Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, September 02, 2004

More on Zell Miller's Raging Attacks


MSNBC has the transcript of the interview posted now. You can see it on the Hardball page.

In the last posting I pretty much just made fun of Zell Miller (geez the guy challenged a man to a duel on national TV). But here is a brief discussion of one or two of the criticisms he made of John Kerry.

In the speech and the interview, Zell Miller argued that Kerry was weakening the national defense by voting against a range of defense programs. Among those listed were SDI (aka "Star Wars"), the B-1 bomber, the B-2 bomber, the F-14, and the Harrier. Here is some relevant info on those weapons programs.

SDI: This is a program that has never met the expectations of even its biggest supporters. It has costs billions and tests have been mixed at best and usually have been embarrassing failures. What is more, even if it did become fully functional, it would do nothing to defend America against terrorists using a nuclear or "dirty" bomb. It would only be able to defend the US against missile attack from another nation-state. But such threats have always been successfully deterred by our own massive capability to retaliate.

B-1 bomber: This is a plane based on 1960s/1970s technology. It was originally conceived of as a replacement for the venerable B-52 which is based on 1950s technology. The B-52 is still in service, mainly as a platform for air-launched cruise missiles. The B-1 saw some service in Afghanistan and in the invasion of Iraq. However, it too is obsolete now. It has no stealth capability for example. Its main advantage now seems to be that they are newer than the B-52s and yet old enough that the Air Force is willing to risk them in dangerous missions on which they would never risk a B-2.

B-2 bomber: This is the famous "Stealth Bomber" with the distinctive flying wing shape. While not obsolete technologically, its potential combat role may be redundant. The technology is so secret that these planes are based safely in the United States and use their enormous flight range to reach targets around the world. Its most effective weapon is the GPS/satellite guided JDM bomb which can be launched dozens of miles from the target - thus limiting risk to the plane and crew. But as GPS technology is applied to cruise missiles, the usefulness of a bomber that takes as much as 24 hours in the air to reach its target may be called into question by even the most dedicated "hawks."

F-14: The famous "Top Gun" plane that Tom Cruise flew around in. It too is obsolete. Its based on 1960s technology and its role has been completely taken over by the much newer and more flexible F/A-18 Hornet which themselves are well into major upgrade. F-14s are being converted to ground attack aircraft much as the equally old F-15 has been. Do we really need more F-14s?

The Harrier: The British built Harrier is the vertical take off capable (VTOL) plane the British used - out of desperate necessity - in the Falklands war. Its based on 1960's and 1970's technology. The vertical lift offs look cool on CNN but the fact is these planes are very slow and vulnerable while lacking both the armor and the weapons load of the A-10 which has similar ground attack role. While the Harrier was effective against the Argentinean Airforce this plane is now long since become obsolete. In the first Iraq war Harriers had a frightening casualty rate brought about by their extremely visible heat signatures. The VTOL capability is useful but has been incorporated into the new Joint Strike Fighter which is currently in the final stages of development. The JSF incorporates stealthy technology as well as higher speed into a VTOL aircraft.

By the way, the JSF will spark another controversy in the future. It will likely make the F-117 "Stealth Fighter" (which is really a ground attack bomber) obsolete. I imagine in four or eight years, the Republicans will be hollering about Democrats who voted to cancel the F-117.

To sum up: Why is Zell Miller upset about voting against these programs? Each could be argued to be nothing less than military pork barrels. In the case of the Harrier, the pork isn't even going to American companies! At least Northrop-Grumman provides some jobs for building the B-2 and F-14.

No comments: