S-T-U-P-I-D F/A/R/C/E

I’ve kind of played both sides of the F-22 Raptor field. I’ve been critical of the desire to purchase large numbers of the advanced air dominance fighters, mostly because of the great cost and the fact that we don’t need any of them to fight our current crop of enemies. But I’ve also made sure to remind people that the plane itself really is quite a machine and that today’s enemies aren’t the only potential enemies out there.

However, I truly believe that I must resort to name-calling when it comes to the latest Raptor news.

Word is that some morons somewhere decided that early retirement of all the U-2s, F-117s, and nearly half the B-52s in the Air Force is worth it if it frees up some cash for additional F-22s.

Remember, this is the same Air Force that tired everything it could to retire the A-10s early. What is it about these guys that drives them to retire the most effective planes in the inventory for expensive new fighters?

Now, when it comes to the U-2 and the F-117, I’m not too up in arms. The U-2 is being supplanted by the UAV, particularly the Global Hawk, and this is a good thing. And the F-117 (which is really an A-117 though no one will admit it) will have its role as the stealthy tip of the spear taken up by the F-22 (assuming they ever get the ground attack scenario up to snuff) and (you guessed it) UAVs.

But the B-52 early retirement should trouble us. Though the operating environment for B-52s is rather limited, we currently are faced with a lot of environments (mid- to low-tech enemy nations) that match up rather nicely. The B-52 is sort of the battleship of the Air Force, and despite constant announcements of its demise, it’s always there standing tall when the mission is on the line. Drastic cuts in the number of available Stratoforts would seriously weaken this nation’s military capability.

Side Note: Yes, it’s a bit weird to whine about the “early retirement” of these ancient warbirds. That incongruity aside, though, we all know that the B-52 is a crucial part of our national defense.

If the B-52 cannot physically get it done any longer, we should be looking at a B-747 type of JDAM platform. Cruise missiles and one-use UAVs are often offered as heavy bomber replacements. But the expense limits this approach, and limited numbers or reluctance to use the weapons in large numbers negates the capability to replace heavy bombers.

Oh, and expect to see a steady stream of stories highlighting the maintenance overload the B-52 fleet is putting on the Air Force. It will be intended to help justify the decision. Morons.

See B-52s Axed for More Raptors at Defense Tech.

Comments

  1. The Air Force equivalent of the Admirals who want to scrap the battleships to save $250,00 for multi-billion dollar DD(X)’s. In other words – self-absorbed horses’ asses who don’t give a damn about the other services or the overall mission of the military.

  2. Since terrorist do not have a navy or air force and their are no near peer rivals in the future, it would make better sense to put the money towards the branch that is doing all the heavy lifting—THE ARMY.

  3. We will fight armies and other capable air forces again. Maybe soon in the case of Iran, and you will thank the AF for its day 1 first ‘kick the door down’ F-22. Speed, stealth, & netcentric communications will make the US air dominant. A very valuable asset to all US forces on the ground and sea. The A-10 is paid for and will be around for a few more years, but it lack of netcentric gear, dependence on human eye-balls, and lack of PGM’s limits its usefullness. It has demonstrated the highest loss rate in both Gulf wars and is vulnerable to manpads and AAA. The days of low and slow are drawing to an end, the A-10 will never be replaced with another titanium tub’d 300mph fixed wing. I’ll sleep better knowing we are handling the newest Migs and SU’s as well as exported Gripens with ease… even if it means a few less aging Buff’s and Warthog’s.

  4. The more the AF develops it’s 20,000 feet bombing capability and it’s 20 loiter on station capability, plus it’s dependence on weather, the more I depend on Field Artillery. Not just mortars. A-10 effectiveness far exceeds the F-Fillintheblank, and the B-fillintheblank, and the hafta leave at dawn 13 gunships. Grunts need booms on call alla time despite the weather, that eliminates air. Strategic planners need air, grunts need an artillery fan. God bless the A-10 the airplane forced on the USAF.

  5. we’re cutting 40,000 people too three words for you: future total force. read up on it on af.mil, it makes sense…even though I hate to see all those airmen and jets retire…

  6. I know how to solve this… just have Congress give more money to the military! If you people dont want these aircraft retired, then why dont you write your representatives and tell them to increase the military budget. I hate to break it to you guys, but we cant live off our Cold War surplus for the entire 21st century… we will *gasp* have to replace them with platforms that will be inherently more expensive due to the fact they are guarunteed to be more complex and more advanced. This goes for the Battleship, B-52, U-2, F-117, and A-10. You people see it as a loss of half a bomber force… i see it as an increase in spare parts for the remaining aircraft, and more personnel NOT working on fixing bombers that we possibly dont need. Its easier (and cheaper) to maintain 5 aircraft with less people, than it is to maintain 10. Especially if you have 5 aircraft to pick spares from. In the end, we’ll still have like 50 B-52s for use as bomb trucks. Leave the EW work to dedicated platforms like the E/A-18G or E-10. The F-117 is kinda pointless now. Compared to the F-22, its slow, less stealthy, and less multi-role… goodbye, have fun. Australia, want some? Same with the U-2. Dunno why the hell we still use those TODAY… The F-22A and F-35 may not have an URGENT need at this very moment… but whose to say that wont change in 10 years? I see it as: we have a better product available, ready to fight, cheaper to maintain, and with much greater capability. If we DONT buy as many as we can outright, then we are selling our soldiers and pilots short. But in general, just send more money to the military, and earmark it for specific use. IE, a billion or two for 350 F-22As. Another billion for a new fleet of C-130Js. And another billion for more C-17s. As it is now, the US is spending less and less every year on the military anyway in a relation to GDP. So why not increase it?

