28 March 2015

The case for the Army to fly A-10s

A well reasoned argument looks at both sides of any given argument then chooses the one that best fits reality. Solomon asked me to explain why the Army shouldn't fly A-10s, and my argument boiled down to I didn't want an air arm in the Army that could gut the ground force like the USMC is experiencing.

But it would be mentally dishonest of me to not go back and look at why the Army shouldn't be flying A-10 warthogs to provide CAS to itself. You cannot be objective unless you understand the argument from both sides.

So here are the reasons why the Army should fly the A-10.

1. The airframes are cheap. Less than the cost of a good new helicopter, proven in combat, proven in maintenance, proven to work off of rough airfields. It would also be a huge moral boost for the Infantry to know that the Warthog is still going to come out of the sky spitting 30mm depleted uranium slugs on the enemy.

2. The USAF is looking to divest itself of the A-10, so getting them isn't the problem (if you ignore the Key West Accords). By transferring them to the Army, the USAF would not need to replace those frames with F-35s to do the CAS mission for the Army. That would potentially save taxpayers many billions of dollars.

3. The aviation wing of the Army doesn't drive the train for deployment or acquisition. The Infantry, Armor, and Field Artillery branches drive the train, and having our own fixed wing attack platforms would allow us to train and certify our own JTACs.

4. The Army currently flies fixed wing transport and fixed wing armed and unarmed drones. The only thing missing is armed fixed wing manned aircraft. We can fire hellfires from the air from Apaches and Grey Eagles, but only a legal fiction stops us from using an A-10.

As much as I have mocked LTC Paul Darling for his "A-10 Needs to Go" article, it seems that LTC Paul Darling has seen the light, and wants the Army to fly a "fixed wing aircraft capable of altitudes above 15,000 feet and slow enough to loiter a long time." and recommends the Super Tucano get picked up by the Army. For a guy who doesn't like the A-10, he sure wants an aircraft that duplicates the capabilities of the A-10.

http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140609/NEWS04/306090036/Opinion-10-needs-go

http://ciceromagazine.com/features/the-armys-fixed-wing-future/

I would like to point out that the Army does integrate very well with the A-10. http://randomthoughtsandguns.blogspot.de/2014/05/ctc-rotations.html

So, should the Army fly A-10s given these facts?

I think the answer is, "It Depends."

How much are we giving up to get the A-10 (or other fixed wing CAS)? There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Are we giving up our land armor like the USMC and relying on CAS to fill the gap? We've seen how not successful that is in the "big wars" where we expect large Army armored formations to dominate the battlefield. So we can't give up our Armored Brigades.

Will we give up our authorized end strength? Cut out another Brigade or two? Make up for the lack of boots on ground with wings in the air? We learned that lesson in Korea, you have to have boots on the ground.

If the equation was as simple as getting the A-10 and giving up nothing, I would jump on that in a heartbeat. If we can take the A-10 and screw the USAF out of replacing them with F-35s we'd save the US Taxpayers billions of dollars, something that I think is in the best interest of the nation.

I think interservice rivalry is stupid, but I also think the USAF is wrong about the F-35 being able to replace the A-10. It would be petty of me to chuckle as we stole planes, pilots, and end authorizations from the Air Force to keep the A-10 around, but I'm not a very nice guy and would probably enjoy getting one back at the Air Force after the crap they pulled with the C-27J.

I do not agree with LTC Darling that the A-29 is a better platform for the Army than the A-10. It is cheaper to fly and maintain, but it lacks some of the other aspects of the A-10 that are very useful for pilot survivability, such as the A-10 having 4x the climb rate of the Super Tucano (6,000 ft/min for the A-10 over 1,500 ft/min for the A-29) and the A-29 completely lacks the "titanium tub" that has saved so many Warthog pilots from ground fire (one of the inherent dangers of the CAS mission).

To finalize, should we get the A-10? If it saves the Taxpayers money and Soldiers lives, by all means. If it comes at a cost too precious to bear, then no. We should not choose the Super Tucano, it is not as fast, not as protected, and lacks the GAU-8. We can drop bombs from drones all day, but only the A-10 or AC-130 brings the DU rain (from a long loiter fixed wing platform anyways).

