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August 12, 2004

Bush and the F-102

Via Mudville Gazette I am led to The Donovan and thus to this:

Even in peacetime conditions, F-102 pilots risked their lives on every flight. Only highly-qualified pilot candidates were accepted for Delta Dagger training because it was such a challenging aircraft to fly and left little room for mistakes. According to the Air Force Safety Center, the lifetime Class A accident rate for the F-102 was 13.69 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours, much higher than the average for today's combat aircraft. For example, the F-16 has an accident rate of 4.14, the F-15 is at 2.47, the F-117 at 4.07, the S-3 at 2.6, and the F-18 at 4.9. Even the Marine Corps' AV-8B, regarded as the most dangerous aircraft in US service today, has a lifetime accident rate of only 11.44 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. The F-102 claimed the lives of many pilots, including a number stationed at Ellington during Bush's tenure. Of the 875 F-102A production models that entered service, 259 were lost in accidents that killed 70 Air Force and ANG pilots.

Now, doing some very preliminary calculations, total US deaths in Vietnam were of the order of 50,000 out of a total of 2.6 million who served, or roughly 2%.
OK, how many pilots were trained to fly the F-102? 875 planes entered service, and from other figures in the same article we can see it was two years of training and three years of flying for a five year enlistment period (that's assuming that everyone did the minimum Air National Guard sign up, not career military. No draftees were ever taught to fly.). OK, and the plane was around from 1956 to 1974. OK, that's an 18 year period and three years active service each pilot gives us 5,250 pilots trained on that bird. (This is a very rough figure. Very rough indeed. Anyone who wants to help please do so. I'm assuming only one pilot per bird at a time, which may or may not be true. I'm also assuming all birds in service for the entire span which is absurdly untrue, but one will underestimate the number of pilots, the other will overestimate. If anyone actually knows the exact number trained to fly the F-102 let me know and I can change the calculation.)
So, 5,250 pilots and 70 deaths means a death rate of: 1.3%.
Jeez. The lousy damn coward. He went and hid in a unit, one which had active service members actually in Vietnam, one where the death rate in training and peacetime from accident alone was damn nearly the same as active service in Vietnam for all troops. Sheesh.

August 12, 2004 in Military | Permalink


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Poke the Moonbats John. Poke them hard. Then poke them some more. Update: Good point.... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 12, 2004 7:32:10 PM

» Upsetting the Applecart of Conventional Wisdom from INDC Journal
George Bush may have volunteered for service in Vietnam ... "The Air Force, in their ultimate wisdom, assembled a group of 102's and took them to Southeast Asia. Bush volunteered to go. But he needed to have 500 [flight] hours,... [Read More]

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Tim Worstall does the math after digging up this bit of information...The F-102 claimed the lives of many pilots, including a number stationed at Ellington during Bush's tenure. Of the 875 F-102A production models that entered service, 259 were lost... [Read More]

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Sure, Bush was a coward and did all he could to avoid any risk during Nam:So, 5,250 pilots and 70 deaths means a death rate of: 1.3%. Jeez. The lousy damn coward. He went and hid in a unit, one... [Read More]

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Tracked on Nov 6, 2006 11:12:26 PM


"The lousy damn coward. He went and hid in a unit, one which had active service members actually in Vietnam."

Yup, refused an direct order to take a medical test, (Can you say Drugs). Went AWOL, was transferred to another Guard unit (Ala.)
Should I go on?

Posted by: Garry | Sep 9, 2004 3:30:12 PM

So let me see if I understand:

lot's of Abrams tanks have been destroyed in use, resulting in the death of their drivers and crew.

Therefore it is an inherently dangerous vehicle, and I am at great risk if I drive one, even in non-combat conditions. And I can prove this by doing an off-the-wall comparison to overall casualty percentages of people who have served in Iraq?

Yeah, right.

Posted by: TomR | Sep 9, 2004 9:52:37 PM

If you wanted to know the relative risks of training to drive an M-1 and serving in Iraq, yes, that is exactly what you would do.

Posted by: Tim Worstall | Sep 10, 2004 8:15:59 AM

Actually, something largely overlooked in all the discussions of the F-102 is that its primary mission was to intercept enemy BOMBERS. Yup, there were a lot of them in the skies over Vietnam, for sure, for sure. You remember all those reports of bombers carpet-bombing Saigon ... oh, they didn't? An F-102 was about as useless over Vietnam as Dan Rather in a fireman's carry. Or teats on a boar-hog, take your pick.

