The top aviators from the US Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the head of the F-35 Joint Program office all testified before Congress on Thursday and came to a clear consensus — the US has “a war winner” on its hands with the F-35.
The F-35 program, first announced in 2001, has become the most expensive weapons project in history, with President Donald Trump calling the program “out of control” in December.
The program has delivered just 200 or so aircraft years behind schedule and billions over budget, but the top aviators in the US military said that the Joint Strike Fighter would come down in price and provide revolutionary capabilities to the US and their partners.
“We believe we are on track to continue reducing the price of the F-35 such that in [fiscal year 2019], with an engine including all fees, the F-35A model will cost between $80 million and $85 million,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, program executive officer, F-35 joint program office told Congress.
Bogdan also said the program had begun a block-buying strategy for foreign nations to bring down the price per aircraft.
The Marine Corps and Navy has said their biggest problem with the F-35 is not having enough. Marine Corps Lt. General Jon Davis said the Marines need F-35s to replace their aging fleets of F-18s and Harrier jump jets, which average 22 years.
But the F-35 isn’t just another fighter jet — it’s a flying all-spectrum sensor node that can fight without being seen and elevate the performance of entire squadrons by sharing data on the battle space.
“The aircraft’s stealth characteristics, long-range combat identification and ability to penetrate threat envelopes while fusing multiple information sources into a coherent picture will transform the joint coalition view of the battlefield,” said Navy Rear Adm. DeWolfe “Chip” Miller III.
“I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we have a game-changer, a war winner on our hands,” Davis said of the F-35. “We can’t get into those airplanes fast enough.”
Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.
From the start of the Hermit Kingdom’s missile quest, the country likely imported the fuel from China, its largest producer. It is currently made by a number of countries, including Russia. But UDMH was the cause of the worst ICBM disaster in Russian history, the Nedelin Catastrophe.
In 1960, the second stage engine of a Soviet R-16 ignited at Baukonur Cosmodrome, killing 150 people.
A Soviet Field Marshal ordered that repairs be made to the fuel tanks of the rocket without draining the propellant. Right before the launch, an errant communications signal set off the second stage of the rocket, igniting the propellant in a gigantic fireball.
The fire from the fuel reached a temperature of 3,000 degrees. Field Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, who ordered the rocket repairs in the first place, was among those incinerated.
UDMH is also responsible for the one of the worst ICBM disasters in American history. The liquid fuel in the missile silo of a Titan II rocket exploded near Damascus, Arkansas, after its tank was punctured by a falling tool. That was in 1980.
That tank was filled with Aerozine 50, a mix of hydrazine and UDMH.
Luckily, only one airman was killed at Damascus. The United States has since stopped producing the chemical and uses stable solid fuels, something that will take the North Koreans another decade to do on their own.
The New York Times reports that there are no known efforts to disrupt North Korea’s ability to obtain UDMH. State Department officials and North Korea experts believe that the North could produce the fuel domestically if its supplies from abroad were cut off.
The Army general who oversaw U.S. Special Ops in Central and South America was fired from his job last year for repeatedly getting drunk in public, according to new documents revealed by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, 55, was said to have retired “for health and personal reasons” but the documents revealed multiple times when he got drunk at a golf club bar near his Special Operations Command-South headquarters in Florida, as well as an alcohol-related incident during a deployment to Peru.
In a brief telephone interview, Mulholland said he had been affected by “some medical issues,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and a moderate case of traumatic brain injury. He said his actions were triggered by a lack of sleep, but he declined to comment further about the incidents.
“I’m not in favor of your printing any of this, truly,” he said. “I don’t need this harassment. . . . I just want to be left alone.”
Mulholland took command of SocSouth on Oct., 2012, according to a news release. He resigned in Aug. 2014, The South-Dade Newsleader reported.
What was supposed to be a tough but short battle where the Marines would quickly win became some of the bloodiest 76 hours in American history as obstacles on the approach and determined Japanese defenders made the Marines bleed for every bit of sand.
The idea behind capturing Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll was that it would serve as the opening blow in a new front across the Japanese and give the Navy and Marine Corps a corridor through the Central Pacific to Japan.
The White House issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on June 26 as it claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.
In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”
He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women, and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she had no additional information.
Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and US intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.
The officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.
A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and their proxies have faced recent setbacks.
Assad had denied responsibility for the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, including children. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and pupil constriction.
Days later, President Donald Trump launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base where US officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.
It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president months before.
Trump said at the time that the Khan Sheikhoun attack crossed “many, many lines,” and called on “all civilized nations” to join the US in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.
Syria maintained it hadn’t used chemical weapons and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory. Russia is a close ally of Assad.
