Crazy making

Chuck Hagel wants to shrink the military down to something more reasonable. Sure, count me as a supporter. Fewer troops and a leaner procurement surely means we will take a second look at the F-35 program, that white elephant do-everything wunderplane that never worked and even in the best of cases does no single thing very well.

if I ordered a hot dog like the Air Force designed the F-35

if I ordered a hot dog like the Air Force designed the F-35

You could compare the F-35 to other snakebit programs like the Osprey, but I think that would be grossly unfair to the Osprey. A VTOL-plane converting transport is good idea that took some major engineering to get right. The F-35 as conceived cannot possibly work. The plane is a soup with too many cooks. The Navy for example wants some sort of Harrier/A-10 hybrid that they can move around on helicopter carriers and offer close air support. That is a good plan. Sometimes you can bomb the other guy into submission, but usually not. In fact so far as I know Slobadan Milosevic was the only one. The rest of the time we need to put boots and tracked vehicles on unfriendly ground.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II, showing up to work

An A-10 Thunderbolt II shows up to work

It should go without saying that those guys really need air cover, and by air cover I mean someone flying low and slow enough to distinguish friendly boots from hostiles. In a chaotic engagement you simply cannot do that from ten thousand feet. You need to get down where the other guys can hit your plane with a sidearm and wound the pilot’s feelings with a vulgar gesture.

damage1

This A-10 flew home and landed. So did the one below.

damage2

It is not that hard to hit an A-10 or any other aircraft flying close air support. Thus you want a plane that can take abuse and make it home. For example we tried using F-15’s and F-16’s to support troops in Afghanistan (I earlier said one or the other but of course we use both). These have good capabilities in theory but the Taliban kept shooting at their delicate skin even when we asked them not to. As a result we keep them up at an altitude where you need a good half mile between bad guys and good guys before it can reliably blow them up and not us.

Ever hear about an A-10 blowing up a wedding party? No. Moving on.

Just about anyone can hit an A-10 but it takes real commitment to kill one. Even when someone pulls it off they cost about $11 million to replace, so no biggie. Sitting in a titanium bathtub gives the pilot a great survivability rate, so you just fetch him or her back and put them in a new one.

Again, if the Navy (and presumably Army, though nobody asks them) wants a new plane to blow up grunts a la carte then bully for them. Problem is the Air Force and carrier jocks want something new for air-to-air combat and someone let them in the same room with the close air support guys. As you probably know a good air-to-air plane needs to be fast, ultra hi-tech, nimble and light. Good air air combat platforms like the F-22 tend to be the expensive prima donnas of our fleet, delicate and touchy but ideal when you need to get somewhere fast and kill your target over the horizon. While not the whole game stealth is a really f*cking big deal in modern air engagements*. Stealthy planes are the prima donnas of the prima donna world, needing eye-wateringly expensive skin treatments and body work and sometimes balking at work in adverse weather. Needless to say stealth is not so critical when you are moving a hundred fifty miles an hour and the other guys could hit you with a catapult.

It should go without saying that a plane designed to handle close air support will make a piss poor fifth generation fighter and vice versa, yet apparently it f*cking did.

A leaked final design draft of the F-35H.  This model includes air horn, a tennis ball to remember where you parked it and VTEC.

A leaked final design draft of the F-35H. This model includes an air horn, a tennis ball on the antenna to remember where you parked it, and VTEC.

It should shock nobody that the F-35 project has hit an epic string of setbacks, delays, cost overruns, safety issues and failures to meet speficications (just google it search for it on Google. I have a day job). The simple explanation is that one airframe cannot meet the demands that its crazy quilt design committee asked of it. Yet the program will not die. One plane will cost about three hundred million dollars, about twice as much as an F-22 which does work and about thirty times the price of an A-10. The entire procurement division will have a stroke if anyone lets an F-35 below twenty thousand feet at Mach sixteen and yet those close air support design specs ensure that it cannot ever measure up to comparable (and much less expensive) planes like the MiG-35 Su-27 (brain fart) Flanker.

So the Hagel plan mothballs our A-10s and the F-35 project soldiers on. Imagine my excitement.

(*) Which remain largely theoretical, as modern powers do not fight each other. Nukes.

***Update***

From Robert Farley at LGM, a better informed read on the A-10 and close air support that somewhat agrees with my perspective. Yeah, drones might finally make the A-10 unnecessary. Eventually. In the meantime we agree that some brave soul needs to put a stake in the heart of the @!#&@*$ F-35.

***Update 2***

Via commenter RSR, a perspective from a Predator drone with a drinking problem.

[T]he world around us is changing, much like the world of Vito Corleone was changing. We don’t just need raw hitting power; we need accurate hitting power paired with effective ISR. In the first Gulf War, a single F-117A could take out a target that would have required a fleet of World War II bombers to eliminate. While our need for CAS hasn’t changed, our demand for ISR to go with it has skyrocketed. That is well worth trading some Cold War-era perks for vastly longer endurance, pinpoint surveillance, and a lighter logistical footprint.

Drones like me…we’ve got the ISR game sewn up. We’re taking over logistical missions for remote combat outposts. Congress just approved expanding our usage back in CONUS. And as I watch the A-10 fly into the sunset, and the JSF continue to flounder, I know it to be true- I’m the Michael Corleone here. I didn’t want to be the next Godfather of CAS, but I must. It’s strictly business.






102 replies
  1. 1
    Suicide Trolling, Pedophile Enabling,Anti-LGBT Bigots says:

    So this f35 is the tim f/ballon juice/ballon juice comment section of military aircraft.

  2. 2
    Cervantes says:

    Ever hear about an A-10 blowing up a wedding party? No? Moving on.

    There’s a joke in there somewhere.

    As I have found here too frequently, to my horror.

    Anyhow, thanks for making the point. Here’s hoping it helps.

