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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Joint Strike Fighter and Ukraine Crisis

Anachronisms in the New Cold War

It’s Official – the Cold War is back-on. Putin has declared his doctrine that any place that has a significant Russian speaking population is “new Russia” and he reserves the right to invade and occupy any part of any country that has a substantial Russian speaking population. That includes all the old Cold War buffer States and their modern derivatives – Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine… Russia is no longer a country but the ‘greater protectorate of Russians speakers’ with fluid and flexible boundaries. It’s how you make friends and piss-off people.

So is Putin just an ego driven Tsar? Perhaps but….

In the early 1990’s Mikhail Gorbachev surrendered the Soviet Union, opened up the Soviet economy, freed his people, and ended the Cold War. He asked one and one condition only of the West – no Eastward expansion of NATO. Reagan promised that it would be so. It was not.

Essentially Russia wanted their own version of the Monroe doctrine – the right to meddle and be pre-eminent in their own back yard. However unlike the US they have genuine reasons. Western European powers have twice invaded Russia, on both occasions reaching Moscow. Accounts of Russian dead in WWII vary from 30-40 million. It is an oft overlooked fact of history that Russia won the Second World War in Europe. They did not and do not want NATO on their doorstep. They did want economic development and mutual respect. They got neither.

Western capital asset stripped the former Soviet Union plunging much of the society into poverty and creating a demographic crisis from which Russia may never recover. NATO courted the eastern states. Russia found itself surrounded by US/NATO military bases, while the US actively sponsored Islamic terrorism across the 20/40 window resulting in the Beslan massacre.  NATO bombed Yugoslavia then created a new Muslim state in Europe carved out of historic Serbia. The ‘Coalition of the Willing’ then went on a rampage across the Middle East liquidating Russian assets as they went. The ‘Project for a New American Century’ boldly proclaimed that the US would invade Iran after Iraq was dealt with, thus further encircling the Russian block. The ‘Great Game’ for the Eurasian pivot was back-on. Central to this Pivot is Crimea - home of much of Russia's Western Navy.

It didn’t go quite as planned however. Putin kicked out the oligarchs who ruled Russia, took control of Russia’s critical national resources, re-financed the military, and pulled his country up by its collar. The military adventure in the Middle East was halted by a concerted insurgency in Iraq and resistance among Western populations. Western oligarchs then raided the US and European banking systems creating a systemic crisis which is still playing out, has made Russia very sceptical abojut all the talk of "freedom and democracy" but has not touched the military industrial complex in the US or the JSF program.

…so back to Ukraine. Ukraine is not a NATO member. Latvia is. If Russia were to send forces across the border to Latvia NATO would automatically be at war with Russia. So Putin gambles that the US will only play proxy wars in Ukraine and he can create a pretext for expanding his borders West-ward. At least he hasn’t claimed that Ukraine has weapons of mass destruction, or that they harbour Al Qaeda, or that they gas their citizens.  But wait – he should be scared! The US and its sort-of-willing allies just spent US $400 billion on the Joint Strike Fighter. Australia just pitched in with a $14 billion purchase of a couple of squadrons. If you heard or read any of the hyperbole surrounding the purchase you will have learned that this is a radar evading aircraft that will have complete situational awareness and will guarantee victory in all future air combat environments for decades to come. With that kind of kit potentially heading his way Putin should be cowering in a fox hole – right?

Ironically the ABC radio news reader actually used phrases I recognised from the manufacturer’s public relations Office from circa 2008. Funny thing is, no one is scared because no one else believes it, least of all the Russians. The reason is simple. After the collapse of the USSR the Russian military industrial complex had to create competitive weapons or starve. Hunger is very motivating. The result was bleeding edge, cheap and lethal systems such as the many variants of the Sukhoi air dominance fighter – now the baseline for air power in the Asia Pacific as well as Eastern Europe. The Western military industrial complex figured it could just get fat by putting ‘their’ people into key decision making positions in the bureaucracy then bleeding tax payers to subsidise uncompetitive make-work programs. The most expensive of these is the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF.

The JSF was originally conceived as a second tier second day of war ground attack aircraft. It was intended to operate in a relatively benign air power environment and under cover of the much more capable F-22. Its primary concern was to attack Soviet mobile columns on the North German plains and to avoid mobile Soviet surface to air missile systems as they were circa 1990. That was and is its primary design criteria. To that end it was made ‘stealthy’ i.e. hard to detect by radars operating in the X band but only from the frontal aspect, and was given limited self defensive capabilities. This very limited functionality was then ‘spun’ into being the supposed air dominance fighter of the 21st century. It isn’t. Russian radars operating in the longer bands (S and L) can see it and shoot it down. The Sukhoi flies higher, faster, turns quicker, carries 11 missiles to the JSF’s 4, has a bigger radar, has a better infra-red suit…it can detect the JSF at tactical ranges, jam and out manoeuvre its missiles, engage and disengage largely at will. For a more detailed explanation of tech and strategy see here: http://findinghomebookspace.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/defence-force-pornography-meets-real.html

This was the finding of Dr Stillion of the Rand Corporation, and of independent expert think tank Air Power Australia. Other critics have noted basic engineering and design flaws too numerous to mention here. For some considered commentary about alternatives see here: http://www.newaustralia.net/defence_airforce.html 

The Joint Strike Fighter has become so expensive and so useles it even has a research website dedicated to what a bad deal it really is. See here: http://f35baddeal.com/ If anyone in Europe buys the plane - good luck! It won't defend your country but it could cost you the very things you want to defend, like affordable education and health care.

If the US or NATO want to send a message to Putin they can only do so by imposing a ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine. The fact that they haven’t indicates that they don’t want to risk an air war with Russia. After all, they wouldn’t want any of their very expensive and fragile kit to get damaged in a real contest now would they….there is a lesson in that for Australia. Let’s hope we learn fast.


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