Air University Review, November-December 1976

A Call from the Wilderness

Major Donald J. Alberts

Q: General, what do you think is the major threat, specifically air threat, to NATO Europe now and what will it look like in the near future?

A: I think what we all have to be concerned about are the newer, more sophisticated airplanes that the Soviets are now bringing in, the so-called third generation airplanes.

Q: How do you plan to counter this ever-increasing threat?

A: I want to be able to fight across the full spectrum out here and I think most of our commanders want to be able to do that . . . . I don't want to fight with weapons I can't win with . . . . we've got very superb weapon systems for doing this. And the flexibility of air is such that we can move very fast, concentrate very fast, get a lot of ordnance in very fast and cause a lot of damage very fast.1


For Europe, the military lesson to be learned from the October War is that if there were to be a conventional war in the near future it would go against the Atlantic Alliance. The two essential factors, surprise and missiles, are a positive element in favor of the Warsaw Pact countries.2


The total Arab losses in the air were 514, as against Israeli losses totalling 102 . . . .  Only five Israeli planes were shot down in actual combat. Missiles and anti-aircraft guns, which were no less effective than missiles, accounted for the rest.3


These statements represent three divergent viewpoints on the nature and, if one will, the future utility of tactical air power. The three individuals quoted are highly respected general officers. Only one of the three officers, however, knows with any degree of certainty or from firsthand experience what might appear to be the tremendous effectiveness of modern sophisticated defensive weapons. That officer, of course, is General Chaim Herzog of the Israeli armed forces.

Now, for the first time since before World War II, the decisiveness of tactical aviation in conventional combat has been seriously challenged. Just as it became necessary to rethink the role of pursuit aviation in 1943 in order to save the concept of strategic daylight precision bombardment from failure because of unacceptable combat losses, it might now be time to rethink our present tactical doctrine in order to preserve the capacity of air power to affect the tide of battle in favor of American arms. 4

This discussion (and the resulting assumed need for some sort of far-reaching change in our approach to conventional war planning and force structuring) involves essentially two main ideas: the meaning of the concept of air superiority in light of recent battlefield developments and the ability of American tactical air to meet a threat to its usefulness in affecting the outcome of a limited conventional war in the coming 10 to 15 years.

The latest, most intense, and largest limited war occurred in the Middle East in 1973. Certain surprising things happened in the opening stages of that war, things which were not generally expected by either Israel or the West. In that war, the Arabs were equipped with Soviet weapons. Most of the Arab forces had been trained by Soviet personnel (at least indirectly), and there is strong evidence to suggest that Soviet offensive doctrine provided the rationale behind the attacks on Israeli defensive positions on both fronts. The Israelis, on the other hand, were equipped primarily with American equipment, trained in part by American personnel, and possessed a strategic doctrine that is hard to characterize but which would seem to reflect more a Western than an Eastern heritage. One can say, however, that Israeli doctrine definitely appears to be different from that of the Arabs and their Soviet tutors. Herein lies part of the future war problem.

Whereas United States forces may or may not engage Soviet forces directly,5 the probability of facing Soviet equipment, training, and tactical doctrine is very high, if U.S. forces are again committed to combat. Or, put yet another way, despite détente and the various arguments of what détente means or should mean, if one looks around the world at potential trouble spots, one still finds two principal kinds of equipment: Soviet and U.S. The odds are fairly strong that if the United States must fight again in the next 10 or 15 years, we will be fighting an enemy equipped in arms and practicing doctrine predominantly of U.S. or Soviet origin.

It is possible even now to draw up a spectrum of threat based on the relative sophistication of enemy equipment. For the sake of discussion, let Korea and Europe be used as the poles of this spectrum. The Middle East would be somewhere in between--at least, it can be so placed when the sophistication and challenge posed by possible enemy forces are charted.

