It’s a Feeding Frenzy

The different branches of the US military act as though they are in a war with eachother. Which, in a sense, they are – over budget. “Over budget” is an unfortunate phrase to deploy in any posting about the armed services, but let’s roll with it.

Perhaps you recall the sad tale of the Zumwalt and its unfortunate cannon. [stderr] This is the cannon that, literally, has no purpose or ammunition, each shell for the thing costing a whallumping $1,000,000 a shot. Boasting a range of 80 miles the Zumwalt‘s gun has, ummmmm…. 1/20 of the range of the complement of Tomahawk cruise missiles that it also carries. One might ask, “why then does it have a gun?” which congress eventually did; I believe that they are still waiting for an answer. If and when they get one, it will probably be written in sharpie and will say something like “very cool. makes boomboom better than a playboy playmate. I ought to know.” Actually, the sad saga of the Zumwalt and its gun goes back to 1999, so never mind.

It's a missile boat (Source: Popular Mechanics)

It’s a missile boat (Source: Popular Mechanics)

That’s an artist’s rendering of how a Zumwalt class ship might engage a target using its cruise missiles. The gun? What gun? We can’t afford ammo for the gun, but it sure would be cool in a metaphorical dick-waving sense.

But, since the Trump administration and congress have conspired together to shovel a gigantic boat-load more money to the defense/industrial complex, it’s a feeding frenzy out there. The Air Force is getting its F-35s. The CIA is getting its own private army and killer drones. The special forces guys are getting their own killer drones. The navy is getting its barely functioning-as-a-carrier-of-aircraft next generation aircraft carriers and the Zumwalt class ships. What is the army getting? Well, new uniforms because the old camouflage was ugly (what, didn’t they figure that out before they bought it?) and – extended range strategic stuff.

As usual for army documents, it’s written in that special military dialect known as “how stupid people think smart people sound” [mt]

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

  • Deep Fires: Deep Fires will provide the Army and joint force commanders with a surface-to-surface capability that can penetrate peer adversary defensive capabilities to engage key targets at strategic ranges.
  • Long-Range Precision Fires Missile: will replace the aging Army Tactical Missile System. The Long-Range Precision Fires missile provides a “10x” capability through a combination of an increased range, double the capacity per launcher, improved lethality, faster time of flight to the target, increased rate of fire, and jamming resistance.
  • Extended Range Cannon Artillery: will be an improvement to the latest version of the Paladin self-propelled howitzer that provides indirect-fires for the brigade combat team and division-level fight. Building on mobility upgrades, Extended Range Cannon Artillery will increase the lethality of self-propelled howitzers. Extended Range Cannon Artillery provides a “10x” capability through a combination of an increased range, increased rate of fire, increased lethality, increased reliability, and a greater survivability.

OK, so they want a replacement for the MLRS (multi-launch rocket system) that is bigger and has better range. They want to double the capacity per launcher because that’s obviously better than buying twice as many launchers. And they want an upgrade to the existing Paladin self-propelled gun, which generally has been reported to be an overpriced under-featured piece of shit. The Army’s own propaganda images almost entirely avoid showing the Paladin, preferring to show the good old cost-effective dirt-thumping 155 howitzer – a weapons system that Just Works(tm) because it’s simple and it’s manually fed and all it’s used for is lobbing high explosive at hospitals and villages and people over the horizon that can’t possibly shoot back.

The M777 howitzer is also easy(ish) to maintain because the important mechanisms are all sitting right out there where you can get at them, and it uses standard NATO 155 shells that are certainly good enough for defenseless villagers, though it can also fire fancy shells like inertially navigating rounds, bunker busters, etc. In other words, the army has a system that’s flexible enough to get the job it’s likely to ever do, done. But what is that “Deep Fires” bullet item?

“Deep Fires” is the desire by the army to have something that makes the Zumwalt‘s gun look like a B.B. gun. They want strategic artillery: stuff that can dump high explosive on someone 1000+km distance. Of course, that’s bullshit – there is literally nothing worth lobbing that far that is not a nuclear weapon. Oh. Uh-oh. This is going to cost way more than $1,000,000 per round, isn’t it?

You know which service is going to want its own nuclear weapons next? That’s right: the CIA. At this point, I want to fall to the floor foaming at the mouth and cursing incoherently out of sheer vexation. All of this is taking place against the background of upcoming elections, in which politicians from both branches of the oligarchy are going to do interpretive dances (butoh dances, more like!) attempting to convey how serious they are about taxes and none of them are going to breathe a word about the pentagon’s budget. The pentagon budget is actually the largest threat to the security of the United States, right now.

By the way, the army already has a “Deep Fires” capability: it’s called “The air force.” All these military heroes are just big, spoiled brats eyeing eachothers’ toys with sinister, creepy, jealousy in their hearts.


  1. says

    “The pentagon budget is actually the largest threat to the security of the United States, right now.”

    As a non-American, I’m less concerned about the security of the United States and more about the rest of the world because a military with that much money to spend on that much weaponry isn’t going to be satisfied sitting on it doing nothing (and neither are the manufacturers who want the ammunition bought and used so more has to be bought).

    The one single bit of a good thing I can say about the Hamberdler is that he doesn’t want to get into more wars. He doesn’t understand that dumping more money into the military industrial complex is going to make the calls for more wars get louder and more frequent, but for now at least Iran isn’t being regime changed.

  2. says

    I forget which books, but I remember reading how petty, territorial and wasteful the US military branches have been about espionage. They would spy on each other, and create fake spies or evidence to sabotage the other agencies. It was like a bunch or frat boys. In most countries, espionage falls under one or two government agencies (e.g. UK MI5 and MI6) and no more so that everything is coordinated.

    But that doesn’t surprise, coming from a country where policing argues regularly over jurisdiction (local, county, sheriff, states, and federal, and agencies like ATF, DEA, etc.).

  3. says

    I doubt there’s been a country or culture on the planet that didn’t have some parts of its bureaucracy fighting with each other. And this has often been encouraged by the rulers themselves to protect their own power.

  4. fusilier says

    Sometime back in the 1950s:

    Various military delegations are heading up the Capitol steps, for a week or so of testimony in front of Cngress. A junior AF officer mentions to his superior about “our Russian enemy.” The 4-star replies, “Son, the Russians are our opponents. There’s the enemy,” pointing to a clutch of admirals.


    James 2:24

  5. springa73 says

    It’s not really surprising that the US military budget is so huge, since the US military has basically given itself the goal of being able to defeat any potential enemy anywhere on the planet in any kind of war. Whether they are actually capable of this is another question – they haven’t done that well strategically against persistent insugencies, but most conventional militaries don’t do well against persistent guerilla warfare.

  6. says

    We really need to cut the bloated military budget. Make them hold a bake sale or something. Put the money to good use — house the homeless, feed the hungry, fund health care for ALL, you know… use it for GOOD.

  7. says

    @lochaber: that’s a point. When I was a kid the military was one more or less guaranteed means of social advancement for anyone. I know a lot of people who went in because they had nothing else, and came out with good job opportunities and experience. Now, it’s a top-heavy mess of ribbon-chasers and REMFs, with advancement locked only to specops and folks who could get into an academy with a letter from a congressman or a family connection.

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