The Growler is a key factor in every attack squadron because of its ability to shut down ground radar with electronic jamming.
It’s equipped with receivers built on to each wing tip which search for radar signals to locate the enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.
Inside the cockpit, the Weapon Systems Officer monitors the computer system that scans, analyzes and decides whether the signals it picks up are either friend or foe.
If a threat is detected, the Growler activates one of three jamming pods stored underneath the jet’s centerline that overwhelms the ground radar by sending out electronic noise allowing coalition aircraft to sneak by undetected.
But it doesn’t just jam the enemy’s radar, it also has the capability ofdeliveringphysical destruction as well.
The Growler comes equipped with an attack missile called “HARM” which stands for “high-speed anti-radiation missile.” Once this rocket is launched, it locks in on the ground radar’s electronic signal and explodes directly over its intended target.
The Growler’s impressive systems can locate, jam, and destroy enemy radar in under a minute.
Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.
Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.
Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.
Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today’s growing technology industry.
MSSA is an 18-week program that provides transitioning service members and veterans with intensive training for high-paying careers in tech fields like database and business intelligence administration, cloud application development, server and cloud administration, and cybersecurity administration. Essentially, it draws on military service members’ skill sets to quickly assess, analyze, and fix a situation with the resources at hand while remaining calm and focused, this time in the virtual world. It’s a role for which they’ve already proven themselves well-suited.
“I feel like I have so many new opportunities at my fingertips and I have the ability contribute the Microsoft mission now,” says Brown.
Enrolled service members take the course as their duty assignment, either on base or at a local community campus, spending the 18 weeks receiving both classroom and hands-on training in tech products and skills. They also prep for interviews and work with Microsoft mentors to ready them for a career in the technology industry. The program boasts a graduation rate of over 90% and upon completion, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Microsoft or one of its more than 280 hiring partners.
A new community for vets in tech
For Brown, MSSA translated to a total of 14 interviews with Microsoft. From those interviews, she received seven job offers, ultimately choosing to parlay her experience in USMC as an intelligence analyst into a security analyst in Microsoft’s own Cyber Defense Operations Center.
Just as important, though, she’s found a new sense of camaraderie with her co-workers in the tech industry, something she feared her exit from the Marines would force her to give up. She credits MSSA and Microsoft with building that community and introducing her to it.
“It has been easier to adjust to corporate world than I would have expected and I know it’s because of Microsoft being so amazing and because there are so many former military personnel where I work,” says Brown.
Job satisfaction, new purpose and a strong civilian community – it’s a vision of your future that’s worth the fight.
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)
Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.
On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.
Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.
As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.
“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”
The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.
“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
This operation would have looked different in 1992.
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.
At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.
“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.
“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”
After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.
Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.
There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.
But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.
Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.
“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”
Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.
“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”
Each person defines success differently.
Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.
“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”
Paying it forward
“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.
Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.
After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.
“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.
Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.
“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.
When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.
“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”
A new generation
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.
This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.
Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.
But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.
After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.
“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.
After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?
“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”
The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.
“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”
Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.
“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”
Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.
“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”
When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.
“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”
Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.
“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”
Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.
“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”
Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.
“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”
A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.
“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.
“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”
On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.
Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner
This comes after Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq said the week before that certain countries in the region were keeping the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.
He said countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding and equipping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in order to fuel the war machine and pursue their own objectives.
Raziq said some countries in the region have a vested interest in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He claimed that there is sufficient evidence to show that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding the Taliban and other militant groups in the country.
“The Russians have been in contact with the Taliban militants since 2004 or 2005. It is not correct to say that they (Russians) engaged in ties with the Taliban in recent times (only), but now these relations have been clarified. Pakistanis, Iranians and the Russians are jointly supporting the terrorists, however the Russians do their work through Iran, for instance sending the Taliban weapons and money,” said Raziq.
U.S director of defense intelligence Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart said in Congress that despite signs of Russia’s support for the Taliban, U.S officials have not found physical evidence to back these claims.
