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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Russia has a ‘troll farm’ of people posting crazy internet comments all day long

The next time you venture into the dark netherworld of rants about Obama or Osama bin Laden conspiracy theories that is the internet comments section, you may be viewing the work of a professional “troll” in Moscow.


In The New York Times Magazine, journalist Adrian Chen writes a fascinating story about a pro-Kremlin company called The Internet Research Agency headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s mission: Spread propaganda far and wide, from the discussion sections of news websites to Facebook comment threads.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

Inside the nondescript building, twenty-something-aged employees work 12-hour shifts for great pay, while managers obsess over employees meeting their daily quotas of writing political and nonpolitical posts, and hundreds of comments.

Chen writes:

Every day at the Internet Research Agency was essentially the same, Savchuk told me. The first thing employees did upon arriving at their desks was to switch on an Internet proxy service, which hid their I.P. addresses from the places they posted; those digital addresses can sometimes be used to reveal the real identity of the poster. Savchuk would be given a list of the opinions she was responsible for promulgating that day. Workers received a constant stream of “technical tasks” — point-by-point exegeses of the themes they were to address, all pegged to the latest news. Ukraine was always a major topic, because of the civil war there between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Army; Savchuk and her co-workers would post comments that disparaged the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and highlighted Ukrainian Army atrocities. Russian domestic affairs were also a major topic. Last year, after a financial crisis hit Russia and the ruble collapsed, the professional trolls left optimistic posts about the pace of recovery. Savchuk also says that in March, after the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered, she and her entire team were moved to the department that left comments on the websites of Russian news outlets and ordered to suggest that the opposition itself had set up the murder.

It’s a fascinating story that should make anyone weary of reading anonymous comments on the internet. Though as BoingBoing notes, these types of organizations are not just a Russian product. China — and yes, even the United States — also employ people to do essentially the same thing.

But Russia’s Internet Research Agency certainly takes it to the next level, as Chen writes that it had “industrialized the art of trolling.”

“It’s definitely made me more paranoid about, you know, what’s on Twitter, what’s on Facebook,” Chen told NPR’s Audie Cornish in an interview. “One thing that really struck me was how big of an impact, you know, a relatively small number of people who are working in a determined manner to shape the dialogue on the Internet can have.”

Read Chen’s full story, “The Agency,” right here

OR CHECK OUT: That time the US Army stole a Russian helicopter for the CIA

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This Gatling gun fires up to 6,000 F-Us per minute … and we love it

The Dillon Aero M134D minigun is the world’s ultimate gatling gun, firing upwards of 6,000 rounds per-minute. And the awesome weapon can be carried on everything from small helicopters to fixed wing planes to the backs of infantrymen.


The 7.62mm minigun got its start in Vietnam where the Army adopted it for vehicle and infantry use while the Air Force bought it for its first-generation “Spooky” gunships. The infantry version of the weapon requires a tripod and large batteries and was rarely deployed.

But the vehicle-mounted versions of the weapon were a hit. The AC-47 carried three of the miniguns on its left side and would fly through the skies of Vietnam at night, dropping flares to illuminate enemies attacking U.S. forces and then wasting them with the three miniguns. It was later nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the way its tracers lit up the night.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The Air Force eventually turned to a larger plane and larger guns for aerial gunships, leading to the AC-130 variants still flying today. But the M134 saw expanded deployments as the Navy began mounting them on ships and boats and the Army expanded the weapon onto more helicopters and vehicles.

But the original M134s were prone to jamming, so Dillon Aero went back to the drawing board and eventually rolled out the M134D, a more reliable version of the weapon.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
(GIF: YouTube/Discovery UK)

Today, it continues to be deployed across the world on everything from modified SUVs to helicopters. The M134D has even shown up in recent video of Rangers deployed to Syria. The special operators have Strykers outfitted with the minigun.

The Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft crews rely heavily on the weapon when conducting riverine operations and landing SEALs. The high rate of fire allows them to quickly subdue a riverbank or to suppress an enemy chasing Navy SEALs during a pick up.

See the awesome weapon in action in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqDCCTCYTNI
Video: YouTube/American Heroes Channel
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That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

In 1968, then-Maj. Colin Powell was a Ranger assigned to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division. It was his second tour in Vietnam.


