Sunday, October 01, 2006

This is unusual:

The New York Times writes an editorial on military affairs without embarrassing itself too badly in the process.

Even if there were a case for staying the current course in Iraq, America’s badly overstretched Army cannot sustain present force levels much longer without long-term damage. And that could undermine the credibility of American foreign policy for years to come.

The Army has been kept on short rations of troops and equipment for years by a Pentagon more intent on stockpiling futuristic weapons than fighting today’s wars. Now it is pushing up against the limits of hard arithmetic. Senior generals are warning that the Bush administration may have to break its word and again use National Guard units to plug the gap, but no one in Washington is paying serious attention. That was clear last week when Congress recklessly decided to funnel extra money to the Air Force’s irrelevant F-22 stealth fighter.

Re: The F-22, I just have one word in response.


The Times, like all sideliners, has the luxury of only thinking about the war right in front of its face.

Donald Rumsfeld (and Congress, as well, whether they realize it or not) has the responsibility to think about two, three, and four wars into the future. If the F-22 is irrelevant, I'd be curious to know how the Times came to that decision.

It may be, don't get me wrong. I don't have a dog in that fight. But the F-16 is getting a bit long in the tooth, and the F-117 is untestead in the air superiority fight role.

Is it that much better than the F-18? I'm not an aviator - I wouldn't pretend to know. But what is the Times' proposal for the next generation of air superiority fighters?

Or does the Times think we'll never be challenged in the air again?

Splash, out


The F-22 is that much better than an F/A-18. But at $380 million a pop, I'd be hoping so. The ironic thing I find about the F-22 is that we're depleting the Air Force in order to get it. We're cutting our forces by 57,000 positions (something like 60,000 plus men when you include the guard and reserve slots that are going away). We're not buying any more C-17s because an essentially rigged study said we didn't need any more (this in spite that pre 9/11, before we were flying the wings off of them, we thought we needed more). We're refusing to look at alternatives to the F-22 (such as the F-15 with an advanced radar, we've deployed 1 Wing to Alaska, but congress refused funding for more) that while not as awesome as the F-22, would still put up a good fight against anything the Chinese could throw against us; and we're ignoring a lesson from Kosovo that I studied in ROTC--weapons systems are more important than the airframes they are based off of. (Don't take that line of reasoning too far, an F-4 will still be an F-4, but it would be a more potent threat with an AMRAAM than a Sparrow). Not to mention that one of the primary reason the AF leadership is touting the F-22 is cost-savings from maintaining old aircraft, but that is a foolish line of reasoning as my father's old Volvo 240 may cost more than it used to in order to keep it running, but he isn't paying $450 a month paying for a new S60 either...

In my opinion the AF is run by fighter pilots who would quite literally sell their souls for the F-22. Much like a driving fanatic would sell his soul for the next Ferrari or whatever, despite what other things it is doing to his life.

The F-22 is great, but is it the right weapons system given our financially tight situation? I doubt it...
The F-22 is necessary, simply because the USAF has built its doctrine around air dominance. The current crop of fighters would still be able to kick the crap out of China, eventually...probably. But we'd suffer heavy losses in the process. The F-22 is light-years ahead of the new Euro-canards (Rafale, EF 2000, Gripen, etc.) much less whatever Sukhois China is able to put up. And that's the way it should be.

Re: funding, though, the problem here isn't making a hard decision. The problem is that there isn't any decision to be made because our budget simply isn't big enough. I understand completely that leadership is about making tough decisions, blah blah blah. But that's irrelevant if your budget isn't even big enough to sustain the bare minimum.

We're robbing the USAF/USN to pay the Army and Marines, and it's going to bite us in the ass 15-20 years down the road when our Air Force and Navy are broke to hell, and we can't figure out why.
"Or does the Times think we'll never be challenged in the air again?"

Honestly? I think that's EXACTLY what they think. I've got this feeling they wake up every morning, and are flabbergasted to discover that peace hasn't broken out worldwide from the sheer force of their will for it to happen.