Starting at the lower end of the sophistication spectrum, we find that the North Korean military structure does not present a substantial threat to traditional USAF air doctrine. This is not to say that conducting operations in or over North Korea, along the demilitarized zone (DMZ), or in defense against a combined air-ground assault directed at the military power and territory of South Korea would be easy, for it is likely that much blood and treasure would be spent. However, the present capabilities of the North Koreans are familiar. The anticipated hostile forces are such that employment of traditional concepts of tactical air employment could suffice. The major threat to the conduct of air operations consists of North Korean fighter-type aircraft. The air defense network is deployed to provide homeland defense. The surface-to-air missile (SAM) and antiaircraft artillery (AAA) threat is not very sophisticated and well within the scope of that experienced over North Vietnam by American aircrews. For the sake of comparison, the relevant data are as follows:

3 SAM brigades (180 missile launchers) SA-2
518 fighters and fighter-bombers
   (plus 60 IL-28 light bombers)
2500 AAA guns of all sizes.6

Europe represents the "worst case," of course. The probability of a war in Europe is very low, according to estimates of most analysts. However, while the probability may be low, the cost of an attack and defeat in Europe in political, economic, and psychological terms to American security interests is thought to be quite high. Indeed, Europe has traditionally been of much interest to military planners. It is an open question whether or not a war in Europe would be nuclear or conventional. A case can be made for both scenarios.7 In many ways, the conventional war case is the more demanding, yet less certain psychologically, politically, and militarily. To perform our jobs as military officers properly, we must investigate and plan for this contingency

As a worst case, if we were to posit that present concepts of force employment are sufficient to gain victory (perhaps realistically defined in a subnuclear limited war as avoidance of defeat and retention of at least the political and territorial semblance of the status quo ante), then there is no need for widespread doctrinal change. If our preparations are sufficient to meet the worst case, then lesser cases and threats, as in Korea, can also be met. The performance of our arms may not be stellar--the losses may be high and the doctrine only adequate--but if this is so, victory is not endangered, and the cause is not certainly lost. The price and cost will not be disastrous. Victory can cover many sins of omission and commission, and hindsight can leisurely correct the cause of such errors.

On the other hand, if a situation less than the worst case raises doubt about the adequacy of present doctrine to meet the present threat, then the argument is certainly strong for at least a widespread investigation of that doctrine with an eye toward revision. It is this last consideration that gives pause to the concerned tactician and/or strategist. And herein lies a problem. One of the reasons often given for the inability of planners to understand sufficiently and prepare adequately for the future lies in the inability to agree on the importance of the present. We therefore continue to perform variations of what has proved to be successful in the past.8

We have some fairly recent experiences to draw lessons from: Vietnam and the Middle East wars of 1967 and 1973 (one might also include the war of attrition of 1969-1970 if one is so inclined). The utility of the 1967 war to discussion here is tenuous. Others, mainly the people most involved, had already "gone to school" on that war in order to fight the 1973 War more effectively. While there is certain to be violent disagreement over the 1973 War, one cannot seriously challenge the view that the Arab forces had changed and were doing things somewhat differently than they had in 1967. Vietnam is not a particularly good example to draw lessons from right now, partially because, despite the cries for learning these lessons, the issue is still too charged emotionally; perhaps it is best if what each of us took from that war stays in our individual backgrounds.9

The Air War North was not a very sophisticated affair, at least compared to the Middle East. It is necessary to mention certain small points, however. Throughout the conflict, American control of the air over North Vietnam was never seriously challenged, although a new threat to this ability to control the air emerged for the first time in combat. This new threat was the SAM. The most serious threat to American air power, at least when cause of loss is measured, was not a new threat but one that had been around since the days of observation balloons. That threat, of course, was AAA.

In the October 1973 War, the decisiveness of tactical aviation in conventional combat was seriously challenged. The weapon of such brilliant decisiveness in the 1967 war, the Israeli Air Force (IAF), seemed to be, in the opening and very critical stages, almost impotent. This ineffective performance came at a time when it was thought that the Israeli Air Force was able to engage enemy aircraft in the air and defeat them at will.

