Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost? - We Are The Mighty
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Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Editor’s note: With news of the Air Force potentially awarding the contract for the next-generation bomber and Congressional Republicans reaching an agreement with the White House on the defense budget, WATM presents a short primer by our friend Winslow Wheeler on how the Pentagon tends to complicate how much things actually cost.


Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

On Wednesday March 25, 2009, an F-22 crashed near Edwards Air Force Base in California. Sadly, the pilot was killed. The news articles surrounding this event contained some strange assertions about the cost of the crashed airplane. Based on the price asserted in the Air Force’s “fact” sheet on the F-22 that was linked to a Pentagon news release on the crash, the press articles on the crash cited the cost per aircraft at $143 million.

It was incomplete, to put it charitably, but the media passed it on nevertheless. The extant “Selected Acquisition Report” (SAR) from the Defense Department is the definitive DOD data available to the public on the costs for the F-22. The SAR showed a “Current Estimate” for the F-22 program in “Then-Year” dollars of $64.540 billion. That $64.5 billion was for 184 aircraft.

Do the arithmetic: $64.540/184 = $350.1. Total program unit price for one F-22 calculates to $350 million per copy. So, where does the $143 million unit cost come from? Many will recognize that as the “flyaway” cost: the amount we pay today, just for the ongoing production costs of an F-22. (Note, however, the “flyaway” cost does not include the pilot, fuel and other consumables needed to fly the aircraft away.)

The SAR cost includes not just procurement costs, but research and development (RD) and some military construction, as well. At about the same time as the crash, a massive lobbying effort had started to buy more F-22s, to reverse Secretary of Defense Robert Gates impending announcement (in April 2009) that he wanted no more. F-22 advocates were asserting the aircraft could be had for this bargain $143 million unit price. That was, they argued, the “cost to go” for buying new models, which would not include the RD and other initially high production costs already sunk into the program.

Congressional appropriations bills and their accompanying reports are not user-friendly documents, but having plowed through them for decades, I know many of the places and methods that Appropriations Committee staff like to use to hide and obscure what Congress and the Pentagon are actually spending. Let’s check through the 2009 congressional appropriations for the F-22. Most – but not all – of the required information is contained in HR 2638, which contained the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2009.

In the “Joint Explanatory Statement” accompanying the bill, the House and Senate appropriators specified that $2.907 billion was to be appropriated for 20 F-22s in 2009. The math comes to just about what the Air Force said, $145 million per copy. So, what’s the problem?

Flipping down to the section on “modification of aircraft” we find another $327 million for the F-22 program. Switching over to the Research and Development section, we find another $607 million for the F-22 under the title “Operational System Development.” Some will know it is typical for DOD to provide “advance procurement” money in previous appropriations bills to support the subsequent year’s purchase.

In the case of the 2009 buy of 20 F-22’s, the previous 2008 appropriations act provided “advance procurement” for “long lead” F-22 items to enable the 2009 buy. The amount was $427 million.  Here’s the math: $2.907 + $.327 + $.607 + $.427 = $4.268 billion for 20 aircraft. That’s $213 million each.

Do not think these data represent an exceptional year. If you check any of the annual buys of F-22s, you will find the same pattern: in addition to the annual “procurement” amount, there is additional “modification,” RD” and advance procurement.

A few weeks later, F-22 advocate Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R–Ga., attempted to amend the 2010 DOD “authorization” bill coming out of the Senate Armed Services Committee to buy seven more F-22s for $1.75 billion, or $250 million each. The Chambliss effort, almost certainly worked out in close association with Lockheed Martin – a major F-22 plant is in Marietta, Ga. – surely sought to pay Lockheed the full amount to procure more aircraft: not $143 million each, but $250 million.

Clearly, Chambliss and Lockheed knew about some additional F-22 costs not included in my estimate of $213 million. The pathology of low-balling a weapon’s costs goes far beyond the F-22 example cited here; it is a basic tenet of bureaucratic behavior; it helps a program acquire support by top DOD management and Congress.

Understatement of cost does not occur in isolation in the Pentagon; it is accompanied by an overstatement of the performance the program will bring, and the schedule articulated will be unrealistically optimistic. Once the hook is set in the form of an approved program in the Pentagon (based on optimistic numbers) and an annual funding stream for it from Congress (based on local jobs and campaign contributions), the reality of actual cost, schedule and performance will come too late to generate anything but a few pesky newspaper articles.

(This post was excerpted from The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It.)

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
About the author: Winslow T. Wheeler focuses on the defense budget, why some weapons work and others don’t, congressional oversight, and the politics of Pentagon spending. Before joining the Center for Defense Information in 2002, he worked on Capitol Hill for four U.S. Senators from both political parties and for the Government Accountability Office. At GAO and the Senate, Wheeler focused on Pentagon budget issues, weapons testing, the performance of U.S. systems in actual combat, and the U.S. strategic “triad” of nuclear weapons.

