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You fail me yet again, Starscream
July 21, 2009 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Congress has decided to stop shelling out $137.5 million apiece on the Boeing/Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor. The F-22 shall be superseded (or "supplemented") by the F-35, at a much more reasonable $83 million a pop.

Many of the same words from the first link, though arranged differently, here.

Obama's remarks here.

Bonus: See the stock market react in real time!
posted by turgid dahlia (171 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
At that price, we can't afford NOT to get a bunch!
posted by Danf at 3:21 PM on July 21, 2009


Hey it's the little things.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:22 PM on July 21, 2009


Whew..

I thought they were spending too much money before, but now it seems a whole lot more reasonable.

Especially since there is no other air force in the world that can touch us, much less the Taliban. Why do we need fighters that can dogfight?
posted by Balisong at 3:26 PM on July 21, 2009


That's really weird. I thought the F-22 program was canceled ages ago. I've always been a bit fond of it because of the whole with-vectored-thrust-I-fly-like-a-god-damned-UFO thing, but I'm not surprised that it's going away; if I recall correctly, it was a project really aimed at providing air supremacy against large military powers like the Soviets, and it now fills a sort of unneeded niche. The money is probably more effectively spent on a multipurpose workhorse like the Joint Strike Fighter.

Still, neat bird.
posted by quin at 3:30 PM on July 21, 2009


It's not looking great for Bumblebee or Ironhide either.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why do we need fighters that can dogfight?

For the war with China in 2077, duh.

***Starts stocking up on stimpacks***
posted by Rangeboy at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


On second thought, only 1.7 billion out of a 670 billion defense budget. Bah.. Might as well keep it.
posted by Balisong at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2009


50 million here, 50 million, there.

Good, I say. At least it's a start. Can we use part of the savings to hire some teachers now?
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


For the war with China in 2077, duh.


By then these will look like biplane cropdusters.
posted by Balisong at 3:32 PM on July 21, 2009


"Why do we need fighters that can dogfight?"

We learned that lesson with the F-4. It's missles were suppose to eliminate the need for any guns, and any dogfighting. We went from a 20-1 kill/loss ratio to 4/1. Subsequent F-4s had guns.
posted by The Power Nap at 3:33 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Especially since there is no other air force in the world that can touch us, much less the Taliban. Why do we need fighters that can dogfight?

When it comes to pissing contests, you can't stop pissing because everyone has gone home to do more important things, you have to keep on pissing. What if you take a break and someone claims they're the pissiest? Getting up the momentum to win a such a game takes time and money, and We. Cannot. Lose. This.

Plus it would be unAmerican to be without oversized military might.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:33 PM on July 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


Senator Dodd on the record as saying that if the federal government stops paying people to break windows, the window manufacturers will go out of business.
posted by klangklangston at 3:33 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


By then these will look like biplane cropdusters.

We'll see how dismissive of them you are when one is chasing you through an Indiana corn field, Mr. Kaplan.
posted by The World Famous at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


Air-cars, dammit! Not ground-attack fighters; not air-superiority fighters - air-cars! If we had air-cars, our enemies would give up on hating us and admit that our way is the best way.

Here's another link to stuff about the F-35.

I bet they could build a whole fleet of air-cars for $83 million. The Bastards.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:37 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


How many cropdusters does it take to dust Denver with Anthrax?
posted by Balisong at 3:38 PM on July 21, 2009


Er, how much Anthrax would it take to cropdust Denver with Anthrax?
posted by Balisong at 3:39 PM on July 21, 2009


How much you got?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


At the Pueblo Army Depot...Plenty.. 100 miles away.
posted by Balisong at 3:42 PM on July 21, 2009


Previously, with some very good commentary on why they are cutting it. Short answer, the F22 is about 10% better than the F35 with a much greater price tag, and the places that it excels are not terribly prevalent in the asymmetrical warfare of today.
posted by zabuni at 3:42 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lets take a deep look at the economic structure behind military spending and see how many jobs are being sustained. Good luck divesting without serious catastrophe.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2009


I remember when the Popular Science had the (then) YF-22 and YF-23 (from Northrop) on their cover back in the early nineties when they were still in competition at the USAF. I almost feel compelled to burtst into a rendition of 'Circle of Life'.
posted by PenDevil at 3:48 PM on July 21, 2009


For the war with China in 2077, duh.

It's funny… China's population size has essentially doomed it from a military perspective: there's simply no way any standing army on earth is going to want to go into actual* battle with a population that overwhelming. This is one of the areas, unfortunately, where nuclear weapons really do help even out the playing field. The F-22 has a range of 250 nautical miles. I really think our subs will be more useful to us for any war against the Chinese.

* The kind where you'd actually need an F-22, for instance.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:48 PM on July 21, 2009


Yeah, but the seat pitch and legroom are so much smaller. And the food, I mean, where the hell do they get that stuff on the F-35? At least on the F-22 they still use real metal cutlery.
posted by GuyZero at 3:49 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


Smarter people than me can debate the merits of stopping the program at this point -- we already have several dozen in service, and unmanned aircraft are the real future.

But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, "Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ."

Hope your reasons XYZ are good ones. Because someday, maybe 10 years from now, when you need to actually have a real throwdown with someone, they might be sporting one of these or one of these.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2009


You could always buy Eurofighters instead. You know, to fight the Migs.
posted by Artw at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2009


Er, how much Anthrax would it take to cropdust Denver with Anthrax?

$20, same as any other town.
posted by The World Famous at 3:51 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh damn, my bad. 1,600 nmi according to Wikipedia. And they do look hot as hell… Oh, OK let's keep 'em!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:53 PM on July 21, 2009


Lets take a deep look at the economic structure behind military spending and see how many jobs are being sustained. Good luck divesting without serious catastrophe

Well, if we've learned anything from the auto bailouts, if we -don't- give outrageous money, they'll sacrifice thousands of jobs in order to keep that 6 figure pay for the people on top, it's the economic hostage game!

America: Making Deals with Hostage Takers.

(Of course, we could take that money and employ 3-5 as many people doing something other than building tools for killing, sure, they're not living great, but they're living...)
posted by yeloson at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, "Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ.""

Well, we could give you equipment that's forty times as awesome as everyone else in the world's, but we decided to give you equipment that's only twenty times as awesome and spend the rest on body armor for dudes getting shot on the ground. Even though it'll make your top end awesomeness not as awesome, we figured that you'd be happier knowing that some of your sacrifices here saved American lives.
posted by klangklangston at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2009 [34 favorites]


I bet Boeing are pissed.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2009


Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ.

"Turns out brown people aren't that hard to bomb and a robot is getting the job in a few years anyway?"
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2009 [22 favorites]


I'm not typically one to drool over war porn, but the Harrier replacement STOVL variant of the F 35 is hawt. It can do hover takeoff to supersonic to hover landing. That's a pretty sweet air car.
posted by juv3nal at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we use part of the savings to hire some teachers now?

No, that's sOcialism!!
posted by LordSludge at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


and see how many jobs are being sustained. Good luck divesting without serious catastrophe.

Put the engineers on civil stuff like California's intercity train system that doesn't exist. Build a fucking tunnel through the Sierras from Fresno to Lone Pine. More cost-effective than shovelling billions into

when you need to actually have a real throwdown with someone

I'm sorry CPB, but war is not a luxury we can afford now. You warmongers got the war you wanted earlier this decade, and you fucked it up.
posted by @troy at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2009 [26 favorites]


But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, "Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ."

Maybe our shiny new health care system could spend the money on the best equipment in the world for some of those life-saving procedures that Canadians are denied in scaremongering TV ads.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 4:04 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ralph Peters: "Can't Fly, Won't Die"

He says the F-22 is a Hanger Queen.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:13 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cool. 1.7 billion will cover the insurance public option. With some left over.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually, he says it's a hangar empress. (His italics, too.) He definitely doesn't like it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2009


But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, "Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ."

Or look my girlfriend** in the eyes and tell her, "You don't deserve cancer treatment", or my nephew in the eyes, "You don't deserve a decent education"... etc. etc...

Why are military types the only Americans that matter to you?

** Nevermind that I don't actually have a girlfriend and most of my nephews are being homeschooled.
posted by LordSludge at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


I saw a 20 minute demonstration of the F-22 a few months ago. It performed like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, where the plane was screaming towards the ground only to stall just above before crashing with a snickering rabbit at the throttle. I made some remark to my wife about how I was sure that must be useful in combat...somehow. Then a pair of these things came roaring through about 500 ft. overhead and I remembered just how scary this shit is.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love the argument that we need to spend this money to keep all those aerospace engineers employed.

It's coming from the same people that furiously argued against using taxpayer money to fund teachers, etc., because that would be big government and socialism.

I guess for a lot of people, the definition of socialism really just depends on whom you want to give the money to...


Why do we need fighters that can dogfight?

For the war with China in 2077, duh.


