Pay More Get Less


Conservatives will tell you they favor small government, reduced taxes, and traditional social values. Oddly, in the US today, that somehow translates into “there is no amount of money that is too large to spend on the military.”  We’re treated to a constant barrage of pleas for financial assistance from the pentagon, particularly, and its bootlickers, in general, in spite of the pentagon’s claiming it doesn’t have any way to tell where the money is going. Basically, the taxpayers are pouring money into a bucket that has the bottom knocked out, and the crooks holding the bucket keep shouting “It’s EMPTY! Pour FASTER!”

I used the word “crooks” because they know exactly what they are doing: they’re lining their pockets at the expense of everyone in the world – especially the US, but also the partner nations like Canada, Australia, etc., whose leaders have agreed to purchase US weapons systems.* When the partner nations get restive, then the threats begin – for example, Canada is supposed to be buying 65 F-35s for $18billion, or $276million per F-35. Australia is supposed to be buying 72 F-35s for $24billion, or $333million per F-35. You’ve probably noticed the $57million price difference: that’s because the cost of these aircraft keep sliding around, for reasons I’ll get into in a bit. Anyhow, Canada made rumbles about maybe not buying them, and the US threatened to wrench $1b out of Canada’s aerospace industry in retaliation. So Canada can forget about buying Saab Gripens at $60million apiece, available today, or even US-made Super Hornet F-18 at $66million apiece: the US defense industry is more aggressive than a heroin dealer. “If you don’t buy from us, we’ll break your legs.”**

Measures of Force Size (Spinney)

Measures of Force Size (Spinney)

Procurement costs are huge and the government contracts with a manufacturer because the manufacturers claimed they aren’t willing to invest that much money in R&D since, if the government changes their mind about buying it, they’re left awash in red ink. See how that works? The risk of a program’s failure is automatically passed on to the taxpayers because, you know, it’d hard to be in the defense business unless the customer guarantees that they are in business, up front. That’s only the first stage of the con. But notice the absence of shrieking from conservatives: the same conservatives who said “let it fail!” when looking at Detroit’s struggling auto industry say “too important to fail!” when they look at defense programs. It would be funny, except the amounts of money being tossed around are nothing to joke about.

When the government starts on a big program like the F-35, it agrees to buy a certain number of the aircraft, just like Canada and Australia did, to take advantage of economies of scale. The original F-35 was supposed to cost a whopping $89million compared to the $30million F-15 it was replacing. But now it’s $333million per plane. How does that work?

Recently, F-35 cheerleader Christopher Bogdan (head of the US Air Force) made a big deal about being able to ratchet down F-35 costs: by nearly $2million per aircraft. I’ll just let that number sit there for you to contemplate.

In principle, we’d expect a procurement process, with bidding and contracts to ensure that innovation and good quality are what wins. Like in WWII and after, an aircraft manufacturer would design a plane then demonstrate it to the military, and – if it works and they like it – sell them a ton. But the systems got too expensive for that (say the defense companies) because, now, building an airplane is a “bet your business” proposition. You know, like making bad cars would be for Ford or Chevrolet. Instead of encouraging innovation, the procurement process has become about gaming the system to “front load” procurement costs and lock the government into programs that can then have the costs spiral out of control. Once the government has agreed to spend all that money, someone’s career might be ruined – or something – if the program was a failure. It’s “too big to fail” strategy, basically. Where do you think Wall St and the banks learned it?

What is “front loading”? In procurement planning, is the basic bait-and-switch used by car salespeople. You tell congress that the new airplane will cost $89million but you know it’ll never be anywhere near that cheap. You tell congress they can get 100 planes for about $1billion and get the development process going. Then, when the true costs of the project start to emerge, it’s already too late to re-negotiate.
Sales: “Oh that $500 is for the pin-striping”
Customer: “But I didn’t want pin-striping”
Sales: “Yeah but we only get it from the manufacturer with pin-striping”
Customer: “Can you take the pin-striping off?”
Sales: “Look you already made a down-payment on the car.”

To go along with front-loading is political engineering. In political engineering, the contractor designs the program with pieces of the system being built in as many voting states as possible. That way, you’ve got maximum fallout if you threaten to cancel a program. “What? You’ll force us to close the manufacturing plant in Seattle! There will be hell to pay!” Congress cheerfully participates in its own debasement, in this process, as they go around trumpeting how much pork they brought to their districts. Oddly, they don’t tell their constituents, “that 30% of your tax bill, we’re giving you back a tiny fragment of it, in terms of your neighbor has a job, and shareholders of ${defense_contractor} get rich!”  The purpose of front-loading and political engineering is to get the program kicked off and the taxpayers thoroughly on the hook.

