Send comments to:   We have space for most, but not all comments.   Let us know if you want us to include your organization and e-mail address.  Some letters may end up as content elsewhere in G2mil.  Avoid political comments, this is a weapons, warfare, and tactics website.

Thanks for caring about topics concerning the military  

I'm former Navy Ops/ O.I., Army Infantry, and trained with the Legion Etrangere (F. Foreign Legion) at the onset of Gulf War I) ...injured after 6 months I'm glad to encounter someone who understands the frustration of seeing the sad job that the military does in covering military related subjects.  People would be truly shocked if they knew just how censored much of the media coverage is.  At the very least, it's most often very shallow... very little depth.  The lack of depth and real honesty in the media prevents our society from truly being the kind of democratic republic that we most often imagine, or envision.  Thanks!!

                                                                                                  Mark Thome 

Ed:  Having read a classic on the Vietnam war, "A Bright Shining Lie", I cringe whenever I hear Congressmen return from a week-long "fact finding" tour to Iraq and proclaim everything is great.  The military can put together a fun guided tour full of happy troops who say nothing but positive things.  These Congressmen never question why they must stay in Kuwait at night during their tour of Iraq.  And just like in Vietnam, when reporters on the ground write negative stories, they are dismissed as "liberals".

Fighter Mafia Friendly Fire

Good article, but you missed the real threat to the F-22.  Unmanned fighters.  Just as the B-1 was an excellent replacement for the B-52, Air Force could have saved the development cost by (as Carter wanted to) waiting for the development of the B-2.  The Air Force now focuses on starting the lethal initial part of combat operations with completely unmanned aircraft.  Why is the Air Force placing so much emphasis on minimizing the combat package footprint for initial combat operations when unmanned operations eliminate the need, subsequently permitting "acceptable losses" in unmanned aircraft?  In the future, air combat operations will focus on initial aerial combat operations with unmanned aircraft and manned precision bomb employment once air superiority is achieve.  The F-22 could end up with no real combat mission in the future.

                                                                                                                         USAF Major

Ed:  I agree, UAV fighters will play a big role in the future.  They still have problems, as this article about two UAVs crashing in Afghanistan demonstrates:

John Boyd's Fighter Mafia

Your repeated misuse of the term "Fighter Mafia" shows a great deal of ignorance about the recent history of US Air Force weapons development and procurement.  "Fighter Mafia" refers to a specific group of military reformers led by Col John Boyd, civilian engineers Pierre Sprey and Chuck Spinney and Col. Rich Riccioni.  This group was responsible for the Air Force's development and production of the F-16 and A-10 against the wishes of the Air Staff.  It is due to the Fighter Mafia that we have the A-10 in the first place, (in fact, they even proposed a small, tougher follow-on attack aircraft to reinforce the A-10).

John Boyd was responsible for much of the early development of the F-15, including the changes in the specification from what would have been a 60,000-lb aircraft into a 30,000-lb aircraft.  Boyd is probably rolling in his grave over the F-22 fiasco.  If you type Rich Riccioni into google, you'll see several articles on what's wrong with the F-22, as well as other overly complex military systems.  I suggest the following books on John Boyd and the Fighter Mafia:
"Mind of War"
"Pentagon Paradox" (out of print, but still available used)
"Pentagon Wars" (out of print, but still available used)
"The $5-billion Misunderstanding"

The Fighter Mafia are the good guys in the struggle for effective weapons systems.  The Air Staff, the establishment, the gold-plate whiz kids in the Pentagon--there's no shortage of names for the other side, but the Fighter Mafia is NOT the group you are criticizing.  Given all the insults these people have suffered over the years at the hands of the establishment, like minded people owe it to them not to misuse their name out of ignorance.

