F-35 Still A Fiscal Curse

Two insightful pieces on the F-35 from Defence-Aerospace.com.

First, the real reason for the 22% drop in support cost estimates: they lowered the estimates– nothing else changed.

A second article, Disarmament by F-35, describes the cancerous effect of the program on acquisition budgets. The Netherlands, for example, will spend half its capital budget on 58 aircraft over six years. The strange loyalty shown to this “too-big-to-fail” program means that it starves other programs in any country that touches it. South Korea should be glad they got away…

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Royal Navy Procurement and Doctine- On the wrong tack

The year is 1992. A full decade after the fiasco of naval doctrine and procurement policy that was the Falklands War and the punishing and unnecessary losses that resulted, the Royal Navy has risen from the ashes to a form that, if not ideal, is at the least far more capable and survivable than the Royal Navy of the Falklands War. Three carrier hulls provide air cover using upgraded Sea Harriers with better radar and AMRAAM missiles. Eighteen Broadsword class frigates provide point defence missiles, anti-submarine and anti-surface capability, while the new Type 23 frigates will maintain that level of capability. The Type 42 air defence destroyers all have close-in weapons systems to deal with missiles. The Trafalgar class submarines are in commission stalking beneath the waves. With such a navy, the Falklands War would have been entirely one-sided.

Skip to 2013. The carriers have followed their Harriers into the scrapyard. Their replacements are the size of fixed-wing carriers but designed for STOVOL operations. The new carriers are vastly overbudget, and will carry the least capable variant of the extremely expensive F-35. The new Type 45 destroyers lack any effective capability other than air defence. The Broadswords died young, and the Type 23s will have to soldier on for some time before their replacement comes along, a design based on a late 1970s concept of what a frigate should be. The submarine force is in a poor position, with the Trafalgars showing their age much sooner than their American 688 class counterparts, and the new, late and expensive Astute class showing serious design flaws. The Royal Navy is incapable of launching expeditionary operations against anything more than light opposition on its own hook, and even if promised capabilities materialise, the Royal Navy will still be hampered by its own doctrine and planning.

For the third time in the last hundred years, the Royal Navy has faced a drastic budget reduction with a minimum of critical thought and planning, and in so doing, made itself vulnerable. Lest anyone blame the politicians alone, go back and look at the advice British governments have gotten from their sailors, and then look at what the Royal Navy does with the budget that it does have. Here are a few of the problems with which it has saddled itself:

Doctrinal Fixation

The Royal Navy has made serious doctrinal errors by perpetuating old ideas in the wrong situation and in a changed climate.

First, it has squandered the opportunity presented to acquire full-sized carriers by equipping them with V/STOL aircraft, something that was originally regarded as a temporary expedient when the idea was conceived. The mistake in my opinion goes back to the idea that the purpose of a carrier is to strike land targets and conduct ASW work, which was behind the brief retention of the GR. 7/9 Harrier force after the Sea Harrier had bit the dust. This is a doctrine only suited to conducting operations in small third world nations that can’t fight back. If you don’t have the tools for air superiority (and the F-35B is eminently unsuitable for this role), you don’t have the precondition to conduct any other kind of air operation.

Second, the Royal Navy has perpetuated the obsolete doctrine of the separation of air defence and ASW ships, while leaving anti-surface and strike roles primarily to submarines. In an era in which frigates are expected to have at least some area air defence capability, they are planning frigates without this ability. In an era of a reduced submarine force and a global increase in SSM-armed ships, leaving serious anti-surface work for the submarines is a luxury the RN can no longer afford. Like it or not, this is an era in which every hull needs to be able to do a little of everything, and with reduced hull numbers, forming task forces to accommodate multiple roles is a luxury. It should have been realised in the planning stages that the Type 45 design was not providing value for money, either in terms of number of SAMs carried or in terms of capability for cost and hull size.

For purposes of illustration, consider an alternate pair of surface combatants, the KDX-III class of South Korea and the Formidable class, Singapore’s La Fayette derivative. The KDX-III class carries more than twice the Type 45s’ SAM load, plus sixteen anti-ship missiles, vertical-launch ASROC, cruise missiles, two anti-submarine helicopters and a formidable multi-layered close-in defence including ESSM, RAM and Goalkeeper. The KDX III is also not much more expensive per unit than the Type 45, despite only three of them being built. You could bring in all sorts of arguments to invalidate the comparison, but the bottom line is that the Royal Navy bought a one-trick pony while South Korea bought the most heavily armed ship to be built since the last Kirov-class battlecruiser was launched.

