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49 Responses to Question of the Day: Does the U.S. Have the World’s Best Fighting Force?

  1. Looks like the (aptly named) 29 Palms training facility. Army trains up north a ways at Ft. Irwin. Good times.

    • The IDF and almost every air force regularly trashes our pilots in exercises. For all the money we spend on new programs to cancel before they come to fruition, we spend far less than most forces on flight hours and training for pilots.

      Our Air Superiority is a matter of quantity over quality. That is true equipment wise as well now that the F22 and F35 are going to have very few units ordered.

      • The IDF may be more maneuverable, but they we could overwhelm then in mere minutes. If it’s the entirety to the US Armed Forces against the IDF we could simply overwhelm them. Our combined military personnel is about 1/3 of the entire population of the Armed forces. That is not including contractors, CIA or Reservists. Realistically we have a missile base located in-country in Israel that if used would be impossible for the IDF to defend against.

        • This is one of those could Ceasar’s legions defeat the Waffen SS kind of threads but I will wade in with an opinion.

          If Matt and Barak had their way and we tried to invade Israel they would kick our collective butts. They would be fighting for their lives while we would be fighting for God knows what. As Napoleon said “the moral is to the physical as 3 is to 1.”

      • The US Air Force and Navy has quantity as well as quality. Sure, there are a few better fighters out there, but you have to still account for the high degree of skill among US pilots, sophistication in avionics, and weapon systems.

        Its possible that fights between small numbers of aircraft could possibly result in favorable conclusions on the Israeli, British, Indian (at least when equipped with the SU35), and Russia, though this is very unlikely to ever happen.

        • We have not faced a peer adversary in the air since we fought the Luftwaffe. We would never be able to bring overwhelming numbers to the fight. The IAF would have all the advantages. It would be the summer of 1943 all over again. The IAF has equal and in certain key areas superior technology to the US in air-to-air combat capability.

        • we would never be able to bring overwhelming numbers? BS. We can deploy multiple carrier battle groups. The IDF has no such thing.

          The IAF wouldnt have superior technology because it is derived from our technology if not outright purchased by us. They have the F15 series, though our commonly used strike eagle variant is superior. Also the same is true with the F16s and F/A18 super hornets.

          Israel is unable to sustain a long-term war and they know it. The US is able to sustain this in addition to a expeditionary war. Dont forget their munitions, which deplete expediently in modern war, are supplied by us.

        • Dex:

          Where do you get that BS. The Israeli aerospace industry is a peer competitor in technological development to us. They just don’t get our stuff and take as it is. They modify it. Just ask the French how the Israelis turned a pretty good Mirage fighter into one of the best air-to-air combat platforms in the world. We have Strike Eagles, they Strike Eagles. We have F-16s, they have F-16s. They aren’t handicapped by having F/A-18s.
          They have better anti-radiation/SAM suppression capability (HARPY among others systems.) While we can mach their EW technology they have deployed theirs while ours sits on the drawing boards. Their dogfight missile, the Shafir, is superior to the AIM-9x. We both use the same AMRAAM medium range misisle and we don’t know how they have modified it. Get it?

          Those carriers? The Israelis have German Type 212 U-boats (air independent propulsion systems) armed with our torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missile. We threw that capability away in the 1990s. We also now suck at ASW. We don’t operate carriers in a contested undersea warfare environment. F-18s don’t have the range to standoff and deliver meaningful ordinance loads.

        • Simply BS. I respect and admire the IDF and IWI (Im a big fan of Israeli weapon systems and armored vehicles), though against a roughly equivalent power, they would be overwhelmed.

          Check the numbers of IDF aircraft then check our numbers before you get back to me.

          They have the same aerial capabilities as we do, minus our numbers and overwhelming support from our navy, which would sink theirs. That fact cannot be changed.

          You are relying on wishful thinking. Perhaps you are unaware of the capability of the A10 warthog (for ground attack) and F/A18 Super Hornet.

        • Dex:

          I used to be a Division Director at the Naval Air Systems Command and I dare say I know a bit more about the subject than you.