With that mindset follows "well of COURSE we don't need new weapons, it's just plain CRAZY to think there will be future wars!"
The whole military has based its doctrine around air dominence to one degree or another. However, I would have to disagree that we are robbing the AF and USN to pay the Marines and Army. We have to, or else the Army and Marines will be broke as hell less than five years from now. Something has to change in what we're acquiring, be it advanced naval vessels without any foreseeable peer for 20+ years, a missile defense system that China could overwhelm with mass, two advanced fighters also without any foreseeable peer (or conflict to fight for that matter), or a futuristic army combat sytem that is lighter and probably less survivable in current battlefields. Not to mention the airborne laser, new bombers, new tankers etc. Are we forgetting that it is possible that our enemies will simply negate our advanced weapons systems (as in the current conflict)? I don't see the F-22 making a whole lot of difference in Iraq. Not to mention that unless we're buying many more aircraft and munitions we will run out of bombs and bullets before we kill and destroy all we need to in China. For crying out loud, our TLAM stocks were incredibly depleted after Enduring Freedom when we were blowing up training camps...

Our budget isn't big enough to sustain all the programs our service secrtary's want. So what do we do? Fund all of them at a level to make them ineffective? Cut one program or another? What has Rumsfeld cancelled? The Comanche and Crusader. Man, that's a great start... We're cutting our left-legs off to buy shiny to H&K handguns when our Colt 1911's would still do just fine.

i'll take it one step further...the nyt probably believes that if we stop making weapons, then there will be no more wars. so trying to stop the f-22 is just a means of ending war - how noble of them!

-- damn sarcasm key gets stuck sometimes...
Also, bear this in mind:

No U.S. soldier has died as the result of an enemy air attack since 1953.

Let that sink in.

With apologies to the Navy and Marines, which have their own air arms, I think the Air Force takes this mission seriously. Yeah, USAF is run by the fighter mafia, but they know that air dominance goes a long way towards Achmed or Ivan or Wang Wei from killing our boys on the ground.

I imagine they also think a lot about the absolute frickin' disaster that will befall their service if enemy-air inflicted casualties happen on their watch ever again.

On the subject of money, we're spending about 3.5% of GDP on the military. During the Reagan years, IIRC, we spent between 7% and 8% during the Reagan years without even breaking a sweat.

But hey, let's go ahead and break the military. As long as the richest generation of retirees in history gets their gov't subsidized prescription drugs, the Congressman from Alaska gets his "bridge to nowhere" and we give the senior senator from Massachusetts a few dozen billion to throw at the Department of "Education"...
um, that should be "KEEPING Achmed or Ivan or Wang Wei from killing our boys from the air">

"The ironic thing I find about the F-22 is that we're depleting the Air Force in order to get it. We're cutting our forces by 57,000 positions"

I did a post on demographics here -


The reality is that the 20-24 year old demograpic is shrinking.

If one wants to add 30,000 positions to the Army then one needs to cut the number of positions in another service.

The 20-24 year old demographic blips up between 2005 and 2015 and then starts sliding downward again.

IMHO The Army made it's recruiting targets this year because the Navy and Airforce reduced their targets.

The government can always print more money, it can't print more 20 year olds who are willing to deploy to a foreign land where someone will try to kill them.
One quick comment to add to all the fine points..... The F-117 is untested in an air superiority role because it was never intended for such things. In fact it doesn't carry air-to-air missiles. The fact that it has the "F" designation is a misnomer, as it is (and always has been) a bomber.
Hi -

Long time lurker, thought I'd jump in, as this is exactly the conversation I've recently had with friends.

First, a disclaimer: I haven't served (4F, due to -13 and -9 diopters, i.e. I'm blind without my glasses, and while that can be corrected now, my age can't be), I have no DoD ties, I have no military connections outside of some friends. No stocks, no hidden agenda.

Second: it's not about now, it's about where the US will be in 20 years. And it's about where potential enemies will be in 20 years.

