Insurgents Offer Tough Air Critique

Insurgents Offer Tough Air Critique

Tough love remains one of those concepts our society embraces mostly in the negative. It’s just, well, too tough. The following commentary certainly constitutes a fine example of tough love, coming from two of the country’s more distinguished military and airpower analysts. Essentially, Robert Dilger and Pierre Sprey argue that the country should scrap plans for the F-35 and F-22 and build what they call “austerely-designed and affordable aircraft tailored to missions that actually win wars…” The fleet would include: a new close air support plane to replace the A-10; a “forward controller spotter plane;” a “small, affordable dirt-strip airlifter;” and a “super-maneuverable new air-to-air dogfighter with all–passive electronics.”

Dilger and Sprey argue that their approach would give the country 10,000 highly adaptable planes wiithin current budgetary constraints, compared to what they say is the unsupportable approach of fielding a fleet of roughly 2,000 very expensive planes. Can you hear the Air Force groaning? The full piece follows:

Their title: “Reversing the Decay of American Air Power”

Today the U.S. Air Force is spending about $10 billion above its Cold War average. Curiously, this amount buys us an Air Force smaller, more antiquated, and more combat-irrelevant than at any time since the 1930s.

Thirteen of our fifteen major aircraft types began development 30 to 60 years ago. Even our newest type, the F-22, entered design 25 years ago– and is too expensive to risk in our current wars. The few aging fighters the USAF has committed to these wars have helped enemy recruiting more than they have eased our troops’ burdens.

Adding money to our present way of buying aircraft has consistently accelerated the aging and the combat irrelevance of the fleet. Escaping this death spiral takes a painstaking, brutally honest look at how we’ve spent our air power money and what it bought us in combat results. We tackle that job in detail in Chapter 7 of “America’s Defense Meltdown”.

The lessons learned are clear and damning. In the 1920s, the Army Air Corps’ leaders espoused a new theory, advocated in 1921 by Italian airpower theologian Giulio Douhet: massive strategic bombardment of enemy civilians will lead to quick, crushing victories without the need for armies. In pursuit of that untested notion, our Air Force leaders spent 80% of their World War II European theater warplane budgets buying bombers (60,000 of them) and 20% buying fighters. The results were in inverse proportion to the costs.

The campaigns against eight of the nine bomber target categories examined by the prestigious United States Strategic Bombing Survey clearly failed to shorten the war or decrease casualties. The survey found “…city attacks by the RAF (and U.S.) prior to August 1944 did not substantially affect the course of German war production…” Not only were the dollar costs of bombing enormous (thereby displacing far more effective weapons), the human costs were unanticipated and appalling. US and British bomber aircrew casualties were well over 145,000, ten times the fighter casualties.

Contrary to the bomber generals’ long-repeated claims (“…300 bombers can effectively attack any German target and return without excessive or uneconomical losses”) unescorted bombers failed to get through. By August 1943, disastrous losses to German fighters forced us to suspend bomber raids deep into Germany for five months–until January 1944 when the first P-51 long range escort fighters (procured over the strong objections of the Air Force bureaucracy) became available in theater.

In contrast, the 20% spent on fighters paid off handsomely. In early 1944, 8th Air Force’s 1100 P-51s quickly established air superiority over Germany, a crucial pre-requisite for the D-Day landings. Before, during and after D-Day, General “Pete” Quesada’s 1,200 rugged P-47s unleashed his pioneering battlefield interdiction and close support tactics over the Normandy beach head area to save the day by keeping the 23 German reinforcing divisions from pushing the Allies back into the sea. Because of the constant, ubiquitous P-47 strafing, those divisions arrived shattered and as much as 6 weeks late.

A month later, those same P-47s facilitated the crucial St. Lo breakout from the Normandy quagmire–and then flew the continuous close support patrols on Third Army’s right flank that helped make possible Patton’s spectacular plunge across France, 600 miles in two weeks. Within four years after the war, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg and his predecessors had relegated to the bone yard all but 265 of the 16,000 P-47s produced. He slashed the overall fighter force to less than 1,000, then stripped Gen. Quesada’s Tactical Air Command of all its aircraft and thereby drove the Air Force’s greatest close support innovator and combat leader into retirement. Nevertheless, the Air Force found the money to maintain 550 active heavy bombers, pay for an additional 400 B-29s, start producing 400 ridiculously expensive B-36s, and fund R&D for the all-jet B-47 and the much pricier B-52–all in the name of nuclear bombardment.

The decimation of fighters following the war proved a disaster when the Korean War broke out in June 1950. A small U.S. Army task force was being overwhelmed by the North Korean onslaught. The troops had an immediate and desperate need for close support. The Air Force instead rushed in a force of 90 B-29s with a Douhet-style plan to force instant surrender by firebombing five North Korean cities. Under duress from General MacArthur, the B-29s were diverted to supporting the Army; delivering 13 hopelessly inadequate so-called “close support” sorties per day—albeit at an average of 3 miles distance from our troops.

The bomber generals persisted: over the next years, every North Korean city of any size was duly firebombed. Of the 150 B-29 bombers assigned, 107 were lost. Once again, city bombing had little military effect–nor did it bring the enemy to the peace table. But our beleaguered infantrymen paid in blood for this appalling lack of close support: in their crucial first two-and-a-half months, the grunts suffered over 12,000 ground casualties.

Early in the Korean conflict, the Air Force assigned a token 150 P-51s to provide ground support. Predictably, the liquid-cooled P-51s suffered excessive losses since even small caliber or shrapnel holes in their radiators or cooling jackets were inevitably fatal. As a result, the theater air commander requested an emergency deployment of a mere squadron of active-duty P-47s because they were the Air Force’s most rugged, effective and survivable close support plane. Gen. Vandenberg denied the request.

In contrast, the Marines and the Navy provided first-rate close support with their highly effective and survivable World War II-vintage prop-driven fighters, the F-4U Corsair and the A-1 Skyraider (that served so admirably again in Vietnam). Army troops had high praise for the quality of their close support, greatly preferring it to the untimely, unresponsive Air Force support.

The most dramatic and important close support effort of the war saved the fighting retreat of the 1st Marine Division and the Army’s Regimental Combat Team 31, trapped by seven Chinese divisions at the Chosin Reservoir in the winter of 1951. Four Marine squadrons of Corsairs and a Navy A-1 squadron flew continuous strafing missions, hundreds per day, against the encircling Chinese onslaught. The Americans escaped the trap, albeit with heavy losses. The infantry and the five prop squadrons crippled three Chinese divisions and severely mauled the remaining four, inflicting an estimated 37,500 casualties.

U.S. air superiority over North Korea was not threatened until China entered the war in November, 1951 with 500 MiG-15s based in Manchuria. The high performing MiGs caused the Air Force to rush in 90 new F-86s of comparable dogfight performance–the number was so puny because only 11 per month had been funded. Nevertheless, the better-trained American F-86 pilots soon exacted a 10:1 exchange ratio in dogfights and quickly defeated the Chinese attempt to control the air near the Manchurian border.

The Chinese, with Soviet aid, continued to build up towards 1,300 MiGs; the Air Force responded by doling out 60 more F-86s. Despite being so outnumbered, the 150 F-86s easily outfought the 1,300 MiGs, even after the entry of Russian pilots.

The Korean War had tripled the Air Force’s budget, but the lion’s share of that windfall was diverted away from needs of the theater into nuclear bombers and nuclear bomber interceptors for Europe, all of them unusable in Korean combat. By 1960 the Air Force had shrunk the active tactical fighters down to about 1,000. Yet, in the same 1950 to 1960 period, the bomber generals found plenty of money to build 3,000 extremely expensive nuclear jet bombers and all-weather interceptors.

By the time the Vietnam War heated up in 1964, the Air Force had not a single tactical fighter in production. Scraping together their on-hand “fighters”, the Air Force deployed 270 aging, nuclear-wired F-100C/Ds and 110 sluggish F-105 single engine nuclear bombers. Both proved highly vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and MiGs; 243 F-100s and 397 F-105s were lost.

Soon the Air Force was forced by Secretary McNamara to start replacing their rapidly attriting combat fleet with the only alternative in active production, the Navy’s F-4 nuclear-bomber interceptor. Hastily converted to the bomber role, the F-4 fleet eventually grew to 285 aircraft in-theater and suffered almost equally high loss rates: 445 were lost by the war’s end.

