Monday, March 23, 2009

The Opponents of Long Range Strike

I posted a slightly abbreviated version of this in a comment at Strategy Page a couple of months ago. I wanted to make sure I had a copy of it at my place as a kind of quick reference for me to refer to in the future. Whenever I run into the typical 'anti' long range strike weapon systems type I can now just point them here.

"Enemies" of Long Range StrikeThere are several entrenched interests that have played tag-team in working continuously against the development of a new Future Long Range Strike heavy bomber. In order of effectiveness, they are: the Speed Fetishists, the Nostalgia Air Force, the Cruise Missile Cultists, and the Airliners Alliance. At the current time, the Speed Fetishists and Nostalgia Air Force are the strongest insurgents.
Speed Fetishists
The Speed Fetishists invoke the 'Faster! Faster!' battle cry for two interrelated reasons. First, faster means smaller which means more fighter-like, which is what fighters-can-do-everything pilots believe in.
Unfortunately it also means shorter range and lower payloads. 'Faster' has also meant 'more survivable' in the past, and the Speed Fetishists can't seem to wrap their heads around the possibility that 'faster' just means 'die sooner' on the modern battlefield against a sophisticated near-peer foe.
Speed Fetishists cling to the heartfelt belief that faster is better, yet cannot explain what a Mach 2 speed will do for you against a Mach 10 double-digit SAM, except decrease your turn rate and ability to get out of the way for any given bank angle.

The Nostalgia Air ForceThe Nostalgia Air Force is fully vested in the near-religious belief that the venerable B-52 should fly on forever, and that the B-52 is the most dependable of all the LRS assets. The first is a romantic notion, and the second is a false truth. The fact that the BUFF has changed missions from direct attack to standoff in high threat areas gets glossed over in discussion of its long operational life on the one hand, while if a new bomber design came down the pipe tomorrow and had a forecast operational life equivalent to the BUFF's - it would be pilloried for having 'too high' forecasted life cycle costs on the other hand.
The vaunted reliability and O&S costs of the BUFF are the result of gaming the maintenance reporting burdens, due to the availability of co-located attrition reserve aircraft, essentially 'flying spares', that allow work to be performed off an organization's O&S books. 'Hard break' on a B-52? Just rotate it into the Attrition Reserve pool and bring on a full-MC bird, and voila!... little reported downtime. Trouble is, when they forward deployed in OEF/OIF, they had the worst MC rate in-theater.

The Airliners Alliance & Cruise Missile CultistsThe Airliners Alliance guys come and go, as it seems each generation of defense planners has one or two bean-counters get what they think is an epiphany, and the idea gains traction until somebody actually does the cost tradeoffs between standoff and direct attack...and realizes that the system cost including weaponization is many times higher using commercial airframes to carry standoff weapons (caveat: only IF it is ever actually used however).
And in anything but a highly permissive environment, a commercial airframe would need to carry standoff weapons such as one of the various cruise missile types. This makes every aimpoint an expensive proposition to attack, even if cruise missiles were a) suitable for the aimpoint and b) had a high success rate. The cost differential between direct attack and standoff attack is dramatic.
For example, even assuming 100% success rate for each weapon type, the cost differential of employing JDAMs instead of certain cruise missiles saves about the equivalent of an Aegis cruiser for every 1000 aimpoints serviced.
I may clean this up later and perhaps add some graphics, but for now I just wanted to get it on the site.


Tommy said...

Good posting. I caught it on StrategyPage and wanted more; I'd love to see a more fleshed-out version. The "Convert an airliner to carry JDAMs!" meme has been cycling at a much higher rate since the Afghan campaign began and has become rather tiresome.

SMSgt Mac said...

I'll try to gin up a more detailed critique of the concept soon.