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Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

Bet you think you’re a good driver. No one can knife across three lanes of traffic and make an exit doing 73 mph like you can, hoss. You even throw around the occasional courtesy wave.


Former Army Engineer and “Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis fancied himself above average in the driving department until he met Jim Wilkey at Bobby Orr Motorsports, where the two-tour Vietnam Vet proceeded to hand our host his ass.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
The authentic look of a man being taken to school. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

A former Navy Seabee, Wilkey is now one of Hollywood’s most highly-regarded stunt drivers, flipping cars and drifting in such modest cinematic offerings as “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

When he’s not rolling on “action,” Wilkey teaches the art of stunt driving to amateur road warrior wannabes on his home track in Camarillo, CA.

Watch as Wilkey puts Ryan through a day’s worth of paces and Ryan makes an unwise decision to challenge the master in a timed stunt lap, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

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You need to hear this fighter pilot’s powerful story about finding purpose

Ed Woodward had the harrowing experience of watching his identical twin brother die before his very eyes.


“We had just finished celebrating his first year of med school,” said Woodward in the video below. “And we were hit by a drunk driver going about 120 mph racing another car down the highway.”

As his sibling succumbed to his injuries, Woodward promised he’d live his life for both of them. In 2001, he launched his Air Force career as a 2nd lieutenant. He flew combat missions in support of Operation Northern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His performance earned him an Air Medal, two Aerial Achievement Medals, two Air Force Commendation Medals and a nomination for the Air Mobility Command’s best tanker aircrew of the year in 2002. After getting his pilot wings, he was selected to fly the F-15C Eagle; it was a dream come true, Woodward said.

But with only five flights to go in his training tragedy struck again. He developed a blood clot during a heavy G force maneuver that almost killed him. It caused a brain injury ending his pilot aspirations and resulting in a medical discharge from the Air Force.

“I was lost,” Woodward said.

Watch Woodward tell his incredible story about how his commitment to his brother helped him find his purpose in life by going from fighter pilot to M.D. candidate:

GotYourSix, YouTube

Don’t miss your opportunity to listen to more incredible stories like Woodward’s. This year, Got Your 6 Storytellers will be held in three cities across the country:

  • New York – Wednesday, October 26, 2016
  • Los Angeles – Tuesday, November 1, 2016
  • Washington D.C. – Thursday, November 10, 2016

Visit Got Your 6 Storytellers for additional information.

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12-year-old becomes the youngest EOD Marine

Nathan Aldaco is twelve years old and suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare defect. Because his biggest wish in life is to become a United States Marine, the Marines from the 7th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Pendleton were happy to oblige him.


Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Nathan Aldaco, a 12 year-old boy with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, walks with Marines to a demolition site during a Make-A-Wish event supported by 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Laura Gauna)

“It’s a true honor to do this for Nathan,” said 1st Lt. Ernesto Gaudio, 2nd platoon commander, Bravo Company, 7th ESB, 1st MLG. “We wanted to make him feel like he was a part of the Marine family. We are in service to the United States of America and Nathan is a citizen of the United States. We were just making his wish come true.”

The Marines decked Aldaco in his own MARPAT Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and gave his family a tour of the explosives ordnance disposal site at Pendleton. He was taken through a demolition range in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. The team demonstrated their EOD robots and then detonated TNT, C4, dynamite, and blasting caps. The youngest Marine even shared MREs with his fellow Marines while out in the field.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Nathan Aldaco, a 12 year-old boy with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, looks out of a bunker during a Make-A-Wish event supported by 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Laura Gauna)

“The bombs were cool,”  Aldaco said in an interview with the Marines’ official website. “I like working with robots. It was fun controlling them and picking stuff up with them.”

He was awarded the Master EOD badge in an official ceremony by Col. Jaime O. Collazo. It is the highest badge an EOD Marine can receive. Aldaco saluted the colonel before marching off.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Nathan Aldaco, a 12 year-old boy with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and his family, pose for a picture with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines during a Make-A-Wish event. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Laura Gauna)

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US Navy redesigns submarines with women in mind

Every submarine in the U.S. fleet was designed with the height, reach, and strength of men in mind, from the way valves are placed to how display screens are angled.


That’s going to change.

With women now serving aboard submarines, defense contractor Electric Boat is designing what will be the first Navy subs built specifically to accommodate female crew members.

The designers are doing the obvious things, such as adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy. But they are also making more subtle modifications that may not have been in everyone’s periscope when the Navy admitted women into the Silent Service.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
You know what this sub is missing? A girl at the helm! (U.S. Navy photo)

For example, they are lowering some overhead valves and making them easier to turn, and installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.

The first vessel built with some of the new features, the future USS New Jersey, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.