I plan on being dead by then...or a space cyborg. Either way, you guys here on Earth are on your own...
posted by darkstar at 4:24 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]




CPB "Hope your reasons XYZ are good ones. Because someday, maybe 10 years from now, when you need to actually have a real throwdown with someone, they might be sporting one of these or one of these."

Yeah, one. And we'll be waiting for them with swarms of UAVs piloted by kids who grew up playing video games. Bonus: no pilot deaths or POWs when the unmanned aircraft get shot down.
posted by mullingitover at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Actually, he says it's a hangar empress.

Hmm...

Anyway, an enemy wouldn't have to down a single F-22 to defeat it. Just strike the hi-tech maintenance sites, and it's game over.

Does that make the F-22 the Tiger tank of the skies?

(I suspect however that the F-35 is no T-34 by comparison)
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on July 21, 2009


Is it just me or do Russian fighters always look totally bad-ass?
posted by Mister_A at 4:29 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


...we figured that you'd be happier knowing that some of your sacrifices here saved American lives.

You do know we're talking about Air Force and Navy pilots here, right?
posted by Evilspork at 4:32 PM on July 21, 2009


Your post is misleading.

The Senate's vote does not necessarily kill the program, as the House of Representatives included funding for the state-of-the-art fighter in its bill, which sets military spending priorities.

The two chambers must resolve their differences before sending a final bill to the president to sign into law.

Congress The Senate has decided to stop shelling out $137.5 million apiece on the Boeing/Lockheed- Martin F-22 Raptor.
posted by slickvaguely at 4:36 PM on July 21, 2009


Maybe you want to quote a little more, there, champ:
It must be noted that during the exercise, the USAF fighter jets did not exploit their beyond visual range offensive capabilities, unlike those of the IAF.[33]
So the F15s were hobbled.
a video surfaced on the internet which featured a USAF colonel, Corkey Fornoff, criticizing Su-30MKI's high friendly kill rate and serviceability issues during the Red Flag exercise.
Whoops.
posted by rodgerd at 4:45 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, completely OT, from the article:

Last week, the Senate approved a measure that would expand hate-crime protection to gays and lesbians, and on Monday also extended that protection to military members.

I'm sure I'm just confused but are there a lot of hate-crimes perpetrated against military members? What am I missing?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2009


I love how this whole kerfuffle is over 7 planes when we've already got about 200 of 'em. It's like, damn, the entire world would not have been seized by merciless terrorists if we'd had another half-dozen megajets.
posted by martens at 4:50 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Aren't predator drones the new black? Surely putting people IN planes that kill people is all a bit passe, the best killing is done anonymously these days.
posted by mattoxic at 4:51 PM on July 21, 2009


I love the argument that we need to spend this money to keep all those aerospace engineers employed.

No one is arguing that, but by all means, champion the opposition to an imaginary argument.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:54 PM on July 21, 2009


Well, we could give you equipment that's forty times as awesome as everyone else in the world's, but we decided to give you equipment that's only twenty times as awesome

The limits on your nuts-and-bolts understanding of the world never cease to amaze me.

It's not 40x awesome vs. 20x awesome, or any other combination of "awesome." It's about ratios where neither side of the equation is zero. It's 10-to-1 kill ratios vs. 20-to-1 kill ratios, and there's always a "1" in the ratio that means someone gets killed every now and again.

How about we roll dice for your life? I'll give you 10-to-1 odds. Wanna take it? Actually, I can give you 20-to-1, but maybe I won't. Which would you prefer? How about I decide for you? What message am I sending you that I can be relatively casual about this?

But like I said, I don't really disagree with this decision at the Senate level. I just disagree with the sentiment that good guns isn't a good thing to have. As if soldiers were recalcitrant teenagers that aren't to be trusted with sports cars because a '79 Datsun is "good enough," and besides, they're only going to school and back.

Your mentioned lack of body armor and armored vehicles is atrocious behavior among our political and military leaders. Criminal, even. But the rational answer isn't to put some guys in danger and other guys in more danger.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:57 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Attack of the Drones
posted by Artw at 4:58 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


So the F15s were hobbled.

Plus, it's not like F-15s are exactly state of the art anymore. I remember an article about simulated combats where it took 6 F-15s to take down a single F-22. Ridiculous.

And while I'm all in favor of medicine and education, I doubt we're going to direct this money straight to those things, and I also can't help but view this as a step backward (even though I know that unmanned is the way of the future, the way of the future...).
posted by adamdschneider at 5:06 PM on July 21, 2009


That would not be entirely correct. ....

Ya, and Oberon subs used to sink American aircraft carriers too.

At best, war games are not at all representative of the real thing. But go ahead, it is your money :P
posted by Chuckles at 5:07 PM on July 21, 2009


There are over 100 F-22s in service right now. So it's not as if they're going away.

Also the F-35 is still in development. By the time it enters service I'm willing to bet it'll cost as much as the F-22 if not more.

Meh.
posted by schwa at 5:09 PM on July 21, 2009


We learned that lesson with the F-4. It's missles were suppose to eliminate the need for any guns, and any dogfighting. We went from a 20-1 kill/loss ratio to 4/1. Subsequent F-4s had guns.

I swear this is a quote from Top Gun.
posted by smackfu at 5:11 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one is arguing that, but by all means, champion the opposition to an imaginary argument.

Dodd is, since the engines are made in CT:

""I believe it is our duty and responsibility to protect the thousands of workers in Connecticut and across the country from losing their jobs . . ."
posted by @troy at 5:11 PM on July 21, 2009


Er, how much Anthrax would it take to cropdust Denver with Anthrax?

$20, same as any other town.


Add another $20 for Ticketmaster, same as any other town.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:12 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flat spin!
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2009


But the rational answer isn't to put some guys in danger and other guys in more danger.

Of course it's rational. There isn't an infinite amount of money. By your logic, everything we spend on something other than the military, from unemployment insurance to medicare to education, is putting soldiers in danger.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, "Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ."
One would think that the best equipment in the world wouldn't have a "vulnerability to rain".
posted by Flunkie at 5:17 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


But like I said, I don't really disagree with this decision at the Senate level. I just disagree with the sentiment that good guns isn't a good thing to have. As if soldiers were recalcitrant teenagers that aren't to be trusted with sports cars because a '79 Datsun is "good enough," and besides, they're only going to school and back.

These are very expensive sports cars, for a future forward contingency against an erstwhile 20th century enemy where thousands if not millions of people have already been killed dead. I'd look you hypothetical flyboy in the eye and say, "Good luck on your mission, and try not to kill too many innocent people this time!".

If we lack the capability to maintain our Pax Americana in the future, then so be it. The Taiwanese are going to have to learn Mandarin and the Israelis are going to have to learn how to swim.
posted by @troy at 5:18 PM on July 21, 2009


Hope your reasons XYZ are good ones. Because someday, maybe 10 years from now, when you need to actually have a real throwdown with someone, they might be sporting one of these or one of these.

When we last applied this philosophy to the country's economy and military, Reagan bankrupted the Soviet Union, but he also cut the dollar's value in half and put our country trillions of dollars in debt. Dubya did the same thing, to even less military effect and even more crippling debt and economic and social damage.

Our healthcare system, schools, bridges and cities are crumbling, and our troops overseas just don't have the resources they need to do their job. Period. To clean up after the Republican Party, we need to decide what our priorities are and make some cuts. It seems like those XYZ reasons are good ones, all else the same.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:20 PM on July 21, 2009


I just disagree with the sentiment that good guns isn't a good thing to have.

Your implicit assumption that we are only just barely keeping ahead of the Joneses is making me laugh.

Could we maybe, just perhaps, take a tiny, weensy slice of that enormous slice and, you know, help rather than kill people?
posted by DU at 5:22 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


"How about we roll dice for your life? I'll give you 10-to-1 odds. Wanna take it? Actually, I can give you 20-to-1, but maybe I won't. Which would you prefer? How about I decide for you? What message am I sending you that I can be relatively casual about this?"

I can be casual because I don't have the onus to deal with constituents, and you're missing the larger point: Roll the dice for 10-to-1 versus 20-to-one? On that roll, 20-to-one, sure. But what if my rolling 20-to-one means that some other guy has to roll five-to-one? What if it's not just one guy?

Let's make the math simpler and turn that to nine-to-one and 19-to-one, or ten percent and five percent. Now, let's say that we have a pool of, say, 100 rolls, and we can allocate odds so that for every five percent roll, we have to include two 20 percent (four-to-one) rolls, or we can keep them all at 10 percent. I'm going to look at the vast number of rolls that I have to make and point out that for every time I cut the odds in half that somebody is going to die here, I have to double it for someone else, someone on the same "side," over there.

We can work this out pretty easily: The expected death rate for that one-in-10 roll is 10 dudes per 100. But by upping one to one-in-20 and dropping two to one-in-five, the death rate comes out to 10.15 per 100. By increasing resources where you have less utility per unit, you increase the total death rate, even as you decrease it for that subset.

