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More On The Defense Budget

Wednesday, April 8, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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AEI’s Thomas Donnelley and Gary Schmitt write in the Wall Street Journal on the holes in the the nation’s defenses that will open if the Obama Adminsitration’s defense budget is adopted. Key graphs concern the F-22 and the size of the fleet:

– The termination of the F-22 Raptor program at just 187 aircraft inevitably will call U.S. air supremacy — the salient feature, since World War II, of the American way of war — into question.

The need for these sophisticated, stealthy, radar-evading planes is already apparent. During Russia’s invasion of Georgia, U.S. commanders wanted to fly unmanned surveillance aircraft over the region, and requested that F-22s sanitize the skies so that the slow-moving drones would be protected from Russian fighters or air defenses. When the F-22s were not made available, likely for fear of provoking Moscow, the reconnaissance flights were cancelled.

As the air-defense and air-combat capabilities of other nations, most notably China, increase, the demand for F-22s would likewise rise. And the Air Force will have to manage this small fleet of Raptors over 30 years. Compare that number with the 660 F-15s flying today, but which are literally falling apart at the seams from age and use. The F-22 is not merely a replacement for the F-15; it also performs the functions of electronic warfare and other support aircraft. Meanwhile, Mr. Gates is further postponing the already decades-long search for a replacement for the existing handful of B-2 bombers.

– The U.S. Navy will continue to shrink below the fleet size of 313 ships it set only a few years ago. Although Mr. Gates has rightly decided to end the massive and expensive DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program, there will be additional reductions to the surface fleet. The number of aircraft carriers will drop eventually to 10. The next generation of cruisers will be delayed, and support-ship projects stretched out. Older Arleigh Burke destroyers will be upgraded and modernized, but at less-than-needed rates.

The good news is that Mr. Gates will not to reduce the purchases of the Littoral Combat Ship, which can be configured for missions from antipiracy to antisubmarine warfare. But neither will he buy more than the 55 planned for by the previous Bush administration. And the size and structure of the submarine fleet was studiously not mentioned. The Navy’s plan to begin at last to procure two attack submarines per year — absolutely vital considering the pace at which China is deploying new, quieter subs — is uncertain, at best.

Read the whole thing. Repeating the hollowing-out that occured in the ’90s and left us ill-equipped for the wars that have followed is a huge mistake.

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