Category Archives: Air Force

A Good Place to Cut the Budget

John Q.  Public is juuuust about the only blogger out there focused on the Air Force. Sometimes, he strikes me as a bit of a gadfly, but mostly it is obvious he loves the Air Force, and is troubled by the institutional shortcomings he sees therein. Fair enough. We criticize all the services frequently, but do so in the hopes of correction, not spite.

One of his favorite targets is a little Air Force dog and pony show called Tops In Blue.

Take, for example, the service’s traveling show choir, Tops in Blue (TiB). At an opaque but reasonably estimated annual price tag of $10 million, TiB generates zero operational benefit while leaving the work centers of three dozen airmen short-handed for a year at a time. It is a mobile monument of waste, showcasing the unwarranted frills that became normalized deviations in the huge Cold War Air Force but are entirely hostile to the notion of fiscal responsibility in an era of austerity. Yet, despite SECAF’s insistence that every dollar must count, TiB persists, surviving sequestration even as needed aircraft and airmen are liquidated to save money.

Yes, the Air Force has a traveling Broadway style song and dance review. Airmen already in the service can audition for the program, and then spend a year traveling to various bases giving their performances to audiences consisting of senior leadership, prominent local civilians, and the general population of a base.

But JQP points out a few issues with this.

  1. It costs money. Most of the money actually comes not from the taxpayers, but from Morale, Welfare and Recreation funds, which monies are collected from post exchanges and other similar sources for the benefits of troops, well, morale, welfare and recreation. Obviously, the money used for TiB is not available for other, likely more pressing MWR needs. And the logistical needs of TiB also impose hidden costs, such as transportation, lodging and allowances for rations per diem that could be used elsewhere.
  2. It takes Airmen away from their parent unit for a year at a time. Units are always shorthanded. And when an Airman is seconded to TiB, it is for one year of what the services call “permissive TDY.” That means they’re still technically assigned to their parent unit. And because of that, the unit cannot receive a replacement for the touring Airmen.
  3. No one likes the show. Seriously, most people don’t even know about it. But it’s the most trite, awful “entertainment” around.
  4. JQP has several sources telling him that being a part of TiB is no bed of roses itself, and that the troupe is routinely treated poorly.

Now, before you think I’m just kicking the Air Force when they are down, lemme tell you this. The Army has a nearly identical touring show, and at a minimum, items 1-3 apply every bit as much to the Army’s troupe.

Worse,  our show isn’t named “Tops in Green.”

No, dear friend, the show is The Army Soldier Show. Yes, the ASS.

It’s Army entertainment like you’ve never experienced before. The Soldier Show is a live Broadway-style variety performance featuring our best talent. It’s singing, it’s dancing and it’s amazing!

You may think I’m being a tad harsh on the dedicated Airmen and Soldiers who go through a lengthy audition period, and face a year of separation from their homes and families to bring you this fantastic entertainment. Maybe. Or maybe I’m not being harsh enough on what is clearly an outdated institution and should be put out to pasture.

By the way, I loathe that Lee Greenwood song.

Addendum- /snerk/ a friend a few years ago mentioned that the Soldier Show was the only place for openly gay soldiers before the repeal of DADT/

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Filed under Air Force, ARMY TRAINING

USAF Manned Aircraft of 1954

Two clips, about 17 minutes each, showing the state of the art of manned aircraft at the end of 1954 for the USAF. It’s interesting to see which platforms were soon relegated to the dustbin of history, and which ones would go on to illustrious careers, and some even remain relevant today. It’s also amazing how ambitious some of the projects were, considering that the war in Korea had just closed, with the height of technology being the F-86, and much of the effort having been carried by such World War II stalwarts as the F-51 and C-47. At a time when going into combat in a piston engine plane was utterly unremarkable, the Air Force was looking at interceptors with a speed of anywhere from Mach 3 to Mach 5.

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Dream Sheets, Hollywood, and Nuclear Weapons

So, saw this little funny at Facebook.

And of course, in my case, “Seattle” somehow got mistranslated to “Gary, IN.”

That and I was scouring YouTube last night trying to find obscure but entertaining and informative content for you, dear reader. And I got to thinking about some of the more obscure, interesting places the military might end up sending you to. Sure, there are recruiting stations in small towns and large cities. But there are also military bases tucked away in places you wouldn’t expect. For instance, the Navy has a substantial base in Crane, Indiana, of all places.  The Army has Fort DeRussy. Formerly a Coast Artillery installation, it is now a resort smack in the middle of Waikiki, Hawaii.