The Navy lifted its ban on women on submarines in 2010, starting with officers. About 80 female officers and roughly 50 enlisted women are now serving on subs, and their numbers are expected to climb into the hundreds over the next few years.

For now, the Navy is retrofitting existing subs with extra doors and designated washrooms to accommodate women. But Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, is at work on a redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack subs and is also developing a brand-new class of ballistic-missile submarines, relying on body measurements for both men and women.

Also read: This is what life is like for sailors on a US Navy submarine

“We have a clean sheet of paper, so from the ground up, we’ll optimize for both men and women,” said Brian Wilson, Electric Boat director of the new ballistic-missile sub program.

Electric Boat officials had no immediate estimate of how much the modifications will cost.

As anyone who watches war movies knows, submariners are always turning valves, whether to operate machinery, redistribute water between tanks or isolate part of a system that has been damaged.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
So many valves. (Tyne Wear Archives Museums)

On the Columbia-class boats, valves will generally be placed lower, Wilson said. Sometimes there will be an extension handle, and some will be easier to turn. Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.

Emergency air masks are being moved on fast-attack submarines, too, but the bulk of the changes on those subs are to ensure privacy.

Seats in the control room on the ballistic-missile submarines will adjust forward a little more so everyone can touch each display and reach every joystick. Steps will be added so shorter people can climb into the top bunk or see into the washers and dryers, since clothes that get stuck in the machines are a fire hazard.

The first Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub is scheduled to join the fleet in 2031.

Related: 27 incredible photos of life on a U.S. Navy submarine

At 5-foot-6, Lt. Marquette Leveque, one of the first women to serve on a submarine, said that she didn’t have any trouble reaching valves and other equipment but that the ergonomic changes will be helpful for shorter crewmates.

Leveque was assigned to a compartment with two other female officers on the USS Wyoming. They shared a washroom with male officers. A sign on the door could be flipped to show whether a man or woman was using it.

With so few women on board, the timesharing worked, she said. But with more on the way, the need for separate spaces is greater, she added.

“Privacy is important anywhere you are,” she said. “We live on this boat, as well as work there.”

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Here’s how the ‘Bloody Angle’ turned into the worst fighting of the Civil War

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?


Gen. Ulysses S. Grant faced a quandary in his Overland Campaign driving towards Richmond. Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee were dug into what seemed like an invulnerable network of trenchworks and rifle pits near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. Several initial attacks had been bloodily repulsed, and even the weakest point of the Confederate line, a bulge around Laurel Hill known as the Muleshoe, seemed like an impossible nut to crack.

Grant, seeing that an assault on the Muleshoe was his best bet despite its formidable fortifications, decided try the unorthodox suggestion of Col. Emory Upton, a brash young officer who had distinguished himself earlier in the war. Standard infantry tactics of the day had long lines of infantry attacking in a wave, with reserves to exploit whatever breach happened in the enemy line.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Col. Emory Upton (Photo: Nat’l Archives)

Upton instead arranged his 12 regiments, composed of roughly 5,000 men, in one long tight column of only four ranks, with three regiments to a rank. They would charge at full speed toward the west side of the Muleshoe, without stopping to reload or help the wounded until they breached the Confederate fortifications. They would essentially function as a human battering ram.

Just after 6 p.m. on May 10, 1864, the plan went forward. With a wild yell, the column sprung from its concealment in the woods and charged over 200 yards across open ground. The enemy rifle pits studding the fortifications only had time to get off a few volleys before the Union column breached their earthworks, and they even overran the half-built second line 75 yards behind the first. Lack of coordination with supporting Union units to exploit the breach and a ferocious Confederate counterattack forced Upton to retreat, but the attack had netted over a thousand Confederate prisoners and seemed to prove that Upton’s tactics could work.

Grant was impressed with the initial success of the attack and decided to repeat Upton’s idea, but on a far grander scale and with better coordination. Over 20,000 men from Gen. Winfield Hancock’s 2nd Corps would attack the northern tip of the Muleshoe, each of his three divisions forming a similar long column to overwhelm a single point of the Confederate line.

The attack launched during a pouring rain on the dawn of the May 12. The Confederate troops guarding the northern point had heard the rumble of thousands of troops assembling the night before and were on alert, but the pouring rain prevented many of their muskets from firing and they were overwhelmed by the sheer force of the bayonet assault. More than 4,000 Confederate prisoners were taken and Hancock’s attack seemed on the verge of splitting the Confederate army in half, but a Confederate reserve division desperately thrown into the mix managed to stop the Union assault, which had become hopelessly tangled and confused in the elaborate fortifications. Lee himself came riding up to personally lead the counterattack, but his frantic troops, terrified that the famed general would be killed or captured, urged him back to the rear.