The Formidable class, meanwhile, includes a full range of capabilities expected of a modern frigate, including Aster missiles and Herakles radar for air defence in an economical and advanced platform. In other words, it can protect itself and other ships while operating in a hostile environment. Instead of something like this, the Royal Navy has essentially updated the Type 23 concept.

Misplaced Priorities

The Royal Navy made a number of decisions in the nineties and oughts for which it is paying in the 2010s. One was HMS Ocean, a perfectly superfluous helicopter ship built in response to a particular one-time capability gap. This and other indulgences in the amphibious role took up resources that should have been paid forward in maintaining basic capabilities in other areas. Capabilities planned and funded in this era fell quickly to budget cuts. Other poor decisions included abandoning the Horizon frigate project with Italy and France in favour of the Type 45, whose only significant differences are the radar fit and the combat system- and the lack of meaningful secondary armament. In general, the Royal Navy has been very poor at leveraging partnerships with European nations.

All that aside, budget cuts have seen the Royal Navy unable to stand by a coherent vision of which core capabilities need protection- the loss of the Sea Harrier was first example. The very fact that Broadswords and Type 23s, multirole ships capable of independent operations in threat environments, were decommissioned while any Type 42s were still in commission shows a badly disjointed sense of reality. The failure to retain even one carrier or air wing, and then dumping the decommissioned carriers and aircraft on the market without the slightest planning or any coherent attempt to make other carrier-using nations an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Buy British

This is the worst mistake, and the one that’s killing the British armed forces more than any other. For political reasons, the majority of British hardware has to be developed and built in Britain. I’ve written before about the vast cost overruns this causes in terms of specialist projects like submarine construction that come with decade-long hiatus between orders. Rather than arm their frigates with the existing Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile and equip them with Smart-S or Herakles radar for next to nothing, the Royal Navy has instead funded its own ESSM equivalent and Smart-S equivalent. Rather than buying into a proven frigate design, they’re doing it themselves. Rather than buying into a European destroyer design, they made one themselves.

The pathetic thing about this dogged and expensive insistence on buying British is that they still harbour hope of offsetting their costs through export orders. Not a single country has bought or is likely to buy the PAAMS system. Few countries would consider the Type 26 in a crowded market if they could get a more capable ship for a comparable price. Above all, the doctrinal logic of the Royal Navy is so disjointed from the rest of the market that it is almost impossible to formulate a coherent marketing position for any of this material. The net result is a navy that’s far too expensive.

Conclusion

As the British armed forces rapidly shed the impressive capabilities gained over the past three decades, we can tally up the losses. Britain no longer has a meaningful armoured force, an air force capable of large-scale autonomous combat operations, or a navy capable of real expeditionary warfare. It probably didn’t have to be this way. For a brief moment back in the eighties and nineties, it looked as though the Royal Navy had turned a corner, not on tight budgets, but on the constraints of mentality that have dogged its fighting ability since the end of World War I. At this point, it would take a truly visionary leader to turn the Royal Navy back into a real middle power navy, in the bracket of the large navies now being built in Asia. Improving the budgetary situation would not be enough. There must be a change of mindset.

For related materials, see Mark Collins’ post on the shrinking Royal Navy surface fleet here.

In the News: Missiles and Radars

It’s been a busy few weeks, and there’s a considerable backlog to get through. The end of the summer has seen a flurry of defence industry and procurement news.

In the wake of a searing indictment of the UK’s aircraft carrier program by parliamentary committee, BAE Systems announces the beginning of testing for the Artisan 3D radar intended for installation on the new carriers, the Type 23 and future Type 26 frigates.

According to the release, “The ARTISAN 3D Radar will provide extensive air traffic control and medium range tactical picture capability with ground breaking features such as tracking more than 900 targets at one time and has the ability to spot objects as small as a tennis ball travelling up to three times the speed of sound.” Details on this system are spotty so far; keep in mind, however, that despite the glowing language in the press release, it is really a low-bracket, medium-range surface combatant radar, equivalent in role to Thales’ Smart-S.

