Skip to comments.Op-Ed: Camp Bastion Attack Is Reality Check for F-35B
Posted on 09/18/2012 9:15:36 AM PDT by Yo-Yo
PARIS --- The rationale for the F-35B fighter took a serious beating last week, when a dozen Taliban attacking Camp Bastion destroyed six US Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers on the tarmac, and seriously damaged two more.
By exposing a glaring hole in its operational doctrine, this attack shows conclusively that, just like the Emperor in Andersens fairy tale, the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter has no clothes,
The F-35B the most complex, overweight and expensive variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is being developed to provide the US Marine Corps with a successor to the Harrier in the ground attack and fire support role. Marine doctrine envisages the F-35B initially operating from large-deck amphibious ships, and then moving to operating bases ashore once a beachhead has been secured to provide close air support.
In a written Jan. 20, 2012 statement, Marine Corps Commandant General James F. Amos again justified the STOVL F-35B as the only model capable of operating [both] off of our large deck amphibious warships, and in austere and remote expeditionary land-based operating environments.
But if perimeter defenses at Camp Bastion, one of the worlds most heavily protected bases, can be breached by a dozen people on foot, how will the F-35B survive in austere and remote expeditionary and-based environments when attacked by a conventional enemy with heavy weapons?
The answer, as now demonstrated by the Taliban, is that it cannot. So half of the F-35Bs raison dêtre its capability to deploy ashore along with the troops - has been literally blown away.
It should now be clear to all as it famously was to former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that there is no justification for buying large numbers of STOVL attack aircraft. As Gates noted at the time, the Marines have not stormed a beach since WW II; the conclusion is that it makes little sense to buy the F-35B on the off chance they might have to in future.
There many reasons why the era of STOVL has passed: the much-improved firepower of modern helicopters; the wide availability of very smart weapons fired at very long stand-off ranges; the wide availability and high accuracy of armed UAVs; the microscopically low probability of Marines having to land without being supported by US Navy tactical aircraft.
The savings from axing the F-35B would be very considerable, and troops ashore would still be supported but by the Marines large fleet of armed helicopters, including Cobra gunships and armed Hueys, as well as by US Navy fighters.
In a logical world, the Taliban attack at Camp Bastion would sound the knell for basing STOVL aircraft ashore for close air support.
In a logical world, the Pentagon would see this, cancel the F-35B and redeploy its funds and engineering talent to speed up development of the two other versions, the F-35A for the air force and F-35C for the navy.
In a logical world
In a logical world Mssr. de Briganti would realize that since the AV-8Bs were operating out of Camp Bastion on a fixed runway, it could easily have been USAF F-16s or Navy F/A-18s that got attacked.
Because we have a WEAK President who’s installed WEAK military brass with WEAK defenses? When our soldiers occupied Saddam’s compound, any breaches were quickly put down.
This is without the most stupid reasoning I have ever seen.
Any plane sitting on the tarmac could have been destroyed.
Especially with pee-poor guards on them.
establish a line they cannot cross and when they do, kill them. That is the way to deal with these people.
Destroy Marine F-35s, costing like $1 billion each, with shoulder-fired RPG rounds, costing maybe $35 each, and thereby bankrupt and destroy the Great Satan.
Sounds like a plan.
This attack on Camp Bastionhas nothing to do with the Performance capability or use doctrine for the F-35B.
The only way to prevent situations like that attack is to have a forward looking defence with wide and clear zones of approach.
During the Vietnam war the Vietcong were able to do the same stunt at Danang Air Base even thought it was guarded by a heavy Marine Presence.
We just have to deal with attacks like this as long as we are involved in a war there.
It’s also good to learn from past mistakes.So we don’t continue to repeat them.
Well, it kinda used to go without saying that you cannot allow the enemy all kinds of access to the forward remote air base.
Dead men can’t pull the trigger on an RPG. Better plan.
I guess Gates never heard of Incheon.
Sounds like you and Giovanni are two peas in a pod.
“As Gates noted at the time, the Marines have not stormed a beach since WW II”
Hmmmm Inchon ring a bell SecDef gates? And the superflous detail of it not being in Higgins boats like Tarawa does not change the fact that there have indeed been amphibious operations. Beruit, Grenada, Somalia, and the imminent threat of a landing, complete with Battleship bombardment, tied down most of the Iraqi force in Kuwait allowing the huge flanking movement.
And the USMC having Harriers does 3 important things. Gives the fleet off-shore from these operation credible air defense without a carrier needing to remain in the area of a landing at all times.
It gives the USMC organic CAS with an extremely fast response and turnaround time, complete with pilots who are fully in tune with the USMC grunts.
Last, the USAF really dislikes Harriers and some joint air commander doesn’t like to task them for deep strikes etc,. So they tend to leave them alone and let the Marines use them as they will.
And as much as he wants close support to all be about precision guided munitions from the stratosphere, or miles away, it has often turned out to show the opposite.
Many operations involving USAF in the last 10 years involve Warthogs down low. There have even been numerous instances of F-16s and 15s down low strafing with 20mm. Sometimes CAS can be a B-52 with a JDAM. Sometimes, its someone low in the mud. The USMC needs and deserves a good CAS airframe. The USMC is the single most bang for the buck out of the defense dollar.
The F-35 is a total moonpig, but thats another argument.
Last, has the vaunted Gates ever heard of the Falkland islands? It wasn’t us, but Amphib warfare can come out of nowhere. And is he SURE there wont be a war in the pacific again? Really really sure? China and Japan heat up as we speak. Also, indonesia.
Not a bright article. Attack the F-35 on capability, but not on mission.
There are reasons for stopping production of the F35B, but not because it is more vulnerable to attack as a STOL aircraft.
I don’t think anyone would project their mission as to sitting down in the midst of a battlefield or poorly secured or temporary base without proper revetments.
OK, so defend the billion dollar planes with 1,000 soldiers, the cost of the deployment of which is about $1 million each a year, so it doesn’t matter that the enemy can’t blow up the planes ‘cause we’re going to spend that billion dollars anyway.
And for this we get what?
Oh, wait, wait, I know, the satisfaction that the debt issued by our government is being downgraded, our people’s standard of living is falling, and in spite of 35,000 health professionals in the military and handing out meds like candy, suicide among our soldiers is their number one cause of death.
The nature of war is that people get killed and things get blown up. This argues that you don’t go to war unless you have to. Then, when you go to a war of choice, as in Afghanistan, you go there with overwhelming force, achieve victory, and then get out of there. (The rules differ when, as in WWII, you are in an existential war and overwhelming force isn’t an option.)
Clearly these rules were violated in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We won those wars within weeks in the sense of demolishing the other side. And then we got into “reconstructing” those countries. One of the reasons I voted for BUsh in 2000 is because he said that was inappropriate for the U.S. We’re the world’s superpower, which means we’re the envy of the world, and either hated or despised, or feared and respected, depending on how we conduct ourselves. If you want peace keepers, let the Moroccans and the Brazilians send in the blue helmets, but do not use our military.
Now I speak with candor about Marine aviation and the F-35. The F-35 is a gen 4.5 warplane. Its mission is to secure air dominance. The mission of Marine aviation is not air dominance but is to provide close support to ground operations. If you have air dominance, from Air Force and Naval air, then Harriers, A-10s, Apaches, and, heck, even P-38s and P-51s would be sufficient. You want to have these warcraft near the front, so they can be quick on target, to deliver their ordinance.
Over in the Army, traditionally, you’d be thinking of bringing in artillery from fire bases, such as we had in Viet Nam; but, given the vast distances involved, the rugged conditions, and issues of strategic deployments, even the Army is de-emphasizing artillery in favor of relying on air assets for fire support.
So why is the F-35 being delivered to the Marines? Because it is way more expensive. This way the military industrial complex can replace Harriers that originally cost $20 million, with aircraft that have a profit margin ten times that and so what if it costs the taxpayer 50 times that.