Comments are open.

27 March 2015

Why putting the needs of the service over the needs of the nation breaks the joint fight and destroys our budget.

Sometimes a problem is so big, that it takes many views of it to even get a scale of how big.

Ever come across something where someone insists it's a problem, but you don't see it as a problem? Well the US Army involvement in the "Pivot to the Pacific" isn't a problem from a national security perspective. After all, the Army is part of the military which is tasked with defense, there is no good reason to cut a service out of a future battle plan. There are a lot of bad reasons to cut a service out of a battle plan, but just like we had plenty of Navy personnel working in landlocked Afghanistan, we will end up with Soldiers working on islands in the Pacific.

Now I could be wrong, but it seems like the USMC thought the "Pivot to the Pacific" was their chance to shine, and any involvement by the Army is simply poaching on their territory.

Here are two articles that point out some uncomfortable truths for Marines who believe that is the case.

http://breakingdefense.com/2012/03/marines-will-depend-on-army-allies-private-sector-to-get-ashor/

www.military.com/daily-news/2015/01/26/i-corps-commander-on-pacific-army-isnt-trying-to-be-marine-corp.html

The uncomfortable truth is that we in the Army aren't drinking your milkshake. We in the Army are often making your milkshake then delivering it to you.

I only got started by picking on the Marines, but only because they are the most vivid example of something every service does, which is think service specific instead of joint. (The Joint Strike Fighter is what happens when three services try to impose their service specific ideals on the others instead of looking at what best serves the nation).

The USMC has a public image of "doing it alone" and even procures service specific aircraft (Harrier, F-35B) based on the assumption that Navy jets will not be available. Doctrine about "forward basing" because in the history of the Harrier has NEVER HAPPENED.

The Harrier is just like the "light airborne tank" concept that the Army keeps coming back to (forgetting that we've scrapped every airborne tank we've ever tested and abandoned all the other development programs for VERY good reasons, even stopped procurement of the Stryker MGS). The allure is obvious, with a service specific capability we won't have to rely on the other services to meet a tactical need. Now we did drop our airborne tanks, exactly one time, with about a 40% failure rate on that operation, to get a grand total of 6 tanks through the very short Panama operation.... Hardly a resounding success story for a vehicle susceptible to RPG-7 fire.

Service specific equipment that is there only to let us not rely on each other is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Then again, Congress isn't always on the ball either, specifically blocking the USMC from acquiring Apache attack helicopters along with the Army back in the 80s.

If we had an airborne tank, we could rely less on Air Force for CAS. If the USMC has vertical lift jets then they don't have to rely on US Navy for CAS. But what is the better option? Fighting joint? Or having an airborne tank that can't fight tanks, or having an aircraft that can't fight aircraft?

Clearly Goldwater-Nichols did not end service specific stupidity. Don't get me started with the USAF trying to be "all jets, all air superiority, all the time! Oh, and give us CYBER, Space, missiles (except your defensive missiles because we don't want to pay for those), and intelligence because we want your funding to sacrifice to the F-35."

Of all the services that have to balance a lot of competing priorities for service specific equipment, the Navy has the most important decisions to make. And even then they'll choose a "Littoral Combat Ship" some of the time....

Now, as bad as I've made all this sound, imagine how much worse it was before Goldwater-Nichols. We fight joint (sort of) now because Congress did their job back in the day. It might be time to retool some of the "jointness"

Now, the uncomfortable truths we all have to face? The F-35 is only the most visible symptom of an extremely wasteful, fraudulent, and incompetent acquisition program across the Department of Defense. Congress is forcing the Army to buy tanks it doesn't want to keep the federal dollars going to the Lima, Ohio, tank plant. The Army has wasted millions on carbine trials, billions on a stealth helicopter we finally (and rightly) decided we didn't need, and despite having demonstrated the 30mm remote turret on the Stryker, is now testing a 20mm cannon solution...