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The British MOD has signed a production contract for the Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missile, planned to replace the Sea Wolf missile on present and future British frigates. Sea Ceptor, based on the ASRAAM air-to-air missile, has a much improved range (over 25km) over Sea Wolf, but is still far inferior to the 50+ km range of Enhanced Sea Sparrow (ESSM) used by other NATO countries. Like ESSM, Sea Ceptor can be quad-packed in Sylver or Mk41 Vertical launch tubes. Unlike Enhanced Sea Sparrow, Sea Ceptor has an active radar terminal seeker head intended to alleviate the burden on shipboard fire-control radars during a saturation missile attack.

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Pantsyr

Pantsyr

In related news, Russian sources have stated that Pantsyr, the gun-missile point defence system which succeeds the Tunguska system on land, will also begin to replace Tunguska’s naval equivalent Kashtan within two years. Kashtan is currently the only integrated gun-missile CIWS system in existence, and is a formidable defence against anti-ship missiles in its own right.

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Russian defence industry exhibited some “new” missile systems at MAKS 2013. The Vympel RVV-BD air-to-air missile, in development for years and first exhibited at MAKS 2011, follows on from the AA-10 (R-27) Alamo long-range missile used on the MiG-31 Foxhound. Vympel has said that it is now looking to integrate the RVV-BD with a range of platforms, including the Su-35. Note that this is no guarantee that the Russian military will buy it- the existing AA-12 (R-77) is said by some sources to have a 100 km range, and a ramjet-powered follow-on with greater range, the RVV-SD, was unveiled at MAKS 2009. Russia may have yet to buy any of their own more recent medium-range air-to-air missiles in significant numbers, although India has probably done so as part of their Su-30 and MiG-29K orders. Vympel’s ~200km range RVV-BD should probably be seen as a specialist long-range weapon for particular roles, a successor to the “AWACS-killer” concept. In any case, if the Russian government is showing their high-end air-to-air missile families any love in connection with their recent fighter orders, it has yet to be reported.

For perspective, Europe’s first 100km+ long-range missile, the Meteor, was fired undergoing test-firings earlier this summer, while the AIM-120D version of the AMRAAM missile, with 120km range, has completed testing.

S-350

S-350

The S-350 Vityaz system, a land-based Surface-to-Air missile system, was also exhibited at MAKS for the first time. This system uses the 9M96E2 medium-range missile from the S-400. S-400 has three associated missiles, ranging from 400km extremely long range missiles to the 120km 9M96. The advantage of the S-350 is in giving the 9M96 its own dedicated tubes, allowing twelve smaller tubes per vehicle rather than the four giant tubes of S-400. S-350 will also carry a shorter-range, more agile missile, the 9M100. The S-350 stems partly from Almaz-Antey’s involvement in developing the South Korean KM-SAM Chun Koong surface-to-air system. The S-350 will replace earlier models of the S-300 in Russia’s air defence network. As such, it will not be replacing the SA-17 Grizzly/ Buk as the Army’s medium-range SAM.

Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Fiasco, Russia’s New Flankers and Carrier Costs

CH-148 Cyclone

CH-148 Cyclone

Canada is looking for alternatives to the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone as a replacement maritime helicopter. The Cyclone is years late, over-budget and still lacks key capabilities. A scathing independent assessment of the program by Hitachi Consulting recommends a program restructure, but apparently even the Canadian government can see that it will not be enough.

As I have argued elsewhere, the fault of this program was in its conception. The Cyclone was to be a single-buyer, small-order heavy maritime helicopter developed from scratch in a market already replete with proven competitors. Sikorsky offered a paper helicopter to satisfy Canada’s typically unique requirements, and Canada foolishly went for it.

Meanwhile, Sikorsky has other fish to fry, with upcoming US helicopter competitions.

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In other aviation news, the Russian Navy has confirmed its intention to buy “several tens” of the Su-30SM, the domestic variant of the acclaimed Su-30MKI multi-role fighter. While this fighter is an extremely capable air-to-air combatant, it also possesses significant maritime strike capabilities. What is not clear is how it will fit into the existing force structure, since the Soviet Navy’s old long-range strike capability was passed to the Air Force with the Tu-22M Backfire bomber regiments, and the Su-30 has no carrier-based variant.

