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Extremely Expensive Weapon Systems Are Effectively Non-Existent

We have all heard about “Too Big To Fail” (TBTF) banks and the problems caused by bailing them out of the holes they dug themselves into. While many have focused on the obscene amount of money used to paper over the damage caused by their greed and stupidity, the real problem with TBTF lies in the effect of such bailouts on the intended function of those institutions.

Organizations, institutions and systems that are incapable of performing their intended roles, for any reason, are effectively non-existent.

Now consider recent reports about the multitude of problems facing expensive weapon systems such as the F-22, F-35 and the “Long-Range Strike Bomber“. It seems that almost every major weapon program in the developed world is creating weapons that are much more expensive and less capable than promised. I would go so far as to wonder if these weapons would ever be used in a future conflict due to issues with cost and reliability, let alone the lack of the right type of enemy.

Before we go any further, let me be clear about one thing. Significant cost overruns, serious teething problems and delivering less than promised is hardly new in the area of new weapons systems. Infact, it is almost seen as normal. What is somewhat new is the cost of weapon systems increasing to a level where using them is more than not using them.

Let me explain the concept by using the F-22 as an example. Can you think of any scenario where the overall cost and risk of using the F-22 in a combat role is a feasible option? and does the USA have enough of them to make a difference? Now ask yourself- is spending over 70 billion on a weapon system that has a history of multiple severe glitches really worth it? Isn’t a weapon system that is too expensive to use almost as good as one that does not exist? Contrast this with aircraft such as the F-4s, F-14s, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s which were still cheap and plentiful enough to use.

Still not convinced? Consider the whole F-35 program. Let us ignore that fact that the whole program been repeatedly delayed and the end product is rather underwhelming. Let us also forget that the whole program will cost over 2 trillion dollars. The real question is- who are we going to use it against? Remember that the per unit cost of the F-35 is now over 250 million dollars. Even with monetary inflation, a hanger queen with a price tag of over a quarter billion dollars seems a bit excessive for use against some guys in a cinder-block house in Waziristan. It is also essentially useless against any country with more than a few dozen nuclear weapons. So why spend over 2 trillion on something we never intend to use? In an age when the next generation is buried under a trillion dollars of debt, the tax base is imploding and the future for the average american looks bleak- is spending 2 trillion on something that will benefit a few thousand people really the best use of taxpayer dollars?

Then there is the “Long-Range Strike Bomber“.. It is supposed to be some super-stealthy long-range bomber/reconnaissance aircraft aimed at emerging adversaries such as China. Let us ignore the fact we already have the B-2 bomber which is, once again, somewhat of a hanger queen. What can this bomber do that cannot be done with a long endurance unmanned space plane such as the X-37 or a UACV such as the Phantom Ray? Wouldn’t an unmanned weapon system that cost a fraction of these ‘to be developed’ manned-unmanned bombers be much more likely to be used in real conflicts? But if that is the case- what is the point of potential spending a few trillion more on another white elephant?

In my opinion, weapon systems that are too expensive to use are worse than useless.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Matt Strictland
    May 7, 2012 at 11:04 pm | #1

    Seconded every word.

    We certainly aren’t going to go to war with China. Such an event would end up nuclear and we’d probably lose. China might not win and they aren’t interested in Armageddon but they are so big if they lost 80% of their populace they’d still have a greater population that the US in 1970!

    Heck these weapons aren’t even useful for terrorizing the populace if they rebel.

    They are a huge waste of money.

    However like many other societies, empires m totalitarian and fascist ones its very easy to get obsessed with wunderwaffe. They bring prestige and pork which is a a component of such political systems

    Also in the US actual cuts takes a herculean effort when done the results are often poor.

    Take for example the base realignment commission, the so called BRAC.

    Base Realignment and Closure. Its usually voted all l or nothingNow with by a huge effort it did cut some bases.

    Looking at the list many of these are stateside. This is stupid as it has d the side effect of hurting many American communities, reducing actual national security and leaving us with the more expensive overseas bases. Oh and hurting recruitment too.