Then, it’s time for the real fleecing.

Watch my hands, there’s nothing up my sleeves! The contractor goes back to congress and says “We can’t do it for that price per plane. But we can scale back on the number of planes and keep the contract the same.” So instead of buying 100 F-35s for about $1billion you get 75 F-35s for about $1billion. That’s why I’ve been normalizing all the numbers to cost per aircraft so you don’t fall for that trap. To keep the numbers round: I just turned your $100million F-35 into a $125million F-35. This results in what Chuck Spinney calls “bow wave” – when you finally have a working aircraft and you need enough of them to do anything, you’ll find that the remaining 25 planes you didn’t get, well, they cost $333million apiece, and to get your full complement of 100, you’ll need to pony up another $8.2billion – Bogdan can maybe get a $1millon knock-down per plane to soften the sting.

You can’t cancel it, it owns your district. Like heroin, the first shot is free: now the contractors have built factories all over the place and spread the pork around, so if anyone complains they’re the bad outlier who needs to be voted out of office.

That’s how you get this:

The Pentagon has reduced aviation procurement by 7.2% to $45.3 billion in its fiscal year 2017 budget submission compared to the $48.8 billion requested last year.

This lower funding level buys eight fewer fixed-wing aircraft including five Lockheed Martin F-35As and three C-130Js for the US Air Force and 35 fewer rotorcraft for the Army and Navy than are afforded in the current budget, according to US Defense Department (DOD) officials

Let’s pull that apart, shall we?

If F-35s are $333million apiece, and they dropped 5 of those from the purchase, that’s $1.6billion “saved”. 3 C-130s at $30million apiece is$90million. 24 blackhawk helicopters at a paltry $9million apiece is $206million, 9 ‘apache’ AH-64 helicopters at $50million apiece is $450million. That totals $2.3billion. Now it’s time to discuss how the Pentagon does a budget cut:
Pentagon: “I need $50billion for hookers, blow, and booze”
Congress: “No way! Austerity! You can only have $40billion”
Pentagon:WAAAAH! YOU CUT MY BUDGET 8%!!

Watch this: the overall budget for the military is $582billion, and they “cut” it a whopping 0.51%.

Basically, those planes they “cut”? They never existed and never will exist. They were imaginary tokens to allocate imaginary jobs to build, and the actual money being spent is going to stay the same. Except that when gear gets retired, then the replacement is nonexistent – so the actual force structures get smaller and the profit margins at the contract get larger.

Pay more, get less = Spend lots more

Pay more, get less = Spend lots more

Years ago, when I first started digging into this stuff, I did a review of a great article by Chuck Spinney, on “The DoD Death Spiral” – Spinney’s take is that procurement shenanigans are going to result in an ineffective military. My take is that an ineffective military’s not that bad a thing, if you have a functioning society with decent social programs and less corruption. I made a few slides, which represented the beginning of my understanding of the problem:

The question is “what are you getting per dollar?” and the easiest way to see is to normalize everything to a per-unit price and only deal with that. After all, it’s the fiscally conservative thing to do. If you do that, you can see where the trend-lines are going: the entire Air Force budget will be consumed by a handful of expensive boondoggles that don’t work, and the real work will be done by relatively inexpensive drones. That is, until the drone-makers figure out how to make drones that cost $333million apiece.

And you wanted Canada-style medicare…


Note, I haven’t even started to tackle the fact that the F-35 sucks. This is just overview material. The full horror that is the F-35 and F-22 comes later.

Franklin Spinney: “Defense Power Games

Aviation Week: F-35 program timeline.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning would probably do fine against ISIS, and they would cost substantially less than the bombs they would be dropping. What would a great CAS aircraft look like? Project Ares. Rutan – as usual – came up with actual solutions to problems that other CAS aircraft like the A-10 had to kludge around. Ares was a self-funded effort by Scaled Composites, who didn’t have any experience with the procurement process, so they never had a chance against the beltway insider gang. Besides: who’d want to fly an aircraft made of bullet-proof and tear-resistant kevlar? No ground-support pilot, ever?

(* By the way, that’s usually a scam, too: the US gives, say, Israel a few $billion for some defense program but the money is earmarked to go to a specific US defense contractor. In other words, the US gives the defense contractor a great big bag of US taxpayer’s money and congress is able to sort of hide the handout because it was “sales”)

(** One scary thing is that some idiots in Australia were actually thinking of asking the US to sell them F-22s instead. That’s like complaining that your corvette is expensive to keep on the road, so you want a lamborghini. Except that lamborghinis actually work.)

Comments

  1. Siobhan says

    Why is it that every deal made under the watch of Canada’s previous Conservative government has so many god damn strings attached? These guys were harping (heh) on about good business sense but either didn’t read the fine print or read the fine print and didn’t figure out we were being fleeced. And now, in order to find money by scaling down the defence budget, the Liberals have to run a massive deficit to stop spending money on defence.

    *facepalm*

  2. kestrel says

    The Partner sez: The Warthog A10 is also a cheap and effective “tank killer” that would do well against ISIL – it’s old technology but it’s cheaper to make, easy to fix, and protects the pilot really well.

    Me: Sometimes low-tech is the best answer… if the question is, what is the most effective and cost efficient way to solve the problem? If the question is, how can I swindle the most money? then low-tech would not be the answer.

  3. AndrewD says

    Ignoring the question as to why Canada needs Fast Jets, they should announce that”time is of the essence” and if delivery of F35’s does not start at some (close) point in the future, the contract is void. Then, if the US threatens to act agaionst Canadian interests, say this proves the only major enemy facing Canada is the US and open talks with Russia and China to buy Fast Jets of the shelve, thus really annoying Trump and Boeing.

  4. says

    Shiv@#1:
    Why is it that every deal made under the watch of Canada’s previous Conservative government has so many god damn strings attached? These guys were harping (heh) on about good business sense but either didn’t read the fine print or read the fine print and didn’t figure out we were being fleeced.

    They knew they were being fleeced; they were probably in on it.

    I’m going to do a piece on a tiny bit of the corruption that you get when there’s $1trillion in defense spending at stake. Hint: it’s horrifying.

  5. says

    kestrel@#2:
    The Partner sez: The Warthog A10 is also a cheap and effective “tank killer” that would do well against ISIL

    Well, yeah. I suggested the lightning because it’d be minimally adequate. An A-10 would actually be good. And they are.

    The Air Force made a sneaky attempt to dismantle the A-10 so that they would have no competition for the F-35. Having A-10s around is a big problem for the F-35 program because A-10s are actually good CAS aircraft. Not great CAS aircraft, but good. No CAS pilot wants a fast-mover like an F-35, which has a great big tailpipe pushing out an infrared signature the size of Godzilla’s anus – you’ve got to zoom in, find and hit your target, then zoom back out. The A-10 is slow and maneuverable and has better loiter time. Meanwhile, the F-35 has to run home when the fuel level drops, and then there’s a couple hours of required maintenance and maybe it’ll be ready to fly again tomorrow.

    An Ares would be a great CAS aircraft but it would have never survived production with the design integrity intact.

  6. says

    AndrewD@#3:
    Ignoring the question as to why Canada needs Fast Jets, they should announce that”time is of the essence” and if delivery of F35’s does not start at some (close) point in the future, the contract is void.

    The bad guys already headed that off at the pass. That’s why they are flying the F-35 right now even though they don’t have the guns in them yet, and the flight control systems have limits dialed in to the flight envelope because they aren’t sure what’s safe and what isn’t. The US Air Force already bought a bunch in that condition – they’ll become parts planes someday, probably, but…
    … it means the plane is “in service” so there’s no way to say “it doesn’t work, we don’t want it.”

  7. says

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

    http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

    Dwight D. Eisenhower might actually make me believe in psychics.

  8. says

    Tabby Lavalamp@#7:
    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Eisenhower presided over the period when the military/industrial complex took over the government. He had a bad tendency to stand around and wait for things to develop – both as SHAEF and president. Granted, the Korean war was not his idea, but he set the stage for US involvement in Vietnam, which was when the DoD really began to run away with government policy. After WWII($908 billion) there was a brief period when DoD spending dropped to near pre-war levels ($109billion). When Eisenhower took over, it spiked back up to 1/2 pre-war levels($500billion) and has never gone below that, since, though it got close (to 1/2) under Carter.

    So, I’m not super impressed with Eisenhower’s parting shot because it amounts to “Hey, I shit in the hot tub. I’m outta here. You guys clean it up.”

  9. invivoMark says

    I appreciate your posts on this subject, Marcus. Your blog is quickly becoming one of my favorites to read.

    I recall a formative experience in my youth when sometime around 6th grade, a veteran came to our class to talk about military hardware. He brought various museum pieces like helmets and backpacks and grenades for all the kids to ogle.

    I was excited to see the signs of a methodical progression of technology, with each generation seeing more efficient, more pragmatic designs as our soldiers were transformed to be the perfect killing machines to protect the Land of the Free.

    Instead what I saw (and credit to the veteran for being blunt about it) was impractical, committee-designed nonsense that never quite fit the role it was used in. Some equipment from WW1, for instance, might’ve been better in the rainforests of Vietnam than what the soldiers had to work with.

    I felt let down – clearly I had been lied to by the movies and video games I grew up with. I quickly became very skeptical of government military spending from that point. The US has been in a lot of wars, and we’ve built a lot of military equipment. If we couldn’t figure out how to do it efficiently by Vietnam, how can we expect it’s gotten any better since then?

  10. says

    invivoMark@#9:
    Instead what I saw (and credit to the veteran for being blunt about it) was impractical, committee-designed nonsense that never quite fit the role it was used in.

    Yes!! I had a similar experience, when I started studying the military history of WWI and WWII (as a kid I was mostly into knights and crusades and ancient legions, and avoided WWII like the plague because the part of France where we spent our summers still had bullet holes all over the place) When I started looking at gear – and then got into napoleonics – I was pretty amazed at how goofy a lot of it was. Let’s not even start on Shakoes ;) But the stuff they fielded in WWI was terrible. So was the stuff in Vietnam. Etc. Etc.

    My big breakthrough was having to haul around a Vietnam-era M-16, clean it, keep it working for a summer in Ft Dix, and – well – ugh. How did soldiers get saddled with that piece of junk when there were Uzis (upgraded stens) and Kalashnikovs? That was the first time I started looking at procurement and realizing that there was no sense being applied at all. There still isn’t. In an era of mobile warfare, with stealth drones, etc, you still see special forces walking around like sherpas covered in molle. About the only thing they’re carrying that’s not crap is their boots are pretty good because they’re buying aftermarket stuff on their own.

    clearly I had been lied to by the movies and video games I grew up with. I quickly became very skeptical of government military spending from that point.

    If I accomplish my mission here, you’ll be not just feeling you’ve been lied to – you’ll be stunned at the magnitude of the lies.

  11. lorn says

    The ARES looks nice. I could see myself hunting squirrels with it.

    A few of the possible issues:
    Single engine. If the engine fails you walk home.

    Light construction likely means little armor, true redundancy, ability to take damage and land or work from rough airfields. The use of “redundancy”meant that loss of any one control surface wouldn’t bring the aircraft down.

    By some standards a 20mm gun is a little light.

    Then again the A-10 wasn’t perfect:
    Maneuverability was always limited. One pilot claimed it was about a agile as the WW2 Stuka.

    The 30mm gun was optimized for anti-armor performance and had only limited blast/fragmentation effect. This was partially made up for by the shear number of rounds but it meant they used far more rounds than might be necessary with a less aggressively anti-armor, more balanced, round.

    The A-10 was set up for an all-out conventional war against massed troops and armor. It is really too much airplane for the counter-insurgency mission. Laying down a few thousand rounds of 30mm on a ten man enemy squad is impressive but it is massive overkill. Smaller weapons tightly controlled with more ammunition goes farther and gets better results.

    The A-10 made a lot of sense when we were facing down a torrent of armor storming through the Fulda Gap protected by quad-23mm AAA and light AA missiles. The ability to take a hit from the major Russian AA weapons and bring the pilot home gave drivers the confidence to get in tight and use their gun. Unfortunately the Air Force has, since Korea, thought of itself as above it all. Slugging it out low and slow might muss their hair.

    If you really want ground support we need to start with service restructuring. Give the Army back its airplanes. Seriously consider eliminating the Air Force entirely. We won WW2 with the Army Air Corp.

    The second big question is: What sort of war are we planning to fight. Despite right-wing scare-mongering the fact is that China and Russia have very modest militaries when compared to the bloated US version. Only against a dedicated combined arms conventional military does the specialized A-10 type flying tank make sense. It is the best remaining close air support aircraft but you could get tighter coordination with ground troops with a smaller forward deployed unit. Something a bit less specialized would also cost less so you could buy more for the same investment. More of them and flying from forward bases means CAS overhead or on-call on short notice.

