Via exceptionally sharp young journalist Taylor Dobbs, this story of the efficiency and national security value of military procurement:*
The Dayton Daily News reports that the Air Force has spent some $567 million to acquire 21 new Spartans since 2007, but has found that the Air Force does not have missions for many of the aircraft.
The planes had originally been acquired because of their ability to operate from unimproved runways. But sequestration forced the Air Force to re-think the airplane’s mission, and it determined that they were not a necessity, according to an analyst with the Project for Government Oversight.
…An Air Force spokesman said the program was “too near completion” to be able to terminate the program in a way that does not cost the taxpayers more than building the airplanes and sending them immediately to the boneyard.
An alternate headline would — should, in fact — go something like this: “Legislators Find Alternatives To Food Stamp Cuts”
One more thought: the fetishization of (genuinely brave and self-sacrificing) members of the military is cover for sh*t like this.
Image: Jan van Kessel, Birds on a Riverbank, 1655.
*Proper link added after initial brain bubbles led to blogger-failure, and then real life prevented repair for some time. Apologies.
c u n d gulag
I’m sure they’ll find some countries to sell them to.
Ones that eventually will use them against us – so we can justify yet another war, and still MORE new military equipment!
It’s a never-ending cycle of violence and stupidity.
Oh, and it’s a great reason NOT to help the people here, in the United States of America.
Why build shit here, when we can blow shit up over there?
First off, here’s the original Daily News article.
Second, there are, what, 10 other countries with operational Spartans? Why not offer the planes at fire sale prices?
@c u n d gulag: It’s a cargo plane, so it’s not like Bulgaria is going to bomb NYC with them.
c u n d gulag
But can’t cargo planes carry troops?
Ah, never mind…
Note to self: It helps to read the article, before leaving your word-turds.
@Poopyman: Also too, from the article:
So maybe they are just holding them until they go on sale at Marshall’s.
Another Holocene Human
The military is dumping surplus tanks cheeep on all too willing local PDs. The lefties are freaking. I kind of refuse to care too much but I got told about the coppers trying to break up a Justice for Trayvon march with their cruisers so they’re not freaking out for nothing.
We are as bad, if not worse, than the Austro-Hungarian empire, which, outside of royalist/anti-democratic/anti-national-determination-for-mud-peoples English-language media, is not exactly remembered fondly by anyone but the Austrians … just go there … they’ll tell you. Good Soldier Svejk/Schweik could have been written about the 21st century USA.
Is ti just me or does the link go to Dobbs’ twitter feed? Can I get to the article from there?
@Poopyman: I’d love to see someone phone up his/her deficit-screamer senator/rep and ask this question, and see what kind of answer it elicits. I’d do it myself except that I’m lucky enough to have no such representatives.
Hey, you know $567M for 21 aircraft comes out to only $27M per plane. At those prices you’d think the CIA could be selling them to Somali war lords. At a profit.
@c u n d gulag: Although you may be partially right. From the Wikipedia page:
@Omnes Omnibus: Link in post goes to the Twitter feed.Poopyman linked the article.
I would think that the “ability to operate from unimproved runways” would actually be a rather desirable ability, especially when compared against some of the gee wiz but worthless gismos that the military is always spending buckets of cash on. If nothing else seems they could be sold to countries that have a problem with “unimproved” runways. I can’t imagine this is anywhere close to the most wasteful and outrageous military boondoggle. Is this a misdirection to take our eye off other pet projects?
What an amazing painting! Hallucinogenic.
The story gets better, if it can be called that.
The US Army National Guard operates an aircraft called the C-23 Sherpa. They have been used for short-haul cargo and VIP support missions for several years. The short-haul Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) light cargo mission has been very important to the Army because the Air Force would routinely hold small loads of cargo in what they termed “Frustrated Cargo,” until a full load for a C-130 could be created. Some Army outposts waited months for spare parts and other supplies that were too big to truck in, but too small for a C-130. Some Army outposts can’t land a C-130. But they couldn’t keep the C-23 in either combat zone on a continuing basis because of parts shortages and their performance leaving them vulnerable to ground fire. So the Army sought a replacement for the Sherpas and settled on the C-27 A Spartan. The original plan was for the Army to equip 77 C-27s, one for each C-23 that was to be withdrawn from service by 2010. The Spartan is based on a design that is several years in production making it very cost effective.
