The Pentagon is using Russian made rocket engines to launch satellites. What’s going on? I’ve never worried too much about buying stuff that was “Made in America.” These days, we’ve stopped making so many different things that we need imported goods just to function. However, when it comes to national security, there’s an inherent risk in using non-American equipment for intelligence and defense. At least, I think so. The geniuses at the Pentagon apparently don’t. That’s why the US Air Force uses Russian engines to launch the very military satellites that will keep an eye on Russian missile launches, among other things.
Don’t take my word for it. Tony Capaccio at Bloomberg wrote, “United Launch Alliance LLC, the Lockheed-Boeing joint venture, uses Russian engines on Atlas V rockets the Pentagon depends on to launch military satellites.… The Pentagon purchases launch services from United Launch Alliance, including the Atlas and Boeing Delta models that use different engines. Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed used the Russian-made RD-180 engine for years on its Atlas V rocket before joining Chicago-based Boeing in the alliance.”
As a lifelong civilian (although I do think I should get a medal for being a human shield during the last 30 years of the Cold War — all civilians were), I am quite prepared to defer to the military when it comes to the finer points of national defense. Despite my anti-authoritarian nature, I respect expertise. Even the great anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunin said, “Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.”
What I am not prepared to defer to anyone on is common sense. And it is common sense to have your military needs supplied by your own country. While it makes sense for every member of NATO to buy the same rifles, for example, we’re pretty sure that every member of NATO (even France, these days) is on our side.
While I am quite happy the Cold War is over, I have never been convinced that Russia and America were on the same team. I have argued for a couple of decades now that America should try to get Russia to join up — like LBJ said about FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent, pissing in.” Well, the Russians have yet to step inside the tent, and the rest of us need to watch for puddles.
I’m OK with the Canadians building the arm that went on NASA’s space shuttle, as that was different. First off, if you can’t get along with Canada, you’re a hopeless case. Second, it was just an arm for putting stuff in the cargo bay and taking it out again. Third, NASA is a civilian program, not military. Fourth, the shuttle was pointless anyway.
Launching American astronauts into orbit to visit the International Space Station using Russian rockets doesn’t bother me either. Again, our manned space program is civilian and largely pointless under current technology (we’ve done the moon thing, and Mars looks like a one-way trip). Besides, the International Space Station is as pointless as the shuttle (name one scientific or commercial discovery made there).
I have argued for a couple of decades now that America should try to get Russia to join up — like LBJ said about FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent, pissing in.”
However, Russian rocket engines don’t belong on the launch pad of Pentagon satellites. End of discussion. Why does the Air Force use them? It would take America five years and a billion dollars to develop its own rocket engine according to the Pentagon. I seem to recall Saturn V rockets made in America putting Neil and Buzz on the moon back in 1969. Of course, we can’t use those because, well, actually we don’t have the plans for them anymore.
However, five years and a billion bucks to develop a new rocket engine? I doubt it. Isn’t Air Force intelligence capable of stealing Russia’s blueprints? That should knock a little time and money out of the equation.
Mercifully, it seems that even the Pentagon is not quite as cock-sure of its reliance on Russian rocket engines now that Crimea is part of Russia and not Ukraine. The Bloomberg story also states that “Maureen Schumann, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an email statement: ‘In light of the current situation, we have directed the Air Force perform an additional review to ensure we completely understand the implications, including supply interruptions, of using foreign components’.”
Let me help on this one. The implications are that America’s military satellites can only reach orbit if the Russians will let them. Ask the people in Kiev if that’s a wise idea.