Thursday, July 9, 2009

Unmanned Fighter Aircraft (And the Left)

Robert Farley and Matthew Yglesias are thrilled with the idea of eliminating manned warplanes from the next generation of technological warfare.

The shift away from manned-fighter technology is serious business.
In an essay today, Lawrence Korb and Krisila Benson argue that should the Pentagon eventually terminate the F-22 Raptor, the loss of production will not degrade the U.S. strategic-industrial base, since "the Obama administration's fiscal 2010 budget includes 28 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters - planes better suited for air-to-ground combat."

And, regarding doctrinal shifts in technology and warfighting, Eliot Cohen argued some time back in
his now classic article on the RMA:

The platform has become less important, while the quality of what it carries - sensors, munitions, and electronics of all kinds - has become critical ....

Furthermore, the nature of preemption itself may change. To the extent that information warfare, including the sabotage of computer systems, emerges as a new type of combat, the first blow may be covert, a precursor to more open and conventional hostilities. Such attacks--to which an information-dependent society like the United States is particularly vulnerable--could have many purposes: blinding, intimidating, diverting, or simply confusing an opponent. They could carry as well the threat of bringing war to a country's homeland and people, and thus even up the balance for countries that do not possess the conventional tools of long-range attack, such as missiles and bombers.
Given this kind of discussion of the military, technological, and political realities in the shift away from manned fighter aircraft you'd think that Robert Farley - who is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce - would have something highly significant to say on the emergent nature of threat assessment and advanced airfighting capabilities. Instead we get this:

I don't think there's a next "next generation" of fighter aircraft. And in any case, it appears that the A-10 will remain the platform of choice for fighting the giant robots that undoubtedly will afflict us in the future...
If you click the link there, Farley directs us to the Toys-R-Us page for "Terminator Salvation Vehicle with Action Figure - A-10 Warthog." Here's the photo:

It's not like professional manufacturer images of the Warthog aren't availble. Check the A-10's product page at the Global Aircraft Organization, for example.

No, with Farley there's just no seriousness to diplomacy and military affairs (nor scholarship, for that matter; recall my earlier piece, "
The Moral Abomination of Robert Farley").

Given that, it's no surprise that
Matthew Yglesias runs with the Farley piece, approvingly, at his own blog. Just today Yglesias published a mind-boggling essay at the American Prospect, "Small Steps Toward a Nuke-Free World."

Mind you, this is not a joke.

Despite the widely understood interpretation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as designed practically exclusively to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, Yglesias argues that President Obama's preliminary U.S.-Russian nuclear agreement advances the cause of nuclear abolition:

... according to the "joint understanding" released Monday, the U.S. and Russia will commit to reducing nuclear arsenals from the current ceiling of 2,200 warheads to a range of 1,500 to 1,675 ....

The agreement serves Russia's interests well because, simply put, maintaining a large nuclear arsenal is expensive. For the United States, with our $13 trillion gross domestic product, the current nuclear posture is wasteful ....

At the same time, Obama gets to make real headway on his earlier promise to recommit the United States to the long-term goal of total nuclear disarmament. The objective, if met, would strongly advance America's interests ...
A policy of American nuclear disarmament will advance nothing of the kind. I argued against President Obama's disastrous nuclear diplomacy in two recent posts (here and here). The president's nuclear weapons policies are idealistic, if not unserious, and hold horrendous implications for American national security. In that respect, they have much in common with the policy analysis of Robert Farley and Matthew Yglesias.


Doug said...

Let me get this straight: A guy with a sidebar picture of Sarah Palin holding a rifle over the words "FREE IRAN" is accusing someone else of not being serious when it comes to diplomacy and military affairs?

Kilo said...

"Robert Farley and Matthew Yglesias are thrilled with the idea..."

Farley wrote "I guess I agree with Mullen".
That'd make you the excitable one here.

Deuce Geary said...

The left will like the idea of unmanned craft until those craft are used to kill the enemy, when the left will decry our "cowardice" for refusing to face the enemy one-up and our "terrorism" in raining down destruction without endangering any of our own.

And getting rid of our own nukes is a great way to guarantee a lot more war.

Kilo said...

Duece are you forgetting drones ?
Over 300 killed in the past year.
Most of them civilians.
Most of those in one single, well publicised incident.
Where was the cowardice meme ?

Rich Casebolt said...

Both unmanned aircraft (UAV's), and manned aircraft, are needed.

UAV's not only remove the threat to a pilot's life from enemy action ... the limitations of G-tolerance, basic life support, and endurance of the human are removed from the UAV, allowing it to do a lot of patient/quiet/deadly (or fast/abrupt/deadly) things no manned plane can, against all but the most technically-advanced enemies.

However, the need to either maintain a reliable communications link with the aircraft -- a link that sooner or later an enemy will figure out how to jam -- or place our faith in machine autonomy to make life-or-death targeting decisions without human oversight means that manned aircraft won't be going away soon.

Those who believe that advanced-capability aircraft like the F-22 are not needed work from an assumption that the technology and economic gaps between America and her potential enemies will remain more or less fixed, which history shows to be a bad assumption ... and also ignore the effect of the "why bother?" deterrence against closing that gap, that is provided by the presence of weapons systems like the F-22 in the American order of battle.

To maintain such deterrence, one has to stay WELL ahead of one's enemies ... usually, farther than the short-sighted critics like those being talked about here think we should.

Tom the Redhunter said...

Rich Casebolt has it right

I've read enough of Lawrence Korb to know not to take him seriously.

I wrote a longish post on this some time ago, and the essence of it was that:

1) Our existing fighters; the F-15, 16, & 18 are very old platforms, and we're past the point of diminishing returns for upgrades
2) Potential enemies are acquiring sophisticated aircraft. The Su-34 Fallback and MiG-29M Fulcrum-E are nothing to sneeze at.
3) The F-35 Lightning II will be very good, but it's to the F-22 what the F-16 was to the F-15, not meant to be the #1 front line fighter.
4) Putting all of our eggs in the F-35 basket is foolish.
5) If the F-22 Raptor is such a bad choice, why have so many other countries expressed a desire to buy it?