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The Military Technology

India Turns Down American Fighter Jets, Buys From France 600

An anonymous reader writes "While America had offered the F-16, F-18 and now the stealth F-35 fighter, India picked for its new multi-role attack jet a low cost, older French plane. Why? For one, it's cheaper, and two, if American/Indian relations go bad, can they get the parts and equipment to keep the planes in the air? It seems prudence beat out the latest in technology."
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India Turns Down American Fighter Jets, Buys From France

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  • by the linux geek ( 799780 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @12:36AM (#38932139)
    They're working on it; they have an indigenous light-fighter project, and are co-developing PAK FA with the Russians.
  • by 427_ci_505 ( 1009677 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @12:38AM (#38932155)

    It's developing it's own light fighter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAL_Tejas [wikipedia.org]

    The Rafale looks like it'll be the strike fighter, while the Su-30 will be used for air superiority.

  • by Ambvai ( 1106941 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @12:42AM (#38932177)

    Reminds me of a line about WWII I came across years ago that ran something like: "The superior German tanks could outperform anything the Allies threw at them, 10:1. Unfortunately, they built 11 tanks for each German tank."

  • by dietdew7 ( 1171613 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @12:42AM (#38932181)
    Actually the French have long history of military success. One major cause of their rapid capitulation to Germany is that a significant minority of the French leadership supported Hitler and Nazism.
  • by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:04AM (#38932299)

    The American entries were never contenders, the F-35 is still in development, the F-15 and F-18 quite old and the F-22 is not offered for export, all have been out of consideration for over a year, this was always Dassault Rafale vs Eurofighter Typhoon. Personally, I have no idea why they didn't buy more Su-30s, as they already have 100 of them, meaning there is no shortage of parts and expertise and to my knowledge are just as capable as the Rafale.

    In the end, the Indian government liked the Typhoon best, but Rafale gave a far lower bid. This is probably because it's Rafale's first export order and will mean that Dassault can stay in business.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:14AM (#38932353) Journal

    The threat to india is men on foot or motorbikes with rifles and explosives in their backpacks.

    India has last fought a conventional, if brief and low-scale, war with Pakistan in 1999 [wikipedia.org], not exactly a long time ago. It specifically involved [wikipedia.org] air strikes, and several fighter planes have been lost.

  • Some Background (Score:5, Informative)

    by vivtho ( 834049 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:14AM (#38932355) Homepage
    Some background and corrections as I've been following this story since the tender first came out ...
    • The contest was based on over 600 parameters. Every aircraft had to 'pass' at least 590 parameters to make it to the second round.
    • While America had offered the F-16, F-18 and now the stealth F-35 fighter ...

      The F-35 was never offered for this contest .. it wouldn't even be eligible. Only aircraft that were already in production and could start deliveries by 2013 were allowed. The other American aircraft were eliminated in the first round ... The Indian Air Force liked the F/A-18's AESA radar so much that it was made a mandatory requirement for the other contestants too. However, in size the Hornet is just too big for the role the IAF was looking to fit it into. The F-16 never had a chance since Pakistan is a major operator of the type.

    • Only the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter made it to the second round, which is when the sealed tenders were opened. Dassault always had a slight edge over other competitors since it has a long history with the IAF. The Rafale's predecessor - the Mirage 2000 is one of the best-performing and highest-uptime aircraft with the IAF
    • ... a low cost, older French plane. Why? For one, it's cheaper ...

      Cost is not that significant a factor ... like I mentioned earlier, the tenders were unsealed only after the aircraft that didn't meet the performance parameters were eliminated. By law, the IAF has to choose the lowest-cost successful bidder. Both the Rafale and Eurofighter are more expensive than the Hornet or Falcon (and significantly more so than the Gripen). If the Hornet or Gripen had gotten to the second round, they'd probably be the winner of the contest.

    • ... if American/Indian relations go bad, can they get the parts and equipment to keep the planes in the air?

