Thinking About the Unthinkable in Ukraine
What Happens If Putin Goes Nuclear?
AS our war develops in far-flung regions -- Australia, Norway, the Red Sea -- the problem of transportation becomes more and more discouraging in view of the enormous distances involved. So far the attempt to bridge those distances has been made almost entirely by seagoing ships. But they are desperately slow. The high tempo of this ultra-modern war, with its accent on air power, demands the instant stepping-up of air transport. Perhaps this can be achieved more successfully now than in time of peace; because, provided the proper will exists, much more can be done much more quickly under stress of war than under normal conditions.
Little was heard about air shipping and the carriage of cargo by air until the war began. There were certain notable developments in Europe, to be mentioned in a minute; but so far as the American public were concerned, almost the first they heard about the revolutionary importance of air transport was when Germany began her demonstrations in Poland, Holland, Norway, Crete and elsewhere. Details are still somewhat of an enemy secret. But there nevertheless is ample documentation -- photographic and otherwise -- of the tremendously important place that the transport of both troops and supplies by air now holds in the modern German scheme of war.
When whole divisions of German troops were transported by air from Denmark to Oslo it was an historic moment which marked the final eclipse of British sea power as a self-sufficient instrument. What was on the sea -- no matter how preponderant -- made a difference only to what also was on the sea. Sea power could not deny access by air. German airplanes flew unhindered over the Skagerrak with their vitally important cargoes. Crete provided an even more fantastic example of what had happened. There, for the first time, a complete invasion by air was attempted and accomplished. One neutral observer is said to have counted 650 German transport planes in the sky over Crete at one time. In addition to their parachute troops, the Germans made use of another new wrinkle -- gliders. Gliders are the efficient freight cars of the air, because their higher ratio of lift to drag enables them to carry just so much more load for the same horsepower expended in thrust.
The principal type of aircraft used by Germany in these extensive operations was the Junkers JU-52, a trimotored plane designed as long ago as 1930 and already in extensive use throughout the world by 1933. Since its early years, this workhorse of the German Luftwaffe has been changed only slightly; and it is thought to have been constantly in production at the rate of from 20 to 30 planes a week. Since 1937, at any rate, the Germans must have been able to equip themselves with so many thousands of these load-carriers that the loss of a few hundred here or there in crash-landings of troops and cargoes would definitely be a minor casualty. The JU-52 carries three and a half tons of load on short distances. But it provided the Germans with exactly what they wanted -- an air transport fleet of land-type planes with a tremendous carrying capacity at short ranges of from 200 to 500 miles. It was just about the time that the Germans were putting the JU-52 into production that the Ford Motor Company discontinued manufacture of the trimotor cargo-carrying plane which it had been the first to develop. The action was not disapproved in American Army, Navy and civilian aeronautical circles.
In general, Europe on the eve of the war was far ahead of the United States in the carriage of air cargo. This was particularly true of the carriage of all first-class mail by air. Every night at Heston Field, near London, freight cars of the air -- stripped of all seats and passenger paraphernalia -- would be loaded to the doors with cargoes of thousands of pounds of mail for the Continent. The persistence with which the Germans in particular carried on this development is now understandable; and we see now how stupid we all were to have failed to evaluate the future significance of their activity correctly. In this country, the American airlines devoted themselves mainly to expanding passenger traffic. They did this on a scale not equaled by the air transport system of any other country. But we did little to develop the carriage of cargo by air.
Some feel that the growth of cargo transport in the United States has been greatly hampered by the monopoly resulting from exclusive contracts between the airlines and the Railway Express Agency. This subject need not be argued here. We merely note that what happened in other fields of transportation in this country has not been repeated in the case of our system of airways. Most transportation systems have looked to cargo carrying for about 80 percent of their earnings. In the case of our airlines, however, that branch of activity represents only two or three percent of gross earnings. Up to the time of our entry into the war, air-borne cargoes represented only about one and a half percent of the ton-miles of railroad express carried in a normal year.
