Sunday, November 9, 2014

CSBA Offset Strategy

CSBA has published a new “offset” strategic vision for the US military (1).  Let’s take a look at it.

Before we go any further, I have to state up front that the CSBA study is widely reported to have been directed and orchestrated to some extent by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert Work.  This is the man who assured us that the LCS was the greatest warship ever built and that the Navy got pretty much exactly the ship it wanted with the capabilities it wanted and at the price it wanted.  Not even the most ardent LCS supporter believes any of that.  Further, Mr. Work has made it his mission not just to “sell” the LCS but to demonize anyone who offered the slightest bit of criticism.  As regular readers of this blog know, ComNavOps considers Mr. Work to be totally incompetent and an active threat to the effectiveness of our military.  With that in mind, I will attempt to be as objective as I can in assessing this report but I can’t completely rule out the possibility of a negative bias.  Moving on …

The term "offset" refers to the mechanism needed to counter, or offset, an enemy's numerical advantage.  The US has opted to pursue quality rather than quantity in military procurement and force structure, and technology has been the means to ensure a qualitative advantage.

The report claims that for us to try to counter enemy threats on a "missile for missile", "fighter for fighter" basis is "impractical and unaffordable".  Really?  Why?  How do we know that to be true?  In fact, history suggests the opposite conclusion.  The Soviet Union imploded in large measure due to its failed attempt to match or overmatch the US numerically.  North Korea’s attempts to match its military to ours (and South Korea’s) has rendered that country bankrupt and on the verge of collapse.  Does China, in this modern instance, possess some inherent ability that ensures that it can sustain and win a "missile for missile" arms race with us?  Is it not equally, or even more plausible that China is the one that would be at a disadvantage in such a race over time?

In addition, the problem with consciously declining to match numbers is that the quality advantage must be overwhelming in order to compensate.  Such has been the case when fighting in Iraq, Serbia/Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the like.  The problem comes when contemplating combat with China which not only has superior numbers but is nearly on par in terms of quality.  Parity means combat attrition on a one-for-one basis and then numbers become the arbiter of victory.  While we still maintain an overall technological edge over China, the gap is closing quickly.  Indeed, in several key areas China has a significant edge on the US such as mine warfare, long range missiles, and conventional ballistic missiles.  Other areas such as ground forces, amphibious forces, and aircraft are nearly on par.

The document suggests that the US should adopt a new strategy based not on direct response but on asymmetric denial and punishment whereby enemy high value targets would be struck anywhere in the world.  Thus, we would not seek to directly reclaim captured land but would seek to punish the enemy and make the cost so high that the enemy would, presumably, voluntarily give back the captured lands or, ideally, never engage in the capture to begin with due to the fear of punishment and cost.  While this might sound plausible on paper, a study of history demonstrates a strong tendency for the US to avoid striking enemy targets that are not directly threatening US forces.  For example, consider the US refusal to enter Laos or bomb Hanoi during the Viet Nam conflict.  The likelihood that the US will attack targets outside the immediately threatened area or even outside the enemy country's borders is remote, at best.  The political ramifications and world wide public relations aspects of such actions all but rule out their execution.  As a result, adopting such a strategy would only encourage bolder enemy actions with the feeling that the US will not carry through on its strategy (Line in the Sand, anyone?).

Put another way, the document suggests that the US needs to focus on a strategy designed to make the enemy believe that the cost of their victory is too high and, therefore, the attempt is never made.  In addition to the problem noted above, a second problem is that our enemies seem to consistently ignore our “strength” and their own resulting cost. 

Consider Sadaam’s invasion of Kuwait.  Sadaam had to have been well aware of US strengths but opted to initiate hostilities anyway.  Japan made the same mistaken calculation in initiating WWII despite overwhelming evidence of an inability to defeat the US.  North Viet Nam and North Korea were both unimpressed by overwhelming US military strength.  The Serbia/Bosnia conflict occurred in the face of overwhelming US military strength.  More recently, Russia has opted to invade multiple countries in the face of US military strength.