The supporting Union attack composed of 15,000 troops hit the northwest point of the salient 300 yards from Hancock’s attack, moving against where the Confederate fortifications formed an angle to support 2nd Corps. This 200-yard stretch of ground turned into a hand to hand slugfest in pouring rain and mud several feet deep in some points. Waves of troops fired point blank into each other’s faces and clubbed each other with muskets, with many wounded drowning in the mud. The ferocious fighting continued for over 20 hours long into the night. The survivors of the engagement later called the spot the ‘Bloody Angle.’

Lee had quietly begun withdrawing troops to a hasty new line in the rear, and by 3 a.m. the fighting had ended with Union soldiers too exhausted to pursue. In the abattoir of the Bloody Angle there had been over 17,000 casualties from both sides, and though there were other skirmishes in the coming days Grant eventually withdrew his battered army to the southwest to force Lee out of his fortifications, for a later battle under hopefully more favorable circumstances.

The Bloody Angle was an example of an innovative idea that had turned into a disaster when implemented on a larger scale. Attacks in long columns against heavy fortifications were too apt to get tangled up amongst enemy obstacles and their own numbers, leaving them extremely vulnerable to enemy counterattack unless supporting assaults were perfectly coordinated. Enemy defenses in depth blunted whatever initial gains could be made. Upton’s tactics, however promising, could not solve the perennial Civil War problem of the superiority of defensive firepower against the frontal assault, a problem that would loom its head again 50 years later in World War I.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Monument at the site of the attack.

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One of history’s longest sniper kills happened during the Civil War

Fort Sumter, South Carolina was famous for having suffered the first shots of the Civil War in April 1861. Over three years later, the two sides were still fighting over it. Confederate troops held the badly damaged fort while Union soldiers fired on it with artillery from batteries on nearby islands.


On Dec. 5 an unidentified Confederate soldier in Fort Sumter saw a Union soldier moving in Battery Gregg, 1390 yards away. The Southerner was likely using a Whitworth Rifle when he lined up his sights on the Union soldier and fired, killing him.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Union troops at Battery Gregg during the Civil War.

That’s longer than any confirmed kill of World War I or II and only 400 yards shy of making a modern top 10 list. Wikipedia still ranks it as the 14th longest sniper kill in history.

Whitworth Rifles are sometimes called the first real sniper rifle. Capable of accurate fire at 800 yards, its hexagonal rounds could penetrate a sandbag to kill an enemy standing behind it.

The rifle made the shot easier but the skill and luck needed to kill an enemy at 1,390 yards was still great. When the rifle was mounted on a special stand and tested at 1,400 yards, 10 shots created a grouping over 9 feet wide.

Unfortunately, the record-setting shot on Dec. 5, 1864 was illegal. The Confederate soldiers didn’t know a ceasefire was in effect in the area and the shot violated that ceasefire. Other Confederate snipers at Fort Sumter took up the volley, forcing the Union troops to seek cover.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Fort Sumter in Sep. 1863 had already been subjected to two years of shelling by Confederate and then Union forces. After this photo was taken, it would suffer another year of shelling before the events of Dec. 5, 1864.

The Union soldiers endured the fire for an hour before they responded. They began firing cannons from the battery at Cummings Point, a group of cannons protected from retaliation by iron armor.

After an hour of shelling, the Confederates learned of the ceasefire and sent the Union general a very gracious letter of apology.

Both sides returned to the truce, but it didn’t last. Charleston was still under siege and Union batteries soon resumed shelling the city. In mid-February 1865, Confederate troops withdrew from Fort Sumter and Charleston as Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman arrived on his famous march to the sea.

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This Medal of Honor recipient led an attack with grenades, bayonets, and an E-tool

Then-Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Wilson was a veteran of World War II and a former officer when he led Company I of the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, in an attack on a numerically superior group of enemy soldiers on June 5, 1951, during the Korean War.


When his men struggled to take the terrain, he rescued the lead element under hostile fire with grenades, led a bayonet charge that killed 27, and then protected his men from the enemy counterattack using his rifle and an entrenching tool.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
(Photo: Public Domain)

Yeah, he fought off a counterattack by killing four enemy soldiers with a foldable shovel.

Company I’s attack on June 5 first faltered when dug-in enemy forces pinned down the advancing Americans using submachine guns and other weapons, according to Wilson’s Medal of Honor citation. That was the first time Wilson leapt into action to save his men.

He charged forward, firing his rifle and throwing grenades. His bold attack wiped out four enemy soldiers firing submachine guns, allowing Company I to continue the advance. The assault platoon moved up and established a base of fire.

So Wilson got a group of men together to press the attack with a bayonet assault. Wilson and the rest of the group killed 27 enemy soldiers and Company I began consolidating the gains it had so far. That was when the Koreans launched a counterattack.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Bet the unit wished they had a recoilless rifle handy at that point. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Americans were under severe pressure by the Korean assault, so Wilson again leaped into action. He initiated a one-man assault that killed seven and wounded two, shutting down the enemy’s drive.

When the Americans attempted another assault, it was decisively stopped by enemy fire. Wilson gave the order for the lead platoon to withdraw. But the withdrawal quickly went sideways with the commanding officer, platoon leader, and even Wilson suffering serious wounds.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Korea sucked, is what we’re saying. (Portrait: Public Domain)

That was when Wilson made his rifle/E-tool attack. He managed to kill three enemies with his rifle before it was wrested from his hands. That’s when he grabbed the E-tool and killed four more of the enemies.

His actions delayed the final Korean counterattack and allowed Wilson to evacuate the unit, but he suffered a second wound during that action.

Over three years later, on Sept. 23, 1954, then-1st Lt.Wilson received the Medal of Honor.

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Navy to deploy new anti-ship surface missile

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Kongsberg.com


The Navy will soon deploy a new missile aboard its Littoral Combat Ship that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles, service officials said.

Called the Naval Strike Missile, or NSM, the weapon is developed by a Norwegian-headquartered firm called Konigsberg; it is currently used on Norwegian Nansen-class frigates and Skjold-Class missile torpedo boats, company officials said.

“The Navy is currently planning to utilize the Foreign Comparative Testing program to procure and install the Norwegian-built Naval Strike Missile on the USS FREEDOM (LCS 1).  The objective is to demonstrate operationally-relevant installation, test, and real-world deployment on an LCS,” a Navy spokeswoman from Naval Sea Systems Command told Scout Warrior.

The deployment of the weapon is the next step in the missiles progress. In 2014NSM was successfully test fired from the flight deck of the USS CORONADO (LCS 4) at the Pt. Mugu Range Facility, California, demonstrating a surface-to-surface weapon capability, the Navy official explained.

First deployed by the Norwegian Navy in 2012, the missile is engineered to identify ships by ship class, Gary Holst, Senior Director for Naval Surface Warfare, Konigsberg, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The NSM is fired from a deck-mounted launcher. The weapon uses an infrared imaging seeker, identify targets, has a high degree of maneuverability and flies close to the water in “sea-skim” mode to avoid ship defenses, he added.

“It can determine ships in a group of ships by ship class, locating the ship which is its designated target. It will attack only that target,” Holst said.

Holst added that the NSM was designed from the onset to have a maneuverability sufficient to defeat ships with advanced targets; the missile’s rapid radical maneuvers are built into the weapon in order to defeat what’s called “terminal defense systems,” he said.

“One of the distinguishing features of the missile is its ability to avoid terminal defense systems based on a passive signature, low-observable technologies and maneuverability. It was specifically designed to attack heavily defended targets,” Holst said.

For instance, the NSM is engineered to defeat ship defense weapons such as the Close-In-Weapons System, or CIWS – a ship-base defensive fire “area weapon” designed to fire large numbers of projectiles able intercept, hit or destroy approaching enemy fire.

CIWS is intended to defend ships from enemy fire as it approaches closer to its target, which is when the NSM’s rapid maneuverability would help it avoid being hit and proceed to strike its target, Holst added.

Holst added that the weapon is engineered with a “stealthy” configuration to avoid detection from ship detection systems and uses its sea-skimming mode to fly closer to the surface than any other missile in existence.

“It was designed against advanced CIWS systems. It is a subsonic weapon designed to bank to turn. It snaps over when it turns and the seeker stays horizontally stabilized — so the airframe turns around the seeker so it can zero-in on the seam it is looking at and hit the target,” he said.

Raytheon and Konigsberg signed a teaming agreement to identify ways we can reduce the cost of the missile by leveraging Raytheon’s supplier base and supplier management, Holst explained.

Konigsberg is working with Raytheon to establish NSM production facilities in the U.S., Ron Jenkins, director for precision standoff strike, Raytheon Missile systems, said.

Konigsberg is also working on a NSM follow-on missile engineered with an RF (radio frequency) sensor that can help the weapon find and destroy targets.

The new missile is being built to integrate into the internal weapons bay of Norway’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Konigsberg and Raytheon are submitting the missile for consideration for the Navy’s long-range beyond-the-horizon offensive missile requirement for its LCS.

“The Navy has identified a need for an over-the-horizon missile as part of their distributed lethality concept which is adding more offensive weapons to more ships throughout the fleet and they wanted to do this quickly,” Holst explained.

The Navy’s distributed lethality strategy involves numerous initiatives to better arm its fleet with offensive and defensive weapons, maintain a technological advantage over adversaries and strengthen its “blue water” combat abilities against potential near-peer rivals, among other things.

They are pitching the missile as a weapon which is already developed and operational – therefore it presents an option for the Navy that will not require additional time and extensive development, he said.

