Super Hornets can't drop our preferred weapons

Unlike some posters here (hi Nabs), I don’t get to go to the trade days at the Australian International Air Show. On the public days, the defence hardware makers all go hide themselves away, leaving the punters to gawp at the various flypasts and aerobatics displays. I enjoy Jurgis Kayris as much as the next overgrown little boy, but his show was irrelevant to my real purpose of braving the 100 km/h dust storm afflicting Avalon that day – seeing what tidbits I could learn about what the hell the Australian government is doing with its military aircraft purchases.

While the latest news is that the price of the all-singing, all-dancing Joint Strike Fighter is apparently to go up yet again, amongst the trade press lying around on the commercial stands at Avalon there’s another piece of evidence of a severe lack of foresight in the government’s procurement strategy for air defence.

There was a little publication with a stand at Avalon called Australian Defence Business Review, which has all manner of interesting things to say. There’s a large amount of highly complex technical and financial material to digest on their website, much of which the guys at Aus Air Power would dispute strongly. However, there was one very interesting fact in there that allows all sorts of unflattering conclusions to be made about the government’s defence acquisition policies (or lack of policies).

In previous upgrades to our present Hornet fighters, the government chose to spend $300 million equip them with the JASSM cruise missile for air-to-ground attack. However, the Super Hornets we are purchasing can’t carry it. Instead, they will use the JSOW glide weapon. The JSOW is an unpowered gliding weapon, with a much inferior range compared to the JASSM. So we will be left with the very short-range Hornet that can carry a longer-range cruise missile for ground attack, and the somewhat longer-range Super Hornet that can only carry a shorter-range glide bomb.

So why are we going with these odd weapons choices for our new fighter planes? Because it’s what the US Navy uses on their planes, and it’s the only way that they can guarantee that the Super Hornets will be fully operational when the F-111 is retired in 2010.

The decision to purchase the JASSM, an air-to-ground strike missile, was made in 2006. We announce we’re buying a plane primarily for the purpose of air-to-ground and maritime strike in 2007, and it can’t carry the hot-diggity new missile we bought at very considerable expense for the job last year.

Whatever your view of how much, and how, we should spend on air defence, and defence more generally, this reeks of policymaking on the run costing us a) big money, and b) leaving us with a less capable defence force than we could otherwise have.

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Posted in government, politics, War
46 comments on “Super Hornets can't drop our preferred weapons
  1. Robert Merkel on 16 April 2007 at 8:06 am

    So why are we going with these odd weapons choices for our new fighter planes? Because it’s what the US Navy uses on their planes, and it’s the only way that they can guarantee that the Super Hornets will be fully operational when the F-111 is retired in 2010.

    The decision to purchase the JASSM, an air-to-ground strike missile, was made in 2006. We announce we’re buying a plane primarily for the purpose of air-to-ground and maritime strike in 2007, and it can’t carry the hot-diggity new missile we bought at very considerable expense for the job last year.

    Manned-aircraft are looking like an obsolete technology. So why are we bothering with obsolete versions of manned aircraft?

    Howard seems to be making ADF big-ticket defence procurement solely on the basis of US-AUS interoperability. This may be for strategic (Deputy Sheriff) or economic (crony capitalist) reasons. Either way it stinks.

    The USA-AUS defence alliance is mutually beneficial. But it rests on shared long-standing political interests. Not contrived business deals between mates.

    The USA military-industrial complex has a lot of legacy money staked in traditional WWII-Vietnam War style technology. The PRC M-I complex has no such problem. They are putting alot of money into Directed-Energy weapons systems:

    China has secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable American spy satellites by “blinding” their sensitive surveillance devices, it was reported yesterday.

    The American military has been so alarmed by the Chinese activity that it has begun test attacks against its own satellites to determine the severity of the threat.

    Satellites are especially vulnerable to attack because they have predetermined orbits, allowing an enemy to know where they will appear.

    “The Chinese are very strategically minded and are extremely active in this arena. They really believe all the stuff written in the 1980s about the high frontier,” said one senior former Pentagon official.

    There has been increasing alarm in parts of the American military establishment over China’s growing military ambitions.

    Military experts have already noted that Chinese military expenditure is increasingly designed to challenge American military pre-eminence by investing in weaponry that can attack key systems such as aircraft carriers and satellites.