So keep that in mind when you read some of the more harsh critics of the American military:

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/12/the-tragedy-of-the-american-military/383516/

We are so dysfunctional as individual services that Congress stepped in to reform the military to work more joint. And while we've got the "joint fight" down, we've managed to utterly break our procurement budgets.

How morally deficit are we that CONGRESS had to come in and try to force us to do the right thing?

Congress is hardly a shining example of ethics and morality: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/05/01/Congress-Packs-Defense-Bills-with-Millions-in-Pork

But we have to talk about uncomfortable subjects if we ever plan to fix them.

The Army is in the Pacific plans "drinking the USMC milkshake" because Congress tried to fix the service specific problems brought about in 1947 (quick, name a major war we won between 1947 and 1986). Even before that, in WWII we split the Pacific between the Army and Navy because of service infighting. We brought the joint fight on ourselves because we wouldn't do it willingly, so now we do it because we have no other choice.

My proposals to fix the worst parts of the situation.

1. No more development programs funded by the US Government. Companies pay for their own R&D and if it meets the needs of the nation then Congress can authorize procurement. The F-20 Tigershark and Boeing Bird of Prey are proof that private industry can make damn good technology for a lot cheaper than taxpayer funded research.

2. Give the service Secretaries the ability to stop procurement and reallocate the funds. No more "buy tanks because we say so" or "Have some more Sherpa planes you don't want!" and especially, "Here is a 17,000 dollar drip pan."

3. Specify that the US Navy is the lead on all strike and air superiority fighter acquisition. If we expect our Navy to project air supremacy off of a moving nuclear boat, the USAF has no excuse to say they can't achieve air supremacy flying the same fighters. The only "joint" fighter ever worth a damn was done this way.

4. Specify the USMC gets Navy fighters, Army helicopters, and USAF transport aircraft and the USMC gets to decide how much of each they need and can support by their budget. Make the Navy, Army, and USAF provide logistics and modernization support for total fleet maintenance of the fighters, helicopters and transport aircraft as the lead agency. It makes total sense the USMC needs its own amphibious fighting vehicles and ship to shore connectors, but those are incredibly cheap compared to one V-22 or F-35B. Forcing the USMC to keep using UH-1 and AH-1 frames in an attempt to be "cheap" caused the cost of ownership for those to grow to the point where they are parity with Blackhawks and Apaches and no meaningful cost savings were realized.

Comments are open.

26 March 2015

Everyone's an expert. Just ask them, they'll tell you...

Every once in a while you'll run across something that is just such a perfect example of the Dunning Kruger Effect that you can't help but stop and pay attention...
The MK318 has far superior terminal ballistics in soft target penetration than the M855A1. And this is the first I heard stating that the accuracy of M855 and M855A1 are anything similar.
In hindsight, anyone who reads that statement should ask, "well if you don't know much about the accuracy standards of M855A1, how do you know about the terminal ballistic performance?"

That's a mighty good question, now isn't it?

But, the specifics of the difference between M855A1 and Mk318 Mod0 SOST boils down to these...

Mk318 Mod0 deforms and stays together, making one slightly larger than 22 caliber hole. The soft lead deforms, causing instability, causing the classic tumbling in soft tissue.

M855A1 has the steel penetrator break off making one slightlylarger than 22 caliber hole, and one slightly smaller than 22 caliber hole. The heavier copper base is dynamically unstable, and once the bullet encounters resistance wants to "flip forward" to be tail first, causing a lateral force to rip the penetrator out of the bullet and create two wound channels.

That's it. Both bullets are yaw independent. Both bullets are more consistently lethal than M855 which they replaced. Both are barrier blind.

So exactly how is Mk318 "far superior" in soft tissue? Suffice to say, it really isn't. At least not for military purposes where you aren't worried about meat damage. I'm sure if I were hunting I'd want Mk318 with that soft lead nose.

