Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why the F-35 Is a Lousy Idea - For Everyone

Not for nothing has Lockheed's "joint strike fighter" been called America's "kick in the front door" weapon.  That's what it is designed to do, penetrate hostile airspace with sophisticated air defences and take down that air defence network.

That narrows the F-35's intended adversaries to Russia or China or key satellite states they're willing to go to war to defend. For the sake of this discussion let's leave it at Russia and China.

When you bleed your treasury to buy the F-35 what you're really after is the sizzle, not the steak. The stealth sizzle or whatever remains of it. Because, while it does have some intriguing electronic wizardry, stripped of the stealth factor its really a pretty mediocre light bomber. It gets about a C+/B- on standard strike fighter attributes such as range, speed, payload, agility, that sort of thing.

Let's not debate whether this warplane's stealth remains viable after its intended adversaries have had two decades to develop and refine countermeasures (and they have). Let's pretend it works as advertised. Let's pretend Russia and China are somehow stuck technologically in the 1990s.

Now let's create a scenario where the United States and its obedient allies, its aerial Foreign Legion, decide to attack China. Fortunately we have America's roadmap to such an attack in the 2012 dress rehearsal known as "Operation Chimichanga." Even though they had to use F-16s reprising the role of the then unavailable F-35s it was a roaring success. The F-35 force with F-22 Raptors flying cover went in and obliterated the critical air defence infrastructure, clearing the way for an armada of stealth and then conventional bombers to work their magic. Look at that, they're invincible.

Only this scenario leaves out what the other side might be doing at the same time. You see here's the problem. You can't mobilize an effort of this magnitude without attracting a lot of attention. That gives the other side time to assess the gathering threat and prepare both defences and possibly pre-emptive strategies.

If you want to attack China, you'll first have to deploy squadrons, perhaps even wings, of warplanes for the attack. They carry a lot of baggage - big, non-stealthy refueling tankers, electronic warfare aircraft (AWACS), electronic surveillance aircraft (JSTARS), and all the people and stuff they need on the ground for an air campaign.

You can't deploy these damned things without the other guy's analysts being able to discern what you're about to do with them. To use them you have to place your own entire military on high alert and that's all but impossible to conceal. You must prepare for everything from a pre-emptive strike against your forward bases by jittery defenders to a nuclear launch on detection of the 35's essential support aircraft nearing your airspace. Your entire military is not stealthy. You can't hide them.

For defenders it can trigger the "use'em or lose'em" mentality. Do you simply wait until the stealth attackers take down your air defences and leave your strategic weaponry vulnerable to destruction or do you prepare to launch your missiles, both land based and on your subs?

This reminds me of nothing so much as the strategic destabilization of the Cold War, first when the Americans toyed with the idea of adding the neutron bomb to their arsenal and then when both sides got into the Dr. Strangelove scenario of "launch on detect" nuclear tipped short and intermediate range missiles - one faulty circuit and the robots end the world.

There are still nuclear tripwires. You trigger one of them and we finally get to find out which of those theories of nuclear escalation is the most accurate. Only we may not survive for the debate afterwards.

Nuclear warfare is a confidence game. The more confidence you have that your adversary is not planning an attack the less bellicose you too become. That was the magic gift of so much of the espionage of the Cold War, building confidence between the Soviet Union and the U.S. They knew what we were up to, we knew what they were up to and it was pretty much, "okay, that's cool."

The F-35 undermines that essential confidence. The Americans don't talk about it much but the Lightning II is also a nuclear strike bomber. So when you see squadrons of those things massing in Kadena you might wonder if any of those will be coming your way with tactical nuclear weapons to take out your entire command and control system. A nuclear first-strike. Wouldn't you want to eliminate that threat preemptively? I sure would if I was responsible for the air defence of the People's Republic.

The F-35 is designed to fight battles that, for so many good reasons, we don't think to fight any more. For the air wars we do wage, we get by just fine with cheaper, more rudimentary and robust multi-role fighters. Using the F-35 to whack insurgents is like leaving the pickup in the garage and taking the Lamborghini to Home Depot to get a load of plywood. Now that might make a lot of sense to your 16-year old son with his raging hormones just as the F-35 makes a lot of sense to certain generals with their own raging martial hormones. Yet it's not difficult to figure out which one you would take.

Does it strike you as odd that we haven't begun to discuss these issues - not in Canada, not in Britain, not even in the United States. Nobody in line to arm themselves with the F-35 is discussing what it would mean to use them for their intended purpose. That strikes me as more than a little curious.

For me, the F-35 is a lousy idea - for everyone. In a world still awash with nuclear weaponry, with half a dozen nations teetering on the brink of joining the nuke club, with new missiles, warheads and submarines all the rage, the last thing anyone, the West or our never-quite-specified adversaries, needs is another source of instability, the F-35.


Anonymous said...

Ike warned of the 'feed me Seymour' military industrial complex. Eventually bribe-taking neocon and neoliberal politicians realized they are willing to pay big kickbacks for wars, conflicts and arms races.

The F-35 is a symptom of a much greater disease that has infected the Western world and put civilization on the brink of destruction.

