The Heritage Foundation Then and Now — Counterpunch.
On December 26, 2012 the Director of Heritage’s Center for Foreign Policy Studies, Dr. James J. Carafano, published a commentary in the Washington Examiner, “What To Do about Obama’s Pound-Foolish Air Force.” Without saying so explicitly, he implied that the legendary Col. John R. Boyd, “a fighter pilot’s fighter pilot” in Dr. Carafano’s words, would favor what the good doctor wants: to reopen production of the $411 million F-22 and to buy more $154 million F-35s.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ decision to terminate F-22 production should be appreciated as his single most positive contribution to American air power—and certainly one of the very few issues he would have seen eye to eye with John Boyd.
It gets worse regarding the F-35. When Boyd died 15 years ago, the inevitable failure of the F-35 as a viable combat aircraft was already clear, though not as crushingly obvious as it is to today. In 2012, with the airplane just 20 per cent through its entirely inadequate flight test plan (over 80 per cent of the airplane’s performance characteristics will remain untested in any planned flight test), we already know we are facing across-the-board failures to meet original specifications. Moreover, if the F-35 lived up to 100 percent of its depressingly modest design specifications, it would still be a complete failure in combat utility: a bomber of shorter range, lower payload and far higher vulnerability than the Vietnam War’s appallingly flammable, underperforming F-105 Lead Sled; an air-to-air fighter so unmaneuverable and sluggish in acceleration that any ancient MiG-21 will tear it to shreds; and a close support fighter that is a menace to our troops on any battlefield, unable to hit camouflaged tactical targets and incapable of distinguishing friendly soldiers from enemies. Individually and collectively, we often fretted with Boyd on the irresponsibility of equipping our people with such foolishly complex weapons designs, so bereft of practical combat effectiveness—and on the deep corruption of acquisition programs, such as the F-35’s, that deliberately plan to buy a thousand or more units long before user testing has fully probed combat utility.
Dr. Carafano is free to pump out baloney that pleases his funders, but to invoke Boyd’s legacy to promote F-22 and F-35 spending goes beyond simple, and perhaps willful, misrepresentation. Here is a paradigm of the moral decay so visible among contemporary Washington defense “intellectuals.”
Like they say, read the whole thing.
As someone who knew Boyd and was well aware of what he believed about such things, there is no doubt on my mind that he would NOT have favored the F-22 and F-35. In an honest world, the Air Force wouldn’t either, but unfortunately, procurement is as corrupt a business as exists and a whole lot of generals would have no need to exist were it not for harboring such ridiculous programs.
Based on his long ago preferences, Boyd would have likely favored a more advanced but simple and lightweight aircraft, like the F-16 before the Air Force bloated it out of perfection. Who can say what he’d actually prefer now? His theories of warfare would suggest a lot of possibilities not obvious to someone who doesn’t know and understand them. But generally he’d want agility and numbers over technology and few. The Air Force prefers the later because it recruits better.
All that aside, I doubt Boyd could be conjectured to agree or disgree with very much of what Obama/Gates is doing to our military, without also bringing up a whole bunch of ideas that are waaaay beyond the simple “is this a good aircraft” question. Boyd had an extremely complex view of warfare, appreciated and credited by very few, but which forms the entire basis of modern combat. To be charitable, perhaps the guy from Heritage came at it from that angle: Boyd’s theories define modern combat, the Air Force says that the F-22/35 are part of that paradigm, therefore Boyd would agree with the program.
I think he’s wrong, because I think the Air Force doesn’t actually understand what they are doing, but I can understand why he’d say it.