Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits

Letters

July 1, 2022

We love letters! Write to us at letters@afa.org. To be published, letters should be timely, relevant and concise. Include your name and location. Letters may be edited for space and the editors have final say on which are published.

EMSO is NOT a domain

Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations is a critical enabling/support warfighting capability [See “Dominating the Spectrum,” March, p. 44]. The Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) is embedded in all other domains and is a key element of Information Warfare (IW). Information dominance is ubiquitous and relies primary on speed and adaptability. We must be able to aggregate our IW capabilities to be lethal and to disaggregate them to survive. Information Warfare includes: Cyber, SIGINT, IO, EW, and ISR. It is extremely naive to suggest that the EW or EMSO community owns or has dominion over the entire spectrum. It would be analogous to saying since space covers the universe, space is the only relevant domain.

All elements of IW access, dwell and exploit the electromagnetic spectrum. There are strong divergences between those who believe and those who disbelieve that EMSO should be a domain. DOD, the Joint Staff, and service leaders know that EMSO is an enabling and integrating capability that enhances the effects of all other domains, i.e. land, sea, air, space, and cyber. The JADC2 and joint warfighting concepts developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2021 realized that spectrum dependent, multifunctional systems certainly overlap and are now effectively transforming the operational battlespace. These key warfighting documents chose NOT to include EMSO as a domain but included EW effectiveness in the cyber domain rubric. Each of the IW elements are linked but not compromised.

The fundamental essence of EW or EMSO is to sense and respond faster in the spectrum than an adversary can. The latest example is Skylink, a 24-hour reprogramming capability that enabled continued support to Ukrainian forces despite Russia’s jamming and denial techniques. While it may be popular with many of the pro domain EMSO advocates, especially those whose voices exceed their experience or strategic insights, one should never confuse leadership with popularity.

The cyber domain is an appropriate current term for representing all the functions that are spectrum dependent and vital to multi-domain operations. This is not the time to shirk our realities to the growing influence of the overarching cyber domain. The A2/6 [DCS for ISR and Cyber Effects Operations] leadership team is leading the way to give IW its appropriate priority.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Israel,
USAF (Ret.)
Sterling, Va.

NO FOCUS, NO FIGHTING

The article [“Space Force Focuses on Fighting,” January/February, p. 25] purports to describe how the U.S. Space Force is focused on fighting. Nothing was written to support this. It revealed that in three years, the Space Force has made org charts, partnered with some universities, watched as the Russians blew up a satellite in space, and were prohibited form discussing space weapons (and apparently can’t speak of it still). I had hoped to see some weapons. The quotes from the five generals were disjointed and the future direction for Space Force remains illusive. The article should have been titled “VUGRAPHS CAN BE DEADLY IN SPACE.” Poor job.

Mark L. Lupfer
Colorado Springs, Colo.

The most popular answer to the spectrum threats to our space systems by our adversaries is develop a ‘resilient space architecture’ [“Accelerating Change at Space Force Delta 45,” May, p. 47]? Since when have we based our warfare strategy on defense only? I thought we always attempt to deter first, then fight, and win if deterrence fails. A resilient space architecture offers no deterrence. Do we really think our adversaries will choose not to attack our space systems because they are built to withstand these attacks? Sounds like the Maginot Line before World War II. Deterrence requires an offense capability that can be used against our adversaries space systems should they attack. The vice president’s recent announcement of a self-imposed ban on direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing is consistent with a no deterrence approach. Do we really think this policy will encourage Russia and China to follow suit? Their leaders must find our strategy laughable.

Col. Dennis Beebe,
USAF (Ret.)
Solvang, Calif.

Old Intelligence

“Replacing Aging ISR,” [April, p. 27] tried to provide a status report of current Air Force ISR programs, but it lacked an insight of DOD ISR capabilities that could be refunded, upgraded or enhanced to meet some new needs.

I served as an intelligence officer in the Air Force for 20 years, on Active duty (1967-87) and another 24.5 years as a civilian employee (1988-2012). I worked on collection, exploiting, and disseminating all sources of intelligence to support DOD FLIP production, strategic targeting, tactical mission planning, air-ground operations coordination, information operations, and advanced weapon systems development.

I was fortunate to serve during a 40-year period when ISR was highly supported by DOD and operators. In most of my Air Force assignments, intelligence was integrated in the operations directorate and divisions at the Majcom, NAF, and unit levels. That gave intelligence the authority and power of a general officer, which enhanced support to units and influence at the COCOM and Air Staff. 