  7. I hate to break it to you guys, but we cant live off our Cold War surplus for the entire 21st century… we will *gasp* have to replace them with platforms that will be inherently more expensive due to the fact they are guarunteed to be more complex and more advanced.’ If the ‘Cold War surplus’ still works fine… why get rid of it? There need to be some new, advanced planes. Note I said some. What’s going to do the bomb-trucking? $200m fighters? That can only carry 2000lb of bombs? Will they be risked in ground support missions? Actually, for that matter, if you’re advocating scrapping everything that was made pre-1980.. what the hell do you expect is going to do one of the most vital jobs, close support? I can’t think of anything newer than that which the AF would dare risk losing to ground fire. F-16s are the closest I can think, but they’re a bit too fast, a bit too delicate and don’t really have the loiter time. Plus by your logic they’re cold war weapons and should be scrapped too.

  8. I guess what Murdoc, I and others are incensed about is not that these old planes are being scrapped. It’s that they’re being crapped without an actual replacement. The US bomber fleet is inadequate. Or maybe just barely adequate. By your logic, there should be new bombers being built. Fine. I’d like to see there be some more new bombers. Problem is, there aren’t any in the pipeline. So, as I said, what’s going to take over the functionality of these old scrapped planes if nothing new is being built to replace them? The F-22 a heavy bomber ain’t. Neither is the F-35. The B-2 is, but there aren’t very many of them since they’re so expensive. Perhaps the money saved scrapping some B-52s could go into a few more B-2s? That wouldn’t bother me quite so much.

  9. Your right… What would happen if the USAF went to Congress and said they wanted to build a modern B-52… an airplane built just to truck bombs? Theyd get laughed out. Wanna know how to replace the B-52? Build more B-2s. Theyre stealth, carry a decent bombload and have long legs. We should also build more B-1Bs if possible… but thats unlikely. You say there are no replacement bombers in the pipe… your nuts. There are no manned bombers. Super UCAVs will replace the B-52. They can loiter longer, be stealthier, and probably carry more. And their probably in developement now. If the ‘Cold War surplus’ still works fine… why get rid of it? Never said it didnt work. But I did say it wont last forever. There need to be some new, advanced planes. Note I said some. What’s going to do the bomb-trucking? $200m fighters? That can only carry 2000lb of bombs? Will they be risked in ground support missions? Your right… Guess how many F-15s are in the USAF? 342. Guess how many F-22s we should build? 350. If your going to replace an aircraft, replace all of them. Whats going to do bomb trucking? UAVs and F-35s. Whats going to keep the skies over the grunts head clear? The F-22A.

  10. The B1-Bomber is alive and kicking some serious arse out in the AOR’s today. They can handle anything that the B-52 drops, which they usually do.

  11. The main issue is… the military will suffer its own sort of ‘baby boomer’ retirement problem. All the Cold War stuff will last to about 2030… after that it would be too worn out, obsolete, or combat ineffective to fight… What then? We need to spend the money now so we can have a force that will last to 2100… Like I said earlier, cost isnt really an issue at the moment. The US can spend the extra money and retire programs prematurely.

  12. Yeah, send more money my way. Hell, we’re already spending at cold war levels now, and look at all you’re getting in return. It used to take 2-3 years to turn out a fighter during the cold war. Now it takes 20+. It used to take 5 years for a bomber. Now we limp along with a 1950 piece of junk that’s older than the grandparents of the pilots who fly them, and we don’t dare replace them because we’re afraid of both how long it would take and how much it would cost. Now that’s progress for ya’. Back when we used slide rules we could roll an airplane out in a few years. Now that we have computers, CFD, FEA, 3D CAD, NC mills, NC lathes, and NC brake presses it takes ten times as long to do anything. Hell, the secretaries have computers on their desks faster than a CRAY was when the F-117 was built, and it has kick ass graphics that the CRAY never had. We do less with more today than ever in the history of man, but go ahead and reward us with more money. That’s the smart thing to do. I gotta love you taxpaying fools. You give until it hurts and then give some more. Just because you have to work 2 jobs to make ends meet, doesn’t mean guys like me can’t pull down exorbitant salaries doing little or nothing all day long. Sometimes I sit in so many meetings during a day, I feel positively refreshed by time to go home. I can’t sleep with my eyes open yet, but I’m working on it. At least I don’t snore too loudly when sitting up. Every now and then even I get a twinge from the old conscience. Every once in a while I think, hey, these poor taxpaying slobs should pay me to actually make something. That is why I went to college, after all, to make things. Every now and then I’ll even give it a try. Of course, management sees to it that I endure incredible pain for the attempt, which serves to remind me of why I stopped trying, but by all means, don’t let that upset you – you taxpaying fool. Just keep paying more for less, and never, never, never ask why.

  13. The problem isnt developement, its the fact that criteria change alot during developement. During the cold war, you just set some capabilities and had a bidding war for the contract. The company with the most for less won. This doesnt work anymore as there is little to no competition in the aerospace industry. In addition to this, with the F-22, no one company could handle the costs alone. Hence its a huge effort to build these planes these days. Also, during the Cold War, there was a sense of urgency… nowadays we can putter along in developement because there is no real need to develope quickly and cheaper.

