Quantity and Quality: the cost effectiveness question.

Discussion in 'Modern' started by Burmese Bandit, Dec 21, 2008.

  1. Burmese Bandit

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    In today's age a ten-million dollar attack plane and fighter is considered 'cheap'. Top of the line, state of the art attack planes and fighters routinely go over the hundred million mark, and bombers have passed the billion mark.

    Which brings us to a question that a Pentagon Analyst called Franklin Spinney asked a generation ago - when does this all stop? Are these stupendously expensive weapons really that cost effective?

    And related to this is another question - is the West really using its industrial and technological base effectively? Has the west forgotten the lessons of WW II, the sherman tank in particular...not a world beater in design, yet because it was based on off the shelf parts, it was produced in numbers that overwhelmed the enemy defences.

    Shouldn't the Western Industrialised powers be using the industrial and technological base of THE MARKET to build their weapons systems...instead of the gold-plated, almost hand-built designs that we are seeing today?

    I know that there are a LOT of active duty personnel here, as well as the 'been there done that' older and (I hope! :D) wiser crowd here as well. And more than a few production engineers here too, methinks.

    So, let's all weigh in with our 2 cents!
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    IMO it depends on effectiveness and longevity - look at the B-52. I need not say more.
     
  3. Burmese Bandit

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    Yes, an EXCELLENT example - thank you flyboy - which just goes to prove what I'm saying, because the solid core of the 52 and the earlier 47 design led to a commercial spinoff: the boeing 707. One of the most successful commercial designs in history.

    But how many military weapons systems today lead to commercial spinoffs today? And how many of those systems have their roots in commercial developments?

    Oh, there are a few - some of the new smart bombs and missiles are being built with off the shelf components from the commercial market, which has led to a dramatic drop in the price of smart ammunition for the air force in this past decade.

    But that's a drop in the red ink budgetary ocean, IMHO.
     
  4. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    BB, dont forget that a lot of the costs of a modern military aircraft is absorbed by the avionics package and the engines.
     
  5. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    War is good for business.

    If you look at the B-2 project and how few aircraft have been built then the USAF could lose the lot over its lifespan just in general attrition.

    But then again...the guy with the bow and arrow is going to lose against the guy with the Rifle every time so technology wins wars...The wars aganst Iraq prove it and so more cash is the way forward...more gizmos.
     
  6. Burmese Bandit

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    A point about technology: two competing technologies arose to replace the ancient matchlock musket. The wheelock was the technological marvel of its time and much superior to the matchlock...and about ten times as costly. The flintlock cost only about twice as much as the matchlock...and was roughly about two thirds as good as the wheelock. Result: the wheelock was used only by the rich aristocrats of the time as a high class hunting gun, while the flintlock was used for a century as the standard arm of the armies of the day.

    And, of course, there is the story of the Tiger Two versus the T-34 and the Sherman....
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Not necessarily. The british during the flklands weree generally outgunned and out-technologied, but they won because the Argentinians were basically poorly trained conscripts. The quality of the man is just as (if not moereso) important as technology. Moreover, the last war actually proved that technology (in the military sense) does not in itself win wars. You need the doctrine and the training to use that advantage. Case in point....the Russians got clobbered in the war even when armed with the T-34. Later they were still armed with the T-34, against German tanks far more capable than the early war stuff, but managed to defeat the germans nevertheless. One of the contributing reasons for that was the increasing profiency of the Russians at tank warfare.
     
  8. Burmese Bandit

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    Oh yes...!

    Napoleon: "The morale is as to the physical as three is to one".

    And, of course, there is the poetic description of USA's Gorgeous George on morale...
     
  9. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    The T-34 was a very good tank. It was quality which could also be quantity.

    The fact that the welding was nasty doesn't take away from the good points of the design.

    The Germans paid for thier quality by having fewer numbers and the Panther wasn't that reliable either!

    The Falklands was even tech wise...

    The English Longbow was a battle winning weapon...proof that technology can win battles.

    If the RAF had Gladiators rather than Spitfires during 1940 then that would have been my ass. See...tech is what the game is.
     
  10. Burmese Bandit

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    Ahem, to Basket, from the country where the longbow originated: may I suggest you read up on that excellent weapon. It was not technology that made the longbow so deadly - all the countries of the time could build longbows - it was SKILL. It took ten (I kid you not!) TEN years of training to produce the AVERAGE longbowman, and the real experts needed 12-15 years to be deadeye shots. No other country in Europe at the time had that reservoir of skilled longbowmen.

    And when youths in England began to tire of shooting longbows, and turned to a newfangled game called...GOLF...one of the edicts of the English (yup, then he was English, not British) King of the time was that golf be banned...

    Quick OT quiz: Which English King was he?
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It was the training that made the difference to the English longbow, although English bows were bigger and more powerful than most......but having a big bow is of no use if you cant draw the thing
     
  12. magnocain

    magnocain Member

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    One of the reasons that the west has quality instead of quantity is we have a high value on human life. The US has lost about 4000 soldiers in Iraq and we hear about the losses often. In WW2 the Russians losing that amount in a single day was not terribly uncommon. It all is the monetary value of a human life.
     
  13. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    You know, the one thing that is dangerous about a quantity versus quality question is the related and necessary question: how many good fighter pilots do you have?

    Trying to "fill the sky" with cheap fighters gets away from you when you start pressing half trained kids into service against seasoned pros. What you get is the Russian performance against German fighter pilots. The Yaks weren't at fault, Finns in Brewster Buffaloes shot down soviet pilots just as easy as Germans in 109s. The Russian fighter pilot training barely taight them to fly the plane and they were desperately overmatched.

    I think the answer to the argument is that you go as cheap as you need to to make sure every good fighter pilot has a plane, even if you are buying F-5 Tigers.
     
  14. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The flip side to the quality argument, is that potentially you can price yourself out of the battlefield. Using a WWII example again, the germans produced the best tanks IMO at the end of the war, with their Tigers and panthers, yet the unit costs of these pieces of hardware were such that you could puchase 4-6 Shermans for each Tiger/Panther. In the end, despite the marked battlefield superiority of the german types, it was a better procurement strategy to go the way the Americans went, and build a mass of cheap tanks to overwhelm the opposition with numbers.

    I can also think of exceptions to the rule regarding western concentration on quality. The F-5 has already been mentioned, but i would like to suggest my own personal favourite, the A-4. Developped in the 1950's it was always intended to be small and cheap. But cheap does not necessarily mean nasty, or vulnerable. Ed Heineman produced a classic, that continues to give great service even today for many countries. Its distinguished carrer includes service for the israelis and the Argentinans, and was never considered second rate by those that used them, despite their low cost.

    Sophistication should not necessarily be seen as a virtue. The object of all this technology isnt to save lives. Thats a fortunate byproduct. The object has to be the accomplishment of the mission. The simpler that is done the better. anything else, and the nation is just showing off...
     
  15. Burmese Bandit

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    A-4? ONE OF MY FAVOURITES!!!

    And other examples .... the MG 42...the C-130...the RPG-7...AK-47

    Yes, some of these weapons killed too many of the good guys. But that doesn't take anything away from their design strengths.
     
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