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Nearing coffin corner: US air power on the edge
American Enterprise Institute ^ | 3/21/2012 | Mackenzie Eaglen, Douglas A. Birkey

Posted on 03/30/2012 12:30:20 AM PDT by U-238

Air power stands as a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s recent decision to prioritize defense efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. To make this strategy successful, the administration and Congress must ensure the nation has the necessary capabilities and capacity to secure national interests in an area defined by vast distances, limited basing options, and a pronounced threat to assured access. This means real investments—not budgeting sleights of hand that dilute America’s presence in other vital areas around the globe—and the ability to maintain strength across the national security portfolio. Though the United States currently dominates the skies, this will not continue if resources are spread too thin and are inadequate to meet potential threats. Despite the considerable costs, policymakers must invest in the necessary assets and capabilities to be prepared to effectively defend US interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

Key points in this Outlook:

•The Obama administration has declared the Asia-Pacific region to be a new priority for US defense efforts, and air power is a key part of this strategy. •The United States now has fewer than one-third the number of bombers that it had during the Vietnam era, and existing B-2 long-range strike aircraft are nearly two decades old. •Policymakers must stop hiding behind rhetoric and quickly make the necessary air power investments to equip the nation to face potential threats in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly from China’s rapidly advancing aerial capabilities.

The administration’s decision to prioritize the Asia-Pacific region represents an important step forward in realigning military forces with America’s global interests. It follows the wisdom of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, led by William J. Perry, Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense, and Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s national security adviser, which found:

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aerospace; asia; departmentofdefense; pentagon; usaf
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1 posted on 03/30/2012 12:30:30 AM PDT by U-238
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To: U-238
This attitude can easily be seen even in FR, where anything foreign is judged as 'crap' by a certain section. The truth is the reason the US has dominated air combat has been due to the optimal combination of superlative people, superlative training, superlative equipment, superlative tactics, and the funds and dedication required to enable that magical combination to exist. Start taking out aspects and facets of that and the machine will continue to run, but its efficacy and efficiency will be degraded. Take out enough of the mojo and one day you will get a VERY nasty surprise. Especially if the USAF/USN ever went against a foe country that is not cut from the usual cloth. I.E. not an Afghanistan, Somali, Iraq, Bosnia, Grenada, Panama, Libya, but rather something along the lines of a China. Destroying the useless KARI IADS used by Iraq is going to be quite different from the Chinese S-300/HQ-9 IADS, but hey ...they are all crap, right?

Have enough of these cuts and some day there will be a very nasty surprise waiting for folks when 'crap' takes out a US military asset.

2 posted on 03/30/2012 1:10:43 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: spetznaz
Destroying the useless KARI IADS used by Iraq is going to be quite different from the Chinese S-300/HQ-9 IADS, but hey ...they are all crap, right?

The biggest worry is the S-400 missile.
3 posted on 03/30/2012 1:13:53 AM PDT by U-238
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To: U-238
The S-400 is a formidable system, but it is not the main issue. For one the only current operator is Russia, and production of the system has so far only given around 6 'rocket regiment' divisions. Also, a system - no matter how good - can be defeated, it is just that some are harder to defeat than others. I think the main issue is the perception that the other person's stuff is so inferior that it doesn't register. For instance on FR there was a person who was saying all the US needs are A-10s because of their effects in battle, when the fact is without sanitized airspace the A-10 is simply dead (titanium bathtub or not).

That perception is a far more dangerous proposition than its opposite (where you believe the other person's stuff is comprised of silver bullets and magical armor). For instance, during much of the Cold War the USSR's arsenal was thought to be powerful, and it was only later when it was discovered that, while lethal, it was not as good as previously thought (at least how it was previously thought to be).

However, that perception nonetheless had the US develop all sorts of highly superior capabilities - a good example being how the existence of the MiG-25, and its perception in the West as a Soviet super-fighter (rather than a high-speed interceptor that the Soviets made to defeat the US' B-58 Hustler super-sonic bomber that never went into service) led to the development of the F-15, a plane that even today is considered dominant. Or, to use another example, the development of the Seawolf submarine, or the F-22 Raptor. The US continuously kept ahead of all comers.