    Any military Keynesian effects are nullified.

    Remember the Death-Star from Star Wars?

  2. The Real Vince
    May 8, 2012 at 4:25 am | #2

    Aliens.

  3. InT
    May 8, 2012 at 5:23 am | #3

    This ties in well with the previous post.

    Why are we building these boondoggles to fight non-existent enemies? It’s like no one ever questions this stuff. Yet “defense” spending is almost totally off-limits, while everything else gets slashed and burned.

    You must have read ’1984′ by Orwell.

  4. Aurini
    May 8, 2012 at 10:44 am | #4

    In Starship Troopers, didn’t Heinlein say something along the lines of “An AK wielded by a willing soldier is the most dangerous weapon known to man”? It was in the basic training scene where the Sergeant put a knife through the mouthy kid’s hand.

    Interesting how we’re losing to a bunch of goat fuckers.

    • May 9, 2012 at 5:17 am | #5

      “…the basic training scene where the Sergeant put a knife through the mouthy kid’s hand.”

      That wasn’t in the book. Must’ve been in the movie, which I didn’t bother to see … by all accounts I’ve heard, it was HeinLITE.

      I came across something close to it when I went back through the book, though; a scene of training in knife-throwing, where Sergeant Zim said: “There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men. We’re trying to teach you to be dangerous – to the enemy. Dangerous even without a knife. Deadly as long as you still have one hand or one foot and are still alive. If you don’t know what I mean, go read ‘Horatius at the Bridge’ or ‘The Death of the Bon Homme Richard’ …” Then he threw a knife into a wooden target post.

      No, actually that would be too wordy for a movie. That’s why I read books.

  5. May 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm | #6

    Systems like aircraft and other expensive equipment is necessary on the modern battlefield as protecting the heads of the ground troops has become a requirement since WW1. However that is exactly the point, the ground troops are the ones who win the war by controlling the battlefield. Rather than wasting money on flawed aircraft at a cost of trillions, the DOD should instead make moves such as replacing the M4 rifle system with any of the better alternatives on the market.

  6. May 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm | #7

    haha,

    the F-4 Phantom and F-14 Tomcat are retired….

    one thing I’ve heard is the Russian MiGs required less maintenance but were similar in speed to the American planes. The main difference was that MiG’s had less electronics.

    maybe the US military will buy some MiGs….

  7. BL
    May 9, 2012 at 7:07 am | #8

    These systems are extremely effective at precisely the role they are intended for. That role is corporate welfare. When you think of them not as weapons systems, but as part of a system of corruption, then the inflated price tags and cost overruns become a feature not a bug.

  8. P Ray
    May 10, 2012 at 12:14 am | #9

    Without the military to absorb many shiftless people, and the defence industry to absorb the MBA mouthbreathers and code monkeys (not every programmer is a software engineer),
    there would be a lot more unemployed people. Bad for social stability. So they pay these “unproductive” (unless you intend to fight loads of wars and actually deliver on time and within budget) people so that things look more complicated than they really are.
    As an example SAP’s US Army project is already over budget “already seen delays and more than $53 million in cost overruns” , “proposed December 2009 target date for “full operational capability” was moved to December of this year(2011)”.
    If students are required to submit their work on time, why not companies or organisations?
    Or are they beyond reproach?
    Because all this does is make it even clearer to people that there are 2 standards of timely submission: one for individuals, another for corporates.

  9. hans
    May 10, 2012 at 1:08 am | #10

    The big clue here is that all your examples are official (yes, even that “super secret” next-gen B2) US weapon systems.

    The only thing the ´merican military industrial complex produces efficiently is debt.

  10. May 10, 2012 at 4:38 am | #11

    The point of those weapon systems is to give money to military contractors and make them rich.

  11. meofio
    October 6, 2013 at 1:24 am | #12

    It’s just a Keynesian stimulus.

    It concentrates money in fewer hands than spreading it around. Hence it is the opposite of Keynesianism.

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