly “ends it,” but considering our enemies long-term vision, wouldn’t it be better to win it?

Along with ending the war, Obama seeks to end America’s technological edge over the same enemies that seek to kill us. Yes, it is easier and cheaper to build offensive missiles than it is to build a system to defend against them. But if we abandon our efforts to perfect, procure, and put into action missile defense systems, we actually encourage those who wish to kill us to build old-technology, offensive missiles.

Lacking a cutting-edge defensive system, we would have to depend on the Cold War concept of assuring our enemies we would use our offensive capabilities should they attack us. However, Barack Obama said he plans to remove that from America’s arsenal of options also. His logic is fundamentally flawed.

First of all, America and the Russians no longer control who develops nuclear weapons. North Korea dances to their own drummer, and Iran’s public defiance of UN and American pressures clearly demonstrates that our deterrence strategy, at least in that area, has failed. We have to face the reality that nations, controlled by people who want to kill us, will soon have multiple nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Ignoring the problem doesn’t defend America.

Secondly, the stultifying declaration that America’s ICBMs are on “hair-trigger alert” summons forth cartoonish images of uniformed simpletons hovering over a big red button. It naively disregards the multi-layered nuclear safeguards in effect, and aligns itself more with myriad low-budget movies from the 1960s and 70s than with any reality.

America’s nuclear arsenal has historically served as a deterrence against our enemies’ use of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, against us or our friends. In addition, it serves as a hedge against the sudden emergence of any other overwhelming threat. America has historically used nuclear weapons to keep the peace. Destroying our nuclear arsenal, especially in the light of the GWOT, could destroy the peace.

Finally, a nation with a over 300 million people can find other ways to defend itself without spending a lot of treasure. The solution would be to spend lots of lives. Using only 10% of our population, we could field an Army of 30 million soldiers armed with rifles and bayonets that could stop any invading army. Unless of course, they nuked us.

America needs to continue to use our two-fold blessings of leading-edge technology and an unprecedented wealth to field defensive forces using that technology. We are winning the GWOT, and we should not surrender ourselves or our allies to the terrorists. Surrendering to an enemy with a long-term vision of killing you is not going to “end“ anything.

It just makes sense.

The Resolute BUFF

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

The BUFF still carries the water.

In 2002, the B-52 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the XB-52 first flight. The models flying today are much newer. The H-models were built in 1960 and 1961, making them 47 to 48 years young. Imagine that.

Combat aircraft lasting longer than a general’s career. Projected to remain in service for another 30 to 40 years, those airplanes will last longer than the average life span of a typical American. Time will tell whether that is an accounting trick or a new standard in combat aviation. The B-52 is without equal–the undisputed heavy-weight champion.

Ironically designed as an “interim bomber,” it proved superior to airframes designed to replace it. From the Mach 3+ B-70 to the current collection of bombers with names that sound more like bingo squares, the B-52 has remained the resolute American bomber. However, time and politics has taken a toll on its numbers. Of the 744 bombers built, only 94 remain in service–and that took an act of congress.

Following the demise of SAC, the fighter-minded Air Combat Command took administrative control of the aircraft. In 1993, they took action to reduce the aircraft down to as few as 43 airframes and to cut the crews down to a number to match. The Air Force used personnel tools like a Reduction in Force (RIF) and the selective early retirement board (SERB) to deplete the ranks of the “excess” B-52 crew members.

One bomber pilot, who was serving as an instructor at the Air Command and Staff College, was actually told that his career was over because the BUFF’s utility was obsolete. Looking at the thousands of combat hours flown in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), it is easy to see that his non-rated boss was wrong about the BUFF. Unfortunately, perspectives are easier to correct than terminated careers are to resurrect.

March 24, 1993 was another dark day when many soon-to-be-missed B-52 Lt Colonels were told to pack their bags. Eventually, a respected bomber general testified before congress, and the Air Force was over-ruled with its plans to gut the bomber force.

Memory of that general has mostly faded away in the 15 years since his career was flat-lined by his noble actions, but the B-52’s flexibility and versatility has continued to serve the nation well. Those who were fated to fly the B-52 have developed a band-of-brothers mentality as they’ve become part of the legend of the mighty BUFF.

