How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost? - We Are The Mighty
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How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?


The F-35 (AKA “the Joint Strike Fighter” or “Lightening II”) is not just the most expensive warplane ever, it’s the most expensive weapons program ever. But to find out exactly how much a single F-35 costs, we analyzed the newest and most authoritative data.

Also Read: The AC-130 ‘Ultimate Battle Plane’ Is Getting Even More Firepower 

Here’s how much we’re paying.

A single Air Force F-35A costs a whopping $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs an unbelievable $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million. Average the three models together, and a “generic” F-35 costs $178 million.

It gets worse. These are just the production costs. Additional expenses for research, development, test and evaluation are not included. The dollars are 2015 dollars. This data was just released by the Senate Appropriations Committee in its report for the Pentagon’s 2015 appropriations bill.

Except for the possibility that the F-35 Joint Program Office might complain that the F-35A number might be a little too low, these numbers are about as complete, accurate and authoritative as they can be.

Moreover, each of the other defense committees on Capitol Hill agree or-with one exception-think each model will be more expensive. The Pentagon’s numbers for these unit costs-in every case-are higher.

The methodology for calculating these F-35 unit costs is straightforward. Both the president’s budget and each of four congressional defense committees publish the amounts to be authorized or appropriated for each model of the F-35, including the number of aircraft to be bought.

The rest is simple arithmetic: Divide the total dollars for each model by the quantity.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

There are just two things F-35 watchers need to be careful about.

First, it’s necessary to add the funding from the previous year’s appropriation act to the procurement money the government allocated for 2015. This is “advance procurement” for 2015 spending, and pays for “long lead” components that take longer to acquire.

Second, we have to add the cost of Navy and Air Force modifications.

For the F-35, these costs are for fixing mistakes already found in the testing process. With the aircraft still in its initial testing, the modification costs to existing aircraft are very low. But the 2015 amounts for modifications are surrogates for what the costs for this year’s buy might be. If anything, this number can be an under-estimate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee sent its report to the printer on July 17, and that data is informed by the latest advice from the Pentagon, which is routinely consulted for the data the committee is working with. The Pentagon is also given an opportunity to appeal to change both data and recommendations.

Accordingly, of the four congressional defense committees, the Senate Appropriations Committee numbers are the most up to date. For the most part, these numbers are also the lowest.

The data from all four defense committees, the Pentagon’s budget request, and the final 2014 appropriations-all for the F-35 program-are in the table at the end of this article. This data is the empirical, real-world costs to buy, but not to test or develop, an F-35 in 2015.

They should be understood to be the actual purchase price for 2015-what the Pentagon will have to pay to have an operative F-35.

It’s very simple, and it’s also not what program advocates want you to think.

In a briefing delivered to reporters on June 9, F-35 developer Lockheed still advertised the cost of airplanes sans engines. Highly respected Aviation Week reported on July 22 that taxpayers put up $98 million for each F-35A in 2013.

In reality, we actually paid $188 million.

Some of these numbers are for the airframe only. In other cases, you get a “flyaway” cost. But in fact, those airplanes are incapable of operative flight. They lack the specialized tools, simulators, logistics computers-and much, much more-to make the airplane useable. They even lack the fuel to fly away.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

Here’s another curious fact. The unit costs of the Marines’ short-takeoff, vertical-landing B-model and the Navy’s aircraft-carrier-capable C-model are growing.

The cost of an F-35B grew from $232 million in 2014 to a bulging $251 million by 2015. The cost of the Navy’s F35C grew from $273 million in 2014 to a wallet-busting $337 million by 2015.

The quantity numbers for the F-35B have not changed, remaining at six per year. The number of F-35Cs to be produced has slipped from four to two, but surely learning processes on the F-35 line have not been going so far backward as to explain a 23 percent, $64 million per unit cost increase.

Something else is going on.

That something just might be in the F-35A line. Note the 15 percent decline in the F-35 unit price from 2014: from $174 million to $148 million. The units produced increase from 19 to 26, which Bogdan repeatedly explained will bring cost reductions due to “economy of scale.”

However, is that what’s really occurring in the F-35A line, while F-35B and F-35C costs are ballooning? Should not some of the benefit in F-35A production efficiency also show up on the F-35B and F-35C? Lockheed builds all three on the same assembly line in Fort Worth.