Congress signed off on the plan, and aircraft purchases began. Then the USAF stepped in in 2008 and told Congress that they were looking at purchasing the aircraft in quantity as well and that all the C-27 air-frames should be put under USAF control so that there would be only one supply chain and support system. Congress agreed, and the units in service were transferred to the USAF. In 2010, USAF announced that they wished to kill the program. They slowed production down, and managed to get the program completely killed for a while at least in 2012. The Army National Guard is still soldiering on with the C-23 until the end of the coming fiscal year because every single air-frame is beyond design service life, and many are grounded with cracks in the wing spars. The USAF transferred six C-27s to Special Operations Command, where they have been converted to MC-27J gunships, augmenting the AC-130 in that role. USAF also transferred 14 C-27s to the Coast Guard. All of the other aircraft, over 50, including those new builds, are going straight to the boneyard, while the Army continues to suffer for lack of short-haul STOL airlift capacity.
Rob in CT
Pretty shitty of the Air Farce, there.
@Soonergrunt: So LGM is right in preaching “Eliminate the Air Force”?
@Soonergrunt: Why am I not surprised?
@Rob in CT: About what the Army has come to expect from the USAF in recent years.
@JoyfulA: I think breaking it up would be better. The main problem is the service culture of the USAF (I used to work as a contractor for a Field Operating Agency of the Air Staff, so I’ve seen some of this close up) is that they have no real peer competitor out in the world, so they see the other services, Army, Navy, USMC, as threats to their existence, particularly in a time of budget cuts. I’ve actually seen PowerPoint slides in briefings where they described their number one enemy as the US Army.
@Soonergrunt: another arrow in the ‘kill the USAF’ quiver.
That quote makes me think they sabotaged something that supports the Army in order to keep more money aimed at the F-35.
@Soonergrunt: It is the Air force, what do you expect? They hated the A-10 as well.
Paul in KY
Learned many years ago that military spending helps out economies much less than civilian spending. There are no used tank lots, so you spend the money on the hardware & it generally sits there until scapped (or blown up).
A civilian car is made, sold, sold again, sold again & finally parted out. It stimulates much more spending (relatively spaking) than a warplane or tank, etc. etc.
I wish Obama would reply to GOP Chickenhawks bellowing against his refusal to put us on fast-track for war against Iran: “We’ll be prepared to go when Congress sends a bill to my desk providing for a military draft of the required number of soldiers to carry out this mission – at least 250K additional troops, based on our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Sounds about right from what I have heard about how the Army and USAF view their respective roles in the military structure.
The Army views air power as a means to support ground troops.
The USAF does not want to just be a support wing for the Army and works to kill playing that role.
Military spending is about the only form of a “jobs program” the country will pony up for, so it is either this or more unemployed.
@catclub: That’s what the Army thinks, too.
@Omnes Omnibus: Congress managed to prevent them from doing that for the next couple of years, and also fully funded the A-10 upgrade program for the next couple of years. A-10C will replace the old steam gauges and 1960’s and ’70’s avionics with brand new state of the art equipment, the wings will be strengthened as well.
The USAF wishes to completely get rid of the A-10, F-15, and F-16 air-frames and replace them with the F-35.
The F-35 will not have the agility of the F-16, the range or weapon capacity of the F-15, and it falls short of replacing the A-10 in every single meaningful way. But it has some stealth capabilities (although this is in serious doubt, supposedly). What it will do is to completely dominate military procurement for two decades, which given its inability to actually replace or improve on the air-frames it’s “replacing” seems to have been the primary design goal from day one.
hence the required parenthetical.
@Another Holocene Human: My paternal grandparents came from Austria — in 1908. In the 1960s my grandmother and I would have these political fights about the Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union. Well, my pov was the Soviet Union, my grandmother talked about Russia. I’d tell, you haven’t been there in more than half a century, it’s very different than when you left Austria. (She never thought Hungary meant anything — only Austria.) You were not there for 2 world wars. Things changed. She never believed me.
@cmorenc: Can you imagine the “Obama calls for military draft!” uproar that would occur if that happened? Sunday show fodder for weeks. I’d kind of enjoy it, even though I don’t think we’ll ever get a draft again.