Even after its long history, today the B-52 has the highest mission capable rate when compared to the bingo bombers: B-1 and B-2. In contrast the utility of the B-1 remained in question until the JDAM became operational. That GPS-guided weapon, which was initially developed on the B-52, provided the B-1 with a real-world capability to replace it’s public-relations rhetoric of being called the “primary bomber” of the Air Force. The B-2 is in it’s sixth week of what is being called a “temporary pause,” the politically correct term for the grounding of a billion dollar plus aircraft. The pause followed the baffling loss of a B-2 in Guam where the aircraft became uncontrollable immediately after take-off.

Air Force officials assure us that the diminutive B-2 fleet could resume flying should national necessity dictate. Until that necessity presents itself, I agree that it is prudent to isolate the problem that caused the early rotation and subsequent stall of the high-tech heavy bomber.

Technology is a wonderful thing when it works.

We can enjoy the luxury of a temporary-pause option because we bask in the glow of a decision made by Congress to keep a sufficient number of the smoky, noisy, cabled-driven, hydraulic pump actuated, big, not-so-ugly, flying fellows that strike fear into the hearts of our enemies, pride in the hearts of those that fly them, and envy in the libido of those who can’t.

However you stack the numbers, the BUFF is the greatest heavy-weight champion of heavy-bombers that has ever flown. I agree that other airplanes are prettier than the B-52, and in a Hollywood society, that is an important attribute. But when the world gets ugly, we need combat aircraft that can fly, fight, and win.

It just makes sense.

Jack of all Trades, Master of None

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

According to the Associated Press, the Air Force will change the way bomber crews organize for their nuclear training missions.  B-52 crews will train exclusively for nuclear missions for 6-months at a time, maybe even 12 months.

This is supposed to be the solution to fix part of the process that resulted in some serious mistakes in the handling of nuclear weapons back in August.  However, the Air Force had better be careful when it comes to executing this strategy.

A reader of the Feb 29 news story could be led into believing that B-52 crews will begin some kind of cycle where they transition between nukes and non-nuclear training missions.  Let’s consider the flow.

One scenario might be, the crews begin a 6-month cycle of nuke training.  At first the crews will be astonished at how little they really know about nukes.  Then about the time the cycle is completed, they will finally be comfortable with the mission.  

But then they have to go back to the C-mission only to discover that they’ve forgotten a lot of things.  Without a doubt, they will have lost their edge.  After a month or so, they will build their proficiency and almost be ready to deploy, which they will.  They’ll live the C-mission once again, while they support the ground operations of the Global War of Attrition on Terrorism.  But eventually the party will end.

They’ll start another N-mission cycle, only to discover they’ve forgotten a lot of things.  After a  few months, they’ll be as good as new.  Rinse and reapply.

In the end, we’ll have a process where the B-52 crews are uncomfortable with their mission about 1/3 of the time.  There has to be a better way.  Here it is:

Assign a B-52 squadron a nuke mission.  Keep the others units conventional.  This way, the Air Force will always have a fully competent, capable, and confident nuclear B-52 force.  Meanwhile the conventional tasked B-52 units will be able to concentrate on the knowledge and skills required to support the AEF missions.

Some folks might argue that the nuke squadron will at a disadvantage when it comes to promotions because they won’t be logging combat hours.   However, all but the most junior B-52 crewmembers have logged plenty of combat sorties since the GWOT began.  Veteran aircrews could be assigned to the nuke squadron.  Their previous combat time should be sufficient to satisfy any combat squares that need checking to demonstrate their leadership potential.  

Following the First Gulf War, six months worth of combat sorties carried many aviators from captain up to colonel and even beyond for some, all without additional combat time.  Besides, if the officers sitting on promotions boards can’t understand the leadership potential of qualified nuclear crews even if they haven’t orbited over Asia for long hours, the Air Force has already promoted the wrong people.  Finally, the purpose of military service isn’t for promotion.  The core values are declared to be integrity first, service before self, and excellence in everything they do.

Just as the decathlon champion does not take the Olympic gold medal in each of the separate events, or as the medical general practitioner does not replace a neurologist, we live in an age of specialists.  We need a cadre of heavy bomber nuclear experts.

It just makes sense.

Spirit Math

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Five percent attrition of a fleet is serious degradation, especially when it happens in one day.  It sounds like something that would happen to a military force after a hard-fought battle.  Its like losing 64 F-16s, or 26 KC-135s, or 4 B-52s.  What is was, was a single B-2.

It’s too early for us to know why the aircraft crashed shortly after take-off in Guam this weekend, but we do know that the two pilots survived the ejection.  One pilot is still hospitalized with the customary spinal-compression injury.  Ejection is a terribly violent experience.  Somebody must have been praying for them.

