Casualties of Budget and Strained Relationships

With the US government in partial shutdown, publicly-owned shipyards are furloughing workers and restricting activities to critical maintenance. This sort of thing will have far-reaching implications for the readiness of the world’s largest navy.

Time may be running out for the A-10, the world’s best close-support aircraft. The Chief of US Combat Air Command has said that if sequestration continues, the “Warthog” will be sacrificed to fund the F-35 and the role passed to that aircraft. The Army, understandably, is not happy. It isn’t just an issue of the A-10’s famous 30mm Gatling cannon- the F-35 is a more delicate platform with a higher minimum speed, and would have to carry out the close support role from a distance and at speeds that make it difficult to distinguish the situation on the ground. It will also of course be much more expensive, something that will become instantly apparent the first time an F-35 takes ground fire. An A-10 can be shot to pieces, fly home with its pilot safe and be repaired and back on the line in a matter of days or weeks. An F-35 in that situation would be a total loss.

***

Tom Clancy, author of such classic techno-thrillers as The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising, has passed away at the age of 66. In his memory, USNI republishes his 1982 article advocating hovercraft as nuclear launch platforms. Not perhaps the tribute he might have wanted. Clancy was a man with a clarity of vision about his country’s potential and role in the world, which the country unfortunately did not share.

***

Argentina is replacing old Mirage IIIs in its inventory- with used Mirage F1s from Spain. The Argentine armed services have been unable to recoup their aging equipment stocks for decades, and that seems unlikely to change.

China’s J-31, the “other” stealth fighter, is likely destined for export, filling demand for stealth aircraft created by the F-35 among the sort of countries America doesn’t sell to.

***

The Diplomat on tensions in the Russo-Chinese relationship- still rosy on the outside, but Russia is struggling to show its neighbour that it is still a great power to be dealt with. Russian suspicions of China’s strategic intentions go back to the Mao era, and are compounded by Russia’s history of invasions from the east and geographic indefensibility. Paranoia, perhaps.

Meanwhile, Russia is irritating China through its enhanced strategic ties with Vietnam and its involvement in that country’s offshore drilling exploration. Vietnam has ordered Su-30MK2 aircraft from Russia as well as a new batch of Kilo class submarines. If the Americans were making those sales, China would call it containment. Although Vietnam’s navy and air force are in no position to take on China, Vietnam plays on its previous record of fighting against the odds to intimate that it could raise the cost of hostilities prohibitively.

At the 65th anniversary of the founding of the South Korean Armed Forces, the ROK Army paraded a new land-based cruise missile (caution, the picture in the BBC article was of old Nike Hercules SAM variants). South Korea already has a land-attack cruise missile capacity.

After years of hemming and hawing on both sides, Taiwan is again saying that it wants to buy new American weapons, including a replacement for its F-16s. Taiwan, which held undeniable military superiority over the People’s Republic of China at the turn of the millennium, now faces a People’s Liberation Army that has modernised in every dimension and holds vast numerical and technological advantages.

Advertisements

Advertising and the Fighter Market, and other news

F-35 add on OC Transpo bus

F-35 ad on OC Transpo bus

In what some would call a shameless and ham-handed attempt to rebrand their product in Canada, Lockheed Martin has taken to advertising the F-35 on the sides of Ottawa city buses. The argument presented is essentially the same as one that Sir Humphrey (of the highly-regarded British sitcom Yes Prime Minister) advanced in favour of buying Trident missiles:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Don’t you believe that Great Britain should have the best?
Jim Hacker: Yes, of course.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Very well, if you walked into a nuclear missile showroom you would buy Trident – it’s lovely, it’s elegant, it’s beautiful. It is quite simply the best. And Britain should have the best. In the world of the nuclear missile it is the Saville Row suit, the Rolls Royce Corniche, the Château Lafitte 1945. It is the nuclear missile Harrods would sell you. What more can I say?
Jim Hacker: Only that it costs £15 billion and we don’t need it.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, you can say that about anything at Harrods.

In other news, the son of a PLA general faces trial on charges of gang rape, continuing a series of crackdowns on official corruption which have already seen a high official executed for child molestation and others jailed for misconduct.

China’s recent order for Russian Su-35 fighter aircraft has been raised to 100 aircraft from 24. This is the latest operational model of the Flanker series, and, depending on the avionics fit, should give China a substantial technological boost, both in the air and in the production of its own Flanker variants. China has also ordered 4 Lada class submarines, suggesting that they see a need to improve their own line of air-independent conventional submarines, the Yuan class.

Lada-class submarine

Lada-class submarine

The US Naval War College Review’s Summer 2013 edition contains an interesting analysis of the problematic procurement history of the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 Destroyers, providing a window into issues that many services currently face in their procurement programs.