A New Bomber? Why?

060707f3961r003 "The U.S. Air Force announced plans for a new long-range bomber several years ago, but the program has not received much attention or funding in the regular defense budget because of competing budget demands.
According to defense experts, plans call for the new bomber to be subsonic, manned and have a range of about 2,000 miles.
Developing a new bomber from scratch could be costly, but defense analysts say the Pentagon may already have spent billions on early conceptual work from its classified budget.
A new bomber is needed to upgrade the Air Force’s aging bomber fleet, which is based on 1970s technology and expensive to maintain, said Lockheed’s Cappuccio.
"It’s really an economic thing with the government," said Cappuccio. "They have to recapitalize or go bankrupt holding onto a 1979 Chevy. Would you want to hang on to your 1979 Chevy for another 20 years? They have to do something.""  The Guardian
Uav01 Why do we need a new, very expensive bomber?  Why?  Modern fighter aircraft are pretty much all ground attack aircraft as well as air superiority machines.  Pilotless aircraft appear to have a vast potential. (The picture at the left is a USAF concept of an UNMANNED bomber) Why a new subsonic, manned bomber with a range of just 2000 miles.  What the hell is this, welfare for Air Force Academy graduates?  The USAF is understandably enough wedded to the idea of manned aircraft.  Without manned aircraft the aviators would have to start paying for their passion in life.
I suspect that this project represents the "military-industrial" complex in full view for a change.  I wonder what sort of "horse trading" went on among the services for this to have been agreed on.
A ’79 Chevy?  A ’79 Chevy is a reasonable analog for a B-1 or B-2 bomber?

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45 Responses to A New Bomber? Why?

  1. The argument, as I understand it, is about range: yes, the “fighters” are all in fact fighter-bombers, but they cannot hit targets 1,000 miles away, let alone 2,000, without mid-air refueling — which is accomplished by slow, unstealthy tankers that are vulnerable to all sorts of relatively low-tech foes. If you are serious about projecting airpower deep into Eurasia, and you are less than confident about the kind of bases you will have on the continent, then you need to think about bombers.
    An article of mine on the subject is at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0807/081507nj1.htm

  2. ked says:

    another new manned bomber? sure, how ’bout a C-130 or 737…

  3. Curious says:

    This is exactly the same reason why they pay for that overpriced, but utterly useless F-22. In the meantime when real war broke out, we are short on low cost and simple UAV.
    Why do we need a long range heavy bomber when any long range heavy UAV can be loaded with standard cruise missiles?
    These UAVs can fly few days continuously above radar/standard defense system. Low profile, low cost, and gets the job done. (but there is no money in it)
    How about that useless but extremely expensive humvee and LAV? cute toys for the generals. It doesn’t even survive basic IED.
    But hey, gotta prop up Boeing,GD and Carlyle stock somehow.

  4. Kevin says:

    It is called military keynesianism.

  5. Richard Whitman says:

    I can forsee the day that some LDC develops an inexpensive UAV similar to Tata’s $2500 car, builds them by the thousand and gets college students and computer gamers to control them. Thats the way to disrupt air warfare.

  6. psd says:

    Yeah, sure a B-1 or B-2 bomber is analogous to a 79 Chevy…. More like a 79 Mercedes or even a Toyota or Honda. And if the 1979 Mercedes has been well-maintained, it has another 20 years left on it.

  7. clifford kiracofe says:

    Military spending is non-productive so should be at the lowest level possible that protects our Nation’s security. There are other tools of power such as intelligence capabilities, diplomatic action, and international economic action.
    Ike reduced the defense spending despite Cold War tensions.
    What did Ike do? He created two massive infrastructure projects that would spark productive economic activity: our Federal Highway System and the St. Lawrence Seaway Project. I think massive infrastructure spending here AT HOME is warranted. We have to “convert” from the National Security State economy to a normal peacetime economy….I know GWOT and all that hysteria…
    At some point, hopefully before we spiral into totally uncontrollable debt/unsustainable debt payments and hyperinflation we will radically slash the defense budget and shut down unnecessary foreign basing.
    An SST reader posted a very interesting sentence a week or so ago about LIBOR and US Treasury rates. Here is an infographic that illustrates the comment and indicates recession. Interesting that it is Novosti running a Goldman Sachs graphic:
    So a recession simultaneous with massive federal deficit and massive current account deficit is a recipe for…?

