Mil Times: VA Doctor Regrets Post Telling Gun Advocate to ‘Off’ Himself


So typically VA.

Gorton was responding to a post that came through his Facebook page by an apparent gun-rights supporter, according to images posted to the website Imgur and described by the newspaper.

“I am all for gun control,” the user wrote. “If there is a gun in the room, I want to be in control of it.”

Gorton replied: “Off yourself, please.”

Gorton said he would not call himself a gun-control activist.

“I have concerns about gun violence, but many of us do,” he said.

He should have concerns about his next paycheck, because he should be fired immediately.

For what it is worth, and it is worth a ton, the VA Hospital in Philadelphia commented on the incident, as the AP tells:

“The post was totally inappropriate and does not convey our commitment to veterans. We are taking steps immediately to address the situation,” the VA told the newspaper.

Yes, it perfectly portrays your commitment to Veterans.   And is a symptom of a much larger problem.

In an unrelated matter, VA officials told Congress this month that nearly a dozen employees at the regional office in Philadelphia could face discipline over their errant handling of a backlog of benefit claims.

The VA’s inspector general had found that Philadelphia staff neglected mail, altered claims dates and reviews and made $2.2 million in duplicate benefit payments as it tried to reduce backlogs.

Unrelated, my ass.  The debacles in Phoenix and in Philadelphia and across the VA system should result in people being charged with criminal misconduct (including Federal charges relating to retribution against whistle-blowers), and if clinicians are found to have had knowledge or willfully participated in the scandals, they should have their licenses to practice medicine revoked.

The VA is an unaccountable, unresponsive, inefficient, bureaucratic nightmare, where medical care is decidedly uneven.  There are good people trying to do good work, to be sure.  But far, far too many who are of the ilk that begets the kind of despicable and dishonest mismanagement we hear about daily from the VA.  Secretary Bob McDonald, who took over for Eric Shinsecki, needs to fire people, loudly and publicly.  Heads on plates.  Gregg Gorton’s should be among them.  Along with his newly-revoked license to practice psychiatry.   If Gorton’s head is not on that plate today, perhaps Bob McDonald’s head should be served.

416th Flight Test Squadron at Red Flag 2-12

Air Force pilots during the Vietnam War normally had a tour of 100 missions over North Vietnam. A disproportionate number of losses occurred during the first 10 missions of a tour. Pilots were simply overwhelmed by the requirements of flying combat in an incredibly dense air defense environment, in larger strike packages than they had ever practiced before.

Accordingly, the Air Force instituted Red Flag, an ongoing series of massive mock air battles over the Southwestern United States, with the goal of giving each aircrew its “first 10” in peacetime, rather than actual war. Large numbers of squadrons accross the entire spectrum of airpower would deploy to Nellis AFB just outside of Las Vegas. This package would closely resemble the actual force composition of a real air campaign, if on a somewhat smaller scale. Dedicated adversary fighter squadrons would play the role of an opposing air force. Complex, realistic ground based air defense threats were seeded throughout the training area, all in an attempt to provide a scenario that was “more real” than the real thing.

To this day, Red Flag is the capstone training exercise for Air Force units.

Friend of the blog ORPO1, a retired Navy Petty Officer, currently makes his living working as a contractor for the US Air Force, supporting the 416th Flight Test Squadron, responsible for ongoing engineering development for the F-16 Fighting Falcon. As as ED effort, the 416th, despite flying fighters, is an asset of Air Force Material Command.

In an unusual effort to provide a more realistic test environment, and validate the skills of the test pilots, the 416th deployed to Red Flag 2-12. And ORPO1 was right there with them. If you watch closely, you might even see his bald head a time or two.


Daily Dose of Splodey

The video title says 4000 pound bomb, but that’s not quite accurate.


Hard to tell just how many bombs, and what size, were dropped. I counted at least six primary detonations.

While most folks react to the probable retirement of the A-10 fleet with anguish, I have to admit I’m not terribly concerned.  Yes, the GAU-8 gun of the A-10 is handy. But virtually all close air support delivered today is via precision guided weapons. Between the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) on the ground and the use of PGMs, the A-10’s low and slow capability is largely redundant. Further, the vastly improved electro/optical sensors carried by virtually all strike aircraft today also argue against the A-10s ability to get down in the weeds to spot targets. Simply put, the technology to attack targets exists now that was beyond the state of the art when the A-10 was conceived and fielded.  The improvement of short range air defense in that same environment further argues against an A-10.

Before you call for my beheading, yes, I’d prefer the Air Force to keep the A-10 in service. But removing an airframe from service has the potential to save the Air Force a lot of money. I can see where they’re coming from.

