Home » Air » Raptor Watch » Raptor … or Turkey? (Final Part)

Raptor … or Turkey? (Final Part)

by noahmax on August 17, 2006

“If the United States is to maintain air dominance, it needs the [Lockheed Martin] F-22 [Raptor],” 1st Fighter Wing Captain Elizabeth Kreft said point-blank at the end of our Aug. 10 meeting.
The threat, Raptor advocates contend, is a dual one: the latest Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker derivate fighters and “double-digit” surface-to-air missile systems such as the S-300.
Su-27-Flanker.jpgUsers include:

S-300: Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Slovakia, Syria, Ukraine and Vietnam
Su-27/30/33: Angola, Armenia, Belarus, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Syria, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuala (rumored) and Vietnam

Critics including fighter designer Pierre Sprey say the earlier generation of U.S. fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper and Boeing F-15 Eagle are adequate to defeat Flankers. Raptor friends point to exercises such as the infamous (and perhaps rigged) Cope India as evidence that the Viper and Eagle can be bested.
My own take: Sure, the F-15 and F-16 might be equal or even slightly superior (when pilot training, weapons and joint and industry support are considered). But for how long, in light of continued Flanker development? And since when is parity enough? Don’t our pilots deserve better?
As for those S-300s … The U.S. military has perhaps become accustomed to operating in permissive air defense environment such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Granted, helicopter pilots might not agree that these places are all that permissive. But there certainly is no real threat to the fast-movers and high-fliers that haul the cargo, spot targets and come to the rescue of pinned-down Marines. In this context, the Air Force has spent a decade mostly running down its Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses force; the Raptor promises to revitalize the capability and ensure global access for legacy aircraft and the future Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning.
Speaking of which, some critics ask, why can’t we cut the expensive Raptor in favor of the cheaper Lightning? While a fine bomb-hauler and (one hopes) a good multi-service airframe, the F-35 is a mediocre performer. Said 1st Fighter Wing commander Brigadier General Burton Field, “The problem with the F-35 … is speed. It doesn’t have the capability to supercruise. Speed lets us get inside the decision cycle of the bad guy.“
For the most dangerous air battles and attack missions, F-35 squadrons will rely on F-22s for support. That’s an unavoidable state of affairs when you design an airframe to replace slow– and low-flying Lockheed Martin A-10 Warthogs and Boeing AV-8B Harriers as well as light and flexible F-16s and Boeing F/A-18 Hornets. The F-35 is a compromise. Potentially a very successful compromise, but still …
We’ve already sunk $25 billion into Raptor development. That money is irrecoverable. Further jets cost only around $115 million (perhaps twice as much as a new F-16) and will get even cheaper. We should get a good return on our investment. A good return, in my estimation, means a full fleet of at least 381 Raptors in 10 or more full-strength squadrons. That should guarantee air dominance for another 30 years or more.
David Axe

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian August 17, 2006 at 4:06 pm

I owe you an apology, Mr. Axe.
I was skeptical of your reporting on this particular subject. You have come across as a vocal critic of the Raptor, and I doubted your ability to report with a lack of bias on this subject. I have enjoyed each part of your report on the Raptor and feel you have given it a fair shake. Good job.

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Charles November 18, 2012 at 6:20 am

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Brian August 17, 2006 at 4:09 pm

Nah, it's not Noah of this site. I thought so at first, too. It's just some kook.