The central question becomes: What caused the high and, in some projections, nearly prohibitive losses? General Herzog has already provided one answer. The ineffective IAF performance was caused by an inability to control the air. The extremely high initial loss rates were caused not by enemy fighter aircraft but by SAM's and AAA. As the situation stabilized,10 the IAF was freed from the defensive aspects of close air support.

But, on the Egyptian front at least, the JAF was still not free to follow its preferred doctrine of long-range interdiction and deep battlefield interdiction. A reversal of what air power enthusiasts would like to see happen occurred. Rather than ranging free behind enemy lines, establishing and enjoying local air superiority and clearing the way for a rapid armored advance, Israeli armored units in the Sinai were used to provide "close ground support" for the IAF.

The first mission of our armoured force on the West flank of the Suez Canal was to knock out the surface to air missile sites, which it did effectively. That force literally swept the area for the air force, and it was then free to attack at will.11

Notice that, according to General Herzog, the Israeli Air Force needed ground action before it became truly effective, effective in a manner congruent with doctrinal desires for proper use. The logical inference is that prior to the elimination of certain segments of SAM and AAA defenses by ground action, the IAF was not free to attack at will. If it was not free to attack, then it did not enjoy air superiority and could be used, at best, in a defensive role over the battleground where it continued to take high losses.12

In the closing days of the war, after the tanks had opened the way for the IAF, the expected modus operandi of the Israelis seemed to reassert itself. Both sides were able to continue their efforts only because of the massive resupply efforts of the Soviet Union and the United States. Had not the IAF been resupplied with F-4s and A-4s from the "ready warehouse" of the United States, it is doubtful if the IAF could have been used in the manner in which it was after ground forces had secured the opening. It is further interesting to note that Egyptian sources claim that the IAF discontinued its attacks on airfields (these attacks were not working, and the losses to SAM's and AAA were too high), discontinued the attacks on Port Said (after losing 28 aircraft in five days of raids and failing to put the air defense net out of operation), and fought for air superiority after the tanks had rolled over the SAM sites.

Reputedly, the losses of the IAF were incurred largely in the first few days of the war. Recent information contained in public sources is starting to cast doubt on this thesis, indicating instead that TAP losses were (against Egypt) consistently high throughout the war.13 The figure of 102 losses quoted by General Herzog represented approximately 37% of the prewar IAF resources.14 Again, for comparison's sake, prehostility defenses for Egypt and Syria were as follows:


Air defense is provided by 100 SAM sites, each of 6 SA-2 and SA-3 launchers; 20mm, 23mm, 37mm, 57mm, 85mm, and l00mm AA guns; all integrated, through a warning and command network, with 9 Air Force squadrons of MiG-21 interceptors. Soviet-manned equipment co-ordinated with the air defence system includes some 65 SAM batteries with SA-2, SA-3, SA-4 and possibly SA-6 missiles….15

8 SAM batteries with SA-2 and SA-3 37mm, 57mm, 85mm and 100mm guns 100 MiG-21 interceptors 80 MiG-17 day fighter/ground attack16

It is interesting to note that both Syria and Egypt greatly increased the number of SAM batteries and AAA guns as a consequence of the lessons they learned from the 1973 War. Their aircraft inventory has not increased nearly so dramatically.

Now, what about Europe? Europe is where we have concentrated our most sophisticated weaponry. Europe will get the F-15 and the A-10 as a matter of priority.17 The A-l0s will greatly bolster the capability of USAFE to Supply NATO forces with close air support, and the F-15 (and by extension, the F-16 air superiority fighter being purchased by some NATO allies and the United States) will provide air superiority.

The emphasis that present USAF doctrine places on the counterair and close air support roles is based on the nature of the threat. "Counter air operations are conducted to gain and maintain air superiority by destroying or neutralizing an enemy's offensive and defensive air capability. "18 The IAF tried to do exactly that in the last war in the Middle East and possibly failed to do so before the war ended.