At first glance this seems perfectly natural because an airplane -- even the largest we have today -- carries so little at each bite. What is overlooked is that it is not the one bite that counts. The volume of cargo delivered in a year is what counts. And here is where the speed of the airplane comes in to alter the picture entirely. While the heavy trailer truck or the heavy freight car or the capacious hold of a ship is being filled with its great cargo, which then goes its slow way over land or sea, the little airplane with its tiny loads is flying up and down repeatedly on the same route. And it can do it so often while the slower means of locomotion does it only once that the tiny cargo of the airplane is multiplied to very considerable totals.
In his report to Congress on "Aircraft and the Merchant Marine," Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy, of the Maritime Commission, recommended in 1937 -- at that time it was a most novel suggestion -- that transoceanic aircraft, e.g., the Clipper flying boats, be designated as vessels. If that definition had been accepted, the Maritime Commission would have been authorized to construct for charter and at government expense, or otherwise to subsidize, a vast fleet of transoceanic aircraft to be used by any shipping companies that were interested and could operate them successfully. This change, many of us felt, would have been no more revolutionary than the change that shipping companies had to make when they left the wooden vessel propelled by sail for the steel vessel propelled by steam, and set out to solve all the new engineering and navigation tasks involved and to train all the new personnel necessary for the successful operation of steamers.
In no spirit of criticism, which would now be useless, but merely as a matter of interest, let us recall that at that time Congress had voted some $300,000,000 to the Maritime Commission for the development of the merchant marine. Chairman Kennedy had indicated that he favored using a substantial portion of this for the development of a merchant marine of the air. At that time there were only five constructors of Clipper flying boats in the United States, and only one of these -- Boeing -- had any orders. The other four -- Martin, Sikorsky, Consolidated and Douglas -- were idle and looking for work. A combination of various forms of opposition, which need not be dwelt on now, as well as a lack of Congressional appreciation of precisely what was involved in the Kennedy recommendation, resulted in its being flatly turned down. As a result, when the war started a couple of years later the United States merchant marine of the air consisted of only eight long-range Clippers -- six Boeings and two old Martins -- with only three additional ones under construction. Had the Maritime Commission's recommendations been adopted, we might well have had over 100 such planes in service by that time. Might not that have meant saving Wake Island?
Meanwhile, the only department of the Government that had given serious consideration to the importance of carrying cargoes by air was the Army. At that time the Army had three big depôts for spare parts, engines and other supplies -- one at Middletown, Pennsylvania, another at San Antonio, Texas, and the third at Sacramento, California. With praiseworthy initiative, the Army proceeded to develop its own system of cargo airplanes connecting these depôts. As a result, while everyone else was asleep, the Army Air Corps by 1940 reached the point where it was carrying more cargo by air than all the airlines of the United States put together. It was only a few weeks ago, however, that the Navy announced the creation of a Naval Air Transport Service to be developed and operated through the regular Navy channels, as a fleet train to the Navy's air fleet, in exactly the same way that the train of familiar supply ships serves the surface fleet itself. This was a significant announcement, perhaps as significant as the one in 1936 by which the Navy made known that the front line of the scouting fleet had been changed -- that destroyers had been withdrawn, and that in their place had been substituted long-range patrol flying boats.
Let us now look at the immediate future, and especially at the problems which face us in this country in prosecuting a war in so many distant arenas. The first thing to be noted is that what we need most in air transport is long range.
