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Marking my Beliefs About Weapons to Market 4/N

Summary:
I have written about my disagreements with the pentagon about military procurement here, here, and here, April 11 2022 I wrote “5. some relatively cheap weapons are highly effective. They include Javelin, NLAW, Stinger, and StarStreak shoulder fired missiles. They also include Bayraktar drones. They may include Switchblade suicide drones (not depoloyed yet). They have somethings in common or especially they all lack some things. Shocking price tags, as noted they are relatively cheap, even those made by the US are a very small part of the US weapons procurement budget (total less than 0.1%); Pilots — none have pilots; Hulls, none are ships; Stealth technology — none are steathly; armor — none are armored. Most fall under the heading smart

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I have written about my disagreements with the pentagon about military procurement here, here, and here,

April 11 2022 I wrote “5. some relatively cheap weapons are highly effective. They include Javelin, NLAW, Stinger, and StarStreak shoulder fired missiles. They also include Bayraktar drones. They may include Switchblade suicide drones (not depoloyed yet). They have somethings in common or especially they all lack some things. Shocking price tags, as noted they are relatively cheap, even those made by the US are a very small part of the US weapons procurement budget (total less than 0.1%); Pilots — none have pilots; Hulls, none are ships; Stealth technology — none are steathly; armor — none are armored. Most fall under the heading smart munitions “

and

I also don’t understand why the US hasn’t switched to drones and cruise missiles. Actual attacks on air defences are mostly done with cruise missiles. High tech super expensive planes have not been used much and have been used to do things that cheap old planes could do. In particular, if a pilot is sent into deadly danger, it is not OK to increase the risk of death to save a few tens of millions. This is not true for a drone. This makes a huge difference.

“I note that one approach to war is the human wave (not for us) another is the robot wave — it is possible to overwhelm defences [sic]with large numbers of cheap missiles and drones each of which could be shot down. It has seemed to me for 40 years that this is the sensible approach. I am aware of no evidence collected in those 40 years which would tend to undermine my view.”

August 28 2023 Eric Lipton quotes Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks

“The response from the Pentagon, she said, must be to invest more money in less expensive, easier to build, more expendable weapons that can quickly be acquired. “

Dear Ms Hicks

I told you so. I began telling you so 40 years ago. I’m glad you are finally recognizing that I was right.

On April 1 2022 I wrote

1) I think that the US should buy smart munitions to be fired from many cheap platforms (that is I take one side in a decades long debate).

2) I think there has been a pattern of planning to spend really huge amounts of money on a weapons system, followed by compromise leading to high spending to acquire a small number of weapons which do not satisfy the original perceived need at all.

3) I think that there has been much to little focus on shoulder fired munitions (roughly stingers and javelins) available to infantry.

4) I think stealth technology is over rated — it is just not as important as must be assumed to justify the current budget. F

5) I think that piloted military aircraft are heading off into the sunset with cavalry.”

Told you so.

Later on April 1 I wrote “I have supported a focus on unmanned aircraft for over 40 years. “

and

I score Robert 4 Pentagon 0.

I currently oppose the F-35 procurement program.

No score yet.

Naval procurement is incredibly expensive. If I had to guess what should be done, I would go for lots of low cost platforms for cruise missiles. Also, I would also not waste resources on deployment outside of the straights of Taiwan.

No clue how to score that one.

also August 28th in the NY Times

“Raj Shah, a former Air Force pilot who served as the director of the Defense Innovation Unit for two years, said Congress and the Pentagon had not shifted enough money from more expensive manned platforms like ships and planes to buy large numbers of cheaper unmanned devices.

“Until you put some money behind it, it is just noise,” he said.”

Note no new money requested for the new program. It will be easily funded with scraps from the big ticket procurement programs “But the spokesman, in response to questions, said the money for this effort would come from the existing military budget,”

No hint that a larger budget is needed or would even be useful.