“The missile is the size, shape and weight that fits on both classes of the Littoral Combat Ship,” Holst said.

 

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6 kick ass fusions of old weapons with new technology

While the high-tech weapon systems of today are cool, there is always a sense of nostalgia for older weapons. So, what if you could get the best of both? Say, give a classic weapons system a boost from modern technology – or use a blast from the past to make a modern system much better?


Here are a few options:

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
The M50 Ontos was a marginal tank killer but was devastating against infantry. Imagine what a .50, digital targeting and a remote operation system could do? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: M50 Ontos

New Systems: Thermal imaging sights, digital fire control and laser range finder from the M1 Abrams; Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with M2 .50-caliber machine gun

The M50 Ontos is an obscure vehicle that never really had a chance to fulfill its role as an anti-tank weapon, but it proved to be a potent weapon against infantry. Six 106mm recoilless rifles tend to make a point very well.

But the Ontos had to get close to guarantee hits. It also lacked secondary armament beyond a M1919 .30-caliber machine gun. But what if the Ontos had the fire-control system and thermal sights of the M1A2 Abrams? Now the 106mm rifles can gain more accuracy from further out.

The Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with Ma Deuce can give the Ontos a better chance to keep an enemy RPG team from getting too close.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Old System: M551 Sheridan

New System: M256A1 120mm Gun

The M551 Sheridan once provided a lot of firepower for the 82nd Airborne Division. The air-drop capability meant that the paratroopers were far less likely to be mere speed bumps. And the 152mm cannon could do a number on buildings and bunkers.

But let’s be honest, the gun could be less than reliable, especially when using the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile. So, why not go with the same gun used on the M1A2 Abrams tank? Not only does this gun have the ability to beat just about any tank in the world today, logistics are simpler.

That counts as a win-win.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Oshkosh Defense

Old System: M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle

New System: Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

While systems like the BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin provide a punch, those missiles can be expensive. But the need for fire support remains.

So, why not look for something cheaper? The M40 recoilless rifle could fit that bill. The shells are cheap, pack a decent punch, but they also can limit collateral damage in ways that a missile can’t (there’s no need to worry about burning fuel).

Think that is a stretch? In his book, “Parliament of Whores,” P.J. O’Rourke recounted how an Army unit pulled recoilless rifles out of storage for Operation Just Cause.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
The A1 Skyraider was one of the most badass CAS planes in Vietnam. What about making it into an A-10 equivalent? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: A-1 Skyraider

New Systems: AGM-114 Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, M230 chain gun, Sniper ER Targeting pod — aka a crap ton of modern aerial firepower.

The Spad did much of what the A-10 does now: it loitered, carried a big bomb load, and was generally loved by ground troops.

So, what would be a more interesting fusion than to do to the Spad what was done for the A-10 – to wit, give it the ability to use precision-guided weapons?

The Spad could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs. Imagine how many targets one equipped with JDAM or Hellfire could take out in a single sortie!

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Ready the guns! Full broadside!…(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: Sail Frigate USS Constitution (IX 21)

(Relatively) New System: M116 75mm Pack Howitzer

USS Constitution (IX 21) kicked a lot of butt during her service career. But imagine what this lightweight (1,439 pounds) howitzer would do.

It’s hard to imagine which would be the bigger game-changer in a fight: The higher rate of fire that the M116 would provide, or the high-explosive shells it could shoot up to five and half miles away.

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: 8-inch/55 Mk 71 Gun

New System: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer

Let’s face it. The later versions of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers could use a little more anti-surface punch. The answer may lie in bringing back the Mk 71, an eight-inch gun capable of firing up to 12 rounds a minute. This could also help alleviate the shortfalls in fire support with the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and the truncation of Zumwalt production from 32 vessels to three. Eight-inch rounds abound, and the precision guidance used on Excalibur, Copperhead, and Vulcano could be adapted to this gun as well.

Old System: W48 155mm nuclear projectile

New System: Excalibur, Copperhead and Vulcano precision guidance systems

With a yield of .072 kilotons (that is 72 tons of TNT), the W48 was intended for use against tactical targets from a 155mm howitzer. But artillery rounds can miss (no, it’s not about hitting the ground). But suppose you merged the W48 with the Excalibur, creating a W48 Mod 2? Now, that 128-pound package puts that .072-kiloton warhead within ten feet of the aiming point. Excalibur is not the only option: The laser-guided Copperhead and OTO Melara’s Vulcano packages would make the W48 a very potent weapon.

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This military spouse grew her own business despite 2 PCS moves

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Lakesha Cole was named the 2014 AFI Military Spouse of the Year in a ceremony in Washington, DC in May, 2014


In many ways, Lakesha Cole is the typical military spouse. A mother and wife, Cole has spent the last five years like many other military spouses: focused on a passion while juggling her family responsibilities.