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Sven Ortmann August 17, 2006 at 6:00 pm

There’s no such thing like a guarantee, especially not for decades.
Every technology can be countered and in military affairs, it will be countered if it’s important to you and if you are important at all.
There are so many things that can deny air superiority.
Surface-to-air lasers (yes, sounds Sci-Fi but is possible), high attrition rates through radar-independent SAM systems, quantity production for cheap air combat drones, infiltration commandoes against airfields, anti-airfield ballistic missiles cheaper than ABM’s…
And last but not least – modern fighters might become completely irrelevant in air combat if thousands of swarming small drones became the means of air attack. How would you hunt them down with Raptors? Sens an AMRAAM worth mroe than five attack drones after them? Use the Vulcan at 150ft altitude on targets as small as 2m span width?
Basically, 40mm AAA might become primary means of anti-air warfare in this extreme scenario.
No guarantee for Raptors…

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Noah August 17, 2006 at 6:37 pm

… and as recent events in Lebanon and Iraq have so clearly pointed out, air superiority has little effect on next generation warfare. We absolutely rule the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan to no effect. The same applied to the IDF in Lebanon. How would some even more expensive hardware help?
This is a fools errand, subsidized by taxpayers to support endless war for profit.

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skrip00 August 17, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Wanna take something on? The real crooks in defense industries are the US Gov’t.
Mainly because they gestate development.
The F-22A in no way shouldve costed $28bil to develop. But it did.
Its quite evident: LockMart and Boeing make more money from development than actually producing the aircraft.
In fact, in their ideal world, production is to be avoided at all costs, and development is to take as long as possible.
Its sick and pervasive.

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C-Low August 17, 2006 at 7:45 pm
Moose August 18, 2006 at 12:10 am

Noah from this site would have a link in his name.
Where are the swarms of drones? Where are the sensors and wepons small enough to fit on these but still sophisticated enough to brong down a Raptor? Where are the ground troops volunteering to waltz into land under a Sukhoi-filled airspace?
No, the F-22 can’t win the war on its own. No, it can’t deal with every threat we can possibly imagine. No, it’s not cheap. But for the next 30 years or so the world’s air-to-air threat’s going to advance, and we need a plane that stands head and shoulders above the pack. 108-0? Sounds like a good start.

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Andrej August 18, 2006 at 2:08 am

I would check your list of S-300 users… Several countries are mere speculation (and in other cases such speculation has been proven false). Furthermore, some of thee countries posses older versions of S-300 (which is not that dangerous) and not S-300PMU1 and above. Furthermore, effectivness of any air defense system is as good as its user. Probably most would even run out of its missiles shooting at decoys.

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David Hambling August 18, 2006 at 2:11 am

The whole Raptor project shows very backward thinking: it is very much an extension of existing air combat systems. The idea that if just just make it a bit faster, stealthier and more manueuvrable then you have a winner.
But at root it’s just more of the same, a very big, expensive and hence very rare and valuable manned plane.
This is simply not going to cut it in a world where new paradigms are going to be coming out the woodwork. Network-centric systems, drone swarms, laser and other directed energy weapons, hypersonic systems, ultra-agile UCAVs and all the other good stuff we read about in DefenseTech makes this look very old indeed.
[This sudden insistence on supercruise is quite amusing - we've been doing pretty well without it for the last 50 years, and now suddenly it's become essential? Gimme a break...]

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Brian August 18, 2006 at 8:50 am

David,
You want to talk about the Raptor being expensive, and you list off hypersonic network-centric scramjet drones with laser weapons? Get real.
The Raptor works, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not a piece of theoretical crap. It ACTUALLY flies, as opposed to scramjets that have stayed in the air a grand total of about 30 seconds. It can actually evade radar, as opposed to drones that must maintain a constant, easy to follow communications link with a ground unit. And it has weapons that actually work, as opposed to laser beams that shoot twice and can barely fit on a 747.
Yeah, I’m sure the Raptor looks like crap when you compare it to an X-Wing. But we can actually build a Raptor. Get back to the comic convention, geeks.