Resources are finite, and we should be getting the maximum utility for them, and when we're talking about these fighters, the only utility is the perception of superiority that keeps folks from attacking us. Better guns are better guns, but sometimes you save more lives with butter.
posted by klangklangston at 5:30 PM on July 21, 2009 [12 favorites]


a video surfaced on the internet which featured a USAF colonel, Corkey Fornoff, criticizing Su-30MKI's high friendly kill rate and serviceability issues during the Red Flag exercise.

That would be this video. Here's an analysis, with some choice quotes, in case it's tl;dw.
posted by dammitjim at 5:32 PM on July 21, 2009


I just disagree with the sentiment that good guns isn't a good thing to have.

Not a big fan of Robert McNamara's policies then, I take it.
posted by The World Famous at 5:33 PM on July 21, 2009


"I think is terribly shortsighted," [Chris] Dodd said

McCain said the president deserved credit for "being very firm on this issue" and described the vote as a "big victory for the American taxpayer."

Well now we know there is an Obama position Dodd opposes and McCain supports. Interesting politics.
posted by Rashomon at 5:33 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


CPB, those are planes that haven't even flown yet. They're designed to compete with a plane that first flew 19 years ago. The Su-30 series? Competing with a plane designed to meet a requirement put out 42 years ago. Oh, yeah, and the Russians've managed to field 31 of 'em. The F-35 is still a good generation ahead of anything else in service that's not a still-a-doodle technology demonstrator, and will be for years. This hardly represents the end of all American fighter development; just the end of a wildly inefficient evolutionary branch that doesn't seem to have any reason to exist for the foreseeable future.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The other thing to consider is that is that the US Air Force is huge. 100+ F-22s already in service (wikipedia says 140 delivered, can't be bothered to find more accurate #s) is larger than most other airforces in the world.

And that's just one aircraft type. The USAF has what, F-16s, F-15s, A-10s and god knows what else. Plus there are all the F/A-18s in the Navy/Marines(?). Oh plus Harriers.

I mean come on.

The US armed forces are large and modern and relatively well trained. Canceling further F-22s does nothing to change any of that. (Although I'm still not convinced the F-35 will work out any cheaper).
posted by schwa at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stick a great big AWACS radar on a B-52 and then fill it to the brim with a modernised AIM-54 on the rotary launchers and you'd have an aircraft that could eat any air force with a >100nm range*. Give it a networked connection to a bunch of cheap'n'stealthy drones with a couple of AIM-120s and have them hang out 50 miles out. Problem solved. You now own the sky and can stay on station for ridiculous periods of time and ypu can even stick a second crew on board. If anybody does start getting close you can swarm the fuckers with the drones and boogie on out.

Fighter planes are just as big a waste of money as destroyers. I'll make it easier for all future large military vehicle designers - take a big sensor system, add drones and guided weaponry. Automate it as much as possible and make it cheap as chips by making it out of existing stuff. It's not like the Air Force is useful as anything other than a device to move explody things from one place to another. The sooner they and the Navy work that out the better.

"Your mission boys, is to carry this stuff from Port A to Harbour B where we will roll it off the ships and then return for our glorious parade" and "Your mission men is to fly for a bit, press a button and then come home" are the future of warfare for the crappy arms. It's all about ex-destroyer Captains turned Admiral and ex-fighter jocks turned Air Force General trying to guarantee a bite of the defence dollar pie when they retire.

For the wars you will be fighting over the next 50 years, F-22 vs. F-35 is a pointless argument. You'd be better off with a B1 stuffed with JDAMs and a guy on the ground with a radio, at least until you can automate those aspects as well.

*Yes, I am aware it's been suggested by an ex-SAC BUFF pilot turned shit author, no it doesn't mean the idea sucks.

Apologies in advance for the general suckiness of this comment - in my defence I have been held at knife missile point by a Culture SC drone whilst typing it.
posted by longbaugh at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


First they ax the billion dollar tank in the shape of a dragon, and now this. Terrible.
posted by Drastic at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stick a great big AWACS radar on a B-52 and then fill it to the brim with a modernised AIM-54 on the rotary launchers and you'd have an aircraft that could eat any air force with a >100nm range*. Give it a networked connection to a bunch of cheap'n'stealthy drones with a couple of AIM-120s and have them hang out 50 miles out. Problem solved. You now own the sky and can stay on station for ridiculous periods of time and ypu can even stick a second crew on board. If anybody does start getting close you can swarm the fuckers with the drones and boogie on out.

I've played that video game, too. But actual war is not like that.
posted by The World Famous at 5:38 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe we don't actually have to spend more on war than the rest of the world combined.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:40 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Problem Solved

Everyone thinks they're the next Sun Tzu.
posted by schwa at 5:41 PM on July 21, 2009


Your post is misleading.

You are correct, I ought to have said the Senate.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:47 PM on July 21, 2009


with some very good commentary on why they are cutting it. Short answer, the F22 is about 10% better than the F35 with a much greater price tag, and the places that it excels are not terribly prevalent in the asymmetrical warfare of today.

I'd like to see a cite on this.

I bet Boeing are pissed.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM


Was pissed, sir, was. The guppy mouthed Boeing JSF was outperformed by the Lockheed version. Lockheed had bastardized the F-22 for their design, but Lockheed split the contract with Boeing anyway. The same had happened with the F-22. I used to walk around Lockheed Martin with t-shirts that had Boeing across the front and a Boeing variant fighter across the back. It was cool working next to some of the Skunkworks guys.
I remember once telling a friend I wasn't sure how I felt about making weapons of war, and he just said something like "Why? I believe in being able to defend myself." And that dude is a pretty easy going hippy.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:51 PM on July 21, 2009


USAF has what, F-16s, F-15s, A-10s and god knows what else. Plus there are all the F/A-18s in the Navy/Marines(?). Oh plus Harriers.

I'm not saying keep shelling out money for the F-22, but some of those are old POS' at this point.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:53 PM on July 21, 2009


I'm not saying keep shelling out money for the F-22, but some of those are old POS' at this point.

Except they're not. They've all been thoroughly modernized over the years with new avionics, engines and go faster stripes.
posted by schwa at 6:11 PM on July 21, 2009


I don't have first hand knowledge, so a grain of salt here, but I've talked with Air Force and Navy guys who have said they have some rusty ass planes sitting in hangars. Besides it's comparing apples to oranges.
Not that you were making the comparison, but more of an apt analogy would be different tools for different jobs.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:17 PM on July 21, 2009


A-10s

Now they were a stupid thing to cancel. Mr Give-the-Troops-the-best-tools would do better to save his outrage for that decision.

But actual war is not like that.

True. On the evidence, actual wars the US finds itself engaged in a best fought by well-equipped, well-trained ground troops who have been socialised so they understand My Lai was a bad idea. The evidence would suggest dropping shit that goes boom from planes has done rather a lot to undermine the US's war aims, unless "gaining more enemies by murdering people at weddings" was a war aim.
posted by rodgerd at 6:20 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


I bet for $83m they could build a hover skateboard thing. Then we'd really be in the future!

you have to keep on pissing

That's called incontinence.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:21 PM on July 21, 2009




We outspent the Soviet Union on war machines, and hence won the cold war. But we're still spending the same on defense.

Thanks to this initiative, our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system has been politicized by special interests, we've demonized any kind of social safety net, and we don't have nationalized health care/socialized medicine.

We lost out on these social goods because of defense spending.

Tired of it.

Why can't we discuss a rearrangement of our priorities here?
posted by yesster at 6:36 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


First they came for the F-22s, because I was not an F-22...
posted by blue_beetle at 6:43 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


We outspent the Soviet Union on war machines, and hence won the cold war. But we're still spending the same on defense.

We are not spending the same on defense as we did in the mid-80's, as percentage of GDP.
posted by smackfu at 6:52 PM on July 21, 2009


The U.S. has only been attacked from the air a couple times in its history, and as far as I can tell, has never mounted a credible defense. The U.S. airforce is simply not for defense. It's to attack (well, that and to funnel money to certain people/corporations). Specifically, it's used to attack weaker nations that happen to have resources of interest to american-owned multinational corporations. If we spent less money on air-superiority fighters, war would become more dangerous, and less likely to happen ---thereby saving american lives. Besides, the ratio math is all wrong. When was the last time an american was shot down by an enemy plane? Our ratio is currently N to 0, where N is a rather small number going back the last couple decades.
posted by Humanzee at 6:52 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not 40x awesome vs. 20x awesome, or any other combination of "awesome." It's about ratios where neither side of the equation is zero. It's 10-to-1 kill ratios vs. 20-to-1 kill ratios, and there's always a "1" in the ratio that means someone gets killed every now and again.