Six years of bombing North Vietnam with fighter-bombers–with losses exceeding a thousand aircraft–failed to bring the enemy to the negotiating table and failed to prevent the North from supplying the war in the South. A last-gasp effort by the heavy bomber advocates sent 724 B-52 sorties to pound Hanoi; 15 were promptly lost (nine times the fighter loss rate) with no bending of the enemy’s will.

In contrast, the Air Force provided a token close support effort in the South (only about 100 sorties per day in 1965), assigned through an astonishingly cumbersome control system and using mostly unsuitable high speed jets. Slow response (circa 40 minutes average); inadequate loiter time and poor accuracy led to unimpressive results. In addition, “friendly fire” complaints from the troops were a common problem.

The only close support standouts were the 55 prop-driven A-1s (forced on the Air Force by Secretary McNamara). The army troops were uniformly grateful for the A-1’s 4 to 5 hour loiter time, the pinpoint accuracy and lethality of its 20mm cannons, and the 5 to 10 gun attacks available on each sortie. Accuracy was better than 20 feet. Friendly fire tragedies were almost unheard of. The A-1s even had remarkable success in night close support. Strafing under the illumination of simple flares, they saved scores of remote Special Forces camps about to be overrun under cover of darkness by massive Viet Cong assaults.

Soon after the end of the Vietnam War, the Air Force received an unasked-for bonanza: sizable production runs of three new fighters, all designed in the late ‘60s over the strong opposition of the mainstream Air Force: the 40,000 pound air-to-air F-15 instead of the 80,000 pound swing-wing fighter bomber the Air Force really wanted; the 20,000 pound super-agile air-to-air F-16 which the bomber generals promptly saddled with a bombing mission and 3 tons of added weight; and the devastatingly effective and survivable close support A-10, a plane the Air Force’s bomber advocates tried to scuttle every year that it was in production.

Thirty years later, these three unwanted aircraft now constitute 90% of the combat force –and completely dominate the Air Force’s air-to-air and air-to-ground effectiveness.

For the 1991 Gulf War, Air Force planners devised and launched yet another Douhet-style 39-day bombardment campaign to precede the ground assault, predicting that the enemy was likely to surrender in six days. The bombing of Baghdad, centerpiece of the strategic bombing campaign, ended precipitously on the 20th day with a typical targeting blunder: 2 F-117s bombed an abandoned command bunker that had been converted into a civilian bomb shelter, killing 300 women and children–the world witnessed the gore and mayhem on the evening news.

Militarily, the 20 days of Baghdad bombing had little effect on the Iraqi army in Kuwait. Likewise, the cancellation of the bombing made no noticeable difference. The real stars of the air war–132 A-10s and 12 forward controller OA-10s–were brought into the war only because General Schwarzkopf overrode the strong objections of the Air Force’s planners. Twelve days into the war, two A-10s and an AC-130 destroyed the spearhead of a large Iraqi armored task force invading Saudi Arabia to capture the town of Khafji. Each A-10 had enough 30 mm rounds onboard for 20 attack passes and put them to good use. Over the next two days, hundreds of A-10 sorties per day (plus other aircraft) mauled the remainder of the Iraqi force. The Iraqi Army never again ventured from its defensive positions.

A few days later, deep in the Western Desert, two A-10s, called in by a ground forward controller, annihilated 20 Scud missile launchers preparing to bombard Israel. Overall, the 132 A-10s flew the highest sortie rate in the theater and, based on fleet-wide pilot claims, accounted for more tactical targets destroyed than the Coalition’s entire remaining force of 2000 high speed fighters and bombers.

The Air Force’s air commander, Lt. Gen. Horner, an opponent of deploying A-10s, summed it up: “I take back all the bad things I’ve said about the A-10s. I love them. They are saving our asses.”

To reward this outstanding achievement, the Air Force mothballed half the A-10 fleet within a year. That ostensible cost saving measure coincided with the Air Force’s generous funding of the huge cost overruns being incurred by the B-1, the B-2 and the hyper-inflating F-22.

In Kosovo, the USAF provided about 340 out of a NATO total of 720 combat aircraft intended to bomb President Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs into submission within two days. After 78 days, the strategic bombardment ended, not because the Serbs capitulated to the bombing, but because the Russians intervened and NATO offered terms better than the ones Serbia had proposed (and we had rejected) before the bombing started. Under Air Force leadership, the NATO bombers attacked the same old “strategic” targets: bridges, factories, power plants, telecommunications, missile batteries, so-called high value targets, etc.

Many targeting blunders (including bombing the Chinese embassy) and 38,000 sorties later, Serbian officials on the ground found that, despite Air Force claims of crippling damage, we had shut down only 3 out of 80 missile batteries, destroyed 14 armored vehicles (against claims of 120 tanks), and inflicted 387 military casualties (versus 5,000 to 10,000 claimed.)

In summary, over the last 60 years of combat, our Air Force has, at higher and higher cost, demonstrated less and less effect on the outcome of each succeeding war. The root causes are equally clear: first, the blind insistence on procuring and planning for little besides the failed strategic bombardment mission; and second, the ingrained development incentives that reward increasing unit cost and complexity without regard to the effect on actual combat effectiveness and force size. If the new Administration follows the “business as usual” pattern, the sequence of events and outcomes is easy to project.

First, the Secretary of Defense will be presented with the usual, impossibly expensive Air Force “wish list.” Today’s wish list amounts to 3,000 planes and $1 trillion in R&D plus procurement over the next 20 years, according to our detailed cost calculations. The Secretary will then haggle this down, with plenty of under-the-table pork-motivated advice from the Congress, to roughly current spending levels, about $12 billion per year.

This will pay for no more than about 50 aircraft a year (or, over the next 20 years, $.25 trillion and about 1,000 new planes.) So “business as usual” leads us, 20 years hence, to a force of about half the size of today’s 4,000 aircraft and 5 to 10 years older than today’s average 20 year age, a force that leaves America with no air option other than bombing the enemy’s heartland and civilians.

Our nation’s defenses–not to mention the lives of those who defend us—urgently depend on a fresh approach. A good start would be to replace the Air Force’s wish list with an effectiveness-based set of austerely-designed and affordable aircraft tailored to missions that actually win wars–for example, the following set of four designs:

* A new close support aircraft smaller, more survivable, and more lethal than the A-10, one that is affordable in vastly larger numbers. (The Air Force plans to use small numbers of the unmaneuverable, highly vulnerable and ineffective F-35, at $150 million each, for this mission.)

* A forward controller spotter plane dramatically more survivable, longer-loitering and far lower cost in than a helicopter, able to land next to the tents of the supported troops. (The Air Force suffers from the delusion that close support can be called in using drones, satellites, and other “high tech” sensors, contrary to the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.)

* A small, affordable dirt strip airlifter to meet the real emergency needs of beleaguered battalions in the boonies. (The Air Force always short-changes this in-the-mud prop mission in favor of large jet transports.)

* A super-maneuverable new air-to-air dogfighter with all–passive electronics, far smaller with far higher maneuvering performance than the best of the F-16s and thus able to outfight the F-22 or any other advanced fighter in the world. (Emitting no radio/radar signals whatsoever, this new fighter will obsolete the F-22’s electronics, defeat any enemy fighter’s passive warning/identification-friend-or-foe system, and render useless the enemy’s radar-homing missiles which rely on seeking our fighter radars.)

These four aircraft are eminently practical designs, each based on existing engines and requiring no technological breakthroughs. We have done the necessary conceptual design work to establish the size, performance and cost of each–and we have priced out the effectiveness-based program that acquires all four of these planes.

This effectiveness-based program delivers, not 2,000 antiquated, bombing-oriented relics, but a balanced force of 10,000 all-new fighters, airlifters, tankers, close support and forward controller aircraft—all within the current spending levels of $.25 trillion over 20 years. Such a force could actually deliver–right at the outset of any future conflict–devastating close support for the troops, guaranteed by crushing air superiority. And that would be a first in US air history.

