This subject has been touched on before, many times, but with recent news about heat problems and onboard fires involving the massively delayed and over-budget F-35, and the news that DoD is now contracting Hollywood special effects artists to attempt to design the 400-lb TALOS “Iron Man” Suit, it bears repeating.
The common belief in the last few decades has been that US technological superiority has been the deciding factor in American battlefield success. The poster child for this success has long been Operation Desert Storm, where the concept of “push-button war” seems to have firmly taken hold of the political leadership’s imagination (though the idea is older than that; look up Victory Through Air Power).
Yet where are the successful victories that can be attributed to this overwhelming technological superiority? Desert Storm was a win due to the specific circumstances, and the very specific goals, of the operation. Just over two years later the folly of relying one hundred percent on our expensive equipment was graphically illustrated when a handful of Habr Gedir militiamen with weapons costing less than $1000 down two multi-million-dollar aircraft, and in so doing, precipitated the withdrawal of US forces from Somalia. The pattern of conflict since, as asymmetric and proxy warfare continues to dominate the sphere of armed conflict throughout the world, at least the sphere that the United States is actively involved in, has consistently followed the Somali model, not the Desert Storm model.
You wouldn’t know this from the actions of the US military, however. The F-35’s price tag is presently sitting at about $1.5 trillion dollars, has been in development for over a decade, and still cannot perform to its mandated standards. USSOCOM has already spent $10 million on a video game concept that will make any infantryman wearing it cut off from first-hand sensory input of the battlefield, not to mention too bulky and heavy to move in certain environments and quarters (not to mention the power requirements). Meanwhile, the US Army’s Operating Forces allotment (which is where training budgets come from) has gone down by $30 billion. A great deal of that seems to be increasingly tied up in the ever-growing piles of red tape that are now necessary to plow through to get any training done. A figure I’ve been given by those still involved in training in the Marine Corps is 3 months prep for 2 weeks of training.