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Archive for January, 2013

News: F-35 could explode if struck by lighting

Posted by picard578 on January 26, 2013

Some bad news for F-35 programme: in addition to performance shortfalls, cost overruns and huge vulnerability to even small-calibre weapons due to the fuel tank design, F-35 is also in danger of weather. Namely, lightning.

It seems that, due to the deficient fuel tank design, F-35s natural namesake is very dangerous for the jet. If F-35 is struck by lightning, it could ignite the fuel

It is not only problem with lighting. Reductions in safety measures, done to save weight, have also left jet vulnerable to even small arms fire. For one, its fuel is kept all around the engine. Second, it is not self-sealing.

Another problem with fuel tank prevens it from rapidly reducing altitude.

More shortfaillings that articles didn’t mention include reduced level of radar stealth, as well as very large IR signature. Vaunted 360*360 vision helmet had problems with lag, though it could have been fixed,

Apparently, Lockheed Martin fails to understand difference between war and video games. Warfighting weapons should have minimum of electronics necessary: anything above that just means less reliability, and harms performance in required areas.

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Why UAVs cannot replace fighter aircraft

Posted by picard578 on January 26, 2013

Despite all technocrate’s dreams, aerial combat between peer opponents was always visual-ranged. Reasons for that vary; main reasons are inadvisability of using active sensors, low probability of kill for BVR missiles, and IFF problems. All of these problems are far greater against numerically and technologically comparable (or simply numerically superior) opponent than against numerically and technologically inferior opponent. Thus, WVR combat is likely to remain standard for aerial warfare, along with its large accent placed on OODA loop.

OODA (Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action) loop is fundimental principle of air combat. Fighter pilot first observes situation; after that, he orients based on previously-avaliable and acquired information (nationality of opponent, cultural considerations likely to affect opponent’s actions in current situation, etc.), then decides on further course of action and acts based on that decision. In the next loop, he observes opponent’s reaction to his own action so far as well as new situation, with rest of loop proceeding as in first one, though “orientation” part takes far less importance unless new information comes into play. In any case, breaking opponent’s OODA loop or going through it faster than opponent is prerequisite for victory. Opponent’s OODA loop can be broken by denying him vital information (done through usage of passive sensors, small visual and IR signature of one’s own aircraft, employment of various forms of jamming and environment-based interference), as well as by going through the loop faster than him – be it through faster observation/orientation/decision or executing action faster than opponent, which requires maneuverable aircraft capable of quick transients from one maneuver to another.

OODA loop of UAV operator is always imperfect, and worse than that of fighter pilot. Major problem is a delay from two to five seconds between UAV recording image and image being seen by UAV operator. Total delay between drone’s sesors recording opponent’s action and drone finally reacting to it – delay between „observe“ and „act“ part of the loop – can therefore reach ten seconds. Due to this delay, unmanned vehicles will be completely incapable of being inside human-piloted fighter’s OODA loop, which is a prerequisite for victory in a dogfight. But there are even more shortcomings than that.

In particular, each part of OODA loop is in itself imperfect. Observation made solely with information from mechanical sensors is never perfect as we have yet to design sensor as good as human eye. Imperfect observation means that imperfection continues to snowball through latter three parts, ending in action with some measure of disconnection from reality – and that can continue through multiple loops.


While drones are much smaller and cheaper than manned fighters, it is only result of their mission. If modern drones are faced with SAMs, MANPADS or enemy fighters, engagement is a foregone conclusion – and one not in drone’s favor. Drone operators cannot detect threats to their aircraft, and if drone was to be designed to be as capable and survivable as manned jet fighter, it would be just as large and costly, if not more, due to the need for advanced computers and communication systems. Even current, relatively simple, drones have much higher operating costs than manned aircraft, and are as much as ten times as prone to crashing – and both shortcomings can only worsen with increased size and complexity required for aerial combat.


Gigantic data transfers required to operate drones can easily lead to communication systems being overburdened – single Global Hawk drone uses as much bandwidth as did all US forces in the invasion of Afghanistan. Bandwidth is also a hidden cost of UCAV – while UCAV itself may be cheap, it requires very expensive (on order of hundreds of millions USD) equipment for data transfers, and even with modern UCAVs performing relatively simple tasks, data transfers can take up lion’s share of 250-million-USD satellite’s bandwidth. As such, entire package (UCAV and equipment required to operate it, which is actually part of UCAV despite not being in the airframe) can rival or exceed cost of manned fighter, with latter being a certainity in any UCAV capable of air-to-air combat.