The authors:

Col. Robert Dilger (USAF, ret.), an F-4 fighter tactician in Vietnam (187 missions) and then chief air-to-air instructor at the Fighter Weapons School, became A-10 Armament Director in charge of the 30mm cannon, the massive 30mm ammo war reserve production program (reducing its costs by a factor of 8), and the pioneering live fire effectiveness tests of the 30mm against loaded Soviet tanks in formation.

Pierre Sprey, an OSD weapons analyst and engineer, together with Cols. John Boyd and Everest Riccioni, started and then brought the F-16 to fruition by dint of five years of bureaucratic guerilla warfare. He also led the technical side of the A-10’s conceptual design team and, as part of the Fighter Mafia, helped implement the program in spite of implacable AF opposition.

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Whoever wrote this is obviously out of touch and does not understand the true history of aviation warfare. They simply pull out the facts they want in order to paint a one sided picture. The F-22 is nececcary and so is the F-35. Don’t undo the efforts of so many for so long just because others want social programs instead of true air superiority. If we need to cut numbers to save money then it will be done but we must have the technology. And yes they may not be well suited to fight the war on terror but they are fooling themselves if they think war between countries can’t happen anymore.

Pretty interesting but not sure the history is that accurate given the implications that fighters/CAS did it all and bombers are worthless. There were 1 or 2 Soldiers/Marines out there, too, I suspect.;)

Your wish list doesn’t seem too effective in an environment where radar missiles work on land, air, and sea. Heck you said 150 F-86s fought off 1,300 Migs. And those Korean vintage U.S.-Russian aircraft were pretty comparable and faced no radar air defenses!

In contrast, today’s fewer (not more like Korea)modern Mig/SUs wouldn’t touch our 150 F-22s and as few as 1,000 F-35As. Plenty of non-fighter threats would reach out and touch your lesser quality recommended aircraft and the Russian beasties. Our planned fighter quality and quantity is more than ample to handle any future threat, when coupled with Navy/Marine/Allied F-35s, Naval air defenses, and Patriots.


* A new close support aircraft smaller, more survivable, and more lethal than the A-10, one that is affordable in vastly larger numbers. (The Air Force plans to use small numbers of the unmaneuverable, highly vulnerable and ineffective F-35, at $150 million each, for this mission.)


Response: Hmmm, 21 SU-25 shot down in Afghanistan, 2 in Desert Storm with the rest fleeing to Iran, 3 lost in Georgia to 2008 air defenses. It doesn’t sound like this class of aircraft is more survivable than a $80 million F-35A to me. If you lose 3 of your “cheap” aircraft for every F-35A lost at 20,000′, suddenly it ain’t such a bargain.

Why not more Reapers that stay on station even longer and carry lots of ordnance? We need that lower level airspace for UAS…not thousands of A-10 replacements running into each other and keeping UAS away.

We also have Army and Marine attack reconnaissance helicopters performing close combat attack missions that do not require runways and fly under the weather. These aircraft also perform underneath radar and IR air defenses while providing attack, reconnaissance, and security. Did you notice that the Israelis just asked for more AH-64s following their success in Gaza?

Leave the F-35 alone. It is essential…but perhaps not in the Air Force’s planned numbers.


* A forward controller spotter plane dramatically more survivable, longer-loitering and far lower cost in than a helicopter, able to land next to the tents of the supported troops. (The Air Force suffers from the delusion that close support can be called in using drones, satellites, and other “high tech” sensors, contrary to the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.)


Response: What can a FAC-A see while trying to save his own skin that a Reaper/Predator/Army armed MQ-1C operator cannot see from safety at a slower loiter with better optics and more time on station? The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan are completely contrary to your claim. Your FAC-A plane is equally susceptible to radar and IR air defenses. This isn’t the Vietnam air defense threat we face. Ask the Russians in Georgia. Did you see the recent warnings in a British paper about Iranian shoulder-fired missiles in Afghanistan?


* A small, affordable dirt strip airlifter to meet the real emergency needs of beleaguered battalions in the boonies. (The Air Force always short-changes this in-the-mud prop mission in favor of large jet transports.)


Response: Army and Air Force C-27J? C-17/C-130 Airdrop/LAPES? GPS Parafoil? CH-47F? UH-60M? V-22? UH-1Y? This isn’t an exclusive USAF mission. It is being served by multiple platforms/capabilities.


* A super-maneuverable new air-to-air dogfighter with all–passive electronics, far smaller with far higher maneuvering performance than the best of the F-16s and thus able to outfight the F-22 or any other advanced fighter in the world. (Emitting no radio/radar signals whatsoever, this new fighter will obsolete the F-22’s electronics, defeat any enemy fighter’s passive warning/identification-friend-or-foe system, and render useless the enemy’s radar-homing missiles which rely on seeking our fighter radars.)


Response: Do AESA radars emit the same way as regular radars? In addition a few standoff emitters can feed targets to forward stealth aircraft who receive vs. transmit. How is your super-maneuverable non-stealthy dogfighter going to dog-fight/evade aircraft with radar missiles that see him and shoot him down BVR?

And that is a Russian jet/radar, not our more capable F-22 and AMRAAM that he never comes close to seeing. How is the pilot going to out-G the missile or a future UAS fighter? How is this non-stealthy fighter going to bomb deeper targets surrounded by radar and IR air defenses?

Please no Vietnam radar-missile history. That was 40 years ago. Look at the technology in a 1969 car vs. a 2009 car. History is meaningless unless you believe we should be patterning future communications after the rotary phone.


Conclusion: The major problem with this entire argument is that the USAF has no threat REQUIRING 10,000 aircraft. If it did, there would be ample time to build more aircraft. The advantage of high quality fighters is that NO NATION BUT THE U.S. AND ITS ALLIES can afford to buy them or a threat fighter/air defense answer in any quantity. Suicide waves don’t work too many times in succession whether its infantry vs. tank/machine gun or non-stealth jets in quantity vs. stealth jets with missile in quantity.

More aircraft means more highly paid and pampered USAF pilots, requiring lots of expensive training. Meanwhile, grunts can’t afford the embedded training they need to survive being killed/wounded on their 3rd tour against real threats because fighters are scrambling to defend against Bear bomber fly-bys.

More aircraft means more KC-X/Y/Z tankers than we need with fewer more capable fighters. That’s over $100 billion worth of flying tankers spread out to look cheaper! Buy unmanned Reapers that stay up longer and need less fuel. Land the friggin fighters already. There won’t be any cheap fuel in the future. There won’t be any dyno-fuel, period, in 50 years.

Do we need to be sucking up so much $10 a gallon future gas keeping tankers airborne…let alone 5 fighters when 2 would do? The Air Force already uses 2.5 billion gallons of gas a year in our country that use 140 billion gallons annually. Multiply that by $10 because it isn’t too far off by the time you get the fuel into theater and onto a tanker.

If you argue the distant-base-fighting-China scenario, I would hope you would be flying home to Japan or a carrier to arm anyway with that F-35B/C that doesn’t need a land runway! There are thousands of non-civilian targets in China after all and the F-35A, F-22 and bombers can reach them while your CAS aircraft and non-stealthy fighter will not thanks to S-300/S-400 air defenses. You don’t need to win the bombing wwar overnight anyway. Choke them off from THEIR fuel with a naval blockade.

More aircraft means more maintainers on crowded airfields with lots of closely parked aircraft vulnerable to mortars…or sitting stateside chasing Bear bombers.…while grunts are now on their 4th year-long deployment.

There’s nothing wrong with the F-22 and F-35 other than too many requested (F-22)and planned (F-35)!! The days of more-is-better only rings true these days when related to properly-equipped ground forces, UAS, and helicopters.;)

“These four aircraft are eminently practical designs, each based on existing engines and requiring no technological breakthroughs.”

Good luck selling this to the U.S. Air Force.

When we have a SECDEF with a pair, we begin to get progress — look at the Liberty Project Aircraft. Prop-driven ISR and as far as I can tell the earth has not started to spin backwards and the fabric of the universe has not split. I agree with the all-passive electronics, but let’s put it in the F-22. For the active piece, we need all the AESA’s to be able to speak to each other, it’s the aggregation of all that data from ground, air (including heli-borne), sea-borne that will enable us to take down any opponent. Why does the FB concept have to be limited to the FB-22? Why not an FB-15? Stretched fuselage for fuel will give us the medium range bomber. We still have the production for the B-52. Re-open it, build the B-52 from the ground up with four modern engines, integrated avionics and the built-in ability to communicate/downlink to ground/sea forces. Why design a new A-10? The current A-10C works great. Re-open the line, build them to at least the A-10C standard (add in fly-by-wire, etc.) and let’s go kill some terrorists.

