Remarkable stories of war told by those who fought for a proud nation. Their words. Their voices. Our first episodes tell riveting stories from World War II, then we move on to the Vietnam War and other dramatic conflicts.
Brig. Gen. Robin Olds: WWII & Vietnam Pilot (Part II)
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Olds describes his experiences in Vietnam, his most memorable dogfight, and more.
Brigadier General Robin Olds is a triple ace fighter pilot who shot down a total of 17 enemy aircraft during World War II and Vietnam. He flew all sorts of aircrafts, including P-38s, P-51s, P-80s and F-4s during his tenure. By the time he retired, Olds had collected numerous decorations, including the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, the French Croix de Guerre, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.
Hi, I’m Ken Harbaugh, host of Warriors In Their Own Words. If you love listening to this show as much as I love hosting it, I think you’ll really like the Medal of Honor Podcast, produced in partnership with the Medal of Honor Museum. Each episode talks about a genuine American hero, and the actions that led to their receiving our nation’s highest award for valor. They’re just a few minutes each, so if you’re looking for a show to fill time between these warriors episodes, I think you’ll love the Medal of Honor Podcast. Search for the ‘Medal of Honor Podcast’ wherever you get your shows. Thanks.
I’m Ken Harbaugh, host of Warriors In Their Own Words. In partnership with the Honor Project, we’ve brought this podcast back at a time when our nation needs these stories more than ever.
Warriors in Their Own Words is our attempt to present an unvarnished, unsanitized truth of what we have asked of those who defend this nation. Thank you for listening, and by doing so, honoring those who have served.
Last episode, we heard from Brigadier General Robin Olds, and today we’ll hear the rest of his story.
Olds is a triple ace fighter pilot who shot down 17 enemy aircraft during WWII and Vietnam. By the time he retired, Olds had won the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, the French Croix de Guerre, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.
Complacency Between Wars:
Between wars, there's a tendency for people to float to the top by virtue of avoiding accidents, avoiding trouble. "Don't do that. You might cause me trouble." It's a great tendency for that, it goes on all the time. Sometimes their edict are so ridiculous. But many times they have power behind them. So you disobey an edict and you've had their schnitzel. Or put it this way, you'll never get promoted because you won't be one of them. So always, there are the career people and the professionals. I mentioned that before I had to work for both kinds and I prefer other professionals, but it's a question of SYA. "Under my command, don't let anything happen that's going to get me in trouble," says the boss and you despise him for it for not understanding, for being so self-centered that all he cares about is his career.
Dogfighting Was Forbidden Before Korea:
I had a squadron of F-86s, 71st squadrons. We wound up from California and wound up in Pittsburgh, “air defense”. They were calling on the original fighters quarters throughout the United States for pilot replacements, going to Korea. Believe it or not, we were forbidden to dog fight. That's a no-no, said headquarters, said the experts. But I'm in Pittsburgh and who's going to see? So we spent most of our time fighting each other, going down, discussing it, using the experience from War II, adapting it to the 86 and each other because we didn't have any dissimilar opponent. We were honest with each other, besides which fighter pilot loved the dog fight. So my guys that went to Korea became in that exclusive small group of the first ACEs and one of the more notable was a man named George Davis who shot down 14 before he was killed. Doing something stupid, by the way. So that training, which was against Air Force, I won't say regulation, but policy benefited the pilots that went.
Reviewing the Capability of the Air force:
I was running the gunnery ranges down in Wheelus, in North Africa, in Libya. We had ranges way out in the desert that I built with our own hands, our own money, because the Air Force wouldn't give it to us. That's where another reason that we were run by the bomber generals then. I wanted to build a tactics range where you could drop live bombs, shoot guns at targets, have opposition, stuff like that. “No, no”.
Next assignment, Pentagon. Six months of utter confusion, slowly dawning light. So I started doing staff studies on United States Air Force lack of conventional warfare capability. Everything was nukes. Russians had nukes. We had to have nukes, all fighter pilots had to be nuke qualified. I was worried that we were losing because of my experience in North Africa, a tactical warfare ability, not only in training, but in equipment. Now we had a wonderful airplane called the F-100, which I flew quite a bit. Fun to fly, great airplane, couple of little bad habits, but like a woman they should have bad habits to keep you alert. But I knew I never wanted to go to war in an F-100 because it didn't have any of the capability that I felt we needed.
So in the Pentagon, I would write these staff studies about our lack of capability. I visited Navy bases, another sort of story, but they were thinking more along, "What if” than the Air Force was. I was called into account by my boss who was a two star General in the basement of the Pentagon who very mildly, now he was a nice gentleman, I liked him, but he was a bomber pilot through and through, even wore a missile badge. Who rather gently was chiding me, "Robin. I'm tired of these staff studies of yours, about our lack of conventional capability. I want you to get back to your desk and do the jobs assigned. You're just wasting your time and mine. I want you to understand Colonel..." And mind you, this is 1960, '61. "Mind you Colonel, we're never again going to fight a conventional war." And I looked at him and thinking to him, I myself, "General, where have you been since 1945? What do you think we've been doing? What do you really think we're facing? You think we're going to drop nukes on each other? That's not the Air Force's problem, we can do that. Hopefully never, but what we can't do..." I'm thinking all of this, "...is fight that conventional war when we have to because we don't have the training in our equipment or even the bombs, the weapons." Well, we had them but they were in depots. “Never again, going to fight a conventional war.”
So in 1967, the summer, early spring, I'm going up the golfer Tokin and my F -4, nice back seater. I said, "Stevie, I want you to look around you right now. See those tankers up there." Of course, he did. "Those 105s down there with their tankers. I'd like you to think, Lieutenant, of all of the people in the Air Force it took to get us in this airplane, with these people headed in that direction to go do what we're going to do. The cooks, the bakers, the typists, the supply guys, the mechanics, the headquarters troops, the supply lines from the states, training, everything. And here we sit, pointed edge the sword. Now we're going to go up the Gulf. We're going to turn left at Hon Gai, and we're going into the Northeast railroad. We're sitting in a Navy airplane with World War II bombs underneath our wings with fuses that I don't trust. And I've got a gun site in front of my face. It's not as good as what I had in the P-51 in 1944 or ‘45, But I don't want you to worry about that because I've got it on excellent authority that this isn't happening. That we are never again going to do this. So it's not happening, right?”
He retired as a three star general, but that's the way it is. It's the way people get halter blinded with their own narrow view. They can't broaden out that mind and look. And the same thing is going on today.
You asked me a previous question. You keep wanting to talk about dog fighting or the difference between airplanes. Well, the kids today in the current situation, don't dog fight. There's nobody to dog fight. They've got air to air missiles, which let them shoot down somebody at a great range, provided GPS is working and provided the airborne early warning and controlled has identified the target. So they chase after it and fire a missile and shoot him down at 15 miles. It's the same old, same old today. Those very same kids are not prepared to get into a big fur bowl because they're told it'll never happen. I take the attitude that you should train for worst situation. Toughest situation. Costs money, but you can think of a scenario. I'm not sure I should really go into this publicly, but there are potentials in the future to revert back to basics. All the modern gimmickry and gadgetry could be obviated by a few well placed missiles against satellites and a few things like that. And I'm sure anyone looking at this long winded explanation can use an imagination and think, "Who are you talking about, General? Who are we going to fight?" I ask you.
Now, one of the things I want, I would like very much to have you people and the audience understand, each of you here in this room, and each of the people in the audiences that I speak to who was in the service, any rank, swore an oath. "I solemnly swear I will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Doesn't say the President. It doesn't say the speaker of the House of Representatives. It doesn't say the Chief of Staff of the Air Force or the Army or the Navy. It says the Constitution. And by definition, the Constitution is by foreign of the people. So I have taken great pleasure in standing before a civilian audience and pointing out for those reasons, I swore an oath and you were my boss. I do what you tell me to do.