                                                                                                 Andy Wagner

Ed: Yes, others pointed out that using the term "fighter mafia" is poor since it once referred to reformers twenty years ago.  It was not a term they chose, but a derogatory label.  I borrowed the phrase as used within the Marine Corps to describe the fighter cult who retired useful aircraft like the A-4 and OV-10 to buy more F/A-18s.  I forgot about its use for Boyd's group.  It's too late to change that term in my editorial, and very few people recall that it was once used to describe a group of reformers anyway.  Mafia implies an evil group which conspires for their own benefit, so it is a good description for fighter pilot Generals.

F-15 Record

It has been a while since I last had chance to read your web site.  I am in my second assignment at joint Headquarters.  There are plenty of opportunities to have inter-service rivalry debates.  I want to share with you one of my favorite points to make to fighter pilots about the F-22 and F-35.
Has the F-15 ever lost in combat?
Is there another air force that has a plane that could beat an F-15?
Is there another airplane being designed by another country that could beat the F-15?
The answer to all three is of course no.

                                                                                                    US Army Major

Ed: I agree, and the F-15 carries twice the bomb load of the F-22 and is still in production for allies at half the cost.  In addition, the newest F-15T model already has the latest ground attack features US Air Force wants to add to the F-22 to make them F/A-22s, at an additional cost of $12 billion.  Last week it was good to hear former Navy fighter pilot Senator John McCain mention the F-22 as a likely target of budget cuts to increase Army funding.

Fighter Pilot Mafia

Boy, you hit the nail on the head with the article about the fighter mafia in the Air force.  I was a C-141 guy for a lot of years, and I always wondered why everything revolved around the fighter boys.  Just once I’d like to see them deploy a fighter wing to an area of conflict without any help at all from the rest of the Air Force.  Maybe a little humbling is in order to bring the sky-scooter boys and girls back to reality.  After all, the only two things the US Air Force can do is blow things up or move people and stuff from point A to point B.  The fighter mafia thinks all that is important in the blowing up part.

Another sore point – airlift guys NEVER get any big jobs in the AF.  You’ll never see an airlift general get to be the commander of Air Combat Command (FKA – TAC), but the fighter generals always seem to be the ones who get to be the four-star in charge of a major command like Air Mobility Command.  It doesn’t matter that the guy has NO experience in airlift or air refueling.  It’s a good place to park a four-star until he can return to the “fighter community.”  What’s important in the Air force today is glorifying the fighter boys.

                                                                                        Major L. H. Smith, USAF Ret.

Ed:  If Rumsfeld wants "transformation", imagine the shock if he appointed a C-141 pilot as Air Force Chief of Staff.  Lockheed Martin has just begun "tooling up" for low rate production of the F-35 next year, several years before it will complete testing.  Why not save a few billion dollars and delay production until testing is complete?  

B-1s Can't Drop Paratroopers

In 1994 while I was with Special Forces we looked at airdropping a HALO team from the B-1 but we soon found out this could not be done for a few reasons:  The exhaust will get you, but that is only if you get out of the bomb bay.  Apparently smaller bombs like to bounce around inside the bomb bay and the actual bomb racks for conventional weapons on the B-1 actually extend outside of the bomb bay to avoid the vacuum inside the bay.


Ed:  Maybe paras could be dropped in hollow bomb casings, then exit and open chutes at lower altitudes.  They could do the same trick from fighters.  The Brits already developed a pod for this.

Apache Gunfighters

I would disagree with the choice of 7.62mm for a Gunfighter. It has tended to be too weak to take out trucks at the ranges copters will engage at. I would suggest a Starstreak LML, a GAU-13 and 2 FFAR pods on a turret.  A-10s are good, but I guess I'm old-fashioned because I'd rather have a Skyraider with a GAU-8 and a lot of FFAR pods.

I've known about the E-bombs, but I worry more about your "garden variety" ANFO bomb - military stuff is EMP hardened/shielded since nukes and civilian stuff is at least as vulnerable to blasts. EMP bombs are simply too much trouble when regular bombs work as well. Did you forget that the bunker buster nuke continues? It is dirty, would not be contained, and a shaped charge bomb would bust bunkers just fine. It is ludicrous that testing is being planned.

