Air Power and Other Matters.


View from Chaos Manor, Saturday, January 31, 2015


Went for a walk to end of the block. Tiring and I will have to buy a speed walker to do more. Mine is a very good indoor walker, and fine on good sidewalks, but horrible in this neighborhood.

Firefox for some reason does not use autocorrect or spell check on this Windows 7 system. It works on the laptop but other things are different there. I even used Uninstall on Firefox, but when I reinstalled it came up with the same settings and add-ons as before and spell check does not work. At all. It is infuriating.

I will be looking for a good speed walker that has a seat; suggestions welcome. It is painful to take a walk with me now. I am slow and so concentrating on not falling that it has to be boring for everyone else around me.

I have many comments and much more to say about Air Power. We will get to some of it shortly.


I took a quick look at what the Air Force has done since 1945, using readily available sources. They have flown about 6.5 million sorties in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and the War on Terror. About 75% of these sorties were in Vietnam (shame we didn’t win that one, eh?). Sorties are a crude metric, especially now that with precision munitions you can hit many more than one target per sortie. For example, the B-1 and B-52 flew 11% of the sorties in the first three months of Enduring Freedom but dropped 75% of the PGMs. Furthermore, the aircraft does not necessarily drop a bomb on every sortie, especially during the War on Terror. Nevertheless, sortie numbers tell you something about what the Air Force actually did.
Contrary to what you might think, the Air Force has spent most of its time supporting our ground troops in the field. Fully 26% of the sorties were close air support or interdiction – i.e., killing enemy troops and destroying their supplies. Another 44% were tactical airlift – not glamorous, but keeps the troops supplied. Recon missions were 12%. Most of those were over South Vietnam, meaning they involved looking for enemy ground troops so we could kill them. That supports the Army. Only 3% of the sorties were counterair missions – but that includes bombing airfields and SAM sites, not just combat air patrol. Another 4% were “strategic bombing”. This generously counts missions over North Vietnam as strategic bombing, although most of the targets were transportation targets so it was really an extension of the interdiction campaign. In sum, 82% of the sorties supported the field army (close air support, interdiction, airlift, recon) while only 7% were “independent” Air Force missions (counterair, strategic bombing).
After WW2, when the USAF dropped a bomb, it was almost always aimed at enemy ground forces:
4 million tons on South Vietnam (i.e., CAS, interdiction)
3 million tons on Laos/Cambodia (i.e., interdiction)
1 million tons on North Vietnam (mostly on transportation and air defense targets)
Desert Storm USAF airstrikes:
64% on the Iraqi Army
3% to cut lines of communication into Kuwait (bridges, etc.)
15% on air defense targets
13% on “strategic” targets (industry, WMD facilities, government control)
4% on SCUDs
Operation Iraqi Freedom USAF airstrikes:
78% on the Iraqi Army
7% on air defenses
15% on “strategic” targets (WMD, government control)
This is not a picture of an Air Force that has forgotten that the purpose of air superiority is to bomb the enemy, or that regards supporting the Army with contempt. If they hate CAS, they sure have done a heck of a lot of it – almost a million sorties! What more could they have done than the astounding efforts they exerted to support the Army in Vietnam and Iraq?
Regarding the P-47 being a “better” close air support aircraft than what we have, I disagree. The USAF used both propeller and jet aircraft in Korea and Vietnam. Yes, the prop planes had more loiter time, but they were less responsive and more vulnerable to ground fire. By the way, despite the advent of jets, the USAF “response time” to an Army CAS request dropped from 3 hours in WW2, to 1 hour in Korea, to 15 minutes in Vietnam, to 10 minutes or less today.
Our fighters are so good that the enemy refuses to fly against them. The Iraqis buried their planes in the ground in 2003 rather than engage us. This is not a reason to stop being good at air combat. If we stop having the best-trained pilots in the best aircraft, the enemy will contest control of the air.
Frankly I think there’s a better argument for abolishing the Army than the Air Force. Every time we have a good Army, a politician does something stupid with it. Oh but land power is decisive and airpower is indecisive? Gimme a break. Nowadays the Army isn’t even allowed to fight decisively, and the enemy knows all they have to do is wait for us to get tired and go away. Better not even to have the option to get stuck in another long, indecisive “stability” operation.
James Perry

I think you confuse effort with work: number of sorties looks good, but what they accomplished is a better measure.  The USAF air support in Korea was awful – compared to their air war in which they justly claimed that our ground forces suffered no casualties from enemy air. Be sure to note the word enemy because on the retreat from the Yalu we suffered plenty of casualties from air attacks as jet planes came in fast with guns and bombs.

I suspect we will continue to disagree, but the designers of future USAF craft are not listening to either of us. You cite impressive numbers; I only know stories from people I trust who say the A10 was very effective so of course USAF doesn’t want it because it is ugly. 

“This is very serious, to accuse people of treason for communicating with Congress,”

Read more here: Air Force probing alleged ‘treason’ remark by general


Air Force probing alleged ‘treason’ remark by general

The Air Force is investigating allegations that the No. 2 commander at its prestigious Air Combat Command told lower-ranking officers that talking to members of Con…

View on


Ask Douglas MacArthur

Well MacArthur’s story is more complex.  And for all his genius he didn’t understand air war.  Air supremacy is a vital mission and a lot of ground officers do not understand the necessary targeting philosophy,  



Goering, himself a fighter pilot during WWI, had a firm grasp on the concepts of and need for air superiority. Following the Spanish Civil War, he also had highly skilled single-seater pilots.

