L. M. Lloyd (ubik@austin.rr.com)
Wed, 19 Jul 2000 21:49:53 -0500


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I think that your analysis of military development is a bit skewed by
its reliance on a naval analogy. Naval vessels are far and away the
largest, most expensive and time consuming single vehicles
constructed by any military force, and as such their development
usually takes a very different path than things like aerospace,
cavalry and infantry weapon development. For example you will notice
in Gundam the rate of ship development does not move at anything near
the rate of MS development.

It seems to me that MS development is most analogous to aerospace
development. By that I mean that you can certainly get some minor
improvements by increasing the power plant, or upgrading the weapons
systems, but any major performance improvements pretty much
necessitate a new frame.

Using the aerospace analogy, it seems to me that there are very few
nations, east or west, that employ an evolutionary model. Sure,
pretty much every nation has one or two airframes that have proved so
versatile that the will keep it in service for 20 years or more in
some role with occasional performance improvements. But as a rule,
most airforces the world over seek revolutionary solutions for
mission critical tactical solutions, provided the nation in question
can afford to research such a solution. The reason for this is that
any major increase in the maneuverability of an aircraft, almost
always requires that you redesign the airframe (and usually flight
control system as well), and once you are redesigning the airframe,
you might as well undertake a redesign of all the other systems as
well. This seems to me to be pretty much how MS would work as well.
To get faster reaction times out of a mech, you would usually have to
redesign the entire joint structure. By the same token, getting a
more maneuverable MS would require a new configuration of thrusters,
verniers, reactors and a new control system. Once you have changed
all of that, it seems kind of silly to spend the extra engineering on
figuring out how to shoehorn all this into an existing unit.

All this said, the mobile frame was an attempt to allow evolutionary
development of MS, unfortunately then the introduction of the
variable frame pretty much shot that to hell.

I am not saying that revolutionary development is innately superior
to evolutionary development, what I am saying, is that in some cases
(such as aerospace) evolutionary development is not particularly
feasible. For example, if any nation ever fields a capable, field
serviceable, air superiority helicopter, it is highly unlikely that
refitting existing helicopters or airplanes will provide a credible
solution for other nations. By the same token, America's current mini
remote tank development program, is likely to necessitate
revolutionary solutions by the other military powers, as their
introduction, will most likely undermine the basic survivability and
deployment tenets of all modern tanks.

- ----- Original Message -----
From: Blackeagle <cdupchurch@hotmail.com>
To: <gundam@aeug.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2000 11:35 AM
Subject: Re: [gundam] Questions for Mark Simmons (and everyone else)

> I think the last statement there would be more accurate if you
> replaced "first world military" with "western military." China and
> the Soviet Union/Russia have long pursued evolutionary rather than
> revolutionary patterns for the development of their military
> hardware. Even the U.S. has at times forsaken revolutionary model
> for evolutionary development (look at tank development from the
> end of WWII up through the M60 or pre WWII heavy cruiser
> development).
>
> Actually, I was specifically referring to Japanese military
> technology. A lot of Japan's military hardware are U.S. designs
> built under liscense (Like the F-15). However, there are several
> areas in which they are more or less self sufficent, like naval
> construction. If you look naval procurment, it's easy to see
> their development proceeds using an evolutionary pattern.
>
> For instnace, in the past 17 years, 3 different classes of
> submarine have entered service (at 7-8 year intervals). Each of
> these classes is a moderate improvement over what preceeded it,
> but non could be called a great leap forward. Compare that with
> the U.S. Navy; in 1997 the USN comissioned its first new class of
> submarine in 21 years.
>
> In the past 20 years, the Japanese MSDF comissioned 3 different
> types of anti-submarine warfare destroyers, with another class set
> to enter service in 2002 (6-8 year intervals). Again, each class
> is a moderate improvement on the one before it. In the past 25
> years, the MSDF comissioned 3 different classes of anti-aircraft
> destroyers (7-10 year intervals). While the newest of these, the
> Kongo class, is a revolutionary rather than an evolutionary
> design, it's basically a liscensed copy of the American Arliegh
> Burke design, not a native Japanese development. Compare this
> rather frantic pace of development to the U.S. Navy which has
> comissioned only three new classes of surface combatants in the
> last 25 years (the Spruance, Ticongeroga and Burke classes).
>
> Finally, I would dispute your statement claiming that revolutionary
> development is unambigiously the best way to produce military
> hardware. While revolutionary hardware is definitely on the
> cutting edge when it comes out, it takes quite a while for you to
> gear up for your next revolution. During this time, your
> revolutionary hardware is growing quite long in the tooth. The
> big advantage you had when your stuff was new has been cut down or
> evaporated.
>
> An example of this can be seen in cold war submarine development.
> The Los Angelas class was far better than any Soviet boats when
> they entered service back in the '70s. However, fifteen years
> later, the Soviets had gone through five different attack sub
> classes and their latest, the Akula class, could match the latest
> Los Angelas class boats. It was projected that the subs the
> Soviets would be building in the mid '90s would actually be better
> than the Los Angelas class. This is what lead to the design of the
> incredibly capable (but incredibly expensive) Seawolf class.
>
> Most nations try to mitigate the effects of aging revolutionary
> technology by progressively upgradiding their hardware, either by
> incorporating improvements to later models on the assembly line
> (most aircraft, the Los Angelas class attack subs, the M-1 Abrams)
> or by upgrading systems that are in service (Aegis ships). While
> this can mitigate the effect of aging technology, it cannot
> completely offset it.
>
> Compounding the problem of aging technology is the factor of
> technological risk. Whenever you try to produce a new and
> revolutionary technology, there is the risk that you will fail.
> If you do, your aging hardware must remain in service even longer
> while you go back to the drawing board.
>
> A good example of this is the MBT-70 project. MBT-70 was an
> attempt to develop a replacement for the M-60 main battle tank.
> It was an unmitigated disaster. The project had so many problems
> that the Army eventually junked the whole thing and went back to
> the drawing board (eventually producing the M-1 Abrams). However,
> while the M-1 was under development, the M-60 had to remain in
> service for another decade, and found itself increasingly
> outmatched by the latest Soviet tanks. The M-1 eventually remidied
> this, but if war had come in the '70s or early '80s, the U.S. Army
> would have been in deep shit.
>
> On the other hand, an evolutionary development strategy tends to
> dramatically reduce technological risk, since changes between
> generations take place on a far smaller scale. Since generations
> of new technology come along much more often using an evolutionary
> plan, you don't have to worry as much about your entire military
> being dependent on aging technology. While evolution doesn't have
> the potential upside that new and revolutionary technology does,
> it doesn't have the drawbacks either.
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