It could be that the F-35B and F-35C are bearing the overheard-or other costs-of the F-35A.

Why else would an F-35B with a stable production rate increase by $19 million per unit, and how else could the cost to build an F-35C-in production for six years-increase by $64 million per unit?

Even those who reject that someone might be cooking the books to make F-35A costs look as good as possible to Congress-and all-important foreign buyers-there should be a consensus that the program needs a comprehensive, fully independent audit.

Surely, an audit will help Congress and Pentagon leadership better understand why F-35B and F-35C prices are going up when they were supposed to be going down-and to ensure there is nothing untoward going on in any part of the program.

The defense world is full of price scams, each of them engineered to come up with the right answer for whoever is doing the talking.

Next time an advocate tells you what the current unit cost is for a program, ask: “What is Congress appropriating for them this year?” And, “How many are we buying?” Then get out your calculator. The result might surprise you.

NOW: Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace 

OR: 8 Presidents Who Actually Saw Combat In A Big Way 

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Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

Iran has tested an advanced high-speed torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz. The test is not only a provocation, but the torpedo is also a new threat to vessels in the international choke point.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the torpedo in question is called the Hoot, and appears to be a variant of the Russian Shkval, a rocket-powered torpedo capable of reaching speeds of 250 miles per hour, with a range of six miles. This torpedo could cover that distance in about a minute and a half.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A Russian-designed Shkval on display. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, Russia designed the Shkval as a “revenge weapon” for use by submarines to take out a ship or submarine that fired on them. The original Shkval was tipped with a nuclear warhead. The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World notes that an export version has about a 450-pound high-explosive warhead. Combat Fleets reported Iran was developing a variant of the Shkval known as the Dalaam.

The torpedo is a particular threat given the confined nature of the Strait of Hormuz, which is as narrow as 21 nautical miles.

The Shkval can be fired from any 21-inch torpedo tube — which means that the entire Iranian submarine force, three Kilo-class submarines and at least 16 Ghadir-class minsubs based on a North Korean design, plus another class of minisub called the Qa’em, can use this weapon.

Also read: Iranian cruise missile test fails

Iran has engaged in a number of provocations in recent months, including harassment of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) in April and close encounters with the missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24).

Iran also has handed off advanced weapons like the Noor anti-ship missile to various rebel and terrorist groups — and some of those missiles were subsequently used in attacks, notably against an Israeli corvette in 2006 and multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) last year.

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Messerschmitt made micro cars after WWII

The Luftwaffe terrorized Europe during WWII. Blitzkrieg attacks by panzers and motorized infantry were supported by German fighters and bombers. Bearing the names of their designers, Junkers, Heinkel, and Messerschmitt became infamous among the Allied nations. Messerschmitt was best known for its fighter planes including the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, and the jet-powered Me 262. Although the company survived the war, it was barred from producing aircraft for ten years.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a fearsome fighter (Bundesarchiv)

The war left Germany in a poor state. Its economy was in shambles, infrastructure was badly damaged, and manufacturing was nearly nonexistent. As the country and the continent rebuilt, fears of roadway congestion weighed heavy on people’s minds. Coupled with the scarcity and high cost of resources, European engineers turned to a radical new automobile design: the micro car.

Fritz Fend was a former Luftwaffe aeronautical engineer and technical officer. In 1948, he began building invalid carriages for disabled people. He noticed that his most popular model, the gasoline-powered Fend Fitzler tricycle, was also being purchased by able-bodied people for personal transport. Fend concluded that a two-seater model would be even more popular and adapted his design. He struck a deal with Messerschmitt to produce his new micro car at their Regensburg factory.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A 1959 FMR-made Messerschmitt KR200 (Public Domain)

In 1953, Messerschmitt introduced the Kabinenroller, or “Cabin Scooter.” Based on the Flitzer, the Kabinenroller featured a monocoque chassis and a bubble canopy. Contrary to popular belief and despite their design similarities, the Kabinenroller canopies were not surplus Messerschmitt fighter canopies. The Kabinenroller platform was used to make the Messerschmitt KR175, the more powerful KR200, and the KR201 roadster. In 1956, another German company named FMR took over Kabinenroller production from Messerschmitt. Although the KR series micro cars still bore the Messerschmitt name and logo, Fend later adapted the platform into a sports car that was badged FMR.

Introduced in 1958, the Tg500 featured the same monocoque chassis, tandem seating, and bubble canopy as the Kabinenroller tricycles. However, it was fitted with a larger engine for increased speed and four wheels for improved performance. Unofficially, the “Tg” stood for Tiger, a name that stuck with the car. Confusingly, the name “Tiger” was not only the name of the most feared German tank of WWII, but also the name of a post-war truck produced by former tank maker Krupp. Despite being manufactured by FMR, the micro car Tiger is sometimes referred to as the Messerschmitt Tiger, a name that can confuse even the most ardent of WWII enthusiasts.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
An advert for the KR175 and KR200 models (Messerschmitt)

Because three-wheeled cars could be driven with a more affordable motorcycle license, Kabinrollers were extremely popular in Britain where they still maintain a loyal following. Overall though, the Kabinenroller was not a commercial success. Today, Kabinenroller examples are novelties that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars depending on their condition.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A Messerschmitt KR200-based record car (Wikimedia Commons)

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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China is close to entering the ‘war on terror’ — and they won’t be on our side

By now, everyone who follows the fight against terrorism will know that there was an unsuccessful VBIED attack on Aug. 30 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in which a suicide bomber attempted to ram the embassy gates before detonating. This attack only managed to kill one person – the bomber – though it wounded several others. In the past year, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have successfully foiled multiple alleged plots and an estimated 500 of its citizens are believed to be in territory controlled by ISIL. Whether or not ISIL eventually claims credit for this attack, it will likely have been carried out by ethnically Uighur separatists from Western China – a population that not only has a presence in ISIL’s ranks, but also is actively being trained for attacks on Chinese targets by Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz.


The ongoing conflict between East Turkestan separatists/Uighur jihadists and the Chinese government has been at a low-broil for decades. Strict movement controls, an intense intelligence collection apparatus with an emphasis on big data analysis, and a heavy occupying presence in Muslim majority areas of China will largely continue to prevent successful mass casualty attacks against prestige targets. However, small-scale incidents, such as stabbings and rudimentary IED attacks, continue to affect cities in Western China from time to time – probably more than is possible to independently verify, given the inability of Western journalists to report in these areas.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
An anti-China, pro-Uighur protest outside the White House. Photo from Flickr user Malcolm Brown.

In the meantime, at risk of sounding cliché, China is rising. President Xi Jinping has embarked on a well-known effort to modernize China’s oversized, lumbering, corrupt, Cold War-era military into an efficient, combat-ready force ready for contingencies wherever they occur – from the South China Sea to the transportation infrastructure in its Western near-abroad known as the New Silk Road. This “Silk Road” seeks to modernize the ancient trade route of the same name and will undoubtedly re-orient Central Asian economies towards China.

These Central Asian countries, run by aging autocrats, are universally known as some of the least free nations in the world and are potential tinderboxes. They clamp down heavily on religion (the local religion is largely Sunni Islam). They rely on trade with Russia and high energy prices – and energy prices have been low for a while now. They have restive and young populations. Saudi Wahhabis fund unemployed youths’ spiritual journeys, and some of these very youths are already trained and combat-experienced from battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Expect more attacks against Chinese targets where and when possible.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, US Air Force.

So what does this imply for the United States? Several things, but it does not mean a straightforward area of potential military and diplomatic cooperation. China will likely reluctantly find itself more combat-experienced than it currently is (it last fought a war in 1979 against Vietnam – it did not go well for China). It will bring China to the world stage like never before as it picks up the slack it previously left for the US alone. However, China has signaled strongly that is not aligned with US counter-terrorism policy. When the heartbreaking video of wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh emerged, Chinese state-media ridiculed it as faked, saying that he was “eligible for an Oscar.” The People’s Liberation Army has instituted a training mission for Syrian forces (taking place safely in Mainland China). In other words, China is stepping up – and will continue to step up – but it will do so in a manner more aligned with Russia and Iran than with the United States and NATO.

Many Western analysts believe that for a country of its size, China really ought to do more to stabilize the world. Given what we know about the Chinese government and Xi’s modus operandus, and given the pressure China will be under from its nationalist netizens should a more successful attack against Chinese interests occur, we should be careful what we wish for. China stepping up will not mean closer partnership with the United States.

