Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk


So Marc, you say, what gives? You’ve been hanging out on the couch for days and not one wonky aircraft post?

Fair enough – give the people what they want.

Jeffrey talks a lot about Iran’s nuclear program here, and for some time now the specter of airstrikes on the country’s nuclear aparatus has been hanging around the policy options party like a creepy guest that people don’t really want to talk to.

One of the problems oft mentioned in planning circles for just an eventuality is that Iran—unlike say Afghanistan or Iraq (2003 Iraq, not 1991 Iraq)—is not as easy a nut to crack from the air.

A recent study from MIT suggested that were the Israeli Air Force to try an Osirak Redux, its success would not necessarily be out of the question—granted only one of its F-15s were shot down trying to take out Natanz, each carrying a BLU-113 (props to Steve Trimble for finding that one).

Yeah, about that..

Wow, sweet new swag. Thanks uncle Vlad!

The Iranians are growing more freaked out by the day and have been steadily enhancing their dated but already layered air defense network—radars, anti aircraft artillery and surface to air missiles—with even more effective tools to combat any incursion.

The technology is older, sure, but the question mark remains how well integrated these tools are. Separately, their effectiveness is diminished. Networked, that’s a different story.

While stealth technology is good, many will say, the 1999 shootdown of an F-117 over Serbia proved that it is fallible. Despite the improvements in 5th Generation stealth, any serious attack on fortified and heavily defended targets will turn on the ability to prosecute EA – electronic attack, or the active suppression and scrambling of electronic air defense radar networks.

Which brings us to the first installment of BUFF Blogging—all things relating to the B-52 Stratofortress.

Once the star of SAC alerts and Kubrick films, the B-52 fleet is still in service but aging rapidly. The Air Force is drawing some down in the years ahead to pay the bills, and its bread and butter mission—nuclear deterrence—appears to be leaving town (more on that another time). So what to do with all those Big Ugly Fat Fellows?

Enter the B-52 “Electro BUFF” standoff jammer.

Perhaps due to an overreliance on stealth, electronic attack was somewhat neglected by senior Pentagon leaders over the last few years.

The Navy flies the only active standoff airborne EA platform in the U.S. military in the form of the EA-6B Prowler (several of which I saw doing their thing during my recent foray to the ‘Stan—for small planes those suckers are LOUD). The Prowler fleet will eventually give way to the EF-18G Growler by 2012, a flying computer on a Super Hornet airframe. Since the Air Force retired their EF-111s a few years back, the service has gone into doggy paddle mode with the EA mission – some say, planning completely fell off the table. While still sending crews to train with Naval aviators, the “roadmap” for a new capability went nowhere as recently as last year.

Some senior military leaders are not all that comfortable with this, despite the vaunted capabilities of both the F-22 and the F-35 – the lack of a long range EA capability in a strategic strike situation is bringing up a new use for an old airframe yet again – the “electro BUFF.”

Back from the dead – barely a year after it was killed off due to requirements creep (Pentagon-speak for programs that start as a simple kitchen knife but then morph into elaborate Leatherman tools) an eager Congress wants to find ways to prevent the old iron from going to the boneyard.

Now called the Core Component Jammer, USAF officials will get the thumbs up or down from OSD within a few weeks to keep on plugging at it. In its 2008 unfunded priorities list, USAF asks Congress for $35 million in airborne electronic attack technical work – most of which will be to continue developing jamming pod technology being used on the Growler program. Senior officials claim they can field a capability by 2015, for no more than $3.7 billion.

“standoff electro.. what in the sam hell you sayin’ son?”

It remains to be seen whether or not The Creep will be kept at bay this time.

If so, Major Kong may ride again… only this time, he’ll be flipping switches on emitters. Yee haw.


I had some long-winded post somewhere inside me, but reading the papers about all this missile defense brouhaha in Europe reminds me of an amusing anectdote that was meted out over cocktails the other day.

“Ahmadine… Ahmed…
whatever. Yes, I’ll hold.”

Halfway through our wide ranging rants and raves, my friend (for the purposes of the blog, I’ll be kind enough to leave his name out of it) is beside himself with disbelief and is convinced he can solve the whole thing.