  14. I can tell you from personal experience why it takes a long time to build an F’ing F-22. During the the short time I worked on that piece of junk I designed the same damn parts 3 different times, and several had been designed before I got them. Most were redesigned at least once after I left. That wasn’t the fault of the requirements. Hell, I remember one year we were all really nervous because we thought Congress was going to fully fund the program and we weren’t going to be able to get well from the last year’s cost over runs with a new fiscal year contract change. But hey, I’m not trying to give you the impression we’re actually in-bed with the USAF or anything. Noooo. Nothing like that is going on here. Just keep sending those tax dollars our way.

  15. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: prototype competitions, fixed-price contracts with non-performance penalties, KISS principle, no tolerance for conflicts of interest. Why won’t the US military reform its procurement policies? Dfens is right, it’s not a question of more money, it’s a question of spending the money more smartly. Is there ANY consideration going into replacing retired B-52s with B-1s or B-2s? If not, why not? Is there ANY consideration going into what could possibly replace the A-10? All this UAV talk is well and good, but until UAVs have been demonstrated to be able to perform these roles, not designing some kind of replacement for the aircraft is nuts. If UAV technology isn’t ready yet for full-on combat missions, new manned aircraft will be required to fill the gap.

  16. I can tell you from personal experience why it takes a long time to build an F’ing F-22. During the the short time I worked on that piece of junk I designed the same damn parts 3 different times, and several had been designed before I got them. Most were redesigned at least once after I left. That wasn’t the fault of the requirements. Hell, I remember one year we were all really nervous because we thought Congress was going to fully fund the program and we weren’t going to be able to get well from the last year’s cost over runs with a new fiscal year contract change. Then whose fault was it? Why was one part redesigned 3 times?

  17. I have only heard rumors, but I believe the USAF is trying to replace the B-52 with a supersonic, reduced signature, bomber. I saw an article in Aerospace Daily a few days back that said they were looking at replacing the C-17 with a reduced signature cargo plane capable of also performing other missions, notably tanking. There’s also been work on an FB derivative bomber. It is possible that the USAF is responding to the political reality of today, which is the fact that the program reigns supreme. They are more important than troops, new technology, everything. Having realized that, they are probably trying to get the old programs, with their considerable political clout, out of the way to give the new technology programs a chance to take root. After all, do you think the B-52 program guys are out lobbying for or against a new bomber? The scary part is, if it takes over 20 years to build a fighter, how long is it going to take to build a new bomber or cargo hauler? 30-40 years? How can we wait that long? The system we have in place now is obscene in its wastefulness. It rewards sloth and stupidity. By its nature it encourages the contractor to focus their creative energies on how to drag programs out and screw them up rather than engaging them in how to reduce cost and maximize utility.

  18. Whose fault was it? It was ours and it was the USAF’s. The USAF pays us to do development. They reimburse us for our costs and pay us profit on that reimbursement money. So if we’re making profit on development, what’s the incentive to ever stop doing development? There is none. So, oops, we screwed up again. We tell the USAF, the guys looking out for your interests, ‘oh, you don’t want an airplane with that part in it. 12 plies just won’t do, you need one with 13 plies of CF.’ The USAF dudes not only buy that bull, they’ve got a non-stop propaganda machine that makes our screw ups look to you like we’ve done you a big favor. After all, if the program fails, their careers are over, so guess who they really work for?

  19. This is my take on the Air Force. The Air Force has hundreds of bombers, the only such force on earth, that can truck bombs to the far corners of the Earth and stay around to see what else needs to be done…so it has hundreds of bomber pilots. The Air Force has hundreds of tankers, the only such force on Earth, that can support world wide deployments…so it has hundreds of tanker pilots. The Air Force has hundreds of transports, that can move armies anywhere around the world in days…so it has hundreds of transport pilots. The Air Force has thousands fighters. Little inefficient tactical aircraft that can’t carry much or go very far and will generally miss out on the early days of any war because there are no land bases conveniently located near the action. So the Air Force has thousands of fighter pilots because they fly the least effective assets the Air Force has. Result: The Air Force high command is full of fighter pilots. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force has been a fighter pilot since the late ’70s. Unbelievable Surprising Result: The Air Force is going to screw its tanker, transport and bomber fleets for the sake of the fighters. Congress should ban fighter pilots from Air Force CoS position for at least 20 years to restore some balance to the service.