What he DIDN’T have was the ability to override the Command Authority.

The Battle of Britain was going in Germany’s favor during the early stages, and the Luftwaffe doctrine was to destroy RAF Fighter Command.

The first bombing campaign was against Fighter Command airfields, because a fighter that can’t land today won’t take off tomorrow.

However, this doctrine didn’t survive the 26 August (1940) retaliatory raid in which the RAF bombed Berlin. Furious, Hitler ordered the unrestricted mass bombing of London and other British cities, and Goering wasn’t able to talk him out of it.

This was where Germany lost the war against the UK, and ultimately the Allies.

With the focus on bombing shifted away from his airfields, Air Vice Marshall Keith Park now had the time to rebuild his runways and move 11 Group fighters back into them (from the fallback fields where they had been moved to get out from under the “Heinkel Umbrella”). They could strike at the German bombers, while the German fighters had significantly less loiter time in the combat area (a lesson that the USAAC had to re-learn, when our fighters arrived without long-range tanks and were unable to stay with the B-17 and B-24 groups over Europe).

Thus, Germany’s defeat is laid squarely at the feet of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, not the Luftwaffe.

There are three types of military plane: fighters, bombers and transports. The A-10 is a bomber (even the gun is intended for attacking ground targets), so it relies on the fighters to sweep the skies for it. The fighters rely on the A-10 to see to it that the enemy tank commander isn’t hosting lunch in the Officers’ Mess when they get back.

OUR National Command Authority is as ignorant as the NSDAP, when it comes to the needs of air superiority and air defense. By cancelling the F-22 builds and shelving the A-10, they put all of our eggs in one basket, guarded by the F-35 — in a role it wasn’t designed for.

If the Republicans can find a presidential candidate whose spine is anything more than the connection between his cranium and rectum, perhaps the F-22 will go back into production and the USAF generals won’t have to sacrifice the A-10 in order to get the F-35 that they’ve been forced to need.

Keep recovering, Jerry!


That is one explanation, but the decision to swat hornets one at a time continued. It may be that Hitler did not understand and forced the decision; but he listened to Goering – to his detriment at Stalingrad – and we don’t really know what happened.  In any event the Battle of Britain showed that fuel stores and planes on the ground air targets than Spitfires in the air.


Why not give the A-10 – the whole CAS mission, for that matter – to the Marines?

They already have their own fixed-wing air arm, and they’re often the beneficiaries of CAS.

Roland Dobbins

Marine Air gives good support to Marines and Navy; it is not so fine at support of the ground Army.  It works; why change it?  But the War Dept. needs air support also. And both need Air Supremacy.


China’s Wind Power Capacity Exceeds Entire UK Power Grid

The third paragraph is the most interesting, but the first two are worth noting:


Installations of wind power in the U.S. surged sixfold last year, making it the largest market for the technology worldwide after China.

The U.S. added 4.7 gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity in 2014 compared with 764 megawatts a year earlier, largely due to the extension of the Production Tax Credit in January 2013, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today in a statement. Total U.S. onshore wind installations are now 64.2 megawatts.

China remains the biggest market for wind with installations rising a record 38 percent, or 20.7 gigawatts, from a year earlier, according to BNEF. China’s grid-connected wind-energy capacity now is 96 gigawatts, more than that of the entire U.K. power fleet. Wind energy is China’s largest power source after coal and hydropower.


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Do not confuse capacity with output. The US has high capacity. So does Germany. Alas that is only when the wind is blowing. The result is brownout where wind is the main supplier. Storage is the problem; and it is lousy. As far as I know there is nothing more efficient than pumped storage — using wind energy to pump water up hill, where it will later run down into a turbine – and that is at best 80% efficient, generally less so, and creates a not very useful lake whose level rises and falls frequently. Look up pumped storage for more. Batteries are obviously less complicated, but also more expensive. China’s investment is not likely to be optimum.


: Fred Reed: ‘It is well known that Paul Bremer, the virtual viceroy of Bagdad after the city’s fall in Gulf I, disbanded the Iraqi army. Less known is that he replaced Mohammed al Aksa, the chief of intelligence, with Abdul dhar es Salaam, *a known Sufi

‘It is well known that Paul Bremer, the virtual viceroy of Bagdad after the city’s fall in Gulf I, disbanded the Iraqi army. Less known is that he replaced Mohammed al Aksa, the chief of intelligence, with Abdul dhar es Salaam, *a known Sufi extremist* with ties to Iranian intelligence.’


Roland Dobbins

Bremer has the loss of Iraq to answer for. H should be made aware of that.


Peggy Noonan’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal is worth your time. America’s foreign policy since 2009 has been a disaster. It is now getting worse. If you have no goal, it is difficult to achieve it.

Something is going on here.

On Tuesday retired Gen. James Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command (2010-13) told the Senate Armed Services Committee of his unhappiness at the current conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He said the U.S. is not “adapting to changed circumstances” in the Mideast and must “come out now from our reactive crouch.” Washington needs a “refreshed national strategy”; the White House needs to stop being consumed by specific, daily occurrences that leave it “reacting” to events as if they were isolated and unconnected. He suggested deep bumbling: “Notifying the enemy in advance of our withdrawal dates” and declaring “certain capabilities” off the table is no way to operate.

