Hi, my name is buckethead and I’m a Murdoconline addict

The Great Murdoc has invited me, your lovable furry old Buckethead, to guest post for a bit whilst Murdoc is on the road neglecting his blogging responsibilities and killing defenseless wildlife. This is, to be sure, a great honor, and one which I will undertake with my normal seriousness and gravity.

There are a lot of changes coming down the pike in the world of military affairs, and we’ll be taking a look at some of them. Among the items that our crack team of military reporters has uncovered are these:

  • The Army plans to replace the venerable M-16/M-4 combat rifles with a new model assault rifle chambered for a new, powerful 3.3mm round.

  • The Navy is considering adopting a new class of warship based on the DD(X). The new DD(CVX) will be — for a cost of only $7 billion dollars — a vessel that combines the offensive power of the DD(X) with a launch bay for Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles.
  • The Air Force, in an uncommon move toward cost efficiency, is planning on standardizing on one air frame for all missions and roles. The new Air Force will see all cargo, refueling, AWACS, strategic bombing and VIP transport roles consolidated with the existing air superiority, electronic warfare, CAS and reconnaissance on the F/C/KC/VC/B/E/R/A/EW-22E Super Raptor.
  • Finally, the USMC will be separated from the Department of the Navy and integrated with the Coast Guard, there to participate in drug interdiction exercises.

Naturally, the astute among you will have realized that your pal Buckethead is pulling your leg a little. But only a little. I feel that the commenters here at Murdoc Online are at least half of what makes this website so cool. (I’ll admit that Murdoc is most of the other half.) The comment threads – even when they don’t revolve around battleships – are chock full of learned discourse. (And in the case of Dfens, deep, soul-scarred cynicism about American procurement policy.)

Blogs are typically reactive, it’s kind of the nature of the beast. As we’ve reacted to the news we’ve had a lot of, oh, let’s call it “spirited” debate here about the relative merits of various weapons systems. The Stryker and the M-8 are two of Murdoc’s favorites, and the DD(X) v. battleship debates seem to be a fan favorite – but we have discussed probably a thousand other ships, planes, guns, robots, and for all I know combat toothbrushes. But let’s be a little proscriptive.

So here’s my challenge to you all:

Since you’re so smart, what is the one thing that each of the military services should buy that would most increase combat effectiveness? Or if that’s a little too narrow, one thing that they should change, stop, kill, fire, or whatever. Naturally my answer involves UAVs, giant fighting robots, and zombies. But let’s get a few other suggestions before I weigh in. The floor is yours:


  1. Needed most: a WORKING ‘GSTAMIDS’ rig which can be mounted on any Humvee/MRAP bullbar. The ‘Ground Stand-off Mine (IED) Detection System’ is a piece of kit which failed to live up to any expectation, experimental or otherwise. We seriously need some additional IED detection equipment. FAST.

  2. normal seriousness and gravity’ Riiiiigggghhhhhtttt. That was a dead give away… Eliminate the five-sided Rubber-room and do not replace it. That would do more to enhance the military than anything else I can think of…

  3. I suggest that each branch of the military buy one US Senator! How can you beat that?

  4. Ok a few changes 1. Change the military budget from annual to bi-annual. At least it will cut down on the annual feeding frenzy/bribes and annual power point presentation projects from hell. (That alone will save billions) 2. Remove R&D from weapon procurement. Either you are going to buy a weapon/trinket or not. You are not going to pay someone billions to invent the weapon/trinket then open it up to ‘competitive biding’. 3. Weapon Procurement – If you cannot decide if you want to buy/test evaluate a product in under 12 months, then you can’t do it. No way we should spend 20 years in trying to come up with a M-16 replacement and all we have is about 20 terrabytes of powerpoint slides. 4. If you want to invent weapons – fine pay the vendor to build trinket xy & z. Hell, we can just pay them X billions per year as flat rate R&D project. However, the government owns the patent on whatever is made. Thus when it comes to buying the figging thing, we can open it up to anyone willing to build it. 5. Program managers are responsible for the effectiveness of their program. You go over budget, and miss your time targets, the manager pays the price. Conversely the opposite is true. Just some thoughts from an embittered viewer of one two many power point sides.

