January 8, 2016
When World War II came to an end, the Russian Army controlled the land east of Germany. The United States, France, and Great Britain (Western Allies) occupied the land west of Germany. Although the Russians and the “West” were uncomfortable allies during the war, the prior years of distrust intensified Russian and Western Allies efforts to strengthen their position in post-war Europe and limit those of their adversary. An early example is that the Russians had initially agreed to leave Germany, but later refused. They built the Berlin Wall to stem the exodus of East Germans and deployed forces to forward positions to increase their leverage. The Americans responded with the Berlin Airlift, and with the support of the French and British implemented the Marshall Plan (aka the European Recovery Plan). Its purpose was to provide economic support to help rebuild European economies to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. The goals were to rebuild war- devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and again make Europe prosperous.
The prospect of further Communist expansion prompted the United States and 11 other Western nations to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). West Germany formally joined NATO in mid-1955. The Warsaw Pact Treaty was signed few days later. Joining the Russians in the alliance were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland and Romania. The Warsaw Pact was very similar to NATO. It was a collective defense treaty among eight communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the regional economic organization for the communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was in large part a Soviet military reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO and Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe. Its creation was especially supported by Eastern Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, who sought security of their unrecognized borders with Germany. This alignment provided the framework for the military standoff that continued throughout the Cold War.
During this 40 year Cold War period the military strategy to stop the expansion of Communism was Containment. It was implemented by forward basing of U.S. Forces at NATO bases that surrounded Russia and Warsaw Pact countries from the north, west and south.
NATO forces conducted recurring military exercises and if any NATO nation was attacked it was viewed as an attack on all.
The challenge was obtaining enough accurate intelligence to determine the buildup of Russian military forces — especially their nuclear forces. This was extremely difficult. since satellites were not yet available. To get what was needed the United States government turned to industry to develop an aircraft to overfly Russia and with the use of cameras and special sensors collect imagery to track the location, numbers and types of aircraft, ballistic missiles and submarines capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The first of these aircraft was the U-2 Dragon Lady. It was subsonic and operated around 70,000+ altitude. It was understood from the very beginning that the U-2 would only be able to do this for about 18 months.
Several overflight missions were flown. The most notable was in the early 1960s. The pilot, Gary Powers, launched from Pakistan. His planned route was to cross Russia to the east of the Ural Mountains where Russia’s long range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles were located. From there he was to proceed to the nuclear submarine base on the northern Russian border and then land in Bodo, Norway. He was shot down.
In development at that time was the next generation aircraft that the Russians feared the most. It was the “Blackbird”. A Mach 3+ (2,200 MPH) aircraft that was able to survive in high threat areas and “find the truth”.
My presentation is about this aircraft, the people that designed and built it, those that kept it in the air, and the very lucky ones that flew these missions.
Brig. Gen. Harold “Buck” Adams began his career as a combat pilot in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam war, where he flew 137 air combat missions. He has over 4000 hours in a variety of aircraft. In 1974, he set the World Speed Record between London and Los Angeles of 3 hours and 47 minutes in the SR-71 Blackbird. Prior to departing the USAF he served in command and other leadership positions at the Squadron, Group and Wing level. As the Dyess AFB Vice Wing Commander and then as the Ellsworth AFB Wing Commander, he led their successful conversion to the new B-1B nuclear strike bomber. He was the Commanding General of Cheyenne Mountain, the nation’s largest nuclear command and control center. He served as the Deputy Director of the Pentagon Joint Staff J-8 office responsible for developing the first integrated Services Budget for the Chairman (General Colin Powell) and Secretary of Defense (The Honorable Richard Cheney). Following his 26-year military career, he joined GTE Spacenet as the Vice President for Engineering and Operations responsible for the successful design, installation and operations of digital communications networks (satellite, cellular, paging) for 45 newly-developed and separate companies in the emerging markets of China, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. For the past several years he has worked with DoD senior leaders and technologists identifying and developing advanced technical capabilities. He is currently involved in efforts to develop a new jet turbine engine that promises to be 25% to 35% more fuel efficient and to significantly increase operational flexibility.
He earned Master’s of Science degrees in Systems Management from the University of California in 1974 and in Public Administration from Auburn in 1975. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1989. He completed the Harvard Senior Executive Program in 1990.