The military, like NASA, has a huge PR machine. You do good work, but we need to come up with a way to have more impact.


Guns for Apaches

I doubt that a 40mm AGL would be a good weapon for wing mounting. Just think about high-speed strafing - the weapon needs to be fired in elevation 10° above the LOS and with the collective of the main rotor in a disadvantageous position. Even if the grenades don't cross the path of the rotor (or other way around), it's likely that these small and fat grenades are affected by downwash. Add this to the general inaccuracy of an AGL and you'll end with a complicated fire control. The GAU-19 otherwise is miraculously said to have overheating problems (IIRC after 200 rds) and might not be ideal either.

But I guess that M230, ASP-30 and GAU-19 are the best candidates for outer wing mounts. But the outer wing mounts need to/should have the firing angle that allows to fire across the flight path (forward flight) and this necessitates a complicated mount (same as in chin, but modified for 90° turn) and an enlarged overall width (maybe 1m each side). The ammo is likely to substitute one 19x Hydra pod and Stinger packs are a no-no, too. maybe a gunfighter Apache should have a quick-change PNVS to avoid that it carries this expensive system with him when it's usually useless in daylight sorties.

I always believed that bomb-carrying helicopters is an idea that stinks. 'Hover above the target'. Pilots will puke and never use this technique.  BTW, since CAS from helicopters doesn't necessitate extreme low level flight - how about ejection seats? The Russians developed and used one for their Ka-50 Hokum; it just needs an explosive separation of the main rotor to eject safely from a helicopter. That should be feasible for an Apache, too.  Low-speed ejection seats (as for turboprop trainers) are much healthier, thinner and lighter than 'real' ejection seats as fighters use them.

I wouldn't concentrate on the cannon's cooling requirements as much as you do - 50x6 is 300 rds, more than many fighters have as ammo. I guess the Apache doesn't have much more rounds (or space for them) anyway. The weapon is single-barreled, it'd be more weight efficient to just add a liquid cooling mantle to it than to integrate additional guns. If not redundancy, high ROF non-explosive rounds requirement, multiple target engagements or ROF are your concerns, it should be easy to live with a  single gun mount as well.

About B-1B;
I disagree, there's no need for a fighter, the airbase requirements are too high for EW ops (and I'd prefer if I was American) to see a common EW concept of Navy and AF to reduce costs to once near-non-acceptable instead of twice.  SOC needs something to infiltrate and to exfiltrate, and I don't see B-1Bs exfiltrating. Further, the cost analysis is simple nonsense - as an economist, I'd never accept to do any cost-benefit analysis on something like air strike equipment. The complexity isn't only insurmountable but the effectiveness also depends on future decisions that cannot be predicted. Anything that's calculated without an endless count of unknown variables is simply useless. You can calculate something, but if somebody does so, he's either dumb or he wants to push his own agenda and create an argument to impress people.


Ed: People think nothing of flying a big unarmored transport helo into a hot LZ and landing for several seconds to drop off troops or pick up wounded.  Yet when I suggest an armored attack helo could drop 500 lbs bombs, many people claim they are too slow and vulnerable.  And why is it okay to hover 100 feet above a city while troops fast rope down, but too dangerous to hover at 5000 feet and drop a bomb?  In addition, crew served infantry weapons cannot fire straight upward from their usual mounts, and gravity greatly reduces their range.

Helicopter Bombing

Considering that helicopters are already vulnerable to MANPAD systems, wouldn't it be a *bad* idea to equip them with bombs? They're not fast enough to drop and pull away, nor do they have the armor of a A-10 to survive an attack run (or even the speed of the fixed-wing craft).

