North Korea, Guam, and nuclear war

North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un has threatened to send four mid-range ballistic missiles over Japan and drop them within 18 to 24 miles of Guam. This development takes me back to the days of my youth.

After joining the Air Force at 19 and attending electronic warfare systems tech school, I was assigned to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I spend three long years there. Our mission was North Korea. Everything we did was aimed at going to war against North Korea.

Our forward operating base was Osan Air Base in South Korea. If war kicked off with North Korea, we would deploy to Osan. We were required to have a mobility bag packed at all times containing four sets of uniforms. They would hold drills were we had to report to work with our mobility bag. They were supposed to inspect it to make sure it was actually packed, but I don’t think they always did.

We would also deploy to South Korea on a regular basis, usually once a year in February for Team Spirit. We would stay up to six weeks at a time living in tents. One year I remember going in October for ten or so days.

I got into scuba diving while stationed in the Philippines. There were some really fantastic dive spots in the Philippines, but they were far from Clark Air Base. It meant I could only dive on three-day weekends. I wished I could dive more often. Ideally, I wanted to be able to dive every day. It was then that I began thinking about Guam. If I were stationed on Guam, I could theoretically go diving every day.  Being that I was stationed overseas, if I volunteered to go to another overseas assignment, I would get rewarded with 30 days paid leave to use between assignments. Plus, if I volunteered for Guam after the Philippines, I would supposedly get higher priority with my assignment after Guam.

I changed my dream sheet, the Air Force document on file that listed our preferences on assignments, for duty on Guam.

I got my wish. My “dream” was fulfilled. I finally left the Philippines in 1988. I was assigned to the 43rd Bomb Wing at Andersen Air Force Base. I was stationed there for over two years and I loved every minute of it. I got to work on the B-52, something I loved. When I was stationed at Clark Air Base, I worked on the F-4E and the F-4G Wild Weasel. The F-4 was a pain in the ass to work on. If anyone ever tells you they loved working on the F-4, they are lying. I hated the Philippines and I hated working on the F-4.

I loved Guam and I loved working on the B-52.

Guam was fantastic. Not only was the scuba diving better than the Philippines, it was a lot more accessible. I didn’t have to wait for 3-day weekends to go diving. I could go every day. Sometimes I did. I worked the flightline until midnight and would often go diving after work with some of the guys I worked with. Once you get into night diving, it’s hard to get back into daytime diving. In the pitch black with a high-intensity dive light, the colors really pop.

The Philippines was a third-world cesspool. Guam is the United States.

It makes me angry to hear Kim Jong Un threaten Guam. I’m tired of North Korea being a thing. It should have ceased to exist when the Soviet Union fell. It’s 2017. We shouldn’t still be burning calories dealing with North Korea. If North Korea launches missiles towards Guam, we should just nuke it from orbit and be done with it. Should we first wait for North Korea to use one of its nukes on us? To destroy an American city?

No thanks.

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.