Posted by: John Andrew Prime | Sep 13, 2004 5:44:11 AM

You can get a better estimate of Bush's risk factor by working with the class A accident rate and his flying log. You report an accident rate of 13.69 per 100K hours. Trivially, that gives an accident rate of

0.0001369 per hour

Equally trivally, the probability of not having a class A accident in one flight hour is


Bush logged around 300 hours in the F-102. The chance of avoiding a class A accident for 300 hours in a row is

0.9998631 ** 300 = 0.959759

And so the risk of having a class A accident at some point in a 300 hour career is

0.04024, or approximately 4.0%

From Tim Worstall:
That's probably a better way of showing the risk. Thank you.

Posted by: Scott Renner | Sep 15, 2004 5:59:45 PM

So what if G.W.Bush avoided duty in Vietnam by joining A.N.G. and failed to take physical or show up for some final months of A.N.G. duty during draw-down at end of Vietnam war and de-activation of aircraft type trained on making said flight physical neccessity moot? The outrage is coming from the same people who elected and re-elected a draft dodger who wrote in his letter thanking the commander of the Arkansas National Guard about his "loathing" for the U.S. military. Just is not a credible argument on their part if you ask me. Yet to them an anti-war leader/traitor like John Kerry is regarded by them to be a Vietnam war hero! Only to lunatics and communist Vietnamese is that possible!

Posted by: Cedric C. Cole, JR. SFC USA (Ret) | Sep 17, 2004 9:21:47 PM

Funny but I used to be in the same unit Bush was in and those letters that you are basing your opinion on are in no way authentic. On the letterhead it has the address of "P.O. Box 34567 Houston, Texas".

No ANG base ever had a post office box as an address. Letters are delivered to an address sans P.O. box using the Wing number or Squadron number (such as 147th FIG/CC for the group commander). And instead of saying "Houston, Texas" it would have been "Ellington AFB, Texas" while Ellington was an active base (The 147th FIG/111th FS were tenents on the base until the base closed) and then "Ellington ANGB, Texas" after it became an ANG base. Plus, hospital commanders write letters of this sort, not squadron, wing, or group commanders.

Believe the letter if you want to, but I would never put faith in any information in a letter that is so clearly falsified and shows such ignorance about the Air Guard in general and that unit in particular. A little knowledge would go a long way in this case.

Your "Can you say Drugs?" quote rings hollow.

Posted by: Gary Odle | Sep 18, 2004 2:46:24 AM

I was a GCI controller from 1965 to 1965. I controlled F-102's of the 51st FIW in Okinawa for two years. One pilot had to make a dead stick landing. Otherwise, not a single mishap.

ANG interceptor pilots, up to the Vietnam War, had a record for being very good. Because, they were all former active duty USAF pilots who continued flying in the ANG. Until now, I had never heard of anyone receiving a direct commission, not OTS, ROTC, Service Academy, and sent to pilot training for the ANG. The number of those slots must have been very few indeed. USAF pilots had to have great scores on AFOQT Test, good college grades, no driving tickets, very good health and eyesight. Only then would the government risk the cost of pilot training.

Posted by: Prentiss Andrews | Sep 23, 2004 1:49:17 AM

Correction: 1965-1969.

Posted by: Prentiss Andrews | Sep 23, 2004 2:00:15 AM

"Actually, something largely overlooked in all the discussions of the F-102 is that its primary mission was to intercept enemy BOMBERS." (followed by some nya-nya stuff).

Virtually *all* of the fighters produced between the F-86 and the F-15 were designed for essentially that same mission. It was the relatively poor performance of the F-4 Phantom in Viet Nam air-to-air combat that forced the Air Force to re-think their requirements and start producing effective fighter aircraft.

The Air Force used what they had available For Viet Nam... including the F-102.

Posted by: snellenr | Sep 27, 2004 1:16:52 PM

Um, Dan ... I mean, "Gary" ....

you might want to revisit the current status of your story before you continue with the "It's true" routine.

Posted by: BD | Sep 27, 2004 3:01:48 PM

I've been trying to determine how many F-102As went through Vietnam, as I think only 15 of the aircraft were lost over there (including accidents and enemy action, a roughly 50-50 split, including some planes hit while on airfields). It may actually have been safer to fly the plane in Vietnam (statistically speaking) than stateside -- for all sorts of reasons (quality of pilots, quality of ground crews, etc.).

Anyone know where I could find out how many F-102As logged service in Vietnam?

Posted by: DrSteve | Sep 27, 2004 3:24:20 PM


"Yup, refused an direct order to take a medical test..."

