US Army Generals demonstrated great courage and foresight by canceling the RAH-66 Comanche scout helicopter. Killing the Comanche was not politically difficult as the same amount of money will be reprogrammed to the same major contractors, Boeing and Sikorsky, although a few subcontractors will be zeroed out. Hopefully, Marine Corps Generals will sober up and cancel the V-22 program soon. This is much more difficult since it will be the end for Bell helicopter as it has no other large transport helicopter to offer as an alternative. The US Air Force must end production of the F-22 next year. Dozens of F-22s have been built and placed in storage as testing continues and prices soar.
The aircraft inventory in the US Air Force continues to age and shrink despite major increases in funding. While funding has risen 40% since 1997, a dozen flying squadrons have been disbanded. This is because the Air Force has been hijacked by the "fighter mafia" who lay claim to almost all aircraft funding. The C-17 is bought mostly because of pressure from the Army and Marines, and the KC-767 tanker was a Boeing idea it pushed on its own, which is now stalled. All other money goes to two new types of fighters; the F-22 and F-35. The USAF already has the most modern fighters in the world, which are newer than any other type of aircraft in the Air Force inventory. Studies show a need for more tankers, more transports, more bombers, more electronic warfare aircraft, and a new observation aircraft. None have noted a lack of fighter aircraft, yet funding for new fighters is the top Air Force priority. Here is a look at the long-range Air Force plan (2030 Hope) with the realistic result (2030 Probable) and the best plan (2030 Ideal):
Attack Aircraft Fighter Generals claim they have no plans to retire the A-10, yet they list the F-35 as its replacement. They have already begun to retire A-10s early with the excuse that it will free funds to upgrade the remainder, an excuse used in 2001 to retire one-third of the B-1 bombers. What they mean is that it will free funds for more ultra-expensive fighter aircraft. While fighters like the F-22 and F-35 can carry precision bombs to attack fixed targets, they are ill equipped to fly low and slow to locate and attack moving ground targets, especially if those targets shoot back.
The A-10 must remain in service, and all should be upgraded and overhauled indefinitely until a new close attack aircraft is built to replace it. The lightweight $100 million F-35 is not designed or equipped for the close attack role, as this A-10 pilot explains. Fast fighters with swept-back wings cannot fly slow enough to identify targets as this recent article explains: Fast Jets Not Ideal for Close Air Support. When aircraft were needed to support ground attacks in Baghdad, the armored A-10s were sent, not the fast fragile fighters. A-10s were hit numerous times, yet all safely limped back to base.
Fighter-Attack Fighter Generals have a dreamy plan to purchase 1763 F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) aircraft, but will end up with only around 1000 since costs will rise while plans to boost military spending another 30% are unrealistic. At a probable cost of $100 million for each F-35, that goal is unaffordable and unnecessary. It will cost only around $20 million to upgrade and overhaul each of 340 A-10s, so that lessens the number of F-35s needed. Civilian leaders must ensure that the sacred "Fly Before You Buy" rule is enforced before F-35 production begins. Any General who rambles about "spiral development" must be told to shut up because that only leads to spiraling costs. Billions of dollars have been wasted with the F-22 and V-22 programs as production began years before testing and development was completed, and final designs are still not ready.
There is no urgent need for the F-35. The latest version of the F-16 remains a popular choice for American allies. It is the best fighter in service and half the price of the F-35. The Air Force should purchase 40 low-cost F-16Es each year until the F-35 is ready for production, which may take a decade longer than anticipated based on the F-22 experience. The Fighter-Attack objective should be a force of 1200 F-35s and F-16Es in 2030; the mix dependant upon when the F-35 completes all testing and development and can begin production.
Strike-Fighter Early termination of F-22 production is needed to free funds for other aircraft. It has cost more than twice as much as anticipated and is crowding out other important airpower needs. The GAO just released a Tactical Aircraft status report about this ongoing disaster, and a recent POGO report provides more insight. Aviation Week published a recent update on this topic. The basic problem is that the F-22 design is so old that the Air Force needs to upgrade its computer and radar systems, and will also require $11.7 billion for upgrades to become a dual-role "F/A-22" Strike-Fighter aircraft. This has driven the overall program cost to $329 million per aircraft.
As a result, many people have called for the cancellation of the F-22 program. They note that the latest F-15 is now in production for allies at less than half the production price of an F-22. It already has modern strike features and carries twice the bomb load. Air Force Generals counter that the F-15 is a 30-year old design, but only if you consider a 2004 automobile to be outdated by claiming it's based on a 50-year old design. Others point out that the F-35 will be cheaper, more advanced, and carry a larger bomb load than the F-22, although not as far. If more long-range strike aircraft are needed at this time, newly designed F-15T "Strike Eagles" can be purchased or more B-1s can return to service.
