To lend some credence to what Shiny and saber 11 briefly touched upon here and here, I offer forth the following: Read all about it at Big Ticket Glory Now, F-22,UAV, and JSX stuff aside--for which there may or may not be an emerging need--there are some programs that are either completely dissed, overlooked, killed, or still in the pipeline: The US Army's RAH-66 Comanche. This was never a glory program, because it's not as cool and sexy as the F-22 (with which it has some interchangeable avionics technology); in fact, former Army Chief of Staff Gordon R. Sullivan tried to kill it. I was at Sikorsky for the RAH-66 prototype rollout, and it was probably one of the lamest things I've ever seen in my life. But the real deal is this: the Army desperately needs a new scout helicopter that can perform the armed reconnaissance mission. Right now, it's getting by with the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior (slammed by me elsewhere) which was an "interim" program that began with the Army Helicopter Improvement Program (AHIP) in the early 1980s. The OH-58D was short legs, limited payload, and is not ballistically tolerant; it's also incapable of performing its core mission, which is scout and escort for the AH-64A Apache; it just isn't fast enough to keep up, and it doesn't have the needed combat radius to support Apaches during deep attack missions. The RAH-66, however, is definitely fast enough, and carries twice the combat loadout in internal stores, which make it something the Apache is not: stealthy. Using low-observable technology and digital electronics/avionics, the Comanche can go forth a find targets for an Apache battalion...or service some of those targets itself. It is multirole, and can be outfitted with the Longbow millimeter wave radar system, which is also on the AH-64D (see below). Total acquisition price of the program, last I looked, was around $42 billion dollars. The aircraft is still in flight test, and should be ready for fielding in around 2005. The Comanche is also needed for the same duty with the AH-64D Apache Longbow. Right now, the Apache Longbow does its own scouting, for which it is an extremely crappy platform. As a former Apache driver, I can tell you one thing: you can't see shit from an Apache. You can see fine straight ahead, but you can't see out the sides; in order to accomodate a greater field of view, the pilot or copilot/gunner will have to relax his shoulder straps, lean forward out of the armored seat, and press his head against the canopy. You cannot safely fly the aircraft this way, and the helmet Apache pilots wear--which is the huge and uncomfortable Integrated Helmet and Display Sight System (IHADSS)--makes it pretty impossible to see more than the external stores wings. Suffice to say, visibility out the sides of the aircraft is poor, and anything aft of the external stores is nonexistent. And what pilot in his right mind wants to lean forward past the seat armor? I know I didn't. The Comache, however, has a much-improved helmet display system and, more importantly, bigger windows. The M2001 Crusader is another weapon system that has an on-again/off-again lifestyle. To be honest, US artillery is nothing what it used to be; the "King of Battle" as the redleggers like to call themselves has been pretty much eclipsed by other programs, means, and methods over the years. The last time arty saw anything worthwhile was in DESERT STORM, where it definitely made a lasting contribution. There are other potential engagements where a system like the Crusader could provide a value-added contrib, such as the apparently upcoming DESERT STORM PART II, and in Korea. But beyond that? I don't know. Artillery can deliver massive fires on target, and the M109A6 Paladin system looks, to this old rotorhead, like a slick-as-snot system. I'd call 'em for help, and with a 30km range, that's a lot of help. But the Crusader has a 40km range; the M109A6 can fire only 4 rounds per minute, while the Crusader can pump 'em out 10-12 rounds per minute. That's a lot more help. But it's not politically or militarily "sexy" enough. While our troops on the forward lines would love to have the support--Christ, I'd like the Starbucks on First and Main in Alhambra to have one--it doesn't look too good for the Crusader. The Land Warrior System. Oh my goodness, this system would make even me want to change my MOS to 11B for a day! Look at what this system does: composed of 5 integrated subsystems: Weapon Subsystem, Helmet Subsystem, Computer/Radio Subsystem (CRS), Software Subsystem, and Protective Clothing and Individual Equipment Subsystem. LW is intended for use by all five types of infantry: Ranger, Airborne, Air Assault, Light and Mechanized. LW will integrate the dismounted warfighter into the Army's digitized battlefield network. It is anticipated that all infantrymen at company level and below will be equipped with Land Warrior systems. LW, with its heads-up data display, will allow infantrymen to call up maps, send messages and request fire support, all by clicking a mouse. Video and thermal image capability connected to their M-4 carbines will allow them to "see" and shoot around corners. Hoo-ah! Now is that cool or what? You could kill Jedi Knights all day long with this stuff, not to mention the more traditional goblins like al Qaeda. I've heard of LW for about a decade; last I knew, it was still in the blueprinting stages at Natick, but now it looks like at least one variant is targeted for fielding in 2004. If the system works as advertised, then I hope the USMC gets it too; those guys traditionally lead the rest of US forces into battle, and anything they can get is a help. One big boner that still hasn't reached complete flaccidity is the V-22 Osprey. As a traditional rotorhead, I tend to view so-called "tiltrotor" technology with suspicion; that fact that the V-22 has an alarming tendency to crash and burn with some regularity does seem to indicate I might be more right than usual. This is a big ticket item--around $70 billion, last I checked--and it's eating up a huge chunk of the US Marine Corps acquisition pie. Even though the Corps is part of the Department of the Navy, it doesn't often get the luxury of choosing high-end weapon systems; but the Osprey is, at least to some people, not just sexy, but supa-sexy. It's "new" technology! How can you not want that in the arsenal of democracy? (And look, it's already been proven lethal!) Now, the USMC does need a new platform for troop insertion, and the aging CH-46 Sea Knight has served admirably, but it's time to replace this aging warrior with something more capable. But the question is: what? The CH-47 Chinook is too damned big, and it had its own share of growing pains; the rumor is that in Vietnam, it wasn't the B-52 strikes that left the biggest craters, it was all those pesky CH-47A/Bs crashing all over the place. The UH-60L Black Hawk is a wonderful aircraft, and highly suitable for vertical replenishment missions at sea, but as far as getting Marines to the beach with their equipment, it's kinda small. The V-22 promised higher speeds and survivability, but so far, all its proven is that it's a high-speed ride to death. The only suitable alternatives now would be the Sikorsky S-92 Helibus, which is anything but sexy and innovative, and the CH-53E Super Stallion, which is already in service. This aircraft are regularly derided as the "Super Shitter" due to its propensity to leak every fluid pouring into it; it's also an old warrior, and it's just as big as the CH-47, if not bigger. They also have a tendency to crash and splash with some regularity, but they're available here and now, and have proven to be at least supportable. I'd can the V-22 and use that $70 bil on another alternative. Over with the Navy, the DD(X) surface combatants look pretty cool. I have very little idea what utility these sea-going low-riders would actually provide, but if I had to pick a surface ship to, say, take out the Chinese Navy, this would be it. With most of its structure actually below the water line, it will have a reduced Radar Cross Section (RCS, for you civilians) and still be able to reach out and touch something over the horizon. And since first fielding is skedded for 2009, it about hits the numbers right. Lord, I could go on and on...but lets wrap it up here.