The American (and Israeli) concept of counterair is fine if the enemy capability preventing air superiority is enemy air. However, the Israeli experience of 1973 (as well as our own experience over North Vietnam, although here it was only a glimpse of the possibility) would seem to indicate that hostile air is no longer the primary barrier to the gaining of air superiority over the battlefield. One must seriously examine the possibility that ground-based defenses might be the prime obstacle to the establishment of air superiority.

It is useful to look at the ground-based defensive capability of a Soviet army group, one that can be expected to be responsible for approximately 50 km (about 30 miles) of front to a depth behind the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) of about 80 km. Each Soviet army group is equipped with the following:

3 batteries SA-2
(each battery with 6 launchers)

9 batteries SA-4
(each battery with 3 dual launchers)

5 batteries SA-6
(each battery with 4 triple launchers)

23 batteries 57mm S-60 AAA guns
(a total of 138 single guns)

6 troops ZSU 57/2 (36 twin gun tanks)

19 troops ZSU 23/2 (114 twin guns)

32 troops ZSU 23/4(128 quad gun tanks).19

This defensive firepower does not take into account "air defense weapons common to all troops (rapid fire AA guns, MGs), shoulder-fired SA-7 missiles and 64 troops of BRDM-2 vehicles mounting quadruple SA-9 launchers."20 This ground-based defensive network is overlapping, and an ideal defensive setup would mean that any aircraft venturing over the front is within the lethal radius of at least two very dangerous weapon systems at all time--without a single MiG being airborne.

Syrian and Egyptian strength at the initiation of their attacks on Israeli positions was greater than that of a single Soviet army group. But, if one assumes that a war in Europe would start with a Warsaw Pact offensive thrust, one must also assume that the Soviets would follow their doctrine and mass forces in excess of a Soviet army group at the intended points of penetration. In other words, the area of the front where we must conduct close air support and possibly interdiction to halt the enemy offensive would have the defensive ground-based firepower of several Soviet army groups.

The goal in Europe would be to stop the Soviet offensive thrust into NATO territory, at least under the present strategy of the defensive and flexible response. Soviet doctrine concerning the offensive is subtly different from Western doctrine. The Soviets believe firmly in the combined use of arms and the truly massive application of firepower--massive even by American standards. Soviet doctrine envisages three basic types of operations, all somewhat similar to blitzkrieg warfare.21 Without wishing to get into the finer points of offensive operational theory, it is worth pointing out that the Soviets do require at least local air superiority before they consider the conditions ripe for offensive operations.

What becomes important is the essence of air superiority. What is it? It is not the ability to destroy enemy aircraft within a certain block of airspace. Nor is it having a fighter that can shoot down 2, 4, 8, 11, or 15 enemy aircraft for each friendly fighter lost to the enemy within a block of sky. These are but means to achieve air superiority. The essence of air superiority is like any other measure of superiority. It is the ability to control; it is the ability to exercise one's will in the manner one desires when and where one desires. If the USAF cannot use the air over the battlefield in the manner that air commanders wish in order to affect the tactical and / or strategic goal attainment, then the USAF will not have control of the sky. It will not have air superiority. It matters not if the hostile capability preventing control is aircraft or SAM’s/AAA. The enemy capability must be suppressed or destroyed before control is gained.

The United States enjoyed total air supremacy over South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. There was nothing we could not do with the aerial weapon had we wanted to do so. We had air superiority over North Vietnam, although we occasionally had to fight for it. Air superiority was only sometimes challenged by hostile fighter aircraft.22 But, even over the North, we had certain rules that we did not often break because to break them meant a sure increase in the loss rates.23 This was against an enemy whose defenses, even in December of 1972, were toward the lower end of the spectrum of sophistication.

It is not just sophistication that counts, of course. What made Hanoi the "most defended piece of territory in the history of aerial warfare" was not sophistication, but mass: the sheer number of AAA guns and, later, SAM sites occupied and firing. Mass and redundancy are possessed more by them than by us. This seems particularly true of Central Europe.