C-27J to JFK

We’ve written the frustrating saga of the USAF knife in the back of the (originally) Army program to buy the C-27J light transport.

After successfully commandeering the program, the USAF quickly turned around and killed it, even as brand spanking new airframes are still rolling off the production line in Italy.  These planes are being delivered directly to storage at Davis-Monthan AFB where they’ll join the rest of the fleet in long term storage.

Or will they?

Defense Industry Daily says that Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wants seven Spartans to replace their current fleet of CASA C.212 aircraft for training purposes.

SOCOM is a joint command, albeit very heavily biased toward the Army. In essence they’re their own separate armed force, with their own budget authority, and a history of noted disdain to parochial games, even while excelling at them.

Alenia C-27J Spartan aircraft picture

The Coast Guard has already stated they’d love to have  the entire production run of C-27Js to convert them to medium range maritime patrol aircraft.* But a quirk of US law says the Air Force can’t give them to the USCG ( part of DHS) unless there are no military takers for them. Obviously, SOCOM, as a DoD entity, would have first call on the Spartans. And so, it’s highly likely the John F. Kennedy Center and School will add 7 Spartans to its fleet.

Now, SOCOM says the C-27Js would be for training. And I’m sure they would be. But unlike the aircraft already in the SOCOM fleet, the Spartans are combat ready aircraft with radar and missile warning systems, and chaff and IR flare dispensers. It would not be terribly surprising if some “training” aircraft found themselves in “exigent” circumstances deployed to support “urgent” operational needs, in effect giving SOCOM its own tactical transport fleet, and reducing the reliance on USAF and TRANSCOM for airlift.

That’s pure speculation on our part. What say you?

*Even as the USCG is buying another foreign built twin engine turbo-prop for the role, the HC-144 Ocean Sentry based on the EADS CN-235.

US KC-135 Plane Crash at Kyrgyzstan Air Base – Business Insider

The Kyrgyzstan emergencies ministry says a U.S. Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, used to refuel military aircraft, has crashed near an American air base in the country.

The Associated Press reports the plane went down Friday afternoon about 100 miles west of the re-named U.S. air base now called the Transit Center at Manas.

Spencer Ackerman from Wired tweeted that three crew members were aboard the craft, but official confirmation through the Air Force has yet to be released.

via US KC-135 Plane Crash at Kyrgyzstan Air Base – Business Insider.

Wow. Rough week. The Air Force lost an MC-12, a civilian contract 747 crashed on take off, and now this.

Update: Now with footage of the wreckage at the crash scene. there’s not a lot of footage there, but little sign of a post crash fire, and the wide dispersal of the wreckage indicates either significant forward velocity upon impact, or possibly an in flight break up.


YC-15 (part 1)


The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 was a prototype developed of the USAF ‘s AMST program in 1972. The competition was the Boeing YC-14.

McDonnell Douglas developed the YC-15 from the Breguet 941s, using extensive wind tunnel testing (for optimum configuration testing) and using Cornell Aeronautical Labs B-26B In-Flight Simulator (for flight control testing).


The aircraft itself is 124.25 feet long, wingspan is 110.36ft, height is 43.30. Max gross weight is 216,680lbs. The interior cargo-box is 47 x 11.8 x 11.4.

Thrust for the YC-15 was provided by the JT8D turbofan (also the DC-9 powerplant) and produced a total thrust of 16,000lbs. The engines were mounted on shallow pylons mounted ahead of the wings leading edge. Thrust reversal was accomplished using so-called “daisy nozzles.” During final approach, with flaps fully extended and facing the engine, the engines provided 54% of the YC-15 lift.

The straight wings consisted of ailerons, double-slotted flaps, leading edge high lift devices (Kruger flaps, etc), and spoilers. The trailing edge devices, flaps and ailerons spanned 75% of the wings trailing edge. The flaps could extend as much as 46 degrees into the downstream. The YC-15 was the first jet powered aircraft to use externally blown flaps (EBF).

YC-15's EBF

Flight controls consisted of the conventional hydraulic system and a stability and control augmentation system (SCAS). The SCAS was dual channel and 3 axis enabling hands off flight for high angle approaches (tactical approaches) and modes for attitude, altitude and heading.

The YC-15 saw the first use of a heads up display (HUD) system, specifically called the VAM (Visual Approach Monitor). Developed by Sundstrand, the VAM displayed the horizon, flight path scale, airspeed indexer and touchdown point.

