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Published: 1 March 2009
Air & Space Power Journal - Spring 2009
Ricochets and Replies
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I think that Maj Brian Maue’s sterile, methodical, certified public accountant (CPA)–style dissection of the Aviator Continuation Pay (ACP) program in his article “Why We Should End the Aviator Continuation Pay Bonus Program” (Winter 2008) misses the mark. However, this is easy to understand because the Air Force missed the mark with ACP. Or maybe I should say the service tried to close the door after the stampede of Air Force pilots to the airlines had already started. I was a career C-130 pilot, commissioned in 1974, and was never eligible for any ACP bonus.
The Air Force came to a sterile, CPA-like decision about how to target the bonus because we had to “sell” ACP to the nonbelievers in our own service. I think that some people were more motivated by looking like they were doing something besides just wringing their hands. I would like to point out that the Navy, with 50 years of experience in executing continuous and recurring deployments afloat (long before the Air Force got into the air-expeditionary-force mode with the first Gulf War, Operation Allied Force, Operation Enduring Freedom, and so forth), had broken the code on ACP and bonuses. Major Maue would do well to conduct a study of why the Air Force ignored a successful sister-service ACP/bonus program that had been refined over many years, yet I suspect that we would gain nothing from an examination of the Air Force’s bureaucratic failures, stovepiped organizational behavior, and resistance to things “not invented here.” Many of my friends were on headquarters staffs that contributed to this fiasco. At the time, many of them admitted that the tail was wagging the dog and that no one had any idea whether his or her ACP plan was the correct move—or if it would be successful. The potential benefits of active, fully engaged leadership; shared expectations; and unit cohesiveness were never explored, even though it was widely acknowledged that the overseas units on the “tip of the spear” in Europe and the Pacific had the least loss of pilots to the airlines.
Hickam AFB, Hawaii
Major Maue’s article is interesting but flawed. The author’s argument that pilots leave the Air Force for better pay and benefits fails to adequately consider a comparison of military pilots and airline pilots in terms of the number of work hours required to earn their annual compensation. I offer some calculations based on the following assumptions:
1. Both types of pilots receive the same compensation: $124,000.
2. As stated in the article, airline pilots work half a month, or 182.5 days a year.
3. Military pilots work five days per week, or about 260 duty days a year. (Obviously, this is optimistic, but I’ll err on the side of conservatism.)
4. When they work, both types of pilots work 12-hour days.
Based on these assumptions,
1. An airline pilot’s per-hour salary would be $56.62 (12 [hours worked per day] x 182.5 [workdays per year] = 2,190 hours. $124,000 divided by 2,190 = $56.62).
2. A military pilot’s per-hour salary would be $39.74 (12 [hours worked per day] x 260 [duty days per year] = 3,120 hours. $124,000 divided by 3,120 = $39.74).
3. The difference in hourly compensation is $16.88 ($56.62 - $39.74 = $16.88).
4. If military pilots earned the same per-hour compensation as airline pilots, a military pilot’s annual compensation would be $176,654.40 ($56.62 [airline pilot’s hourly wage] x 3,120 [hours military pilots work per year] = $176,654.40).
5. Therefore, the actual difference in annual salary based on hours worked is $52,654.40 ($176,654.40 - $124,000 = $52,654.40)!
As a military pilot, when I consider the long months away from home, the number of hours I work, and the difference in hourly wages, I say, “Keep the bonus!” Besides, when we military pilots fly, we consistently work 18-hour days, and we definitely work weekends too. Major Maue’s article is well researched and well written, but I believe he neglected some of the basic factors regarding military compensation and hours worked.
Capt David Brandt, USAF
Cannon AFB, New Mexico
Major Maue’s article is very interesting, but he leaves out an additional important factor. Where does ACP fit into the program when a pilot who actually used to sit in the aircraft now “flies” an unmanned aircraft system (UAS)? I would argue that a UAS pilot’s skill set would not make that person a good candidate for an airline pilot’s job. In terms of traditional pilot-skill progression, UAS pilots will never gain enough true flight proficiency, flying hours, or experience to compete realistically for jobs with the major airlines. I would also argue that a UAS pilot’s skill set is no more technologically valuable than that of a missile-launch officer. Outside the military, there is minimal demand for highly skilled pilots of remote-controlled airplanes. With the number of pilots now involved in flying UASs and the projected growth in that career field, the ACP, at least in the case of UAS pilots, is completely unwarranted.
