Sunday Interview: Eric L. Palmer

“Who is Eric L. Palmer?” That question was the subject of a recent F-16.net discussion, and for good reason. The former US Air Force photographer now working in Australia has become a prolific blogger on defense technology issues, and a leading blogosphere critic of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

TDL: Why did you start blogging about defens(c)e technology?



ELP: Many reasons I guess….

In part to fill in the blanks for anyone that cares to read. The mainstream news don’t know a lot about defense issues and get them wrong more times than not. Ditto with government officials–especially those that have never put on a uniform. Just as important though is to entertain. While some may look at blogs for information, many look at them for entertainment value. If a blog doesn’t in some way entertain you (in the broad sense), maybe it is time to change the channel. Especially important; my writings are my opinion. Everyone has an opinion. It is fun to cast one out on the water and see what you reel in.

TDL: If your answer to number 1 doesn’t already cover it, what are your thoughts about how defense technology is covered in the ‘mainstream’ and ‘trade’ press?

ELP: The mainstream press has to focus more on their core valuescovered in journalism school. Unfortunately, the ‘If it bleeds, itleads’ mentality of the local nightly TV news has invaded the morestalwart news services. At the business end, you can’t blame them. Bignews organizations that have been around for years are shutting theirdoors in part due to the ‘dead-tree-media’ syndrome. The big bosseshave to generate more advertising revenue. We are seeing the results ofthose that don’t. They die. This conflicts with the core values ofjournalism. This isn’t just a writing-about-defense issue thing butalmost any issue.

For the trade press one has to be a bit more sympathetic. They needspecific defense contractor (and in some cases government) advertisingdollars. It has become even more brutal since the end of the Cold Warwith industry mergers and a lot less advert dollars to follow. This iscontinuing as less defense spending happens. The trade press areoutstanding at writing about defense issues by getting more detail onspecific gadgets. Just like sports or automotive writers, they knowtheir topic. Again though, this has to be done within the limits of whois paying for advert space. One would be silly to think there istraditional objectivity on project x when you see a a huge advert forproject x on the same page or issue. It is rare to see some kind of”pure” writing on a defense issues. That goes for blogs too.

TDL: What impact or influence would you like your blog tohave? A corollary to this question is what impact do you think blogs ingeneral have in the discussion about defense technology?



ELP: If one is to be so bold as to think it has influence, allthat I could say would be that I hope it makes the viewer think. Nothow to think, but to look at alternatives to what is being stated bygovernment, industry and so-on about defense programs. Most people thatare paying for big defense programs with their hard earned tax dollarsare not getting the full story. I am not here to say I have the fullstory, but only to make someone consider additional thoughts on thetopic. Just as important though is someone should find the readingentertaining when it merits it.

As for defense blogs in general. They are important. Industry andgovernment can’t control them. That bothers them when their perfectlittle happy-face press release or PowerPoint slide based on groupthinknonsense, gets a cold dose of reality splattered on it.

TDL: If you were named US Secretary of Defense for one hour, how would you use your time?

ELP: Gee Stephen, only one hour? I’d enjoy that executive officefurniture and coffee and doughnuts provided to the DOD royalty. I wouldfind Admiral Rickover’s old BS stamp with the red ink. And then findsome particularly annoying high-profile Defense reports that arenothing but a joke and stamp them. Then I would call a press conferenceand present a very entertaining, yet informative monologue stating howthe tax payer is being had. Including the point that servicesecretaries have out-lived their usefulness–if they ever had any. Afterthat I would order lunch.

TDL: I know you’re an F-22-man. In a fourth-gen fighter dogfight(F-15, F-16, F/A-18E/F, Typhoon, Gripen, Rafale, SU-30/35, MiG-29),which plane are you flying?