  8. wasab says:

    I would vote for anyone who could take a scalpel to the pentagon’s budget. I believe one of Rumsfelds supposed missions was to look for government waste. He found the Pentagon couldn’t account for more than a trillion dollars in financial transactions, not to mention dozens of tanks, missiles and planes. I think the last I heard was hands were thrown up at the GAO and the Pentagon was declared unauditable.

  9. Fred says:

    Pat, yes, it is welfare, but for Lockheed as well as AF academy grads.
    I believe the USAF recently grounded 500+ F-15s due to a known structural defect on some aircraft. No idea if they will do radiagraphy to find which ones have the cracked supports or if they just want all of us to foot the bill for 500+ F-22’s.
    Sydney, which of the airforces on planet earth are a threat to our refueling tankers? Iran’s? China’s? Just what capabilities do they have?

  10. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    And speaking to Kevin’s point, I would recommend Chalmers Johnson’s post over at TomDispatch. Having a military establishment sufficient to defend the territorial integrity and the truly vital geopolitical interests of the Republic is both a good idea and sustainable economically. Having a military establishment sufficient to establish and maintain a worldwide hegemony…well, not so much.

  11. Jack K says:

    No doubt. Why waste hard cash on old school bombers when drones are cheap, can hit targets, and collect real time information? Jeez…

  12. Duncan Kinder says:

    Given all of the outsourcing that has been going on, how much of this bomber would actualy be produced domestically?

  13. Yohan says:

    The big question for me is: what the bloody use is a big bomber except to provide billion dollar jobs to contractors?
    Strategic bombing has never worked except maybe over Japan. The large-scale bombing of targets without ground forces present to exploit the destruction(assuming you haven’t bombed empty jungle, a la Vietnam) has also proven largely useless(especially see the Israeli-Hezbollah Summer War of 2006 and the US bombing of Tora Bora). Thus, I don’t see how penetrating 2,000 miles into territory you can’t otherwise touch will be of much use.
    Not to mention how useless a bomber like this would be against covert terrorist cells or insurgencies.

  14. linda says:

    are you kidding … in the new world of privatized military operations, just imagine the fleecing, er, opportunities there are for the entrepeneur:
    Company Paid Twice for War Support Work
    By RICHARD LARDNER – 2 days ago
    WASHINGTON (AP) — A defense contractor hired to repair combat equipment routinely failed to do the job right and then charged the government millions of dollars for the extra work needed to get the gear ready for battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a newly released audit.
    Overall, the contractor’s employees at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait worked about 188,000 additional hours to fix Humvees, heavy transporters and fighting vehicles that allegedly were mended but flunked a military inspection, the Government Accountability Office said.
    The GAO estimates the Army paid $4.2 million for the additional labor. Under the terms of the $581 million contract, the company is to be paid for all maintenance hours worked. That includes “labor hours associated with maintenance performed after the Army rejects equipment that fails to meet Army maintenance standards,” said the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress.
    The contractor is not named in the GAO audit. The contract number is, however. The Federal Procurement Data System, a Web site that tracks government contracts, shows ITT Federal Services International of Colorado Springs, Colo., as the company performing the work. …
    In one case, a semitrailer used for hauling massive M-1 tanks was fixed and submitted to the Army as ready for return to the field. It failed inspection. After that, the contractor charged the government for 636 hours of repair work before it passed inspection more than three months later. … [this must have been some tricked-out, customized smokin’ semi by the time ITT Federal Services International got done. ugh.]

  15. Technology will not replace what human brains can do in our lifetimes so there will always be a need for manned aircraft. And considering the rise of China I see no reason to scuttle long range “legacy” bomber programs all together.
    What confuses me is why we should replace the B-52s and B-2s with an inferior aircraft. By inferior, I mean the main specifications of range, speed and payload.
    It would be interesting to see a cost comparison between maintaining our current B-52H and B-2 fleets and building brand-new bombers. My hunch is that maintenance is ultimately cheaper.
    Whenever these issues come up I think of the Soviets during WWII and their philosophy of making lots and lots of low-tech, highly armored machines that are relatively cheap to build. They could throw tons of these machines into action and ultimately win by attrition. Sometimes we rely too much on advanced technology.

