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Dump the Comanche
A Joint Helicopter in Essential
The Secretary of Defense is in the process of transforming the US armed
forces, as the overall mission of the US armed forces has change from facing
a large similarly-armed force from a large industrialized county to facing
aggressions from a smaller second- or third-world country, and from
non-affiliated aggressors. There is also the current round of Base
Realignment and Closure to consider, and some of its criteria for joint sitting of services at a single base.
MD500s are ideal for Recon
You forgot to mention the MD500 Littlebird. We absolutely do not need any more OH58Ds, they're so slow and underpowered its pathetic. MD500's are well proven by SOCOM, can be outfitted with all the sensors/weapons of the OH58D and still be able to keep up with Blackhawks on Air Assaults (which the OH58 can not). MD500s have a very low maint/flight hour ratio and are more robust because of no hydraulics. They are also a very small target to try and shoot down. That the Army chose the OH58 over the OH6 (as the MD500s earlier version was called) in spite of everything pilots and program managers said says a lot about the acquisition program.
I don't know what an MH53X costs, but at $59 million for each Comanche, you probably have enough to buy an MH53X and still have enough left over to buy a couple of MD500s.
High Tech vs Real Tech
I am amazed that the military continues to dismantle really effective weapon systems in favor of brilliantly incompetent replacements. The Comanche has no hope of surviving in the battlefield however, many hotshot pilots who relish the privilege of flying the most advanced helicopter on the planet will defend its deployment. This is preaching to the choir since you already share this point of view but what really bothers me is the idea of replacing the A-10 with say, a F-16. The ongoing trend of trading what works for what looks cool is silly.
I will admit that I am fascinated with things like the Comanche, the V-22, and the Raptor. However, I also recognize that "Rolls Royce" technology doesn't always translate into success on the theater of war. The A-10, and to a lesser extent the Apache, represent logical and cost effective combat weapon systems (when employed properly) that favored robust construction and utility over flash.
This reminds me of how the Air Force ordered the destruction of the Saturn V, it's F1 engines, and it's plans in order to ensure the survival of it's (not NASA's) Space Shuttle. The Saturn V was the most reliable and most powerful rocket/launch vehicle ever made. It suffered no launch failures which no Launch vehicle can claim today. Not even Russia's Energia, the most powerful LV in operation today, can match it. The expense of launching a Saturn V is comparable to the Space Shuttle despite what NASA might say about reusability. The Space Shuttle certainly is more glamorous, but it spends most of its power lifting itself!
I am impressed that you featured many lengthy letters that either
disagreed with you on some fronts, or in the case of one, rambled on about some
psuedo-patriotic nonsense. That's a great way to maintain some objectivity on
A Better Jointhawk
Very good editorial on the
JointHawk. Might be worthwhile to see about contacting Chuck Jarnot at Piasecki on making the Jointhawk
better by the Variable Torque Ducted Propeller configuration and stub lift
wings. If you're going to buy 1200, it makes sense to make them better from the
start. Wings might be removable for specific missions if they aren't far enough
back for clearance.
Ed: The 1-12-04 issue of "Aviation Week" noted that fighting in Iraq has cost the US Army seven Apaches, three Black Hawks, seven Chinooks, and six Kiowas. The Army lost another Black Hawk, Kiowa, and Apache since that article went to press. In addition, the Army may scrap heavily damaged helicopters: four Apaches, nine Black Hawks and four Chinooks. Also this year outside of Iraq, the Army lost twelve Apaches and three Kiowas, and may scrap another four heavily damaged Apaches and three Black Hawks. The only replacements ordered with wartime supplemental funding are seven new Chinooks, to replace this total of 41 lost helicopters and another 24 likely to be scrapped. No new Kiowas can be purchased, while the dozen CH-60L Blackhawks and several "Longbow" Apaches in the FY2004 budget are not new buys, but upgrades/overhauls of older models.
That same issue had an article about Army aviation plans which noted a shortage of Black Hawks. It revealed that the new expensive high-tech RAH-66 Comanche: "will be unable to communicate with other services or command-and-control aircraft since it will lack LINK-16, will have no active protection against anti-aircraft missiles and no blast wall between the two crewmen, meaning any hit in the cockpit, unlike the Apache, will likely disable or kill both. 'Will the Army risk a $47 million helicopter in a mission over Baghdad?' asked an Army program official. 'It's not likely, yet the Comanche is eating up 39% of the Army aviation budget. All the other small aviation programs have been killed.'" Keep in mind that the billions of dollars in funding the Army has devoted to the Comanche program this past decade has been for "development", not for procurement, and testing will continue for several more years at a cost of over one billion dollars annually.
High Year Tenure
I am an active duty member of the United States Navy. I am a Chief Petty Officer and have served both in CONUS and Overseas, I fought both Persian Gulf conflicts. You made several statements that I would like to address.
1. "Few have college degrees and most do not have skills that relate directly to the private sector..."
I speak of only my experience in the Navy, perhaps the other armed forces are vastly different, but I doubt it. Motivated sailors are encouraged to pursue college degrees and we have many programs that enable anybody who wants to further their education achieve a degree. My personal experience is that about 30% of E-5's have a bachelors degree and about 60% of E-6's have a bachelors. If you plan to be an E-8, then you must have a Degree. Our service is a very technical job. Even a seaman deuce needs to be proficient with a personal computer. He must be proficient with MS Word and Excel, and several programs unique to the Navy (a maintenance scheduler, personnel training programs, man power management). About half of our rates must be proficient in Electronics, another great many must be skilled in hydraulics and diesel engines. Most sailors go to work for companies like Boeing, Navsea, Hewlitt Packard, Raytheon, and Sperry. The do the same jobs they did in the Navy, only now they get paid a whole lot more.
