VIDEO: Former USAF officer blows whistle on “illegal” anti-airship move?



US combat troops are “needlessly” dying because culturally-biased US Air Force officers rejected readily available lighter-than-air technology four years ago, says Ed Herlik, a former Air Force Space Command officer.

Now the managing director of the Market Intelligence Group (MIG), Herlik has gone public on YouTube with his frustration about what he calls an “illegal” move by a former Space Command official to countermand a direct order by a former USAF chief of staff. I’ve excerpted the key passage from the video below:



“Why aren’t we doing this?

 

Part of this is the cultural resistance to lighter than airvehicles. The air force for example has absolutely no interest in airships. It’sjust too far from what they choose to do. On top of that, there are technicalissues having to do with the altitudes, the environment, radio frequencyinterference, the number of aircraft  inthe air.

 

But frankly the bottom line inhibitors are right here: Budgetsand careers. As with any technical innovation the old technology will bereplaced to some extent, and the losers always resist, especially those whosecareers are based on whatever technology is going away.

 

As far as the history, air force space command was assignedto this task by a chief of staff named Jumper back in about 2003. Several yearslater the technology problems had been solved, to include survivability, whichmeant that the threat to satellite budgets was then crystal clear.

 

At that point, and just as that chief of staff retired, anair force general wrote a cease and desist order countermanding the chief ofstaff. Yes, that is illegal. But they did it anyway.

 

Shortly thereafter the space community jettisoned the entireidea of persistent UAVs, pushing it to the Air Combat Command, which again forcultural reasons rejected the lighter than air piece.

 

That again left the army space and missile defense commandas the only military organization trying to fly these. To their credit the highsentinel has flown a number of times reaching 73,000 feet. It simply doesn’thave the funding to be turned into something effective over the battlefield.”





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23 Responses to VIDEO: Former USAF officer blows whistle on “illegal” anti-airship move?

  1. Charley A. 26 January, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    If the USAF rejects airships, and if they can be as effective as advertised, then the USA(rmy) should develop and deploy them. After all, it’s their guys who are dying.

  2. arby 26 January, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    So, whatever happened to Herlik’s earlier effort to convert A-10s to “Firehogs” to drop chemical retardants on forest fires. The old website http://www.firehogs.com is looking for a new owner. http://www.archive.org has no traces of it because of a robots.txt file…

  3. SMSgt Mac 26 January, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    For the record I am pro-Airship for some of the reasons this guy brings up but more for other missions for which he doesn’t concern himself . I’d like persistent overwatch as much as the next guy, but this video and presentation is just a sales job. His ‘no airships for backtracking mission’ and the ‘whys’ are a strawman. The limiting factor in that mission is not the overhead persistence but the sheer amount of activity that goes on within the field of view of any overhead system, and the absolute fantasy that one can easily discern people up to no good from people who are not up to no good. Collecting information is one thing, the effort to understand it is quite another. Sure, ultimately, all things are ‘doable’ but the opportunity cost for some things (like 100% situational awareness) are just too high. But it is easy to claim your pet project doesn’t go anywhere because somebody else’s ‘ox’ is getting gored — because in a world where a finite budget is a reality there is always somebody else’s ox that gets gored if your idea gains traction. Its called ‘competition’ and defense is served by the marketplace of ideas.

  4. campbell 26 January, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Army is pushing, finally, to get an airship up over Afghanistan. ( called LEMV) should have been done years ago. one supposes that the greater ability to monitor ground movements will enable troops to pull out/back from involvement.

  5. Ed Herlik 26 January, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    It’s apparent that there are a few points in these postings that will benefit from an informed response. Here goes:

    “If the USAF rejects airships, and if they can be as effective as advertised, then the USA(rmy) should develop and deploy them. After all, it’s their guys who are dying.”

    The YouTube piece made that point, to include a photo of the Army’s stratospheric airship (HiSentinel). The problem is money. When Space Command violated superior orders, they kept the money. There’s more to it, of course.

    “So, whatever happened to Herlik’s earlier effort to convert A-10s to “Firehogs” to drop chemical retardants on forest fires.”

    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection blew roughly $75 million to put turboprops on 1950s era S-2s. That process saw a CDF leader, who was a partner in the Arizonan airtanker conversion company, take part in the decision making while excluding competition. You may have noticed that wildfire protection hasn’t improved.

    The feds aren’t in the airtanker business, expecting industry to develop new aircraft while not cooperating in releasing the best airframes from storage.

    Faced with that, we failed. California (and Florida, North Carolina, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska, etc.) are on their own. How’s that working out so far?

    “Army is pushing, finally, to get an airship up over Afghanistan. ( called LEMV) should have been done years ago.”

    I’m afraid that, while the airships will function properly, they will fail. They won’t climb above 20,000′ with any useful payload; 15,000′ will be far more common. But eastern Afghanistan (the part next to Pakistan) is above 6,500′ with peaks well above 21,000′. And the weather is truly violent – death to an airship. Their terrain is significantly higher and more rugged than our Rockies while their weather is worse.

    This experiment is well intentioned but should have been flown over Iraq years ago. Now, it will most likely provide failure examples for the UAV and satellite crowds pushing their agendas. All systems have their place; Afghanistan isn’t it for medium altitude airships.

    “For the record I am pro-Airship for some of the reasons this guy brings up but more for other missions for which he doesn’t concern himself.”

    To be blunt, you have no way of knowing on what we concern ourselves. That was a Counter IED conference so the organizers specified Counter IED presentations.

    “but this video and presentation is just a sales job. His ‘no airships for backtracking mission’ and the ‘whys’ are a strawman.”

    Of course it was partially a sales pitch; why else would a company go through the expense of presenting in such venues? But that in no way makes any part of the information either invalid or inaccurate.

    Exactly what part of the information is a strawman, invalid? There are no stratospheric airships when we’ve known how to build them for several years now. They were canceled to protect existing budgets, the ‘why part. So, please write again and make your point.

    “The limiting factor in that mission is not the overhead persistence but the sheer amount of activity that goes on within the field of view of any overhead system, and the absolute fantasy that one can easily discern people up to no good from people who are not up to no good.”

    That’s absolutely wrong. Persistence is the counter IED community’s ‘holy grail’ (their term, not mine). It’s the only missing piece and has been for many years. With persistence they can use long-established technology to do the rest.

    As for discerning intent, the backtracking slide made it perfectly clear that backtracking begins with an event (bomb) and then moves backward through the surveillance record. Intent is proved by the bomb. That’s not much different than firing a missile at guys in a truck who just launched mortar rounds from the back. Their intent is obvious too.

    “But it is easy to claim your pet project doesn’t go anywhere because somebody else’s ‘ox’ is getting gored — because in a world where a finite budget is a reality there is always somebody else’s ox that gets gored if your idea gains traction. Its called ‘competition’ and defense is served by the marketplace of ideas.”

    That sounds reasonable unless one knows that competition doesn’t always work in the real world of career politics. This glib point ignores long history such as prohibiting repeating rifles in the Civil War so as to intentionally limit a soldier’s rate of fire, or the battleship navy resisting aircraft, or designing the F-4 without a gun, or resisting UAVs until the CIA used them to kill a bad guy. All of those political decisions, those distortions of ‘competition’, were eventually corrected but only after troops died unnecessarily. That’s the exact path we’re following on persistent UAVs, like stratospheric airships.

    How many more troops would have come home alive and whole if we had started killing bomb makers wholesale in 2006?

    Would the Afghanistan surge have been necessary had we put a serious dent in the enemy’s ability to use their most effective weapon?

    I strongly suggest we limit assertive comments to topics on which we are expert. To do otherwise invites becoming one of those viral emails in which some clown displays his lack of science education or willingness to distort another’s statements into an outright lie.

    Want details straight from the source? Write me: Ed Herlik at EHerlik@MarketIntelGroup.com

  6. SMSgt Mac 27 January, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    I wrote: “For the record I am pro-Airship for some of the reasons this guy brings up but more for other missions for which he doesn’t concern himself.”

    You wrote: “To be blunt, you have no way of knowing on what we concern ourselves.”

    I was, of course, referring to only what was presented in the brief. No more. No less. I would have been more precise, and as a result even ‘wordier’ than usual, if I had typed in the implied “in this presentation” at the end of my statement. But why would anyone have thought anything different was meant?

    I wrote “but this video and presentation is just a sales job. His ‘no airships for backtracking mission’ and the ‘whys’ are a strawman.”

    You wrote: Exactly what part of the information is a strawman, invalid?

    Gee. The ‘Backtracking’ capability as a rationale for persistent overwatch sure looks like a strawman, But – You say it isn’t, then I’ll take your word for it. But it sure seems to be a ‘strawman’. I say it “seems to”, because while IEDs certainly have a powerful and emotional hold on the psyche of the press and general public, I find it a particularly weak argument for a persistent overwatch capability, compared to the total benefit persistence would bring to proactive operations as part of a broader integrated strategy. Mea Culpa. I am guilty of assuming you had bigger and better ideas behind the storyline, something beyond unseen hands conspiring to keep the airship from becoming an IED-backtrackin’ one-trick wonder pony.

    And of course the person making the pitch knows it is a pitch. Pitches are neither good nor bad by virtue of them being a pitch. The statement that this is a sales job is only a reminder to casual observers who would listen in to do so with ‘caveat emptor’ in mind.

    I wrote: “The limiting factor in that mission is not the overhead persistence but the sheer amount of activity that goes on within the field of view of any overhead system, and the absolute fantasy that one can easily discern people up to no good from people who are not up to no good.”

    You wrote: That’s absolutely wrong. Persistence is the counter IED community’s ‘holy grail’ (their term, not mine). As for discerning intent, the backtracking slide made it perfectly clear that backtracking begins with an event (bomb) and then moves backward through the surveillance record. Intent is proved by the bomb. That’s not much different than firing a missile at guys in a truck who just launched mortar rounds from the back. Their intent is obvious too.

    Intentionally or unintentionally, your response is not to what was typed by me. When I wrote “that mission” I am clearly referring to ‘backtracking’ specifically and not the broader counter-IED mission as a whole. This distinction is important because backtracking involves post-collection analysis of a potentially mountain-sized pile of imagery that must be filtered and run through by Mk 1 Mod 0 eyeballs to track the enemy. IF all the sensors are pointed in the right direction(s) and IF the sappers move away from the IED in a traceable way, then MAYBE we can catch them. The probability of doing so is inversely proportional to the time between the IED is planted and the time it is discovered (one way or another). The analogy of counter-battery fire is only a proper one if the IED had been so recently planted and observed as to provide for near real-time or real-time response.

    When I speak of difficulty in the ability to discern the actions of people up to no good from others I am referring to the problem of interpreting actions from X thousand feet up and where to focus your attention in performing a post-mortem of an event. Example: three vehicles came and went from a spot in the last 24 hours where a remote controlled IED was found. Which vehicle if any of the three was involved? How far back do you go? There was another six groups of people with carts, cars, and trucks who stopped at the same point the day before that. Who are the innocent bystanders? How many people and what systems are required to get the best data out of the surveillance? Real-time monitoring from above as a preventative measure would be even harder and probably just as futile. It would mean many, many Mk 1 Mod 0 eyeballs on many, many sensor displays looking everywhere to catch sappers while they were placing their IEDs. Needles in a haystack in a Kabul-sized community…and wherever they are not looking at any particular time is a potential missed IED. Since any enemy gets a vote in the outcome, one would have to assume that they would merely get ‘better’ at their task over time which brings us back to having to place boots on the ground to get the real situation. I submit, and by submit I mean it is my considered professional and analytical judgment that by far the greatest value of overhead persistence is in support of offensive actions conducted on our own terms; where we set the time and place of action. I assert this is true, be it an intelligence gathering or military action, and that ANY defensive missions, such as ‘backtracking’, while not without value, offer relatively little benefit compared to that from supporting offensive operations.