Sitting beside him was Gen. Jack Keane, also a respected retired four-star, and a former Army vice chief of staff, who said al Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years” and is “beginning to dominate multiple countries.” He called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation” and said we are failing to meet it.

The same day the generals testified, Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast reported that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a retired director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had told a Washington conference: “You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists.” The audience of military and intelligence professionals applauded. Officials, he continued, are “paralyzed” by the complexity of the problems connected to militant Islam, and so do little, reasoning that “passivity is less likely to provoke our enemies.”

These statements come on the heels of the criticisms from President Obama’s own former secretaries of defense. Robert Gates, in “Duty,” published in January 2014, wrote of a White House-centric foreign policy developed by aides and staffers who are too green or too merely political. One day in a meeting the thought occurred that Mr. Obama “doesn’t trust” the military, “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his.” That’s pretty damning. Leon Panetta , in his 2014 memoir, “Worthy Fights,” said Mr. Obama “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”

No one thinks this administration is the A Team when it comes to foreign affairs, but this is unprecedented push-back from top military and intelligence players. They are fed up, they’re less afraid, they’re retired, and they’re speaking out. We are going to be seeing more of this kind of criticism, not less.

On Thursday came the testimony of three former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger (1973-77), George Shultz (1982-89) and Madeleine Albrigh t (1997-2001). Senators asked them to think aloud about what America’s national-security strategy should be, what approaches are appropriate to the moment. It was good to hear serious, not-green, not-merely-political people give a sense of the big picture. Their comments formed a kind of bookend to the generals’ criticisms.

They seemed to be in agreement on these points:

We are living through a moment of monumental world change.

Old orders are collapsing while any new stability has yet to emerge.

When you’re in uncharted waters your boat must be strong.

If America attempts to disengage from this dangerous world it will only make all the turmoil worse.

Mr. Kissinger observed that in the Mideast, multiple upheavals are unfolding simultaneously—within states, between states, between ethnic and religious groups. Conflicts often merge and produce such a phenomenon as the Islamic State, which in the name of the caliphate is creating a power base to undo all existing patterns.

Mr. Shultz said we are seeing an attack on the state system and the rise of a “different view of how the world should work.” What’s concerning is “the scope of it.”

Mr. Kissinger: “We haven’t faced such diverse crises since the end of the Second World War.” The U.S. is in “a paradoxical situation” in that “by any standard of national capacity . . . we can shape international relations,” but the complexity of the present moment is daunting. The Cold War was more dangerous, but the world we face now is more complicated.

How to proceed in creating a helpful and constructive U.S. posture?

Mr. Shultz said his attitude when secretary of state was, “If you want me in on the landing, include me in the takeoff.” Communication and consensus building between the administration and Congress is key. He added: “The government seems to have forgotten about the idea of ‘execution.’ ” It’s not enough that you say something, you have to do it, make all the pieces work.

When you make a decision, he went on, “stick with it.” Be careful with words. Never make a threat or draw a line you can’t or won’t make good on.

In negotiations, don’t waste time wondering what the other side will accept, keep your eye on what you can and work from there.

Keep the U.S. military strong, peerless, pertinent to current challenges.

Proceed to negotiations with your agenda clear and your strength unquestionable.

Mr. Kissinger: “In our national experience . . . we have trouble doing a national strategy” because we have been secure behind two big oceans. We see ourselves as a people who respond to immediate, specific challenges and then go home. But foreign policy today is not a series of discrete events, it is a question of continuous strategy in the world.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Air Supremacy, Fermi Question, and Dangers of AI

View from Chaos Manor, Thursday, January 29, 2015



I continue to recover, and part of that is consolidating most operations onto a new fast machine. Still use Windows 7, but changing to Office 10 and various updates.  It seems needlessly complex. Microsoft has never discovered the joys of redundancy when it comes to ways of doing things,  They still want to “save” a kb of memory, as if anyone cares.


Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’ (WP)

By Peter Holley January 28 at 6:28 PM

Bill Gates is a passionate technology advocate (big surprise), but his predictions about the future of computing aren’t uniformly positive.

During a wide-ranging Reddit “Ask me Anything” session on Wednesday — one that touched upon everything from Gates’s biggest regrets to his favorite spread to lather on bread — the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist outlined a future that is equal parts promising and ominous.

Midway through the discussion, Gates was asked what personal computing will look like in 2045. Gates responded by asserting that the next 30 years will be a time of rapid progress.

“Even in the next 10 problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good,” he wrote. “Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved. Once computers/robots get to a level of capability where seeing and moving is easy for them then they will be used very extensively.”

He went on to highlight a Microsoft project known as the “Personal Agent,” which is being designed to help people manage their memory, attention and focus. “The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model – the agent will help solve this,” he said. “It will work across all your devices.”

The response from Reddit users was mixed, with some making light of Gates’s revelation and others sounding the alarm.

“Clippy 2.0?,” wrote one user.

“Please…more like Clippy 2020,” another replied.