Right now, no sane air force would try and tangle with the USAF, let alone the US Navy and the Marine fliers. I think that this is a given, especially for the Chinese: they're not dumb, they saw what happend in GWI and GWII. They are also keen observers of what has been going on in Iraq, and from what I've heard - all unclassified - they have learned never to try to deal with us on our terms, as they know that means lots of dead soldiers, virtally all theirs.

But it's not about now: it's about 20 years from now. The job of the USAF is dominance of the aerospace environment to support US national security goals - duh - and while you can do that with the current hardware, in 15 years all of the current inventory will be very, very long in the tooth. Sure, a lot can be done with everyone's new darling, RPVs, but there is one area where that doesn't work: air combat. There is no situational awareness available for RPVs, especially when there is massive jamming and active interference on control channels: RPVs will replace ground attack and support, but to get air superiority using RPVs you have to introduce a massive improvement in AI/independent computing that simply isn't in the pipeline, as it will require some massive breakthroughs. Hence the need, a fundamental need, for fighter pilots: you may be able to replace them some day, but you can't today *and* for the foreseeable future.

That said, the F22 has two attributes that are killer attributes, pun intended: supercruise and relative stealth. They can be seen from the ground and AWACS under the right conditions, but they won't be seen by any of the fighter-born radars of the current or next generations, meaning that they won't be seen. Add to that supercruise and you have the following scenario: a plane that can fire its formidable missile load will outside of an enemy's ability to even detect them, and a plane that can break off combat at will by going faster than anyone else can for a sustained period. An enemy can match supercruise by going to afterburner, but they go bingo faster than they can get into range.

In other words, the F22 really is a dedication to air superiority without having to get involved in close air-to-air, where some of the contemporary challengers are very good indeed. But instead of building an even more manouverable F16 - remember, this has been tried with canards and the like - you simply change to terms of the conflict so as to avoid it where possible (and with that huge wing and supercruise speed, the F22 wouldn't be a slouch here either, with vast energy reserves and control surfaces to put them to use).

And we can afford them: we're fighting a war and spending like we're at peace. Bump the military budget back to where it was in the Cold War and we can buy all the F22s we need, as well as the F35 and all the RPV follow-ons...
John F. Opie makes a good point:

"And we can afford them: we're fighting a war and spending like we're at peace. Bump the military budget back to where it was in the Cold War and we can buy all the F22s we need, as well as the F35 and all the RPV follow-ons..."

Although I don't necessarily agree that we're spending like we're at peace, we're certainly not making the kind of sacrifices that were made during "real" periods of war, like WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I'm not implying that a draft is in order here, but there are things the government can do to raise revenues to increase military budgets.

One example: Increase gas tax. Yes, it sucks...but despite the recent downturn in gas prices, we've all been paying close to $3.00/gallon gas for awhile now, so if Gas falls to $2.00, and the government adds $1.00 tax...you see where I'm going.

I'm not saying this is a solution...but it's an example of the collective sacrifice that we as a nation can make to help ensure that the men and women doing the fighting have the proper equipment to do the damn job effectively. At this point, we're all screwed economically, as the budget deficits will haunt us for years to come...so why not just bear the brunt of the pain now, increase the funding, and be done with it.

Better to fix the military now, before it's completely broken, than to be caught with our pants down, and find ourselves suffering at the hands of a foreign agressor on our own turf. (Is it likely, who nows...but history has taught us there's always someone arragont enough to try).
oops...that last should be:

"Better to fix the military now, before it's completely broken, than to be caught with our pants down, and find ourselves suffering at the hands of a foreign agressor on our own turf. (Is it likely, who knows...but history has taught us there's always someone arrogant enough to try)."
Jason, the real difference that gives us such an edge against everyone else we fight is not our technology, but our training. Our fighter guys get many times the hours that our adversaries do, so when we get into a fight the experience takes over. Granted, having those handfuls of F-22's to sweep out the first few days will be well worth the price, but after that our average Joe versus their Average Joe will go to us every time. Only in the case where our newest guys go up against their most experienced will we lose. Of course, we killed all of their most experienced guys the first day with our F-22's.

There's a great scene in "Bear and the Dragon" by Tom Clancy describing the beginning of the air war between us and China. You should read it.
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