The F-22 Program Cancellation—Follow-Up

reaper-drone

A week ago, in “The F-22 Program Cancellation: The Aftermath,” we discussed the recent cancellation of the F-22 Raptor program, and the potential impact on national security and on the aerospace defense part of the economy.

Potential, because it is still too early to evaluate any concrete impact in either area. That doesn’t mean that aerospace defense and economic experts haven’t expressed their views and serious concerns.

We looked at an early assessment by military correspondent David Axe, which was rather positive.

For example:

The “new” U.S. Air Force that Gates is creating will be the most capable the world has ever seen, because it will balance conventional fighter jets for state-on-state war, with lower-end capabilities optimized for battling insurgencies — plus a huge, diverse fleet of flexible aerial drones. These forces will blend into a seamless whole for defeating “hybrid” threats that combine high technology with insurgent tactics.

Axe goes on to list the new types of “Irregular Warfare” (IW) aircraft and aerial drones we’ll be adding to the inventory to defeat the “hybrid” threat; to more effectively deal with “asymmetric threats,” as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates continues to emphasize.

In a future article, we’ll take a look at the views of those who believe that Gates is making a huge mistake.

One of them is retired General Merrill A. McPeak, who was Air Force Chief of Staff from 1990 to1994, and also a national co-chair of Obama for President.

Today, that co-chair, in a Wall Street Journal article, says that the future air capabilities we should build “are based on the F-22, a stealthy, fast, maneuverable fighter that is unmatched by any known or projected combat aircraft.”

McPeak recalls how effective combat air power has been in ensuring that, for more than half a century, “no American soldier or Marine has been killed, or even wounded, by hostile aircraft,” and how during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in Desert Storm, “Our guys on the ground had hard work to do, but when they looked up, they saw only friendly skies.”

Mc. Peak then says, “For the life of me, I can’t understand why we should wish to change this.”

We’ll return to McPeak and others in future posts.

Today, in the Washington Post, Walter Pincus gives us insight into one aftermath already apparent as a result of the major changes occurring in the U.S. Air Force:

The Air Force will train more pilots to fly unmanned aerial systems from ground operations centers this year than pilots to fly fighter or bomber aircraft, Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, told an audience Friday.

According to the Post, Lorentz’s remark illustrates the major transformation occurring within that service. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Will Fraser told reporters last month: “[the unmanned systems] are delivering game-changing capabilities today, and ones that I’m confident will continue to be invaluable in the future.”

We are talking about the Predators and Reapers that the Air Force is flying over Iraq and Afghanistan “in 35 simultaneous orbits, each of which is a combat mission that keeps an aircraft aloft 24 hours a day. The target is to have 50 orbits by 2011.”

According to Air Force briefings, as reported by the Post, today one ground-based pilot flies one Predator, assisted by two analysts. By 2013 the Air Force expects technology to permit one pilot to fly three Reapers, and to fly four in a crisis.

According to the Air Force, another advantage over manned aircraft is that there is always a fresh crew on the ground. “There are 1,000 Air Force personnel flying these unmanned operations today and none is in harm’s way.”

The Post mentions that there are five launch and recovery units in the Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, while the global operations center is at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., with five other centers in North Dakota, upstate New York, Arizona, Texas and California.

According to Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], an unmanned aircraft could be designed to stay airborne for five years, “and I can man it that entire five years with little fatigue.” Now that’s economy of men and equipment.

When asked whether unmanned aircraft will ever completely replace either bombers or fighters, the general’s answer with respect to delivering weapons on target, is “Yes, you bet.” But when it comes to controlling airspace, flying against enemy fighters, the general says that a human brain is still superior in the assimilation of information and responding to it. “Someday we might be able to, but until then, we’ll still have manned aircraft.”

Also, as production and deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Figher and of other aircraft ramp up, there will be plenty of “real pilot” training to be done.

Image: Reaper Drone

         

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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15 Comments

  1. Look, the nation is, in all practicality, bankrupt. The former Bush government have blown it all and borrowed the rest. Pretty much on Iraq. The point of an insurgency is to harass your opponent, forcing them to spend themselves out of the conflict. The insurgent spends pennies, while the anti-insurgent spends mega-bucks. Our military told all this to the Bush administration right from the start., and, again, and, again over the years. Now the Republican party wants no domestic spending and save all defense citing the “war”.
    Right, end, your stupid little counter insurgency. Leave Irag and Afghanistan. Come home, rebuild, rearm, reassess., press hard with bolstering defense treaties with our allies. When, (for it will happen), the so called enemy, retakes Iraq and Iran and becomes a threat, re-invade, kill as many as you can, destroy everything then leave again. Two months, six months, a year no more, leave. Result…we spend less. Take what we saving and buy modern tech war crap and on domestic improvements.

    General Atomics creates the Predator, (your posts picture). The Predator A was 3 million bucks in 2001. So why do they charge three times as much now? The F-22? HOW MANY BILLIONS???? Once the zeros behind your prime integers pass a certain count it just becomes irrelevant or what?? These defense contractors, though I love them, REALLY rape us when they can get away with it. For crying-out-loud WE ARE BROKE, step up to the plate you capitalist arse-wipes, its your country too!

  2. FT -

    WE ARE BROKE

    Hmm, yes indeed we are, and indeed we may have made the right and prudent choice cancelling the F-22.

    But apparently we are not too broke for people like yourself to clamor for total government health care ($1 – $3T), $T Porkulous packages, $T drags on the economy from the Waxman cap-and-trade-away-our-future bill, etc.

