Air Power's Lost Cause by Brian D. Laslie

Air Power's Lost Cause by Brian D. Laslie

Author:Brian D. Laslie [Laslie, Brian D.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 2021-02-18T00:00:00+00:00

These questions clearly indicate that the Ault Report was not only about aircrew performance, but also about the life cycle of the missile itself, starting with its production by industry and ending with a button press where it left the rails and either killed a MiG or failed to do so. The committee stated: “The review indicates that numerous design, procedural, and organizational changes can and should be made.”38

These changes came in the form of fourteen separate areas requiring improvement in order to increase missile kill ratios: policy, management, production, performance vs. design, maintenance and test, aircrew training, personnel training other than aircrew, logistic support, documentation, surveillance, inspection, safety, rework, and evaluation by Fleet Missile Systems Analysis and Evaluation Group (FMSAEG). Several areas noted as problems in the Ault Report were also recognized by the USAF in its own self-evaluations going on at the same time.

One area that was indicated as problematic was the use of the F-4 as a “jack-of-all trades” aircraft. The F-4 was created with the ability, and had the capability, to perform in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground roles. While the aircraft itself was obviously designed and had the capability to perform both mission sets, using squadrons to perform both missions came at the detriment of performing either one well. “A key issue” in the area of training and readiness was “the commitment of fighter squadrons to air-to-ground missions in Southeast Asia and the consequent dilution of air-to-air training and readiness.” In other words, fighter pilots needed to be allowed to focus on the mission of killing MiGs and not on bomb runs, strafing, and other attack missions. Conversely, attack pilots should only conduct those missions.39

Another area which required attention was the complexity of the aircraft itself. Radar tracking, the arrangement of controls inside the cockpit (switchology), and missile control and employment all led to the conclusion that “US fighter pilots have been required to fight a ‘heads up’ engagement in Southeast Asia with a ‘heads down’ system.” This does not include the coordination needed between the aircraft commander sitting up front and the radar intercept officer in the back.40

Navy pilots (and their USAF brethren) also routinely fired their missiles outside of their prescribed envelopes. Although changes made during Vietnam indicated the importance of placing the fighter in a position of advantage over the enemy (i.e., the mechanics of dogfighting), the Ault Report showed that “much of this effort has been wasted because it did not stress one of the key elements of the problem: missile envelope recognition/identification.” Navy fighter pilots flew better than their NVAF counterparts, but they continued to struggle with missile employment, the result being that although navy pilots might find themselves in an advantageous position over their enemy, their inability to place their aircraft in the proper weapon’s employment zone (WEZ) meant that they did not achieve the elusive MiG kill. Their missiles’ own inherent design problems also hindered them in this regard.41

The solutions to the problems proved to be simple and yet elegant.


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