  20. The B-1b & B-2 were supposed to replace the B-52 and failed. B-1B is a hanger queen . Getting its readiness level up to acceptable levels is a real pain. as bad as the B-1b is with eminence, it pales next to the B-2. Both the B1 & B-2 are great when the they work, but for day in and day out mission work the B-52 has it all over them. An important side note: The B-52 was over engineered and overbuilt, thus these birds can last until 2030 to 2040 at the current use level (they have about 40K flight hours left in them). The B-1 on the other hand has about 15K hours left on it. Bottom-line – the B-52 is in use because it can carry every weapon the air force has (except the daisy cutter and MOAB) Its cheaper to fly then either the B=1 or B=2 and will last longer then either of them., As for a new heavy bomber – there is nothing happening. Developing the requirements specs have not even been considered let alone budgeted. The A-10, is a role fighter in the same mold as the F-22. It just happens to be the best for ground support. Ditching the A-10 is just stupid. The U-2 or TR-1. Great birds, but UCV has it all over them. There is no real reason to have a pilot in those types of craft. All that does is make them vulnerable and expensive. That said, somebody needs to take the SAR pod off the TR-1 and put it on a JSTAR to replace the JSTAR’s SAR modes. The TR-1 resolution is much better. Better processors and hard disks should take care of the additional data load. Toss in the uplinks and ground stations and you can have a really effective C4 capability. As for why it takes so long. Blame congress. If you knew how hard it is to build anything to milspec you would just cry. You have to document, justify, and flow chart till your eyes melt. Whole industries have been created to service the documentation needs. Not that this documentation actually does anyone any good – most documents are so obtuse and file with ism’s to prevent any real disclosure of ideas. In days past Kelly Johnson could draw, build and fly a top line bird in few months. Then WOW the brass and go into production in a year. Now a days, it takes full at least a year to produce a several hundred page document to express your interest in pursuing a government contract. Our contracting and procurement process has become a game of producing a paper mountain to deflect blame from everyone in case anything goes wrong or god forbid, somebody actually tries to build the product. Top that off with the commandment of – somebody else’s good idea shall not be placed in my product unless I I first invent it again. (See the Stryker remote gun) You end up with a system that is inefficient, wasteful and completely incapable of reform. One of my favorites is the coffeemake on the C-130. Its ability to produce coffee while in inverted flight and in any flight configuration up to and includes 10G conditions is comforting.

  21. James nails it, and Dfens also has an excellent point. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to criticize its own role in requiring those useless and expensive mounds of paper. And with one of the USA’s two parties abdicating any serious role in defense debates (we’re a loooong way from Les Aspin and Sam Nunn these days, folks), don’t expect an informed national debate about the military side of the equation either. There are successes, and positive stories, but there are also a lot of broken parts. If I had to bet on any one thing that will sink the USA’s status as a globally dominant power, I’d have to put its military procurement & financial system at or near the top of the list. It needs serious reform on the military end, and serious reform on the Capitol Hill end. And you’ve got all the classic ‘iron triangle of special interests’ traps that modern conservative theory so correctly sees in social programs. Many of which are similarly bloated, and also at risk of not achieving their stated objectives. What a mess. FYI, the O/A-10s will be in service until 2028, and are currently undergoing a modernization program whose first spiral is coming in faster and probably cheaper than budgeted. Score another for the Hog.

  22. It was the C-5 coffee maker that was so expensive. The C-5 was built at the beginning of the era when the government began reimbursing the contractors for development, and you can remember what a screw up it was. The coffee maker was a minor cost compared to the wings that wouldn’t stay on the airplane. Paying for development was the beginning of the end. When they started paying for development, that began the era of thousands of requirements and thousands of procurement people to make sure those requirements were met. The problem is, you can’t ‘require’ someone to do a good job. All those additional people did was ensure the USAF would take the POS when we were done with it, because if they didn’t, their careers were over. Believe me, things got many times worse when we started getting paid profit on development. JEH brings up a good point about there being too many fighter pilots in charge because of their numbers, but consider this, there are more many times more procurement people than fighter pilots in the USAF. So think of how that screws things up. And not a one of these people add any value to the product they oversee. Each and every one of them is pure waste (though the vast majority of them are good people, by the way). They know this. We know this. Let’s all do ourselves a favor and fix the situation.

  23. How is the B-52 NOT a hanger queen? Dont they need to inspect it up and down before each flight? Also, id love to see how your precious bombers and transports will fair without the thousands of fighters and EW aircraft running cover for them…

  24. > I have only heard rumors, but I believe > the USAF is trying to replace the B-52 > with a supersonic, reduced signature, > bomber. The Boeing Sonic Cruiser art always looked suspiciously like a super-sized F-22 to me. It occured to me that the plan was to sell 300 to the airlines to cover fixed costs, tilt the vertical stabilizers and slap on absorbant coating, crank it up to Mach 1.1 and boom (pun intended): a B-52 replacement. Cranky

  25. Skripp – All planes are inspected up and down before each flight. The issue is how many man hours per flight hours.

  26. And its pretty certain the B-52 is gunna have alot of man hours per flight hours. Its a large aircraft requiring alot of people to maintain it. Its also old and requires alot of spares.

  27. If the ‘Cold War surplus’ still works fine… why get rid of it? Never said it didnt work. But I did say it wont last forever.

    No, they won’t last for ever, but the point of the article Murdoc posted is they’re thinking of retiring some of them now. And I don’t think they’re just talking about those which are no longer really air-worthy. It’s a cost-cutting measure, so more F-22s can be afforded. I think F-22s are great but I wouldn’t want to ditch a significant proportion of the heavy bomber fleet in order to get a few more.