  3. AR

    for once I agree with you. ( To a point ) When we spent so much over the past 6+ years and have what, exactly to show for it? When Mil Def spending is almost 1 trillion? and schools get how much? Defense Contractors are a neccesary evil, but have become bloated ticks over the decades. $600 ashtrays, $ 200 hex nuts remember that chestnut?

    and with Wall St megabank CEO's giving themselves 100 mill bonuses after cashing their checks with our money, we are suffering Stockholme syndrome. yeah let's cry Socialism while Health Insurers continue to raise premiums and CC companies do the same. Umm, yeah. right we're all played for suckers here. We have met the enemy, and he is us. Walt Kelly, genius.

  4. AustinRoth–

    I guess corporate welfare will have to be cut out completely then. Oh well.

  5. Everything comes back to your hatred of capitalism and capitalists with you.

    Sorry you have failed in life, and are now so bitter.

  6. AustinRoth–

    Oh Austin…I'm so hurt….but don't be sorry, I'm a Social Capitalist!

  7. Because of name changes and upgrades, there has been a lot of confusion on images of the Predator (B) and the Reaper. The MQ9 Reaper Hunter/Killer was previously referred to as the Predator B. The name was changed to “Reaper” in 2006.

  8. Some of these programs, especially the “sticker shock” items and those which were trouble (to name one example of the latter, Future Combat Systems) needed the ax to befall them, but smart people are wary and cynical and just suspect an all-too-likely eagerness to loot Defense (which some sicker US citizens loathe) to redirect the money on buying votes and winning cheap minds in other ways, such as with so much of the “stimulus” effort and above all currently with the rushed, sloppy health care effort. None of the Dems can claim “prudence” given their imprudent behavior since Obama took office this year.

  9. “redirect the money on buying votes and winning cheap minds”

    DLS, this is your most asinine recurring theme. Spending money on things the majority wants is “buying votes” to you. It's called democracy. As for “winning cheap minds” your team takes the cake there, mobilizing an angry, snarling fringe of haters who spew vitriol (like you) and lies, based on easy manipulation of their low intelligence.

  10. As for the subject at hand, it looks like the current administration gets it, as does the military, that the playing field has changed. Dog fights against mighty MIGs is not reality in current warfare. Eyes in the sky with bombs and no pilot to kill is the obvious, and frightfully effective, wave of the future.

  11. Let's aseess how well all this is working. Manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft and the most expensive military in the history of humankind. And…seven years later we are bogged down in Iraq, preparing to leave not knowing whether we have defeated a rag-tag insurrection or not, and…eight years later hearing whispers of outright losing in Afghanistan and faced with the daily re-empowerment of the Taliban…and Osama bin Laden is still on the loose.

    Maybe we should devote more effort to avoiding unnecessary foreign entanglements, instead of deciding which weapons systems , each of which fails to acheive victory, should dain our national pocketbook.

    It is time to question the base assumptions that: a) we have the most powerful military in the world…does most expensive really equate to most powerful? and b) that foreign adventurism can be equated with necessary national defense. If we revise our assumptions to something as simple as the purpose of the military being to defend the nation, not to provide defense plants in key Congressional districts or use foreign adventures to battle test our new military toys, we could save our treasury and our tax payers untold amounts of cash and save our country untold embarassment.

  12. Agree, tidbits. We have proven to the world that our mighty military cannot subdue even third world countries like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Time to rethink our approach to international relations.

  13. GD:

    “We have proven to the world that our mighty military cannot subdue even third world countries like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    I generally agree with you, but on this one I have to take a little issue with the implications of that statement..

    I firmly believe that our military can take on—and resoundingly successfully so—any army, navy or air force in the world.

    Our military will always be able to –and, again, resoundingly—defend our nation from any and all attacks.

    And, if we wanted we could “subdue”, defeat, any “third world country.” However, that's not what we are about.

    With respect to Vietnam and, to a greater extent, Iraq, we were not trying to to subdue or take over a country, we were fighting (rightly or wrongly) in Vietnam, guerillas, an insurgency and in Iraq, a terrorist movement that we ourselves invited in.

    As has been proven in Indochina, Afghanistan (before), and in Afghanistan now, it is an extremely difficult mission that is as much poltical, diplomatic, etc., as it is military.

    Sure, we could wipe out Afghanistan, Iraq (as we almost did), etc., but what have you achieved?

    I believe that I understand what you mean, but I just wanted to (perhaps) clarify it?

    I don't know if I have succeeded.

    Now, as to “Time to rethink our approach to international relations.”, Amen!!

    Thanks for your comments,

    Dorian

  14. agree Dorian. Combat is not now and has not been for a long time, about pummeling a foreign country into surrender. Maybe we could if we were actually at war with a national army of a sovereign state, though we sure dumped a LOT of ordinance on Vietnam. It is not possible to win a combat in which the enemy can melt into the population, that is, against 'irregular' troops.

  15. ” It is not possible to win a combat in which the enemy can melt into the population, that is, against 'irregular' troops.”

    That has been proven time and time again, to the French in Indochina, to the Russians in Afghanistan, and at many other times and places.

    I always go back to a quote that is attributed to Publius Cornelius Tacitus and which has been roughly translated as “They made a wasteland and called it peace. .”

    And, before anyone draws any wrong conclusions, this is absolutely no aspersion on our brilliant and brave military, it is more a reflection on those civilians who lead us into and during such debacles.

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