To effectively utilize GPS-guided smart bombs, will additional avionics systems have to be installed? If so, this may distort the scales used to justify the utility of such a upgrade. Replacing Hellfires with a bomb short-changes the Apache should the mission change and require stand-off engagement (for reasons which may occur, unanticipated to many). I am unsure if you suggested somewhere in past articles the use of a Dumb Hellfire (or maybe it was Phil West?), but it seems that a Dumb Hellfire (with HE or a shaped charge) would serve just as well as a 250 pound bomb, which is not as multi-purpose as a missile unit.

Shaped charges are most efficient in penetration, and HE is best for destructive effects. Bombs for the most part are HE and their advantages are dropping in from overhead. Can a Apache not fly at higher altitudes and fire missiles at long ranges instead of go at high altitudes and try to drop a bomb on a bunker, and risk getting suckered into a anti-air trap?

The necessity for cheaper, more effective ground support variants of the Apache gunship is recognized. Using a "bomb" is too risky, and the idea of a bomber sort of clashes with the article title of "Gunfighter".  I may have repeated this about the dangers of bombs: Bombing by its very nature places the bomber-craft close to the target, enough for triple-A to hit it.  While Apaches are armored up reasonably, enough were shot down in Iraq to make invulnerability out of the question. Flying too high puts it in range of MANPADs.  Flying even higher (if it can) puts in range of larger missiles (or maybe large-bore AA guns). But at high altitudes it's close-support potential is wasted and it becomes a rotary wing bomber.

Might the Gunfighter be more useful mounting dumb Hellfires to attack targets from range rather then risking get blasted out of the sky? Up-close shock attack value comes from a target being obvious and impervious to damage. Fear comes from getting nailed at long range by a distant Apache gunship.

On a more productive, additive note: Can a Apache mount soft-launch or recoiless weapons, such as a 106mm, or a top-attacking missile? If it could, it could fire the missile which would descend on its targets from above. Javelins are probably too expensive for this: so a lasing or GPS system could do the trick.

For a belly weapon, maybe a modular system? If no tanks were around and you wanted a true "Gunfighter" and decided to throw caution into the wind, you could mount a M134 and use the minigun for interesting close-in support. Or the GAU-19 .50 three-barreled minigun you suggested. There may be times a 30mm is needed, but these times are now long gone. If a 30mm is needed, couldn't the burst-length be limited to 10 round bursts rather then 50 round bursts? At least studies should look further into the "optimum burst size" to take down a "second rate" target...not a T-72 in a single hit. Something like the BMPs or T-62s maybe.

I have been watching this site for a while and find the alternative proposals floated from time to time to raise interesting mental questions about the status quo. Regardless of what I think about the ideas, at least attention is brought up to the issues, which is the primary concern of progressive reformists.

Fight the good fight


Ed: Those are good points, but remember that bad guys often do not have MANPADS, and their effective range is only up to 3000 feet; "lock-on prior to launch".  So if an Apache bombed from higher than that, even MANPADS would not be a threat.  Look at those huge AC-130 gunships flying circles over Iraqi cities.  They haven't been hit by MANPADS or AAA.

Hellfires cannot shoot downward, which is needed to hit a specific building in a crowded city, like when US Rangers were pinned down in Somalia.  As for the equipment to drop bombs, dumb bombs require almost nothing.  If a smart bomb is programmed on the ground, dropping requires almost nothing.  However, if the pilots are to program in the GPS coordinates while airborne, that requires an expensive device, but it's not large.

Voice in the Wilderness no more

I have read with interest many of your articles for military changes.  As the outlines of transformation become clearer you must be feeling pretty good; many of your recommendations are coming true; artillery reductions to create infantry and MPs, overseas base closures, Comanche canceled, no more talk of a completely wheeled army, brigades with a readiness cycle.  And, closure of some of the multiple Army HQs in Europe should soon be announced. 


Ed:  Yes, the Army is making good progress, but the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines have done nothing to improve.  The Marines are actually degrading as their equipment is older each year while money for replacements is thrown away at BS like the V-22, that absurd automated 120mm mortar, the defective lightweight howitzer, and the complex amtrack replacement which will cost $10 million each.