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Tag: "military procurement"

Preserve Dragon Tank Jobs!

[ 0 ] July 14, 2009 |

Obama Axes Pentagon Plan To Build Billion Dollar Tank In Shape Of Dragon

What this video doesn’t discuss is the plight of the 95000 workers who will be put on the street by the cancellation of the Dragon Tank. For shame, President Obama. For shame.


You Get a T-72! And You Get a T-72!

[ 0 ] July 12, 2009 |

It turns out that the T-72s carried by the MV Faina (the Ukranian vessels that was seized and held by pirates for several months) weren’t destined for Kenya after all:

But one mystery lingered: the true destination of the Faina’s cargo. Kenya’s government said the weapons and munitions were for its military, but observers speculated that they were intended for the breakaway government of South Sudan.

With the aid of some satellite analysis, Jane’s Defence Weekly has the answer: The weapons were part of a series of weapons shipments bound for South Sudan. JDW Middle East/Africa editor Lauren Gelfand and Jane’s imagery analyst Allison Puccioni drew on extensive satellite imagery to track the movement of the T-72s from the port of Mombasa, Kenya; while Jane’s does not conclude definitively that the tanks from the Faina ended up in South Sudan, the analysis does show a pattern of tanks making their way north to Sudan. Jane’s also confirmed previous arms shipments from Ukraine.

Some brief thoughts:

  • I don’t know enough about the conflict in South Sudan to say what impact the delivery of the T-72s will have, but in general the purchase of major heavy weaponry by a sub-state actor can’t be regarded as a good thing for national stability. I also don’t fully grasp what it means that the Kenyans are willing to run interference for actors in South Sudan.
  • The ability of private civilians to use publicly available satellite images to track weapons shipments is one of the things which makes me doubt the “Saddam was about to escape his cage” arguments that are so common in pro-Iraq War circles. Such arguments typically run as such: Oil for Food corruption-perfidious Frenchmen-fully rearmed and hegemony threatening Saddam! The Underpants Gnomes would blush at the argument, but apparently it makes sense to neocons. Saddam would have needed to rebuild his hopelessly degraded conventional capability in order to threaten anyone, and even a decaying sanctions regime is likely to have remained robust where heavy conventional arms were concerned. Unless Saddam could someone sneak huge amounts of heavy, modern military equipment into the country without anyone noticing, rearmament seems pretty unlikely.
  • The fighter wing of Kenya’s air force apparently consists entirely of 25 F-5s. Now you know.
  • The Patterson School still needs a T-72.

Raptor Jobs PreservedStabbed in the Back

[ 0 ] April 13, 2009 |

Shorter Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz: Robert Gates is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

Via Danger Room.

As Nathan Bedford Forrest Said, "A Foolish Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds"

[ 0 ] April 12, 2009 |

Spencer handles the general idiocy of the Donnelly-Schmitt op-ed on the Gates defense budget...

Schmitt and Donnelly argue for a continuation of most of the programs Gates is cutting, and do so through some curious omissions and outright misstatements. The alternative to the F-22 Raptor jet is apparently “the 660 F-15s flying today, but which are literally falling apart at the seams from age and use” — not the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Gates and the generals are actually advocating as a replacement. Stopping the Army’s Future Combat Systems vehicle-modernization program means “future generations of soldiers will conduct mounted operations in the M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles designed in the 1970s,” even though Gates said on Monday that he’s going to “reevaluate the requirements, technology and approach and then re-launch the Army’s vehicle modernization program.” And Gates is somehow “cap[ping] the size of the U.S. ground force,” even though Gates is seeking an extra $11 billion to expand the Army and Marine Corps. (I suppose, to be charitable, they could mean they want an even larger ground force, but that’s hardly clear from the op-ed, which implies that Gates is resisting the very expansion he’s funding.)

…and so I’d like to concentrate on a rather small point. Donnelly-Schmitt:

More often it rewards those who arrive on the battlefield “the fustest with the mostest,” as Civil War Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest once put it. If Mr. Gates has his way, U.S. forces will find it increasingly hard to meet the Forrest standard.

Some have suggested a certain impropriety in quoting one of the founders of the KKK, but whatever; if you’re quoting specifically on military issues, then Forrest is a reasonable authority. The more serious issue is that Forrest, of course, said nothing of the sort. A casual glance at his wikipedia page would have revealed this. Now, while you can hardly expect AEI hacks to have even the most tenuous grasp on history, you do sort of wish that the Wall Street Journal would have dome some elementary fact-checking. Then again, it was the editorial page…

Raptor Jobs Not Preserved

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

General Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff:

All right, all right — some people have to play little games. You play yours. So let’s just say that you’ll give me 60 more F-22s because it is in your interest to give them to me. But I want your answer and the planes by noon tomorrow. And one more thing: don’t you contact me again — ever. From now on you deal with Lockheed.

