And just like that, another Clinton Foundation donor is in the news.
The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer’s governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation’s website.
Involvement with the embattled body extends beyond the foundation to Bill Clinton himself.
The former president was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
When the U.S. lost the 2022 bid to Qatar, Clinton was rumored to be so upset he shattered a mirror. But apparently Qatar tried to make it up to him.
The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, partnering with the State of Qatar, “committed to utilizing its research and development for sustainable infrastructure at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to improve food security in Qatar, the Middle East, and other arid and water-stressed regions throughout the world,” according to the Clinton Foundation website.
The cost of the two-year project is not listed on the Clinton Foundation website, but the Qatar 2022 committee gave the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014 and the State of Qatar gave between $1 million and $5 million in previous, unspecified years.
FIFA, which has never been a bastion of ethics, was heavily criticized for awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar, respectively, in part because of their abysmal human-rights records.
The Guardian reported in 2013 about “appalling labor abuses,” including possible forced labor and worker death on Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure projects. It is also considered to be too hot to play soccer in Qatar in the summer.
No Qatari officials have been arrested, but Swiss authorities announced Wednesday that they had opened criminal proceedings into the allocation of the Qatari and Russian World Cups.
They have also seized documents from FIFA’s headquarters and gained access to the Swiss bank accounts of executives they suspect of “unjust enrichment” and money laundering.
A speech to the Coast Guard Graduates – It is a low tide, along a very rocky shore line – America is cruising in a very low tide, with the ‘Skipper-from-Behind’ on the bridge. Talk about a “Rear” Admiral; beware the rocks dead-ahead!
Apparently everything that goes wrong for the USS America is no longer George W. Bush’s fault entirely. Now we must blame ‘climate change,’ caused by humans, producing too much carbon dioxide, and that whole ‘settled science’ thing Obama so proudly claims is fact. Mirrors anyone; fog horns?
That is what Obama ostensibly did today in his speech at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, speaking to this year’s graduating class. His speech was eloquent, and he hit all his usual tactics, but in that speech were some real, hardcore ironies, and also some would-be knee-slappers if it was not so sad and embarrassing.
Draped throughout was the expectation of the ignorance of the masses, the masses he expects to willfully suspend of all disbelief. Once again, embarrassing; in front of our future leaders of the armed forces!
Really…’climate change’ was a contributing factor to the rise of Boko Haram, and the genesis of the Syrian “not so civil” war?
If that is true, explain Libya, and Egypt, and Yemen, and Iran, and Tunisia, and North Korea, and Russia, etc., to us. Was there a drought in Benghazi? Was the tide too high when the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt for a short period? Did the wild winds of the north derail your Russian “reset?”
Did the Polar Bear population in Yemen drop when we weren’t looking as well? Did the inclement weather in Nigeria cause all those kidnappings, and what about the beheadings of Christians, and the decimation of the Yazidi? Did they have the wrong SPF lotion?
Of course I could drone on and on about that stark lack of logic and common sense, and I apologize for the levity, but it was that bad. He has truly found high-gear on the bus to oblivion on the sea lanes of his alternate universe.
Let’s begin with his statement about leadership and duty regarding ‘climate change’ first; how ironic. Here is the excerpt, and context is not an issue here:
“So I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. So we need to act and we need to act now…
After all, isn’t that the true hallmark of leadership? When you’re on deck, standing your watch, you stay vigilant. You plan for every contingency. And if you see storm clouds gathering, or dangerous shoals ahead, you don’t sit back and do nothing. You take action — to protect your ship, to keep your crew safe. Anything less is negligence. It is a dereliction of duty. And so, too, with climate change. Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.” (Emphasis added)
Where do we begin with that utterance, that stark hypocrisy? Standing watch, staying vigilant, sitting back and doing nothing, protecting the ship? Who is he to talk of such things?
The man cannot even say the name of our true enemies; the ones that want to kill us NOW, not some “ice free seas” years down the road, if ever, yet he is vigilant?
“Immediate” risk? Tell that to the Garland, Texas Police Department, or the people on the border in the states which border Mexico. Seen any rocket launches from submarines in the waters off North Korea? Ah, summer is here on the Crimean peninsula.