  5. Reserve the right to act outside the Geneva Conventions when fighting against non-state sponsored combatants.

  6. Shipmates, Okay, here’s a couple from the Navy side of things.. 1.) Build some more (as in lots) of small boys. DD’s, Corvettes, Frigates, and Patrol Boats. DO NOT BUILD LCS. Now resurrect the concept of the destroyer Tender and make up TF of these systems. use them for coastal Patrol, all the littoral duties. KISS. Standard emitters. Standard guns (preferrably with LARGE calibres). 2.) We need a replacement for the S-3. There is no mid-range ASW aircraft anymore. Zip. Nada. S-3’s still around are tankers, pretty much. We also need to hurry the P-8 along so as to replace the P-3’s before we run out of them due to wing/structural failures. 3.) Dedicated ASW/Convoy escort platforms. The Chinese now have more than 60 conventional, blue-water submarines, and they are practicing them en masse, wolf-pack style. Our Logistic ships, of which we have far too few, are extremely vulnerable at present. 4.) More logistics ships. Navy operated, not sealift command stuff. Fast, with mid-sized cargo capacity, and build LOTS of them, as we WILL take losses. 5.) Start thinking about how we will do comms and navigatuion when the Chinese take out the GPS and ComSats. Which they will. When was the last time a ship used HF/UHF/Morse? How about solar/star-shots with the sextant? Anyone? Beuller? That’s it for now, but I’d also start some serious small-arms training for sailors. In fact, if I had my way, the Marines would train both their folks and the Navy’s to the same standards. Afterwards the Navy guys could go to their specialty schools. Respects,

  7. James beat me to most of mine, but the main thing I’d change is to end the practice of paying for effort. They should pay for results, period. That should be true through out government. Next I would re-establish a balance of power between programs and functional organizations. The government has become as screwed up as industry that way. It used to be functional organizations took care of the personnel issues and programs took care of the technical issues. Today programs do both, but do neither one worth a damn. Kelly Johnson was a program manager. The reason we have no one to replace him with is ironically due to the over whelming power of the program. Another bad side effect of this lack of balance is the collapse of R&D. The functional organizations used to do that too. Programs don’t do R&D because it is against their self preservation instinct to create the technology that would make they themselves obsolete. The programs destroy and discredit R&D to the demise of the entire industry. Functional organizations used to provide a technical track for engineering careers, promoting those who showed exceptional talent in engineering to positions of increasing technical complexity. Today we make good engineers into horrible managers that stomp the life out of junior engineers rather than inspiring them with their demonstrations of technical skill. Additionally a project centered industry makes products that are less safe. Safety engineers need to have independance to be effective. Program managers don’t want to hear about problems. They want to hear everything is ok, and they will often shoot the messenger to hear that. Ultimately, however, the reason the industry is allowed to continue in this out-of-whack state is because it pays more to screw up a program than it does to do a good job. Once you provide the economic incentive for failure, people will employ all of their creative energies to capture that economic reward. That’s called capitalism. It can either work for you or against you, but it always works.

  8. AW1 Tim’s reading Murdoc’s mind when it comes to ASW and naval logistics. I’ll defer to him because A) He’s got first-hand experience and B) His opinions match mine. Anyway, though I like the LCS concept, I’m concerned that the Navy is terribly vulnerable if a real war were to start. And no Navy, no overseas success. Where is the 21st century FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry?

  9. I love Kevin’s comment. Fascinating topic. My only comment is this. I had a lengthy discussion with my former-jarhead boyfriend regarding new camo patterns, while waiting for the metro at the Pentagon station during evening rush hour. Now I get why my camo fabric Utilikilt was one of the last ones made due to the company saying they could no longer source the fabric. The digital stuff is ugly, but damn if milspec is the greatest stuff in the world. I wait with baited breath to buy surplus pants in the new style and promptly trash them camping in the mud.