    I wrote: “But it is easy to claim your pet project doesn’t go anywhere because somebody else’s ‘ox’ is getting gored — because in a world where a finite budget is a reality there is always somebody else’s ox that gets gored if your idea gains traction. Its called ‘competition’ and defense is served by the marketplace of ideas.”

    You wrote: “That sounds reasonable unless one knows that competition doesn’t always work in the real world of career politics. This glib point ignores long history such as prohibiting repeating rifles in the Civil War so as to intentionally limit a soldier’s rate of fire, or the battleship navy resisting aircraft, or designing the F-4 without a gun, or resisting UAVs until the CIA used them to kill a bad guy…”

    Interesting, if somewhat limited, list of examples. With the exception of the F-4 outlier, I note that all are concerned with the inability of the ‘new’ to supplant the ‘established’ as early as they should have. Of course, the long line of mostly-forgotten and unsuccessful technologies that never supplanted established ones dwarf any list ever created of ‘breakthrough’ systems that succeeded. Is the airship concept a breakthrough ready to happen? Time will tell, but citing past examples of disruptive technologies gives no additional credence to the argument ‘for’ airships as the disruptive technology needed for the mission you cite. What never seems to float to the top in lamentations over the ‘Establishment holding back the future’ is a rational explanation as to just why that seems to be. How about, because of a natural tendency to stay with what works…until it doesn’t…when lives are on the line? Holding on to existing ideas that have worked in the past is understandable and the burden of proof is on the advocates of the new. The ‘new’ cannot just be better – it must be better to the point that the ‘old’ essentially becomes ‘obsolete’ via insufficient capability or excessive relative cost.

    RE: “How many more troops would have come home alive and whole if we had started killing bomb makers wholesale in 2006?… Would the Afghanistan surge have been necessary had we put a serious dent in the enemy’s ability to use their most effective weapon?

    This is emotional pleading. The opportunity costs vs benefits of executing in the near term, and the enemy’s response and adaptation to in the long term, of a strategy that was NOT followed is unknowable.

    RE: “I strongly suggest we limit assertive comments to topics on which we are expert.”

    If we interpret ‘expert’ as meaning either being or having been part of a practice as a paid ‘professional’ or as a published ‘authority’, then Hear, Hear!

    I always feel guilty using this much of other people’s bandwidth. Many thanks to our gracious hosts for their generosity.

  7. Ed Herlik 27 January, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Let’s start with a credibility check. You’re anonymous and nothing in your posted bio suggests an expertise in combat operations. I served as a Forward Air Controller (lived with the Army), a helo scout pilot (flew with the Army), an attack pilot (lived several hundred feet above the Army) and a cargo pilot (took the Army everywhere). I also led a joint team to deliver persistent ISR to the Army and Marines. I’m right now logged into a very expensive UAV webinar as an invited guest to ask expert questions. Your sarcasm isn’t supported by your stated expertise and so does the readers a disservice. It’s not, frankly, unlike parts of the Air Force (my service) that just aren’t in this fight.

    I won’t waste ‘bandwidth’ on every topic either, much less my time. There are just a few points that can’t stand as incorrect as they are above.

    “Gee. The ‘Backtracking’ capability as a rationale for persistent overwatch sure looks like a strawman, But – You say it isn’t, then I’ll take your word for it. But it sure seems to be a ‘strawman’. I say it “seems to”, because while IEDs certainly have a powerful and emotional hold on the psyche of the press and general public, I find it a particularly weak argument for a persistent overwatch capability, compared to the total benefit persistence would bring to proactive operations as part of a broader integrated strategy.”

    Since we’re naming logic faults, that one is a false dichotomy. Nothing at all implies that backtracking is a choice exclusive of anything else. Of course all the persistent capabilities would fit together. Strawman means falsely stating someone else’s argument and then facetiously attacking that false argument. What’s false about the backtracking case and how did I attack it?

