The USAF has a high percentage of people that are extremely good leaders and followers. That is a fact. They do the work of the USAF everyday and do a great job of getting the mission done in-spite of all of the politics that surrounds the organisation and in spite of a serious leadership deficit in USAF HQ.
I want to point out this article from Combat Aircraft Monthy magazine; November 2010. It still might be on news stands. You need to find it and read the article, “Final Ramifications” on page 75 by Gary Wetzel.
In the article it has all the good parts that make up the USAF. It is a story of close-air-support, the F-16, and a great team with a great leader.
The 34th fighter squadron; from Hill AFB, Utah took 12 F-16s into theater. Here is a look at one of the missions. It was a worst case scenario troops-in-contact (TIG) where the pilot had to swoop down at night–including additional poor visibility factors–and perform a gun pass within 100 meters of friendlies. Think of this when (if) an F-35C shows up for CAS and just happens not to have its gun pod on that day. In spite of all the technology; strafing is a valuable tool to pull out of the bag. It won’t be going away.
“It was simply one of the most miserable scenarios you could find yourself in. Even other pilots in the squadron who watched the cockpit tapes afterwards found themselves getting stressed with sweat coming on.
‘Cheech’ elaborated: It was our doomsday CAS sceario that we had trained for as best we could. We had friendly forces separated and unsure of where everybody was, along with an enemy force no one could pinpoint exactly. They were taking continuous fire and you have the teenager on the radio, who is not a JTAC, trying to direct and call in the air strike. They immediately asked us to strafe a tree line but that was as specific as it got. Below us we counted 30 to 40 tree lines. We are getting radio calls indicating the friendlies were running very short on ammo and were beginning to pool what was left. We were finally able to identify where we wanted to strafe and I made a single pass, fired just over 200 rounds, hit where I intended to hit and over the radio, from their response, you could tell it scared them just as much as the enemy.”
We had a couple of instances, three or four times , where Army soldiers we saved were able to make their way back to Bagram and seek out those of us that helped them out. They would tell us, ‘you guys saved my life out there and I will never forget that.’
Other issues were that the jets had to respond to calls half-way on the other side of the country. When time is life, you need to have some fast jets like F-15s, F-16s and B-1 bombers on-call.
The maintenance people (as always) did extremely well. This included one of their 20 year old F-16s being ready for 40 consecutive missions. A typical loadout for the aircraft would be 2x GBU-12′s, 2x GBU-38, 2x AMRAAM, 2x wing tanks and of course the built in gun.
Also of interest, is the kind of work they were doing shows the need of having an aircraft with 2 aircrew. It helps.
In what was to be something I have seen before, when the deployment returned to Hill, their squadron was disbanded-with promises of the F-35 to someday unfurl the squadron colors.
We still have large portions of the USAF that are really good. Given the direction we are headed; I don’t know if we can say that in another 5 years unless some serious air power leaders occupy the front office. This is the kind of risk America does not need.
The F-16 supported by a strong team. Why are some so eager to destroy this?