(What's harder to imagine: that Ike was a Republican with a 90% top tax bracket? Or that the Clintons and Obomba are Democrats?)

Anonymous said...

I saw this report a while ago and still am flabbergasted by the nationalistic flag waving.
Not that this attitude is for Anglophile countries; others willingly follow suite such as Poland and Turkey.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Western Conservatives( Neo cons) are too willing to volunteer their youth to battles of nationalistic pride and fossil fuel protection whilst quite oblivious to the consequence of local screwups and general incompetence.
Time to accept that the military industrial complex has reached it's goal of never ending confrontation using weapons that suite the shareholder and not the military situation.
The Western world is very dependent upon the production of military weapons and tactical support! without such weapons production our GDP will suffer greatly; such is life!

Dreams of grandeur and bullshit flag waving..
WHen the economy fails and freedom wains ; wave the flag....


Anonymous said...

Never ending isn't it?
With the USA spending about 55 % of its TAXPAYER revenue ,China must be trying to catch up.

All this weener wagging comes at the taxpayers expense.

Can't afford decent health care?
Can't afford infrastructure upgrades?

Can afford $millions for defence and an Olympic team

Something is wrong on Saturn Three!


Anonymous said...

War is good...


Troy said...

Life goes in cycles. What once was the bastion of meritocracy has devolved into a kind of kakistocracy, where the worst of citizens grasp hold of a nation's power, and begin to use it for their own ends rather then for the nation's benefit.

These buggers have infiltrated and brought low the institutions that had been meant to protect from these sorts of crooks' machinations. They'd been working at this for decades, piece by piece, step by step, until finally, they could push through their masterpiece, NAFTA, and bring ruin to all that had been done to bring forth Western nations toward some semblance of actual civilization. They'd worked hard for this. This sort of life is what they wanted. They wanted ruin for many, and prosperity for only a few. It's some form of mass psychosis, a kind of in-grained psychotic behavior that is magnified by their schools and their culture a hundred fold until this cult-like belief saturates wherever they can reach. "Greed is good. Greed is good," they chant.

They've set themselves apart from the greater community. They fly into their places of work via helicopter. They will have as little to do with us as possible. They'll have none of our criticisms and nothing of our concerns.

The F-35 boondoggle is a perfect example of their behavior. Instead of improving upon what had already been done, they wanted to go create something new. Something never seen before. Something powerful which would intimidate any and all enemies we would face in battle. Well, there's examples throughout history of this sort of thinking turning about and cratering their own nation's military capability. If Western leaders weren't so captured by their own hubris, then the work toward extricating our nations from the commitment of the F-35 would have begun ages ago. Instead, now, we're faced with the prospect of being stuck in-between eras, in no-man's land.

These people. These neo-liberals. They went Galt on us all, and they want us to believe they're so much more capable than us all. They hide away in their gated communities, hours and hours outside of the cities, and then come out from their seclusion with these harebrained schemes they believe will set us forward in progress, and free us all.

But life doesn't actually work like that. You can only change what you can reach with your own hands. And with these neo-liberals being so hands off, it's likely society will continue to stagnate and decay under their lack of care until the frame that holds society together eventually breaks apart from corrosion. And this will happen, either sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

But life doesn't actually work like that. You can only change what you can reach with your own hands. And with these neo-liberals being so hands off, it's likely society will continue to stagnate and decay under their lack of care until the frame that holds society together eventually breaks apart from corrosion. And this will happen, either sooner or later.

Excellent comment; thanks.

The powers that be certainly remove themselves( and protect themselves) from the daily running of government, real life etc.

When I look at the large yachts in Nanaimo harbour I wonder ; WTF owns that and who does he or she own?
White slavers , every one.
They manipulate the economy to their own needs and when the shit hits the fan they send in the 'lower classes' as they have always done.

With the balance of power having swung so far the the right ( I really don't like right vs left politics) so society has gone!
We no longer appreciate what freedom of speech means , many have never experienced it..
Sorry for the ramble; the F35 has been a media/advertising masterpiece.


Anonymous said...

Sorry ; could not resist.


The Mound of Sound said...

TB - "when I look at the large yachts in Nanaimo harbour, I wonder" - which one of them can't read a chart and is going to rip the bottom out of his hull?

Anonymous said...

If you are impressed with wealth then some of the visiting yachts in Nanaimo harbour are bound to impress.
It makes one wonder just how the wealth was accumulated !
Years ago John Travolta arrived in his yacht which had engine problems.
Rumor has it he would not pay more than his USA rate of $15/hr for repairs.
I guess he had to pay the Nanaimo rate to continue his journey.


Anonymous said...

As with the remarkable looking XB70 are we seeing the same again with the F35?


Steve said...

The biggest F35 fib. Its going to replace the A10 as a close combat support fighter. This is like entering a tricycle in the Tour du France.

Anonymous said...

The biggest F35 lie is that it is a multirole aircraft when it is clearly a first strike weapon.
There is no reason for Canada to purchase this aircraft unless they are to sign on to American dominence.