C-17 debate: Loren Thompson vs Loren Thompson

How many more C-17s does the US Air Force need?

Let’s ask Loren Thompson, a well-known and frequently quoted analyst with the Lexington Institute.

In March 2009, Thompson wrote an issue brief, titled, “The Military Needs Many More C-17 Airlifters“, a well-reasoned defense of Boeing’s case for adding more C-17s to the budget.

Today, Thompson swtiches sides, publishing a new brief, titled, “Gates Is Right: The Air Force Has Enough C-17s, Other Needs Are More Urgent“.

Which Loren Thompson is correct? Thompson09? Or Thompson10?

I’ll let them argue against each other, and let you decide.

“The C-17 will be the backbone of the airlift fleet for decades to come, and 205 isn’t nearly enough to cover the world,” Thompson09 says.

Nonsense, writes Thompson10.

“The simple truth is that it looks like the Air Force will soon have all the long-range airlift it needs,” Thompson10 argues.

Thompson09 and Thompson10 also disagree about the reliability of the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy, and whether an $11 billion upgrade program will address those shortfalls.

Thompson09 writes that the C-5 has “suffered from chronic readiness problems that will only be partly fixed by providing planes with new engines and electronics”.

According to Thompson10, however, Thompson09 is wrong.

“Tests of an upgraded C-5M configuration have demonstrated that the Galaxy can be greatly enhanced at a fraction of the cost of buying new C-17s,” Thompson10 writes.

Thompson10 also believes the role of the C-17 is shrinking with the demise of the Future Combat System and new plans to forward-base theater missile defenses.

But Thompson10 fails to consider a variety of non-traditional mission areas that are ideally suited for the C-17, Thompson09 argues.

“With ground forces growing and global roles proliferating, the list of emerging missions gets quite long, many of them requiring a plane that can land in remote, rugged locations,” Thompson09 writes.  


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21 Responses to C-17 debate: Loren Thompson vs Loren Thompson

  1. keesje 13 May, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Not sure about Thompson.

    Recently Boeing hired them to take on Airbus.

    Maybe it’s the crises.

  2. Dave 13 May, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    What happened? Did Boeing’s check bounce or something?

  3. Uwe 13 May, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    Mr Thomson is a political “cuture” manager.
    He expresses clothed as “analysis” the political
    interests and viewpoints of his clientel.

    He is neither independent nor objective.

  4. Jason K 13 May, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    I read his article and he explains why he has backtracked. It seems, in his opinion, there have been developments that make a case for the current number of C-17 orders.

  5. Stephen Trimble 13 May, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    That’s true. He’s free to change his mind, of course. But there do remain some fairly glaring, and unexplained, contradictions on specific points.

  6. Paul 13 May, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Just spent some time reading more of Dr. Thompson’s articles. He states that the F-35 will cost the same as a new f-16 and that the V-22 Osprey should be used as the next Marine One. Kind of hard to take him seriously.

  7. irtusk 13 May, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    perhaps the C-5M tests were positive enough to change his mind?

    If C-5M makes sense, that addresses all of Thompson09′s concerns.

    also since the first piece was written, more C-17s were ordered, i think it’s up to 223 now

    205 C-17s isn’t enough to cover the world, but 223 C-17s plus 50 C-5Ms is

  8. sferrin 13 May, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Consider that Loren Thompson 2009 wrote his article before the idiot at the helm started flinging money around like a drunken MC Hammer.

  9. Stephen Trimble 13 May, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Let the record show that today brought the first reference to MC Hammer on this blog.

    Your point is well-taken, but it doesn’t change the internal inconsistency within the statements.

  10. Obamanite 14 May, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    Thompson is a hack. If LM Corporate Communications were the Iraqi Information Ministry, he’d be Baghdad Bob. No difference between him and the former generals paid by the Pentagon to sell the Iraq War to the American public. That, and he’s even found a way to insert the immigration debate into his “analysis,” observing that there are a lot of “Mexicans” at the Pentagon working non-desk-job positions (landscapers and such). Guess he’s also trying to pick up the Tea Party as a client.

    The F-35 cost as much as the F-16??? That would have to be without the engine, without electronics, without the HMD, for nothing more than the shell and plumbing. Puh-leeze.

    Of course, he’s recently been quoted coming out against additional Superhornet buys by the Navy. Well, that’s a surprise. Coupled with this recent change of heart regarding the C-17, obviously Boeing is not willing to pay as much as LM for outsourcing propaganda. Not that Boeing’s much better. To think that out entire fighter aircraft industry has been reduced to those two. Christ, how depressing…

  11. RSF 14 May, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    As I refer to him, Dr. Feelgood speaks for whomever is paying him the largest amount of money at a given time.

    Actual technical analysis, or the truth has very little to do with his peculiar brand of snake oil.

    Your comparison of before and after statements, as in debating himself, is simply hilarious. Thank you, you made my day!

  12. Don Draper 14 May, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    The April issue of Harper’s Magazine exposes Loren Thompson and the Lexington Institute in an essay titled, “Mad Men: introducing the defense industry’s pay-to-play ad agency.”

    The piece accurately notes that the Lexington Institute is “an advertising agency on retainer for the defense industry.”

  13. Tim D-T 14 May, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Myself, I get nervous about depending too much on the availability of cargo 747s and 10,000-foot runways to move personnel and material into combat theaters. (or disaster zones, for that matter)

    Strategic airlift is one of the differentiators between the U.S. and the rest of the world, and I think we need more than 250-280 aircraft to maintain that capability.

    I’d rather give up a carrier battle group or a Trident and buy some more C-17s . . .

  14. keesje 17 May, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    Seems they were active in the 2002 tanker scandal too.


    Boeing hired them to take out the Airbus tanker months ago in the tanker battle.


  15. Atomic Walrus 17 May, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Seems to me that it’d be pretty easy for Lockheed Martin to make the F-35 cost the same as an F-16. Of course, everybody seems to assume that LockMart has to change the cost of the F-35….

  16. Esta Rodefer 26 May, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    All these years in the business and still goin’ strong! Long live 50 Cent!

  17. Phillip Pospisil 6 June, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Destiny’s Child’s ensuing record album likewise was met with big success, including singles like “Bug A Boo”, “Jumpin’ Jumpin’, and “Say My Name”. The single “Say My Name” obtained two Grammy awards in 2001. After that record album, Destiny’s Child created another album, “Survivor”, which included hits the likes of the title track and the single “Bootylicious”. The band determined to break up in the year 2005 but by then had established themselves to be one of the top selling female groups ever.

  18. Raelene Gouty 10 June, 2010 at 4:38 am #

    Nice post job! GA è anche la mia più grande guadagno. Tuttavia, non è un altro. grazie! molto utile post !

  19. Portland Plumber 19 July, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Thank you for a great post

  20. Portland Landscape Designer 23 July, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Wonderful to read!

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