  16. Cieran says:

    The Air Force definitely needs to go on a financial diet, but its desires for new high-tech bombers are only the tip of the iceberg.
    If we really want to see a return to accountability in our defense expenditures, we should start by shutting down the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. This taxpayer-supported facility has become a bastion of anti-American activity, by promoting a pseudo-religious culture that is at complete variance with our constitution.
    We should move the academy to someplace where the locals will think twice before installing perverts like Ted Haggard across the highway from our cadets. Moving the academy to some lonely USAF base recently BRAC’ed out of comission would be a good idea for such relocation, and the move would serve as a perpetual reminder that when a community abuses the public trust, the federal dollars will soon flow elsewhere.
    The Air Force academy is not Annapolis or West Point. By the time the Wright brothers first took flight, the USMA had already chalked up a century of real service to the nation. We don’t need expensive new high-tech bombers, and we certainly can’t afford to train another generation of Air Force officers who believe we do.

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    clifford kiracofe:
    In a capitalist economy, money percolates up. To prevent a situation in which a small group own an entire country – like certain states in Central America – money has to be kept circulating.
    Reagan gave a public subsidy to US capitalism by his arms build-up.
    My personal preference for a public project is to build a massive space station at the Lagrangian 5. It would keep money circulating while producing jobs in the United States for all the science and technology graduates out there in addition to grounds and maintenance jobs for those currently on the dole.

  18. David W says:

    While I tend to agree with the belief that our military budget is the biggest pork barrel in history, I did find something interesting while researching the B2; one of its stealth engineers, Noshir Gowadia is going to trial on Feb 12, accused of selling B2 tech secrets to the Chinese govt, as well as individuals from Germany, Israel and Switzerland.

  19. Charles I says:

    Ike named the beast, and now a feckless, checkless global incarnation of it well limned by Clifford K in an earlier post owns you and your grandchildren.
    Linda, your article is the tip of the iceberg, but illustrative of the whole deadly scam. Check out Jeremy Scahill’s “Blackwater: The rise of the world’s most powerful
    mercenary army”. The privatization, fraud and enrichment are bad enough, but the stuff of military fraud in theatre is death to ill equipped troops, and fewer resources for the returning wounded. Plus it it helps sell the we-can’t-afford-social-programs program of the wealthy elites, whist simultaneously enriching them and paying off their enablers.
    Clifford, I couldn’t get your link to work, but w/r/t ” a recession simultaneous with massive federal deficit and massive current account deficit is a recipe for. . .”
    . . .the gutting of all social spending, militarization of the Homeland complete with well-armed, well-connected unaccountable private mercenary armies commanded by a fundamentalist who’s primary allegiance is not to the constitution, but to the fantasy he imagines the Bible prescribes. Or perhaps to an Operation Northwoods immediately followed by an overt fascist/fundamentalist coup.
    CWZ; real time human perception and input from thousands of miles away are already raining death to one or to all within range. I don’t think the requirement for human direction requires humans in situ, particularly for over the horizon delivery of heavy tactical munitions that I imagine would be deployed in such globe spanning scenarios.
    But navy’ll never give up its boats – check out the plans for Marines delivered by torpedo or refitting billion dollar Tridents to fire conventional(or maybe bio/chem when the shite really flies, or the targets are tinted types far away over the horizon) warheads in face of perfectly good cruise missiles. Similarly, the air force and other services will always scramble for new manned boondoggles, many of which are implemented for political rather than military needs, a la the ill-fated Osprey.
    Babaak, surely to god, any god, billions and billions of such a public economic project employing the same engineering and technical cadres would be far better spent by an energy Manhattan project on the ground. Or, given market and human inclinations, for a pill that’ll grow hair and/or breasts whilst keeping you skinny. Maybe an energy crash program wouldn’t fire the imagination the way a twinkling Lagrangian bauble in the heavens would, but its time for a little more reality and a little less imagination. Given the state of accounts and infrastructure down here on Earth I’d look at another grand space station as an irresponsible distraction from current pressing needs, as well as confirmation that bread and a circus will keep ’em down every time, and a strict policy of ignoring the laws of physics and the facts on the ground had been successfully implemented.

  20. dilbert dogbert says:

    I would like to hear from someone in the industry who is worried about how to achieve a skilled workforce over the long lifetimes of our weapon systems.
    I have a feeling that you can’t keep smart skilled people around who only get to design and build one system in their lifetime.
    Maybe we have to waste money to maintain that workforce?

