Innovative Airmen: Celebrating Centennial of Flight
at the General Electric Aviation lecture series, National Air and Space Museum,
Washington, D.C., April 24, 2003, by General John P. Jumper, Air Force
chief of staff.
Thank you very much. Thank you everyone. It is a pleasure to
be here tonight and to be able to address this crowd and to share my love of
things that fly and to talk a little bit about its history. It's also a pleasure
for me to be here tonight with Mr. Pete Teets and his wife Vivian, are up there
somewhere -- the Undersecretary of the Air Force right here in the middle. When
I heard he was coming, I actually had to go practice this a little bit to make
sure we could pull this off.
Thanks also to Tom Cooper and General Electric for sponsoring
this series. It is not only a marvelous venue but it's an important thing to
have this sort of event that we can all share. So I'm very pleased and I
appreciate the opportunity to come talk to you.
The history of our air and space power is all about the smart
people and the tools that we use in new and different ways. It's all about
innovation over the history of powered flight. The airplane has had its place in
military history, as we all know, since the very beginning. The Wright Brothers
actually started the first aviation school in 1909. They sold the first airplane
to the War Department in 1909 for $25,000 and they were awarded a $5,000 bonus
after a test flight by Lieutenant Ben Foulois. We can see here the picture of
the Wright flyer actually over Fort Myer (Va.) adjacent to the Arlington
Cemetery. Ben Foulois actually was given a few hundred dollars and told to go
down to Texas and teach himself to fly. That $500 was really the first aviation
budget that we had in the old Air Corps.
So when Ben flew that sortie at Fort Myer the acceptance
flight was for 10 miles at an average speed of 42.6 miles per hour.
Of course, in World War I we saw the airplane begin to come
into its own as an observation aircraft and a pursuit aircraft. It was used to
deliver weapons. As you recall the first time we delivered weapons with
airplanes it was actually hand-held bombs that were dropped physically out of
the cockpit. The accuracy was a little bit off from what our precision is these
days. And, of course, the weight of the weapons were such that you could hold
them with one hand and drop them outside the cockpit.
They actually had pistols and rifles that they would take
airborne with them to shoot at the other guy. In the course of that battle they
invented the machine gun and even the synchronized machine gun that fired
through the propeller. Again, that was a little slow in developing and first
attempts at synchronization resulted in some short propellers and short flights,
as a matter of fact.
Then, of course, from that time the airplane is largely
credited for rendering the theory of trench warfare obsolete as we went through
the end of World War I.
Then, of course, Lindburgh's transoceanic flight was another
landmark as we began to shrink the globe over time and get into World War II
following the lead of General Jimmy Doolittle in his pioneering work along with
General Curtis LeMay and instrument flying. We got into the nighttime business.
In World War II we saw actually the advent of radar on airplanes that were part
of the war in Europe, and of course radar on the ground that detected airplanes,
and even as we all know, the Brits' first attempt to use chaff to jam the radars
which they called "Window", if you recall, in World War II.
We produced a lot of airplanes in World War II. 300,000
aircraft were built between the January of 1940 and August of 1945 on VJ day.
During that time airmen suffered almost 122,000 casualties. More than 40,000
were killed in action. A lot of them in the daylight precision raids over
Germany where you'll recall that on the initial raids we were losing 20 percent
of the aircraft that embarked on those raids.
But we got to see the advent of the B-17 and the B-29. The
tactics that emerged in World War II were all very interesting to watch. As we
approached World War II you remember the Brits actually used formations that
they had developed between World War I and World War II with all the flying
demonstrations that had been put on, and actually their basic fighting formation
was the old "vic" formation with an airplane in the front and two on his wing in
fairly close formation. That's the way they began to go into combat. It proved
not to be a very useful formation and they spread the formations out a little
bit to provide some sort of mutual support, remembering that the range of the
guns in World War II on the fighter aircraft were somewhere around 800 to 900
feet. So you had to be letting that guy get up pretty close to you in order to
Precision bombing was another term that took awhile to evolve.
With a Norden bombsight on a calm day in a B-17 in a clear sky you could put a
bomb within several hundred feet of the intended target. In the skies over
Europe with the marginal weather, as you'll recall, we took hundreds and
hundreds of bombs to be able to assure target destruction and, in some cases,
because of the weather the target identification was not there at all. What we
call collateral damage was overwhelming.