Further, increased bandwidth automatically means increased vulnerability to jamming and other forms of electronic countermeasures. Main way datalinks defend against jamming is by reducing data transfer speed in exchange for increased reliability; that, however, may not be an option for data-hungry UCAV. As such, UCAV’s will be incapable of executing missions in heavily jammed environment, unlike manned aircraft, especially since it is far easier to build very powerful spread-spectrum jammer than to create jam-resistant uplinks.

Drones are also vulnerable to computer viruses, which could take control of a drone and order it to do anything by simulating incoming traffic from its operator.


It is also important to realize that UCAV capable of matching or exceeding the aerodynamic performance, load carrying capability and combat radius of manned fighter would be exactly as large and heavy as fighter in question. This would mean similar production cost to manned fighter (not counting control and data transfer systems), but at far higher maintenance costs, as much as several times higher, which would make it impractical to replace manned fighters with UCAVs on one-for-one basis. Further, having UCAV brings no operating cost savings, since it actually requires more operating and maintenance personnell than manned fighter due to the greater complexity.

As a result of everything above, replacing a manned fighter would require a fully-functional AI with almost identical cogniscive capabilities to a human brain – a feat that is, at this point, completely beyond both our knowledge of human brain, as well as beyond our hardware capabilities, and will remain so for some time – interestingly, contrary to MIC technology advocates, computer science experts have a complete disagreement on wether true AI can be achieved by the 2040; in any case, past trends do not give any reasons for optimism in that regard. Even when that is achieved, such complex programs would present serious reliability, maintainability and implementation challenges, possibly to the point of making an AI UCAV basically unflyable.

Drones will, however, remain useful in intelligence gathering, a role they have been used in since Vietnam, as drone being shot down does not carry the risk of operator being captured for questioning, and is much more politically acceptable. While these advantages also exist in regards to manned combat aircraft, disadvantages are simply too large.

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The myth of the precision bombing

Posted by picard578 on January 19, 2013

Many people believe that modern guided (dubbed “smart”) weapons allow for pinpoint precision from very large distance, such as allowing fast high-flying aircraft to carry out Close Air Support, or to engage targets in urban environments.


In NATO missions in Libya, carried out to “support” anti-Gadaffi rebels, have killed or wounded multiple civilians and rebel troops. It is nothing new – as noted in the article, up to 25 – 80 % of casualties in wars have been caused by friendly fire (this also shows why BVR combat is unlikely to become prevalent form of air combat, as potential for misidentification is far greater). Visual ID has time and again proven itself as only somewhat reliable type of identifying targets, and even it is not perfect. As such, fast jets are completely incapable of identifying targets. WW2 Stuka pilot, Colonel Hans Rudel, has stated that “high speeds are a poison for finding tanks” – and that was in flat Ukraine, flying an aircraft far slower than modern jets. Army Sgt. First Class Frank Antenori has stated same thing.

In fact, due to lack of A-10s, F-15Es have on multiple occasions found themselves using their guns to strafe targets in Afghanistan. While they were mostly successfull, end result was longer time required and less successfull mission than what would have been with A-10s. A-10 also has very long loiter time, which means that – unlike “multirole” jets – it can be on station hour after hour, providing permanent presence and near-immediate answer to any CAS request.

Furthermore, units are equipped with limited number of radios, making identification difficult. While low-flying UAV’s can be used to identify targets, such usage is dependant on lack of any serious air defenses as well as presence of secure uplinks.

But even when targets are identified, precision weapons’ performance is nothing stellar – unless killing civilians is considered, where casualties have increased from WW2-standard of 9 tons of bombs per civilian killed to 200 civillians per one bomb, and drones’ effectiveness of 6 civillians per attack. This shows that, for precision weapons to be used correctly, either aircraft must be slow enough and low enough for pilot to use binoculars for identification, or identification must be done by troops on the ground.

Precision weapons have to have their points of impact calculated. Result was that, even with fast jets in the air, it took anywhere from 26 minutes to several hours for munitions to be finally delivered.

