ILSM: Why National Security Needs 4% of GDP

Reader ILSM has sent in a few posts in recent weeks about the military’s decision to replace its existing fleet of fuel tankers. (See here and here.)

Today, he sends in a follow-up…

A little more on what is “superior”, and is it worth the extra money sent to Airbus?.

From a logistics standpoint there is a lot of baggage [Caesar called it impedimenta] to deploy an Army or Marine Corps brigade sized formation, 1000 C-17 sorties to deliver 5000 troops and 700 plus vehicles, 100 plus sorties per day to sustain the formation in a place where there is not enough fuel to fill the airlifters going out with medivacs and retrograde logistics. If you have to refuel in the air to get them in it is highly unlikely there will be any fuel at destination to get them out. Or run any mechanized infantry operations. The likelihood of this mission succeeding is remote. The costs to attempt it huge. Think the Khe Sanh seige with the support bases 5000 miles away.

Only priceless to the generals and their careers with Northrop or Boeing or Lockheed.

Remote southwest Asia places with no infrastructure pose no danger to the US. Unless we want to re-enact Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here’s a quaote from a Seattle Post Intelligencer story on March 21st (Bloomberg News Tony Capaccio):

The Air Force would require 22 fewer Northrop [Airbus 18 wheelers] tankers to meet classified homeland defense and combat scenarios [Do not know if it is brigade sized] covering the Pacific and Southwest Asia required in the competition, according to a document that outlined the service’s selection criteria.

Of course, a key decision is based on classified scenario. Many wasteful blunders are hidden behind the national security need to keep the public in the dark about how their money is wasted.

We do not know the feasibility of doing the classified mission at all given the huge amounts of fuel required in such remote regions.

The “saving” of 22 tankers [pick up truck sized] is at what costs [using 18 wheelers for the 99.97% of the tasks not needing an 18 wheeler]? The more airplanes represents redundancy [multiple server queuing model], but the classified scenario is for people buying in to the mistake.

Before McCain killed the KC 767 in 2003 the Air Force used footprint, and weight as deciding factors. The KC 767 is lighter requires less “real estate” and will operate out of more airfields and have a significantly lower operating costs [24% less fuel, proportionately less supply and maintenance].

The A330 maximum gross take off weight: 507,000 pounds, wing span: 198 feet

The B767 maximum gross take off weight: 395,000 pounds, wing span: 156 feet

Unit prices of the two airplanes are similarly different but phony Airbus subsidized pricing was used by the selecting official. Weight is a determining factor in both unit cost to deliver the airplane and operating costs. The Air Force somehow derived the life cycle cost for the two very diverse airplanes to be the same. This would only be possible if the A330 fleet were reduced to 139 airplanes. I doubt that the number of airplanes was reduced.

A Boeing study with an independent analyst estimates the 767 to use 24% less fuel over the same outcomes as the A330. This is consistent with the weigh difference.

Loren Thompson has more detail on the Air Force scoring here:

The teams tied in most measures [of “capability”, an arcane Rumsfeldian term for desk flying strategist dreams of what’s good for the future structure of the DoD and industry where the good second careers are], but the Northrop offering was deemed to offer superior refueling and airlift capacity {Note capacity is not “capability”, capacity is the load, “capability” is the long term utility and revenue products of the system, larger loads on fewer flights means the system needs serious reliability and dependability, not to get wonky on what the Europeans don’t do well] at 1,000 nm. range and substantially superior refueling and airlift capability [dissembling here he means capacity, capability is not going to be proven until the USAF realizes it has another too expensive undependable system] at 2,000 nm. range. The superior airlift capacity of Northrop’s plane was deemed a “compelling” consideration in giving Northrop the edge for this factor.

Air fields supporting refueling of heavy airlifters require either huge storage and time to fill it or dedicated pipeline delivery of enough fuel for the cargo planes.

The marginal utility of the 2000 nm offload is approximately zero.

The only use of this kind of mix of range and weight is subject to being classified as it is a ridiculous operation and national security demands citizens not know that the Air Force buys stuff to do the ridiculous at huge costs.

The acquisition officials will assure you the decisions were made on “best value”, but the definition of “best value” is arcane and has to be classified.

There are over 400 ‘missions areas’ in the military industrial complex a few much larger, many about the same expense, all of which are bought at “best value” to deliver capabilities that not linked to any real threat.

So, bottom line, national security demands the waste of 4% of GDP so that the generals benefit and buy things to do what will never be done.

This one was by ILSM.