          You obviously know next to nothing about undersea warfare because our performance since the end of Cold War has declined to near zero. There is no way that we are going to stop a Type 212 from getting to the carrier. Just ask any crew member of the Kitty Hawk how well they did against the PLAN KILO. Oh yeah they didn’t know she was there until she lost depth control and broached.

          The A-10 is designed to operate under US air superiority. Until we achieve air superiority the A-10 is a non-player. The F-18 is an inferior an aircraft. It has no range and it is the least capable aircraft in air-to-air combat in the force. The joke was that the F-4U-4/5 could carry 5000lbs a greater distance than the F-18E/F. You have to be no more than 300nm from the target to effectively use an F-18 of any variant because of a lack of tanking assets.

          Here is a quote for you. “Amateurs talk tactics professional talk logistics.” While the US has an overwhelming number of aircraft our ability to base and support them within operation radius of Israel is actually very limited. Do you think that other nations are going shove their aircraft into the desert so we can base our aircraft there? How about the huge amount of fuel and ordinance to fight this kind of operation? Is there enough hardened fuel and ammunition storage to support the require OPTEMPO? Are you aware that the Israelis have a large sophisticated ballistic and cruise missile force? Their missile forces can lay down a barrage that only the PLA’s Second Artillery can exceed. We have become accustomed to beating up people who can’t fight worth a damn. When you fight a peer or near peer competitor you are in a different world.

        • “I used to be a Division Director at the Naval Air Systems Command and I dare say I know a bit more about the subject than you.”

          Oh…I guess thatll persuade me. Actually not really. As a former Infantry NCO, I guess I dont know anything about military matters…LOL

          “You obviously know next to nothing about undersea warfare because our performance since the end of Cold War has declined to near zero. There is no way that we are going to stop a Type 212 from getting to the carrier. Just ask any crew member of the Kitty Hawk how well they did against the PLAN KILO. Oh yeah they didn’t know she was there until she lost depth control and broached.”

          So we maintain a multi-billion dollar naval fleet, which travels all over the world with 11 aircraft carriers in service, just to have next to zero performance? I dont care what career position you are in, that is fucking laughable and if I wasn’t skeptical before, I am now.

          “The A-10 is designed to operate under US air superiority. Until we achieve air superiority the A-10 is a non-player.”

          Why wouldnt the US achieve air superiority? It would have most certainly been employed towards the fulda gap without 100% air superiority because it is a ground attack aircraft.

          “The F-18 is an inferior an aircraft. It has no range and it is the least capable aircraft in air-to-air combat in the force. The joke was that the F-4U-4/5 could carry 5000lbs a greater distance than the F-18E/F. You have to be no more than 300nm from the target to effectively use an F-18 of any variant because of a lack of tanking assets.”

          I dont buy that the F/A18 Super Hornet is “inferior”. It certainly has its limitations, like other aircraft, though it is not “inferior”. Tell me, which aircraft of its class and purpose is better?

          “Here is a quote for you. “Amateurs talk tactics professional talk logistics.””

          Which goes back to my original point. Israel doesn’t have the logistics to sustain a large scale war for very long. One of my very first points.

          “While the US has an overwhelming number of aircraft our ability to base and support them within operation radius of Israel is actually very limited. Do you think that other nations are going shove their aircraft into the desert so we can base our aircraft there? How about the huge amount of fuel and ordinance to fight this kind of operation? Is there enough hardened fuel and ammunition storage to support the require OPTEMPO? Are you aware that the Israelis have a large sophisticated ballistic and cruise missile force? Their missile forces can lay down a barrage that only the PLA’s Second Artillery can exceed. We have become accustomed to beating up people who can’t fight worth a damn. When you fight a peer or near peer competitor you are in a different world.”

          But that goes back to the limitations of the IDF. Our logistics problem aside, it doesn’t change the fact that they still cant maintain a major war for a long time (of course the IDF knows this already and has for quite a while).