The British problem of protecting the British Isles is largely one of short range. The problem of the United States -- viewed from any angle, whether that of fighting, bombing or cargo carrying -- is, on the contrary, one of most ambitious long ranges. At the present time we have many aircraft which will carry sizeable loads for a thousand miles; but for our present purposes this gets us almost nowhere. That sort of plane, for example, would fail to reach Hawaii from California with any sizeable amount of cargo; similarly it would fail to span the important stretch across the Atlantic from Natal, South America, to the shoulder of Africa. It even would fall short of reaching Ireland. Of course we have flown hundreds and hundreds of aircraft across the oceans simply in order to deliver them there. But that is not enough. A bomber that lands in Africa without bombs or anti-aircraft guns or light tanks or food or medical supplies or oil or gasoline has fulfilled only a fraction of its purpose.
This much can be said of the immediate future, however. With the aircraft ranges that we now have, we can supply Puerto Rico and Panama by air very handsomely. We could meet an invasion there by very quickly transporting troops and cargoes by air from our shores, particularly if seaplanes were available rather than landplanes. We also could do a good job in South America. In summer we can get to Newfoundland and from there to Ireland via Greenland. All of these things can be done with aircraft already delivered now. Of course details as to the equipment available are a military secret.
As to the immediate future, we must first consider our two largest present aircraft -- one of which has been successfully flown and the other of which is about to fly. The Douglas B-19, 212 feet in span, weighs 83,000 pounds empty, and has a maximum overloaded weight of 164,000 pounds which it can lift into the air and with which it can then cruise at a speed of nearly 200 m.p.h. and with a range of over 7,000 miles. The Martin flying ship Mars (incidentally it is a ship and not a flying boat because it has more than one deck) is a seaplane with four 2,000 horsepower engines of about the same size as the Douglas B-19. Perhaps it is not quite so fast, but it can carry a little more load because it has no heavy landing gear. Both of these aircraft, which actually were designed several years ago, are experimental. They do not by any means embody the very latest possibilities in load-carrying aircraft. Their wing sections are not of the latest type. They are not equipped with boundary layer control which greatly increases the lift. Nor are they equipped with the latest type of jet-exhaust to increase performance, or other refinements. As they stand before our eyes, then, we know that they are capable of immediate and great improvements. Let us try to imagine what the aircraft of which these are the prototype might be able to do to change the situation in the present war. For this purpose we must brush up our geography and review some shipping statistics.
Our theaters of war, actual and potential -- Australia, Egypt, Japan and others -- lie so far from the United States that our present Navy finds it a terrific job to insure that the requisite number of our freighters get to distant bases with their precious war cargoes across enemy-infested seas. They must get there, too, as rapidly as possible. But that, when one comes to think of it, is pretty slow. For it will take very nearly two months for the average ten-mile-an-hour convoyed freighter to travel the 12,000 miles from one of our east coast ports around the Cape of Good Hope and up the east coast of Africa to the Red Sea and Egypt or the Persian Gulf. And it will take at least thirty days for it to go from our west coast across the vast stretches of the Pacific -- detouring far enough south to avoid the Japanese islands -- and deliver cargoes safely to Sydney, Australia. At a ten-mile-an-hour rate, in other words, these distances are staggering and discouraging. Of course, when loads are carried in some of the new 16-knot freighters, and when these are not convoyed, the time for the voyage can be greatly cut. Australia can be reached in twenty days; the Red Sea can be reached in thirty-five days. But, even under these more optimistic conditions (supposing the speed of the freighters makes it possible for them to disregard the submarine menace), the time involved is still so great that at its present rapid pace the war can change its whole face between the date a ship sets sail and the day it arrives. This is a tremendous disadvantage to us. The only way we can overcome it is to "shrink" the world; and the only way we can do that is to abandon ships and take to the air.
War is a great teacher of geography. In the aircraft field it has taught us the very interesting and important lesson that what might be called our critical range -- the range which would enable us to cover the world by air -- is between 3,900 and 4,300 miles. If we add to this a fifteen to twenty percent allowance for delays due to head winds (which is ample in the case of planes that do 200 to 300 miles per hour), we arrive at 5,000 miles as about the range which would enable us to solve practically all the problems involved in aircraft operations on our little world of 8,000 miles diameter.