    “I wrote: “The limiting factor in that mission is not the overhead persistence but the sheer amount of activity that goes on within the field of view of any overhead system, and the absolute fantasy that one can easily discern people up to no good from people who are not up to no good.” And,

    “Intentionally or unintentionally, your response is not to what was typed by me. When I wrote “that mission” I am clearly referring to ‘backtracking’ specifically and not the broader counter-IED mission as a whole.”

    Same difference. You’re technically wrong on persistence. Proof? Name any aerial system that can hold position for more than 36 hours. Overhead persistence in this context means at least a week, if not a year. You’re clearly not informed on such technology; so why do you insist on presenting yourself as if you are?

    “This distinction is important because backtracking involves post-collection analysis of a potentially mountain-sized pile of imagery that must be filtered and run through by Mk 1 Mod 0 eyeballs to track the enemy.”

    No! You’re also wrong on the ‘shear amount of activity’, the data requirement. That activity is cover for insurgents – we can’t sort them out from the populace. But that activity is not a problem for persistent surveillance. The systems would only transmit parts of the scene that change (motion) and not the static parts (dirt, buildings, roads). That’s the way networked simulators have functioned for two decades. So, starting from a known event (blindingly obvious that people are up to no good) and tracking back through a record is nearly trivial. It’s often done by locking a cursor on an object and edge tracking as it moves. We do all of that today: except the overhead persistence segment.

    “IF all the sensors are pointed in the right direction(s) and IF the sappers move away from the IED in a traceable way, then MAYBE we can catch them. The probability of doing so is inversely proportional to the time between the IED is planted and the time it is discovered (one way or another). The analogy of counter-battery fire is only a proper one if the IED had been so recently planted and observed as to provide for near real-time or real-time response.” And,

    “When I speak of difficulty in the ability to discern the actions of people up to no good from others I am referring to the problem of interpreting actions from X thousand feet up and where to focus your attention in performing a post-mortem of an event.”

    Sorry, but you’re just not listening. Backtracking tracks back through time after a bombing – no intent interpretation required, no need to care where the ‘sappers’ went (such as to Paradise). Nothing you wrote is relevant to that capability.

    “With the exception of the F-4 outlier, I note that all are concerned with the inability of the ‘new’ to supplant the ‘established’ as early as they should have. Of course, the long line of mostly-forgotten and unsuccessful technologies that never supplanted established ones dwarf any list ever created of ‘breakthrough’ systems that succeeded.”

    With your testing and support background, surely you’ve witnessed the truism that the vehemence of active opposition (vice passive disinterest) is a good indicator of threat to the established order. By that measure, persistent UAVs must be true breakthroughs.

    “What never seems to float to the top in lamentations over the ‘Establishment holding back the future’ is a rational explanation as to just why that seems to be.”

    What??? Is there a single reader out there who doesn’t understand the simple human nature working here? People and organizations whose perceived benefit lies in the displaced technology will always resist. You have perfectly illustrated the truth that the second hardest thing for the military to do is accept a new idea, while the hardest thing for the military to do is let go of an old one.

    “I strongly suggest we limit assertive comments to topics on which we are expert.” And,

    “If we interpret ‘expert’ as meaning either being or having been part of a practice as a paid ‘professional’ or as a published ‘authority’, then Hear, Hear!”

    Nope, that’s not my meaning at all. This is a backtracking from persistent UAVs discussion, not one of generic professionalism or publication. Besides knowing operations, I have a commercial paper on the market (Persistent UAVs) that sells for $10,000 per copy. I have another such paper selling today, UAVs for Border Security, that costs $5,000 each. That’s very specific and obviously highly valued expertise on this focused topic.

    I’m reacting so harshly because your glib and sarcastic answers are highly misleading. You have no special expertise or experience on this topic but the uninformed reader may not see that. Your anonymous denigration of critical capabilities you consistently misconstrue can only serve to leave our troops at unnecessary risk, as they are today. That’s not acceptable and must be challenged.

