11 May 1963: ANSER and the Vietnam Era
Working for the Air Force primarily by dealing with the Service’s major weapon systems meant that ANSER was certain to wield an analytic hand in any war in which the United States called on the Air Force to play a part. By 1963 the Air Force had a definitive role in the Nation’s increasing effort in Southeast Asia, in the conflict between the Viet Cong and South Vietnam. ANSER, in turn, had a relatively small but diverse role to play in what had become the Vietnam War. Although the role overall would go on for years, it presented a unique task in 1963.
The manned tactical fighter was one example of ANSER’s diverse analyses that bore on U.S. capability in Vietnam. The aircraft had become so important a subject by that time that some aspect of it occupied three of ANSER’s five branches of study: The Defense Branch examined the topic of “Aircraft Identification,” the Tactical Branch reviewed the “Air Force Role in Close Air Support,” and the Strategic Branch studied “Manned Aircraft,” to name a few of the aircraft-related studies.
Technology onboard aircraft was another example of ANSER’s analyses conducted in the context of the Vietnam War, this one taken on in 1969. A fundamental problem in the detection by airborne radar of airborne targets then was the obscuring of the targets by radar returns from the earth (i.e., “clutter”). The problem of detecting low-flying aircraft (“look-down problem”) and the subsequent problem of shooting down hostile aircraft against an earth background (“shoot-down problem”) had both been encountered in air combat in Southeast Asia.
ANSER analyzed several tactical aircraft missions to provide data on the “minimum acceptable” look-down capability in future tactical fighters in terms of range and look angle. For the purposes of this study, ANSER examined a variant of the F-4 fighter aircraft and a certain fighter aircraft dubbed the “F-X”—what would soon become the F-15. Technology had by then advanced to the point that it appeared feasible to design airborne radar that would be able to do what ANSER analysts were reporting that it needed to do.
In the scope of the years that ANSER spent analytically supporting the Air Force’s role in Southeast Asia, there came an opportunity in 1963 that was quite unlike anything ANSER had yet done—or has done since. The Air Force Operations Analysis Office sent one of ANSER’s aeronautical engineers, William Schlegel, on a three-month assignment to Saigon as an operations analysis consultant. The assignment proved doubly unique for the company: ANSER President Dr. Stanley Lawwill accompanied Mr. Schlegel in order to, as the Board of Trustees noted in their minutes that year, “assist with introductions and initiate the work and gain a better appreciation of theatre problems.”
ANSER had taken its analyses from the desk to the battlefield and done so, literally, with real leadership.