  21. Curious says:

    money percolates up.
    Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 26 January 2008 at 10:19 AM
    Show me any governing system where wealth and power don’t accumulate at the hand of few over time. I show you a sucker.
    Without feedback every system thus far converges toward plutocrats. The big excuses are different, but it all works the same way.

  22. jon says:

    A ’79 Chevy wasn’t a very good representative of automobiles, even in 1979.
    However, the B-52 has persisted for a service life of about 50 years, and still has few peers. I’d pony up for that kind of Chevy.
    Why do we need a new airframe with these capabilities? It’s not to relieve the strain on tanker operations, is it? Dominance of central Asian oilfields, perhaps? Is that task necessary? Is it one we should be eager to assume and provision for? Is this the only or best way to carry out such a mission? Who will be our competitors in this endeavor, and what can we surmise of their future actions and capability?
    New weapons systems have a fairly predictable pattern of becoming loaded down with transformational new features using unproven technology and systems, that predictably leads to enormous cost overruns and lengthy lead times and debugging. The new fighter program, and the Littoral Combat Ship program are poster children for this.
    It’s a good idea to keep a healthy, indigenous armory, and if there is no purchasing that industry will dwindle or emigrate. As has been pointed out, we already purchase more military capacity than the rest of the world combined. I’m not sure how much more we can do, or what incremental benefit we can obtain.
    I can’t help suspecting that if we devoted the budget of this program into renewable energy technology research and production we might obtain far more actual national security. Imagine if our military strategy was not predicated on needing to go into the oil regions of the world and taking fuel from reluctant, avaricious trading partners. If oil had perhaps one quarter of its current importance to the developed world’s economies, what would be the strategic importance of the Middle East?

  23. Kevin says:

    –“My personal preference for a public project is to build a massive space station at the Lagrangian 5. It would keep money circulating while producing jobs in the United States for all the science and technology graduates out there in addition to grounds and maintenance jobs for those currently on the dole.”
    As the baby boomers come to fruition, I am now thinking more towards health care or SS; Warren Buffet made his fortune following this powerful demographic group, but I believe the military industrial complex has more to do with empowerment of a certain sector of the population with political and monetary clout while apealing to patriotism and fear mongering. The GWOT can be used to undo the fatal errors of 20th century european imperialism before making the transition.

  24. Sydney Freedberg says:

    To answer a question addressed to me earlier:
    “Sydney, which of the airforces on planet earth are a threat to our refueling tankers? Iran’s? China’s? Just what capabilities do they have?”
    Ah. It’s not the air forces that are the problem, so much as the surface-to-air missiles. Moore’s law — the doubling of available processing power every 18 months — keeps making sensors and guided weapons cheaper. B-52s bombed the Taliban quite effectively, but a 2020 Taliban-equivalent (let alone a genuinely formidable opponent) will likely have much nastier air defenses, requiring a less detectable bomber.