Yes. So you have an n-to-1 ratio, where to get n to increase you have to spend some amount of money m. Given that we do not have an infinite amount of money, there is an absolute upper bound to m and therefore an absolute upper bound for n.

Given that money spent on increasing n cannot be spent anywhere else, including improving the kill ratio in other parts of the military, it does not follow that maximizing n and m is a good decision even from an exclusively military point of view.

So there must be some value for n which is both a) sound policy, and b) not the absolute maximum. There is nothing in this line of reasoning that is either casual or dismissive of the people in our military.
posted by amery at 6:57 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, "Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ."

How, much are you willing to have your taxes raised to continue the F-22 program, Mr. Look-A-Soldier-In-The-Eye?
posted by dirigibleman at 7:12 PM on July 21, 2009


I mean jesus, how about we build a 20 BILLION dollar fighter plane, and just fucking go bankrupt? You have a problem with that? Well you be the one to tell those gripped-with-fear fighter pilots that their lives aren't worth 20 billion dollars.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:15 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


> Stick a great big AWACS radar on a B-52 and then fill it to the brim with a modernised AIM-54 on the rotary launchers and you'd have an aircraft that could eat any air force with a >100nm range*. Give it a networked connection to a bunch of cheap'n'stealthy drones with a couple of AIM-120s and have them hang out 50 miles out.

Yeah, the JSF is a step in this direction, but not a very long step. Though it's presented as a supernetworked missile truck with SuperRadar that gives the pilot 360' day/night vision, the problem is that it doesn't carry all that many missiles. Given that its operational plan consists of fire-at-beyond-visual-range-then-run-away-before-an-Su-30-gets-anywhere-close, this is something of a problem.

The B-52 Missile OneStopSuperStore concept has much to recommend it. Since what caused the ur-missile truck, the F-105 Thunderchief, to flop so badly was the inadequacy of that period's missile, the question now is, How good are our present missiles?

The next big step will come when we move from putting real-time cameras on our drones to putting real-time cameras on the missiles that the drones fire... so that any given missile can be humanly piloted into an enemy craft.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:16 PM on July 21, 2009


Ron Thanagar: I'm sure I'm just confused but are there a lot of hate-crimes perpetrated against military members? What am I missing?

I don't know about "a lot," but recently a gay sailor was killed in a possible hate crime.
posted by lullaby at 7:21 PM on July 21, 2009


If we spent less money on air-superiority fighters, war would become more dangerous, and less likely to happen

Right. Because war was less common when people had to charge each other with swords or line up a few dozen yards apart with muskets.

Christ, that was a dumb thing to say.
posted by Cyrano at 7:26 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Stick a great big AWACS radar on a B-52 and then fill it to the brim with a modernised AIM-54 on the rotary launchers and you'd have an aircraft that could eat any air force with a >100nm range*. Give it a networked connection to a bunch of cheap'n'stealthy drones with a couple of AIM-120s and have them hang out 50 miles out. Problem solved. You now own the sky and can stay on station for ridiculous periods of time and ypu can even stick a second crew on board. If anybody does start getting close you can swarm the fuckers with the drones and boogie on out.

You wanna do what now?

You can't carry the drones on the B-52. Our only air-to-air rated drone (the MQ-1 Predator) has a wingspan of 27 feet. It carries the Stinger missile, not the AMRAAM as you suggest. The Stinger weighs 30lbs. The Hellfires it carries for ground attack weigh about 100lbs. The AMRAAM weighs three hundred. You need an even bigger drone to carry a pair of those. Furthermore, AMRAAM requires a sophisticated on-board fire-control system.

Next, according to wikipedia, it takes 55 people to operate a squad of four drones. 55 people plus a lot of gear. You're not going to put all those people on the plane... especially since you'd need more than that, since four drones isn't going to cover your perimeter.

So, now you have a situation where you must launch the B-52 and the drones separately. The B-52 requires a huge runway, so you have asymmetric ground requirements for the two types of craft operating in your system. Furthermore, a key specification for both the Raptor and JSF is that they operate on short, improvised runways. A B-52 cannot do that.

I assume your intent was for the B-52+drones to take off from Castle AFB and cruise to the theater, complete their mission, and return. Problem is, the cruise distance of the drones is only about 1000mi. Furthermore, while the B-52 can do about 500mph, the drones are restricted to about 100mph. I'm not even sure if a B-52 can maintain acceptable handling at 100mph.

So, at this point, you've got a big slow plane protected by small slow drones. The drones have to be controlled not from the B-52, but from home base. Which means that all the lag and delay of the satellite uplink. The drones do okay now on ground attacks, where the half-second delay isn't an issue... But, I really wouldn't want that lag in protecting my life in air-to-air combat.

To fix all these problems with the drones would require upgrading fire control systems and engine thrust massively. Plus, to extend the range to 5000mi (to match the B-52) at the new 500mph cruise speed, you need much bigger fuel tanks... which would mean a correspondingly larger airframe, plus an incrementally larger engine to push that mass. I think that, by the end, these drones would not be at all cheap. They're only cheap now because they're considered disposable attack weapons. Nobody expects them to defend anything in a time-critical fashion. They're essentially reusable cruise missiles. If they miss, or crash, or fail in any way, well... no biggie, send out another one (or launch a cruise missile).

If you demand that a drone be sufficient to protect human life against 5th generation super-sonic aircraft with BVR weapons, you're going to wind up with something like a remote-controlled JSF. It'll be smaller and more maneuverable, and no telegrams will be sent and no one will cry when one crashes, but it's not going to be financially cheap. Of course, if one of your drones fails and the bogie penetrates your defenses... then at least five people lose their lives. And probably more, since I don't expect the current crew size could operate all the shit you're suggesting they run.

But the biggest problem is that you're putting all your eggs in one big, slow-moving basket. Say that your opponent has a low-observability ("stealth") fighter. He vectors toward your swarm and evades your drones' missile. The drone is utterly incapable of pursuing or intercepting the bogie--they get to shoot once, and that's it. Having made it through that perimeter, he can deploy his own BVR missile against your B-52. One missile destroys what you had assumed was air superiority. To replace that superiority, are you going to scramblecruise another one out from California? Wolfram Alpha says it'd take about 12 hours to get to Taiwan from California.

You sure as shit can't put a B-52 on a carrier. It's my understanding that a Navy squadron can go from bed to the air in something like twenty minutes if it has to. This scramble capability is vital, and is not fulfilled by station-holding aircraft. We can put a carrier out in the Sea of Japan (in allied waters) and still intercept a bomber wing leaving mainland China for Taiwan. To achieve such an intercept with your plan, we'd need to be holding station off China's coast--a definite act of aggression.

So, no... AWACS on a B-52 + drones is not an answer to air superiority.
posted by Netzapper at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


The next big step will come when we move from putting real-time cameras on our drones to putting real-time cameras on the missiles that the drones fire... so that any given missile can be humanly piloted into an enemy craft.

That would be a step backward and would radically reduce the hit ratio for missiles.

You see, in order to do its job, a missile goes very fast. Faster than bullets. And it's trying to hit an object going about as fast as a bullet. It only gets one try. The target it's going after probably isn't even visible at launch, and doesn't get much more identifiable than a blob until the missile is on final approach. Its turning rate is abysmal, so it needs to be making the right corrections from the moment it launches. Plus, to work at beyond visual range, you must have IFF--and there's no way for a human to visually distinguish, in the 200 milliseconds of limited view he has, between the allied MiG and the bogie MiG engaged in a dogfight

Really, leave it to the computer.

The only place a manually-guided missile has any track record of success is against tanks. But even those systems have been replaced with target painting systems, where you simply designate a target and launch, with the computer doing the rest of the guidance.
posted by Netzapper at 7:48 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really, leave it to the computer.

This is one of the sad weaknesses of so much sci-fi, really. A technology that can build a Death Star can't use computer tracking to shoot a fighter with a laser? Every missed laser shot from a Star Destroyer is like a knife in my gut. It bothers me more than the Ewoks.

/nerdrant
posted by darkstar at 7:59 PM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Right. Because war was less common when people had to charge each other with swords or line up a few dozen yards apart with muskets.

Christ, that was a dumb thing to say.


Well, in the case of the U.S., there doesn't appear to be much difference, although when we were using muskets, most of our enemies were using arrows. The fact is that in that long list of military operations, only a few of our enemies were really capable of fighting back (and we only fought them when we had strong allies on our side). Our military is used primarily not for defense, but to enforce our policy goals. We would not have gone into Iraq if Iraq could defend itself. Our overwhelming military strength is a prerequisite for unnecessary war. Or to quote Madelein Albright, "What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can't use it?"
posted by Humanzee at 8:07 PM on July 21, 2009


According to Wikipedia it now features Firewire 800.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:12 PM on July 21, 2009


there is no other air force in the world that can touch us

One would think after the failure of the American economic system, American healthcare system, and large parts of the American education and penal system, this kind of cocksure attitude would be on the decline.