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sglover August 18, 2006 at 8:52 am

Well, it’s nice to see that the Air Force still knows how to fight the kind of war that it grooms its generals for — the endless campaign for its hefty chunk of the federal budget. We can expect the dubious sunk cost argument advanced by this last ‘Raptor Watch’ installment to be a centerpiece of the propaganda for the program.
Once again, we see the two classic pillars of “successful” weapons systems development: 1) Generously spread the subcontracting money among lots of Congressional districts, and 2) piss as much appropriated money away as possible up front, early on. It’s important to have a phalanx of political “leaders” who are skilled at looking sincere when they fret about what a shame it would be to waste all the money that’s been “invested” in the program to date.
Do all this in the name of “freedom”, of course. And avoid unpleasant, impolite references to things like, oh, the deja vu quality of weapons procurement. Because we all know that the ONLY threats to our democracy are external. Broken federal budgets, luxury weapons, and crony capitalism — these are positive blessings for a healthy democracy! This is just what Madison and Jefferson dreamed of!

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LEP August 18, 2006 at 10:24 am

The Cyprus Republic is not a user of the Russian-made S-300 PMU1 surface-to-air missile system. Thanks to the political pressure of the U.S. Clinton Administration that was always eager to serve Turkish national security interests, the S-300 missile batteries that were purchased by the Cyprus Republic were never installed on the island of Cyprus. These missile batteries are currently part of the Hellenic Air Force (Greece)air-defense system and were part of the protective umbrella over the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. Greece is both a NATO and an EU member, and a major buyer of defense equipment from the U.S.

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C-Low August 18, 2006 at 10:25 am

Thanks for clearing that up guys. Apologies to Noah for the accusation.
I think the F-22 will be a very useful tool in the tool box for the future.
For you guys claiming the F-22 is for a yesterday fight and cant fight terrorist with an IED and AK blah blah blah. I would just like to remind you guys you don

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David Dickerson August 18, 2006 at 12:47 pm

Our fighter pilots do deserve “the best” – and to go into combat knowing the odds of coming home are much higher than the odds of dying.
The point of the naysayers is….our soldiers deserve “the best” too. And at this expense what are we losing?
How many unarmored or lightly armored vehicles are still out there?
How many helicopters are getting shot down?
Soliders personal armor?
Comm gear?
Unmanned scout vehicles?
Networks of sensors to detect ground enemies?
The military should look at the big picture – China to Grenada – and make sure they can do the job.
But they should develop a factor of expected deaths and where $$ could reduce deaths based on a mix of historical info and projections from regional wars to the big one. If they spent $135M doing R&D on Humvee survivability and another $135M on personel armor protection and another $135M on new first aid gear to stop the bleeding (the new superbandages still aren’t out). We would lose 3 planes and save how many lives?
My dad was Air Force, I grew up in pilot communities, but even in the bad days of Korea/Vietnam/Gulf War I and II the pilots believed they were coming home while the grunts were flinching when a branch broke. The last time our pilots went out there with fatalistic thoughts (on a day in day out basis) we were doing low level bombing of oil factories over Ploesti.
So go buy the weapons for the war that most likely won’t be fought.

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sglover August 18, 2006 at 12:57 pm

“But they should develop a factor of expected deaths and where $$ could reduce deaths based on a mix of historical info and projections from regional wars to the big one. If they spent $135M doing R&D on Humvee survivability and another $135M on personel armor protection and another $135M on new first aid gear to stop the bleeding (the new superbandages still aren’t out). We would lose 3 planes and save how many lives?”
There ya go again, injecting reality and a wider perspective into the discussion. When I go to the local air show, is your new first aid gear gonna trail red, white and blue smoke? I doubt it. Dammit, the F-22 is just, you know, cool! And as C-Low points out, it may have even cooler mystical superpowers that only the Elect know about.

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WarNerd August 18, 2006 at 1:53 pm

How about some perspective? Maybe I missed all the great air to air battles (only a handful) the US Air force and the rest of the world’s air forces have been involved in since the end of the Vietnam conflict. So why exactly are wasting billions of dollars on a small number of Cold War derived air to air fighters that will never shoot down anything because there are no technological (2-3GW) enemy forces to fight?(China-too interconnected. Iran, Syria? Sorry “big war” crowd, never going to happen! North Korea? Unlikely, but F15′s will do just in case.)
We need hundreds of networked real-time UCAV’s, and a few heavy bombers for killing Jihadists, and then some close air support aircraft for the troops on the ground. Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, COTW, which is the present/future (4GW, Post-conflict stability). The F22 Raptor is useless for all of this.