      That's one of the criteria where the American aircraft failed. India's defence policy requires multiple vendors from different countries of origin to minimise the control that can be exerted. (Which is why the IAF flies such a plethora of types). After the Indian nuclear tests in 1996, US sanctions meant that most Western-built designs in IAF service were affected due to a lack of spare parts (Sea King helicopters, F404 engines for the Tejas fighter etc.).

  • Re:Good move (Score:5, Informative)

    by GumphMaster ( 772693 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:15AM (#38932361)

    Australia "snagged" the Super Hornet to fill a gap left by the retirement of the F-111 fleet before the much over-hyped, over-priced and over-late F-35 is delivered (as 'early' as 2014).

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Informative)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:17AM (#38932373) Journal

    They do just that, actually. Their primary air superiority fighter is Su-30, and MiG-29 is the second most common fighter plane - and they have orders open for both. They also participate in the PAK FA project.

    However, they wanted a multi-role fighter. Soviet/Russian planes are awesome in the air, but not as versatile. IAF has actually been using French planes before for that role, they're just upgrading to the next gen one.

  • by vivtho ( 834049 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:21AM (#38932405) Homepage
    There are three in the pipeline

    HAL Tejas [wikipedia.org]

    Sukhoi/HAL FGFA [wikipedia.org]

    HAL AMCA [wikipedia.org]

    While the Tejas is close to entering service, it is a lightweight aircraft, designed to be cheap (~$25M) and keep the numbers. This contest was for a medium-sized aircraft bringing in more capability and to be able to support the Su-30MKI which are the IAF's primary fighters.

    The FGFA and AMCA are long-term projects which are not likely to enter service before the decade is out.

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:30AM (#38932473)
    Don't be silly, this comment was about the Russians who beat Hitler on the Eastern Front. America != Allies.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:36AM (#38932507) Journal

    I understand what the OP was about. But he claims that they are the (only) threat to India, which is evidently not true - it has borders with two not exactly friendly states, which it had already fought wars with. They certainly have a use for a conventional military, including an up-to-date air force.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:44AM (#38932557)

    Actually, the Russian T-34 was a nasty surprise to the Germans. The Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks the Germans used in the early part of the Russian campaign were woefully under-armoured and under-gunned for dealing with the T-34. However, the Germans actually knew how to use their tanks, and the Russians had handicapped the T-34 with a crappy gun. Eventually, the T-34 got it's better gun, but and the Germans built a long 75mm gun that finally had real armor penetration. And the they built the Panther and Tiger tanks.

    That said, the German tanks got their real reputations fighting Sherman tanks, and the Sherman was definitely inferior to most German tanks. That is one place where a 6:1 ratio was pretty much accurate.

    So essentially, the war started with the Russians having the better tank and then it flipped around. Unfortunately for the Germans, even though they ramped up production significantly after 1943, they still insisted on building over engineered vehicles that were so complex and touchy that they'd actually lose half of the tanks on the way to the front and could not be easily manufactured. That's what happened to the Panther on it's first outing on the Eastern Front.

    I'd say then, the best tank of the entire war, in terms of impact, was probably the T-34, and not the German ones, despite their individual capabilities and crew training being much higher than the Allied tanks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:50AM (#38932585)

    I love the myth of American Victories. Since WW2 only Panama?

  • by jkmartin ( 816458 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:21AM (#38932725)
    I don't think the Russians kept that close a count and the number includes T-34 variants like anti-tank guns and self propelled artillery. I do have something that says in 1943 a T-34/76 took 3,000 hours to build while the Panther took 55,000 hours. The Russians could build in a month what it took the Germans a year to do. And by 1943 the T-34 was a proven design with established doctrine. The Panther had major early problems and while it turned into the best medium tank given 1:1 odds, the odds were never 1:1.
  • by bug1 ( 96678 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:29AM (#38932769)

    'Someone in the india ministry of defense should google "french military victories'

    Top hit for me is below, it describes a string of victories (And some defeats) going back to 387 B.C. In particular Joan of Arc and Napoleon where involved in french victories.