Guided munitions are also only effective against fixed targets. But against mobile targets, low-speed low-altitude attacks with cannon or unguided munitions are required to achieve any kind of effect, rendering DAS (Distant Air Support) ineffective. As such, laser designators have to be complemented with smoke grenades and marker baloons. JDAMs are not terminally guided, and as such are very likely to go astray.

While satellite surveillance is avaliable, it is very-long-distance, and as result it does not offer good target-recognition capabilities – to satellites and high-flying aircraft, cardboard decoys are indiscernible from actual targets, and it takes 18 hours for strike to arrive. UAV surveillance, on the other hand, is insufficient, whereas UCAVs can only attack fixed targets.

And problem sometimes isn’t too few data – it is too much data displayed to the pilot, overloading him and distracting him from the mission, as well as increasing time required for “observation” in OODA loop.

There are problems with munitions themselves too – further away bomb is dropped from, greater error becomes. On release, bombs often bump into each other – and sometimes aircraft too – causing fins to get bended and thus reducing accuracy. This is problem that only increases with increasing speeds, due to stronger turbulences. GPS weapons’ guidance systems also often malfunction, with bombs hitting miles off the target. A laser-guided bomb, meanwhile, can be thrown off course by a laser beam guding it being disturbed by a debris or simply by smoke, dust, clouds or highly humid environment, thus causing bomb to go ballistic.

During Operation Desert Storm, at most 60% of bombs have achieved hits on targets, and many misses were off by hundreds of meters. In fact, success rate could have been as low as 41%. While officials have said that strategic targets will be destroyed in 10 days, it took two weeks to destroy nuclear weapons factories – and all other targets have only been damaged, not destroyed. Out of 15 SAM batteries attacked by low-flying F-117s in Baghdad at first night, 13 continued to operate. All Coalition aircraft hit only 21 of 37 “crucial” targets. It also took between 4 and 10 laser-guided bombs to destroy targets such as bridges – similar to success rate of dive bombers against aircraft carriers during Pacific war.

In Kosovo War, only 58 successfull strikes have been made by USAF out of 750 attacks, destroying 14 tanks, 18 APCs and 20 artillery pieces. Out of 80 SAM batteries, 3 were destroyed. That can be compared to USAF claims of 120 tanks, 220 APCs and 450 artillery pieces destroyed. Chinese Embassy was also bombed, which was a repetition of President Reagan’s raid on Libya, when French embassy was bombed by “precision” weapons. Civilian casualties were one for every 10 tons of bombs, very close to WW2 rates. In Vietnam, casualties were one for every 12,5 tons of bombs. UK’s bombing accuracy with smart bombs was 40%.

In Afganistan, 2001, B-52 dropped precision ordnance around 100 meters from US Special Forces team, killing three US soldiers and five Afghan government soldiers. Other than several such incidents, however, war has been a positive example of USAF integrating more with the Army. Still, errors cannot be done away with, and problem gets worse faster the jet flies.

During 2003 invasion, US “precision” weapons have managed to miss Iraq entirely, falling into Turkey and Iran (at least US heavy bombers in WW2 never missed the country, though they did occasionally miss the city in entirety). Civilian objects, including hospitals, were consistently hit, and 2003 precision bombing has been more deadly than 1991 bombing which was done mostly by “dumb” bombs – killing 1350 civilians per 10 000 tons of bombs, as opposed to 400 civilians per 10 000 tons. This can in part be attributed to pilots dropping bombs from greater altitude due to the belief that part of targeting can be taken over by the projectile itself. Ballistic missiles did not fare much better, with only one-third hitting targets, one-third failling to detonate and one-third missing alltogether. It also happened on Balkans, when NATO bomb intended for Serbia fell in Sofia, Bulgaria. Accuracy of bombs against radar sites was 32%.

What is important to realize is that many of described attacks have taken place at low altitude – inly in Serbia did bombardment come, as a rule, from high altitude due to altitude limits placed, which means that it could be considered most indicative for high-altitude bombardment success rate. But even when bomb or missile does hit the target, debris from 1-ton bomb can cause casualties hundreds of meters from the impact point; radius for a 2-ton bomb can extend to a thousand meters. In fact, while 450-kg GPS bomb has CEP of 12 meters, blast damage extends to 30 meters and fragmentation damage extends to 900 meters. Area of effect is calculated by cube root of yield, so 227 kg weapon would still cause blast damage to 24 meters and fragmentation damage to 716 meters. As such, precision munitions are completely unsuited for CAS roles as well as operations in urban areas or areas where there might be civilians present. Furthermore, due to the expensive guidance systems, trend is for precision munitions to have higher yield than “dumb” counterparts, increasing the problem.