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Brian August 18, 2006 at 2:51 pm

Hey, WarNerd,
No, there haven’t been too many great air-to-air battles. The closest we had (to my knowledge) was when we absolutely blew Saddam’s air force out of the sky in Gulf War I.
That does not mean, however, that those weapons are useless. Read your Sun Tsu. If you frighten an enemy so that he does not attack you, then you have won. I’ve got a buddy who is 6’5″ and weighs about 350 lbs. He’s been in a grand total of one fight in his entire life. Is his size wasted? No, because no one dares anger him.
I’m glad you’re completely certain that we’ll never fight Iran, China, or Syria. Really, I am. It makes me feel good inside, honestly. Like with sunshine and butterflies and rainbows in my soul. I wish I could be so certain.

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WarNerd August 18, 2006 at 8:54 pm

Thanks Brian for reading my comments. Yes, I am optimistic, mainly because I am an international businessman, so I am quite sure we will never engage in nation-state war with any modern, interconnected country, especially if they have nuclear weapons; no politician is that stupid. There are a few dictators that need to go, but as we see over and over again, the war doesn’t end after you remove the government. We can easily remove any government in matter of weeks, that’s easy, and then what do you do? Unfortunately, that is why we will not risk anymore experiments in the Middle East. It should be about useful and relevant weapon systems, not pork projects, which is why I say the F22 is a waste.
Anyway, to your Sun Tzu reference. I think you made my point. Why would anyone take on the USA military straight up? That

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C-Low August 19, 2006 at 1:16 am

I understand you guys want to pour more money into fighting gorilla resistance war but in reality there is no technology fix to that type warfare. The only thing that really makes a difference in gorilla war is Heart (moral will to see a long bloody dirty ugly struggle through without shame) and numbers with some old school brutality weapons. There is no amount of money that will make WAR especially a Gorilla War clean, civilized, pretty, and nice, with no innocence lost, no civilians killed, no casualties on our side. The expectations of some are just impossible to achieve. Utopia will never exist on earth as long as Human Nature survives.
What the hell it

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David hambling August 19, 2006 at 6:17 am

No amount of technology is going to stop wars. As events in the Lebanon show, a guerilla force can take on the most sophisticated armies in existence.
UCAVs are the future, there is no doubt about that. I’ll be posting some items on recent developments in the near future. They’re not on the front line just yet (well, some of them are), but in the very near future they will be present in large numbers, and thet are a big challenge to people who like macho manned fighters.
As for future threats:
* S-300/400 = useless against numbers of UCAVs
* SU-30 family = likewise
* The thrust vectoring and canards = manned aircraft can’t compete in sharp turns – if it’s an issue.
* Medium range air-air missiles = again, impractical against large numbers of UCAVs
* Conclusion: AWACS-killers required = the sort of thing that number of stealthy UCAVs are good for.
* Proliferation of ballistic missiles with short-medium ranges = the target set for persistent UCAVs
More significantly, UCAVs can be extremely useful in insurgencies, while the F-22 is just an expensive way of delivering bombs.

