Administration Military Cuts Will Seriously Weaken the United States
21 February 2009
When one adds the gigantic Stimulus Bill -- $ 1.2 trillion, including interest, plus TARP ($700 billion) plus another estimated $ 2 trillion for more “stimulus” by the end of 2009, combined with a 10% cut this year in military spending “to start” (in the words of Barney Frank), plus the news that Obama is stopping the production of the F-22, we are looking at an end to all new platform programs.
As noted previously on this site, the P-8 was always an increasingly long shot to replace the aging P-3 that has been flown to death since 1991 in supporting ground forces.
The DDG-1000, which was to have had at least 30 ships in class, had already been dropped to two hulls. LCS was to have demonstrated the efficacy of new systems such as electric drives, rail guns, and long-range naval rifles using Extended Range Munitions. Both were already seriously over budget. The F-22 is reportedly being stopped by Executive Order. The P-8 – once to be 155 aircraft, then dropped to 108, then dropped again – has current funding for five airframes, two of which are to be used for ground stress testing. The Littoral Combat Ship – once to be 55 hulls, has produced one finished ship and a second in production. The LCS – to have been the littoral warfare combatant for the 21st century – is toast. I suspect it will be stopped at six hulls and will end-up like the Cyclone-class (PC-1) gunboats, a good idea that lost funding and political support. President Obama’s assertion that it is better to talk nicely to people who are planning to kill us rather than defending against them puts a perhaps insupportable burden on those that want new platforms for the nation’s defense. The F-35 – just getting off the ground -- literally – may be saved in part through the interest and funding help from foreign government customers, although this is far from certain. It is certainly the most likely new tactical aircraft to survive in Obama’s kinder, gentler military.
Which brings us to the P-8 and America’s ability to perform meaningful ASW in the next several decades. Our SSNs are superb at sub-surface ASW but they are few and becoming fewer. The P-3s I flew are great airplanes, and before the Soviet Union fell we spent twenty years kicking their subs’ asses from one end of the ocean to the other. On one of my last tactical flights we tracked a Soviet boomer for four hours and got off three on-top passive torp attacks without him ever even knowing we were there. We were that good. But in the last 20 years the US Navy’s P-3s have – of necessity -- become support aircraft for ground warfare waged against terrorism. Despite the Navy’s protestations to the opposite, it is not possible to stay good at ASW when you don’t have any to practice. The Navy has tried to pick-up some of the slack with carrier-based helicopter ASW and by depending upon the P-8 to bring-back the capability to do real wide-area ASW. The Obama Administration’s quick gutting of a military they clearly despise means, in my opinion, an end to the P-8 as well. The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAVs are meant to fill-in the gaps between the 108 P-8s. Won’t happen. The planned 80-90 UAVS/UCAVS – probably the Maritime Global Hawk – will be busy elsewhere. A bleak scene.
The Navy recently announced twelve P-8 squadrons to be based on both coasts and in Hawaii. That won’t happen because the P-8 is dead. No money, no White House or Congressional support. LCS was to have an ASW “module,” by which a hull would have a plug-in ASW capability and crew to go out and do ASW. That won’t work, for a number of reasons. One, part of any realistic training must involve real platform training. Training for LCS modules is to be based ashore in various simulators. No motion. No real world weather. No motion sickness. No rough living conditions that make extended work aboard a real aircraft or ship, day after day, month after month, three times as difficult as training based ashore. When I was flying aboard P-3s, we often got into a flap that lasted for months. Fifteen hour missions in a freezing-cold, bouncing aircraft at night, rest for 15 hours, repeat daily for several months, six days a week. That doesn’t happen ashore.
The loss of meaningful wide-area ASW is a gut punch to the Navy. Fourth – and coming fifth -- generation diesel electric subs with Air Independent Propulsion will devastate our carrier battle groups if there is no serious ASW sterilization. Most new wire-guided torpedoes and all torpedo-tube subsurface-launched cruise missiles fire beyond a CBG’s local ASW range.
The P-3s will continue to be patched-up for as long as that can work – probably until 2020 or so. After that, no meaningful open-ocean aerial ASW. We are staring at a diminution of our seapower capabilities not seen since the 1930s. We know how that ended.
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