While there can be no doubt that the USAF needs air superiority fighters to wrest control of the air from enemy fighters (for that is still the dominant threat to use of the air weapon in such places as Korea), perhaps we need to give more relative attention to the ability to destroy and suppress the ground air defenses possessed by a sophisticated enemy.24 Critics and opponents of this position might say that we are devoting resources to this problem. And I would agree, we are devoting some resources. What is important--and this factor cannot be stressed enough--is the relative weight we are presently devoting or are willing to devote in the future to solve the problem presented by SAM systems and radar/optically directed rapid AAA fire. This need for increased emphasis is present in terms of hardware and in terms of doctrine.

For emotional confirmation, let me address a question to the reader, primarily directed at practicing combat crew members, particularly those in fighters. Which of the following scenarios would you feel the more comfortable in, volunteer to fly in, exercise command over, or have the outcome of a war decided by, right now, today, this minute?

1. Fifty miles of sky laterally centered right over the FEBA, no SAM's, no altitude restrictions. The opponent has ground-controlled interception (GCI) and consists of four MiG-21 "Fishbed-Js" in a combat configuration. You have a flight of two F-4E (LES) aircraft with combat configuration. And both you and your wingman are line jocks in an average fighter squadron today. You have Vietnam experience; your wingman does not. The enemy expects your arrival.

2. Two F-4E (LES) must penetrate a European-style FEBA defended by a Soviet army group with ZSU 23/4 reinforcement and attack and destroy a command post located 80 km behind the point man on the line. To win you must accomplish your mission and return to base, walking if necessary, after you re-enter friendly territory out of range of hostile weapons. You and your wingman are line jocks in an average air-to-ground fighter squadron today. You have Vietnam experience; your wingman does not. The enemy knows you are coming.

I know which I would prefer. Unfortunately, we may not have the choice since that is normally the prerogative of the enemy. In reality, the enemy's defense will be a mix of fighters and SAM/AAA. It was in Vietnam, it was in the Middle East, and there is no reason to expect that in Europe there will not at least be enemy fighters over the front trying to keep friendly forces from providing close air support and/or penetrating the front to carry out interdiction.

If the Middle East use of Soviet doctrine is any indication of the battlefield definition of local air superiority, there will be a heavy mix of fighters and SAM's, with emphasis on the latter. One can even make the case that control of the air can be maintained without the use of enemy fighter aircraft. The main requirement, in Soviet eyes, is not to have hostile air roaming freely over their forces. What is important in this context is the local superiority over the battlefield that directly affects the course of the battle and not the means used to achieve it. If Soviet forces can achieve local superiority with fighters, their offensive thrust can succeed in breaking through. If the Soviets can achieve local superiority by denying meaningful access to their front and rear areas by the use of SAM's and AAA, their offensive can succeed in breaking through. The point in question is not whether the Soviets will use fighters to defend themselves or possibly attack friendly positions; the point in question is what is most likely to prevent friendly use of the air over hostile territory.

And for the future? Well, we in the field keep hearing rumors about defense suppression developments, about PELSS, 25 and a host of other technological things that will make the SAM and AAA problem go away. There are two major dimensions to the problem, however: doctrine and hardware to successfully support that use of the doctrine. Many programs are being undertaken to find the technological gadgetry that will allow for increased defense suppression. The Air Force already possesses a partial conceptual answer in the Wild Weasel weapon system. Unfortunately, the resources currently possessed and operational are not nearly equal to the magnitude of the task. The current American contribution to the NATO anti-SAM resource is clearly unsatisfactory, particularly when one considers the anti-SAM resource allocation found necessary to negate the very-much-less sophisticated SA-2 and SA-3 threat presented and overcome in North Vietnam. Counterair fighter aircraft must pass through the SAM and AAA defenses even to get at hostile air or hostile airfields, unless, of course, the counterair engaged in is defensive in nature and takes place over NATO airfields. If the SAM and AAA defenses are not suppressed, the loss rates that can be expected from attempting to perform other roles, particularly close air support (which would seem to be an absolute necessity in order to stop a Warsaw Pact thrust), might well prove prohibitive, as they nearly did in the Middle East.26

