Is it Brain Alert in the US Military?

August 5, 2008

Every major branch in the US military cancelled or reduced a major weapon program in the last few month. Looking at what happened you could ask yourself if the Pentagon finally started to use their Brains.

The US Navy decided to scale down their DDG-1000 Stealth Destroyer program to just two ships. The program originally planning 32 ships was already downscaled to seven ships. As it turned out the reason was not the price and useless concept. The main reason was the lack of defence capabilities against anti-ship rockets. A common or the most likely threat. At least since the Falklands War you’d except the Navys in the world to be listening to the threat and trying to construct appropriate counter measures.

It is more than useless to build a destroyer which couldn’t defend against a weapon not only every country but even some guerilla groups posses. So you could believe that after two decades of developing the new DDG-1000 the US Navy finally started to use their brain.

But if you look at the overall picture you notice that the whole “defenceless against a common threat” thing is just a small spot on a concept deeply flawed. The DDG-1000s main objective was to strike far from the see land targets. This could be provided by a cheap aircraft or by firing a missile from existing subs (which could defend themselves better). So the DDF-1000 is yet another useless weapon.

The problem is first of all that the defence industry in the US is too big and powerful. They employ a lot of people and have construction sides across several states. So every time the congress votes on buying a new weapon or funding a new useless weapon project it’s all about providing jobs in your state (and may be cashing a few bribes or going to dinner with a few business man). It is never about: Do we need this weapon? Could it really help our fighting force? Could we win a conflict with it? So for the congress it is all about providing heavy subsidised jobs.

For the Navy Admirals it is mostly about pride. Since the World War II the Navy lost a lot of prestige. Simple cheap things – like planes or today even cheaper and simpler missiles – could destroy their most valued ships. No big (and boringly slow) Navy battles with big ships steaming at each other while firing their big guns. The biggest ships got useless over night. The only thing they use their “pride” is to carry planes and rockets and the rest of the ships provide screening for their carriers. Having a big Ship is just about pride. It is useless for fighting except being a big target.

Michael Bruno of Aviatonweek believes that the next big cut back could be the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). The EFV is supposed to be a well armoured troop carrier capable of swimming and hitting a beach ready to fight. This sounds okay. But when you look at the history of the Marines the last landing operation where such a vehicle could have been useful was in the 1950s in the Korean War. Since than most landing operations where performed by Helicopter and without defending enemies.

Today’s conflicts are mostly Guerilla Wars especially for the US and other big armies. You don’t need to land your troops on a beach with enemies shooting their guns at you. The enemy will hit you when you don’t expect it. He will hit you with an IED or similar and the EFV is missing any protection against IEDs. Not that there is a real protection against IEDs. Because the attacker simply has to add more explosives to their IED. But at least providing some protection against IEDs is far more important these days as hitting a beach with blazing guns. The Marines used their current Amphibious Assault Vehicle as a troop carrier in Iraq which resulted in devastating loses.

So may be the US Military started to think. But I guess not.

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