June 25th, 1950

tank03

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.  Most of us here know that the war itself has not ended, that the DPRK and the ROK remain in a state of war, temporarily becalmed by an armistice signed in July of 1953.

The war was fought by Veterans of World War II, as well as their little brothers.  There were more than 36,000 US killed in action among the more than 130,000 American casualties in that war, many times the order of magnitude of Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  In just over three years.   There are lessons aplenty from that war regarding preparedness, combat training, leadership, and budget-driven assumptions.

There are several superlative works on the Korean War, fiction and non-fiction.  Here are some I recommend highly:

T. R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War

James Brady’s The Coldest War

Two Martin Russ works, The Last Parallel, and Breakout.

S. L. A. Marshall’s The River and the Gauntlet

Pat Frank’s magnificent novel Hold Back the Night

P. K. O’Donnell’s Give me Tomorrow

Clay Blair’s The Forgotten War

There are many, many others, including some incredibly good Army monographs, but those are among my favorites.  I lent out Marshall’s book some years ago (you know who you are!!) and never got it back.  So that may be my next purchase.

Anyway, the first test of the Strategy of Containment began in the early hours, sixty-five years ago this morning.

Last M117 750# Bomb from Guam

The M117 GP 750 pound bomb was the only non-Mk80 series bomb to see widespread service. 

M117

Barksdale’s 20th Bomb Squadron is scheduled to drop the last M117 bomb in storage at Andersen AFB, Guam later this week. The M117s are surplus from Vietnam and once numbered in the tens of thousands there. Bomber crews, most recently those rotating in to support the Continuous Bomber Presence mission, have been chipping away at the stockpile for decades. Anyone have any good stories to share about loading or dropping them?

If you watch old footage of Arc Light strikes during the Vietnam war, you’ll often see the B-52Ds carrying a full internal load of Mk82 500 pound bombs, and M117s on the external racks. The ballistics were close enough to drop a mixed load simultaneously.

Interestingly, the very first laser guided bombs were built up from the M117.

Thanks to Spill.

The Air Force Helicopter Fleet-With a bonus look at how the sausage gets made.

I’m always delighted when I get emails from people. A lurker saw Pave Low John’s comment of a recent post, and mentioned that his brother was a Pave Low gunner for many years. I figured that since it’s such a small community, PLJ would almost certainly know him. Turns out, he did. And while putting people in touch with each other, I also asked PLJ for his thoughts on the rotary wing fleet in the Air Force.  I’m going to share a bit of our exchange.*

XBradTC:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the travesty that has been the Air Force’s inability to buy a decent helicopter, both as regards a MH-53M replacement, and more spectacularly the whole CSAR-X fiasco. I understand there are differences in the Special Operations and CSAR missions, but for the life of me I can’t grasp why the MH-47G wouldn’t be a pretty good fit for the Air Force, and capitalize of the economies of scale of buying an in production platform. Instead, now, after somewhere around 15 years of bidding, protesting, suing and whatnot, the Air Force is going to end up buying Sikorsky S-92s. Mind you, this is at a time when their argument is that they must reduce the numbers of types they operate to retire the A-10, and yet they want to introduce a platform virtually no one else in the world operates!

For that matter, the obvious answer for the UH-1N replacement is to simply piggyback on the Army’s UH-60 buy, but they can’t even figure out a way to do that! These aren’t complicated issues. Why is it there is no common sense anymore? Please, let me know your thoughts. I’d love to share them as a guest post on the blog.

Pave Low John:

Yeah, CSAR-X and the missile site support helicopter replacement are a mess and if it makes you feel better, I agree with you 100% on the MH-47G and the Blackhawk option for the missile fields.  Here is my .02 cents, but it may take a while, I got some strong opinions when it comes to these issues.