    D-E weapons systems would be damn near invulnerable to conventional attack. And they would be able to destroy ground targets with impunity. If we invested a fraction of the money now put into conventional weapons systems into D-E weapons we would be in a much better position arms-race wise.

    Although a “zero-option” arms-freeze would be a first-best solution. Spend the money saved on cancer research which is a much more lethal threat than Great Power politicking.

    Reagan was way ahead of his time.

  2. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Clearly a major part of the problem is an obsession with having a jet that can do both air superiority and ground attack. The F-111 was never expected to do duty as a fighter, it was a well-engineered Cold War strategic nuclear first-strike bomber pressed into conventional service with the RAAF.
    If we want to launch very long distance cruise missiles (and who doesn’t) P-3 Orions will do that job perfectly well against pretty much any target in the region you care to name. If we want to imagine air supremacy wars fought by relatively equal forces in the lower stratosphere, well, 1989 wants its wargame back. Good ground attack aircraft have quite different characteristics, like strength and survivability, which aren’t necessarily compatible with stealthiness or coolness—see the fugly old A-4 for an historical example. Seems to me like the whole process is starting from some quite out-of-date assumptions about the kinds of challenges to be faced by a future RAAF.
    But I agree broadly, Robert, that the acquisitions process at DOD needs to be taken out into the yard and dealt with under Rule .303.

  3. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Manned-aircraft are looking like an obsolete technology. So why are we bothering with obsolete versions of manned aircraft?

    Jack, I salute your sentiment in spite of the highly gendered language. Let’s do away with female pilots too, eh?

  4. Fiasco, that’s a wider and very interesting debate, and I did some rather interesting reading on UCAVs recently.

    That said, it’s pretty simple stuff here. We’re buying new land attack missiles at great expense. We’re buying new aircraft, in large part for land attack, at enormous expense. The two can’t work together. This suggests a screwup along the line somewhere.

    From what I’ve read it’s a political problem – the RAAF didn’t ask for the Super Hornets, Brendan Nelson wanted to buy them as political cover for the flak he’s copping (pardon the pun) for the likely JSF acquisition delays.

  5. Fiasco da Gama says:

    A correction and a suggestion. Having looked it up, the P-3 Orions operated by the RAAF cannot at the moment launch the JASSM. They can operate a suite of other cruise missiles, though, such as the Harpoon and the SLAM, so I would hope that with a bit of tinkering the JASSM could be fitted.
    My point remains, though, that none of the countries against whom we want to ‘project’ regional force have any anti-cruise missile air defence worthy of the name.
    To be honest, in terms of force projection, the money would be vastly better spent adding to the Army’s fleet of heavy-lifting helicopters and transport fixed-wing aircraft, which can do humanitarian and emergency assistance, as well as strategic airlift, something the F-35 and F-22 would be hard pressed to achieve. There are so few of those that I read the Australian contingent in Afghanistan are going to have to go without Chinooks while the ones we do have are rebuilt.
    How about some more C-17s, or a few Airbus A400s, eh, Russell Sq.? Now they’re cool.

  6. Philip travers says:

    The ADF,seems to be a very strange function of government more so when purchases occur for the various arms of the Defence Force,I am beginning to think ,perhaps wives girlfriends hubbies and mothers and fathers should do more of the accounting work than the one they do now,which isnt always pleasing to them or the taxpayer.This dependence on our Alliance partners for purchases is detrimental all round including the U.S.A. the long story of the Military Industrial complex is only underwritten by the popularity of small company initiatives.I recently checked out Youtube to see a remote control airship,invented by a teacher and run on solar.One could really wonder how many uses to this idea could resonate in defence alone,without considering other uses.And while I am it Telstras telephone booths could be used more directly by defence local councils and State bodies.. in that traffic flow…. plane flight ground recording and signals and weather station at road and ground zero.

  7. Fiasco da Gama on 16 April 2007 at 10:18 am

    To be honest, in terms of force projection, the money would be vastly better spent adding to the Army’s fleet of heavy-lifting helicopters and transport fixed-wing aircraft, which can do humanitarian and emergency assistance, as well as strategic airlift.

    My sentiments exactly. Helicopters are win-win equipment being dual use.

    The ADF was desperately short of this when they went into Timor in 1999. That is why we begged the US for assistance which came in the form of a USMC aircraft carrier. Which is why we are in Iraq now (pay-back).

    Lets get away from massive heavy-duty standing armies. They were fine when the enemy was the Wermacht or Red Army.