The International Institute for Strategic Studies states our present and future Weasel resource as follows:

4 electronic counter-measures sqns. 2 with F-105, 2 with F-4C (to be replaced by 4 sqns with 116 F-4E and 2 sqns of 42 EF-111A)27

This is not exactly a booming effort in technological advancement when we are considering replacing the two oldest fighter aircraft on the line with what will be in good part, old aircraft from off the line. The "advanced Wild Weasel concept:" has been with us for almost ten years and sometime in the future we will end up with off-the-shelf aircraft and off-the-shelf electronic gear. Advanced is a relative term, of course. Our future Weasels will definitely be advanced…in age. But, more important, let us compare some numbers signifying expected employment of our air resource.

Suppose, as General Herzog claimed, that 102 Israeli aircraft were destroyed in 1973, five by air action. This means, roughly, that fewer than five percent of the losses experienced were due to enemy aircraft. Next, USAF projected purchases into the next decade call for upwards of 700 F-15 air superiority fighters, 350 A-10 aircraft for close air support, and an unknown number of F-16 (say 350) plus the above-mentioned anti-SAM force. Now, if a future war in Europe or the Middle East were to progress something like the 1973 Middle East War, this would mean that, at worst, 10 percent of our future fighter force is dedicated to offsetting 95 percent of the threat to our air operations and 65 percent of our force is dedicated to the destruction of 5 percent of the threat to our air operations!

High USAF officials have already called for introduction of the F-15 into NATO. 28 I, for one, would rest far easier, however, if the first 72 F-15s deployed to Europe were the two-seat models, with the rear seat filled with the Wild Weasel anti-SAM equipment necessary to locate, seek out, and destroy SAM and radar-directed AAA. Survivability in a low to medium altitude, excessively maneuvering, heavy-weight environment would seem to require an exceptionally high-performance aircraft. Some practitioners of the Weasel art believe that it takes a more maneuverable, better performing aircraft to defeat and destroy a SAM site than it takes to beat a MiG. Something better than the F-15, of course, would mean to start work immediately on a prototype of an aircraft designed specifically to suppress and/or destroy threat radar emitters and/or SAM sites--and take delivery next month. We all know that this is impossible, of course.

The larger problem is one of doctrine and tactical adaptation. I would find it far easier to accept the assurances of higher authority that the problems were being solved if it were not for a few discordant notes. First, there is history to contend with, and the fact that we haven’t failed yet, so our past experience will carry us through. Second, until quite recently, no overseas-based theater Weasel aircraft and aircrews trained on a day-to-day basis as Weasels.29 Third, although obvious change is evident here, thanks primarily to those who work at Red Flag,30 in the Fighter Weapons Center, and elsewhere, major exercises are still being conducted in which the target area scenario posits SAM threats; yet Weasel aircraft are not fragged as Weasel aircraft but as strike aircraft.31 Fourth, the priority that Weasel and defense-suppression-related projects enjoy, compared to air-to-air and close air support, is very low. We adapt what we have, but we will never get ahead of the problem in this manner.

Commanders make decisions based at least partially on the doctrine which their experience tells them is correct. Doctrine is what gives direction to strategy, which in turn dictates initial battlefield tactics and usage of men, money, and materiel in combat. If the doctrine governing response is inappropriate to the strategic and tactical environment, we court the possibility of, at a minimum, squandering resources and lives with little commensurate battlefield gains. If our ability to destroy, suppress, and/or disrupt the hostile ground defensive net is not superior to the capabilities of that net in the first place, our training equipment, and resources dedicated to counterair and close air support may prove to be immaterial to the outcome hostilities, particularly if the envisaged scenario is that of a short, very intense, conventional conflict, characterized by limited political objectives.

