“It’s Only Reading If You Do It”

Blown Slick Series #6

It is a true statement but not an indictment, that the fleets of the world never had a formal requirement for an airplane, or a submarine, or a communications satellite. Instead, in all cases, a debate was established within the fleet (indeed, within the fleets of the world) and over time, doctrine, technology, people, and organization came to fruition.

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Requirements cannot be divorced from detailed understanding of their implementing strategy. In practice, the best requirements come from operators who understand technology in detail and who can, in their mind’s eye, envision the new tactics it makes possible.
Vice Admiral Jerry O. Tuttle

In beginning the Blown Slick Airpower Analysis series, I put forward that the offerings would be presented in a kind of mosaic form as compared to a logical thesis-type “B” follows “A” format. The rationale is that there are so many different things affecting the use of airpower today, that it’s just too difficult, time consuming and non-beneficial and possibly even misleading to create or execute that logic stream. For example discussing the foreseeable threats and geography, such as ISIS and the Middle East as compared to a War-at-Sea scenario in the South China Sea leads to some very divergent requirements, yet we are anticipating the multi-role F-35 to be successful in both. Is that really feasible and what are the long poles in the mission execution tent?

Continuing the link with airpower and the F-35, no matter your take on the aircraft, the technology offered up on multiple fronts – approach to stealth manufacturing, long term maintenance, and the AWACS -like sensor and information manager roles - are certainly new and different tactical concepts for an “F” or fighter designated warplane. One sees very little published here, the media more interested in close-in dogfight “Red Baron” stuff.

That said, I do have a concept of observing and orienting to the whole and will provide my analysis methodology such as it is for critique in the near future. For now, prior to getting into more specific topics, I offer for reader consideration a small handful of books and studies I have found of great interest, and indeed to certain different degrees are references for future articls. Note that Googling “airpower” will get you near 41,600,000 and Amazon near 2000 entries. The short descriptions are from dust jackets, Amazon, Reviews, etc. just to provide some degree of their overall focus. All can be found through either Google or Amazon.

age-of-airpower1The Age of Airpower by Martin Van Creveld

A narrative of the rise and fall of the most significant and glamorous offensive and defensive instrument of war in military history—airpower. From the scenes of its greatest exploits during World War I and II, to present day where the advent of ballistic missiles, drones, and other computer-controlled weaponry threaten to eclipse its use all together, van Creveld recounts the successes and failures of airpower to date and suggess how its triumphs could become a thing of the past.

AF Way of WarThe Air Force Way of War; U.S. Tactics and Training after Vietnam by Brian Laslie

The U.S. Air Force’s poor performance  during Vietnam was partly due to the fact that they had trained their pilots according to methods devised during World War II and the Korean War, when strategic bombers attacking targets were expected to take heavy losses. Warfare had changed by the 1960s, but the USAF had not adapted. Between 1972 and 1991, however, the Air Force dramatically changed its doctrines and began to overhaul the way it trained pilots through the introduction of a groundbreaking new training program called “Red Flag.” Laslie examines the revolution in pilot instruction that Red Flag brought about after Vietnam. The program’s new instruction methods were dubbed “realistic” because by the use of well trained aggressor forces they prepared pilots for real-life situations better than simple cockpit simulations or unopposed weapons training missions.

Airpowe RebornAirpower Reborn; The Strategic Concepts of John Warden and John Boyd Edited by John Andreas Olsen,

Col John Boyd is known mostly for his OODA Loop decision making concept, but he also developed the Energy Maneuverability (EM) concepts still in use for aircraft design currently and is considered the “father” of the F-16. He is considered by many a serious strategic thinker based on his  work “Patterns of Conflict.”  Col John Warden is given considerable credit for the design of the air war for Desert Storm. His strategic targeting concepts of the five rings are offered as the proper way to take down an enemy through airpower.  “Airpower Reborn suggests that there is a great need for contemporary airpower thought for current and future air warfare employment. His work is both an anthology of airpower thought and a call to action from the editor. Six world-leading theorists argue that a viable strategy must transcend the purely military sphere, view the adversary as a multi-dimensional system, and pursue systemic paralysis and strategic effects rather than military destruction or attrition.This book is a attempt to spark discussion about airpower theory and strategy. The author suggests that the persistent  belief that modern airpower thought rests solely on century-old airpower prophecy says more about our failure as airpower advocates than it does about airpower critics. It is therefore offered as our job to effectively develop and communicate modern strategic airpower thought to our interested brethren. In his opinion we seem to have failed. (My note, this is a re-opening for “airpower can win war on its on” – Kosovo by example, yes no?)