  10. If we could rearrange our procurement and research along the lines outlined by James and Dfens, I think that would be a long step toward goodness on a lot of fronts. My personal wish list is along these lines: Army/Marines: a larger caliber, simple rifle. 6.8 would probably be adequate, but, hey, there’s no such thing as overkill. 7.62 would make me happier. Air Force: the B-747 concept that’s been talked about here at MO on several occasions. Or even a bomber version of the C-17, which by happy coincidence would give us back a B-17. Anyway, something that could loiter for long periods carrying large amounts of standoff weapons, and deliver them cheaply and cost effectively. Navy: Tim’s got some good ones – a new mid-sized utility aircraft that could be adapted to several roles would be a winner. And back to the USAF for a second – standardizing on a civilian model craft for somethings might make sense – a freight version of the 767 could be used for tanker, occasional cargo, and also for AWACS, JSTARS, etc. For ships, I don’t actually recommend bringing back the battleships, but the DD(X) as currently planned makes my teeth ache.

  11. Navy: Submarines made today are too big,expensive and complex. And we do not have enough of them. We do not need 16 tomahawks on an attack boat ( we have the Ohio SSGN’s for that). Smaller less costly ASuW ASW submarines are needed. We could use them to controll merchant shipping just like we did in WW2. And for the love of GOD stop giving them Cruiser names. They are fish after all.

  12. This is a little above the individual services but my vote to improve the combat capability of the military is to enact term limits for senators and representatives. If a 20 year career is considered ‘normal’ in the military then it should work for the politicians as well.

  13. For ships, I don’t actually recommend bringing back the battleships, but the DD(X) as currently planned makes my teeth ache.’ Personally, as tech advances Navy’s will have to adapt in one of two ways. A) Into a large number of small semi-autonomous vessels with high stealth but low mission capability loss if destroyed or B) Into high capacity multi-role ships capable of defending themselves vs a large range of potential foes. Now logically it should make sense that large number of small ships should be more capable and survivable, but ultimately cheaper then small number of larger ships – the truth of matter is it is not. Not when you have destroyers costing in 1.5 billion range and your LCS’s costing in the 400 million range.(Pop quiz – take (4) of your standard stock model LCS vs 1 stock model Arleigh Burke class destroyer – its not even a competition.) Wonking aside – The cost factor of modern ships is the electronics. The danger is the advancement of stealth technologies applied to missiles is/will render the large ships into targets. To a greater or lesser extent this is already the case. The only logical alternative to this syllogism is to armor your ships. Since we are building ’50 year’ ships, the armor cost will be a one time cost, amortized over the 50 years. Armor negates the advances in tech, as the physics of explosives vs armor ultimately determines the size and speed of the missile. Put it this way – we current maybe ( I hope not)building the DD(X). Its a fine and great ship, but its also a ship that can be taken out of action by a single RPG strike. All you need to do is put an RPG round into the peripheral vertical launch system. Lets just assume that it works like advertised and the we do not lose the ship. We however, lose the DD(X) functions as it will have lost its stealth ability and most likely a good deal of its seaworthiness as its hull has been compromised. Based on what happened to the USS Cole, we would lose the DD(X) for a year and at a cost of say few hundred million or so. Not bad for a 100$ RPG shot. Anyway given the unarmored state of our ships, we have to a 100% protection from virtually any attack otherwise we lose the ship. (You can sink/disable Destroyer with a .50 machine gun. ) So either we by walls of air at a cost of billions, vs the exponential growth of electronics/stealth or we build walls of steel subject to the known physics of explosives. Its time to build battleships – as the primary surface node.

  14. what is the one thing that each of the military services should buy that would most increase combat effectiveness? Get rid of name tags. I will allow that the Navy and Air Force have some use for them – the Air Force being more like a militant Southwest Airlines* than anything else, and the Navy .. well in my limited experience ships are real good at catching on fire and blowing up the electrical system so the entire ship (except for critical spaces like the CIC and the Chief’s Mess) are dark and extremely warm so I can see how name tags would come in handy. But I digress. Soldiers and especially Marines need leaders. A core principal of leadership is knowing your troops. If you’ve got a name tag they don’t even have to pretend to give a rat’s ass about ‘knowing the troops’ – their name is right their on their chest. *I should note that I’ve only dealt personally with the cargo and people hauling parts of the Air Force, not the guys who fly around and shoot things. It is possible that part of the Air Force is channeling John Wayne and I’ve missed it.