  25. Andy says:

    Like any procurement decision, the weapons you buy depend on what you want your military to do and evaluating the necessity of a new bomber is no different. Additionally one must consider other factors like our strategy and doctrine for warfare and how a bomber fits into that strategy.
    I think Sydney’s article gives a pretty good overview of the issue, but I’ll give my response to Col. Lang’s question directly on the differences between multi-role fighter aircraft and bombers in actual operations.
    The first thing to consider is aerial refuelling (tanking). The Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy are all dependent to a significant extent tanking. This is particularly true today with the demise of medium-range aircraft such as the F-111 and the A-6. The smaller, multi-role aircraft we use today require significantly more tanking support than a bomber for a comparable payload. For instance, a single B-1 bomber can carry 24 GBU-31 weapons (GBU-31 is the 2000 pound JDAM variant) while the F-35 can carry 2 internally (and maintain its stealth characteristics) or 6 total (2 internally, 4 on the wings) if stealth is not a problem. So to equal 1 B-1 bomber would require approximately 4 F-35’s in the best case. When one calculates the range and payload of both options it quickly becomes apparent that the tanking requirements for an all F-35 strike would require about 3-5 times the number of tankers to accomplish the same mission. The greater the distance, the greater the disparity. One could, conceivably, launch a strike using multi-role fighters from US soil against targets in Iraq, but the number of tankers required to support such a mission would be extraordinary. In fact, the availability of tankers has been the limiting factor on the pace and scope of air operations at various times in the past and continues to be a challenge today. So relying on multirole fighters to perform traditional bomber missions will, at a minimum, require the US to buy many more tanking aircraft to keep the same capability.
    The increased number of aircraft also increases mission complexity and therefore risk. More spare aircraft must be made available in case one aircraft cannot fly, timelines are expanded because of coordination issues increasing not only mission length, vulnerability windows as well as making tactical surprise more difficult.
    Additionally, as was noted by others earlier, refuelling aircraft can only operate in friendly airspace. For the US this means over an allied nation away from SAM envelopes or over water. Here is where the inherent range of each aircraft becomes an issue. Without going into all the details, bombers can penetrate further and loiter longer than multi-role fighters. Multirole aircraft configured with bombs typically have less range and endurance than the same aircraft with only air-to-air weapons. All these factors and more conspire to limit the ability of these shorter-range multirole aircraft to operate in the deep battle space or strike strategic targets.
    Finally, there is the issue of capability. Our workhorse bomber remains the B-52 but it can only operate in permissive environments. The comparison to a Chevy is not apt. Let’s make a better comparison – say the M48 Patton – a US tank originally fielded around the same time as the B-52. We’ve replaced these tanks with the M1 Abrams, but conceivably they could have been kept in service through 2040 through upgrades. But such upgrades can only do so much because of limitations inherent in the basic design. Even upgraded they would not be survivable on today’s battlefield much less battlefields over the next 30 years. Newer tanks outclass them because their basic designs are better. The same can be said for the B-52 – it is not survivable against most threats and therefore requires air supremacy to operate which obviously limits its usefulness. The B-2, by contrast, is very survivable but 20 aircraft is not a lot to depend on, and the B-1 is schedule for retirement in eight years.
    These are just a few issues to think about on a complex topic. As I stated at the beginning, much depends on the kind of wars we might be in – if they’re going to be smaller, third-world affairs akin to Afghanistan, Somalia, etc. then a bomber will not be needed. For a war like Desert Storm against a 2nd or 1st tier opponent then bombers will probably be a necessary component to fight the deep battle and perform other traditional bomber roles. Personally, I have no idea what the future holds so I’m inclined to hedge a bit against uncertainty and take a middle course. Two options come to mind. First, I would look at the cost to upgrade the B-1 to keep it flying another 20 years or so. Secondly, I would look at developing a cheap, long-range UAV bomber as a gap-filler.

  26. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You and Andy don’t seem to understand my position. You should not need such enormously expensive weapons systems because you should not have a foreign policy that requires them. pl

  27. clifford kiracofe says:

    Per weapon systems, IMO they need to relate to the force posture and force structure we determine required under a comprehensive, systematic and integrated national strategy combining diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military elements. Also, the national strategy must relate to the reality of an emerging multipolar environment rather than the “fairy tale”/fantasy of a unipolar world dominated by the United States. A more stuff attitude is counterproductive as is the militarization of national strategy. Neo-Mackinder fantasies, Great Game fantasies and all that, are dead ends…for this Republic, IMO.
    Ike says (Address to the National Republican Conference, 7 June 1957):
    “And Defense. The principle is that the Federal government must provide for the common defense, using those methods that are most effective and the most economical.
    The application of a century ago: Almost exclusive dependence on state militias, with tiny and inexpensive Federal forces.
    The application today is changed because the nature of defense requires military forces of great size armed with costly equipment. To lessen the cost, we participate in a system of mutual aid with friendly nations. We do this because it costs far less than if we tried to provide the same amount of effective defense by direct accumulation of military might at home. But secure we must be.
    The principle remains: The most effective defense for the least cost.” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=10810
    Ike’s key speechwriter-advisor was Arthur Larson, a Rhodes Scholar (Pembroke, Oxford) and lawyer for whom see:
    It is time for our Republic to drop the geopolitical narcisism of William Yandell Elliott’s toys: Kissinger and Brzezinski…and the Neocon-Leo Strauss/Karl Schmitt/Nietzsche/Hans Morgenthau crap and all the rest.