In the mid-1980s, I provided the intelligence support to a Majcom team that worked on a joint service program to replace the SR-71. It failed because the Navy did not think they needed it to support their mission needs. I would submit that a replacement for a SR-71 could still satisfy many tactical needs stated in the article, including collecting ISR where launching of geosynchronous or low orbiting satellites are not practicable.

Another disappointment was the Air Force inactivation of a wartime HUMINT collection program. Although Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, then HQ USAF DCS/ISR, reinstated a new HUMINT program, when I retired it was far short of a wartime program that could establish sources for collecting information on moving, movable, and mobile targets in underground shelters, under natural cover, or camouflage. Knowing the location of such potential targets before they are deployed could be easier to destroy than tracking them to fix and target them. Debriefing of survivors, defectors, and detainees of bombed out targets would give an insight on the need for retargeting or not.

Use of drones to perform some tactical attack missions was definitely an improvement but it still needed other imagery or human intelligence support to be totally successful.

Finally, DOD multi-spectral measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) programs that can provide ISR to support tactical operations need to be upgraded and refunded, if necessary. When I retired 10 years ago, I had yet to see the DOD MASINT community step up to successfully provide actionable intelligence and support tactical operations that they were intended to do at the unit and AOC levels.

Lt. Col. Russel A. Noguchi,
USAF (Ret.)
Pearl City, Hawaii

Cancer and Pilots

The April issue contained several letters about prostate cancer and possible causes so I thought I would comment based on my personal experience and treatment [“Letters: Air Sick,” p. 3].

I, and several members of Pilot Class 57-R, suffered with prostate cancer. Three of us were treated with proton radiation therapy, successfully.

Two of us were treated at the Loma Linda Medical Center in California. While there I attended a lecture about prostate cancer and its treatment with proton radiation.

The doctor/physicist explained the pilots and other flight crew members spend a lot of time in the air flying closer to the sun. This increases the exposure to proton radiation from the sun which increases risk of prostate cancer.

In fact, pilots and crew members who fly in the Arctic have an increased risk. This risk is also present for male airline pilots .

Current and future space flights to Mars will greatly increase the exposure of pilots to proton radiation and its side effects.

Another fact is genetics. If your father suffered from prostate cancer then you are at a 50 percent risk of getting it.

Bill Doerler
Pennington, N.J.

Diversity Concerns

Following a couple of letters in the March issue of Air Force Magazine, I’d like to state a fact: Neither the USAF nor any other uniformed American armed service has ever availed itself of the potential quality force structure that was, is, and will continue to be, present in this country. Why? Because none of those services has taken a single step to seek out, acknowledge, mentor, or encourage the many who have heard the summons of the trumpet but were discouraged, demeaned, turned away, and otherwise deterred from the service they sought to join.

My own case is but one illustration. My life plan from the time I was in grade school was simple: Join the Air Force, become a pilot, and fly until I no longer could. From the very start I faced opposition. People in the Black community told me “they don’t want you,” people outside that community usually laughed or said “a Negro pilot?” as if I were discussing an alien being. My local recruiting office gave the White kids jacket patches; I got a laugh and was directed to the Army recruiter down the hall. He wasn’t much more welcoming.

In high school I tried to find a way around this. Someone directed me to the Civil Air Patrol. Good idea, but they didn’t want any “Negro members” either. I tried to find a kindred spirit at our local airport, someone who’d let me ride along with them. No luck there, either.

I had a relative who had been in the USAF in the 1950s. I told him what I had been doing. He told me, ‘You might as well stop now. You’ve already gone further than most in this, and you have had no success. What does that tell you?’

I am sure that I am far from the only Black/Asian/female or other “diversity subject” who tried and tried to find a way into a service I loved and respected, even though it turned me away at every attempt. So, those who are resistant to change or “diversity” and who think that concern about this is “woke,” I ask you: What makes you think that you have had the best candidates in your service, other than the fact that said candidates looked like you?

Norman E. Gaines Jr.
Hartsdale N.Y.

In response to Lt. Col. (Ret.) Price Bingham’s letter in the May issue, I will say this: Diversity of leadership and Airmen is a fine thing, but the overarching goal is a more capable military service (in this case the USAF). If the goal is simply “diversity for diversity’s sake,” then we are definitely way down a spiraling rabbit hole.

Yes, all militaries (including USAF) are somewhat slow to change and adapt, plus by nature, conservative organizations that do, on occasion, need a little kick in the butt to incorporate change. (This is a given.) Yet, even with that given, it appears to me that the DOD is pushing diversity of everything under the sun as the goal. If diversity doesn’t make us a better fighting force, more capable of defending America’s interests, then diversity is not a noble goal.