Smart pilots honor the potential danger of their ejection seats.  Honor is a bit like fear.  Nobody really wants to eject, the idea of it is scary.  Typically a pilot knows it is time to “bail-out” when his fear of staying in the aircraft exceeds his fear of ejecting.  So what caused the fear?

It might have been a fire, but we’ll know for sure later. 

The Air Force is performing a professional investigation, after which it will reveal all those details to those who need to know.  Ultimately that information will be used to make the B-2 a better weapon system. 

Somebody once said, “That which doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger.”  Losing five percent of a fleet doesn’t sound like we’re getting stronger.

The price-tag of the advanced technology jet has brought some attention to this crash, but the question of how much the loss of one aircraft from a small fleet degrades the overall force hasn’t been addressed. The B-2 has been around for 20 years, and this is the first crash.  Not a bad record, but we only made 21 of them.  In comparison, over 700 B-52s were built.  Of course, things were different then.

It’s like supply and demand.  The fewer of something you have, the more it’s worth.  And we’re not going to make any more of the bat-winged bombers. So now each Spirit is worth even more, at least when it comes to accomplishing the mission.

The Global War on Terrorism has demonstrated that the freedom forces need heavy bombers.  The F-22 fleet’s size gets plenty of attention, as does the F-35’s.  While those jets have great promise for what they  are designed to do, they’re not heavy bombers.  The bomber roadmap needs to consider our peacetime attrition.  It is overly optimistic to plan on no losses.  Even the best Air Force in the world occasionally loses one. 

Above all, we need to plan for that when we build all of our air fleets.

It just makes sense.

Clubbing the Veterans

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Defending a nation has always required the service of strong people who often traded their health, limbs, and sometimes their lives so that the other citizens could sleep safely in their beds at night. In first century Rome it was not much different leaving substantial numbers of disabled veterans depended on the state for small pensions that sustained their modest lifestyles. 

Then there was Caligula, the infamous Roman Emperor noted for his unquenchable desires, who decided to entertain the people by clubbing hundreds of disabled veterans to death in the Coliseum.  His joy was two-fold, while pretending to be a warrior the spindly sovereign helped balance his national budget by eliminating some fixed costs. Such behavior is repugnant to any observer of history who possesses even a modicum of humanity.

Today, the United States is fighting a global war, another way of saying world war, against an enemy who wants to disrupt the sleep of our citizens. The strong people who stand watch and do violence as required on this enemy often trade their health, limbs, and sometimes their lives for us.  Caring for those that survive the ordeal of service requires a cost.  Modern health care is more expensive than it was in 1st century Rome, but our longevity and quality of life is greater too. 

So far, no one has suggested murdering our veterans to balance the defense budget, but other things are being done to them that endanger their health.  Just a few years ago a system called Tricare replaced a system without an annual fee.  At the time, some argued that it reneged on the promises of the past, but the argument was brushed aside because the fees were smaller than most civilian plans.  Those fees were designed to offset some of the cost of health care by collecting money from the veterans.  The resistance faded and the system went into effect.

Soon it was argued that having smaller fees for Tricare than for plans like Blue Cross, encouraged retirees to actually use the program resulting in a high cost to the defense budget.  Some proposed modifications to Tricare appeared to be designed to force retirees to abandon Tricare altogether and to seek healthcare elsewhere.  While it is not quite as horrible as Caligula’s clubbing of Rome’s veterans in the Coliseum, it is still a shame that the past service of our 20 to 30+ year veterans is not being held in high esteem.

The bean-counters in the Pentagon aren’t completely to blame.  All of us who served during the 80s and 90s experienced shrinking or eliminated entitlements.  Self-help was the mantra of how to get things done.  Costs were “transferred” from the budget to money acquired through fund-raisers or squadron dues.  And now when the budget spinners talk about “increasing revenues” they really mean collecting money from retirees’ pensions.

Balancing the defense budget on the wallets of retirees is repugnant.  Congress should fully fund military health care to stop the Pentagon budget planners from continually searching for ways to loot retirees of their hard-earned pensions.

It just makes sense.