       Here’s the deal when it comes to CSAR – to really do it right, you need at least three difference kind/sizes of airframes.  Kind of like playing golf, you need the right club for the situation.  You need a long-range heavy-lift platform for high-altitude/vehicles/CRRC/long-range overwater rescues (some version of the H-47 is the best bird for this role, hands down); you need a small platform that can do urban rescues (MH-6s are, and have been, the best at this mission, obviously); finally, you need a medium-sized helo that can fill the gaps between the MH-47 and the MH-6 (lots of possibilities, including newer MH-60s, NH-90s, Super Pumas, S-92s, etc…) 

    Now, that is a perfect world scenario.  With all the usual budget and organizational restrictions, the USAF is going to want to pick just one platform for Rescue.  Which is stupid, but there it is.  So the MH-47G is the best pick, because it covers the most bases (that is also why the MH-53J was originally designed to be a rescue asset until USSOCOM snatched to away from ARS back in the 1980s, thanks mostly to the failed operation at Desert One).  The Army already flies the MH-47E/F, so training, simulator support, etc… is already there, the USAF just has to pull it’s head out of its ass and just buy HH-47s.  I was working in AFSOC HQ back in 2004 and 2005 when AFSOC owned the rescue mission, and if AFSOC hadn’t lost the mission back to ACC in late 2005, I’m absolutely convinced the MH-47G (called the HH-47G at the time) would have been selected.  But the fighter guys got Rescue back and screwed it all up, and it is still screwed up to this day.

    As for the replacement for the UH-1N replacement, the Air Force has neglected the missile security mission for decades and they just don’t want to spend money on the problem.  UH-60s could fill the role of both gunships and security team transport but again, the Air Force has screwed it all up.  They know that they need something to support the missile convoys and launch sites, but they don’t want to spend more money than they are right now (and UH-60s do cost more to fix and fly than UH-1s, but you get more for your dollars, obviously).

     It all boils down to one factor really:  The Air Force, as an organization, does not understand rotary-wing issues and dislikes anything rotary-wing related on a general basis.  It smacks too much of the Army and the Marine Corps and the “fighter mafia”-types that really run the Air Force has let their parochialism cloud their judgment when it comes to Rescue and Missile Site Support.  I was a helicopter pilot my entire career in the Air Force (with the exception of my first year of pilot training flying T-37s and T-38s) and there was no doubt that I was a red-headed stepchild compared to even the tanker toads flying KC-135s and KC-10s.  No matter how many deployments I made overseas or how many hours I logged in combat, I was never treated as a “real” aviator by the fixed-wing crowd that makes up the leadership of the Air Force.  They would say a few nice words now and again, but when it came down to money and where to spend it, helicopters were always at the bottom of the priority list.  Hell, the Air Force even got rid of the rotary-wing half of the only Combat Aviation Advisor squadron in the DoD — just to fund some improvements to the AC-130!  The AFSOC three-star told us right to our face that the five million dollars a year he was spending on Mi-17s and UH-1Ns and UH-1Hs in order to train foreign aviators was simply too much.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some AC-130, those guys do great work, but that was a really stupid move.  The U.S. Army is still having trouble picking up that mission, which they didn’t want in the first place (due to a number of factors, but that is a post for another time) and all that experience was scattered to the wind, never to return.  So when you watch the news and see a story about the U.S. having trouble training Iraqis or Afghans or whoever to defend their own country, just remember that the Air Force deliberately closed down the only part of the entire U.S. military focused on training foreign units in rotary-wing operations.    Just to save 5 million dollars a year. 

    So there you have it.  The USAF doesn’t like helicopters, it doesn’t understand their missions, and just wishes the whole debacle would just go away so they could get back to important issues like the F-35 and….the F-35, I guess.   I could go on but I think that is the simplest way to look at it.  It all comes down to culture and the Air Force “culture” doesn’t include helicopters.  Since no one outside the Air Force is going to make them address this blind spot until something really bad happens, it could be a while before things improve for Air Force rotor-heads. 

Most of this is the Air Force’s fault. Some, however, is Congress and the DoD’s fault.  We’ve set up an insanely complex system to assure that major systems procurement is fair and that the systems bought fulfill the mission the best way possible. Unfortunately, the process has fallen to regulatory capture, wherein the process has become more important than the product. For instance, the missile security mission- every time the Air Force moves a nuclear warhead for a Minuteman missile (for maintenance or what have you) security forces in a UH-1N Huey escort the weapon. But the UH-1N is terribly old. The obvious answer is to replace it with the UH-60M, currently in production for the Army. But even if the Air Force didn’t want that big of a helicopter, it shouldn’t take years to simply decide to buy another utility lift helicopter. There are any number of suitab
le helicopters currently in production, including Huey variants that would do nicely. You and I, being normal people, say, look, the Huey is getting kinda old, let’s buy some new helicopters, maybe the Bell 412. Maybe have a bidding war or competitive fly-off between the UH-60M and the Bell 412, where the contractors compete for our business. Instead, the Air Force pays contractors to study the issue. It’s insane.