You have been raised on propaganda that is just not true.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 PM on July 21, 2009


Which isn't to say that it isn't true the US air force is the best in the world; maybe it is. But is not an assumption I'd care to make these days.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:18 PM on July 21, 2009


These are the planes that cost $44,000 an hour to fly and have a "critical error" on average every 1.7 hours, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:19 PM on July 21, 2009


/nerdrant

Dune, at least, got all that shit right.
posted by rodgerd at 8:20 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The pissing contest isn't over.

Russian version.

posted by eye of newt at 8:33 PM on July 21, 2009


> isn't even visible at launch, and doesn't get much more identifiable than a blob until the missile is on final approach... there's no way for a human to visually distinguish, in the 200 milliseconds of limited view he has, between the allied MiG and the bogie MiG engaged in a dogfight... It only gets one try.

It seems that there are three separate technical issues here:

a) Maneuverability of the missile;
b) Ability of the missile to distinguish between the target and the decoys that the target releases;
c) Ability of a hypothetical human operator to distinguish friend from foe.

It may be that with contemporary air-to-air missiles, everything is contingent on the initial firing decision-- which would support the "leave it to CyBeaver" approach.

At the risk of projecting too far out into the future, it would seem that dramatically increasing maneuverability, so that there no longer is "one try," changes the situation radically. Adding wings and fins alone might be enough to enable that second shot.

My fundamental point is that existing systems are good at getting missiles *close* to enemy aircraft, but that flares, chaff, and ECM all can reduce the odds of an actual hit fairly substantially. While the computer is best at handling targeting at launch, it's precisely the final approach during which human decision making-- distinguishing target from decoy-- might be useful. What's not clear is how much faster communications will have to be in order to make a last-second human intervention feasible.
posted by darth_tedious at 8:39 PM on July 21, 2009


there's no way for a human to visually distinguish, in the 200 milliseconds of limited view he has, between the allied MiG and the bogie MiG engaged in a dogfight

Use the Force Luke! Use the Force!
posted by eye of newt at 8:40 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is one of the sad weaknesses of so much sci-fi, really. A technology that can build a Death Star can't use computer tracking to shoot a fighter with a laser?

No, man, I totally feel your knife-in-gut pain.

I feel even more pain every time I see an entire laser assembly rotated and every time I see a fighter pilot miss by two degrees.

Why don't they just bounce the damn laser off a mirror? Said mirror would weigh drastically less than the beam tube, and so could actually be rotated fast enough to track a star fighter going 4km/s. For the fighters... why do they always put tiny lasers on the wings like machine guns? One giant laser pumped directly from the engine, and piped along fiber optics (or waveguides) to my mirrors would seem drastically more efficient.

For that matter, why the hell do they always use visible light?

Dune, at least, got all that shit right.

Yeah, by making it an axiom of the universe that "machines that emulate the mind of man" are forbidden and taboo. IIRC, even Paul, who broke every other taboo and social boundary, didn't use computers. (At least not in the first two or three books, which is all I read.)

For that matter, most non-visual SF gets it right. Niven, Heinlein, Asimov, Stross... they all understand that you let the computer point the gun.
posted by Netzapper at 8:45 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dune, at least, got all that shit right.

Yeah, by making it an axiom of the universe that "machines that emulate the mind of man" are forbidden and taboo. IIRC, even Paul, who broke every other taboo and social boundary, didn't use computers. (At least not in the first two or three books, which is all I read.)


Indeed, but it's a valid way of addressing why the world is the way it is; I was also including in that the shielding technologies, which effectively rule out all manner of weapon technologies, as well.
posted by rodgerd at 8:56 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding the hate crimes legislation protecting members of the armed services, could this have anything to do with the Vietnam war era myths of hippies flinging dogshit at returning soldiers? The right has a fondness for intentionally misinterpreting a distaste to war as a persecution of soldiers. Or is this an anti bumfights and hobo-burning legislation, seeing as such a large percentage of our homeless are veterans?
posted by idiopath at 9:15 PM on July 21, 2009


Lockheed had bastardized the F-22 for their design, but Lockheed split the contract with Boeing anyway. The same had happened with the F-22. I used to walk around Lockheed Martin with t-shirts that had Boeing across the front and a Boeing variant fighter across the back. It was cool working next to some of the Skunkworks guys.

I'm curious as to the work split with Boeing on the F-35, P.o.B. Can you elaborate?
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:22 PM on July 21, 2009


/has a Boeing JSF T-shirt.
posted by Artw at 9:29 PM on July 21, 2009


[If I'm pissing ya'll off by posting so much in this thread, tell me and I'll stop. I'm just really enjoying all the conversations going on.]

It may be that with contemporary air-to-air missiles, everything is contingent on the initial firing decision-- which would support the "leave it to CyBeaver" approach.

This is incorrect. And the issue is complexly dependent on the actual seeking technology being used.

But, in its simplest form, the process goes something like this: 1) the fighter's radar detects an aircraft not transmitting a friendly beacon code; 2) the pilot maneuvers the airplane so that he is at the proper angle and distance to launch; 3) a lock is acquired, and the missile's computer is informed of the target and told to start tracking it; 4) the missile is launched; 5) the missile's computer makes course adjustments according to its sensor readings; 6) once inside the proper range, the missile's computer detonates the warhead.

At the risk of projecting too far out into the future, it would seem that dramatically increasing maneuverability, so that there no longer is "one try," changes the situation radically. Adding wings and fins alone might be enough to enable that second shot.

They have such fins and wings as are possible already. But, if you put "airplane" wings on the missile (sufficient to provide aerobatic lift), your missile is then restricted to airplane speeds--which is useless, since it's chasing airplanes. You could add huge attitude jets if you wanted, and it wouldn't much change the situation. The problem comes down to inertia and fuel.

As an example of a modern missile, let's look at the AMRAAM long-range, radar guided missile. It has a range of about 50 miles. It flies at around Mach 4, which is 3000mph. It's launched from a plane doing something like 800mph. So, it has a flight time at the edge of its range of about one minute.

When it arrives at its target, it's going 3000mph and it's burned nearly all of its fuel. If the target drops chaff, pulls an Immelman, and is now going in the opposite direction, the missile must shed 3000mph of speed in one direction and go in the opposite direction. While you don't literally decelerate to zero, but rather have the missile pull a kind of modified Immelman (it can't do the real thing, lacking real wings), you do waste huge amounts of thrust completing the maneuver.

In a dogfighting jet, this isn't a problem. But a missile has a rocket motor, so it already devotes most of its mass to fuel. The AMRAAM weighs 325 pounds and is 12 feet long by 7 inches in diameter. It has a 50 pound warhead. Assuming it's made of aluminum, maybe a 80-100 pounds of airframe. Plus 50 pounds of radar and electronics. I estimate that half its mass is already fuel.

To give the AMRAAM a "second strike capability", you would need to basically double its fuel mass. But that means it's that much heavier, less agile, and slower. So, put on a bigger rocket engine. Of course, that burns fuel at a faster rate... so, more fuel?

You should think of a missile as a rocket that can adjust its arc a little during flight. And you should think of a rocket as a bullet. They follow ballistic trajectories. They don't really "fly", and things that really "fly" don't do Mach 4 very well.

My fundamental point is that existing systems are good at getting missiles *close* to enemy aircraft, but that flares, chaff, and ECM all can reduce the odds of an actual hit fairly substantially. While the computer is best at handling targeting at launch, it's precisely the final approach during which human decision making-- distinguishing target from decoy-- might be useful. What's not clear is how much faster communications will have to be in order to make a last-second human intervention feasible.

You've got your assumptions perfectly backwards.

At 10 miles, one can hold a maneuvering airplane within your crosshairs with ease--the relative motion is minimal. At 200 feet, it's nearly impossible.

The computer is faster at reacting than you are by hundreds of thousands (if not millions or billions) of times. The human response time is around 200-400ms. That's for a binary response (catch the stick, pull the trigger). If you have to make a decision (what should I do? how far should I deflect?), that number shoots up uncomfortably close to a second. A computer can properly respond to a shifted thermal signature in a microsecond.

You're right that the computer lacks the human's ability to accurately distinguish flares from aircraft engines. However, that's irrelevant. You just can't react quickly enough to put a missile on target.

Not to mention, if you're flying a plane, after you launch a missile, you've still gotta fly the plane. Especially since somebody may be trying to kill you. There's a reason the Air Force loves fire-and-forget missiles.
posted by Netzapper at 9:32 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


"But for the isn't-what-we-have-already-good-enough crowd, maybe you can be the ones that will look the pilots in the eyes and tell them, 'Well, we could give you the best equipment in the world, but we decided not to ,for reasons XYZ.'"

If that question was put to me, even by the widow of a F-35 pilot, I'd say that no one's life is worth 54 million dollars. Also would the pilot have been shot down if we had 50% more planes in the air? Because that's essentially what the numbers mean and quantity as a quality all of it's own. It's not like the US government is sending them to a gun fight with a knife.

