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The Stagnation of Warfare #2

April 19, 2008

Not my words this time, but from Martin Sieff:

But between major wars, evolution in weapons systems tends to move
a lot more slowly. Nobody dreamed that when the first Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
bombers became operational with the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s that they would
still be an effective front-line strategic weapons system more than half a
century later. Even modern battleships never had operational lives half as long
as that.

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules short landing and take-off
transport aircraft has enjoyed an even longer career. Demand remains high in the
U.S. Air Force and among allied nations for the new “J” variant, or mark, the
Super-Hercules, which Lockheed Martin continues to manufacture today.

But even the B-52 and the C-130 pale in longevity compared with Russia’s
Tupolev Tu-95 Bear. In its airframe — a clear copy of the great Boeing
long-range strategic bombers of the late 1940s and early 1950s that began with
the B-47 and culminated in the B-52 — the Tu-95 is less advanced in its design
than any of them as it is powered not by jet turbines at all, but only by
turbo-prop engines. Yet the propeller-driven Tu-95, relatively vulnerable and
slow though it is, is so useful to the Russian air force that there are
currently plans to keep it on operational duty until 2040.

This echoes my own view that technology is slowing the breathtaking pace it endured during the last century. I wrote:

Most in the Pentagon leadership are fearful to make the required
sacrifice and cease production of ever more difficult to construct and risky
when deployed weapons system, for the tried and true weapons mass produced by
nations such as Russia and China. There is little to fear, however, for such
good and plenty arms are already forming the backbone of our forces fighting the
War on Terror. Warplanes designed in the 1950’s, armored cars based on 1980’s
technology, destroyers first deployed in the 1990’s currently are holding the
line against America’s enemies for the present and likely far into the

Now the problem is getting our military leaders to think in this fashion, and keep in production weapons which have served us so well in all our recent wars, like the F-16 fighters, C-17 transports, A-10 attack planes, ect…As we already know, they will likely continue forming the backbone of our fighting forces for some time to come, given the extended development cycles of modern hi-tech arms.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 23, 2008 8:16 pm

    I think the USN misses the A-6 to this day. Nothing could match in range other than the Bombcat!

  2. west_rhino permalink
    April 23, 2008 6:28 pm

    I’d still like to have a A-6G upgrade with the tercom and an upgraded F-111H/I with the same terrain following ability, since cruise missiles ability to evade still have an issue or two.

    The airframes are designed, a little more stealth tech could doubtless be worked in so that one isn’t dependant on moon phases to maximize undetectability… (open source, comes from hints in old Harpoon Ver 1.4 and having to reset your computer clock to run Gulf War I scenarios without losing your F-117 fleet).

  3. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 23, 2008 12:31 am

    I was really surprised when they took those excellent F-111 Ravens out of service for the less capable Prowlers. Trying to save a buck, I guess.

  4. west_rhino permalink
    April 22, 2008 4:15 pm

    Absent a real tech threat, upgrading the systems which have the initial development work done only makes sense, with R&D continuing for follow on systems bought, for aircraft at least as a few squadrons could reasonably be an adequate solution as SAC’s assets seem to have been managed as you alluded with the Buffy’s.
    BONEs and B-2s haven’t replaced BUFs 1:1, but have extended the utility of the strategic asets of the now Air Combat Command.

    F-111s upgraded to today’s tech at all levels bears another option in the mix for future forces, despite the McNamara TFX and permutations of the meaning of TFX.

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