Now, this was very effective once, University of Minnesota, 1961. I agreed to talk to the ROTC kids at their graduation, way back when. The student body rioted, starting in March or April. I guess it was good way of getting out of finals. I got called by somebody there on the college staff said, "Don't come." And I said, "Wait a minute. Are the ROTC boys still there?" "Yep." "well, I'll be there." Said, "Well, don't wear your uniform." I said, "Why not?" He said, "Well, we can't be responsible for your safety." And I said, "Well, if you were responsible for my safety, I'd have been dead in 1944. I will be there and I will wear my uniform."
I know it's a long story but what happened is I appeared on the stage. I here are the ROTC kids in the front. The whole auditorium was full of screaming maniacs. Couldn't believe the noise, oh. So I walked out to the center of the stage and turned and faced them. And I stood there thinking of George C. Scott, standing in front of the American flag. And I listened to them. Oh, it felt like forever. It was probably about 10 minutes. They had quieted down. And one would get up on a chair and I'd be called all the names that you can think of that were very popular in those days against the military people, bad names. Ugly. I just stood there.
Finally, I could tell that they were curious, "What was going to happen?" Thank God they weren't throwing stuff. So I walked up to the front of the stage and I held up my hand and there was a dead silence and I gave them hell. And I said, "You little snot nose, long haired, pussy face. Don't know how to hate. Let me tell you how to hate, who to hate and why." And I did. And I told him, “I work for you. I do what you tell me to do. You're all too dumb right now to probably even to vote, but you will. So make sure you know what you're doing because there are a couple of million of us who will obey your will. It shut them up. And when I finished, they actually stood up and clapped. Nobody had ever chewed their little raggedy butts like that before. And that's far away from airplanes, but it is a background to many of the questions that you've asked me this morning about being in the cockpit. How does it feel? Very basically that's part of why, okay?
Differences Between WWII and Vietnam:
Well, now, you asked me about the differences in dogfighting between two wars. There was a similarity, a great similarity in the basic reason, the basic nature. The differences, of course, were basically equipment, distances, I won't say speed, it's a temptation, but that's relative. Armament, that's also relative. So, really, I think the similarities were far greater than the differences. Similarities were far greater than the differences, in attitudes, in action.
One of the biggest differences was where the Brits fought over their own home territory. The Germans later fought over their own home territory. We were invading their airspace far, far, far from home, sometimes 500 miles. So that was the difference.
In a dog fight, very often you get broken up. You're lucky even to hang onto a wing man. You go home alone. That's a long way by yourself over enemy territory. So that's probably the brief summation.
We had an airplane called F-101 of which there were two versions, the interceptor version and the strike version. I commanded the strike version in Europe. 101 interceptor was two cockpits. The other one, the C, the B, excuse me, the A and the C were strike, single cockpit, nuke string. McDonald Douglas came forward to the Air Force and said, "We have a better version." The Air Force said, "Ah, we don't want that." The Navy in the meantime was looking for a fleet defender, a fleet interceptor, if you will. Now I can't speak authoritatively for the Navy, but I've talked to many of them about this. So I'm basing my remarks on contact with the guys who were there and the guys who did it. The way the F-4 is designed and its weapon system and the airplane flown in an interceptor role. Yes, one pilot could have done it, but you'd be awfully, awfully busy. The kid in the back does all the switchology and the radar work. The guy in the front can see what he's doing on his radar. But if the kid in the back who locks onto the target, who identifies the target, who sets up the weapon system, the pilot flies what he's told to do in the scope, this is the interceptor version. He pulls the trigger when he's told to do so. And a way goes a long way missile. Now that's oversimplification, but the F-4 turned out to be a wonderful airplane with tremendous capability in capacity, bomb carrying capacity, which Navy didn't really take advantage of initially.
Now, I told you that long winded story about the Air Force not having a tactical capability. And finally, they had to go to North American because the F-4's were rolling off the production line and saying, "We want a version." Well, not North American, I'm sorry. McDonald Douglas. And of course the guys at the factory were only too delighted. So out came the air force version of the F-4. We kept the two seats, only the air force put flight controls in the back seat. The Navy didn't have them ever. So our original back seaters were fledgling pilots, with all the capability and the skills to do all the other switchology stuff.