Oh yeah, and for those of you that want to go into defended airspace, there’s this thing called a cruise missile. Develop a new engine so it can get to the target faster, and we can knock down the IADS with that instead of with the white scarf crowd. In some cases, we might want something to loiter more slowly, expand the use of that trick, too.

Good job cole. it seems you understand our air force, past and present. A very well thought out response.

Air Supremacy has always determined who wins the War in High Intensity conflicts. On top of that you need the equipment not only for the war you are fighting but for any future wars. Third when it comes to the current job climate getting rid of higher paying long term jobs is not the key to turning things around. So not only are the F-22/35 programs good for the military but also good for the economy.

Just a couple of senile old men forever lost in the late 60’s/early 70’s with an unwillingness &/or inability to undersatnd that aerial warfare today is significantly different from it was way back then.

Dilger and Sprey have a very valid point and argument, the Air Forces history of success many times has been due to numbers and luck and more importantly the giant Balls of the pilots who flew in conflicts of the past. For years the procurement of weapons systems has wasted way too much time and money in R&D and cost over runs from greed and lobbyists, this has led to terrible and preventable losses and lives on all battlefields through US Military history.
For years some have argued we need to change thinking and get the suits out of the way and just develop what we need to do the job of the military to smash things and kill the enemy, to kill them before they kill you, for too long the plans to do that have been disjointed and inadequate. Causing young men to die in places no one would want to visit never mind live in.
We need things that are practicle b ut cant give in too much to UAV etc and cutting out Air Force the way Mr Cole would suggest will leave us very vulnerable to the new threat that is coming or rather old enemy returning. I predicted after the USSR fell they would be back worse than ever and I am being proven right not to forget China. Though world war is not profitable right now it soon will be inevitable as world markets crash and oil supplies dwindle. Eventually we will need those bombers and fighters and the men and woman to maintain and fly them, and doing that well is not as easy as one might imagine.
Cole says we can build tons of bombers etc when we need them, oh really?? And who would be able to maintain and fly them?? The way the x generation behaves and it is doubtful many of them will take up arms they are too busy playing video games. I only thank God I will be dead by the time the U.S. is taken over by the pathetic wimps behind me who will lose this great Nation with out a shot being fired, smarten up or go the way of France. Thank God for Red Necks!! They will be the last true Americans left.

“* A super-maneuverable new air-to-air dogfighter with all–passive electronics, far smaller with far higher maneuvering performance than the best of the F-16s and thus able to outfight the F-22 or any other advanced fighter in the world. (Emitting no radio/radar signals whatsoever, this new fighter will obsolete the F-22’s electronics, defeat any enemy fighter’s passive warning/identification-friend-or-foe system, and render useless the enemy’s radar-homing missiles which rely on seeking our fighter radars.)
Response: Do AESA radars emit the same way as regular radars? In addition a few standoff emitters can feed targets to forward stealth aircraft who receive vs. transmit. How is your super-maneuverable non-stealthy dogfighter going to dog-fight/evade aircraft with radar missiles that see him and shoot him down BVR?”

No, they do not. I’m sure that was purely a rhetorical question, Cole. But to the uninformed, AESA radars are not detectable by conventional RWR and ESM suites mounted on today’s fighter aircraft. The highly-touted Ukrainian Kolchuga ESM system is supposedly able to detect the F-22 via radiation emission from radar, radio and engine electromagnetic interference. However, how can they back up that claim when the Kolchuga system was put on the market for sale (2000) BEFORE the F-22 even entered active service (2005)? They’ve never had the chance to actually test it against the F-22. Also, for infiltration missions, the F-22 would cease radar and radio emission. Engine EMI would be negligible considering the amount of ambient RF noise present in our atmosphere from radio stations, TV stations, satellites, and extraterrestrial sources.

These guys make me a little tired. So the B-36 was ridiculously expensive? Well, unlike the P-47 (and I like P-47’s a lot), the B-36 never had to fire a shot in anger. All those bombers were great –deterrents—.

And the USAAF bombing of Germany forced the Germans to denude the Med, the Russian Front by 2/3 and the Balkans for fighter units to fight a force at one point of less than 100 B-17s. And it was mostly the USAAF that deprived the Germans of fuel for the GAF and German Army. The US bombers did have a great effect on the Germans. In my opinion, the RAF wasted the vast part of its effort on the wrong targets. Arthur Harris was not just arguably a war criminal, he was a poor judge of how to use his force. Too bad.


Oh look, Pierre Sprey advocating a lightweight dogfighter with no onboard radar. I guess we really DID fall into a time-warp and come out back in the 1970s. Maybe Obama turning into Carter isn’t such a fluke after all!

The real lesson seems to be that the Air Force brass makes really bad decisions, while Marine and Naval aviation actually does something to help the troops on the ground. So get rid of the Air Force. Bring back the Army Air Corps, train our fighter and bomber pilots as riflemen first like the Marines do, divvy up the defense budget according to actual workload instead of some even split, and put procurement decisions in the hands of officers who’ve actually had to fight wars instead of theorizing about WWIII.

matt & cole: agree with you/good work/

The writers of the article produced a sophomoric work filled with inaccurate history attempting to support eggregious theory; they use particular facts to fudge conclusions, disregarding actual big picture events at any particular time.

A couple supports for my assertions: The 8th U.K. did not suspend daylight raids in Aug 43, but bungled on to the debacle of the 2nd Schweinfurt raid, 14 Oct 43; the P-51s entered the fray in Dec but had nowhere near 1100 in April to tackle Germany Defenses.

It was a long slog…and facts of QUALITY override the authors contention that QUANTITY is superior: the Germans continued to mass-produce the Messerschmitt Bf-109 long past it’s effectiveness…the large numbers fell before superior equipment,training and techniques.

They disregard the overwhelming effort by LeMays B-29s to burn the guts outta over 90% of the Japanese homeland cities in a campaign so effective revisionist historians still argue whether the A-bombs were necessary or not(they were, by-the-way, again demonstrating QUALITY over QUANTITY)

The Mig-15 entered combat in 1950 not 51 and it’s large numbers were again countered by Quality.

The authors make it appear the Korean War B-29 force was depleted to uselessness which was not the case.

They defend the honorable groundsupport effort by USMC Air at Chosin Reservoir, while ignoring the USAF logistical airdrops which provided food/ammo to grunts and would not have been possible without the quality airsuperiority established by Sabres over Soviet quantity of cheap Mig fighters. etc etc.…to reiterate, sophomoric effort by writers to support aerial theory of “human wave” tactics. A BALANCE of quality/quantity is what makes the Art of War a Science and a complex marketplace of reasoning and not just a picnic picking panaceas any ol’ Sunday afternoon.

SSG Young 2 Mar 7:42 post
You said it in a nutshell.We need both F-22/F-35 programs.

Weaken our security, and give the Chinese and Russians a chance to close the gap on our Super Fighter Aircraft advantage.
Oh yea, Sounds like the same old Democatic ploy to lower defensive costs which led to the 9–11 attack.
Rob Peter to pay Paul concept.