    What is you point, other than documenting your typically ignorant American attitude, i bet you call still call them freedom fries at your house.

    http://www.militaryfactory.com/battles/french_military_victories.asp [militaryfactory.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:30AM (#38932777)

    And the T-34 and Stalin series of tanks were hardly junk.

    Reading autobiographies from the likes of Wehrmacht tanker Otto Carius they frequently point at tactical skill (training) as being their biggest advantage. Russian tank units were usually roughly trained and pushed to simply drive straight to their objectives regardless of casualties. Lack of bravery could result in a meeting with the NKVD.

  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:39AM (#38932807)
    The last war that India fought against China was 1965. India does have 2 border disputes w/ China, but those are disputes that both countries have on the backburner while they get along fine in other ways (although India drew the line on allowing Huawei to operate within the country). Pakistan otoh is still supposed to get F16s from the US, and if they were to, India would need to have a counter against them, particularly in the scenario that a Taliban like regime were to take over Islamabad. That, and the fact that Pakistan has its own nukes, is the other thing for India to worry about - they'd have to down Pak planes before they release nukes on Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or other cities.
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:42AM (#38932823) Homepage Journal

    "tanks were not an option"


    " In the Pacific Theater, the Sherman was used chiefly against Japanese infantry and fortifications; in its rare encounters with much lighter Japanese tanks with weaker armor and guns, the Sherman's superiority was overwhelming."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M4_Sherman [wikipedia.org]

    Tanks were most definitely an option in the Pacific theater. Granted, they had their drawbacks. But, if the Allies had decided to go ahead with the invasion of Japan, I'm quite certain that when the fleets were finally marshaled, they would have been carrying huge convoys of tanks. The US and allies had already figured out that 'combined forces' won more victories, more rapidly, and at reduced costs than any more conventional method of combat. And, armor is part of the 'combined forces' concept.

  • by Fulminata ( 999320 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:53AM (#38932867)
    I'm not sure where the original quote is from, but I've seen variations of it before in reference to the US Army in Europe. My information is from a variety of sources that I've read over the years, both books and articles. On the superiority of the Soviet T-34, I can point to Robert J. Kershaw's War Without Garlands, which includes a quote from a German officer that "our tanks were able to defeat tanks that were quite superior in firepower and armour" due to each tank having a radio and a crewman to operate it, allowing for more coordinated tactics. The main deficiency of the T-34 being a small crew and lack of a radio in most tanks.

    A similar quote that DOES refer to the Soviets is "quantity has a quality all its own."
  • by schnell ( 163007 ) <me AT schnell DOT net> on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:17AM (#38932947) Homepage

    Slashdot's usual BS political linkbait headline has nothing to do link the actual story. This is not about French vs. US aircraft, France vs. the US in general, or anything like that. If you read either of the linked TFAs, they say specifically that:

    • India had a multi-stage competition for their medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) program with many bidders to replace their previous fleet of Russian MiG-21s and French Mirage 2000s.
    • In April, they deselected a variety of applicants including the Swedish Saab, the Russian OAO United Aircraft, and the American Boeing and LockMart.
    • The final stage of the competition was between the French Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon (built in UK, Germany, Italy and Spain). Indian law requires the contract to go the lowest bidder, so the Rafale won.

    Both of TFAs talk about how this decision is a blow to the Eurofighter, not to the US - not anymore than it is to Sweden or Russia. It is just another poorly edited (or edited at all?) Slashdot anti-US linkbait, flamebait article.

    I swear I'm almost done with Slashdot except that it still has some informative comments on science stories, I need to just browse that section and ignore the rest since they just piss me off.