Initially it didn't have a gun, because somebody said we didn't need a gun. I think that was probably General Spike Munnar with Saint Pack at the time. “We've got that wonderful sidewinder and we got that long range, Sparrow. So who needs a gun?”
As an aside to that, the airplane could carry a gun, it was a pod that fitted under the center line, had a 20 millimeter Gatling in it with some ammunition, not much. So you could actually carry a gun. Well, during the time I was in Thailand under the operational orders of seventh air force at Saigon, they would try to get me to carry a gun on some of the airplanes on some of the missions. I said, "No, I'm not going to do that." “Well…”, “No. There's only a handful of my pilots who have the experience of training with a gun, particularly in air to air combat. And you put a gun on the belly of that airplane and these younger guys, their hair is going to stand on end, their fangs are going to grow and they're going to go MIG hunting, fighting a MIG.” I said, "They don't have the experience. The MIG's will chew them up. We don't fight that way. We fight with sidewinders. This is what I'm capable of teaching my people." Now, I could fight with a gun, but mostly I'd probably just run, because if I tried to fight a MIG-17 on his terms in a gun battle, I'm dead.
Leadership & Joining the A TAC Fighter Wing:
Please understand, that is not a conscious effort on a man who is lucky enough to be in a position where he can exercise that action. You don't deliberately say, "Oh, I just read this book," and they say, "One, two, three, four." Rule number six, get out in front and lead. You do it naturally. You do it because you want to, you do it because you've learned that your men are willing to follow you, you've learned that.
It's like in War Two, I went overseas as a lieutenant, within a relatively short time as a captain, and another relative short time, I was a major, I was 22 years old, commanding the squadron. Why? I didn't say, "Look, I'm only me. You know, let me command the squadron." Uh-uh. There are those watching, and there are those supporting, and there are those who are your close friends, buddies, who are flying with you. And your personality apparently comes across. Now, I'm not talking about me, because you, me, I, you don't think about it. You just... You be yourself. I got out front because that's where I belonged. I knew it.
The best example of that is over in Thailand, Southeast Asia War. When I arrived at my base, Ubon, A TAC Fighter Wing. I found out that my predecessor, the wing commander, wonderful guy, built a beautiful base from scratch. Didn't fly much. I thought, well, here's my chance. I could not probably have done what he did in building that base. The timing of the changeover was very fortunate. And, of course, I didn't get right out front. But I remember it was some amusement. I'd been there about two days. They were equipped with F-4s, that's two cockpits. I'd been through training at Davis-Monthan, and just outside Tucson, very, very quick checkout in the airplane. I got all the pilots together I could muster in the briefing room, and said, "Okay guys, my name is Robin Olds. I'm your new wing commander. And I don't know blankety blank about this war. I expect you to teach me. Now, I'm going to start at green 16, that means Taylor and Charlie. And as I learn and think I'm qualified, I'm going to move up through the ranks pretty soon, I'm going to be out front." And some voice in the rear said, " Uh-huh." And I saw who it was, but I didn't say anything. And I said, "Now, I want you to teach me, and I want you to teach me well, because you don't want some dummy out front leading you, do you?" And I said, "Dismissed, except you." And it was a lieutenant named Dunigan. And I come in my office. This lieutenant was a little bit shaken by then. And I said, "Now, what's your name?" He said, "Cliff Dunigan, sir." I said, "How many... What do you fly? Front or back?" "I'm a back seater, sir." "How many missions do you have?" "82, sir." Something like that. I don't remember the exact number. And I said, "Fine, you're my back seater." "Teach me." Well, word gets around, especially at the bar at night. "You know what the old man said?” “Yes”, “Great”, you know.