So we have to ask the question about how Mk318 got this reputation for being a one shot man stopper. And the answer is that the people who developed the round, and the USMC that decided to use the round, have really great public relations spin doctors aided and abetted by unscrupulous journalists who made the baseless charge that the Army cared more about getting a "green" round than arming Soldiers with an effective bullet.

Now, does this make M855A1 superior to Mk318 SOST? Not exactly. Like anything firearm related each bullet is a specific set of compromises. I'm sure in some situations one will perform better than the other, and when you change to a different situation the opposite will be true.

Which one is a better "general purpose" round? Well I prefer the high BC of M855A1 bullets, so it makes a lot of sense as a Designated Marksman and Light Machinegun round. But if I were hunting hogs or deer I'd reach for Mk318. For close quarters shooting, or really anything under 300 meters, I doubt either shooter or target could tell the difference.

24 March 2015

Army Downsizing, what it looks like, what it means, and one possible upside.

The Army has stopped the rapid downsizing for a little bit, in sort of a "wait and see" mode as to what will happen next with Congress. 490,000 is a lot of people, and obviously 70,000 people more expensive than the 420,000 number that we are supposed to reach by 2019.

What would a 420,000 man Army look like? How much is tooth? How much is tail?

24 Brigades, about 4,500 personnel each. That's about 108,000 personnel in the Brigade Combat Teams.

29,000 assigned to SOCOM units (currently, this assumes no growth, which is not in line with Congressional projections by a few thousand from the Army).

10 Combat Aviation Brigades, about 3,300 personnel each. 33,000 personnel.

8 Field Atrillery or "DIVARTY" brigades. Call it 3,000 personnel per, that's another 24,000.

So between BCTs, CABs, and SOCOM that is 194,000 front line operational units.

For those taking note, we are approaching the 50% mark on "tooth to tail" numbers. Makes you think twice about the old "It takes 9 personnel to keep one Infantryman in the fight" logic.

It goes without saying that there are non-combat positions in all of these operational units. The Chaplain. The Brigade Surgeon. And there are people who never expect to be in a firefight, like the mechanics and communications IT support staff. The point isn't to get rid of those guys because they aren't primary trigger pullers, the point is to look at how much of the Army is dedicated directly to fighting.

Before anyone makes the assumption that all the rest of the Army could be cut, I'll point out that Hospital units, Theater Sustainment Commands, Corps and Component level staffs are not included. As much as everyone likes to hate on the headquarters, Division and Corps commanders and staff are vitally important to actually waging a cohesive ground war.

Even at 420,000 the US Army would be able to field a fighting force larger than the current United States Marine Corps. But we would have absolutely no depth outside of the National Guard.

24 Brigades is about 8 Divisions, which is about 3 Corps. Obviously we have more Division Headquarters than that now. 1 ID, 1 Cav, 1 Armor, 2nd ID, 3rd ID, 4th ID, 7th ID, 25th ID, 82nd, 101st. That makes 10 active Divisions HQs. Works out to 2.4 Brigades per Division. Those are very small Divisions. 1st ID for example lost two BCTs in the cuts. It used to be we fought in "3s" because you automatically had a fire element, maneuver element, and reserve built into your force structure. Now we don't (first we fought as regiments then we went "pentatomic" then back to 3s, then twos, now back to 5 maneuver BNs in a Brigade).

And there is especially no reserve when you consider that 1/3rd of the Army will be unready at any given time based on our readiness cycles. That means, you the Taxpayer are looking at 8 BCTs, 3 CABs, and 1 FA Brigade to go to war at the drop of a dime under two Division and one Corps Headquarters.

We can do 420,000. The question remains whether or not that is what is best for the nation. Would an extra 70,000 troops make enough of a difference to justify the cost? That would buy you back 10 BCTs and 4 CABs. Which would make the "ready force" 11 BCTs and 4 CABs, effectively increasing the amount of whoopass delivered right away by 73% over the 420,000 end strength.

And my favorite alternative to not maintaining 490,000 is to increase the end strength authorizations for the Army Reserve and National Guard. Citizen Soldiers make a huge amount of sense for any nation.