  28. David W says:

    Here is an interesting Vanity Fair story on the nuts and bolts of mil contractor waste, fraud, corruption, and 1000% markups:
    The People vs. the Profiteers
    It discusses the whistleblower lawsuits that the DOJ is trying to suppress, as well as the Orlando lawyer Alan Grayson who is spearheading several of the lawsuits. Interestingly, he is an expert on military procurement rules, and is running for Congress, a move which would position him for oversight. Let’s hope he makes it.

  29. CWZ; real time human perception and input from thousands of miles away are already raining death to one or to all within range. I don’t think the requirement for human direction requires humans in situ, particularly for over the horizon delivery of heavy tactical munitions that I imagine would be deployed in such globe spanning scenarios.
    I don’t know enough about these UAVs to comment with authority. All I can say, though, is that we’re not using them in an electronics countermeasures shitstorm right now. If I knew exactly what communications technologies and networks our operators are using today to control those drones, I could make a decent assessment of what would happen if we were fighting someone like the old Soviet Union, who would be using things such as:
    What we’re doing today may not work so well with a conventional force that is actively attacking and jamming our communications networks. And China may turn into such a force over the next decade or so.

  30. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    I understand your position and acknowledged in my comment that military capabilities need to match needs and foreign policy certainly is the biggest part of that. I was simply responding the query about the operational differences between bombers and other types of aircraft.
    In principle, though, I agree with your position – there are any number of military capabilities we should not need, but the cynic in me suggests that despite what we both might want those capabilities will nevertheless be required at some future date. Even the most adept and perfect foreign policy cannot prevent all war and I would rather be prepared, trained and equipped to win quickly and decisively should it come.
    I would also point out that the ability to deploy firepower quickly can have a deterrent effect, whether that firepower comes from aircraft carriers, bombers or the two Marine expeditionary units we have underway at any time.
    Of course a counter-argument is that simply having these military capabilities promotes their use but ISTM that is a leadership failure. And as we saw with GWB, lack of military capability to conduct proper phase IV operations did not deter the invasion of Iraq. More pliant officers simply replaced those who pointed out such inconvenient facts and the plan was changed to forgoing such operations altogether. ISTM this demonstrates that poor, politically-motivated leadership will not be deterred from carrying out an agenda due to a lack of military capability IMO.

  31. Fred says:

    If air forces are not the problem then we can get rid of fighter aircraft altogether? As for the Taliban, they were not a strategic threat to the USA in 2001, how will they become one in 2020? I know this administration screwed up badly but that is quite a stretch.
    Just because someone has the capability to shoot down an airplane or sink a ship is no reason to commit the govt. to expending billions on new technology. In this regard the ‘79 Chevy is a good analogy. It still gets you from point A to point B, and it is already paid for (Just like my ‘95 Crown Vic). Marginal (operations and maintenance) costs are all that is required. A new bomber fleet requires retooling both industry and the support infrastructure – for a marginal benefit. Especially if the Taliban in 2020 are the rationale for this decision!
    Andy, you don’t need to fly F-15’s from the US to Iraq when you have multiple air craft carriers to fly from.
    Just who is the USAF preparing to go to war against – and why?

  32. Duncan Kinder says:

    The first thing to consider is aerial refuelling (tanking).
    It appears the Achilles heel of the Air Force is the tankers.
    Another complexity to consider is whether the enormous amount of money that would be spent on bomber might more productively be spent elsewhere, such as healthcare.
    Furthermore, the question arises as to where these monies are going to come from.
    A casual survey of the financial pages suggests that the debt-ridden United States is already experiencing difficulties. These are apt to grow rather than to shrink.
    Accordingly, the decision of whether the United States needs a new bomber are apt to be made, not by Congress, not by the Pentagon, not by lobbyists, but rather by foreign creditors. These creditors are not apt to take comparisons between M48’s and Abrams tanks very seriously.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Charles I:
    There is no need in US for an alternatives energy project on the scale of the Manhattan project since US has no shortage of energy.
    US has the first coal reserves of the world (India is second, I believe), she is producing 5.5 million barrels of oil a day with no end in sight, she is sitting on a lot of gas (just a single, as yet untapped gas field in Mobile Bay is estimated to be sufficient to power US for 300 years), and I am not even counting the Breeder Reactor technology.
    Perhaps the rest of the world needs such a research program, well the Chinese, Brazilians, Japanese, Europeans, Indians, and Koreans of the world are not exactly destitute. They can set up a joint venture, modeled after CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire). In fact, then US can chip in and carry some of the cost.
    My proposal for the L5 Space Station is rather modest. What we truly need is alternative planets for human habitation. For, eventually, if the current unfortunate trends continue, there will be a single planetary government. Given that mankind is in a state of Fall, sooner or later, such a government will be taken over by unscrupulous, evil venal men. And then we will be either reliving the Chinese historical experience on a planetary scale (best case) or that of Third Reich (worst case). If such a government, for example, decides to kill all Shia Muslims, escape will be impossible except off the planet.
    Nor Sir. I believe that we need to find other Earths – one of them can then be called America II. So we need to build interstellar probes, space stations, US Space Corps, etc. US can set it up as a joint venture and sell shares in it.

