26 October 2007

David Frum and Facts Have Only a Passing Acquaintance

David Frum, the Canadian former Bush speech writer whose phrase Axis of Evil is probably responsible for a thousand or so American deaths had an essay on Marketplace, yesterday, and while I expect right wingers to lie, this is the first time in my not so young (I'm 45) life that literally every word out of his mouth was not the truth.

So, I'm sending them the following letter:
Subject: Re: No defense for Europe's protectionism

In listening to Mr. Frum's essay on defense procurement, the F-35, and the Eurofighter, I had a unique experience. This is the first time in my life in which I have heard a commentary where I know that literally every fact stated is incorrect. I am not suggesting that there is deliberate deception involved, but the only alternative is a complete ignorance of the subject involved.

Cases in point:
* The NATO allies will soon reach a crucial decision about their next-generation air-to-ground fighter plane. Two candidates have emerged as finalists: the US-UK-Dutch-Italian-Norwegian F-35, or an update of the Franco-German "Eurofighter."

While the F-35 is intended to a large degree, perhaps primarily, for air to ground operations, the Eurofighter Typhoon is primarily an air defense fighter, though an air-to-ground capability is being developed for the plane in later tranches.

The Eurofighter is not a Franco-German endeavor. The French are not involved at all, having built the Dassault Rafale. The partner nations are the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The F-35 is not a US-UK-Dutch-Italian-Norwegian project. Only the UK qualifies a very junior partner, and they have still not been given the information necessary to properly maintain the aircraft. The rest of the countries are simply customers.

* Just about everybody agrees that the F-35 is the better -- and probably cheaper -- plane.

When comparing the two aircraft, the Eurofighter is more agile, with a higher thrust to weight ratio and lower wing loading, and faster, it supercruises, and has a higher ceiling, much like the F-35's big brother, the F-22, though the F-35 is stealthy, and the Eurofighter is not.

Additionally, the Typhoon can accommodate the Meteor, the long-range missile being developed in Europe, which has superior kinematics to the US AMRAAM, while the F-35, with its internal weapons stowage cannot.

Furthermore, the current prices are nearly the same, but you are comparing a design that is in production (Typhooon) with one that is still in development (F-35), and whose price is still escalating, so it to predict anything beyond parity in cost is simply wrong.

* It's the plane that will be bought by the Israelis, who tend to be choosy about things bearing on national survival.

The Israelis will not be able to buy the Eurofighter, as political considerations of of the Typhoon's sale to Saudi Arabia preclude this. Additionally, it will be purchased with significant US military aid, which requires that US equipment be purchased with these funds.

Additionally, the cancellation of significant defense purchases of French aircraft and British tanks in the 1960s, the Israelis do not feel that they can rely on the Europeans as a reliable source of supply.

* The Eurofighter is built on four separate assembly lines in four Western European nations. This redundancy creates more jobs, but at very high cost. High cost, in turn, reduces the number of aircraft the European allies can afford to purchase.

This applies to final assembly lines only , and it is, in fact not very costly. The evidence is in examining the F-16 program, the least expensive, and most numerious, of the previous generation of Western combat aircraft, where it has been assembled in the US, Korea, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

I would note that given the facts to support his thesis are all wrong, his thesis itself is suspect.
As Atrios would put it, wanker of the day*.

*The "wanker" bit is not going in the letter.


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