Lt Col Dave Johnson, California ANG
DEFENSE OF US SPACE ASSETS
Kudos to Capt Adam Frey on his article “Defense of US Space Assets: A Legal Perspective” (Winter 2008). It is exciting to see an article of this quality written by an Air Force officer. Captain Frey raises a couple of questions that I would like to address. First, while it is indeed a viable and logical military tactic, his recommendation that that United States could solve the problem of adversaries putting weapons in space by destroying the booster carrying these weapons during launch raises inherent legal issues. In particular, determining whether or not a specific booster is being used to loft a weapon against a US space asset is difficult at best. Under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, a sovereign state has the right to defend itself, but only against “an armed attack.” It is unclear what the standards of evidence would be for destroying a booster that could be carrying a peaceful satellite; it is also unclear whether an attack on a satellite constitutes an attack on the state that owns the satellite. This is a central legal issue with boost-phase missile defense in general and is worthy of in-depth legal analysis. Second, I question Captain Frey’s recommendation that “making satellites more difficult to locate and disable also eliminates the problem of space debris” (p. 81). It is improbable that the United States would be able to track its own “cloaked” satellites while other nations could not. However, even if it were somehow possible to hide an object that needs to transmit and maneuver, legal difficulties would remain. Such an invisible object could pose collision-avoidance problems for other satellite operators. If command and control of such a satellite were lost due to a malfunction or space-weather event, what would the legal issues be for the United States for having deliberately introduced an untrackable collision hazard, possibly into a congested area such as geosynchronous orbit? I look forward to future articles by Captain Frey and hope this journal publishes more articles on this topic.
CONTROL OF THEATER INTELLIGENCE, SURVEILLANCE, AND
RECONNAISSANCE FOR THE GROUND COMMANDER
I enjoyed Maj Steven Maceda’s article “Control of Theater Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance for the Ground Commander” (Winter 2008). I agree with everything in the article’s closing statement about the slow intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) process that exists right now. As a recently retired senior noncommissioned officer in US Army intelligence who served in Baghdad in 2006–7 as the Multi-National Division-Baghdad G2 sergeant major, I know exactly what Major Maceda is talking about. I now work as a command, control, communications, and computers ISR analyst for the Joint Fires Interoperability and Integration Team. My primary focus is working with the US Army brigade combat teams (BCT), divisions, and other ground components in planning, integrating, requesting, and employing joint ISR assets and sensors. One of my main focuses right now is the employment of the Air Force ISR liaison officers (LNO) at the BCT and division levels. I would be very interested in any assessments of how these ISR LNOs are performing.
SGM Kevin B. Gainey, USA, Retired
Fort Hood, Texas
STRATEGY AND COST
Kudos to Lt Col Lawrence Spinetta for his article “Strategy and Cost: A Gap in Our Military Decision-Making Process” (Fall 2008). During my time on the Air Staff, I felt that when the Air Force articulated program requirements, our typical attitude was that the ends were fixed and that Congress and the administration would just have to come up with the money to achieve them. In light of impending drastic growth in government entitlement programs, flat or even declining defense budgets are a high probability in the very near future. If we fail to articulate the costs of various strategy options and associated trade-offs, then we compel the politicians to make decisions purely on the basis of cost, devoid of any strategic consideration. We serve the nation poorly if we continue to choose this approach. Colonel Spinetta is to be commended for injecting a dose of fiscal reality into the debate.
Lt Col Rob Levinson, USAF, Retired
I appreciate Lt Col Peter Garretson and Maj Douglas Kaupa’s article “Planetary Defense: Potential Mitigation Roles of the Department of Defense” (Fall 2008). As former director of the USAF Academy Planetarium, I have been a student of asteroids and comets and have long been concerned about those objects potentially impacting Earth.
I agree with the authors that the “giggle factor” is the greatest obstacle to overcome in building consensus among military and civilian leaders who would control budget and policy for such a costly, long-term program. I’ll leave it to the experts to determine the proper agency to handle planetary defense, but the high financial costs of defensive systems and the apparent remoteness of the impact threat would dissuade most budget-minded administrators from taking action.