    In the COIN roll a lighter, cheaper, less specialized, more forward deployed aircraft makes more sense. One of my favorites was the OV-10 Bronco. Lighter, more maneuverable, optimized for loiter, operable from austere forward bases, there have been several versions used to good effect. The Marines tried a version with a 20mm cannon in a turret slung from the centerline. There was a proposal for a OV-10 with a automatic 105mm recoilless rifle. Both in addition to the usual array of rockets, small bombs, and guns fitted either forward-firing of off the port side.

    The OV-10 was quite capable. Roomy enough to bring in numbers of personnel, cargo, and evacuate wounded, they can be used as spotter aircraft, light bombers, convoy escorts, CaC, and air support.

    A few were tried in Iraq and they seemed to work out well:
    http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/ov-10-broncos-were-sent-to-fight-isis-and-they-kicked-a-1764407068

    Of course I only use the OV-10 as a placeholder. The design is old. A redesign using modern materials and equipment while keeping the design philosophy of simple, strong, and adaptable would likely see significant improvements in performance.

    Give them to the Army and forward deploy them to get he best performance out of the design.

  12. brucegee1962 says

    There is yet another problem. I had a friend who was an Air Force engineer. He said he would go to meetings where all the AF officers sat on one side of the table, and all the contractors sat on the other. And he realized at one of these meetings that the Air Force side of the table had about forty years of experience total, while the contractor side of the table had over a hundred years. Furthermore, most of the people on the contractor side had originally been sitting where he was sitting.

    So tell me, how tough a negotiator are you likely to be, when you know there’s an excellent chance you’ll be sending your resume to your adversaries within a few years? How many military folks are wondering whether giving a contractor a cushy deal will increase their odds of getting hired?

  13. says

    lorn@#11:
    Single engine. If the engine fails you walk home.

    F-35s have a single engine. Because!!! UH. It saves weight and costs!

    Sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face. Ares contains a lot of good ideas, that’s the point. If the pentagon took Rutan aside and had Scaled Composites revisit ARES with a reasonable budget and a charter to produce 2 variants: a long-range lightweight CAS and a long-range lightweight spotter, both aimed at COIN operations, it’d cost a fraction of what they are spending on the F-35, which is going to suck right out of the box.

    Light construction likely means little armor

    It’s made of armor! The thing is kevlar and resin and not much else.

    It wouldn’t be something designed to go up against a Russian antiaircraft array, it’d be intended to fight small wars. The biggest thing it’d be dodging was ATGMs. And if you look at the wing-loading and turning ability of the ARES, it’s ridiculous. That’s what’s needed for CAS – the A-10 (bless its flinty little heart) was designed for surviving 10 minutes in a Russian antiaircraft envelope during the cold war.

    Most of what the Air Force is flying is intended to survive a full-up battlefield scenario and that’s what we haven’t been up against since the 1940s. The usual scenario is that the cold war era stuff suppresses the target’s air force and then you’re down to flying around in little lightweight loitering manned gun platforms. Right now helicopters are filling that role but they are extremely expensive comparatively and after Mogadishu the pentagon has finally realized that they’re a bit delicate.

    By some standards a 20mm gun is a little light

    It’d do the job on technicals, infantry in open, and light vehicles – which is all you encounter in COIN. If there’s real armor on the field you loiter and call in the fast movers with AGMs.

    If you really want ground support we need to start with service restructuring.
    The second big question is: What sort of war are we planning to fight

    Welcome to the military reform movement! Too bad it was murdered in its sleep back in the 90s.

    The whole point of this series is that we are spending WWII money (nearly) and have built a military that can’t get out of its own way. We probably – if we’re going to keep fighting imperial small wars – ought to re-align the service into a high-end nation on nation force, special operations, counter insurgency, and a civilianized police/reconstruction arm. The problem is the special operations guys love to kill people and they’re going to try to inject themselves into any conflict that they can. That has consistently been a problem. The current army/navy/air force/marines service model is irrational and breeds rivalry. And corruption. Lots and lots of corruption.

  14. says

    brucegee1962@#12:
    So tell me, how tough a negotiator are you likely to be, when you know there’s an excellent chance you’ll be sending your resume to your adversaries within a few years?

    I plan a future posting on a few of the sordid stories that arise from that cesspool. They are horrifying – billions and tens of billions of dollars spent fraudulently.