Now whether the increased force projection bought with those 54 millions is worth it I can't say. But from a human life point of view this is a pretty reasonable trade off especially when you consider how many HMMWV you could up armour or how many sets of body armour you could buy or how many doctors you could train or even how much infantry you could take from recruitment to deploy for 54 million dollars.

"We are not spending the same on defense as we did in the mid-80's, as percentage of GDP."

Not snarking: Is the US spending more as a percentage of tax revenues less the payments on debt on defence than they were in the 80s?

"The next big step will come when we move from putting real-time cameras on our drones to putting real-time cameras on the missiles that the drones fire... so that any given missile can be humanly piloted into an enemy craft."

It'd be like trying to fly a bullet. Or intercept a bullet for that matter. When it takes people a half to three quarters of a second to get off the gas and onto the brake in an emergency I don't think humans have the reaction time to successfully fly a missile that can intercept a modern fighter.

"So, no... AWACS on a B-52 + drones is not an answer to air superiority."

Excellent analysis though just one nit. The only guy(s) out of the 55 need to support a drone that need to be on the B-52 are the pilots so there wouldn't be satellite uplink delays to the piloting. At least not when they are on station.
posted by Mitheral at 9:52 PM on July 21, 2009


If I'm pissing ya'll off by posting so much in this thread, tell me and I'll stop...

I'll make you a deal; the moment you stop being interesting, on topic, and articulate about this kind of stuff, I'll be the first person to remark. Thus far, you ain't anywhere around that yet.

Which is to say, I like this sort of thing, and you are far better at making these points than I am. Please continue.

posted by quin at 10:04 PM on July 21, 2009


I'm curious as to the work split with Boeing on the F-35, P.o.B. Can you elaborate?

Well I was only a lowly "drill & fill" mechanic on the F-22 a good ten years ago at Boeing, and I'm positive there are much more knowledgeable people here who could tell you the specifics on that. I remember asking about it at the time and was told something along the lines of it's better for both companies. I'm sure it has to do with knowledge acquisition though. It looks like they were still talking about working together until 2002ish, but giving a quick look over the wiki the split went another way. (So that shows how much I know what the hell I'm talking about, me and my JSF t-shirts...)
The last time I did talk with someone about a Boeing product I was surprised they were still building it, because it kept killing people in the process.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:02 PM on July 21, 2009


With the extra money from the cancellation of the clowns they can buy even more of them!

(want to be depressed? Chalmers Johnson's trilogy; Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis, with Nemesis letting you know about why things are the way they are WRT 1.7 billion dollar jet planes.)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:14 PM on July 21, 2009


not terribly prevalent in the asymmetrical warfare of today.

Errr, from what I can tell via reporting from the various conflict zones and the TV ads, the asymmetrical side can't field any kind of force-o-air and all that is needed for domination is remote controlled planes.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:18 PM on July 21, 2009


Osprey not useless, honest
posted by Artw at 11:21 PM on July 21, 2009


On the hate crimes tangent, the way I parsed that was extending hate crimes sentencing into the military code of justice, meaning that military folks could have hate crime penalties for, say, spray painting nigger on another service person's tent.
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 PM on July 21, 2009


These are the planes that cost $44,000 an hour to fly and have a "critical error" on average every 1.7 hours, right?

That's about right, IIRC.

Time to do the 'What we could do with $44,000 other than spend it on an hour's worth of F-22 airtime" game...
+ Hire a teacher for a year.
+ Fund 2/3 of a Habitat for Humanity house.
+ 1300 library books
posted by unixrat at 11:26 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about we roll dice for your life?

What a BS argument.

You 'roll the dice' every day when you walk outside your home.

E Coli tainted food (unless you grow and process your own)
Other people's cars
The random street punk and his gun

Here's another pro tip:
No one beats the 'dice rolls' over life. Eventually, you end up dead.

For hints about how much is being spent on 'dice rolls'
http://www.wallstats.com/deathandtaxes/
posted by rough ashlar at 11:29 PM on July 21, 2009


Osprey not useless, honest

No it isn't, and I didn't mean to make it sound like Boeing makes crappy products because I actually think the opposite. But the design phase of that thing is like one of those black and white gag reels of clueless guys trying to make shitty aircraft fly. Except with a much higher body count. Seriously, look how many guys they killed or hurt testing that thing and they just kept fixing it and giving the thumbs up.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:35 PM on July 21, 2009


How about we roll dice for your life? I'll give you 10-to-1 odds. Wanna take it?

No, I do not wish to enter military service. Many do in spite of the inherent danger. If I hadn't had terrible eyesight by the time I was 8, I might have tried myself.

Actually, I can give you 20-to-1, but maybe I won't. Which would you prefer?

I would prefer the 20-to-1, of course. And I'd prefer 100 to 1 or 1000 to 1 or a million billion trillion squillion jillion to 1. Why won't you buy me the airplane that makes the odds a million billion trillion squillion jillion to 1? Whyyyyyyyy?

How about I decide for you?

That is the nature of serving in the military. You use the weapons systems you are provided with, unless you want to buy better ones yourself in some circumstances.

What message am I sending you that I can be relatively casual about this?

The message you are sending to a military pilot is by being "relatively casual" is:

"Military service subjugates your personal welfare to the interests of the United States. You will fight who we command you to fight. If you were a precious precious snowflake, we would hug you and kiss you and not send you to our enemies for them to try to kill you. But you are not a precious precious snowflake. You are an expensive asset, but ultimately an expendable one. We will give you a weapons system that we believe maximizes the overall interests of the United States taking into account your value as a military asset, and not one whit better."

When on earth did you think that it was any different?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:43 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


We outspent the Soviet Union on war machines, and hence won the cold war.

I keep hearing this, and for the longest time I was willing to repeat it.

But is it the truth? Or just something to make ppl feel better about the Reagan Debt?

What about the hard currency arbatrage? Or the alledged CIA/Yeltsen connections? Or the Russians being in a land war in Asia (Afganistan)?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:45 PM on July 21, 2009


Given that the F-117 program was kept secret for years it must be quite possible that there is a skunk works program for a stealthy wild-weasel role UAV. Maybe they are already flying.

Once you can knock out medium powers SAMs you could surely use most things to go and clean up.

That would be worth ending the F-22 for. Perhaps it is exactly what has happened.
posted by sien at 11:49 PM on July 21, 2009


Errr, from what I can tell via reporting from the various conflict zones and the TV ads, the asymmetrical side can't field any kind of force-o-air

The LTTE got themselves an airforce.

Oh, right...
posted by pompomtom at 12:05 AM on July 22, 2009


I keep hearing this, and for the longest time I was willing to repeat it.

What really won the Cold War was the North Shore oil breaking OPEC and the resulting collapse of Russia's hard-money accounts. That the Soviet economy was stressed by military (and space spending, Buran cost 14.5 billion rubles . . . that alone was ~1.2 million man-years of skilled Soviet labor at 12,000 rubles per!) is undeniable, but at the height of the Cold War -- 1960 to 1980 -- the Free World was able to create a relatively thriving civilian economy of ever-increasing productivity that supported its military sector.

By 1990 the Soviets, with their ideological straightjackets and secret-police society, were a basket case economically, reduced to copying technology from the West, while the West was busy inventing the world we live in now (Macs, Windows, Laser Printing, internet, CAD/CAM, Nintendos, and a million other things).
posted by @troy at 12:25 AM on July 22, 2009


Cool Papa Bell: What the fuck are you talking about? We are never going to have "that conversation" with pilots because they are never going to actually be dogfighting for real.

It's not 40x awesome vs. 20x awesome, or any other combination of "awesome." It's about ratios where neither side of the equation is zero. It's 10-to-1 kill ratios vs. 20-to-1 kill ratios, and there's always a "1" in the ratio that means someone gets killed every now and again.

Kill ratio? WTF are you talking about? Has an F22 ever been shot down? God damn. Who cares about this war-game shit? You seriously think we won't just blow up their hangers and runways with cruse missiles, drones, and stealth bombers before we even send in fighter jets if a country even actually had the kinds of planes that could take out an F22?

Spending billions of dollars in order to win academic thought exercises is insane.

And if a pilot can't deal with that, they can find another line of work. Hundreds of thousands of people in the army have to deal with less then ideal equipment. We didn't even send people into Iraq with armored humvees. You cannot fight a war without making choices about people's lives, resources must be balanced, and they ought to be balanced with the rest of the national priorities too.

But your argument basically boils down to 1 fighter pilot's life being, like, 100 times more valuable then an infantry fighter, or whatever. If you're not willing to balance people's lives, then you can't really be a military planner. That's the whole point.

