The Comanche kill

Ralph Peters:

"EARLIER this week, the U.S. Army scored a victory for our national security and the American taxpayer: It killed the Comanche attack-helicopter program, a $40 billion legacy of the Cold War.


"Sexy though it was, the Comanche didn't offer a decisive advantage over systems already fielded. And the battlefield equation is changing. Drones handle more missions at less expense, from reconnaissance to precision strikes. And the service couldn't afford the luxury of buying the Comanche: Our soldiers have practical needs, from more personnel to a new generation of combat vehicles to replace an aging fleet.


"TRADITIONALLY, only the Marine Corps and our chronically under- funded Coast Guard have been responsible stewards of our tax dollars. Now the Army has turned a corner, demanding value and real utility, instead of gold-plating the McClellan saddle again.

"The other services? A victim of its own success at dominating the seas, the Navy struggles forward in the absence of blue-water enemies. While shifting to deliver firepower deep inside enemy territory, the Navy remains a prisoner of traditions that undervalue cost-effective killing. We have the finest navy that ever sailed, but it doesn't deliver much bang for the buck.


"But the real problem is the Air Force. Despite endless hype about transformation, it refuses to cancel a single major program inherited from the Cold War.

"The ultimate test of defense reform is the fate of the F-22 fighter. Conceived to dogfight Soviet planes that never got off the drawing board, it has no mission. No other air force is coming up to challenge us - and if they did, we already have the finest fighter aircraft in the world.

"Factor in all the upstream and downstream costs, and F-22s will run at least $180 million each. (Note to pilot: No parachute for you, pal - bring that baby home.)

"The F-22 is wildly overpriced, conceptually outdated and nearly useless. And the contractors know it. As do Congress and the Air Force. So the aircraft's partisans cooked up a Rube-Goldberg redesign to give the world's most expensive air-to-air fighter a ground-attack role. No matter that carrying bombs degrades its stealth capabilities or that it can't haul much ordnance. Presto, it's the answer to all our needs."


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