Pentagon Follies


As I have gotten older, I’m afraid to say I have gotten a lot more cynical about many things.

Or perhaps reality has made more inroads.

Regardless, I was surprised at the decision by the Air Force to mothball both the A10 and the U2 programs. The A10, designed during the Cold War, was designed to blunt the Soviet Union’s huge numerical superiority in tanks.

While that mission never (fortunately) materialized, it did prove its worth repeatedly on the battlefield in ground support. And I think, it was never really wanted by the Air Force.

Wasn’t sexy and fast and – if I remember the story right – it wasn’t until the Army – seeing a need to protect its soldiers – offered to take them that the Air Force stepped in.

Regardless, it seems the Boneyard at Tuscon will see a few 100 A10s shortly.

The U2?

Well, I certainly don’t know first hand the full capabilities of UAVs but there does seem to have a benefit of manned flight. Certainly there is no computer on, say, the Global Hawk as sophisticated as the mind of a U2 pilot.

It seems to me that some of the most successful weapons we have had have had a long and difficult gestation time – often created through the force of one man.

The F/A-18? All thanks to the efforts of one man.

P51? I guess it was the efforts of a few people at North American Aviation to produce this for the British.

Sidewinder Missile? All the efforts of one man at China Lake.    

It’s been in use for 50 years, and the Air Force thinks it will be in inventory until “late in the 21st century”.

The U2?

Thank Kelly Johnson, who hearing that the CIA was soliciting bids for a spy plane (and didn’t ask Lockheed) – rushed a design through that has endured over 50 years.

Seems though politics has always been the main force behind weapons procurement.

I guess even in WW2 there were the battleship people and the carrier people.

The cynic in me thinks that when the need for a manned spy plane again becomes obvious, we’ll start all over with a bloated, way over budget proposal.

Maybe the U2 – and A10 – have seen their best days.

Maybe technology has nearly made them obsolete.

I hope that is the case, and we are not discarding proven economical platforms because of politics.

Besides  being a tad more cynical as I have gotten older, I’ve been having memory issues.

Here I was, all ready to upload some pictures of a wonderful tour we had at Beale a few years ago, thanks to the kindness of the squadron commander.

I’m all ready to start typing and vaguely remember that I did this before.

U2 – Beale – Part 1.

Global Hawk is here.

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