These 4 drifts that handicap the Western defense effort against China and Russia

As the competition between the West and the Sino-Russian bloc becomes increasingly fierce on the international scene, numerous simulations carried out in recent years show that despite Western defense spending 6 times greater than that of the China and Russia combined, the latter continue to increase their relative military power, to the point of probably overtaking their competitors in the coming decade. One can of course be tempted by trivial explanations, such as the very different labor costs between countries, or the much tighter control that these regimes impose on their respective populations. However, these explanations cannot explain, on their own, such discrepancies, nor the difficulties faced by Western democracies in playing on an equal footing with Moscow or Beijing. Indeed, beyond the purely external and structural causes linked to the nature of these competitors, it appears that the Western defense effort is now severely handicapped by 4 phenomena that have gradually appeared over the years, and which now heavily influence the the very effectiveness of this effort, to the point of neutralizing the budgetary advantage available to them. These 4 drifts represent, in fact, today, major and difficult obstacles to overcome in order to allow Western countries to put themselves on an equal footing with Beijing and Moscow in this emerging new geostrategic environment.

1- Defense Technologism

While it is undeniable that technology has played, and will continue to play, a determining role in conflicts, there is naturally a strong temptation to increase the technological part in military action as much as possible in order to hope for a substantial advantage. Beyond a certain point, however, this will transforms into conviction, even into a paradigm, to become a real technologist drift, in which faith in new technologies supersedes all other considerations. This certainty leads to a real conceptual obfuscation of the constraints linked to the implementation of these technologies adorned with all the virtues, whether in terms of costs and availability of equipment, or of direct vulnerabilities and induced by them. Over the past decades, many examples of this drift have been observed, whether it is of the 3 Zumwalt class cruisers of the US Navy supposed to revolutionize naval warfare, and whose main weapon system, the 155 mm Advanced Gun System is inoperative due to the pharaonic costs of each shot approaching $ XNUMX million, or the thirty or so Littoral Combat Ship whose operational capacities do not allow them to be deployed in a combat zone. In total, these two programs will have cost American taxpayers the equivalent of 45 frigates of the new Constellation class, which today are seriously lacking in the US Navy to contain the rise of the Chinese and Russian navies.

The USS Zumwalt and the LCS Independance, two examples of programs marked by excesses and excessive technological ambitions, to the point of having lost all contact with operational reality and design costs.

But the most representative example of this drift is undoubtedly the Joint Strike Fighter program which gave birth to the Lockheed Martin F35, a combat aircraft supposed to technologically surpass all existing combat aircraft, standardizing support for both land-based aircraft. , on aircraft carriers and on helicopter carriers, and whose advanced stealth was to produce a decisive advantage in combat. In the end, today, while the device has not yet reached full industrial production, nor its operational reference standard, it appears that the excessive technological choices that gave rise to it did not take into account certain constraints induced by its choices, such as in terms of maintenance or aeronautical performance; have, voluntarily or not, heavily underestimated the costs of implementing the device; and have seriously overestimated the effectiveness of the implemented passive stealth, while potential Russian and Chinese adversaries are now intensively deploying detection systems capable of countering it, even at great distance, such as low-level radars frequencies and passive radars.

In the end, far from representing a determining asset, the technologism which gave birth to these programs, but also to many others, will have severely eroded the investment and modernization capacities of the American armies, and by transitivity, of many Western armies, forcing the US Air Force to rethink its modernization plan, and to consider replacing its own F16s with a new less complex and above all less expensive device, instead of the F35A. It should also be noted, today, that this same unwavering faith that the US armies had in stealth only a few years ago, is found in the concept of cooperative engagement and communication, the Joint All Domain Cooperation, or JADC, again presented by the US Army as well as the US Air Force and the US Navy as the Alpha and Omega of military efficiency in the face of the Chinese rise to power in the Pacific . However, it seems a little quickly forgotten, in passing, that the Chinese Armies themselves are also implementing a comparable doctrine, and that its supposed effectiveness is only valid if one has the supremacy of the airwaves to maintain operational communications, domain in which precisely the Russians and Chinese are investing intensively.

2- The defense effort as a public policy


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