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This Navy SEAL claims he killed bin Laden–and that’s not all

The man who claims he was the SEAL Team 6 operator who shot Osama bin Laden in 2011 has written a new book, and his retelling of that raid shows the reason photos of the terror leader’s body were never released.


The book, “The Operator” by Robert O’Neill, recounts the former Navy chief’s career spanning 400 missions, though his role with the elite SEAL team’s raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has become his most consequential.

According to O’Neill, he was walking behind his fellow SEALs as they searched bin Laden’s three-story compound. Upstairs, they could roughly make out bin Laden’s son Khalid, who had an AK-47.

“Khalid, come here,” the SEALs whispered to him. He poked his head out and was shot in the face.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Osama bin Laden.

An unnamed point man and O’Neill proceeded up to the third floor. After they burst into bin Laden’s bedroom, the point man tackled two women, thinking they might have suicide vests, as O’Neill fired at the Al Qaeda founder.

“In less than a second, I aimed above the woman’s right shoulder and pulled the trigger twice,” he wrote, according to the New York Daily News. “Bin Laden’s head split open, and he dropped. I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.”

There is some dispute over who fired the fatal shots, but most accounts are that O’Neill shot bin Laden in the head at some point.

According to a deeply reported article in The Intercept, O’Neill “canoed” the head of bin Laden, delivering a series of shots that split open his forehead into a V shape.

O’Neill’s book says the operators had to press bin Laden’s head back together to take identifying photos. But that wasn’t the end of the mutilation of bin Laden’s body, according to Jack Murphy of SOFREP, a special-operations news website.

Also read: Bin Laden shooter Robert O’Neill threatened by ISIS as ‘number one target’

Two sources told Murphy in 2016 that several SEALs took turns dumping round after round into bin Laden’s body, which ended up having more than 100 bullet holes in it.

Murphy, a former Army Ranger, called it “beyond excessive.”

“The picture itself would likely cause an international scandal, and investigations would be conducted which could uncover other operations, activities which many will do anything to keep buried,” he wrote.

After bin Laden’s body was taken back to Afghanistan for full identification, it was transported to the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for burial at sea.

Somewhere in the Arabian Sea on May 2, 2011, a military officer read prepared religious remarks, and bin Laden’s body was slid into the sea.

The Defense Department has said it couldn’t locate photos or video of the event, according to emails obtained in 2012 by The Associated Press.

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This is the fastest American bomber that ever took to the skies

While Russia has deployed a number of Mach 2 bombers — like the Tu-22 Blinder and Tu-22M Backfire — these were not the fastest bombers that ever flew.


That title goes to the the North American XB-70 Valkyrie.

You haven’t heard much about the Valkyrie – and part of that is because it never got past the prototype stage. According to various fact sheets from the National Museum of the Air Force, the plane was to be able to cruise at Mach 3, have a top speed of Mach 3.1, and it had a range of 4,288 miles. All that despite being almost 200 feet long with a wingspan of 105 feet, and having a maximum takeoff weight of over 534,000 pounds.

That performance was gained by six J93 engines from General Electric, providing 180,000 pounds of thrust.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
The XB-70’s immense size is apparent in this photo of the plane on display at the National Museum of the Air Force. (USAF photo)

The XB-70s had no provision for armament, but the production version of this bomber was slated to be able to haul 50,000 pounds of bombs – either conventional or nuclear. Imagine that plane being around today, delivering JDAMs or other smart weapons.

With the performance and a weapons load like that, buying this plane to supplement the B-52 should have been a no-brainer, right? Well, not quite.

The fact was that the Valkyrie was caught by the development of two new technologies — the surface-to-air missile and the intercontinental ballistic missile. The former made high-speed, high-altitude runs much more dangerous (although it should be noted that the SR-71 Blackbird operated very well in that profile). The latter offered a more rapid strike capability than the XB-70 and was cheaper.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
The cockpit of the XB-70. Despite the plane’s immense size, it was still pretty cramped inside. (USAF photo)

Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as a result of the new technologies, the XB-70 was reduced by the Eisenhower Administration to a research and development project in December 1959. The B-70 was reinstated for production during the 1960 presidential campaign in an attempt to deflect criticism from John F. Kennedy. But Kennedy eventually threw it back to the lab.

