Older is Better


U.S. Army aviators in Iraq and Afghanistan have begun removing the Longbow radars from their AH-64D Apache helicopters. Which is funny, since the radar is pretty much the point of the $10-billion Longbow upgrade. apache.jpgThe radar weighs 1,500 pounds and makes the Apache sluggish in hot and high-altitude environments -- really the only places the Army fights anymore. Aviators are cool with flying without their radars since the things were designed for taking out Soviet tanks. "It was designed for a different fight than we're finding ourselves in now," Lt. Col. Mark Patterson told Defense News. He added that the A-model Apache (dating from 1983) is better suited to today's fights.This is old news. In Balad, Iraq, in February, Sgt. Erik Morrow told me that the M-1A1 Abrams tank was better for Iraq than the newer M-1A2 since the A1 tank is more reliable and starts up quicker. Earlier, the Marine Corps aviators of All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332, deployed to Al Asad in western Iraq, had told me their old $40-million F/A-18D Hornets equipped with sensor pods are better-suited to counter-insurgency combat than $130-million F-22A Raptors, which don't even have hardpoints for pods. See my Flickr for pics.The major impetus for the constant development of new and more high-tech weapons was the arms race with the Soviet Union and the need to counter massed tank armies with much smaller forces. Those things no longer apply, and now critics across the services are calling for a different way of doing things -- namely, sticking with weapons that work, even if they're old. In some cases, the Defense Department has listened, which is why we're seeing M-14 rifles and Light Antitank Weapons pulled out of storage for troops in Iraq.But old stuff doesn't keep the defense industry flush with cash. And Pierre Sprey, one of the designers of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and an F-22 critic, told me that's the point of most new weapons. More on that later.--David AxeP.S. -- The excellent Daniel Robert Epstein interviewed me for Suicidegirls.com. Check it out.UPDATE 06/27/06 8:44 AM: Eric Umansky looked at the Apache's woes all the way back in '99.

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