  15. Don’t issue Microsoft Office on DoD computers anymore. Make the Powerpoint Rangers have to get off their ass and produce something that’s actually needed or, failing that, lead some troops. Someone once joked that the way to cripple the Iraqi armed forces was just to drop Powerpoint on all their units. They’d be crippled within days, with all their manpower tied up making cheese slides. In all seriousness, I think we need to re-examine the role the military has taken as the defacto executor of American foreign policy. Dana Priest had a point. In terms of crisis response, leadership, and focus on the tactical mission, the State Department is a bucketheaded bastard stepchild compared to the armed forces. And that lack of initiative and resources in State has far-reaching ramifications, particularly on the service branches. Instead of a new service rifle, for example- which I agree is sorely overdue- let’s have a fresh look at what we ask our military to do. What problems are we asking the military to fix, and are they better fixed by a different tool?

  16. Airforce: TEST YOUR SOFTWARE before you cross the international date line and almost loose a whole squadron of F-22s. While you are at it, instead of spending gobs on unproven designs, why not build more of a proven design and upgrade it with tricks from the unproven design. Example: Stick the F-22 engines in an F-15 frame and add some of the avionics …and thrust vectoring. Army and Marines: Steal some of that funding from the Airforce and use it to upgrade the capabilities of the Army and Marines. Where is my M41A 10mm pulse rifle with pump action 30mm grenade launcher? Hell, they have the armor (almost), the helmet gear (a little more bulky) and even the uniform pattern (the camo pattern was a little different but the ‘faded grey’ look was right on..except it was the marines, not the army in that movie). Only thing they are missing is the armored greaves on the boots and the high tech assault rifles/SAWs/LMGs. Add to that, screw the AF not wanting to let the ground pounders have their own fixed wing aircraft. Let the AF quit bitching and give the A-10C to the Marines and the Army. Infact, navalize the A-10C while you are at it. Navy: Get off your duffs, refit the existing, usable hulls (INCLUDING the BBs) with this high tech stuff like rail guns and new power plants (Nuclear powered BB?), rebuild the super structures (DDX stealth?), and keep conventional armor and munitions as backup when your high tech toys fail. Add to that, give us a real replacement for the F-14 (no, the -F18E/F doesn’t do it), and send out your carriers paired with BBs. Subs are great, but I doubt there is a torp out there, besides a nuke, that would seriously damage the hull of a BB…and then the BB would know where the launch came from and the ASW assets and torpedos from the BB could be used to sink the firing sub. Hell, bring back the Battle Cruiser while you are at it to fill in where we need a BB but can’t afford it. ‘ZZZZZZZZZbang! ZZZZZZfissle…’ ‘Crap, lost the rail gun, turret one is offline, turret two on target, fire 16 inch guns’ ‘BOOM BOOM BOOM’. Sorry, just had that run through my head talking about about refitting the BBs and BCs with DDX tech.

  17. Navy – A variation of the Cyclone-class patrol craft that is more heavily armed. More LPD-17s for amphibious lift and to serve as a tender for the patrol craft. Air Force – KC-767s as a one-for-one replacemetn for KC-135Es ASAP. Marines – Buy the UH-72 to replace the UH-1s. Army – Dump the ARH-70, and just buy more AH-64Ds to take over the armed reconnaissance role.

  18. I think James and Dfens hit the nail on the head there. A sort of mental and psychological restructuring of the military – a ‘repurposing’ – would benefit all of our armed forces far more than any new technology. America possesses the strongest army, navy, AND air force that the earth has ever seen – all at the same time. But with that strength and size comes a lumbering beaurocracy. (Why doesn’t Murdoc install a damn spellchecker?) While the lead may be slim, our forces are technologically AND numerically superior than any potential enemy. We can’t rest on our laurels, but I think the gains would be greater for the changes they outlined above. But, as the saying goes….amateurs talk tactics; dilettantes, strategy; true experts talk logistics. So, tactically speaking, I can’t argue with coolhand or Harold. Our navy needs a TRUE air superiority fighter. I only hope they get around to designing one before we’re stuck with an F/A-18L Super Duper Hornet. Snap up some more amphib assault ships and Cyclones – don’t use a $400 million stealth sea fighter to do a cheap gunship’s job. Our navy used to be renowned for the survivability of its ships. I’m not sure how we’ve devolved from iron giants bristling with guns to alumin(i)um greyhounds with a Swedish antiaircraft gun and a few vertical poptart launchers. The DD(X) is a further de-evolution (cue groans), a ship that should have remained a technical prototype while real engineers rolled up their sleeves and designed a REAL vessel. An improved conventional destroyer, faster and more powerful than the Arleigh Burkes. Give the Army the fucking A-10C. If I can’t fly one when I graduate from WP in four years then I’m gonna be pissed.