Meanwhile, Sukhoi has been showing off its three prototype T-50 aircraft at MAKS 2013:

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The US Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford class carrier is considerably more expensive than the Nimitz class which preceded it, and the cost of the order has risen by $2.3 billion since the original order. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been looking into the program, and highlights the still-immature state of many of the key technologies of the design among other factors.

The British House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has even harsher criticisms for the contract under which the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers are being built, saying that it is “not fit for purpose” and “fails to provide industry any real incentive to control costs.” The Queen Elizabeth will be the world’s largest Short Takeoff Vertical Landing carriers when launched next year.

Fly-By-Night Contractors, the Bo Trial and Iran’s New Kit

Canada paid $1 million to a German contractor to produce noise-monitoring equipment for the Victoria-class submarines several years ago. Not only was the product not delivered, it seems that the company is no longer registered in Germany, although CBC News has found a trace of them in Turkey. While Canada’s defence acquisition programs could fill textbooks with examples of what not to do, one usually expects that contractors for such major pieces of equipment would be internationally known.

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Meanwhile, the Chinese press has been riveted by an innovation– a relatively open trial of a senior Party official. Son of Bo Yibo, a powerful Party elder, Bo Xilai rose to the position of Secretary of the Communist Party in Chongqing, simultaneously holding a Politburo seat, until his wife Gu Kailai was implicated in the death of a British citizen and the Chongqing police chief claimed that Bo was involved in widespread corruption and abuse of power.

Bo’s ongoing trial has captivated Chinese media. Never before has the evidence against a senior official been laid out so publicly. Usually, such trials are conducted behind closed doors, as the trial of Gu Kailai was, and very little of the legal process happens in the courtroom in any case. Why the exception?

Bo became a powerful figurehead for the Party’s populist wing, surrounding himself with the trappings of Maoist “red culture.” The populists believe that the Party has deviated from its principles by failing to use its newfound wealth to balance the economic inequalities and address the problems of development that still claim far too many casualties in China. While Bo himself was rather circumspect on most of these issues, the Party might well think it wise to let this sordid courtroom drama play out in the public eye to disabuse the populists of their fallen hero, rather than risk turning Bo into a martyr. There was believed to be substantial apprehension among the wealthy Party elite when it looked as though Bo Xilai might rise to the Politburo Standing Committee during the transition of power last year. There is, after all, no rhetoric that can be more powerfully used against a Communist Party than Communist rhetoric. Given China’s slowness to balance the inequalities of development, the populists do indeed have a popular case.

So the Bo trial is not the beginning of a new age of transparency, nor is it any less unthinkable that Bo would be found innocent than any other official the Party puts on trial. It is simply that the Party has judged it safer to air some of its dirty laundry in this case than risk the entire case being seen as an attempt to crush a popular leader.

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Iran has announced that it will soon unveil a number of domestically-produced weapons systems, notably including a new submarine. Given the record of Iran’s past domestic defence products- midget and subscale submarines, “destroyers” that anywhere else would struggle to qualify as frigates and alleged stealth aircraft built on the scale of jet trainers, it probably won’t be anything to get excited about. The Gulf States, of course, will be watching closely, as will the United States and Israel.

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An article at Foreign Policy.com highlights (or repeats) an interesting truth of the digital age: that many pieces of information that were once products of professional intelligence gathering can increasingly be found through open sources. Daniel Prieto asks what we can do to leverage the march of OSINT more effectively.

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On Thursday, Japan intercepted some Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers intruding in its airspace. Although some might think such intrusions the main purpose of the Bear fleet (in its career since 1956, the turboprop-powered bomber has probably become the most intercepted aircraft of all time), it is an unusual blip in an otherwise cordial Russo-Japanese relationship.

Unions and Safety in Developing Asia

Ordinarily, I would be happy to let others deal with Jagdish Bhagwati and Amrita Narlikar’s egregious Financial Times Op-Ed on the aftermath of the Bangladesh factory disaster. In it, they argue that Western corporations should not take responsibility for the conditions of the factories in which their products are made, arguing, typically if somewhat sickeningly, that to do so will harm the workers more than it helps due to increases in the price of the goods.