          There is no doubt the IDF is a highly capable force, if not one of the most sophisticated in the world, though for it to go up against a world superpower military, which its dependent on for military aid and munitions, is essentially suicide for them. The IDF has its limitations as well: fighting drawn out conventional wars is one of those limitations. In contrast, that is the US military’s strength: long drawn out wars versus counter insurgency, which the IDF is the world renowned expert on.

    • The IDF really really really doesn’t like taking casualties. There’s a book about snipers (Osprey publishing?) that get’s into this. Lone Arabs with a kalatch pin IDF squads down by taking potshots. Factor in RPG-29s and well, you get the picture. Now add in American snipers, B2, and good ol’ fashioned Marine marksmanship. Al Quds would be renamed Jefferson in a heartbeat.

  2. in short its unanswerable our armed forces train for a specific type of warfare with a specific tactics set. we rely on mobile forces with armor and close air support integrated into the battle field. if we were fighting in south american rainforests with out the ability to use IFV’s or APC’s or our battle tanks we would be in a world of pain, conversely in the deserts of africa or the middle east or europe we would rule supreme.

  3. in conventional warfare,yes. an american unit can smother an enemy with all sorts of goodies. an 18 yo american soldier can get on the radio and call down the wrath of god on the hostiles. i won’t speak to unconventional warfare as i don’t have any experience there.

  4. 1. We’ve been the best for many years.
    2. No defeats, no close calls.
    3. Case in point: Battle of 73rd Easting.
    4. The Brits, French, IDF simply aren’t in the same league.
    5. As for the use that has been made of this superb tool -another issue altogether.
    V/R JWest

    • No defeats? I think Vietnam might be a bit of challenge to that record. If we were to fight China we would loose hands down no contest. We just couldn’t engage a force that large on their own ground. Similarly The US is capable of repelling almost any invasion force conceivable. It is all down to the details. The US military record is close to perfect, but if we were to invade a Country in our own league the results would be very different from the Successes of WWI, WWII and the Gulf Wars. You match the US against Russia, Israel, or China in a neutral territory similar to Vietnam and we might be in for a real challenge to our record.

      • Vietnam was lost politically, not militarily. Vietnam is the only war we lost but strangely enough it was one in which we never lost a battle. We did fight to a draw in Korea, which is probably the closest we have come to actually losing a war (to date).

        • Y’know I was alive just as Vietnam was winding down, so it was a topic of regular discussion in my youth. But it was only in the last few years that I learned the truth that we’d defeated the guerillas, stabilized the country, and pulled out when South Vietnam fell? That it was a conventional invasion from North Vietnam, with the US Congress refusing to allow us to give air support and no significant American ground forces in country to assist, which toppled South Vietnam?

          Weird how the lie seems stronger than the truth; like people want it that way for some reason.

      • I disagree. Vietnam was lost in Washington by politicians, not on the battlefield by soldiers. The US is strong enough to achieve complete victory over any opponent. However, doing so would take an effort comparable to that during WWII. Our unwillingness to make such an effort is why we now have a hard time against anyone tougher than Grenada or Panama.

      • Here again is someone that doesn’t know history! The military did NOT lose in Nam. That war was lost here in the states by the politicians and the bleeding heart liberals. The military NEVER lost a major engagement in Nam!

        If you read Giap, he will tell you that”… they…” were ready to call for a truce, when the govt. stopped bombing. Had the govt. kept bombing for another 24-48 hours, they would have sued for peace.

        Now repeat after me, “The govt. lost in VietNam, not the military…”

        • The military NEVER lost a major engagement in Nam!

          While the necessity for that war is subject to debate, your point is correct. The US did not lose a major engagement in Nam. That includes the famous Tet Offensive, which resulted in (i) the end of the VC as a fighting force, (ii) the dismissal of Gen. Giap, and (iii) Walter Cronkite telling America that the war was lost.

          The US lost every major engagement at home. That’s where the real enemy was. Not Vietnam. The enemy was right here. Pssst, here’s a little secret. It still is.

        • Paul, could you point me to a source for that? I’d be very interested in reading about that.