Sharing the responsibility for fighting the wars our government seems to want to start is a topic that’s worth discussing. In my opinion, every person eligible up to age 70, or heck even 80, no outs for college students, young parents, whatever. You go, period, unless you simply are too difficult to care for while there–people so disabled they can’t function independently, extremely developmentally delayed adults, etc. Everyone else can be found something to do.
If our lawmakers knew they could be called up to go to war, even if they’re 75, it might change a few things.
@c u n d gulag:
It’s not a great movie, but Head Office knew its corporations way back in 1985:
Goddamned Air Force at it again. Can’t be fucking bothered with actually supplying weapons, food and parts to people on the ground who actually need them.
@Soonergrunt: I’ve called in fire with both F-16s and A-10s (during exercises). A-10s were perfectly suited to their role. F-16s, not so much. IMO, the army should have fixed wing ground support capability under its own control.
Here’s something else that just dropped out of the joys of military funding: Hundreds investigated in Army recruiting kickback scheme
Count me in as one of those that thinks the Air Force overlaps the Army and Navy too much (and I have a BIL in the Air Force).
c u n d gulag
I never even heard of that movie.
Another Holocene Human
@Soonergrunt: Why does this keep going on?! Is the Army just that fucking bad at lobbying?
Class warfare within the armed forces. It is a thing.
Paul in KY
@celticdragonchick: A nice golf course and O-Club doesn’t just spring out of the ground…
yes yes yes! But the AF will absolutely not allow the army to have any fixed wing combat aircraft. Fer Chrissakes, congress had to intervene just to let the army have helicopter gunships!
Back in 1995, word came down that the AF was going to get rid of the A-10, and that the army was going to make a play to get all of the aircraft. I would absolutely have stayed in the army and transferred my MOS had that happened (I was a 67V scout helicopter mech).
@Paul in KY:
@c u n d gulag:
It starts off strong and gets seriously bogged down in the middle when it tries to have an actual plot, but the corporate stuff still holds up. And it has great cameos/small roles by Danny DeVito, Rick Moranis, Jane Seymour, Michael O’Donoghue, Eddie Albert, Don Novello, and a bunch of others.
“I didn’t make that decision, I approved that decision! Don’t you know the difference between a decision and an approval?”
@Soonergrunt: Do you have links for this information? I would love to share this with some of the people I work with.
Which makes me wonder, then why let the F-35 get beyond the drawing board in the first place? Wouldn’t the USAF have been better off with new generations of the older airframes, redesigned to accommodate new and improved weapons/avionics/whatever?
This reminds me…about 5 or 6 years ago, SecDef Gates issued a requirement for 100 fixed wing COIN combat aircraft that could “get into the weeds” for close air support.
I’m guessing the AF managed to scuttle that as well.
Another Holocene Human
@PurpleGirl: The Hapsburgs built a giant, ugly, militarized castle on the highest point of Buda, overlooking Pest and the Hungarian Parliament building complex just to let everybody know who was in charge.
The Hungarians I talked to (mostly quite young, as young people had the opportunity to learn English well) were fiercely proud of their heritage and had no love lost for the Austrians or the Soviets. One young lady told me that what to me was a quite aesthetically pleasing 60s era modern style building built by the Soviets was an ugly eyesore.
@Omnes Omnibus: And call them flying arty!
@Omnes Omnibus: I agree completely, but the Key West agreement gets in our way.
I think the Air Force has a death wish. They are trying to prove Augustine’s law of aircraft pricing. At one time, we had politicians that would boss them around, and it worked out ok. Some silly things like making the SR71 into a fighter, but they did get a boatload of F16’s instead of a few F15’s for the same money. And an even better example was when they were forced to buy F4’s instead of whatever go-fast piece of crap they wanted.
@celticdragonchick: Yes, yes they did. IIRC, the Naval Special Warfare command tested some Super Tucanos for supporting SEAL operations, but USAF managed to kill it completely.
Another Holocene Human
@Paul in KY:
I saw some figures a while back that claimed education spending provided the biggest bang for the buck stimulus-wise.
Infrastructure was a distant second, as it can lubricate regional and global trade.