Despite a public-relations effort by top Air Force brass, the B-70 remained an RD program with only two airframes built. A 1966 collision during a flight intended to generate photos to promote General Electric’s engines destroyed one of them. The surviving airframe is displayed at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
This photo of the XB-70 gives another glimpse of its immense size when compared to the X-15, the fastest manned aircraft that ever took to the skies. (USAF photo)

Take a look at this video from Curious Droid on the XB-70.

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The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jun. 17

We know that most of you are just here to steal memes for your arsenal. That’s fine. We’re doing the same thing when we go to the pages linked in blue above each meme.


If you don’t already, though, click on the links and show those page admins some love. They and their audiences are the hard workers who keep the meme currency flowing.

1. You could just get a job backpacking (via Pop Smoke).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
You’ll get to travel in all sorts of exotic locales and meet lots of interesting people.

2. Energy drinks win wars. That’s a fact (via Air Force Nation).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
DFAC: Get on this. The caffeine situation is unacceptable.

SEE ALSO: This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

3. “But, first sergeant said we should personalize our desks.”

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

4. When you get the counseling statement that you’re falling a little short in some areas:

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

5. 10 bucks says people were finding excuses to go into the room (via Pop Smoke).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

6. “And now we’re headed to berthing where we’ll be conducting nap time.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

7. Actual image shared on an Air Force Facebook page (via We Are The Mighty).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Maybe the F-35 is so expensive because it’s secretly an X-wing.

8. Remember to paint your face, Homer. Your jaundice makes you easy to pick out (via The Salty Soldier).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Homer Simpson really is the shammer/skater spirit animal.

9. Combat outposts don’t have regs or Charms candies (via Military Memes).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
You will need helmets, though.

10. “Don’t know why we need some fancy, new-fangled CD players in the Navy.”

(via Military Memes)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

11. George Washinton was so cool, he wore aviators before aviation was a thing (via Grunt Style)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Pretty sure he was rocking a 50-star flag before there were even thirteen states, too.

12. “Sry, chief. Still waiting. The dentists are moving super slow.”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

13. Of course, if it has no ammo, it’s probably not the last one you’ll ever see (via Military Nations)

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Maybe there are a few rounds left in the gun.

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WATM is looking for veterans who’ve made their homes epic

We Are The Mighty is looking for veterans from across the country who have gone above and beyond to make their homes epic and unique places to share with their family and community. These can be home additions, renovations, new constructions, or anything else as long as they are home areas designed to bring people together.


How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

Tree houses, bunkers, outdoor areas, and other spaces are also great.

We’d love to hear your stories about construction, community, and the military experience.

If you or someone you know has a home they’d like to highlight, please collect the following and email it to nicholas.gibeault@wearethemighty.com.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Photo of the house or area

Selected homes will be featured in a WATM series that will feature homes and communities that meet at them.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo courtesy Hector Salas

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6 surprise barracks inspections that will make you LOL

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Key & Peele, Comedy Central

Anything you’d find in a typical college dorm, you can expect to see in a barracks room.

That’s right, food, porn, liquor, hot plates for cooking — you name it. After all, barracks-confined troops and college kids are the same age. But unlike in college, a trooper doesn’t have as many rights to stuff as a student does.

While we know to make everything disappear before a scheduled barracks inspection, it’s the unexpected ones that land you with extra duty or worse. That’s why you should always have a plan, or prepare yourself for some tough questions like Cpl. Steve Henshaw in this scene from the classic Army comedy Sgt. Bilko.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Barracks inspection scene. Sgt. Bilko, Universal Pictures

Which leads us to the whole reason we’re writing about surprise room inspections in the first place.

While eavesdropping on the Marines of Helmand and Al Anbar Facebook page we came across the funniest thread we’ve read in a long time. The post asks followers to list the craziest things they’ve witnessed during a surprise inspection. Here’s our favorite seven responses:

1. The happiest man on earth.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

2. Grazing goat.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

3. Size matters.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

 

4. The V.I.P. Lounge.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

5. The girlfriend in the locker.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

6. The 1911 surprise.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

What was the craziest surprise barracks inspection you’ve ever witnessed?