With that kind of history of hostilities initiated in the face of US strength, why would we believe that a strategy based on exactly that flawed premise will now work?  Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it – and I’m talking about the US, now, not our enemies.  If we’re going to attempt to build a deterrent strategy on a premise that has been repeatedly proven false, we’re just encouraging war rather than deterring it and setting ourselves up for combat failure.

The document sums up its strategic implementation premise with this statement.

“The centerpiece of that strategy is the development and fielding of a [Global Surveillance and Strike - GSS] network for projecting US military power rapidly, in multiple locations, and with dramatically reduced reliance on vulnerable forward bases and significantly increased reliance on unmanned systems that promise significant life-cycle cost savings.”

Consider a couple of key phrases from that quote. 

Reduced dependence on close-in theatre land and sea bases is a great idea – the report recognizes the severe lack of area bases and the vulnerability of those that do exist.  It also recognizes the political difficulties inherent in attempting to improve the basing situation to any appreciable extent.  All that is good.  What the report fails to clearly lay out is how to operate without such bases.

Shifting the focus of combat to areas where the US holds an advantage, such as undersea warfare, is, again, a great idea.  One can’t help but wonder, though, what happens if the enemy opts to shift the focus to their advantages such as land combat.  For example, the physical occupation of Taiwan or other land areas would require us to engage in ground combat if we wished to reclaim the land.  Simply saying we’ll shift the focus and expect the enemy to blindly follow us into those advantageous realms is wishful thinking unbacked by any degree of realism.  Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t emphasize areas of advantage but we have to do so while also recognizing that the enemy is going to attempt to shift the focus to their advantage and we may have little choice but to go along.  Thus, we had better be able to fight in their realm while we attempt to shift the focus into ours.

Unmanned systems that promise significant cost savings is a concept that is totally without supporting evidence.  In fact, just the opposite has proven true so far.  The MQ-4 Triton costs around $193M each.  Where’s the savings?  The minimally manned LCS has runaway operating costs, as we previously documented.  And so on …

The report goes on to list a variety of observations and needs that support the GSS concept. 

  • recognizes the likelihood of loss of space based assets and space-derived capabilities like GPS
  • recognizes the growing imbalance between “cheap” attacking missiles and “expensive” defensive systems and identifies this as a dead end road – yet fails to recognize the enemy’s targeting challenges
  • develop counter-space capabilities
  • expand the use of UUVs
  • develop a a submarine-launched, conventional ballistic/boost-glide missile, whatever that is
  • expand the use of undersea networks
  • develop and modernize mines
  • develop an unspecified long range ASW weapon
  • emphasize rail guns and lasers as economical alternatives to AAW missiles
  • develop counter-sensor weapons
  • develop an automated aerial refueling capability
  • develop and expand the procurement of a Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B)
  • develop a penetrating surveillance UAV
  • develop a strike UCAS
  • develop expeditionary, land based A2/AD systems
  • develop an array of new networks, communications, and battle management systems
  • develop a towed, undersea missile pod that can lie dormant for years until activated

To pay for these new systems, many existing weapons and systems would be eliminated or scaled back including,

  • non-stealthy ISR aircraft
  • short range strike fighters
  • heavy mechanized ground forces
  • Burkes
  • one aircraft carrier
  • reduced Army Brigade Combat Teams
  • cancellation of the amphibious combat vehicle

Scanning through the list, there are some items that are sorely needed and some observations that are quite insightful.  On the other hand, there are some idiotic items and some observations that demonstrate a complete lack of a solid grasp of reality.  I’m not going to attempt to analyze every single item due to a lack of space in the post and the fact that we’ve covered most of them in previous posts.

