Only Nixon Could Go to China. Only the GOP Can Clean Up Military Procurement.

 

f-35_jsf_jointstrikefighter_trillion_dollar_boondoggleDavid Axe, editor of the well-regarded online warfighting journal War is Boring, has obtained an unclassified but internal five-page brief from a former F-35 Joint Strike Fighter test pilot. The unnamed pilot blasts the military’s latest and “greatest” jet fighter’s ability to do, well, anything:

The F-35 jockey tried to target the F-16 with the stealth jet’s 25-millimeter cannon, but the smaller F-16 easily dodged. “Instead of catching the bandit off-guard by rapidly pull aft to achieve lead, the nose rate was slow, allowing him to easily time his jink prior to a gun solution,” the JSF pilot complained.

And when the pilot of the F-16 turned the tables on the F-35, maneuvering to put the stealth plane in his own gunsight, the JSF jockey found he couldn’t maneuver out of the way, owing to a “lack of nose rate.”

The F-35 pilot came right out and said it — if you’re flying a JSF, there’s no point in trying to get into a sustained, close turning battle with another fighter. “There were not compelling reasons to fight in this region.” God help you if the enemy surprises you and you have no choice but to turn.

These results should come as no shock to anyone remotely familiar with past attempts to create a one-size-fits-all fighter for America’s military. Fifty years ago, Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, decided to combine the Air Force’s requirement for a long-range strike aircraft with the Navy’s need for a fleet-defense interceptor. The results were … less than optimal:

Excessive weight plagued the F-111B throughout its development. During the congressional hearings for the aircraft, Vice Admiral Thomas F. Connolly, then Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare, responded to a question from Senator John C. Stennis as to whether a more powerful engine would cure the aircraft’s woes, saying, “There isn’t enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!”

Shockingly, when you design a plane around a compromise, you get a plane that’s good at nothing and bad at everything.

This is just more one tale of woe in long string of military procurement failures over the past ten years. The Future Combat System was put out of our misery in 2009, after the reality of Iraq and Afghanistan showed us that a heavy, well-armored combat force still had a vital role to play on today’s battlefield. The Littorral Combat Ship program has been dead in the water for years, with costs spiraling out of control and a mission that has yet to be defined. And the Army has spent decades deciding whether it wants to buy a new rifle or not, with millions of dollars spent on chasing an elusive dream.

Enough. It’s time for some sanity about how we buy weapons for our military, and only the Republicans are up to the task. Caspar Weinberger cancelled the Sgt. York anti-aircraft gun and the RAH-66 Comanche. The fact is, the military needs some tough love, and it has to come from someone who loves the military and wants it to stay strong, not from someone who can’t pronounce the word “corpsman” correctly, or can’t tell the difference between a Russian and an American ship.

Republicans need to show their commitment to fiscal sanity by demanding sanity from all branches of government — including the military.

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  1. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Hmmmmn. In the analogy to Nixon and China, it might also be that only the GOP can cut military procurements without being savaged as soft on defense by…the GOP. I think you’re right. (Same reason Obama was the president who could have said something really helpful about police-minority relations after Ferguson…sigh). Do you think any of the candidates would actually do it? Would a Republican-led congress go along? What about the pork barrel problem?

    • #1
  2. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    If I remember correctly the F111b was called the Thurd by the Vietnam era pilots. The MIG shoot down ratio went from 12-1 in Korea to 1.1-1 in Vietnam. There was also a problem with training. Peace time training took on a ultra safe attitude between Korea and Vietnam.This PC attitude with both equipment and training is back with a vigilance. The Worthog vs the F22. Gay and female pilots vs top gun.

    • #2
  3. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    Remember the motto of the F-15 designers. ” Not a pound for air-to-ground”.

    However, keep in mind that the F-35 isn’t designed to be a dog-fighter.  If an F-35 pilot is in a turning fight, something has gone terribly wrong.

    • #3
  4. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    PHCheese:If I remember correctly the F111b was called the Thurd by the Vietnam era pilots. The MIG shoot down ratio went from 12-1 in Korea to 1.1-1 in Vietnam. There was also a problem with training. Peace time training took on a ultra safe attitude between Korea and Vietnam.This PC attitude with both equipment and training is back with a vigilance. The Worthog vs the F22. Gay and female pilots vstop gun.

    How many gay and female pilots were there, that the military changed the whole training regimen to accommodate their wussiness?

