Military Spending: Is Bigger Always Better?

Author: David Yee
Created: 07 August, 2015
Updated: 16 October, 2022
2 min read

With the United States launching a new $2 billion submarine and moving towards putting into place our new $100+ million per unit F-35 fighters, joint military exercises between India and the United Kingdom should give us a moment of pause--that the biggest, and most expensive isn't always the best.

In a series of war games held in England, code named Operation Indradhanush, Indian and British pilots went through a series of simulations of joint exercises and competitive dogfights with their respective military's fighter jets, the SU-30MKI and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The British fared far worse than their historical dogfighting reputation--losing 12-0 to the Indian fighter pilots.

Training may have played a large role, but the most interesting part is the price tag difference between the two fighters.

The SU-30MKI, used by India, is a Russian export fighter and comes with a price tag of about $56 million delivered. Whereas the Typhoon, which was used by the British, has the lofty unit cost (including production costs) of $192 million.

How is it that a fighter jet that costs almost 4 times less can outclass an expensive Western fighter that was specifically designed to tackle the SU-30 platform?

The answer is something that all of the world's high-tech militaries are finding out--the answer to high-tech is often low-tech, and sometimes just an overwhelming amount of it.

It's not like America doesn't have experience with low-tech strategy. We used fleets of plywood Pt-boats to attack the massive Japanese Navy while we built up our own fleet and we neutralized the German's impressive blitzkrieg by employing massive numbers of inferior tanks.

While the U.S. and Europe pay the lion's share of the world's military expenses, the rest of the world is seeking military parity on a budget.

For instance, the U.S. maintains a massive carrier fleet, which allows our navy to dominate the oceans of the world--yet China is seeking a simple, and relatively cheap neutralization weapon, the WU-14. It is a hyper-sonic missile designed to destroy targets without interception.

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On land, the Islamic State militia (IS) has maintained a successful low-tech strategy, even with high-tech air-power controlling the skies above them.

Politically in America, we need to get a grip on our military spending. It makes up almost 54 percent of our discretionary national budget--but do we really need the biggest and best?

Our troops are (and should be) outfitted with some of the finest weapons and equipment available, but the expensive hardware is where we should really take notice.

There's a place for high-tech, but it cannot be entangled into every military system we own--otherwise we become susceptible to every low-tech and cyber-attack thrown at our military.

We need to change paradigms. We need to have a military that is the best, but definitely not the most expensive (in terms of unit costs, etc) on the planet.

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