An article in the Washington Times discusses concerns of Air Force pilots over the gutting of the Tactical Air Force under the current budget cutting. Air power has been the key to America’s easy (if not always wise) exercise of military strength around the world, so its diminution is a serious matter. One thing I would like to point out from the article is the saga of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. The Raptor was supposed to be the replacement for the F-15 almost 15 years ago. It is widely considered to be the best fighter on earth, but at $130 million a copy was considered too expensive. So they stopped production at some modest number after all the R&D costs had been incurred, which of course makes the unit cost even higher. They proposed the smaller, less capable single engine F-35 as the replacement at half the cost, supposedly. Now, after years of new R&D costs and delays the F-35′s are close to coming on line…at $130 million a copy. Meanwhile, heroic (and costly) effort is required to keep our current jets flying.
The buget woes accompanying our welfare state are only compounded by such false economies in weapons procurement. It reminds me of when I was in the Navy in the 1970′s. The Aegis missile system was coming out, and it looked like putting this first class system on our first class nuclear cruiser hulls would push the price tag for a cruiser over $1 billion, which in those days was considered real money. So they put the first class missile system on the second class hulls of Spruance class destroyers and called them Aegis cruisers. They put the second class missile systems on the nuclear cruisers (you know, the ones that can keep up with the nuclear carriers they are supposed to protect). So the total dollar spend was the same while the sticker price of each ship was kept under $1 billion. Now we have oil powered Aegis cruisers to protect nuclear carriers (that they can’t keep up with) and have scrapped all the nuclear cruisers we built since they don’t have Aegis. This kind of short sighted decision making is common enough in business, but in government it appears to be the norm.