B. Davidson

An underlying problem is that aircraft are requested for a specific mission that are then designed for the mission. Once the program is underway, the requirements change, which means the design changes, which means the quantity and cost changes. The Congress jumps in wanting either the piece of the pie in their district by having suppliers at work there, or they want the money (BIG $$$$) diverted into their pet project rather than some airplane.
When you have designs that push the state of the art, you have wishes versus reality, cost versus risk, and paper versus what can actually be built. All of which takes time and time is the enemy of aircraft. The longer it takes to field the jet, the more the military and Congress has time to tinker with the project. Case in point — the USAF wanted a super slick interceptor able to reach out and kill enemy bombers. Kelly Johnson gave them the F-104 which pushed so many envelopes. As soon as the jet flew, some USAF generals decided all their jets should be capable of multiple missions. So they decided this jet should be a ground support aircraft. So they wanted to change a high speed bomber killer into a dump truck full of bombs. You might as well burn all the jet’s drawings so you can’t bastadize such a fabulous fighter. But the USAF wasn’t done — round two or three or whatever made the F-105 into a ground pounder. Spend a few billion and try and make a medium USAF bomber into a Navy fighter. Can you say F-111? The dual role idea should have been abandoned long before someone ever thought it up. Take an F-18 as a dog fighter. Add a switch to change it into a ground attack jet. Presto in some bean counter’s mind, you have a plane that can do two functions, thus saving money from buying two different jets. Only thing is that your dual role piece of sheet metal now can do two jobs in a mediocre manner. We are not limited to just fighters. The European A-400 started as a four jet engined trash hauler. They wanted it to carry more stuff faster than a C-130. But if you want short runways, dirt runways, and low flying; you need a prop. If you want a little more speed, you go with a turboprop. So Europe changed to turbos after spending billions over many years, and now the whole project may get scrapped because they tinkered too long.

This is the air version of VADM Cebrowskis “Streetfighter” concept…large numbers of small, affordable, near-expendable, highly maneuverable assets that make it difficult for the enemy to respond. Swarming does work if the enemy is relatively unsophisticated.

What the CNO and other heads need to do is set down together and develop something that is able to serve all services. Covering all possible bases and not coming up with multiple weapon systems that do not get the whole job done.

With Forward based deployment of equipment and MSC ready with RORO shipments of other equipment. We are wasting time developing a seperate platform or the requirements for the platforms.

In Vietnam one of the most feared items was “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It was not a fast aircraft, but it more than got the job done. When Puff left the area, there was not much left in the way of intact enemies.

Make it a DOD budget, and allow a percentage to each service so that they can use some at their discretion and some on hardware. The rest spent on personnel and care.

Quite a disrespectful, often historically twisted critique, albeit with a wonderful amount of numbers to give the rest of it some credibility. And Boyd is still dead last I heard, awesome guy still writing. (Or is his corpse being used to drum up votes?) Somebody’s got to tell the king he has no clothes, but with all due respect for past author accomplishments along those lines, let’s start today’s discussion with actual facts and an appreciation for the current state of technology, then we’ll debate not mangle the lessons of history. Plenty of room to diss hardware/tactics effectiveness, dumb-ass ideas and dumb-ass generals, and PLENTY of room to debate the scenarios we might face (though some deny other possibilities repeatedly seen in modern times), but do we need patently absurb arguments? (defeating F-22 class with a no emission fighter? C’mon grandpa! Back to the MK 1 eyeball target aquisition system I guess, there’s your background radiation detection mechanism, hope the war is day VFR). Putting all our eggs in the low cost, low intensity basket, even with stellar economic effectiveness, is foolhardy for Congress and professional negligence for the military. And even the smartest colonels I know couldn’t whip up a bunch of new world-beating jets for cheap, on demand–guys we’re not reinventing the P-51 here. And God bless the ground pounders (including my little brother in the US Army infantry) with the cahones to face such danger–how fortunate for them that the Army still buys into this quantity over quality, manpower over technology argument (aka boots on the ground)–in contrast to the expensively outfitted and pampered fighter pilots. Our ground forces possess the same incredible courage shown by our ancestors at Gettysburg, along with about the same tactics and weapons, and thinking.

Col (ret)/ fighter pilot
no I don’t work for a defense contractor

As a grunt, I think that we DO need the F-22. Last thing I want to have to do is to be looking around down AND up for threats. I admittedly dont know what the heck an F-35 is and I really dont care, so dont waste your time educating me. What I do care about is that the USAF (in my humble opinion) needs to field an aircraft that can loiter longer than what it currently has on hand, carry more of a bomb load/direct fire weapons that can give some serious CAS for longer than 5 minutes. I am soooooo tired of only having air on station for 5 minutes. I need something for my boys that I can have like a rabid pitbull on a leash that I can let loose when I need to. I know — I have rotor wing units but sometimes a good 250 pounder really adds that punctuation mark that is needed from a high trajectory drop that a flat angle shot just cant do. Dont give me another A-10, they have to fly too high and cant tell a BMP from an AAV for love nor money. I personaly like the unmanned aircraft but they seem to miss that human touch/instinct.

God that sounded like whining. Sorry boys.

Maybe theyll make a miniature bomber/gunfighter/Spectre version of the Osprey.
Hey contractors — if you use my idea I want a royalty.

Dave; when last they tried to do everything with one aircraft was the F-111. I didn’t work. The F-4 also did not work. I have my fingers crossed on the F-35 considering the history of “one aircraft does it all” projects.

Note: When jarhead said “Dont give me another A-10, they have to fly too high and can’t tell a BMP from an AAV for love nor money.” Were you thinking of the F-16? The A-10 Warthog is as low and slow as you are going to get with a fixed wing aircraft. The AC-130 has to fly at higher altitude and at night to keep from being shot up. Thanks be for modern sensors.…

Another touch on Boyd’s credibility:

Boyd felt that the F-15 was too large to be as effective in air combat versus something smaller, less powerful, but more agile. The Fighter Mafia took on a project that was the vision of what Boyd wanted… resulting in the F-16. Yet numerous mock air battles see the F-16 getting blown away by the F-15. They’ll typically consider 12 F-16 versus 4 F-15’s to be a “good” match… with the F-16 formation still being blown away in BVR engagements before even closing to visual range.

With the advent of the JHMCS and AIM-9X, the F-15 went from having a moderate dogfighting disadvantage to near parity with the F-16. Mock air battles shows that opposing aircraft armed with modern missiles (such as the AIM-9X) and off-boresight capability (such as that offered by JHMCS) tends to result in mutual suicide.

The A1 SpAD was a great airplane and the right airplane for the job of close ground support.

The interesting thing about those inured to gizmos is that they forget that the Predators are sat-data linked and one good air burst EMP of sufficient magnitude will make them useless.

The F35 has yet to be demonstrated as capable of all things. Sounds like another F-111 to me.

I like the idea of a true air superiority fighter, and not the overly complex F22. There is a place for each.

The USAF gets carried away by mission creep from the initial design parameters with every aircraft that is developed. That is why our miitary aircraft development costs are constantly over budget.

Ask the guy on the ground what he needs for top cover and he will say something that can hang around, has lots of ammo and can put a 500 lb bomb on a dime. The A10 does this well, but I wonder if turbines with blades would be better than the turbofans? Certainly more fuel efficient with a longer loiter.

JDAMs are great, but expensive.

In comparison to a ‘simple’ fixed wing counterinsurgency close air support platform (how’s that for 60’s retro), the Apache is expensive and has less availability than something like a modernized A1 with turboprop.

There is a place for both, and one of the arguments is that the Army, like the USMC should have its own close air component, just as it did prior to VN.


I like the way these guys think. Somewhere in the middle between the present super gizmo do everything airplane and their concepts is where the reality should be.

We don’t need any of this stuff, Obama is going to shake hands with all the bad guys, and it will go away.

Good article, makes a lot of sense. Reeks of Boyd considering Spey was a mate. Regardless Boyd and his fighter Mafia were responsible for three significant design successes in the F-16, F-15 and A-10. There is a reason why the F-111 is called a pig. The pentagon wanted this baby so bad and spent cack loads on it. What has it done over the last 50 years?
Think smarter not bigger

Clearly arm chair engineers. Just build it simple. Maybe no radio with tubes? Maybe no missile protection system either? You’re dead in minutes in a hot zone. Hand held missiles getting better with Russia unloading more and more. Russia needs money and that means better up to date weapons for the bad guys. The Navy prowler is old and new and slow but does it mission. Seek out and destroy. Its PC that we are not dropping MOABs not weapon tech. Read “Patton Uncovered” to get a clue.

Concerning the Vietnam time frame, The author completely missed the contributions of the B-57, a 2 engine jet which was able to carry over 8,000 pounds of bombs, 1,200 rounds of 20 mm, and stay on target for over 1 hour with super results. Talk to any FAC who worked with the Yellow and Red Birds in the 1965–69 time frame. Check the history. However, will all future wars allow for a permissive flight environment? I think not.

