Author Archives: xbradtc

About xbradtc

Kicking poon and taking names since March 2009

Quick Takes

I’m gearing up for a long weekend out of town, so posting will likely be pretty light, on my end at least, for the next few days.

Those who know, know.

The Royal Australian Air Force, in addition to operating the SuperHornet, has also decided that operating the EF-18G is a wise move. And it probably is. And so, they’ve send crews to NAS Whidbey Island to undergo the normal transition course operated by VAQ-129.

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) — Five Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircrew personnel graduated from basic training at Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler Fleet Replacement Squadron, during a ceremony Feb. 27 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island.
The graduation marked a milestone in the RAAF-U.S. Navy partnership in airborne electronic attack as it was the first time RAAF aircrew completed basic training in the EA-18G.
The five RAAF aircrew will be assigned to U.S. Navy expeditionary units for approximately two years, deploying and operating the EA-18G under the Personnel Exchange Program.
One of the five graduates already deployed and is operating in the U.S. Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.

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Is the Air Force really open to designing a new plane to replace the A-10?

ORLANDO, Fla. — A future close air support-specific platform to replace the A-10 remains a possibility, the head of Air Combat Command said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is planning a joint-service summit in March to work out options for the mission, frequently referred to as CAS.

“We’re thinking about it,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters at the Air Force Association Air Warfare symposium here when asked about a future close air support system that could replace the venerable Warthog.

Yeah, I just don’t see it. The key problem with the A-10 as a future CAS platform is its low speed. Higher speed greatly reduces vulnerability to missiles and gunfire. The effective engagement zone of a SAM or gun looks something like a hot air balloon, when graphically displayed. Obviously, the faster aircraft spends less time inside that balloon shaped area. And, of course, longer ranged stand off weapons mean you either penetrate less into the balloon, or don’t enter it at all.

I have a sneaking suspicion any future CAS jet with the speed to justify replacing the A-10 would end up looking an awful lot like an F-16. Or maybe the YA-7F. Which, neither option would ever get produced, particularly not in this budget environment.

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When an investigation turns into a witch-hunt.

Nearly two years ago, a Coast Guard executive officer reported an alleged sexual assault between two E-3s aboard his ship. The victim filed a complaint and the perpetrator confessed within days, but when the investigation was over, so was the officer’s career.

Cmdr. Ben Strickland, a nearly 20-year officer with three years in the Navy before transferring to the Coast Guard, says he’s the victim of overreach by Coast Guard investigators who dredged up years-old private messages that were inappropriate but unrelated to the criminal investigation.

I think CDR Strickland is just screwed. If his boss decided to relieve him, that’s about all there is to say about that. The service is often harsh, and fair where 4H kids display their goats.

But the part of the article that is disturbing comes a bit further down. From a relatively open and shut case of sexual assault involving one victim, and one perpetrator, the CGIS manages to expand to this:

Still, the investigators mounted a full-court-press, pulling email and instant message logs for the Munro’s entire 170-person crew.

That’s not a search for justice. That’s a search for scalps. And it provides a perverse incentive for leaders to not aggressively pursue justice for members who are victims of sexual assault. Way to go, guys.

Also from Navy Times, here’s another XO getting hammered.

I know SWOs live by “we eat our young” but c’mon!

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Musashi Press Release – Paul Allen

PHILIPPINES – March 4, 2015 – Philanthropist and entrepreneur, Paul G. Allen, has located the Musashi, one of the two largest and most technologically advanced battleships in naval history. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, and the finding of the battleship is a significant milestone in the annals of naval history.

Mr. Allen and his team of researchers began their search for the Musashi more than eight years ago. Using historical records from four countries, detailed undersea topographical data and advanced technology aboard his yacht, M/Y Octopus, Mr. Allen and his team located the battleship in the Sibuyan Sea on March 1, 2015.

via Musashi Press Release – Paul Allen.

The Musashi and her sister Yamoto were stupendous ships.

Of course, a good argument could be made that Japan would have been far better served devoting those resources to cruiser and destroyer production.

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Well, that’s interesting.

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‘Warfighter’ Is The Wrong Way To Define The American Service Member | Task & Purpose

Using the term “warfighter” destroys our capacity for reason at a time when it’s desperately needed.