The US attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict.
Earlier on June 26th, Trump had dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.
Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked earlier that day about the need to secure a cease-fire in Syria, fight extremist groups, and prevent the use of chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer’s statement with a Twitter warning: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Asaad, but also on Russia Iran who support him killing his own people.”
Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a “Witch Hunt!”
The report details a situation in which Russia’s navy, behind only those of the US and China in size, may soon be capable of denying the US Navy access to the Black and Baltic seas.
Russia’s landgrab in Crimea as well as its enclave in Kaliningrad could lock US forces out of the Black or Baltic seas.
US Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges spoke to this in a Pentagon news briefing earlier this month, saying the nearly 25,000 Russian troops illegally stationed in Crimea had “the ability to really disrupt access into the Black Sea.”
Earlier this year, Russia’s defense ministry announced plans to revive and increase the size and scope of the country’s Black Sea submarine fleet.
The new submarines are designed to excel at warfare in shallower water while being arguably the quietest submarines in the world.
“The new submarine and ship classes will incorporate the latest advances in militarily significant areas such as: weapons; sensors; command, control and communication capabilities; signature reduction; electronic countermeasures; and automation and habitability,” the report states.
The report also describes Russia’s Kalibr missiles, which were put on display in October when Russian boats in the Caspian Sea fired missiles at ground targets in Syria.
The report also speculates that Russia’s fifth-generation aircraft, the PAK FA aka T-50, could be ready for deployment as soon as 2016.
The increased stealth capabilities of the plane, as well as its potential role aboard a new Russian aircraft carrier, could spell big problems for the US.
According to the report, Russia is “reorganizing its personnel structure to more accurately reflect the needs of modern warfare” and will do so by attempting to transition to an all-volunteer force.
The report acknowledges that Russia is under heavy financial strain because of sanctions and historically low oil prices, but the country is nonetheless determined to create a modern navy that is capable of undermining the military superiority of the West.
Elizabeth Honig pleaded guilty June 21 to theft of government funds. The 52-year-old Morganville, New Jersey, resident faces up to 10 years in prison when she’s sentenced Sept. 25.
Honig owns the Eatontown-based Computer Insight Learning Center.
Federal prosecutors say she helped 182 veterans enroll to receive federal funding under a program designed to help older, unemployed veterans receive training and find employment in high demand occupations.
But the vast majority of these veterans were either not eligible or not actually attending the training.
Honig admitted logging on to the applications system more than 100 times and certifying that she was the actual veteran who was applying for benefits.
Scientists believe a 40-million-ton asteroid set to fly close to Earth in 12 years may end up colliding with our planet on a future pass.
The Apophis asteroid will pass within 18,600 miles of Earth on April 13, 2029, which is ridiculously close by space distance standards. Scientists expect the near-miss to disrupt the asteroid’s orbit, making its future path unpredictable.
This means there’s a small chance Apophis could hit Earth on a future pass. Apophis will pass by the Earth again in 2036.
“You can find a full table of objects for which the impact probability is not mathematically zero,” Dr. Richard P. Binzel, a planetary science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who’s involved in research on Apophis, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The table includes Apophis with a probability of 8.9e-6 (less than one chance in 100,000).”
If Apophis did strike Earth, it could create a crater about 1.25 miles across and almost 1,700 feet deep. Such an impact could be devastating, as on average an asteroid this size can be expected to impact Earth about every 80,000 years. It could annihilate a city if it were to directly land on an urban area. The blast would equal 880 million tons of TNT or 65,000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the Earth, but then the orbit will change in a way that is not fully predictable just now, so we cannot predict the behavior on a longer timescale,” Alberto Cellino of the Observatory of Turin in Italy, told Astrowatch.net.
MIT announced last month that professors and students are designing a space probe mission to observe the asteroid “99942 Apophis” as it passes Earth in 2029. MIT or NASA would have to launch the probe before August of 2026 due to the way orbital mechanics work.
The MIT probe could teach scientists more about the construction of asteroids, providing valuable information about the formation of our solar system. What scientists learn from the Apophis encounter could make it easier to mount a planetary defense in the event an asteroid was ever found to be on an impact course.
Smaller asteroids are much harder to detect and there’s little that could be done to stop a small space rock on course for Earth without early warning. Typically, these rocks are discovered just days or hours before they pass by Earth.
There’s not a shortage of space rocks that put our planet at risk either. Global asteroid detection programs found more than 16,314 near-Earth objects of all sizes — 816 new near-Earth objects were identified so far this year alone, according to International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center.
