Killing the B-2 and ‘Hitler’s Time Machine’: In conversation with Robert F Dorr
Former USAF serviceman and diplomat, Robert F Dorr, speaks to Hush-Kit about killing the B-2, the under-appreciated C-5M and Hitler’s Time Machine.
You have been critical of certain decisions made by USAF, what would be a sensible path for it to take today?
The United States should return to using its armed forces, as the Constitution prescribes, for the defence of these United States — and not for conflicts in trouble spots around the world. For the Air Force that means being prepared for a peer war with a modern nation state such as Russia or China. In terms of procurement, that means a crash programme to acquire a long-range strategic bomber in large numbers. On the subject of retirement, the Air Force should retire its twenty B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, which are nearly useless, and retain aircraft it needs. That means retaining the A-10C Thunderbolt II and KC-10 Extender.
What is the most over-rated military aircraft?
The most over-rated aircraft is the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The principles of stealth were well known for years while the U.S. government kept them secret in a ‘black’ programme, adding drama to a capability that is of marginal utility in a slow, vulnerable bomber. In 2013, the last year for which I have figures, it cost $169,313 (per flight hour) to fly the B-2. The B-1B Lancer has a reputation for being costly to operate but the comparable figure for the B-1B is $57,807. The B-2 is almost impossible to keep in operation at any location other than its home base. In 2013, the B-2 had a mission capable rate of 46%, the lowest in inventory, meaning that less than half of scheduled missions took place. Because it began as a black program (for no justifiable reason), a mystique has grown around the B-2.
What is the most under-rated military aircraft? (historic or modern)
The Air Force has never properly understood the value of helicopters and has not given a high enough priority to developing replacements for the HH-60G Pave Hawk, MH-60W Whisky and UH-1N Twin Huey. The C-5M Super Galaxy isn’t appreciated enough, even though it has capabilities far superior to those of the newer C-17 Globemaster III.
What is the biggest aviation myth?
‘Aviation is about pilots’. If it weren’t for combat systems officers (CSOs, formerly, navigators), other flight crew members, maintainers and many others, aircraft would not fly. The Air Force needs to work harder to treat helicopter pilots as equals to fixed-wing pilots and to treat CSOs as equals to pilots. That means opportunities for good assignments, schools and command should be extended equally to all. So far, every Air Force chief of staff has been a pilot. That needs to change.
What is your opinion of the F-35 programme?
We’d be better off to resume production of new, advanced versions of the F-16E/F Fighting Falcon and the F-15K Slam Eagle for the Air Force, and to continue production of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the Navy. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is behind schedule, over cost, and doesn’t work. But what if it did work as advertised? Its stealth properties are overrated as an asset in war. It’s at best a mediocre air-to-ground attack aircraft. It’s not an effective air-to-air fighter. The emphasis on the F-35 has sucked the air out of the room when it comes to equipping our airmen with new and effective tactical warplanes.
You have to retire one USAF type tomorrow- what would it be?
As I indicated, the B-2 Spirit is my candidate. It’s effectively useless as an asset in wartime because of limitations on where it can operate. As with the F-35, its stealth properties are overrated as an asset in war.
What was your role in the Air Force, and what is your greatest memory from this time?
I was writing about the Air Force before I was in the Air Force. My first paid magazine contribution was in the November 1955 issue of Air Force magazine when I was in high school. They were building the Air Force Academy in Colorado (its first class convened in 1955; I graduated high school in 1957); I wanted to attend and become a fighter pilot. I was born with a hearing impairment which put the Academy and pilot wings out of reach.
As an enlisted airman from 1957 to 1960, I studied the Korean language at the Army Language School (today called the Defense Language Institute) in Monterey, California, and served two tours in Korea monitoring the North Korean air force. I could tell you more but I’d have to kill you. I was able to do this job well and don’t remember ever being given a hearing test for it. This work was performed at a ground station and in a C-47 Skytrain reconnaissance aircraft. I completed Air Force service in August 1960, a month before my 21st birthday. The Air Force experience led to a career as a U.S. diplomat (1964-89) and to further study of the Korean and Japanese languages.
Tell us about your new book and why people should buy it?
I have six books currently in print including ‘Hell Hawks’, co-authored with Thomas D. Jones, a history of a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter group in combat.
My latest book is something new and different. ‘Hitler’s Time Machine’ is an alternate history of ]what might have been’ in World War II — a drama of the arms race between the United States and Nazi Germany to develop a time machine. The main characters include Barbara Stafford, an American physicist; Hans Kammler, a Nazi scientist (and a real person), and Die Glocke, or The Bell, a secret device with a secret purpose.
Why should you read this book? It’s an alternate history using as background very real events with very real people including Adolf Hitler, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
“Hitler’s Time Machine” is available for Kindle and in hard copy for British readers here
American readers can find “Hitler’s Time Machine” here
And, of course, readers can get copies of his books directly from him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Too bad you didn’t talk about unmanned aircraft making manned military aircraft obsolete. The next Air Force bomber will probably be “optionally manned”.