Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pivoting with your shoes untied

There is one area that we have competitive advantage against, well, the entire world. 

Our advantage is the battle tested, mature and highly effective land attack cruise missile. There is no other similar weapon with the bonafides of the Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile (TLAM). Some claim, but non can prove.

Sure, like the Harpoon it is old and slow - but it works and is good and better than something PPT thick.

The exceptionally reliable fire-and-forget drone would, on the surface, seem to be the one capability we would want to keep. Relative long range, unmanned, precise, and with the right warhead choice - exceptionally flexible across a wide range of targeting requirements.

As we move/pivot towards a dangerous world, as outlined by our friend Seth Cropsey over at DefenseNews;
... the Defense Department demurred when the Navy asked for an additional 980 TLAMs to increase its inventory of the most up-to-date model. Not only was the request denied, the decision was taken to end production of the Tomahawk in fiscal 2016. No more orders for the missile would be placed after the autumn of 2015.

The termination followed a December DoD decision to cut the number of TLAMs to be ordered from 4,900 to 3,700. No strategic justification was offered to account for the reduction.

Where does this leave the US? The opening salvo of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, expended well over 800 TLAMs. Twelve years earlier, 250 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm. Including operations in Kosovo and the 1998 strike against Iraqi sites suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, the average use of the weapon rounds out at something between 100 and 200 per year.
He forgot my baby, DESERT FOX at over 325, but let's continue;
The current Block 4 model, which features improved navigation, anti-jamming and retarget­ing systems, began to be delivered 10 years ago. It should be capable of performing combat missions for 30 years if properly maintained, including a recertification at the midpoint of its service life. The midpoint for the first Block 4 Tomahawks will occur in 2019.

But if, as the Defense Department now plans, no more missiles will be ordered after fiscal 2015, the technicians, engineers and contractors who must recertify the missiles will have long since vacated to find other work.
Is this a smart risk to take? Not if you want to avoid having to put pilots across the beach to take our static targets and want a hedge against the next generation of armed drones - or as I like to call them, reusable TLAM.
President Obama’s first secretary of defense, Robert Gates, noted in an April 2014 interview in the US military’s Stars and Stripes, “when it comes to predicting where and how we’re going to use military force next over the last 40 years since Vietnam, we have a perfect record: We haven’t gotten it right once.”

Gates added, “you can’t just predict these things [i.e. the use of force], and we need to recognize our inability to predict them.”

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