  28. Fixing the procurement system? sigh….The biggest problem is the sheer scale of the problem and how it is entrenched. Some ideas off the top of my head 1st. Set up a single accounting system and have implemented across all the branches. Key point – Equipment purchases should be accounted for when acquired – not when contracted. This will eliminate some of more perverse budgeting decisions.[ie: In the current budget system – equipment is cheap (its a one time cost that once its signed off on you can move on) and men are expensive. (Its a continual ongoing cost)] 2nd There needs to a system of standards like the standards that that exist in the civilian world. ISOC,is a good example. The PC computer is an excellent example of benefit of uniform standards but is still capable of expansion and customization. 3rd Transfer of technology rights & creation of a patent fund. One of the reasons military gear is so expensive is that each item is a custom build. The use of patents creates a monopoly and increases development costs by forcing each vendor to recreate technology again. All patents used by the military would be freely transferable by all military vendor when creating military goods. The company that actually patented the technology would gain royalty credits from the patent fund. Note: The group that sets the standards CANNOT be under command control. They must be independent of command and not involved in contracts or procurement. 4th The Pentagon sets out what their needs are based on tactics and strategy. (i.e.: We need a tank that has the firepower of a M1 but has half its weight) 4th – Create a Needs and Standards integration commission. It would resolve conflicts between military needs (pentagon)and military standard board (the indepent commission). For example- the army wants a radio. The needs and standards commission would enforce the requirement that the radio would/can call any branch of the military. Its batteries would be interchangeable with all services and so on. While the needs and standards would create a requirements sheet. The sheet would be broad based objective requirements – For example – the radio has to use batteries of a specific size and have a minimum endurance, the radio would be able to receive and transmit within a specific frequency range. All production and design aspects are the province of the supplier. 5th. The Military should not be the program manager. The military is the customer, the how’s and ways of production is not the military’s business. If a program manager is needed to coordinate multiple programs or interrelated contracts. The program manager would be independently contracted to manage the program. (From a pool of licensed program managers – A program manager cannot the vendor producing the product.) The manager would rated by performance. Failure to meet performance objectives would result in the manager losing their license to manager programs. 6th Requirement Changes Prohibited – Once the military sets out its needs, requirement specs created, the contract bid and accepted – changes to the requirement specs cannot be changed. 6th. All Military contracts are fixed cost (Long term contracts of course would have escalation clauses). A contractor that wins the bid but is unable to fulfill the contact loses all patent rights associated with the contract. (Along with any other penalty clauses) 7th Specialized Technology – DARPA and other specialized defense research divisions would remain intact. Patents created could be used by any other defense contactor – but their use would go against their patent royalty’s from the fund.

  29. And its pretty certain the B-52 is gunna have alot of man hours per flight hours. Its a large aircraft requiring alot of people to maintain it. Its also old and requires alot of spares.’ Ok – you are right. That said, the B-52 still requires less man hours then either the B-1 or B-2. The B-52 also requires less man hours then the F-22. If you are going by a man hour per ton of ordinance delivered. perhapse I do not understand your point

  30. James – I think it’s also going to be important to implement safeguards to avoid the current conflict of interest problems. For example, perhaps anybody involved in the military side of a procurement is prohibited from being employed by, or receiving benefits from the company/companies they are involved with for some period, or forever. The problem is that there are only a few, big contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon) and this would probably kill the possibility of retired military personnel ever working for them. But is that worse than the conflicts of interest generated? Possibly not. Do you have better ideas how to avoid this problem?

  31. You aren’t going to fix an order of magnitude increase in costs or development times by making subtle changes in the patent procedures or by making the revolving door swing faster or slower. We can fix it by going back to a business model that makes sense. A business model that we used when we had a great aerospace industry. I’m not talking about a high risk proposal here. I’m talking about something that was done before. You know, the way we did things when the B-52 was designed. The way we did things when the SR-71 was designed. We’ve been following the current model for 30 years now, and have had one screw up after another. Does that not raise a flag with anyone but me? You can’t pay someone more to screw up and expect that they won’t. You can’t pay them more for stupidity, and think they are going to suddenly work smarter. This isn’t rocket science I’m talking about, it’s plain common sense.

  32. No disagreements here. Now all you have to do is get elected to congress and somehow convince them to make some changes. That should be easy, right?

  33. Yeah, all I’ve got to do is take a big bri – um, contribution from a defense contractor… Doh, that won’t work!

  34. Seriously, though, it wouldn’t take an act of Congress. The DoD has the power to put this kind of contract into place already. They just don’t use it. When Congress authorized them to put the pay as you go contracts in place, they did not eliminate the earlier sort. The way we used to do things was more like the X-Prize. The DoD released an RFP with a short list of key features they were looking for. You built your candidate product and demonstrated it by a certain date. May the best product win.

  35. Bombers are just cargo carriers for bombs. The technology for these things is established – if we need to get a bunch of new ones in service during a wartime contingency, I suspect it shouldn’t be too tough to work something up from the hundreds of mothballed civilian 747’s parked in the Arizona desert. Battles can be lost due to an inferiority in the quality or the number of fighters. I don’t think they can be lost due to having too few bombers. Bombers are things you grind out when it looks like you have and can maintain air superiority. If the USAF can’t achieve or maintain air superiority, having plenty of bombers isn’t going to be of much use, since they’re not really going to be operating in contested airspace, are they? People who think the primary function of the USAF is to provide bomb-trucks for the infantry have gotten too used to the idea of automatic American air superiority. The problem with letting this idea dominate equipment procurement choices is that we will take a pasting when this assumption turns out to be faulty. In a scenario such as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan – if we can’t get local air superiority and the Chinese end up being able to land large numbers of PLA infantry, we will have to send infantry to take the island back. Which is going to involve more American losses (and a greater risk of nuclear escalation) – F-22A air dominance that precludes a Chinese landing or a campaign involving American ground troops supported by bomb-trucks to retake Taiwan from entrenched Chinese troops?