UCAVs used for assassinating terrorist leaders are especially problematic. Of 700 people killed by UCAVs in Pakistan, only 14 have been Taliban, which is mostly connected to unreliable intelligence and careless approach.

While some say that low-and-slow-flying CAS aircraft are vulnerable to being shot down, aircraft is just as safe from SAMs and MANPADS below 30 meters as it is above 3 000 meters. It is in-between these two values that trouble occurs. While average infantry division has large number of automatic weapons, most of these are small-calibre and thus only suited for engaging typical fighters (F-15, F-35) and not armored ground attack aircraft such as A-10 or Su-25 which can survive even direct hits by full-sized SAMs in good portion of cases – 50% in case of the A-10. In reality, real threat for CAS aircraft are enemy fighter aircraft, although the mere fact that CAS aircraft fly very low might make job difficult for radar-guided missiles. On the other hand, large aircraft such as AC-130 Spectre are vulnerable, can only be used at night. and have more limited capability for providing effective CAS. In Gulf War, only the tough A-10 and very fast Tornado operated at low altitudes due to persistent threat from optically-aimed AAA and IR MANPADS. Unlike other aircraft, both these types proved survivable in the environment.

Since precision weapons are tested in deserts, in fair weather (without anything that might impede bombs) and against static targets, official claims about their actual precision can be disregarded – they are equally faulty and based on equally flawed assumptions as pre-Vietnam claims of 90% accuracy for BVR missiles, which has turned out to be around 8% in combat.

Precision bombing myth is also nothing new. Norden sight for B-17 was claimed to be able to “put bomb into a pickle-barrell from 20.000 feet”. In the end, entire city blocks were levelled when bombers attacked specific targets, with bombs falling hundreds of meters off the target.

Conclusion? While guided munitions can be and are helpful, they are not magic, and aircraft still have to go very low and very slow – until pilots can see target through the canopy – in order to reliably hit tactical targets. Old-fashioned cannons are still most precise weapons in arsenal, when used well; and while precision munitions certainly can be useful, their main usefulness is not so much in increasing range from which attacks are made as in allowing pilot to spend least time possible “on target” and concentrate on evading enemy AA fire.

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News: Mali war escalates as French battle Islamist militants

Posted by picard578 on January 12, 2013

Link to article


While I welcome serious military intervention against terrorist groupations (it has happened as a response to request by Mali government, and is thus not illegal like intervention in Afghanistan or Iraq), I have my doubts.

First, much like South Vietnam, Mali’s armed forces do not seem to be sufficiently trained or motivated. Without ground troops – infantry in particular – you can’t win a war.

Second, as noted in article, France – which has intervened due to Mali President’s request – is former colonial overlord of Mali. Unlike United Kingdom during post-World War 2 decolonization period, France generally refused to withdraw from its colonies without fight. As could have been expected, insurgents have quickly chosen to capitalize on that fact for propaganda purposes. This move by insurgents is likely to be at least somewhat successfull, further eroding domestic support for Mali government.

Third, Western countries already have intervened in Afghanistan in 2001 – so far, results are lacking, which does not inspire confidence. Lack of results in Afghanistan is mostly due to international and governmental forces trying to control cities, while leaving countryside – where Taliban get most of their recruits from – without control. This could repeat in Mali.



Best solution would be for France and NATO to provide exclusively logistical and intelligence support, with possibility of on-request air strikes against insurgent positions with A-10s and helicopters. Ground troops should be provided by other African countries, with whom Mali people can identify, thus not giving insurgents any propaganda materials. In fact, article states that Senegal and Nigeria have positively responded to Mali request for military help.

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Why the West should revert to the KISS principle

Posted by picard578 on January 12, 2013

Western way of doing things is usually to go for highly advanced technology. However, is that a good thing? I don’t think it is, for reasons I will explain.

When we take a look at any war, we see that there are always certain realities at work:
People are required to get job done.
Technology is required so people can do their jobs.
Numbers are required so as to be able to absorb unavoidable losses, to establish relevant combat presence and to overload opponent’s capacity to process information.
Reliability is required so as to train personnell and deploy sufficient force presence, and for technology not to fail in combat

Consequently, weapon has to be cheap and simple enough to be procured in large numbers while leaving enough resources for training the pilots, reliable enough to be used often and not require too much maintenance, but also capable enough to get the job done.