But it’s the way she’s done it that sets her apart. Recently, Cole and her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Deonte Cole, and their children completed a Permanent Change of Station from Okinawa, Japan, to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

And along with their kids and personal effects, the Coles also took their successful business inside the Okinawa Exchange with them.

This was the second time Cole packed up her company, She Swank Too, and hauled it overseas. Two years after debuting their company aboard Camp Pendleton, California, the Cole’s took on a PCS to Okinawa, embarking on a mission to open the first brick and mortar She Swank Too there.

Cole spoke with We Are the Mighty about her experience just trying to get a meeting with the retail manager in Okinawa.

“He was reluctant to do business with me,” she recalled, after waiting for six months to secure a meeting with the manager. He argued that military spouses didn’t believe “the rules apply to them,” citing spouses who formerly ran businesses in the retail space with poor business practices.

Cole says she presented her business plan, complete with financial reports, customer data and testimonials, and samples, to the manager. They agreed to a 30 day trial run of a brick and mortar She Swank Too. Three years later, the store accompanied the Coles on their PCS.

When asked what steps an entrepreneur should take during a PCS, Cole was quick to answer, “Stay active and… communicate with your customers.” Customer interaction is one of the focal points of the company. “We tapped into the hearts and homes of our customers,” Cole said.

The motivation behind the company was simple. “We debuted our first children’s collection … to introduce entrepreneurship to our daughter,” Cole recalled.

Cole’s husband is equally involved in the business. “The least recognized role in a business is … that person’s spouse,” Cole said. Cole’s husband is not only an active participant in the company, but a financial investor as well.

Cole isn’t just a business owner. In addition to She Swank Too, Cole is a military spouse retail coach, the founder, CEO and owner of Milspousepreneur, and an active advocate for military affiliated entrepreneurship in hopes of reversing high milspouse unemployment.

“My focus remains in using this business as a vehicle to give back,” Cole said

MIGHTY MONEY

Veterans in cannabis industry denied VA home loans

Veterans in the cannabis industry have been denied home loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, prompting a response from Congress.

When one veteran was denied his home loan benefit, he reached out to Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts), who joined with 20 members of Congress in writing to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The lawmakers wanted to know why their constituents were denied loans after citing their income sources as state-legalized cannabis activities.

“Denying veterans the benefits they’ve earned…is contrary to the intent Congress separately demonstrated in its creation of VA benefit programs,” Clark wrote in her May 23, 2019 letter.


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Read the letter:

In the letter, shared with Roll Call, Clark stated, “A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry and, in coming years, that number is likely to further rise. The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they’ve earned.”

She also acknowledged that “the ambiguity under which the cannabis industry operates is unique, and we fully understand the VA’s resulting aversion to legal and financial risk. [However]…in recent years, the Department of Justice has substantially narrowed its prosecutorial priorities in this area, and Congress has taken action to prevent federal interference with the implementation of state cannabis laws.”

More: Time to slay the myth around the magical unicorn called the ‘VA Loan’

Though Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, illegal under federal law, Military.com points out that “thirty-four states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have some variation of medical marijuana programs, while a dozen other states allow cannabidiol that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the psychoactive component of pot that makes a user high — for medicinal purposes.”

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dan Anglin, CEO of CannAmerica, was also denied a VA home loan due to his work in the cannabis industry — and he’s not afraid to speak out about it.


Veteran Dan Anglin Denied Home Loans Due to Owning a Cannabis Company

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Veteran Dan Anglin speaks out

Also read: Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

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This is everything you need to know about Army Rangers

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year or so, you probably know that a handful of female officers made history by graduating the US Army’s prestigious Ranger School and that one female Soldier tried (and failed) to join the Ranger Regiment.


You may have also noticed that there are, all of a sudden, a lot of “internet experts” on Rangers, or anything to do with Rangers. If you actually do know a thing or two about Rangers, then you know all these so-called experts are creating mass confusion and hysteria on the interwebz. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I thought I would lay out the pertinent information that anyone needs to know about this topic.

Although I have not attended every course I am about to speak of, I served in the US Army from 2005 until my separation in 2013. Of that time, I served in 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment for over four years, where I completed three deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. The remainder of my time I spent in the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion, where I am proud to say that I mentored sixteen different young men who made it into the 75th Ranger Regiment. Outside of my military experience, I am also the author of Ranger Knowledge: The All Inclusive Study Guide For Rangers and Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.

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U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Jebb, a 7th Infantry Division Ranger, reaches for the ranger tab to complete an obstacle during the Best Ranger Competition 2017 in Fort Benning, Ga., April 9, 2017. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos.

Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) – The RTAC course is a 16-day preparatory course for Ranger School. It is run by the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, and primarily used by National Guard students, but open to students of any unit. It is located on Fort Benning, Georgia and is divided in to two phases: RAP phase and Patrolling phase. All National Guard soldiers who want to attend Ranger School must pass this course first. It should be noticed that many Army installations run a similar course to prepare their soldiers for Ranger School in a similar way.

US Army Ranger Course (Ranger School) – Ranger School is 62 days long with a 42% graduation rate, and is considered the Army’s toughest leadership course. Ranger School is a mentally and physically challenging course that teaches small unit infantry tactics and develops leadership skills under austere conditions meant to simulate the exhaustion of real combat operations. The course falls under the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and is run by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which also runs the Army’s Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, and Pathfinder School.

The course incorporates three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Swamp), which follow the crawl, walk, run training methodology. After completion of these three phases, Ranger School graduates are considered proficient in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in a variety of climates and terrain. Upon graduation, they are awarded and authorized the black and gold “Ranger Tab” on their left shoulder.

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Second Lt. Jorge Ramirez, a member of Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, receives his Ranger tab after completing Ranger School July 16, 2010. USNG photo by 2nd Lt. Kara Siepmann.

After completion of the course, graduates return to their units and are expected to take leadership positions shortly after their return. Soldiers of any military occupational specialty (MOS), and any branch of service, as well as some allied nation service members can attend this course. There are no formal pre-requisite courses for attendance at Ranger School. Ranger School does not require students to be airborne qualified before attending. It should be noted that although soldiers are considered “Ranger Qualified,” graduation of this course does not qualify a service member for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

75th Ranger Regiment – The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit that falls under the US Army Special Operations Command, which falls under the US Special Operations Command – the parent organization of other SOF units such as Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, and Army Special Forces “Green Berets.” The 75th Ranger Regiment’s mission is to plan and conduct special missions in support of US policy and objectives. They are considered the go-to direct action raid unit, and have killed or captured more high value targets in the War on Terror than any other unit. The Regiment is composed of four Ranger battalions: 1st Ranger Battalion on Hunter Army Airfield, GA, 2nd Ranger Battalion on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and 3rd Ranger Battalion and Regimental Special Troops Battalion on Fort Benning, GA. They are readily identified by their tan beret’s and red, white, and black “Ranger Scroll.” All soldiers assigned are graduates of either RASP 1 or 2.

Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment are expected to go to the US Army Ranger School before taking a leadership position, but are not required to attend before serving in the Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment are completely different entities under completely different commands with completely different missions, and one is not needed for the other.

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Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) – RASP 1 is an 8-week course ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment and boasts an approximate 33% graduation rate (that number can vary based on time of year as well as other factors). It selects and trains soldiers in the rank of Private through Sergeant for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon completion of this course, graduates have the basic capabilities to conduct operations as a junior member of a Ranger strike force or command element.

RASP 1 is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is the primary “weeding out” phase, as well as conducts initial standard testing, such as the timed road marches and PT and swim tests. Phase 1 also includes the notoriously brutal “Cole Range” week of training. Phase 2 focuses more on the special operations-peculiar skills needed for service in the Regiment, such as explosive breaching, advanced marksmanship, and advanced first-responder skills. Upon graduation of RASP 1, the new Rangers are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret. At this point, they are considered full-fledged Rangers and are assigned to one of the four Ranger Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendance at RASP 1, but some students are Ranger School graduates already. Airborne School is a required pre-requisite though, as all soldiers need to be airborne-qualified for service in the 75thRanger Regiment.

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Pvt. Howard Urban is congratulated by his father Sgt. Maj. Howard Urban, guest speaker, at the 75th Ranger Regiment RASP Class 05-15 Graduation at Fort Benning. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist.

Ranger Assesment and Selection Program 2 (RASP 2) –RASP 2 is a 21-day course that is ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is for soldiers in the rank of Staff Sergeant and above, and all officers volunteering for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment. This course assesses and selects mid- and senior-grade leaders for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment and teaches them the operational techniques and standards needed for their time in the Regiment. Upon successful completion of this course, graduates are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret and are assigned to one of the four battalions in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendances at RASP 2, but most students are already Ranger School graduates.

Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT) – SURT, formerly known as “Pre-Ranger Course (PRC),” is a three-week program that is run by the 75th Ranger Regiment, for Rangers already in the Regiment who will be attending the US Army Ranger School. Because the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Ranger School are so different, this course is designed to prepare Rangers for the “School” way of doing things, and ensure they have the best shot at success in Ranger School.

Hopefully this short primer explains all the nuances of anything relating to the Army Rangers, and maybe even answers a few questions that are floating around in response to the pending female graduates of Ranger School. Chief among them, “Why aren’t they going to the Ranger Regiment if they passed Ranger School?” Because Ranger School has nothing to do with the 75th Ranger Regiment and is definitely not the selection course for service in the 75th.