Just five years earlier, he was one of the American advisors to South Vietnam’s fledgling army. While on a foot patrol in Viet Cong-held areas in 1963, the 25-year-old Powell was wounded by a VC booby trap.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Powell in Vietnam (photo via Academy of Achievement)

He stepped on a punji stick, which the VC laced with buffalo dung. The excrement created an infection that made it difficult for him to walk.

“The Special Forces medics cut my boot off, and they could see my foot was purple by then,” Powell said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement. “The spike had gone all the way through, from the bottom to the top, and then come right back out, totally infecting the wound as it made the wound.”

That ended his time in combat. Powell was reassigned to the 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam division headquarters for the rest of that tour.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
(Academy of Achievement photo)

On his second tour in Vietnam, he was again behind a desk as the assistant Chief of Staff for the Americal Division (as the 23rd was known). Though a staff officer, when you’re a man of destiny like Colin Powell, the action comes to you.

On November 16, 1968, the helicopter transporting Maj. Powell along with the 23rd ID commander crashed.

Powell, injured but clear of the wreckage, ran back to the burning helicopter several times to rescue comrades. Though the helicopter was in danger of exploding, he continued to attempt the rescue.

When he found one passenger trapped under the mass of twisted, burning fuselage, Powell tore away the burning metal with his bare hands.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

Powell was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day. He managed to rescue every passenger from the downed helicopter.

During his deployments to Vietnam, he also earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

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The Army wants to ditch the M249 SAW and give the infantry more firepower

The US Army is looking for an upgrade to the M249 squad automatic weapon, a mainstay of the infantry squad and its prime source of firepower.


According to a notice on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Army Times, the US Army is looking for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, to replace the M249.

The NGSAR “will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality.”

The notice stipulates that NGSAR proposals should be lightweight and compatible with the Small Arms Fire Control system as well as legacy optics and night-vision devices.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) on a Stryker.(Photo by Patrick A. Albright, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

“The NGSAR will achieve overmatch by killing stationary, and suppressing moving, threats out to 600 meters, and suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters,” the notice states.

The FBO posting does not list a caliber for the new weapon. The M249 fires a 5.56 mm round, and the Army is currently examining rounds of intermediate caliber between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm to be used in both light machine guns and the eventual replacement for the M4 rifle.

The desire to replace the 5.56 mm round comes from reports indicating it is less effective at long range, as well as developments in body armor that lessen the round’s killing power.

The M249’s possible replacement, the M27 infantry automatic rifle, has already been deployed among Marines and is now carried by the automatic rifleman in each Marine squad.

The M27 was first introduced in 2010, originally meant to replace the M249, but the Marine Corps is reportedly considering replacing every infantryman’s M4 with an M27.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
A Marine fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle while conducting squad attack exercise in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Manuel Benavides)

The notice also requires that the NGSAR come with a tracer-and-ball ammunition variant, which “must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions.”

The NGSAR should also weigh no more than 12 pounds with its sling, bipod, and sound suppressor. The M249 weighs 17 pounds in that configuration, according to Army Times. The notice does not include ammunition in its weight requirements.

The phasing in of M249 replacement should take place over the coming decade, the notice says.

 

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Latest missile test shows US can knock Kim’s missiles from the sky

The US military shot an incoming missile out of the sky in a successful intercept test Aug. 30.


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launched an SM-6 interceptor to bring down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to the Missile Defense Agency.

The missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Using the on-board AN/SPY-1 radar, the destroyer detected and tracked the missile.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
The USS John Paul Jones. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley.

“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”

The Aug. 30 test marked the second time an SM-6 interceptor has been used to intercept an MRBM. The military has conducted three tests in total, but during a test in June, the interceptor failed as a result of human error. A sailor on the USS John Paul Jones triggered a self-destruct sequence by mistake.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launches a Standard Missile 6 during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. Photo from US Navy.

The US military’s latest intercept test comes just two days after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan in an unusually-provocative missile test. The North warned that it will continue firing missiles into the Pacific Ocean, adding that the recent test was a “prelude” to possible strikes on or around Guam.

The US has lost a few Aegis destroyers in recent months, hindering missile defense in a volatile region. Both the USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain were damaged severely after collisions with merchant vessels in June and August. The two accidents killed seventeen American sailors. The US military still has numerous missile defense assets — from Patriot interceptors to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems — in the area though.