Now, the Army instead spend some of the money "saved" with the 420,000 end strength to do some off the shelf hardware upgrades? Finish the DVH transition for all Stryker Brigades? Upgrade every Bradley to a 30 or 40mm cannon? Upgrade the Abrams from an L/44 to L/55 equivalent main gun (increasing the length of the tube by 11 calibers increases the velocity of the projectile launched by current rounds enough to defeat pretty much anything rolling on the face of the planet today)?

I don't know. But this is something that people need to be talking about. Comments are open for anyone who wants to say their piece.

23 March 2015

NATO/Russia relations in light of Sun Tzu

You can't be a good military Officer without studying the scribblings of a bunch of old dead guys who had their words translated into your language. The current unpleasantness with Russia is interesting. Remember what Sun Tzu wrote about the acme of skill in warfare. "Attack an enemies plans. Attack an enemies alliances. Attack an enemies army. Only as a last resort attack an enemies cities."

If you examine the GDP of Russia, and the GDP of the United States and the GDP of NATO members of the EU, something becomes increasingly clear.

NATO is massively outspending Russia. Russian GDP is right at 2 Trillion. Russian defense spending is an "aggressive" 3.6% of GDP. Or about 81 Billion dollars. Or as the US Air Force likes to call it, a minor cost over run in the F-35 development cycle, nothing to be worried about at all Senator.

In that light, it becomes clear that the 2% of GDP spending on defense by NATO members is not a hard and fast requirement for decent defense against Russia. As long as the alliance functions and holds together. Estonia is the only other NATO country to meet the 2% spending level, and despite being a rather strong economy, 2% of 25 Billion dollars means that Russias defense spending is larger than the entire national economy.

But the GDP of the EU is 16 Trillion. The GDP of the United States is 16.5 Trillion. These are rough numbers. So between the 30 Trillion GDP of the EU and the US, against the 2 Trillion GDP of Russia, even a 1% spending on defense is fine, or 320 Billion. To put things in perspective, Russia has slightly LESS GDP than Italy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

These numbers are approximate, give or take a billion here or there. US Navy Budget 118 Billion, USAF, 142 Billion, USMC 18 Billion, US Army budget of 120 Billion. In other words, the US Department of Defense spends about 25% of the total Russian GDP. For more accurate numbers:  https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2014/04/24/88516/a-users-guide-to-the-fiscal-year-2015-defense-budget/

Which makes Russia's actions much more understandable. The diplomatic games being played by Russia are designed to attack the alliance. Russia on NATO with Russia as the aggressor is a non-starter for Russia. It would advance into Europe, and then soundly get thrashed in the counter attack.

But Russia on Estonia alone? That's a different story. For Russia to attack Estonia (or Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, or Romania) one on one is massively in Russia's favor.

One comment left on this blog is that the Green parties in Europe that have divorced European energy production away form nuclear (such as Germany, but not France) was actually a part of a long campaign to draw Russia into closer economic ties with Europe so Russian dominance of Europe could happen. Whether that is true or not is beyond my ability to know. But I do know that Europe has been actively working to decrease reliance on Russian petrochemicals for energy by building redundant pipelines outside of Russian hegemony, and building new port facilities.

If the world price for oil continues to be depressed below the level necessary for Russia to balance its budget, we will see Russia in a "cut off its nose to spite its face" scenario if it continues the saber rattling towards the West.

This makes a great amount of sense that Russia has invested heavily in "Information Operations" to destabilize nations with high ethnic Russian populations, even to the point of deliberately creating Sputnik news (sputniknews.com) and Russia Today (rt.com)  to be a mouthpiece for the Kremlin to foreign language audiences. Putin won't make a conventional move against a NATO member until that NATO member has been separated from the alliance.

We've already won this round of aggression, we just have to not step on our johnson and do something stupid like alienate an ally. One thing is truly for certain, in the Information realm, Russia is clearly hitting way above its weight class.

http://www.cjr.org/feature/what_is_russia_today.php?page=all
http://www.wsj.com/video/kremlin-gets-a-new-media-mouthpiece/8428103F-59F3-492D-9451-E1E66E8769B3.html

Russia is attacking NATO, but with posturing and words because it does not want the consequences of attacking with bullets or bombs. Putin is not stupid, he knows that if he wants geography, he has to win that fight before engaging in that fight.

