1942 – The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 1- Background

Blown Slick Series #13 

Midway

Seventy-five years ago -1943 – Nimitz, King, and particularly the air navy admirals worked a seemingly endless slate of problems to leverage the advantages the navy had hard earned in the last year. The F-4 Wildcat was replaced with new F-4U Corsairs and F-6F Hellcats, replacing scout bombers and torpedo bombers proved problematic. Roles and missions had to be adjusted, particularly for the ever increasing demands of observation and reconnaissance. New Essex class aircraft carriers were coming on line. The careful days of a single carrier in the Pacific after Guadalcanal were over, but how best to employ- individually or with two inside the screen? Experienced carrier operators supported both concepts. Continue reading

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A Second Look – Aviation Week Debate on the F-35

Blown Slick Series #12

Last summer Aviation Week conducted a podcast debate between the first commanding officer of a USMC F-35B squadron, retired  LtCol. David Berke,  and former “fighter mafia” participant during the Light Weight Fighter competition (YF-16/17) Pierre Sprey.

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Berke has an  extremely unique  flight experience background in that he’s instructed at TOPGUN, conducted operational test flights of the F-22 and has significant flight time in the F-16, F/A-18, F-22 and F-35. Sprey was a participant in the LWF program and heavily involved with the A-10 program development. Their views of the F-35 and future airpower needs and application are significantly different.

Given the RememberedSky thought that like it or not the F-35 is THE elephant in the room for assessing future airpower application, upon listening for the third time, it seemed an appropriate post. A few comments are provided below the links.

Aviation Week Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 1

Aviation Week Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 2

Brief Comments

Continue reading

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War and Remembrance 18 December 1972; Linebacker II and the General Who Made It So

On the third night of LB II three B-52s were shot down on the first raid. Seventh Air Force Headquarters Headquarters in Saigon and SAC Headquarters in Omaha went into shock. As a result they recalled the six B-52Gs targeted for Hanoi on the second raid, with the result that the North Vietnamese had done something that the Germans, Japanese, Soviets, Chinese, and North Koreans had never been able to to achieve – they had made an American bombing raid abort for fear of losses (Michelle, The Eleven Days of Christmas).

On the third wave, two more G’s were lost with nine of twelve crew-members lost.  When Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Moorer was briefed on the third night losses of the B-52’s, he picked up the phone and called the SAC Command post – “they’re setting their God-damned watches by the timing of your bombing runs!” 

Brigadier General Glenn Sullivan at U-Tapao had had enough with the SAC/Omaha imposed “same  way, same time,” single file bomber streams that were costing lives and aircraft. At 0930 the next morning, General Sullivan Sent a U-Tapao developed set of recommended new tactics directly (copy only to Eighth Air Force in Guam) to  General J.C. Meyer, Commander of SAC. Things changed, but Sullivan’s action came at the cost of his career- one more assignment, not promoted and retired.

Whether you spent 18 hours watching Ken Burns Vietnam documentary or as many vets did, just skipped it, you owe it to yourself to spend 30 minutes or so watching this video on Linebacker II and the career ending courage of Brigadier General Glenn R. Sullivan who jumped his chain of command after the first three nights of disastrous same tactics over and over for the B-52’s and changed they way the rest of LB II was conducted.

This video plus the website Triumph and Tragedy at 30,000 Feet are the products of General Sullivan’s son, G. Ray Sullivan, Jr.

“Sully: A General’s Decision” from Peachtree Films on Vimeo.

December 18, 1972 The beginning of Linebacker II one of the most important operations in the history of the Vietnam conflict. Often overlooked, excluded or completely mischaracterized, it is, in fact, what brought the POWs home and ended our involvement in Vietnam. Please visit the site www.linebacker2.com and at the very least, the “Day by Day” page to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during those 11 days. …
We share a toast with ALL of those who participated in whatever capacity and whatever branch of service. It was an amazing feat on so many levels. Who knows what would’ve happened had we started here rather than finishing here…THANK YOU to all who were involved…Remember forever those who didn’t return…

Ray Sullivan

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Veterans Day 2017: What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Burns and Novick The Vietnam War – A Counter Anthology

The PBS documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick has received critical acclaim  and has been recommended for showing in schools. It follows Burns reputation well as a work of film art.