Missions in Vietnam:
We flew our missions twice a day, basically, depending on weather, up around route pack six, we called it, around Hanoi. My F-4's and the F-105's out of Takhli and Korat. I did my homework to the best of my abilities. So I knew the big basis how many they had, what their tactics were, what their reactions were. We didn't see them all the time, but when they had an advantage, they used it. Not always very cleverly, I thought. But there in '66, '67, basically we went in as a cohesive force, 105's, F-4's and you penetrated, which is a good word, their defenses, hit your target and got out of there. You went against MIG's, Sam's and Flak, three elements. Often, it was very, very demanding and exciting. And I say, in all fairness, that I don't think I flew any mission in War II- I flew a lot of tough ones, that was as sustainably tough as every is every mission over, up and around Hanoi. Truly.
Why were the missions up there so tough? I can tell you, because the defenses were so tough, with more guns of all calibers, everything from small arms, which didn't count, 20 millimeters, 57's, 85, 100's. You ran a gauntlet if you'd like to the target and back. Now, that's just the guns. So you're cruising along and all of a sudden over here in the summertime, there's a blast of dust, a Royal of dust. You know what that is? It's a Sam, that's just launched, the booster's kicking up the dust. So your eye catches that little white speck. The booster departs. You don't see that, but that little white speck is coming. Then there's another one over here. Now, you got two. Taylor and Charlie have got another couple back this way. You watch this white spec and this white spec, and he grows larger, larger. Now, in your aircraft, you have what we call a quarter panel up front, the main panel in front of your face and then two quarter panels running down. If that white spec stays steady in your perspective, but just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. You are it. If there's an apparent movement back forward down, He's after somebody else. You watch this one to. So now comes the fun part. You can't just sit there, but you're loaded with bombs. You have a target to get to. So what you do now is you become the clever fish. That harpoon is coming for you or your guys. So you start steering it. You start down and he follows. If he starts to follow, at the right moment, you scream at your guys, "Take it down." Which means stick slammed into the instrument panel, like that. Very uncomfortable. And the missile starts to follow. Then you scream, "Pull." And you pull like that and the missile can't make that turn and he goes underneath, hopefully. And you can do this two or three times on an ingress. Then you roll in on the target and you can't believe the amount of Flak and the MIGS will hit you on the way out. And then you go home and have a drink.
A Memorable Dogfight:
This is one of my most memorable encounters, really. We'd escorted the bombers deep into Germany. We got all broken up with a minor sort of scrap. I'm headed west toward England and here's the 190 headed in the other direction. I don't know where he was going, but he was over his home territory and we turned at each other, the two of us. And from that ensued, one of the more memorable dog fights I was ever in, because that man was good.
In the fall of '66, the MIG pilots were getting more and more brazen, bold, chasing the THUD's all the way out of route pack six, coming further and further south, there were more and more of them, every mission. And there wasn't a whole lot that we could do about it, big sky. So anyway, it was a big commanders call in the Philippines, run by the four star general [inaudible]. None of us wanted to go, but its mandatory. So I'm there up in the mountains of the Philippines in a place called Baguio. And I approached my boss who was General Spike Momyer, who was seventh air force commander out of Saigon. And I said, "Sir, as you undoubtedly know, the MIGS are getting more and more frisky. And I have an idea, something we could do about it." And he just grunted, didn't say anything. So I thought, "Oh, well, end of that."
Less than a week later, got a call report down to seventh air force headquarters, General Momyer wants to talk to you. "What's your idea?" And I outlined, sketched a plan. I said, "Sir, I'd like to take my wing and fly like the THUD's fly, same speeds, same formations, same cold signs. Because, I knew that the north Vietnamese listened to everything. They saw you on radar and all that stuff. And lure the MIG's up and have at them, we would be loaded for bear. He said, "Well, go home, make a detailed plan." Which, I did. Well, I wound up that the wing from Da Nang set up about 18 airplanes. I set up 32. I had briefed them twice, two or three times. And I attribute the success of this mission, very, very much to fortune. Fortunate circumstance. Fortunate reaction.