SecDef Gates:

Uh, General — you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this — nothing. Not even the reimbursement for the public relations campaign, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

In other news, James Inhofe has gone plainly apoplectic. It’s worth noting that the cuts announced thus far have to make their way through Congress, and that Democrats normally in sympathy with the Obama administration may find the prospect of defense cuts in their own states and districts too much to bear. However, Noah makes the argument that the prospect of Congressional opposition may have encouraged Gates to go for broke:

But this parochial opposition may have actually encouraged the Pentagon and the White House to be more sweeping in its plans, one key Congressional staffer suggests. Previous administrations have tried to cut bloated, poor-performing defense projects onesy-twosy — only to be rejected by the Hill. Going after a whole range of weak programs at once makes it more likely that at least some of the Pentagon’s sickliest weapons projects will be amputated.

Finally, I think the question of whether or not keeping Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense was a good idea has been decisively answered.

"The mother of the last KC-135 pilot has not yet been born."

[ 0 ] March 10, 2009 |

I couldn’t care less about the next generation bomber, and keeping the F-22 line open was probably to be expected. I’d do some additional F-35 trimming, as well. However, while I can understand why no one wants to step back into the aerial tanker mess, the KC-135 is really, really old. Old enough that it’s maintenance costs are growing, and old enough that one or more of them is going to fall from the sky before long. And as Christian notes, saying that we’ll delay the program for five years really means that we’ll be delaying it for at least ten. Trimble has a slightly different view.

Preserve Fantasy Raptor Jobs

[ 0 ] February 23, 2009 |

Would shutting down the Raptor really put 95000 people out of work? No. David Axe has the data:

Problem is, that 95,000 number counts indirect employment at firms for whom the F-22 program is just one of many clients. And it also counts Lockheed assembly workers who are in high demand for other aviation projects. In fact, ending Raptor production today might not result in a single unemployed aerospace worker.

Not to belabor the point, but this is one of the things that Mark Bowden might have bothered to research when writing his Atlantic article about the F-22. Unfortunately, he did not; rather, he uncritically repeated claims made by pilots and manufacturers (neither groups are noted for supplying informed, unbiased economic data) as to the aircraft’s merits and economic impact. I would say that Bowden’s article is singularly terrible (see James Fallows on this point), but for the fact that the article is a near repeat of Robert Kaplan’s…. affectionate take on the B-2.

In any case, the F-22 topic of the day is that the Air Force has requested another 60 Raptors, which is a substantial reduction from what the Air Force wanted (380 fighters), but a substantial increase over what some defense analysts are willing to give. It’s fair to say that my own thinking on this issue has evolved. While the United States is unlikely to face a crisis of air superiority in the short or medium term, it’s true enough that foreign designs have become competitive with the best US air superiority aircraft, short of the F-22. Better training still gives the US a substantial edge, but it is nice to have the best aircraft available. I have also become steadily more disillusioned with the progress of the F-35 Lightning II; it’s becoming apparent that the capabilities gap between the F-22 and the F-35 will be huge, but the price tag gap won’t be very large at all.

Thus, while the entire F-22 project may have been a serious misallocation of resources, I don’t think it naturally follows that buying an additional sixty aircraft, at this point, is a terrible idea. From an initial position it probably would have made more sense to continue production of advanced F-15s and F-16s. From where we are now, though, there seems to be little point in taking a step back. I doubt very much that there will ever be a manned air superiority aircraft better than the F-22; it will probably be the last of its kind.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

Brazilian Military Blogging

[ 0 ] December 22, 2008 |

I think we can all agree that the progressive blogosphere has been pathetically remiss in the field of analysis of Brazilian military restructuring. Mr. Trend gets us off to a good start here:

However, I find Lula’s efforts to actually enforce military conscription for everybody to be quite a fascinating aspect. Although the military is technically and legally supposed to conscript from all Brazilian sectors regardless of class, race, etc., the reality is Brazil’s military ranks are composed overwhelmingly of the poor and marginalized who do not have recourse to get out of such service and who often accept it because they need the money. For decades and even generations (dating back to at least the Paraguayan War) there has been an unspoken understanding that elites and (more recently) the middle classes were “above” military service. So in one sense, any effort to break through this mold to prove that “mandatory conscription” applies to all Brazilian citizens, and not just those who don’t have an economic/cultural/political way to avoide it.

