A Swiss Navy Knife. A new article in Forbes about the failure of the F-35 aircraft system in terms of building a Ferrari points us toward the problem of seeking nails for hammers. Another failed weapons system signifies how national security could remain intact without waste and still save the economy from its MIC boondoggles.

Much like the submariner’s trope about only two things in the world, “submarines and targets”, more aircraft carriers are even less optimal when the profit centers for the US military are in littoral vessels.

Power projection will change with the proliferation of hypersonic weapons and more effective hybrid warfare.  Maybe it’s better to divert the world’s largest military budget to more civilian matters.

Politics within and among the services also leads to unnecessary performance parameters finding their way into the requirements. Where more than one service has a requirement for a given acquisition (for example, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter), there is no incentive to cut out one desired performance parameter in favor of another. The more stakeholders invested in an acquisition and its requirements, the more likely the program will be given resources, and the harder it will be for Congress or the department to kill. As requirements creep out of control, the time to delivery slips further and further. The result? The military acquires capabilities that are often unimaginativepoorly conceived, or simply obsolete before they are ever deployed (assuming they are ever deployed at all).


The Defense Department’s complex acquisition system has three interrelated processes: requirements development (JCIDS), funding (Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System), and procurement (Defense Acquisition System). Below is a very confusing snapshot of how these three components are linked and how the entire acquisition system functions.


The U.S. Air Force’s top officer wants the service to develop an affordable, lightweight fighter to replace hundreds of Cold War-vintage F-16s and complement a small fleet of sophisticated—but costly and unreliable—stealth fighters.

The result would be a high-low mix of expensive “fifth-generation” F-22s and F-35s and inexpensive “fifth-generation-minus” jets, explained Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr.

If that plan sounds familiar, it’s because the Air Force a generation ago launched development of an affordable, lightweight fighter to replace hundreds of Cold War-vintage F-16s and complement a small future fleet of sophisticated—but costly and unreliable—stealth fighters.

But over 20 years of R&D, that lightweight replacement fighter got heavier and more expensive as the Air Force and lead contractor Lockheed Martin LMT +0.1% packed it with more and more new technology.

Yes, we’re talking about the F-35. The 25-ton stealth warplane has become the very problem it was supposed to solve. And now America needs a new fighter to solve that F-35 problem, officials said.


Even if the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was the result of the same complicated procurement process it still remains an important part of military tactics especially in the complex battle space. Even if it was possible in Iraq to disable an Abrams A-1 main battle tank with a truck bomb, there is a need for an ensemble of weapons to “keep the peace”.

For Russia in particular, the tank is far from dead. In many likely conflict scenarios Russia’s tanks will not have to deploy very far from its borders, and in cases where they do such as Syria, the lighter weight of Russian Tanks, makes these deployments less of a logistical burden. Countries close to Russia such as Poland, may need tanks because they are a viable means of defeating other tanks, and in the most likely threat scenarios the Russians will come to them, so deploying over distance is unnecessary.

It could be argued that modern Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) are a credible alternative to the MBT for the UK. Many modern examples such as the CV90 Mk IV, and the Kurgants-25 with Epokha turret demonstrate a good balance of firepower and have utility in more scenarios than MBTs. The typical armament of modern IFVs including a cannon, machine guns and ATGMs enables the engagement of most targets that the vehicle is likely to encounter, including armour, and the vehicle is equally suited to dealing with infantry. The IFV’s lighter weight makes it less of a logistical burden and enables more rapid deployment to developing conflicts, and the attendant infantry dismounts offer a greater range of tactical possibilities than a tank’s heavy weaponry. In sum, the above is intended to indicate some of the factors that decide whether or not the tank is useful. It shows that the debate is not, and cannot be binary, nor is it limited to comparing gun and armour values and deciding a winner.


  • February 24, 2021