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WarNerd August 19, 2006 at 9:07 am

It's good to see I have at least one person who agrees with me. Great discussion!
I have read all the comments, and am still waiting for someone to tell me how the F22 is worth all the money, either now, or in the future, and therefore resources should be reallocated to tackle un-conventional threats that we are engaged in for the next 30 years.
F22 used to kill terrorists, or insurgents, please. The F22 is not useful in Iraq and Afghanistan. Large numbers (or any numbers for that matter) of high tech fighters going at it in air-air combat, NEVER GOING HAPPEN! I admit UCAVS are not ready for air-air combat, but for stalking and assassinating a single person or small group, they work well now, and are only going to get better. Killing the correct target and minimizing collateral damage is a must for 4GW.
Like I stated earlier, our current capability can easily destroy any conventional battlefield threats we find (still looking). I am more interested finding ways to sustain ourselves for 4GW. WW2 mass bombings, mass occupation forces, is not politically acceptable anymore, so we have to find other ways to win (which is defined by long-term positive outcomes, not body counts). It

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Andy May 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Way over styled, ineirtor looks horribly plastic and that red just looks cheap .Whole thing looks like a great big toy. It’s so unnecessary .i’d be embarrassed to drive it

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Brian August 19, 2006 at 10:18 am

You’re dramatically over-estimating the ability of UAVs to engage in combat roles. Period. Sure, they make a nice supplement. They’re handy to have.
But there are multiple technological problems that you can’t overcome.
UAVs will never outmaneuver manned fighters, for the same reason I can’t play Street Fighter II with X-Box Live. There’s lag time anytime you have to go through a network or transmit signals over great distances. Anything that requires precise timing and instant reactions is going to be affected severely by lag time. Now, for flying a UAV around, and moving a camera about, and then firing a Hellfire missile at a car, a UAV’s communication system does a fine job. But if a dedicated hard-wired cable system can’t transmit the button combination and timing needed to perform a dragon-punch when I’m playing some asian kid in Minnesota, what makes you think you can radio the signals for effective air combat in real time to a UAV operating in hostile territory against active jamming systems while an enemy pilot who does not have to worry about lag time fires a missile at you? How can you dogfight when every maneuver you make is 10 seconds behind?
You can’t.
How will UAVs defend you when an SU-30 comes screaming over your headquarters and bombs the hell out of your command structure? Yes, I know that you can pilot UAVs from your parents’ basement in Sandusky, Ohio, if you feel like it. But you still need boots on the ground wherever you’re fighting, and you still need someone to provide air superiority.
What do you do when your enemy manages to jam your communications? “Oh, crap. All our UAVs just fell out of the sky. I guess we’re completely F***ED!!!!”
Finally, a word on guerillas. Yes, they can take on modern armies. As long as the modern armies play nice. As long as Israel is concerned with civilian casualties, as long as they sincerely try to avoid hitting the hospitals, churches, and schools where guerillas stay.
Israel could wipe out Hezbollah today, if they were willing to engage in total war. It’s not a matter of technology. Whatever your miracle technology, fighting a guerilla war is simple. You’ve just got to be willing to kill a whole lot of people. We can do that. A few B-1s could level all of southern Lebanon. Iraq? We could end the insurgency nearly immediately, if we were willing to slaughter a few hundred thousand people. Insurgents in Tikrit? No more Tikrit, no more insurgency.
None of your UAVs, none of your proposed silver bullets will do any more than the stuff we have right now. You’ve got to break a people’s will to fight. That is the only way. And a shiny new unmanned drone with a better camera won’t do that. Only raw brutality will.

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Knightraptor August 19, 2006 at 10:30 pm

The F-22 is an awesome machine. Built for complete air-surpemecy against an enemy force with fighters comparable to US legacy fighters. This scenario, while improbable, is NOT impossible. But as it is improbable, it should be procured in a fashion that reflects that. While it would/will be a great tool to the US Air Force’s toolbox it should not be the only tool or the main tool. It would be foolish not to have ANY of these fighters, but it would also be foolish to gamble everything on it. One feature of the F-22 that is often overlooked by both sides is the ability for a single F-22 to increase the effectiveness of other US legacy fighters operating with it, as seen in the recent wargames in Alaska. Ya dig?