“This technology you are developing sounds at its essence like the centralization of knowledge intake,” a third user wrote. “Ergo, whomever controls this will control what information people make their own. Even today, we see the daily consequences of people who live in an environment that essentially tunnel-visions their knowledge.”

Shortly after, a Reddit user asked Gates how much of an existential threat superintelligent machines pose to humans. The question has been at the forefront of several recent discussions among prominent futurists. Last month, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race.”

Speaking at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October, Tesla boss Elon Musk referred to artificial intelligence as “summoning the demon.”

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

After gushing about the immediate future of technology on Reddit, Gates aligned himself with Musk and struck a more cautious tone.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Gates wrote. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Once he finished addressing the potential demise of humankind, Gates got back to more immediate questions, like revealing his favorite spread to put on bread.

“Butter? Peanut butter? Cheese spread?” he wrote. “Any of these.”


I am working with John DeChancie on a novel that has some of this trend, It is very much worth while opening a discussion on the consequences and effects of AI. Comments welcome. Should we regulate this? How?


Dr. Pournelle,
So happy to see you are recovering. Your posts and mail are always a highlight in my day.
I’d not thought you’d misquoted the SAC motto the other day, just that you’d tried to re-form it to fit your statement. Considering your CoDominium Marines had adopted it, was pretty sure you knew it.
The other day, I was able to speak with a retired A-10 pilot, and found him in agreement with many of your views on the way the system has been treated by the Air Force. In addition to the direct ground support mission, he also emphasized the utility of the aircraft in CSAR and in tactical scouting. It was his opinion that there is nothing else in any service inventory that can do these jobs as well as an A-10.
While I tend to agree with much of the criticism of the USAF, I really think we should be wary of signs of Iron Law stagnation in the Army, too. As an engineering contractor, my former employers were all involved with several U. S. Army acquisition programs that were rife with blatant waste and borderline fraud, usually driven by flag-ranked Army officers and staffed by current and former Army officers. I learned that those who most frequently stated that “the warfighter” was their prime concern were the most self-serving, cynical, resource wasters of the bunch. The other services (and several of the three-letter agencies) for which I worked on similar programs were not quite as bad.
While I agree with your correspondents who state that lack of political will, leadership, and direction is the cause of the losses of recent wars by the best-equipped fighting forces in history, from my worms-eye view much of the blame also belongs within the services. Eisenhower said it (after it was too late for him to do much about it):
” In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. “
I’ll stand with you on the abolition of the USAF only if it comes with complete reform of the Pentagon force and acquisition structure, otherwise, for the Army, a reboot of the USAAF will be as much pearls before swine as it was for Mitchell a century ago (and for many of the same reasons), and we’d be better off to let it alone.

The creation of USAF from USAAF was intended to make possible “the unification of the services,” What it has accomplished is to make our military less effective in its primary mission, which is to win wars. Gaining air supremacy is complicated, and older army types did not understand that.  You do not fight hornets by swatting them one a time, even if you are good at swatting.  The goal is to be able to fly when the other guy cannot, and to eliminate his counter air resources. Goering didn’t understand this, and thus the Battle of Britain, which was a terrible waste of the Luftwaffe in an attempt to remove the RAF long enough for the Wehrmacht to get across the Channel.  The US Army got the wrong message from that battle. 

And later the Army chose wrong missions for the ground support forces.  You can’t do close support without air supremacy, USAAF knew that; the rest of the Army did not. They never learned that once you have air supremacy you get close support.

But when USAAF replaced USAF, the hot pilots forgot that you wanted air supremacy not just to protect you own troops from enemy air power, but also so that you could use air power against the enemy; and once USAF was formed, protecting and preserving missions became of prime importance. The Army got helicopters but never P-47’s, and new aircraft were for air supremacy, but never for ground attacks.  And here we are today.The Air Force puts itself as more important than winning battles.

Gen. LeMay learned one of the nastiest lessons in warfare history in the early days of the 8th Air Force against Germany. Germany was good and we were not, we had little fighter escort, and as a result, LeMay lost a lot of good men and planes correcting that problem. He never forgot, and after WWII, we got SAC which as you’ve mentioned, was the most effective military force the world has ever seen. The whole world knew it, and the bad guys were scared silly of SAC. As LeMay used to say, “Flying fighters are fun, flying bombers are important”.

SAC’s command and control was even more impressive than it’s flying and bombing. In the movie, “A Gathering of Eagles”, Rock Hudson’s character is showing some dignitaries around the mole hole (SAC’s command and control center at Offit AFB). Within seconds, positive control is demonstrated for the entire SAC force including an airborne B52 flying 5000 miles away. All of this with 1960’s technology. No cell phones, no internet, no satellites, just SSB HF radio and hardliner’s. I’ve always thought that was a message to the Soviets, look how quickly we can be ready to kill you.

SAC was the heart of the USAF. The rest were spear carriers. If we have lost that, then you are right, it’s time for USAF to go.

In the 70’s the Army had more ships than the Navy, and more aircraft than the Air Force. The problem was the aircraft were severely limited in gross weight and many of the ships had no propellers and had to be towed.

My Dad’s best friend was a SAC radar navigator (a polite phrase for Nuclear bombardier). About the time I graduated from high school, he was the Air Force program manager for the A10. He gave me a tour of the production line. It was pretty neat. At the front of the line was the titanium bathtub that pilot set in and a small, stapled set of sheets of paper. At the other end was a completed airplane and a locked room of paper. Max did not think the A10 was anti air force, after 20 years of alert duty, ORI’s and ridding BUFF’s, he knew what an air force was for, winning wars. I have a message in 6 parts….