I’ve been telling them so for 40 years.

august 27 Lipton wrote

“Military planners are worried that the current mix of Air Force planes and weapons systems — despite the trillions of dollars invested in them — can no longer be counted on to dominate if a full-scale conflict with China were to break out, particularly if it involved a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

That is because China is lining its coasts, and artificial islands it has constructed in the South China Sea, with more than a thousand anti-ship and antiaircraft missiles that severely curtail the United States’ ability to respond to any possible invasion of Taiwan without massive losses in the air and at sea.”

think of that “more than a thousand … missiles” counter “the trillions of dollars invested” in exceedingly expensive manned systems.

I told them so

also writes “That is where the new generation of A.I. drones, known as collaborative combat aircraft, will come in. The Air Force is planning to build 1,000 to 2,000 of them for as little as $3 million apiece, or a fraction of the cost of an advanced fighter, which is why some at the Air Force call the program “affordable mass.””

and ““But you can present potential adversaries with dilemmas — and one of those dilemmas is mass,” General Jobe said in an interview at the Pentagon, referring to the deployment of large numbers of drones against enemy forces. “You can bring mass to the battle space with potentially fewer people.””

I told them so.

Now today it’s the navy’s turn

A new generation of cheaper and more flexible vessels could be vital in any conflict with China, but the Navy remains lashed to big shipbuilding programs driven by tradition, political influence and jobs.”

I have not read the article. My hostage to fortune is “Naval procurement is incredibly expensive. If I had to guess what should be done, I would go for lots of low cost platforms for cruise missiles. Also, I would also not waste resources on deployment outside of the straights of Taiwan.” Will I get to type “I told you so” again today ?

———————–reading pause——————————————————————————

Bobbing in a small bay off the Persian Gulf was a collection of tiny unmanned vessels, prototypes for the kind of cheaper, easier-to-build and more mobile force that some officers and analysts of naval warfare said was already helping to contain Iran and could be essential to fighting a war in the Pacific.

Operating on a budget that was less than the cost of fuel for one of the Navy’s big ships, Navy personnel and contractors had pieced together drone boats, unmanned submersible vessels and aerial vehicles capable of monitoring and intercepting threats over hundreds of miles of the Persian Gulf, like Iranian fast boats looking to hijack oil tankers.”

told them so (this one after some of them had begun to do it).

“The Navy’s top brass talks frequently about the need to innovate to address the threat presented by China. The Defense Department’s own war games show that the Navy’s big-ship platforms are increasingly vulnerable to attack.”

told them so.

“The U.S. Navy is arrogant,” said Lorin Selby, …“We have an arrogance about, we’ve got these aircraft carriers, we’ve got these amazing submarines. We don’t know anything else. And that is just wrong.””

told them so.

“Capt. Alex Campbell of the Navy, whose job this year has been to find ways to buy cheaper, faster, more innovative technology, said the amount of money that had been allocated to the effort so far was minuscule.”

“the Ocean Aero Triton, whose solar-power system allows it to operate for three months at a time without any need to refuel.”

damn I didn’t tell them so. I was about to. I have been thinking about solar powered drone boats all week (but hey turns out one already exists so my procrastination has caused no delay). Still I’m kicking myself. really was about to tell them so. A solar drone boat can be sealed — no need for oxygen for crew or combustion, so it can last at sea basically indefinitely (3 months is just the beginning).

Definitely minisubs (near enough the surface for light) too. Armed with a cruise missile, or a torpedo or designed to act as a torpedo. Why not ?

“The experiment in Bahrain started after Admiral Selby, then the chief of the Office of Naval Research, proposed that the Navy try out some of the unmanned vessels as part of an annual Navy exercise off San Diego in early 2021. He said he found enormous enthusiasm for the idea among frontline commanders in the Pacific and the Middle East.”

OK ahead of me. The article stresses that the barrier is the alliance of existing contractors, legislators representing states (or districts) with shipyards and lobbyists. No counterarguments (to the arguments I have been making for decades) detected.

Does seem to be game on — A push via Eric LIpton to get to the public and non-specialist (and special interest captured) policy makers.

Robert Waldmann
Robert J. Waldmann is a Professor of Economics at Univeristy of Rome “Tor Vergata” and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Robert runs his personal blog and is an active contributor to Angrybear.

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