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., arguably America’s greatest fighter pilot of World War I, was finally downed after taking out 14 German observation balloons and four combat planes. But he took as many Germans with him as he could, strafing ground troops as he crashed and unloading his pistol into the infantry trying to capture him.
Luke enlisted in the Army on Sept. 25, 1917, for service in the aviation field. He took his first solo flight that December, received his commission the following January, and was in France by March.
After additional instruction there, Luke was ready to go on combat patrols. In an April 20, 1918, letter home, Luke described a severely injured pilot who later died and the constantly growing rows of graves for pilots. In between those two observations, he talked about what fun it is to fly.
Luke claimed his first kill in August, but the reported action took place after Luke became separated from the rest of the flight and few believed that the mouthy rookie had actually bagged a German.
Flying on Sept. 12, 1918, Luke found one of the heavily defended balloons while chasing three German aircraft. He conducted attack passes on the balloon and it exploded into flames on Luke’s third pass, just as the balloon was about to reach the ground.
The flaming gas and bladder fell upon the ground crew and the winch mechanism that held the balloons, killing the men and destroying the site. Two more American officers at a nearby airfield confirmed Luke’s balloon bust.
Two days later, the Arizona native brought down a second balloon in a morning patrol, but he still wasn’t liked by other members of his unit. The same afternoon, he was designated to take the risky run against another balloon as the rest of the formation fought enemy fighters. One, a friend of Luke’s named 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, would cover Luke on his run.
Luke once again downed the enemy balloon and was headed for a second balloon when eight enemy planes chased him. His guns were malfunctioning so he ran back to friendly lines rather than risking further confrontation.
Wehner and Luke became a team and specialized in the dangerous mission of balloon busting. Over the following weeks, they pioneered techniques for bringing down the “sausages.” The pair grew so bold that they scheduled exhibitions for well-known pilots like then-Col. William Mitchell, inviting the VIPs to witness German balloons going down at exact times along the front.
On Sept. 18, the two men scored one of their most productive days including the balloon downing that made Wehner an ace, but Wehner was shot down during the attack on the second balloon. Luke responded by charging into the enemy formation, killing two, and then heading for home and killing an observation plane en route.
Luke was distraught at the loss of his partner and took greater risks in the air. His superior officers attempted to ground him, but Luke stole a plane and went back up anyway.
On his final flight on Sept. 29, he dropped a note from his plane that told the reader to “Watch three Hun balloons on the Meuse. Luke.”
The pilot flew across the battlefield, downing all three but attracting a patrol of eight German fighters. Sources differ on exactly what happened next, but the most important details are not in dispute.
Luke’s plane was damaged and he himself was hit, likely from machine gun fire from the ground. As he lost altitude, he conducted a strike against German troops, most likely with his machine guns, though locals who witnessed the fight reported that he may have used bombs dropped by hand.
All of Luke’s confirmed victories had taken place in September 1918. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Sept. 12-15, a second for his actions on Sept. 18, and the Medal of Honor for his final flight on Sept. 29.
In early February, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines testified before before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the state of the U.S. military as the Trump administration takes office.
And many of the revelations from that testimony are disconcerting, to put it mildly. Here are some of the moments that will have you saying, “Oh, crap!”
1. The average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years old
Take an average Air Force plane, and it was made in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The last KC-135 was produced in 1965, the last B-52 was produced in 1962, the last F-15C was built in 1985, and the last F-16C for the Air Force was built in 2001. These are planes that will be around well into the next decade and beyond.
In other words, many of the planes the Air Force relies on are OLD.
2. The Air Force has only 55 fighter squadrons
Not only are the planes old, the number of fighter squadrons in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard has declined from 134 in 1991, the year of Operation Desert Storm, to 55 today. That is a decline of nearly 60 percent.
Yes, today’s precision weapons allow fighters to destroy multiples targets in one sortie, but sometimes, you still need numbers. The few active units we have are running their planes into the ground.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet before a flight. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)
3. The Air Force is short by over 1,500 pilots
The Air Force’s pilot shortage was reported by FoxNews.com to be around 700 last year. Now, the service is reporting the total is over twice that estimate. This is not a good situation, senior leaders say.
Planes are no good without pilots – and even new technology to make any plane an unmanned aerial vehicle will have some limits. If the balloon were to go up, where would the pilots come from? Probably the instructor cadres – which could be bad news for keeping a sufficient supply of pilots trained up in times of war.
4. Only three Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight in the event of a major war
The Army cut its force structure from 45 brigade combat teams to what became an eventual total of 30. Yet despite the reduction of combat brigades, 1/3 of the Army’s brigade combat teams are considered ready, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn.