I don’t know where durable goods fall but it would probably be down there a ways as it employs far less people than in the Henry Ford days. Tax cuts even to the poor aren’t a huge stimulus either although any direct aid to the lowest income people does indeed work, fwiw. Just ask Walmart what kind of winter they’re having post austerity for thee (but not for me, where me is Congress and Wall Street)
You are making the classic mistake of assuming that we buy new airplanes with the primary purpose of using them to fight wars. That hasn’t been the case for quite some time. Most big ticket military items should be seen more as welfare for the MIC than as serious attempts to buy hardware. The goal is to maintain our design and manufacturing capabilities in case a new cold war breaks out and we need to start another arms race. Any actual military utility is a decidedly secondary consideration.
This is just more evidence for the argument that our nation’s de facto industrial policy is, well, not a very good one.
Exactly. I’d only add the word “stated” (as shown).
Ah. I was also wondering why the need for V/STOL in certain F-35 variants, when it wastes so much fuel to make a fighter plane fly like a helo, and when there’s no good reason to do so in the first place.
Actually, they did have utility in the ME, but the AF is very C-130 centric. This is old news, special forces wanted some of them and got them as parachute training platforms and then the ANG, Coast Guard and Forest Service got into a cat fight for the rest of them.
Congress had to get involved to work out a solution.
By all accounts, it’s great little transport.
That was back in the days when they were worried about supersonic nuclear bombers and wanted a super-high speed interceptor that could shoot them down before they could get past our air defenses. It wasn’t a completely crazy idea, just one that was quickly obsolete as supersonic bombers proved to be problematic and ICBMs became the dominant threat. Besides, the YF-12 never got past the prototype stage; it was killed off well before actually going into production as a fighter.
@Amir Khalid: While the F-15 and F-16 are still in production, and in fact are being sold to allied states with better technology than the USAF has in those air-frames, one of the major program goals of the F-35 appears to be to tie up military procurement money for at least a couple of decades or longer if possible.
The F-35 is a series of compromises forced by the principle stakeholders that renders the aircraft essentially incapable of replacing any of the aircraft it is supposed to replace.
For the Air Force, it is supposed to replace all A-10s, all F-16s, and all F-15s except the F-15E Strike Eagle (long range attack and interdiction role.)
For the Navy, it is supposed to replace all F/A-18s in all roles.
For the USMC, it is supposed to replace the F/A-18 and the AV-8B Harrier STOVL jet.
I assume that’s for the Navy; one of the points of the F-35 is that it’s supposed to be multi-role and multi-service, so we can have just one plane for all our fighter and light attack bomber needs. It makes some sense until you realize the Air Farce will just wind up kitting them all out as fighters and blow off the need to support the Army.
It’s supposed to replace all those very different planes with one airframe? Even I knew from the beginning that was just plain stupid.
Paul in KY
@celticdragonchick: USAF, 81 – 85 (that secure feeling you had back then was me guarding the skies from my desk).
Here’s the first paragraph of a different article (Michael Hoffman, May 16, 2013, military.com):
And from an earlier article, an unamused Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin:
From “The C-27 truth vacuum,” Philip Ewing, March 20, 2012, military.com. Read it here.
Paul in KY
@Amir Khalid: F-35 has vctored thrust & the flyboys love that vectored thrust, and it is cheaper than F-22.
Paul in KY
@Another Holocene Human: As for ‘tax cuts to poor’. If you are poor, you don’t hardly pay income taxes anyway. The rich just sock it away in their savings accounts.
Paul in KY
@srv: Always felt safe when flying in a C-130. Built super strong, 4 engines, can glide if all of them are out. Great airplane. Little loud though.
pseudonymous in nc
Flypasts at college football games. Bit-parts in Super Bowl ads. Surplus sales to SWATcopz. There, done.
@Paul in KY: You were probably drawing TDY pay most of the time!
There are 4 C-130’s that belong to Libya and have been sitting at Dobbins for more than 40 years.
@Paul in KY: Quiet, Italian sexy and they don’t do this in a Herc.
@Roger Moore: It’s actually the Marines. They are wedded to the STOVL/VSTOL technology even though they’ve never used it in combat in the almost 30 years they’ve been flying it. The USMC has a deep, lasting resentment for and distrust of the Navy for abandoning them at Guadalcanal in WWII and leaving them without air cover. That’s the main driver for the STOVL/VSTOL variant of the aircraft.