That's a lie, and has been established to be a lie. Even if the memos were not obvious forgeries, the person giving the order is not the person entitled to do so.

"... (Can you say Drugs)."

Sure. So can you, apparently. Tell your lies directly instead of relying on innuendo in future.

"... Went AWOL..."

Displays your utter and total ignorance of what you're talking about. Advice: when they hand you a "talking point" investigate it at least a little, so you don't wind up looking like quite such a stupid, lazy, uncaring dork.

"... was transferred to another Guard unit (Ala.)..."

When his services were no longer required because planes were not available and returning veteran pilots with many more hours were in abundant supply.

"...Should I go on?"

Sure, go ahead. But if you're going to put on a clown act you should really do the white pancake makeup, rubber-ball nose, and oversized shoes bit. You don't need the horn a la Clarabell; what you say is equally meaning-free.

Ric Locke

Posted by: Ric Locke | Sep 27, 2004 6:44:19 PM

As I recall, up until not too long ago noone had ever been killed in an M1 Abrams. I don't know if that's changed, but if it has, it's not by much.

Some tanks had been destroyed, and some crew injured, but nobody died.

Being a tanker in an M1 turns out to be a relatively safe job.

Posted by: coop | Sep 27, 2004 8:51:37 PM

Completely OT comment to a comment. A bunch of people have been killed in M-1 tanks. True, in the 1st Gulf War, I believe there was indeed one KIA due to enemy fire. I understand (hazy recollection) that there have been a few more since. That being said, I can state -- from experience , having been a loader (fast), driver (very, very good), gunner (lousy), and tank commander (more aggressive than smart), all in peacetime, that the interior of an M-1 is a dangerous place to be. Not a lot of KIA, no, but if you have seen what's left of someone's foot when they get a boot caught in the turret ring, or what happens when a loader has his hand behind the breech when the main gun goes off, or what a main gun tube can do to the head of passersby (there's a reason stateside tanks have a big yellow warning sign on the side of the main gun), or (second worst nightmare here) what happens when a driver is halfway out of the driver's compartment and someone traverses the turret, or (worst nightmare) a flashback into the turret when a loader who's trying to cheat the clock is holding another main gun round in his lap....

I spent a couple of years as a drill sergeant at Ft. Knox trying to turn kids into tankers. The BIGGEST thing that I tried to teach them was that you didn't have to get into action for the tank to kill you -- it would be more than happy to kill you without leaving the motor pool, so you had better pay attention -- ALWAYS. EVERY SECOND.

How this relates to the F-102 is that it was an inherently unsafe aircraft, a cast-iron bitch to fly that killed a lot of people who tried. You had to have a pretty good set of cojones just to get near the damn thing.

All the above being said, the Abrams is STILL the bast damn tank in the world.

Tim Worstall adds : One of my business partners is a Major in a tank regiment in the California NG. His stories to me confirm, at least anecdotally, what you say above.

Posted by: Kirk F. | Sep 27, 2004 11:24:47 PM

The F-102 was called the "Widow Maker" for a very good reason, it killed pilots.

Posted by: Partisan Political Operative | Sep 28, 2004 1:30:53 AM

The F-102 was never called the "widowmaker". You must have it mixed up with the B-26. The F-102, with it's huge wing area, was an extremely forgiving aircraft. Because it had one engine, it was slightly more dangerous than flying as a passenger in a 757.

There was one squadron in Tan Son Nhut AFB. Since it was for air defense, and there were no North Vietnamese air attacks on South Viet Nam, no F-102's were lost in combat in Vietnam.

Posted by: Prentiss | Sep 28, 2004 1:55:59 AM

Partisan Political Operative, try getting your head out of your ass. The F-102 had about 13-14 mishaps per 100,000. That exceeds the current most unsafe aircraft, the AV-8B, by several per 100,000. It was not a forgiving aircraft. 757s I believe, have a little better safety record.

Fourteen F-102s were lost in Vietnam to small arms fire, aerial combat, crashes and other combat. Sorry, you didn't check the record before you spouted.

None of these aircraft were particularly safe, but from your moniker, you obviously don't care. Just for our information. What fighters did you fly in Vietnam? If you didn't fly, then I presume you were a grunt. If so, where? Hue City, Hamburger Hill, Khe Sanh? Regale us more with your amusing bluster. Heck you were probably with Uncle Ho and General Giap during the Final Offensive.