Once a military doctrine is established it is difficult to change, especially if technological advancements in weaponry seriously bring into question a doctrine upon which a specific military service is based. Like policy, doctrine has a gyroscopic effect. And, if service doctrine is questioned by members of that service, there is a tendency for the leadership to brand the critics heretics, especially if the doctrine is the basis upon which the primary goals of a service are constructed. In addition, the formulation and articulation the doctrine is ordinarily designed to justify fully the service's attempt to obtain or maintain exclusive control over certain missions. Criticism usually results in an undermining of the case the service has carefully made for certain roles and missions in national defense. Dissent is therefore discouraged, and breakthroughs technology which might bring established doctrine into question are often ignored.32

Control of the air is still a necessity. However, we have entered an era where the primary threat preventing control the air over the battlefield and in enemy rear is possibly no longer enemy fighter aircraft. Ground-based defer can now fill that role. To achieve air superiority over the battlefield, it is necessary to eliminate or defeat this threat. We can do that only by realigning priorities and giving equal consideration to the creation of a survivable anti-SAM force of sufficient size and capability to overwhelm the threat. We will have capability to defeat enemy aircraft. We do not yet possess the sure capability of defeating SAM’s.

Kadena Air Base, Okinawa


1. General John W. Vogt was interviewed by R. Meller in "Europe's New Generation of Combat Aircraft, Part II: NATO Stresses Flexibility." International Defense Review, vol.8, May 1975, p.341.

2. General A. Merglen, "Military Lessons of the October War," Adelphi Paper, No. 114 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1975), p. 27.

3. General Chaim Herzog, "The Middle East War, 1973," RUSI Journal, March 1975, p.12.

4. See Perry M. Smith, The Air Force Plans for Peace: 1943-1945 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970). This book, written by a serving colonel and present planner, is valuable for its documentation as well as its content. Of particular interest to the subject at hand is Bernard Boylan, "Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter" (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: USAF Historical Study No. 136, 1955).

5. Most analysts of international affairs feel that this is something that will be avoided, literally at all costs. How close we came to such a confrontation during the 1973 War is a matter of conjecture. According to Senator Jackson (at the time) and Admiral Zumwalt (in testimony before Congress on 30 July 1975), the Soviets threatened the United States with direct intervention against the Israelis unless the United States forced the Israelis to stop their exploitation of their breakthrough into the West Bank of the Suez and save the Egyptian 3rd Army. Secretary of State Kissinger put a different construction on the events.

6. The Military Balance: 1975-1976 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1976), p.56.

7. Soviet theoretical strategic and tactical writings of the past few years have hinted at the possibility of nonnuclear ''initial stages" for a war in Europe, something that has never been publicly considered before. See John Erickson, "Soviet Military Capabilities in Europe," RUSI Journal, March 1975, p. 65.

8.Perhaps more work has been done on the adaptation of organizations to specific technological advances. The really intriguing studies are those investigating the extreme cleverness and innovative rationales used to hold onto outmoded doctrine and strategies. Of particular note, see Edward L. Katzenbach, Jr., ''The Horse Cavalry in the Twentieth Century, " contained in Robert J. Art and Kenneth N. Waltz, editors, The Use of Force (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1971), pp. 277-98.

9. This author knows that many of his personal views stern from his combat flying time over North Vietnam. However, he also realizes that someone flying the same type missions four years later will have completely different experiences. It will be a long time before any of us can be truthfully objective in terms of lessons to be learned. Until we are further from the events, it is perhaps wiser to reflect inwardly on our collective experience.

10. Some feel that it stabilized more because of Arab error than Israeli effort--i.e., deliberate decisions made by Arab commanders not to run out from under their SAM umbrellas.

11. Herzog, p. 15.

12. An excellent special edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology (hereafter AW&ST) entitled "Both Sides of the Suez" (New York: McGraw-Hill, n.d.) casts doubt on the veracity of the public Israeli figures.

13. Ibid., in particular pp. 38-42.

14.The Military Balance: 1972-1973 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1972), p. :32. Some analysis and quibbling are necessary. The complete listing has 432 combat aircraft and contains 30 Ouragan fighter-bombers (used mainly for training) and 85 Magister trainers with limited ground attack capability. The numbers do not add up right in this particular case; various combinations do not total 432.