For all its ‘truth telling,’ I simply cannot get in tune with its overall context. This Veterans Day post focuses on the Vietnam veteran with remembrance of all.

“This documentary succeeds in vividly evoking sadness and frustration. But that is not all there was to the story. “The Vietnam War” strives for a moral equivalence where there is none. The veterans seem sad and detached for their experience, yet 90 percent of Vietnam War veterans are proud to have served. So there’s a large gap between what we see and the attitude of the vast majority of veterans.” Bing West

Veterans understand their heritage.  They know the links from Valley Forge and Gettysburg, from Belleau Wood to Midway and Normandy, from Chosen to Ia Drang. They know that all war is brutal, friends are lost, and scars are created for a life time. But the veterans of the Vietnam War carry forever a different kind of scar, one made not by the battles but rather by their own government leadership and fellow countrymen. Carried by each individual to some lesser or greater extent, it manifests itself for Americans as the long black wall pictured below.

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The second Vietnam War lasted from November 1955 until April 1975, almost twenty years. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick  created an eighteen hour  ten part narrative of that war and their craftsmanship is certainly evident and superb. Comments hail its excellence and heap praise for unveiling things not previously known, touting it as an educational high point.  They  took ten years to research North and South Vietnamese sources along with those of the U.S. and then craft the type documentary Ken Burns is famous for.
Ten years… and they got it wrong. Continue reading

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Thinking Multi-Role “Strike Fighter”

Blown Slick Series #11

multi-mission-capability

Air to air is what you do going into and coming off of the target. Ed Rasimus, Air Force Vietnam War F-105 and F-4 fighter pilot  

In the previous post, I suggested as a thought experiment that one draw a straight line graph comparing fighter aircraft performance/capabilities over time beginning with WWI and say the Sopwith Camel, then continue through WWII with your choice of best fighter (Spits, Zero, Mustang, Corsair), on into the Korean War and the MiG-15 and F-86, then to Vietnam and the MiG-21 and F-4, and next on to the F-14/ F-15/16/18 group. I suggested that you would not find the F-35 on an extension of that line. Irrespective of cost, schedule or development problems, it is a different type “fighter” plane with intent to conduct air combat in a different way.

The last a/c on that line would be the F-16 and F/A-18.( The F-22 is a departure along the way to the F-35 as a Fifth Generation fighter). These two a/c are the results of the mid 70’s Light Weight Fighter (LWF) competition between the YF-16 and YF-17. With the Cold War  ongoing, it’s understandable why the focus was entirely centered on air to air warfighting and dogfighting capabilities.

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While the Air Force selected the F-16 to compliment the F-15 and the Navy decided on a variant of the YF-17 to become the replacement a/c for both their fighter F-4’s and attack A-7’s, both a/c very quickly were adapted as multi-role “strike fighter” type combat aircraft.

  1. What is the significance of multi-role strike fighters?
  2. Essentially a one size fits all kind of design, is this the best way to fight in future air battles?

Continue reading

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Airpower Analysis Phase II: F-35 – Flying Circus Center Ring

Blown Slick Series #10

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For some time now, center ring for the airpower flying circus has been the F-35 Lightning II. But since the F-35 was similarly noted as the elephant in the room in #8 in this series some time ago, much as transpired as the a/c moves into operational status within the USMC, USN, and USAF, along with the first Israeli F-35 Adir’s beginning to fly.

To date the Blown Slick series has discussed attack pilots, fighter pilots, fifth generation aircraft, analysis tools and metrics, offered selected books on air warfare and taken a broad look at the ideas behind airpower theory. This post focuses on the F-35 -in the center ring of the airpower “circus.” It serves to provide links to updated operational status before we continue on with more airpower analysis from the “attack pilot” side.