  • sloped armor (Score:4, Informative)

    by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:28AM (#38932995)
    The T-34's main advantage was the sloping angle of its forward armor. While only a couple inches thick, at the angle a shell would hit it, it would present itself as a thicker piece of steel to an object impacting it. Between that, and the sheer number of T-34's thrown at the Germans, they just overwhelmed them.
  • by medoc ( 90780 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:29AM (#38933001) Homepage

    The major reason for the rapid capitulation of French to Germany in 1940 is that we were crushed.

    There were between 50 000 and 100 000 French military killed during the 2 months of the German invasion in 1940 (+ the wounded of course). The French army was vastly oversmarted and overpowered but it did attempt to resist.

    Please read a bit of history and stop spreading nonsense. The vast majority of French people still deeply hated the German 20 years after the first world war.

  • by tuxicle ( 996538 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:41AM (#38933057)

    India's military relationship with the US has not always been very good. For example, when India supported the Bangladeshis during their Liberation War, Nixon's response was to send in a carrier battle group [wikipedia.org] to support Pakistan, despite evidence of genocide [wikipedia.org] by the West Pakistani army. Given India's closeness to the USSR, the US was always somewhat wary of military ties. Operation Smiling Buddha [wikipedia.org] and Operation Shakthi [wikipedia.org] didn't help very much either, but the US rather quickly learned that economic sanctions against India didn't really prove effective and withdrew them in a few years.

    The IAF also has a relatively long [wikipedia.org] history [wikipedia.org] of using fighter [wikipedia.org] aircraft [wikipedia.org] and helos [wikipedia.org] of French origin. The French are not shy about sharing technology either, such as the Master AP [thalesgroup.com] system that's integrated into India's Ballistic Missle Defence network, or SAGEM's numerous avionics subsystems that are part of the HAL Tejas [wikipedia.org].

    Bottom line, then, is that while I'm sure US support of Pakistan would have had some influence, many other factors (much of it historical) contributed to the final decision.

  • Re:Rafale F16 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:45AM (#38933075) Journal

    The US is willing to invest heavily in upgrading old avionics while keeping the source for all the software. Would you buy a piece of military hardware knowing that the aging paranoid warcrazy manufacturer may have retained the ability to disable all those planes with the flip of a switch?

    USA is not the only country in the world doing that - The French are more untrustworthy than Uncle Sam !

    Remember the Falklands War ?

    Argentina bought the Exocet missiles from the French but the French gave the British secrets to Exocet's code and homing radar ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exocet#cite_note-15 [wikipedia.org] ) resulting in the total defeat of Argentine's air force

  • by Vlaix ( 2567607 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:55AM (#38933107)
    Lafayette was made an honorary citizen of the US in... 2002. But he remained a Frenchman during his own lifetime, and played a role in 1789 and 1830 French revolutions.
  • Re:Rafale F16 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05, 2012 @04:54AM (#38933255)

    The generation of the fighter is irrelevant if it lights up brighter than a christmas tree on radar.

    You do know that the Rafale has a similar radar signature cross-section to the F16, right? (Dassault claims 0.1-0.2 m^2, while in reality both are more like 1-2 m^2, the Rafale somewhat smaller.)

    Neither can be called "stealth", but then again the Indians are working with the Russians on a new larger and stealthier fighter, the PAK-FA, a Raptor killer.

  • Re:sloped armor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @06:01AM (#38933467)

    You information is false. T-34 had multitude of innovations granting it advantages, and sloped armour was just one of them. Others included excellent main gun, significantly less flammable fuel, being very light for its capability while having wide tracks and very good suspension and finally significantly simplified construction process. There was also an issue of often remaining mobile even after losing its main turret, which meant loss of 2/3 of the crew, because of driver having his own front facing machine gun, allowing him to continue to provide cover and suppression fire against infantry.