Sometime in the mid 2000s, a strange new word started to get popular: “warfighter.” It catapulted out of obscurity from the military, quickly becoming the de facto label for all active-duty and reserve personnel. This word is seriously misleading; it presents the exact opposite of military reality at a time when Americans need to be questioning our role in global security more than ever before.

via ‘Warfighter’ Is The Wrong Way To Define The American Service Member | Task & Purpose.

The rest of his post is something of a rant, and not really worth reading.

But he does have a point. Warfighter is one of those terms that has become overly used, and overly broad in its definition.

When it first entered the military lexicon sometime in the 1990s, it was clearly meant to distinguish between those actually engaged in combat, and the (still critical) enabling forces that helped make successful combat possible. Warfighter was a handy term in that it could encompass more than one arm or service. For instance, while the Army is organized along the combat arms, combat support, and combat service support, the other branches are a little less structured. But the term could clearly delineate those who support  and enable, and those who actually delivered pain upon the enemy.

Sadly, like most jargon, it soon devolved into a buzzword that every program and powerpoint presentation had to use. And when a word comes to mean everything, it ceases to mean anything.

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There is simply no end to the criminality of the Clintons

No, we’re not talking about former President Bill “Blue Dress” Clinton, though he seems to have a penchant from flying on the private jet of a convicted sex offender to Statutory Rape Island.

No, now we’re talking about the presumptive frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 2016, Hillary!

As the Secretary of State of The Most Transparent Administration Ever, not only did she use a private email account to conduct business, she ONLY used a private account, never even bothering to set up a .gov account.

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

This isn’t simply some mere oversight, a forgetful executive not taking the time to activate an account. This is a deliberate attempt to avoid having records that are discoverable and accountable under the law.

This is prima facie evidence that she broke federal record keeping laws. Further, there’s a real possibility that she communicated classified information outside of secure government accounts. Guess what? That’s a law that would see you and I prosecuted and sent to federal prison.

Heck,  at my last employer, it was simply impossible to access any non-company email or instant message service through any of their IT systems, to include company Blackberry and iPhones. That was a deliberate effort on the company’s part, as any attempt to conduct business outside the record retaining company system was presumptive evidence of conspiracy.

I’m going to go ahead and start a fundraiser to provide healthcare and physical therapy for all the mainstream journalists who injure themselves lifting the heavy load of carrying water for the Clintons once more.

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A Modest Defense of the Air Force Plan to Retire the A-10 Warthog

This is a repost of a bit I wrote last year about the Air Force attempt to retire the A-10.

I’m not saying retiring it is a good idea, merely that the Air Force has legitimate, if unpleasant, reasons for the decision.

National Review has a good piece making the case for keeping the A-10 in service. I do have a few nits to pick with it. First, any article that quotes Pierre Sprey today gets dinged. He’s simply not a serious voice on the topic.

Second, every article automatically reaches for the F-35 argument. Yes, eventually the F-35 will take the place of the A-10 as a CAS provider. And every article mentions the current shortcomings of the F-35. What those articles always fail to mention is that while the F-35 is entering into service, the real interim replacements for the A-10 in the CAS role will be the F-16 and the F-15E, until such time as they are phased out of service.

And finally, there is often something of a cult about the A-10 that argues not that it is the best at CAS, but that it is somehow the ONLY platform that can perform the mission. That would be something of a surprise to the United States Marine Corps. You know, the people that invented CAS? The service that doesn’t have the A-10? The service that currently uses fast jets like the F-18 and AV-8B for CAS, and seems pretty happy and competent at it? You know, the service that has bet the entire future of Marine aviation on the F-35B as the CAS platform of choice for the future? Maybe they know something the A-10 cult doesn’t.

Again, I love the A-10, and would love to see it remain in service. But GEN Welsh’s decision to retire it isn’t a conspiracy to avoid the mission and only buy sexy jets. It’s a tad more nuanced that than.

Original post below.

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The internets have been abuzz about the Air Force Chief of Staff’s decision to retire the A-10 Warthog. Untold numbers of pixels have been spent vilifying the chief, and pointing out what a lousy idea it is.

And it probably is.

But there are three strong arguments supporting his decision.

1. Money

2. The future battlefield

3. Availability of other CAS platforms

For the record, I am and always will be a fan of the A-10, and wish that it were to remain in service indefinitely. But barring Congressional intervention, it looks increasingly as if the demise of the Warthog is nigh. And Congressional intervention is by no means even a good idea.

Let’s take a look at the three arguments supporting GEN Welsh’s decision.

Money

First, money. Yes, the Warthog is relatively cheap to operate. But there are large fixed overhead costs with maintaining a type in service. There’s the training pipeline for pilots and maintainers, there’s the spare parts pipeline, and the technical contracting for the depot level overhaul and upgrades. Simply reducing the size of a particular fleet does relatively little to reduce these costs. Savings are only achieved by actually removing an entire type from the service.

And before you say “well, fine, give ‘em to the Army” or Marines, or what have you, understand, neither service wants the A-10 so badly they they are willing to pick up those associated costs, nor incur the major doctrinal upheaval integration of the A-1o would entail. That doesn’t even get into where the Army or Marines would find the manpower to operate the Warthog. It simply will not happen.

But the era of austere budgets is upon the DoD. Sequestration is upon us, and GEN Welsh has to make cuts, like it or not. And one way or another, the cuts he has to make will impair the Air Force’s ability to accomplish its mission. He has to decide which cuts impose the lowest future risks. And the choice of the A-10 can be seen as the lowest risk from a range of options that go from bad to terrible.

The future battlefield

Let’s actually look at the past a bit first. The A-10 was designed very much with the lessons of the Vietnam War in mind. Fast mover jets such as the F-100 and F-4 struggled to provide the quality of close air support in South Vietnam that the Army wanted.  Designed as high-flying supersonic fighters, they were too fast to visually identify small, fleeting targets on the ground. They were also quite vulnerable to small arms fire and other low-tech air defenses. And their design and thirsty turbojet engines meant they could only spend a short time on station before they needed to head home for fuel.

Simultaneously, the Air Force was having generally good results with former US Navy A-1H and A-1E Skyraider aircraft.  The Skyraider could carry and impressive warload, was capable of operating at low altitudes with a long loiter time, and was rugged enough that most of the time, small arms fire wouldn’t bring it down.  The gasoline engine was a real drawback, however, complicating maintenance, and logistics. The Skyraider was also quite slow, meaning its transit times from base to station were long, and if it was usually rugged, it was also something of an easy target.

The Air Force, as Vietnam drew down, began to look at the most daunting battlefield it faced, a potential war in Western Europe with the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact. Air Force planners knew the Air Force would be called upon to not only make deep attacks against fixed targets such as airfields and bridges, but also the vast swarms of Soviet tanks and other armor. Don’t forget, this was an era when the primary air-to-ground sensor was the unaided human eyeball.

The air defense threat was also evolving. Rather than primarily small arms as faced in South Vietnam, in any potential Soviet invasion, three weapon systems would be the greatest threat. The ZSU-23-4 radar controlled 23mm gun, the SA-7 MANPADS heat-seeking shoulder launched missile, and its big brother, the vehicle mounted SA-9 heat-seeking missile.

When the A-10 was designed and built, it was done with both the mission of killing tanks in the relatively close confines of Western Europe, and with countering those three specific threats very much in mind. The A-10 was of course built around the (eyeball aimed) 30mm GAU-8 cannon, and it was always envisioned that its other main armament would be the optically aimed AGM-65 Maverick guided missile. Virtually all the armor and active and passive countermeasures built into the A-10 were geared toward defeating the ZSU/SA-7/SA-9 threat.

Fast forward to 2001 and from there to the present. Aside from the initial assault into Iraq in 2003, American airpower has been working in a permissive, almost benign air defense environment. Only the smallest numbers of modern MANPADS missiles have been used by our enemies. And of course, in that benign environment, the A-10 has done a bang-up job. But with the war in Iraq over (for us, at any rate) and our involvement in Afghanistan winding down, the Air Force is again obliged to look at other possible future battlefields. Critically, they have a duty not only to look to the most likely, but more importantly, to the most challenging. The obvious “worst case” scenario these days is a war with China, which for our purposes, however unlikely, at least provides proxies for the threat weapons many other potential crises may present.

