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More On The Defense Budget

Wednesday, April 8, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

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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But I Thought The World Would Love President Obama?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”

Apparently the era of hope and change hasn’t changed the behaviors of the Russians and the Chinese.

The Fight For the F-22

Wednesday, April 8, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

From an industry insider:

The press likes to throw around the current production number of 187 jets as “enough” for future combat operations. Typically, they miss a lot with that number. Assuming all 187 contracted jets are built, nowhere near that number will ever be combat aircraft. Two have been lost in crashes (the one last month tragically taking the life of the pilot), and four or five of the early production jets have been retired from service. Another dozen or so are committed to flight test for their service lives, and the 27 training jets at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida will never see combat unless the US is invaded. That leaves about 140 F-22’s spread out across only six squadrons (two each at Langley AFB, Elmendorf AFB, and Holloman AFB). No fighter jet (no aircraft, for that matter) is 100% available 100% of the time. Given a very optimistic 80% availability rate (which would be high for any fighter), that would give you at best 112 Raptors to go to war with–and that would leave the entire rest of the world undefended. Compare that to the current fleet of about 400 F-15C’s (the jet the F-22 was built to replace) and you get some idea of how small that number really is.

It’s very, very difficult to properly advocate for a jet whose actual capabilities are classified (and for good reason), but here’s a true story about the Raptor that I am able to pass along. Five or six years ago, there was a flight test “fight” planned at Edwards AFB involving two F-22’s vs. six F-15’s. The Eagles were flown out of Nellis AFB in Nevada, by instructors at the Fighter Weapons School, which is the Air Force’s equivalent to the Naval Top Gun school. In other words, those six pilots were among the very best fighter jocks in the world, flying the then-current all-time champion fighter (combat record: 104 kills, no losses).

The morning of the test, one of the two F-22’s took off, but the other one had to ground abort for a mechanical problem. They couldn’t conduct the actual test as planned, but the Raptor pilot suggested that they go ahead and run the test scenario “for practice.”

Ten minutes later, that F-22 was the only “live” jet left in the sky. Not one of the Eagles even got a shot off, and all of them were declared “dead” by the test officials. Bear in mind, this was early in the decade, when the Raptor’s avionics systems and software were still in development, and nowhere near as stable and capable as they are today. That doesn’t say everything you need to know about the F-22, but it does say a lot.

The U.S. has a weapon far superior to anything the rest of the world has. It is useful as a deterrent to war as much as it is a weapon of war. Why we would short-change our defense for a cost of perhaps $60 billion in an era of trillion dollar deficits is mind-boggling.

Rick Warren and the Church in America

Tuesday, April 7, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
Rick Warren was my guest in hour three of today’s program, and he generously agreed to stay after the broadcast and tape another long interview which will air this Friday –Good Friday– which focuses on the Church in America. The transcript of today’s show will be posted later tonight here, and the podcast here. Friday’s conversation is centered on the mission of the American Church. Rick’s new magazine, The Purpose Driven Connection, is intended to serve the Church both at home through its small group ministry, and in inspiring it to go abroad with a reformed and revitalized sense of mission.

Speaking of mission, here’s an e-mail in response to yesterday’s conversation with two leaders from Amor Ministries, which has seen a huge drop-off in students willing to spend spring break in Mexico building houses for the poor:

Hugh, Thank you for your “plug” for Amor and for the safety of those who labor on behalf of their housing ministry. The youth and adults from my congregation here in Hawaii have built three homes with Amor (we try to go every other year). With Amor’s help I was able to dispel the fears and concerns that some of the youth’s parents had about their children’s safety when we took out trip last summer. That concern almost scuttled the trip. But we went, a house was built and lives in Mexico and lives in Hawaii were changed for the better. I can think of few transformational mission opportunities that carry more “bang for the buck” than working with Amor Ministries. The security they provide is more than sufficient but it is hardly necessary in the areas served by Amor. Much of Mexico is corrupt, yes. But most of Mexico is safe and full of honest, good and hard-working people . . . including the neighborhoods served by Amor. There are, of course, places to avoid but Amor is not in close proximity to any of them. I plead with church groups everywhere: Take a stand! Don’t instil unnecessary fear into the hearts of our youth who are eager and ready to serve and to love their neighbors in an impoverished country next door to our own. Go to Mexico with Amor. Build a house so that a family waiting for your love can turn it into a home.
Aloha In Jesus, Jim Tweedie, Pastor, Mililani Presbyterian Church, Oahu, Hawaii
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