The US Military Catch-All Thread


U.S. military tweets, then deletes, a New Year’s Eve joke about dropping bombs (WaPo)

The U.S. military command responsible for the nation’s nuclear weapons tweeted a New Year’s Eve message Monday afternoon: It is always ready to “drop something much, much bigger” than Manhattan’s iconic Time Square ball.

The embedded video showed footage of a B-2 stealth bomber. As the words “STEALTH,” “READY” and “LETHAL” flashed across the screen, the aircraft released bombs. They fall to the ground and crash with a fiery explosion.

It also tagged the Whiteman Air Force Base and the Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for nuclear and nonnuclear strategic bomber fleets.

The post was deleted within hours and replaced with a subsequent apology from the Strategic Command’s official account.



Uh…yeah, we noticed on the actual day.


TL;DR - US military spending isn’t too high! Maybe it’s not high enough, because all those people in other countries don’t get paid as much and they can buy cheaper equipment. And the US ought to be spending more anyway since it has more responsibilities.

Apparently waste and ridiculous defense contracts for overly complex and often unnecessary giant projects have nothing to do with huge defense spending. And getting bogged down in long, unwinnable wars halfway across the globe is definitely worth taking resources from domestic priorities. Or even just paying troops a reasonable wage.

I know, it’s Robert Samuelson and this is only what one would expect from him. I post it largely because it’s worth seeing what is being said in defense of the graft taking place in the military industrial complex.


If one is really interested in security, of course, it’s not about how much you spend but on what you get, and what you spend the money on. And before you can begin to figure that stuff out you have to have a strategy, a policy, a plan, something that frames your spending and gives you a way to measure how well you are doing and whether your dollars are returning the results you expect. I’d argue that for years we have had none of this, not really. What we have is a bunch of programs, some probably wonderful, some probably wasteful, all mixed together in a way that shifts with each administration or security trope that comes along. Since the Cold War, at least, we’ve been drifting.


Exactly. What do you spend the money on and is that money doing what it should. Cutting the special interests out of defense spending strikes me as an even more difficult problem than cutting it out of politics, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Look at how difficult it was for SpaceX to even get serious consideration from the Air Force despite offering the same service for so much less than ULA.


To me it partly just comes down to whether you believe the U.S. needs to be a hyperpower forever or can dial down to some kind of parity with other major nations. It may be unrealistic for us to disarm to pre-WWII levels, but I guess in my unicorns’n’ponies imagination I would envision the U.S., Canada, the major Western European democracies, and maybe a few other nations working together to share more equally the burden of that world policin’ stuff if it needs to be done.


Amen. There’s been no serious thought put into “if we do get into a naval engagement with the Chinese, how do we beat them as easily as possible” - it’s just been “Do what we’ve been doing for the last 30 years, but better”.


From personal experience, i can tell you that your perception is mistaken.

The military does in fact do all kinds of research into something beyond just bigger guns and stuff.


To me, the willingness to talk openly about the need to be able to defeat China in a war is just a way of normalizing the idea of war with China. It’s hardly inevitable.


No doubt. Professional military people are, well, professional, and generally do their job well. It’s at the policy level that the problems exist, and those problems inevitably can and will cause issues downstream. As in, no matter how thoroughly the staff of the Pacific Fleet, say, work up contingency plans for a variety of situations, the ability to execute those plans or the authority to do so can be hindered by the failures of policy and insight of higher leadership. Not only that, but the resources to support planning and preparation are often affected by broad strategic and political factors, and failures at that level can have a ripple effect regardless of how good the practitioners are.


I’m sure that is true, and thankyou for pointing it out.

But how much of that thinking has transformed itself into actual procurement decisions?

(Having said that, often criticism of procurement decisions assumes either:

  • Adversary’s PR regarding their own capabilities is true (narrator: It is not)
  • (at least in the UK) There is no constraint on the number of sailors/pilots available to operate all this expensive hardware)


Eh, well in some ways, very much… Although the end result has not always been good.

There are major platforms which were developed based on new ideas of how to fight, but which warfighters have been reluctant to embrace because they don’t do the same things as old platforms, and require new tactics.

The thing is, these things catch flack for being “useless” then.



I mean I guess I shouldn’t have a clear picture of what the US plan to beat China in a naval war is. But the Chinese strategy is very much “make it overly expensive/risky to use carrier airpower in our area of influence” and there is a disturbing lack of any kind of acknowledgement from the US that carrier airpower is going to run into serious problems just through sheer weight of material China can throw at the carriers.


Yeah, keep in mind that their job is to fight the fight, not necessarily convince anyone that they can fight the fight. If the enemy thinks they aren’t prepared, so much the better.


That must explain the distressing frequency with which US Navy ships collide with each other or with other ships. We’re lulling the Chinese into a false sense of security.


How dependent is the US military on satellites? China has already shown satellites can be easily destroyed.

As far as US military power in general goes, we are fighting two or three wars already. I don’t think we have enough resources for much more than that. I.e. to open a third or fourth front. If only because things would get confusing as hell.

We can thank George W. Bush for this.


Well, not really. We are engaged, but we aren’t really fighting wars. At their peaks, the engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq were wars, but they are on a much lower boil now.

If I recall, the US military considers it a couple element of it’s readiness to be able to fight in two major engagements simultaneously. A big part of this isn’t actually to do so, but so that if we are engaged, it doesn’t make anyone else think they can get away with starting stuff because we are busy.

But for that same reason, the military doesn’t like being fully engaged like that… Because if they are in two major conflicts, then someone else might start some shit.


Discussions of war with China are things the military professionals have to entertain, and plan for, just like we planned for war with the UK before WWII. It’s something that is possible, though not likely nor particularly desired by anyone responsible; there are few if any issues that would rise to the level of requiring armed confrontation between the US and China. Barring an all-out PRC invasion of Taiwan, say, everything else is pretty much trade disputes, jockeying for territorial bragging rights in the littoral Pacific, or stuff like that. There’s absolutely nothing to be gained from confrontation between Beijing and Washington, for either side, but particularly for the USA. Absolutely nothing.

American and Chinese capabilities relative to each other are hard to assess reliably, for obvious reasons. A lot of stuff involving the most interesting aspects of the comparison, like carrier ops, anti-carrier systems, orbital and anti-orbital systems, etc. are shrouded in layers of secrecy, misinformation, and speculation. In general the PLA has been moving towards being a smaller, more capable force across the board, but the actual numbers, deployments, and capabilities of many of their units and systems remains something of a mystery. I would suspect, though, that the truly capable parts of the PLA are not things the leadership would want to risk on anything other than a vital national interest, any more than the US would want to risk carrier groups and such. But the key thing for me is that neither side has any compelling interest in a war of any sort.


China is a world power that isn’t an ally and has even expressed aggression to us and our allies.
Not having a plan for war with them would be negligent.


I don’t think that the Navy is ever going to come out and say that our aircraft carriers are going to be nothing more than a liability in a war against China, but it also appears that they do realize it. The military is quietly dropping a ton of money into developing hypersonic weapons and other more survivable missiles. Increasing range seems to be big in when it comes to most of our weapon systems. Oddly, our entire tactical jet force has been going the entire opposite direction.

I doubt there is anything we could do to win a war with China right in their back yard. We’d likely stay out of the range of their most effective weapons and try to bottle them up and hit them where we can. The US possessing a capable missile threat against their navy/islands at that range would have to do and seems to be the direction we’re going.

Aircraft carriers remain a powerful force projection mechanism against just about any other country we’d come into conflict with and I don’t think they are anywhere near obsolete. However, our naval capabilities probably shouldn’t be based entirely on the super carrier any longer.