“The women who join today’s military aren’t told ‘no’ when they apply to fly fighter jets or attack helicopters just because of their gender,” said Joe Biden on March 8. “We’re making good progress designing body armor that fits women properly, tailoring combat uniforms for women, creating maternity flight suits, updating requirements for their hairstyles.” The Delaware Democrat, 78, passed over a few things he should have known.
Back in the 1990s, the U.S. military was under pressure to train women to fly fighter jets. The prime mover was Colorado Democrat Patricia Schroeder, who launched a campaign of “desexegrating” the military. The wild Tailhook scandal of September, 1991, as a Navy Top Gun pilot told this writer, “gave Schroeder something to hook on.”
After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the restrictions on women flying in combat were soon lifted. With a Democrat Congress eying the military budget, the Navy was desperate to shake the Tailhook stigma by showcasing qualified women pilots. Lieutenants Kara Hultgreen and Carey Lohrenz, pilots A and B, would be trained to fly the F-14 Tomcat, the Navy’s premier fighter.
The F-14 was difficult to handle, and a relatively small percentage of male aviators had the ability to fly it successfully. Designers of the F-14 were unaware that women would ever pilot the aircraft. Concerns for women included helmets, urine collection devices, torso harnesses, survival vests and anti-exposure coveralls.
Lt. Hultgreen was experienced on the EA6B but said flying the F-14 was like “dancing with an elephant.” Pilots must be able to land the F-14 on the heaving deck of an aircraft carrier, day or night, in the space of a few hundred feet. In the Navy’s Tactical Shipboard Training Assessment (TSTA), a critical mistake is known as “down,” and one is often enough to get a pilot rejected. Hultgreen had at least one “down,” and made mistakes that would get most pilots cashiered.
On October 25, 1994, Hultgreen took off from Miramar Naval Air Station near San Diego and flew southwest toward the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. In her approach, Hultgreen swung wide of the centerline and the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) yelled “Wave off!” with increasing urgency, then “Eject!” as the F-14 began to yaw. The fighter rolled so far that the ejection seat drove Hultgreen directly into the ocean. A Navy salvage team found her body in 4,000 feet of water some 90 yards from the aircraft. The first female pilot to fly the F-14 had become the first to die.
The Navy called the crash an accident but according to the official report only one engine malfunctioned. The F-14 can fly and land quite well with one engine, and Hultgreen knew all the procedures before she got in the cockpit.
“Pilot B,” Carey Lohrenz, became pregnant and the Navy grounded her in 1995. According to a 1997 Navy Inspector General’s report, Lohrenz was barred from landing on carriers not because of gender discrimination but because her landings were “inherently unsafe.” The pilot repeatedly ignored counseling from officers who attempted to correct her “extremely dangerous technique.” The Navy allowed Lohrenz to fly land-based aircraft but not the F-14 or other carrier-based planes.
Lohrenz left the Navy in 1999 and now bills herself as “the first female F-14 Tomcat Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy,” not one of the first two. Her website shows an F-14 in flight captioned “Welcome to my office.” Her profile claims “Carey shares the fundamentals that helped her win in the cockpit at Mach 2.” In reality, Lohrenz never flew in actual combat, which is much more demanding than landing on the deck of a carrier.
Aerial combat is a supersonic slugfest that can stretch any pilot beyond the breaking point. Pilots must contend with g-forces that can black them out, hot conditions in the cockpit, and, a well-armed foe trying to kill them.
Biden’s “maternity flight suit” may refer to Lohrenz, and updating helmets for women’s hairstyles challenges the Navy rule that bulky hair can make it difficult to wear headgear and safety equipment such as a gas mask. In politically correct practice, safety takes a back seat to the dogma that men and women are “undifferentiated.” Naval aviation shows otherwise.
The F-14 was retired in 2006, replaced by the F-18 Hornet. Newer aircraft are easier to fly and land but the grueling conditions of aerial combat have not changed. It remains unproven whether any female pilot in any fighter jet would give the United States the best advantage. As George Will has pointed out, sending less than your best in any military situation is like having the second-best poker hand. You have two choices: bluff or fold. That raises questions about Joe Biden, who never served in the military.
Biden was vice president to the composite character David Garrow described in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. On his watch, as Robert Gates explained in Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, commanders who told troops their goal was to defeat their enemies were viewed as insubordinate.
Biden is on record that the Chinese Communists are “not bad folks,” and “not competition for us.” On the other hand, according to recent testimony from Admiral Philip Davidson, head of Indo-Pacific command, China appears to be planning for war.
Like his Democrat handlers, Joe Biden appears convinced that the United States is nothing more than a bastion of racism and white supremacy. By implication, the nation is not worth defending. In a military confrontation with China, Americans have grounds to believe, Joe Biden’s first choice would be to fold.