Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Military and Square Pegs

Remember when Don Rumsfeld declared "You go to war with the military you have"? Like putting square pegs in round holes, Western nations develop its war planning around the kind of weapons it buys, when the opposite should be happening. Here is a debate ongoing in the British Parliament:

The military seem to be obsessed with fast jets, yet history has proved that small and slow is far superior for close air support. For the price of one Eurofighter we could have a squadron of Super Tucanos. They can carry the same ordnance as a Harrier, with its loud bang, but unlike the Harrier, which can be over the battlefield for no more than 20 minutes, Tucanos can loiter overhead for hours on end, ready for use in a ground attack at a moment's notice. We also tend to go in for expensive and complicated helicopters, which soak up manpower, like all complicated equipment. There appears to be little understanding of how light helicopters can be used effectively for ground attack.

The Brits are concerned over the lack of funding for equipping their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, all the while they are building large supercarriers for some distant expeditionary role. It's as I mentioned yesterday, our troops are already in the field while the Navy and Air Force want to refight the Cold War.

Luckily for America, she is rich enough to afford both, to continue building Raptor superfighters which won't even be sent to Iraq, and new Ford class aircraft carriers the likes of which no other nation possesses, and likely ever will. Then yesterday President Bush was forced to turn to Congress and ask for another $46 billion to fund the war, when the entire conflict could be payed for by slashing hi-tech weapons which won't be used in the current struggle.

Defence of the Realm tries to make sense of all this:

A defining characteristic of military equipment is its functionality – it is designed for very specific purposes and only very rarely can equipment designed for one purpose be entirely suitable for others. Thus, if we wish to implement policies successfully, we must have the equipment that enables us to do so.
... Our policy, ostensibly, is to fight the "war on terror" on Iraq and Afghanistan, yet we seem to be equipping our forces for some mythical, unspecified war in the future.

I'm not convinced the next war we are planning for is the one we want either. What if the enemy refuses to play by our rules and attacks our carriers before they have a chance to launch expeditionary forces? This would be easy to do considering the long reach of cruise missiles.For that matter, old fashion weapons are effective against our big carriers, as seen when a Chinese Song class submarine stalked the USS Kitty Hawk at torpedo range last year. Our military will have to relearn the hard lessons of war again, at a likely high price in our soldiers' lives.

Photo is British Crown copyright.