However, they make the claim that “Again, there is no correlation between unionisation and safety. In the US, industrial fires have become rare while unionisation rates have fallen to negligible levels in the past four decades. The garment industries in Vietnam and China have experienced few fires, even though unions do not exist.” That launches them into my ballpark, and so I will happily punt their disingenuous article right back at them.

As someone who has written several articles and academic papers on the subject, I can say with authority that there are most certainly unions in China and Vietnam. Granted, they are state-run, and the Chinese ACFTU in particular has a long way to go before calling itself an effective advocate for workers’ rights, but they, grassroots labour movements and other institutions with an interest in labour peace, such as the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, have moved mountains for workers’ safety, and continue to do so. There is a direct correlation between labour organisation and worker safety, whether the organisation is formal or informal– in fact, through no other means can workers in industrialising nations expect to secure their safety. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in China and Vietnam.

Because there is no pity left in me after reading this article, I’ll just lay it on.

An early case was that of silicosis-affected workers in the Chinese gemstone industry. When management attempted to evade responsibility through deception and coercion, the workers fruitlessly exhausted every avenue in local government, including the unions, the labour bureau and the courts. Although the legal process tried to segregate their individual cases, group dissatisfaction led to escalating demonstrations with support from workers at multiple factories. They sought and gained international publicity. Finally, only by travelling to Beijing were the gemstone workers able to have the matter taken out of the corrupt hands of their local government.

Since that time, both China and Vietnam have introduced labour laws and safety regulations that in theory are among the best in Asia, largely through the influence of their respective unions. Although wary of funding grassroots organisation among the workers for political reasons, both unions have been extremely active in the legislative arena, trying to get effective safety and quality of life legislation in place. Enforcement, as we see below, is far better in Vietnam than in China, but nevertheless, the unions in both countries are the main official movers behind workplace safety. The other side of the coin, of course, is grassroots worker organisation and protest- the larger it is, the more both party-states have an interest in placating it.

The Vietnamese state union, the VGCL, has evolved a number of alternate means of representation and labour advocacy which bypass the ineffective workplace unions. The VGCL-run labour newspapers, especially the national Lao Dong (Labour) and Ho Chi Minh City Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer), can provide an alternate channel for worker grievances. Workers can tip off the papers to abuses and impending disturbances in person, in writing or via 24 hour hotline, and the newspaper will send investigative journalists. These papers sort, analyse and publish grievances, as well as he causes of strikes. They have some freedom to criticise ineffective government monitoring and sanctions, as well as harmful industrial practices such as maintaining shell companies.

With independent budgets based on advertising, staffed by young journalists responsible for discrete areas who know the workers’ conditions and backed by a loyal readership, these papers can effectively facilitate conversations between workers, government and industry. This public forum not only puts pressure on the union and government to act, but moves the issue of labour rights into the realm of public input and debate, a conversation that may be the most direct and effective link between workers’ concerns and official action.

Vietnamese unions may also join international unions and accept international donations. Vietnam sees improved labour practices as a means of attracting investment. The VGCL has been able to take advantage of the anti-sweatshop movement and emerging international standards, for example by collaborating with Social Accountability International with funding from the US State Department to improve labour standards, simultaneously urging factories to apply for SA8000 certification. The “foreign” nature of these standards is not seen as outside interference nor is it a cause for debate. If anything, these efforts constitute a new kind of effort to expand market access and investment.

The VGCL notably also permits its constituent regional and industrial organisations to engage with international labour organisations. Several of the industrial unions have taken the opportunity to connect with international unions in corresponding industries. While VGCL officials have made it quite clear that “propaganda… about independent/multi-labour unions, apolitical labour unions, labour unions fighting for economic goals etc.” is to be resisted, this political boilerplate has not deterred it from productive engagement.

The VGCL, and particularly the National Union of Industrial Workers, has been able to translate its freedom to associate with international unions into both a knowledge of international labour issues and considerable freedom of action. The VGCL delegation to an International Garment, Textile and Leatherworkers’ Federation workshop which proposed negotiating a Southeast Asian framework agreement with Pou Chen, the largest footware production company in the world, was able to immediately pledge participation without consulting with higher authorities. The head of the delegation was vice president of the NUIW.

