December 27, 2005


Contractors Are Warned: Cuts Coming for Weapons (LESLIE WAYNE, 12/27/05, NY Times)

It was a message that the industry has been bracing for. The Pentagon budget, James F. Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing's $30 billion military division, said at the conference, has "been a great ride for the last five years." But, he added: "We will see a flattening of the defense budget. We all know it is coming."

The issue, however, goes beyond tightening budgets. Mr. Henry told the contractors that the Pentagon was redefining the strategic threats facing the United States. No longer are rival nations the primary threat - a type of warfare that calls for naval destroyers and fighter jets. Today the country is facing international networks of terrorists, and the weapons needed are often more technologically advanced, flexible and innovative. [...]

In the years ahead, Mr. Henry said, the Pentagon would like to move "away from massive force." This would mean, for instance, that fewer fighter jets would be needed because the upcoming Joint Strike Fighter F-35 has more capabilities than the existing F-16's.

He noted that special operations forces played a big role in the early days of the Iraq war - once controlling up to two-thirds of the country - and are expected to be used in greater numbers in the future. This would mean the Pentagon would want to buy more of the highly agile and high-technology weapons that they need. Specialized skills like language, intelligence and communication are also becoming top priorities.

As for aerospace, he said the Pentagon would be looking for aircraft with longer ranges, and, therefore, did not need ships or nearby bases for them to land. Increasingly, the Pentagon will be depending on unmanned aerial vehicles, which can work longer hours than piloted craft and do not put Air Force lives at risk. In the future, he said, unmanned craft will be used not only for surveillance, as they are in Iraq, but for combat as well.

Even the 3% of GDP we spent through the '90s isn't sustainable in peacetime, which is returning rather quicker than most thought it would. As the Middle East liberalizes the defense budget will get pummeled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2005 9:44 PM

Yes, objective circumstances will cause the top-line to decline. But, the rising cost of personnel combined with the rapidly rising cost of equipment, and the explosive growth of the equipments' upkeep, will create a period of severe dislocation in the defense establishment.

It will be a period of vulnerability as we sort it out.

Posted by: Luciferous at December 27, 2005 10:27 PM

What personnel?

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2005 11:27 PM

Not so fast.

We shall continue to require force projection capability, as well as a mix of strategic defense and strategic deterrence.

Consider also the spiritual component of maintaining a substantial military establishment. I would argue that that the world is a dangerous place in which we must remain materially and morally prepared. Bayonets are wonderful things; we can do anything with them but sit on them.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 27, 2005 11:51 PM

Our technology will provide the margin. I read that the new F-22, which is now being deployed, can take on 6 F-15's and it is no contest. Our technological prowess means we can spend 1/6th (+/-) the amount and still have superiority.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 4:06 AM

In mock combat, the F-22 Raptor has easily defeated up to eight F-15s at once. One F-15 pilot found his adversary only after the Raptor flew directly over his cockpit.
(The F/A - 22 Raptor is a stealth aircraft).

However, hi-tech comes at a price: One F/A - 22 costs as much as FOUR F - 15s, or THREE F/A - 18s.
Costs would be somewhat lower if we were to increase planned production.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 7:47 AM

military equipment is going to be driven down the same price curve as televisions and other consumer electronics. it's no coincidence that the country with the dominant military is also the country with the dominant consumer marketplace. also, look for bush to turn the military into a profit center vis a vis our foreign partners. bottom line: nothing costs as much as it used to.

Posted by: col. toe at December 28, 2005 10:28 AM

I'll bet the F-22 pilots were salivating to get into that thing and do their thing.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 28, 2005 11:26 AM

the last fighter pilot has already been born, and is probably already in the service. the f-22 is like the best steam engine or the most advanced dinosaur -- it's day is almost done, right when it is being born.

Posted by: col. toe at December 28, 2005 12:37 PM

Before anyone gets to excited about the F-22A check out this paper by Col. Everest Riccioni of the fighter mafia fame.
After 21 years in the AF Iím always a little skeptical about the wild claims made by Air Staff in what are generally canned scenarios. Let them show me the air threat and then answer a simple question how does this very expensive jet whose program cost remain at 70B but the buy is down to 180 help us in the GWOT.

Posted by: BillMill at December 28, 2005 1:05 PM


I spent 20 years in the AF -- what's your background?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 28, 2005 7:14 PM

Jeff and BillMill: you need to be able to beat SU-37s, right?

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 28, 2005 10:07 PM

col. toe:

You may be jumping the gun by a few decades about the pilots, but there's an extremely good chance that the F/A - 22 Raptor will be the last crewed fighter programme that actually goes into production.

joe shropshire:

Which the Raptor should do with ease.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 10:58 PM

decades ?! no way. 5 years or so should do it. replacing the ground pounders with robots will take a couple of decades.

Posted by: col. toe at December 29, 2005 12:51 AM

My $ 1,000 against a donut says that human pilots will still be the primary operators of combat aircraft in ten years, and I'd put up $ 50 against the deep-fried dough that humans will be primary in twenty years as well.

The role of drones, both autonomous and piloted by telepresence, will increase substantially, but as of now such vehicles are small and slow-moving, not super-fast and loaded for bear.

We'll eventually see robot-piloted fighter aircraft, but not for twenty years or more - ten years for such to become feasible, and ten years to convince the Pentagon/Congress to unseat the glamorous fighter jocks.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 30, 2005 4:37 AM