We broke other barriers too, as you all recall, with the
Tuskegee Airmen and our first African-American squadrons that flew P-51s that
escorted the bombers, and we broke ground in racial integration in our United
States military in the years that followed.
Of course the more interesting chapters followed in the '50s
and the '60s as the Cold War came onto us and we conquered the challenges of
supersonic flight. Things like air-to-air refueling became commonplace. The
large airplanes like the B-29 and the B-36, we'll remember the B-45, the medium
bomber called the Tornado, the Boeing B-47, the Martin B-57 Canberra. Remember
the B-58 Hustler, what a great airplane. The Douglas B-66 which we flew on into
Vietnam and beyond. And the Boeing B-50 Super Fortress. And of course the
venerable B-52 which we use still today.
The numbers were overwhelming. We built more than 2,500
B-29s; more than 380 B-36s; 2,000 B-47s; 750 B-52s; 116 B-58s; and so on and so
forth. During the years of the Cold War the total procurement was almost 7,000
bombers that we had bought between the end of World War II and during the period
of the Cold War. Many of those on nuclear alert ready to go in 15 minutes time.
During that time we also saw the advent of precision-guided
bombs. Actually in Vietnam, after we had spent many years trying to drop the
bridges outside Hanoi with F-105s and F-4s and dumb bombs, we lost 15 or more
F-105s plus other kinds of airplanes trying to drop those bridges. We got the
9-Pave-Knife laser designator pods over there during Linebacker II, and on the
first sortie with four airplanes we were able to drop the bridge, two spans of
the bridge with four airplanes and just a few bombs. It marked the beginning of
Along that time at the end of the Vietnam War and on into the
late '70s we began to deal with stealth technology and to upgrade our missile
technology and to keep the technology moving and things just getting better.
So where are we now? Technology is certainly an enabler, but
from the days in World War II where we needed more than 9,000 bombs to assure
that one target was hit, we can now attack 24 targets with a single aircraft on
a single sortie.
Our global positioning system that guides our bombs, of
course was the big news during the Kosovo operation and on into Afghanistan and
into the recent engagement with Iraq, but only nine percent of the bombs we
dropped actually in Desert Storm were precision bombs. That went up to 67
percent in Afghanistan and against the current conflict in Iraq we're at about
76.5 percent precision weapons. That means less collateral damage of course, and
less wasted effort. It means fewer sorties, less exposure to get the same job
Of course, our stealth technology is preserving our advantage
of surprise and our unmanned air vehicles such as the Predator is saving lives.
I believe we have some pictures of the Predator up here to show, and some of the
work that it's able to do. This is a picture of a satellite dish that we hit.
There was a portable TV satellite dish that was broadcasting Iraqi TV that we
were trying to take out. This is a Hellfire missile shot from a Predator UAV
that hit this. This radar antenna was in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque, and
about 200 feet to the right if you look closely you can see the CNN dish, so we
would have been in big trouble if we had hit that thing. But this is an idea of
what a small warhead, a small 40-pound warhead on a Hellfire missile shot from a
Predator, a remotely piloted vehicle, can do against a very precise target.
Then the idea that we integrate these things is also a new
way of doing business. As we look at the digital level interfaces between our
manned and our unmanned and our space platforms, and we use our space platforms
to precisely navigate, to understand our weather patterns, to relay
communications around the world and to integrate our intelligence, our
surveillance and our reconnaissance, platforms that are either manned or
unmanned, they're in space, they're in the air, or they are on the surface.
This means a great deal in our ability to wage war as we take
this technology to the next level and we get it to the fight.
If you think about it, in the digital world that we live in
today in trying to find targets and to identify targets, in the digital world we
live in today, the digits don't care whether they are generated by a signals
intelligence device or an electro-optical imaging device, or a synthetic
aperture radar, or an imaging infrared detector. They don't care. If you can get
the digital interfaces properly coordinated the systems can tell you what that
target is and where that target is. And as we say the sum of the wisdom of those
systems, both manned, unmanned or in space, the sum of the wisdom will end up
with a cursor over the target that will be derived from the technology that
exists in our information technology today.