The VGCL and Ministry of Labour have benefitted from the technical assistance and training provided by the ILO and international unions, although this does not filter down to workplace unions. Corporate codes of conduct originating overseas seem to be gaining ground enforcing labour rights in Vietnam where the VGCL is not. Third party international monitoring of labour practices is increasingly common. In all of these areas, the VGCL and Ministry of Labour have shown themselves politically able to both accept foreign assistance and use it pragmatically to enhance their own domestic programs and goals.

There is also a difference between the state unions of China and Vietnam. Managers imported from the PRC to work in Taiwanese factories in Vietnam not only noted the marked difference in the power of factories to violate labour laws, for instance through illegal overtime, but attributed it to a proactive attitude on the part of the government. One said, “In China, we had to work much longer, sometimes until 1:00 or 2:00 am… In Vietnam, you cannot force workers to work after 10:00 pm. Why is there such a difference? The government. The Chinese government wants to make money and therefore just neglects workers’ rights.” Likewise, the VGCL’s struggles with the government have been widely reported, giving it significant credibility, while the ACFTU cannot hope for such ideological autonomy.

And this attitude extends to other branches of the Vietnamese government. In Ho Chi Minh City, the local Department of Labour was so convinced of the importance of labour peace that they made it a practice to go out and find workforce complaints and make sure that they were properly mediated, rather than waiting for the workers to come forward.

In summary, even state unions have critical roles to play in enforcing workplace safety, particularly in Vietnam. Bhagwati and Narlikar place the responsibility for safety solely on the employers, as though without pressure from their international customers or effective labour organisation they would have an incentive to do anything about worker safety, even if, as the authors suggest, the West provides safety experts to help them. Every measure of progress in this area in the developing world has occurred because of increased awareness on the part of foreign companies and investors, and increased organisation on the part of the workers and those paid to represent their interests.

Does this reduce the ability of industrial development to ‘lift the workers out of poverty’? I would argue that it is seldom the workers who are lifted out of poverty- witness the Chinese migrant workers who since 2009 have begun staying home on their farms rather than coming to the cities to work long hours in dangerous workplaces for wages that will never allow them to improve their own standard of living. But as long as the workers are helping the managers out of poverty, and helping us to cheap goods, making sure that they stay alive through that process seems like the least we can do.

It would be one thing if Bhagwati and Narlikar had critiqued the effectiveness of the particular approaches being taken in the case of Bangladesh and proposed effective alternatives. Instead, their conclusion boils down to “Blame the owners but do not try to penalise them or provide any structural means of assuring worker safety, and it will all work out.” In that, their article is not merely useless, but camouflage for the indifference of trickle-down economics at its worst.

Air-Sea Battle Debate Picks Up, South Korea Heads For Silent Eagle

Further to my posts on military doctrine and naval warfare in East Asia, and Mark’s posts on Air-Sea Battle, James Holmes reports over at the Diplomat on a debate that’s been heating up. Specifically, the question is whether Air-Sea Battle is needlessly escalatory, and whether, surprise surprise, a naval blockade approach (as for example the one suggested by Kline and Hughes a while ago) might be the better approach to a notional future conflict with China. Holmes provides some good sources and analysis, but unfortunately doesn’t seem to have heard of Kline and Hughes’ take, dubbed “War at Sea,” going with Hammes’ somewhat less innovative “Offshore Control” concept instead. Some of the caveats that arise toward the end of the article might be better answered under the former framework than the latter.

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Meanwhile, South Korea’s fighter competition seems to have reached a point where Boeing’s Silent Eagle is the last bird flying. The F-35 broke the bank, and the Eurofighter consortium seems to have fudged some of their paperwork.

The Silent Eagle is an untried, radar cross-section reduced F-15 variant. Its low-observable characteristics depend on carrying missiles internally in what used to be the F-15 conformal fuel tanks, which both reduces range and provides only a four-missile capacity. Of course, it has all the expected goodies in terms of avionics, but it still lacks the various aerodynamic upgrades tested on the F-15 airframe. What’s so great about that? Well, for one thing, the Koreans really wanted a stealth aircraft, since China and Japan will both have stealth aircraft. While it is highly doubtful that Silent Eagle is any more stealthy than any other Generation 4.5 fighter (bearing in mind the F-15 layout was not designed for low-observability, unlike the Typhoon), the name might carry some weight. Also, South Korea already has a fleet of relatively new F-15Ks, so there are advantages in standardisation.