Defense issues update


1) As reported earlier, the Russians envy the 9-country F-35 program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWJ2pCo6hXY). But there are also other reasons to continue and fund this program, inter alia, the reasons that:

a) the radar-cross signature of an F-35 is no bigger than that of a ping-pong ball. The likelihood of a radar detecting a ping-pong ball is less than one millionth.

b) The F-35 type hasn’t yet entered service, but it already has a guaranteed 9-country export market: the US, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Italy, Israel, Canada, Australia. Countries such as South Korea and Japan are considering F-35s as candidates for the role their next-generation fighterplanes, to replace their obsolete Cold War era fighters (e.g. Vietnamese War era F-4s).

2) China has copied a Russian Su-27 as a J-11B, without a license nor copyrights. During the 1990s, China received a license to build 200 J-11As, not J-11Bs. China did not bother to buy a license nor copyright to build J-11Bs, thus irking Russia. The US should exploit this diplomatic conflict.

3) Russia has withdrawn from talks with Japan on the question of a post-WW2 peace treaty. The US should encourage Russia to sign such a treaty so that Russia will have an Asian country other than China and India to rely on.

4) Wikipedia’s claims that the cost of a single F-35 is $130 mn are false. The real price is $89-$100 mn per plane. Thus, this plane is cheaper than a J-20 (which costs $110 mn per plane) and costs about as much as a PAK FA (which costs $100 mn per copy).

5) The latest information available on the net is clear: Non-stealthy aircraft stand no chance of surviving in today’s highly-defended environments such as Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. They’re obsolete. During the Cold War, a stealthy plane was, as the film “Stealth is a Russian invention”, a project by the US to gain air superiority over everyone else. Today, stealthy aircraft are must-have planes for any airforce which wishes to survive.

6) Partially-stealthy aircraft such as F-15SE Silent Eagles are no remedies. An F-15SE costs $100 mn and is stealthy ONLY from the front and ONLY to the radars of other aircraft – not to the radars of SAM systems and warships. It could be easily shot down by any SAM. Moreover, it would be a mistake to spend $100 mn on a partially-stealthy plane when you can buy an all-aspect stealthy fighterplane (i.e. an F-35) for $89 mn.

7) One of the reasons why the F-35 program has experienced significant cost overruns and tech problems, as well as order reductions, is the Alternative Engine Program, which consumes funding that would’ve otherwise be spent on the plane itself. The DOD ceased to request funding for the AEP in 2006, yet the Congress continues to fund the program over the DOD’s objections, while the Pentagon unreservedly gets the blame. Indeed, the majority of the wasteful expenditures in the DOD’s annual budget are due to the Congress, not the Pentagon, yet the Pentagon gets the blame and is everyone’s favorite whipping boy.

8) The ABL program is even better than I originally thought it was. An ABL-equipped plane sends a light, green laser beam towards the target missile before it tries to intercept it. This green laser beam works like a radar wave and points out the weakest spot of a missile. Then, the ABL-equipped plane shoots the missile with a red laser beam. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-dEXaSJWME)

9) The ABL program was, of course, cut by the ignorant, incompetent, irredeemable SECDEF Bob Gates in FY2010. The F-22 program was treated even worse. It was closed. That was one of the dumbest decisions ever made by any SECDEF and any Congress. It ended the only 5th generation fighterplane production program of the time (there is no such program now – F-35s are still under development), the production of the only peerless fighterplane type that can really defeat ANY enemy fighterplane and avoid ANY radar while carrying a sizeable payload.

It was a decision made on the basis of ridiculous, rosy, overly optimistic projections and assumptions: that by 2020 China and Russia would have zero or few 5th generation fighterplanes while America would have hundreds of them; that by 2025, they would still have fewer 5th generation aircraft than the US would; and that China alone would not have a single operational 5th generation fighterplane by 2020.

At the time, I was one of the few people who warned that these projections were rosy and overly optimistic; that China and Russia would field fighterplanes faster than anticipated; that the F-35’s problems would lead to delays of that program; and that, in any case, F-15s would need to be replaced by F-22s as the Eagles were obsolete and decisively inferior (by the USAF’s own admission) against Flankers, JF-17s, J-10s, and other Generation #4.5 aircraft.

Since then, I’ve been proven 100% correct, and Gates has been proven wrong. The first Russian 5th generation stealthy fighterplane, the T-50 Raptorski, first flew in February 2010. The first Chinese 5th gen fighterplane, the J-20, first flew last month. The US Intel Community has reevaluated the global environment and estimated in 2010 that China would have its first operational 5th generation stealthy fighterplanes by 2017 or 2018, 2-3 years earlier than what Gates claimed. The F-35 program has been delayed by several years and the cost of one F-35 has doubled since the program’s inception. One F-35 now costs $89-110 mn.

Has Gates repented and admitted that he’s wrong? No. Yesterday, during a SASC hearing, Gates yet again repeated his overly optimistic, rosy projection about China (he didn’t even mention Russia) and said the DOD is NOT considering buying additional F-22s: http://armed-services.senate.gov/Webcasts/2011/02%20February/02-17-11%20Webcast.htm

Downplaying and understating threats to the US is a decades-long tradition for liberals who oppose a strong defense. This tactic helps them argue against defense spending and against specific defense budgets. But based on Gates’ program cuts and closures, it seems he and Obama want the US military to be armed with spitballs, while Russia and China are arming their militaries with modern fighterplanes (and other weapons).

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