Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die

18.03.09

Categorie: Accountability, Air, Industry |

“The world has to get used to taking care of itself,” analyst Loren Thompson declared at a confab in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Thompson and a host of speakers reached a consensus: owing to the financial crisis and the inability to pay for complex weapons programs, the United States will have to “scale back its global commitments and revise its global strategy,” in the words of one reporter covering the event.

Analyst Gregory Martin, a retired Air Force general, said the erosion of world influence is largely the result of weak public support for the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, which are built by Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. “If you can’t afford that [mix], then your national objectives have to be scaled back,” Martin said.

In other words, stealth fighters equal national power. And the absence of stealth fighters equals weakness.

Hogwash.

The economic crisis is having an effect on every country, unevenly. Arguably, the U.S. is faring better than most as investors flee to the comparative safety of the dollar. Power in the world is a relative thing: if everyone else gets much weaker, and we stay the same or only grow a little weak, then we are, in fact, more powerful than we were before. Get it? The global recession, alone, does not mean we are losing influence. In fact, the recession might even boost our influence, by underscoring just how much the world depends on America as a consumer market.

But more importantly, American national power does not hinge on fighter jets. We could retire every single fighter in the U.S. Air Force, tomorrow, and still remain the most powerful nation in the world, by far. National power is a complex and shifting thing, comprising military force, financial and cultural influence, leadership in international coalitions and organizations and even language. Every country in the world teaches American English to its business students, aviators and sea captains. Does that have anything to do with the F-22? Do some of our biggest exports — music, movies and television — depend on a squadron of F-35s flying orbits over North Dakota?

Ignore the noise coming out of Washington’s punditocracy as the Obama Administration shapes its first defense budget. And when that budget is published, and it (inevitably) includes cuts to Air Force fighter programs, take a deep breath before panicking and consider:

Nearly everyone telling you we must buy a given quantity of stealth fighters, or lose global influence, has a financial stake in advocating such purchases. Of the speakers at the Wednesday confab:

* Loren Thompson, from the Lexington Institute, runs a private consultancy for the defense industry, with clients including Lockheed Martin

* Thompson’s colleague, Rebecca Grant, also runs her own consultancy for the defense industry

* Gregory Martin has been a Northrop Grumman consultant

The U.S. Air Force is in deep trouble, but it’s trouble of its own making. And it’s testimony to just how overwhelming, and sustainable, is America’s military, cultural, linguistic and financial dominance in the world that our primary military air service can commit slow, institutional suicide without alarming too many people, aside from a few hardware nerds like me and the consultants who get rich gabbing about certain pointy airplanes on behalf of wealthy corporate clients.

(Photo: me)

Related:
Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15
Getting the Most from Your New F-22
F-22s to Darfur? Not so Fast …
Advocating a Systemic View of Air Superiority
More fighter-jet hyperventilating
Growler Chomps on Raptor
A U.S. Navy F-22? Don’t Hold Your Breath
Nearly 100,000 Jobs Depend on the F-22? Not Really
Only 60 More Raptors? Everybody Panic!
Russian Super-Fighter Not So Scary
In 2014, the F-35 Might Cost More than the F-22
600 F-22s? Hilarious
F-35 jumps the shark
Raptors in Japan
New Russian fighter to challenge F-35
The amazing shrinking air force

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10 Responses to “Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die”

  1. Andrae says:

    Sorry, I don’t buy it, both you and the analysts you critisise are tilting at strawmen. You are correct to suggest that the argument as reported fails to consider the systemic nature of power; however your critique assumes a linear relationship between expenditure (even absent-waste) and power. This is simply not true at either end of the technology spectrum.

    At the top-end, the network effects gained from the interaction between top-shelf C4, sensor, and weapons systems work in America’s favour, rendering any hope of seriously challenging american military supremacy futile in the medium-term.

    At the bottom-end asymmetrical techniques and the commodification of high-density electronics fabrication, has significantly increased the cost of overwhelming even modest defense system

  2. Chivalrous Hypographiac says:

    You’re extending Axe’s argument to other elements of the American military arsenal.

    He’s specifically attacking the F-22 sales rhetoric being spun as to paint it as a pillar of American pre-eminence.

    That said, the military industrial complex boggles the mind in general. Comanche, anyone?

  3. [...] Outstanding Quote 2009 March 19 by Mike Burleson From David Axe at War is Boring: Nearly everyone telling you we must buy a given quantity of stealth fighters, or lose global influence, has a financial stake in advocating such purchases. [...]

  4. [...] War Is Boring But more importantly, American national power does not hinge on fighter jets. We could retire every single fighter in the U.S. Air Force, tomorrow, and still remain the most powerful nation in the world, by far. [...]

  5. [...] Related: Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15 Getting the Most from Your New F-22 F-22s to Darfur? Not so Fast … Advocating a Systemic View of Air Superiority More fighter-jet hyperventilating Growler Chomps on Raptor A U.S. Navy F-22? Don’t Hold Your Breath Nearly 100,000 Jobs Depend on the F-22? Not Really Only 60 More Raptors? Everybody Panic! Russian Super-Fighter Not So Scary In 2014, the F-35 Might Cost More than the F-22 600 F-22s? Hilarious F-35 jumps the shark Raptors in Japan New Russian fighter to challenge F-35 The amazing shrinking air force 3 Comments so far Leave a comment [...]

  6. [...] Related: What’s Wrong with the F-22? Raptor Gets Congressional Reprieve Offiziere.ch: the Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force Congressional Budget Office’s Plans to Save the Air Force Air Force Turns a Corner Gates Budgetpalooza: Air Force Loses Altitude The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself F-22s versus Russia’s Rusting, Ramshackle Air Force Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15 No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  7. [...] Related: Surveillance Orbits for From-Scratch Air Forces Meet the “New” U.S. Air Force Air Force Copies Marines’ “Bolt-On” Gunship Plan Offiziere.ch: the Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force Congressional Budget Office’s Plans to Save the Air Force Air Force Turns a Corner The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  8. [...] The Day U.S. Air Power Was Saved from Itself F-22s versus Russia’s Rusting, Ramshackle Air Force Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15 Getting the Most from Your New F-22 0 Comments No [...]

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  10. altor says:

    http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2010-01.html

    “Fights between the F-22A and the PAK-FA will be close, high, fast and lethal. The F-22A may get ‘first look’ with the APG-77, the Advanced Infra Red Search and Track (AIRST) sensor having been deleted to save money, but the PAK-FA may get ‘first look’ using its advanced infrared sensor.[...]The outcome will be difficult to predict as it will depend a lot on the combat skills of the pilots and the capabilities of the missiles for end-game kills. There is no guarantee that the F-22 will prevail every time.”

    “the PAK-FA leaves the United States with only one viable option if it intends to remain viable in the global air power game — build enough F-22 Raptors to replace most of the US legacy fighter fleet, and terminate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as soon as possible, as the F-35 will no longer be a usable combat aircraft for roles other than Counter Insurgency (COIN), though more cost effective and more appropriate solutions already exist for this role.”

    “the only viable strategic survival strategy now remaining for the United States is to terminate the Joint Strike Fighter program immediately, redirect freed funding to further develop the F-22 Raptor, and employ variants of the F-22 aircraft as the primary fighter aircraft for all United States and Allied TACAIR needs.

    If the United States does not fundamentally change its planning for the future of tactical air power, the advantage held for decades will be soon lost and American air power will become an artefact of history.

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