Monday, June 16, 2008
Air Force Renewal - A Guest Editorial
In my humble opinion, the mess with the nukes on the bomber was inexcusable and people should have gotten fired immediately. For them to flunk the retest, means a few more needed to go but that's not what all this about. Simple solution, 1 bomber on alert for each of the B-52 and B-2 sqdn, the troops pull an alert tour ever 3 months or so and go through all the procedures--plus big clue, don't store nukes and fake nukes/conv weapons in the same bunkers/rooms and maybe splash a little paint or big stencils/logos on them if they are no longer a nuke. B-1s are now conventional only so they get a pass.
Gates has it in for the AF and is just paying back the pilots, for his time of AF service before his CIA service. He was a big wig when the CIA didn't see the wall coming down, USSR collapsing or Saddam Kuwait adventure, but he's suddenly a military genius.
The AF has spent a lot of money on the f/a-22 and taken forever to field it - it was the wrong choice back in 1990 but that's subject of another discussion. Now it has a few neat airshow machines and bunch of worn out airplanes which it can't afford to replace. The AF could buy 3 or 4 F-15Es for the price of a f/a-22 and be able to put bombs on target as well as shot missiles at anything that staggers into the air. Whether carrying 2 1000# GBUs (which it has to borrow from the Navy) or 8 250# SDBs, it is unlikely the f/a-22 would make a big impact as bomber and it would only be able to carry 2 AMRAAMs and 2 Aim-9s when it is going a bombing.
The last few AF Gens have been totally heavy on the F-15 background and for the most part much like their airplane don't seem to have a clue about the A/G arena. The stars in the desert/mountain/cities recently have been the bombers, A-10s, and I would image the AC-130s although you don't hear much about them.
The UAVs have become the FACs and Recee fliers. Unmanned and therefore fearless, they do the job of the O-1,O-2, OV-10s and the like. There's some magic number that the system is able to provide and it works out to around 25 orbits, covered 24/7, 365. I kind of wonder how many airborne FACs covered SVN which I believe is a smaller land mass then IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN but that's another subject.
The Army wants their own UAVs and the AF says they should control all UAVs so they can be deconflicted with other traffic. The AF could not generate enough UAVs to suit the needs of the Army for overwatch of its activities so the Army complains it isn't getting support and tries to buy its own system, which is just a little different from the AF predator.
Gates meanwhile runs around complaining about the AF want to fight the "next war". This is funny because it is commonly understood that most military forces are structured to fight their last war using the "lessons learned" and almost always start a war using the old tactics, equipment, etc. For example one study showed that the ARMY had 4000 tanks but only around 400 in the desert. The rest were concentrated in Europe. We've pulled almost all the combat aircraft out of Europe but the tanks are still there. Wouldn't they be better in some location were they could be rapidly put on fast boats and sealifted to a combat area?? Remember the fiasco when the AH-64s tried to self deploy to Bosnia?
Also constraining the ARMY vehicles so they will fit inside C-130s is dumb. Unless you are sending troops as a trip wire or special force team, the small vehicles are unsafe. IEDs and RPGs go right through the little vehicles. A hundred M-1s offloaded from a fast ship is much more threatening than a couple of C-130s loaded with Hummers and Strikers, without the armor cause then they are too heavy. The armor and ammo has to come in via another aircraft.
Another of Gates's great ideas is heavy emphasis on special ops and special forces. The fact is to get those kind of troops takes lots of training, years of time and then to pay them the same as you do some admin clerk, PA or JAG means they move on to better jobs or get out of the service. Also, the Army hates those types and doesn't promote them as a rule. Additionally, we now have a military culture controlled by JAGs who Monday morning quarterback decisions and go after servicemen who actually fight. How about a JAG in each combat platoon as point man, that way there won't be any problems about ROEs, etc?
Taking the space mission and cyber force is in keeping with the AF mission and also shows its biggest vulnerabilities. Everything is now tied into the GPS and comm links. Jamming a signal is usually the easiest way of defeating any electronic emitting system and doing it can be as simple as keying a radio on the freq as we all know.
The constant need to know where the forces are is a military requirement but it is also what killed the U-boats in WWII. The reporting in combined with the code breaking allowed the allies to find the stealth forces of the day and eliminate their threat. The f/a-22 is constantly mentioned as an ISR resource but it needs to reveal itself to provide the information to other, so what good is that? Encryption and all that cosmic electron pushing does wonders but when the system can be compromised by a luke warm allie who sells to anyone or espionage.
Lastly the AF and all the other services are too small. As they were downsized after the USSR collapse, the virus of downsizing kept going and now the military is actively engaged far more than any time in its post WWII past with a smaller force. Mao said "quantity has a quality of its own". The military should be doubled in size across the board and the number of aircraft being built each year should not be measured in double digits, including drones.
The unstated effect of the beheadings of the AF leadership is that when the reviews for funding start in Aug, there will be interim and inexperienced people representing the AF. The Navy will be front loaded with the JCS and Central Region and the Army will be next in line to allocate funds. The Army is supposed to grow in manpower like the Marines and the AF might just be able to stop it personnel downsizing if Gates keeps his word. Watch for the Army to get a big budget boost, navy to get some big bucks and the AF to get cut in funding. Probably no more f/a-22s as the f-35 is coming and will solve all the AF needs.