ELP: But I’m really not an ‘F-22 man’. I just follow the moresane air power advocates from USAF past that have stated that the U.S.does not play a parity game. Gross overmatch equals less casualties andfaster mission success. I also believe in the USAF air expeditionaryforce (AEF). AEF is a solid way to plan for and task contingencies thatare in the safe. It is composed of a wide variety of USAF skills andnot just fighter aircraft.  I also believe that 10 AEFs need 10groupings of F-22 assets. AEF is a cycle. A numbered AEF goes throughmany phases; training, deployment, theater operations, deployment backhome, rest, and then it starts the cycle again. It has been proven forsome time now and it works. It is the best way to plug in assets forall kinds of contingencies from peace keeping to hard war.

For the F-22, we have it figured out now. And once it does its work,you don’t need a stealth asset. “Legacy” design aircraft can do therest of the work. Other things that are going to bleed the U.S. debtoreconomy are not figured out. Yes the F-35, a corvette with a destroyerprice tag known as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the Zumwalt class Civil War iron clad, and so on.

 

But back to the 4 gens. They are all good aircraft for what they areintended to do. I would have to have an existing-proven AESA radar andsomething that can engage on its own terms. That means no slugs. Thatmeans an F-15. Take the fast packs off of the big motor F-15SG or K andyou have an animal. Yet you can reconfigure it to be a very long rangebomb truck. If you aren’t using an aircraft carrier, it is about theonly relevant western 4th gen for the Pacific Rim when one has to crossa lot of water.

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13 Responses to Sunday Interview: Eric L. Palmer

  1. solomon 19 July, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Wow. I see that you’re now part of the APA mafia. Nice knowing ya.

  2. solomon 19 July, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    hmmm no comments allowed on this subject huh?

  3. Stephen Trimble 19 July, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    I maintain a fully open comment policy on this blog. There are sometimes lags between when a comment is submitted and when it appears on the blog. This happens because our anti-spam filters provided by our blogging service has some “issues,” to put it politely. It catches many legitimate comments and requires me to approve them. At night and on weekends, I am not always ‘at the ready’ to hit the approve button. I apologize if this causes any frustration or inconvenience.

  4. Johnny 19 July, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    “he’s a one man anti-F-35 lobby”

    His blog has some interesting defense news from time to time(inbetween the F-35 rants and Gates bashing)…which isn’t much.

  5. ELP 19 July, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    Sol, he told me he wanted to do an interview on you, but your agent said you were booked all the way to Christmas.

  6. W800I 20 July, 2009 at 3:09 am #

    Interesting interview Stephen.
    Solomon, play the ball and not the man!
    Solomon do you have a blog that interested persons can go to for your take on things??

  7. solomon 20 July, 2009 at 4:10 am #

    not anything that would interest anyone but an active duty or former Marine. wonder why Marines generally don’t blog and why if we do you’lll never see us at the top of lists???? its because we don’t usually take the time to rip our service to shreds or slam every move of the leadership. I THINK IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE CULTURE. EVERY MARINE IS A RIFLEMAN (INCLUDING THE GENERALS) SO EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS THE MOVE OUR SERVICE MAKES! these advocacy pages that promote agendas and then get upset when they’re called on it makes me sick. trust me, i’ve been skipping thru the sites but those days are coming to a rapid end. the complainers and whiners about how “Gates is an idiot”, and “this administration is trying to end our country as we know it” is childish. play the ball not the man???? look in the mirror when you say that.

  8. Johnny 20 July, 2009 at 5:08 am #

    the complainers and whiners about how “Gates is an idiot”, and “this administration is trying to end our country as we know it” is childish.
    ====================================================

    I couldn’t have said it better myself…but my comment was deemed inappropriate-I guess?

  9. Obamanite 20 July, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    ELP: “For the trade press one has to be a bit more sympathetic. They need specific defense contractor (and in some cases government) advertising dollars. It has become even more brutal since the end of the Cold War with industry mergers and a lot less advert dollars to follow. This is continuing as less defense spending happens. The trade press are outstanding at writing about defense issues by getting more detail on specific gadgets. Just like sports or automotive writers, they know their topic. Again though, this has to be done within the limits of who is paying for advert space. One would be silly to think there is traditional objectivity on project x when you see a a huge advert for project x on the same page or issue. It is rare to see some kind of “pure” writing on a defense issues. That goes for blogs too.”

