I came across a most excellent article today, it was about the worth of NATO and standardization. I won’t talk much about it, as you all can click on the link above and read it. It’s pretty good.
When I read it, I remembered a particular operation I was involved in once with a German panzergrenadier unit in Afghanistan.
I’ve had a lot of interactions with Germans over the years, and I speak a little Deutsch. But that operation was really my first chance to work closely with a German unit in combat. Frankly, it was a little jarring to ride to war with armored vehicles marked with the Iron Cross, to see soldiers armed with the MG42 (now known as the MG3) cocked and locked.
I shook my head at the irony, seventy years earlier we would have been at each other’s throats. Now I had a German liaison in my truck and I chatted away with him in German while I sat at my gun in the turret and smoked cheap Afghan cigarettes.
Times do change, and alliances are essential. Does NATO need updating for the 21st century? Absolutely. Right now many of the national militaries within the alliance have gone through tough times, they are underfunded and understrength. That includes the US, by the way.
One of the problems is the cost of procurement for new weapon systems. There is far too much fat and red tape involved in fielding new stuff. Look at the F-35 as a prime example. See my article below about the AT-6 for my two cents on that.
Yeah, I’m prejudiced towards ground forces, it’s true. But darn it, who has to put boots on the ground in bad places? There is little excuse for undermanning and over deploying infantry combat forces when the problem could be remedied at relatively moderate cost. It costs about 17k dollars to kit out a US infantry soldier, about 6 million to fully equip a light infantry brigade. More brigades, less time in the Box, the fresher and better trained the forces involved.
The lowest cost version of the F-35 is 148 million dollars, and the cost goes up from there. Mind, that is the bare price for one bird. It does not include training or maintenance expenses. And a US fighter squadron usually has about 21 aircraft assigned. Do the math.
In the west, we are shooting ourselves in the foot with sky-high procurement expenses. The Chinese and the Russians don’t spend nearly as much on their forces, and they are making vast improvements with their equipment modernization programs. The T-14 Armata looks like a formidable machine, to cite one example. And the Russians have 2,300 of them scheduled for delivery by 2020 at an average cost of 3.7 million dollars apiece. An 8.5 billion dollar total cost for a boatload of cutting edge tanks equals about two lousy squadrons of F-35s.
The entire German Army currently has 244 Leopard 2 tanks available.