On the plus side, the report offers a lot of ideas that ComNavOps completely agrees with.  On the minus side, the underlying strategic premise of punishment leading to the enemy’s recognition of the cost of misbehavior is illogical and contradicted by most of history.  Further, the means of implementing that strategy, the GSS, relies heavily on unproven and, probably, unachievable technology.  It’s the LCS writ large.  Given the fundamentally flawed premise, it’s amazing that the report got as much right as it did – and it did get a lot of individual items and observations right. 

This report would have us give up a great deal of heavy combat power in exchange for a currently non-existent and probably non-achievable global system designed to influence enemy behavior but without the combat power to dispute the enemy’s actions.  That’s a mammoth size gamble that history has clearly shown will fail and if it does fail we’ll be left without the combat power to recover from that failure.

To put it as succinctly as possible, the data points in the report are generally right but the conclusions are wrong.

(1) Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, "Toward A New Offset Strategy", Robert Martinage, Oct 2014


  1. ComNavOps, this is an excellent analysis of the CSBA Offset Strategy. The promise of GSS has to be tempered with a realistic look at the true risks of taking this approach, and to properly assess those risks in regard to real-world technical and operational realities -- the biggest one being that long-lived legacy systems have to fit into the strategy somehow, some way. Nirvanivated Acme cannot arrive instantly.

    1. Nirvanivated Acme?! Love it!

      Good point about integrating the legacy forces although the impression from the report is that many of the legacy forces would simply be retired early.

  2. Interested in the magical abilities of the $100 billion plus LRS-B and UCAS to avoid modern HF radar to be able to implement the CBSA strategy advocated especially in view of limited numbers that can be afforded.


    1. Nick, you make a great point about stealth. The proposed offset strategy relies heavily (primarily?) on deep penetration stealth to accomplish its goals. Unfortunately, the current technology trend is towards negation of stealth. If that happens, the implementation of the offset strategy (the GSS) almost completely falls apart. Thus, the report is betting everything on a technology that most observers feel is fading in importance. Quite a gamble!

      Your point about the cost/numbers of these platforms is also well taken.

      Very nice comment!

    2. HF radars rely on Raleigh scattering to detect smaller stealth aircraft.

      Larger aircraft like the B-2 and LRS-B can be designed with features that don't contribute, to the same degree, in the Raleigh scattering region of these frequencies.

  3. The city of London is split between the north and south banks.
    There are 20 bridges linking the two sides, and a smattering of underground tunnels.

    The destruction of those bridges would impose huge economic costs on the UK. But would be little more than a stern slap in the grand scheme of things.

    Alqueda blew up a train station in Spain and that knocked them out of the Iraq occupation.

    On a larger scale
    China 'liberates' Taiwan
    The US counter value strategy could be to announce that unless the Chinese occupation force surrenders, the Three Gorges Dam(s) will be destroyed in 24 hours

    Hubai to shanghai would self evacuate, the death toll from rioting, looting, car crashes would be immense.
    Then there's the economic losses from closed businesses.

    And that's before the dam is blown...

    It doesn't require China to play ball however
    Sink any ship that docks in China
    Shoot down any plane that lands there
    Destroy any phone exchange that communicates with China.

    The problem the US has historically had with counter value is, it doesn't get it.
    Its like tradition and luxury.

    Sadam had legitimate grievances in the gulf war. He paid a fantastic sum in blood and gold to destroy Iran's ability to threaten the Arab states. There response was to steal his oil and demand repayment of war loans.

    There was a very good case for a negotiated peace, backed up by very specific consequences. Neither seemed to be pursued.
    Iraq's grievances were disregarded and the consequences came about so fast as to preclude any reaction, although in many cases Iraqi forces who were complying with demands to withdraw from Kuwait or the Saudi border were mercilessly pounded as they left cover and began their retreat.

    I like the strategy for the UK, but am no sure it would work for the US

    1. TrT, while your example of the Three Gorges Dam might fit the punishment criteria, the US would never do it. We currently won't allow our armed forces to risk damaging a mosque or cemetary even if enemy combatants are in them - I can't see any way we'd allow massive civilian destruction and death by destroying a dam. Hence, the punishment is not credible and, therefore, ineffective as a deterrent strategy.