The range of about 4,000 miles in itself is most significant. It covers such trips as from Honolulu to Tokyo, from Moscow to Vladivostok, from New York to Berlin, from New York to Freetown, and from Freetown to the Red Sea. And on a Great Circle course the distance from Seattle, Washington, to the north of Scotland is only 4,300 miles. Other important distances in this class are from Southern Alaska to Tokyo, from Vladivostok to Port Darwin, Australia, from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, from Miami to Santiago, Chile, from Colombo, Ceylon, to Moscow, from Colombo to Darwin, and from the Red Sea to Java. Also included is the Great Circle course from New York to Natal, Brazil, and that from Colombo, Ceylon, to Vladivostok. In short, all of the world distances that are going to count as the most important in this new phase of transportation are met inside the 4,300-mile range.
Today we have several aircraft which are capable of carrying -- in fact which already have carried -- sufficient fuel to cover these distances nonstop. We still are merely on the threshold, however, of being able to travel those distances with a useful load. In view of this, let us now compare the load-carrying possibilities of the 160,000 pound aircraft which we have at least in prototype form with what marine shipping is able to do over the same distances. The comparison necessarily is handicapped by the fact that the censor cannot release up-to-date figures and also by the fact that we cannot know how seriously the operations of ships are being delayed by the need for convoying them against submarines. We thus must make our comparison on two bases -- once between aircraft and shipping at the convoy rate of ten-miles-an-hour (8½ knots), and again between aircraft and eighteen-mile-an-hour (16 knots) shipping when not convoyed. In the latter class, of course, fall the latest types of C-2 and C-3 cargo ships of large tonnage and high speed. But probably not many of these have yet been delivered; and even by the time that the new 80-ton aircraft could also be delivered in quantity, these larger ships will still constitute only one-fifth to one-fourth of the merchant fleet on which we will have to rely.
Let us now look at the figures. An average C-1 cargo steamer of 11,000 tons displacement is doing pretty well, after it has been equipped with armament and provisions for a large enough crew, as well as with extra supplies of fuel and of food in case its destination has to be altered in the course of the voyage, if it is able to deliver a cargo of 6,000 tons net. The 12,000-mile trip from New York to the Red Sea at ten-miles-an-hour with a couple of stops on the way will take well over two months; and on top of this we must allow unloading time and refitting time and rest time for the crew, amounting to another week or two. What with additional delays due to the exigencies of convoy assembly and detours, a round trip will actually consume 130 to 140 days. In other words, a freighter will do well under present war conditions to make two and one-half round trips a year over this long route. This means that it will deliver to the Red Sea region 15,000 tons of cargo a year -- a sizeable amount, nevertheless.
Now let us look at the potentialities of our latest flying ship. The figures quoted are derived only from published data. To cruise at a range of 4,000 miles at somewhere near 200 m.p.h., and allowing a margin for head winds and detours, either of our new 80-ton aircraft will require around 40,000 pounds of fuel. Stripped down and redesigned for the carriage of air cargo only, a flying ship of this size will weigh around 75,000 pounds, to which must be added 5,000 pounds additional for the cargo crew of eight or ten men, their supplies; armament for protection, life rafts, etc. The total maximum weight with which a plane of this size would be able to get off the ground is around 160,000 pounds. In other words, we could add 40,000 pounds, or 20 tons, of useful cargo load. This is an optimistic but by no means impossible figure.
