Fractures in our military superiority

John Halldale has published a noteworthy article at defpro.com;
Is American Air Power on the Verge of Collapse?.

He includes much that I agree with (about 70%, and I actually still plan to write blog posts about some of those points). I propose to read the relevant chapters of this book in addition.

Russia doesn't spend its much on modernizing its military, but on modernizing its weapon and munitions design pool. They develop new equipment without buying it for their armed services.

That leaves the impression of almost useless, obsolete forces - a strong argument for those who don't consider Russia as a near-peer.
At the same time, they have the designs finished to modernize their military (and para-militaries) in just a few years - take the re-armament of Germany 1933-1939 as reference. Most of the German designs procured in 1933-1937 were 1928-1933 developments.

The Russians use one more approach that misleads many observers; secrecy. Their highest-profile weapon systems like their new tank T-95 and new generation fighter PAK-FA are mysteries for the Western public; we don't have any reliable information about these.

Finally the third reason for the underestimation of the Russian's potential; they don't always follow the same lines of development due to different challenges.
It's not as easy to compare as a simple match up of alike systems. They sometimes don't focus so much on designing a comparable counterpart, but a dissimilar countermeasure. Their long-range missiles against AEW&E aircraft (like AWACS) is such an example - and without counterpart in the West.

The F-35 is a ground attack pane with air/air self-defence capability - and surely also a viable fighter against 1980's and 1990's systems. Its power lies in its avionics, and it's not meant to fight for air superiority. Rafale and Typhoon are both multi-role combat aircraft and will be the dominant combat aircraft in some European air forces once Tornado IDS and Mirage 2000 approach the end of their useful lives. Neither will really be up to the task of matching the quality of PAK-FA - simply because being an overmatch to them must be the premier requirement for the newer PAK-FA. The F-35 will likely be different, but not significantly better in air combat.

I'm not so sure that the F-22 is a proper solution, though. Its concept is publicly known since about 1991 and the Russian likely design PAK-FA to match or overmatch F-22 with the advantage of the later design. The extremely high cost of the F-22 design is a huge problem as well.

Maybe we should simply stop assuming that we would always enjoy air superiority (or supremacy). We cannot be sure about our superiority in hardware quality, combat morale, logistics, tactics, operations - no matter how often some will tell us about our superiority.
The U.S.A.A.F. and USN pilots despised the Japanese air power as paper flyers, mere victims before Pearl Harbor - and found themselves to be quite inferior in many regards during the first months of the war. Such wrong perceptions happen sometimes.

It's really about time to look at what can go wrong, not at how great we are - just like Mr. Halldale did in the article.

The Russians don't want to invade us and turn us red. They probably never really did. They CAN subdue neighbors that were traditionally under Russian control if they are convinced that we wouldn't dare to face them, though.
That's why a realistic assessment of the deterrence effect of nuclear weapons, our commitment and the relative military state of the art between us and them count.


p.s.: Hat tip to The DEW Line

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