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The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

Soldiers witnessed the innovation of Army researchers recently during flight testing of 3-D printed unmanned aircraft systems that were created on-demand for specific missions.


How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
John Gerdes, an engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, explains the capabilities of the On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, to Soldiers at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 1, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Angie DePuydt)

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command invited engineers from the Army Research Laboratory to Fort Benning, Georgia Dec. 1-3, to showcase new technology at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE.

“We’ve created a process for converting Soldier mission needs into a 3-D printed On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, as we’ve been calling it,” said Eric Spero, team leader and project manager.

With this concept, once a patrol requires UAV support, Soldiers input all their requirements into mission planning software. The system then knows the optimal configuration for the aerial vehicle and it’s printed and delivered within 24-hours.

“We thought they’re not going to think that’s fast enough, but, actually it was the opposite,” Spero said. “The timeline of 24 hours to receive a mission-custom UAS fits right in line with the way they plan and execute their missions.”

Researchers said they felt the combination of 3-D printing and UAVs was a natural technology solution.

“Drones or quadcopters are really getting big right now, I mean in particular just the commercial and hobby markets have shown what can be done with a small amount of money,” said John Gerdes, an engineer on the project.

“Additive manufacturing or 3-D printing has become huge and everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3-D printers,” he said. “So we figured let’s assemble these two new technologies and provide a solution to Soldiers that need something right now and don’t want to wait for it.”

The team spent many hours flight testing and verifying the designs and to make sure everything was going to work the way they expected.

“It was good that we didn’t have any mistakes on game day,” said fellow engineer Nathan Beals. “The day before we did some test flights and worked out some kinks. I think we had the quad up to 55 miles per hour.”

Spero said based on feedback from Army leaders, his team hopes to work on low noise, long standoff distance, heavier payload capacity and better agility.

“I’m very optimistic that most of those are achievable,” he said. “I think the hardest one that’s going to be achievable is the heavy payload.”

Soldiers at AEWE also became fascinated with 3-D printing technologies, Spero said.

“Before we even started the briefing, we set up the 3-D printer in the conference room and started a print job,” Spero said.

The researchers printed a Picatinny Rail, which is a bracket used to mount accessories on a small arms weapon, such as an M4 carbine. In about two and a half hours, they had a rail that fit the Soldiers’ weapons perfectly.

They asked the group what other kinds of 3-D printed items they could use. In a matter of hours, the team presented a variety of functional printed parts that impressed the Soldiers.

This isn’t just about UASs,” Spero said. “It’s about forward-deployed, 3-D printing to help the Soldier.

The Army engineers continue to collaborate with partners at the Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab as they continue to refine technologies for future Soldiers.

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China’s Air Force growing in size and technological edge

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?


Tensions in the South China Sea and continued warnings about Chinese militarization of the disputed areas has led many Pentagon planners and analysts to sharpen focus on Chinese Air Force acquisitions and technological advances.

The U.S. Air Force’s technological air power superiority over China is rapidly diminishing in light of rapid Chinese modernization of fighter jets, missiles, air-to-air weapons, cargo planes and stealth aircraft, according to analysts, Pentagon officials and a Congressional review released several years ago.

The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended that Congress appoint an outside panel of experts to assess the U.S.-Chinese military balance and make recommendations regarding U.S. military plans and budgets, among other things.Despite being released in 2014, the findings of the report – if slightly dated – offer a detailed and insightful window into Chinese Air Force technology, progress and development.

The Commission compiled its report based upon testimony, various reports and analytical assessments along with available open-source information. An entire chapter is dedicated to Chinese military modernization.

The review states that the Chines People’s Liberation Army currently has approximately 2,200 operational aircraft, nearly 600 of which are considered modern.

“In the early 1990s, Beijing began a comprehensive modernization program to upgrade the PLA Air Force from a short-range, defensively oriented force with limited capabilities into a modern, multi-role force capable of projecting precision airpower beyond China’s borders, conducting air and missile defense and providing early warning,” the review writes.

Regarding stealth aircraft, the review mentions the recent flights of prototypes of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter, calling the aircraft more advanced than any other air platform currently deployed in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Chinese are also testing a smaller stealth fighter variant called the J-31 although its intended use is unclear, according to the report.