  3. 3
    c u n d gulag says:

    Too bad when Ike warned us about our Military Industrial Complex, he hadn’t been President for 8 years – or in some equally powerful position to, you know, do something about it…

  4. 4
    Mike E says:

    Hardy aircraft design really won the war in the Pacific during WWII, where armor and self-sealing fuel tanks made planes like the F-6F unbeatable… that, and the successful deployment of the proximity fuse on anti-aircraft ordinance. After that point, the MIC turned into the proverbial Hydra and now we have these flying Edsels in the pipeline.

  5. 5
    FVB says:

    “I thought your plane was pretty cool, Dad.”
    “Thanks, son, that was all I wanted to hear.”

  6. 6
    Yatsuno says:

    The Warthog is ugly as sin. But ask any ground troop guy who’s been in combat (paging SG & Cassidy) and they’ll tell you to a man that plane is a fucking beauty.

  7. 7
    Fuzzy says:

    Air wars, dogfights. What, maybe 5 in 15 years and we are going to build for a plane for that? This is “justify your job” at it’s worst. Keep most of the Navy and Marines and let the Air Force man the silos and the Army special forces plus some guard duty. Stop subcontracting and make the military, cook, clean, and maintain itself just like it used to.

  8. 8
    Davis X. Machina says:

    From Lawyers, Guns and Money: The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate.

  9. 9
    JMG says:

    The Pentagon theory, which I have not the expertise to defend nor criticize, is that drones (which not incidentally the Army can control on its own), will replace planes like the A-10 in close air support.

  10. 10
    Chris says:

    It should go without saying that a plane designed to handle close air support will make a piss poor fifth generation fighter and vice versa, and yet apparently it f*cking did.

    For the longest time, it wasn’t supposed to. IIRC the Navy was originally counting on two fifth generation planes, the A-12 for bombing and ground attack and the NATF (the F-22 was supposed to have a naval version) for air superiority. Both of those got scrapped. Then a new project was started to meet their close air support needs called the Attack/Fighter Experimental program, which was supposed to be complemented by an upgraded F-18. The upgrade happened (Super Hornets), but the A/FX didn’t – it was merged with the Air Force’s Multi-Role Fighter program, and became the Joint Strike Fighter program, which eventually produced the F-35. The F-35 is a whole bunch of programs jumbled together.

    All the cancellations were supposed to be in the name of cost-saving (except the A-12 which IIRC they couldn’t make work properly). Looking at the cost and duration of the F-35 program, though, one’s kind of inclined to point and laugh at that.

    (God damn it… the one day there’s a thread on combat aircraft, I have to go to class. Laters).

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    So the Hagel plan mothballs our A-10s and the F-35 project soldiers on. Imagine my excitement.

    Oh, for frakk’s sake, Chuck.

  12. 12
    Cassidy says:

    @Yatsuno: Heh. There are few sounds in life as distinctive as that cannon.

  13. 13
    R. Porrofatto says:

    You must be wrong. Last week, 60 Minutes did a 15-minute puff piece on the F-35 and they said it’s worth every penny. Just like the puff piece they did on the NSA. Boy, that David Rhodes really brought some hard-hitting journalism over from FOX.

  14. 14
    gene108 says:

    @Fuzzy:

    Stop subcontracting and make the military, cook, clean, and maintain itself just like it used to.

    So how many computer programmers will the military be training to replace subcontractors? Electrical Engineers?

    Our military needs are so much more sophisticated than before that I doubt we could induct enough people into the military to replace all the contractors.

  15. 15
    Cassidy says:

    @Fuzzy: Considering how quickly we can get a BDE/ DIV in the air, it would be easier to reorganize the Marines. My preference would be rapid response teams for immediate deployment to trouble spots to include natural disasters and peacekeeping operations. The Marines really don’t serve any different purpose on the modern battlefield.

  16. 16
    dubo says:

    So the Hagel plan mothballs our A-10s and the F-35 project soldiers on. Imagine my excitement.

    Why wouldn’t you be excited? Our war profiteers patriotic contractors aren’t getting much margain on the A-10s anymore and the F-35 will keep them rolling in ducats. Seems like Hagel’s plan accomplishes our nation’s “strategic objectives” perfectly to me.

  17. 17
    cleek says:

    what Chuck wants is kindof irrelevant since SecDef doesn’t write the laws. Chuck is making a request and Congress is under no obligation to honor that request.

    still, the F35 sounds like what someone would come up with if they were annoyed by having to pick just one race for their character at the beginning of a video game. “No, I want him to be as nimble as an elf, with the magical abilities of a mage, as sturdy as a dwarf and with no restrictions on abilities!”

  18. 18
    D58826 says:

    Not so long ago I read the Air Force is shopping for a new manned bomber. The three current bombers can’t perform 21st century missions. Never mind that was the justification for the B1 and B2. Hey it’s only money and as Darth Vader (i.e. Dick Chaney) said today bombs are important but food stamps aren’t. Surely all the folks on food stamps are willing to give up one meal a day to protect Lockheed, I mean America

  19. 19
    randomworker says:

    @cleek: And that, cleek, is exactly why the current crop of video games suck!

    I did read somewhere that the F35 is basically equal to the GDP of Australia. If that’s not the end of the empire I don’t know what is.

  20. 20
    RSR says:

    Some other thoughts on the A-10, from “everybody’s favorite Unmanned Alcoholic Vehicle @drunkenpredator”

    Leave the A-10, Take the Cannoli

    http://gunpowderandlead.org/20.....e-cannoli/

  21. 21
    dmsilev says:

    @D58826: Last I heard, the plan was to keep the current B52 fleet flying for another 30 or so years. The B52 and C130: the true classics endure.

  22. 22
    ericblair says:

    @dubo:

    Our war profiteers patriotic contractors aren’t getting much margain on the A-10s anymore and the F-35 will keep them rolling in ducats.

    It’s not like the big bad LockMarts and Northup Grummanns are bulling and shaking down our poor innocent military acquisition agencies for their lunch money. The acquisition process rot starts from the head. You can toss inter-Service politics and rampant military careerism into the mix there, as well as Congressional not-earmarks-nope-nossir.

    My opinion is that long term, there’s no real reason to have manned fighters either, but because of the Air Force general officer career path you’ll have to either kill the Air Force or threaten them with imminent demise before they’d let this happen.

  23. 23

    @cleek:
    Wasn’t it the F-35 that congress specifically refused to defund? Yes, Google tells me it was. So that lard bucket is staying no matter what Hagel or the administration in general wants.

  24. 24
    Walker says:

    The excuses that I am hearing right now is that drones, not the F-35, are supposed to replace the A-10. This is borne out by the fact that the Air Force is allowing decommissioned A-10 pilots become Reaper pilots.

    The comments in the Ars Technica article go into this debate pretty heavily.

  25. 25
    max says:

    So the Hagel plan mothballs our A-10s and the F-35 project soldiers on. Imagine my excitement.

    I wish to heartily endorse your remarks! We got rid of the F-22 supposedly because we wanted to cut the fat at the Pentagon so we kept this piece of crap. Which might have made sense, except we needed the fighter air frame replacement, and we already had 168 of them – enough to cost oodles in parts cost, not enough to get economy of scale.

    Hilariously, it appears the only thing the F-35 is workable at is close air support. So we could, in theory, dump the other stuff and just rework the design as a replacement for the A-10. They’re not gonna do that.

    max
    [‘We’ll probably get rid of that part first, leaving us with no close air support, and a totally non-workable plane.’]

  26. 26
    Mike in NC says:

    Chuck Hagel is just looking towards a future fat paycheck on the board of directors at Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman.

  27. 27
    muricafukyea says:

    What absolute horseshit. Where did you get this info? From some gamer messageboard?

    While the F35 has lots of problems, trying to say the cancelled F22 was better is laughable. For every hour an F22 flies it requires 3 hours of maintenance. It constantly leaks fuel and cannot fly in the rain. I repeat, a fighter jet that cannot fly in the rain. Those are just some of the things I remember about that disaster. I’m sure a simple google search will find the details.

  28. 28
    danielx says:

    Like they’re gonna put a $300 million airplane down in the weeds supporting the grunts. Yeah, that’s gonna happen. As noted, I have not the expertise to comment on the use of drones for air support. However…the F-35 is likely going to be the Air Force’s last manned fighter so they’re pushing it for all it’s worth. After all, in the Air Force if you aren’t a pilot (most especially a fighter pilot) you ain’t shit.

    This is not exactly a new problem – they went through exactly the same fucked up design and procurement process with the F-111/FB-111/EF-111, which the Navy never did accept. But hey, this time will be different.

  29. 29
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Everything about our military leadership/procurement/protection of budget follows the behavioral pattern of stupid, spoiled children. Fuckin’ morons.

  30. 30
    dubo says:

    @ericblair: It’s actually exactly like “the big bad LockMarts” spend millions lobbying Congress and military acquisition to ensure the military is investing in their latest Veg-O-Matics whether it needs them or not?

  31. 31
    Mark S. says:

    the Air Force and carrier jocks want something new for air-to-air combat

    to finally defeat the Taliban.

  32. 32
    RobertDSC-iPhone 4 says:

    Warthogs for life.

    Cancel that F-35 shit posthaste.

  33. 33
    Gypsy Howell says:

    But following cleek’s law, if Obama’s SecDef proposes to kill the A-10 and proceed with the F-35, doesn’t that automatically mean that every Republican will vote to do the opposite? Eleventy-dimensional chess?

  34. 34
    Soonergrunt says:

    The AH-64 Apache is the perfect CAS platform.
    The A-10 is the gold standard in fixed-wing CAS.
    The F-16 is a distant second, probably tied with the F/A-18.
    The F-15E is a great CAS/Strike platform when guided by a competent FAC/JTAC.
    Drones like the Predator are decent CAS platforms, but they don’t have the firepower or weapons loading capability of either the A-10 or the F-16.

    I’ve had CAS from A-10, F-16, F-15E, Predator, and yes, even a B-1B (our FAC that day was AMAZING.)
    The problem here goes much deeper than one airframe. The USAF has this fantasy that they can win wars all by themselves, and they’ve never been able to do that. Tim F said up above that Slobodon Milosovic (Serbia/Kosovo fame) was the only time that airpower actually won a war. I don’t even give them that because Serbia had withstood a month of airstrikes by an air force that roamed Serbia’s skies at will, and made no moves to back down until the US landed a brigade of paratroops from the 82nd ABN and a Marine regiment in Albania.
    The reason the Army doesn’t operate fixed-wing combat assets is because of the Key West Agreement. In fact, the only reason the USAF developed the A-10 was because the Army was pursuing a super copter that would fly very much like an airplane for that purpose, called the AH-56 Cheyenne.
    The AH-64 Apache is probably the best short-range CAS platform there is or ever will be, but it is a SHORT-RANGE platform. On all three of my tours, I probably spent about half of my time outside of the range of Apache.
    The USAF says that they can do CAS from an F-35, but I don’t see how. The fact is that they want to get out of the CAS business all together. This points to the actual structural problems with the USAF doing CAS. Outside of the A-10 community, they primarily suck at it, and they need specialist troops on the ground to control the engagement. The USMC aviation does not have this problem because CAS is what they do. It’s their whole reason for existence.
    For another example of how the USAF hates the Army, see C-27J Spartan.
    The problem is a structural problem with how the USAF sees itself, not as a partner force in a combined military, but as the dominant organization to whose perogatives the organizations must surrender.
    One need only look at these slides from a 2008 CSAF briefing to see that USAF considers the other services of the US military as their true adversaries, and not potential competitor forces like China. When I worked as a contractor for a field agency of the Air Staff, I saw this kind of attitude all the time. I would get the USAF out of any mission supporting the Army because they hate those missions and they do everything they can to fail at them.

