Swiss Watches make Poor Broadswords
So back in WWII the allies and the Axis had very differing philosophies on how to equip their Armies. The allies tended to prefer simpler, more mobile designs that were sufficient to their needs, whereas the Axis built the most advanced weapon they could manage. This mostly applied to the Germans but the Italians and Japanese both had weapons, planes, and especially warships that were… overengineered. Let’s look at tanks though, specifically the Tiger vs. the Sherman and T-34. The Tiger was the terror of WWII. A heavy tank with superb firepower and very tough armor it had as much of a psychological impact as a physical one on the battlefield, but it came at a price.
The Sherman and T-34 were humbler, more workmanlike vehicles but they did the job, and they stayed on the job. They fit into the support structure, and while they had their quirks, they didn’t tax the rear echelons or impair the units they were supporting with low operational rates. Their guns were sufficient for the job, and their armor generally kept them in the field.
The Tiger had problems. Even a normal Tiger required more spares, mechanics and fuel than a Panzer IV, and the Tiger II battalions needed almost enough trucks to support a conventional panzer division. While this alone didn’t do much to defeat Nazi Germany, it didn’t help. Combined with other “wonder weapon” programs like the Me 262, the supersized artillery, and the Porsche family of tanks, it certainly didn’t help the resource starved Reich.
But all this is old news. The Good Guys won, the Bad Guys lost. Surely no nation would be so silly as to repeat those mistakes, and devote their national treasure to building useless, vain super-project weapons again. Especially during peace!
Well you’d be wrong. Not only are we building aircraft that we can ill afford, but they are the wrong aircraft, spread over too many missions they can do almost none of them well, mostly not as well as the aircraft they are replacing, and many requirements are simply unfulfilled. Added to that are fresh fleets of supercarriers, and one of which outnumbers every other supercarrier on the planet. Then there’s the tanks we build surplus to the needs, wants, or capabilities of our Army to maintain, the transport aircraft or the sad and sorry state of our field artillery and army aviation assets, which lack the training and doctrine to do their job, and in the case of our aviation assets seem to be deficient in even basic levels of training based on the number of accidents lately.
Helicopters fall out of the sky with alarming regularity, and the artillery uses tactics and doctrine that may work well in limited operations in Iraq but would doom even the soldiers facing the decrepit North Korean army to a thorough pasting at the hands of better organized and doctrinally superior artillery Divisions We don’t go higher than a fires brigade, and our fire units, batteries and battalionnns, are smaller to boot. By organizing larger units of artillery into larger artillery units the “Soviet” model sacrifices some flexibility to gain crushing advantages in firepower and gives artillery officers more prestige by offering them the chance to proceed into higher commands, pushing more and better officers into this branch.
We have devolved into an acquisition-oriented military which places the expensive and difficult to block weapons and support structure (bases, supply and maintenance contracts, and or course the weapons themselves) ahead of the good of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who will be using them. We protect the military budget with patriotism and wrap it in a flag, not noticing that training, safety, and soldier care are being cut to the bone while we buy more and more expensive and worthless weapons without regard for those who will be asked to use them.
We have built a military armed with the fanciest Swiss watches, and now that we cannot give it infinite funds we are keeping the fancy watches and not bothering to train our men in how to use them. I hope they never have to. If they do I hope we have enough to replace the ones that break, and the people broken by the failings of their tools.