On May 24, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance had heard reports to this effect but they too did not have proof.
The Afghan government has also said on a number of occasions in the past that they do not have evidence to back these claims.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan to seure the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)
The Russian embassy’s statement further said that Moscow once again declares that allegations of its support to the Taliban “does not match the reality (of the situation) and are merely unsubstantiated claims.”
This coincides with the Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the sidelines of a summit in Moscow, the national security council said in a statement.
The NSC said the two sides held talks on further expanding bilateral, political, and security relations.
The statement added that the two sides also held talks on the establishment of a comprehensive plan to support and strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Atmar arrived in Moscow on May 23, heading a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials.
Officials from 25 countries are meeting at the Russia Security Conference, which will focus on countering terrorism in the region.
Yogi Berra passed away today at 90 years old. He was and will always be a beloved American icon – Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and master of quotable quotes like “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” and “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Not as well known about Berra is that he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was part of the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944.
Berra was only 18 when he showed up at Little Creek Naval Base in Virginia for training as a landing craft crewman. D-Day was only a few months away, but he had little idea of what his role would be at that time.
“Being a young guy, you didn’t think nothing of it until you got in it,” Berra told MSNBC in 2004. “And so we went off 300 yards off beach. We protect the troops. If they ran into any trouble, we would fire the rockets over. We had a lead boat that would fire one rocket. If it hits the beach, then everybody opens up. We could fire one rocket if we wanted to, or we could fire off 24 or them, 12 on each side. We stretched out 50 yards apart. And that was the invasion.”
Years later Berra admitted being haunted by visions of the drowned soldiers he fished out of the water. “Later on when it sinks in, you get scared,” he said.
“I sit and I thank the good lord I was in the Navy,” Berra said. “We ate good, clean clothes, clean bed. You see some of these Army men, what they went through, that’s the ones I felt for.”
Sgt. 1st Class Earl Plumlee, a Green Beret in the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Group, was presented the Silver Star for actions in Afghanistan in 2013. California Congressman Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t think the Silver Star is enough for Plumlee and is appealing to Army Secretary Eric Fanning to review the award.
According to the Washington Post, Rep. Hunter believes McHugh downgraded Sgt. 1st Class Plumlee’s Medal of Honor because the Special Forces NCO faced a criminal investigation for illegally selling a rifle scope online.
Plumlee was nominated for the Medal of Honor for heroism in repelling a Taliban ambush. The nomination was downgraded to the Silver Star by then-interim SECARMY John McHugh with a recommendation from the Senior Army Decorations Board. The Silver Star is two levels below the Medal of Honor, which an Inspector General report deemed appropriate.
In August 2013, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) touched off a complex Taliban attack on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ghazni. The FOB is home to the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team and a fortified NATO base housing about 1,400 people.
The VBIED blew a hole in the perimeter wall. Insurgents dressed as Afghan National Army soldiers poured into the breach. Unfortunately for them, the other side of the wall contained the 1st Special Forces Group, including one Sgt. 1st Class Earl Plumlee.
Four operators, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Colbert, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Busic, then-Staff Sgt. Earl Plumlee, and Sgt. 1st Class Nate Abkemeier drove a truck to blast site as fast as possible. Once there, all dismounted from the truck and started returning fire.
While the others moved for cover, Plumlee walked right into Taliban attack. He hit one insurgent in the chest with a round from his sidearm and the man exploded – the fighters were all rigged with suicide vests.
The fighters had the men surrounded. Busic recalls Plumlee killed four or five insurgents then moved back to Busic’s position to clear the rest. They searched the surrounding area for anything or anyone that might be part of the attack.
Plumlee even pulled a severely wounded soldier out of harm’s way, conducted proper first-aid, and directed an Army civilian and soldier to get the wounded to a surgical center.