    Stephen: “I maintain a fully open comment policy on this blog.”

    Stephen, last week I wrote a comment making much the same argument as ELP’s as quoted above and it never appeared. Figured you had decided not to approve it and I let sleeping dogs lie (it was, admittedly, pretty harsh). But then you state that you have “a fully open comment policy on this blog.” Did my comment somehow fall through the cracks?

  10. Stephen Trimble 20 July, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    Hi Obamanite, I’m sorry if something fell through the cracks. I looked up your list of comments. There was one left unpublished (accidentally) from last month, where you said “I love it! Couldn’t have said it better myself.” I assume this isn’t the one you’re referring to now. My system is showing that all of your other comments have been published. I don’t block critical comments about myself or my company, and I think the track record shows that pretty clearly.

  11. W800I 20 July, 2009 at 1:45 pm #

    Hi all,
    solomon thank you for the reply. My request re whether you blog elsewhere was a genuine request.

    I respect your service to your country but on these blogs you are part of a different community. Your voice and opinion has been in my view until recently a valued one. A voice that I would specifically look for and take the time to read and usually learn from. I’m sure others would agree.

    I made no mention of Mr Gates on my post?? On that point though he is a political appointee and thus could and should have his decisions debated. A man no doubt of impeccable honesty and loyalty to his country but a man whom should be debated, wouldn’t you agree??

    Not everyone on blogs is worthy of reading. That is the wonderful thing about them, you can either read them or not. Your choice. ELP and S Trimble are voice’s I value and read. I don’t always agree or disagree with them but that is how we whom don’t have the knowledge of experts or the first hand experience of those whom have served, learn.

    My comment re playing the ball was regarding your initial response to Mr Trimble’s article. I felt you were harsh.

    I look in the mirror every day sir and question my actions constantly, as every man and woman should!

  12. Royce 20 July, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    I read a bunch of aviation/defense blogs and enthusiast sites for information that I wouldn’t come across in the media. A lot of enthusiasts spend a lot of time reading deeply into programs that journalists simply don’t have time to cover in any depth. They are often founts of detail. Many participants on the boards often have personal experience in the programs they write about.

    The downside of blogs/boards is that many enthusiasts have tunnel vision on individual programs and can’t see the bigger picture. And they often cannot disagree with each other on policy or analysis without getting into verbal pissing matches or insult-fests. The tone is often snide. It can get old, but overall there’s a lot of good information.

  13. Obamanite 20 July, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    My question to ELP would be, why does he find assertions coming from the USAF and the AFA to be wholly believable in defense of the F-22, but reporting from WaPo to have been a “hack” job? Fact is, the WaPo article is not riddled with clear inaccuracies as are the critiques of the Raptor from characters such as Winslow Wheeler and Pierre Sprey, both of whom should know better, a lot better. I found the WaPo article at least somewhat credible, relatively straightforward in relaying criticisms of the Raptor FROM WITHIN THE PENTAGON ITSELF. At not point does the reporter in question editorialize with language such as, “The F-22, a cold-war relic…” In contrast, we have no reason to take the USAF and the AFA at their word, considering the nature of the dog they have in the fight.

    I quote now from a truly great journalist, one who was not afraid to speak truth to power back when such a thing was still done:

    “The Vietcong did not win by a knockout [in the Tet Offensive], but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. . . . We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. . . .

    “For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. . . . To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past”

    I quote again, “We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders… to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds.” This statement should be applied to any verbiage coming out of the USAF and its cohorts in the military industrial complex. As ELP, to his credit, states, unfortunately, we can’t expect trade publications such as Flight International to really go after a fatally flawed project such as the F-22. So what we’re left with is uninformed and uneducated, non-specialized reporters from the WaPo to do the real reporting about a topic they don’t know, as opposed to trade stenographers who do nothing but quote press releases and conferences without offering anything at all in the way of analysis or critical insight and who are unable to put their masters’ (advertisers) feet to the fire. Which is why we are saddled with the F-22 Albatross…

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