The Global War [of Attrition] on Terrorism

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

It can be argued as to when the terrorists began their war against the world. It was certainly before the suicide-terrorist attacks of 9/11. Some say it began in 1983 Lebanon with the horrific suicide-terrorist attack on our Marine barracks, others say it began in 1979 Tehran with the unlawful invasion and seizure of the US Embassy. Some historians argue that it was much earlier during the Crusades of the 11th century or even at the beginning of the Muslim invasions of their neighbors dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries. Regardless of when the terrorists began their war against the rest of the world, the United States began fighting with a purpose after 9/11.

Our President called it the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).   He established objectives that were refined and spelled out in the 2006 publication National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism, also known as the NMSP-WOT:

1. Deny terrorists the resources they need to operate and survive
2. Enable partner nations to counter terrorism.
3. Deny WMD/E proliferation, recover and eliminate uncontrolled materials, and increase capacity for consequence management.
4. Defeat terrorists and their organizations.
5. Counter state and non-state support for terrorism in coordination with other U.S. Government agencies and partner nations
6. Contribute to the establishment of conditions that counter ideological support for terrorism.

The NMSP-WOT identifies the enemy as “extremists.”  The extremists oppose the right of people to live as they chose and they support the murder of ordinary people to advance their ideology.  Moderates or mainstreams are the folks who don’t support the extremists and oppose the killing of ordinary people.  Finally, terrorists are those who conduct acts of terrorism.  It goes on to stress that this is not a war between Islam and the West and then refers to some of the extremist organizations in the transnational movement responsible for the terrorism.

It even spells out an end state, sometimes referred to a better-state-of-peace:

“The national strategic aims are to defeat violent extremism as a threat to our way of life as a free and open society; and create a global environment inhospitable to violent extremists and all who support them.” 

Victory is achieved only after those aims are met.

In 2006, Mitt Romney referred to the enemy as “jihadists” suggesting more than extreme behavior, but also extreme belief. His web site declared that victory will be achieve through a combination of American resolve, international effort, and the rejection of violence by moderate, modern, mainstream Muslims. He stressed that we need to support modern Muslim nations both militarily and diplomatically.

While the NMSP-WOT spells out a theoretic strategy that appears sound, the practice of the GWOT appears to be more of a war of attrition.  We seem to have so limited the definitions of the enemy that our fielded forces invest most of their time killing individuals, occasionally capturing or killing one of the ring-leaders and confusing that with strategic success.

Strategic effects are those that have far-reaching consequences with a cascading effect that result in paralysis of the enemy.  Killing foot soldiers, even a few of their regional leaders is not strategic if there is a continual supply of replacements.  The surge’s success in the Iraqi Theater of the GWOT worked well towards satisfying GWOT objectives 2 and 4.  But the results will be temporary if the terrorists/extremists/jihadists are allowed to rebuild their forces.  GWOT objectives 1, 5, and 6 are essential to achieving victory.

The seemingly endless supply of willing replacements for the attrited terrorists has to be denied.  Otherwise we will be forced to continue to kill them, one at a time, as they present themselves.  If that happens, this war of attrition could easily last the 100 years John McCain has talked about.

State and nonstate support to the terrorists has to become completely unprofitable.  Leaders must be convinced they will face the same consequences as Saddam Hussein and the former leaders of Afghanistan before they will alter their policies.  And ultimately, a counter ideology has to be established before victory can be won.

Shortly after 9/11, columnist Ann Coulter wrote the politically incorrect statement that we should, “invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” That statement generated a lot of criticism for her as it ironically blended the horrors of 9/11 with harsh Western humor and pointed out the realization that Western religious tolerance, which is sometimes credited with making us strong, may be our greatest weakness. Conversion to Christianity has always been by the word, not by the sword.

Since we obviously lack the national resolve to execute Ms Coulter’s suggestion, we must develop a different strategic course of action that renders terrorism equally unacceptable to the present supporters and future recruits of the violent extremists.

It just makes sense.

Software as a weapon system, AOC as a base

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

The air and space operations center (AOC) is a weapon system.  We’ve heard it said so many times lately that it generally goes without intellectual challenge.  But maybe we should make sure that we understand what a weapon system is before much more energy goes into this concept.

It’s difficult to find a standard definition for the term “weapon system”.

The on-line DOD dictionary provides the Joint definition: “A combination of one or more weapons with all related equipment, materials, services, personnel, and means of delivery and deployment (if applicable) required for self-sufficiency.”  The same dictionary doesn’t define “weapon” so it might leave a person with some questions as to how the Air Force is using the term.  Is a command center a weapon?  Is an airplane a weapon?  What is a weapon?

