Monday, July 07, 2008
Keep up developments
It seems that many generals tend to fight the last war they were in, or the war they are in right now. Few seem to be able to project the types of warfare we will be drawn into in the future, as is clearly illustrated by the many deficiencies we have had in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts.
So what can be concluded about our weapon and C4I developments? That obviously depends heavily on the possible conflicts we may face, and in what timeframe. We have fought several classes of warfare since WWII, including insurgencies and large-scale land engagements.
In the near term, it appears that insurgencies, or minor land engagements leading to insurgencies are the main threat. This leads to the need for trained manpower, small-scale weapons, transport, power projection, and good C4I capabilities.
However, in the intermediate and long term, say ten years out and longer, we may well be faced with major conflicts with our usual cold war enemies—Russia and China—singly or in concert. Both appear to be rearming with upgraded weapons systems of all types at a rapid pace, in conjunction with their growing economic power.
They are also equipping their client nations with some first-line weapons systems, notably aircraft. Their manpower pool is certainly significant. So is their nuclear capability, which negates our nuclear advantage.
It seems to me that this argues for continued development of major weapons systems at a well-planned pace in order to: 1)stay competitive in the armament field; and 2)to be able to ramp up production of superior weapons in the event of need downstream. We also need to maintain the volunteer army at an increased level and maintain ready reserves as well.
Since major weapons of the F-22, F-35, Virginia Class Subs, Carriers, and fighting vehicle types require many years to conceive, develop, test, and field, the time to start is yesterday, as we have indeed been doing.
At the moment we are using weapons systems that in some cases are much older than the men manning them (B-52Hs and F-15s, for example), and one can argue that the useful life of such equipment is running out quickly, in particular when compared to newer items being fielded by our potential enemies.
We should not complacently be dismantling our weapons industries for a short-term “peace dividend” either. We are still suffering from the Clinton reductions of force that Bush only belatedly began to reverse.
Are we heading in the Clinton head-in-sand direction once more? What does military history tell us about being prepared?