Monday, May 14, 2012

Quantity or Quality? That Is The Question

     Over the last 55 years the American mantra has been "Quality over Quantity" in military equipment. Examples are the F-35, F-22, B-2, Zumwalt-class destroyer, Seawolf-class submarines. In a war with a country that has a capable military/ has an enormous numerical advantage, the technological edge America has always held becomes moot.
     During WWII, Nazi Germany often held the technological advantage over the Allies (Radar being a notable exception). The Panther and Tiger series of tanks consistently outclassed American and British tanks, and it wasn't till 1945 with the advent of the M90 Pershing and A34 Comet that Allied armor could truly match German armor. Another example is the ME 262 "Swallow", the world's first true jet fighter, it could outrun and outgun any Allied fighter of the time, but was defeated because of it's vulnerability when taking off and landing (just like every other fighter). Other examples of Germany's technological advantage include Type XVIIXXI U-boats, He 219, Ta 152, Do 335, Go 229, Ju 290, Ju 390, Ar 234, Ju 287, V-1, V-2Wasserfall, Enzian, and the Rheintochter. Unfortunately, I can't go into detail into detail on all these systems at the moment, but the point I'm attempting to make is that Germany had an enormous technological advantage. However, it was moot because they did not have the production capability, time, resources, trained personnel, trained production personnel, Hitler's meddling, and the Allies numerical advantage.
     During the Second Persian Invasion of Greece, 300 Spartans held off the Persian army for 3 days at the Battle of Thermopylae buying time for Greece to unite and organize to defeat the Persians. The Spartans, who were better trained,  killed several times their number, but because of the Persians sheer weight of numbers they were defeated. Later, at the Battle of Plataea 10,000 Spartans supported by roughly 30,000 other Greeks defeated 300,000 Persians. The reason I bring up the Spartans is because in their day they had the equivalent of a technological edge in their training. When you have a technological edge it only matters when deployed in large numbers like at the Battle of Plataea.    
      The question in your mind at this point is probably, what does this all have to with question of quality over quantity?  There will be a war between the U.S. and a country with an actual military, which country is up for discussion. However, the fundamental flaw in our war fighting strategy is dependence on our technological edge in stealth. The cornerstone of our war fighting strategy is providing air support to the Army and Marines. If we do not have air superiority to allow bombers hit their targets the forces on the ground will be forced to retreat because of the lack of air support and the enemy's numerical superiority. A prime example of this flaw is the F-35 Lightning II. The reason I say this is because of a CBO report a few years ago called "Alternatives for Modernizing U.S. Fighter Forces". Basically there will be a shortfall in Air Force, Navy, and Marine fighter forces
with the F-35 being purchased in currently projected numbers. The F-22 is another example with only 187 being built, at extreme costs, which in an extended conflict will be useless because of their small numbers. Other examples include Nimitz and Ford-class aircraft carriers, the LCS, and B-2.
     The solution? Strike a balance between quality and quantity. The T-34 is an excellent example, as it was simple so unskilled labor could manufacture it in large numbers, and at the same time was could beat the Tiger and Panthers because of it's angled armor and its ability to withstand cold Russian winters. Use a high-low mix similar to the F-15/F-16 or F-22/F-35, but in much greater numbers. Make the KISS principle the cornerstone of weapons development, and keep costs to a minimum.
     Josef Stalin once said the "Quantity has a quality all its own". What Stalin said was true to a point, but rather a balance must be struck between quality and quantity. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed in a war against an actual military.

Photo Credit: USAF 

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