What about not “standing back and doing nothing?” We harken to Syria, and the ‘Red Lines,’ and a total lack of leadership, ‘leading from behind’ and doing NOTHING in the early days when the gift of removing Bashar al Assad was gift wrapped for him. Libya?
We still hear so little from him on the hundreds of thousands of dead Syrian civilians, and the millions of refugees. But those were not his brand of Muslims, so I guess that doesn’t count. (Read Muslim Brotherhood.)
“Take action?” Really Mr. President; is that like Libya, now a disaster of a nation; and what about protecting our fellow Americans in Benghazi when they pleaded for help; before, during, and after the attack on 9/11. Yes, the one you knew was planned ten days prior, yet fed us a line of absolute trash about a video for weeks? Hillary?
Way to “keep the crew safe” Mr. Commander-in-Chief, or wanna-be future POTUS and first ever type! Hillary?
What about keeping Iraq safe when you had the chance with all your fore-wisdom and “vigilance?” Remember the blood and treasure we sacrificed in Ramadi and Fallujah, not to mention the myriad other places in Iraq and Afghanistan? I deign to even attempt to imitate the way you say “Corpsemen.” (Yes, spelled wrong on purpose.)
You dare tell that tripe to the families of the brave who actually lived up to their oath and paid the ultimate price there, only to see you abandon all their efforts by leaving Iraq so triumphantly and then you blithely brush it aside as a “setback” with ISIS now?
Talk about a “dereliction of duty.” Then you talk about “denial!” Ever heard of ISIS (Daesh) Mr. President, those “JV” boys and the global spread of radicalism in the name of a so-called religion of peace? “Denial, refusing to deal” with it? Yes, you have chosen NOT to deal with it and you tell us ‘climate change’ is an imminent national security threat now?
Go tell that tune to your favorite Hollywood twits – we are not “buying crazy” today on the street corner of reality, or should I say port.
Speaking of reality; when are you going to be real with “the crew” here in America about the growth of every evil spawn of al Qaeda, and radical Jihadism? Selling us a ‘pig in a poke’ while our lying eyes tell us a much different story – the “Potemkin Village” President for sure.
It is a very “low tide” you are sailing in Mr. President!
You can read the entire transcript of his speech at the White House web site here at WTNH, but several other key components are of note.
Editor’s Note – Regardless how the White House spun the story of being snubbed by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and three other leaders of Gulf States at the Camp David summit, it was obvious to clear thinking people that it was just that; a snub. The article below explains why it is actually even worse.
The Obama/Kerry policies in the region, especially regarding Iran, are an abysmal failure, just like their Israel/Palestinian stance. With the ‘deadline’ looming for a pact on Iran’s nuclear program, and open hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen, there is no positive spin that the White House can conjure up like they tried to do when Ramadi fell to IS in Iraq.
In fact, it is so bad that now the U.N. is sticking its nose into the fray in Yemen as well:
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday announced talks between warring Yemeni parties in Geneva on May 28 to end over seven weeks of war, as Iran agreed for international inspections of an aid ship sailing to Yemen.
The moves are aimed at defusing the deepening crisis in the southern Arabian Peninsula, where Saudi-led forces killed at least 15 Houthis in the latest air strikes in a campaign to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. (Read more at Yahoo/Reuters.)
Further compounding the problems for Obama in the region are the continual harsh language coming from Ayatollah Khamanei in Tehran regarding the nuclear talks.
Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday ruled out inspections of Iranian military sites and interviews of Iranian nuclear scientists in any potential deal on its nuclear program.
In a speech at a graduation ceremony at the Imam Hussein Military University in Tehran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denounced what he said were escalating demands in the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers that resumed on Wednesday in Vienna.
“They say new things in the negotiations. Regarding inspections, we have said that we will not let foreigners inspect any military center,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to a text of the speech released on his personal website, Khamenei.ir. (Read more here at the NY Times.)
Obama seems to have the “anti-Midas touch,” everything he and his administration touches turns to something akin to the complete opposite of gold and rhymes with “ship.”
