Friday, July 06, 2007

Deja Vu, Warthogs, and Unmanned Aircraft

Government executive has an AP story on how the services are fighting over control of unmanned aircraft, both in Iraq and in the future. Brings back memories of reading Charles Peters' Washington Monthly in the 1970's and 1980's, which reported similar fights among the services. In fact, the struggle goes back to the 1920's--should each service: Navy, Army, Marine, have its own aviation or should it be centralized? The politicians thought and thought for many years, and came up with the only rational answer: Both.

Then, as the Monthly reported, there was fighting over tactical air and strategic air--the Army thought the AF was slighting tactical air in favor of the glamor of air superiority and strategic bombing. One area of controversy was the A-10 Warthog; a hideous plane designed never to appear in a Hollywood movie on the AF (but appears in movies on the ground forces as a modern version of the cavalry). It's slow, multiengined, armored to protect the pilot and designed for survivability and close ground support. During its development the Air Force tried to kill it repeatedly, only to have the Army and its Congressional supporters save it. Since its deployment the AF has tried to kill it, again to save money in the budget for more glamorous stuff.

So the fight over unmanned aircraft isn't new. How many services will fly them? Five (CIA plus the four service branches).

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