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Over time much F-35 writing has focused on cost/schedule/technical problems and with mostly end game agenda of cancelling the program.  For writing on the positive side, much  presented has been what the a/c is supposed to do, rather than what it has actually been able to perform. Only recently have articles begin to emerge from the pilots who are in the early stages of learning the a/c, its capabilities and developing tactical employment schemes. Bottom line, the “fat lady can’t end the opera” until day-day operational aviators have their say.

The first part of this post covers general considerations of the F-35 as it evolves into the airpower picture and the second part will provide several “reports” from the operational introduction environment. Continue reading

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Thinking Airpower in Context: American War in Seven Charts

Blown Slick Series #9

Rough Riders

 Seven Charts That Help Explain American War

  1. How Many Years In Its History Has America Been at War?
  2. Where Has America Fought?
  3. Why Has America Fought?
  4. How Does America Fight ?
  5. Who Are America’s Formal Defense Partners?
  6. Why Is the American Military So Attracted to Technology?
  7. So How Much Does It All Cost?

Give the focus of the Blown Slick series, upon reading this article by Aaron Bazin*, it seemed only natural to question what then is the impact of airpower on these seven and how is airpower influenced by how we approach the issues? In a concise way, the issues and charts highlight airpower usage in war and need to be one piece of Blown Slick’s airpower mosaic. Below are quotes from only two of the questions/charts. I will leave it to the reader to explore the  complete article here. Continue reading

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Airpower, Elephants and Such (Part 3)

Blown Slick Series #8 (Part 3/3)

Continuing from Part 1 & 2 – the “something new”

Airpower Application and 5th Generation Aircraft

Cruisin’

The term “fifth-generation aircraft” is part of the problem facing the future of airpower. The usage of the term might suggest a linear relationship to preceding aircraft, so that one could argue that F-18s and F-16s can be upgraded and become 4.8-generation aircraft, closely replicating 5th generation capability. For the proponents of F-22 and F-35, they believe this is simply not the case.  For them, the fifth-generation aircraft are a benchmark for a new approach to air power, and leads to the thought by some that 5th generation aircraft will result in “Re-norming” of Air Operations. This will be the subject of a separate post, but for now from Re-Norming Air Operations: Continue reading

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Airpower, Elephants and Such (Part 2)

Blown Slick Series #8 (Part 2/3)

Continuing from Part 1 – drilling down

Airpower threads

To make reasonable decisions in regard to analysis of future airpower, and also how implementation of emerging technical and derivative tactical concepts plays into the application of airpower, one must certainly have some understanding of these elements:

  • current potential crisis and warfare environments (subjects of future articles)
  • overall theories of airpower (some discussion in this series)
  • necessity for a truly joint, even integrated, approach to warfare that has been provided through experience (to be discussed in future articles but can be particularly seen in the AirSea Battle concept and in regard to potential problems related to operations in the South China Sea)

Historical context also must guide airpower’s future evaluation and application.  Quoting from Part 1:

Airpower is all about power projection and mobility. It is the theoretical and eventual conceptual application that comprises the application of military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of actual aerial warfare via strike warfare tactics, techniques and procedures.  

And so our background on airpower moves to the historical context of airpower application in regard to power projection, and strike warfare.

Application of Airpower (Something Old) Continue reading

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Airpower, Elephants, Fallacies, Bonfires, Something Old, Something New

Blown Slick Series #8 (Part 1/3)

Airpower characteristics itemizes strictly enduring physical features:
speed, reach, height, and as a consequence ubiquity, agility, and concentration.

KKong Empire St Attack

A relatively high technological focus by air forces is inevitable, necessary, and indeed desirable. But the balance is wrong if that focus translates in practice into an air force that bears some resemblance to a costly and exclusive combination flying club and science and engineering society at the expense of what should be the dominant features of a fighting force… Colin Gray

What follows is a perspective of airpower in light  of its history, current application and future trends and potential. The discussion is not focused on airpower theory per se, nor is it anywhere close to being comprehensive. In 3 parts, it is intended to be viewed in context of previous and future articles as offering some pieces of the  mosaic.

Introduction

Continue reading

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