While the Army publication “United States Army Weapon Systems” doesn’t define the term, it does list about 129 things that it declares to be weapon systems ranging from rockets, aircraft, and vehicles to an aircrew ensemble, and even a tactical operations center (TOC).  The broad-brush approach the Army uses with the term seems to mean it is anything that can be or is used by a soldier to do a job.  Certainly an AOC falls into that definition.

But what does the Air Force mean when it uses the term?  While “weapon system” is not defined in Air Force doctrine, it has been used by airmen for decades.  I can’t find it written anywhere, but we use it as a synonym for airplane.

However, by saying weapons system, we distinguished it from the manufacturer’s product with the understanding that the airplane was an essential part of a system which had dedicated operators, support folks, processes, procedures, and roles that all came together to support the fly, fight, and win mission of the Air Force.  Being associated with a weapon system has always meant that your career would follow a certain geographical/functional track until such time as you separated, retired, or administratively removed that association.  It defined your purpose as an airman.

So what’s wrong with that?

Nothing, if we keep our heads about us.  We know, the Air Force has a history of standardizing our weapon systems.  The manufacturer standardizes the airframe, but if the rest of it went freestyle there would be no interoperability between like units and thus efficiency would be lost.  We want a B-52 stationed in Minot to organize and train pretty much the same way a B-52 stationed at Barksdale does.  The same idea applies to all the other “weapon systems” in the Air Force, from C-17 to F-22. 

Of course that only applies within a weapon system.  No airman would ever think of trying to force F-22s to be standardized with B-52 processes, roles, and procedures:  stuffing five crewmembers into the cockpit of an F-22 would be ludicrous; loading it with 200,000 pounds of jet fuel would be dangerous and impossible; not using the capabilities of the F-22 to fly, fight, and win against our enemies would be criminal.  That’s probably why the Air Force doesn’t refer to a base or wing as a weapon system.  All bases, like all wings are not alike.  They’re different.

What about AOCs?  Are they more like airplanes or airbases?

When Lockheed Martin Corp was awarded the contract to serve as the AOC Weapon System Integrator, the press release referred to 23 AOC sites:  five Falconer AOCs for theater operations; four “tailored” Falconer AOCs for homeland and strategic defense; two functional AOCs for space and mobility; and 12 AOC support functions for integration/testing/assessment, technical support, training, backup, and augmentation.  If in the process of “standardizing” all these AOCs, the Air Force attempts to make them one-size-fits-all, we’ll be taking a process that needed some work and turning it into one that might not work at all.

General Keys once said, “The AOC is fundamental to what makes us great as an Air Force.  If you have a group of airplanes but you don’t have an AOC, you don’t really have an air force, you have a flying club.”  We can’t mess up the AOC and expect to remain great.

The Air Force has made great strides towards correcting many of the problems that General Keys addressed back in 2003, proper training and management of resources.  With a formal training unit in place, AOC personnel now attend centralized initial qualification training and move to their respective AOC to attain their combat mission ready status through their unit training programs.  The AOCs are now working better than ever.

When it comes to standardizing the AOCs, maybe the airman’s view should be that AOC is like a base and the software is the weapon system.  After all, if bombers are tasked to disrupt, destroy, or degrade our enemy, airmen assigned to bases operate weapon systems to generate desired effects.  Likewise when an AOC is tasked to accomplish something, airmen operate software to generate effects.  Viewing software as a weapon system requires us to use a cyberspace perspective in relating the company that produces the software to an aerospace company that makes aircraft; the personnel that operate the software to aircrews that fly airplanes; and the personnel that support the platforms that enable the software to the entire support structure behind the success of our airplanes.

If software is considered the “weapon” in the DOD definition of a weapon system, the airman’s traditional paradigm of being tied to a weapon system becomes easier to grasp.  Using this cyberspace perspective may be the key to avoiding inflexible design in regards to which capabilities can be added to an AOC’s inventory.  If so, then the goal of organizing AOCs for useful data exchange through focused connectivity and interoperability would remain the challenge.  The AOC should be viewed more like a base is viewed.While some Air Force bases are very similar, each base is a little different from the others. Nevertheless, all the units assigned to each base must cooperate within certain parameters to meet the objectives of that base. It is through the diversity of complimentary capabilities throughout the world-wide network of bases that the Air Force is able to remain the nation’s primary air and space power.

It just makes sense.