  8. SMSgt Mac 28 January, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    No.
    All things considered, I believe I’ve been pretty civil. Skeptical and direct, yes, but overall quite civil. This isn’t my house, and it would have been rude for me to behave no differently.
    I ‘blog anon’ for a reason. My opinions are my own, and am content to let ideas speak for themselves rather than to demand acceptance because I am an ‘authority’. My employer prefers that no one reads anything into what the company is up to based upon what I’m writing. Everyone is happier and I never have a need to scratch an itch to defend my analytical manhood.
    Think what you want. You seem to anyway. If I wanted to be glib and sarcastic, I would type something like:
    “I’m thinking: Thin skin. Small potatoes have thin skin.”
    But I won’t.

  9. Ed Herlik 28 January, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    I actually have no ego tied up in this at all. But I do have lots of empathy.

    When I was 10, I opened the door one night to find a casualty officer and chaplain standing there. My mom started crying right away. That experience wrapped a context around this video, as you should remember.

    So, anonymous posters who apparently thrive in a broken acquisition and evaluation system which is, right now, allowing families to go through that experience simply to resist change will be challenged – every time. Such attitudes are part of the problem.

    I strongly suggest you restrict yourself to topics you understand. Persistent UAVs and backtracking are not on that list.

  10. SMSgt Mac 29 January, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Don’t confuse my being rational with ambivalence.
    Actually, I noted the reference to your youth and can somewhat relate. I was fortunate in that my Father came home…all three times. I count among my blessings that I always came home. I’m waiting for D3 (my Daughter-in-law) to come home now. I suspect I’ll be waiting again for my Son to come home in the not too distant future. We live in dread of the unexpected knock on the door, and know we are fortunate when it does not come.

    RE: your strong suggestion I restrict myself to topics I understand.

    We covered this already: I always do.

    Re: “Persistent UAVs and backtracking are not on that list”.

    Pfft.

    To paraphrase a cranky guy I’ve recently encountered: “To be blunt, you have no way of knowing on what is on that list.”

    You seem compelled to get the last word in any exchange, so have a nut. I’m through with you… here

  11. Ed Herlik 30 January, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    The last word part is because your seemingly-informed attitude is so dangerous; it can mislead uneducated readers into thinking there’s some sort of legitimate debate supporting a decision to countermand superior orders. You come across with very close to the ‘bureaucracy first’ loyalty that led to this failure in the first place. The general who signed the Cease and Desist order had a son in Iraq at the time, and knew the technology’s potential to protect troops, but that didn’t stop her. She followed illegal orders and was rewarded with a nice assignment. Stunning.

    In the future, you’ll be more credible if you quit hiding behind the ‘employer makes me anonymous’ fiction and also refrain from personal attacks.

    “Think what you want. You seem to anyway. If I wanted to be glib and sarcastic, I would type something like:
    “I’m thinking: Thin skin. Small potatoes have thin skin.”
    But I won’t. ”

    Irrelevancies like that are the classic ad homonym logic fallacy. They’re most commonly used by politicians and teens who don’t have a factual argument and so start calling names. That’s beneath someone who’s family has obviously served our people so well.

  12. WillOTP 31 January, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    Mr. Herlik,
    It seems to me you have a solution you very much believe in and are pushing it as the best solution. Everything I’ve seen you write or say, intentional or not, you put forth the idea that there is no persistent airborne IED forensic solutions currently in place. There are actually several already in place and I’d be quite surprised if you told me you were unaware of them.

    Will

  13. Don Meaker 31 January, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    First, thanks for your service, both Ed Herlik and SMSgt Mac.

    I figure honest people can differ on complex subjects, particularly on defense subjects in which the future is unknown and unknowable, in part because we don’t know where future technology will go, and in part because the enemy gets a vote, and isn’t telegraphing his punch to us. Accusing folks of treason based on not agreeing with you is not intellectually honest. Bureaucratic imperitives are normally obeyed by people in a bureaucracy because they believe in it. It is too easy to move to a part of the bureaucracy with which you agree, so that staying with an organization which gives you ulcers is not necessary. It is most likely that all parties in a dispute are giving the taxpayer the full benefit of their knowledge and judgement.