The British were initially very interested in replacing their Harriers with the STOVL/VSTOL F-35B variant as well as the conventional take off, barrier assisted recovery (CATOBAR) variant, the F-35C for their two new carriers they are building for the Royal Navy, but neither of these variants is available in any numbers, so the British Harriers, which are very very old and falling apart have to keep flying, even as maintenance costs soar and more and more air-frames are paid off due to structural fatigue.
Paul in KY
@raven: Hell, yeah! Got $50 per day per diem. That was good money back in 1984. I would eat like a king & still pocket a 20 every day. ah, TDYs…Raven, that brings up good memories!
Paul in KY
@srv: Praise the Lord I wasn’t on that flight. The puke would have been doing immelmans as well!
@Amir Khalid: We know that the Navy and the Air Force learned this lesson with the F-111 and to a lesser extent with the F-4. But the USAF pitched the program that produced the F-35 as something that would be a joint program and a success, even as there’s substantial evidence that the only version of the aircraft that actually works to contracted specifications (after may downward revisions of the capabilities) is the A model for the USAF.
As I’ve said before, the more one digs into the history of this program, the more one becomes convinced that one of the primary program goals is to dominate US military procurement spending for the next few decades.
@Paul in KY: “and it is cheaper than F-22”
Is that like saying only as expensive as palladium instead of platinum, or vice versa?
@Soonergrunt: “the more one becomes convinced that one of the primary program goals is to dominate US military procurement spending for the next few decades.”
On the one hand this is a terrible waste of resources, but on the other hand spending the same amount of money for highly efficient and well designed tools to bring death and destruction on other people is no garden of roses, either. Just think if they used it all to make nerve gas.
You have a remarkable ability to find the silver lining.
I wish I did!
Drunk Predator Drone @drunkenpredator
Last two paragraphs from that imbedded link:
Paul in KY
@catclub: Your choice ;-)
From the article:
Isn’t this another “F-35 needs another engine” story? Congress throws money/programs/resources at the DoD that even the DoD doesn’t want?
If this were a genuinely defensible expenditure (example: continuing to build submarines at a predictable rate ensures that the required skills stay with the shipyard rather than fleeing for the private sector when the contract gets cut off; so the next time subs are built, there’s a minimal learning curve because there’s fewer master welders to train) I could see a reason for pushing forward with the things. As it is, it’s just another “my constituents demand…” demand. Not quite “Legislators Find Alternative Expenditures To Food Stamps” [many pardons, TL] but certainly in the “government can’t create jobs – except in my district” vein.
@Cervantes: DOD props up a large part of what is left of the middle and upper-middle classes. It’s a white-collar jobs program. Very little of its time and money goes to actual defense, which, contrary to what most politicians think, involves a lot more than dropping bombs on shepherds. Actual defense would encompass things like a functional medical system (in case of a biological attack) and functional infrastructure (we might have to move troops and very heavy equipment over these crumbling roads).
Well, it turns out there’s good news. A home has been found for all 21 planes. The Coast Guard is getting 14 of them for free (great for the USCG, which never has much money) and the other 7 are going to Special Operations Command. No boneyard after all.
@Pogonip: Funny you should mention biological attacks. On my night-stand, slowly being read, is a GAO report, “NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS: HHS Is Monitoring the Progress of Its Medical Countermeasure Efforts but Has Not Provided Previously Recommended Spending Estimates.” An excerpt:
Not a surprise to you, obviously.
Sigh. Just when you thought the Teahadists were *completely* wrong about everything… Perhaps there is some government spending that could be cut.
@Someguy: Not precisely. Teahadists LOVE the DoD – or at least they love all the private-sector enterprises that supply/reinforce/augment/replace the DoD. They’re also wedded to “gubmint don’t create jawbs.” So while they’d probably rejoice at “outsourcing” US defenses, they’re overjoyed at “private enterprise’s engagement in the defense of the nation” – or, in other words, grift and fraud funnelled to Lockheed, Northrup, Raytheon, SAIC, L3 and the rest.
There’s plenty of government spending that can be validly questioned. Both sides agree on that. Where they disagree is what expenditures deserves the additional scrutiny, and what that spending means to the citizens and the health of the nation.