While simulators exist, they are limited in how well they can simulate reality. As such, weapon’s operator will have to actually use the real weapon, and use it often, to get familiar with it and how it will handle in real combat. This is of particular importance to fighter pilots, where ground facilities cannot simulate changing G forces that pilot has to withstand during fighting. Cheaper to maintain weapons also mean more money left for training.

History has shown that in combat, training trumps other factors – with only exception being extremely large numerical disparity. Top Gun instructors got 40 to 60 hours of CFM per month, and always beat students who got 14 to 20 hours. It is no different in any other area – during World War 2, Tiger tanks’ tank crews’ superiority in training often led to their utter dominance over technologically superior IS2 tanks.

Training allows weapons to be used more effectively, as well for force to more effectively break opponent’s OODA loop – a prerequisite for gaining the positional advantage over the opponent. Yet in US, F-22 pilots get 17-20 hours per month, and pilots of other fighters are not far behind – nor is situation much better in Europe.


What has to be understood in numbers game is that twice as complex weapon will often provide not half of combat presence, but around quarter of it – each weapon will be not only twice as expensive, but will also require twice as much maintenance. And while this is not a hard rule, more complex weapons always require more maintenance than less complex ones of same age and production quality.

As such, even if twice as complex weapon is twice as capable – which it often isn’t – it is going to face more than twice its own number in simpler weapons. Worse, due to the Lanchester Square law, weapon outnumbered 2:1 has to be four times as capable to offset for numerical disparity – but 4:1 qualitative advantage also usually requires four times costlier weapon. And this is all assuming that twice as costly weapon will really be twice as capable. It should be noted, however, that this is only true close to its entirety for air combat, due to the far smaller force-space constraints. In ground combat, twice as costly weapon will “only” have to be thrice as capable.

Furthermore, no matter how “capable” weapon is, one weapon can only ever be deployed to one place at the time. Defense of its own and disruption of opponent’s supply lines is easily one of most important tasks any military faces, and it requires sufficient, and often large, number of individual units.

Reliability in combat

More complex system is more prone to failure in stressfull combat environment. This does not only apply to weapons, but also other systems – such as those required for BVR IFF capability. In fact, in 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom misidentified US aircraft were repeatedly lost to BVR fire. Compared to passive sensors, active sensors also have far more complex detection and targeting process, which is therefore more prone not only to internal failures, but also to interference by the opponent.

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How to reduce US defense spending without harming the capability

Posted by picard578 on January 5, 2013

Defense spending must be cut to help economy (hint: no economy – no money to support military); charts show that US debt exploded after 2001 – in FY 2001, US Government ran a budget surplus of 1,3% GDP, which was expected to increase. If that had continued, entire public debt would have been paid by 2008 – 2012. However, it did not continue – it could not, due to the massive rearmament of 2000s as well as tax cuts aimed primarly at the rich. On the contrary, 1993 tax increase fell mostly on the rich.

While Federal spending in 2011 equated 24,1% of GDP, revenues were 14,8% of GDP. 36% of 2011 spending was borrowed. While Social Security and Medicare were largest spenders (33,5% of GDP) defense spending was next-largest (20,1% of GDP). Meanwhile, corporate taxes brought in only 8,9% of federal receipts, and income tax 41,5%.

Is it possible to solve this? It is, by transferring tax burden to the rich, by returning production jobs to United States, by reining in fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies – therefore reducing health care expenses (first and foremost, fast food companies should be thrown out of educational system), and by reducing defense spending. It is the last point that I will take the look at here, and I have already adressed the health care issue.

Defense spending can be cut without reduction in overall military effectiveness through elimination of waste and replacement of costly existing and proposed weapons with more effective and efficient weapons.

Now, savings proposal:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Both Dassault Rafale and Harrier II are cheaper and more effective than F-35; rebuilds of F-16, F-18 and Harrier II also can serve as stopgap measure. Thus, replacing variants of F-35 with variants of these jets could save a great amount of money. At the same time, US industry should focus on designing new non-VLO aircraft.

USAF standard is 240 hours a year of operation per aircraft.