Four Afghan civilians, three police officers, 10 Taliban fighters, and one soldier, Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, were killed in the attack. Ten Polish soldiers were also wounded. It could have been a lot worse. One Special Forces officer told the Army that Plumlee and the other special operators who rolled up on the attackers saved the base that day.
“It’s no exaggeration when I say they saved FOB Ghazni,” the Special Forces officer said. “If they would have arrived 10 seconds later than they did, the insurgents would have been in the more densely populated part of FOB Ghazni.”
Rep. Hunter requested that the Defense Department explain how it came to the conclusion to downgrade the award, to justify the Secretary of the Army’s authority to downgrade the award, and to determine if Plumlee’s criminal investigation was the reason for the downgrade. An Inspector General report on Hunter’s requests was obtained by Military Times.
“The review process… found that the nominee’s valorous actions did not meet the MOH criteria outlined in Army Regulation (AR) 600-8-22, “Military Awards,” dated June 24, 2013. By majority vote, the SADB recommended the SS.”
One member of the Senior Army Decorations Board told the IG that Plumlee was doing his job as an NCO and the standard to receive the Medal of Honor should be higher for someone of that rank.
“… a senior NCO, versus a private who would be seized by the moment and take extremely valorous and courageous action; there’s a difference between those two. One’s a leader. One’s a Soldier. And so when I looked at the circumstances and, although the battle was ferocious and unfortunately a couple members were killed, I just thought that it wasn’t a sufficient level for the Medal of Honor based off of the individual and the circumstances and that, I just felt there was an expectation of a leader who did a phenomenal job, that there was something more that [the nominee] needed to have done in order to, in my mind, to make a recommendation for a Medal of Honor.”
The board member specifically mentioned to the IG that even though Plumlee took out almost half of the attacking insurgents, that fact wasn’t in the eyewitness statements supporting Plumlee’s Medal of Honor award.
Plumlee was nominated for the Medal of Honor three months after the battle. His nomination was even approved both the JSOC commander and by Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time. Dunford wrote that Plumlee’s actions “clearly meet the standard” for the Medal of Honor.
For now, Plumlee’s Silver Star award will stand. At their own Silver Star ceremony, Busic and Colbert told Stars and Stripesit wasn’t about the recognition anyway.
“We don’t do our job for awards or accolades,” he said. “We just do it to serve.”
Retired Navy Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Richard Lyon, the first SEAL in the Navy Reserve to reach flag rank, passed away Feb. 3. He was 93.
According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyon, a veteran of the World War II-era Underwater Demolition Teams — the forerunners to the SEALs — served 41 years in the Navy Reserve and also saw action during the Korean War.
Lyon is believed to have been among the first troops to land on the Japanese mainland as Tokyo surrendered.
In 1951, Lyon was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and worked on destroying enemy mines and later would help destroy enemy tunnels and railways – part of the evolution of the UDTs into the SEALs.
“He was one of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Doug Allred, a former officer in Underwater Demolition Team 11, told the Union-Tribune. “It was 1961 and he was a reservist. This old man shows up at our unit and asked if he could go out with us.
“By golly, we were swimming and diving and doing all these hard things and he was destroying all of us young guys.”
After the Korean War, Lyon returned to the reserves, and built a very successful civilian carer, being promoted to Rear Adm. (Lower Half) in 1975. In 1978, he was recalled to active duty to serve as deputy chief of the Navy Reserve.
In 1983, he retired from the Navy Reserve, ending a 41-year career. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Oceanside, California.
The cause of death was reported as renal failure. The family has asked that donations be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, written by Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian and Col. Max Marosko of the US Air Force, gives expert analysis and never before seen detail into how the US’s fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war with China.
The report starts with a broad overview of fifth-generation capabilities and their roles in the future of air combat, and it concludes with a hypothetical war in 2026 against an unnamed nemesis after “rising tensions in a key region abroad.”
However, the locations mentioned in the scenario are all in the Western Pacific and clearly seem to indicate the rival is China, whose advanced radar and missile capabilities make for very interesting challenges to the US Air Force’s force structure.