    Who needs these Strike Fighters, Main Battle Tanks and Air Warfare Destroyers. Go light, go smart go stealth. A chopper air force, amphib-op cat navy and a special-forces army. Plus directed-energy weapons if a Great Power wants to try something on.

    Okay, the Phillips class subs I like. Stick with the subs.

  8. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Phillips class? Don’t know that one, and Google lends few clues. You mean the Collins class, right?
    I don’t agree about dual-use helicopters. Attack and close-support helicopters are best when they’re small and fast, troop-carrying and lifting helicopters best when they’re big and efficient, and you can’t really have the two together in any acceptable way.
    On MBTs: I think they do have a role in the ADF, especially for bunker-busting. Whether that’s a job best done by the Abrams, I think, is a matter best left for another post, before we totally derail this one.
    Sorry, Robert.

  9. joe2 says:

    Much , much money, could be saved if boys were able to play out their ‘my weapon is bigger than yours’ and ‘flys faster and is smarter’ , if forums like this were more widespread and provided an ‘energy sink’ for now defunct hunter/gathering killing instincts.

    Especially, before boys became defense officials and politicians who would prefer to spend the odd 20 billion on ‘war toy buggies’ , when hospitals and educational institutions are crying out for a few spare bucks.

    I congratulate you on the post Ken.

  10. joe2 says:

    “I congratulate you on the post Ken.”

    Whoops…. make that Robert M.

  11. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Doing a little reading on the Chinese lasers, Jack, I don’t agree with your assessment.
    First of all they seem to be developing them as anti-satellite weapons, rather than as a militarisation of space—in other words the laser sits on the ground firing up, rather than the reverse.
    Secondly, even if an orbiting ‘death ray’ were on the cards, it’d be entirely vulnerable to attack from the ground, for the same reason that any satellite must have a predictable trajectory.
    Personally I’ve always thought of the Rods From God project as the most elegant form of space militarisation, even if it is ludicrously expensive and entirely insane.
    Hey, Archimedes would have approved.

    And while I am it Telstras telephone booths could be used more directly by defence local councils and State bodies

    Quite so, Philip Travers. Imagine a 1980s orange Telecom phone booth, descending from space at thousands of kilometres an hour, obliterating a designated target in a cloud of aluminium, fibreglass, and 10¢ and 20¢ coins. ‘F course, you’d have to wrap it in some insulating ceramic so that it could survive re-entry.

  12. professor rat says:

    Kevin ‘ Jesus-is-mein-fuhrer’ Rudds super new Department of Reichstag Security will sort all this out quick smart – don’t you worry about that because the Messiah was born in a manger half way between Ipswich and Kingaroy. Luther could only dream of being a turd in Gods arse.
    The kingdom of Kevin is at hand. Our Rudd who art in heaven hallowed be thy wargames. Siegen heil and guten nacht.

  13. Razor says:

    Hey Jack,

    Once you’ve got rid of all the hardware and corporate knowlege of how to fight heavy – what sort of a lead time do you expect to ressurect that capability to defend the Australian Continent or take part in international coalition operations as full fledged players, rather than fringe anmby pambies??

    Oh, and who and when is that threat going to be, how will it be identified?

    You might be a handy wordsmith but you appear to know bugger all about military strategy or warfighting (so you aren’t Pat Malone on this site!).

  14. On the issue at hand, Razor, would you agree that this is an example of rather poor planning?

  15. Razor says:

    Bob,

    The Super Hornet purchase is a stop gap measure. It is not intended to be the perfect solution. I will accept correction, as always, but I,m pretty sure the Pig isn’t fitted for the the JASSM. As it is, the JSOW is a fairly effective piece of high precision weaponry, and having been in a near miss from a full bomb load from an F/A-18, I definitiely wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end from a Super Hornet.

    A couple of other issues ignored or just not mentioned by critics of the Super Hornet buy – the F-111 was purchased beofr ewe had the significant force multipliers that are now becomign available – AWACS, Re-fuelers and EW pods. They also ignore the reality of the situation that when the decision to replace the F-111 should have been made, there wasn’t the votes in it or the money in the budget – both go hand in hand. Now ther ei sthe votes and the money alowing these types of decions to be made – across the board catch-up is being played – heavy cargo planes, tank replacement etc are being forced through.

    It is interesting to note that the ASLAV purchased was made with similar haste and has trurned out to be a great success.

    Back to what Jack said – most wars are fought as “come as you are” affairs. Lead time is a load of bunkem – except in hind sight when you look back and see how much time you would have liked to be really ready. I don’t know how many times I’ve been operating on a ‘Notice to Move’ that has been reduced to nothing and that was in peace-time.

  16. Paul Norton says:

    You might be a handy wordsmith but you appear to know bugger all about military strategy or warfighting

    Methinks Soldier Strocchi might have an answer to this comment.

  17. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Sorry to hear about the near miss, Razor!
    It is one of the advantages the Hornet and Super Hornet have over either of the F-35 and F-22—payload, and more payload.
    I’ve always thought the two next-generation aircraft designs we’re ‘supposed’ to be buying suffer from the US-centric design assumption that there are other aircraft that can carry larger weapons loads, and so trade off payload for dogfighting performance. I’ve commented before about the rather pathetic capacity of the F-22. The Americans do most of their air cruise missile launches from B-52s, I understand, which is not, as far as I know, an aircraft we’re considering investing in.

  18. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Err… to clarify, I’m sorry that you were in a dangerous near-miss incident, Razor, not that the bombload missed you. I could have phrased that a lot better.

  19. Razor says:

    Dangerous near miss – yep – hit the wrong effing hill, which fortunately was next to the one I was parked on. Almost knocked me off the top of my vehicle with the shock wave.

    Sorry about the typos above – in a rush.

  20. Christine Keeler says:

    The Americans do most of their air cruise missile launches from B-52s, I understand, which is not, as far as I know, an aircraft we’re considering investing in.

    But there’s a great idea! There must be a whole bunch of big FU strategic nuclear bombers going cheap at Davis Monthan AFB.

  21. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Well Christine, if we were in the market for cheap surplus from SAC, I’d put in an order for a brace of these.
    Come in handy on those long, serious, earnest comment threads.

  22. Christine Keeler says:

    Well since we’re in the market for a bit of second-hand kit and the Russians could use the foreign exchange, I reckon we could do with a couple of these:

    I don’t know about the enemy, but they scare the crap out of me.

  23. Russians and their counter-rotating propellors…

    The Tu-95 in that clip is, by reputation, just about the noisiest aircraft ever made. You’d never get the thing past OH&S in Australia…

  24. joe2 says:

    This little baby , stocked with sufficient , testosterone imagined ‘grunt’ goes really well, admittedly at ground level, for ‘max. col. dam.’ at well below a billion.

  25. swio says:

    The US is spending alot of money on direct energy weapons. If the Chinese are a fraction of the way to where the Americans are already with DE weapons I’ll eat my hat. I doubt they will prove to be very practical for ordinary military use. Great for shooting at satellites which are few in number, conveniently fly right over your head and high value enough to justify over priced weapons to shoot them down. But for your everyday shooting up machine gun nests and tanks they’re a waste. Its amazing how much energy the human body can absorb. Its 70% water which is a fantastic absorber of energy. And the fact that lasers have to be used in line of sight is a bit of a draw back. If you can see them they can see you. Far better to be a dozen miles away hiding under a thermal blanket firing medium range cruise missiles from a hole in the ground that your enemy can’t shoot at because it can’t find it. Worked for Hezbollah.

    Which brings me to my point. The most recent major conflict was between Hezbollah and Israel and if that showed anything it is the complete uselessness of modern air forces. Israel has one of the best air forces in the world combined with one of the best ground forces in the world and it couldn’t win a war against a sub-national group that doesn’t have an air force and has only a few thousand full time militia.

    Modern earth building equipment means anybody can afford to dig deep and cover themselves in concrete. Against a dug in target an F/A-18 or F-35 is pretty much useless. A dug in target is very hard to find and almost impossible to destroy from the air. Don’t kid yourself about bunker busters either. They’re a bit too expensive to become a wide spread weapon, too heavy to get muliple bombings per sortie, don’t help if you can’t find the target and didn’t help Israel.

    The future is mass manufactured self guided missiles. Happily fly themselves all the way to the target. Can be stockpiled in huge quantities before the war then hidden all over the place the middle of nowhere and protected in underground bunkers. Require almost no maintennance and cost relatively little. Compare that with F-35’s which need vulnerable airports, thousands of man-hours of maintennance and hundreds of very expensive pilot hours of training. Cost so much they can only be purchased in small numbers. And are only useful against military targets too stupid to dig in and hide or for hitting civilian targets which as any military commander will tell you is counter productive.