--

All of this is about the insane corruption in the Millitary Industrial complex anyway. We are never going to get into a war with another country with crazy-ass UFO planes, but without nukes. If you actually wanted to build a military that was effective in fighting the kinds wars we actually have you'd concentrate on nation building. Hiring ground troops that can fill in for local government, etc. We've spent trillions and trillions on this nonsense over the past few decades and it's all been almost totally useless.

The Taiwanese are going to have to learn Mandarin and the Israelis are going to have to learn how to swim.

I'm pretty sure most Taiwanese already know how to speak Manderin.
posted by delmoi at 12:45 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


What really won the Cold War was the North Shore oil breaking OPEC and the resulting collapse of Russia's hard-money accounts.

Ahhh, the lens of "peak oil". That was the lens that stopped me repeating "Ronnie won the cold war via military". Toss in the claims about the custom gas valve programming leading to an explosion - its no wonder others *FAR* more versed than I call it teh great game.

(In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline)

(claims that the US leaned on the House of Saudi to lower oil to $10 a barrel, thus breaking the hard currency back of Russia via oil price are included with no extra charge)
posted by rough ashlar at 12:50 AM on July 22, 2009


Ya know, the Germans had some tech that was light-years ahead of the US during WWII, especially with tanks and small arms, and the V-1 and V-2, although I wouldn't call those battlefield weapons.

Thing is, they couldn't make enough of them. And when the shit hit the fan, they could fix them. And they couldn't fuel them properly.

A reliable and (relatively) cheaper plane that's ten percent less effective? That's just not a bargain, that's smart fucking military strategery for any point after the Industrial Revolution.

And another thing worth looking at is operational hours vs. repair hours. Apparently the F-22 was just a disaster. Something like one hour of flight time for dozens of hours of repair time. Something truly ridiculous, but I can't find the numbers right now.

Lawyers, Guns, and Money has been really good and interesting on this issue.
posted by bardic at 1:16 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


So much to answer since my 2am ramble - I will try and reply in turn.

The World Famous - war isn't like what? My suggestion was for one thing and one thing only - owning the airspace. Once you own the airspace you can bring in the bomb trucks and attack whatever you need to without the risk of those airframes/crews coming under risk. Unless you are making a point about modern COIN missions which I haven't even addressed because, well, we're talking about aircraft.

schwa - I don't think I am the next Sun Tzu but do feel free to point out the actual faults with what I've said rather than just tossing out a random statement.

Netzapper - I have to address your post in detail as it seems you've cribbed a fair amount of detail from wikipedia and misunderstood or at least assumed a lot of things. Given my half-asleep ramble that's understandable. No, I am not suggesting you use Predator drones. For a start they are too slow and don't have the carrying capacity for AIM-120s. No, you don't need an amazing onboard system to use them as you can do the crunching on the B-52 and then send the data to the drone which can then in turn feed it to the missile.

You have quoted the wiki saying tt takes 55 people (including ground crew and tech support/intel analysts) to operate a drone. There are in fact drones in current use that require three men only. When the next generation of battlefield drones take to the field they ill be carried by individual infantrymen. These are obviously not Mach 3+ superdrones with internal weapons bays etc but the point is that research into automation will eventually mean that if needs be one man can control each individual airframe.

I wasnt suggesting that you have a pilot flying a drone from the B52. The drones simply need to stay on station a particular distance from the B52 which can be done by sending the data from the BUFF again. In the instance that you use them for actual defence rather than as a simple buffer (heh!) zone then you can switch to manual control or again, rely on an automated response.

You've made an assumption about the type of drone that you'd use (seriously - a prop driven recon drone?) and forgotten that the B52 can deploy from the USA, Guam, the UK etc. Don't develop and use a drone that only goes 100mph would be the best thing I could suggest. So now you have a plane that can reach out and touch to a direct range of well over 100nm plus a further group of (primarily) automated missile truck drones hanging out as an additional buffer zone. The drones can launch from either local airbases or (if using common sense) can be developed with decent range in the first instance.

You don't have lag because the B52 is using it's chuffing great big radar to provide initial data to the drones for a skyspace that it's thousands of miles in volume in realtime. BVR combat makes lag irrelevant. The 52 acts as an airborne C&C centre and simply sends the nearest missile truck to engagement range and that is all she wrote.

You don't need an expensive remote controlled JSF type drone. Frankly the performance is unimportant other than a) does it have reach and time on station? b) does it have sufficient carrying capacity? c) is it cheap as chips? It doesn't need to dogfight. It's sole purpose is to be a wolverine taped to a stick that the B52 can wave around near any other aircraft. That's all.

The chances of a stealth fighter avoiding a skin paint from the upgraded E-3 Sentry radar are significant enough that you would probably have a backup of electro-optical/FLIR sensors which stealthy aircraft will have a hard time avoiding. Whilst the F117 isn't top of the line at the moment it's about equivalent to the arcraft you may have to face over the next 25 odd years. An F117 was shot down in Kosovo using an SA-3. Stealth isn't the magical panacea of force projection.

The rest of your comment is based on the incorrect assumptions you've made earlier about having single, slow, single shot drones. B52s have adequate defensive measures including EW suites, EO missile jamming (shooting a laser into the missile's "eye" in the case of IR guided), decoys etc. Not sure why you'd mention the carrier - from three bases around the world (USA, UK and Guam) you have adequate strike capability with just a few hours travel time. How long does it take a carrier to steam around the world to a trouble spot?

I am not really suggesting that this would ever happen and yes, it's not all off the shelf but it's better than pissing away money like you're doing right now. A better suggestion would be to accept that the USA is never going to fight an enemy in the air that has an equal capability. That's what nuclear weapons are for.
posted by longbaugh at 1:41 AM on July 22, 2009


Sooooo many spelling mistakes there - very sorry, four hours sleep and not had my coffee yet...
posted by longbaugh at 1:41 AM on July 22, 2009


The next big step will come when we move from putting real-time cameras on our drones to putting real-time cameras on the missiles that the drones fire... so that any given missile can be humanly piloted into an enemy craft.

Someone above mentioned that you can't really do this for air-to-air, but you can for hitting ground targets. On the AGM-142 you can stick in the GPS co-ordinates of what you want to hit, then fire it and fly away, and watch its progress on the little TV in your cockpit. As it gets closer if you see that the GPS co-ords don't line up with what you wanted to hit you can either fly it manually, or pick on the screen what you want to hit and it will lock on using the picture and image processing.
posted by markr at 3:00 AM on July 22, 2009


The AMRAAM weighs three hundred. You need an even bigger drone to carry a pair of those.

What about two drones?

They could grip it by the husk.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:11 AM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


No it isn't, and I didn't mean to make it sound like Boeing makes crappy products because I actually think the opposite. But the design phase of that thing is like one of those black and white gag reels of clueless guys trying to make shitty aircraft fly. Except with a much higher body count. Seriously, look how many guys they killed or hurt testing that thing and they just kept fixing it and giving the thumbs up.

Yup, Osprey has been an extremely efficient weapon in the sense that, even before entering service, it had already killed scores of people. On the wrong side, though. The Osprey program is a cautionary tale of just how difficult it is to kill a program once there's enough pork at stake.

My own Osprey story is that, as a young graduate student ca. 1994, I once took part in a conference where a senior engineer (not from Boeing, but from its program partner) told us that tilt rotors like Osprey were going to revolutionalise the civilian rotary wing market, not least because of their "much lower operating costs". Since before him we had just had a presentation from a civilian chopper operator in which he had explained us how insurance makes up a ridiculously high fraction of their operating costs, I couldn't avoid asking: "So, do you think that insurance companies are going to ask for lower premiums for your gizmo there than for a bog-standard helicopter?". The somewhat flustered answer was: "We are working on it."

After Osprey's development story since, I believe insurance premiums would never be a problem: there's simply no way an insurance company would insure that thing. Although, maybe if they try with AIG...
posted by Skeptic at 4:08 AM on July 22, 2009


We outspent the Soviet Union on war machines, and hence won the cold war. But we're still spending the same on defense.

Thanks to this initiative, our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system has been politicized by special interests, we've demonized any kind of social safety net, and we don't have nationalized health care/socialized medicine.


There's a new cold-war being waged against the American worker, apparently.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:49 AM on July 22, 2009


Depends what you mean by 'new' doesn't it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:33 AM on July 22, 2009


My two cents, as a lowly aerospace engineer who will apparently find himself in the bread line if Congress cuts one penny from the defense budget:

The F-22 is a waste of money right now. It's certainly cool and it goes fast and blows shit up good, but it's not the kind of war that's being fought right now. Right now, I think the Air Force needs its budget focused on strong command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, as well as getting a new tanker. There are simply no air-to-air threats anymore, and personally I don't think that the world will see the kind of supernation v. supernation wars that expensive fighters could be useful in for quite a long time.

There are almost 150 F-22s in service right now, which is more than enough to "tide us over" until the F-35 enters service. And the F-35 is good because it's a joint program - unit cost comes down if you can build four times as many airframes and outfit them differently for each service.