Now, the US is still ahead, and would remain ahead for at least a decade and a half even if it did absolutely nothing, but the gap is closing. Already several other countries are fielding equipment that approaches the capability of the average held by US equipment, and while the US still holds a key qualitative advantage in certain areas (e.g. the Raptor) there are quantitative deficiencies. In other areas the gap is seriously closing, for instance countries like the UK, China, Russia and India are developing AEGIS-like phased array radars for their ships (that are actually AESA rather than PESA), and in missile technology the level of parity is also arguably equal. Now, it doesn't matter much as long as the countries the US engages are the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan (or, maybe in the future, Iran and Yemen), but some day it may be against a near-peer. If that ever happens, even if the US wins it will be a win that has a butcher's bill that was unnecessary.

4 posted on 03/30/2012 1:33:19 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: spetznaz

You make very valid points.

5 posted on 03/30/2012 1:34:44 AM PDT by U-238
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To: U-238

The Air National Guard is being crippled as well.

Michigan may lose the 107th FS (currently A-10’s), which has been in residence and on duty at Selfridge since 1926.

Selfridge has been an active duty military air field since 1917 and is the only remaining base in Michigan with airpower capabilities.

If Selfridge loses the 107th it will then be on a fast track for closure.

My instincts tell me that the push to close Selfridge Field is motivated by a liberal agenda to change the local culture and to make that lakefront property available to real estate developers who’ve been patiently waiting for such an opportunity...

Am I right, Senator Levin? You’ve been involved in every one of Michigan’s base closures, haven’t you...The whispers in your ear must be getting louder and maybe now you’ll take that offer.

6 posted on 03/30/2012 2:44:56 AM PDT by equaviator
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To: spetznaz

” B-58 Hustler super-sonic bomber that never went into service”

The B-58 was in service. The Mig-25 was to take on the B-70, that didn’t go into production.

7 posted on 03/30/2012 2:57:59 AM PDT by brooklin
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To: brooklin

That’s correct. Apologies for mixing up the two.

8 posted on 03/30/2012 4:02:03 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: spetznaz

A key part of any future attack strategy is to degrade air defense with attacks by Unmannded Air Vehicles (UAVs) and long range, precision munitions. Only when these air defenses are sufficiently degraded would manned assets be sent in (even stealth ones). That being said, such degradation takes time and time is a luxury we may not have.

Pentagon planners (and politicians) are hoping that UAV technology will one day replace manned aircraft. I have no doubt that (one day) it will, but when is the big question. Right now its just a wish. Meanwhile, we are not taking the necessary investments in proven technology.

9 posted on 03/30/2012 5:04:32 AM PDT by rbg81
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To: brooklin

The XB-70 was potentially a great plane.

10 posted on 03/30/2012 5:05:36 AM PDT by vortec94
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To: U-238


11 posted on 03/30/2012 5:17:44 AM PDT by originalbuckeye
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To: spetznaz

Besides hardware, the US enjoys a superior edge because US pilots think and are given autonomy when engaged, whereas our foes, even the “big one” (China) do not allow independent thought or action. This hobbles any chance they may have at true success.

That is a cultural aspect that ensures the US edge even if, someday, somehow, “they” build good stuff.

Peers like the UK’s RAF are top-shelf and capable and are only lacking in hardware. Near-peers, like the Israeli Air Force have good US kit but are not as good as the myth. . .different thought processes.

Right now the US has the best combination of people and hardware, pulled together by a culture of aggression and independence.

Cultural over-lays are far more important than most people realize.

12 posted on 03/30/2012 6:05:06 AM PDT by Hulka
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To: Hulka
I totally agree. Which is why I said two of the key 'superlatives' are people and training. The mindset of a US combat pilot is very different from that of a pilot from the 'East,' and this is a critical advantage (the same advantage that a manned plane has over an unmanned plane ...the person in the loop). However, that is something that can change in that the 'Eastern' pilots can start to have their training get better, and independent thought/action to be instilled.

A good real-life example?

Take the Indian and Pakistani airforces. The Pakistani pilots were Western trained (during the Cold War Pakistan was critical due to their assistance in Afghanistan - as a base for mucking up the Soviet invasion - as well as a way of standing up against Soviet backed India). The Pakistani pilots were very well trained, with Chuck Yeager, the first man to go supersonic and a person who was sent to train the PAF, having very good words to say about them.

