LAS Boondoggle Never Ends

First read this for an idea on where I stand on this issue:

at-6aerialThe piece below says deliveries of the Light Air Support aircraft for the Afghans will be at best 14 months late since Beechcraft challenged the DoD on selecting Embraer’s product last year. In reality this concept is at least eight years too late. Now we are in crisis mode. It’s bad enough the brain-trust at the Pentagon blew our treasure and threw away valuable fast jet hours by using fighter aircraft to prosecute our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These aircraft were incredibly expensive to operate and ill-suited weapons to fight men with AK-47s living in caves and mud huts, now we cannot even get a couple dozen of these relevant turboprops to the Afghans so we can at least begin to actually leave that mess of a land. Couldn’t a child have figured this out as an essential priority as we entered this conflict over a decade ago? It all makes you wonder if those at the top are actually interested in a sustainable force or is it more important to give everyone some green ink, a piece of the “I went to war pie,” even if by doing so you are mortgaging your force’s ability to fight wars in the future and burning through cash and air-frame life at jet turbine speed that will never be equally replaced.

The Pentagon has almost always made itself a weak partner in big defense procurement programs instead of a customer so that they could have more “control” over their pet projects (see constantly change the initial requirements, irrationally accessorizing like a 12 year old girl). In the end this has proven to be a reliable recipe for disaster. Tell the manufacturer what mission you need to cover, let them come up with the damn solution if they are willing to risk their funds to compete in doing so. If nobody wants to compete than the idea is probably not a worthwhile one anyway or it is so big that it is a strategic liability to begin with. Once the DoD is involved as majority risk taking partner the politics start pouring on at a rapid rate as does the cost and developmental timelline and you end up with flying, driving, or floating pork that goes boom.

I don’t know, I have trouble even reading about these programs anymore. Without a White House that actually understands the military I doubt change will ever come. If we allow this never ending bureaucratic garbage to go on without a major change of direction, in the end we will get the military we deserve, which is one that is inflexible, unsustainable and unprepared for battle. Oh wait, that package has already arrived, it took years of wrong turns and uphill dead-ends to finally show up at our door and it was driven here by a guy named Mr. Sequester who said he took it the last few blocks as the original driver, a military leadership man, retired early and went to work at a major defense firm who offered him a massive salary and golden parachute for his “unique knowledge and connections.” Strangely enough, that same firm actually supplied the tires for the delivery van that delivered our “modern military force,” they cost twice that of the commercial alternative’s price per set and they only go flat three times as often, but the rubber is touched by Congressional Representatives from all lower 48 states before it is shipped to China and made into its final form and shipped back for installation. The driver, Mr. Sequester, also said that similar broken militaries are being made in a common, mass produced but budget breaking form now, principally in Texas in a massive building that sits next to an airport. He also said that they too are one day going to be shipped around the world for delivery to their weary customers. Although like our package, the ETA and true cost is really anyone’s guess…

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5 Responses to LAS Boondoggle Never Ends

  1. Ian Hall says:

    Ty, if I didn’t know you were an American I could have sworn you were talking about the MoD here in the UK.* Totally agree with you over the Super Tucano -if ever there was a plane built for counter-insurgency this was it. Why are we wearing out our Tornadoes when a smaller cheaper plane would have done the same? I keep thinking something like a Hawk 200 would have done a good job at a fraction of the cost so why are we wearing out our fast jets?
    I have always believed the correct solution to a problem can only be found by asking the correct question. I believe that a major problem with the F-35 is that with one airframe it is trying to do too many jobs. How can a plane that is supposed to take over from the A-10 do the same job as an F-18?

    * PS Wanna buy an Aircraft Carrier? We might have one going cheap, no cat and trap cos it was built for the F-35B

  2. nico says:

    I sometimes wonder if this isn’t also the result of the massive defense contractor consolidation we have seen in the 90s. Basically everyone remaining is too big too fail and they have nicely carved up the pie.

    One way out is maybe to cut the crap about “buy American” and REALLY allow open competitions to manufacturers around the world. Agree with Ty about the madness of buying all the “options” and gold plating everything. Case in point is KC46, why didn’t USAF just buy the same model of KC767 that Italy or Japan bought? Nope USAF can’t do that, have to buy it’s own unique model…..

    When you think of LAS, it is incredible that NO WESTERN AIR FORCE,NONE has come up with a LAS in service. The French are using RAFALES in Mali, for crying out loud! How efficient is that? How long has everyone been in Afghanistan and how many airframe hours have been used up killing Taliban fighters with F15s or as Ian noted,Tornadoes? You think by now some military hierarchy would have figured it out…

    It isn’t that hard to figure out that Western forces are going to be stuck in intervening in places like Mali, Yemen, Somalia,etc for decades to come….

  3. Conquistador3 says:

    The problem really goes back a long way.

    In Korea the USAF was forced to impress P51’s in the close support role because by 1950 all P47’s had either been scrapped or given away to foreign air forces. The Mustang proved to be extremely vulnerable to AAA fire and as a result many brave USAF pilots ended up dead or in Chinese captivity. The Navy, however, had the Able Dog which proved to be just the plane for the job.

    Fast forward to Vietnam, and the Air Force is still faced with the same issue, namely the lack of a cheap, simple and rugged close air support aircraft. Grunts on the ground don’t love jet “fast movers”: they come in fast, drop their cargo and leave. SAR missions cannot be effectively escorted by F105’s and F4’s.
    The Navy, however, still has the old, oil guzzling but perfectly effective Able Dog in service. The USAF swallows its pride and get a number of mothballed Able Dogs for the Sandy (SAR escort) role. They prove to be just the tool for the job.
    However Able Dog airframes are getting old and numbers are getting thin through tear and wear. Also Vietnamese AAA is getting more effective.
    Somebody has an idea: why not modify the standard Cessna T37 trainer to do the job? A number of converted Screaming Mimi (A37A aka Super Tweet) are sent to Vietnam under the Combat Dragon program. They prove to be everything the USAF wanted and more, being cheap to run, easy to mend, able to stay on station for a reasonable time (with auxiliary fuel tanks) and murderously effective. No A37A was lost to AAA fire.

    Fast forward a few decades. Again the USAF is faced with the same problem. Yes, this time there’s the A10 which can fill the role but Hogs are a precious asset that needs to be carefully rationed. Moreover they are overkill, being designed for the demanding Central European theater, not a low level conflict with no AAA threat.
    In an incredible waste of resources, strategic bombers are pressed into service, loaded with JDAM’s to become what shills call “flying artillery”. Does the USAF really need B2’s to blow hut mud huts and machine gun nests?

    Over a decade into the conflict nobody, neither the US nor their allies, has felt the need to develop a modern day Able Dog or Super Tweet, a rugged, cheap and effective close support aircraft. F18’s, Mirage 2000’s and Tornadoes are squandered to engage enemies who can barely shoot back at them and it seems those same military men who decry every single small budget cut as the end of days just don’t care. At least in Vietnam they grudgingly accepted they needed the Super Tweet. Now they only seem concerned with the F35, whose use in similar conditions will be even more financially offensive. If it will ever fly right

  4. Mike Brewer says:

    wasnt this resolved? didnt they “rebuy” the Embraers just recently?

  5. Ian Hall says:

    No, my understanding is that following the first agreement an objection was made, so “the race was re-run” the verdict was the same, so another objection was made.

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