Out of 2.443 F-35s, 340 will be CATOBAR F-35C, another 340 will be STOVL F-35B and 1.763 will be CTOL F-35A. F-35s R&D costs have been paid, so I’ll use weapons system flyaway costs – 197 million USD for F-35A, 237,7 million USD for F-35B and 236,8 million USD for F-35C. 15 F-35s – likely A variant – are in service.

In next 10 years (2013 – 2022), 424 F-35As are planned to be delivered – 29 will be delivered each year from 2013 – 2016, 32 in 2017, 48 in 2018 and 2019, 60 in 2020, 2021 and 2022. If we cut orders from 2014 on, it cuts 395 F-35As, totalling 77.815.000.000 USD, plus 81.984.000 USD in maintenance costs.

Rafale C costs 82,3 million USD, Rafale M costs 90,5 million USD, and Rafale’s operating costs are 16 500 USD per hour of flight. Harrier II costs 34,28 – 44,11 million USD and operating cost is 18 900 USD per hour of flight.

Replacing F-35As with (far more capable) Rafale C on 1-on-1 basis, we get cost of 32.508.500.000 for procurement plus 7.801.200.000 USD for operation over next 10 years.

CONCLUSION: 37.587.204.000 USD can be saved over next 10 years by replacing F-35A with Rafale C.

Next-generation bomber

Next Generation Bomber is assumed to have program cost of 55 billion USD for 100 aircraft (up from previous estimate of 40 – 50 billion USD). Given US history, however, it is unlikely to provide on time and on budget – in fact, it is likely to have program cost of more than 100 billion USD and production run of 20-25 aircraft. Its utility is also questionable, as it will be easily detectable by space-based surveillance systems, long-wavelength and multistatic radars as well as ground- and aircraft- -based IR detection systems. In all likelihood, it will follow the path of overexpensive, underperforming B-2 bomber. In fact, it is more likely that NGB is USAF’s “budget insurance policy” than an actual attempt at useful weapons system. That is supported by the fact that design is being accelerated while its operational priorities have not been clearly defined, virtually assuring large cost overruns. Another thing making cost overruns a near-certainity is USAF’s wish to stuff it with all possible technology – including the capability to fly unmanned (which basically means that Chinese can steal it while airborne.).

Operationally, it is unlikely that USAF will let its super-expensive toys run across China without fighter escort – and F-22 fighter can be easily detected by VHF radars. In fact, attacking China directly is the last thing US should do in case of war – containing it from breakthrough into Pacific while at the same time cutting off its trade and supply lines is a far cheaper, more effective and less dangerous alternative – especially when having in mind traditional numerical advantage required from attacker. If direct attack is required, cruise missiles can be used to deal with air defense networks (another possibility are relatively small armed drones).

While I do not like to judge aircraft before it has actually flown, B-2s operational history suggests that NGB will cost far more than expected, while being next-to-useless in a war. In fact, any stealth aircraft in service or proposed is in danger of being detected by HF radars operated by China, Australia and United States.

Conclusion: 55 billion USD can be saved over the next 10 years by cancelling Next Generation Bomber

Aircraft carriers

If there is a war against China, aircraft carriers will not be very relevant, as Western Pacific is filled with islands to brim. Islands are less vulnerable (for example, they can’t be sunk) and air bases can be made. Moreover, aircraft carriers are very vulnerable against enemy cruise missiles, air forces and submarines, and as such are very bad choice for destroying enemy troops, merchant marine and supply convoys – tasks possibly more important than any other in naval war. Nimitz class carriers are large, putting too many eggs in a single basket. Nuclear carriers are not environment-friendly – aside from very expensive nuclear waste disposal, they routinely release irradiated coolant water into sea. Due to that, most countries refuse to allow them to make port, and even less to homeport them, reducing long-term deployment capability.

Thus, two of Nimitz class carriers could be retired. Average operating cost of each was 243 million per year in FY 1998 USD or 340 million USD per year in 2012 USD. Retiring two early would save 6,8 billion USD for next 10 years. Gerald R Ford will be comissioned in 2015, and Navy hopes that its operating cost will be 173 million USD per year. It could replace third Nimitz class carrier, thus saving further 1,169 billion USD over next ten years as opposed to putting it in service without retiring additional Nimitz class carrier.

Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD.

