Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
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John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever -- the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than forty seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country's most legendary fighter aircraft -- the F-15 and F-16. Still others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story. Boyd, more than any other person, saved fighter aviation from the predations of the Strategic Air Command. His manual of fighter tactics changed the way every air force in the world flies and fights. He discovered a physical theory that forever altered the way fighter planes were designed. Later in life, he developed a theory of military strategy that has been adopted throughout the world and even applied to business models for maximizing efficiency. And in one of the most startling and unknown stories of modern military history, the Air Force fighter pilot taught the U.S. Marine Corps how to fight war on the ground. His ideas led to America's swift and decisive victory in the Gulf War and foretold the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On a personal level, Boyd rarely met a general he couldn't offend. He was loud, abrasive, and profane. A man of daring, ferocious passion and intractable stubbornness, he was that most American of heroes -- a rebel who cared not for his reputation or fortune but for his country. He was a true patriot, a man who made a career of challenging the shortsighted and self-serving Pentagon bureaucracy. America owes Boyd and his disciples -- the six men known as the "Acolytes" -- a great debt. Robert Coram finally brings to light the remarkable story of a man who polarized all who knew him, but who left a legacy that will influence the military -- and all of America -- for decades to come. ..
snowmobiles ever constructed, one of the most influential briefings ever to come from a military mind. “Patterns” is also an example of how Boyd thought by analogy, a process that Sprey, ever the pragmatist, found extremely unsettling. Reasoning by analogy not only is backward from the way most people think but is dangerous; one misstep, especially in the beginning, and the entire process can go careening off into idiocy. Sprey found it even more unsettling that Boyd was always right. One
exception. Most fighter pilots consider the term “heavy-handed” to be a critical commentary about a pilot’s skills; it is very close to “ham-fisted,” which describes a pilot with no feel for the airplane. But Boyd was heavy-handed in another sense. He was not afraid to muscle the F-100 around. He pushed it to the published limit and then beyond. He had to find out what the airplane would really do, not what the book said it would do. North American was unable to find a cure for the deadly
developing this theory he had begun back at Tech. Every officer who came to him for a housing assignment heard of his work. When Boyd briefed distinguished visitors, he delivered a tumbling cascade of ideas about how to maneuver jet fighters. He waved his arms so vigorously that he pulled his uniform shirt from out of his trousers. Little wonder he was pushed from job to job—each boss thought Boyd was trouble and wanted to move him along to someone else. Eventually he was assigned to maintenance,
suddenly would stop, pull out a scrap of paper, and scratch out an equation or a few notes. The more he talked, the more he understood about what he was trying to do. Each soliloquy was another step toward wherever it was he was going. Boyd was metamorphosing from Forty-Second Boyd into the “Mad Major.” He knew there were enormous holes in his work, glaring inadequacies that he could not resolve. He spent weeks testing an equation only to find in the end it was wrong. At this pace it would take
found MiGs waiting. The legendary Robin Olds, commander of the “Wolfpack”—the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon, Thailand—grew weary with the F-105 mortality rate and came up with the plan for Mission Bolo. Like most great battle plans, it was simple in the extreme: his F-4s would pretend to be F-105s. Their target (via the heart of the infamous Route Pack VI, the deadliest collection of AAA, missiles, and enemy fighters the world has ever known) was the North Vietnamese air base at Phuc Yen.