What strikes me as interesting about the article is that the motivating concept seems to be territorial defense and consolidation, with defense of the Sao Paulo oil fields being included under that rubric. This is all well and good, and would be expected of a second rank power in, say, 1930 or 1960. Today, however, most military organizations in Europe and Asia seem to be remodeling themselves around an expeditionary mission. This is as true of North Europe as North Asia; the dreadnought of the day, so to speak, is the amphib, and modular, deployable ground units are the new black. This doesn’t, however, seem to be the direction that the Brazilians are headed, which is curious for a country interested in promoting its benevolent image on the world stage. If you’re looking for international prestige, amphibs are a much better way to go than nuclear submarines; they show the flag, facilitate participation in a variety of different multilateral operations, and are sometimes even actually useful for executing policy (disaster relief, protection of locals in dangerous situations, etc.).

But not, apparently, the direction Brazil wants to go.

The Long Grift and the Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

[ 0 ] October 13, 2008 |

Great New York Times article yesterday on the curious case of Michael Cantrell, an engineer who bilked the government out of millions of dollars in missile defense money. Much of the money went to a useless alternative missile defense project, while the rest went into the pockets of Cantrell and an accomplice. Cantrell took advantage of loopholes, connections, and poorly structured lines of authority to lobby Congress for a missile defense side project that the military was largely uninterested in. By pushing the project, Cantrell was able to generate kickbacks from various defense contractors. When the military tried to quash the project, Cantrell used his political connections to stop the inquiry.

It’s not quite right to say that such a scam could only happen to the missile defense project, because there are other cases of military contractors bilking the government. But certainly scams like this are easier when they’re committed projects will ill-defined goals, poorly understood parameters, and deeply politicized motivation. Missile defense is intended to pay off in the distant future; as such, it’s difficult to evaluate progress. Proponents can legitimately say that even unsuccessful tests represent steps in the right direction. In such an environment, projects that don’t really go anywhere can not go anywhere for a very long time before anyone notices. Moreover, because missile defense is so distinct from most of the tasks performed by the military, both civilians and military officers can fall victim to confident sounding charlatans.

This problem is magnified when the project itself is basically a scam. The primary justification for missile defense has never been the actual defense of the United States from ballistic missiles, but rather a combination of political entrepreneurship on the part of the Republican Party (Democrats go along, but Republicans have always been the motivators) and a desire on the part of contractors and Congressmen to acquire as much pork as possible. Since a successful missile defense isn’t really the goal in the first place, it’s hard to differentiate the extreme fraud from the every day fraud, and difficult to explain to Ted Stevens why he shouldn’t get his piece of the action.

I suspect that this will not be the last incidence of severe corruption in the National Missile Defense project. Such small scale scams, however, shouldn’t make us forget the that the project is, itself, a big scale scam.

DDG-1000 Down at the Bow

[ 15 ] July 14, 2008 |

It looks as if procurement of the DDG-1000, also known as the DD(X) or Zumwalt class destroyer, may end at 2. The $2.5 billion ship is designed to attack land targets with missiles and long range precision gunfire, and uses stealth technology and an experimental hull. The motivating concept is the need for a ship that could counter a 1990 style Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; the ship, protected by stealth, would maul an army moving in the open. In addition to massive cost overruns, the perceived need for such a vessel has waned. The initial production expectation was 32; this dropped to 24, and more recently to 7. Instead, it looks as if the Navy will pursue additional DD-51 (Arleigh Burke) destroyers, and use the two DDG-1000s already ordered as technology demonstrators and test vehicles for future ships.

Danger Room has much more.

Further Indications that the World Has Changed

[ 16 ] May 14, 2008 |

The Chinese appear to be stealing an effective and marketable Russian weapon design; the Russian response is to threaten a lawsuit:

Russia is getting more and more upset at what it sees as Chinese making unauthorized use of Russian military technology. The latest irritation is the new Chinese diesel electric sub design, the Type 39A, or Yuan class. They look just like the Russian Kilo class…. The Russian sub building organizations are not amused, and are warning China of legal action if Yuans are offered for export (and in direct completion with the Kilos.)

Ah… I remember when this kind of problem was handled through bitter claims of ideological revisionism, dire threats of military action, and the rumbling of artillery along the Ussuri River. Now it all comes down to the lawyers…

Via Information Dissemination.

…Incidentally, we’re working on a paper on the intersection of intellectual property law and military procurement; if anyone knows a ton (or even a few pounds) about the issue, please drop me a line.

The F-22: Can’t Even Shoot Down Iron Man

[ 9 ] May 7, 2008 |

Redbeard writes in an e-mail:

The F-22 is all over Iron Man. Probably gets as much screen time as the Audi driven by Tony Stark. Wonder if that will get Congress to buy a bunch of them.

I don’t know; the F-22 also got tooled pretty badly by a dude in a homemade metal suit. If I were Congress I’d just buy the suit….

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