          As to the larger point, unless total genocide is achieved, as in the Third Punic War, ultimately all war is political. The winner is the one who is willing to keep paying the price longer than the other guy. That’s it. That’s the reason the phrase “won the battles but lost the war” exists. The were about 1,100,000 Vietnamese soldiers killed in the Vietnam war. The US had 58,269 KIA. That’s about 18 to 1. That’s a lot of pain to absorb.

          To put it in another perspective, 1.1 million was about 2.3% of Vietnam’s population of 48 million at the time. To pay a similar cost, the US would had have to be willing to lose almost 5 million people.

          Of course, if you want to talk about willingness to absorb pain and keep paying the price, then the Russians in WWII have to be way up there on the list. Almost 14% of the population died either in fighting or from various other causes during the war, but they eventually won out.

        • carlos, exactly right. In fact, the losses during the great patriotic war were so great that still today, the male to female ratio in russia is one of the lowest in the world.

          The Soviet Union’s suffering and sacrifice during that war are epic and legendary…the limited english vocabulary cannot adequately describe the conditions.

    • Early excursions into Canada, Failed attacks in Nicaragua, Failed support of the Tzar during the Russian Revolution, Korean War (military stalemate, economic victory), Vietnam, Iran, Iran again, Iran a third time even though we worked WITH the soviets to try and take em down via Iraq, and Somalia.

      Add that to the fact that since the 50s we have not gone against an enemy anywhere close to us technologically and it is kind of hard to gauge how good our military is.

  5. It depends. Like you could probably say Norway has better ski infantry than we do. Small things like that here and there that other militaries are more specialized in.

    • Unquestionally embarrassing, but ill bet there’s more to that story. If Chinese submarines can walk through US Navy ASW screens, why would they telegraph that capability? Makes one wonder….

      • To cause anxiety. Up until then the US thought they were unparallelled in undersea stealth. In reality the sub did not just surface next to the Kitty Hawk, but it surfaced the Chinese Navy into the 21st century.

        • Lets not overstate things. A Chinese diesel-electric surfaced about 5NM from the carrier group in blue water, when the group was not pinging. A pants-down moment? Yup. Game changing? Not so much.

    • Profound US arrogance and hubris explains afghanistan.

      It is also testament that a rag tag group of fighters equipped with IEDs and small arms can still stand up to a world power. This has not only happened once in history.

    • You mean like the starting portion of both Iraq wars? Russian invasion of Georgia? The multiple “border incidents” (especially Cargill) between India and Pakistan in the last decade and a half?

      Afghanistan’s a mess because no one knows what they want to do there, are unwilling to spend the effort to accomplish it, but are similarly unwilling to leave without doing so.

      When you stop preparing for a “conventional war”, you lose one.

  6. Who is better? IDF might be a candidate, but they fared poorly in their last large action in Lebanon against Hezballah. I’m sure they learned lessons and got better, but so do we. Always.

    The only thing that keeps it interesting is the politics. Fortunately or unfortunately, that is part and parcel to our system.

    When push comes to shove, we have a core of highly effective, motivated warriors that can work through temporary problems with gear, training, and politics. It has been this way for a very long time. Will it continue? That’s up to us. Think about that when politico of the moment calls for a return to the draft. What they want is to dumb down and demotivate our military.

  7. In regards to this question, I would break into it into two issues.

    In regards to the quality of warriors, tactical proficiency, and mean motherf*#ker quotient, we have a very healthy and strong force that can go toe to toe with most any force in the world. When dealing with unconventional warfare, we tend to hamstring our military capability to spare civilization casualties. But keep in mind that many countries have capable warriors that are not pushovers. I don’t believe there is a clear cut answer and we may not be the toughest or best. It would determine the circumstances of the conflict. Although if you look at our NCO leadership and system, where others can step up if you cut off the head, we are ahead of the game.

    When speaking of logistics and support structure, we are by far the best in the world. Many countries can keep a force fighting for days or weeks, maybe months in their own country. I believe we are the only military that can keep a military supplied and supported logistically for years on the other side of the world.

    • “In regards to the quality of warriors, tactical proficiency, and mean motherf*#ker quotient, we have a very healthy and strong force that can go toe to toe with most any force in the world.”

