Time for Some Pilot Shit

One for us?


Well, we’ll see.


I’m with her on that, I want those big brass ones clanking so loud they’re heard from Peking to Tehran, and if they are not, the movie deserves to fail.

Then there is this, which, in truth is both annoying and offensive.

I have to admit I’m quite weary of this pandering. We used to make films for Americans, and the world loved (and still loves) them. Why this bullshit.

But OK, it does give us an excuse. Tony Daniel over at The Federalist reviews the FWS’s (Topgun) original OIC Dan Pedersen’s book.

In his engaging and succinct memoir Top Gun: American Story, Topgun’s original commanding officer Dan Pedersen argues that “what matters is the man, not the machine,” and because of this truism, pilot training will always be far more important than the technology of jet fighters for winning battles in the sky. At present, says Pedersen, “Something is rotten in Washington, and one day, sadly, we will lose a war because of it.”

Pedersen claims that the Navy lacks relatively cheap fighter jets for training such as the old F-14 Tomcats (the “Top Gun” jets in the movie) and others. He cites a price tag for the new F-35 as $330 million per plane. The service can’t buy and maintain a large number of trainers at those prices, he says. As a consequence, much of fighter pilot training must be done on simulators, which, in Pedersen’s view, are an inadequate substitute for real flight time.

More ominously, Pedersen says the Navy has once again been beguiled by the siren song of technological triumphalism and has lost the will to properly instruct pilots in dogfighting techniques. This was precisely the situation during the early years of Vietnam, and it led to devastating American losses, and ultimately to the creation of Topgun, the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (the Navy spells it “Topgun,” without the space between words).

Unfortunately, claims Pedersen, bureaucratic rot and self-destructive rivalry and jealousy have set in in the years since the 1969 founding of that “graduate school for fighter pilots.” Pedersen suggests this is partly due to blowback from the 1986 movie Top Gun, and the lasting cultural cache it bestowed on the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School as a result.

Topgun is no longer located at Naval Air Station Miramar (which is now owned by the Marines), but was moved inland in 1996 to Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. Although Topgun still operates as an independent command, the school has been largely subsumed within the Navy’s Strike Warfare Center at NAS Fallon.

Do read it all, he makes a good case, in an argument that has been going on since the early sixties. For the most part, he is correct, give me a properly trained man, with close to the same capabilities and he will triumph, but technology is also important. Say if Sidewinder had had the problems that Harpoon did, now what? Because the F4 did not have a gun.

We abandoned dogfight training because of the Navy’s faith in missile technology. Most of our aircrews didn’t know how to fight any other way. Yet our own rules of engagement kept us from using what we were taught. The rules of engagement specifically prohibited firing from beyond visual range. To shoot a missile at an aircraft, a fighter pilot first needed to visually confirm it was a MiG and not a friendly plane. . . . Yet three years along, the training squadron in California was still teaching long-range intercept tactics to the exclusion of everything else. Our training was not applicable to the air war in Vietnam.

And that was one of the major problems then…and now as well. We do not fight as we train. We train some of the best warriors in the world, and then our ROE force them to fight with at least one hand behind the back. The Marquess of Queensbury is long dead, and our opponents don’t fight by his rules. Time to take the gloves off.

I’d be far less opposed to using our forces if I had any idea that they would be used to win a victory, and then leave. No more of this nation-building crap, You got yourself into a war with the United States, you got the hell beat out of you, now it’s up to you to fix it, or not, not our problem. The world ain’t no china shop. It’s a place where actions have consequences and many of them are fatal.

That’s my take, anyway. Will I see the movie? Depends on what Vicki said above. But probably not in a theater, my local ones have crap sound, and if jet engines don’t shake the joint, what’s the point?

Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity


Image via Wikipedia

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has published a report titled Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity authored by Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel, Travis Sharp. 

 While I haven’t completed it yet, it is very interesting reading. It’s available here. (pdf)

What they are doing here is recognizing that while in an ideal world, military strategy drives defense spending, right now the budget is driving military expenditures.

The authors don’t venture into what messing with military pay and retirements would do, recognizing that they have effects that can echo all over the place. This area has unintended consequences most people have never dreamed of. As an example, the reason the military adopted the 20/30 year retirement (and the up or out policies) is that they found that 65-year-old generals can’t keep up the pace very well.

What they do talk about is how we need to maintain our worldwide presence on a budget that we can afford. Such as:

United States should continue to pursue the ends of its longstanding global engagement strategy, but should do so using different ways and means than those codified in the Obama administration’s current national security plans. A new version of America’s global engagement strategy remains affordable, even in today’s fiscal environment, and pursuing it will help prevent and deter conflicts in the years ahead.

There are four budget scenarios in the report that are getting a lot of the publicity (they are good, too) but the four guiding principles they are using is even better. A taste:

First, naval and air forces will grow increasingly important in the future strategic environment. As a result, the Pentagon should prioritize these forces and not distribute the expected defense cuts evenly across the services, something it has done historically by adhering to the “golden ratio,” the near equal division of its budget among the military services.

The U.S. military needs to bolster its influence in the Asia-Pacific region and should do so by engaging more with key allies and by developing long-range and precision weapons, particularly as  . Large active-duty ground forces will be needed less as the United States continues to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq, though the nation will still need them to deter aggression by hostile nations and to advise and assist U.S. allies facing regional instability.

Cutting the number of ground forces may incur less risk than canceling naval and air modernization programs because the U.S. military can build up additional ground forces more quickly than it can acquire additional naval and air forces once production lines have closed Second, the U.S. military should strive to increase interdependence across the four services and to strengthen the continuum of service between the active and reserve components. The U.S. military is over-invested in expensive and often redundant capabilities that discourage interdependence among the services.

All four military services currently operate their own air forces, with limited sharing of aircraft. Some services have acquired substantial assets beyond the requirements of their core mission. For instance, the U.S. Marine Corps – the smallest U.S. service – today boasts more tanks, artillery, fixed-wing aircraft and uniformed personnel than the entire British military. Given the changing operational environment, today’s force has too many heavy armored formations, short-range strike fighters, amphibious capabilities and manned aircraft.

While some redundancy provides a useful hedge against risk, today’s extensive overlap among and within each service is unnecessary and no longer affordable, especially when joint interdependencies – such as Army helicopters flying off Navy carriers or Air Force C-130s supporting Marines – can yield comparable warfighting effectiveness at less expense. The Army and Marines, in particular, should transfer more of their expensive heavy capabilities – such as armor, artillery and fixed-wing aircraft – to their reserve components to save money and maintain a strategic hedge in the event of a large ground war. Implementing this change will require DOD and Congress to continue improving the policies that support an operational reserve component.

Third, the U.S. military should generate requirements for new weapons systems based on realistic assessments of likely threats, not on the pursuit of maximalist capabilities. Throughout the Cold War, defense plans were built mostly around specific assumptions about the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the military has tried to prepare for a wider range of potential threats and to design capabilities for unknown but presumably potent future adversaries.

This is going to be one of our major Military/ Foreign Affairs problems and/or opportunities. It is something we all, and especially our Presidential candidates need to be thinking about.

%d bloggers like this: