American Elephants

Advanced Technology vs. Sixth Century Barbarism by The Elephant's Child

A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog"

Our military is facing some big problems that they don’t acknowledge publicly. The Pentagon is supposed to prepare for the next war so that we will never again be as unprepared as we were on December 7, 1941. And as unprepared as we were when North Korea invaded the South, and — but we are never really prepared, and that is a problem that the military has to wrestle with. DARPA is doing fantastic things with robots and drones, and all sorts of things we don’t know about, in the assumption that future wars will be technologically far more advanced and we must be ready. Do you go with technological magic, or inexpensive drones?

Yet at the same time we are confronted with a Middle East aflame and threats of terrorism all over the world. One threat is the Islamic State, a 6th Century ideology attacking a 21st Century world with 6th century barbarity and captured modern weapons. They advance by massacring everyone who does not submit, in the most brutal way possible.

The Pentagon seems to be more interested in fighting the next war than the current one, which is not surprising since the Obama administration clearly does not want to fight the current war, nor does it want to directly address the potential of a 6th Century ideology with nuclear weapons. So there we are. We have an administration that does not understand foreign policy, opposes war in any form, misidentifies our allies and enemies, and wants an America that is just an ordinary nation, no more exceptional than any other — in other words, he has never thought much about it except to hate everything George W. Bush.

The Pentagon wants to get rid of the A-10 Thunderbolt, pictured above. It is beloved by U.S. ground troops because it is designed specifically for close air support. It is nicknamed the Warthog because it is ugly. It has been in the Air Force since the 1970s and flown combat missions since the 1990s. It is not designed for dogfights with fighter jets, but to go low and slow over a battlefield eliminating enemy troops and their equipment. It has a titanium armored belly to protect pilots from ground fire, and carries a 30mm Gatling gun cannon and a variety of bombs, missiles and rockets, and terrifies ISIS fighters.

Unfortunately, the easiest place to chop the budget, according to the accountants, is the military budget. Desk-bound bureaucrats decide the fate of American troops, and rules of engagement are devised by bureaucrats with no understanding of war, the military or battle, and are anxious to prevent any criticism from the world’s ill-informed talkers. Force requirements should be dictated by battlefield requirements, not budget restraints.

The Pentagon is in love, but also deeply committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Its the most expensive military weapons program in history, but that may just be the new normal. The plane is supposed to fulfill the needs of the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force for an unknown number of years,  It may have passed the point of no return because the DOD has spent so much time and money on cost overruns and the increasing price tag.

A March report from the Government Accountability Office said “If F-35 procurement plans remain unchanged and developmental testing continues into 2018, the cost risks will increase and DOD expects to have invested $83.4 billion in 459 aircraft by that point in time. That works out to around $180 million per plane. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, says it can get the cost down to about $85 million per plane by 2019 as it fills more orders from our allies. Here is a long and more technical article about the tests ahead for the Navy and Marine Corps F-35 variants.

Other countries are building air forces composed of low-cost robots. Spending on military robots is expected to reach $7.5 billion by 2018, but their capabilities are less proven than existing systems and could end up on the budget chopping block. Here is a lengthy article on “What We Could Buy Instead,” though that’s not really a fair discussion. There are always things you could do instead.

Experts are raising doubts about nearly all of the F-35’s key features: it’s stealthiness, it’s agility in dogfights, its speed, maximum payload, and specifically its ability to fly close air support —the feature most needed in today’s battles with ISIS. There are grave doubts that it can fulfill that

A NSA briefing slide labeled “Top Secret” and headlined “Chinese Exfiltrate Sensitive Military Data” was made public by Der Spiegel which indicated that the Chinese were able to obtain digital design information , F-35 engine schematics, methods and treatments that they were able to include in the design and technology in Beijing’s new stealth jet, the J-20. “The NSA estimated in the briefing slide that the Chinese had conducted more than 30,000 cyber attacks as part of the massive defense industrial espionage, and that more than 500 attacks were significant intrusions into DoD systems.

Photo comparisons of the F-35 and the J-20 revealed remarkable similarities in appearance. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said “the so-called evidence that has been used to launch groundless accusations against China is completely unjustified,” on January 19.

Fortunately we have new members of Congress who have military experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and understand the problems we face. Martha McSally was even an A-10 Warthog pilot.

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