Fleet week was back in town again. In addition to the Blue Angels and the air shows, several military vessels typically tie up or anchor out and usually a few of them have open tours. This time I went to visit the USS Bonhomme Richard which is like a small aircraft carrier. I rode my bike down to the Embarcadero, and passed quickly through the security line.
The ship is huge, and was stuffed with military gear. We first entered through a large 'warehouse' style door to the main holding area. There was arrayed quite a display of hardware. Armored vehicles, missile launchers, huge machine guns, and in the back was a full sized hovercraft(!). This was like some sort of GIJoe toy set I might have had as a kid.
Soldiers were on-hand to answer questions and it was pretty much fair game for anyone (kids especially) to climb over everything and get a try at a gun turret or whatever. I guess if an armored rocket launcher can't handle some 11 year olds, it's probably not fit to be sent to Afghanistan. But I thought it was pretty cool that they set all of this up.
Then I walked up what was essentially a highway on-ramp to the flight deck outside. As mentioned this is an aircraft carrier of sorts and here they had literally every marine helicopter I've ever heard of...and some harrier jump jets. It was ridiculous the amount of gear they had in side this Tur-Duck-En of a ship. Pilots were on hand and there were lines to tour in and out. They even have a V-22 Osprey tilt wing. I asked a couple questions and then had to move on to get back home. There is still a sizable 'cool' factor for me with this stuff, but I also couldn't help thinking about the side effects. The cost to build this ship and it's complement of weaponry must have been huge. Extrapolate that to America's defense budget and there is just such a large component of our economy that is spent on defense related industries. The crazy amount we spend on defense is unsustainable, so when that government subsidy ends, I wonder what that shock will do the economy, already quite fragile. Depressing.