In 2014, China displayed the Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter at China’s Zuhai Air show, according to various reports. However, several analysts have made the point that it is not at all clear if the platform comes close to rivaling the technological capability of the U.S. F-35.

Nevertheless, the U.S. technological advantage in weaponry, air and naval platforms is rapidly decreasing, according to the review.

To illustrate this point, the review cites comments from an analyst who compared U.S.-Chinese fighter jets to one another roughly twenty years ago versus a similar comparison today.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
J-31 prototype at 2014 China International Aviation Aerospace Exhibition

The analyst said that in 1995 a high-tech U.S. F-15, F-16 or F/A-18 would be vastly superior to a Chinese J-6 aircraft. However today — China’s J-10 and J-11 fighter jet aircraft would be roughly equivalent in capability to an upgraded U.S. F-15, the review states.

Alongside their J-10 and J-11 fighters, the Chinese also own Russian-built Su-27s and Su-30s and are on the verge of buying the new Su-35 from Russia, the review states.

“The Su-35 is a versatile, highly capable aircraft that would offer significantly improved range and fuel capacity over China’s current fighters. The aircraft thus would strengthen China’s ability to conduct air superiority missions in the Taiwan Strait, East China Sea, and South China Sea as well as provide China with the opportunity to reverse engineer the fighter’s component parts, including its advanced radar and engines, for integration into China’s current and future indigenous fighters,” the review writes.

In addition to stealth technology, high-tech fighter aircraft and improved avionics, the Chinese have massively increased their ability with air-to-air missiles over the last 15-years, the review finds.

“All of China’s fighters in 2000, with the potential exception of a few modified Su-27s, were limited to within-visual-range missiles. China over the last 15 years also has acquired a number of sophisticated short and medium-range air-to-air missiles; precision-guided munitions including all-weather, satellite-guided bombs, anti-radiation missiles, and laser-guided bombs; and long-range, advanced air-launched land-attack cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles,” the review says.

The review also points to the Y-20 aircraft, a new strategic airlifter now being tested by the Chinese which has three times the cargo-carrying capacity of the U.S. Air Force’s C-130.  Some of these new planes could be configured into tanker aircraft, allowing the Chinese to massively increase their reach and ability to project air power over longer distances.

At the moment, the Chinese do not have a sizable or modern fleet of tankers, and many of their current aircraft are not engineered for aerial refueling, a scenario which limits their reach.

“Until the PLA Navy’s first carrier-based aviation wing becomes operational, China must use air refueling tankers to enable air operations at these distances from China. However, China’s current fleet of air refueling aircraft, which consists of only about 12 1950s-era H–6U tankers, is too small to support sustained, large-scale, long-distance air combat,” the review states.

The review also cites Russian media reports claiming that Russia has approved the sale of its new, next-generation S-400 surface-to-air-missile to China.

“Such a sale has been under negotiation since at least 2012. The S–400 would more than double the range of China’s air defenses from approximately 125 to 250 miles—enough to cover all of Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands, and parts of the South China Sea,” the review says.

The review also catalogues information related to China’s nuclear arsenal and long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the existing DF-31 and DF-31A along with the now-in-development DF-41.

The Chinese are believed to already have a number of road-mobile ICBMs able to carry nuclear weapons. The DF-41 is reported to have as many as 10 re-entry vehicles, analysts have said.

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4 reasons the Navy needs more ships

The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that the Navy has stated in its latest Force Structure Assessment that it needs a larger force – setting an ideal goal of 355 ships, an increase from the 308 requested in the 2014 update. Currently, the Navy has 273 ships that are deployable.


How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Two carriers in the South China Sea. | US Navy photo

Why does the Navy need all those ships? Here’s a list:

China is modernizing and getting aggressive

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

The theft of a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicle is just the latest in a series of incidents where China has been crossing the line. There have been buzzing incidents in the South China Sea that have gotten very close to Navy electronic surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft. They also have built unsinkable aircraft carriers on some islands in the maritime hot spot. USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out a stealth freedom of navigation exercise earlier this year without incident, but with the buzzing incidents, the next one could get rough.

With the South China Sea becoming a potential free-for-all, the Navy may want more ships.

