Col. John Boyd (1927-1997) was an outstanding USAF Fighter Pilot whose visions and perseverance lead him to develop advanced and innovative air to air combat tactics and the Energy-Maneuverability theory that changed the air combat and the way fighter jets are designed forever. Col. Boyd is also the father of the O-O-D-A loop whose concept is nowadays widely used in the business world. Based on Robert Coram's excellent biography "Boyd The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War", it's been possible to plot Col. Boyd's track...
The geotour starts at Strong Vincent High School
In September 1939, John Boyd entered junior high at Strong Vincent High School where he demonstrated he was particularly gifted at maths and where he entered the swimming club. Strong Vincent High School's swimmers where known for their strong characters and they will to succeed at whatever they did. On Oct. 30 1944, John Boyd enlisted in the Army Air Corps. [more info
Elsie Boyd, John's mother, used to drive her children to The Peninsula where John learned to swim. As a matter of fact he became such an outstanding swimmer that from his teenage years up he would be systematically picked up as lifeguard every summertime. The Peninsula is a natural bounty which comprises eleven beaches, wild spots, wetlands and walking trails that attracts thousands of people every summer. [more info
After basic training he was ordered at Lowry Field to be trained as a mechanic for aircraft turrets. But with the end of WW2 that summer there was no longer a need for that specialty. From there he went to a staging area in Arizona.
Because of the swimming, John Boyd picked the University Of Iowa where he had to compete against Wally Ris who won Olympic gold medal in 1948. Having signed for AFROTC at the beginning of his junior year, he clearly knew he wanted to become a Fighter Pilot. In June 1951 he graduated in economics and was commissionned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force.
Class 52-F arrived at Williams Air Force Base in April 1952. There Boyd began his jet training the F-80 Shooting Star and 'had to bend the shit out of that airplane' as he would say later during his Oral History Interview. [more info
There he remained 6 months as member of Flight Training class 52-F. He quickly went through basic maneuvering, soloed and finally mastered the T-6. [more info
There was the home where John Boyd lived since he was child until he went to college with his mother, his sister and his brother. Due to his profession, his father was often on the road and passed away when Boyd was just three years old.
After reporting for duty on April 6, 1945, he applied there he went for basic training and having applied for the aviation cadet programme he was rejected because of 'low aptitude'.
Having been assigned to the 8th Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, John Boyd arrived to Yokota AB on January 3, 1946 where his military records show he became a swimming instructor spending his time around indoor heated pools and participating in swim meets around Japan. Not a lot is known about Boyd's short service as an enlisted man. He was discharged on January 7, 1947, a couple of weeks before his 20th birthday.
2nd Lt John Boyd was ordered to Kirtland AFB, where there was a need for an assistant secretary, until the next flight training class opened. One month later he left for the 3301 Training Squadron at Columbus AFB.
The Mecca of the Fighter Pilots. Boyd reported for duty for the first time at Nellis AFB on September 13, 1952, for Combat Training in the F-86 Sabre. At Nellis Fighter Pilots were already pushing the jet beyond the enveloppe, to bend the shit outta it, whithin the concept that the more you bleed in peacetime, the less you bleed in war, and Korea was there as well. However, for Boyd, there was more to ACA than bending the jet and pulling high Gs. In his mind, ideas on aerial tactics were already beginning to emerge. Anyhow, at that time Boyd began defeating instructors including Korea combat veterans. In December, after eight hours of intensive 'applied tactics', Boyd was ready for Korea. Nellis instructors advice couldn't be any simpler: 'Stay inside. Hose him down.' After Korea, Boyd was ordered to Nellis where he reported on April 20, 1954, as a First Lieutenant, to leave it six years later as a Major. From student he became instructor immediately after his graduaction from Advanced Flying School on summer of 1954 and then head of the Academics, once he completed the four months Squadron Officers School at Maxwell Field in 1957. Student, instructor or director of Academics, Boyd, aka Forty Seconds Boyd in the late 50s, still remained a Fighter Pilot above all and as such he always put very strong emphasis on Aerial Tactics or tweaking aerial tactics as he used to say, to such extent that in 1960 he had developped a 150 pages manual he called 'Aerial Attack Study', for which he received a Legion of Merit, and that became the Air Force's official tactics manual for fighter aircraft. [more info
In 1933 John Boyd entered Harding Elementary School where he failed the first grade because he didn't know how to cencentrate according to his teachers. However the following year and so on, Boyd demonstrated great concentration skills. In his third grade, John started on showing deep interest in aviation. He was always one of the first students to finish his class work and was spending the remaining time drawing aircrafts. According to one of his classmates, it wasn't the airplanes of back then, but futuristic monoplanes with pretty neat lines!