For twenty years, the Air Force operated a top secret base in the hills above Hollywood.

When the US began testing nuclear weapons after World War II, it soon decided it needed to document the testing. In addition to written reports, film reports were prepared, basically 30-60 minute long classified documentaries to brief senior leadership.  And while the filming was obviously done on location, the processing and editing were best accomplished at a centralized location. And where better to place such a facility than in Hollywood, home of the movie industry? The Air Force looked at the lists of government property in the area, and quickly realized that it already owned the perfect spot.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the then Army Air Forces had established air defense control stations at major metropolitan areas along the West Coast. In the Los Angeles area, they had built a radar and control site on Lookout Mountain, above Laurel Canyon. Abandoned after the war, in 1947, it was reactivated, but this time as a movie studio.

File:United States Air Force Lookout Mountain Laboratory from above in color.jpg

Staffed by a combination of Air Force personnel, personnel from the other services, and contracted support from industry experts, Air Force Station Lookout Mountain produced hundreds of films documenting the US nuclear testing program.  You’ve seen stock footage of houses blown away by nuclear blasts? That’s their handiwork. In fact, virtually all footage you’ve seen of nuclear explosions is their product.

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/4f919a4385216d482002bd82/20800853_zpid-1.jpeg

With the end of above ground nuclear testing, much of the need for Lookout Mountain’s product went away. It was inactivated in 1968, and eventually sold and converted into a private residence. Actor Jared Leto reportedly bought the 100,000 square foot compound for around $5,000,000 earlier this year.

As an aside, the compound is less than half a mile from the site of the Wonderland Murders.

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Filed under Air Force

LOVE Day, 1 April 1945

okinawa

marine artillery

Seventy years ago today was an Easter Sunday.  On 1 April 1945, elements of the United States 10th Army, under General Simon B. Buckner, landed on the island of Okinawa.  The landings were almost unopposed, but the 110,000 Japanese defenders soon resisted with the savagery and skill familiar to every US combat leader in the Pacific.  Half a million US troops would come ashore in Operation ICEBERG, beginning 82 days of brutal, unrelenting combat for the island.   When the battle was finished, General Buckner and one other US General were dead, along with nearly 100,000 of the island’s defenders, and 13,000 US soldiers, sailors, and Marines.  (Near the end of the battle, US Marine MajGen Roy Geiger would temporarily command US 10th Army after the death of General Buckner, until Joe Stillwell’s arrival.)

bunker-hill-battle-okinawa-kamikaze

The Japanese had fought furiously, employing in massive waves the kamikaze tactics against the invasion fleet that were first revealed off Leyte.  Among the US killed were 4,900 sailors, as the US Navy lost 36 ships sunk and 368 damaged by the suicide onslaught.   One in three Japanese civilians were killed or committed suicide in the fighting, nearly 150,000 in total.  The battle, which ended with the island being declared secure on 22 June, was a terrifying harbinger of what the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would be.

TheWar_Okinawa2_t700

The “Saipan ratio” used to compute casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan, was proven a dramatic underestimation by US casualties on Okinawa, which were almost four times the earlier calculations.  In addition, Allied intelligence of Japanese air strength on Formosa (within range to help defend Okinawa) had pegged the number of operational aircraft at under one hundred.  There was, in fact, eight times that figure, as the US and British Naval forces would discover to their dismay.  Okinawa (and Iwo Jima) weighed heavily in the decision to employ atomic weapons against Japan as an alternative to invasion.  With what occupation forces found on the Home Islands, the men destined for the invasions Honshu and Kyushu likely breathed a great collective sigh of relief.