    • #4
  5. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    That is a good question Kate. How many does it take to lose a dog fight, or a war? The military now spends 4 times the time on gender relations than marksmanship. The defense of the country is at stake along with your family as well as mine’s survival. I severed in the military. It is for hard people during a war. I am not sure gays and woman can handle it. The three most important people in my life are women but national Defence is bigger than PC .

    • #5
  6. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    The OP as well as KB in comment #1 are right on.

    You could say I speak with military people from time to time. The situation is dire, mired in waste, and every effort the democrats make to cut waste amputates a limb, whether by design or as a function of progressive ideological incompatibility.

    In this regard, the libertarians with their open-border, privateering letters of marque and reprisal (I am NOT making this up) are no different than the progressives.

    I enthusiastically support slashing wrong expenditures, and IMHO there are many.

    I’ll start — many claims made to the VA are pure welfare-state fiction. That’s an unpopular truth, but there isn’t a military member past his the first term who doesn’t know somebody scamming this vitally needed system.

    • #6
  7. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    My Uncle flew F111s – it was actually a spectacular strike bomber, the first plane to have swing wings (later used on the F14 Tomcat), terrain following radar, our first supersonic nuclear capable bomber and the only aircraft the Soviets demanded be part of the SALT talks.

    I appreciate the sentiment here – but casting aspersions on the F111 is a bridge too far for me.

    • #7
  8. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Jamie, the F-111 was a magnificent aircraft for some roles, but frankly, failing at its intended roles of “everything” allowed it to be focused into a success. The procurement program for the Bark is what is being criticized here, not the plane your uncle flew.

    • #8
  9. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    PHCheese:If I remember correctly the F111b was called the Thurd by the Vietnam era pilots. The MIG shoot down ratio went from 12-1 in Korea to 1.1-1 in Vietnam. There was also a problem with training. Peace time training took on a ultra safe attitude between Korea and Vietnam.This PC attitude with both equipment and training is back with a vigilance. The Worthog vs the F22. Gay and female pilots vstop gun.

    I think you are thinking of the F-105 Thunderchief, which was known as the “Thud”. The F-111 was nicknamed the “Aardvark”, due to its long, pointed nose.

    • #9
  10. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    That procurement program failed to produce an everything plane and yet the advances made in trying to do so were found in countless other aircraft over the years. Furthermore in trying to create a plane that could withstand the pounding of carrier landings they created an incredibly tough aircraft.

    I’m not lauding the procurement process of the F35 I just think that there was more good in the development of the f111 than bad and that this might not be the best comparison.

    • #10
  11. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    We had the next-gen fighter in the F22.  Shelved.  We go with a “one-size-fits-all” fighter, with the idiotic assumption that this will save on costs for spares, etc, since you only need to design one part that will fit all fighters in their variant roles.

    As others have noted, compromise is the art of fighter design.  When you round enough of the sharp edges off the thing (figuratively speaking), you end up with a disc, not a weapon.  And procurement for the big-ticket items becomes entirely political, which has zero to do with building an effective and practical weapons system.

    We don’t send in the Army to fight a sea battle.  Why would we send in a compromised fighter for missions it’s not designed to perform, specifically, and only that mission?

    • #11
  12. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    David Knights:Remember the motto of the F-15 designers. ” Not a pound for air-to-ground”.

    However, keep in mind that the F-35 isn’t designed to be a dog-fighter. If an F-35 pilot is in a turning fight, something has gone terribly wrong.

    What are the roles the F-35 is designed for and which of these roles does it excel at?

    The F-105 wasn’t designed to dogfight but during the Vietnam War Thud pilots were in quite a few turning fights with MiGs.

    • #12
  13. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    PHCheese:That is a good question Kate. How many does it take to lose a dog fight, or a war? The military now spends4 times the time on gender relations than marksmanship. The defense of the country is at stake along with your family as well as mine’s survival. I severed in the military. It is for hard people during a war. I am not sure gays and woman can handle it. The three most important people in my life are women but national Defence is bigger than PC .

    I yield to your superior knowledge — and we probably agree for the most part:  this was a conversation I had many times with people when my son was in the Marines, and wrote about it in my new book too.

    • #13
  14. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    PHCheese:If I remember correctly the F111b was called the Thurd by the Vietnam era pilots. The MIG shoot down ratio went from 12-1 in Korea to 1.1-1 in Vietnam. There was also a problem with training. Peace time training took on a ultra safe attitude between Korea and Vietnam.This PC attitude with both equipment and training is back with a vigilance. The Worthog vs the F22. Gay and female pilots vstop gun.