  36. First of all, the F-22, at $125M per, is not going to be built in sufficient quantites to defend anyone. If we attack someone, they will be good to have because they can drop a couple of bombs (if there are tankers handy) and fly a cap to protect the bombers from a limited number of fighter aircraft. The F-22 will not make the bombers safe from all threats, however, and it would be rediculous to think it would. This is just one issue that makes it rediculous to believe bombers are merely ‘bomb trucks’. Any tactical aircraft are going to be much more complex than commercial aircraft, which are nothing more than big lumbering targets in a tactical situation. Personally I can see no excuse for why we do not already have a supersonic stealth bomber capable of Mach 3 at altitude and approximately Mach 1 in terrain following mode. That would be the sort of weapon that would make countries think twice before pissing us off. Instead we have hype and spin, which we use extensively to defend our use of antique aircraft and our crumbling aerospace infrastructure. The median age for an aerospace engineer is 57. 27% percent of them will be retiring in a couple of years. Our biggest companies lose 50% of their newly hired college graduates within a year and 80% after two years. What they have left are mainly those who are too lazy to go to medical or law school after they see how inane the process of building anything for the military or NASA really is. Sleep well.

  37. The F-22 will not make the bombers safe from all threats, however, and it would be rediculous to think it would. Are you dense man? Would you ever send a B-1B or B-52 raid in without clearing the airspace? This is how it goes: F-22As go in and kill everything in the sky. They ensure nothing from the enemy’s air force lasts 10 seconds after takeoff. After this, F-22As return again, this time with JDAMs or SDBs in their weapons bays and JASSMs on their wings. Theyll also take B-2s with JASSMs along as well. This will knock out enemy infrastructure targets. End of Story. Let the old warbirds in to fly. Personally I can see no excuse for why we do not already have a supersonic stealth bomber capable of Mach 3 at altitude and approximately Mach 1 in terrain following mode. That would be the sort of weapon that would make countries think twice before pissing us off. Instead we have hype and spin, which we use extensively to defend our use of antique aircraft and our crumbling aerospace infrastructure. Because we really dont need another bloated defense project. The USAF can build a super X-45 UCAV with a bombload equal to a B-52, and have it circle a target area for a long time for bombing on demand. You saying this about a mach 3 super bomber runs contradictory to everything you said thus far. The US bombing capability is adequate at the moment, and does not really depend on the B-52 as a primary bomber.

  38. The US bombing capability is adequate at the moment, and does not really depend on the B-52 as a primary bomber’ Gulf War 1 -The B-52 drops 40% of the ordinance dropped and credited as the single largest contributor to breaking the Iraqi will to fight. Kosovo – The air campain was largely ineffective until B-52 strikes on serbian formations inflicts heavy casualties. Afganistan – The 10 B-52 and 8 B-1, delivered approximately 75% of the ordinance dropped in that conflict Iraqi Freedom – Shock and Awe was largely a B-52 campain. On Day 1 a single squadron of B-52 attacked and destroyed over 140 targets. In all of these conflicts the B-52 dropped more ordinance then any other aircraft. Aganistan proved that you can make a light infantry force virtually unstoppable if you have a B-52 parked overhead. Bottomline -fighters and bombers each play a role. If push came to shove, a bomber can do the work of a fighter and vice versa. That said, each aircraft should play to its strengths.

  39. .. as for a Mach 3 stealth bomber. We already built one. It was called the A-12. Never used. With todays tech, you cannot make a Mach 3 stealth plane. The issue is air friction. You might be able to make the bird radar invisible, but it would be a IR becon.

  40. Conflict of interests – This is a tough one. The current system is a catch 22. Congress demands a paper trail… so the military demands all kinds of documentation. The vendors jump through the hoops and produce the paper. The military guys, have to evaluate the paper produced and write reports on the paper.So now everyone is indoctrinated on the paper shuffle. The miliatry guy retires and is hired by the vendor, because A) he already knows the lingo, B) He knows how the military works and who talk to C) The vendor saves time and money to hire a guy who already has been vetted for a security clearance.- D) The hiring manager is most likely a former buddy of the military guy. While it makes a great deal of sense to bar military procurement official from leaving the servie to work for the vendor. The reality of how it works is much more complex then that. For example – lets say there is a military systems engineer who works on ground systems for a certain type of plane. Well it turns out that the guy’s security clearance covers a unique range of projects. (in this example he is one 5 people on earth with that range of clearances and the technical knowlege to operate those systems) He retires and a vendor offers him a position on a program that just so happens require his set of clearances & knowlege… In this instance the military guy is not involved in the procurement process – but by hiring him, the vendor gains an enormous advantage and gains the contract. Is it a conflict of interest for the militry guy to take the position with the vendor?