But one of the main things was, a good friend of mine named Donovan F. Smith, who was now a general on the staff in Saigon called and he said, "Robin, I'm going to send you a QRC190 pods." I said, "What's that?" I'd heard of them, but I didn't really know what they were. Well, these were the original jammers, electro countermeasure jammers designed to jam the guidance systems from the ground to the Sam's. They emitted stuff, they put about a four degree fuzzy thing on their guidance scopes. So it took four of you to cover the whole scope, spread out about 1500 feet. Well, we flew the mission and we got over the Red River and I could see that the entire north Vietnam was under a cloud deck, tops about 7,000, 8,000 feet, which is murder it's a Sam day then. But I took a chance and said, "Okay, we're going."
Meanwhile, Da Nang saw the same cloud deck turned around and went home. But we went in and by time and distance, everything like the THUDs, until I suddenly turned and I had three flights [inaudible]. Anything they painted with their radar was enemy. Usually we had to wait for confirmation, either visual or otherwise, mostly visual. Now there's nobody else up there except us. So bang, fire if you see one, didn't see one. Went down, time and distance right over Phù Cát their big base. Hanoi turned around, came back. My back seater said, "I just saw a blip, went underneath us." I said, "Oh boy, they're up." When I turned, I came back just as the second flight arrived. Second flight called me Bull Fulkerson said, "Lead, you got a MiG-21 on your ass." What are you going to say? "Thanks a lot." Well, that started the fight and there were MiGs, it seemed to us everywhere. I fired one long range missile, Sparrow at a MIG, but he disappeared into the clouds. I turned and I saw the one that talked to you about, where he was in a position where I did a vector roll on him, shot him down with a sidewinder. In the meantime, my guys are doing good work. One of the funny things is I briefed him and briefed them and briefed them, radio silence, no unnecessary chatter. You should have heard the screaming and the hollering. "I got him. I got him. I got him." I'm saying, "Shut up." "Hey lead, we are already 2-1." They were so excited.
But we landed, counted noses, lost nobody. And I got the guys calmed down. They said, "Okay, what happened? You?" I said, "No detail, did you get a MiG?" "Yes." "You?". Turns out we claimed seven. We got seven that they confirmed and maybe one or two more, but couldn't confirm it. So it was a great thing for all of the troops in Southeast Asia, suddenly to have something positive happen. And I think it put a crimp in the north Vietnamese. Now they started chasing the recce guys with their MIG-21's, reconnaissance pilots. So I think it was probably Don Smith. He said, "Okay, I want a couple of airplanes from Ubon, my base. Loaded for bear, to go up and land at the recce base, get briefed on recce tactics, routes, timings, air speeds, and stuff, and go up in tight formation as though you're a single recce bird, using all of their call sign and all that and see what happens. But sure enough, I sent two of my best guys up. I wanted to go, but the big boss arrived the same day. Anyway, Pasco and Tom Hirsch. So they went up and they pretended to be recce birds. And here up came four MIG-21's and they broke and went after him, to the big surprise they knocked down two. And it was a long time before the recce bird saw a MIG again. So we got nine in about four days, which really set a tone, not just at my base, but within the forces that were flying up north sort of a ‘Haha, you sons of bitches.’
After the encounter where we're all split up, then he and I went at each other. This is the best guy I ever came up against. Oh, he was good, that he turned me every which way, but loose and I tried to do the same to him. Then we shot, didn't hit. We started about, oh, maybe 15, 18,000, something like that, wound up on the deck as usual. I'm finally getting into the position on him, in a 51 now. He's about 50 feet off the ground going around a tree, here. And I'm gradually closing and all of a sudden he's in this attitude turning this way. He rolled this way and went that way. He didn't roll this way, he rolled underneath and boom went that way.
Very shortly thereafter, we are parallel, headed east. He's way over here and I'm way over here. I want to go that way, because that's where England is. It's back that way. I don't think he cared, but how am I going to turn around, go like this and have him behind me, go like that and make him think the fight's on again. What happened is we gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually pulled up to, we were alongside each other. And I looked over at him and he took off his goggles, oxygen mask, and he is grinning. And he saluted, I saluted him back. I went that way. He went that way, greatest fight I was ever in, but I can't describe it. Because, we went roundy, round and up and down and roundy, round. One gaining the advantage on the other. To remember everything you did, its just impossible. Each of us was doing his best to kill the other guy or not be.