Modern defense acquisition programs scare me a little bit. Usually, the directive is to go with the lowest bidder, which results in all your avionics shutting down when you cross the International Date Line. Or stealth bombers that crash because an inherently unstable design won't fly when the onboard computers gets confused by some water in one of the sensors. It's worrying to see that people still don't realize that software and hardware fail in fundamentally different ways and oftentimes failure analysis is performed on software in terms of hardware metrics.

Let me tell you a little bit about AWACS, too, and why you would never convert a B-52 into one. It requires the entire back end of a 707 to fit all the electronics and personnel that come with that big rotating dish on top. You're stuffing an entire Air Traffic Control center onto an airplane. And it's not just the dish; there are about two dozen other antennas, radar, machines that go Ping, and other stuff emitting all sorts of EM radiation. So load all of that onto a B-52, now harden everything on the airplane against EM interference. But wait, the B-52 is still designed to fly during and after nuclear armageddon! So take all that AWACS equipment and harden IT against electro-magenetic pulse and all the other good stuff that comes along with nuclear weapons. Once all that weight has been addded, you've really lost the main advantage of the B-52 which is that it can Carry Metric Asstons of Explosives. And, you know, B-52 was really meant to drop bombs down, not launch them forward, so why do you need your ATC guys getting needlessly put in the danger zone?

If you want to know about drones being controlled from another aircraft (or ship or ground or...), take a gander at J-UCAS. It was canceled, but at they time they envisioned "wolf packs" of these drones fighting in coordination and controlled remotely.

(Worked on the engine for the X-45, working on AWACS right now, worked on B-52 programs in the past, several years avionics experience...)
posted by backseatpilot at 5:55 AM on July 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


backseatpilot, I know I speak for all right-thinking Americans when I say it's time for you to give up playing in the sandbox and start working on your true destiny. Yes, you know what I'm talking about. We do not need an X-45 Submersible Joint Rolling Long-Stroke Fighter. We need air-cars. It's what you and the rest of the aerospace industry were created for, so quit dicking around and get on it!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:29 AM on July 22, 2009


Usually, the directive is to go with the lowest bidder

You really think this is an issue with airplane acquisitions? That if they just paid a bit more, they wouldn't have any failures?
posted by smackfu at 6:41 AM on July 22, 2009


You really think this is an issue with airplane acquisitions?

Well, here's the problem - contractors will do anything to get the contract. Because once you have the contract, it seems to matter very little whether you stay on budget. There are very few fixed-price contracts in the acquisition world. So no, I don't think paying more will help things because you're already paying way more than the bid was for anyway.

The problems come when the contractors promise way more than they can conceivably deliver for a given cost (and this is driven by the "get the contract at all costs" mentality). So, for example, instead of doing certain testing they'll try to qualify equipment through analysis or similarity. And they threaten, "Well, we could test this, but it'll cost you an extra two million. Trust us on this one." And the acquisitions folks, worried about their budget (because it's already taken two extra years and an extra hundred million to develop) cringe at that two million and tell them just to qual by similarity. Then the equipment gets delivered and the part breaks because the environment is significantly different than where it was used in the past.

The whole acquisition process is a huge mess and needs to be overhauled.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:00 AM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


We need air-cars.

s/air-cars/knife missiles/g
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you a little bit about AWACS, too, and why you would never convert a B-52 into one.

I love it when science fiction meets engineering reality.
posted by mrmojoflying at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2009


Clearly you need high altitude blimp-bases to deploy your drones from.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2009


You mean like this?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2009


Yes, but with more robots, and possibly they could look like the spaceships from V.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2009


I would like to see it done like this (including it's own ominous soundtrack) except instead of dropping a space man, it drops nanobots that can form a space man if necessary, but otherwise chew (literally) through the enemies defenses. That'll teach them to mess with America.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2009


Charlie don't surf!
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on July 22, 2009


Aren't remote-controlled drones susceptible to jamming?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2009


Clearly you need high altitude blimp-bases to deploy your drones from.

I think the Koreans are already hard at work on something along those lines.
posted by juv3nal at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2009


Isn't it just inevitable that stuff like the cheap(er) and numerous drones, or bio-weapons, or other new and dangerous things will get into the hands of terrorists or smaller rivals, thus rendering all these expensive machines mostly pointless?

Things like military intelligence, skills in languages like Arabic, and being more honorable in our international pursuits (especially via reining in what our corporations do in other countries) are going to do much more to make the U.S. secure than having $100 fighter planes.

I'm not against maintaining some sort of conventional forces, but it's all moot if we keep acting the way we've been acting.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:32 AM on July 22, 2009


$100 fighter planes

Probably could have gotten a few from this guy. Once labor was taken into account and all. Then again, those might be $1000 fighter planes. Hard to tell these days.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:36 AM on July 22, 2009


MILLION. $100 million. Damn these fingers!

*chops off fingers*

My next post may be slower as I type each letter with a pencil clenched in my teeth.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2009


War nerds, I love you so much.
posted by empyrean at 1:30 PM on July 22, 2009


Isn't it just inevitable that stuff like the cheap(er) and numerous drones, or bio-weapons, or other new and dangerous things will get into the hands of terrorists or smaller rivals, thus rendering all these expensive machines mostly pointless?

I'm having difficulty imagining our satellite uplinks falling into Al-Qaida's hands.

Hell, they don't even get to use GPS if we say so.
posted by Netzapper at 2:17 PM on July 22, 2009


Aren't remote-controlled drones susceptible to jamming?

I thought it was noodling.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:42 PM on July 22, 2009


With their noodly cybernetic appendages.
posted by darkstar at 2:47 PM on July 22, 2009


Acid-Jazz or explodo-death - your choice, illegal combatants.
posted by Artw at 3:39 PM on July 22, 2009


Aren't remote-controlled drones susceptible to jamming?

Fundamentally, yes, but in practice not really. Any loud source of RF interference wouldn't survive very long in today's asymmetrical war fighting environment. Consider, despicable as they are, American anti-mortar tactics in Iraq. Mortars in Iraq would be a lot easier to come by than sophisticated EM noise sources capable of jamming modern frequency hopping spread spectrum communication channels, or whatever the latest digi-comm tech is.

Modern communication schemes are not necessarily that wonderful, of course. With Shanzhai know how, many things are possible. However, even if the equivalent of a cell phone jammer for US military drones existed, it would only be effective over a limited range.
posted by Chuckles at 3:51 PM on July 22, 2009


I remember asking about it at the time and was told something along the lines of it's better for both companies. I'm sure it has to do with knowledge acquisition though. *

Yeah, I'm sure that Boeing ended up with some work on the F-35 after the contract award - you know how incestuous the Aero industry is, I'm guessing LM "bought" knowledge about construction on some components that Boeing were responsible for on the F-22 - but it really wasn't a contract split like the the F-22.

It looks like they were still talking about working together until 2002ish*

I do recall some talk about working together when LM won the contract, but I think that was just because it was classier (and therefore better PR) than saying "suck it, losers" (which I suspect was the general feeling in Bethesda and Fort Worth... :-) )


The whole acquisition process is a huge mess and needs to be overhauled.*

Amen, brother. And if you think the US is bad, you should see the UK...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2009


It looks like the upper left corner of this poster/graph has the Air Force stats.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:52 PM on July 24, 2009


Amen, brother. And if you think the US is bad, you should see the UK...

the SA-80 is a fine gun!
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


the SA-80 is a fine gun!

Apparently, it actually is. Heavier than the M-16 but in fact more reliable, at least compared to the M-16 at the same age, it's never managed to shake off the bad reputation it earned in the early years.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:24 PM on July 25, 2009


Apparently, it actually is.

Not if you're left-handed.
posted by Netzapper at 9:45 PM on July 25, 2009


Not if you're left-handed.

Damn southpaws. :-)

There are only a few ambidextrous assault rifles, so the SA-80 is hardly alone in that respect. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is the Steyr AUG.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 7:43 PM on July 27, 2009


The TAR, IIRC.
posted by Artw at 8:35 PM on July 27, 2009


Also I beleive that most assault rifles, even if not ambidextorous, tend not to eject shells into lefthanded users faces.
posted by Artw at 8:36 PM on July 27, 2009


Also I beleive that most assault rifles, even if not ambidextorous, tend not to eject shells into lefthanded users faces.

I know the AR-15/M16 family is safe for a left-handed shooter. The spent cartridges are ejected directly across the body.
posted by Netzapper at 9:53 PM on July 27, 2009


It's a unique shell-in-face opportunity brought to you by the bullpup design (and probably something the Steyr and TAR would also suffer from if they were not switchable)
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on July 28, 2009


As a left-handed gun shooter, I certainly take precautions with any new gun I shoot. Or any other damn device like power tools that don't take my handedness into account.
posted by garlic at 3:55 PM on July 30, 2009


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