As such, retiring two Nimitz class carriers would save 5 – 5,3 billion USD over next 10 years

Conventional carriers are a better option, as same force can provide 10% larger force presence. Maintenance of conventional carrier is easier and takes up smaller percentage of lifetime compared to nuclear carrier, and they are easier to replace if lost. While nuclear carriers don’t have to replenish their own fuel, aviation fuel and ammunition still have to be replenished, and conventional carriers are less maintenance-intensive. At no time was USN deployment adversely affected by deploying conventional, as opposed to nuclear, carrier. Conventional carriers can carry more aircraft than similar-sized nuclear carriers, can deploy equally quickly, and spend same amount of time on-station. Meanwhile, air wing size is most important factor in carrier’s combat performance during time on station. Losses in conventional carriers can be replaced far more quickly than nuclear carriers – in peacetime, nuclear carriers take 71% longer to construct than conventional ones – 7,2 against 4,2 years between funding and comissioning. As proven in World War 2, construction time of conventional carrier can be reduced to one-third in case of massive war, whereas such reduction in construction time of a nuclear carrier is questionable at best.

Retirement of six Nimitz-class carriers can be compensated with having five conventional carriers. Retiring of six Nimitz-class carriers would save 20,4 billion USD over next 10 years, whereas six similar-sized conventional carriers would cost 8,568 billion USD to operate over the same time, while providing greater force projection capability. Assuming two carriers per year enter service, with Nimitz retirements being designed to fit timeframe, total costs would be 4,284 billion USD, with to-be-retired Nimitz class carriers adding 10,2 billion USD over the same timeframe.

Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD. For comparision, decomissioning conventional carrier would cost no more than 60 – 90 million USD. This plan would cost 21,684 billion USD, compared to 20,4 billion USD of operation of nuclear carriers plus 23,748 billlion USD for Gerald R Ford-class procurement, thus saving 22,464 billion USD.

Conclusion: Replacing six Nimitz-class carriers with conventional carriers at rate of two per year would save 22,464 billion USD over the next 10 years. This is my preferred option, as it does not lead to reduction of combat capability of USN surface combatants (in fact, this proposal would increase US carrier capability), and even carriers, while not being very useful in naval warfare, are very good at providing support for troops during amphibious landings, and can be used for transporting aircraft to land bases (as they were in World War 2). For that reason I will not make any change to number of Marine amphibious ships, which would be ideal for convoy escort duties.

V-22 Osprey programme

V-22 programme is another very expensive but not so useful program. It offers very few advantages over helicopters, and has far lower mission capable rate. Cancelling it would save 9,15 billion USD.


Nuclear submarines are an effective weapon. However, they have many shortcomings too. Compared to AIP submarines, they are very costly to both buy and operate, very large and very loud. They are designed for open ocean warfare in the East Pacific and Atlantic; in Western Pacific, nuclear submarines can easily fall prey to smaller and more agile subs without even detecting them, due to being outmaneuvered. While nuclear submarines are much faster than AIP ones (over 30 kts vs ~20 kts submerged), that is not advantage in the Western Pacific.

Thus, a mix of nuclear and AIP submarines would be best suited for large-scale warfare, especially in the Western Pacific. Nuclear submarines cost over 1 billion USD per sub. AIP submarines cost 100 to 250 million USD per sub, and can operate submerged for a month, carrying 25 – 40 crew members.

Per-year operating cost for nuclear attack submarine is, on average, 21 million USD, and typical service life is 30 years. Midlife refuelling and modernization costs 200 million USD. USS Dolphin, US last diesel-electric submarine, has cost 18 million USD per year, however that cost is unusually high for a non-nuclear submarine. UK WWI J-class submarine had operating cost of 28 300 GBP per year in 1921, or 6,023644 million 2012 USD (I have been unable to find figures for modern diesel AIP submarines, so I have to use this). Here, I will use estimate of 7,45 – 12 million USD for modern AIP sub, to stay on the safe side. Swedish Gotland sub costs 100 million USD.

Cost of decomissioning nuclear submarine is 36,5 – 38,8 million USD.

Decomissioning 40 nuclear subs would save 8,4 billion USD over next 10 years, whereas costs incurred would be 8,44 to 10,35 billion USD. However, over the next 20 years savings would be 16,8 billion USD, whereas costs incurred would be 11,42 to 15,15 billion USD.