    That’s a big problem: those people who are on the one side of the table, looking forward to switching sides and feasting – they REALLY don’t want any disruption to their turn at the head of the line.

  15. says

    lorn@#11:
    Give them to the Army and forward deploy them to get he best performance out of the design.

    All you gotta do is say “Osprey” when you’re around military historians, if you want a good laugh. It’s funnier than shouting “Cheney” in a crowded burning theater.

    The army has also consistently screwed up more or less everything. They needed a light armored troop carrier and turned it into a tank (Bradley) that sucks as a tank and a troop carrier, so then they wanted a better Jeep (Hummvee) and discovered that unarmored vehicles suck for COIN operations – apparently learning NOTHING from Vietnam – and started slapping armor on hummvees until they cost vastly more than all the M-113s we “sold” to Egypt.

    It turns out that the USSR had a much better force mix in the cold war, for mechanized troops. Which ought’n’t surprise anyone given what the red army did to the wehrmacht. Tanks, heavy tanks, and armored personnel carriers and trucks. You use each one at different stages in the engagement.

  16. lorn says

    “The army has also consistently screwed up more or less everything.”

    A whole lot of that is caused by the simple fact that nobody in authority can figure out what the missions are and design a force structure and funding source that supports those missions.

    Those weapons that have worked well were ones that by chance happened to span the big war/small war divide gracefully. The A-10 was designed for big wars but works well enough for small wars. It doesn’t work quite as well as a purpose designed and built COIN/CAS aircraft might, but it does well enough. The M-1 was built for big wars but serves quite well, within certain limits, like how the hell you get a 60T vehicle to where the fighting is, for small wars.

    Then there are the project limitations. Design and development projects are so costly, politically and corporately complicated that, that there is the natural desire to limit the numbers of major programs. Which greatly adds to the tendency of both buyer and producer to try to accessorize and stretch the designs to do more. The end result is always a compromise. We get a Swiss Army knife of a weapons system that does everything, but nothing in particular very well.

    The central reason the F-35 is limited and massively over cost is because they wanted to make an all-in-one design that could do everything. Including take off vertically. Compare that to the F-16. It was designed first as a lightweight fighter and was optimized for that role. Only after did it become a fighter/bomber. It isn’t quite a pure fighter now but in the main, once it drops its ordinance, it is still pretty well optimized for the lightweight, dog-fighter, role.

    As for ARES being armored. Not so much. Kevlar isn’t admantium. It isn’t magically indestructible or bulletproof. A lightweight skin isn’t going to stop much, no matter what you make it out of. Kevlar isn’t bad, it is still the most commonly used bullet resistant cloth and if layered deeply enough it will stop whatever is thrown at it. But, as good as it is, assuming they are not using Nerf guns, you are going to need something substantially thicker and heavier. ARES looks to be designed to survive by being nimble enough to avoiding being hit and the Kevlar was simply a higher performance reinforcement for what would otherwise be standard, but slightly thicker and heavier, fiberglass panels.

    They could have gone for carbon fiber panels and saved even more weight but carbon is more expensive, harder to work with, and they lose the implied armor-protection-through-word-association of the Kevlar name. I used to mess around with composites in the context of sailboats and a whole lot of people assumed that Kevlar reinforcement would make their boat bulletproof. Savvy salesmen would play on that without stating it outright.

    All systems are compromises. All products are hyped. All sales are final.

    I suspect that the coming generation CAS aircraft may be drones. The ARES would be even better as a drone. Cheaper, lighter, possibly even expendable given that you don’t have to worry about a pilot. Toss out the ejection seat and oxygen and you have more room for fuel and ammunition. Even a weapons limited airframe can do a lot of good things if you can drive it in close enough to make every round count. Have robots building drones. They come three to a CONEX box.

    I’ve never liked the Osprey. It seems too much like more of a stunt. They got it to do some remarkable things in terms of range and speeds but it is still mighty delicate. And it took so long and so much money that for the price we could have ten times the number of quite reliable helicopters. That said, we have what we have and there is some chance that the Osprey might mature into something good and reliable.

  17. says

    lorn@#17:
    The central reason the F-35 is limited and massively over cost is because they wanted to make an all-in-one design that could do everything. Including take off vertically

    Yup. That’s part of it. There are worse parts.

    I’ve never liked the Osprey

    Funny, neither does anyone who’s been on it or flown it. Someday perhaps I’ll do a posting about Chuck Spinney’s comments on the Osprey. The first time I read them I almost laughed my own teeth out.

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