I currently work on the F-16, F-22, and F-35 programs on a daily basis, so forgive me to be somewhat biased. I totally diagree with the opinions of Dilger and Sprey. With all due respect, they are out of touch. The F-16 alone still reports a 97 to none kill ratio, and they bash the aircraft? Not to mention the ability for the F-22 to lock and track up to 30 targets at the same time, to eliminate at will, while being totally undetected. The F-35 will be the last 5th generation manned aircraft, and will fill a huge void left by current aging aircraft that are already past their projected lifespan. Sure it’s expensive to own the air, and the high cost of these new programs is alarming by anyones standards, but it is the cost of freedom in the 21 century. Just my .02

It’s obvious we can’t rely on our NATO ‘ALLIES’So crippling our own Air Forces would not be the best place for budget cuts!

Totally agree with this concept. The era of manned aircraft is drawing to and end. Why should we risk pilots — when other nations will soon be using this type non-pilot aircraft. Someone — in a van — half way round the world, can put a missle in a cave or down a smoke stack — or up some piloted plane’s tail pipe. Or their unmanned vehicles. Why waste a lot of money — and lives — over a matcho ‘thing’. It ain’t worth it! (Give me some of that money for: my — http://​www​.navalairestates1​.com project(s.
Bob McDonagh

Well, I have been thinking that the Air Force needed to have Strategic taken away from them and returned to the Army and Navy. Let the Air Force maintain the Missiles and Space but let the Army design the aircraft that they need in support of Conflict Resolution. The Navy needs to follow the same thinking more smaller submarines and Aircrat carriers, Smaller more agile fighters/bombers.
The Air Force is totally out of control. The Army also needs to stop designing and building armored vehicles that cost more, weigh more and can’t be delivered. The Army needs to be able to deploy Forces Internationally overnight.

Keep the F-35. Even if it never sees war combat, the F-35 is a technology ‘bridging’ aircraft to the future. We’ll need it, because as I read the tea leaves, the old Soviet Union will resurrect. Foreseeably, I am not worried about China, but Russia bears watching and defending against.

We Are in a Ground War, we need close air support. The F-22 is only an air to air fighter. Some of these same minds and philosophies at one time wanted to and was in the process of scrapping the A-10 , prior to Desert Storm, the A-10 was called antiquated, not combat effective and was almost thrown out.
But as seen in the 1991 war, the A-10 proved what place in had on the modern battlefield, let alone its role it has been in Afghanistan.
For the price of ONE F-22, you could buy a fleet of A-10s. We need such aircraft, we need updated helicopters’, and better versions of the V-22. We are in a ground war and will be so for at least several decades .
With a little research and development the F-35 could perform the role the F-22 is going to do and again at least be more cost effect, in addition provide CAS


As I see it, (and really, what do I know??) when you talk of the F-22 and F-35 weapon systems you are really talking about graduating from yesterdays concept to today’s aircraft which are predecessors to tomorrows weapon systems. Each evolution is or was more technically advanced than the prior aircraft which came before it…i.e F-15 / F-16 leading to the F-22 / F-35. Now the call is for more and cheaper aircraft which by the way is really in the cards for future development. Our current wars have advanced this concept far more than realized by many. I refer to the F-22 / F-35 replacements. They are called autonomous aircraft or DRONES. Our technology is there, the concept has been proven by the current hunter/killer drones employed today. Their mission is limitless or restricted to imagination only. Without the pilot, think of all the onboard systems (weight) that are not needed. If you lose one…just send another. They can fly higher / lower, slower / faster, turn tighter, maneuver better (more “g’s”) and stay up longer (no crew duty issues). Make some of them a little bigger to carry a bigger array of ordinance (air-to-air / air-to-ground) allowing versatility to meet the ever changing mission demands. Perfect air refueling and you are now prepared for the next 50 years.
To me, it appears that this is the logical next step in the evolution of aerospace weapons. We must get beyond the stigma of the necessity of having a (fighter) pilot on board and in-charge. Like the Engineer, and the Navigator, the pilot within the war machine (fighter / close air support) has reached his “Pete of Principle”. Their union is strong, their egos cry loud, but their time has come.

Pierre Sprey doesn’t like anything the Air Force puts out. He must be miffed he was not consulted before the JSF or Raptor were built. As for the A-10, this warplane must be kept in service, its the MVP of ground pounders. No other plane could do this job so good. You think the Russians are stopping thier R&D programs? No way. How do they rate the Typhoon or Rafale? Money is the biggest problem here.

“Reversing the Decay”? According to these guys we never had any airpower to decay. According to them, we’ve had it all backwards since WW2, so I guess we should go back to bi-planes? Yeah, that would be more affordable all right.

These guys aren’t making much sense. ooooo! carpet bombing is ineffective and deadly, yeah, that’s why we don’t do it anymore. What a revelation these guys have made! There is obviously an agenda behind what they are promoting, here, but I’m not so sure what it is.

During 1991, not one SCUD mobile transporter-erector-launcher was confirmed destroyed by any airplanes, A-10 or others. Perhaps they meant fixed launch sites, which were immaterial; the threat to Israel and our guys came from the mobile TELs, which we couldn’t effectively counter.

Arguments depending of distortions of historical fact are highly suspect in my mind.

Response to… well, many posts back “Do AESA radars emit the same…” from Jim, Cole, Trophy:

AESA is an electronically as opposed to mechanically scanned array, where the transmit/ receive modules are individually powered. Because it is electronic, it has a very high scan rate, and is therefore difficult to intercept, hence Low Probability of Intercept. You can also vary aspects of the signal to further confuse the situation. But it does emit– it has to throw out enough energy to bounce signal off a target many miles distant.

Realistically, I don’t know if an adversary can reliably exploit this fact to kill the emitter. It may at very least give them early warning.

My question is, does every single tactical aircraft we have need one? (It’s a rhetorical question, cause I think NOT.)

So if every tactical aircraft DOES NOT need every high tech gizmo, you might be able to afford more aircraft. More aircraft = more aim points = more targets hit in a shorter time span. War = Chaos. More chaos generated by us on the enemy, is good for our side.

That’s one of the main points of the article, that I think most here missed, judging by the response.

These men just wanted to see their name in print. We will probably never fight a conventional war again but if we do we will need air superiority weapons (F-22, F35). Even with the Low Intensity Warefare we are now fighting the perfect aircraft are already here, the predator and reaper. They observe and then attack small groups of combatants. They need follow on, higher capablity replacements which are flying now. They need the air superiority already mentioned but there are designs that may be able to do that unmanned also. They are the most requested asset in the middle east to protect ground troops and seek out insurgent groups. They are relatively inexpensive and very hard to defend against. Besides, if one is lost, there is no casualty. That is great.

This effectiveness-based program delivers, not 2,000 antiquated [?? You mean there won’t be any Mods/Updates??? – Since when?] , bombing-oriented relics, but a balanced force of 10,000 all-new fighters, airlifters, tankers, close support and forward controller aircraft—all within the current spending levels of $.25 trillion over 20 years. Such a force could actually deliver–right at the outset of any future conflict–devastating close support for the troops, guaranteed by crushing air superiority. And that would be a first in US air history.
Nice Theoretical Report, but it falls grossly short of an honest and complete ESTIMATE of the TRUE COST. For example, how about the cost of Recruiting, Training, and Maintaining 8,000 additional Pilots, plus the necessary support personnel for Training (both pilots and aircraft mechanics, etc.) Maintenance, Spares Support/Provisioning all complicated because you’re going from two very capability aircraft to several and the associated facilities and storage space. On the low side, 10 to 1, so that’s another 80,000 personnel that will need to be recruited, trained, housed, etc. Still sounds cheaper? All due respect, I hope these two guys aren’t running around loose.

Doesn’t anyone remember the Burt Rutan designed ARES? A very lost cost, close air support designed plane that delivers HUGE punch for a few bucks a copy. Now is the time for the US to develop a mud fighter.

Quite a number of very articulate proposals concerning the tactical use of various airframes-weapons systems. Each lacks a core motivator, the profit margin available to the very limited providers, those defense contractors whose staffs and planning groups soak up so much of the funded bucks. An F-35 with all its mysterious “innards” can have a marvelously high “design” cost that provides huge profit with minimal production equipment or building material. It’s the “idea” that costs and as the models operational life is extended when maintenance begins to bring about some accountability for performance THEN new types are “sold” to “win the future.“
This neglect of winning “today” is based on the false assumption that America is so needed the world would never see it destroyed, much like AIG gets to come to the trough on nothing but fear of its going, not anything that it does well.