I never particularly liked pilots. I spent my time with the grunts in the Marine Corps. I had pilot friends, but they didn't go thru what we did. None of the human packmule stuff, sweating your ass off for the chance to let some gomer try to kill you. Several of my friends, however, are now dead, killed in crashes in A-4s, F-4s, AV-8s, CH-46s and CH-53s. I've been in a crash and have several "hard landings" myself. I've flown in TA-4s to see what it's like and am happy I stayed on the ground. I don't like fighter pilots, but I at least respect them for the guts it takes to fly in those damn things. You on the other hand, I have no respect for, as I suspect when the call came for volunteers you were hard of hearing.

Just a last note, you also are apparently unaware of North Vietnamese air attacks. With our withdrawal of troops in 72 and financial support in 74, the NVA began flying helos south by 75. Two air attacks occured in 75, one by a North Vietnamese infiltrator using a F-5 to bomb the Presidential Palace in Apr. Later that month a flight of captured A-37s was used to hit Tan Son Nhut AFB, as well as ARVN positions and refugee columns on Route 1. Both attacks were symbolic, but very real to the people experiencing them.

Posted by: Bill | Sep 28, 2004 4:19:55 AM


As I stated before, I was GCI controller, captain, USAF, from 1965-1969. Controlled F-102's of 82nd FIS, 51st FIW from June 1967 to June 1969. Deployed with unit to Yong Mun Son Korea during Pueblo Incident, concurrent with Tet offensive. As I said earlier, one pilot had to make dead stick landing in the course of that two years. No widows involved. I'm sure you were a hero, but I guess you missed the great air battle over the Gulf of Mexico, when the Texas ANG saved us all from Venezualan bombers.

A few Pacific-based squadrons got F-102s, the first being the 16th FIS based at Naha AFB on Okinawa which re-equipped in March of 1959. It was in the Pacific theatre that the F-102 was to achieve its only taste of combat. Aircraft from the 590th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were transferred to Tan Son Nhut AFB near Saigon in South Vietnam in March of 1962 to provide air defense against the unlikely event that North Vietnamese aircraft would attack the South. F-102As continued to be based there and in Thailand throughout much of the Vietnam war. F-102As stood alert at Bien Hoa and Da Nang in Sout Vietnam and at Udorn and Don Muang in Thailand. The F-102A was finally withdrawn from Southeast Asia in December of 1969. The F-102A established an excellent safety record in Vietnam. In almost ten years of flying air defense and a few combat air patrols for SAC B-52s, only 15 F-102As were lost. Although a few missions were flown over North Vietnam, the Southeast Asia-stationed F-102As are not thought to have actually engaged in air-to-air combat. However, one of my references has an F-102A of the 509th FIS being lost to an air-to-air missile fired by a MiG-21 while flying a CAP over Route Package IV on February 3, 1968. Two F-102As were lost to AAA/small arms fire and four were destroyed on the ground by the Viet Cong and eight were lost in operational accidents.

Tim Worstall adds: Thanks for this very detailed information. You're bolstering my basic contention, that the peacetime training and non-Vietnam service in an F-102 was in itself dangerous. Just like learning to fly any fighter jet is dangerous. The idea is developed further in a piece at TCS: http://www.techcentralstation.com/092904E.html

Posted by: Prentiss | Sep 30, 2004 1:31:12 AM

Hey guys what's the beef.
Walking the streets in San Antonio or Houston is dangerous. That's why I joined the Armed Forces against evil. I served with the 82nd airborne and also went with the 82nd FIS to Suwon when the the Pueblo was captured. We didn't get it back.
Izzy Pastrano

Posted by: Isidro Pastrano | Apr 15, 2005 3:52:37 PM

I joined The US ARMY, and became an Officer 1967 thru 1969. Infantry Officer,(the 519th MP Battailon} I did not go to Veitnam,am I a coward? Only people who go into combat are 'HEROS'. Don't think so, as an Officer you go where your unit goes.

Posted by: Robert | Mar 1, 2006 12:57:46 AM

I will agree with Robert, today's military is much different than 'yesterdays' but I would still agree that "an Officer [or enlisted] would go where [their] unit goes." Besides, he was in the Air National Guard, not the Federally controlled Active Duty. The main duties of the Air Natinal Guard are to manage duties on the home front (natural disasters, homeland security) and 'support' the AD when needed. Today however, that need has arrisen and more ANG are being called to AD. Besides, that could also be the difference between Air Force and Marines or Army. I joined the AF and served 6 proud years, to ensure that I would not have to be in the field. But my goal was to serve my country, and I did it proudly. Am I a coward for making that choice? God Bless all our soldiers- past, present and future. SM