22 March 2015

The history of the USMC and the Joint Strike Fighter

The USMC has a history with the Joint Strike Fighter. The claim that the USMC solely is responsible for ruining the Joint Strike Fighter is not accurate. The USMC jumped on the JSF bandwagon without what I would consider adequate reflection or due diligence, but looking at the state of the Air Wing at the end of the Cold War I can see WHY the USMC would be seduced by a new high tech aircraft of their very own.

I'm going to pull three paragraphs from this RAND study (pdf): http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1362/MR1362.ch2.pdf

First up the USMC with their plan to go "all in" on the JSF and replace 3 legacy fighters. This plan takes away the need for the USMC to operate off of Navy carriers and allows the USMC to be more independent in operations.
The JSF is particularly important for the U.S. Marine Corps. Currently, the Marine fixed-wing tactical aircraft inventory is made up of about 175 Boeing (McDonnell Douglas)/BAE Systems AV-8B Harriers,a like number of Boeing (McDonnell Douglas)/Northrop Grumman F/A-18C/Ds, and less than 100 F/A-18A/Bs. All of these aircraft are expected to be retired from the inventory between 2015 and 2021. Plans call for the delivery of the first STOVL JSF variant to the Marines in 2008. By 2011, deliveries are planned to stabilize at their peak level of 36 Marine STOVL variants per year, for an eventual total of 609 aircraft. Thus, by 2021, the STOVL JSF is expected to be the only tactical fighter aircraft in the Marine inventory.
Second, the USAF, with their plan to go F-22 and JSF to make their stealthy fighter fleet backed up with only the newest F-15Es.
The JSF is also crucial for U.S. Air Force modernization requirements. Indeed, the Air Force will be the single-largest customer for the program. The current USAF tactical fighter/attack inventory includes about 2,500 aircraft, made up of nearly 1,400 Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16s, about 500 Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-15s and 200 F-15Es, about 50 Lockheed Martin F-117 stealthy attack aircraft, and about 340 Fairchild Republic A/OA-10 attack aircraft. To replace the F-15 as its premier air superiority fighter, the Air Force plans to buy 339 Lockheed Martin F-22 air superiority fighters. Beginning in 2008, the Air Force expects to begin receiving 1,763 conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variants of the JSF to replace the F-16s and A-10s. By the mid-2020s, the JSF will make up about 70 percent of the Air Force tactical fighter inventory.
Third, the US Navy with their plan to F/A-18 and JSF.
The JSF also plays a key role in the Navy’s aviation modernization plans. The current Navy inventory is made up of fewer than 250 aging Northrop Grumman F-14 fleet air defense fighters, about 150 Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18A/B fighter/attack aircraft, and about 350 F/A-18C/D fighter/attack aircraft. Beginning in 1998, the Navy began procuring the first of a planned 548 F/A-18E/Fs to replace the F-14s, which will be phased out of the inventory by 2008, and the F/A-18A/Bs, which will be gone by 2015. To maintain the full force structure size requirement as the F/A-18C/Ds begin retiring in large numbers by 2010, the Navy plans to start procurement of the carrier variant (CV) JSF beginning that same year. By the mid-2020s, the CV JSF is planned to make up approximately 60 percent of the Navy tactical fighter force structure. Full procurement of the planned 480 CV JSFs is necessary to meet the Navy tactical fighter force-structure requirement.
Think of it like this, at the time the JSF concept was being pimped to Congress (who had failed to remember the lessons of the F4 and F111) the USMC was in a pretty big crunch with an air fleet that was aging rapidly. If the USAF was going to get a whole bunch of shiny new stealth fighters, and the USMC could get them for cheap too in a mass buy, why wouldn't they jump on the opportunity? After all, even the Navy was looking at an aging fleet of aircraft held over from the Cold War. 

