Hot Shots! Part Deux…

Posted: Apr 13, 2009 12:00 AM

In a mere three months, the Obama Administration has accomplished what I understand is an almost impossible feat; they have actually shot down the F-22.

A few months ago, through the retired, underground, former-Marine-Officer network I was sent a description of an encounter between seven F/A-18s and a single F-22. And while exaggeration and lore have always been a part of the fighter mystique, in this case the descriptions of the actual engagements were credible when compared to what I know to be the classified operational capabilities of the aircraft.

Without risking a stint in the Federal prison system with some angelic cell mate named “Bubba,” suffice it to say the F-22 made the Hornets look like a bunch of irritating mosquitoes on a hot Michigan summer night. It was pretty clear that the Hornets were unable to reliably target the F-22, while the Raptor was able to methodically drop the F/A-18s like a can of extra-strength Raid on steroids.

As a former crew member of F/A-18Ds, I was a little perturbed that these lousy Hornet drivers couldn’t at least sneak in a Rammer (AMRAAM) shot on this guy, and shut up all the hype. But apparently it proved impossible. And, even though the F-22 is unfortunately an Air Force asset and cross-service compliments are hard to come by, appears the Air Force has something here. Sorry…had something.

Until The Best and The Brightest re-mix, EP edition.

Bear with me for a mild excursion.

My last job in the Corps was as a requirements analyst for CINCPACFLT in Pearl Harbor, HI. I know…tough duty. I was responsible for budgetary positions on all things Marine, all things tactical fixed-wing aviation, and for all things that fell off, or were launched off airplanes and went boom, a.k.a. air delivered ordnance.

As such, I was given an opportunity by the State Department to comment on a proposed sale of F-16s to the government of Thailand. As is typical, attached to the deal was the sale of the aforementioned Rammer to the Thais. The deal hinged on the sale of the AMRAAM because the Thais were anxious to get a Gen 4 fighter with a launch and leave capability. The Air Force (all services for that matter) usually get something out of these deals…such as avionics upgrades, service life extension programs (SLEPs), or some other upgrades paid for by the purchasing country, suffice it to say, the Air Force was pushing for the sale.

I am sure the Air Force was more than a little peeved when the Department of State agreed with my assessment that the Rammer not be sold (at least in 1998) to a Third World country.

My reasoning was simple, strategically we have become a lean an mobile force that is often sent quickly, and lightly (read as, undermanned) to hot spots to put our fingers in the dike until we can get sufficient combat power in the vicinity to credibly forestall any contingency. These excursions are usually preceded with US Navy aircraft carriers, which by their very nature have limited recourses and consequently limited tactical advantages over their land based foes.

In order to preserve this significant tactical air-to-air advantage it was important NOT to sell the AMRAAM technology. A formidable launch-and-leave missile such as a FOX-3 cannot be given, even to an ally, when it might be compromised out into the future. I was in Korat, Thailand in 1992 when all that stood between an advancing Thai Army and a take over of the legitimate government was the Thai Marine Corps. So don’t preach political stability.

Our forces are entitled to every tactical advantage this country can build and afford EVERY time they are put into harms way.

As McNamara and his merry band of bean counters discovered after the premature deaths of zillions Pentagon calculators, war is often less an exemplary execution of some grand strategy, but more a collection of small, if not, improbable tactical victories.

Fortuitous weather at Bastogne. Immeasurable courage at Normandy, Iwo Jima and Tarawa. Complete surprise at Inchon. Each a collection of small, but fortuitous events that turned the tide in our favor. No calculators please.

Because the operational nature of war doesn’t lend itself to higher math, it is important to arm (literally) our forces with EVERY tactical advantage possible when put ashore with expeditionary responsibilities. This kind of tactical advantage precludes us from becoming victims to our foes luck, and almost brings relevancy to a calculator when talking about military operations.

A weapon like the F-22 also has significant strategic implications. With a potential seven-to-one kill ratio (minimum?) the US would be able to deploy fewer F-22s to maintain the same net tactical advantage as a Gen 4 aircraft (F-16, F18, F15) deployment. Lessening the need for strategic lift. Lessening the need for the transport of ammunition. Reducing the overall need for support personnel and thus shortening the overall logistical tail. All while maintaining a significant tactical advantage.

All without a calculator.

In an era where $100M buys six months of research on the sexual development of the Columbia Torrent Salamander, or where tens of billions pays out a few more bonuses to moronic derivatives traders and their savant lending institutions, sixty more F-22s seems like a pretty good spend of taxpayers’ monies.

But I guess value is not en vogue with Hot Shots! Part Deux.

Whatever happened to TI calculators?