    Essentially T-34 could outrun, outmaneuver and outgun any early WW2 Wermacht medium tank, outrun and outmaneuver most light tanks and still stand toe to toe with heavy tanks because of its armour and gun. It's this versatility that allowed for cheap mass production because instead of having to build light, medium and heavy tanks, USSR could focus on one medium tank that could perform well in light and heavy roles as well.

  • by notany ( 528696 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @06:09AM (#38933493) Journal
    Rand corporation did its now famous August 2008 Pacific Vision wargame between China and US. It was not simulation of fighter performance, but simulation of whole aerial warfare, including logistics etc. US performed poorly because there is clear logistical limitations. No matter how good the fighter is, it can bring only very limited amount of missiles to the battle. What makes things even harder fo US is the fact that potential conflict happens close to China and far from US. China has unique approach to airfields, it has over 40 military airfields where planes are stored inside mountains in extremely well fortified bunkers. US has in the region maybe 20 lightly fortified airfields (depends on how many allies bail out) plus carriers.

    Quoting Defense Industry Daily article The F-35’s Air-to-Air Capability Controversy [defenseindustrydaily.com]:

    The core problem in Pacific Vision 2008 was that even an invulnerable American fighter force ran out of missiles before it ran out of targets, at any number below 50% of missile firings resulting in kills. Whereupon the remaining Chinese fighters would destroy the American tankers and AWACS aircraft, guaranteeing that the USAF’s F-22As would run out of fuel and crash before they could return to Guam.

    To reiterate: RAND’s core conclusion is not about specific fighter performance. It is about the theoretical limits of better performance under adverse basing and logistics conditions. RAND’s Project Air Force argues, persuasively, that based on history and current trends, numbers still matter – and so does the “Lanchester square.” That’s the theory under which the combat performance of an outnumbered combatant must be the square of the outnumbering ratio (outnumbered 3:1 must be 9x better, etc.) just to stay even.

    Or, as the oft-repeated Cold War era saying goes, “quantity has a quality all its own.”

    Additional problem with F-35 is that it has limited missile carrying capacity, range, and stealth (stealth requirements were downgraded from very low observable, to low observable).

  • Re:Rafale F16 (Score:4, Informative)

    by phayes ( 202222 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @07:01AM (#38933683) Homepage

    Not disputing your point but the size of tech transfer part of this deal means that India should be capable of going it alone even if France decides to cut them off in the future.

  • by sa1lnr ( 669048 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @07:17AM (#38933739)

    Indeed, and for them World War 2 started in 1939.

  • by Marcika ( 1003625 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @07:49AM (#38933859)
    Even people who are not fans of US propaganda must admit that "those communists" were only successful in striking back against Germany due to the massive military aid from the US and Britain. Lend-Lease supplied Stalin with about 4,000 Sherman tanks, 15,000 artillery guns, 350,000 Studebaker trucks, 150,000 jeeps etc etc -- when almost all of the Soviet production base was occupied by Germans...
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @07:55AM (#38933881) Homepage Journal

    You can google for the story behind purple hearts. The United States was fully expecting to invade Japan, and they had already planned for a quarter million casualties. With the expectation that 250,000 American soldiers, sailors, and airmen would be killed or wounded, plans for the invasion proceeded. These "predictions" of casualty figures had been remarkably accurate all through the second world war. There is no reason to suspect that this estimate was any less accurate than any previous estimate.

    The US government had already purchased those purple heart medals, in preparation for the invasion. Those losses were deemed "acceptable".

    Tanks were an option, the casualties were an option - right up until the time that science provided a better option. Without those atomic bombs, plans for the invasion would have proceeded on schedule, and the war would have been concluded in another several months, with horrifying casualty figures on both sides.

    As for those bombs - there has already been discussion here on slashdot about the more conventional firebombings. I had been unaware that one single firebombing in Japan caused more deaths than either of the atomic bombs.

    Here, read the discussion for yourself: http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/01/08/0629238/north-korean-nuclear-facilities-from-30000-feet [slashdot.org]

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @10:28AM (#38934467)

    Quantity has a quality all it's own.

