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State of the Art Computing

Back on 18 February, six Lockheed F-22 Raptors, "the most advanced fighter in the world" set out from Hickham AFB in Hawaii to Kadena AFB on Okinawa. En route, The U.S. Air Force's mighty Raptor was felled by the International Date Line (IDL).

Luckily for the Raptors, there were no weather issues that day so visibility was not a problem. Also, the Raptors had their refueling tankers as guide dogs to "carry" them back to safety. "They needed help. Had they gotten separated from their tankers or had the weather been bad, they had no attitude reference. They had no communications or navigation," said Retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. "They would have turned around and probably could have found the Hawaiian Islands. But if the weather had been bad on approach, there could have been real trouble.”

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
entropy_house
29th Mar, 2007 21:26 (UTC)
The more complicated things get, the easier it is for a tiny flaw to cripple them.
foolzero
1st Apr, 2007 07:18 (UTC)
Completely off topic...
... but by any chance have you had a look yet at the new US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual? I'd love to get your impressions as a military historian.

So far the parts that I've glanced at sound (from my mostly-civilian perspective) all about "Whatever you do, don't do like we did in Iraq (and in Vietnam before that)!"

Announcement/review at Miliary.com: New Counterinsurgency Manual

The actual document (PDF, 262 pp.) at the Federation of American Scientists site.
hawkeye7
1st Apr, 2007 09:05 (UTC)
Re: Completely off topic...
Oh wow! Thanks for that. The US Army has not produced a counterinsurgency manual since FM 90-8 back in 1986. A new one was to be expected in the light of current events... but a huge surprise that it was jointly published with the US Marine Corps. I don't remember that ever happening before.

"Don't do what we did in Iraq (and in Vietnam before that)" would be sound advice, but it does not follow that what is contained therein is new as opposed to warmed over. I'll be carefully comparing it with the old manuals. The whole "learning Army" slogan has to be regarded as ironic, because while the manual claims to contain lessons learned from previous conflicts, the truth is that lessons were deliberately forgotten, especially those of the unhappy experience in Vietnam.
foolzero
2nd Apr, 2007 07:44 (UTC)
Re: Completely off topic...
while the manual claims to contain lessons learned from previous conflicts, the truth is that lessons were deliberately forgotten, especially those of the unhappy experience in Vietnam.

The military must be between a rock and a hard place with this. On the one hand they have all that experience to learn from: of the French in Algeria, the US in Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan, and now four years of the "coalition" in Iraq. On the other hand, some of our more deluded leaders have been actively pressing, not just the military but the whole country, to get over the "Vietnam Syndrome" by, of all things, repeating the same mistakes -- only this time in the firm expectation of finally getting the result we should have had.
Many of the present and former officials I spoke to were critical of Franks for his perceived failure to stand up to his civilian superiors. A former senator told me that Franks was widely seen as a commander who “will do what he’s told.” A former intelligence official asked, “Why didn’t he go to the President?” A Pentagon official recalled that one senior general used to prepare his deputies for meetings with Rumsfeld by saying, “When you go in to talk to him, you’ve got to be prepared to lay your stars on the table and walk out. Otherwise, he’ll walk over you.”

-- The Battle Between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon, by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker via Truthout, 31 March 2003.
hawkeye7
2nd Apr, 2007 21:15 (UTC)
Re: Completely off topic...
Like its predecessor, this manual is very well written. There is a great deal of new material, the result of the Iraq War and exchange of ideas with the USMC. There's a lot of frank acknowledgment of failure, which is refreshing.

As in Vietnam, the fact that the civilians were making critical mistakes does not mean that no military errors were committed. In the wake of the war in Vietnam, the US Army had to face the fact that many of its problems were self-inflicted.

The New Yorker article was interesting. In many ways, Rumsfeld was right; the US military was indeed obsessed with the idea of overwhelming force.

"Shock and Awe" was another one of those eccentric British ideas. In can work - mostly in special forces operations - but - like surprise - never on a truly large scale. Unfortunately, the initial stages of the war in Afghanistan seemed to validate the idea.

Yet the generals' focus on conventional warfare can only leave us with few doubts that the result would not have been altered had their advice been accepted.

The most interesting part of the article is that Rumsfeld refused to take personal responsibility for his own actions. The idea of being prepared to lay down your stars is a good one, one I'd recommend, but the article makes it clear that the reaction of most people was that he would indeed walk over them.

In turn, this mindset makes me pessimistic about whole learning Army concept.
foolzero
3rd Apr, 2007 04:57 (UTC)
Re: Completely off topic...
The most interesting part of the article is that Rumsfeld refused to take personal responsibility for his own actions.

That's a complaint that many of us here in the US have voiced about most of the current administration, certainly including Bush himself.

By the way, I seem to have messed up the link to the Hersh article: Original at The New Yorker; copy at Truthout. I'd originally linked to the same material at another site, then tried to substitute the Truthout URL but left a stray final character in place.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )