Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Response to Yosarian's Question about Exaggerating Enemy Fighter Airplane Capabilities


Thanks for your comment.  Yes I can give you an example.  To push the F-14 and F-15 programs, the Pentagon hyped the Russian Mig-25 "Foxbat."  It was portrayed as a super plane, with superior speed, range, and capability to what we currently had; that is until a defecting Russian pilot in 1976 landed his Foxbat in Hakodate,  Japan, where upon inspection we found it to be very ordinary.  It was made of steel instead of titanium (which made it unwieldy), almost incapable of close-quarters combat, electronically far inferior to U.S. fighters, and had less top speed and range than the Pentagon had claimed. Such exaggeration was common in U.S. Cold War assessment of the Soviet threat.

Yossarian, huh?  Figures.


  1. The fact that Yosarian would ask questions about exaggerated threats means that he or she is rational and must be afraid of something, therefore we must continue to pay for more defense. We would be crazy to buy more fighters and sane if we didn't, but if we're sane, then we have to buy more fighters. "That's some budget, that U.S. Defense Budget. It's the best there is."

  2. Wes,

    You must be familiar with Catch-22 of the Air Force procurement code. If a soldier wants to get out of ground combat because he's afraid to fight without close air support, he has to be crazy. But if he asks to be exempted, he can't be crazy, therefore he has to fight. Thus, we don't need the A-10.

  3. I am reminded that we often read in our history books that any success the less competent Japanese Zero pilots had, at least in WWII's initial years, was due to the superiority of their plane. Now, to some extent this might have been the case, but after reading what you wrote below about our military's exaggerations concerning the MIG, I must wonder if the Zero superiority claim was also an exaggeration. In any case, another explanation for those Japanese air successes was that it turns out that Zero pilots had considerably longer and more complete training prior to engaging in air combat compared to American pilots. (After all, they had been engaged in China since the early 30s, and I would guess that they had some air combat in the two Sino-Japanese wars. I don't know if Mao did, but Chiang Kai-shek had airplanes, right?)

    Finally, not to oversimplify or to completely go off on a tangent , profit and race bias has too often trumped sound strategical and tactical thinking, military or otherwise.
    J. Dubbs


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