Carrier APAmerican Carrier Air Power at the Dawn of a New Century by Benjamin S. Lambeth, RAND Corporation

This report presents the highlights of the U.S. Navy’s carrier air performance during the first two major wars of the 21st century —
Operation Enduring Freedom against the Taliban and al Qaeda in
Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 and the subsequent three-week period of major combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003 that finally ended the rule of Saddam Hussein. The report also addresses ongoing modernization trends in U.S. carrier air capability.
With U.S. naval aviation celebration of its 100th anniversary in 2011, carrier air power’s classic roles and missions have not changed greatly from those of the 20th century. Yet the nation’s carrier strike groups are taking on a substantial qualitative improvement
in their overall combat leverage with the completion of the Super Hornet acquisition, the advent of the EA-18 and F-35C, along with the prospective introduction of unmanned surveillance and strike aircraft into the Navy’s carrier air-wing.

Chinese AeroChinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles
Andrew Erickson (Editor) and Lyle J. Goldstein (Editor)

A comprehensive survey of Chinese aerospace developments, with a focus on areas of potential strategic significance previously unexplored in Western scholarship. The book also links these developments to the vast maritime battlespace of the Asia-Pacific region and highlights the consequent implications for the U.S. military, particularly the U.S. Navy

Combat PairCombat Pair; The Evolution of Air Force-Navy Integration in Strike warfare by Benjamin S. Lambeth, RAND Corporation

This report documents the cross-service harmony that the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy have steadily developed in their conduct of integrated strike operations since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. That close harmony contrasts sharply with the situation that prevailed throughout most of the Cold War, when the two services maintained separate and unique operating mindsets and lacked any significant interoperability features.

Destined for GloryDestined for Glory; Dive Bombing, Midway, and the Evolution of Carrier Airpower byThomas Wildenberg

On 4 June 1942, three squadrons of U.S. Navy Dauntless dive bombers destroyed Japan’s carrier force at Midway and changed the course of the Pacific war. The key ingredient to the Navy’s success was the planning and training devoted to the tactic of dive bombing. Examining how political, economic, technical, and operational factors influenced the development of carrier airpower between 1925 and 1942, he shows why dive bombing became the Navy’s weapon of choice. He also pays tribute to the select group of naval aviators who drove the evolution of carrier tactics. Although many books have been written about the Battle of Midway, this is the first to focus on how the Navy came to develop the one aerial weapon that proved to be the decisive instrument of victory

Renorm“Re-Norming” Air Operations
Multiple authors from Second Line of Defense

The historical pattern of U.S. air dominance is not the practical reality of today’s escalating and sophisticated adversarial air challenge.  To move forward, one needs to recognize that the new combat aircraft are not simply an iteration of change but a potential driver for new paradigms of combat operations, in the air, at sea, and in air-ground concepts of operation. The old system of sequential air operations built around legacy aircraft, AWACS, and multiple assets needs to be replaced in a timely manner by a well-resourced distributed operations enterprise.

six-decades-of-guided-weaponsSix Decades of Guided Munitions and Battle Networks; Progress and Prospects by Barry D. Watts, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA)

This report has two basic aims: (1) to assess the influence terminally guided, non-nuclear (or “conventional”) munitions have exerted on the conduct of warfare since their initial use during World War II; and (2) to anticipate the influence further advances in conventional guided munitions are likely to have on military operations in coming decades.  The heart of this report consists of historical case studies that span a wide variety of the guided munitions developed since the beginning of the Second World War by various war-fighting communities and military services, predominately American ones.  A principal aim is ultimately to suggest how further advances in guided munitions may affect the future conduct of military operations, a detailed understanding is needed of the actual changes in tactics, doctrines, operational concepts, military organizations, and combat outcomes these weapons have caused to date, and why.

TrendsTrends in Air-Air Combat; Implications for Future Air Superiority by John Stillion, CSBA

A historical analysis of trends in air-to-air combat, evaluating air combat operations over the past century. The goal of this study was to assess how advances in sensor, weapon, and communication technologies have changed air combat and the implication of these trends for future combat aircraft designs and operational concepts. The conclusion of this study was that over the past few decades, advances in electronic sensors, communications technology, and guided weapons may have fundamentally transformed the nature of air combat. The trends  suggest it may be appropriate to cast a much wider net in the development of future air combat operational concepts, sensors,weapons, and platforms, which would include examining “radical” departures from traditional fighter concepts that rely on enhanced sensor performance, signature control, networks to achieve superior SA, and very-long-range weapons to complete engagements before being detected or tracked by enemy aircraft.

Bonfire

Understanding Airpower; Bonfire of the Fallacies by Colin s. Gray

The general purpose of this monograph is to help prevent or
reduce error in debates over all aspects of airpower. Since we
humans, our institutions and procedures, and our behavior
are friction prone and apt to err, it is sensible to try to diminish the pile of assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, and opinions that are plainly wrong. This study examines and exposes nine fallacies such as  2) Airpower is an inherently strategic instrument; 3) The development of airpower is driven by technology not ideas; 4) Airpower is about targeting; and 9) The twenty-first century is the missile, space, and cyberspace age(s); airpower is one of yesterday’s revolutions.

why-airsea-battle

Why AirSea Battle by Andrew F. Krepinevich,  CSBA

Currently there is little indication that China or Iran intend to alter their efforts to create “no-go zones” in the maritime areas off their coasts. The United States is thus confronted
with a strategic choice: to risk a loss of military access to areas vital to its security or to explore options for preserving access. The paper  describes how China and Iran are engaged in military modernization efforts whose principal purpose appears to be to deny the United States the ability to sustain military forces in two areas of vital interest, the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf, respectively. Recently the United States Air Force and Navy agreed to address the issue. Both Service chiefs are committed to pursuing a new operational concept called AirSea Battle which appears designed to assess how US power-projection.  This paper argues that an Air Force-Navy AirSea Battle concept is needed. It begins by noting the critical role that power projection operations have played in providing for the United States’ security since becoming an active global power nearly seventy years ago.

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Final notes:  Operational threads within the above books/studies will run through many of the upcoming posts. Some of these will be addressed individually as quasi book reviews as fitting within the mosaic as the author’s thoughts fit or contrast with my own. I begin here a convention of using blue print as a heads up on future articles. The airwar in Vietnam continues to bring on discussion particularly in regard to the use or lack of guns in the air-air context. In addition, it provides food for thought on the multi-role fast movers. For further references on the airwar in Vietnam see the earlier post Year of War – Reflection from the ’72 WestPac cruise stories.

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The 4th of June – Remembered Sky Day

Blown Slick Series#5

The A-7 Corsair II carried a healthy fuel load for a carrier based strike aircraft.  On major strikes – those to significant, highly defended targets – into North Vietnam called “Alpha Strikes” with 30 -40  A-7,s, A-6’s, F-4’s, bombers, fighters, Iron-Hand MiG Cap, tankers, Electronic Warfare birds and an E-2 control – the A-7’s mostly took off first, landed last. The strike group launched and rendezvoused in a circle above the USS Midway before heading into as we non-PC called it, Indian Country. It took a bit and once

Inbound

 joined on my flight lead,it was both a time of anticipation and building tension, and additionally, a somewhat relaxed reflection period of just waiting. You can take this as gospel or not, but over several dozens of these Alphas in an 11 month cruise, I don’t think I ever did not think and wonder about Pat Patterson in his Dauntless and all those guys doing the same thing – looking out over the partially cloud covered Pacific Ocean – on the 4th of June, 1942 as they launched from Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown on their way to the most significant naval battle of World War II.

And so today -4 June 2015 – for me “officially” becomes the first remembered sky day. Continue reading

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Memorial Day 2015: Mondo and Arlo

midway a6

Sometimes on days like today, I find myself lost in the abstract -service to country, freedom, sacrifice, the flags, the tombstones of Arlington. The feelings are not wrong, indeed they are most important and necessary, but at the base are people who laughed, cried, drank beer – sometimes too much – told dirty jokes, howled at the moon, chased women, and jousted at a few dragons, all the while loving their wives, kids, dogs, squadron mates, …. and their country.

The video below was just published on You-Tube on 14 May. It provides the memorial service on USS Midway in San Diego Harbor for Mike “Mondo” McCormick and Alan “Arlo” Clark. Their names were added under the cockpit of the VA-115 A-6 on Midway’s flight deck. Mondo and Arlo were shot down over North Vietnam on the tenth of January, 1973 and were the last A-6 crew lost in the war.

While some may find the video long at a little over an hour, it is very well edited and  reflects not only the memory of loss and sadness, but also the joy of squadron aviation and love of family and friends. Great job by former VA-115 aviator John Stubbs.

Worth your time and for me, perfect tone for Memorial Day.

Those who came home will never forget those who could not.

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BLOWN SLICK – Light Attack Fast Pursuit; Airpower Analysis by Boris

Blown Slick Series#4

Light Attack Fast Pursuit2

“… it has been decades since the last significant contribution to airpower theory. Given the shifting character of war and rapid technological change, a solid modern airpower theory will be required for the West to achieve strategic success in future conflicts.”

Reviewing Airpower Reborn;The Strategic Concepts of John Warden and John Boyd  by JP ‘Spear’ Mintz

Out of the process of reading, researching, communicating with old airwing friends, and in addition reaching out for the Air Force side – leveraging the “Rats” of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, plus all the while observing the more recent past of airpower use in Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, etc., the emergent anti-access/area denial threat particularly in the South China Sea, and the on going issues with the F-35 and the apparent end to the A-10, I began formulation of a next series for the site.  This  is the back story to discussion of the evolution of fighter, attack, and strike warfare – Blown Slick-Light Attack Fast Pursuit Airpower Analysis – the series.

