Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is common sense finally coming to defense procurement?

It would appear that the Navy, at least, is realizing that not everything that glitters is gold. Having cut off production of the F-22, a magnificent air-superiority fighter that should still be in production, the military stubbornly continues production and deployment of the F-35. The F-35 is intended to serve all three airborne services -- the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps -- even though the services have very different needs. The F-35 is a stealth fighter,  like the F-22, and thus is the flavor of the month. It is ill-suited to ground attack operations because of payload restrictions, not as good at air superiority as the F-22, and a fuck-all disaster as a carrier fighter -- the Navy simply does not want, nor should they, a carrier fighter with one engine. If you operate over water most of the time, sorry, but you want a second engine. As for the Marines, they want a mud-mover -- an airplane that can dump-truck a lot of explosives on bad guys right next to Marine positions, then land on a short, crappy runway or, preferably, vertical landing with no runway, like the Harrier. The F-35 has a variant that can land that way, but apparently the vertical take-off exhaust burns holes in the decks of the Marines' amphibious landing ships that bring the F-35 to the combat theater. Bad news.

Now, the Navy is making noises that indicate it might be coming to its senses:
The U.S. Navy’s next generation air superiority fighter will not be “super-duper fast” or employ much in the way of stealth, a senior navy official announced on Wednesday.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy’s top officer, divulged some details about the Navy’s so-called Next Generation Air Dominance F/A-XX fighter jet during a speech at an industry conference.
“I don’t see that it’s going to be super-duper fast, because you can’t outrun missiles.” Greenert said, the Washington Examiner reported. “And you can’t become so stealthy that you become invisible — you are going to generate a signature of some sort,” he also noted, adding “You know that stealth may be overrated…. If something moves fast through the air and disrupts molecules in the air and puts out heat – I don’t care how cool the engine can be – it’s going to be detectable.”
I think it probably is too late to ditch the F-35, simply because of the money spent on it. We are on the verge of having squadrons deployed. It probably will work for the Air Force, but it won't work for the Navy or Marines. Further, it is more expensive than the F-22, which is a better plane for the Air Force. But at least the Navy is recognizing that the newest, brightest and shiniest might not be the best. Frankly, the best ground-attack aircraft around remains the A-10, a plane the Air Force calls the Thunderbolt but everyone else calls the Warthog. It is slow and ugly,  but it takes a licking and keeps flying, plus it can deliver a tremendous amount of ordinance on people who need killing. And the Air Force wants to kill it because the Air Force does not want to fly mud movers. Close air support is beneath them.

Well, if the Air Force doesn't want to do that shit, then the Navy and Marines need to get a grip on reality. This sounds like a good first step. Would it look something like this?

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