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skrip00 August 20, 2006 at 6:46 pm

———————————-
“and am still waiting for someone to tell me how the F22 is worth all the money, either now, or in the future”
———————————-
Because the money is already spent. Buying it now makes it cheaper to operate than the F-15C since it is already more advanced than the F-15C and has more growth space and processing capacity available for future upgrades.
Everyone here makes the same mistake assuming that the only war we will fight is against a bunch of terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assumptions like that will leave the US ill-prepared when dealing with a nation with a bit more… organization?

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WarNerd August 20, 2006 at 10:28 pm

I’ll accept your financial logic; but if we have to buy Air-Superiority fighters to make Congress, and the paranoid anti-China crowd happy, then the JSF has to go (at least domestically), because we definitely don’t need both of these obsolete, expensive, and irrelevant projects.
Anyway, my strategic rationale stands, because unless you are a religious zealot or and environmentalists nut-job and think the world is going to hell and a hand basket, nation-state warfare is history. India/Pakistan, and Eritrea/Ethiopia are the last of the nation-states to either threaten or fight each other, but they

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David Hambling August 21, 2006 at 8:00 am

Brian,
You are seriously underestimatng UCAVs. You seem to be assuming that they have to be piloted remotely, and that simply is not the case. With something like Air Dominator, all it needs a human for it to confirm the kill decision…cruise missiles don’t even need that. And if you think that other nations will be squeamish about allowing machines to decided who they kill, you are horribly wrong.
UCAVs will be at least as capable as human pilots of operating in an environment where communications have gone down. As you will have seen from my piece on Swarms, they are actually much, much better than humans at dealing with issues like collision avoidance and co-operation without overt communication.
When you smash the enemy’s HQ, their unmanned systems will not even blink.
As for your comment “We could end the insurgency nearly immediately, if we were willing to slaughter a few hundred thousand people. ”
- I think you need to get with the 21st century, not the early 20th.
The US is simply not going to be in a situation where that is ever possible. This is why we need smaller, smarter, persistent systems capable of making a real difference in a guerilla war (as well as other types), not Cold War leftovers optimized for dogfights with non-existent MiGs.

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Brian August 21, 2006 at 10:11 am

David,
Color me unconvinced. I have no doubt that other nations would have no problem with allowing machines to make decisions on who to kill. I do have doubts that UAVs will ever be able to distinguish a Humvee from a cow. Our servers just crashed this morning at work, so maybe I’m biased at the moment.
I know you’ve got images in your head of robot drones flying around like that scene in “Terminator”. I don’t buy it.
I’m not worried about destroying an enemy’s HQ and having their drones keep on fighting. I doubt any foreign power will muster a large enough or advanced enough force of UAVs to realistically fight the US. I’m worried about us using a force of UAVs and finding that they can’t stop enemy fighters. Even if our UAVs keep attacking, I don’t want our troops bombed from the air.
The truth is, we’ll need BOTH jet fighters and UAVs in the future. The UAV won’t replace manned jets, it will supplement them.
Also, the more capable you make a UAV, the more expensive it will be. If it has the abilities of an F-22, it will cost the same as an F-22.
Finally, I know we’re not going to go back to tactics like the fire-bombing of Dresden. However, my point was, that is the ONLY way to truly break an insurgency. New gizmos and widgets and toys won’t do it. No matter how many F-22s or UAVs we buy, they won’t end an insurgency. The only way to do it is boots on the ground and a willingness to shoot a lot of people. No, the F-22 won’t help. But neither will any other tech gadget.

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Jeff August 21, 2006 at 2:43 pm

I believe we stand upon a very similar threshold that our grandparents did in the 1930′s. They also didn’t want to commit to upgrading the Air Force until Pearl Harbor.