World War II P-38 and P-51 fighter aircraft come to mind. Just update them, maybe even a dual minigun on the P-38. Really, just update their airframe and equipment.

“World War II P-38 and P-51 fighter aircraft come to mind. Just update them, maybe even a dual minigun on the P-38. Really, just update their airframe and equipment.”

We already have an outstanding airframe with the A-10. Just give them some more powerful engines and you have the perfect ground support aircraft.

I think what needs to be pulled from this article is just how retarded the AF is. I know there’s some argument over the accuracy of the article, but just because they don’t include much of the success of the AF (which there isn’t really that much) doesn’t take away from the stats they did report. Anyone remember a UH-60 Blackhawk being shot down because the AF thought it was a Hind? I think what this article should have said was they want their aircraft for the future and they want them to go to the other services that do more than mail delivery. The AF should just be absorbed into the other services so it can be more effective (both in cost and mission). Only problem with that is no other service would want to, hell, the Army kicked them out. I know there’s waste in other services, just look at the Armys’ Comanche and LUH, the Marines Osprey. Then look and the AF and their failed attempt at the CSAR-X; one of the few things the AF has that’s worth a crap and they don’t even seem to want to support it (PJs).
What I get form this article is someone did the work to show that the AF doesn’t even want to learn from history. In fact, they want to ignore it, they want to get the fancy expensive toys and don’t care about who they support, the warfighter. Bombing alone has never and will never when a war, in fact it will probably make it worse. To add to that, in todays fights against insurgency more troop are needed on the ground and with that more support is needed from the air, and the AF doesn’t fit the bill. So all of you retired AF that want to complain that this article doesn’t praise the AF look back and ask what has the AF done well THAT IT WASN’T FORCED TO DO.

I flew 3000 hour of ISR in Iraq during the last 5 years in a C-337 (0–2). My sensor operator, a retired AF SMsgt and I often commented on the increasing mismatch of USAF tactical aircraft/crews/training and the missions to which they’re assigned. Airlift was superb, as always. A-10’s, F-16’s/15’s were employed to good effect in the earliest phase of combat, the first couple of months or so. Later, and for the last 3–4 years, the F-16’s were relegated largely to ISR of MSR’s. Most of the others were either on strip alert, or CAP. Fighters could be heard at night around troubled urban areas and bases performing missions we called, “Decibels for Dollars” or “Dialing for Air Medals”. The tankers were always on stations burning additional JP and airframe hours. These dedicated, disciplined and well-trained professionals merit something better. The AF’s tactical aircraft that was best-suited to it’s mission was the AC-130. With it’s range, endurance and suite of accurate weapons, it required no tanker, yet could often remain on-scene with the supported ground units throughout the op. Still, the Spectre gunships were not based where they could respond as rapidly as was often required. I’m sure there were good reasons for this, such as maintenance requirements, security, etc.
These factors tend to support Dilger & Sprey’s contentions. The best close air support, by far, was by US Army H-58 Kiowa Warriors. Their units assigned people to watch the imagery feed 24/7 as well as maintaining crews on strip alert to respond within minutes. On a number of occasions, they could see our laser “sparkling” a “subject” as soon as they lifted just high enough for line-of-sight to clear the tents or buildings. Now, the H-58 can’t carry a lot of ordnance or fuel, but they’re packing Hellfire PGM in addition to 2.75 FFAR. and can rotate with a second/third flight if required. The Kiowas are always ready, always on frequency with both ISR and ground elements, and always nearby. The airframe is one of the least costly in the US Military inentory and is basically an optioned-up Bell JetRanger. During my 5 years of flying in Iraq, I saw the Kiowa Warriors deal more death to the enemy with fewer non-combatant casualties than any other aircraft. My opinion is probably biased to some degree, being a former Bird Dog pilot in SEA and an armed Skymaster pilot with the Rhodesian AF. My father, who flew P-47’s in the ETO, P-51’s in Korea and F-4’s in SEA, got a lot of laughs out of our discussions comparing his $3.5 million fighter-bomber with my $34K Bird Dog. My Bird Dog Company (1 of 2) in the Mekong Delta killed far more enemy (by some forgotten order of magnitude) with our eight 2.75’s than his squadron of Phantoms did in air-to-air and air-to-ground combined. But for the SOW’s, the USAF has gradually forfeited their CAS role by default to the Army and others. Think about this. The Coast Guard, starting with HITRON 9 has assumed a maritime CAS role…using armed aircraft to support surface units in their homeland security role. Logically, as pirate fighters, they should be embarked on USN ships just as their LEDETS are for decades now. Yes, Roger Hohle, I remember the Rutan ARES. When I was flying HU-25’s with the Coast Guard, I was tasked to inestigate the ARES as an air interdiction aircraft. The file is still in my desk drawer. Beyond it’s outstanding turn rate and return to target abilities, the 25mm gun that the know-it-alls said couldn’t possibly be compatible with such a light airframe…well, let’s just say they’re still wiping egg from their faces. The ARES was designed with to add a second crewmember and some undedicated space for …sensors? I’m not against the F-22/35. We must maintain an air dominance edge o-er future ad-ersaries. The point is that we need adequate numbers of manned CAS/ISR platforms. If I had to choose between manned CAS and manned ISR, I’d choose ISR. The MQ-9 Reaper and soon the Sky Warrior will be capable of precision attack and persistent sureillance. In my humble opinion, manned ISR still has the edge in the detection and situational awareness piece of ISR. Predators are great for flying a designated track for a long time and keeping an eye on a pre-determined area or subject/target to which it has been cued or has detected within the field of its sensor(s). Our unit’s 20 years of ISR on 5 continents has taught us that the pilot is an important player in cueing the sensor operator when subjects of interest fall outside the soda straw field of the sensors, especially when tasked with a highly specific search area, route or sureillance point or target. The human interaction between and among the pilot, sensor operator, ground elements, other aircraft and contolling agencies is constitutes an operational synergy that is as difficult for flyers to articulate as it is for non-flyers to fully appreciate. I am neither a proponent nor a detractor of the paper/philosophy/agenda of Dilger & Sprey. Yet, the number of comments their article drew from readers has made many of us think and, hopefully, take a fresh look at what can/should be done to ensure that we’re as ready for future contingencies as we can be, within realistic economic and technological constraints.

Some good points, but I think the history IS a little warped; the Germans wouldn’t have defended so staunchly Schweinfurt if they could have made ball bearings anyplace else, right?
However, we’re not going to fight China-all they have to do, is sell off all our treasury tht they’re holding, and the next “stimuls” package will be taking all our Ospreys to Fuji’s Pawn Shop.
It’s ridiculous to spend money on F-22s, F-35s, F-33&1/3s, to fight an enemy without a single aircraft.
Plus, all the Ospreys in the world aren’t going to land whole divisions in Russia or China, or anywhere else:they’re too expensive and they are gas guzzlers.
e’d ll like to buy a new car, but when you cant afford it you just make do. And when the bomb costs more than the target it destroys, I can’t see anybody winning, and that’s before we even put nuclear ICBMs into the equation.
EPA wouldn’t like that, and neither would anybody else.
If there is any contiuum to warfare at all, it’s that it’s gotten too expensive and too destructive to fight, ful tilt, so, it’s all brush fire, proxy wars for the forseeable future.
As far as figthing for dwindling resources, I agree that we’re headed for a global calamity. But, we don’t have the oil. And colonizing the Middle East isn’t going to happen, not after the rise of Arab natioanlism in the inter war period.
Cold War, WW2 thought is just going to add lead to the sinking econmies of the world and bring on that calamity a lot faster.
Persoanlly, I think, if we really want to fight terrorism, re-institue the old bicycle corps.
Fast, silent, no fuel or depot level maintaince required. won’t work everywhere, but where it does„„,think about it.