Remember during this time the F-117 and B2 had performed so admirably in Desert Storm, and "stealth" looked like a huge tactical advantage that was worth the maintenance and logistical costs. It wouldn't be until the final requirements document was being drafted that Serbian ADA would shoot an F-117 out of the sky.

All of the above is interesting. It explains why each service jumped on the JSF bandwagon from an aging air fleet perspective.

So where does the "USMC broke the F-35 program" come from? Well, because the USMC was considered a stakeholder, the USMC had equal say in the design process for determining the technical requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter.
Requirements Determination
The requirements determination process was far more drawn out and iterative than in a traditional DoD acquisition program. From FY95 through FY99, three joint initial requirements documents (JIRDs) were developed through an iterative process that included all stake-holders. Promoted during this period was vigorous application of the acquisition reform concept of Cost As an Independent Variable (CAIV), which raises cost goals to the same level as performance and other system requirements. Indeed, specific Unit Recurring Flyaway (URF) cost threshold targets were established early in the program and became key requirements: $28 million for the CTOL variant, $31–$38 million for the carrier variant, and $30–$35 million for the STOVL variant (costs in FY94 $). To accommodate these targets, the user communities had to make trade-off decisions on the costs and benefits of various performance requirements. The process of developing initial requirements documents led in FY99 to the writing of a draft Operational Requirements Document (ORD) and a subsequent iteration, resulting in a final ORD in mid-FY00.
And there you have the real kernel of truth, the USMC got the Navy and Air Force to compromise on performance to get STOVL. I should note that 35 million in 1994 dollars is now about 56 million in 2015 dollars. The cost of STOVL is even questioned by Marines http://blogs.star-telegram.com/sky_talk/2012/01/marine-questions-value-of-stovl-jets-harrier-and-f-35b.html and the cost STOVL has put on the rest of the JSF program.

Now Solomon has a very valid point that Congress holds responsibility for budgeting. But that doesn't excuse the Department of Defense as a whole from not taking the big stick to defense contractors who bust their budgets with no real consequences http://www.amsaa.army.mil/Documents/Bloomberg%20Government%20-%20Cost%20Overruns%20Plague%20One-Third%20Of%20Pentagon%27s%20Biggest%20Programs.pdf

But the problem isn't that it's Congress' fault, or the DOD's fault, or the USAF's fault, or the USMC fault. This was an airplane designed by committee, then contracted to the least ethical defense contractor in US history, (I'm looking at you Lockheed Martin http://www.contractormisconduct.org/) and then colluded with said contractor to make the program cut proof: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2013/09/joint-strike-fighter-lockheed-martin

As I have written before, and will probably write again, it is NOT a silver bullet solution that wins wars, it is the right mix of capabilities. Way back in the 1990s, when the current generation of Admirals and Generals were Lieutenants/Captains and Lieutenant Commander/Majors the JSF program got started the seeds of destruction were sown.

Now the USMC is looking at their new air wing costing more than a brand new nuclear powered capital ship. The USAF is saying that because of the dismal performance it will take 8 F-35s to do the job of 2 F-22 Raptors. The US Navy has been actively downgrading the assessed need for the F-35C variant and trying to keep the F/A-18 line open as long as it can to keep that fleet viable while it works on building stealth attack drones to make up for the lack of performance in the stealthy F-35.

But it is like the military never learns the right lessons from history. There are very good reasons we fly different aircraft and no good reason to wear different uniforms. We learned that lesson in Vietnam. But now we are going to fly the same aircraft and wear different uniforms.

Suffice to say, "too many cooks spoils the broth" is the reason the F-35 sucks.

21 March 2015

Joint Forced Entry Option, USAF and US Army

The Army has a vested interest in the functional health of our sister services for the very selfish reason that we don't go anywhere on our own, and there are some things we just can't do such as achieve air supremacy.

So intelligent Army officers learn about how the Air Force does business (and the Navy and the USMC as well) because like anything else in war, it is the right mix of capabilities and not any single system that makes an effective whole.