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This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

We Are The Mighty is excited to partner with Paramount Pictures on #AlliedStories, a digital program inspired by the new Robert Zemeckis film Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – in theaters November 23rd.  Within #AlliedStories users can upload photos of their family from the 1940s, including your military photos, war letters, personal stories…anything 1940s. Below is an amazing story about how one Army veteran got back his wallet and personal photos 70 years after he lost it in France. Submit your own stories and photos at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories! 


Eligio Ramos was an Army private making his way across Europe with the 250th Field Artillery Unit in 1945. During a night in an Austrian farmhouse, he lost his wallet filled with receipts, photos, and his identification.

Seventy years later, his daughter was surprised to read a letter from an Austrian doctor looking to re-unite the wallet with its owner. Dr. Josef Ruckhofer told the Department of Veterans Affairs how he found the wallet while cleaning out his farmhouse.

“It was in June this year, we removed some of the old wooden planks from the backside wall,” said Ruckhofer. “When I looked to the bottom, I found this old leather wallet, a little bit dirty, but still okay. I opened the wallet and found a lot of old photographs, stamps, papers and an American Soldier’s ID card from 1945 with his name, birth year and hometown in Harlingen, Texas.”

Ruckhofer had to do some internet sleuthing to find the original owner, but Ramos finally got his wallet back in June. On August 4, he shared the stories behind the photos with his family and others at a ceremony at the Fresno VA Hospital.

The wallet contained a lot of photos and memories, from pictures of his unit and newborn babies to receipts from his time in Europe.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Eligio Ramos WWII veteran lost wallet receipts and ID. Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

 

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

Ramos was in the Army from 1942 to 1945.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

He fought with the 250th Artillery helping to liberate starving prisoners,” said his son, Rosando Ramos.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Eligio Ramos and his platoon. Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos family.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

One of the photos was of the farmhouse the platoon stayed in where Ramos left the wallet.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Joseph Ruckhofer

Standard documents from Army life in World War II, like ID cards and a rations receipt, were also in the wallet.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital Carmichael Yepez

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

For more information, see the full story of the Ramos wallet at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And don’t forget to share your photos and stories at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories.

“Allied” is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war. 

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How close is North Korea to being a nuclear threat really?

While a leaked US intelligence report suggests North Korea now can build warheads small and light enough to fit inside its intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons experts doubt that Pyongyang can develop an operational ICBM with a reliable warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.


Reports about the intelligence community’s consensus on North Korea’s weapons capability came this week as Pyongyang and Washington exchanged war threats.

The July 28 analysis from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed August 8 by The Washington Post, concludes that Pyongyang has “produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” On August 10, NBC News quoted unnamed US officials as saying the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as other intelligence agencies, agreed with the assessment.

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US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford

Key questions unanswered

Miniaturization technology was one of the major hurdles in Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs. If the DIA assessment holds true, the regime is now closer to achieving its ambition: striking the continental US with a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

Determined as North Korea is to become a full-fledged nuclear power, experts say several important questions about its capabilities remain.

David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector, told VOA’s Korean service the DIA assessment appeared to have ignored “uncertainties and caveats” about the reliability of the miniaturized warhead, once it is loaded atop an ICBM, and little is known about the chances that the payload will reach its target.

Pyongyang already can miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them on its medium-range Rodong missiles, which have been test-launched repeatedly since the early 1990s. Albright said it might be possible, but less likely, that they could do the same with an ICBM.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Difficulties only begin at launch

Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, explained that a nuclear warhead must survive the entire ICBM mission – the rigors of blastoff, possibly from a mobile launch vehicle, the flight into space and then a blazing re-entry into the atmosphere – before it can detonate above its target.

Failures can occur, Albright noted, because of the much more exacting requirements of the Hwasong-14 ICBM missile system, which has been tested only twice, and just within the past month – not enough to establish its reliability.

“Countries spend a lot of time working this problem to try to build up what they call the reliability of the warhead in a delivery system, and it just takes time,” Albright said. “I think I would be skeptical that North Korea can do it right now.”

Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, had similar views. But in terms of volume, he said, if a warhead can fit inside the payload bay of Pyongyang’s Scud-type short-range missile, which has a relatively narrow diameter, any of the regime’s other missiles, including the Hwasong-14, certainly could accommodate it.

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Hwasong missile (North Korean variant). (Photo: KCNA)

Lighter warheads travel farther

It is not yet clear by how much the North Koreans can lighten their missiles’ payloads, which would extend their range.

