Colonel Arnold Franklin, USAF, Retired
M.S. Engineering Physics, 1975
A physicist, fighter pilot and strategic planner, Mr. Arnold Franklin has had quite the career since his time at AFIT. After receiving his commission in 1968, Mr. Franklin went on to UPT, and soon joined the 428th Tactical Fighter squadron where he flew the F-111. He flew two tours in Southeast Asia and ended with 782 combat hours. Following his tours Mr. Franklin attended AFIT and graduated in 1975 with a master’s degree in Engineering Physics.
Post-graduation Mr. Franklin was assigned to the Advanced Development Division of the Air Force Materials Lab where he completed work on the development of different materials and concepts for enhancing Air Force systems to counter low and high energy lasers. It was there he began to truly understand the complex nature of systems development.
On 1 January 1986 Mr. Franklin and four other officers traveled to Germany and were given the task of planning the details for what would soon become known as Operation Eldorado Canyon. After only three days of planning Mr. Franklin was tasked to brief both the USAFE/CC (General Donnelly) and US EUCOM (US Army General Rogers), on what the group had developed. Both Generals were impressed with the briefings and after a couple months designated Mr. Franklin to be the mission commander.
The Operation was designed to strike Libya and deal a strong blow to its state sponsored terrorism. There were almost no similarities between the 1986 mission and recent operations in Libya. In 1986 President Reagan had attempted to persuade Gaddafi to end his support of terrorist organizations. The raid on Libya was a quick single strike aimed at completing that mission, and did not have the goal of overthrowing the government.
Mr. Franklin’s education at AFIT focused a lot on the attenuation of energy as it propagates through the atmosphere. This in turn allowed him to understand the limitations presented by the target identification ranges, weapon guidance and other light based systems. Although hard to determine success, history did show a significant reduction in Libya’s willingness to sponsor terrorist activities around the globe following Operation Eldorado Canyon.
When asked for any advice he had to pass on to others Mr. Franklin responded with a story from the beginning of his career: “As a young aviator, I had a fighter wing commander that I really respected—and who was very successful as a wing commander. One Friday night at the O’Club, I told him that I wanted to one day be a wing commander, and that I had watched him closely for a while, and liked what I saw. I asked if there were any secrets to his success that he could share that would help me be successful when my turn came. He said, ‘Buy me a beer, and I’ll tell you.’ We retired to a table in the corner and in a nutshell he said, ‘The secret is to be yourself. Whatever you have in you that causes them to select you in the first place, will be the key to your success. If you try to be someone you are not, you will fail.’ Best advice I ever got. I applied his secret throughout my career, and it served me well.”
In 1994, Mr. Franklin was honored at the Gathering of Eagles – the capstone event for the graduates of the Air Command and Staff College. Mr. Franklin is currently retired and living in Kentucky.