Yup, I kinda like gotarmadillo’s tongue-in-cheek (I hope) comments about the bicycle corps. This is off topic but does illustrate a problem with fielding large numbers of manned anything. The bicycle corps would be great if American youth were in the same place they were in 1917, when the recruiting offices were swamped by all segments of our society, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. The sons of wealth and prestige took up the most dangerous of combat jobs in those days. This was again seen in WWII among Hollywoods top stars and sports figures. Today we must promise a college education, lifetime health care, help to buy a home, and pay comparable to main street. This sense of entitlement has destroyed our country and its institutions including the military. My point is that you couldn’t get enough people to enlist to ride a bicycle, much less walk 20 clicks. The guys who do are in a tiny minority who hae been reduced to anachronistic myth and legend. Forget American “boots on the ground”. God bless those few, but they ARE few. Now back to aircraft…We built about 16,000 B-17’s each with a crew of 10. We lost as many as 60 on some missions (Schweinfurt II, 14 Oct 43 and Berlin (4–6 March 44). What would happen today to any commander who lost 600 aircrew on a single mission? Where would we get replacements? There are few options to great/too much reliance on technology. When our sons/brothers/fathers are not at risk, then support for our missions is diminished. When we need only to launch a cruise missile with no American in harm’s way, we concede the moral high ground. That’s the danger of fielding a techno-centric force. It’s the seed from which assymetric warfare springs. The enemy’s inability to match us technically, limits him to low-tech, people-centric warfare. While we seek to protect life at all cost, he sacrifices life accomplish his aims. This is highly economical. We cannot and should not attempt to play by his rules or methods. But…we should try to kill as many killers as we can at the lowest cost. The number we kill is more important than the ratio of ours to theirs. That’s not to say that we should die wastfully or foolishly. The point is that, though we may kill at a ratio of 1000 enemy to our one loss, if we only kill 1000, we lose. We must be prepared to engage often and and in great numbers. And, though making our best effort to keep our casualties low, we must be willing to accept some losses and resist the fear of risk that today grips our leaders. In order to reach the required ratios, means we must employ the aerial equi_alent of “boots on the ground”. Carpet bombing is paleolithic, inhumane and enemical to our cause and beliefs. We must saddle up in swarms of small, agile, and lethal craft with unmanned ISR platforms loitering in the target area pointing out targets to attack. The ISR will be both manned and unmanned. The manned platforms to search out new targets in a highly dynamic mode, while unmanned platforms maintain track of and illuminate both predesignated targets and those up-linked by manned ISR, attack aircraft, and follow-on ground elements. Unmanned Combat Aircraft will augment the force with persistent and precise strike capability as they loiter at higher altitudes. These small but lethal craft will be crewed by no more than 2. Their range and endurance might be limited, but their ability to operate from austere forward fields, collocated with the supported ground units will allow them to R&R at hasty FARPS and re-engage in round-robin fashion, allowing continous CAS.
Their small silhouette, modern ballistic protection, agility, acoustic and electronic stealth as well as their great numbers will reduce losses. Their ability to get in close and use lighter, yet lethal weapons will get results that hasn’t been seen since 9th Tactical Air Command’s P-47’s shielded Patton’s right flank in 1944. Yes, Col. Canyon, you can still wear your white scarf.

These two are right.

Quantity has a quality all its own!

Hank-Cost, I was thinking the same thing as you regarding the 10,000 fighters. Think of all of the new air bases we would need (more than those closed by the BRACS), new runways, hangers, new schools and more teachers for the bases, not to mention the difficulty of finding real estate for all of the bases and fighting the lawsuits of the local communities not wanting such noisy neighbors. Also, where would we find the air space in which to train the 40,000+ pilots needed for 10,000 fighters. And do they really think Congress would buy $10,000 fighters no matter how cheap? It’s more likely they would say 2000 is plenty and use the money “saved” on other pet projects.

Many of the comments have focused on ground support aircraft as if that is all we would need. As a fomer Marine grunt I love the A-10 and its long loiter time and powerful weapons, but without F-22s to achieve and maintain air supremacy, there wouldn’t be any A-10s in the air for very long!

I notcied the War in the Pacific and the fire bombing of Japan was left out of the article! hmm!

Not only that Beekman, but he also left out that the USAF’s bomber fleet in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan dropped way more bombs than all those fighters did combined. (I think the B-1 alone dropped something like 60% of munitions but only flew 6% of the sorties in Kosovo) Last I heard bombers were one of the prefered CAS platforms because of their time and ammount of bombs

I didn’t read all the comments, but I have met Col. Dilger (see pfcem’s comment), and he is certainly no senile old man.

I read a Rand article that talked about the need for airplanes right now to be primarily about training. The Air Force believes that they must have pilots in key positions, and hence the need for the F-22. If this is the case, then Dilger and Sprey are right. Let’s build something cheaper to achieve this goal. I didn’t get the impression that Dilger was anti-technology, he’s just not in love with it. It isn’t a panacea. He advocated skunk works in the 2 hours I listened to him talk, but just didn’t think you should go building something on a ten or twenty year threat assessment (which couldn’t help but be wrong). That money would be better spent on research into air frames, etc., so you could scale fast when a threat actually materialized.

From my perspective, I also don’t get the anti-Boyd stuff. I am going to label it Boyd-deranagement syndrome because too many commenters have just noted Sprey’s proximity to Boyd to attack his ideas. Seems to me the only branch of the US military that is operating on all cylinders are the marines. Boyd had a lot to do with that, didn’t he?

I just keep thinking about my old phone that will work when the power goes out as opposed to the new, fancy expensive ones that won’t work. I love that old phone. Isn’t their a parallel here?

Heather has a good point. It seems that a lot of trouble comes from seriously outdated threat assessments. Probably unavoidable given the time to develop and train complex systems, but perhaps some thought on better ways to hedge or reduce leadup would pay dividends.

Boyd has made very useful contributions. The issue is, you may start out with a light agile fighter, but someone is going to want to hang all kinds of air-ground ordnance on it. It happened with the The F-15 (anyone remember “not a pound for air to ground) back in the day?) and the F-16. Compare a Block 10 with the latest Block 60. I bet the plane handles like a wheelbarrow wioth all that stuff hanging on it.

We can no longer afford the luxury of a dedicated air-to-air fighter. People HAVE to get used to the idea of a flexible multi-role platform the WILL gain weight and change missions over it’s lifetime.

For the life of me, I do not see why the AF is buying the little wing F-35 rather than the large winged navy variant.

I cannot believe that the Marines won’t just pick up the discarded A-10’s from the Zoomies. As the father of a Marine Infantry Officer, it was powerful when the A-10’s arrived. A lot more than a B-1 or B-52 with no real TOT. If it were not for the stupidity of the Pentagon, they’d pick them up. Relatively short field, etc., etc.

Pierre Sprey is my hero for close air support. Let’s stop trying to put incredibly complex VTOL things into production. Even if you’re an Expeditionary Force, is there a way to get something like an A-10 (worth a sh*t) into the air, as opposed to an F-35 with VTOL (not worth a sh*t). What’s the loiter time for a stealth aircraft with supercruise, VTOL over the battlefield?

As ESPN says:

“C’Mon MAN”

This is so stupid that I cannot believe we are having any conversation.

Of course. the Air Force is still trying to buy B-2’s.

Matt needs an air to air session with Bob Dilger, and after he runs into the ground in his futile attempts to stay with Dilger, as one unfortunate North Vietnamese jock did on May 1, 1967, we will be minus one more of the misinformed.

This would be better than the F-22 in any real war, as opposed to USAFs dreams, in either one-on-one or cost effectiveness comparision: http://​defenseissues​.wordpress​.com/​2​0​1​4​/​0​8​/​0​2​/​air

Simpler aircraft are less vulnerable as they can be road based or dirt strip based, so large, easily seen and easily bombed air bases are not necessary. It is F-22 and F-35 that will get bombed on the ground.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, majority of Sprey’s force is directed at supporting troops on the ground. In contrast, none of US fast jets can carry out CAS, and there is a lack of small air lifters. As far as SAMs go, they are not some magic deflector shield.

Wrong… Me-109s were rendered ineffective because Germany didn’t have enough pilots to fly them, and what pilots they did have were massively undertrained and so could not effectively stand up to Allied pilots. F-86s won against MiG-15s due to the pilot quality, not aircraft quality.


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