Posted by: Stephanie | Mar 6, 2006 5:21:41 PM

I was in the Army Reserve for a time. I assume the Guard works about the same. There are a number of popular misconceptions about the Guard and Reserve. First, the primary purpose of the Guard and Reserve is rapid mobilization in time of war. The peacetime missions are just what they do when there's not a war. Many folks seem to think otherwise, though. Also, participation in the Guard and Reserve works on a point system. You must get 50 points to get credit for a "good year". When I was in, you got 15 points just for being available. Then you needed 35 more earned points. Everyone serves two weeks of active duty for training, that makes 14 points. Weekend warriors get two points per weekend, I believe, (it might be four) bringing the total to 51 points. There really is no "AWOL', just whether you got your 50 points for a good year. Much ado has been made about Bush's "early out" in 1973. However, I noticed in accounts of his record that he logged 36 days of duty from May to July 1973, then served no further, and got his early out in October 1973. Well, 36+15=51, meaning he had his "good year" of 50 participation points for his sixth year and fulfilled his obligated period of service.
Assuming the Guard worked the same way then as the Reserve did when I was in, that's pretty much the end of the subject.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 28, 2006 12:07:32 AM

Bush's missing 5th Year of Service.
There's another factoid missing in discussions of Bush's National Guard service. He enlisted in May 1968. However, he received a commission in September 1968. I'm not exactly sure how the participation point accounting worked with that, but I suspect that the period May to September 1968 was considered one completed year of NG service, and the clock was reset with his commissioning. I know the commissioning date is very important in the military participation point accounting system. I for example served five years as a Reserve officer on active duty, yet got credit for six, because my commissioning date did not coincide with my active duty date. The controversial gap in his service record is May 1972 to May 1973. This assumes the NG was counting from his enlistment date and not his commissioning date. This seems unlikely. Most likely they were counting from September to September after he received a commission. Since he did plenty of time in April 1972 and May 1973, it seems likely the Air Force was counting his time from September to September.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 28, 2006 2:21:50 AM

Last comment and then I'll go away and you'll never hear from me again. I think the basic problem is a lack of understanding by the general public about the military retirement point accounting system as it relates to reserve/national guard service. If you think of it like the Regular military, you will never understand. A year in the Regulars is 365 days. A year in the Reserve/National Guard is 14 days annual duty for training, 15 points for availability, and drills or correspondence courses (yes, you get points just for studying books) adding up to a minimum of 50 points. A six year reserve/national guard commissioned officer obligation entails earning at least 50x6 points in six years, not 365 x 6.

I have done a calculation and have concluded that not only did W fully serve his 6 years, but he will arguably be eligible for a 20 year military reserve/guard retirement when he completes his present term of office. Say what, you say? This is how it would work:

5/28/1968 Enlistment Date
7/14/1968 Basic Training
8/25/1968 Graduation, 42 days active duty
9/04/1968 Commission
9/04/1968 Completes Year 1, 42+15=57 points

11/25/1968 Enters flight school
9/04/1969 Completes Year 2, 283+15+298 points

11/28/1969 Completes flight school
11/29/1969 Goes full-time
6/27/1970 Returns to inactive status, attends monthly drills hereafter

July and August drills, (4 points each)

9/04/1970 Completes year 3, 85+210+15+4=314 points

14 days ADT plus 11 weekends, 44 points

9/04/1971 Completes year 4, 14+44+15=73 points.

4/16/1972 last day attended drills, 8 monthly weekend drills since beginning of the year (32 points)

Accounts sketchy, must have attended 2 week active duty for training (14 points).

9/04/1972 Completes year 5, 14+32+15=61 points

5/73-7/73 36 days active duty

9/04/1973 Completes year 6, 36+15=51

10/1/1973 Honorable Discharge

1/17/1995 Inaugurated Governor of Texas, Commander in Chief, Texas National Guard

9/04/1996 Year 7 230 points

9/4/1997 Year 8 365 points

9/4/1998 Year 9 365 points

9/4/1999 Year 10 365 points

9/4/2000 Year 11 365 points

1/20/2000 Commander in Chief, US Armed Forces

9/4/2001 Year 12, 365 points

9/4/2002 Year 13, 365 points

9/4/2003 Year 14, 365 points

9/4/2004 Year 15, 365 points

1/20/2005 Re-elected

9/4/2005 Year 16, 365 points

9/4/2006 Year 17, 365 points

9/4/2007 Year 18, 365 points

9/4/2008 Year 19, 365 points

1/20/2009 Leaves Office

9/4/2009 Year 20, 138 points.

Eligible for 20 year military retirement.

Total participation points – you add them up.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 28, 2006 4:46:26 AM