My pal Al Clark — the Michael Jordan of tactical shooting – coined the acronym “SGO.” It stands for “s#*t goin’ on.” It’s a term that fits a lot of circumstances, especially in Washington. As Senate Democrats and the U.N. work overtime to prevent anyone from hurting Saddam’s feelings, there’s a lot of SGO in Washington that will affect our ability to fight, now and in the near future. Many of these things deserve more attention than they are getting.
Israel — rightly suspicious that the Dems would slow-roll any development of missile defenses — went ahead at full speed after the Gulf War, and a version of its Arrow missile defense system is the result. The Israelis have deployed the Arrow to face Iraq, which may launch Scud-Bs at them when we begin the campaign to take out Saddam. Each Arrow battery can fire six missiles at separate targets very rapidly. Where, you may ask, is our comparable system? The Patriot “PAC-3” is being tested and deployed, but not bought in large enough numbers to protect much of anything. And we are still a very long way from having any system that will defend the continental U.S. against missile attack. As long as Michigan Sen. Carl Levin is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, we won’t get much farther. Pushing Levin should be high on Dubya’s agenda.
As should firing Tommy Thompson and the rest of the HHS jugheads who are still fighting against the idea of allowing Americans to choose to be vaccinated against smallpox. As discussed last July, smallpox is probably the greatest biowar threat. Not allowing Americans to get the vaccine is nothing short of criminal negligence. And the HHS people still don’t believe.
Back at Fort Fumble, there’s bad news on a lot of fronts. Mr. Rumsfeld sent a 17 September memo to the DoD leadership asking for a congressional shopping list to relieve DoD of constraints imposed by obscure laws. Lotsa luck, boss. Congressional micromanagement is an addiction, and Congress can’t be cured of it until it’s willing to give up at least a smidgen of its power over the Pentagon. It won’t happen while the Dems rule the Senate. Accompanying that is bad news, coming in thick and fast, about a number of weapon systems, particularly the Marines’ V-22 “Osprey” and the Army’s “Stryker” armored combat vehicle. And the Navy is about to send its warfighters — Marines, SEALs, everybody — to war with an unreliable machine gun.
In January ’01, my very first column for The American Spectator Online described some of the problems with the Marines’ V-22 Osprey. Osprey is a “tiltrotor” aircraft that rotates its two engines to the vertical to take off and land like a helicopter, and to the horizontal for flight like a fixed-wing aircraft. It’s been a’building for decades, and has killed about 30 people — including 23 Marines — in test flights. Last week, the politicians and lobbyists began beating the drum –again — to push Osprey into production despite the serious problems that still exist. Any helicopter that loses power should be able to autorotate: nose-down and get enough air through the blades to make them rotate, providing enough lift for a survivable crash landing. Navy Secretary Gordon England said that the Osprey doesn’t need the ability to autorotate because it has two engines, and can land on either. Do you want to bet your son’s life on that theory? I don’t.
Experts say that Osprey can’t handle what helo jocks call “rapid multi-axis control inputs” — combinations of rudder, cyclic (forward movement) and collective (vertical movement) — which you have to do if people are shooting at you. If the Marines still need the Osprey — which they may not — they should get it. But not before the major technological bugs have been worked out. War approaches, and it is perfectly clear that Osprey can’t be ready. Congress and Mr. Rumsfeld should bite the bullet and buy more large helos to meet the Marines’ needs, and take the money out of the Osprey program if they have to. Defense Undersecretary Pete Aldridge should do now what I recommended almost two years ago. He should get a small bunch of no-foolin’ test pilots — people not employed by the contractors or in the Marine program office — to scrub the Osprey’s design, fly it themselves, and come back with a clean report defining what major technological problems exist. Too many Marines have died for this program already. Time to fix it or scrap it. Definitely not time to produce it.
The Army’s “Stryker” combat vehicle has so many built-in flaws, you have to wonder what the designers were thinking. Stryker doesn’t fit inside a C-130 without being stripped of almost all its external equipment. What descendant of Werner von Braun designs a combat vehicle that doesn’t fit into the primary aircraft that will deploy it? Stryker apparently can’t fire its weapons unless it stands still. In a recent wargame, the machine gun and grenade launcher couldn’t be aimed while on the move, and Stryker had to sit still for an average of two minutes to aim the gun. Add to that the vulnerabilities of exposed tires and thin armor. Thirteen of fourteen Strykers participating in the war game were “destroyed” by enemy fire. Mr. Aldridge should add this to his list of “fix or scrap” decisions before any more money is spent.
The Vietnam-era M-60 machine gun is the only man-portable machine gun we have that fires the 7.62 mm round. That round has a lot more punch than the 5.56mm round fired by the M-16. When it works, the M-60 provides squad-level heavy fire that otherwise comes only from the air. But it’s no longer reliable, having been repeatedly “fixed” with parts that don’t really fit. The SEAL teams have hundreds of M-60s, but have to deploy three to be sure that they can keep one working. The Navy procurement weenies are buying a new man-portable 7.62 mm caliber machine gun. But deliveries won’t even start until about three years from now. If the Navy can get a new gun in time, fine. If they can fix the old one, that’s fine too. But one or the other damned well ought to be done right now, before some of our people die because their machine gun breaks in combat.
We have a sacred duty to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to minimize the butcher’s bill we ask them to pay. There is no excuse for sending them into combat with tools of war work that don’t work, or are more dangerous to our people than they are to the enemy. Saddam delendus est.
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