    If I had my druthers, the Army would take over all the currently existing A-10s and C-27 airframes. Air Force pilots rated in those types would be required to complete their current tours, and then be offered the chance to lateral transfer with rank and seniority to the Army.

  35. 35
    C.V. Danes says:

    The A10 and the SR-71 are probably my favorites, followed closely by the F-15. And, of course, the P51 Mustang.

    The dog-fighting days are long over. Fighter jocks need to get over it. If you want to have fun, fly an A10.

  36. 36
    D58826 says:

    @Soonergrunt: Transferring all CAS platforms to the army is such a logical solution that it will never happen.

  37. 37
    KG says:

    Look, if we don’t have new military toys, we won’t have an excuse to use them… You can’t expect us to go invading countries that most Americans couldn’t identify on an annotated map with old military toys!

  38. 38
    Cervantes says:

    @Soonergrunt: I blame Billy Mitchell.

  39. 39
    Belafon says:

    @gene108: As a former sailor (electrician) who’s a computer programmer, I’m just imagining the military unit composed of a bunch of software developers. It would make a hilarious movie.

  40. 40
    D58826 says:

    The sad thing about this is we have a military full of dedicated, patriotic people willing to give their lives to defend the country. However they often seem unable to see beyond service loyalty in order to come up with solutions that give the country the most bang for the buck; if that solution requires giving the lead to one of the other services. CAS is a perfect example. The Marines do it well because the pilots are Mariners, the Air Force not so much since CAS is not the glory job. However for what ever reason they won’t give away the unwanted stepchild.

  41. 41
    chopper says:

    the AF brass has been trying to get rid of the A-10 from the beginning. pilots love it tho, and it goes without saying the dudes on the ground do as well.

    of course, the AF is wholesale against anybody else taking on the fleet. it’s idiocy.

  42. 42
    cleek says:

    @Belafon:
    they’d all show up in shorts, sandals and ThinkGeek t-shirts, and all their guns would be Nerf.

  43. 43
    hoodie says:

    The A-10 was a great aircraft, but will shortly be obsolete, so the F-35 is ultimately irrelevant to that procurement decision. The F-35 will inevitably fail at the CAS mission and end up canceled or downsized because it will be useless for the Navy, which is the service that really matters when you’re a country with thousands of miles of coastline and dependent on global trade. Admirals ultimately would rather waste money on ships than airplanes that are going to be shared with another service. Hagel can’t do much more to hasten the demise of the F-35 in the face of a Congress that is owned by F-35 contractors. The Army will develop their own CAS drones in the vacuum because they will get tired of waiting for the F-35 and will no longer have the A-10 to fall back on. If anything, Hagel is shivving the AF by removing one reason for its continued existence.

  44. 44
    ericblair says:

    @dubo:

    It’s actually exactly like “the big bad LockMarts” spend millions lobbying Congress and military acquisition to ensure the military is investing in their latest Veg-O-Matics whether it needs them or not?

    Oh, of course they did. And Congress and the Pentagon really wanted to do the right thing, but the contractors gave them campaign contributions and the congresscritters and military brass just all felt morally obliged to work up a multibillion dollar program for the contractors with no benefits for themselves?

    The problems are structural, political as well as financial, and the big contractors are one part of it.

  45. 45
    Cervantes says:

    @Belafon: That military unit can be found at 9800 Savage Road, Fort Meade, Maryland.

  46. 46
    Belafon says:

    @cleek: Imagine being the General having to justify the $750M line item for Mountain Dew.

  47. 47
    catclub says:

    @Gypsy Howell: I wish, too.

    But some things are more important than politics, and defense money seems of be one of them.

  48. 48
    Cacti says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    The USAF says that they can do CAS from an F-35, but I don’t see how. The fact is that they want to get out of the CAS business all together. This points to the actual structural problems with the USAF doing CAS. Outside of the A-10 community, they primarily suck at it, and they need specialist troops on the ground to control the engagement.

    Best explanation I’ve seen of why the Air Force hates the A-10:

    1. It flies low enough to actually see the dirt

    2. It does not have a pointy nose

    3. It does not have swept wings

    4. It does not have afterburners

    5. It is not conducive to wearing a long white scarf

    The F-35, while incapable of duplicating the A-10’s combat role, does have a pointy nose, swept wings, an afterburner, and would go great with a long white scarf.

  49. 49
    catclub says:

    @Soonergrunt: ” Key West Agreement.”

    You know something is wrong when you have to have treaties between the services – which as you said, recognize their true adversaries.

  50. 50
    catclub says:

    @hoodie: ” but will shortly be obsolete, ”

    against the Taliban? The B-52 is how old and still not obsolete.

  51. 51
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Chris: When you tell the story that way it sounds like when Hollywood made Star Trek: The Motion Picture or that Superman movie of a few years ago that bombed. A bunch of abortive projects all rolled into the bill. The first movie actually made its money back but the latter… uh… no.

  52. 52
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Cassidy: I thought their purpose was the segregate the crazies from the grunts? :)

  53. 53
    Gene108 says:

    @hoodie:

    The F35 is what passed for fiscal stimulus spending from Congress. I think that as much as lobbying plays a roll. A Republican loses military spending in his district, which leads to lay offs, will have a tougher road to re-election, as current politics forbids any other Federal spending in their district.

  54. 54
    Chris says:

    @catclub:

    “The Russians are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” Curtis LeMay.