The authors mention that nearly 1,000 potentially hazardous asteroids have been detected, but I was surprised that they did not mention an asteroid popularly named “Apophis.” Experts once gave it a slight chance of hitting Earth in 2029, but they now conclude there is no risk of an impact at that time. However, this asteroid, 700–1,100 feet in diameter, will pass between Earth’s surface and the orbits of our geosynchronous communications satellites. The gravitational and tidal effects Earth may experience when Apophis passes over the mid-Atlantic at a distance of 18,300 miles on 13 April 2029 are unpredictable, but we expect the encounter to modify the asteroid’s spin rate and path. Depending upon its internal structure, the asteroid could break up, sending fragments into slightly different orbits and perhaps leading to impacts with Earth during some future approach. Only in the caption to figure 5 (p. 40) did the authors mention Rusty Schweickart’s presentation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) regarding altering the path of asteroids such as Apophis. Schweickart advocates a NASA mission to place a tracking device on this asteroid to study nongravitational, orbit-changing effects that the asteroid encounters while orbiting the sun.
Schweickart’s proposal may help us understand other asteroid hazards. A phenomenon called the Yarkovsky Effect may affect asteroid orbits. As sunlight shines on any small object orbiting the sun, the sun heats the object’s sunward side. As the object rotates, the heat absorbed by the rock reradiates into space. The photons of infrared radiation, weak though they may be, will produce a slight acceleration or deceleration in the rotation rate of the object and, to some degree, its orbital motion, thus modifying the orbit in unpredictable ways. We therefore need to track asteroids to see how reradiated energy might change their orbits. Due to the Yarkovsky Effect, and possibly other unknown effects, the orbits of all small objects orbiting the sun are continuously altered, complicating long-term predictions of their orbits. The Yarkovsky Effect offers one possible explanation of why small bodies in the solar system slowly drift towards the sun, potentially crossing Earth’s orbit.
USAF Academy, Colorado
The article “Planetary Defense: Potential Mitigation Roles of the Department of Defense” is a thought-provoking piece, and its recommendations should be implemented. Recognising the longitude limits of the continental United States, is there merit in a joint US/Russian/European Union/Chinese approach?
David J. Waring
THE AUTHOR RESPONDS
The technical merits of such a cooperative approach would depend entirely upon the specific asteroid detection and deflection system used. Experts recognize that there are entire classes of space objects in inclinations that are energetically beyond our deflection abilities, and launch-opportunity windows are dependent on launch sites. I don’t know to what extent having multiple launch sites might increase the range of threats we could counter. As for using ground-based telescopes for detection, I think there would be advantages in using locations in different countries.
However, promising concepts for asteroid detection and deflection might involve space-based systems (such as in a Venus-like orbit for an infrared telescope).
International cooperation might be interesting for its own sake, or it might be interesting because of unique capabilities (like a nuclear device with a larger yield). The first international Planetary Defense Conference took place in 2008, and both Study Group 14 and the Association of Space Explorers presented draft international protocols to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
Past American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conferences have had international participants. Lastly, the Russians do have ideas for a system they call Tsitadel.
Lt Col Peter Garretson, USAF
REDEFINING AIR, SPACE, AND
Lt Col Paul Berg’s article “Redefining Air, Space, and Cyber Power” (Fall 2008) says that our definition of airpower has expanded over the years and will continue to evolve. I agree with that view; however, I disagree with former chief of staff Gen T. Michael Moseley and former secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne, who characterized cyberspace as a unique combat domain.
I am not belittling those who fight using cyber tools. I do not want to divert our attention from dominating cyber warfare. I wish only to assert that including cyberspace with air, land, sea, and space is ridiculous. Cyberspace is no more a unique combat domain than the FM radio spectrum. In deference to our former chief and secretary, I fear that political motivations may have influenced their characterization of a common war-fighting tool as a combat domain.
The domains of air, land, sea, and space interact and intersect, but cyberspace does not—it simply exists. We certainly should exploit cyberspace both to protect our own national interests and to deny its use to our enemies, but this is merely information warfare. Cyberspace is a medium through which data travels.
