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Innovative Airmen

Innovative Airmen: Celebrating Centennial of Flight

Remarks 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 be effective.

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 new era.

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 done.

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 produce.

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.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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