So where we are going is important. We have a long heritage
of dedicated airmen applying air power in creative ways. The B-1 is a good
example of that. Recently we heard the story of the B-1 crew that dropped the
Joint Direct Attack Munition, the JDAM GPS-guided bomb, on a section in Baghdad
where we thought Saddam Hussein might be. In today's world we were able to take
the information, the tipoff that came from people on the ground, get that to the
airplane, and get the bomb on the target in less than 12 minutes. That's the
type of close coordination and integration we're able to take into account today.
As a matter of historical interest, the B-1 bomber that
dropped that bomb was from the 34th Bomb Squadron which was Jimmy Doolittle's
squadron as he led the Doolittle Raiders into Japan in 1942.
The B-1 is typical of the new kind of flexibility we get with
tactical targets as we can leave those airplanes in orbit and let them orbit for
long periods of time as targets emerge and we send these aircraft out to deal
with those targets.
Of course the trained air crews that we have that put these
things together are also magnificent as they are figuring out how to put these
systems together between the GPS-guided munitions, the spotting devices, the
people on the ground, to give the best target data that we can possibly get.
These ideas come from great people. The story of our Special
Operations troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Technical Sergeant Leinhart was
one of those combat controllers on the ground riding a horse through the wilds
of Afghanistan with a laptop computer bouncing off the saddle horn, with a
tripod bouncing off the butt of the horse and he stops and he sets these devices
up, takes a laser sighting to the next ridge line where the enemy troops are.
The laser sighting gives precise coordinates to the B-52 that's orbiting 39,000
feet in the sky. Those coordinates go into the GPS-guided bomb and the bomber
drops that bomb precisely on the target to within about a 1,000 meters of
Sergeant Leinhart's position on the ground.
Now when you think about this, the B-52 was invented by
General Curtis LeMay back in the '50s to fly strategic nuclear bombs into the
heart of the Soviet Union. The thought that the B-52 was being used for close
air support would probably make old Curt LeMay roll over in his grave but in
fact that's what these youngsters are out there putting together for us as they
make these systems work in ways that we need them to work.
The B-52 is of course older than the pilot or the horse. The
new technology is the laptop computer and the laser goggles. Of course the horse
comes from 18th century warfare. You put these all together in new ways as you
have to do to make it work and this is what our youngsters in uniform, all the
services, are making happen today. They just go out there and they get it done.
We work our system in this thing we call find, fix, track,
target, engage and assess. That's the targeting cycle that we try to keep as
short as we possibly can and that's what these great youngsters are out there
doing for us.
This is all enabled by a variety of things including our
space platforms where we are developing now and have successfully demonstrated
better, quicker launch vehicles. We are in the process of developing
micro-satellites that we can put up quickly and use for shorter periods of time.
We are depending on these satellites to cover the earth in all sorts of ways to
give us not only the enemy's position but to try and devise the enemy's
intentions as we were able to do many times over Iraq.
These new roles and missions continue to evolve as we watch
new capabilities develop as we proceed on in time.
But, you know, many of these things that we see in
conventional warfare are also effective for us in homeland defense and the
missions that are emerging in the recent few years.
On the homeland defense side I think we're going to see an
emergence of applicability for remotely piloted, unmanned air vehicles. And
we're going to see the sorts of things that allow us to work in urban
environments, close in, again with small warhead weapons and UAVs that are able
to map with sensors that can see through walls and be able to identify bad
people that are holding out in urban environments. I think we will see that
emerge in time.
Even in the normal familiar roles we see things changing even
as we watch our old systems being employed. We talk about the B-52, we talk
about the B-1 involved in things that we never expected it to be involved in. We
talk about the Predator UAV and the role of the UAV is emerging faster than we
can imagine. A lot of people accuse guys like me, a crusty old fighter pilot, of
being afraid of the unmanned air vehicle. I'm not afraid of it at all because
anything that can help you find your targets and find them accurately, we who
fly the airplanes are all for it.
The Predator UAV is an interesting piece of equipment. It is
not a high tech device. It's about the size of a Cessna 172. It's powered by a
propeller-driven motor. It's not a robust device, it's fairly fragile. And it's
great virtue is it will stay airborne for 24 hours. You can watch the enemy's
movements, you can study it in detail, and you can deal with a wide variety of
situations where you can stare at someone's activity for that long. And we will
see, I think, great advances in unmanned air vehicles in the future.
