Quick answer–NO!! The United States military is outfitted with the most expensive weapons systems in the world. But the process of deciding what to build and deploy is not based on a well-defined national security strategy that recognizes how those systems would be used in a real war. The prime example of the folly of the U.S. Defense industry is the air craft carrier task forces that represents the chief means for the U.S. to project force overseas. Why do I say “folly”? Because the Russians and Chinese have produced and deployed hypersonic missiles that can penetrate the anti-missile systems that are supposed to protect the carriers. In the event of a shooting war with China over Taiwan, any U.S. carriers deployed within 500 miles of China would be sitting ducks.
Andrei Martyanov always does good work, but his latest podcast on this topic is exceptional and merits your attention:
Let me illustrate the profound point that Andrei makes in his video about the difference between the system the United States relies on to produce weapons and the system Russia uses. I will put it simply–the United States produces weapons that cater to a political and bureaucratic priorities while Russia produces weapons based on a strategic national defense plan. In the event of a war, weapon systems and their operators face the risk of being damaged or destroyed. That means they have to be repaired or new ones built. The same goes for the ammunition and shells used by those weapons. The result? The United States is spending billions on the equivalent of Lamborghinis while Russia is buying rugged Toyota 4 wheel drive pick ups. Building new “Lamborghinis” is time consuming and very costly. Building new “Toyota” trucks can be done cheaper and quicker.
If the United States loses an air craft carrier, building a replacement will take years and cost billions of dollars ($12.41 billion for the latest Ford class). The same principle applies to the most “modern” combat jet, the F-35:
With an estimated lifetime cost of $1.6 trillion, the F-35 Lightning II, conceived as a versatile, super stealthy next-generation fighter plane, is the most expensive weapon system ever built. When the program began way back in 1992, the F-35 was supposed to be an affordable one-size-fits-all solution for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. It took until this February for the Air Force to publicly admit that the F-16 replacement failed the affordability test.
Take a look at the following video. A Russian drone, the Zala Lancet, locates and destroys a U.S. M777 howitzer:
So what? The Lancet costs thousands to make while one M777 costs $3.738 million. Compare these two weapon systems below. If the Lancet costs $100,000 to produce, that means 38 Lancets can be built for the price of just one M777 howitzer. Each of those Lancets can destroy one M777. You do not need an accounting degree to realize that Russia can destroy a U.S. tank column for a fraction of the cost of building those tanks. Even in war, economics matter.
The Zala Lancet, also known as Lantset, is a kamikaze drone developed by Zala Aero to take out targets on land, in the air and/or in water following the requirements of the Russian Army. The new weapon system has a maximum range of 40 kilometers and can carry out a precision strike autonomously. Besides, the drone has been designed to provide real-time video and imagery to the control station. The air vehicle includes intelligence, navigation and communications modules. The Zala Lancet drone was announced in late June 2019 at the Russian Army Expo exhibition with the development trials already being completed. The Lancet attack drones were deployed successfully by the Russian Armed Forces in Syria targeting Idlib militants in November 2020.
I believe that the Lancet is priced in the thousands of dollars (I have not been able to find a specific price but it is described as “cost effective.” If you know the price let me know.)
The M777 cost is US$2.025 million per one unit (domestic cost, FY 2008) or $3.738 million per one unit (export cost, FY 2017).
The Russians also have an economic and tactical edge when it comes to the modern battle tank. Compare the newest Russian tank with the latest edition of the U.S. M1-Abrams. The Russian tank weighs 22 tons less than its U.S. counterpart. That makes it more maneuverable and more fuel efficient. It only requires a crew of three because it comes with an automatic loader for shells. The M1-Abrams is still doing it old school, i.e. one crew member has to load the gun.
Russia enjoys a decisive advantage in air defense systems and this has exposed the vulnerabilities of the HIMARS multiple rocket launch system and the HARM missiles. While Russia does not shoot all of them down, the Russian air defense system has stopped most of them. Remember when the HIMARS was touted as a game changer? It failed and now the United States and Ukraine face the challenge of trying to get more rockets and to replace the pricey launchers that have been destroyed by the Russians.
I end where I started. The United States is kidding itself if it thinks it can fight China and Russia. Yet instead of trying to de-escalate tensions, the United States is acting more belligerent and threatening towards Beijing and Moscow. President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, who had been to war, understood the danger of a nuclear war and found a diplomatic solution that kept the peace. President Joe Biden suffers from dementia and does not appear to understand that his bombast and threats are making the world more dangerous.