15. Ibid., p.30.

16. Ibid., p.35.

17. R. Meller, "Europe's New Generation of Combat Aircraft, Part 1: The Increasing Threat," International Defense Review; April 1975; Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., "USAF Plans A-l0 Deployment to Europe," AW&ST, March 1, 1976, pp. 44-47

18. Air Force Manual 1-1, USAF Basic Doctrine, 15 January 1975, p.3-3.

19. R. Meller, Part I, p. 183.

20. Ibid.

21. Marshal A. A. Grechko, Vooruzhenniye Sily Sovietskogo Gosudarstva, p. 307, quoted in P. H. Vigor and C. N. Donnelly, "The Soviet Threat to Europe," RUSI Journal, March 1975, p.71.

22. At times enemy air would deliberately avoid any contact with U.S. forces. At others, they fought hard. In 1972, the North Vietnamese seemed more determined than they were in the 1965-1968 period. There are those of us who feel our margin of superiority could have been much higher had we not carried so much of the past with us over the North in the form of tactics and procedures taken from another age. Many, but not all, of those problems have been partially solved …. provided we don't suffer too many training accidents and are careful not to let ''them grind us down." Still, we are riot allowed to practice much dogfighting at 50 feet above the ground because it is too unsafe. Many, if not most, of the dogfights during the 1973 Middle East War started at 50 feet. Losing 51 feet in a hard turn at that altitude has been known to prove decisive.

23. For example, "one pass, haul ass" around Hanoi, and an altitude restriction below which loss rates rose dramatically.

24. Some critics have brought up the possible use of Soviet air in an offensive role as a counterargument. It is immaterial to the discussion at hand. Looking at present Soviet doctrine, one can see it is entirely possible that such an offensive thrust would commence with widespread conventional attacks on our airfields. So? Does this affect our ability to penetrate Soviet-controlled airspace? The Egyptians started off the 1973 War with an attack on Israeli airfields in the Sinai, and they were fairly successful. Which brings up another related point. We make the assumption that we can always get through their defenses, but they cannot get through ours. If anything, the facts would suggest the converse is true. Soviet airfields are more highly defended against the total span of attack possibilities. How many AAA guns does the USAF or USA own?

25. Precision Emitter Location Strike System. AW&ST (April 12,1976, p. 23) reports that the funds for this system were cut back by Congress. This author, at least, feels there is one overriding inherent flaw in the PELSS system as presently conceived: it is mated with the A-10. But that is another windmill.

26. The United States will not be defending its home territory in such a way. At what point do our losses in a limited conventional war become prohibitive? 25 percent? That was good before, at least once in 1943.

27. The Military Balance: 1975-1976, p. 7.

28. Meller, Part I, p. 139.

29. One of the overseas commands is working on the problem. The Weasels have requested a change to their Designed Operational Capability (DOC) from Air-to-Ground to Defense Suppression. 18TFW Msg 171400Z Mar 76 (U) and PACAF Msg "Proposed Defense Suppression Training DOC."

30. Red Flag is perhaps the best thing to happen to the Air Force tactical force in years. Put simply, Red Flag is an attempt to make exercises realistic and meaningful.

31. The latest as recent as May 1976. What is really upsetting is to have a major air command frag a Weasel squadron to simulate an attack upon an airfield and have a strike squadron fragged to bomb a simulated SAM site. It has happened more than once.

32. Smith, p. 30.


Major Donald J. Alberts (USAFA; M.A., Georgetown University; M.S., University of Southern California) is an F-4C Wild Weasel aircraft commander with full-time additional duty as wing staff officer is PACAF. He has served two combat tours in Southeast Asia, flying the F-4s, and a Wild Weasel tour in Europe. Major Alberts served as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Air Force Academy, specializing in insurgency studies and defense policy. He is a coeditor and contributor to Political Violence and Insurgency: A Comparative Approach (1974) and a previous contributor to the Review.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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