Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va), student of war

Rockefeller said he believes either Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton “would be good presidents for West Virginia.”

…Rockefeller believes McCain has become insensitive to many human issues. “McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit.

“What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground? He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues.”

— Paul J. Nyden, “Jay defends endorsement of Sen. Obama”.  The Charleston Gazette, April 8th, 2008.

With respect, Senator Rockefeller, you are mistaken on several points.

First, then-Lieutenant Commander John McCain was shot down over Hanoi on October 26th, 1967.  While Paveway I LGBs had been in development since 1964, they were not used operationally in Vietnam until 1968.  Thus LCDR McCain had no opportunity to drop LGBs during his Vietnam service.

Second, A-4E tactics of the time would necessitate releasing non-precision ordnance a lot lower than 35,000 feet, if you wanted to have any hope of actually striking the primary target.  In non-permissive airspace that would be a difficult proposition regardless of altitude.  John McCain’s own recollection of events places him in a diving attitude over Hanoi, passing 4,500 feet when the SAM took out his ride.

Third, one does not “drop” missiles.  Missiles have active propulsion, they are launched off the rail with their powerplant producing thrust.  See high-speed video clips here.  Bombs (guided or unguided) are dropped, with no propulsion beyond the speed of the launching platform, their own inertia, and gravity.

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