Said friend proceeds to regale me with his not-so-elaborate plan to prevent an Encore Cold War—which I will relay via a hastily assembled one act play:

“Waiting for Vlad”


Vladimir Putin, President of Russian Federation and founder of the international order of hard pipe hittin’ muthas

American Fellow

SCENE: Kremlin office of Russian President Vladimir Putin

(Phone Rings)

Vladimir: “Hello”

American: “Vlad, what’s up. Joe here. You got a sec?”

V: “Who.. How’d you get this number?”

A: (Ignores question) “Look, I know you’re all freaked out and stuff over there – I can’t say I blame you. And Lord knows you got your ways of dealing with these things – you KGB guys keep it on the real. But I just wanted to tell you to chillax with all that pointing missiles noise. Polonium is one thing, but come on.”

V: “Listen, look at a map lately? We’re surrounded here.. NATO’s moving into the neighborhood, I got uppity Baltic states that are giving me heartburn and now you Imperialist swine want to put interceptors in Europe! Iranian missiles!? Man, we made those things and let me tell you..

A: “Look, I know.. I know.. but Vlad, you gotta believe me. This really isn’t about you. These people..”

V: “Whatever. Naked aggression.”

A: “They really believe it.”

V: (Pause) “Come on. Seriously?”

A: “Deadly.”

V: “BWAAAHAHAHAHAH! (sound of hoarse cackling) Ah ha.. ha..oooh boy. That is completely illogical, and defies any strategic sense in the loosest possible definition. You expect me to believe that?”

A: (Long Pause)

V: “Mm.. come to think of it..”

A: “See?”

V: ”..I..I… what do you people put in your water?”

A: “You know it’s true.”

V: “Allright. I’ll think about it. I gotta go fix… I mean talk to some people.”

A: “Cool.”

V: “And check your sushi.”

A: “Not funny.”



Buenas tardes, ACW addicts. I’ll be co-housewarming Jeffrey’s vacation crib on the Internet for a few days while he’s off trying not to be a wonk.

I’ll try to keep the salsa on the chips and off the leather.

First up, obligatory disclaimers – per advice from my attorneys: My asides, diatribes, opinions and what passes for insight in this forum on all things from force structure to the appropriate number of ice cubes in a Gin Fizz are solely my own and not shared or under the endorsement of, implied or otherwise, AFM or the Association.

With that said, I will now toot our own horn. Unlike George Tenet, we can tell the difference between an F-117 and a B-2.

The magazine, as Jeffrey noted the other week, is chock full of interesting stuff that people in the AC community would dig. It’s big on the “big picture” and we publish a lot of copy on policy, programs and an assortment of historical articles on all things related to the USAF, its legacy organizations and national defense.

The June issue is out now, and in addition to telling you why the AF is pouring booku bucks into hippy-dippy things like alternative energy research, we’ve also got an update on that oft-forgotten (stupid conventional Trident) leg of the strategic triad—the missileers of the great plains.

Executive Editor Adam Hebert (our resident ICBM guru) reports that not only has the Peacekeeper fleet been deactivated, but service leaders are not all that excited about a “Minuteman IV” program.

The reason? Cash Rules Everything Around Me.

Designing new missiles is expensive – especially when there is no shortage of other programs to modernize, according to USAF Space Command.

Money was a huge factor. Over the years, Space Command officials noted, Minuteman III upgrades have succeeded in attracting political support and funding.

Obtaining support for a costly new-start program would have been difficult, Gydesen said, and Space Command believes modernized Minuteman IIIs will meet all mission requirements.

..well, it doesn’t look like a Kangaroo to me, sir.

Times have changed in the ICBM world.

With the sunset of the Peacekeeper and the early reduction of the Minuteman fleet, the mega-warhead fleet of the Reagan era is all but gone (Wyoming’s F.E. Warren AFB now fields only single re-entry vehicle Minutemen) – and a chunk of deployable warheads off launchers means the US creeps closer to its Moscow Treaty goal of 2,200 warheads by 2012.

The downside for missileers? No more 24 hour alerts. Instead three man crews will be on 72-hour alerts, as part of yet another way to trim costs.

While the initial reaction to this proposal from the missileers was understandably less than enthusiastic, leadership is pumped. But think positively – I sense Tetris scores are going to go through the roof.

For more interesting trivia on alerts crews passing the hours, check this out.