Phil Tharp


Does not fit the Narrative


An article from the AP. Apparently the A-10 does not fit the narrative.

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE


“Air Force probing alleged ‘treason’ remark by general By ROBERT BURNS- AP National Security Writer

01/28/2015 5:53 PM | Updated: 01/28/2015 5:53 PM


The Air Force is investigating allegations that the No. 2 commander at its prestigious Air Combat Command told lower-ranking officers that talking to members of Congress about the capabilities of the A-10 attack aircraft is tantamount to treason.”

Given that the USN has operationally deployed a directed energy weapon, I do wonder just how much of a future airpower has in a “if you can detect it, you can kill it” environment.
Sure it is early days for the ship borne laser, but they will only get better and the quoted cost of “ammunition” is $5 (five dollars) a shot.

Kev Metcalfe

Abolish the Air Force

An aircraft so ugly it is beautiful. Like the PBY.
The Air Force attempted to abolish the A10 back in the 90s. During the budget hearings, after Gulf War I.
The Air Force spoke first. The Army followed them and proposed that the Army be given these wonderful aircraft, along with the personnel slots and funding.
The Air Force came back and removed the proposal.

Chuck Pelto



“We know that it was warmer in Viking times than now, and surely that

was not due to Medieval human activities.”

Actually, we don’t know this.

For your perusal:
“Research team suggests European Little Ice Age came about due to reforestation in New World”

Charles Mann talks about this in his book “1491.”  The idea is, Native Americans did a lot of slash and burn, and the Americas were essentially a maintained landscape — one that produced a lot of smoke.  Come the Columbian Exchange, and the subsequent reforestation after the pronounced population decline, there wasn’t as much carbon.  This had global consequences.

Hoping this finds you well,


We may not KNOW it but it’s a very reasonable hypothesis. They cut trees in the 16th Century too, and if CO2 caused the Viking Warm, where did it go when things got cool?



It must be nice to be a Monopoly and be able to change your Service Standards whenever you can not meet the existing standards.

The USPS has changed their delivery standards for First Class Mail effective January 1, 2015. There is, effectively, no such thing as next day delivery for First Class Mail. (If you are mailing to a PO box associated with a USPS Sorting Center, the letter might get put into the PO Box the next day, but don’t count on it.)

The new standard is two to four days.

There is one bright spot. Your mail might be delivered earlier in the day.

I guess it is time for a name change to US Post Office since there is precious little Service left.

Bob Holmes


and I found this while consolidating..


Dr. Pournelle,

The release of Blackship Island was timed perfectly as a self-gifted birthday present, and I am enjoying it immensely. Inexpensive, too, on my Kindle. I think that I’m learning to differentiate between the Niven, Barnes, and Pournelle parts, but it is difficult.

As a result, I will have to re-read the rest of the Avalon series. I’ve avoided buying Kindle copies of books I’ve read in the past — mostly. _The Legend of Blackship Island_ has (*sorry*) re-kindled my interest. I never tire of re-reading books of yours, and of your collaborators, and my paperbacks are wearing out. I’m going to have to break down and buy copies of some of my old friends in electronic format.

Trying not to throw spoilers for others, should you choose to publish this: I ran into a technical edit issue — a young character is presented with a paintball gun, and successfully fires on a target — which is said to have had two darts embedded into it. The ammo doesn’t seem to match the weapon. I don’t know of any other way of bringing this to your attention. I will provide paragraph and kindle location if you wish.

How does one get into the business of providing editing services? I can find errors in other’s work easily. Never in my own. Perhaps I’m in the wrong profession.

Looking forward to the release of the next Tran novel, as well,



I had lunch yesterday with Niven and Barnes,  We are making use of the creatures on Black Ship…  Alas I missed this letter two years ago.  I will try to fix the text…  I suspect this is a collaborator error


Fermi’s Paradox solved?



Roland Dobbins

We need to come back and discuss this.  Interesting.


Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Moving to a New Machine; Patience Wins; More on Air War

View from Chaos Manor, Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I have spent much of the day getting onto a new machine with Outlook and Word 10, and trying to install Live Writer so I can post here. It turns out that Google sends you to a Microsoft site that gives you an early copy of Live Writer that seems very difficult to use. After searching and driving my advisors nuts with my whining I find I have been using Live writer 2012 and what I got from was a slightly later build that works. Hurrah,

Much of the day was spent in this, and Niven and Barnes were over and we went to lunch with Roberta at Hugo’s, where we had a delightful lunch.

I spent the rest of the afternoon telling myself that despair is a sin, but I eventually found password in an ancient log, and recovered some memories and checked for typos … so if this goes up, rejoice.

It is a stub with more interesting stuff later.

And hurrah, all is well. It posted.  This an updated build of Live Writer.  It works splendidly.  More later.