“It is still a question mark as to whether they can threaten deep into the United States,” Elleman said.

However, he told VOA, it appears the North Koreans’ rockets could deliver a 500-kilogram warhead as far the western portions of the continental US

Further undercutting confidence in the North’s technical capabilities is a lack of clarity about the Kim regime’s mastery of atmospheric re-entry technology for the warhead, a crucial requirement for operational ICBMs.

For long-range flights, Elleman said, “the re-entry velocity, when it comes back into the Earth’s atmosphere, is much higher, and so the protection mechanisms for the re-entry vehicle [must be] more rigorous, to survive the much greater amount of heat and the vibrations as it slows down, passing through … thicker and thicker [air] as you get closer to the surface.”

Tests show ‘substantial progress’

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is now a professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and he has visited North Korea seven times and toured its nuclear facilities.

Hecker said in an interview with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that making miniaturized warheads robust enough to survive the extreme conditions of ICBM flight “is very demanding and takes time, particularly because warheads contain materials such as plutonium, highly enriched uranium, high explosives and the like.”

“These are not,” he added, “your ordinary industrial materials.”

However, Hecker added in a separate interview this week, Pyongyang’s latest two missile tests, of their ICBMs, “demonstrate substantial progress, and most likely mean they will be able to master the technology in the next year or two.”

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the US Manhattan Project and built the first atomic bomb, has for 70 years published the “Doomsday Clock,” intended as a measure of how close the world is to a thermonuclear war – or to midnight, on the clock, because that could lead to a worldwide cataclysm.

The Doomsday Clock stood at three minutes to midnight in 2016. The scientists involved advanced it in late January this year, and it is now just two minutes and 30 seconds short of midnight.

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ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

U.S. forces in southern Syria came under attack by Islamic State militants around midnight local time on April 8, joining with local partner forces to repel the assault in an hours-long fight that required multiple airstrikes and left three U.S.-backed Syrian fighters dead.


U.S. special-operations advisers were on the ground near the al-Tanf border crossing when a force of 20 to 30 fighters with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked in what a U.S. Central Command spokesman called a “complex and coordinated” attempt to take the base from the coalition.

Also read: Here’s how the U.S. hit that Syrian airbase

“U.S. and coalition forces were on the ground in the area as they normally are, and participated in repulsing the attack,” said Air Force Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command, according to the Associated Press.

“There was close-air support that was provided, there was ground support that was provided, and there was med-evac that was supported by the coalition,” Thomas added. No Americans were killed or wounded.

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Marines train for attacks like this. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

“Clearly it was planned,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon. “The coalition and our partner forces had the resources to repulse that attack. A lot of them wound up being killed and the garrison remains controlled by the people in control before being attacked.”

“Ultimately the attackers were killed, defeated, or chased off,” Thomas said.

U.S. forces at al-Tanf, on Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, had initially withdrawn to avoid potential retaliatory action after the U.S. strike on an Assad regime airfield in western Syria.

The attack came from ISIS fighters disguised as U.S.-backed rebels, carrying M-16 rifles and using vehicles captured from U.S.-supported rebel groups. They struck first with a car bomb at the base entrance, which allowed some of the attackers to infiltrate the base. Many of the ISIS fighters were wearing suicide vests.

“Around 20 ISIS fighters attacked the base, and suicide bombers blew up the main gate, and clashes took place inside the base,” Tlass al-Salama, the commander of the Osoud al Sharqiya Army, part of the U.S.-backed moderate rebel alliance, told The Wall Street Journal.

Salama’s force sent reinforcements to the base, but they came under attack from other ISIS fighters.

Related: Mattis warns Syria against using chemical weapons again

U.S. special-operations forces and their Syrian partners who had moved out of the base quickly returned, and they initially repelled the attack on the ground in a firefight that lasted about three hours.

Coalition pilots also carried out multiple airstrikes amid the fighting, destroying ISIS vehicles and killing many of the terrorist group’s fighters.

“It was a serious fight,” a U.S. military official said April 10. “Whether or not it was a one-off, we will have to see.”

U.S. special-operations forces had been training vetted Syrian opposition troops at al-Tanf for more than a year. The Syrian opposition fighters in question were operating against ISIS in southern Syria and working with Jordan to maintain border security.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

The pullback from al-Tanf to safeguard against reprisals was just one step the coalition took in the aftermath of the U.S. strike on Shayrat airfield, which was believed to be the launching point for a chemical weapons attack on a Syrian village April 4.