    Full Disclosure: I have known SgtMac for many years and found him innovative, disciplined, and scrupulously honest, with a dry wit. With many years working on both manned and unmanned aircraft and munitions, in and out of uniform, he has performed operational analysis of many recon and strike alternatives.

  14. Ed Herlik 1 February, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Will,

    “you put forth the idea that there is no persistent airborne IED forensic solutions currently in place.”

    It depends on how you define persistence. One UAV writer recently defined it as five hours on-station; my Army buddies don’t buy that at all. They define persistent ISR as watching their backs until they get tired of it, usually two weeks after they get home. I defined it as at least one week on-station for the persistent UAV report mentioned above. DARPA defines it as five years on station in the Vulture competition (winged UAVs) mentioned at the end of the video. All of that presumes a single flight vehicle, no replacement or refueling, of course.

    So yes, of course we struggle greatly for persistence. But those systems fly far lower, and for far short periods (if they fly at all) than the ones relevant to this discussion. We have nothing that has any prayer of reaching the year on-station that is the current stratospheric airship’s standard.

    How’s that?

    Ed

  15. Ed Herlik 1 February, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    “Accusing folks of treason based on not agreeing with you is not intellectually honest. Bureaucratic imperitives are normally obeyed by people in a bureaucracy because they believe in it.”

    For the record, the documentation shows they committed crimes, not treason. But yes, there is a group-think element at work here. A recent Space Command commander said ‘we follow the laws of Keppler, not the laws of Bernoulli’ in rejecting ‘near space’ vehicles. He clearly, and to a pleased crowd, valued the community’s traditions over relevance in today’s fight regardless of their orders to engage. But that’s not the point. They had superior orders which still have not been lawfully reversed to this day. Legal orders trump bureaucratic loyalty every time.

    “It is too easy to move to a part of the bureaucracy with which you agree, so that staying with an organization which gives you ulcers is not necessary.”

    Actually, no. The Air Force space community is small and insular. There’s no alternative if that’s your career field, to include coming back as a contractor.

    “It is most likely that all parties in a dispute are giving the taxpayer the full benefit of their knowledge and judgement.”

    I have to go back to the countermanding lawful orders part. Several Air Force lawyers later pointed out that the actions we’re debating violated UCMJ Article 92, go to jail stuff. Those actions were then enforced by lies, violating UCMJ Article 107.

    “Full Disclosure: I have known SgtMac for many years and found him innovative, disciplined, and scrupulously honest, with a dry wit. With many years working on both manned and unmanned aircraft and munitions, in and out of uniform, he has performed operational analysis of many recon and strike alternatives.”

    I can feel that too and have flown with any number of senior NCOs who fully live their standards. But this conversation has been noticed by the public; it will logically lead to inquiries on why we’re not doing all we know how to do for our troops and national security. Those readers don’t understand that context as we do, you and me.

    In this case, SgtMac anonymously offered himself as an expert on persistence and backtracking. When challenged to prove it, he replied “Pfft.” That doesn’t speak well to credibility or civility. Far more importantly, the bad assertions have a high probability of mis-directing that coming public discussion. I’ve seen such logic faults, uninformed but technical sounding claims, etc. used time and again by those trying to defend leaving our troops out there with less support than we were ordered to deliver. That’s an extremely dangerous path that must be challenged early.

    We have too many optional widows and Special Olympics champions as it is.

  16. Don Meaker 3 February, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    I think there are times when you disobey superior orders. When you are reasonably sure that the superior orders are wrong, or were given in some situation that is no longer applicable. Such things happen often in combat, and are less likely in lower speed world of procurement.

    Still, you seem to focus here on the violation of orders, in a situation where the person who gave the orders was no longer in command, rather than on “what should be done”. Further, I don’t know to what extent the person who allegedly didn’t obey the orders coordinated with his new commander, with his old commander, or anyone else in the chain of command. I don’t know the situation from one side, much less from both, but to me, it isn’t the strongest part of the argument. Airships are an interesting approach, but there hasn’t been a lot of development work, certainly not compared to fixed or rotary wing aircraft. That seems to me to suggest that there are opportunities to push the art, and reap some benefits, but also suggests that there is some risk in doing so. On the other hand, pushing state of the art in a situation where we already have massive overmatch is likely to get into diminishing returns, perhaps even decreasing returns. Pushing state of the art in an area where we don’t have massive overmatch may be a better investment of the taxpayers money.