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WarNerd August 21, 2006 at 4:15 pm

This discussion just keeps just keeps on going, awesome.
We have an approximately 400 billion dollar defense budget (excluding supplemental), which as everyone knows is much larger than anybody else, even big bad China. This buys power projection and strategic options, not just typical self defense. No one is or will ever come close.
Yet, time and time again, we can’t even wipe out some guerilla/insurgent force. So I ask, what is the correct balance between our desire for cool, and useless weapons systems and the things we actually use and need to “win” the wars we have now? We can’t have it all.
High tech air superiority fighters, big expensive Cold War ships (excluding carriers) and submarines, ICBM

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Brian August 21, 2006 at 5:04 pm

The problem with the insurgency is this. There are a few thousand insurgents. They look just like everybody else in Iraq. They smile and wave at our troops when we drive by. They go to work in the morning, come home at night. They go to the bar to drink beer, and play “kick the sherpa” on Saturdays. Indistinguishable. They also pick up explosives from Crazy Ackbar, the local used car dealer. Then they go and blow things up. Then they go right back to waving at our troops and going to work in the morning.
So how do you catch these guys? Oh, some of the locals have a good idea who they are. When Abdul doesn’t come home on Tuesday nights until after midnight, they know what he’s doing. But he’s “fighting the good fight”. He’s fighting the Americans, and some of them respect that. They’re not gonna squeal, even when some fellow Iraqis get killed.
That’s going to continue. It’s going to continue until someone clamps down HARD on it. In Saddam’s day, when something like this happened, he had everyone in the neighborhood shot. Neighbors become a whole lot less sympathetic when Abdul gets them all dead.
“Fear will keep the locals in line. Fear of this battlestation.”
The US is a warm and fuzzy military. We’re all happy and shiny and we don’t kill innocents. Sadly, you can’t describe many of the people in Iraq as “innocents”. They’re silently complicit.

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David Hambling August 22, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Brian,
“I do have doubts that UAVs will ever be able to distinguish a Humvee from a cow.”
I think you’re a few generations behind in machine vision!
“Our servers just crashed this morning at work, so maybe I’m biased at the moment.”
That will hit complex systems like the F-22 at least as badly as UCAVs.
“I know you’ve got images in your head of robot drones flying around like that scene in Terminator.”
Big, awkward, vulnerable craft with limited sensors…no, nothing like that.
“I doubt any foreign power will muster a large enough or advanced enough force of UAVs to realistically fight the US.”
Insurgents could start using them against US forces tomorrow.
“The UAV won’t replace manned jets, it will supplement them.”
Dream on.
“Also, the more capable you make a UAV, the more expensive it will be. If it has the abilities of an F-22, it will cost the same as an F-22.”
No, for a lot of reasons. The simplest of which is man-rating: UCAVs simply don’t have to be as safe and reliable as manned craft.
And when is a human-piloted F-22 going to be able to fly 72-hour missions without blinking once?
“Finally, I know we’re not going to go back to tactics like the fire-bombing of Dresden. However, my point was, that is the ONLY way to truly break an insurgency”
Remember, appalling as it was, the fire-bombing of Dresden did not break German morale. Against guerillas, massive force did not work for the Soviets in Afghanistan, and it did not work in Chechnya. It also, most tellingly, did not work for Saddam Hussein: given external support, insurgents will go on fighting whatever you throw at them. And the more civilians you kill, the more popular their cause becomes.

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VNCCC April 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Hi David. Fine series of articles. One remark jumped at my eyes: ‘The Lightning is a compromise” [my paraphrase]. Would you be able to get that into the heads of the Dutch KLu (RNAF) and Parliament? The F-35 will certainly need another craft to open the way in contested airspace. I gather the Netherlands, like so often before, trusts that others will do that for them. They are not wont to go it alone. All OK by me, but it makes one wonder: Who will be the guys opening the gates and where will they come from? For that matter, where will The Netherlands’ F-35′s come from if they are engaged, as they are, in Afghanistan or Ethiopia?