Russia is modernizing and getting aggressive

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Concept photo of Russian Projekt 20386 littoral combat ship. (Photo from Thai Military and Region blog)

Maybe it’s the way they snatched Crimea, or their actions in Syria and the Ukraine, but it is obvious that Russia is also acting up in a manner that doesn’t bode well for American allies in Europe.

Aside from the Kuznetsov follies — notably the splash landings — the Russians are modernizing their fleet. They seem to have come up with a littoral combat ship design that outguns the Navy’s.

Iran may need a smackdown

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

Iran has threatened Navy aircraft, harassed U.S. Navy vessels, and is developing a knockoff of the S-300. It is also a major sponsor of terrorism, is still pursuing nuclear weapons, and is buying weapons from Russia.

While ISIS is one threat, Iran is lurking as well.

The Littoral Combat Ship needs work

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

Let’s face it, if we were looking for a new Coast Guard cutter, the littoral combat ship would have been fine. But the Navy needs smaller combatants because there will be a need to handle some of the dirty jobs, like mine warfare.

But with engine problems, the littoral combat ship is having trouble getting its sea legs, if you will. The Navy may well need to look at buying some other ships to buy time to figure out how to fix the technical problems, maybe accessorize it a little, and to figure out what to do with these ships.

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How atomic bombs fueled Las Vegas tourism in the 1950s

You would think that nuclear weapons testing and tourism wouldn’t go together. But in fact, tourists who went to Las Vegas to watch the nuclear tests helped fuel the growth of that city in the 1950s.


In the 1950s, the United States carried out over 150 nuclear weapons tests above ground. Some of these tests – particularly the large-scale thermo-nuclear bomb tests like the 1954 Castle Bravo test, which had a 15-megaton yield – were carried out in the Central Pacific. Not exactly accessible to tourists, but well out of the way (an important consideration considering the power of the bombs).

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
Nuclear weapons

However, in Nevada — where the explosions and subsequent mushroom clouds were visible from Las Vegas — These tests gave that rapidly-growing city’s economy a surprising boost. Many tourists traveled to Vegas hoping they’d see one of these tests take place.

Of course, today, we know about the after-effects of all those explosions, including fallout that leads to cancer and other medical issues for people who were downwind of the nuclear blasts.

How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?
The Buster-Jangle Dog nuclear test of a 21-kiloton weapon. (Photo: US Department of Energy)

Back then, it was seen as just a fancy fireworks display for Sin City residents and tourists on the United States government’s dime. In 1963, the Partial Test Ban Treaty was ratified. That ended the era of above-ground testing, and limited the blasts to underground.

The U.S. continued to carry out underground nuclear tests until 1992, when the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty curtailed nuke blasts. That treaty, however, has still not been ratified by the Senate. Check out this video from the Smithsonian Channel to learn more about Sin City’s nuclear tourism boom (pun intended).

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These are the best military photos for the week of August 19th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew Barth a physical therapist with the 349th Medical Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., practices weapons safety with an M4 carbine at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 16, 2017, as part of exercise Patriot Warrior. More than 600 Reserve Citizen Airmen and over 10,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Wisconsin to support a range of interlinked exercises including Patriot Warrior, Global Medic, CSTX, Diamond Saber, and Mortuary Affairs Exercise (MAX). Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint and international partners in airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. This exercise is intended to test the ability of the Air Force Reserve to provide combat-ready forces to operate in dynamic, contested environments and to sharpen Citizen Airmen’s skills in supporting combatant commander requirements.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Dyer

A German air force Tornado and an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 314th Fighter Squadron fly in formation together during the last joint flying mission at Holloman Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2017. The GAF has entered its final stage of departure, however they will not complete their departure from Holloman AFB until mid 2019.

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Army:

U.S. Army Paratroopers, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire an M777 towed 155 mm howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq, August 15, 2017. The 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., enables Iraqi security force partners through the advise and assist mission, contributing planning, intelligence collection and analysis, force protection and precision fires to achieve the military defeat of ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

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U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) participate in a division run August 16, 2017 at Fort Campbell, Ky. The run commemorated a “Legacy of Heroism” for the division’s 75th birthday.

Rendezvous with destiny, brothers!

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Floyd, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade

Navy:

Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Richard Hill, right, welds a table leg aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with its carrier strike group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios.