    I don’t think the kill ratio was that low. There were time frames when the Air Force was actually losing the air-to-air war, but, in the end, I think it was more like 2.5:1. The Navy had a better kill ratio because they changed tactics and training.

    During most of the Vietnam War, the Air Force was stuck in uber stupid with respect to tactics and training. This was eventually fixed but came to late in the war to make a deference.

    • #14
  15. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    jetstream:

    David Knights:Remember the motto of the F-15 designers. ” Not a pound for air-to-ground”.

    However, keep in mind that the F-35 isn’t designed to be a dog-fighter. If an F-35 pilot is in a turning fight, something has gone terribly wrong.

    What are the roles the F-35 is designed for and which of these roles does it excel at?

    The F-105 wasn’t designed to dogfight but during the Vietnam War Thud pilots were in quite a few turning fights with MiGs.

    The F-35 is wonderful at destroying budgets. That’s about the only thing it does well.

    • #15
  16. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Right conclusion; wrong analogy.

    The analogy fails when one considers factors generic to Federal procurement: Davis-Bacon; set-asides; etc.

    The analogy also fails to the extent that some procurement programs are leftist stalking horses/trojan horses/strawmen used to kill better programs (like the extent that the F-35 was used as justification to insanely kill off the F-22 with all sorts of lies). The leftist goal is to select one program over another to then attack the selected program (hoping Republicans will join them if a flawed program is selected).

    • #16
  17. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    KevinC: Caspar Weinberger cancelled the Sgt. York anti-aircraft gun and the RAH-66 Comanche.

    Comanche was killed in 2004. Around here we regard it as being sabotaged by Boeing in order to sell more Apaches and their support.

    • #17
  18. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    So what are some good procurement reforms? My understanding is that we make contracts very early on in the process and then get stuck with them even if we discover that a system still needs massive work. Do we need a longer, more competitive process for such things?

    • #18
  19. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    The problem with US military procurement is short term thinking and incentives.  Over two-thirds of a weapon system cost is operation and sustainment, meaning everything after the system has been acquired.  You’d think that the estimate of these costs would be an important part of the evaluation when the systems are acquired but they are completely ignored.  The DoD also has very little ability to commit to long term procurements which would drive economies of scale and prices down but the budgeting process is completely broken.

    • #19
  20. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Jamie Lockett:My Uncle flew F111s – it was actually a spectacular strike bomber, the first plane to have swing wings (later used on the F14 Tomcat), terrain following radar, our first supersonic nuclear capable bomber and the only aircraft the Soviets demanded be part of the SALT talks.

    I appreciate the sentiment here – but casting aspersions on the F111 is a bridge too far for me.

    The main problem was that it was too big to work for the Navy.

    I think it became fairly well suited tor the kind of precision-guided munitions war that developed in the 1980s. To some extent, the Ruskies and ChiComs are making modern analogues in the Su-34 and J-20.

    • #20
  21. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    Jamie Lockett:My Uncle flew F111s – it was actually a spectacular strike bomber, the first plane to have swing wings (later used on the F14 Tomcat), terrain following radar, our first supersonic nuclear capable bomber and the only aircraft the Soviets demanded be part of the SALT talks.

    I appreciate the sentiment here – but casting aspersions on the F111 is a bridge too far for me.

    The F-111 as developed for the Air  Force was a great plane, as proven in the first Gulf war.  The initial attempts to develop it as a Naval fighter as well were the disaster.   This may possibly be the route that the F-35 goes down.  If so, the end result will be good, but we’ll have wasted a ton of money getting there, just like we did with the F-111B program.

    • #21
  22. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    jetstream:

    David Knights:Remember the motto of the F-15 designers. ” Not a pound for air-to-ground”.

    However, keep in mind that the F-35 isn’t designed to be a dog-fighter. If an F-35 pilot is in a turning fight, something has gone terribly wrong.

    What are the roles the F-35 is designed for and which of these roles does it excel at?

    The F-105 wasn’t designed to dogfight but during the Vietnam War Thud pilots were in quite a few turning fights with MiGs.