On March 27, 1953, Boyd and other first lieutenants, arrived at Suwon AB aka K-13, home of the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Group whose job was to establish air supremacy. The new arrivants, aka the smokes, were immediately taken to Clobber College in order to learn Rules Of Engagement and being tested by veterans. A veteran would check for how long a smoke could wax his tail and then he would wax the smoke's tail and see if the smoke could shake him. The tactics used by F-86 vets were essentially the same that used by P-51 pilots in WW2. In thatv 'little' excersise, Boyd simply remained in the six of the veteran, locked him and acquired a firing solution. And when positions were reversed, Boyd managed to place his aircraft in the vet's six so the veteran became the target. On June 30, 1953, Boyd was officially credited with damaging a Mig 15. During his time in Korea his ideas on aerial tactics became clearer and other feloow pilots were eager to hear them.
He February 1957, John Boyd was promoted to captain and a few months later was ordered to Maxwell AFB for the four month Squadron Officers School.
John Boyd began classes at Georgia Tech on September 14, 1960 as part of the Air Force Institute Of Technology Program he applied to when he was based at Nellis. There he had his breakthrough while studying thermodynamics. Everything became suddenly clear in his mind: air combat maneuvering in terms of transformation of energy. Energy is what enables a pilot to outmaneuver another aircraft in a dogfight trading potential energy for kinetic energy in a dive, for instance, when he needs it and vice-versa. Boyd graduated in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1962. He was promoted to major soon afterward. [more info
In April 1961, Boyd bought a house at Doraville about a half hour drive from Georgia Institute of Technology, which he put up for sale after his graduation and sold in February 1963. That was the only house he ever owned.
In summer 1962, Major Boyd moved to Eglin AFB where he was initially bounced from job to job. There he met a civilian called Tom Christie assigned to the Ballistics Division, who had a MD in Applied Mathematics from New York University and who had access to Eglin's computers. Christie assisted Boyd in translating Boyd's theory in mathematical equations which they finally reduced to a very basic expression, so simple that it is beautiful: perfect. Basically it clearly establishes a relation between the specific energy rate of any aircraft at any flying regime, its thrust, its drag, its weight and its velocity. The equation establishes that the available specific energy rate of an aircraft equals its thrust minus its drag over weight multiplied by its velocity: beautiful! Boyd decided to call his theory the 'Energy Maneuverability Theory'. [more info
From Mon 15 Jun/64 To Wed 15 Apr/64, On June 1964, Boyd gave an important briefing at Langley AFB and definitively won the Air Force over his E-M Theory.
On September the 8 1966, Boyd joined The Pentagon. The first assignment given to him concerned the F-X Project. When his superior asked him about the initial report on the design studies, a smiling Boyd simply tapped his forefinger against his temple and said later "I've never designed a fighter plane before. But I could fuck up and do better than that." Well, his work on the F-X Project lead to the F-15... At The Pentagon Boyd would form the Fighter Mafia along with Pierre Sprey, the father of the A-10, and Col. Everest Riccioni. After his assignment at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai, Boyd returned to The Pentagon on April 1973 as Director Of The Office of Development Plans and still worked on the Lightweight Fighter started by the Fighter Mafia and which wuld lead to the F-16. On August the 31 1975, after 24 years of services Boyd retires from the Air Force. However he would come back once and a while as a consultant at the Tactical Air Program which was taken over by Tom Christie since 1973.
From Sun 23 Oct/66 To Mon 05 Dec/88, Boyd, his wife and their children spent 22 years in a three bedroom apartment at 4930 Beauregard St in Alexandria since October 1966.
From Mon 04 Aug/69 To Fri 31 Dec/71, Boyd was transfered from The Pentagon to Andrews AFB on August 1969. The he was assigned to Systems Command Headquarters where he monitored the work of the F-15 Program Manager at Wright Patterson AFB.
From Mon 03 Apr/72 To Mon 02 Apr/73, From April 1972 to April 1973, Boyd was dispatched to NKP where he was Base Commander.
On January 1980, Boyd gave a briefing on Patterns Of Conflict which was initially scheduled for 5 hours but extended to 8. That's where a strong bond between Boyd and the US Marine Corps started. [more info
Boyd also gave briefings on Patterns Of Conflict at Camp Lejeune, which was a "microcosm of maneuver warfare". [more info
In late 1988, Boyd and his family moved to a two bedroom apartment at Delray Beach.
From Sat 08 Mar/97 (17:00 - 12:00), On March the 8 1997 at 17:00, Boyd died at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Col. John Boyd of the US Air Force was buried at Arlington National Cemetry on March 20 1997.