Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bush administration makes no changes to America's largest welfare program

This New York Times article describes the unchanging nature of the defense procurement system. The United States continues to purchase unneeded weapons systems that were designed to fight a no-longer existent enemy.

Many of the weapons systems that are causing the problem were planned back in the Reagan years to fight the Cold War. But there is today no enemy with anything near the technological capabilities of the US and its allies. (Even the former Soviet Union's weapons systems had been well behind the US in capability in most areas by the 1970s.)

Consider the Joint Strike Fighter. There is in fact no combat aircraft anywhere in the world that is a match for the F-15. The Joint Strike Fighter is therefore no better, and much more expensive. And the F-16, much cheaper than the F-15 and still in production, may be a better bargain. In any case, the US can't afford to replace all the F-15s and F-16s with the Joint Strike Fighter.

The last President to try to do something about this system was Jimmy Carter, and he did not succeed. It is almost impossible to stop a new weapons system once it has advanced past the concept phase. Politicians who raise questions can have their commitment to national defense or even their patriotism questioned. But a revolving door of military officers who have to keep the system alive or have their careers ended, the promise of well paying defense contractor jobs in the districts of influential congressmen, and an unwillingness by the last four presidents to do anything condemns our children and grandchildren to pay the bills for this corporate welfare program for generations to come.

If it all resulted in a stronger defense, it might be worth it. But how is a Joint Strike Fighter going to help in the war on terrorism in a way that an F-16 would not?

11 Comments:

Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

There is in fact no combat aircraft anywhere in the world that is a match for the F-15.

Actually there is, and it's called the F/A-22A Raptor. It's a far superior plane in every way. If it's actually needed is a different question.

As for the JSF, not only is it a replacement for the F-16, it's also a replacement for the F/A 18, AV-8B, and A-10.

Airframes wear down and planes need to be replaced.

7/11/2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'Actually there is'

Point well taken; my own point was that nobody else has anything that is even (except the Saudis and Israelis to whom we sold the F-15).

'planes need to be replaced'

No argument there -- but we can replace old F-16s and F/A-18s with newer versions of the same. And airframes can last a long time -- we are still flying 40 year old B-52s and there are some 60+ year old DC-3s still flying. (Such subsonic aircraft do probably face less stress, though.)

7/11/2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

; my own point was that nobody else has anything that is even (except the Saudis and Israelis to whom we sold the F-15).

The Eurofighter Typhoon may be better, and possibly the Rafale, Mig-29 and Su-27. And you never know what China is up to or if

The F/A-18 is not a particulary great aircraft. It's range is pretty bad.

Lemme rephrase- the airframes of fighter jets doen't last very long. Some of the early F-16's have already been retired. F-14's have all been retired. The airframes can't last 30+ years.

Subsonic bombers like the B-52 can last much longer. The Air Force plans on keeping B-52's around for another 50 years, meaing they will be almost 100 years old when the are retired.

7/12/2006 9:09 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'The F/A-18 is not a particulary great aircraft.'

Agreed. It also shows the stupidity of our procurement system. There was a fly-off back in the 1970s between two aircraft. The Air Force bought the winner, which became the F-16. The Navy bought the loser, which became the F/A-18.

'Mig-29'

The MIG-29 is amazingly similar to the F/A-18. Some of us used to speculate that they got some, er, uh, information through er, uh, improper channels.


The F-14 was really designed as a platform for the Phoenix missle system, which was designed to defend aircraft carrier battle groups against attacks by the former Soviet Union. No comparable threat exists today or will exist in the forseeable future. The F-14 was, however, far superior to the F-4, which was never designed for air-to-air combat. (The original F-4 didn't even have a gun!) Unfortunately F-16's can't land on an aircraft carrier.

What the US has never had is a decent VSTOL combat aircraft; the AV-8 was too susceptible to small arms fire. The US has also lacked a maneuverable close air support aircraft since the retirement of the A-1; the A-10 is another example of procurement stupidity (the Air Force refused to buy an aircraft with propellers).

7/12/2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Actually the F-4 was designed for air-to-air combat, it orginally didn't have a cannon because the thinking of the time was that missles were the only thing needed to shoot down planes. A cannon was added to later models.

And what's wrong with the A-10? It has performed very well in Iraq, both in Gulf War 1 and 2. Yes, the Air Force doesn't like to do close air support, but the A-10 is an absolute tank destroyer.

7/12/2006 10:46 AM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the question of whether the current U.S. fighters are as superior as you have said, isn't it better to have our soldiers using something even more superior? It's still war and even vastly inferior weapon systems can kill people and even be effective against superior enemy technology (see the Sherman tank), so why not get a greater edge if we can? Also, sitting on one's laurels in terms of the technological advancement of your armed forces is a good way to let non-friendly countries with heavy ongoing military buildups catch up (see: China, People's Republic of).

I should note that Rumsfeld did manage to kill the Crusader artillery program, and I think a few others as well.

7/12/2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Don't forget the Comanche.

7/12/2006 4:13 PM  
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