 

*With John’s permission. I treat commenter private information such as email addresses with discretion.

Crash- Or, sometimes, the Air Force is pretty badass.

Not often. But the PJs and rescue helicopter crews are some tough, brave folks. Back in 2002, called to assist with the recovery of dead and injured climbers on Mt. Hood, OR, an Air Force Reserve Pavehawk helicopter crashed and rolled 1000 feet down the mountain.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG3wbqvaYkk]

Incredibly, none of the helicopter crew were killed. Two crewmen were ejected and actually had the helicopter roll over them, but the soft snow meant they survived.

**waves to PaveLow John.**

A Scathing Indictment of the Wounded Warrior Project

Over on the porch.  Well worth the read.

I haven’t liked that organization for quite some time, mostly because of the way they portray wounded Veterans as being objects of pity.  Salamander puts it better than I have been able to.

an organization that uses the same visuals, tone and background music for those who fight our wars, that are are also used for starving African children … and at the same time squash local organizations using a huge legal budget.

Touché.

Here is some perspective, without minimizing the sacrifice.  The total US combat wounded in 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan numbers around 52,000, with the vast majority being minor wounds with RTD (return to duty), such as mine were.  (Of the approximately 1,400 wounded suffered by 1st Marine Division in Anbar from February-September 2004, about 1,200 were RTD.  If those percentages hold for the larger number of 52,000, the total number with wounds serious enough to prevent a return to duty numbers around 7,500.)  We know that the number of traumatic amputations is fewer than 1,600.  This means, with just the last three years of donations, WWP has received enough money for almost $100,000 for each of the 7,500 seriously wounded Vets, or $457,000 for each traumatic amputee.  This is on top of the medical care and equipment provided by the VA for these Veterans.

With a CEO salary of almost half a million a year, the selling of donor lists, and this sort of reprehensible behavior:

According to a number of smaller groups, the Wounded Warrior Project…  has been spending a good deal of time and money suing other veteran-serving nonprofits on the basis that their names or logos constitute infringement on their brand.

I agree with Salamander, not a dime to WWP from me.  I will give to a smaller charity in a heartbeat.  One that does not make helping our wounded Veterans a “common business practice”, and one that does not intentionally harm others trying to give back to those who gave so much.

UPDATE:  XBradTC here. C0ncur all and endorse original message. There are many fine organizations to donate to, and it’s your money. But I would like to mention one that does have a sterling reputation, Fisher House.

Friday Flyby- Part 1

So, I’m stealing the title from OAFS, but I think he’ll forgive me. I get to see quite a few H-60 helicopters overhead here, normally MH-60R or MH-60S from NAS North Island (there’s no way I can see well enough to tell a Romeo from a Sierra from the ground), but today I looked up and saw what is almost certainly an Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk. I suppose it’s just possible it is an MH-60M from the Army, but really, I think it’s more likely the Air Force out of Holloman AFB.

HH-60

It’s the In Flight Refueling Probe on the side that tells us it is a special operations bird.

$150,000 in VA Cash for Strippers and Prostitutes?

We should be thankful that it wasn’t money wasted, I spose.  The Detroit News has the story:

Bates, who was released on $10,000 unsecured bond Tuesday, told investigators he spent some of the cash on a stripper named “Ashley” at an Ohio strip club, according to court records. He said he often spent $500 a night on lap dances — and more.

“After visiting the club numerous times, Glenn Alan Bates convinced Ashley to come to his hotel room for sex, for which he paid her,” VA Special Agent Frederick Lane wrote in a court filing.

The hotel trysts were frequent and non-exclusive. Bates said he also met with other strippers and prostitutes, according to court records.

After all the stories of fraud and waste in the VA system these days, perhaps Mr. Bates should be recognized for streamlining the gummint purchasing process and getting at least some value for the tax dollars spent.

“Glenn Alan Bates stated he became addicted to the sexual encounters and he stole cash from the canteen to pay for this addiction,” Lane wrote.

No word on whether treatment for his addiction is gonna be covered by the VA or by Obamacare.

H/T

Brian P