    What is our utmost? I have my utmost, and you have yours, and we focus that based on what poor powers we can bring to bear, and what we dimly discern to be the future. We may all be wrong, and we all must still act as best we can. High ranking people can be just as wrong as lower ranking. Creativity must be permitted, within reason, and that means some space must be allowed for creativity, to include some freedom to make errors. I am a humble man, with much to be humble about. I see differences between well meaning persons, and am inclined to think of discussing, rather than shut down a conversation by quick reference to court action. If a commander made the command decision not to prosecute, that is also as much a command decision as the original decision to issue the order.

  17. Ed Herlik 3 February, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Let’s take a look at the part of your argument that doesn’t concern the emotional side and go with that. “On the other hand, pushing state of the art in a situation where we already have massive overmatch is likely to get into diminishing returns, perhaps even decreasing returns. Pushing state of the art in an area where we don’t have massive overmatch may be a better investment of the taxpayers money.”

    In this case, we’re talking about the insurgent’s ability to ‘be as fish in the sea’, Mao’s admonition to hide from superior forces. That’s perfect advice now being followed fairly well downrange. The consideration then boils down to information: the bad guys have it and we don’t. We’re overmatched on local information (such as where the IEDs are being made), which is the only thing keeping the insurgents alive. Proof? Every successful Predator strike illustrates an opponent’s failure to protect their information. Scale that up to effectively decapitating and preempting the opposition and there’s little left to threaten our forces or interests.

    So, in this case, we need to improve in the one critical area where we’re at a severe disadvantage (information) and don’t need more capability where we have that massive overmatch (kinetic force). I can’t be sure but it seems you argued for the opposite, that we have enough ‘persistent ISR’ and should emphasize something else.

    I’ll leave the bottom line to a special operations commander, Lt Gen Wooley, who wrote: “If you take your eye off the target for a minute, you might miss something.” He was talking about persistent surveillance in current operations for context. We can’t deliver anything remotely relevant to his point these days, somewhat because the Air Force command ordered to deliver rejected those orders to preserve their budgets. The ironic thing is that the ‘protected’ systems (tactical satellite communications and global moving target radar) collapsed of their own weight anyway. We got neither. But the partisans at fault were rewarded and moved on, as usual.

    Note on countermanding orders: If that change were authorized, there would have been no need for the Cease and Desist order (and other actions) preventing that expertise from being used for research by other organizations. Space Command simply would have moved resources and been done with it, rather than actively working to block the innovation everywhere (such as in the Army). You’re welcome to that document if you like.

  18. Lewis Radwanski 9 February, 2010 at 3:09 am #

    I think that background checks should be classified based on how deep they are.

  19. Adrian Correl 26 February, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    Hi, You write some very good blogs, I love nearly all of your articles. I always check back here often to see if you have updated. Keep on blogging!

  20. Bill Vigneault 9 April, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    have a gut feeling that you could possibly be right.

  21. Don Meaker 10 April, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    For what it is worth, one current company has actually acted under a Letter of Marque and Reprisal. In 1941 all the Navy blimps were busy on the east coast against the very effective German submarines. The Japanese had a few submarines sneak in close, and started a fire in Oregon, and shelled a petroleum tank fire in California. The Navy arranged for a Letter of Marque and Reprisal to be provided to Goodyear, so they could use their blimp on the west coast to look for submarines.

    Sounds like a precedent for a path forward, for little money and low development cost.

  22. Chloe Hendrikson 30 June, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Tonita Madine

  23. James Bond 20 November, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Hi folks,
    If you are interested in the latest news on hybrids or airships try my home page which always has an up to date list. See: http://www.hybridairship.net
    Regards JB

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