  55. 55
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Bubblegum Tate: Don’t forget the class issues among services. The Air Forced is manned (sic) by your betters. The Navy is just some poor shlubs who can do math; the Army is for those who count on their fingers; and the Marines are a honeypot for the rabble too crazy for prison.

    So you can see whose opinion really matters.

  56. 56
    max says:

    @muricafukyea: What absolute horseshit. Where did you get this info? From some gamer messageboard?

    MerkaTROLLYEAH! Nope. Don’t read ‘gamer message boards’ old sod.

    While the F35 has lots of problems, trying to say the cancelled F22 was better is laughable. For every hour an F22 flies it requires 3 hours of maintenance. It constantly leaks fuel and cannot fly in the rain.

    Actually, I do believe that’s the F-35 you’re talking about. Which can’t fly in the rain, on account of lightening. Did you get your info from a chain email at whatever contractor pays you to troll?

    I repeat, a fighter jet that cannot fly in the rain. Those are just some of the things I remember about that disaster. I’m sure a simple google search will find the details.

    I’m sure you score high on the dark triad.

    @RSR: Some other thoughts on the A-10, from “everybody’s favorite Unmanned Alcoholic Vehicle @drunkenpredator” Leave the A-10, Take the Cannoli

    Except that current drones are really slow, and unarmored and can be taken out with a catapult… or a big slingshot, which is basically the thing.

    You could take an A-10 and wire it up to fly remotely, but that doesn’t get you much. The weight of the pilots (plus the cockpit armor) is just not a big consideration in a heavily armored plane, toting a 30 mm cannon, plus ammo, plus fuel. If you want a drone that performs as well as an A-10, you need to build a drone that’s awful close to an A-10.

    Separately you have bandwidth and control problem. Video takes lot of bandwidth, and A-10’s fly close to the ground, making it easy to disrupt the comms, due to local terrain or jamming. If someone is flying an A-10ish drone remotely and the drone is bearing down on what might be an enemy tank, and the video blips, you tend to lose the plane as it piles into the tank before you find out that the tank is friendly. Oops.

    Current drones move so slow and are not operating in battlefield areas with Americans soldiers in the area. It could be done, but you need lots of R&D to make it work.

    max
    [‘[‘Oopsy-daisy.’]

  57. 57
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The Air Farce brass hates hates hates HATES the A-10. It doesn’t go ZOOM. It flies too slow, and it actually has use for the mission they loathe, ground support. No, they’d rather fly around and shoot at other airplanes, much more fun, much more zoomie.

    Fuck them. We should give up on the Air Farce experiment and forcibly put it back under the control of the Army.

  58. 58
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Gene108: Fuck that shit, reopen that factory building DMUs, EMUs and trolleys!!

    That will also stimulate the local economy when they go into service, too. While wrecking military equipment in a war is a loss. See: broken window analogy.

  59. 59
    Chris says:

    @Gene108:

    Exactly. Military spending is the only politically acceptable stimulus left. That explains much.

  60. 60
    srv says:

    We need to get rid of the AF. Let the Army own CAS and transports, let the Navy have the fighters and bombers as long as they get rid of a few carriers.

  61. 61
    Steeplejack says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    That has always steamed me: dire warning about the MIC just before grabbing his golf clubs and heading out the door.

  62. 62
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Research shows that an extreme number of elderly people in the US are effectively housebound. We could fix that by providing more paratransit funds for the elderly to be able to go shopping and engage in communal activities. We could also provide more funding to Amtrak so that people with conditions that prevent them from flying can still travel to see the country or visit their grandkids. Instead of spending money on depressed, housebound people getting sicker and sicker, we could be keeping them active and healthy and spending that money on other parts of the economy.

  63. 63
    catclub says:

    @Another Holocene Human: I think those class issues would be worse in a unified armed service. But that is still better than a separate Air Force.

  64. 64
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Steeplejack: He also got that asphalt-industrial complex going. What followed was “urban renewal” (=dispossession of urban and suburban Black, immigrant, Jewish communities), sprawl, defunding of public transit, and, when they realized the monster they’d created, a sorry dressing of affirmative action in contracts and a bloated and ineffective environmental review process.

    The only thing that’s really stopped it has been:
    *running out of money
    *forcing states to go through MPOs before they can get money, and MPOs are more local and hence not big on the big pig highway projects
    *running out of money

  65. 65
    catclub says:

    @Another Holocene Human: “DMUs, EMU’s”

    Lost me on those. Unless big birds to carry isolated seniors shopping.

  66. 66
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @catclub: Isn’t that why they have different tracks for college and not? That way any moron with a college degree and a chip on their shoulder can console themselves that they’re better than an NCO because NCO, even if in reality that NCO has more respect and authority than they do.

    Full disclosure: my aunt was an NCO, and my gfather went to college on the GI bill so obviously he started in the Marines as farmboy cannon fodder

  67. 67
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The New Deal did not cure the Great Depression.

    Therefore government spending can’t fix things.

    Unless it’s fighting WWII, the greatest Keynesian economic stimulus of all time.

    As usual, “conservatives” miss the forest for the trees.

    Idiots.

  68. 68
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @catclub: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_unit

    US-based pix aren’t great on this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.....and_Canada

    But think SEPTA, though please do not assume their service standards would prevail nationwide. Philly is still in a long, ugly process of race/class segregation and thus the ‘burbs are at war with the transit system that knits the region together. They want it gone. Society to Eliminate Public Transit Altogether. Which is why they have a very bad image.

    And how about this:

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/bus.....story.html

    Wish the Globe were this excited about the north Green line extension–oh, wait, CATHOLICS live just North of Boston. Okay, forget it.

  69. 69
    catclub says:

    @Another Holocene Human: “paratransit funds for the elderly”

    Parachuting the elderly into town sounds tricky. But exciting! The Air Force might be interested.

  70. 70
    catclub says:

    @Another Holocene Human: Thanks! Got it. Bombardier that converted to transit car manufacture.

  71. 71
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Conservatives: liars, or stuck on a life-long jag of naivite?

  72. 72
    Chris says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I third this, as I too have always felt that way. What an asshole.

  73. 73
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @catclub: Diesel motor units. Electric motor units. I think. Mass transit.

  74. 74
    Paul in KY says:

    @C.V. Danes: Right now, if you want to get promoted (and I’m talking about into Col & above), the A-10 is not the thing to be flying.

    Although flying it, is better than flying a desk.

  75. 75
    Paul in KY says:

    @Another Holocene Human: When I was sitting on the veranda at the beach O-Club, nursing my lime rickey, we would sometimes muse upon the inherent differences among the services.

  76. 76
    Paul in KY says:

    @catclub: the USAF would be about as happy parachuting seniors as it is parachuting grunts. Which is to say not very happy at all.

  77. 77
    Nied says:

    The thing is the A-10 rarely flies down low any more. Since the A-10C upgrade and all the new sensors/smartweapons it brings they stay up out of small arms fire range the same as the pointy nosed jets and dump laser or GPS guided bombs where the JTAC/FAC tells them. The big area where it’s an improvement is that the A-10’s gun is much more accurate from 10,000ft than the 20mm guns on the rest of the fast jets in our fleet, however the F-35 has a newer more accurate 25mm gun so that’s a wash. That’s the thing that always bugs me whenever the F-35 comes up (well that and people who try to compare the flyaway cost of one aircraft to the total program costs of the F-35 like Tim does here) people complain that it can’t do some thing that another plane could do rather than what it actually does do every day. It’s not really impressive that an Su-27 Flanker with no missiles and 1/4 internal fuel can out run or out turn an F-35 with a full fuel tanks and it’s bays loaded with bombs and missiles, or that an A-10 can fly down in the weeds when it’s spending all it’s time at the same altitude that the F-35 is designed to fly at now.

  78. 78
    Dave says:

    @Nied: Does it really stay that high in real world missions though? The A-10’s that provided us CAS in 2012 were flying low. I actually preferred them to the AH-64 because of the increased dwell time, faster response, and the sheer intimidation factor but I was perfectly happy to have an AH-64 (or even a Kiowa) show up as well. We did receive CAS from B-1’s a few times but they never received drop authority still it’s impressive when they come in low and fast. Backtracking admittedly this is anecdotal but the A-10’s that provided CAS always came in low.

  79. 79
    Tim F. says:

    @Nied: With a 187-round capacity to 1,350 in an A-10, the F-35’s gun had better be accurate.

  80. 80
    Nied says:

    @Dave: I hat to use “that’s what I heard” but it is what I have heard. Do you know if the A-10s that provided your support were A’s or C’s. My understanding is pre-upgrade A-10’s don’t have much choice but to fly low because they don’t have the senors or the ability to carry as many types of precision munitions as the C model.

  81. 81
    Astor Column says:

    I agree with everything in your post. But A-10s aren’t immune to blowing up friendlies. Just much less likely to than mile-high prima donna F-15s.

    I just was reading Jon Krakauers book about Pat Tillman, where Tillman was nearby when A-10s killed 10 Marines in the battle of An Nasiriyah, March 2003.

  82. 82
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Paul in KY: That would be the dichotomy of the A10 project: at once both one of the most successful stories in military aviation history and the most hated.

  83. 83
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Don’t forget the class issues among services. The Air Forced is manned (sic) by your betters. The Navy is just some poor shlubs who can do math; the Army is for those who count on their fingers; and the Marines are a honeypot for the rabble too crazy for prison.

    Yeah, that too. In my younger, more rose-colored-glasses days, I thought the squabbles among the military branches were just good-natured ribbing, like when you bust your best friend’s chops because hey, you’re friends and you can do that. Little did I know that the beef is real and that the real enemy for each branch is not the group at whom they’re pointing their various weapons, but the other U.S. military branches. It’s so ridiculous, it makes one wonder how we managed to become a superpower.

  84. 84
    cleek says:

    Quoth Cheney:

    I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it is driven by budget considerations. He would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.

    which would be a much better dig if Chuck wasn’t trying to raise military spending.

  85. 85
    The Pale Scot says:

    Small mod; It’s not the Navy that wanted the VTOL, it’s the Corp. Ever since the Navy left them alone on Guadalcanal the Marines have been determined to bring their own air support with them. The Harrier is a ’60s era aircraft that doesn’t have much endurance or weapons load. Its record in the Falklands was assisted by US satellite support to tell the Brits when the Argentinian Mirages were coming.

    Trying to make the F-35 a VTOL is an attempt to overrule physics, the fan/vents needed in the fuselage for takeoff increase the size of the fuselage, this interferes with something called the Witcomb(?) cross section rule that defines a size versus drag ratio needed for supersonic flight. Since ALL the F-35s have the same fuselage, the plane is going to be the Brewster Buffalo of the 21st century, unable to outrun or outmaneuver possible air to air opponents.

    The Marines should be pushing for air superiority drones, man would that piss the AF and the Navy off. But I think that CAS is best done by something like the A-10, the video capability of drones don’t match a pilot in the air from what I’ve read. And Hellfires aren’t as useful as a Vulcan cannons or CBUs for suppressing infantry movement, which is what a platoon being assaulted needs.

    Boeing got a contract for to make 50 or so sets of new A-10 wings. There is a good book called Warthogs that gives a good description of the roles the plane was used for in the 1st Gulf War. And it’s a great read. How the AF evolved from those guys to christianist nuts of nowadays I don’t get.

  86. 86
    Tim F. says:

    @Astor Column: Well yes, and boots on the ground are the gold standard for accurately discriminating friend vs. bad guy. That didn’t save Pat Tillman.