    2. Probably true.
      But an asymmetric war works both ways.
      Just as no one expects China to build and sortie half a dozen carrier battle groups for a battle in the pacific against half a dozen US cbgs, there's little reason to insist the US match China tank for tank, rifle for rifle.

      My understanding is some US divisions were expected to inflict 9:1 losses on the second and third echelon forces they would be facing in the 80s. Although the soviets were expected to be in the best the 1950s had to offer.

    3. TrT, there's every reason to insist that the US match China numerically. Once both side's high tech toys are attrited (even if we do so with a 10:1 advantage, we only have a very limited number of high tech assets; for example, we only have 19 B-2 bombers - how long will they last in an all out war?), both will be left with lesser capable assets and our vaunted technological advantage will be gone. At that point, numbers win.

  4. If I understand your premise its that we can't rely on tech or asymmetric warfare to defeat a peer near/peer. I agree with that. We can't afford the first and we are very unlikely to do the second.

    I do have a couple of questions though:
    "The Soviet Union imploded in large measure due to its failed attempt to match or overmatch the US numerically."

    That seems kind of narrowly defined. The Soviet economy had issues with its military industrial complex, and I don't think they ever even tried to go for parity at sea. More sea denial than anything else, aimed at closing the North Atlantic. Almost everywhere else, IIRC, they outnumbered the US: MBT's/ AFV's/ Nuclear missiles/ Bombers/ Fighters.... numerical superiority generally wasn't an issue for them.

    "Does China, in this modern instance, possess some inherent ability that ensures that it can sustain and win a "missile for missile" arms race with us? "

    I'd argue yes!!!! Think of the technology that they currently have. Then throw in their better access to some key resources for high tech items. Then throw in their comparatively low labor rate. Then throw in that if not now, they soon will be the biggest economy in the world, with staggering growth rates. Yes, that will eventually even off, or the bubble will pop. But in the meantime they can build a heck of alot!

    1. The Soviet economy had problems top to bottom, not just the MIC. Their economic model was flawed to the core. This does not appear to be the case with China, though the Chinese do have a set of forthcoming problems to deal with including low fertility rates and its cheap labor pool drying up.

    2. Jim, why did the Soviet Union implode? A number of reasons but primarily because the country was based on a rotten foundation. Communism was an inherently flawed mechanism for growth and industry. There was no motivation for innovation, sacrifice, or effort since individuals (other than the ruling class) couldn't accumulate wealth. If you think the US has problems with corruption and inefficiency, the Soviet's problems absolutely dwarfed ours! They were unable to sustain their military growth and utterly failed to "grow" the working class that would provided the revenue and labor. Instead of "growing" their people they opted to attempt to grow their military and it all imploded.

      Consider China. Do you see parallels? China has much the same situation as the Soviet Union. They can produce a short term "boom" in military spending but it's not based on sustainable growth. The working class is not sharing in the profits, corruption is rampant, inefficiency is rife, their economy is artificially prop'ed up by the government, the environment is being poisoned, population pressures are mounting, and rebellion is always just around the corner. Can China afford to divert so much of its economy to military growth at the expense of the working class? I would argue no!

      I'm not going to go any further into the Soviet collapse since this isn't a political or sociology blog. I'll leave it to you to further investigate the root causes. Just remember, don't stop your examinations at surface observations. Always look for root causes when you're trying to understand or explain something! Ponder this and let me know what you think.

      I would argue that only a democratic, free enterprise system has the foundation to engage in sustained, long term military development - hence, my question in the post about why we should inherently shy away from trying to match numbers with an enemy.

      I've stated in a previous post that numbers are the most important factor in victory. With that said, one can't help but wonder why we've opted for decreasing numbers!