Sundstrand's VAM display

Being essentially a research airplane, the YC-15 did not need to fully conform to MILSPECS. As such it borrowed components from various aircraft, the DC-10 cockpit enclosure, the F-15 fuel pumps, the C-141 stabilizing struts, the A-10 UARRSI, the C-5 cargo handling equipment and other parts from 9 other types of airplanes. Cockpit instrumentation used components from 10 different airplanes.

Here’s a cutaway of the YC-14 and YC-15 for comparison:


Part 2 will detail the YC-15s flight test program.

Part 3 will detail the YC-15 technological contributions to the C-17.

Cross-posted at The Lexicans

[UPDATE- XBrad] I’ve added Mav as another author here. We’ve got a grunt, a rocket scientist, a Marine Artilleryman, a Chaplain, a Sigo/Civil War historian, and now, an aviator.

Aviation Week on LAS

We’ve written several times about the ongoing effort by the USAF to buy an off the shelf light attack aircraft. We’ve always pretty much preferred the A-29B Super Tucano over the proposed AT-6. Mind you, we think either aircraft would be essentially suitable. Mainly our frustration is that such a simple, low cost program should be taking so long to move forward. It’s not quite a poster child for paralysis by analysis, but it’s pretty close. It also shows the costs of allowing contractors to protest competition results with impunity.

Fred George at Aviation Week has a nice little post about why he thinks the Super Tucano is clearly the better choice.

For a second time, W.W. “Bill” Boisture, the CEO of Beechcraft Corp. (formerly Hawker Beechcraft), is challenging the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award a contract to Sierra Nevada Corp. to supply 20 Embraer A-29B Super Tucano aircraft for the Light Air Support (LAS) program for use by the Afghan military.

Boisture claims the Defense Department is spending significantly more for the A-29B than it would for Beechcraft’s AT-6, its proposed LAS variant of the T-6 Texan II turboprop primary trainer. The T-6 is a well-proven platform, and the AT-6 shares about 80% of its parts.

I could see Boisture’s point if lowest cost were the only criterion for awarding a contract and if the AT-6 and A-29B offered equivalent capabilities. But neither point is the case.

I have flown both aircraft and there are significant differences. The AT-6 is a trainer that has been adapted for the LAS role with a 1,600-shp engine, a beefed-up wing with hard points, plus twin external gun pods, an electro-optical/infrared camera sensor ball and a network-centric C2ISR communications suite, among other significant improvements. On paper, that gives the AT-6 virtually the same capabilities as the A-29B Super Tucano.

Walk around the two aircraft, though, and obvious differences emerge. Built from the ground up for the light attack role, the Brazilian contender is considerably larger than the Beechcraft. The relatively small five-blade propeller offers 5 in. more ground clearance than the AT-6’s four-blade prop, and its oil cooler intake is much higher, for protection against foreign object damage. These features make the Super Tucano better suited to rough-field operations.

The A-29B’s wingspan is 4 ft. wider than the AT-6’s and the lateral distance between the landing gear is 50% greater, making the aircraft easier to handle on runways in stiff crosswinds. The A-29B’s main landing gear rolling stock is larger, featuring low-pressure 6.5-10 tires that are better suited to unimproved runway operations than the AT-6’s high-pressure, 4.4-20 tires that are designed for smooth pavement. The A-29B’s fuselage is 3 ft. longer and its vertical stabilizer is 2.3 ft. higher, providing more aerodynamic stability to handle the 1,600-shp engine.

Of course, my real first choice would be an updated OV-10.


Early on in the blog, we wrote about the development of the gunship, modified transport aircraft armed to provide fires to troops on the  ground. They’re very expensive aircraft (mostly because of their sophisticated sensor arrays) so there are only a relative handful in service.

The introduction of the C-27J in service had some folks hoping a “Gunship Lite” program could be developed to supplement (but not supplant) the current AC-130U.  For various reasons, including the cancellation of the entire C-27J program, that never came to pass.

But the need to bolster gunship numbers didn’t go away.  So the MC-130W “Dragon Spear”  was pressed into service. Originally intended to make up for losses in the special operations MC-130H community (clandestine delivery and retrieval of special operations forces), the MC-130W’s were in fact armed with sensors and weapons. A 30mm Bushmaster gun and ViperStrike missiles gave it a limited ability to attack enemy targets on the ground with great precision.

The armed mission was so pressing, the special operations mission was set aside, and last year, the “Dragon Spears” were redesignated AC-130W Stinger II.

The Air Force hopes to add Hellfire missile capability within the next year.  I’ve heard they can (or soon will) use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, but haven’t seen confirmation of that.

If you look closely at the pic above (click to embiggenfy) you’ll note not only the 30mm gun on the port side, but also the pylon outboard of the engine. That’s where the Hellfires will mount. The small turret under the nose radome houses the infrared sensor/laser designator.