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U.S. Navy photo by Machinist Mate 3rd Class Andrew Langholf

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) departs Theoule-sur-Mer, France. Oscar Austin was in Theoule-sur-Mer, France, to participate in events commemorating the 73rd anniversary of Operation Dragoon, the liberation of southern France by allied forces during World War II.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik

Marine Corps:

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, and U.S. Airmen with the 496th Air Base Squadron, and Spanish Air Force members in a moment of silence and a show of solidarity and partnership in honor of those lost in the attack on Barcelona, Spain, at Morón Air Base, Spain, Aug 18, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

U.S. Marines exit the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft Aug. 18, 2017, in Hokudaien, Japan, marking the first time the aircraft has landed in northern Japan. Col. James Harp, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander of Northern Viper 17, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Iwana, deputy commander of Northern Army 11th Brigade, particpated in a joint interview to discuss the Osprey’s capabilities. This aircraft allows Marines to have the ability to rapidly respond to any contingency worldwide.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Savannah Mesimer

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205), a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Honolulu is shown coordinating search efforts with a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu, for five crewmembers aboard a downed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter off Ka’ena Point, Oahu, Aug. 17, 2017. Two Black Hawk aircrews were reportedly conducting night training Aug. 15, between Ka’ena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost with one of the helicopters.

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U.S. Coast Guard Courtesy photo

A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro small boat crew transits international waters in support of Operation North Pacific Guard Aug. 15, 2017. Operation North Pacific Guard is a multilateral effort by North Pacific rim nations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing to include high-seas drift net fishing.

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U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charly Hengen

Articles

The soldier who was conscripted to fight for the Soviets, the Japanese, and the Germans in World War II

A lot of things happened on D-Day- the largest seaborne invasion in history took place; James “Scotty” Doohan from Star Trek fame was shot six times by his fellow countrymen; and Mad Jack Churchill stormed the beach with a sword and a bow.


Another unusual thing that occurred was the capture of what initially was assumed to be a Japanese soldier in a German uniform by American paratroopers.

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Photo: Wikipedia

As it turns out, this soldier was neither Japanese nor German and was in fact a young Korean man who, through a bizarre series of incidents, had been conscripted to fight for the Soviets, the Japanese and the Germans during WW2. This is the story of Yang Kyoungjong.

Little is known about Yang’s life prior to his service in WW2 other than that he was a native Korean who happened to be living in Japanese controlled Manchuria at the start of WW2. Due to this, Yang found himself conscripted against his will in 1938 and forced to serve in the Kwantung Army at just 18 years old.

After basic training, Yang was sent to take part in what has since become known as the Battles of Khalkha Gol, along the borders of Manchuria.

These battles were mostly fought between the Kwantung Army and a combined force consisting of Mongolian and Soviet troops (the two countries were allies at the time) around the Khalkha River, which the Japanese insisted fell within the borders of Manchuria, despite claims to the contrary from Mongolia.

During one particularly heated battle, Yang was captured by the Soviets in 1939 and sent to a labor camp. If the Soviet Union hadn’t suffered intense casualties fighting Nazi Germany on the Eastern front in the latter half of the war, this is probably where Yang would have stayed for the duration of WW2.

But as its pool of able bodied men had been severely depleted by extensive engagements against the Nazis, Soviet military officials made the decision in 1942 to replenish their fighting force by “drafting” thousands of POWs. Among the soldiers drafted was Yang who was once again forcibly made to join the fight in WW2- this time under the Soviet Flag.

Yang’s service with the Soviets lasted about a year, during which time he took place in numerous engagements along the Eastern Front, most notably the Third Battle of Kharkov. It was in this battle that he found himself once again a prisoner of war for yet another nation.

The Germans were apparently unconcerned with how a Korean had come to end up fighting in Ukraine for the Soviets and simply took him prisoner along with hundreds of other soldiers. Again, the interesting part about Yang’s story would likely have ended here if the Nazis weren’t in the habit of allowing prisoners they didn’t execute to “volunteer” to serve with the Wehrmacht following their capture.

As a result of this practise, Yang was conscripted to fight in a German Ostbataillone (literally: East Battalion) in the 709 Infanterie-Division of the Wehrmacht.