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VNCCC-VHJM van Neerven April 4, 2007 at 1:36 pm

I see that my comment is late in the game. I wish I had known about your writing before. I found you, thanks to Joe Katzman from DID, and you are on my bookmarks list now! Next reading will be your enovel.

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Leo May 8, 2007 at 9:34 am

“I am optimistic, mainly because I am an international businessman, so I am quite sure we will never engage in nation-state war with any modern, interconnected country”
That’s what everyone assumed before World War I: the new shiny modern world of burgeoning international trade would make the economic disruptions and costs of war unthinkable, a relic of the bad old days. Oops.
Von Moltke just made his plans for war and dismissed such notions by saying he was a general, not an economist. A bitter irony to the hundreds of thousands of Germans who starved to death under British blockade, even after the Armistice (the blockade continued until Versailles in 1919).

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Bill July 13, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Using the F-22 and F-35 is like bringing a machine gun to a knife fight.
We are the only superpower. Russian doesn’t have the economy to continue producing expensive fighters, and China will not attack their largest trading partner
Terrorists will not be stopped by an aircraft like the F-22 and F-35.
We would have been much better off spending the money on an A-10 replacement, F-15 upgrades, and improving our intelligence community.

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Reon October 17, 2007 at 7:00 am

This seems like a no brainer to me. Kill the F-35, kill it now, kill it dead.
With all the $$ saved you could afford 500 no-compromise F-22′s and 500 new F-16′s just for poops and giggles. People never consider the time factor when it comes to money and government projects. By the time the JSF is ready to go, it’ll cost at least as much as the F-22 does now.
As for the F-35′s replacing the A-10′s… who the hell came up with that idea, what are they smoking, and why won’t they pass it this way?
The Navy goes without a stealth platform, so they have to make due with Super Hornets and long range missiles. Not a big deal if you ask me.
As some have already said, the F-22 is ready for prime time, right now… I don’t see the point in spending hundreds of billions on more development for an inferior plane (aside from export purposes).
I realise it’s not very feasable, but another hundred B1 bombers would fit the bill nicely in Iraq and Afganistan, and be flexable enough for unforseen future conflicts. Monsterous payload, lots of time over target, and a bit of penetration capability goes a long way…. but I digress.

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Andrew February 13, 2008 at 2:17 am

It seems to me that no-one, and that is no-one (unless they can read the future) can know for sure what conflicts will arise in the near or not so near future. Isn’t it better to be prepared for all possibilities than to only concentrate on the wars being fought right now. Sure China/Russia or whoever may not want to start a conflict, but who can say that with complete surity? If the US strays away from producing the sort of weapons needed to stop a larger power, isn’t that a bit of an invitation for that larger power to try their hand? I am actually from Australia, so I may not be in such a place to say what the US should or shouldn’t do, but thats just my opinion. By the way Indonesia are buying weapons from Russia as fast as they can, SU-30′s and the like, currently RAAF has F/A18′s and F111′s – surely no match for an SU-30. We are supposedly going to get some super hornets until we buy some F-35′s (if our new Prime Miniter doesn’t crap the idea) but I for one would like to know we had some Raptors to take on the Indonesians if need be. Again, they may never attack us, but we won’t know that unil it does or doesn’t happen. Prepare for all possibilitys.

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Andrew February 13, 2008 at 2:19 am

I know the Raptor is not for export at this time, but I wish it was.

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hannah m January 23, 2009 at 9:29 am

Bring back and update the F-16XL. That thing had range, payload, and could supercruise. Maybe give it a simple up-down thrust vectoring as well. Spend the savings on upgrading current F-16s and F-15s and on better missile tech and more flight hours.

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longshadow October 21, 2010 at 11:11 am

UCAV’s are the bridge to the future, not the F-22. We have to get over a few technical hurdles (AI progress and network bandwidth) first but the UCAV’s are cheaper, smaller targets, can operate at higher speeds, and will eventually be fully autonomous (AI) so they can make (correct and decisive) decisions quicker than a human pilot.

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