War and Peace: Technology marches on
Every few years it seems that pundits and think tanks come up with reasons to short change the military. Too expensive, unnecessary and unproven they say. The F-22, MV-22, the Future Combat Systems, missile defense, are current examples.
Pundits get it wrong many, many times. Before Desert Storm, it was conventional wisdom that “high tech” US forces would be at the mercy of the tough low tech Iraqi army. The curb-stomp they got at the hands of a modern maneuver-based force took the world by surprise. As a result, many of the world’s bad apples took to upgrading their forces.
A spear can’t beat a tank, but cheap advances in technology can upset the balance. Rumors of a black box the Chinese developed to beat U.S. HARM missiles caused the US Air Force to react accordingly. The US may have beaten it, but that doesn’t mean the game is over:
“The point I was trying to make with the box was the way in which asymmetric power does allow cheap things to undo expensive ones — to introduce both the idea of the “Assassin’s Mace”(which I think fits many asymmetric systems) and to lead into some of the technological oscillations behind Offense/Defense balance, which I get into later on…. the best Assassin’s Maces are still secretly guarded and definitely aren’t for sale — at least not yet.”– Joshua Cooper Ramo, quotes in:
China Looks to Undermine U.S. Power, With ‘Assassin’s Mace’ (Wired.Com)
It’s a game of punch, counter-punch, feint with in feint. Just because the current global economy sucks doesn’t mean we have to quit. In the 1930’s while the Great Depression sapped many countries cash reserves, it propelled Hitler and other tyrants to power. Seeing a military solution to their problems, they bankrolled development of a whole new generation of weapons. Sadly with our current economic climate history may repeat itself.
Only this time technology require less investment, less time between design work and cutting metal. From IED’s to missile technology, it’s getting easier to buy the means to hurt people. Treaties are either toothless or impossible to enforce. The Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are jokes. North Korea is testing nuclear weapons and new ballistic missiles, Iran just tested a new missile a few months back.
The UN is of no help, the IAEA is a toothless watch dog. They watch while Iran and North Korea are becoming nuclear states. Disarming is not an option, they hate the west, nukes or no nukes. It’s a choice between law or chaos.
On the conventional front, upgrades around he world continue apace. China and Russia sell to who ever has the money (i.e. Iran, Syria). North Korea has a sizable military, South Korean will need our help in dealing with them. The pacific is getting hot (the Spratly Islands have oil under them and are contested by no less then five nations), China has even developed a ballistic missile to hit our carriers. The middle east is boiling (Israel, Iraq, Iran etc). Africa? The euros are doing something about Sudan, but they need to step up. Fueling the wars are small arms from China and Russia.
It’s easy to say “We don’t need X, We can’t afford Y.”
Also, the F-22 is outrageously expensive. The 187 now authorized are costing the nation more than $65 billion, almost $350 million for each one…
Its “stealth” characteristic is greatly exaggerated. And, while the F-22 is less detectable by some radar at certain angles, it is easily detectable to many types of radar in the world, including early Russian and Chinese models. Just ask the pilots of the two stealthy F-117 bombers that were put out of action by Serbs in the 1999 Kosovo air war using antiquated radar systems.
–Politico Robert Gates is right on the F-22
The people saying that don’t have to deploy or attend threat briefings. They don’t have to maintain older equipment that is breaking down.
Entirely untrue. That’s averaged across the entire development program. The “flyaway cost”– i.e., the marginal cost out of pocket for each additional new F-22 built– is $138 million. Still expensive– roughly twice the flyaway cost of a new F-15E or the “notional” cost of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (which itself also hasn’t been fielded yet, for any price)– but nowhere near $350M.
….We only lost one F-117 in the Kosovo War. And while the way the Serbs bagged it is still classified, what they had to go through in order to do it wasn’t simple, wasn’t easily replicable, and required an ample dollop amount of low-tech luck.
–Ace of Spades quotes an E-Mail blasting Politico.
In the US, we tried chasing a non-existent “peace dividend” after the end of the cold war. The result is aircraft that are falling apart from metal fatigue, body armor that was not up to OIF 1, delays and cost increases across the board.
Now some programs were managed poorly or had to be canceled. The Future Combat Systems was a good example. The vehicles were too light, but the UAV’s and missiles are high-speed. They are being spun out. Landwarrior was almost doomed to be cut, but it has been given a second chance. Troops even added features and had it redesigned to be lighter. Even the Stryker has been doing well in Iraq.
Despite their hatred of “high-tech”, some in the media are looking to the future to replace costly manned systems. For instance, UAV’s could some day replace manned combat aircraft. “Someday” is still far off however (the author of one article admits that the technology is still a ways away). But UAV’s are playing a greater and greater role in combat operations.
The irony is that unmanned systems are going to be more expensive and require more costly R&D.
Increased defense spending is a must in a world that hates us. Not because of the last eight years, but because we stand for freedom. Willaim Gibson said “The street finds it’s own uses for things.” Whether it’s high tech or low tech re-purposed, nations and extremist groups find newer and better ways of blowing up their neighbors. The US must do more than keep pace. We must upgrade and research. We don’t want a repeat of 1939. We can’t afford cuts.