For the curious, Ostbataillones were small battalions of men comprised of “volunteers” from the numerous regions of Europe Nazi Germany controlled. These were folded into larger units of German soldiers to serve as shock troops and backup to more experienced Wehrmacht battalions.

After being conscripted to fight for the Third Reich, Yang was sent to help defend the Cotentin peninsula in France shortly before D-Day. When D-Day arrived and Allied troops successfully stormed the beaches, Yang was among a handful of soldiers captured by the United States’ 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Initially it was reported by Lieutenant Robert Brewer of the 506th that they’d captured “four Asians in German uniform”. While this was technically true, the 506th mistakenly believed the four men (Yang included) were Japanese. In reality, three of the men hailed from Turkestan while Yang, as already noted, was of Korean heritage.

Unable to communicate with Yang due to him not being fluent in either English or German, Yang was sent to yet another POW camp, this time in Britain, where he mercifully remained until the end of the war.

When WW2 ended, Yang chose not to return home, but instead immigrated to the United States where once again his story becomes hazy. The only thing we can find for sure about Yang’s life after WW2 is that he eventually ended up settling in Cook County, Illinois where he quietly passed away in 1992.

Very unfortunately for those of us who like all the little details of a story, such as Yang’s thoughts on his experiences in WW2 and how he got through it all, after the war, Yang never talked publicly about his WW2 misadventure. In fact, according to a December of 2002 article on Yang that appeared in Weekly Korea, he didn’t even discuss

it with his three children, leaving us to wonder.

Articles

5 reasons why your contract marriage wasn’t the worst thing ever

“I, Private Schmuckatelli, take you, whatever your name is, to be my lawfully wedded wife.”


Many service members (not mentioning any names) spoke these words right before a deployment to move out of the small studio-sized barracks most likely for the extra money every month.

This money comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Implemented in January 1998 BAH pays housing expenses for service members to move off-base if the barracks are overcrowded or if a change in the member’s lifestyle warrants it (i.e., having a baby or getting married. After a certain pay grade, everyone receives BAH, but it is restricted in the lower ranks. That’s why some take the risk of a contract marriage.

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Who here married a stripper to move out of the barracks? (images via Giphy)

Although contract marriages are frowned upon by the chain of command, it’s a well-known practice utilized by all ranks today. Capitalizing on this financial loophole could benefit your future (depending on the person with whom you join in court-approved matrimony).

Here are a few added bonuses to your contract marriage that you may have never noticed before.

1. Renter’s History  

Signing a lease with a rental company starts your “Renter’s History.” As long as you pay your rent on time, this keeps you in good standing with the rental bureaus. Young service members may not have the best credit, but having good rental history is a step in the right direction.

Your contract marriage could help prevent you from being homeless in the future.

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“I am serious and don’t call me, Shirley.”  (Paramount Pictures)

2. Learn to Budget

Although the medical benefits are valuable, they could throw a curveball and require more money every month than you planned. Checking to see how much a service member earns is simple: you can Google it. Waiting to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month could feel like a freaking eternity without a budget.

A contract marriage probably didn’t make you a millionaire even if it made you feel that way after that first check. So learn to…

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(Paramount/Dream Works,)

3. It Follows

Unfortunately, one crappy aspect of being in the military is how your command intervenes in your personal life. They like to know about everything and if you don’t tell them upfront, somehow they manage to find out.

If you plan on making the military a career, I advise against a contract marriage, especially when word gets out about your legally-binding “spouse” while you’re out hitting on every single person at the bar. Remember: it’s technically fraud, so good luck getting promoted.

People can often suck.

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4. Emotional Maturity

The average marrying age range in the civilian world is 25 to 27. However, in the military, the median falls at 22 – above legal drinking age, but not yet a mature adult. No one is condoning getting married for the benefits, but if you do and it doesn’t work out, you shouldn’t be surprised.

You were young, dumb and full of one bad idea after another. Your temporary spouse may not have been the perfect soulmate, but at least you narrowed it down.

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5. The Silver Lining

Looking back on it, would you do it again? Overall experiences will vary depending on if everything went to plan. The memories you have are what separates you as an individual and makes you unique. If it made you into a grumpy old man, then that sucks.

Take it for what it is. It’s always better to look toward the future than dwell in the past.

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“Beautifully put.” (New Line)                                                                                            

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