Speaking of ships, there was a positive note coming from the region regarding the inspection of the Iranian vessel steaming to the area with humanitarian relief:
The U.N. announcement came as Iran announced that the Iranian cargo ship sailing to Yemen with 2,500 tonnes of food and medical supplies would submit to international inspections in Djibouti before continuing on to Yemen’s Hodaida port, which is under Houthi control.
The move reduces the risk of a potential showdown between the vessel, which had been escorted by Iranian warships, and Saudi-led forces enforcing inspections on vessels entering Yemeni ports to prevent arms supplies from reaching the Houthis.
“We have decided to dock our ship in Djibouti so the United Nations inspection protocol can take place,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. (Read more at Yahoo/Reuters.)
But is that really a positive? Is what Iran calls the ship Iran Shaheb, dubbed the “Rescue,” really as advertised by Iran?
The Iranians still get to bring relief, but it is more likely than not, that only the Houthis will benefit once the U.N. allows them to go to Yemen. Add another one to the Obama loss column; the Iranians are getting their way despite recent efforts to thwart them.
Rejuvenated Royals – The Saudis push back against the Obama foreign policy.
The Obama administration put a happy face on its Camp David summit last week, even as four of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six leaders turned down Obama’s invitation to attend. The most significant absence, of course, was that of Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman. In his place, Riyadh sent Salman’s 55-year-old nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and Salman’s 28-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defense minister.
Both men are said to be responsible for the aggressive Saudi policies in confronting Iran, especially in Yemen, where Mohammed bin Salman is leading the campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis. In other words, while snubbing Obama, King Salman also delivered a strong message through the two men who are in line to lead Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. They’re not happy with what they correctly perceive as the White House’s pro-Iranian tilt in the Middle East—and they’re in a position to challenge it.
In Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, referred to in Western policymaking circles as MBN, the White House is likely to find an especially able statesman. MBN served as the deputy minister of the interior under his father and then won the top post himself, where he has distinguished himself as a tough-minded security official who proved instrumental in dismantling terrorist networks and providing U.S. officials with valuable insight into their workings. He has survived at least four assassination attempts.
But it is MBN’s studious navigation of court politics that landed him in the number two spot. Indeed, it’s something of a paradox that a man so skillful in handling intra-Saudi rivalries is now behind a foreign policy that, in contrast to Riyadh’s all-too-frequent navel-gazing, is remarkably activist. MBN owes his power to ambition, skill, and the fact that he has no sons to move into the line of succession, which has made him a useful ally in court maneuvering.
Saudi royal politics are typically inscrutable, since the Saudis do not make a habit of publicizing divisions within their ranks, and their disagreements are resolved in private. But here is the short version of what has happened in 2015: Since taking over earlier this year after the death of his predecessor, King Salman has engineered a new line of succession. The upshot is that we are witnessing something novel in Riyadh.
For the last several decades, the succession question has dominated Saudi politics—which is hardly a surprise when 70-something monarchs name 70-something crown princes, and illness and sudden death become central concerns in policymaking circles.
That instability often incapacitated Saudi decisionmakers and at times left an otherwise preoccupied Riyadh vulnerable to regional issues. But with a 55-year-old crown prince and a 28-year-old deputy crown prince, the royal palace seems set to enjoy a level of stability it hasn’t seen since the death of Ibn Saud, the regime’s founder, in 1953.
This is perhaps one reason why Riyadh seems more determined than ever to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East. For once, they’re able to focus on external threats rather than who will inhabit the palace. For Riyadh, this fresh blood and surge of confidence couldn’t come at a better time. They’re concerned that the White House is downgrading the 70-year-long alliance with Riyadh in favor of upgrading relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Saudis have given up on the Obama administration. In return for helping the White House combat Sunni terror, Riyadh assumed the White House would keep its word and push back against Iran. However, the Obama administration has done exactly the opposite. It has paved the way for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon within the next 15 years and accommodated Iranian interests around the Middle East, from Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and Yemen.