  87. 87
    Dave says:

    @Nied: Fair enough my own experience was anecdotal and the official theory of how anyone operates (I’m sure that in theory they stay high and away) isn’t always or often how things play out.

  88. 88
    jon says:

    We could always just scrap the whole thing and start over without having an Air Force at all. The Navy and Army are both perfectly capable of spending shitloads of borrowed cash to defend American interests and disinterests globally and even in space if they see to it.

  89. 89
    Cassidy says:

    @Another Holocene Human: When does a Marine know when the war is over? When the director says cut.

    The current marine setup is outdated. They don’t have the logistical support and staying power of the Army, nor the power projection, and they don’t do anything that is singularly a Marine job that isn’t being done by the other services. I think that the Marines can still be sueful, but they’re contribution to the modern battlefield isn’t more than additional manpower.

  90. 90
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    The AH-64 Apache is the perfect CAS platform

    My perspective Fulda Gap era, can the Apache survive in a SAM environment? Even if the terrain isn’t populated with SA-7 toting ruskies, bait and lure tactics still could be a problem.

  91. 91
    Tone In DC says:

    Cheney: I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it is driven by budget considerations. He would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.

    I cannot take this shit. Not from that 5-deferments-I-had-other-priorities asshole. Full disclosure, Joe Civilian commenting here.

    That damn wannabe vampire/zombie needs to shut the fuck up. Because of that fucker and the policies of his administration, many vets may need food stamps.

  92. 92
    The Pale Scot says:

    @catclub: “DMUs, EMU’s”

    Obviously he’s referring to the Great Emu War of 1932

  93. 93
    D58826 says:

    While the tech details and debates about various weapons systems are interesting I think we’re missing the fundamental point. Hagel’s and Obama’s critics in the GOP want a two major war military machine with a Spanish American war size federal budget. As long as the GOP is wedded to the idea of tax cuts and small government there will never be the money to make smart planning decisions. Obviously the DOD ‘never has enough’ money but the budget constraints we are working under are all artificially imposed by the theories of a couple of dead Austrians. From what I’ve read Austria doesn’t even pay attention to them.

  94. 94
    Bill Arnold says:

    @srv:

    We need to get rid of the AF.

    It’s not mentioned in the Constitution.

  95. 95
    Chris says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    It’s so ridiculous, it makes one wonder how we managed to become a superpower.

    You don’t have to be good to be the best. You just have to be better than your competition.

    Pithy line I read a year ago in another one of my textbooks: “While the United States had a military-industrial complex which weighed heavily on foreign policy decisions, the Soviet Union virtually was a military-industrial complex.” I can only imagine what a shit-show the internal politics of the Soviet defense establishment must have been.

  96. 96
    mclaren says:

    Chuck Hagel wants to shrink the military down to something more reasonable. Sure, count me as a supporter.

    No, Tim, you’ve been duped.

    Hagel isn’t interested in shrinking the military. He wants to cut the meat and increase the fat. Hagel wants to cut the people and the cheap older weapons procurement programs while pumping up the big new glitzy expensive state-of-the-art weapons procurement programs.

    Pentagon careers are not built on troops. They’re not built on older weapons that work, like the A-10 warthog. Pentagon careers are built on brand-new exotic technologically sophisticated state-of-the-art weapons systems that cost a fortune and don’t work…systems like the F35, like the Osprey, like the YAL10 airborne laser death ray.

    You people are gullible fools.

    Contrary to Chuck Hagel’s statements, the era of explosive growth in American military spending has barely begun. Wait till you see local police departments arming themselves with military tanks to deal with non-violent protesters…oh, wait! It’s already happening.

  97. 97
    Cervantes says:

    @mclaren:

    You people are gullible fools.

    I certainly am.

    (Do you believe that?)

    Anyhow, it’s obviously true that statements made by government officials should not be taken at face value.

  98. 98
    mclaren says:

    @Cervantes:

    One of the oldest scams pulled by the U.S. military-industrial complex is to trumpet with great fanfare how much they’re “cutting” their weapons programs and “scaling back” their spending. It’s the new era of reform! Don’t worry, folks, the U.S. military is changing, it’s becoming lean and mean! It’s going to transform itself and slim down!

    Always a lie.

    Always.

    What the U.S. military does is called “front-loading.” They reduce cost estimates on new weapons procurement, then, once the baited hook has been swallowed by congress, the cost estimates magically rise and and rise and rise.

    The late Chalmers Johnson wrote extensively about this. See Johnson’s article “Economic death spiral at the Pentagon,” February 2009, TomDispatch site. With 30+ years in the Pentagon, Chalmers was well qualified to talk about this classic Pentagon scam.

    Franklin Spinney, another 30-year Pentagon career officer, has also written about front-loading and the weapons procurement scam. See his article “Defense Power Games.

    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, planners in each military service have used a stylized, two-war regional strategy for confronting some combination of Iraq, Iran, or North Korea (combined defense budgets of less that $10 billion) to justify retaining the their existing mix of cold-war capabilities, albeit in smaller force packages, for the intermediate term. They have struggled to protect the status quo over the longer term (2010-2020) by defining notional imaginary) “peer” or “near peer” competitors. More recently, they have resorted to constructing hypothetical visions of “full spectrum dominance” across the entire spectrum of “asymmetric niche competitors,” who may emerge all over the world during the 21st century.

    There is a common denominator behind their tortured logic, however. It is the unchanging “wish list” for new high-cost, high-complexity, weapons (e.g., the F-22, Comanche helicopter, THAAD missile defense system, the new attack submarine, and a whole litany of precision-guided munitions), together with the supporting reconnaissance, surveillance, and command and control systems to wire these weapons into the SAME kind of all-seeing, all-knowing military machine envisioned by the technological soothsayers of the Cold War.

