Sinking the Next-13-Navies Fallacy

Stephen D Doyle II/Flickr

This article was originally published July 10 2014 by War on the Rocks.

The war against naval factoids is a quagmire! A primary theater in this whack-a-mole struggle is the notion that America’s navy is “stronger” than the next X navies, and thus, we should rest easy about our republic’s strategic position in Eurasia. The usual figure given for X is 13, although a reputable commentator recently inflated it to 16. The latest purveyor of this claim is David Axe, the normally reliable proprietor of War Is Boring. On Tuesday, Axe contended, “By some measures, the U.S. Navy maintains a 13-navy standard. In other words, it can deploy as much combat power as the next 13 largest fleets combined.” » More

Hacking Defense: Changing How DoD Innovates

The Pentagon, January 2008. Image: Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published June 23, 2014 by War on the Rocks.

Product innovation in the U.S. Department of Defense follows an implicit rule: “Better, cheaper, faster—pick two.”

Today, the military is simultaneously confronted with declining budgets, skyrocketing system development costs, and a diverse spectrum of rapidly evolving, complex military threats. To mitigate this challenge, the Pentagon should place renewed emphasis on its corporate approach to technology innovation in order to identify and exploit opportunities to do more with less.

The Better Buying Power initiative focuses on DoD’s innovation problem, but to be successful, such efforts must eschew traditional notions of defense system development. From iterative, design-based product development approaches to open, distributed ecosystems of partners and suppliers, the techniques employed by Silicon Valley and the most innovative sectors of the global high-tech economy should inform a new model of defense innovation that enables better, cheaper, and faster outcomes. » More

LHD and STOVL – An Engineer’s View

F-35 Lightning

This article was originally published on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute‘s blog, The Strategist, on June 20, 2014.

As a military aircraft engineer, I’ve been associated with STOVL aircraft operations for around 30 years, and have worked on the F-35 program. So I’ve followed the current discussions around potential use of F-35B from the Canberra-class LHDs with interest.

In my view, it’s remarkable how much the debate focuses on the problems that the aircraft would face in operating from those ships rather than the potential benefits to be gained. Assertions abound about the ‘limited’ nature of F-35B operations from an LHD, and the ‘severe challenges’ involved in generating a militarily ‘decisive impact’ from ‘small’ platforms. And yet for 30 years or more the UK and US (using AV-8Bs and Sea Harriers) have delivered
significant operational effect from similar platforms. Clearly, STOVL at sea can work. So I’d like to offer a few observations that might assist and inform the debate. » More

Reflecting on the Baltics

Estonian and American troops during an exercise, Photo: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Stratfor on 15 June 2014.

About two and a half years ago, while spending a few months in Ukraine, I left Kiev to take a trip through the Baltic states. On a cold winter day in the middle of October, I flew into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. From there I would travel exclusively by bus from Tallinn on the Baltic Sea to Tartu in southern Estonia, then on to Riga, Latvia, and finally to Vilnius in southern Lithuania. » More

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The Flawed German Debate on Armed Drone Acquisition: “What Does This Have to Do with Our Procurement Plans, for God’s Sake?”

Image: Flickr/UK Ministry of Defense

In Germany, defence and military policy is rarely a subject of great interest to the general public. The pacifist mainstream view and the “friendly disinterest” in the Bundeswehr means that military matters are seldom discussed in detail by the general media.

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