But to hear the Obama administration tell it, Saudi Arabia’s biggest problem comes not from Iran but inside. It’s unemployment, lack of opportunities, and a faulty education system that ail the Gulf Arabs, Obama has said in several interviews. And that, says the White House and its various media surrogates, is why the Saudis create so many terrorists.
There’s no doubt that Saudi society is riven by a host of problems and that private charities from the Gulf Cooperation Council states have frequently filled the coffers of terrorist outfits. However, why the White House feels comfortable chastising an ally of more than 70 years while turning a blind eye to Iran is unclear. After all, every indicator, from suicide to drug use, birth rate to prostitution, shows that Iranian society is as bad as or much worse than the societies of the Gulf states. Moreover, unlike Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikhdoms, Iranian state institutions are actively exporting terrorism.
Perhaps Obama is worried that calling out the Iranians as he has called out the Saudis might push Tehran away from the negotiating table. What he’s done instead is endanger the relationship with one of the pillars of American Middle East policy and sent Riyadh out looking for new friends. It appears that the message Riyadh is sending through MBN is that they’re not going to take it anymore. Maybe they don’t have to.
Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of the Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai.
In a note sent out this morning, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a warning for investors:
Investors remain trapped in “The Twilight Zone”, the transition period between the end of QE and the first rate hike by the Fed, the start of policy normalization… until:
(a) the US economy is unambiguously robust enough to allow the Fed to hike and;
(b) the Fed’s exit from zero rates is seen not to cause either a market or macro shock (as it infamously did in 1936-7), the investment backdrop will likely continue to be cursed by mediocre returns, volatile trading rotation, correlation breakdowns and flash crashes.
For this reason we continue to advocate higher than normal levels of cash, adding gold and owning volatility in mid 2015.
Given extremities of liquidity, profits, technological disruption, regulation, income inequality…potential for a cleansing drop in asset prices cannot be dismissed. Most likely catalysts: Consumer, Rates, A-shares, Speculation, High Yield.
The note also highlights two interesting disconnects in the markets:
Investors say they are optimistic, but there is a high level of cash on the sidelines;
U.S. stock prices are at record highs, but equity funds are seeing outflows;
Regarding the first point, one of Bank of America’s surveys showed investor sentiment as being “risk-on,” which it says is normally associated with less cash on the sidelines.
To the second point, the note says U.S. equity funds have suffered $100 billion of outflows in 2015 while the S&P 500 is near all-time highs, which its data says isn’t exactly typical.
The analysts led by Michael Hartnett attribute this to clients favoring European and Japanese equities at the expense of the U.S and that buying from those not captured in flow data (sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and central banks) could be what’s giving U.S. equity indices a boost.
The note hints that that you actually ought to sell in May and go away, at least for certain asset classes.
The summer months offer a lose-lose proposition for risk assets: either the macro improves and the Fed gets to hike, which will at least temporarily cause volatility; or more ominously for consensus positioning, the macro does not recover, in which case EPS downgrades drag risk-assets lower.
Editor’s Note – With the most expensive fighter in history, the F-35, is our Air Force still the dominant force across the globe? Is the F-35 really the leading edge? What about the F-22 Raptor? Is Russia or China that far behind, or are we falling behind?
If you watched the interview Shepard Smith of Fox News had with Chief-of-Staff of the USAF, General Mark A. Welsh III, you would wave flags and declare that, yes, we still are the best and will be ahead of all other air forces for decades to come. (Video of that interview follows the post below by National Review’s Mike Fredenburg.)
In his article, Fredenburg examines the question more deeply; sans the jingoism of Gen. Welsh. Fredenburg is focused on the Russian SU-35 “Flanker” and its capabilities along with our changing fleet of attack fighters, and the rollout of the controversial F-35; the very expensive and technological wonder it is proving to be, or is it?
Not only do we have to answer these question he raises, but we also need to examine the Chinese who boast of their own sueriority they believe they have over the F-35:
China is flexing its newest addition to the country’s growing military fleet, a fourth generation J-31 fighter jet. According to the president of the Chinese company that was commissioned for the project, the J-31 jet can “take down” its American counterpart, the Lockheed Martin F-35.
In an interview with Chinese Central Television, Lin Zuoming, the president of the Aviation Industry Corp. of China, the company that developed the newest jet, is confident the Chinese-developed aircraft can outperform the American version.
“When it takes to the sky, it could definitely take down the F-35,” Lin said. “It’s a certainty.”
But Lin has his sights set on more than just outdoing the F-35. He wants to propel the Chinese company to be global supplier to governments to which the U.S. refuses to sell or those that can’t afford to buy a fleet of F-35 jets, which reportedly cost more than the Chinese models. (Read more here at the International Business Times from last December.)
So just where does the truth lie? Is the USAF selling us ‘rose colored glass’ propaganda, or is Gen. Welsh correct? We hope you read on here and watch that interview at the bottom, especially past the midpoint where he really focuses on the future with the high technology helmets and the F-35.
Also ask yourselves about the Indian Air Force with the SU30 MKI supplied in a joint venture with Russia, and others like Pakistan who we supply with F-104 Starfighter as everyone appears to be gearing up quickly and in great volume. Just who else is selling their fighters? The French are supplying Egypt with the Dussault Rafale…and on it goes.
Can we keep up, especially as expensive as are the F-22s and F-35s? Then ask yourself about who will be supplying whom regarding those countries we will not do business with like Iran, North Korea, and other ne’er-do’wells?
Air supremacy, superiority, or are we kidding ourselves?
What if the World’s Most Expensive Fighter Planes Can’t Defeat Our Enemies?
On April 15, 1953, North Korean Po-2 biplanes strafed a U.S. Army tent on Chodo Island, off the Korean mainland. The attack killed two U.S. servicemen.
Remarkably, that night, more than 60 years ago, was the last time a U.S. soldier lost his life to fire from enemy aircraft. Since the Korean War, U.S. air power has played a critical role in virtually every conflict, and the U.S. has enjoyed near-total air supremacy in every battle it’s fought.
But that streak isn’t going to continue automatically. Despite lavish spending on our air forces; flawed procurement priorities and strategic doctrine, driven by contractors, has put the future of U.S. air power at risk.
Take the new F-22 fighter. It’s the most expensive fighter in the air today, but as a recent story in The National Interest by long-time United States Naval Institute writer Dave Majumdar points out, even its missiles will have a hard time getting past the ability of Russia’s truly fearsome Su-35S Flanker E to jam radars and other sensors.
The F-22 is very stealthy while the Su-35S is not, but a senior U.S. Air Force official tells Majumdar that the F-22 will have a hard time killing the Su-35Ss. These new Flankers are already in service with the Russian Air Force, and independent air analysts see this same plane achieving lopsided kill ratios against the U.S.’s other next-generation fighter, the F-35.
A FLAWED AIR-POWER STRATEGY
How did we end up with such pricey, brand-new fighters being unable to decisively defeat their opponents? United States air-power doctrine after the Korean War has emphasized “beyond visual range” (BVR) engagements. The idea: With sufficiently sophisticated missile technology, we can destroy enemy fighters from more than five miles away, long before the enemy can engage our aircraft.
The cornerstone of BVR technology, large complex radars, required much bigger fighters to handle the aerodynamic challenges that bulky BVR radars present, as well as huge increases in power and cooling requirements. These larger fighters led to skyrocketing acquisition and maintenance costs. With the advent of stealth, the vision was expanded to include destroying enemy planes from behind a cloak, and costs skyrocketed again.
Visions are not always realized, and recent advances in countermeasures, like the capabilities in the Su-35S, are just another chapter in a long history of BVR missiles not living up to the hype. Expecting BVR capabilities to deliver lopsided results against peer competitors now looks more like wishful thinking than a sound strategy.
So why have billions of dollars of investments into BVR capabilities delivered such disappointing results? There are two main causes:
FEAR OF FRIENDLY FIRE
First, identify-friend-or-foe (IFF) technology — systems that enable forces to identify friendly platforms among potential targets — has not been reliable enough to allow our pilots to fire at blips on their radar screen without fear of committing fratricide. In other words, no matter how good our BVR technology, pilots still needed to get within visual distance before taking a shot. Progress has been made in IFF technology, in part because of better capabilities on our support aircraft, but it remains a problem.