We’ve talked a lot about Close Air Support here lately. Let’s talk a bit about a strike/interdiction for a bit.

Suppose you have a heavily defended, deeply buried underground command bunker that you absolutely have to take out, but don’t feel like losing a bunch of planes to do it. The bunker is buried too deep for a Tomahawk or ALCM cruise missile to destroy. What do you reach for?

The Air Force’s go-to weapon of choice for heavily defended hard targets is usually the AGM-130 missile.


While the splodey is nice, the interesting part of the story is the development history of this heavy hitter.

Most folks know the basic story of the development of the Precision Guided Munitions(PGMs) in Vietnam as regards Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs). Few folks, however, remember that at the same time as the LGBs were being developed and fielded that a second approach to precision attack was taken. Electro/Optical  (E/O) seekers were developed that would allow the attacking aircraft to lock onto a target via the contrast between light and dark portions of a target. Theoretically, that contrast could be kept centered in the seeker field of view, and used as a steering command to guide a weapon to the target. As with the LGB approach, the Air Force decided to use a “modular” approach to weapons design. Instead of developing a bomb or missile from the ground up, the warhead would be an existing low drag bomb body, in this case, the 2000lb Mk84 bomb (designed, BTW, by that great American, Ed Heinemann). By simply adding the seeker and control components to an existing warhead, great cost savings could be achieved. The result of this “bolt on” development process was the GBU-8 HOBOS or Homing Bomb System. The HOBOS was used in Vietnam against several high value targets, but its performance was not entirely satisfactory.  The biggest problem was that it often lost lock on targets that had only marginal contrast. Integration of the weapon with the fighters of the day, the difficulty of finding and locking onto a target while under severe anti-aircraft fire, and the limitation to daylight and fair weather use all contributed to making the HOBOS an “also-ran” compared to LGBs in Vietnam. LGBs were also cheaper weapons than HOBOS, since the expensive part of the guidance system, the laser, stayed with the attacking plane, and could be reused.


But that didn’t mean HOBOS was a dead end street. LGBs also had some limitations that E/O guidance didn’t suffer from. LGBs had to be guided all the way to the target, meaning that at least one jet had to stick around to lase the target. E/O bombs, though, were autonomous after launch, that is, they were “fire and forget” weapons. The attacking aircraft was free to maneuver and get out of Dodge as soon as the bomb left the rack. Further, LGBs were limited in range by the attenuation of the laser beam, and the lack of optical discrimination as the range to target increased. That is, if the attacking crew was too far out, the laser spot was too weak for the LGB to home in on, or alternatively, the crew couldn’t point the laser with sufficient accuracy to ensure a hit on a discrete target such as a bridge abutment.  E/O guidance, however, actually improved as the weapon approached the target, as the decreased range improved optical resolution. If the seeker managed to maintain lock, the weapon generally hit exactly where it was aimed. And the potential for increased stand-off range for E/O weapons made them very attractive for continued development.

The Air Force continued to work on optical seekers, mainly for its AGM-65 Maverick family of missiles, and eventually fielded a family of seekers that could reliably maintain lock on. This was followed by seekers with image magnification, and finally, by using an Imaging Infrared (IIR) seeker that worked both during day and at night. About this time, someone had the bright idea to revive the HOBOS concept of an optical seeker using a Maverick seeker to improve reliability. Coupled with improved wings and control surfaces, the resulting weapon was the GBU-15 EGOB (Electro-Optically Guided Bomb), pronounced “Ee-gob.”  The EGOB could actually be lofted to glide to the target from further out than its seeker could distinguish targets, so the next step was to incorporate a data-link that would transmit the seeker’s video imagery back to the launching aircraft. As the weapon approached the target, the launching aircraft could steer it onto the specific aim point, or even guide it all the way to impact.


One improvement leads to another. The AWX-13 digital datalink actually had a considerably greater range than the glide range of a GBU-15. So the next step in the improvement process was to bolt a powerful rocket motor to the bottom of the bomb. With this motor, the bomb, now called the AGM-130, could exploit the full range of the datalink, and keep the launching aircraft well away from enemy defenses. By bolting the guidance and control components to the BLU-109 2000lb penetrating warhead, the AGM-130 gave the  Air Force the ability to hold at risk heavily defended hardened targets such as bunkers from ranges of up to 40 miles.

