Sunday, April 22, 2012

UPDATE--USAF facing serious money trouble with JSTARS, RIVET JOINT and AWACS

David Fulghum of Aviation Week writes that the USAF is having big trouble funding its "iron triangle". That would be, the three ageing large-body intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft: AWACS, JSTARS and RIVET JOINT.

Remember, JSTARS (while currently in the middle of undergoing a program to replace its old engines with new ones UPDATE-only one airframe in test with new engines at the moment) started USAF service as a used aircraft. RIVET JOINT is in the best health and AWACS really needs a technology refresh of some kind.

One of the gambles not mentioned in the article is that USAF put great hope in having the F-35 as a survivable and networked ISR platform.

AWACS has been (at least in some public statements) minimised because some say the F-22 has become its own AWACS. The aircraft--because of its AN/ALR-94 passive emissions sensor--has even been labelled a "mini-RIVET JOINT" by some.

The F-22 and F-35 would do ISR, survive, and the the network would pick up the slack. In a funding zero-sum game, the iron triangle was pushed off into later years for any kind of decision. Remember: E-10 (a 767-body JSTARS replacement) was cancelled. "No" was the answer from dream-works. There would be 380-some F-22s to do 10 AEFs after that oh-so-terrible cut from the 750 plan, lots of F-35s (by now...where are they?) and we just wouldn't need as many of those old aircraft.

Even an ex-secretary of the USAF (some already know my contempt for empty-suit-SecUSAFs) stated the iron triangle needs to be eliminated to pay for the 5th-gen dream.

Somehow I don't picture us driving F-22s up and down the N. Korean boarder in peacetime to update various electronic orders of battle. A job the RIVET JOINT does very well.

I don't picture us doing no-fly-zones with F-22s-only.

I don't picture us supporting ground forces with F-35s versus JSTARS, which also bring their own command and control assets.

A broad team effort and persistent-over-lap (including UAVs) is the safe way to go.

Today, with the 5th-generation fighter disaster and no real air power leaders of worth, the USAF has put everything into keeping the F-22 and F-35 going on the funding treadmill. It really does look like a high-stakes Monopoly game where USAF has put a bunch of its property into hock for short-term gain hoping it will contribute to a long-term win.

But now, USAF has had a real bad run by drawing the "Go-Directly-To-Jail, do not pass 'Go'" card too many times. That and landing on Park Place and Boardwalk and now things look really bleak.

Can we agree this kind of thinking has failed?

Every single day it gets more difficult for me to have any sympathy for USAF management incompetence.

And I love the USAF.


Anonymous said...

Is KPl still posting in this blog?

Canuck Fighter said...

Just pure group think incompetence and allowing Defense contractors to run the show rather than the other way around.

500 new F-15 variants and F-16 (latest block) added to the force would be far more useful and effective, while still keeping the costs in line.

superraptor said...

There is actually enough money in the total defense budget to build a stronger US military if one would allow unified strategic thinking to occur. For example: cancel LCS, refurbish cruisers. Less aircraft carriers and more attack subs. Plan for a 2000 planes USAF with 1000 stealth and 1000 non-stealth air force and enough money put aside for JSTARS etc . Build new tactical nuclear weapons and close most overseas bases. Buy the meteor missile instead of plowing billions into development of a new USAAM. What's really scary is that the GOP really does not offer any alternative stratetic vision and now even can be partially blamed for sequestration. My hope is still that Governor Romney will win the election and new leadership such as David Deptula will emerge and shake things up.

Anonymous said...

Eric we are enjoying your blog and were interested in using a comic that you had posted a while back with the guy ramming the F-35 down the beaver's throat on our website...can you tell me the source of that comic, if it has a copyright, and if you have the rights to it if we can use it? Thanks and keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

@ Superraptor...

I wholly agree with your frustrated analysis that the USAF and Armed Forces as a whole could field a more cost-effective and capable military force for the same money being spent (and arguably for even less money than is currently being spent)!

However, the Military Industrial/Congressional district Complex effectively and unfortunately delivers less legitimate deterrence and less modern capability for the budget being spent than is both required and could otherwise be delivered if acquired under a prudent strategic based plan and vision, as you say.

As far as specific alternative force structure makeup and acquisitions go for the mid and long-term, that's up for debate and personally, I tend to assess that your 1000 stealth fighter component of USAF's future mix might be unsustainable and unaffordable, unless you were considering future UCAV platforms as part of this 'stealth' mix.

In the near and medium term however, it could be agreed that more potent and effective modernization and deployment of USAF and USN power could be implemented under more strategic based planning with the same budget, or even LESS!

Canuck Fighter said...

In an austerity economy, modernization of platforms is the only way to go.

Canuck Fighter said...

...and we're in this austerity economy for at least a decade if not longer.