  26. Christine Keeler says:

    The Tu-95 in that clip is, by reputation, just about the noisiest aircraft ever made. You’d never get the thing past OH&S in Australia…

    Contra-rotating propellers in defence of the revolution have different standards, Tovaritch.

    Somewhat OT but just yesterday I was lazing on a beach on the NSW MNC, Regina Spektor blaring through the ipod when I spy a low flying shadow on the sand.

    Thinking that the distinctive tail looks not at all like the local tourist floatplane I turn my head and there before me at 200 feet and just over the water is the FECKING QANTAS CONSTELLATION!!

    I tore out the earpieces, blurted out something like “Jaybus Christ Marymotherogod it’s a fecking Constellation!” and started pointing and blubbering incoherently.

    Anyway it buzzed of merrily on it’s way south, but one of the truly remarkable things was it was so quiet. The engines sounded like silk.

    It was such a nice surprise. I think I may just be able to die happy.

  27. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Not at true, swio.
    The Israeli AF were spectacularly successful at destroying Hezbollah’s Iranian-supplied longer-range missiles, its larger headquarters, its limited mechanised forces and all of its means of transportation, from bicycles on up. It was Hezbollah’s ability (just) to keep firing smaller, short-range unguided missiles onto civilians in Israeli towns close to the border that led to the BBC-ish assumption that the AF hadn’t flattened every important military objective in South Lebanon. The Israeli Army’s spectacularly poorly-led push north didn’t help, either, or the Air Force’s decision to bomb Beirut. The IDF and Hezbollah fought two wars with different objectives in parallel, IMO.
    Against the targets the ADF are likely to plan engagements against, foreign navies and logistical structures especially, air forces are going to be very effective for the forseeable future. For the non-conventional war operations the ADF is going to be involved in, air power is vital—it just doesn’t look like Top Gun.
    As for this:

    Against a dug in target an F/A-18 or F-35 is pretty much useless.

    I think you should go back and read Razor’s comment.
    Robert: the American T-37 trainer is supposed to give the IL-95 a run for its money in loudness, but then it’s a 1950s jet.
    Christine: awesome. Just awesome.

  28. swio says:

    The Israeli AF were spectacularly successful at destroying Hezbollah’s Iranian-supplied longer-range missiles, its larger headquarters, its limited mechanised forces and all of its means of transportation, from bicycles on up

    That’s sort of the point. They did all that and they still didn’t win. Air power did everything it could be expected to and it wasn’t enough. Despite destroying headquarter’s and no doubt just about every last bit of military/communitactions infrastructure they could find in six years of intelligence work they never broke Hezbollah’s command and control and never stopped Hezbollah’s ability to attack Israel. Mechanised forces proved of little value to Israel so I doubt that it actually cost Hezbollah that much to lose them.

    US/Israeli military doctrine is based around destroying an opponents ability to operate by taking out key points in their network. Their headquarters, key infrastructure such as fuel depots, transport and communication hubs. That’s why they have relatively small amounts of spectacularly expensive equipment. They do very heavy and precise damage to a relatively small number of key targets. This was the perfect doctrine against the heavily centralised Soviet Union or militaries based on the Soviet Union like Iraq. Take out a headquarters and you have effectively taken out a division. Our opponents have learned from that and today they’re completely decentralised. The smart ones have designed their systems without highly vulnerable nodes. That’s why Hezbollah retained command and control despite the air pounding.

    Australia does not face a local opponent that meets the description of smart so its not really a problem for us at the moment, but there’s a good chance that before the end of the life cycle of the F-35’s we’re buying is over that situation will have changed.

    My guess is that next time around things will favour those taking Hezbollah’s approach even more. The problem western forces face is that the cost of innovation is so high. Its relatively easy and low cost for Hezbollah to find better ways to hide its missiles. The very expensive technology we rely on now has made innovation for western forces a very slow, bureacratic and expensive business. It can take over a decade and bilions at least for a new weapon system to reach production. Witness the rate of innovation of Iraqi insurgents against that of the American forces there.

    I think you should go back and read Razor’s comment.

    Razor,
    You reckon that given a week to prepare, manpads, a dozen men, earth moving equipment and camoflague you could make yourself invisible from the 1500m up the Super Hornet would not dare fly below ? I don’t believe for a second that task would be beyond an Australian soldier.