  19. We can’t rest on our laurels, You’ve got something there. The Book claims that winners prepare to fight the last war, the losers re-think a thing or two so they can win the next war. We’ve got the biggest, winningist military on earth. Everyone is studying up on how to beat us. Odds are good they are not going to spend a lot of time producing tank regiments for us to use as targets. I think it’s terribly important for all the services to devote, say, 10% of their manpower to fooling around and figuring out a better – or different – way of doing business. I’m thinking all the way from riflemen to the general to the NCA.

  20. Army/ Marines: A medium caliber round like the 6.8mm Grendel, the 6.8mm SPC or the 7mm British intermediate from the ’50s. Replace both 7.62 and 5.56 NATO rounds with it for a +5 to the logistics roll. A better pistol, though wether this should be a large caliber stopping power round or a good penetrator like the Tokarev or 5.7FN depends on who we’re fighting Close air support, A-10s or lots and lots of small CAS aircraft like the Super Tucano. If swarming UAVs work as promised….the Light Attack Aircraft might be largely replaced with those. Buy some Light tanks. Keep pumping money into body armor research…loosen the rules on soldiers buying their own….tests are only worthwhile if they are combat realistic. The SPIKE missle, if it works as advertised should be bought by the ton. Coast Guard/ Navy Buy the Aegis version of the LCS…call it a destroyer…name them after heroes and train their primary crews for ASW first and formost…the LCS with ASROC and ESSM and all those remote vehicles should be a sub chaser par excellance. ASW in the USN seems to have badly atrophied. Build an arsenal ship type vessel to largely commercial specs but put Aegis or its sucsessor on it….this will require the crew of a regular destroyer….but it will have the missle capacity of 5-10 or even more and it likely won’t cost more than 2 ‘Burkes (steel is cheap compared to electronics)and will have much greater combat persistance in a war. For shore bombardment load some of the tubes with artillery rockets like MLRS or ATCAMS…FOR MASSIVE DAMAGE. Escort carriers like the old Sea Control Ship make lots of sense….but don’t let this fool you…congresscritters will count them as full carriers and thereby gut the navy….unless you can get 8 or 10 for each carrier they are a bad bargain. Buy the Coast Guard about 100 patrol boats along the lines of the Danish STANFLEX 300s. Replace the gas turbine with a third diesel for fuel economy and ease of maintenance, turbocharge the diesels so speed doesn’t fall below 28-30 kts. Buy some additional multipurpose bouy tenders. Have the Navy stockpile minehunting and ASW kits and train CG and naval reserve units to use them in a full on war. Alternatively, should the Navy or congresscritters balk at using a Danish design, buy an ice-strengthened version of the current Cyclone class patrrol craft. It’s not really uprateable to do minesweeping or any hot war stuff but they’re an off the shelf, sucsessful, easy to maintain, design that both the CG and Navy are familiar with. Don’t spend a gazillion dollars reinventing the wheel… In any event, during the current conflict and during peactime in general, rotate a few CG patrol boats overseas, possibly with a bouy tender or larger cutter for logistics, and put them in piratical hotspots. This will free up frontline navy assets for escorting the carriers and other duties. The hearts and minds aspect of the counter piracy mission also plays to the Coasties strengths. Buy a few airships for the CG,the CG tested one withy some sucess in the ’80s, but large ground crews and visionless congresscritters nixed the plan. With their speed and endurance they could each replace a medium endurance cutterin most missions except carrying large numbers of rescuees ….with 1/8th the crew. For the USN airships would seem to be excellent ASW/AEW platforms …they certainly did well in these roles before McNamerra got rid of them. Buy a few diesel/electrc boats…possibly towed/ refueled from a submerged tender, like a converted SSBN. Build more logistics vessels, LSDs Supply ships, if the STANFLEX option above is used, some economiesw in minehunting might be had. For the Coast Guard, uild 25-30 High or medium endurance cutters…..fit them for salvage and towing to supplement the Navy’s Salvage tugs in a full on balls out war….Of course, when not doing that they coulds act as towed array vessels and refuel rearm Navy ASW choppers. ( We coasties will almost certainly fall for this cunning ploy if we actually get new ships that don’t break in seastate 4.) Airforce: Institute a crash program to replace the B-52s with something comperable but not 50 years old. Buy LOTS of them. Buy them in lieu of some of the F22s build a thousand or more. Put good radars on them so they can act as misileers if needed, but fit them out primarilly for conventional precision bombing. An onboard CIC on some or all might be a way to reduce collateral damage. The technology has made the bomber drivers predictions of the ’50s and 60’s come true. ********************************************************** FIX THE PROCUREMENT SYSTEM…..ELIMENATE ‘COST-PLUS’.

