Remember that millenium thing, when every computer was supposed to go haywire and virtually none did? Well, a squadron of six F-22s traveling from Hawaii to Japan experienced a computer crash along the way. Fortunately, the computer crash, which happened as the fighters crossed the International Date Line, didn’t lead to a real crash. Left completely blind, the fighters had to be directed back to Hawaii by accompanying tankers. The F-22 is, of course, the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, costing about $135 million a pop.
What’s the lesson? Any new weapon system will have glitches, and its better that the glitches come forward in a a goodwill visit to Japan than in combat somewhere. However, as weapons become more complex (and the F-22 is immensely complex) more things can go wrong. Moreover, even a small problem can become disastrous. Finally, the problem is exacerbated by lots of people who expect they’ll be on the other side (China) working day and night to figure out how to make small problems into big problems. Back in the old days, the hyper-advanced technology of the USAF was confronted by the less advanced but far more robust technology of the Red Air Force. The technological gap has widened considerably, but the basic conflict between capability and reliability remains.