      By the way, the Soviet Union absolutely tried to gain numerical advantage at sea - it was via the submarine path rather than surface ships and carrier groups. Their sub force (quality issues aside) was impressive. They were, by the way, actively and energetically pursuing carrier aviation (Minsk class, then Kiev class, then ?) at the time of their collapse and had a large force of Kirov class battlecruisers, Slavas, Sovremennys, Udaloys and plans for many more.

    3. I don't know if its still the case, but when we adopted from there in 2008 there were serious concerns that the upcoming male/female imbalance would also have destabilizing affects on the economy (and maybe foreign policy).

      That said, I think it will be awhile before these things are felt. And in the meantime, they can make alot of stuff alot more cheaply than we can. They have an honest to God shipbuilding industry that isn't connected solely with the military. Stuff like that has ripple affects that help their military procurement: (They have more skilled trades, etc.).

    4. The Soviet Union was spending 22-27% of GDP on its military to keep up with the West. At the same time, the US was spending around 7%. Clearly Soviet spending was unsustainable.

      The Chinese are spending nowhere close to that on their military. Their situation is very different.

    5. B.Smitty, no one knows what China is spending on its military but it's certainly far more than advertised. Many (most?) of the Chinese military-related industries are government run or subsidized. Labor rates are artificially reduced, again through subsidies. It doesn't cost much when you can point a gun at someone and say, "Build this."!

      China is also spending a great deal of time and money on hacking, spying, and cyber attacks which aren't included in accountings of military spending, as far as I know. Those activities are their form of R&D!

      My guess (and it's just a slightly informed guess!) is that China is spending around 20% of GDP on military production and activities.

      As I laid out in the preceding comment, China shares many of the same foundational weaknesses as the Soviet Union.

      Their situations are very similar.

    6. B.Smitty, rather than engage in a debate for which none of us has any accurate data (if we did, it wouldn't be a debate), do you have any thoughts related to the premise of the post or the CSBA strategy itself?

    7. CNO, I've looked into this a little bit in my reading in the past few years. Yes, I agree, the Soviet system was rotten to the core. I remember reading a book by General Odom where he theorized (if I remember correctly) that by the time Brezhnev came around the former Soviet method of correcting itself, purges (bloodless or otherwise), had gone totally by the wayside. So the inherent inefficiencies in the economy were slowly compounded over time by having the bureacracy become ever more stagnated, and having the corruption solidified and institutionalized.

      While I agree that there is a great deal of corruption in China right now, and that their political stability relies on their astounding (and unsustainable) economic growth rate, I think that the Soviet Union circa 1988 more closely resembles China in say the late Mao/early Deng period. Nowadays they have a psuedo free market. Sure the CCP still controls everything, but its alot more tenuous than the Soviet command and control economy. For example, Chery is controlled by the State, but the State doesn't decide what Chery is going to build, from what I've read, or how many units. The car company does that by itself. When I was there I was astounded at the amount of local stalls and individually run stores were there. I kept expecting concrete government buildings and people on bicycles. Instead I saw Buicks, Chery's, and Jeeps!

      Do they have flaws that could bring them down? Absolutely! The corruption will hurt them if they don't get ahold of it. I think their biggest problems are their dependence on foreign resources; and their absolute need to keep their economy superheated. Transitioning to a local demand economy that is stable going to be very, very hard. And it makes me worry that some of their more aggressive moves might be a way to gin up nationalism in advance for when things slow down. I wonder if when the economy does eventually start to 'tank' (which for them would be low single digit growth) for a long time, they might look to a Taiwanese anschluss to distract people.

      But in the meantime... man oh man. They can make stuff. How many naval vessels have rolled off the slipways in the past 5 years for them? How many tanks?

      All of this is just IMHO.

    8. Jim, no doubt that China is producing a lot of military "stuff", at the moment. The question is whether it can sustain that for decades. The Soviets also produced a lot of stuff for a period of time but couldn't sustain it.

      Conquest is easy, control is not. A surge in production is easy, sustained production and growth is not.
      The point is that we seem to have an automatic assumption that we can't match China's production and my point is that that assumption is not based on fact and logic. We see all the reasons why we can't sustain "super" production but we then fail to ascribe those same limitations to China and, thereby, grant them some sort of mythical super production abilities. It's analogous to the DF-21 carrier killer. We can't achieve the kind of 1000-2000 nm targeting needed to hit a moving target but we don't hesitate to ascribe that capability to China. C'mon! They can't do it either. So, if we can't sustain "super" production, why do we think they can?

    9. Jim, China is engaged in a surge in military production. We engaged in a surge during the Cold War (remember the 600 ship fleet?) but have since dropped back. Why do we think China won't do the same?

    10. "The point is that we seem to have an automatic assumption that we can't match China's production and my point is that that assumption is not based on fact and logic."

      I respectfully disagree. Do we have as many shipyards? Our tank facilities are nearly idled. Our aquisition model is a tire fire; as you've many times pointed out. More to the point, we have something like a 17 trillion dollar debt to service; and they don't.

      For us to fund a build up of numbers to be able to match them, right now, we would have to:

      A) Fix our acquisition process. We need good designs built with some idea of cost in mind.

      B) rebuild our infrastructure. This is a lesser problem, but we still aren't building at a replacement rate; and haven't been for some time. To crank up we are going to have to have those facilities crank up.

      C) Find a way to fund it *and* deal with our current debt: Raise Taxes; Cut Spending; etc.

      On top of that, all of this is going to be made harder, IMHO, by the fact that alot of our suppliers have merged, so there is less competition inherent in the system.

      Now I'm not saying that trying to do all that is a bad idea. I'm saying that, given China's economic growth and industrial infrastructure, and our economic growth and industrial infrastructure, it would be very hard for us to match them unit for unit right now, and for the next few years. And for us to do it, I think we have to have some basic reforms of our acquisitions and strategy.

    11. CNO,

      Unofficial estimates range from twice to three times the Chinese advertised % of GDP spent on their military. While significantly higher than what they say, that's a far cry from 20%.'s_Republic_of_China#Unofficial_estimates

      The Chinese manage to buy "more" per dollar than we do because they spend less on each item.

      As Jim mentions, China has significant structural problems with their economy and demographics, which may cause them problems down the road, but it is far more vibrant than the Soviet economy ever was.

      On the CSBA study and your post,

      I can find problems with the study, but overall I like the themes. I agree that relying on our air and missile defense technology to beat their missiles is not a winning strategy. However, I don't see lasers or rail guns improving the situation. We need to focus on offense, not defense.

      I also don't think we should try to beat them at their game. I like looking at the problem by focusing on what we can do to increase their costs and cause them problems.

      I didn't see a viable plan to gain air superiority in their A2/AD zone. They list UCAVs as a potential enabler, but don't really call out a need for significant A2A UCAV development. I don't see UCAVs bombers and NGBs being able to survive in their dense figther AND SAM environment.

      I agree with the CSBA that low observable technologies are still a critical advantage. The Chinese are catching up here, but we have far more development and operational experience.

      I agree with the CSBA that we should develop counter-space systems.

      I think UUVs have a bright future, but feel they are still critically limited in autonomy, range, communications and reliability. These limits won't go away anytime soon. We still need numerous, manned undersea systems.

      The VPM program is probably worthwhile, but will increase the cost of our sole attack submarine program up to $3.2 billion each, or more. We must have something cheaper to supplement it. We just can't afford enough VPM'd Virginias.

      The CSBA team does emphasize deterrence by denial over deterrence by punishment, which I agree with.

    12. Jim, we don't have as many shipyards because we've chosen not to. We've made the conscious decision to go the quality path over the quantity path. There is no inherent reason why we couldn't build more shipyards if that's what we wanted. That's the point. China doesn't inherently have more shipyards than we do - they've simply chosen to go that route and we haven't.

