The A-10 needs new wings

The U.S. Air Force A-10 needs new wings. The Air Force has already received funding for wing replacement of 173 aircraft, but they need money for the other 110. From CNN:

The US Air Force is telling Congress to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to upgrading the venerable A-10 Warthog fleet.

As the service rolled out its budget this year, Air Force officials vowed there were no plans to retire the entire A-10 fleet — despite previous attempts — but that doesn’t mean all of the planes in the fleet are safe.

The Air Force has warned Congress that more than a third of the 283 A-10 attack aircraft fleet may have to be permanently grounded unless Congress increases the Air Force’s budget to restart the production line that makes new wings for the planes.

The Air Force has paid for new wings needed to extend the life of 173 A-10 aircraft, but does not have the funding for the other 110 in the fleet, and about 40 would have to be grounded by 2021 unless additional funds are allocated, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

I think it’s funny the Air Force is still flying the A-10. It was originally built to provide close air support to U.S. and NATO ground forces in western Europe against an invading Soviet land force. The plane was designed around the massive 30 mm rotary cannon, a gun with a single purpose: to kill Soviet tanks.

The only good Soviet tank is a dead Soviet tank

The A-10’s nose-mounted GAU-8/A Avenger autocannon fires depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. Depleted uranium because of its denseness. It’s what made the weapon so effective against tanks.

The A-10 was used in Operation Desert Storm in combat operations against Iraq. It killed around 900 Iraqi tanks, but it also destroyed over 2,000 Iraqi vehicles and 1,800 Iraqi artillery pieces. It even killed two Iraqi helicopters in air-to-air combat, a role it was never designed to do.

The U.S. military doesn’t engage in combat with tanks, artillery, or helicopters these days. What makes the A-10 such an effective combat weapon on today’s battlefield is its speed, or more accurately, its lack of speed. The A-10 is so slow that it can loiter over a battlefield. When it flies over a target, the pilot has the time to correctly find a target before it engages.

The A-10 flies at speeds that would cause other aircraft to stall out.

Ease of maintenance

Although I never got to work on the A-10, I did get to check them out when I was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I was working on F-4E and F-4G’s at the time. The A-10 was equipped with the same Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) equipment as the F-4E, but what impressed me was how easy everything was to get to. It was designed with maintenance in mind. The F-4 was not. The “quickest” Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) to swap out on the F-4 was the processor for the radar warning system. It was under a panel with only 36 screws. This same LRU on the A-10 was mounted in the front landing gear compartment. There were no panel screws to remove. If memory serves, it was held in place with two large thumbscrews.

The A-10 made me mad

I walked away from crawling around the A-10 feeling jealous. I walked away feeling mad. When I was in tech school and received orders to go to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, I was disappointed. I didn’t want to go overseas. I was the only one in my class assigned overseas. A classmate even offered to swap assignments with me, something the Air Force allowed back then. He had orders to Myrtle Beach to work on the A-10. I left the decision to my then fiance. She wanted to go to the Philippines. The reason? Because it was a lot cheaper to live. It was so cheap in the Philippines, she wouldn’t need to get a job. In fact, she wouldn’t even be able to get a job in the Philippines. Spouses of American service members were forbidden to work in the Philippines.

If we went to Myrtle Beach, she would have to get a job.

I wish I had gone to Myrtle Beach to work on the A-10. I wish I hadn’t gone to the Philippines. I hated the Philippines. I wish I hadn’t left such an important decision to someone else. Myrtle Beach is were I now go for vacation.

The A-10 is the girlfriend the Pentagon wants to break up with, but can never quite get it done

For as long as I can remember, the Pentagon has tried to retire the A-10. The idea of a single-mission aircraft grew out of favor with the powers that be a long time ago. For the longest time, the answer to every problem was the F-16, a plane originally designed for export to U.S. friendly counties. Most counties wanted nothing to do with a U.S. built single-engine combat aircraft that the U.S. didn’t use in its own combat fleet. That eventually changed. The Air Force began using the F-16 as a mainline tactical fighter, less costly to procure and maintain then the F-15.  The U.S. Navy even began using the F-16 in its aggressor squadrons, planes that take on the role of enemy aircraft for the purposes of training.