CONTRACTORS OVERPROMISE, UNDERDELIVER
The second issue is that BVR missile technology has consistently failed to live up to the promises made by vendors and senior military leadership. On entering Vietnam, military leaders assured Congress that the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow carried by the complex and costly F-4 Phantom would give our pilots a 70 percent probability of a kill per missile fired. Instead, the much hyped Raytheon missile ended up with a BVR kill rate of less than 1 percent. Somewhat chastened, senior military leaders were forced to retrofit guns to the F-4 Phantom.
Our cutting-edge missile technology has consistently failed to live up to the promises made by vendors and senior military leadership.
The problems continued after Vietnam. In “Promise and Reality: Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air-To-Air Combat” a 2005 paper done for the Air War College, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Higby (now General Higby) shows in great detail that from Vietnam up to Desert Storm the billions invested BVR missile technology contributed almost nothing to the United States’ domination of the skies.
Combining data from Israeli and American missions, he finds that out of 632 shots taken with BVR-capable missiles, only four resulted in kills from beyond visual range — a scant 0.6 percent. During this same period, 528 air-to-air kills were made at closer range — 144 with guns and 384 with missiles fired at opponents within visual range.
BVR HAS ALMOST NEVER WORKED
Starting with Desert Storm, there was an uptick in the number of kills achieved using the newer AMRAAM missiles, which are designed for relatively long range kills, but because neither the number of missiles used nor the range at which the BVR-capable missiles notched kills was recorded, it’s hard to reach any firm conclusions.
We do have anecdotal evidence: In 1999, when two MiG-25s violated the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, U.S. fighters fired six of our most sophisticated BVR missiles at them. All six missiles missed and the MiG-25s escaped to fight another day. While pervasive coverage by AWACS surveillance and control planes has given our pilots much better friend-or-foe recognition, allowing more BVR shots to be taken, true BVR kills against competent opponents are rare.
Future battles will continue to involve close-range dogfights — where superior numbers of smaller affordable fighters are better than inferior numbers of heavier, less agile, less reliable BVR-focused fighters.
A 2011 RAND report noted that enemies successfully engaged beyond visible range after 1991 “were fleeing, non-maneuvering, and did not employ countermeasures.” “In Operation Allied Force,” the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, RAND notes, “the Serbian MiG-29s that were shot down did not even have functioning radars.”
In other words, we might now be achieving BVR kills against third-rate vastly outnumbered opponents while enjoying pervasive AWACS coverage. But that is a far cry from getting kills against equally skilled peer competitors in contested air space where we may be outnumbered in terms of both planes and missiles.
Historically, our pilots’ superior skills have allowed our big BVR fighters to dominate dogfights despite their large size, but those same pilots flying smaller, less-expensive fighters would still have dominated. In other words, the billions invested in large expensive BVR-focused planes and missiles, while highly correlated with U.S air dominance, was not the cause of that dominance.
Going forward, assuming huge kill ratios predicated on BVR missile technology looks even less wise: We have no record of successfully using such technology against peer competitors with the training and technology to dramatically reduce BVR missile effectiveness (like, say, the Russians’ Su-35S).
Both the United States and its competitors will continue to make large investments to improve BVR missiles and BVR-missile countermeasures. Since neither effort is likely to gain a decisive advantage, future battles will continue to involve close-range dogfights — where superior numbers of smaller affordable fighters are better than inferior numbers of heavier, less agile, less reliable BVR-focused fighters.
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
It’s unrealistic to expect heavily outnumbered U.S. planes to consistently take down large numbers of enemy fighters at long ranges. The large technology lead the United States once held over other major air powers has nearly evaporated, and regaining our post-WWII lead is well-nigh impossible.
Moreover, other air powers have studied and adopted U.S pilot-training methods, and that gap, once large, has narrowed as well. In 2004, for instance, U.S. F-15 pilots were unpleasantly surprised to find themselves on the wrong side of a 9-to-1 loss ratio in exercises with Indian Air Force pilots flying Russian-designed planes, including small but formidable MiG-21s. We should plan on Chinese and Russian pilots being equally competent.