  29. Fiasco da Gama says:

    I think you’re over-romanticising the so-called ‘fourth generation’ swio, and vastly underestimating the effects of IAF—or any air force—bombing. Yes, it’s ineffective against a dispersed target whose military objective is only to remain alive, but it’s also very very unpleasant for everything in the vicinity.
    As to the innovation of the Iraqi insurgents, well, it helps if you have a very centralised and efficient country to the East funding and training you.

  30. Leinad says:

    F da G: Iran’s training Sunnis and Baathists to blow up its allies in the Iraqi government?

  31. Fiasco da Gama says:

    My word no, Leniad, though I give appropriate props to your banal sarcasm. Iran’s doing quite enough pouring arms into the Shia militia. Where the Sunnis and Baathists get their arms, explosives and training from is another question—presumably it’s not all leftover from the old régime, and I think we can discount the idea of it emerging independently, scalably nodally, without fuel, transport, or communication, from a deindustrialising crumbling state.
    Without wanting to preempt Razor’s response to swio’s question, I would hope that Australian infantry training doesn’t involve responding to threats on the Verdun model.

  32. Razor says:

    swio – for what it is worth I am a supporter of Israel. However, a widely held western professional military opinion of the IDF is that they are second rate force with first rate equipment against a third rate enemy.

  33. GoodToBeWithYou says:

    “So why are we going with these odd weapons choices for our new fighter planes?”

    In that regard, could some crikey subscriber please post the gist of their “Nelson, Peacock and the Boeing connection” story?

    Cheers

  34. j_p_z says:

    Fiasco: “it helps if you have a very centralised and efficient country to the East funding and training you.”

    Leinad: “Iran’s training Sunnis and Baathists…?”

    I would have assumed he meant China.

  35. derrida derider says:

    Can’t let the bit about Iraq pass, even if it is OT:
    1) No-one is training the insurgents. Their training is done on the battlefield.
    2) Most of their arms are coming from Saudi and Syria, not Iran. Even so, the main limit to the insurgency’s effectiveness is supply, not will or skill.

    Even the yanks have stopped their quite outrageous lies about this now that they’ve decided not to start a gratuitous war with Iran.

  36. swio says:

    that they are second rate force with first rate equipment against a third rate enemy.

    I am well aware of that. I know that most analysts think they would not last five minutes on a European battle field. Still, first rate second rate should be able to beat third rate. Why doesn’t it work out that way?

  37. Fiasco da Gama says:

    I would have assumed he meant China.

    I didn’t, JPZ, but now you mention it, I probably do. God bless Norinco and all of is subsidiary companies.
    Swio, if you haven’t seen it, this is for you. For what it’s worth, I think the technology ludicrously solves the wrong problems—and the microwave beam that heats up water molecules under people’s skin is more than a bit damn creepy. Maybe it’s non-lethal, but it’s still stomach-turning.

  38. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Speaking of “lasers” and terrifying modern technology, how about this?

    Michael Jackson is in discussions about creating a 50-foot robotic replica of himself to roam the Las Vegas desert, according to reports.

    It has now been claimed that his plans include an elaborate show in Vegas, which would feature the giant Jacko striding around the desert, firing laser beams.

  39. Evan says:

    I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade here, but can someone tell me how some new aeroplane is going to help us beat al-Qaeda?

    I mean, they don’t even have an airforce, right? Their preferred methods of attack are hijacked civilian aircraft, IED’s and suicide bombers. Real down and dirty stuff.

    Some new killer jet with all the bells and whistles imaginable on it won’t stop those sorts of attacks.

    What will win it for us, if indeed the conflict is “winnable” in military terms, is a political solution to Palestine, a complete re-jigging of our approach to dealing with the Mid-East (to starve al-Qaeda of its political air) and some top-notch intelligence and detective work (to find and catch Osama and his homicidal pals).

    So, no disrespect to all the Curtis Le Mays on this thread, but air power didn’t win us the Vietnam War and it sure as hell won’t win us this one either.

  40. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade here, but can someone tell me how some new aeroplane is going to help us beat al-Qaeda?

    It won’t. Nor will it solve global warming, cure AIDS or bird flu, or improve the political health of our pacific neighbours.

