Tag 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/

4 Comments

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Air Force, history

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Air Force

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.

1 Comment

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Air Force, planes

Thanks, Air Force

So, a friend of ours has been having some arguments about Close Air Support. He’s kindly shared this little gem with me.

8 Comments

Filed under Air Force

More on the squandering of airpower

As a followup to the earlier post, here’s an email making the rounds from an A-10 driver.

Subject: A-10 driver perspective
Date: March 6, 2015 at 4:16:21 PM EST

FYSA
The squadron is doing fine. Everybody is happy to be here and we are doing some good work. The A-10s are holding up well and the technology we have have on the jets now (targeting pods, GPS guided bombs, Laser Guided bombs, Laser guided missiles, tactical data link, satellite comms), and of course the gun, make the A-10 ideal for this conflict. We are killing off as many ISIS as we can, mostly in ones and twos, working with the hand we are dealt. I’ve never been more convicted in my career that we facing an enemy that needs to be eradicated.
With that being said…I’ve never been more frustrated in my career. After 13 years of the mind-numbing low intensity conflict in Afghanistan, I’ve never seen the knife more dull. All the hard lessons learned in Vietnam, and fixed during the first Gulf War, have been unlearned again. The level of centralized execution, bureaucracy, and politics is staggering. I basically do not have any decision making authority in my cockpit. It sucks. In most cases, unless a general officer can look at a video picture from a UAV, over a satellite link, I cannot get authority to engage. I’ve spent many hours, staring through a targeting pod screen in my own cockpit, watching ISIS perpetrate their acts until my eyes bleed, without being able to do anything about it. The institutional fear of making a mistake, that has crept into the central mindset of the military leadership, is endemic. We have not taken the fight to these guys. We haven’t targeted their centers of gravity in Raqqa. All the roads between Syria and Iraq are still intact with trucks flowing freely. The other night I watched a couple hundred small tanker trucks lined up at an oilfield in ISIS-held northeast Syria, presumably filling up with with oil traded on the black market, go unfettered. It’s not uncommon to wait several hours overhead a suspected target for someone to make a decision to engage or not. It feels like we are simply using the constructs build up in Afghanistan, which was a very limited fight, in the same way here against ISIS, which is a much more sophisticated and numerically greater foe. It’s embarrassing.
Be assured that the Hawg drivers are doing their best.

One of the prime arguments the Army Air Force used to have air component commanders co-equal to ground component commanders as far back as the campaigns in North Africa in World War II was that airpower benefited from centralized planning, but decentralized execution.

That is, where land component commanders tended to want an umbrella of fighter cover over deployed units all day long, air component commanders, taking a broader view of the air battle, would be able to see which target sets would take priority and be the highest payoff targets. That is, one day, airpower might best be devoted to knocking back enemy airfields, and the next interdicting bridges and trains. The inherent flexibility of airpower could, in the hands of a capable commander, be better used by shifting the priorities, something ground component commanders were not always cognizant of.

Of course, the flip side of that coin was that the execution had to be decentralized. If a raid on an airfield found it empty of enemy planes, the raid leader would call an audible and find other targets worthy of attack.

But today, the increasing trend of the four star squad leader is surely at play here. No one wants to be responsible for a massacre of civilians. But in the example given in the letter, the tanker trucks, laden with oil, are no doubt going to be used to smuggle illegal oil and fund the ISIS state. That makes them a legitimate target, whether they’re manned by civilians or not. Which, let’s face it, our enemies here aren’t exactly adhering to every nicety of the laws of warfare. Why should we unilaterally and arbitrarily handicap ourselves with an overabundance of caution, particularly when the laws of warfare were set up to encourage reciprocity, not reward one side for violations.

6 Comments

Filed under Air Force, iraq