.. As scores of billions of dollars are thrown away on failed weapons
systems, America's roads, bridges, and other forms of infrastructure
continue to crumble. ..
The F-35 stealth fighter .. The plane was at one point seven years
behind schedule and $163 billion over budget. Nonetheless, the U.S.
military persisted and it is now nearing full production at a projected
total cost of $1.7 trillion by the year 2070. Even so, nagging problems
persist, including engine difficulties and seriousmaintenance
deficiencies. Even more troubling: the plane often can't be cleared for
flying if lightning is anywhere in the area, which is deeply ironic,
given that it's called the Lightning II. Let's hope that there are no
thunderstorms in the next war.
The Boeing KC-46 tanker .. Doing away with old-fashioned windows and an
actual airman as a "boom operator" in the refueling loop (as in a legacy
tanker like the KC-135), the KC-46 uses a largely automated refueling
system via video. Attractive in theory, that system has yet to work
reliably in practice. (Maybe, it will, however, by the year 2024 ..) And
what good is a tanker that isn't assured of actually transferring fuel
in mid-air and turns out to be compromised as well by its own fuel
leaks? The Air Force is now speaking of "repurposing" its new generation
of tankers for missions other than refueling. That's like me saying that
I'm repurposing my boat as an anchor since it happened to spring a leak
and sink to the bottom of the lake.
And speaking of boats, perhaps you won't be surprised to learn that the
Navy has had serious problems of its own with its most recent Gerald R.
Ford-class aircraft carriers. .. Never underestimate the allure of
cramming unproven and expensive technologies for "next generation"
success on board such vessels. Include among them, when it comes to the
Ford-class carriers, elevators for raising munitions that notoriously
don't operate well and a catapult system for launching planes from the
deck (known as the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System or EMALS)
that's constantly breaking down. As you might imagine, not much can
happen on an aircraft carrier when you can't load munitions or launch
planes effectively. Each new Ford-class carrier costs in the neighborhood
of $14 billion, yet despite all that money, it simply "isn't very good
at actually being a carrier," ..
And speaking of failing ships, let's not forget the Navy's Littoral
Combat Ships (LCS), which have earned the nickname "little crappy ships."
A serious propulsion design flaw may end up turning them into "floating
garbage piles," .. The Navy bought 10 of them for roughly half a billion
dollars each, with future orders currently on hold. Lockheed Martin is
the lead contractor, the same one responsible for the wildly profligate
(and profitable) F-35.
Grimly for the Navy, problems were so severe with its Zumwalt-class of
stealth destroyers that the program was actually canceled after only
three ships had been built. (The Navy initially planned to build 32 of
them.) Critiqued as a vessel in search of a mission, the Zumwalt-class
was also bedeviled by problems with its radar and main armament. In
total, the Navy spent $22 billion on a failed "next generation" concept
whose cancelation offers us that utter rarity of our moment: a weapon
so visibly terrible that even the military-industrial complex couldn't
continue to justify it. ..
Overpriced and underperforming weapons, .. are a feature of, rather than
some sort of bug in, the military-industrial complex as future profits
for giant weapons companies drive design and fielding decisions, not
capability, efficiency, or even need. .. Mediocre (or worse) performance
is judged acceptable, if only to keep the money flowing ..