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force
As the scenario takes place ten years in the future, it is assumed that all the kinks with integrating fifth generation fighters into the force have been ironed out, and that the F-35 and F-22 work seamlessly to aid legacy aircraft via datalink.
In the opening stanza of such a conflict, the Air Force officials say that the US would send its F-35s and F-22s to a wide range of bases across the Pacific, leveraging the US’s vast network of bases and allies with some of the valuable warplanes.
Such a step denies China’s ability to land a “knockout blow” as they normally could, because typically US jets stay stationed at larger bases, presenting a more attractive target. Also, by this time, the US’s fifth-generation aircraft can find airfields on their own, without the help of air traffic controllers, allowing the force to be further spread out to present less target-rich areas.
Additionally, regional allies like Australia, who also fly the F-35, can quickly fill in for US airmen in a pinch. A US F-35 can land on an Australian airfield and receive much the same maintenance as it would at its home base, the officials claim.
With the Pacific now a patchwork of small units of F-35s and F-22s, the Chinese would seek to leverage their impressive electronic warfare capabilities, but the officials contend that the fifth-gens would weather the storm.
“Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multi-spectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures,” the Air Force officials write.
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative
Meanwhile, legacy platforms like F-16s, F-18s, and F-15s provide a critical layer of defense closer to the US mainland. China’s formidable surface-to-air missile capabilities keep these older, more visible fighters off the front lines until the stealthier platforms, like the F-35, F-22, B-2, and the upcoming B-21 do their job.
The officials recognize the need for the fifth-gen fighters to strike quickly and get out of the heavily contested air spaces. Destruction of many of the US and allied airfields is expected, however the versatile fifth-gens continue to switch up locations as China depletes their supply of ballistic and cruise missiles on low-yield targets.
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. | AUS Airpower
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries.AUS Airpower
Many of China’s SAM batteries are road mobile, so fifth-gen fighters will have to use their geo-location and electronic warfare capabilities to seek and destroy these sites.
The onboard sensors in the fifth-gens will provide vital leeway for the fighters to make decisions on the go.
From the report:
“Aircraft take off with minimal information—little more than a general target area that may be more than 1,000 miles away. On the way to target, the fifth generation aircraft receive minimal tanker, threat, and target information, but sufficient updates to enable them to ingress, identify, and prosecute targets successfully before returning to operating airfields.”
Loses of US and allied airfields and troops would naturally follow in such a conflict, however the forces are integrated and use the same platforms, so they can quickly fill in for each other in the event of loses.
All the while, F-35s and F-22s whittle away at China’s air defenses, gradually lowering the threat level from high to moderate. Eventually, the bulk of the US Air Force’s fleet —legacy fighters— can operate in the area with acceptable rates of survivability.
And that’s it. Once F-16s are flying over Beijing, the conflict is essentially settled. In the moderately contested airspace, fifth generation jets can essentially data-link with legacy fighters and use them as “armada planes,” leveraging their increased capability to carry ordinance to eliminate whatever remains of China’s air defenses.
In the 1950s and 60s the U.S. Air Force tested flying rockets and ramjets powered by nuclear reactors.
If it weren’t for breakthroughs in chemical propulsion that occurred at about the same time, the nuclear missiles based throughout the U.S. and Europe could well be nuclear warheads sitting atop nuclear reactors.
At its most basic level, rockets and ramjets work by superheating air and propelling it out the back of the engine. Conventional rockets and ramjets use chemical combustion to heat the air. The nuclear engines were designed to superheat the air using a heat exchanger hooked to a nuclear reactor.
The research into the rocket engines was dubbed “Project Rover,” and the ramjet research was dubbed “Project Pluto.”
Project Rover’s initial successes allowed NASA engineers to briefly consider nuclear power for the first manned missions to the Moon, but the vibration problems were not worked out in time. Rover’s engine then got the nod for a possible mission to Mars, but the mission was canceled. Without any immediate mission requirements, Rover was declared a technical success and shut down.
The nuclear rocket engine idea has been revived a few times since then, mostly when engineers start to seriously strategize manned missions to Mars. It was also briefly revived as a method of getting the Strategic Defense Initiative ballistic missile shield into orbit.
Project Pluto was even more successful from a technical standpoint. Each ramjet test reactor achieved every one of its major goals, and a number of the tests were declared flawless.
Like the Rover, all the tests were conducted on the ground. Also like Project Rover, Pluto was shut down in favor of chemical propulsion. America had found a way to strike the Soviet Union from across the world without having to fly nuclear reactors over their own land and troops.
Both concepts and their accompanying research are mothballed, waiting for a mission to potentially revive them.
Following construction and acceptance trials earlier this year at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Giffords sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she was commissioned June 10.
“Our Sailors are honored to represent the ship namesake, its homeport in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Keith Woodley, Giffords’ commanding officer. “Every Sailor will continue, through USS Gabrielle Gifford’s service to her nation, to fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘I Am Ready.'”
During her sail around transit from Mobile, Giffords Sailors conducted Combat Ship Systems Qualification Trials events, various crew certification training events, and regularly scheduled equipment and systems checks and transited through the Panama Canal.
Giffords is the ninth littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the fifth Independence-variant LCS. She joins other LCS, including USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), and USS Montgomery (LCS 8), who are also homeported in San Diego.
Giffords Sailors are excited for the future of their ship but also for their own return to San Diego.
“We have put in a lot of hard work over the past nine months,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lee Tran. “It is going to be nice to have a little down time with friends and family before continuing to work the ship toward its next milestone.”
Family and friends were similarly eager for some quality time with their returning Sailors. Many said they were also grateful for the support and friendships they forged with other families while their Sailors were away.
“Knowing I was not in this alone and that there were more families out there going through it too made me at peace knowing our Sailors had each other,” said Morgan Witherspoon, friend of a Giffords Sailor.
LCS 10 is named after former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus selected the LCS 10 namesake and said it is appropriate that the ship is named for Giffords, whose name is “synonymous with courage when she inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”
LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. Paired with advanced sonar and mine hunting capabilities, LCS provides a major contribution, as well as a more diverse set of options to commanders, across the spectrum of operations.
A meditation company with an iTunes app is offering free downloads to veterans. Meditation Studios has developed 200 meditation tracks that can be downloaded through their app in the iTunes store.
Through a recent partnership with Give Back, the company created the Veterans Collection, a unique series of meditations that are designed to help veterans improve their focus, relieve stress, and encourage better sleep.
In a statement to We Are the Mighty, Meditation Studios said:
Please enjoy these complimentary meditations from Meditation Studio App. For more from this collection, download the app. The guided meditations in the Veterans collection will help to improve focus, relieve stress, encourage better sleep and generally bring more peace of mind. The mind can be a great source of distress when it’s out of control. When we can relax, pause or slow the mind down, it becomes a source of consolation and peace.
As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognize emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting to them. It helps us to respond more thoughtfully, without impulse or overreaction. This can be very comforting, giving veterans more control over the thoughts and emotions that accompany a return from deployment.
The downloads are available through the app, or through SoundCloud. The app, which is $3.99 and has high ratings, features unlimited access to all of the company’s meditations and courses; population and situation specific mediations; step-by-step “courses” with instruction on proper meditation; meditations in various lengths to fit into busy schedules; a section for tracking progress, scheduling meditations, and an in-app calendar.
An uncontrolled study published in Military Medicine in June, 2011 found that meditation among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat veterans with moderately severe post traumatic stress “may have helped to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life in veterans of OEF/OIF with combat-related PTSD.”
A similar study by the Army in 2013 determined that meditation could have a positive impact on PTSD, and noted that more research was needed.
The VA notes that meditation, when combined with other treatments, may “improve outcomes” of treatment.