The coalition also reduced the number of air missions it flew, out of concern Syrian or Russian forces would attempt to shoot down U.S. aircraft. The U.S. presence in Syria has increased in recent months, as Marines and other units arrive to aid U.S.-backed fighters.

ISIS may become more active in southern Syria as U.S.-backed forces close in on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital located in northeast Syria. Top ISIS leaders have reportedly fled the city in recent months.

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This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

Flying thousands of feet in the sky and zooming sensors in on enemy movement below, the Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with service command and control.


Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.

JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information, and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations.

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An E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System returns from a mission at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 1, 2014. USAF photo by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi.

The Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements, or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.

The JSTARS mission is of such significance that the Air Force is now evaluating multiple industry proposals to recapitalize the mission with a new, high-tech, next-generation JSTARS plane to serve for decades into the future.

“We have been able to extend the life of some of the legacy ones, but this does not change the fact that we need new platforms as quickly as we can,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Air Force plans for new JSTARS to be operational in 2024.

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Airmen with the 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, perform pre-flight ops checks on an E-8C Joint STARS. Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons

JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise, Air Force official Capt. Emily Grabowski told Scout Warrior.

Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.

“Combatant Commanders require unique command and control, and near real-time ISR capabilities to track the movement of enemy ground and surface forces,” she explained.

Grabowski emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A pilot with the 461st Air Control Wing (ACW), inspects a new iPad holder designed for use on the E-8C Joint STARS. Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons.

JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape, and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.

JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.

Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the pacific theater, Southcom, and Central Command areas of responsibility.

The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
An E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System lands at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 1, 2014. USAF photo by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi.

The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.

The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians, and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.

Northrop Grumman is offering a Gulfstream G550 jet engineered with a common software baseline to allow for rapid integration of emerging commercial technologies. By building their aircraft with a set of standardized IP protocol, the aircraft is designed to accommodate new software and hardware as it becomes available.

Sized smaller than other offerings, the G550 is intended to fly at higher altitudes and operate with less fuel, Northrop developers said.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Gulfstream G550. Image from Gulfstream.

“Our G550 business jet can fly higher and see more to prosecute more targets without any added cost. Its agility and size allows it to be closer to the fight because it can base at two times the number of bases that heavy aircraft can fit in,” Alan Metzger, Vice President, Next-Generation Surveillance and Targeting, Northrop Grumman, told Scout Warrior.

Higher altitude missions can widen the aperture of a sensor’s field-of-view, therefore reaching wider areas to surveil.

Northrop’s G550 JSTARS have flown 500 hours and gone through simulated inflight refueling behind KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft.  Developers say the aircraft has all-weather performance ability, provides VHF/UFH radio operations and optimizes radar performance with a layout creating no blockage from engine cowlings or wings.

The G55O is compliant to wide area surveillance common open architecture radar processing system requirements, Northrop officials said. Along with General Dynamics-owned Gulfstream, L3 is also partnering with Northrop on the JSTARS recap.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
US Air Force aircrew member with the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, swaps out imagery discs during pre-flight aboard the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Regina Young

Lockheed’s Bombardier business jet, built by Sierra Nevada, offers a modified Global 600 aircraft with Raytheon-built battle management systems.

The aircraft is 94-feet long and can operate with a 100,000-pound take off gross weight; Lockheed developers claim the Global 6000, which currently flies in the Air Force inventory as the E-11A, can reach a range of 6,000 nautical miles and altitudes of 51,000 feet.

Lockheed also emphasizes that their offering places a premium on common standards and open architecture.

“Rather than using unique or customized hardware and software approaches adapted to an open systems architecture environment, our architecture is truly open and free of proprietary interfaces. This allows us to leverage state-of-the-art commercial technology to expedite integration of capabilities and minimize cost,” a Lockheed statement said. 

Boeing’s JSTARS uses a 110-foot 737 able to reach altitudes of 41,000-feet. Developers say it can cruise at speeds of 445 knots and carry a maximum payload of 50,000-pounds. Like other offerings, Boeing’s jet claims to accomplish an optimal size, weight, power and cooling ratio.

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