With this in mind, let us get back to our 4,000-mile geography lesson. The trip of a plane like the one just described, by the fastest nonstop route over the 4,000 miles from New York to Freetown or Bathurst on the shoulder of Africa, would take 20 hours. With a delay of only a few hours, the flying ship would then proceed for another 20 hours across Africa to the Red Sea. Thus it could arrive there in less than two days. Let us allow a day or so for laying over at a Red Sea airport, and a day or so more for delays due to weather. Taking all this into account, one can reasonably say that a plane of the sort in question could make a round trip a week almost every week in the year. Let us estimate about 50 round trips a year as being possible, a total of about 4,000 flying hours. This is now being done by many planes on various airlines. At this rate -- 50 trips a year, each carrying 20 tons of cargo -- a single plane would deliver 1,000 tons a year in the fastest possible way from the Eastern seaboard of the United States to the Red Sea. In other words, only 15 of these relatively small planes (relatively small, that is, in comparison to an 11,000-ton steamer) could deliver in a year about the same amount of cargo as one average ten-mile-an-hour freighter.
That is the story of the slow freighter. Now for the faster 18-mile-an-hour freighter. This unconvoyed freighter will take from 100 to 110 days for a round trip from our Eastern seaboard to the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf. It thus can be counted on to make three round trips a year with ease. A ship of the C-3 class or of the American Export Line's new Exporter class can carry 7,000 tons of cargo, and will therefore be able to deliver well over 21,000 tons per year. In comparison, a fleet of 21 80-ton planes would be required to deliver the same load. Since we are operating under war conditions, we need not inquire too closely into the cost differences. Obviously, they would be very great. At quantity production rates, an 80-ton plane will cost nearly half a million dollars in a simple cargo version. This means that a fleet of 21 would cost $10,000,000, whereas a C-3 or similar 14,000 or 16,000-ton cargo vessel will cost about $3,000,000. The flying cost is over three times as great as the cost by sea. However, the cargo would get there and get there quickly.
The present aircraft program calls for the construction of over a thousand 20-ton bombers a month, and we are well on the way to delivering this staggering total. Is it too much to envisage a similar production program of 200 cargo aircraft a month? And if it is true that a bomber capable of delivering itself to these distant regions is not of much use without the cargo deliveries that are needed to supply it -- bombs, men, anti-aircraft base protection, gasoline, and all manner of supplies -- if that is true, then do we not perhaps have the cart before the horse, and should we not be building the cargo carriers first? Or ought we not, at any rate, to be building more of them concurrently with a slightly smaller number of bombers?
Now to make one final comparison between fleets of waterborne and air-borne cargo carriers. The Maritime Commission's announced program calls for the construction of a thousand or more ships to be added in the next year or so to the thousand ships we already have. Not much more than 200 of these new ships will be in the large 16-knot class. If we began preparing now to transfer to aircraft half of the job to be performed by this projected fleet -- that is, to do the job of the 100 fast cargo ships -- we would have to undertake to manufacture 2,000 80-ton aircraft. That would represent only about 10 months of production at a considerably lower rate of tonnage production than is now planned in the construction of heavy bombers.
There would be several advantages in this course. To begin with, the submarine menace would be eliminated. Large numbers of naval ships would be released from convoy work for fighting duties. Precious cargoes of materials and men could be delivered at once where needed. Even more important, they could be delivered where needed with the surprise element added.
The flying ship has an advantage over the surface ship in that any good-sized inland lake or large river offers it an ideal haven; many very shallow harbors unfit for surface shipping are ideal lagoons for flying ships. This appears to make the seaplane more practical than the landplane for ocean transport in war. Moreover, landing places on the water are largely invulnerable to bombing damage and also can often be used for night landings and take-offs. Further than this, tremendously large seaplanes totalling several hundred tons in weight can be envisaged with great practicality, whereas a landplane of any such size would at once involve difficulties in landing gear construction as well as in preparing proper landing fields. It is a fact, also, that very large seaplanes will be just as fast as landplanes, just as efficient, and even better load-carriers. This conclusion, which has been arrived at by many experienced constructors, notably Igor Sikorsky and Glenn Martin, is very important, because there is much too much of an inclination at present to feel that large landplanes must be relied on to solve our transportation problems. The present writer joins in holding that such is not the case, and that the large transoceanic cargo-carriers of the future will certainly be seaplanes.