There are other major problems with large BVR fighters. One such problem is that the cost per hour to fly them is now so great that some of our pilots are only getting about ten hours per month of actual flight time — not nearly enough to maintain superior skills. Further, these fighters’ huge maintenance requirements mean they spend less time in the air than other aircraft.
The F-22 and F-15 can fly far fewer sorties per day than smaller, more reliable fighters such as the F-16. In other words: Large, higher priced, maintenance-intensive BVR-focused planes will often end up delivering less sustained combat power.
STEALTH: ANOTHER PRICEY, UNPROVEN INVESTMENT
BVR’s kissing cousin, stealth, is also not the silver bullet it was portrayed to be 20-plus years ago, when development began on the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). In fact, counter-stealth technology is advancing and proliferating much more quickly than stealth technology. Recognizing this, the U.S. Navy is wisely hedging its bets by not being too reliant on stealth.
Earlier this year, chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert noted the inevitable limits of stealth: “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules, and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable.”
With the rapid proliferation of integrated air defenses capable of seeing and targeting stealthy airplanes, the decades-old vision of flying into the teeth of the integrated air defenses of our top competitors and attacking them with impunity is a fast-fading fantasy. A modest premium for cost-effective stealth probably makes sense, but a huge premium for maintenance-intensive stealth doesn’t.
Mathematical battle models, such as the Lanchester-square model, show numerical superiority rapidly swamps quality, meaning larger forces of less-capable planes can sweep opposing forces from the sky while suffering surprisingly small losses. And there’s certainly a good chance we’ll be facing more-numerous forces: Scenarios for defending Taiwan, for instance, have our pilots going up against Chinese pilots that could outnumber us by three to ten times.
The RAND Corporation has done an instructive analysis: Even assuming we have unhittable planes with perfectly accurate missiles and opponents lining up to be shot down like sitting ducks, our forces cede airspace control over Taiwan to China while taking crippling losses in terms of support aircraft. More realistic assumptions have us losing many of our F-22s as well.
Being on the wrong side of projections for these kind of scenarios is a bad place to be for our pilots. Getting to the right side of the equation will not be achieved by the fielding small numbers of $200-million-plus fighters whose core capabilities are inferior to most advanced fighters.
FANCIER TECH DOESN’T ALWAYS WIN
Advanced technology will always play a critical role in ensuring the success of our fighter aircraft, but we should also remember that quantity, tactics, and training can overcome technology. Ultimately, trying to maintain air-power dominance built on bleeding-edge technology that busts the budget, takes forever to develop, and delivers severely diminishing returns is a losing strategy in a world where technology rapidly diffuses.
Better reliability, while not sexy, facilitates more sorties, puts more planes in the air, and enables better pilot training. In a world where firing up powerful active sensors makes you a target, it might make sense to field smaller fighters that rely more on networked, passive sensors. Traditional fighter performance metrics such as instantaneous turn rate, sustained turn rate, and thrust-to-weight ratio still matter.
Our air-superiority fighters need to deliver unparalleled performance in the air, and they’re not. The USAF even acknowledges that the backbone of our future fighter corps, the F-35, isn’t designed to be an air-superiority fighter. Yet, along with air-superiority missions, the Air Force is counting on this strike fighter to perform close air-support missions that the inexpensive A-10 already does so much better.
These compromises aren’t necessary. For the cost of one F-35, we can buy several air-superiority and close–air-support planes that will deliver far more bang for the buck. Sadly, contractors and top military brass gravitate to the fanciest, most expensive fighters possible with little regard for affordability and maintainability. It’s time to bring back the procurement discipline necessary to buy fighters with the right mix of capabilities and cost.
That kind of strategy will allow us to field them in the numbers needed to maintain the air dominance our armed forces have been able to count on for the past 60 years.
Mike Fredenburg is a past contributor to National Review, the California Political Review, and the San Diego Union Tribune, and was the founding president of the Adam Smith Institute of San Diego, a conservative think tank and PAC.
Fox News interview with Gen. Welsh, USAF Chief-of-Staff by Shepard Smith:
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