Conclusion: replacing 40 nuclear submarines with AIP ones would save 1,65 – 5,38 billion USD over the next 20 years. However, cost saving for next 10 years would be 0,04 to 1,95 billion USD in negative – that is, replacement would cause additional costs to be incurred.

As for effectiveness, in WW2 US submarines sunk more Japanese aircraft carriers and (more importantly) supply ships than all USN surface assets combines, despite having only 2% of total US manpower in the Pacific. In World War I, Germany lost 187 submarines, sinking 5.234 merchant ships, 10 battleships, 20 destroyers and 9 submarines. (dodati težinsku i cjenovnu usporedbu)

In exercises, diesel subs routinely sank disproportionately large numbers of surface vessels and nuclear submarines. During RIMPAC 2000, the Australian Collins Class diesel sub HMAS Waller “sank” two US fast attack nuclear submarines and almost “sank” the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Similar record has repeated itself in exercises to follow, where diesel and AIP subs routinely sunk large numbers of nuclear submarimes and surface assets. Unlike nuclear subs, diesel submarines can shut down powerplant, lie on seafloor and monitor activity in their surroundings.

Using submarines, United States could easily keep China bottled up in Western Pacific at low cost.

DoD contractors

DoD contractors are very inefficient, and should be replaced with military personnell and DoD civilians wherever possible.

In 2011, contractor employees cost 2,94 times more than DoD civilian employees doing the same job. 622.000 DoD service contractors have cost $253.8 billion and 778.000 DoD’s civilian employees have cost $72 billion (base) or $108 billion (base plus overhead) in FY 2010. Similar ratio is when comparing DoD contractors with military personnell. Contractor jobs are also not easy to cut when not necessary, possibly harder than military or civilian ones.

By taking numbers above, it can be calculated that replacing said 622.000 contractors with equal number of civilians and military personnell can save 167,46 billion USD per year, or 1,67455 trillion USD over next 10 years.


US military only needs one-third of generals it has right now. Many generals are, in fact, professionall lobbysts, pushing for increases in defense spending; and many members of Congress are reluctant to oppose a “distinguished top officer” – even though many, if not most, of them are really bureocrats of questionable leadership ability and military knowledge. Even after they retire, they retain rank and can be called back; most of them go into armaments industry, continuing to work to influence active officers of lower rank.

There are 970 generals and admirals in armed forces. Average salary is 14.000 – 17.000 USD per month, or 168.000 – 204.000 USD per year. Thus, by cutting number of high officials in US military to appropriate number, 1,08696 – 1,3192 billion USD can be saved over the next 10 years just on their salaries. In fact, while in World War 2 there were 130 ships per admiral, and three ships per admiral at the end of the Vietnam War, in 2011 Navy had 254 admirals and 285 ships.

However, staff provided to generals and admirals can cost 1 million USD per general. That is 647 million USD that will further be cut over the next 10 years.

DoD also spends 500 million USD annualy on marching bands. That amount could be cut in half, saving 2,5 billion USD over the next 10 years.

There are 79.000 US military personnell stationed in the Europe. Removing them, and turning bases over to European militaries, would save 110,6 billion USD over the next 10 years. However, as withdrawal per person costs 8.800 USD, actual savings would be 695,2 million USD less

In total, 114,1 – 114,36 billion USD can be saved in next 10 years by cutting personnell costs.

War in Afghanistan

In 2013, War in Afghanistan is expected to cost 97 billion USD. Assuming average of 90 – 100 billion over the next 10 years (it is expected to last until 2025), it comes to 900 billion to 1 trillion USD.


Measures proposed above would save 2,8 – 2,9 trillion USD over the next decade, while at the same time increasing US combat capability. It is important to remember that larger defense spending does not necessarily increase combat capability – in fact, it can decrease it, by reducing the discipline in the weapons design process and other practices.

Cuts are even more important because military that is not reined in by civilian authorities is, in itself, a serious danger to democracy. For the last 60 years, we were witnessing Prussization of United States, a process that may have serious repercussions on democracy beyond United States themselves. Thus processes going on in United States must be carefully observed even by people not living in US themselves.

It is nonsense that defense cuts automatically lead to job losses – workers can transfer to civilian industry, and civilian shipyards can easily build aircraft carriers and other warships – especially if they are not nuclear. Simpler weapons will make it easier to increase production during war, and thus sustain force levels during protracted war.

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2012 in review

Posted by picard578 on January 1, 2013

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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