Abolish the Air Force — The Wild Weasel Pilot’s View

I wrote the following in Winds of Change blog post in 2003 based, on a mid-1990’s e-mail conversation with a Wild Weasel Pilot.
This is the key section related to your thoughts about the problem of the dysfunctional fighter pilot culture supporting ground troops and the issue of Drones being the new Air Superiority –

TRENT: I am particularly taken with the charges in the book THE ICARUS SYNDROME, by Carl Builder of the RAND corp. His evaluation of the “Fighter Pilot Mafia” seem spot on. That is, you ask an ex-Air Force officer what he was and he says he “was a F-16C pilot” while an ex-Army officer says “I was an Army officer.” In other words, the USAF officer corps takes more pride in which piece of heavy equipment they operated than in the institution as a whole.
SOURCE: I believe you and Carl Builder have interpreted the organizational loyalty climate in the Air Force correctly — we don’t seem to have any broad-service identity like the Marines do. We are very isolated and tribal. Especially fighter, bomber, controller, intell, and maintenance types — the fighter guys divide into air-to-air and air-to- mud mentalities. The same family atmosphere and loyalty a bunch of sharks have.

TRENT: I am very tempted to say that “Air Superiority is to important to be left to Fighter Pilots.”

SOURCE: Air Superiority is becoming less and less an air combat (fighter to fighter) type activity. More and more of our potential enemies are investing heavily in surface-to-air defenses — primarily Third World countries who don’t have the technological culture to invest heavily and train intensely in independent fighter maneuvering flying. SAMs are there 24 hours a day, and in the case of radar SAMs, in any weather. Much easier to train a primitive in operating a SAM radar system than flying a supersonic jet fighter. New SAMs like the SA-15 are essentially like the Patriot — they do all the work for you and you simply consent to fire. More systems are refining their radars and missile kinematics to target cruise missiles (low radar cross section).

If we have nothing but “System operator versus system operator, off platform, at a remote distance, and may the best Sysop win” as the air superiority paradigm. 
There really is no need for a separate military service to do the role.
Full blog post below, and you have my permission to post it in it’s entirety.

Interview with a Weasel Jock – A Retrospective

By Trent Telenko on January 16, 2003 7:42 AM | No Comments | 3 TrackBacks

A few years ago, at roughly the time Scott O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down in 1995 over Bosnia, I had a long correspondence with a now likely ex-USAF Wild Weasel pilot.
The original e-mails have been lost in a hard disk crash, but I pulled the following from my floppy files, edited it for clarity, and removed a number of professional references to my correspondent. I originally sent this to a mailing list that included Austin Bay, James Dunnigan, Steven Cole and several others from my old Genie Military Round Table community.
While this is dated, I think it useful for two reasons. First, it nails down some of the institutional problems of the USAF�s Fighter Pilot leadership is causing. Second, it lays a stick in the ground against which to judge what has happened in the USAF since then.
I have my own postscript after the interview.

TRENT: I am particularly taken with the charges in the book THE ICARUS SYNDROME, by Carl Builder of the RAND corp. His evaluation of the “Fighter Pilot Mafia” seem spot on. That is, you ask an ex-Air Force officer what he was and he says he “was a F-16C pilot” while an ex-Army officer says “I was an Army officer.” In other words, the USAF officer corps takes more pride in which piece of heavy equipment they operated than in the institution as a whole.
SOURCE: I believe you and Carl Builder have interpreted the organizational loyalty climate in the Air Force correctly — we don’t seem to have any broad-service identity like the Marines do. We are very isolated and tribal. Especially fighter, bomber, controller, intell, and maintenance types — the fighter guys divide into air-to-air and air-to- mud mentalities. The same family atmosphere and loyalty a bunch of sharks have.

TRENT: I am very tempted to say that “Air Superiority is to important to be left to Fighter Pilots.”

SOURCE: Air Superiority is becoming less and less an air combat (fighter to fighter) type activity. More and more of our potential enemies are investing heavily in surface-to-air defenses — primarily Third World countries who don’t have the technological culture to invest heavily and train intensely in independent fighter maneuvering flying. SAMs are there 24 hours a day, and in the case of radar SAMs, in any weather. Much easier to train a primitive in operating a SAM radar system than flying a supersonic jet fighter. New SAMs like the SA-15 are essentially like the Patriot — they do all the work for you and you simply consent to fire. More systems are refining their radars and missile kinematics to target cruise missiles (low radar cross section).

TRENT: The Fighter Pilot Mafia also seemed to have curious delusions of “Beyond Visual Range Godhood.” They think Sparrow and AMRAAM radar guided missiles are far longer ranged than those of the Russians, when the opposite was true, and absolutely ignored the possibility of air-to-air ARMs when the Russians have large numbers of them both for anti-fighter and anti-AWACS work.

SOURCE: BVR radar air-to-air missiles will be like our M1A1 tanks and Apache helicopters were in Iraq — we had the thermal sensors and the weapons to kill enemy tanks, who didn’t even know we were there. The AA-10 has some long-range motor models that shoot quite a long way, and some variants have an ARM seeker (good to use on US fighters who ALWAYS use their radars). We’ll get a nasty surprise some day like Israel did in 1973.

TRENT: The contractor electronic warfare community, in its periodicals, seemed much happier with the “SAC Generals” than the “TAC/ACC Generals.”

