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Air Power Doctrine

Posted by Jolly on January 22, 2012

We encourage our subscribers and visitors to submit issues for discussion on our Fighter Pilot University WTFO Blog.  I received this from Maestro regarding the shift of Air Power Doctrine from its roots to more of a Techno Geek Force.  His points are all well taken and worth your consideration and comment.

chapandrobin.jpgHe says we need an internal insurgence so that we return to our roots and mission of providing unequaled Air Supremacy for our Nation.  New FU Hero’s like Billy Mitchell, Robin Olds, and Chappie James are needed for our military to get back on track. Leaders such as Mitchell are often marginalized and even attacked for telling the King he has no cloths on.  Maestro points out that todays military leaders are betting the farm on technology over hardware and people.  Please read this and make comments.  Better yet, write your own Blog and send it in.  Contact us at and we will publish it.



By Maestro

The U.S. Air Force is in desperate need for a healthy internal insurgency. We were formed by insurgents, guided by insurgents, our heroes are insurgents; it’sBilly_Mitchell.jpg time to resurrect that ethos. If you doubt that history just check out the record on our service forefathers. From Billy Mitchell to Chappie James, the great visionaries have been defined by their willingness to challenge conventional thinking. The red-blooded, meat eating Airman deserves better than a technology obsessed service which can barely stand real innovation; a service which prides itself on flexibility that crushes deviation from the party-line. Owning the vertical flank requires daring, creativity and a kind of 3D thinking which chafes against strict dogma. One problem may be that corporate HQ can barely hear the desperate need for change above its own chest thumping.

The service faces real challenges, but the "leadership" is so wrapped up in a self-tanker2.jpgsoothing mythology of success that the organization can't even discuss the real problems. Let’s be honest, we’re one catastrophic disaster away from grounding the whole 707 fleet (that includes the RJ, E-3, most of the tanker fleet, and plenty of specialty aircraft), and we’re still waiting for a replacement. Our most recent fighter is based upon design requirements postulated in 1981. The obsession with RPAs is driven by skewed metrics which betray our ability to build an effective mix of forces. High-end platforms like the CV-22 and F-35 fail to deliver the promised performance for the agreed price. Our acquisition programs are a wasteland of shiny brochures and unfulfilled promises. The list goes on…

More worrying is the fact that our obsession with machines has totally destroyed our ability to focus on harnessing the right human capital. The personnel system seemswarcollege.jpg structurally incapable of retaining Airman with the right skills. Combat leadership experience seems to be a detriment to promotion. Too many of the upper echelons of leadership are filled by officers who understand the “Air Force” rather than “air power” (have no doubt, there is a difference). Nothing being said here is new. A myriad of RAND reports and SAASS papers talk about where the Air Force needs to go to return to our roots, but that critical dialogue goes nowhere. Admitting our problems—the first act of positive transformation—is anathema to people whose careers are defined by maintaining a perception of success, regardless of actual performance. (Oh the references I could make here about B.S. Phase 1, Phase 2 inspections…but I digress.)

What should the USAF do next? I’m an insurgent…I think you need to begin with the core narrative. The cause of an Airman is simply how to use air power in support of national power. I don’t care what form it comes in, I have no particular preference for any means of delivering an effective capability--as long as it gets the job done.  The nation is no longer willing or able to write the USAF blank checks, so that means we need to seek out what works, what has always worked, and reform our forces accordingly.  Among other things, that means reaffirming the organization's commitment to decentralized execution; coming up with a valid definition of what can and can't be done "remotely;" balancing the need for ultra high-end forces with those appropriate for low-intensity conflict; and figuring out some way of using the promotion system to advance air power experts rather than ticket-punchers. 

What can you do? That's up to you the reader. If you want to skoff this and go on your merry way, or you scratch your head and wonder "what the hell is this guy talking about," this letter wasn't addressed to you. If this resonates with you, I'm
FUWTFO.T.jpgasking you to join the insurgency. The first thing you need to do is get your mind right for this fight. Read the biographies of our "insurgent" service leaders, read books about how to transform organizations (The Starfish and the Spider and Start with Why are good), arm yourself with current reporting about where we're doing well/poorly as a service.  Next you need to begin practicing your offense.  Write letters, write postings on blogs like Fighter Pilot University and, sharpen your intellectual inventory; but for goodness sakes, make sure you aren't creating collateral damage against the people we're trying to win over. That means being aware of Article 88 of the UCMJ, and always remembering that insurgents have to win hearts and minds to succeed. Finally, you need to do some recruiting. You figure out what that means for you; but preaching only to the choir will not do. Don't be afraid to broaden your network outside of your comfort zone. I've been surprised by how receptive good folks in Comm, MX, C2, etc, are to this kind of engagement.

For anyone who doubts the potential of an Air Force insurgency consider this: the mother’s milk of an insurgency is having a valid grievance. I think we have more than enough to last quite a long time. 

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Posted by Jolly on
This from Myron:

You guys are on the right track. The idiots that are making the decisions now are -- just that idiots. We have to learn from history and that tells us we cannot cut out the human factor. We have to have people in the cockpit that are trained and ready. They must also have the means to accomplish the mission they know must be done --(correct armament)
Posted by jpwarlock1 on
the way i see it is corporations are no longer american but multi-national the ceo,s no longer care about the country but the size of their end of year bonus.when was the last time you heard of a military contract not have a budget over-run.big business today doesnt care about the u.s. but stealing as much taxpayer money as they can get.and if the u.s. wont buy it they will sell to china or iraq,or whoever has the most money.
Posted by Jolly on
From Mark:

This infatuation with "high-tech" is an Air Force mental problem, but it can be seen in the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Army. Gee whiz stuff is neat, but there is a point of diminishing returns when the cost for each unit and support equipment balloons to ridiculous levels.
A prime example is when the F4 Phantom was designed. The armchair Pentagon types favored high-tech costly missiles to the exclusion of guns. Big mistake.
Air combat can be compared to skeet shooting in one regard. Rifles are not generally used to shoot clay pigeons. One bullet has far less chance of success than many pellets from a shotgun. Not a perfect example, but the point can be seen. It is good to have a fighter that can defeat several enemies in rapid order, but if one enemy bullet knocks it out of the sky, at a huge monetary loss, along with a highly trained pilot, percentage wise, it is percentage wise, a heavy loss. It would seem that fielding six or more less expensive but capable fighters would be a better option. The cost of one twenty aircraft squadron would run into maybe a billion dollars. For that amount, at least four twenty aircraft squadrons of F16s, F18s, or F15s could be had. One aircraft doing tailslides and such, keeping its nose pointed at one aircraft is still a lone aircraft. Is the time tested tactic of a wingman protecting lead not still being thought of as necessary?
Just my opinions.
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