    Actually, the F-105’s big advantage is that up until the Tornado it was the fastest sea level jet aircraft around.  It didn’t get in a lot of turning fights with MiG-17s (a great way to end up with a room in the Hanoi Hilton) rather it used its energy advantage to win a bunch of fights.  (Same advantage the F-4 had if properly piloted)

    • #22
  23. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    The F-35 is suppose to replace the F-16.  The F-16 started as a “cheaper” air superiority fighter to compliment the F-15.  The 16 turned out to be a great aircraft, and over time, morphed into a good close support a/c as well.  (Not A-10 good, but pretty good)  The 16 was also a beneficiary of its own success.  After its initial deployment, it became a desirable export aircraft, and as more orders flowed in, it was able to be upgraded, adding to its abilities. (Thank you Israel)

    With the F-35, it may be too early to tell.  What we can know at this stage is that the budget is out of control.  If we want to reform procurement, we need to look at program budgeting.  One thing we have learned is that the first 90% of performance is only 10% of the cost, with the last 10% of performance resulting in the other 90% of the cost.  The key is getting the most whiz bang for each buck spent.  In some cases, maybe we need to look at not adding on that last bell or whistle.  The military always wants that, since they really aren’t concerned with the cost side of the equation, they want the extra performance that they think might be the difference between winning a fight and losing one.

    • #23
  24. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Actually, the F-105 was involved in quite a few furballs. Yes, the F-105 was greased lightning on the deck. The phantom was powerful, but also had maneuvering capabilities totally lacking in the F-105. At low altitudes the F-4 could maneuver against the MiGs.

    • #24
  25. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    David Knights:

    …One thing we have learned is that the first 90% of performance is only 10% of the cost, with the last 10% of performance resulting in the other 90% of the cost.  …

    Of course, this lesson shouldn’t have needed to be learned in the course of the F-35 program – it’s a fairly basic engineering rule of thumb.

    • #25
  26. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    H/T to Ace of Spades HQ for the video here (one day I’ll discover how to embed video in a comment).

    Long story short about the F-35: the wings are too small, the VTOL component reduces rather than adds to functionality, the payload is too small, stealth isn’t what it’s sold as, pilots can’t turn their head in the cockpit because of the helmet design and the engine is underpowered.

    The F-35 does one thing well – shovel money to Lockheed Martin.

    That’s really all it does well.

    • #26
  27. KevinC Contributor
    KevinC
    @KevinCreighton

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:So what are some good procurement reforms? My understanding is that we make contracts very early on in the process and then get stuck with them even if we discover that a system still needs massive work. Do we need a longer, more competitive process for such things?

    As much as it pains me to say it, McCain is right: The military could learn a lot about scope creep and streamlined development by following Silicon Valley’s lead. The damning statistic from that article is:

    “Commercial R&D in the United States overtook government R&D in 1980, and now represents 75 percent of the national total. The top four U.S. defense contractors combined spend only 27 percent of what Google does annually on R&D. “

    We’re not interested in finding solutions anymore, we’re just interested in milking our cash cows.

    • #27
  28. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    You guys are so cool. Just saying.

    Next question—is the military better than the civilian side at doing a dispassionate analysis of a given program after it has been enacted, and determining whether or not it’s actually filling the need or performing the mission it was intended to?

    • #28
  29. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    I’ve always wanted to ask someone this too: how does capitalist competition work to keep costs down and mission-readiness a priority when the ability to produce weapons systems of such complexity must, of necessity, be confined to an awfully small number of companies whose only real customer is the US government (plus maybe some allies?)   How do LM’s  stockholders’ interests (profits) intersect with the need of the US military to have the best equipment, or know whether they’ve got the best equipment to protect the collective (non-stockholders) interests? Is capitalism actually capitalism in this case? (I’m not being a useful idiot, just a plain idiot; it’s always struck me as a problem, and I lack the expertise to even frame my question properly).

    • #29
  30. KevinC Contributor
    KevinC
    @KevinCreighton

    Jamie Lockett: I appreciate the sentiment here – but casting aspersions on the F111 is a bridge too far for me.

    The F-111, as it was adopted by the Air Force, was a pretty darn good plane, with a bunch of smoking holes in the ground in Libya and elsewhere to prove it’s worth to our military.

    The process behind procuring the F-111, though, was a nightmare.

    David Knights:  If an F-35 pilot is in a turning fight, something has gone terribly wrong.

    I’ve not served in the military, but from what I know, when the $#@! starts flying, things going terribly wrong is pretty much par for the course.

    • #30

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