      You're looking at a numbers arms race from a snapshot perspective. An arms race occurs over decades, not days. Could we match China's number of new ships tomorrow? No. Could we match them over the next two decades, if we wanted to? Sure.

      The point is that there is no inherent reason why we can't match numbers, if so inclined, and yet everyone seems to assume we can't. Would we have to change our way of operating? Of course!

      I've already posted on quantity versus quality and stated that we've gone too far along the quality path which has led to reduced production, fewer shipyards, etc. If we're on the wrong path, should we continue on that path just because we can't match China numerically, today? No, we should begin adjusting and gearing up. We're every bit as capable, over the long haul of an arms race, of building as many "things" as China.

    13. China produces about four times as much of the world's civilian ships (by $ value) as we do. So their overall shipbuilding industry is significantly larger.

    14. "I didn't see a viable plan to gain air superiority in their A2/AD zone."

      The more I read about this, the more I wonder, is it even reasonably possible? I'm not so worried about the DF-21, but in order for us to establish air superiority we have to get a significant amount of naval and land assets close to the A2/D2 zone. With improvements in sub technologies (quieting, AIP) over the years for countries who want to establish dominance close to home, and without (I don't think) equal improvements in ASW tech, we face huge subsurface threats to our carriers.

      Add to that that any nation like China is going to have a significant advantage in aircraft numbers and loiter times just because they are close to home. To truly get air superiority in an A2/D2 zone like the South China Sea I think we'd need a plan to attack and knock offline their home airbases. And do it more than once to keep them knocked offline.

      It seems to me that would require alot of long ranged missiles, long ranged carrier air, as well as local land bases for our own aircraft.

    15. "You're looking at a numbers arms race from a snapshot perspective. An arms race occurs over decades"

      True. I guess I'm of the perspective that we'd have to be *very* careful in entering any sort of arms race, because given our current debt situation I think we could very easily severely damage our own economy.

      I'll leave off there as I think the only place this discussion leads is into politics. And I definitely don't want to go there. :-)

  5. "develop and expand the procurement of a Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B)"

    Just this program will eat a lot of budget . up to 810 mil $ for a single plane?

    1. Is that PAUC?

      If so, increasing the number built won't cost PAUC * size of increase.

    2. "Is that PAUC?" ???!!

      Given the AF's ability to estimate program costs, the question you should be asking is, "Is that cost even within an order of magnitude correct?". - and the answer is absolutely not! Do we really think that a B-2 bomber with a cost of over $2B each (yes, R&D is a real cost and must be included) is going to cost only $800M? The AF can play all the word and accounting games it wants but a more complex, more advanced "B-2" is going to cost much, much more. The B-2 cost is the starting point and it's only going to get much, much worse.

    3. The real question to ask is whether the LRS-B can be reasonably expected to be able to perform its mission over the next 50 years given the advances in stealth detection that are occuring. The only thing worse than spending $3B each on a new LRS-B is spending $3B on an aircraft that is rendered obsolete before it reaches operational status (hey, whatever happened with that JSF we were working on a couple of decades ago?).

    4. Well, i agree that if the USAF says $81 billion, the real number will probably be double that, or more.

      On the price of LRS-B vs the B-2, it's hard to say. I don't believe there have been any published specs for LRS-B. How much are they pushing technology boundaries? The B-2 required entirely new technologies and manufacturing techniques to be developed. If the LRS-B just aims to make incremental, relatively low-risk improvements, then it may have a chance of being significantly cheaper.

      The most widespread so-called "stealth counter", VHF/UHF radars, are far less effective vs large airframes like the LRS-B. So I feel that stealth is still the place to be in terms of survivable aircraft.

      R&D costs need to be included when discussing an entire program, for sure. But when discussing whether we should buy 100 or 200 or some other number, we need to understand that PAUC != APUC. PAUC for every aircraft will decrease over a larger buy.

      That was all I was trying to say.

    5. B.Smitty, well you are certainly my opposite and counterpart when it comes to costs. You are an unbridled optimist while I'm an unbridled pessimist. The difference is that I have virtually all the historical examples and data on my side of the debate. Every program runs over and in recent times, well over!

