David Axe’s piece on the Brazilian air force did the rounds a while ago. The obvious points: they do their stuff, and for cheap! Less obvious: there’s something disturbing about a state that regularly puts 8x Mk82 Snake-eyes into targets on its own territory as a police measure, even if the Super Tucanos are an economical platform that usually shacks the target and they have to deal with criminals who build their own airfields.
The implications in terms of the politics of state-building are discussed here, and you could be snarky and ask what the country behind this story is doing practising 1920s style air control.
But the point that struck me was that they chose to spend their money on the infrastructure of air power, building an airborne early warning, an intelligence-reconnaissance, and a maritime patrol type on the basis of the same aeroplane, one of their own Embraer regional jets. Now, when they’re looking at replacing the fleet of much-upgraded F-5s, they’ve selected the Saab Gripen NG, probably because sensor-fusion and communications are its specialist subject in the way the Eurofighter’s is so much power that the main thing to learn is:
managing the awesomeness
Compare the Royal Malaysian Air Force, which has managed to accumulate a fleet of F/A-18D Hornets, another fleet of Sukhoi-30MKI, but not to get enough radar to find a missing 777 an hour from their capital’s international hub airport. Some nations have air forces that choose useful; others, that make salesmen and a few fighter pilots happy.
This is relevant and depressing for the UK, as after all, between us and the Aussies, the RMAF is basically our doing, and more usefully, we decided we didn’t need our own maritime or overland ISTAR aircraft and the remaining one is theoretically only safe until next year. Another notch on the belt towards low-trust status? Think Defence has sensible thoughts on how to fix that bit.