The Indians, on the other hand, were basing their aviation efforts on the Soviet centrally controlled methodology. Thus, they were not as flexible as the Pakistani pilots, and honestly not as good. Everything was centrally radar-intercept controlled.

Then, something started to shift. After India weaned itself off the Soviets, it started to incorporate a lot of Western thinking into its tactics and training. Even its equipment tends to a mish-mash of varied stuff (e.g. its Sukhoi SU-30MKI is a Russian plane that has French and Israeli equipment, and even its old MiG-21 has some very interesting jammers that are not Russian). By the beginning of the 2000s the Indian airforce had incorporated Western tactics, and currently the Indian airforce (which has always had an advantage in numbers to the Pakistanis) now also has a significant qualitative advantage (even before getting the PakFa and the Rafales), and its pilot training is better.

It takes time, but it is possible. Which is something that is currently happening for the Chinese. For instance, compare their pilot training program at the beginning of Bush's term and now. It is more Westernized than it was.

Now, that is not to say that the Chinese, Indians, Martians, Papua New Guineans will have a better man-in-the-machine than the US. However, they do not need to get that! All they need is to get close enough that it is not an overwhelming advantage. If you have an AR-15, and all I have is a Browning Hi-Power, you still have a big advantage on me ...however it is far better for me than if all I had was a slingshot rather than the pistol.

Anyways, I agree with you. It is just that change is also occurring elsewhere, and if I - some Kenyan posting off somewhere - can identify the prime advantage garnered by the USAF from the way the pilots are oriented to think, you can bet your bottom Dollar that some Chinese in a position of real influence realized that a long time ago.

13 posted on 03/30/2012 6:21:24 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: rbg81; U-238; equaviator; brooklin; originalbuckeye; Hulka
There is an Arthur C. Clarke story called 'Superiority' that he published in 1951 (hence reference to vacuum tubes). I fear it is a tacit prophecy of what will happen to the US in the near future, as the US gives up strong capabilities in superior systems to chase after some cooler-seeming concepts (e.g. networked UCAV swarms), while a near-peer adversary continues to advance and develop the same technology the US considered passe. For instance, Chinese investment into phased-array radar networks for ships. Yes, people may think such equipment is 'junk,' but 'junk' that can kill you is still something to be ware of, particularly when some are so easy to brush it off as useless.

From the story: The situation was now both serious and infuriating. With stubborn conservatism and complete lack of imagination the enemy continued to advance with his old-fashioned and inefficient but now vastly more numerous ships. It was galling to realise that if we had only continued building, without seeking new weapons, we would have been in a far more advantageous position.

Superiority - by Arthur C. Clarke

IN MAKING THIS STATEMENT - which I do of my own free will - I wish first to make it perfectly clear that I am not in any way trying to gain sympathy, nor do I expect any mitigation of whatever sentence the Court may pronounce. I am writing this in an attempt to refute some of the lying reports broadcast over the prison radio and published in the papers I have been allowed to see. These have given an entirely false picture of the true cause of our defeat, and as the leader of my race's armed forces at the cessation of hostilities I feel it my duty to protest against such libels upon those who served under me.

I also hope that this statement may explain the reasons for the application I have twice made to the Court, and will now induce it to grant a favor for which I can see no possible grounds of refusal.

The ultimate cause of our failure was a simple one: despite all statements to the contrary, it was not due to lack of bravery on the part of our men, or to any fault of the Fleet's. We were defeated by one thing only - by the inferior science of our enemies. I repeat - by the inferior science of our enemies.

When the war opened we had no doubt of our ultimate victory. The combined fleets of our allies greatly exceeded in number and armament those which the enemy could muster against us, and in almost all branches of military science we were their superiors. We were sure that we could maintain this superiority. Our belief proved, alas, to be only too well founded.

At the opening of the war our main weapons were the long-range homing torpedo, dirigible ball-lightning and the various modifications of the Klydon beam. Every unit of the Fleet was equipped with these and though the enemy possessed similar weapons their installations were generally of lesser power. Moreover, we had behind us a far greater military Research Organization, and with this initial advantage we could not possibly lose.

The campaign proceeded according to plan until the Battle of the Five Suns. We won this, of course, but the opposition proved stronger than we had expected. It was realized that victory might be more difficult, and more delayed, than had first been imagined. A conference of supreme commanders was therefore called to discuss our future strategy.

Present for the first time at one of our war conferences was Professor-General Norden, the new Chief of the Research Staff, who had just been appointed to fill the gap left by the death of Malvar, our greatest scientist. Malvar's leadership had been responsible, more than any other single factor, for the efficiency and power of our weapons. His loss was a very serious blow, but no one doubted the brilliance of his successor - though many of us disputed the wisdom of appointing a theoretical scientist to fill a post of such vital importance. But we had been overruled.

I can well remember the impression Norden made at that conference. The military advisers were worried, and as usual turned to the scientists for help. Would it be possible to improve our existing weapons, they asked, so that our present advantage could be increased still further?

Norden's reply was quite unexpected. Malvar had often been asked such a question - and he had always done what we requested.

"Frankly, gentlemen," said Norden, "I doubt it. Our existing weapons have practically reached finality. I don't wish to criticize my predecessor, or the excellent work done by the Research Staff in the last few generations, but do you realize that there has been no basic change in armaments for over a century? It is, I am afraid, the result of a tradition that has become conservative. For too long, the Research Staff has devoted itself to perfecting old weapons instead of developing new ones. It is fortunate for us that our opponents have been no wiser: we cannot assume that this will always be so."

Norden's words left an uncomfortable impression, as he had no doubt intended. He quickly pressed home the attack.

"What we want are new weapons - weapons totally different from any that have been employed before. Such weapons can be made: it will take time, of course, but since assuming charge I have replaced some of the older scientists with young men and have directed research into several unexplored fields which show great promise. I believe, in fact, that a revolution in warfare may soon be upon us."

We were skeptical. There was a bombastic tone in Norden's voice that made us suspicious of his claims. We did not know, then, that he never promised anything that he had not already almost perfected in the laboratory. In the laboratory - that was the operative phrase.

Norden proved his case less than a month later, when he demonstrated the Sphere of Annihilation, which produced complete disintegration of matter over a radius of several hundred meters. We were intoxicated by the power of the new weapon, and were quite prepared to overlook one fundamental defect - the fact that it was a sphere and hence destroyed its rather complicated generating equipment at the instant of formation. This meant, of course, that it could not be used on warships but only on guided missiles, and a great program was started to convert all homing torpedoes to carry the new weapon. For the time being all further offensives were suspended.

We realize now that this was our first mistake. I still think that it was a natural one, for it seemed to us then that all our existing weapons had become obsolete overnight, and we already regarded them as almost primitive survivals. What we did not appreciate was the magnitude of the task we were attempting, and the length of time it would take to get the revolutionary super-weapon into battle. Nothing like this had happened for a hundred years and we had no previous experience to guide us.

The conversion problem proved far more difficult than anticipated. A new class of torpedo had to be designed, as the standard model was too small. This meant in turn that only the larger ships could launch the weapon, but we were prepared to accept this penalty. After six months, the heavy units of the Fleet were being equipped with the Sphere. Training maneuvers and tests had shown that it was operating satisfactorily and we were ready to take it into action. Norden was already being hailed as the architect of victory, and had half promised even more spectacular weapons.

Then two things happened. One of our battleships disappeared completely on a training flight, and an investigation showed that under certain conditions the ship's long-range radar could trigger the Sphere immediately after it had been launched. The modification needed to overcome this defect was trivial, but it caused a delay of another month and was the source of much bad feeling between the naval staff and the scientists. We were ready for action again - when Norden announced that the radius of effectiveness of the Sphere had now been increased by ten, thus multiplying by a thousand the chances of destroying an enemy ship.

So the modifications started all over again, but everyone agreed that the delay would be worth it. Meanwhile, however, the enemy had been emboldened by the absence of further attacks and had made an unexpected onslaught. Our ships were short of torpedoes, since none had been coming from the factories, and were forced to retire. So we lost the systems of Kyrane and Floranus, and the planetary fortress of Rhamsandron.

It was an annoying but not a serious blow, for the recaptured systems had been unfriendly, and difficult to administer. We had no doubt that we could restore the position in the near future, as soon as the new weapon became operational.

These hopes were only partially fulfilled. When we renewed our offensive, we had to do so with fewer of the Spheres of Annihilation than had been planned, and this was one reason for our limited success. The other reason was more serious.

