Episode 10 – Hanging out with Unexploded Ordnance, Saddam’s Bunkers and Me: Experiences of a Fighter Pilot

Episode Summary

Mitchell Institute’s Aerospace Advantage takes you to the flight line and beyond in Episode 10 Hanging out with Unexploded Ordnance, Saddam’s Bunkers and Me: Experiences of a Fighter Pilot. When we think about military pilots, we almost always envision them in the cockpit. However, whether helping establish requirements for new aircraft, designing fresh operational concepts, or developing attack plans, the Air Force needs folks who are first-hand operational experts. Thus, pilots find themselves rotating through the Pentagon and other associated functions in-between their flying assignments. This podcast explores one such experience through the eyes of Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker, currently serving as the Vice Commander of 12th Air Force. A fighter pilot by trade and having just finished a tour as a Weapons School Instructor, General Baker found himself helping to build the Operation Iraqi Freedom air campaign. Subsequently, he was deployed to Iraq and executed after-action inspections at his recently targeted sites. Tune in to hear his stories and how he found himself hanging from the ceiling of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces next to an unexploded bomb!

Full Topic Guide

In Episode 10 of the Aerospace Advantage host John “Slick” Baum dives into the story of Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker, a fighter pilot who helped build the Operation Iraqi Freedom air campaign, and put boots on the ground to conduct after-action reports on his targeted sites. This episode is about his story, and his experience from the planning center to Saddam’s palace.

In late 2002, the U.S. military prepared to take offensive measure against Iraq. As part of war campaign, Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker, found himself as point man in bringing the JDAM GPD guided munition capability onto F-16s. With his background in weapons systems, he was the one of the critical people targeting Iraqi centers of gravity and assessing the damage of the new weapons systems. Bluto led the effort in ensuring that the new bombs were executing their missions successfully, and this was not always safe. It meant strapping on a rappelling rope and diving into blown out bunkers, sometimes to find unexploded ordinance waiting at the bottom of the rope!

The Aerospace Advantage is not just about concepts and technology, it is about hearing from the men that put these ideas into practice. New weapons systems are great, but we need to get them into the hands of operators for practice and to ensure that they are achieving the desired effect. Much like Bluto’s missions in Iraq, whether planning in D.C. or conducting field missions, even doing both, our airmen are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Join Slick in future episodes as we hear the stories of airmen and the incredible missions that they undertake to push our Aerospace Advantage.

Time Marks

2:08 – Baum lays down the historic framework of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Northern and Southern no-fly zones in Iraq

3:31 – Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker joins the show to describe both what hard and deeply buried targets are, and how they are critical to the modern war effort

10:10 – Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker describes the role of different agencies in targeting hard and buried targets

14:55 – Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker tells his experiences collecting Battle Damage Assessments, or BDAs

21:45 – Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker explains the “Project 2000” target in Iraq

29:51 – Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker offers his lessons learned from his experiences for our future military leaders


Host: Lt Col John “Slick” Baum, USAF, ret.

Producer: Daniel C. Rice

Executive Producer: Douglas Birkey

Guest: Brig Gen Craig “Bluto” Baker, USAF

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