Even using the building block approach, the AGM-130 is a very expensive weapon. It wouldn’t typically be used for close air support where JDAMs or LGBs would be a cheaper, more viable alternative. Proper use of the AGM-130 requires extensive planning before launching the attack. The attacking aircrew has to know what the target will look like, both on its search radar, and through the seeker as it approaches the target. For a bunker in the middle of nowhere, that’s not a big challenge. But for a target in a built up area, that requires extensive planning and rehearsal. The primary carrier for the AGM-130 is the F-15E Strike Eagle. Typical targets might include air defense command nodes, airfields, bridges and critical logistical nodes.


What’s next for the AGM-130 family? It’s hard to say. Coupling its seeker with a GPS update or perhaps a millimeter radar seeker. But in any event, the evolutionary improvement using proven technology has yielded a battle tested weapon that can service targets while saving our aircrews from potential losses.


The Army’s Quest for its Own CAS – Part 2

Looking back again at the the Army’s efforts to develop a close air support (CAS) capability during the Cold War.  As mentioned in the first post, in the mid-1950s the Army considered an organic fixed-wing CAS resource but remained constrained by policy.  Skirting the rules in some ways, the Army first stepped up development of helicopters.  When further constraints limited those options, the Army considered jet powered forward air controllers (FAC) as an option.  After testing the T-37 trainer jets, the Army acquiesced to Air Force pressure, but continued to pursue the FAC/recon requirement in at least three separate attempts.   Now I have never seen indications that Army leaders purposely set out to “wear down” the Air Force, or for that matter even deliberately attempted to evolve FACs into a CAS capability through some deception.  But considering that many airframes tested from 1961 to 1966 were plumbed to carry advanced weaponry, perhaps someone from the Army’s side of the E-Ring had some grand plans.

The first attempt at a credible combat jet came in 1960 when the Army, citing a capabilities shortfall, announced a test program for a fast FAC and tactical reconnaissance platform. In 1961, those tests included two Douglas A4D-2N Skyhawks, two Fiat G.91Rs, and a Northrop N-156F.

The Skyhawks came from Navy stocks, differing from standard production with double wheel main landing gear. Of course in 1961 the A-4 (as it was later re-designated) was already becoming a classic aircraft in the hands of Navy aviators and Marines.

Germany loaned two Fiat G.91s, then just entering service as the new “standard” NATO attack jet of the period. The jet was designed from the start with forward airbases in mind.  Unfortunately, during tests at Fort Rucker in 1961, one of the two Fiat jets crashed.

The Northrop N-156F was a fighter derivative from the Air Force’s T-38 supersonic trainer, also just then entering full service. The lone N-156F was one of two tested – but rejected – by the Air Force.  The N-156F offered many advanced construction techniques. But of most interest to the Army, Northrop incorporated many features to simplify field maintenance, to include easy engine removal.

The Army’s tests at Fort Rucker continued through 1962.  But under pressure from the Air Force, the Army abandoned any follow-up requirements and returned all the surviving jets.  Normally I’d detail the particulars for each of these jets, comparing performance and weapons loads.  But since none of these progressed beyond testing, the numbers are only useful for hypothetical discussions.  However, I’d be remiss not mentioning the subsequent service histories of these three types.

The A-4 earned an enviable reputation over Vietnam as a agile, reliable and rugged attack aircraft.  The “Scooter’s” faced the most imposing air defenses ever deployed (both over Hanoi and the Middle East) and survived.  Like it predecessor, the A-1 (or AD) Skyraider, the A-4 carried an impressive warload, enabling many modifications and enhancements over the years.

The Fiat G.91 remains somewhat overshadowed on this side of the Atlantic.  The type sat on NATO’s front lines for some thirty-five years.  But their only combat service occurred in the hands of Portuguese pilots in African colonial actions. Yet the G.91s also earned a solid record of reliable peacetime service in several allied air forces.

Having lost both initial Air Force interest and the Army’s attention, Northrop persisted with the N-156F.  The project received a reprieve in 1962 when President Kennedy, with an eye to arming allies, directed the Air Force to develop a low-cost alternative to the “century series” fighters.  The resulting F-5A differed in a few details from the prototypes.  Over the next forty years the F-5 armed many NATO and allied nations (and remains out there to this day).  But operationally the US Air Force flew only a token force, mostly to prove the type’s validity in front line service.  US F-5s saw more use as dissimilar aggressor opponents for both Air Force and Navy training programs.

Thus all three of the aircraft tested by the Army in 1961 served long and successful careers – but not in US Army colors.  Had the Army purchased any of the three types in quantity, no doubt the airframes would have served with distinction.  If there was a fault in the evaluated types, it was their similarity to Air Force fighter jets of the day.

But concurrent to these attack jet tests, the Army was pursuing a radical concept that greatly differed from the Air Force’s fighter jets – VTOL.  I’ll discuss that next.