While we had been equipping as many of our ships as we could with the irresistible weapon, the enemy had been building feverishly. His ships were of the old pattern with the old weapons - but they now out-numbered ours. When we went into action, we found that the numbers ranged against us were often 100 percent greater than expected, causing target confusion among the automatic weapons and resulting in higher losses than anticipated. The enemy losses were higher still, for once a Sphere had reached its objective, destruction was certain, but the balance had not swung as far in our favor as we had hoped.

Moreover, while the main fleets had been engaged, the enemy had launched a daring attack on the lightly held systems of Eriston, Duranus, Carmanidora and Pharanidon - recapturing them all. We were thus faced with a threat only fifty light-years from our home planets.

There was much recrimination at the next meeting of the supreme commanders. Most of the complaints were addressed to Norden-Grand Admiral Taxaris in particular maintaining that thanks to our admittedly irresistible weapon we were now considerably worse off than before. We should, he claimed, have continued to build conventional ships, thus preventing the loss of our numerical superiority.

Norden was equally angry and called the naval staff ungrateful bunglers. But I could tell that he was worried - as indeed we all were - by the unexpected turn of events. He hinted that there might be a speedy way of remedying the situation.

We now know that Research had been working on the Battle Analyzer for many years, but at the time it came as a revelation to us and perhaps we were too easily swept off our feet. Norden's argument, also, was seductively convincing. What did it matter, he said, if the enemy had twice as many ships as we - if the efficiency of ours could be doubled or even trebled? For decades the limiting factor in warfare had been not mechanical but biological - it had become more and more difficult for any single mind, or group of minds, to cope with the rapidly changing complexities of battle in three-dimensional space. Norden's mathematicians had analyzed some of the classic engagements of the past, and had shown that even when we had been victorious we had often operated our units at much less than half of their theoretical efficiency.

The Battle Analyzer would change all this by replacing the operations staff with electronic calculators. The idea was not new, in theory, but until now it had been no more than a Utopian dream. Many of us found it difficult to believe that it was still anything but a dream: after we had run through several very complex dummy battles, however, we were convinced.

It was decided to install the Analyzer in four of our heaviest ships, so that each of the main fleets could be equipped with one. At this stage, the trouble began - though we did not know it until later.

The Analyzer contained just short of a million vacuum tubes and needed a team of five hundred technicians to maintain and operate it. It was quite impossible to accommodate the extra staff aboard a battleship, so each of the four units had to be accompanied by a converted liner to carry the technicians not on duty. Installation was also a very slow and tedious business, but by gigantic efforts it was completed in six months.

Then, to our dismay, we were confronted by another crisis. Nearly five thousand highly skilled men had been selected to serve the Analyzers and had been given an intensive course at the Technical Training Schools. At the end of seven months, 10 percent of them had had nervous breakdowns and only 40 per cent had qualified.

Once again, everyone started to blame everyone else. Norden, of course, said that the Research Staff could not be held responsible, and so incurred the enmity of the Personnel and Training Commands. It was finally decided that the only thing to do was to use two instead of four Analyzers and to bring the others into action as soon as men could be trained. There was little time to lose, for the enemy was still on the offensive and his morale was rising.

The first Analyzer fleet was ordered to recapture the system of Eriston. On the way, by one of the hazards of war, the liner carrying the technicians was struck by a roving mine. A warship would have survived, but the liner with its irreplaceable cargo was totally destroyed. So the operation had to be abandoned.

The other expedition was, at first, more successful. There was no doubt at all that the Analyzer fulfilled its designers' claims, and the enemy was heavily defeated in the first engagements. He withdrew, leaving us in possession of Saphran, Leucon and Hexanerax. But his Intelligence Staff must have noted the change in our tactics and the inexplicable presence of a liner in the heart of our battlefleet. It must have noted, also, that our first fleet had been accompanied by a similar ship - and had withdrawn when it had been destroyed.

In the next engagement, the enemy used his superior numbers to launch an overwhelming attack on the Analyzer ship and its unarmed consort. The attack was made without regard to losses - both ships were, of course, very heavily protected - and it succeeded. The result was the virtual decapitation of the Fleet, since an effectual transfer to the old operational methods proved impossible. We disengaged under heavy fire, and so lost all our gains and also the systems of Lormyia, Ismarnus, Beronis, Alphanidon and Sideneus.

At this stage, Grand Admiral Taxaris expressed his disapproval of Norden by committing suicide, and I assumed supreme command.