The SAC Generals are shown to always appreciate ECM while the TAC Generals seemed to think all you needed to be was a “Sh*t Hot” pilot in a high performance plane to dodge the SAM’s. The “TAC boys” seem to change their minds on ECM when the shooting started and forget as soon as it is over. The recent downing of an F-16 over Bosnia seems a good case in point.
SOURCE: SAC knew the threat its bombers were facing during the Cold War, but relied on nuclear exchange for suppressing much of the radar threats — it had a great track record for equitably caring for its navigators (especially radar navigators/bombardiers and EWOs). When TAC and SAC merged into ACC, TAC had to grudgingly accept many “promotable” navigators and EWOs into ranks of Colonel and even higher — this was unheard of in TAC. TAC fighter pilots were notoriously ignorant of threats and countermeasures/countertactics. They seldom knew much threat knowledge.
There have been two “privileged classes” of fighter pilots — those hand-picked and groomed “Golden Boys”: McPeak’s F-15A air-to-air “Manly Men” fighter pilots exclusively selected in the late 70s who have all gone on to become TAC/ACC’s generals, and the pilots selected to fly the F-117 in the 80s while it was still a black program (most are passing through Colonel now to stardom). McPeak was notorious for making any plan or mission highlight the F-117 since that was key to our buy of the F-22 and B-2. Many generations of navigators, EWOs, intell officers, and maintenance officers were sacrificed to promote these characters below-the-zone and to create for them an atmosphere not unlike Napoleon’s Grenadiers a Cheval of the Imperial Guard Cavalry enjoyed. Much of the McPeak rottenness seems to have abated but I’m (Deleted References)
In any case it did its damage over the past 5 years since the end of the War. We rewrote history to show that the F-4G and EF-111 really didn’t do much in Desert Storm — the war was won by the F-117. The Wild Weasel blitz of the Iraqi IADS the first week of the war is essentially covered up — Gen Profitt who was recently killed in an airplane crash, was a big proponent of the EF-111 and discounted the contribution of the F-4G. There are very few Weasels still left in uniform to defend it.

TRENT: Who is the other “privileged class?” Are they any good as flyers?