What I'd like to talk about today is the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense from the Air Force perspective.

This is a short history of "wild weasels" and their role in SEAD. The technique hasn't changed much since Vietnam.
http://www.pacaf.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123369565

This is how SEAD was done in Desert Storm. Pay close attention to the jamming platforms, and how many of them there are.
http://www.ausairpower.net/Analysis-ODS-EW.html

The EF-111 Ravens have been retired from inventory, leaving the EC-130H Compass Call as the only broad band jamming platform in the Air Force inventory (which the Air Force has determined that it needs less of, a choice that I completely disagree with as a ground pounder). https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the-air-force-wants-to-junk-half-of-its-best-jamming-planes-3f16d164cac1

What is telling is that the Air Force's experience with the F117 working with jammers in Desert Storm to good effect (meaning no losses), and then later an F117 getting shot down over Europe should be on everyone's mind when the US Navy says it needs more Growler electronic attack aircraft. If history repeats itself, those Growlers will prove essential to keeping the underperforming F-35s (much like EA-6B Prowlers were deployed to Syria without much fanfare by the USMC at the same time the US Air Force deployed F-22s and held a press conference). The Air Force may become Navy Growlers best customers.

Suffice to say, that when taking down an Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) the Air Component Commander will use every tool available to accomplish the mission. In Desert Storm it was everything from airborne electronic attack, lethal fires from Apache helicopters, anti radiation missiles, and even a computer virus slipped in through a peripheral.

That's a lot of work. And all that is just prep work for a forced entry by ground troops. In Desert Storm there was no massive amphibious assault, air assault, or airborne assault, but there could have been because the conditions had been set successfully to carry out that mission.

Now doctrinally the US Army would conduct an "airfield seizure" mission to begin the process of building combat power to support ground offensive operations. Once a runway has been made operational, lots of cargo planes will start landing and offloading whoopass to be delivered via the ground.

Now, how do we do "forced entry" against something less than a nation wide IADS enabled desert country? Recon, rely on the self protect ECCM modules (flares and chaff) onboard the transport aircraft, then hope for the best as you jump out into the sky. Having really good intelligence on where the enemy is helps you avoid flying over air defence assets.

Now just because we did it in Desert Storm doesn't mean that the rest of the world wasn't watching. Such as the Serbs. And the Serbs made much better use of their equipment, which was generally older and not as high tech as the Iraqi IADS. http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj02/sum02/lambeth.html

The Serbs made forced entry by air without jammer support a tactical impossibility. And they did it with outdated equipment and managed to shoot down a stealth fighter. That should make you feel really good about the Air Force decision to cut their jammer fleet to give more money to the F-35...

So how do you do a forced entry op into the former Yugoslavia? Well you have to use wild weasels to get the enemy to emit or fire a weapon so that other aircraft can get in and drop of troops. Whether those aircraft are C-130s or CH-47s is irrelevant at that point because the conditions have been set for successful insertion. At least as long as the enemy is too afraid to turn on an emitter for fear of being killed by a weasel.

Of course in the technical warfare realm, there are surface to air anti-radiation missiles which easily target noisy jamming aircraft. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HQ-9 pay attention to the FT-2000 variant.

So there you have it. Tactics and counter tactics. Stealth and jamming. Destruction and cyber warfare. Suffice to say there are a lot of tools in the tool box and every tactical situation is different. Forced entry against a well prepared defense looks a lot different than forced entry against a third world country.

The Army has been getting into the airborne jammer field with CEASAR and NERO http://www.strategypage.com/%5Chtmw%5Chtecm%5Carticles%5C20140804.aspx platforms. In the future the Army might be flying its own interference missions to ensure Forced Entry operations go smoothly while the big Navy Growlers take on more lucrative targets and run interference for the "stealth" fighters.

There is a lot to talk about for how we do what we do. And there is a counter to every tactic we have, and counters to counters. We will never get to a state of "this is the one correct answer" when it comes to complex operations like this. And anyone who does, is probably trying to sell something to Congress.