The optimistic picture painted above does not mean that air travel is not subject to obvious limitations. The first, of course, is weather. Our estimate of fifty round trips a year to the Red Sea made due allowance for weather delays. The accomplishment of such a schedule would be possible in many regions only at certain times of the year. In northern climates, weather delays on air transport services obviously might be very great. Ice on wings still presents a serious problem. In the southern and equatorial regions of the world, however, seaplanes are not greatly handicapped by weather; and those seem to be the areas which occupy our attention the most just now. Another obvious limitation on the use of aircraft on any vast scale is that of organization and, above all, the accumulation of enormous stores of gasoline at the terminals of each 4,000-mile run. Then, too, there is always the possibility of interference by enemy fighting aircraft. But landing areas could be protected by fighters against attacking aircraft; nor is a large cargo airplane by any means necessarily helpless. The type described allows quite a sizeable weight for armament for protection against enemy fighters.
It may be argued that it would take two or three years to develop a plan of this character and that by then the war might be over. To which the answer is that if we take these steps now we will insure that the war will end in three or four years instead of perhaps six or eight.
A further criticism is possible. It may be said that the 4,000-mile Red Sea trip is not typical. The fact is, however, that it calls for the longest flying range that need be given any practical consideration. The advantage of a long range with a minimum number of stops is that it minimizes weather delays and cuts down the number of vulnerable points which need protection from enemy attack. The disadvantage obviously is the enormous fuel load which must be carried and which robs the plane of additional cargo capacity. Thus, for example, if we step down our estimate and plan to deliver to the Red Sea area on the basis of a 2,000-mile flying range, we could operate on a route from Miami to Georgetown, British Guiana, thence to Natal, Brazil, thence to Freetown, West Africa, thence to Lake Chad, and thence to the Red Sea. In so doing we would immediately step up the cargo capacity by the difference in fuel required, namely about ten tons. The disadvantage, of course, is that we also increase the length of the trip from 8,000 to 10,000 miles and, due to the larger number of stops, we take a day or two longer in making the trip and cut the yearly number of round trips to forty instead of fifty. Even so, however, a greater load would probably be delivered per plane per year than we estimated at the longer range. In the Pacific, a slightly larger range, say 2,600 miles, would enable a plane to carry 27 tons of load instead of 20 from San Francisco to Honolulu, thence to Samoa, and thence to Sydney. In this way deliveries could be made in a day and a half or two days, with a flying range now easily attained, over a route which steamers now take from 20 to 30 days to cover, depending on how fast they are and whether or not they are convoyed.
Let us now look further into the future. How near are we to the time when it will be possible to build an aircraft that will carry as much cargo in a year as can be carried in that same period by a 15,000-ton freighter? The reader will remember that a freighter making three trips to the Red Sea (a fairly generally applicable example) carries 21,000 tons of cargo in a year.
The writer considers that the largest aircraft that now seems practicable would be something as follows. It would have 12 engines of 3,000 horsepower (such engines are already designed; the DOX flew with 12 engines over 10 years ago). Loaded at 25 pounds to the horsepower (only slightly more than currently used in load-carrying aircraft, and easily attainable with wing section improvement), this 36,000 horsepower plane will take into the air a total of 900,000 pounds, or 450 tons. At a loading of 50 pounds per square foot, the wing area would need to be 18,000 square feet, meaning a span of about 380 feet (the span of the Douglas B-19 is already 210 feet). The cruising speed needed will be 300 m.p.h. (the new Lockheed Constellation, which will shortly go into the air, is to cruise at 290 m.p.h.). Such a giant 12-motored craft would be able to travel from New York to the African coast and from there to Egypt, or from Newfoundland to Moscow, or from Vladivostok to Java, in 14 hours. It would weigh 430,000 pounds empty. It would require 120,000 pounds in fuel and crew weight. And its load-carrying capacity would be somewhere around 350,000 pounds, or 175 tons. It would be able to do the two 4,000-mile hops to the Red Sea region in 14 hours each; and allowing for weather delays, and with a day extra for servicing, it would be able to make something like 70 round trips a year. Carrying 175 tons each trip, this hypothetical "giant" aircraft would thus deliver approximately 12,000 tons a year -- over 50 percent of the load of a very large and fast freighter. It would take only two such aircraft to outmatch the performance of the most modern seagoing cargo carrier.