  41. James – it’s only a conflict of interest, I suppose, if while in the military the guy is in a position to favour one contractor over another. If that is the case then it’s very difficult to stop him being biased in return for favorable treatment when he retires. I suspect this is more an issue with those involved in (a) directly working with the vendors (b) recommending or analysing proposals from vendors. However, chances of corruption-type behaviour in case (b) is a lot smaller I think. I suppose it would have to be practical, but a broad guideline might be that anyone who makes a major decision regarding a vendor (which vendor’s products to buy, whether to give a vendor a good or bad report, reporting on progress of a given project, in control of budgeting WRT a vendor) should probably be exempt from working for all the vendors involved after retirement/leaving the service. Others, who have a less direct relationship and don’t get to influence contracts in these ways are probably OK. I understand what you’re saying, obviously the people who are the best for these vendors to hire when they are ex-military are the very people who are in the position to do them ‘favours’ while they are in the military’s employ. Frankly, I don’t think it’s always necessarily conscious decisions which cause the problems. I bet these people get to know the vendors’ representatives, get friendly with them, and get emotionally involved in the project. They may then make poor decisions because they feel these people deserve a break, or think their products are good because they’re on good terms with the vendor and champion them, etc. I suspect if Dfens’ changes were made it would be less of an issue, because the military/vendor relationship would change back to being more of a customer/manufacturer type relationship rather than the current buddy setup where a lot of projects are jointly managed. Obviously when you want a product which matches your expectations, you want to be heavily involved in it, but I fear the depth of the involvement at the moment is harming more than it helps. It might be better just to hand over a spec sheet and wait for them to deliver the prototype… (figuratively speaking)

  42. Brilliant. Nicholas gets it. That’s exactly what happened. When the DoD started paying for development, way back in the late ’60s actually, at first they didn’t watch the contractor too closely. They just sent them money. This takes us back to the C-5 competition because what happened there is Boeing took the government’s money to develop a heavy lift cargo airplane and they developed a huge passenger craft, the 747. When the government got pissed off about how Boeing screwed them and threatened to sue, Boeing told them their design was better than what they asked for so they didn’t have a case. Shortly there after a law was passed which stated the contractor can only provide capabilities specified in the requirements. Basically I can go to jail if I provide a product that really is better than what the government asked for. How’s that for a great system? Every time I watch a 747 take off, it pisses me off. I want a dividend for the money I was forced to invest in that turkey. Besides this law, the 747 fiasco, among others, showed the DoD that if they were going to provide the contractors with development money, they were going to have to watch the development process very closely to make sure they weren’t getting screwed. That opened the flood gates. That’s what started the whole process of these huge, bloated staffs of thousands of government employees who contribute nothing to the product, but spend all their time looking over the shoulders of the guys doing the work. It got significantly worse when the defense companies talked them into paying profit on development. What we’ve done is socialized aerospace. We’ve taken away risk/reward and replaced it with ‘do what I tell you to do or you’ll go to jail’. We’ve gone from providing a positive incentive for good work to a negative incentive for not doing as told. Then to make sure the system is a total joke, we added a positive incentive for screwing up and doing things the stupidest way possible. Yet we won the Cold War. Go figure. At this point, we would be better off to complete the socialization process, make all Boeing and LockMart employees civil servants, and end the pretense of being capitalists. Far better still would be the other alternative, which is to get the government out of the development process. Go back to providing a positive incentive for the companies to build good products instead of bad ones. These are the principles that made this country great. These are the principles that won the Cold War. These principles would still work if we would give them a chance.

  43. Seems to me it would have been simpler instead to make a law that a contractor is allowed to make money on the side from their design and other work under the military contract. But they must pay the military a portion of the profits. Think of it as the military investing in their projects – which is effectively what happens. (Obviously, the company is planning to make a profit off the military project too, in most cases. Anything else should be a bonus for them.) OK, so there are several problems with my proposal, mostly in keeping track of which technology developed under military contract ends up in civilian or export equipment, but not as bad as what Dfens has described I think. Plus the company still benefits from re-using their designs, but in a way that should not piss the military off too badly. I guess it would just force the companies to make a reasonable effort to comply, knowing that if they are grossly negligent in doing so they will probably be investigated and forced to pay, but as long as they appear to be making a reasonable effort to comply they will be left to their own devices. i.e. nobody will get upset if they design a bolt for a cargo plane and use it on an airliner. But if they do the same thing with an engine, wing or whole airframe (for example), that’s another matter. I like the way Dfens thinks.

  44. Defens – I do not disagree with your thoughts. What I was contimplating is how to get there from here. It is not enough argue to roll back the clock to a period in time when things seemed to work well. The current procurement system is in a self perpetuating feedback loop and while not completely paralyzied, is clearly unsustainable. The issue is how to unwind the pentagon from the project management/ production busines and return it to being a military product consumer.

  45. You are entirely correct in your goals. What I’m not suggesting here is we go back to using slide rules instead of computers. I am suggesting we go back to doing business in the way you suggest. A way that makes the DoD a customer instead of a participant.