The F-16 is the safest single engine combat airplane

I’ve never been a fan of the F-16. It only has one engine. When it comes to aircraft, especially combat aircraft, the more engines, the better. Unlike every other combat aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, the F-16 only has one engine. Every other aircraft in the U.S. military can lose an engine and make it back to base. The F-16 cannot.

I was in Korea in the late 80’s and an F-16 there has crashed into a mountain. This incident happened shortly after another F-16 crash. Critics began questioning the safety record of the F-16. I remember reading a quote in the newspaper from an Air Force public relations officer who said, “The F-16 is the safest single engine combat aircraft in the Air Force.”

This was a ridiculous comment because the F-16 was the only single engine combat aircraft in the Air Force.

 

The Maryland summer is hotter than Satan’s armpit

Why do I live somewhere that gets so unbearably hot? I’ve lived here in Maryland for 22 years. Summers in western Maryland are sweltering. It’ a point of fact I’m more than acutely aware of, yet I choose to live here.

I don’t get it. I don’t like being hot. If I had to make a choice between extreme hot or extreme cold, I’d gladly take the extreme cold. With that said, I’ve lived most of my life in places that got ridiculously hot.

I grew up in the California Mojave desert. It routinely got over 100 in the summer. Later, when I joined the Air Force, I spent a year in Biloxi, Mississippi for training. In the 1988 movie Biloxi Blues, Matthew Broderick’s character accurately described Biloxi as being “Africa hot.”

I’ve never been to Africa, but I’ve experienced a summer in Biloxi. I don’t recommend it.

I followed up my stay in Mississippi with three years in the Philippines.

3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)
3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)

There were two seasons in the Philippines, the wet season and the dry season. Both were sweltering. One just had a lot more rain than the other.

I then spent another two years on the island of Guam. The weather was a lot like the Phillippines, hot and muggy. One of the officers in my squadron died from heat stroke while jogging.

After Guam, I spent four years in upstate New York. Although it got extremely cold in the winter, the summers were brutal.

It's more hot than Satan's armpit - Bent Corner
Feels hotter than Satan’s armpit

I then got out of the Air Force and moved to Maryland for a job. I’ve been here ever since. Unlike the other hot places I’ve lived, I chose to live here in Maryland, where the summers are Satan’s armpit hot.

I wish I lived somewhere that remained cool year round. I’d love to live somewhere where the temperature didn’t get higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Does such a place even exist?

New Balance is a terrible company

New Balance is lobbying the Pentagon to force members of the military to buy only New Balance shoes. The reason? Because New Balance assembles its shoes in America.

From the excellent blog The Consumerist:

Army and Air Force recruits get a stipend to buy their own footwear from any company they want, while the Navy requires recruits to only buy New Balance, which assembles its shoes in the U.S. New Balance wants every part of the military to be like the Navy, and has been lobbying the Pentagon, along with the American shoe industry, to change the rules for years.

New Balance points to a 1941 statute called the Berry Amendment, which requires the Pentagon to buy its food, clothing, and other items from U.S. producers.

This is ridiculous. The Pentagon isn’t buying the shoes, the service members are buying their shoes. The silly outdated 1941 law doesn’t apply. What’s next, will Coors try to get the Pentagon to stop service members from buying Guinness? Coors makes its crappy beer in Colorado, reportedly from John Elway’s used bath water. Guinness brews its beer in Ireland. If New Balance can misuse an old law like the Berry Amendment, then so can Coors.

New Balance is a terrible company. It sees a large group of young men and women who volunteered to serve their country in the armed forces, and instead of respecting their sacrifices, they hire lobbyists to take away their choice in running shoes. If service members aren’t buying your shoes, make better shoes.

When I joined the Air Force years ago, I was told to bring my own running shoes. I bought a good pair of Nikes and I was glad a I did. Even though we only wore running shoes during physical training, I took the inserts out of my Nikes and put them in my combat boots. We marched everywhere we went, all day long. The boots they issued were really uncomfortable. As soon as I put my running shoe’s inserts in my boots, it didn’t hurt to march. So many people in my flight had foot problems, blisters and things. Not me. My size 15 feet were perfectly fine.

