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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Military Insider: Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

By Andrew Drwiega, International Bureau Chief

While contemplating how to encompass several thoughts about recent events into one article, an old English wedding custom came to mind involving old, new, borrow and blue (I got married in December 2013 so some matrimonial themes have still not been swept from my consciousness).

Something Old: Continuity with the past. This month I visited Sikorsky in Stratford, Conn. and had the privilege of being showed into Igor Sikorsky’s office at the factory. I was told that apart from a few personal artifacts removed by the family, it is more or less the same as the final day that he left it for the last time in October 1972.

His office is not at the front of the building, but to the side where he could be close to his engineers. In the cut and thrust of the corporate world, although only a small room in comparison to the size of the overall size, Sikorsky should be commended for keeping his memory alive. Pioneers make the future, not accountants.

Something New: Optimism for the future. Having just been to the U.S. Army Aviation Association of America (Quad-A) conference in Nashville, Tenn., those Army aviators in attendance gave the impression of soldiers hunkering down to await the end of a particularly long artillery barrage on their position – and the barrage has just begun. They should remember at this time that the whole of the Army is under the same attack and while losses in terms of materiel and colleagues will be hard to bear after times of plenty, they are going forward with the most modern overall force any Army could hope to have. They have no equal and this is without bringing Joint Multi-Role (JMR) ambitions into the equation.

Something Borrowed: An old item to be returned. The luxury of healthy defense budgets is a thing of the past. Big budgets have got to be scaled back to balance the national economy. So what does that leave? Political leaders (not just the heads of state) have got to act with greater analysis before committing military resources to “solve” a world problem – which then turns out to be more complicated than they believed. They have to get smarter at diplomacy and do what the military have strived to do for so long – get inside the decision making circle of their advisory (politically).

Is it just me or has Russia’s President Putin outmaneuvered just about everyone over Ukraine? It has meant that NATO in general as well as the U.S. are constantly playing “catch-up” and are reacting to events, not foreseeing them.

Equally the Chinese seem to be making all the moves in the western Pacific and Southeast Asia. Territorial land grabs are occurring successfully without the use of the military. Intimidating through salami tactics: multiple actions across several areas.

When the western nations worry about cyber warfare, a Chinese submarine is planting flags on the ocean bed, or location oil rigs in disputed territorial waters. Talking of moving to an expeditionary force is an accounting solution; and seems to suggest that deployment is to be expected. It is time that politicians stepped up to the plate in the same way that they always praise their military for doing. They need to get ahead of the game.

Something Blue: Fidelity, perhaps loyalty. With so many soldiers returning from battle, some having deployed on numerous occasions, not only in Afghanistan, but in other conflict zones, the worst kind of loyalty now is to throw them on the scrap heap without a care for their future.

They do not have the cheapness of youth, but they have the value of experience and familiarity with how things can be improved. Talking to John Burke and David Haines of EADS North America, the pride in both that around 50 percent of employees working on the UH-72A were military veterans was obvious to see. Industry has supported the troops in war; it now needs to do the same in peace (or whatever post-Afghanistan will be).

Sorry – there is no sixpence. They went out of circulation in the UK in 1980!

Related: Airframe News

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