The situation was now both serious and infuriating. With stubborn conservatism and complete lack of imagination, the enemy continued to advance with his old-fashioned and inefficient but now vastly more numerous ships. It was galling to realize that if we had only continued building, without seeking new weapons, we would have been in a far more advantageous position. There were many acrimonious conferences at which Norden defended the scientists while everyone else blamed them for all that had happened. The difficulty was that Norden had proved every one of his claims: he had a perfect excuse for all the disasters that had occurred. And we could not now turn back - the search for an irresistible weapon must go on. At first it had been a luxury that would shorten the war. Now it was a necessity if we were to end it victoriously.

We were on the defensive, and so was Norden. He was more than ever determined to reestablish his prestige and that of the Research Staff. But we had been twice disappointed, and would not make the same mistake again. No doubt Norden's twenty thousand scientists would produce many further weapons: we would remain unimpressed.

We were wrong. The final weapon was something so fantastic that even now it seems difficult to believe that it ever existed. Its innocent, noncommittal name - The Exponential Field - gave no hint of its real potentialities. Some of Norden's mathematicians had discovered it during a piece of entirely theoretical research into the properties of space, and to everyone's great surprise their results were found to be physically realizable.

It seems very difficult to explain the operation of the Field to the layman. According to the technical description, it "produces an exponential condition of space, so that a finite distance in normal, linear space may become infinite in pseudo-space." Norden gave an analogy which some of us found useful. It was as if one took a flat disk of rubber - representing a region of normal space - and then pulled its center out to infinity. The circumference of the disk would be unaltered - but its "diameter" would be infinite. That was the sort of thing the generator of the Field did to the space around it.

As an example, suppose that a ship carrying the generator was surrounded by a ring of hostile machines. If it switched on the Field, each of the enemy ships would think that it - and the ships on the far side of the circle - had suddenly receded into nothingness. Yet the circumference of the circle would be the same as before: only the journey to the center would be of infinite duration, for as one proceeded, distances would appear to become greater and greater as the "scale" of space altered.

It was a nightmare condition, but a very useful one. Nothing could reach a ship carrying the Field: it might be englobed by an enemy fleet yet would be as inaccessible as if it were at the other side of the Universe. Against this, of course, it could not fight back without switching off the Field, but this still left it at a very great advantage, not only in defense but in offense. For a ship fitted with the Field could approach an enemy fleet undetected and suddenly appear in its midst.

This time there seemed to be no flaws in the new weapon. Needless to say, we looked for all the possible objections before we committed ourselves again. Fortunately the equipment was fairly simple and did not require a large operating staff. After much debate, we decided to rush it into production, for we realized that time was running short and the war was going against us. We had now lost about the whole of our initial gains and enemy forces had made several raids into our own solar system.

We managed to hold off the enemy while the Fleet was reequipped and the new battle techniques were worked out. To use the Field operationally it was necessary to locate an enemy formation, set a course that would intercept it, and then switch on the generator for the calculated period of time. On releasing the Field again - if the calculations had been accurate - one would be in the enemy's midst and could do great damage during the resulting confusion, retreating by the same route when necessary.

The first trial maneuvers proved satisfactory and the equipment seemed quite reliable. Numerous mock attacks were made and the crews became accustomed to the new technique. I was on one of the test flights and can vividly remember my impressions as the Field was switched on. The ships around us seemed to dwindle as if on the surface of an expanding bubble: in an instant they had vanished completely. So had the stars - but presently we could see that the Galaxy was still visible as a faint band of light around the ship. The virtual radius of our pseudo-space was not really infinite, but some hundred thousand light-years, and so the distance to the farthest stars of our system had not been greatly increased - though the nearest had of course totally disappeared. These training maneuvers, however, had to be canceled before they were completed, owing to a whole flock of minor technical troubles in various pieces of equipment, notably the communications circuits. These were annoying, but not important, though it was thought best to return to Base to clear them up.

At that moment the enemy made what was obviously intended to be a decisive attack against the fortress planet of Iton at the limits of our Solar System. The Fleet had to go into battle before repairs could be made.

The enemy must have believed that we had mastered the secret of invisibility - as in a sense we had. Our ships appeared suddenly out of no-where and inflicted tremendous damage - for a while. And then something quite baffling and inexplicable happened.