Continue reading

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Multi-role “Fast Movers” – The Fifth Generation

Blown Slick Series #3

Seeming necessary for underpinning  all further Blown Slick posts, a summary of the “generations” of jet tactical fast mover aircraft has been provided as a separate page found in the header – 5 Generations of Fighters

5th-generation-fighters_atdx725

For the future, both the air-ground “attack” missions and the air-air “fighter” missions will be carried out by multi-role strike fighters, and steadily evolving towards all or a high percentage of 5th Generation types.   Continue reading

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The “Fighter Pilot”

Blown Slick Series #2

The first post for the Blown Slick series made the point that the series is about attack – missions and pilots, so you might ask why “fighter pilots?”  Words in this case can deceive. Please read till the end. Terminology needs to be addressed so the series can move on.

           “Say what you will about him: arrogant, cocky, boisterous, and a fun loving fool toFighter Pilot boot. He has earned his place in the sun. Across the span of 95 years he has given his country some of its proudest moments and most cherished military traditions. But fame is short-lived and little the world remembers. 

Almost forgotten are the 1400 fighter pilots who stood alone against the might of Hitler’s Germany during the dark summer of 1940 and gave, in the words of Winston Churchill, England “It’s finest hour.” Gone from the hardstands at Duxford are the 51’s with their checkerboard noses that terrorized the finest fighters the Luftwaffe had.

Dimly remembered, the Fourth Fighter Group that gave Americans some of their few proud moments in the skies over Korea. 

How fresh in recall are the Air Commandos who valiantly struck the VC with their aging “Skyraiders” in the rain and blood soaked valley called A-Shau? And how long will be remembered the “Phantoms” and “Thuds” over “Route Pack Six” and the flack-filled skies over Hanoi? 

Barrel Roll, Steel Tiger, Tally Ho. So here’s a “Nickel on the Grass” to you, my friend and your spirit, enthusiasm, sacrifice, and courage–but most of all, to your friendship. Yours is a dying breed and when you are gone, the world will be a lesser place!?”

The above with cartoon by an unknown author appeared in a 1968 special edition of the Grumman Horizons magazine (Volume 8 Number 1)entitled  Dogfighters Are In Close! Special Issue: Our race for a better MiG-killer.  Continue reading

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The Mission of “Attack” – The Blown Slick Series Introduction

Blown Slick  Series #1

(See also :  Preface to Blown Slick -the series: The evolution of fighter, attack, and strike warfare)

attack 3

He would go on to be Vice Chief of Naval Operations and head the FAA, but in mid-December 1971 Navy Captain Jim Busey was Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 125 (VA-125), the squadron responsible for transitioning Naval Aviators into the A-7A/B Corsair II en route to their future combat squadrons, airwings and carriers. He had two combat tours (189 missions) in Vietnam under his belt in the A-4 Skyhawk and was the recipient of the Navy Cross,  and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. I had all of 20 hours in the A-7 and had flown my first flight with Capt. Busey on my wing as the instructor pilot only a few weeks before.  Four months later on April 30, 1972, as a new aviator in the VA-56 Champs, I would be night carrier landing qualified with 100 Corsair hours, and fly my first combat mission in Vietnam.

On that December afternoon at Naval Air Station Lemoore California, Capt Busey had called an “all pilots” meeting including the experienced instructors and the young aviators in training – mostly on their way to a first operational squadron.  He began by noting that aircraft carriers were ships designated as CVAs and not CVFs. Continue reading

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Would I do it all again? You’re kidding, right?

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The Last Corsair: Fly Low, Hit Hard

HAF 1336

 

 

 

 

The Helenic Air Force will retire the last A-7 Corsair II on October 17, 2014 after 39 years in Hellenic skies and 49 years of global service. The videos below highlight some great low level flying and include US Navy flights in Vietnam.

Since 2007, the 336 Bomber Squadron has been the last squadron in the world flying the A-7 Corsair II.

Spirit of attack born of a brave heart.

Calm & rum

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153241

A-7 Rehab 2aI can never pass up the artist booths at airshows. Last weekend at the Camarillo Air Show (lead guy was Bill Thomas, President of the Corsair II Association) I visited Christopher Cross’s both of airbrush aviation art. Picture above caught my attention. 153241 is an A-7A currently under restoration in northern California – site escapes me.  When I got home checked my logbook and found that “241” had been assigned to VA-56 in the spring of ’73 after USS Midway/CAG 5 returned from Vietnam and began prepping for the move to Japan. I have 10.1 hours, 3 traps and flew 3 of my last 10 flights before leaving the Champs in this good old “A.”

Cross’s perspective is somewhat different than many aviation artists and really appealed to me. I promised I would give him a plug, so here is the link to see his other work:

Christopher Cross Images http://www.crossimages.net/new-page/
I also really liked this rendition of the Corsair I.

Chino Flight line

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