    What they can potentially do is a) ensure that nobody enters Australian waters without our say-so, and b) ensure that Australian troops fighting in the region (god forbid) do so with the aid of bombs and missiles dropping on their opposition, not themselves, and thus c) make a) and b) less necessary.

    How expansive you make those roles, how high a probability you assign to either of the scenarios that the air force becomes necessary, and how much you’re prepared to spend to achieve them, are perfectly reasonable questions to debate.

    But Al-Queda is not the only, or even the most likely, reason for Australians to be fighting without the benefit of American air support. Conflict to our immediate north is.

  41. Razor says:

    swio – the reason the IDF didn’t “win” was the lack of political will to win. They weren’t prepared to commit the resources or take the casualties that “victory” would cost.

    Evan – you are right – jets won’t necessarily stop attacks, but if I was the Digger expected to enter a cave to clear it of terrorists, I’d much rather a GPS or Laser Guided 250 pound bomb acted as the door bell. And the current operations against terrorists aren’t going to be the only war we ever fight.

  42. Ilsa, Phantom Agent says:

    From today’s SMH:

    THE United States has responded favourably to Japanese requests to buy the potent F-22 Raptor fighter jet, undermining claims by the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, that the aircraft was not available for foreign sale.

    In February Dr Nelson killed off growing agitation for Australia to seriously consider the F-22, citing a letter from the US Deputy Defence Secretary, Gordon England, stating the F-22 was not for sale.

    Soon afterwards, he pushed through the controversial decision to buy 24 Super Hornet jets at a cost of $6 billion.

    In recent weeks, Japan and Israel have approached the US to buy the F-22, a long-range fighter that can cruise at supersonic speed, reach extraordinarily high altitudes and has unparalleled stealth and a perfect record in exercises.

    Before a visit to Washington this week by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, a senior US official said the White House was “positively disposed” towards selling the F-22 to Tokyo.

    And:

    Dr Nelson, who was travelling back from Gallipoli, could not be reached for comment but has said recently that he believes the F-22 is not the right plane for Australia.

    How slow is this bloke?

  43. gilmae says:

    if I was the Digger expected to enter a cave to clear it of terrorists, I’d much rather a GPS or Laser Guided 250 pound bomb acted as the door bell.

    Possibly the best summary of, and argument for, the use of modern combined arms as the pointy end of the campaign against terrorist organisations ever.

  44. Katz says:

    Possibly the best summary of, and argument for, the use of modern combined arms as the pointy end of the campaign against terrorist organisations ever.

    This is a particularly pure example of the irrationality of RWDB framing of the nature of terrorism.

    They see al Qaeda as equivalent to Austin Powers’ Dr Evil organisation: featuring underground HQ staffed by henchmen in Star Trek-type double-knit uniforms.

    They believe that if you knock out Dr Evil, then the whole dastardly plot for world domination will go up in one vast explosion. Cue the go-go girls and roll the credits.

    But sensible people understand that al Qaeda is nothing like this. Jihadists are winning hearts and minds one website at a time. Unless RWDBs come up with a laser-guided missile that blows up a computer every time one visits jihad.com, weapons of this nature simply serve to nurture the growth of al Qaeda.

    In the meantime, RWDBs salivate at the prospect of using a billion-dollar delivery system to send a million-dollar missile to obliterate another hole in an Afghan hillside.

    Pathetic and stupid.

  45. gilmae says:

    I love how I am a dirty lefty at Catallaxy, and a rabid RWDB at Lava. Time for the Mercutio Party, I think.

    Sensible people are aware that while intelligence agencies and police work are always at the forefront of turning up information on the whereabouts of international terrorists. Senisble people are aware that in many settings, urban buildings and the like, you just can get around the fact that kicking in doors is the best way of apprehending criminals and terrorists.

    Sensible people sometimes also remember that al Qaeda has history in occupying cave systems in mountain ranges, in occupying remote buildings, and in operating militia forces. Sensible people believe that soliders and bombs are more appropriate to dealing with militia forces than the police, and that sometimes dropping a bomb into a cave mouth is a better approach than asking for a platoon of soldiers to assault a kill zone.

    Always use the appropriate tool for the job – police in London, soldiers in the Hindu Kush.

  46. Katz says:

    So if Gilmae were being sensible s/he would have said:

    Possibly the best summary of, and argument for, the use of modern combined arms as the pointy end of the campaign against some elements in highly selective circumstance against terrorist organisations ever on some occasions.

    A sensible person would agree with that.

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