I’ll never buy a pair of New Balance again. I like some of their throwback retro shoes, but now that I know they are lobbying to take away a service member’s right to buy the running shoe that’s right for them, they’re dead to me.

Memorial Day and why I hate communists

Today is Memorial Day, the one day a year we officially recognize the ultimate sacrifice many, too many, military men and women have paid in service to our country. I spent over nine years in the United States Air Force, and in that time, I personally knew only one person who paid that ultimate price.

His name was Sergeant Randy Davis. I served with him at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. We were in the same squadron, the 3rd Component Repair Squadron (3rd CRS). I was in the Electronic Warfare shop, Randy worked in the Egress shop. His was a member of the group responsible for working on and maintaining the Martin-Baker ejection seats found in the F-4E and F-4G Phantom aircraft. We both worked the flight-line, directly on the aircraft. There was an electronic warfare display screen found in the aft cockpit of the F-4G Wild Weasel that had to be removed when the forward cockpit ejection seat was removed. The old F-4 was like that: to remove one thing, you often had to first remove two other things.

Because of this fact, I often found myself working on the same aircraft as Randy. I would remove the display, so he and his co-workers could remove the front seat.

3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)
3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)

The day Randy was killed was October 28, 1987. I spoke to him shortly before he was killed. It was late afternoon. He had stopped by the snack bar at the 3rd CRS dormitory to show us his airline tickets back to the world. He was scheduled to leave Clark AB for an assignment in the states. I don’t remember when he was scheduled to leave, but it must have been fairly soon because he wouldn’t have been given hard-copy airline tickets otherwise. Randy was married to a local girl, and they had at least one child. Because of that, he didn’t live in the dorms with us but instead lived off-base in a rented house.

Getting your airline tickets back to the states was a very big deal when stationed in the Philippines. It was a monumental occasion. Most people stationed in the Philippines looked forward to the day they were able to leave, and Randy was no exception. When Randy showed me his tickets, I’ll never forget what I said to him: I called him a dick. I was laughing when I said it and I’m certain he knew I was happy for him and more than a little envious, but the fact remains that the last thing I ever said to him was that he was a dick because he was going to leave the Philippines and I wasn’t.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought of that day and wished I hadn’t said that to him.

Randy left the snack bar and headed home. It turned out, when he stepped off a public jeepney, an elongated jeep used as public transportation, three members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, approached Randy from behind and shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Randy was unarmed and he was shot from behind. The three cowards then continued to shoot him as a lay dead on the ground.

Randy wasn’t the only one killed that afternoon. A retired American and another active duty airman were also assassinated that same day. I didn’t know them, but I did know Randy. I also know he didn’t deserve what happened to him.

He was a really nice guy with a good heart. He was most definitely not a dick.

I wish I knew what happened to the communists who murdered Randy. Ronald Reagan, president at the time, didn’t respond to the attacks. Instead, he left the matter up to the Philippine government. They didn’t do anything.

In 2007, members of the NPA were officially given amnesty by the Philippine government. Of all the things those terrorist scum deserved, amnesty was not one of them.

I hate Communists

che_tshirtAlthough there are people who have a misguided, nostalgic appreciation for all things communist, I’m not one of them. When I see some stupid hipster wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, I want to punch them in the throat. Something tells me that if communists murdered one of their friends, a sweet man like Randy Davis, they wouldn’t wear a t-shirt glorifying communists.

On this Memorial Day, I’m going to remember the sacrifice of United States Air Force Sergeant Randy Davis, a good man shot in the back of the head because of the uniform he was wearing.

May Randy Davis rest in peace and his killers rot in Hell.

Jack Tramiel, father of the Commodore 64, has died

Jack Tramiel, the father of the Commodore 64 home computer, died Sunday. He was 83.

Tramiel founded Commodore International in 1955. Tramiel wanted a military-style name for his new company, and the words General and Admiral were already taken, so Tramiel settled on the word Commodore.

The Commodore 64 was released in 1982 and went on to become the best-selling home computer of all time with over 17 million sold. It was the first computer I ever owned. I purchased my first Commodore 64 in 1985 while in the Air Force stationed in Philippines. I had a Commodore 64 with two 1541 floppy drives and a 1702 monitor. It was awesome.

Jack Tramiel was a great man. He will be missed.