Even though the F-22 has yet to complete testing, some 72 F-22s have already been funded, and most placed in storage as testing drags on. The FY2005 budget requests 24 more F-22s, and these 96 premature F-22 abortions will have to be upgraded and modified when testing and development is complete. FY2006 is good time to wrap up F-22 production resulting in a force of 100 "silver bullet" F-22s in case the US Air Force needs expensive advanced fighters to combat a first class enemy. This seems like a small number, but the Air Force successfully employed a force of just 52 F-117s and only 21 B-2s when their unique capabilities were required. After the F-22 "fighter" testing and development is complete, the Air Force can consider spending billions of dollars to upgrade all 100 to F/A-22s, or build new FB-22s, IF funding is available.
Electronic Warfare - The greatest need in the US military is to replace the ancient EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft. The Air Force dumped their electronic warfare aircraft a decade ago, the EF-111, in favor of providing half the crews for combined Navy/Air Force squadrons using the superior Navy EA-6B. However, the EA-6Bs are now old and replacement aircraft are needed. As a result, the Navy will soon begin production of the two-seat EA-18G "Growler" which it developed over the past few years using the new F/A-18F airframe. However, the Navy has no plans to buy EA-18Gs to support Air Force missions.
Air Force fighter pilot Generals ignore this requirement so funding is not diverted from their precious fighters. They pretend "stealth" will protect them, although it did not protect a stealthy F-117 over Serbia. Moreover, bombers, helicopters, and transports with paratroopers have no stealth characteristics. There is wild talk of modifying some B-52 bombers and UAVs for electronic warfare, but just talk. The Air Force should not expect the Navy to purchase EA-18Gs to escort their aircraft, the Air Force should buy its own ready-made EA-18Gs.
Observation Aircraft - The USAF no longer has dedicated observation aircraft. The OA-10 fills part of this role, yet it is only a single-seat aircraft in which a pilot faces the difficult task of flying, searching, and coordinating. It was hoped that UAVs could fill this gap, but recent conflicts showed they cannot hear, lack peripheral vision, crash too often, and are easy to shoot down. Imagine a motorcycle cop on patrol who must wear a helmet that blocks all hearing, with binoculars strapped in front of his eyes, and a neck brace which slows head movement. He could spot things if he happens to focus on the right place at the right time, but he would be deaf, half blind, and prone to accidents. In addition, simple ground-based jammers can destroy UAVs by disrupting their communications link with ground-based pilots far to the rear. The instant solution are 300 two-seat OV-6B Rangers, which are modified US Air Force T-6 trainers available for just $6 million each. This is exactly what is needed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all future conflicts, and 300 OV-6Bs will cost less than a dozen F-22s.
Everyone is familiar with inter-service rivalries. However, few outsiders understand that intra-service rivalries are just as strong. Although Air Force pilots fly many types of aircraft, fighter pilots have monopolized the key position of Air Force Chief of Staff since 1982. This "fighter mafia" has become so dominate that it is destroying the balanced force needed for airpower dominance. This is no conspiracy, but a failure of professionalism in the US Air Force that will undermine the US military with an imbalanced Air Force.
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
G2mil editorials may be freely distributed without permission
April 2004 Articles
Letters - comments from G2mil readers
An Apache Gunfighter is Needed - more guns, less high tech
An EF-1 Dancer - bring back B-1s for new missions
Smarter Bomber - the FB-22 idea
Sizing up the Joint Strike Fighter - compared with others
Upgrading Armored Hummers - ideas from Phil West
Boom Time for Bomb Jammers - thwarting roadside bombers
The Next American Empire - worldwide moves
Transformation - the Pentagon's official plan to plan
Pentagon should postpone base closures, Kerry says - a horrible idea
Clarke's Take on Terror - from 60 Minutes
South Korea deploy Russian tanks - business is business
The Disquieted American - another conservative against empire
John Kerry's Defense Defense - he likes military spending too
The Iraq War did not Force Gadaffi's Hand - Libya had sought a truce for years
This Cliché is a Lie - US military myths
US hires mercenaries for Iraq role - expensive mercs too
Israel's Nuclear Weapons - an open secret
The Fire This Time in Haiti was US Fueled - no help for that democracy
Draggin Jeans - soldiers need kevlar clothing too
Guantanamo Britons were 'chained to the floor and beaten' - not news in the USA
AR-15.com - everything about 5.56mm ammo
All News is Lies - Kerry and Bush think alike
Previous G2mil - March 2004 issue
Past Editorials - by Carlton Meyer
2005 Base Closures - likely closures
Library Tour - visit G2mil's library
Library Entrance - members only
All material in G2mil Copyright 2004 G2mil, patents pending on some items. Links to www.G2mil.com are encouraged.