  34. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It makes no sense to size a force other than in accordance with actual need. Who threatens us besides the takfiris?
    By the logic of preparing for all possible adversaries one is easily led to commit to an infinitely large and expensive force.
    Reminds me of one of my wife’s relatives who on a visit to DC many years ago was aghast to hear that I thought that there proper limits to military budgets.
    She said that this should be left to military experts. I was a graduate of the war college and on the Joint Staff at the time. I let it go. pl

  35. Cloned Poster says:

    Tu-95MS is the final bomber variant produced from 1983 and based on Tu-142’s airframe. Tu-95MS was designed specifically to carry the Kh-55 cruise missile. Tu-95MS6 and MS16 designations refer to different weapons load configurations. Currently, Tu-95MS is the only variant in active service with the Russian Air Force. Some reports that Tu-95 could be armed with a new cruise missile in the upcoming years. Existing Tu-95s are expected to be phased out from the Russian Federation Air Force by 2025.
    Cold war?

  36. Cloned Poster says:

    Babak, what are you smoking?

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Cloned Poster:
    America would have remained un-discovered if everyone thought like you.
    Better yet, we would still be in the caves.

  38. Andy says:


    It appears the Achilles heel of the Air Force is the tankers.

    It may surprise you to learn that a new tanker fleet is the Air Force’s #1 procurement priority! It’s not just the US Air Force either. Consider Israel. I would imagine the biggest limiting factor for Israeli planners in striking Iranian nuclear facilities is tanking. To carry out any strike, they’d have to tank somewhere and there’s no friendly or safe place to do it without US assistance. Also, they only have (reportedly) six tanking aircraft which greatly restricts the size of any strike package to begin with. If Israel had a medium or long-range bomber I bet those Iranian facilities would have been attacked long ago, but they don’t so they are hoping we will do it for them.
    As for our creditors, there’s a saying based on an old JP Getty quote: If you owe the bank $1000, the bank owns you; if you owe the bank a hundred million dollars, you own the bank.

    Andy, you don’t need to fly F-15’s from the US to Iraq when you have multiple air craft carriers to fly from.

    There are a limited number of carriers available and they cannot sustain high-tempo operations for long periods of time. We couldn’t, for example, have done either Desert Storm or OEF with carrier air power alone. The different aircraft and doctrine of the Navy and Air Force are complementary – Navy doctrine and capabilities make it excel at raiding and short term, “surge” operations – Air Force doctrine and capabilities make it excel at longer campaigns and strategic and deep battle targets. The services are also dependent on each other in support areas.
    Col. Lang,
    You’re right that currently no one threatens us and I might suggest that is at least partly due to our military dominance. A case could be made, I think, that one cannot build military capabilities overnight and therefore one would ideally like them in place before they are needed – by the time a crisis comes along it may be too late to create or recreate them. The special operations world has institutionalized this in two of their “SOF Truths”:
    -Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.
    -Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.
    Those “truths” don’t apply to every aspect of military force, but I don’t think it’s limited to SoF either.
    Anyway, could we get by with a lot less? Probably. You’re right to criticize the logic of preparing for all possible adversaries and that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’ve advocated in other fora that we need a new, coherent national security strategy as a framework to determine what our real military needs are. We used to have “win-hold-win” but that seems gone now. ISTM we need to put first things first and figure out as a nation what our role should be in the world. The military we need will flow from that. However, based on my perceptions of the Washington establishment, including all the front-runners for President, the US appears to be sticking the course as some kind of global policeman/hegemon – the “necessary” nation required to preserve the current international system. I’m all for changing that, but until our national strategy does change it seems imprudent to me to scale our military capabilities back too drastically, especially given the reluctance of our allies to increase their own capabilities and grow less dependent on us.
    Finally, I’ll add that history has has shown threats can and do come up unexpectedly. We still need at least minimal capability to respond to unexpected crises. As an example, no one expected us to be fighting Desert Storm until a few months beforehand. It just so happened we had a military at its peak from the cold war – one that was designed, trained and equipped to fight exactly the kind of adversary that Iraq presented on terrain that grossly favored our capabilities. What threats did we have in 1921? Did anyone at that time foresee what would occur 20 years later?
    I don’t claim to have any or even all the answers but my view is that in this volatile, globalized post-cold war world it is better to err on the side of too much capability rather than too little.