The diversity push is all well and good, but if we have no metrics to prove it is making the U.S. military more capable, then it is irrelevant to the mission. Unfortunately, these diversity metrics will probably be collected after the next major military confrontation. Until that unfortunate event occurs, the DOD will continue its diversity push without any indication of how it affects the mission of the U.S. military (for good or ill) and that will be a shame.

Lt. Col. Marshall Miller,
USAF (Ret.)
Piedmont, S.D.

The Real Threat

I am shocked that we are still building so many new manned fighting aircraft.

I think the B-21 program could be reduced by half and monies be better spent on the pilotless Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and/or drone technology.

The Tomahawk has more than proven itself as the most effective significant air weapon in our arsenal.

The Trident missiles in our nuclear submarine fleet, combined with ICBMs present a more formidable worse-case air defense or offense then America could possibly require. The Tomahawks and drones can surely handle any local conflicts. I much prefer seeing fewer of our fighting men put in harm’s way.

Aside from President [Vladimir]Putin and Russia, the enemies America now faces are either rogue nations or terrorists. The possibility of the USA requiring more conventional bombers does not seem reasonable.

I do not understand how old-school bombing tactics are relevant to present US defense. Sure, we still need a worthy conventional, manned fighter and bomber force, but surely not in the numbers currently being stated by the U.S. Air Force? The living, breathing fighter pilot is not completely obsolete, but I am glad to say that it is an occupation that will likely not exist in 20 or 30 years. Yes, the romantic in me is sadly disappointed, but I will gladly trade this for the life of a single U.S. Airman.

I do not dismiss that we must be prepared for the usual or the unusual—even the highly improbable and/or perceived impossible attack, but I believe this can easily be accommodated by fewer B-21 bombers. Please don’t misunderstand me. The new B-21 represents outstanding technology that we absolutely need.

Alas, I wish I could say that I am not extremely concerned with the military threats facing the U.S. I am frightened to my core. But I believe these new threats will not resemble a scenario that would require the use of B-21s.

As a favorite senator once said,

“A billion here and billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money!” I cannot help thinking that cutting the B-21 program by 30 to 50 percent would free up funds that would better help the U.S. defense in other areas (e.g., improved computer/web security, or a dirty bomb terrorist attack). Plus, improving the Tomahawk should always be considered. Successful weapons are not built in a single stroke, but through long years of trial and error.

I am far more worried about our enemies in the Mid East employing “dirty bombs” via terrorist tactics. What form this might take is unknown, but I suspect a Tomahawk or a drone will be more useful than a B-21 with such a threat.

I view North Korea as the United States’ most underestimated enemy. North Korea presently is wreaking havoc on the web.  The attack on Bangladesh, and North Korea’s successful hacking of the SWIFT system seem far more relevant and immediate than any possible requirement for conventional bombing sorties.

The North Koreans do not want to destroy the web. For them, the web is a valuable source of foreign cash reserves. However, they will go too far, make another mistake—like the British NHS debacle—and thoroughly undermine the average web user’s faith and confidence in global web security. I speak specifically of personal banking and the millions of relatively small purchases and transactions made daily that are now the backbone of the Earth’s economy.

My fear? That we end up with a perfectly functional, 100% intact WEB network that no one will again dare to use. What this would do to the world’s economy would be devastating and UNTHINKABLE.

Worse, I fear we are closer to this event than most people understand.

What would happen if 10,000 U.S. personal bank accounts were suddenly wiped out accidentally by the North Koreans? Remember that the British NHS attack was an accident! Or a rogue nation, such as Iran or Syria, purposely making the WEB so unsafe that no one would dare to perform a simple Google search!

I am now old and retired; however, I worked teaching Computer Science and in Wall Street IT, banking, brokerage, trading, and insurance for over 35 years.

After what I have seen from the North Koreans since the attack on Sony and the theft of almost all of Bangladesh’s meager foreign cash reserves (this required hacking the satellite-based SWIFT System), I think any sort of overwhelming WEB attack is possible, and eminent.

Frightened? You bet I am! 

Don Hoffman
Tacoma, Wash.

In Search of…

Service members/relatives who served at Eglin AFB, Fla., March 1949-June 1950 and appeared in the film “12 O’Clock High,” a list of the pilots/aircrews who flew in the film from the First Experimental Guide Missile Group, and any members of the 3203rd Aircraft Maintenance Group.
Contact: Bruce Orriss at bruceorriss@gmail.com (310) 337-1938.