It sounds like you need a Israeli style pilot training system — a “Commissioned Warrant Officer Pilot” track and a separate command track.
This system of “Highlands Clan cronyism” will destroy itself. I can see signs of it now in the hits the USAF is taking in the budget wars with the Army and Navy.
SOURCE: The two privileged classes of pilots were: F-15A (late 70s) drivers and F-117 (early 80s) drivers. Since the dates I mentioned, both jets have been opened up to a wider array of pilots but the early days of both mentioned were an incestuous interest-filled activity. Hand-picked favorites and golden boys (some general’s pet boy).
The Israeli AF, like many others like the RAF, has two tracks — one for a simple jock who just wants to fly with essentially no other responsibility (can be a warrant or more likely stay a company grader forever), and the other for a professional career military officer who has the capability and desire for more responsibility and demonstrates command potential. You are right — we are f*****g ourselves in the air force and I’m not sure even Fogleman can turn it around soon enough — he’s making a valiant effort though. (Deleted references)
Often, the handpicked Golden Boys of privilege and interest aren’t very good in the jet. They are usually specialists in f*****io and s*d*my for some senior officer. (Deleted References)
The USAF institution is rotten to the core with its promotion and personnel system. They recently “reexamined” it but they never considered changing or ridding itself of the Below-The-Zone promotion concept which is the primal source of its rottenness. You wind up with someone getting a command billet who has never gotten his hands dirty working in the trade — inexperienced and immature, and also someone who is such a careerist they don’t have the guts to stand up for their people or make a decision (they might be WRONG!). The Highland Clans may have had a cronyistic system but at least they all could FIGHT when necessary. Look at the candy asses of the 1st Fighter Wing in Desert Storm compared to the regular bubbas in the 33rd FW. The 33rd got 16 MiG kills and the 1st “Golden Boys” got 0 (but don’t think they weren’t trying, and CENTCOM was stacking the deck on CAP/Escort missions to put them in position to get some).
TRENT: It is my belief that the draw down in USAF Electronic Combat capability started when the Tacit Rainbow ARM UAV came out of the “Black World,” and the ASPJ, both went “tango uniform” [JK Note: milspeak for T.U., or “Tits Up,” i.e. dead] in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. It accelerated after the Gulf War with the cancellation of the MAWS, the cancellation of the EF-111 SIP upgrade, and the vetoing of a F-15E based Wild Weasel armed with a laser blinder by McPeak.
Your thoughts?
SOURCE: The real draw down of USAF EC capability began in around 1982 when the F-117 was fielded at Nellis — single-seat “fighter” capability that didn’t need no dang confounded gadgetry and pencil-neck geek four-eyed EWOs (Chuck Yeager accent added for authenticity). Flaccid Rambo [Note2 from Trent: a slightly pornographic reference to the cancelled Tacit Rainbow anti-radar cruise missile] and ASPJ (a Navy program so it can’t be good for us) were stillborn by the late 1980s — nonstarters. Corder had a pet black project that was probably also killed when he was fired but I don’t know its status. [Note3 from Trent: Gen. Corder was the USAF’s foremost expert on electronic warfare and developed the USAF’s 1980’s anti-SAM doctrine.] Col Jock Patterson at TAWC/EC and _GENERAL RALSTON_ at TAC/DR basically stopped advocating any new EC systems because the senior leadership had essentially bought off on stealth, hook line and sinker.
Our F-111s are gone and our A-10s are essentially gone — those and the F4s were the three jets (Gen.) Russ had on his “hit list” when Desert Shield kicked off. Schwarzkopf’s replacement at CENTCOM had to call McPeak and ly order him to turn around some F-4Gs that were on their way to the boneyard after the end of the war — they were still needed to enforce the peace over Iraq. (Gen.) Corder was fired for advocating that we keep squadrons of F-4Gs in the active AF when McPeak was trying to find a way to keep all the F-15C squadrons at a time when the AF was shrinking by at least 1/3.
We stopped buying new ECM pods, missile approach warning systems, new RWRs, improved flares, etc.
We’ve almost stopped testing threat weapon systems.
Our entire countermeasures industrial base and experienced engineers in the program offices dried up, probably never to rebuild until we lose half an air force in the next war and go back to the days of the late 60s again (Quick Reaction programs because we were too myopic to anticipate the threat). All the things we learned from Vietnam and used so well in the Gulf are now gone.
The electronic warfare community has essentially been “purged” — most EWOs were passed over for promotion and SERBed while they and the EC pilots (who didn’t get F-15/F-16 assignments) have gotten good jobs as contractors and consultants. EC/EW has now evolved into “Information Warfare”, which generally doesn’t include SEAD or ECM and seems to rely on deception. Our offensive and defensive domination of the electromagnetic spectrum has all but disappeared and the generals have totally bought off on stealth as the panacea to every threat. If the Bosnian Serbs had deployed a few SA-10 systems we would have been up a creek — they would have been able to dominate the skies and keep us away.
— Trent’s Postscript —
The USA has yet to face a SA-10 or SA-15 surface to air missile system in combat. The Bosnian Serbs couldn’t afford either system and it seems few other state can. So the real test of US post-Gulf War SEAD capability has yet to happen.
The heart of the USAF’s institutional culture was Strategic Air Command (SAC). It was where the pilots that learned how to do teamwork, logistics and (nuclear) strategy. That was where officers were groomed for senior flag rank command slots.
When SAC was stood down, Tactical Air Command (TAC) took over in the form of the renamed Air Combat Command (ACC). We are talking fighter jocks, the prima donna’s, the cowboys. The anti-intellectuals who are scared to death of people smarter than they are. Look what happened after the Gulf War when ACC was in charge.
Col. John A. Warden, the architect of the Gulf War air campaign was black balled by Gen. Horner. He retired a thrice passed over Col. at the Air Command and Staff School.
Gen. Corder — the man who put together the 1980’s USAF SEAD doctrine used so well in the Gulf War — was effectively sacked by the USAF chief of Staff (CoS) for disobeying a “strong suggestion” to lie to Congress about the need to retain the F-4G Wild Weasels. (The then CoS was trying to retain more F-15C’s in the force structure.) His efforts to deploy a missile warning system** to protect USAF planes was cancelled partially in retaliation.
When Corder’s allies in Congress started making noise in 1993 about the draw down of F-4G Wild Weasel and EF-111’s, the USAF put the recently retired Corder on a special six month SEAD study to satisfy them.
Then the Air Staff sat on the results for close to three years. Corder, under the legal restrictions of the Reagan era secrecy laws, was thus effectively silenced while the deed was done. The downing of Capt. O’ Grady in Bosnia was a direct result of the purging of F-4G Wild Weasel and EF-111 Spark ‘Vark’s from the USAF force structure and senior ACC staff’s willing EW incompetence.
USAF CoS Fogleman, for all his faults, recognized the lack of institutional professionalism. His support of the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alb. and attempts to create a USAF doctrine codifying entity like the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) were what was needed.
Unfortunately, Fogleman could not delegate and his reforms died with his military career. The inability to delegate is a defining fault of USAF fighter pilot culture. Fogleman’s successors haven’t tried to address these core institutional issues since then. The F-22 budget wars and the real wars since 1997 have left the USAF CoS no time for anything else, assuming they were interested.
bq.. ** = I think I have identified the secret missile warning and defense electronic warfare program of USAF General Corder’s that CoS McPeak cancelled. The predecessor of the current ALE-50 towed decoy/radar jammer was started as a black program by Sanders, according to a Sept. 1996 AvWeek article titled “Aircraft Defense Shifts To Towed Decoy, Ir Beams,” pgs. 46-47.
It was flight tested in the late 1980’s, roughly the same time Gen. Corder and other senior Brass opted the USAF out of the ALQ-165 Advanced Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ) for the F-16. It would have been ready for production & deployment just after the Gulf War when McPeak killed the MAWS program and Corder retired in disgust.

The Iron Law even in the military, dammit. The purpose of warriors is to win wars.  It takes one force to gain and keep air supremacy, another to support the ground army.  The army can win without ground support if the other guy also has none, and we used to plan Cold War battles in which neither side had supremacy.  That was tough and the obvious conclusion is that air supremacy is vital; but that does not mean that support of the ground forces is not important. If the Air Force won’t give it, take the mission away; and if USAF blocks that, abolish USAF and bring back USAAF.


SAC Slogan

It is actually
Peace Is Our Profession.
I was raised in SAC. Did the Cuban thing at Offutt AFB, where Father ”God rest his soul”was a combat crew commander in the 549th Strategic Missile Squadron.








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