Back in my undergraduate days one of the first books I purchased was Mary Kaldor’s The baroque arsenal.
Footie fixated readers should be warned that this book isn’t anything to do with Arsene Wenger’s penchant for elaborately worked goals or his aversion to big bruiser centre backs…
Thirty years on it is still on my shelf.
Having read and re-read her work I now expect almost all of these massive weapons programmes of industrialised countries to be:
(1) Over budget
(3) Not fit for the originally envisaged purpose.
Her basic thesis back in the late seventies was that Western military technology would become increasingly over developed, i.e. baroque.
She was, of course, using the term in its modern pejorative term meaning that something was so elaborately constructed and so excessively complex that it ended up subverted the original utility function.
Effective military technology, she argued, would be relatively rudimentary and not over engineered.
Simpler was better.
These baroque weapons systems were the natural outworking of the “military industrial complex” that President Eisenhower had warned the nation of in his farewell address to the nation in 1961.
When I read of the most recent calamity to befall the F35 fighter programme in the USA I marvel at Professor Kaldor’s prescience.
The idea of a carrier based plane that, err, can’t land on an aircraft carrier is exactly what she was describing all those years ago.
Give that my googly analytic thingy tells me that most of my readers are in the UK then I should probably make the next point local as opposed to global.
The UK has signed up to the F35C conventional carrier variants of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) after they had decided to go against the F35B STOVL version (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) much to the chagrin of their purchasing partners the US Marine Corps.
The UK is currently without any fixed wing maritime airpower.
This is a loss of naval reach that is truly historic and a way marker in the UK’s long military decline.
It had been thought that this capability would be restored in 2020.
Now that is being put back a decade.
The chaps at the MOD demure and said late last year that the UK will be able to deploy (deep breath now) SIX carrier based jets by 2020.
Dear reader the amount of maintenance “down time” required by these complex modern aircraft need means that going on a war fighting operation at sea with six carrier based jets would be like sending a soldier into a hostile area with less than one full magazine for his rifle.
That couldn’t happen of course…
Those young poorly equipped “Redcaps” were almost certainly cut down by men using the brainchild of a recuperating Russian tank sergeant.
Simple, cheap, indestructible and brutally fit for purpose the Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 remains the deadly proof of Professor Kaldor’s thesis.