Just now we are preoccupied with the question of how to supply Chungking by air. Obviously, land planes can go to Chungking from Siberia, or from Allied bases in Iran, such as Basra, although the latter route goes over the most difficult kind of flying terrain -- the top of the world -- the mountains of Tibet. Another route for landplanes to Chungking is from Seattle to Alaska, thence to Kamchatka, thence to Central Siberia, and then a jump over Mongolia. It would be difficult, however, to provide gasoline supplies at fields in the interior. Long-range seaplanes, however, might utilize the Yangtze River in the region under Chinese domination. A safer long-range approach, however, is by way of the shoulder of Africa, and thence across that continent to the Red Sea bases in the Red Sea area. From there it is only a 2,000-mile hop to Bombay; and from Bombay only a 2,300-mile hop to Chungking.
In studying these approaches to Chungking we should compare the cargo capacities of the aircraft in question with the loads which have been carried over the Burma Road in motor trucks; also the time that it would take for them to make the whole trip to Chungking with the time it takes for the trucks to traverse the Burma Road plus the time that it takes ships to deliver American goods to Burma. When we do this, we find that the carriage of cargoes by aircraft has such an outstanding advantage that we ought to use it whether the Burma Road is open or not.
The papers reported recently that $984,000,000 had been voted by Congress for the use of the Maritime Commission in building a fleet of cargo vessels. Not a cent of it was to construct air freighters. American shipyards are feverishly building ships. In view of the rapid progress being made in the air, many of them may prove obsolete by the time they are finished. It might be better if some of these yards were to be shifted over to assist the aircraft industry in building parts of flying ships, just as the automobile industry is assisting in building smaller land airplanes.
It will be asked how we can undertake to build a great fleet of carrier planes when our building capacity for other types of planes, surface ships, etc., is already taxed to the utmost. The answer is, first, that part of our present capacity could well be diverted to making carrier planes. Thus the Curtiss-Wright Corporation has just announced [i] that it is changing some of its earlier plans for tooling and production, and is beginning construction of the Army's new cargo plane. This plane, known as the Curtiss C-46, will be capable of carrying infantry, light artillery, and even jeeps for long distances and at high speeds. Assuming the larger cargo planes will be seaplanes, their hulls could be made of wood, and these can be built in shipyards where wooden ships are constructed. Modern plastics are such good preservatives that wooden hulls are now quite feasible. Or the hulls might be built of welded steel, and thus be constructed in any well-equipped steel factory. For with ships the size of the Mars, the extra weight of steel over aluminum is not so important as in smaller craft.
We shall soon be producing the B-17 flying fortress at a rate which even a few months ago would have seemed fantastic. But is it wise to produce such planes without their necessary air train? At the present time a B-17 has a range in excess of 3,000 miles. At such distance it can just deliver itself -- but no load. What is the purpose of getting the plane there in hours when it must wait weeks, sometimes as much as two months, for its bombs to follow by surface ships?
The generals and admirals of 1926 were convinced that General Mitchell was a visionary. They were fatally mistaken. Actual developments in the air quickly surpassed what had seemed to be his extravagant predictions. Today the same thing is happening in the carriage of cargo by air that happened in the case of combat in the air. Command of the air is not in itself enough for the United States. We also must aim at the command of transportation. For this it is not sufficient to have cargo ships on the sea; we must also have cargo ships over the sea.
[i] New York Times, February 22, 1942.