Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fixing the Nation's Antiquated Airpower

F-16XL-1 Testbed Aircraft

My new friend Peter, the Bayou Renaissance man, has a follow up to a previous article posted here on Military Aircraft Cost Effectiveness:

The latest-generation F-16 has systems fully as capable as those on
the F-35, and is available today for a fly-away cost of approximately $50-$55
million. (Development costs no longer apply, as the USAF completed its purchases
of older-model F-16's and ended the program years ago.) They offer the very
latest radars, missiles and weapons, and they're available hot off the
production line where we're building them for our allies. Further improvements
such as the
F-16XL's larger wing (providing double the
weapons capacity and much longer range, as well as supercruise capability even
with an engine of lower power than that in current-production F-16's) and
thrust-vectoring have already been flight-tested
and proven, and could be incorporated on the latest model F-16's with minimal
difficulty and expense. An aircraft so equipped would be at least a match for,
and probably superior to, the very latest overseas designs. Furthermore,
the enormous cost of upgrading and maintaining the USAF's aging F-15 and
F-16 fleet
(which is over and above F-35 procurement
costs) could instead be applied to the purchase of new aircraft needing much
less upgrading and maintenance. Overall, I expect the USAF could significantly
improve its operational capability and save an enormous amount of money by
canceling the F-35, ordering a large number of new F-16XL's and coupling these
with a fleet of up to 400 F-22's.

Here Peter echoes what I've been saying, that we should buy and build tried-and-true aircraft (plus ships and armored vehicles) off the shelf, updating them as needed, instead of spending decades trying to invent new whiz bang platforms to fight some future unspecified foe. Computer technology is advancing far more rapidly than our old industrial age tactics can keep up. The new precision weapons are stealthy and fast enough, all they need are battle taxis to get them where they need to be, defending our nation.

I also agree the F-35 Lightning II, as badly as we and our allies need this plane, is likely going to balloon in cost in the next decade, when it finally enters service, and even more of our battle worn fighters will have crashed and burned. These latter planes, the F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s have been fighting and winning all our nations wars for decades now, and are more capable and far superior to any thing yet fielded by our enemies or allies. Plus they are AVAILABLE NOW! Even if individually the late model F-16s might be outclassed, we should be able to build them in sufficient numbers, coupled with a new and aggressive pilot training, that no peer would dare challenge us for decades.

C'mon Congress and the DoD! Get off your duff and do what's right for our country and the troops, not just for the voters and defense lobbyists.

Also, our allies the British are under the hi-tech yoke as well. Please read "Lovely new aircraft carrier, sir, but we’re fighting in the desert".