I was in command of the flagship Hircania when the trouble started. We had been operating as independent units, each against assigned objectives. Our detectors observed an enemy formation at medium range and the navigating officers measured its distance with great accuracy. We set course and switched on the generator.

The Exponential Field was released at the moment when we should have been passing through the center of the enemy group. To our consternation, we emerged into normal space at a distance of many hundred miles - and when we found the enemy, he had already found us. We retreated, and tried again. This time we were so far away from the enemy that he located us first.

Obviously, something was seriously wrong. We broke communicator silence and tried to contact the other ships of the Fleet to see if they had experienced the same trouble. Once again we failed - and this time the failure was beyond all reason, for the communication equipment appeared to be working perfectly. We could only assume, fantastic though it seemed, that the rest of the Fleet had been destroyed.

I do not wish to describe the scenes when the scattered units of the Fleet struggled back to Base. Our casualties had actually been negligible, but the ships were completely demoralized. Almost all had lost touch with one another and had found that their ranging equipment showed inexplicable errors. It was obvious that the Exponential Field was the cause of the troubles, despite the fact that they were only apparent when it was switched off.

The explanation came too late to do us any good, and Norden's final discomfiture was small consolation for the virtual loss of the war. As I have explained, the Field generators produced a radial distortion of space, distances appearing greater and greater as one approached the center of the artificial pseudo-space. When the Field was switched off, conditions returned to normal.

But not quite. It was never possible to restore the initial state exactly. Switching the Field on and off was equivalent to an elongation and contraction of the ship carrying the generator, but there was a hysteretic effect, as it were, and the initial condition was never quite reproducible, owing to all the thousands of electrical changes and movements of mass aboard the ship while the Field was on. These asymmetries and distortions were cumulative, and though they seldom amounted to more than a fraction of one per cent, that was quite enough. It meant that the precision ranging equipment and the tuned circuits in the communication apparatus were thrown completely out of adjustment. Any single ship could never detect the change - only when it compared its equipment with that of another vessel, or tried to communicate with it, could it tell what had happened.

It is impossible to describe the resultant chaos. Not a single component of one ship could be expected with certainty to work aboard another. The very nuts and bolts were no longer interchangeable, and the supply position became quite impossible. Given time, we might even have overcome these difficulties, but the enemy ships were already attacking in thousands with weapons which now seemed centuries behind those that we had invented. Our magnificent Fleet, crippled by our own science, fought on as best it could until it was overwhelmed and forced to surrender. The ships fitted with the Field were still invulnerable, but as fighting units they were almost helpless. Every time they switched on their generators to escape from enemy attack, the permanent distortion of their equipment increased. In a month, it was all over.

THIS IS THE true story of our defeat, which I give without prejudice to my defense before this Court. I make it, as I have said, to counteract the libels that have been circulating against the men who fought under me, and to show where the true blame for our misfortunes lay.

Finally, my request, which as the Court will now realize I make in no frivolous manner and which I hope will therefore be granted.

The Court will be aware that the conditions under which we are housed and the constant surveillance to which we are subjected night and day are somewhat distressing. Yet I am not complaining of this: nor do I complain of the fact that shortage of accommodation has made it necessary to house us in pairs.

But I cannot be held responsible for my future actions if I am compelled any longer to share my cell with Professor Norden, late Chief of the Research Staff of my armed forces.

14 posted on 03/30/2012 6:22:34 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: Jeff Head


15 posted on 03/30/2012 6:29:01 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: spetznaz

Trey Bien! I read that “Superiority” almost 30 years ago. It was in the (excellent) anthology series “There will be War!” compiled by Jerry Pournelle. Found the concept of the “Exponential Field” really mindblowing.

Don’t know if its required reading at the Service academies, but it should be!

16 posted on 03/30/2012 6:55:07 AM PDT by rbg81
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To: zot


17 posted on 03/30/2012 6:59:59 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping. Very likely, when we need the F-22 we won’t have enough of them.

18 posted on 03/30/2012 9:43:15 AM PDT by zot
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To: equaviator
The Air National Guard is being crippled as well. That is wrong.
19 posted on 03/30/2012 4:46:54 PM PDT by U-238
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To: equaviator
The Air National Guard is being crippled as well.

That is wrong.
20 posted on 03/30/2012 4:47:25 PM PDT by U-238
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