Of those 10 brigades supposedly ready for combat, only three of these could fight today if the balloon went up. Three out of 30 – and that is the active-duty component. Just what, exactly, is the state of the National Guard? Do we really want to know?
5. 75 percent of Army Combat Aviation Brigades are not ready
Believe it or not, the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams are in better shape than its Combat Aviation Brigades. Only 1/4 of those units are ready – and these provide AH-64 Apaches for close support, as well as the Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters needed to transport troops and supplies.
6. 80 percent of Marine aviation units can’t train properly
Remember how the Marines had to pull about two dozen Hornets from the boneyard? Well, even with that, four in five Marine units cannot give their pilots and air crews proper training because they do not have planes.
7. The Navy is smaller than it has been since 1916
Today’s ships are very capable combatants. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer could probably sink or cripple most of a carrier’s escorts from a battle group off the coast of Vietnam fifty years ago.
But today, the Navy has a grand total of 274 ships. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, in 1916, the Navy had all of 245 ships. Even if we were to reach the proposed 355-ship level, it would only have the Navy to roughly the size it was in 1997.
While other terrorist groups around the world have also used children, new reports reveal the unprecedented system ISIS has created to raise the next generation of terrorists.
German newspaper Der Spiegel talked to several children who explained how ISIS, also referred to as IS or the Islamic State, methodically brainwashes kids to ensure that even if its territory is wiped out, it’ll still have a loyal band of followers keeping the group alive.
Der Spiegel explained this strategy, as Nikita Malik of the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that analyzes ISIS propaganda, understands it:
By depicting children, says Malik, IS wanted to show that it was relatively unimpressed by bombs. IS’ message, she explains, is this: ‘No matter what you do, we are raising a radicalized generation here.’ Within the system, says Malik, the children’s task was to spread IS ideology in the long term, and to infiltrate society so deeply and lastingly that supporters would continue to exist, even if territory was lost.
Some children living under ISIS control are sent to military camps, and some are sent to schools.
They’re taught how to pray and use weapons, desensitized to violence, and given drugs to make them more susceptible to whatever ISIS wants them to believe.
A new report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy details ISIS’ system of exposing children to its radical ideology.
“Stating that the Islamic State promotes religious extremism is far from sufficient in understanding what it seeks to achieve, much less what it teaches its students,” the report noted, stating that the terrorist group is creating a “fighter generation committed to IS’ cause” in a way that’s “both specific and unprecedented.”
ISIS has created its own textbooks filled entirely with material that caters to its radical ideology. Weapons are used to illustrate math problems for young kids, and chapters dealing with Western governments focus on “explaining why each is a form of idolatry because of its violation of God’s sovereignty,” according to the report.
“It is instilling very young children with … Islamism, jihadism, and it’s something that’s going to stick around for a long, long time,” Charlie Winter, an expert on ISIS propaganda and senior researcher for Georgia State University, told Business Insider earlier this year. “It’s an elephant in the room that isn’t being given enough scrutiny.”
Der Spiegel summarizes how the indoctrination process works:
The recruitment of children takes place in several phases, beginning with harmless socialization. Islamic State hosts events in which children are given sweets and little boys are allowed to hold an IS flag. Then they are shown videos filled with violence. Later, in the free schools IS uses to promote the movement, they learn Islamic knowledge and practice counting and arithmetic with books that use depictions of tanks. They practice beheading with blond dolls dressed in orange jumpsuits. With a new app developed by IS, they learn to sing songs that call upon people to engage in jihad.
ISIS supports this brainwashing with ideological justifications for its worldview, claiming God has given ISIS the authority to punish unbelievers.
An introduction printed in its textbooks reads:
The Islamic State carries the burdens — with the agreement of God almighty — of refuting [nonbelievers] and bringing them to a renewed monotheism and a wide Islamic expanse under the flag of the rightly guided caliphate and its outstretched branches after it won over the devils and their lowlands of ignorance and its people of destruction.
Now that ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it’s shifting to insurgency tactics similar to what Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, did during the Iraq War. Bombings and terrorist attacks maintain the sense that ISIS is omnipresent even when militarily the group is losing.
And the kids ISIS is indoctrinating now will remain even after the terrorists have lost the cities and towns they once controlled.
“This is a political problem that will last well beyond the existence of the group,” Winter said. “Even if all the leaders are killed and [ISIS] suddenly disintegrates … there would be lots and lots of these children who have known nothing other than jihadist warfare, who have been taught that Shias need to be killed at all costs, that there’s a global conspiracy against them and the only way they can survive in life is by killing people who are their enemies and not really questioning whether they should be doing it.”