Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Stealth Fighter Commander Speaks Out - Beware!

One of America's top stealth fighter pilots,  Lt.-Col. Christopher Neimi, has a dire warning to his country about the risks of relying on stealth technology.

Stealth technology demands significant trade-offs in range, security, weapons carriage, sortie generation, and adaptability. Stealth provides no advantage in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan or Iraq (since 2003), and (despite its obvious utility) it cannot guarantee success in future struggles with a near-peer adversary.”
“Most importantly,” Neimi adds, “the cost of F-22s and F-35s threatens to reduce the size of the Air Force’s fielded fighter fleet to dangerously small numbers, particularly in the current fiscal environment.”

The test-pilot-turned-commander is in good company. Three years ago Gen. Harry Wyatt, head of the Air National Guard, said the Pentagon should consider acquiring cheap, upgraded versions of older warplanes to keep his squadrons at full strength.

More recently, the editors of the influential trade publication Aviation Week, a once-stalwart defender of the F-22 and F-35 programs, reversed its pro-stealth position and called on the Pentagon to consider new purchases of old-model planes. “There must be a hedge against further problems.”

But for a decade it’s been the Air Force’s policy not to purchase any non-stealth fighters. The flying branch has bought only so-called “fifth-generation” F-22s and F-35s from Lockheed Martin even as the cost of those fighters steadily increased.

So, with this mounting chorus of cautionary voices emerging in the United States, Lockheed Martin must take great comfort for the unquestioning, unconditional acceptance of the all-too-flawed F-35 by many of America's allies, Canada included.

Canada, too, is vulnerable to the enormous pitfalls resulting from dependence on a pitiful number of these light attack bombers that seem entirely unsuited to Canada's needs at home and perfectly suited to a future tied to America's aerial Foreign Legion.

Niemi made passing reference to another enormous hurdle facing the F-35 and nations that operate it, the challenge of a "near peer" adversary, one that can deploy its own stealth fighters such as China or Russia.

Stealth is arguably better suited to defence than attack.   Range and payload are less of an issue to defenders who can simply refuel and re-arm at ground bases.   Defenders can also rely on ground-based detection systems to identify and guide them to attackers.   The sales pitch for the F-35 is that it will be able to identify and fire on non-stealth defenders before it can be detected and attacked.  That mantra goes straight out the window when the defenders have their own stealth fighters.


Aaron said...

I have no doubt that we'll never see these things and will just keep upgrading the CF-18.

Of course we don't need stealth to bomb third world nations or intercept airliners.

The Mound of Sound said...

I wish I shared your confidence, Aaron. Signs of late aren't encouraging. Lockheed is finally churning out production F-35s and the window for prospective buyers walking away is narrowing. Then there was Harper's decision to appoint an air force general as chief of defence staff. This fellow, Tom Lawson (?), seems to have been selected to champion the F-35.