    Our capability to execute a two war regional strategy is now an open question. Combat readiness is deteriorating sharply, in part because the requirements of the regional strategy (which includes peace keeping) have led to an over-commitment of a shrinking, albeit, high-cost force structure. Moreover, the cost of maintaining aging cold-war weapons in even a low state of readiness is increasing rapidly, so money has been ‘migrating’ from the modernization budget to the operating budget for several years now, even though readiness continues to decline.

    The ‘migration’ problem exacerbates the existing shortfall in modernization created by low production rates. The new weapons are so expensive, the Pentagon can not buy enough of them to modernize the force on a timely basis, even if Congress approves its plan to increase the procurement budget by 50% by 2003, there are no cost overruns, and modernization budgets continue to increase sharply for 5 to 10 years thereafter. (Note, this kind of budget growth can only be financed by reversing the direction of migration, which, in turn, will create even more pressure to rob the readiness budget). The low rates of replacement will steadily drive up the
    average age of weapons during the first decade of the next century, and because older weapons are more expensive to maintain and operate, there will be increasing pressure to transfer money out of modernization budget to pay for the rising cost of operations.

    Finally, it is also clear that a corrupt accounting system renders it impossible to figure out how to resolve the conflicting pressures created by first two problems. Moreover, the budget shambles makes a mockery of the Constitutional precepts of accountability and checks and balances.

    Source: “Front Loading the CVN-77 … or … Why Sausage Making is Like Maneuver Warfare,” Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, 21 Jul 1998.

    The money-wasting dishonest scam Chuck Hagel proposes is exactly what Chuck Spinney is talking about in the above paragraphs — robbing the readiness budget (cutting troops, cutting working older weaponry essential for close ground support and basic combat operations) to pay for insanely expensive technologically cutting-edge weapons that are unproven and, insofar as they’ve been tested, don’t work properly, or in some cases, don’t work at all (the U.S. military anti-ballistic missile program is a classic example of a weapons system that does not work at all and has failed all tests for the last 40 years, yet which continues to gobble tens of billions of dollars per year, essentially ad infinitum).

    William S. Lind has also written about the U.S. military’s 50-year-old habit of claiming to “slim down” and “cut spending” and “reform” while actually ramping up spending and increasing its budget.

    You can find detailed discussions of the entire issue of the U.S. military constantly telling the lie that it’s reducing spending and reforming itself while it does the exact opposite in the book (available on amazon) “America’s Defense Meltdown,” 18 February 2009, Ed. Winslow T. Wheeler and authored by Spinney, Lind, Chalmers Johnson, and many other experts.

    The final word of this long long long con job by the U.S. military comes from America’s greatest military strategist, Col. John Boyd:

    Being involved in every conflict on earth is useful if the real game is boosting the Pentagon’s budget rather than serving our national interests. Here too Boyd had a favorite line. He often said, “It is not true the Pentagon has no strategy. It has a strategy, and once you understand what that strategy is, everything the Pentagon does makes sense. The strategy is, don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.”

    Perhaps Boyd’s most frequently uttered warning was, “All closed systems collapse.” Both our military and our policy-making civilian elite live in closed systems. Because Second Generation war reduces everything to putting firepower on targets, when we fail against Fourth Generation opponents, the military’s only answer is to put more firepower on more targets. Ideas about other ways of waging war are ignored because they do not fit the closed Second Generation paradigm. Meanwhile, Washington cannot consider alternatives to our current foreign policy or grand strategy because anyone who proposes one is immediately exiled from the establishment…

    Source: “John Boyd’s Art of War: Why our greatest military theorist only made colonel,” William S. Lind, The American Conservative, 16 August 2013.

  99. 99
    Cervantes says:

    @mclaren: Thanks. I had not seen that Lind article about Boyd.

  100. 100
    phil says:

    Military drones have had their day in the sun. They were great when nobody knew about them and they were only used against low budget militias. That’s over. Their weaknesses are well known now. A weapon that always has to call home for direction, and relies on long distance imaging to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys is always going to be a liability.

    A quick search for “drone detection” will do the trick.

  101. 101
    Arclite says:

    You could compare the F-35 to other snakebit programs like the Osprey, but I think that would be grossly unfair to the Osprey. A VTOL-plane converting transport is good idea that took some major engineering to get right. The F-35 as conceived cannot possibly work.

    I’m surprised no one has brought this up until now. The Osprey has suffered almost identically to the F 35. The original specifications were quite good, and would have resulted in a very safe aircraft had they remained. However, the Navy (actually, the Marines) wanted the Osprey to fit onto its carriers, so the props were shrunk, and the engines run hotter to compensate (among other compromises). These compromises made the aircraft much less safe, and several have crashed as a result killing a few dozen people. Although the F 35 has yet to enter service, the parallels compromising the aircraft design so it fit multiple services/missions is very familiar. It would be unsurprising to see similar issues.

  102. 102
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Gypsy Howell:

    But following cleek’s law, if Obama’s SecDef proposes to kill the A-10 and proceed with the F-35, doesn’t that automatically mean that every Republican will vote to do the opposite? Eleventy-dimensional chess?

    Personally I think this is just like the Social Security cuts they proposed – just calling the GOPs bluff about austerity. Do note lines like

    Hagel stressed that such changes entail risk. He said, “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted

    and a list of (red state) base closures. So you can imagine the whining from Congress.

    But read this
    “— The Navy would keep its 11 aircraft carriers but “lay up,” or temporarily remove from active service, 11 of its 22 cruisers while they are modernized. The Navy would reduce from 52 to 32 its purchase of littoral combat ships, which are smaller vessels designed to operate closer to shore.”

    Speaking as former worker at a Navy Defense contractor there has been a lot of deferred maintenance on warships due to the War of Terror. Sounds like this budget is really about making up for lost time.

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