Unlike the exploitation of air, land, sea, or space, that of cyberspace requires no special tools such as aircraft, tanks, boats, or spacecraft. All the military services use it. An adept hacker with a laptop can exploit it. I don’t have to pass through it to reach another combat domain, and I don’t need a special vehicle to fight there. I can turn cyberspace off—something not possible with true fighting domains. I cannot make air, land, sea, or space disappear at the flip of a switch or in the aftermath of a well-placed electromagnetic pulse—but I can do that to cyberspace.
I contend that a unique fighting domain requires a unique battlespace, unique weaponry adapted to the domain, and unique expertise in order to exploit it. None of these apply to cyberspace. Secretary Wynne himself stated that “the capital cost of entry into the Cyberspace Domain is low” (“Cyberspace as a Domain in Which the Air Force Flies and Fights” [remarks to the C4ISR Integration Conference, Crystal City, Virginia, 2 November 2006]). Even the secretary recognizes that there is nothing particularly unique about cyberspace or cyber warfare. It is information warfare by another name, and information warriors will, as they always have, mold cyberspace to achieve combat ends in the true fighting domains of air, land, sea, and space. Although that may require a service to champion the effort, monopoly over cyberspace by the Air Force is unnecessary.
When I first entered the Air Force, our mission was to “fly, fight, and win.” In less than half a career, our mission changed to “fly, fight, and win in air and space.” Now it is to “fly, fight, and win . . . in air, space, and cyberspace.” I contend that our recent mission changes are not about emerging roles and strategies but about politics and budget. I contend that our current fascination with “all things geeky,” including the fictional notion that cyberspace is a unique combat domain, is unhealthy to our proven combat force. Our sister services balk, and someday future Airmen will snicker. Cyberspace is no more a unique combat domain than is our network of FM radio stations. Cyberspace, like FM, is just another information-warfare tool. Cyberspace is an information medium—not a combat domain.
Maj Christopher A. Rea, USAFR
USAF Academy, Colorado
THE SMART WAY TO WIN THE
Fleming Saunders, the author of “The Smart Way to Win the Vietnam War: Modern Guided Bombs Take on Ho Chi Minh” (Chronicles Online Journal, 17 April 2008), falls into the same trap as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his crew of operations analysts in the 1960s. Targets bombed, bridges dropped, or enemy troops killed are no more significant now, using the “smart bomb” paradigm, than they were when portrayed as the irrefutable metrics of victory in the 1960s. The fact of the matter is that a war is not won when a certain “exchange ratio” is achieved, or some magical number of bombs is dropped, or even some percentage of the viable targets is destroyed. A war is won when the opposition concedes defeat.
In Germany at the end of World War II, it was a simple fact that the German nation quit fighting despite all of Hitler’s threats and exhortations. By way of metrics, consider the numbers of Messerschmitt fighter planes delivered, new technologies fielded, men under arms, and so forth, during the last months of the war. Those metrics suggest that the German war machine was still functional, yet the German nation had collapsed; it was disillusioned, disconsolate, and ready to quit.
In spite of all the ordnance dropped on them, the lopsided casualties suffered by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army regulars, and the technological advantages of the United States, the North Vietnamese never concluded that they had lost. Could we have destroyed more targets and killed more of the enemy by using fewer aircraft, flying fewer sorties, and dropping precision-guided weapons? Of course, and the operations analysts could have counted all of the numbers and made impressive charts for the news reporters! Would the additional damage that we could have inflicted on the enemy, or the American lives that may have been saved through safer bombing tactics, or the fewer sorties, aircraft, and gallons of jet fuel used have changed the Vietnam War’s eventual outcome? I seriously doubt it. If military technology, the magnitude of destruction levied, and the hostile body count were the critical factors for victory, then the nation fielding the Me-262 aircraft, the Tiger tank, the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle, the Type XXIII U-boat, and the concentration camps’ gas chambers should have won World War II hands down.
As it was, the North Vietnamese lost every battle against American forces using any metric that anyone could care to consider, and technology was to a very great degree the reason. Yet, as Gen Vo Nguyen Giap so concisely noted during the Paris Peace Talks, “That is true. It is also irrelevant.”
Robert B. Keeter
Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts
THE SMART WAY TO WIN THE VIETNAM WAR: THE AUTHOR RESPONDS
Mr. Keeter argues that North Vietnam would never have conceded defeat under an onslaught of modern smart bombs. But even with less accurate “dumb” bombs, we routed and demoralized the enemy. With smart bombs, we would have had far fewer casualties. It would have been politically easier to stay and finish the job.