  39. David Habakkuk says:

    ‘Even the most adept and perfect foreign policy cannot prevent all war and I would rather be prepared, trained and equipped to win quickly and decisively should it come.’
    Precisely the basis on which post-war Soviet military policy was based. They managed, very effectively, to bankrupt themselves.

  40. DaveGood says:

    Regarding military budgets……..
    We all know ( or can look up) the official military budget of the USA.
    How many of us know that the cost of maintaining and developing nuclear warheads (at a cost of 23 billion dollars a year) are not in the Pentagon’s budget, but are borne by the Department of Energy ( Who can’t find stuff all in the way of funds to develop alternative fuels to Oil, I wonder why?)
    America is currently fighting two west Asian wars to the tune of hundreds of billions per year.
    If you imagine that Department of Defense of Defense\Pentagon has to fund that then you’re wrong again.
    And I’d point out that the money spent on those two wars is more then the military budgets of Russia and China combined.
    I’ve read papers by American Economists who are sure that from the fifties onwards more wealth has been “Invested” by the American people in Arms, factories to produce Arms, and plant in those factories then was invested in the rest of the American economy combined.
    Or the 25 billion a year of “Foreign military assistance” to countries like Saudi Arabia who sent 14 of the 19 9\11 hijackers, fund Al Quaida, provide the bulk of “foreign fighters” in Iraq and of course is the spiritual and financial home of Osama.
    If it’s “Military”… why is it in the budget of the department of State and not the Pentagon? Where it belongs?

  41. Here’s a powerful case for why we should *never* rely on technology in place of live pilots aboard:
    B-52 In Action!
    And a Bonus Clip

  42. Dana Jone says:

    Lets see, wasn’t the B-1 supposed to replace the B-52? The B-52 is now 3-4 time older than the airmen that fly them and still in use. The B-1 is already talked about being retired, and this after billions being spent on upgrading it in the ’90’s. As for the B-2, the best replacement for the B-52, if it weren’t so damm expensive they could have built a few more and replaced the B-52, but as some wag put it, it almost would have been cheaper to build each B-2 out of solid gold (considering the price of gold at the time). So now what, we’ll probably get a new bomber that will be cheaper to build out of solid platinum !? I’ve also read on other sites that our stealthy bomber may not be so stealthy these days, what with new technologies being developed in China. Sometimes I think that the Pentagon should just be turned into a giant fire-pit, and we should just burn big truck loads of $100 bills there every day.
    Dana J

  43. Valuethinker says:

    1. let’s not ‘dis’ the Russian tanks of WWII. They were crudely manufactured, on occasion, but the core design was the best design of any WWII tank on any side: the T34/85 was a better weapon system than any other main battle tank, balancing penetrative power with tactical and operational mobility and a low target profile.
    Other Russian weapons, such as the Katyusha rocket battery and the 130mm artillery piece, were also of high quality.
    Contrast that to the Sherman, known as the ‘Ronson’ and the ‘Tommy Cooker’ and German tanks which were capable, but expensive to manufacture and not operationally mobile.
    2. this plane sounds like ‘neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring’. It’s not a true B52 successor, with long range, and it’s not a high performance aircraft that can defend itself.
    If the US wants a B52 substitute that can fly from the US to the centre of Eurasia, fence with advanced SAMs, maybe launch a UAV or some cruise missiles to hit a missile launch centre, that’s one thing.
    If it wants a penetrating fighter-bomber, a sort of super A6, that’s another.
    The proposed plane is neither.
    This feels like a weapon system designed to satisfy a USAF constituency, rather than actually serve a realistic operational need.

  44. Kheimar says:

    Interesting post, keep up the good work!

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