      Absolutely correct. I would like to point attention to Special Operations. If you go toe-to-toe with them, it makes for a bad fucking day. Thats not even counting our paramilitaries, such as CIA’s SAD, whose exploits are legendary.

      There is a lot of hubris in the US military and arrogance, though my experience as a 11B in the US Army revealed the badass mofos that have taken up arms in this country’s defense.

  8. Well America could easily level a smaller 1st or 2nd world power with ease. Fighting an equal with comparable tech? That remains to be seen. It hasn’t happened since 1951.

  9. as for the virtnam issue, i remember those days. american forces never lost a major battle. the war ended with a settlement signed in paris. yhe north violated the treaty and attacked the south. at that point leadership in america decided not to intervene further. it was the wrong war, but the soldier didn’t lose it.

    • In the Vietnam War, it wasn’t the communists in SE Asia that defeated us; it was the treasonous (sp?) communists in the USA and Britain that defeated us. If I ever find that I have a good shot at Jane Fonda, that traitor will die.

      • I agree. In my recollection (benefited by 30 plus years of hindsight ), it was the Marxist “homeboys” fueled (and probably planted) by the Communist Red Chinese, staging protest-after-protest all over the U.S. and the nightly U.S. TV news showing killed and wounded American Soldiers that turned the American Public against the War in Viet Nam. They made the American People sick of so much death and maiming and raised doubts about the reasons we were there and the eventual outcome of the War. They emphasized issues about our Troops’ conduct (like My Lai {still, sadly, an extreme tragedy}, widespread drug abuse. bad morale, Officer fragging…etcet) and got Richard Nixon elected on the “Peace with Honor” platform. It was a War born of McCarthy Era “Commie Takeover/Domino Effect” paranoia. In the end, they robbed our Troops of the “Welcome Home” they had earned and richly deserved for serving in that War.

  10. The soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are well equipped and have a sh!tload of everything to back them up. Man-for-man, there may be superior forces out there, but considering technology, manufacturing power and more nukes than the government can count, the US military is an impressive force.

  11. The U.S. armed forces are probably the most powerful military in the history of the world. But we currently have the cheesiest political class in the nation’s history. The politicians can do far more damage to our country than the military can guard against, whether foreign or domestic damage.

  12. Ill go into a few metrics here.

    First is which is better per soldier. Now obviously every military has some force made solely out of people on the very end of the bell curve, SEALS, SF, Grenadiers, Spetznaz, but those guys are outliers, so we will look at an average. Nations with warrior-citizen traditions, like the US, Swiss, and groups such as Cossacks and Gurkhas, would improve general soldier ability in a nation. So generally the one with the strongest/fiercest warrior tradition and largest population would win out in sheer average soldier potential. US is good there, China as well, India, and Israel.
    Secondly there is the matter of equipment. It is common practice to think that because we have the largest budget, we have the best stuff. This is not the case. The majority of our budget goes to research, and pushing the cutting edge is hard. Once we make some discovery it is significantly easier to copy it. Also I will point out that no nation is on the cutting edge of military technology, at least widely deployed military technology. Looking at china again, they have a much smaller budget than the US, but it is effectively much larger as they have less research to do to get them to the cutting edge. This brings me to the third, final, and most important section.
    3- Intelligence. The ability for a military to gather information and use it is quite possibly the cheapest, most important, and unknown factor in comparing militaries. Large and ethnically diverse nations have an easy time here, they can inset moles who look like the locals. While the other factors play an important role and carry a heavy cost, espionage and intelligence gathering has changed little. We are still all people, and carry the same vulnerabilities.

    In short, larger population, warrior cultures, military spending, it’s all moot because none of us know how good anyone’s intel is.

  13. In terms of monetary investment, other world forces are probably more effective for their cost. The US has the most flexible, advanced, and destructive fighting force to include its unconventional weapons. The US is also the most costly and self-destructive fighting force with about 50%+ of our annual deficit going to pay for our war making and intelligence operations. Ultimately, the decades long cost of our military will help bankrupt America.

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