Unguided bombs alone could have stopped the enemy before the ground war began. As a senior North Vietnamese leader later observed, a bombing campaign in early 1965 could have seriously handicapped his unprepared forces. (See “The Smart Way to Win the Vietnam War: Modern Guided Bombs Take on Ho Chi Minh,” endnote 27.) By swiftly flattening every major target, smart bombs would have put the fear of God into that small, primitive country.
After the war began, the enemy reeled under our massive bombing and search-and-destroy tactics. With 10 or 20 communist troops dying for every American lost, the enemy resorted to desperate measures. Writes James J. Wirtz, “The desire to reverse a deteriorating military situation seems to have been the primary communist motivation behind the Tet offensive. . . . Both North Vietnamese and VC [Vietcong] leaders admitted to themselves that communist units were suffering from an erosion of combat capability. Troop morale was on the decline” (The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991], 270).
Throwing caution to the winds, North Vietnamese leaders sent lightly armed VC guerrillas into open battle during Tet. Although the shocking attack was a public-relations victory for the communist cause, both guerrillas and North Vietnamese regulars were crushed by allied firepower and aggressive ground forces. The legendary VC may not have wanted to concede, but it is hard to fight when you are dead.
After its regular army was smashed yet again in the invasion of 1972, North Vietnam had nothing left—only a few guerrillas and a battered army. A small American force—including airpower—could have protected South Vietnam indefinitely. With modern all-weather bombs, the task would have been even easier.
The war was not a hopeless quagmire. The enemy was tenacious but not superhuman. Even with the limited bombs of yesteryear, our skilled troops came within an inch of winning.
DEFINING THE “PRECISION WEAPON” IN EFFECTS-BASED TERMS
After reading Maj Jack Sine’s article “Defining the ‘Precision Weapon’ in Effects-Based Terms” (Spring 2006), I will be interested to see how the concept of circular error probable is applied to anticipated directed-energy weapons. Will these by nature be classified as accurate or precision weaponry?
H. David Kaysen
DEFINING THE “PRECISION WEAPON”
IN EFFECTS-BASED TERMS:
THE AUTHOR RESPONDS
One of the motivations for the article actually involved directed energy (DE) weapons. At the time, the Air Staff had initiated a large DE push—mostly oriented toward defensive strategies. However, my boss in the Weapons Requirements office used the push to initiate requirements work in the offensive DE applications area.
Our concern with the use of the terms accurate and precision directly applies to Mr. Kaysen’s question. The fact that the corporate Air Force continues to misuse and misunderstand these terms leads to problems identifying or categorizing technologies for potential weapon applications. Even today with the use of laser-guided bombs and weapons guided by the global positioning system, the terms CE50 and CE90 are becoming obsolete. (CE50 means there is a 50 percent probability that a weapon will land within a given distance of the target; CE90 means that the probability is 90 percent.) I have participated in arguments centered around a total difference of two meters in CE90—an irrelevant matter when talking about 250- to 2,000-pound-class weapons.
In my article, I propose that we define a “weapon” as a tactical effect or, in the case of more abstract weapons (such as psychological operations), the first-order effect. This applies perfectly to DE weapons as well. To further classify a weapon as universally “precise” is folly. I propose that the Air Force doctrinally define “accurate” and “precision” weapons to align more closely with dictionary definitions. The more accurate a weapon, the greater the percentage of the desired effect achieved. The more precise the weapon, the fewer the unintended or undesired effects. Again, as applied to DE weapons, the guidance accuracy really is a relatively minor factor compared to, say, weather conditions. So a laser may be the most accurate weapon but not the most precise if the weather conditions attenuate the laser energy beyond effectiveness. The laser could also be less accurate if weather conditions or the inaccuracy of a guidance mirror refract or aim the energy too far from the point of desired effect.
Ultimately, to determine the preciseness of a weapon, one must consider the context, including guidance accuracy, desired effect, potential undesired or unintended effects, mitigating external conditions (e.g., weather), and so forth. I do not believe anyone who tries to sell me a “precision weapon” (and I have met plenty on the Air Staff) because there is no such thing as a universally precise weapon.
Lt Col Jack Sine, USAF
Editor’s Note: Major Sine was promoted to lieutenant colonel after his article was published.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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