Dismissing Tom Clancy’s Fanboy Generals In the USAF

In his foreword to Tom Clancy’s book Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing, updated in 2004, a retired USAF general named John M. Loh writes: “This book chronicles the creation of a command with a unique culture – the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command. It possesses the leadership, the combat power, and the highly trained, competent people to provide the world’s best combat air forces anywhere in the world, at any time, to win quickly, decisively, with overwhelming advantage and few casualties. Tom Clancy does a masterful job of telling us all about it. I am proud to have served as the first commander of Air Combat Command, and proud to commend this book to your reading pleasure.” (Location 226)

Not only does the general validate Clancy’s outrageous claims about USAF pilots being the finest in the world, as one would expect from those who have both been thoroughly indoctrinated in the myth of American aerial supremacy, it just shows that the USAF liked Clancy because he published propaganda books that served their interests.

For those who have followed my writing career as a military reformer, you know that Tom Clancy sticks in my craw, and I am always keen to rebut his arguments, which never contain footnotes, or any documentation other than the words of defense contractors.

Although Clancy is no longer with us, General Loh still is, and I would like to offer the following news to him and other Clancy fanboys and ask them to possibly reconsider their bragging. In previous articles and my book I have argued that smaller air forces, such as the Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force have outstanding reputations, with pilot selection and training standards that are higher than the USAF.

To give just one example, consider Exercise Combat Hammer at Elgin Air Force Base in 2010. In this exercise, Canadian CF-18 pilots flew against USAF F-15s and F-16s, and they thoroughly outperformed the Americans, despite using an older but recently upgraded fighter. In an article on the Canadian Air Force website, sadly no longer online, titled “CF-18s get perfect ‘hit’ score on Ex Combat Hammer” (published Nov 15, 2010) the author says “Exercise Combat Hammer evaluates a tactical fighter squadron’s ability to execute air-to-ground operations; in other words, to prove weapons effects from initial build-up to final impact against both moving and static targets”.

In the end, the Canadian 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron cleaned up. “The squadron was evaluated by American and Canadian experts. Once the dust settled and the scores were tallied, 409 TFS had outstanding results: of 18 laser-guided bombs dropped, all 18 hit the desired target for a 100 per cent score. Not only were the results a source of pride within the squadron, the 86th [Fighter Weapons Squadron, USAF] recognized the score as a new evaluation record. 409 TFS is the only unit (American or foreign) to achieve 100 per cent hits against moving targets at a Combat Hammer since the exercise started in the mid-1980s.”

This little example just goes to show that US militarism and hubris are not well grounded in fact. Back in 2010, the USAF ate humble pie, and it was not the first time, nor will it be the last. Let’s hope that the USAF will improve pilot training because it is sorely lacking these days, and war with Russia or China may just be around the corner. Furthermore, although Loh’s words were written decades ago, the fact is that many people, especially in the US, still believe this nonsense. I maintain that his promises of quick and easy victories by the USAF are misleading, dangerous, and must be challenged, especially now.


  • Tom Clancy; John Gresham. Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing (Tom Clancy’s Military Reference Book 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  • 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron. “CF-18s get perfect ‘hit’ score on Ex Combat Hammer” November 15, 2010, Canadian Air Force News website.

Roger Thompson is a research fellow at Dalhousie University’s Centre for the Study of Security and Development, the author of Lessons Not Learned: The US Navy’s Status Quo Culture, and a former researcher at Canada’s National Defence Headquarters.

8 thoughts on “Dismissing Tom Clancy’s Fanboy Generals In the USAF”

  1. Tom Clancy was a whore for the defense industry and the national intelligence apparatus. Period. He made huge sums of money for himself by prostituting his literary efforts into writing basically whatever his clients wanted him to write. He even wrote an entire book extolling the incredible military skill and leadership abilities of the mediocre, passive, indecisive, and browbeaten Herman Franks, the incompetent commander of VII Corps in Desert Storm. While after action report after after action report criticized little one foot herman for his passivity and inactivity, and his direct failure to accomplish his mission (the destruction of the republican guard) Clancy practically performs hero-worship oral sex on the little man.

    1. Carpet bombing of 'Nam was not bravery. Strafing and bombing the Iraqi convoy retreating in the first Gulf War was not bravery. Israel is a good student. Three "operations" executing what we did showed that. Cast Lead. Protective Edge (during which, 546 Palestinians children were killed), now the current "operation".

  2. Fascinating that anyone would give serial failures from the Pentagon a platform. They lost and lost and lost and lost every single war for the last 70 years – excepting Grenada.

    1. A great movie came out of that. Heartbreak Ridge. Wow! Such command of military muscle! Reagan said we had finally kicked the Vietnam loss into history. Makes us proud! Wow! We kicked Grenada's butt! Wow! /s

  3. I wish more people would read books with the opposite point of view that the late Tom Clancy had. He wrote books like Rainbow Six glorifying the Gulf War and painting the troops as heroes.
    The Gulf War was no more necessary than the Iraq War, Afghan War nor other wars no matter what so many people believe.
    The war was about appeasing Israel and controlling the world's oil supply. After the Gulf War ended and long before the Iraq War started, the US and the UK bombed Iraq from the No Fly Zones and destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and had the UN impose sanctions against Iraq which led to thousands of people starving. The UN's Oil For Food Program restricted the amount of food Iraq could get.

    1. Bill Clinton killed 500,000 Iraqi children through his sanctions. Madeline Albright said it was "worth it". Where the flying f*ck do we get people in high places who are like those two? We keep cranking them out.

      1. Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright were no better than GHW Bush. Both Administrations bombed the hell out of Iraq and let the people starve due to sanctions. Bush bombed Panama in his search for Noriega and Clinton bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and was involved in a secret war in Somalia.
        So many people say GHW was much better than W for not overthrowing Hussein.

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