2. "This could be questioned as waste of skilled manpower..."
The military is not a welfare program. If you do not have what it takes to be advanced, then we can't use you. Most sailors are an E-6 at their ten year mark. That's ten years they were unable to demonstrate the technical prowess and dedicated leadership needed to advance to Chief. This is not a sailor I want "Poisoning" the sailors of tomorrow. I want him out and make room for a sailor that is more motivated. A Chief can stay in the Navy to his 24 year mark, if I can't make Senior Chief, then I need to make room for the E-6 trying to make chief.
3. "..they will be forced into retirement in their 40's and forced to find menial jobs...."
We are killers. Our jobs place us in harms way, even in the Navy (I see you marines smirking). Every sailor is a trained fire fighter, I have fought several fires in my career, and most sailors will fight a few fires during a career. That is hard work, it is not a time to see if a fifty year old man can carry a 175 pound sailor out of a burning space We practice fighting fires every day, that means at least once a week (your duty day) we require you to help carry a 200 lb portable pump up ladders, through hatches, and down into spaces. Our physical Fitness test do not demonstrate the required fitness needed for everyday service ( a sore point for another letter).
4. "...enlisted that become warrant officers are allowed to serve until they are 60..."
Allowed to serve until they are 60? I don't have the documents in front of me, but I am sure that high year tenure would still get you well before 60.
5. "... few E-7s and above fill positions that require great stamina.."
I would say the Navy is a pretty soft service, and we don't keep to many people in their fifties around. The day to day physical demand of the job gets most of them. I would think that the Marine Corp and Army would be a whole lot worse. Maybe the Air force, but in the Navy and the Marines senior enlisted deploy, hump ammo with the youngins, and conduct combat duty. I think all of those things are physically demanding.
The military is not static, we are constantly changing It is a job for the young. Your worry about what these sailors and marines will do when they get out is noble, but we are addressing those problems. Today's warrior is educated on all aspects of finance, from IRAs to Stocks and Bonds. He is shown the possible retirement scenarios, and educated on how to set financial goals for himself. Prior to departure from the service the member is taught the basics of resume writing, and how to utilize all of his benefits. Many times at these classes the member is introduced to a variety of "Head Hunters" and often leaves the class with several job offers. Keeping dead wood is not the answer to a strong and robust military, look at the civil service program. A young force is a motivated force.
Mark Anderson ETC(SW) USN
Ed: I'm confused as to why you write about how great today's sailors are, but then argue they must be forced out in their 40s. I didn't argue for retaining E-6s to age 56, just E-7s and above.
If the Navy PRT is not good, fix that, don't kick out sailors in their 40s who may be more fit than those in their 20s. Perhaps ship sailors should have higher physical standards than shore personnel in order to earn that sea pay bonus. I won't mention the physical ability of women on ship, but will mention the mental. In the after action report for the USS Cole, it was noted that after the terrorist blast almost sunk the ship, all male sailors were running about performing first aid and damage control. Most of the women sailors just cried.
Retain the Workers
I was just forced out of the Navy a year ago, after 20 yrs and only a E6.
Aircrew/Instructor/Recruiter, two Navy-Marine Corp Commendation medals and 10
Navy-Marine Corp Achievement medals, 20 years Good Conduct, and many other
awards. Good health and wanted to stay but didn't get pick up for E7. I
still have a lot to offer and the military will always need the workers and not
to so many Chiefs (leaders), so don't count out the E6 or the E5's. They
may not do so good on testing, their the best damn workers you got! The Navy has
tests where you must pass upper 1%+ or - 5 to move up, so 300 take test 3 get
promoted. So what your saying is the workers can go, but the paper pushers can
stay? I would have loved to stay.
Marines in Iraq
Thanks for another great issue. The political controversy in the editorial is still a detractor, but in terms of military reform I like the way you think. You're absolutely on target about the Seahawk/Blackhawk. There is no reason we cant have a standard air frame. We also have an enormous shortage of Chinooks in the Army. Comanche should have gone away long ago.
The link to OIF AARs is excellent. I hadn't seen Marine AARs until now. I found it extremely interesting that the 1 MARDIV Cdr operated out of one HMMWV with an Iridium and a map! Army DIVTACs are massive affairs by comparison. It was also very interesting that Marines hung Flexcells on their M1s and Gypsyracks on all their HMMWVs to extend unrefueled range. Fuel test kits to use captured Iraqi fuel - the Army would never do that. Marines are more innovative than they're given credit for. The Marines are right, Falconview is better than C2PC, but that's heresy in the Army (unless your an aviator). PRR radios - why doesn't the Army have those?
Ed: I'd prefer to avoid politics, but it's difficult to craft arguments for an effective US military when current plans assume massive borrowing for a massive military budget can be sustained forever. It should be obvious that the USA is following the borrow and spend Soviet Union down the superpower toilet. The only good news this past month is that plans to increase the annual buy of Virginia attack submarines from one to two a year have been postponed until 2009. It seems that some in Washington finally rejected the BS that more submarines are needed for the war on terrorism.