By David Crane
defrev at gmail dot com
August 20, 2008
The recent dust-up in Georgia between Russian and Geogian forces, i.e. the Russian invasion of Georgia, has reinvigorated expensive, high-tech conventional-warfare/Cold-War-type weapons like the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor low-observable/stealth fighter aircraft a.k.a. F/A-22 Raptor air-to-air (air-superiority fighter)/ground attack aircraft. The F-22, in particular has been receiving a lot of flak over the last few years, due to its estimated actual–and rather gargantuan–price tag of approximately $350 million ($350M) per aircraft and incremental cost (cost for each additional aircraft) of approx. $143M per, and it’s nation-state-warfare (Cold-War-type/symmetric-warfare a.k.a. non-asymmetric-warfare) mission profile of Russian Sukhoi and MiG killer. After all, how applicable is the F-22 to the current Iraq and Afghanistan subnational conflicts (asymmetric/counterinsurgency warfare scenarios)? Not very.
However, "Vlad the assailer", as Neptunus Lex calls the Russians, has recently reinvigorated the F-22 and other big-money programs, including the…
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) low-observable/stealth fighter/ground-attack aircraft program. And, Russia’s isn’t the only powerful and potentially problematic military out there. What happens if we, all of a sudden, have a face-to-face showdown with China? China’s got a large military with high-tech weaponry, including missiles and fighter aircraft, at its disposal. What if we have to go up against both China and Russia at the same time? What if they allie? Don’t think it could happen? In World War II (WWII), we had to go up against an allied Germany, Japan and Italy (the Axis powers), when Germany and Japan had the most advanced and sophisticated military weapons (aircraft/planes, tanks, ground vehicles, infantry small arms, etc.) the world had ever seen up to that time.
At present, the U.S. military has a target production quota of approx. 183 aircraft for the F-22, down from an original quota of approx. 750 aircraft, which then went to 442, then 381, and then, finally 183 aircraft. Since we’ve already spent untold billions of dollars over a roughly 25-year period (yep, that’s right 25 YEARS!) to develop the thing (F-22), we might as well build enough of them to handle the worst-case symmetric warfare scenario (Russia + China simultaneously), particlarly since the per-unit cost is finally down to $143M. In Defense Review’s opinion, the U.S. military should acquire at least 381–and perhaps as many as the original 700-800 planned–F-22s a.k.a. F/A22s for the U.S. Air Force in order to be better prepared for any/every possible nation-state confrontation, and to further reduce the per-unit cost. We should also at least consider selling F-22s to countries we trust implicitly, like England and Canada (and perhaps Israel).
Understand that the Air Force shouldn’t just get a free lunch/ride. Part of the deal for getting double or more the present quota of F-22s should be that the Air Force and Navy have to relinquish their virtual monopoly/stranglehold on fixed-wing fighter and ground attack aircraft over the Army. It’s DefenseReview’s opinion that the U.S. Army should have it’s own fleet of fixed-wing ground-attack and close-air-support (CAS) aircraft, just like the Marines. The Army’s fixed-wing arsenal should include F-35s (particularly the F-35B STOVL/VTOL "jump jet" version), A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" ground attack aircraft, AC-130H/U Spectre/Spooky Gunships, and other ground-attack/CAS fixed-wing aircraft that they (Army) own and operate, themselves, so they can run their own ground attack/CAS/infantry-ground-support missions.
Part of the additional-F-22s-for-the-Air-Force deal should include putting the A-10 back into production in large numbers for all branches, so the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and even Navy all get brand new A-10s (and the Air Force, specifically, receives additional new-version A-10s). Northrop Grumman, current holder of the A-10 TDP (Technical Data Package), should also produce a good number of new-version (i.e. modernized) 2-seat OA-10B-type aircraft, i.e. 2-seat A-10 Warthogs, for all branches, the second seat carrying an attack observer/pilot who can act not only as a weapons specialist that can split tasks with the pilot, but also as an extra set of eyes so pilot is much less likely to fly into the ground or water while engaging in attack operations. These new 21st-century OA-10Bs (2-seat A-10s) would not only be a good solution for ground-attack and CAS missions, but also for naval operations and the anti-sumbarine warfare (ASW/ASuW) role in particular. All newly-built, 21st-century A-10s should employ/deploy the latest-technology hardware (including engines), avionics (including "glass cockpits" instead of traditional gauges, HOTAS flight controls, helmet-mounted display and targeting, etc.), weapons systems (missiles, bombs, multi-spectral targeting pods, etc.). The navalized 2-seat A-10 Warthog variant a.k.a. "SeaHog" (also written "Sea Hog") naval A-10 should obviously incorporate a new, more powerful engine, folding wings, tail hook, and any/all necessary ruggedization for carrier landings and takeoffs.
The Air Force’s primary mission(s) should be air-superiority
(air-to-air fighter combat and domination) and strategic and tactical bombing
missions. Their secondary mission(s) should be supporting Army and
Marine Corps ground attack and close-air-support missions as needed,
after the Army and Marine Corps, together, officially take over these roles.
The Air Force
and Navy will most likely hem and haw about being forced to give up its fixed-wing monopoloy over the Army, but they
should be made to do so, anyway.
All of this would, of course, be dependent on the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. If John McCain wins, the U.S. military will most likely receive enough funding to be able to adequately prepare itself for any potential future military confrontation with Russia and/or China overseas, and the suggestions DefenseReview has made here will have a chance of actually happening. If Barack Obama wins, the U.S. military will most likely not receive the necessary funding to arm itself adequately for a potential future (conventional) showdown with either Russia or China overseas.
As this is written, the latest Reuters/Zogby poll has McCain ahead by 5 points, so, at this particular moment, the U.S. military has a shot at getting what it needs for future nation-state wars.
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