Would Dogfighting Become Obsolete?:
Why did the experts think dog fighting was obsolete? Ha, that really evokes a flood of emotion, memories. Who were the experts? Pray, tell. People who'd been promoted beyond their capability, way beyond their usefulness, who had to invent rules and regulations to make themselves important. Who'd never fought, who looked at manuals, who looked at, I don't know what the hell they looked at, but to say that dog fighting was obsolete… The only people who said that were those who didn't fly jets and very few of whom had flown combat. And that's the same today, by the way, it's always that way, in the services, big, full of idiots that are full of stupid ideas, frankly. You have the professionals and you have the careerists. Professionals are in the cockpit, the careerists is in the desk.
The Future of Dogfighting:
You keep referring to the situation that you want to talk about as dog fighting. If you want to talk about fighter versus fighter in battles, now dog fighting has a connotation of truly close in personal man oh man, mono, mono, whatever. And it's true, but you have to let your imagination grow and understand an immensity of space with much higher speeds, much greater up down capacity. It used to be. You could only go up so high, certainly no lower than the ground. And you could only go around so tight. Now you can go way up, but you around at maximum is limited. And of course you still have the ground to worry about. The enemy right now over in the Middle East, there is no air enemy. We own the sky. Shot down a couple early, early, but they were running, trying to get into Iran.
So what is the future of dog fighting? The people we talked about earlier, who are the careerists will say, "Oh no, there's no future in it. What we want is unmanned aircraft and we'll do all the work." Which means somebody sitting in a bunker with a television in front of him or a monitor or whatever, is going to go and putting himself in the cockpit of that unmanned thing and fight. He doesn't even know how to fight. He has no conception of what it's like. He thinks it's going to be like fighting the Iraqis.
The potential for having to do it, is always there. You have to know basics. You can't be a great piano player if you can't play the scales, really. You can't be a singer unless you have a voice, but I don't think that's the same. What I'm saying is there are basics, that we tend to overlook. Now, our pilots today are the best trained anywhere, Navy, Marine, Air Force, these kids are so well honed and well trained.
So let's take a different scenario. Now, I truly hesitate to say this, but our adversaries have been for many decades now, the Russians, growing worry about China and what may happen there internally that will set them off. But you have to think of the potential.
So I ask the kids on active duty today, when I talk to them, I say, "Okay, you've taken off in your wonderful F-15Es, loaded. You're being escorted by F-16s, the latest type. Let's say there are 20 of you and 24, maybe 32 escorts. And you've got a target that's 700, 600 miles deep in Asia. And in these magic radar scopes of yours, you suddenly see a flock, a cloud of enemy aircraft. I don't mean 30 or 40. I mean 150. So fine, you escorts, you fire all your air to air missiles. That's maybe 80 of them. I don't know, figure it out. And every single one of them works, that only leaves 70 of them. And they're coming at you. What are you going to do? Run? Well you damn well better and go back and scratch your heads and say, "Wait a minute, we didn't do that properly. What are we going to do tomorrow?" They're not thinking that way, but it is, you said potential. I say, what? 20 years, somebody's going to shoot up a rocket and blank out all the GPSs and all the satellites, all the communications, half of our forces would be left impotent! Because, they rely so much on relayed data, not just from the satellite, but from the airborne early warning and control people.
For instance, if I had been a, well, let's say a north enemy commander, or let's say an Iraqi any kind of commander. I would've sacrificed at least four of my fighter guys and say, "You go get a tanker or more, an American tanker." Because, the American forces are totally dependent upon those tankers for the range they're achieving at getting in to fight the other guy. Now, if you attack a tanker, they're going to have to move back, way back. They may even go home. Because, we can't afford to lose tankers, which then impacts on our ability to do the kind of fighting we like to do. And I don't know why the hell... I hope none of you bastards are listening, but why they don't do that? I mean, to me, it's logical.
That was Brig. Gen. Robin Olds.
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