Battleland

Senate Shoots Down Wayward Navy Pilot’s Promotion to Admiral

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Lieutenant Timothy Dorsey was flying an F-14 Tomcat - the plane made famous in "Top Gun" - when he shot down an Air Force warplane in 1987.

It appears the Navy’s nomination of a one-time F-14 pilot who deliberately shot down a U.S. Air Force plane 25 years ago won’t make admiral, as the Navy had recommended. The peacetime downing of an Air Force F-4 over the Mediterranean Sea led to one of the most fascinating stories in Battleland’s career.

The disturbing case of Lieutenant Timothy Dorsey’s promotion came to a close with the end of the 112th Congress last week. Because the Senate Armed Services Committee had not acted on the Navy’s promotion recommendation before the 112th became history, the Navy would have to resubmit the nomination to the 113th Congress.

Fat chance that will happen. According to Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times, the Navy neglected to tell Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the infamous blot on Dorsey’s career before Panetta forwarded the Navy’s recommendation that he be promoted to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Navy banned Dorsey from flying after he downed the Air Force warplane. So he became an intelligence officer and moved steadily through the reserve ranks.

Apparently, downing one of your own airplanes makes you well-suited for military intelligence work.

15 comments
MichaelPacheco
MichaelPacheco

Perfect example of a misleading article. Many pilots lose there right to fly due to training accidents. If it had been "Deliberate" in the way the wording suggests he would have been prosecuted under the UCMJ. Many training accidents have complicated scenarios, and this was one of them. And of course the last sentence "Apparently, downing one of your own airplanes makes you well-suited for military intelligence work." Shows a strange lack of understanding of how the military works, given the background of the author. An officer often has hundred of thousands of dollars in training invested in them, as well as a military commitment. I worked with an officer who was reassigned to military intelligence work in the Air Force due to a training accident that involved the lose of a plane. Tragic as it was, he was a fine officer and well suited to the new assignment. In the end, I don't disagree with the outcome - though many a fine officers careers can end or be limited by things beyond their control. It truly is an environment of absolute responsibility, something that is clearly remote from this journalist own lifestyle.

K_Saraa
K_Saraa

I read the original 1988 story in the Chicago Tribune, that makes it sound completely different than what really happened that I remember, having been stationed on a nearby island and tasked with SAR aid. They made it sound like the RF-4C was part of a Navy exercise, and near the Saratoga Battle Group, but that RF-4C crossed the adriatic at that same point back and forth every week for several years. The USAF would NEVER have agreed to play live-fire exercise with the Navy back then. The Navy and Air Force airmen shared flights out of Helenikon Air Base in Athens back then, but it was one of the only "joint" efforts I heard of in the 1980's and was the result of Mo'ammar Qaddafi's $million dead-or-alive bounty for individual US Marines following Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

K_Saraa
K_Saraa

If I recall, Dorsey's Phoenix missile shot that downed that USAF RF-4, was one of the longest recorded air-to-air missile shots in history, over a hundred miles away, made possible by the superbly strong acquisition radar on the F-14.  Good to be an admiral's son, and get a free get-outta-jail-pass, and great to be Navy downing Air Force. The RF-4 made that same flight every week of the year, so it wasn't unusual, nor was it threatening the fleet or even remotely near aircraft or the fleet, nor was it in a hostile airspace or near a war zone. I doubt if the RF-4 was using active radar-warning equipment, or had it turned on. As evidenced by the failure of the Navy to inform decision-makers on Dorsey's history during the promotion procedure, the arrogance of senior Navy leaders hasn't changed much in the past 25 years.

TrajanSaldana
TrajanSaldana

the US Senate judging who is or is not fit to be a flag officer...now THAT is comedy

mladenm
mladenm

Is "being daft" enough to disqualify you from flag rank? Apparently not... Having superior plane, he should have done everything short of actually launching missile (taking him in cross-hair of rockets and sending him radar's Ping of Death), and then catch it up and take in cross-hair of good old fashion guns...

hivemaster
hivemaster

Flag rank is a very exclusive club for the "best of the best".  You can even be denied for a DUI.  I hardly think that a Navy pilot who shot down a brother American serviceman should ever have that honor, even if the error  was 25 years ago.

waysav@gmail.com
waysav@gmail.com

"I don't see what the hell the SASC has to do with it."

Quite a lot, actually, because the U.S. Constitution requires the Senate's consent before the president can appoint high-ranking government officers, including military officers. (Just another example of the "balance of powers" established between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.)

From a 1999 memorandum prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice:

Article II of the Constitution provides that, except as to certain inferior officers, the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . all . . . Officers of the United States" and that the President "shall Commission all the Officers of the United States." U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 2 & § 3. The Constitution thus calls for three steps before a presidential appointment is complete: first, the President's submission of a nomination to the Senate; second, the Senate's advice and consent; third, the President's appointment of the officer, evidenced by the signing of the commission.

quadibloc
quadibloc

According to what I read about this past incident, he misunderstood an order he was given. It could be that someone else was really at fault for this. Otherwise, if it weren't for the evidence suggesting this was a horrible accidental mixup, he should be doing time for attempted murder.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

I say "good".  Watch the 60 minutes segment on this story.  Dorsey never even apologized until recently.  He blew up an expensive piece of equipment and showed horrible decision making at that point.  Hardly a guy I'd want to fly with.  I don't agree with CG below, I doubt it was a laughing matter and I'm surprised he wasn't discharged shortly after the incident.  If they were celebrating over drinks then the whole lot should go.  Ask why we have no class anymore, why do we have so many incidents of military people doing bad things.   Perhaps he is good at what he does now, but making him an Admiral would be awful.  He might be good enough to stay with the service, but not to be a leader.  What kind of message does it send?  I do believe in forgiveness, but that does not mean you promote them.

whisky87proof
whisky87proof

Why would his promotion be "disturbing"? dude made a bad call 25 years ago as a Lt. that says nothing about his ability to good decisions in the present.

hivemaster
hivemaster

@notLostInSpace I agree.  He was "forgiven" already by being allowed to continue his career to retirement rank and age.  Guys who have done much less have been summarily cashiered out of the service.

MichelleTafoya
MichelleTafoya

He should have apologized to the person he maimed for life.  I agree with you wholeheartedly, not Admiral material.  There are plenty of others, I assume, who are more worthy of the rank of Admiral.  

NoManIsAnIsland
NoManIsAnIsland

@notLostInSpace 

Three cheers for you and your sensible post and a loud Bronx cheer for the inane comments of whisky87proof and CG!

hivemaster
hivemaster

@whisky87proof Actually, it does.  Bad judgement at any time in your military career can get effectively stop you from ever getting promoted again, top you at a certain rank, get you discharged immediately, or get you courtmartialed.

CG
CG

@whisky87proof  I agree. Moving through the Navy Reserve Ranks at all is an accomplishment in it self.

Obviously the guy learned his lesson and excelled in Intelligence. The Navy wants him as an Admiral so to me that means he not only made up for the Friendly Fire issue but made it to the rank of Captain. I don't see what the hell the SASC has to do with it. Does the Navy get to tell them who can be on the SASC?

25 years ago as a LT (I'm guessing SG) he shot down an Air Force Jet (how many Navy or MC are thinking So?). After he was reprimanded (they probably had to draw straws on who had to keep a straight face for it) he probably was treated to drinks all night at the Officers Club. 

I just hope the 113th Congress has their heads out of their asses and gives the Navy who they want at the Rank they want them. Otherwise we could end up losing another good Officer to the private sector.


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