  46. If you ever worked in defense you would know the waste and you would know you can’t do anything to stop it. Do you have any idea how much money was spent on the space station version 1,2,3…? Billions. All the work on each version was shredded.. All of it..In the last days of version one, I worked for only one contractor of the many on it across the world.. we were told burn the money, the program was stopping next quarter. Told to Finish every document ordered so it can be delivered. Told to work all the overtime we could stand. Even though we all knew everything was headed to shredder. On a typical program of any kind, the government adds, changes or deletes countless things. Even stops and restarts many times with new requirements. Causing huge redesigns down to the lowest levels. It is all caused by the fact no one gives a crap. Everyone in charge and not in charge want the delays. They love it. More work more money and perfect reason to NOT deliver yet. After all they, really don’t know how to make what they are making anyway. Any delay is loved. Huge waste. I will state this fact and I am prepared to back it up at any time. I can go to any program in any company for any government job and Fix it fast. NO JOKE. I guarantee I can save any program millions. PERIOD. Ill bet I can walk into the TOP Defense Contract Acquisition Job in Washington at any moment and fix everything in a week. But guess what? They don’t want that. For the cost of JUST ONE F-22, ONE NASA Space mission, and countless other things we waste money on We could fund a Program with the same engineers to design a New high efficient Engine for cars. But they don’t want that. We have morons proposing programs to Terra form Mars atmosphere. The general public eats it up. But the reality is we can’t ever fix our own atmosphere. Now does it make sense to spend billions on a program to fix mars air, and nothing on earth? You tell me… To hell with space. We should concentrate 100% on earth and have just as many technological advances and spin off’s, maybe more.. Don’t kid yourself. only 10% of NASA spin off’s are usable on earth in alternate ways. Because they were designed for space. But 100%, if not more of spin off from things designed FOR earth will have alternate usages on earth not planned for. We should totally REDIRECT NASA to all earth missions of advancement here. All the same engineers and more. New missions. Alternative power programs, New vehicle designs, New sewage treatment, New water treatments, New inner city utility methods, New medicine programs, New therapy programs, New crash resistant car structures, New safety features, New electrical motor designs, New communication systems, New computer processing designed for earth, not for space and modified to be usable on earth. New Etc. I can go on and on. The biggest leap for mankind we can make is right here on earth, not on MARS or anywhere in space. Kennedy had the right idea, but the wrong mission. We need to land on earth. Feet first. I have thousands of examples of the same bull crap they pitch to All of us, and most do not see the contradictions. Why do you think Congress is passing a law FIRST to provide incentives to LARGE builders and contractors to buy foreclosed homes, before they pass a law to fix mortgage lending? Because they are the investors in those corporations. They want to get in on the BIG WIN in a round about way. To take part in the buy up and inventory of all these homes at bargain prices now. A for of INSIDER TRADING..Then they plan to fix the mortgage laws for the rest of us, so the working class can buy them again. Then they will sell and the rich will get richer.. They are the rich. Politics is the modern day Mafia. We are the store owners who have to pay for protection to these Political mobsters. Does not anyone see it? pass it on.. It is out of control. How many government offices do we need? Lets take a small example here. Lets say food stamps. In every city in America, and there are thousands, There is a city office with city hired people paid by taxes to control it. In every county in America, and there are thousands, There is a county office with county people hired to control it just the same. In every State, There is a state office with state hired people to control the same things . At the end then a federal Massive office with federal people all hired to control the same dam thing. Yet for some strange reason, It is out of control everywhere. Now with all those people doing the same dam thing you think it would be efficient. Every program of any kind has this waste at every level in this country. Huge duplication, and nothing is right. Can you even fathom this? A politician is nothing more than a cushy job of speaking, pleasurably living, fine dinning, expensive perks, all at your expense. Not one shows up to all the required hearings or votes. They remind me of the old snake oil salesmen of the old west. We have three morons right now all running for the worlds most profitable cushy job. Want to know who will get it? The one who makes the most , best secrete deals with the big families and corps of this and other nations. THATS A FACT. Obama’s right hand man was caught by Clinton spy’s making NAFTA deals with Canada. He did the soft shoe as good as any criminal. In response Obama’s Spy’s worked hard and long and caught Clinton’s right hand making NAFTA deals with S. America. A little payback they stayed up with no sleep for to catch. She did the same dam soft shoe. They are ALL Making deals and don’t kid yourself they are not. They each have 24/7 spy’s trying to catch each other. If they cant catch each other that much, what chance do you have? You have to read between the lines and its all clear.. Watch the events and lay them out. Then you see whats happening for real. We no longer can pick a president PERIOD. They pick who runs by Party inside vote ( delegates and super delegates) . They pick who eventually wins by electoral college insider vote. No Independent can ever win.. Ever.. The electoral college members are bought and paid for by the two parties. Through all those secrete promises taking place now.. If a party person wins popular vote and is elected, they love to mis-represent it as proof your vote counted. In reality, It means Most people voted for who the electoral college was going to pick if you did not. You will never see a independent win. They all learn fast only a party member can have electoral college votes. The best thing that can happen is USA goes broke. Watch how fast they run because there is no more pay. Government needs that market correction and downsizing. We have far too much government. The cost of government exceeds to funds they control. I talking all government. City, county state federal. The cost to manage exceeds what they have to manage. Imagine a bank account that had account fees every month in excess of the money placed into it every month. First the principle balance goes to zero. That happened in USA a long time ago. Now you take a loan and put more in the bank. Now your paying the account fees and the loan fee. Thats where we are. The solution is not to get more for each dollar of whatever is left of the loan money before it goes to zero again. The solution is not to quickly invest every last dollar you have in effort to make more income. The only solution is to get the account fee’s below the deposits and fast. Government is our account fee’s and they are far too high. It use to be no excuse to not know the law. Because law was common sense, and simple. Today they still say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But now it takes ten judges, 100 appeals, 20 lawyers and weeks/months years arguing and research to render a judgment on even the simplest of cases. If they can’t figure it out with all that post effort, How the heck were we suppose to when it was happening to us? It is out of control folks. Out of control. We have become a nation far worse than the england we ran from to be free of.. I welcome any response, and offer any more info you desire. But knowing is just not enough anymore. There is nothing we can do. They have made a check mate to our inputs. We are locked out of our own government to regulate it. They are a self ruling body that can’t be abolished. They must go broke. Americans MUST get tired of fighting to save an restore the economy for a government that just tort’s the money we earn and waste it on themselves, and inflated lifestyles while we suffer over and over.