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Filed under Air Force, army, Artillery, guns, history

Farewell, Concrete Charlie

Bednarik2

Sad news out of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.  NFL great Chuck Bednarik has passed away at age 89.  Bednarik was the last of the “60 minute” players, starring at both center of offense, and middle linebacker on defense, for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949-1962.  He played on the 1950 and 1960 championship teams, and was known as a fearsome tackler.  Nicknamed “Concrete Charlie” for both his tooth-jarring hits and his off-season job selling cement (imagine an NFL player today having to work?), Bednarik most famously crushed the New York Giants’ Frank Gifford with a clean hit, knocking him out of football for a year and a half.

nfl-1960_new-york-giants-frank-gifford_philadelphia-eagles-chuck-bednarik

Here’s a little treat where another tough guy, Sam Huff, and Bednarik, talk about the play, courtesy of NFL Films:

He also made the game-saving tackle of the Packers’ Jimmy Taylor on the final play of the 1960 NFL Championship game.  When Bednarik retired in 1962, he had his number 60 retired, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

Chuck Bednarik grew up as a son of Slovakian immigrants, who worked in the Bethlehem Steel plant in Bethlehem PA.  He starred at Penn, where he also played both ways, and even punted on occasion.  He was a three-time All-America, and was drafted Number 1 overall by Philadelphia in the 1949 NFL draft.  He was incredibly durable.  Despite being on the field for nearly every play of every game, Bednarik only missed three games in fourteen seasons.  His fingers became almost famous, as well, pointing in all directions because of injury during his college and pro career.

Bednarik fingers

For his part, Bednarik did not think much of the modern game, believing players pampered and out of shape.  He lamented that nobody played both ways any longer, and that “specialists” who substituted on certain downs and situations showed how over-coached and under-skilled the game had become.

Bednarik_1b_150

Chuck Bednarik was also a decorated Veteran of World War II.  He enlisted in the US Army Air Forces upon graduating High School in 1943, and flew thirty missions as a waist gunner in a B-24 with the 8th Air Force over Germany, earning three Air Medals and four battle stars.  He was a legend, an icon, the prototypical American tough guy.  His like will not come along again.  Ever.  He will be missed by those who know the value of such men.

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Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, Defense, guns, history

JAAT

Joint Air Attack Tactics.

I posted this a couple years ago, I think. Later we’re going to look at some doctrinal stuff that’s coming up, and how the past provides the intellectual framework for this latest initiative. How is that relevant? JAAT was associated with AirLand Battle, which itself was closely associated with Assault Breaker, which is the model that Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work is invoking in his call for a Raid Breaker.

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Filed under Air Force, ARMY TRAINING

Jag-YOU-ar

We’ve long admired a great many British aircraft, and disdained oh so many French aircraft. Which puts us in a bind, because we want to really like the Jaguar, but it’s half British, and half French.  By the 1960s, the costs of developing a tactical aircraft were so high that smaller nations struggling to maintain a realistic aviation industry decided to partner up with other nations in bilateral and joint projects. There’s a long, long, long list of projects that failed, for technical reasons, budgetary reasons, inability to decide on work share, and diverging tactical requirements. But a few programs have actually worked out pretty well. The Panavia Tornado comes to mind, as well as its successor the Typho0n. Among the earliest successful joint programs was a partnership between BAC and Breguet to form SEPECAT, a joint company that designed and built the Jaguar, a supersonic light strike/ground attack aircraft that served Britain and France from the early 1970s through well into the 21st Century.

The Jag is a single seat* twin engine supersonic low/medium altitude jet that was used primarily in three roles:

  1. Nuclear strike
  2. Close Air Support
  3. Tactical Reconnaissance

In spite of its sleek lines, what the Jag wasn’t was a fighter. While it could carry Sidewinder (or similar) short range air to air missiles, that was more a matter of self defense. It didn’t even have radar. Instead, it had a respectable (for its day) navigation/attack system to guide it to its target.

And to be honest, it really wasn’t supersonic, either. That is, with no external stores, and given time and altitude, sure, it could break the sound barrier. But down low, and carrying its normal war load, no way. But it was pretty fast down low, which was the whole point.

There are four wing stations for external store under the wings. There are also two wing stations over the  wing, rather unusually, where the Sidewinders were carried. There is also a centerline station. Typically, the Jag would carry two drop tanks under the wings, a chaff dispenser on one wing and a jammer pod on the other, and a couple of 1000lb bombs on the centerline.

In addition to service with the RAF and the French AF, the Jag has had respectable overseas sales, especially in India, but also in Oman, Ecuador, and Nigeria.

Grab a cup of coffee. This is a fairly interesting look at life in an RAF Jag squadron. At around the 15 minute mark, there’s some spectacular low level flying in what I suspect is Star Wars Canyon in Oman.

The French Navy also looked at a carrier capable version, but the word is that it was somewhat awful around the boat.

*There are also two-seat operational trainer variants that retain combat capability.

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Filed under Air Force, planes