Sunday, April 17, 2011

Minds link alike.

Kevin Drum quotes the same snark as my first quote of the day of yesterday.

He says the point is that the USA is the only country which can project military power globally. I totally let my comment run away with me.

I think you are a bit unfair to Pike (who let us say might be seen to have been asking for it). His criciticism just isn't "Britain and France should have more planes and more bombs. " It is that France and Britain should have fewer planes and more bombs.

The issue isn't global projection of power. Libya is close to France and France and the UK are using NATO bases in Italy. But it also isn't military capacity. It is that they have bought the extremely expensive planes but not a serious number of much cheaper smart bombs.

The "air shows" snear is not only funny. It is a substantive claim that they care about their military as it appears on paper (planes are counted and bombs aren't).

This is relevant to the US military procurement too. The plane NATO wants to deploy but which is not available because only the US has it and Obama doesn't want to endanger the crews is the AC-130 which is basically an armed for attack (hence A) C-130. The C-130 is propeller powered. It was designed in the 50s. It is the favorite plane of NGOs. It is the plane they need (they could also use A-10 warthogs which are newer and jet powered and all but just read that name).

Instead they have air superiority fighters which can bomb. These are planes with extremely impressive performance. They look super cool. They fly super fast. They look great in air shows. They have not been relevant to any war fought since the war in Korea (maybe since WW-II).

They have wasted a lot of money on exceedingly expensive planes, which aren't useful for their purposes (and France at least actually uses its military quite often -- they wre fighting simultaneously in Libya and Ivory Coast). These are the fun hot exiting planes that air forces want, but the point of procurement isn't to please the generals.

The reason this is important to your readers is that the USA has wasted a totally huge amount of money on similar fancy weapons. We can project power all over the world and give the USSR a fight for its money when we get there. But there is no USSR. The F-22 was the classic case and, at least, we've stopped at IIRC 83 (which will probably never be used). The Joint Strike Fighter will be the next huge sink of money (the hugest in military history).

The way we actually fight is to destroy air defences with cruise missiles and then bomb with planes designed in the 50s. The incredibly expensive ultr-fast stealthy planes which can shoot down the MIGs that the Soviet Union didn't last long enough to develop and operate over undestroyed air defences are irrelevant. They are irrelevant in Libya, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, and in both US wars with Iraq. We spend gigantic sums on them, because the generals love them and because our expense is some defence contractors revenue.

How much do we spend on " heavy lift capacity, ... long-range bombers (that we actually use), ... huge arsenals of cruise missiles, ... [and] fleets of reconnaissance satellites, [and]...bombs" ? (note I didn't include the planes, the carrier groups or the bases -- those cost a lot).

A cruise missile costs about a million. You wouldn't notice the purchase of a thousand cruise missiles in the US defence budget. They clearly are key to our ability to crush adversaries. What is the total US cruise missile budget ? How much do the reconnaissance (and GPS) satellites cost ? How much does the US military spend on bombs ? What have B-1s ever done for us ? What have B2s done which B-52s couldn't have done better ? Why do we need carrier groups to launch cruise missiles ?

The vast majority of the DOD procurement budget has almost nothing to do with fighting the wars we actually fight.

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