      You're also extremely optimistic on the value of aircraft stealth. I disagree but at least it's a debatable disagreement. Unfortunately, we won't know the true effectiveness of stealth until it's too late to do anything about it.

      I look at radars of various frequencies, networking of radar computing centers to look at backscatter, enhanced EO sensing, and other anti-stealth technologies and I don't see a bright future for stealth. That's not to say we shouldn't build a reasonable degree of stealth in our platforms but to base an entire military strategy on stealth is risking a LOT !

    6. I'm hardly optimistic with regards to costs. As I said, if the USAF says $81 billion, it will probably be two to three times higher.

      All of the counter-stealth technologies I've read about have limitations and vulnerabilities of their own.

      The ATGM did not render tank armor valueless. So-called counter-stealth technologies aren't silver bullets either.

  6. Well , yes every article out there states that this bomber, will cost between 550m$ and more recently it may jump to over 810m$, once you count in development cost.

    What gets me wondering, why not develop a airplane based on commercial technology or even on an airliner design to be a ALCM carrier , basically doing what the B-52 does.
    The idea has been proposed in the past, first there was plan to use the B747 for that , later even airbus had a poposal to equip the A340 as a cruise missile launcher.
    Missiles always develop faster than planes.

  7. When I read this study I saw it as an introduction to, innovative thinking and the use of technology balanced with political strategy; I did not see this a way forward that solely depends on high-tech force delivered with impunity or asymmetric punishment. Asymmetric punishment is certainly a consideration, but not the sole focus of the offset strategy.

    To quote the study “The goal of this report is to provide one vision for a third offset strategy that takes advantage of enduring U.S. capability advantages’ to restore and maintain U.S. global power projection capability … This report is not intended to provide a fully elaborated, comprehensive strategy, but rather to offer a springboard for discussion in the Pentagon and the defense community more broadly. “

    Let’s face it, A2AD is a tough nut to crack and if we have to do it (at least initially) from either Guam or from CVBG outside the 2nd island chain, we will not be able to execute. So, something has to change, force structure today and/or political strategy will not win the war. Both areas need consideration; both areas have to work together.

    The authors point is, a balanced Offset strategy of superior military force/capability coupled with the correct political strategy is needed. Both the technology and the strategy need foundational structure and a roadmap, the time to start is now; both areas are behind and the problem is not getting any easier.

    One other salient point of the study, that was not mentioned in your comments, was the need for a high/low mix of capability. Legacy force will still have its place and can be effective, but just like F-117’s carried the water in the early stages of the gulf war, you need another F-117 like capability to dismantle an A2AD IADS. I do not think capability of this magnitude is available today in either the F-22 or JSF, but it is something, albeit in small quantities, that will be needed to begin an effort in the presence of a serious A2AD environment. Perhaps a covertly launch unmanned vehicle of some flavor will provide a solution?

    The predicament that we face is a force structure that is expensive, and getting more expensive, that does not deliver the capability we need. Technology offers opportunity to reshape and refocus war-fighting capability to fit our needs. Tough trades will have to be made in a decreasing budget, but a balance is achievable and affordable if we are willing to put down our partisan views for a greater cause.

    The study is not a one-size-fits-all, it is a compilation of ideas to foster intelligent conversation to yield war fighting capability in support of a political strategy.

    1. PS. Good commentary on Offset Strategy.

  8. They should seek a Hi Low mix in the future force.
    High being LRS-B , and low a non stealth bomber to replace the B-52 and B-1B.
    With todays level of commerical airplane technology, they only need to build an airframe witch hauls one or two bomb bays, a lot of gas a pressurised crew capsule and room for electronics.
    Just keep the wings high mounted , like the B-52 so there can be pylons on them witch can support big missiles, put on two GEnx engines on that plane and call it a day.

    1. Good luck keeping it that simple.