  21. 1. Spend the money to build several space elevators. 2. Base our defense strategy and tactics around the use of space. The ability to cheaply ferry people and supplies back and forth from orbit would make new weapons systems feasible such as Anti-tank bars (small, guided kenetic weapons dropped from orbit). More manned stealth bombers are a waste of money. 3. A new rifle in a decent caliber would be nice. 4. As other people have said, fix procurement. On projects with little or no R&D, learn how to do RFP’s like a good civilian company. The budget for developing a new rifle should only have funds for ammo and comparison testing of the submissions!

  22. I have a recommendation for the Army. Shitcan the Future Combat System (FCS) which is turning into a gargantuan waste of precious funds, and in its place adopt the Swedish CV90 family of vehicles. First, the CV90 family comes in a variety of configurations. The basic infantry carrier, the CV9040 carries more dismounts than a Bradley and has a Bofors 40 mm gun as its main weapon. Essentially this is a relative of the famous WW2 anti aircraft gun and the current 40mm used on the AC-130. With the range of ammo made for this, this would be ideal for street fighting where the anti aircraft rounds would have a better bursting effect than the Bradley’s smaller 25 mm. See this great video demo http://youtube.com/watch?v=YUsgZZeJqhE Second, the CV90120 is the same vehicle only it has a 120mm main tank cannon and turret. Granted this is not designed to be a MBT, but it would be a nice infantry tank that is easier to deploy than an M-1. Since it shares the same chassis as the infantry carrier, maintenance and training would be streamlined. Third, if the need arises you can even get a version of the CV90 outfitted with the Bradley’s 25mm gun. Personally, I would have a mix of 5 CV9040s to 1 CV90120. Fourth, the CV90’s mobility is superior. Just check out the vid of a comparison with the Bradley in the snow. It’s almost embarrasing to watch the Bradley get stuck while the CV90 drives on. http://youtube.com/watch?v=HAsR7m1wXM0 Fifth, the company who makes them is now owned by BAE systems, the same guy who owns the Bradley manufacturer United Defense. This means production could easily be done in the USA and we could put specific US communications equipment in them. Finally, we should be able to save some money and deploy a reliable family of vehicles before the children of the current crop of soldiers join the Army. From what I have read, FCS has already cost over $1 billion and only exists on computer models. It looks like another Bradley acquistion fiasco in the making. You can see more of the FCS at http://www.army.mil/fcs/

  23. I have a suggestion for the navy. Granted, it is partly tongue-in-cheek, but I think it makes for an interesting discussion. Purchase Su-33 airframes (navalised Flankers) from Russia. Then outfit them with American engines and avionics. I wish I could claim this idea, but I read it on a military site a couple of years ago. At that time, people were complaining about the navy retiring the F-14 for the SuperHornet. The discussion centered on the SuperHornet not being that good compared to modern next generation fighters. The authors argued it would be cheaper to buy the airframes from Russia then to try to develop a new airframe with the same performance. The costs would escalate like they did for the F-22. I know this would never happen, but I wonder if an American company could ever produce a fighter like the Su-33 for the same cost.

  24. AW1 Tim, The comsat constellation is outside China’s advertised ASAT capability. HF use is alive and well for voice and data, both with the USN and other branches. (ALE helps.) I’m not discounting the possibility of Chinese DEW use against com and nav satellites, but the GPS constellation has become increasingly robust from an EW point of view, and the Chinese are a long ways from being able to shoot down satellites in geosynchronous orbit. I might be wrong, but I think the best anyone’s managed to date is killing targets in low-earth orbit. Recon sats are threatened, but not comms and navaids. Yet.