Without getting down in the weeds of improved kinematics and ECCM and such, suffice to say that today’s modern MANPADS are far, far more deadly than the SA-7/SA-9 of yesteryear. And the proliferation of effective, mobile short, medium and long range radar guided Surface-to-Air Missiles in potential conflict regions means the permissive operating environment of today is not likely to carry over to tomorrow. US troops, long accustomed to being able to call upon Close Air Support, with no thought to the risks imposed on the airborne asset, may find themselves in an environment where little or no CAS is to be had, particularly in the early days of a conflict, before an enemy Integrated Air Defense System can be, well, dis-integrated.  The A-10 today finds itself more and more vulnerable to modern air defenses, and for various reasons, can not realistically be expected to reduce those vulnerabilities to any significant degree.

Availability of other CAS platforms

The A-10 may be the airplane that instantly comes to mind when someone mentions Close Air Support, but in fact, it only flies a small fraction of the total CAS missions today. By some estimates, 80% of CAS is flown by other platforms, be they UAVs, F-15E or F-16, Navy and Marine TACAIR or others.

The A-10 was deliberately designed to be low tech. Guns, dumb bombs, unguided rockets were bread and butter. But the advent of first the Laser Guided Bomb, and now the GPS guided JDAM bomb, coupled with virtually every strike fighter having a sophisticated infrared targeting pod means virtually every weapon used in CAS today is a precision guided weapon, and virtually every strike is controlled by a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground. This revolution has greatly increased the ability of fast mover jets to provide timely, accurate and deadly CAS to troops in contact, and at closer ranges to friendly forces than ever before possible. The Warthog’s famed ability to get in the weeds and go low and slow is no longer so much a strength as a liability. Indeed, only in the last couple of years has the A-10 been upgraded to allow it to use precision guided weapons. Were it not for that upgrade, the A-10 would be almost irrelevant in the modern CAS environment.

Senator McCain, blasting the Air Force decision to retire the A-10, scoffed at the thought of using the B-1B bomber for CAS. In actuality, in the permissive environment in Afghanistan, it has proven to be not just capable, but in many ways, the most desirable CAS platform. It carries the same Sniper targeting pod the A-10 carries (making it every bit as accurate). It also has a stupendous load capability of up to 24 2000lb JDAM bombs. Indeed, a reengineering of the bomb racks is increasing the numbers and types of weapons the B-1B is carrying, almost certainly far and away more than any single engagement might call for. And with its intercontinental range, the B-1B can loiter on station over a fight for as much as four hours, far longer than the routine 1.5 hour station time one might expect from a Warthog.

And let us not forget the improvements on the Army side that will reduce demand for CAS. The introduction of Excalibur guided 155mm artillery, and the GMLRS guided rocket (with a range of about 70km) give ground commanders an ability to call upon timely precision fires, fires that as little as five years ago could only be answered by CAS with precision weapons. That trend to increasing accuracy (and range) of fires will only continue.

Closing

The withdrawal of the A-10 may not be a good idea. But nor is it evidence of a conspiracy of fast jet generals determined to kill a long-hated platform (GEN Welsh was himself an A-10 driver, and proud of it). The Air Force is not trying to get out of the CAS business. Indeed, the vast majority of tactical aviators with any combat experience today, only have experience with CAS. It’s what they know, it’s what they do.

What is happening is the Air Force has to save money somewhere, and from where the Chief of Staff sits, retiring a plane whose mission can be fulfilled by other platforms is the lowest risk approach.

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Egypt Declares Hamas a Terrorist Organization – The American Interest

In a big move, that nevertheless should not surprise those paying attention, Egypt has ruled Hamas to be a terrorist organization. The BBC:

“It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt,” Judge Mohamed el-Sayed said, according to state news agency Mena.

Besides Hamas, which is now entirely cut off and surrounded by enemies, the biggest losers from this verdict are Turkey and the Obama Administration.

via Egypt Declares Hamas a Terrorist Organization – The American Interest.

Egypt also seems to be (wisely) focused on improving its internal stability, which, ironically, is best done by reducing the influence of outside agitation, be it from Hamas or other Islamist influences.

There will always, of course, be a significant Islamist movement in Egypt, be it the Muslim Brotherhood, or some successor. But it’s fairly apparent that the majority of the population, while very much Islamic, isn’t exactly enamored of a strict Islamist theocracy.

Driving a wedge between MB and Hamas, and attempting to neuter Turkey’s influence as well is a difficult path, and one that our current administration seems to be attempting to frustrate. Still, a rather moderate approach seems the best path forward for Egypt.

 

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