    Quantity has a quality all it's own.

    Up to a point. But the Battle of 73 Easting [wikipedia.org] is a good example of what can happen when superior technology is used against superior numbers

    Casualties and losses:

    American/British: 1 Bradley IFV is destroyed,1 killed, 12+ wounded

    Iraqi: 85 tanks, 40 armored personnel carriers, 30 wheeled vehicles, 600 killed or wounded to thousands killed

  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:52PM (#38935735) Journal

    From the very same Wikipedia article linked in the post above:

    The main U.S. unit in the battle was the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR), a 4,500 man reconnaissance and security element assigned to VII Corps.
    It consisted of three ground squadrons (1st, 2nd and 3rd), an aviation (attack helicopter) squadron (4th), and a support squadron.
    The 2ACR combat team numbered around 10,000 soldiers.
    Each ground squadron was made up of three cavalry troops, a tank company, a self-propelled howitzer battery, and a headquarters troop.
    Each troop comprised 120 soldiers, 12 M3 Bradley fighting vehicles and nine M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks.[1]
    The corps' main body consisted of the American 3rd Armored Division (3rd AD) and 1st Infantry Division (1st ID) and 1st Armored Division (1st AD), and the British 1st Armoured Division (1 AD).

    The primary battle was conducted by 2ACR's three squadrons of about 400 soldiers, along with the 1st Infantry Division's two leading brigades, who attacked and destroyed the Iraqi 18th Mechanized Brigade and 37th Armored Brigade) of the Tawakalna Division, each consisting of between 2,500 to 3,000 personnel.[1]
    During the battle, 2nd ACR destroyed 160 tanks, 180 personnel carriers, 12 artillery pieces and more than 80 wheeled vehicles, along with several anti-aircraft artillery systems.

    That's 189 armored vehicles, plus their support.
    Plus air support.

    Scout and attack helicopters of Fourth Squadron and 2-1 Aviation Battalion (AH 64 Apache) supported the fight as weather allowed.

    Plus a shitload of TOWs.

    After defeating that force, McMaster sent a scout platoon north to regain contact with Troop G. In doing that the scout platoon encountered another Iraqi tank position of thirteen T72s which they destroyed with TOW missiles.

    All of the above (and more) used at the same time whenever they encountered the enemy, during 24+ hours of the battle.
    So, all at the same time, but not all at once.

    Combat became so intense at times that only massed artillery and mortar fires, attack helicopters and Air Force close air support prevented the enemy from closing with G Troop.
    Artillery fire and air strikes played a large role in the battle, especially in the far north. Colonel Gary Bourneâ(TM)s 210th FA Brigade in direct support of 2nd ACR fired missions out to the 78 Easting. Close air support missions struck targets in greater depth preventing some Iraqi units from closing with G Troop or escaping the battle area. Attack helicopters flew in support of air scouts at key intervals during the day and the 2-1 Aviation Battalionâ(TM)s Apache helicopters, led by Lt Colonel Jon Ward, destroyed two batteries of enemy artillery and struck march units along the IPSA Pipeline Road at 4:30 p.m. just as the battle began in earnest.

    During Desert Storm Coalition troops numbered at 956600 - versus 650000 Iraqi troops.
    They didn't go there to test "what can happen when superior technology is used against superior numbers".
    That is not how you win wars.

    You win wars by being the side with BOTH superior technology and superior numbers, AND by bringing both down heavily on your enemy's head.
    That's why during the Desert Storm US troops numbered basically the same number of battle deaths and "slipped in the shower/fell from a chair" [archive.org] deaths.

  • by speederaser ( 473477 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @11:54PM (#38938857)

    Say what you will of Napoleon

    Ok, I will. Napoleon [wikipedia.org] wasn't French. He was born on Corsica [wikipedia.org] which is to France what Puerto Rico is to the US.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.