Let me just say also that none of this happens without
magnificent people. I represent the United States Air Force with my Air Force
suit on, obviously, but all the service chiefs could stand up here and tell you
a story about their people.
At Lackland Air Force Base in Texas every Friday there is a
parade and we bring 1,000 new airmen into the Air Force every single Friday.
It's an amazing thing to go see these enthusiastic young airmen and they put on
a parade and it's all very nice, but the fun thing to do is sort of go stand off
to the side as you watch these young airmen get back together with their parents
again after they haven't seen them for several weeks.
If you look hard enough you'll see the same scene every time.
Some newly minted airman in their bright new blue uniform standing in front of
his or her mother saying, "Yes, Mom. It is me." Because they don't recognize the
child they dropped off just a few weeks ago. The Dad's standing back there
saying, "This ain't my kid. No. This kid's standing up straight and saying Ma'am
and Sir. The kid I brought here looked like he fell down the steps with his
tackle box in his hand with the pierced ear and the pierced lip and the pierced
eye." "This kid is different."
I want the American people to be proud of these youngsters
because when I go shake their hands after their graduation and I ask them if
they're proud of themselves you hear some amazing stories. It's not uncommon to
hear, "You know, this is the first time anybody ever told me they were proud of
me." Or, "This is the first time I ever felt like I accomplished something." And
in the worst case you'll hear, "I was on a downhill slide and my life was going
nowhere and I think the Air Force probably saved my life."
The difference is that once they're exposed to a little bit
of pride and a little bit of leadership and they taste that pride of
accomplishment, they can never turn back. We put them out in the field and they
do the things like I've described today because they're smart, because they
understand the technology and they're comfortable with it, and they are
something that we all as Americans can be very proud of. In this day and age
where many would say that they've lost their faith in American youth, you just
have to look at your people in uniform to be very proud of what America does
I tell the World War II audiences that I talk to that
certainly they were the greatest generation, but when properly led and motivated
this generation of young people are no less dedicated, motivated, patriotic,
than any generation that ever served and I think you saw that come to life on
your television over the last few weeks. We couldn't be more proud of our people
in uniform and their performance in Iraq.
Finally let me tell you one more story about the kind of
people that we have. It's a story of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. Senior
Airman Cunningham was a pararescueman who was assigned to Moody AFB, Ga. He went
in as one of four Air Force members with a bunch of Army Rangers and a CH-47
helicopter into Roberts Ridge during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. As the
airplane was about to land it was shot down by enemy ground forces, and as it
hit the ground on Roberts Ridge they were surrounded and taking fire. Senior
Airman Cunningham began to pull the wounded immediately from the helicopter and
get them away as safely as he could, but they were surrounded. As the other
members of the team there went to work trying to get some close air support in
there to pull them out of their situation over time, Senior Airman Cunningham
was mortally wounded.
When we went out to Kirtland AFB, N.M. to present the Air
Force Cross to his wife, to his widow, all the Army guys that were on that
helicopter were there. These big burly Army Rangers who were there surrounded me
and told me that as Cunningham was dying and he knew he wasn't going to make it,
he was giving instructions to those guys about how to keep the rest of the
wounded people alive. Senior Airman Cunningham was 25 years old. His wife,
Theresa, was 23. They have two small daughters, less than three years old. I
gave Theresa Cunningham his Air Force Cross.
Theresa Cunningham goes to Valdosta State College and she's
in Air Force ROTC. She will come on active duty this summer.
These are the kind of people that we have out there wearing
our uniform. I told the audience that day that I have more than 1,400 hours in
combat and almost a 1,000 combat sorties. Jason Cunningham on his very first one
demonstrated more valor and bravery than I did in a 1,000. These are the
youngsters we have out there today. This is what we can be proud of, that are
wearing the uniform out there today. You saw them perform. They are indeed the
best among us.
I am absolutely delighted to be here, and I can't be more
pleased to be a part of your United States Air Force. We proudly serve the
American people, you out here tonight, to the very best of our ability. So God
bless each and every one of you and thank you for your support and for being
here tonight. Thank you all very much.