According to DefenseNews.com, the Army is desperate to re-build its short-range air-defense capabilities. One big reason is the fact that Russia has become much more aggressive, making the need to deal with planes like the Su-25 Frogfoot close air support plane a distinct possibility.
So, here are some ideas on how America’s military can get some more surface-to-air punch.
Right now, the main system used by the Army for short-range air defense is the FIM-92 Stinger – used on the Avenger air-defense system and by grunts who carry it by hand.
1. The MIM-146 ADATS
This system was looked at by the Army in the 1980s, but at the end of the Cold War it got cancelled. Designation-Systems.net notes that Canada did buy 34 systems.
With a speed of Mach 3, and a range of six miles, ADATS has more reach than the Stinger. Canada deployed it on a M113 chassis – the U.S. Army has lots of those – and also tested a new version on the LAV III, their version of the Stryker, according to the Rheinmetall Defense web site.
2. NASAM and 3. HUMRAAM/CLAWS/SLAMRAAM
The AIM-120 AMRAAM has been a bedrock of American air-to-air capability for the last 25 years. However, Designation-Systems.net notes that Norway lead the way in developing a version used as a surface-to-air weapon.
The Marines tried out a Humvee-mounted version many called HUMRAAM, but was known as CLAWS, for Complimentary Low-Altitude Weapon System. Army-Technology.com reported that the United States Army was looking at a system, of its own called SLAMRAAM. It would seem to be a quick way to get systems in service.
While originally purchased to defense bases in Iraq and Afghanistan against mortars and rockets, C-RAM is based on the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, or “CIWS,” that was intended to kill missiles like the Russian AS-4 Kitchen. Aircraft and helicopters might not be a problem for the system to track, either.
5. RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile
Also a Navy point-defense missile system, the RIM-116 is another option for short-range air defense. According to a Navy fact sheet, it weighs about seven tons, has a 7.9-pound warhead, and is supersonic. Designation-Systems.net notes that it has a range of five nautical miles and infra-red guidance. This would be an excellent complement to the SLAMRAAM or CLAWS.
6. MIM-115 Roland
This is a missile that was widely used by adversaries and allies alike, including France and Germany and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Designation-Systems.net reported that the U.S. tried it out in the 1980s, but never really deployed it. Army-Technology.com adds that the latest version, the VT1, has what amounts to a range of just under seven miles and a speed of almost 2,800 mph. This is probably the most “off-the-shelf” system to purchase — and it would help our allies by lowering the per-unit cost.
In 2008, the Marine Corps recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor after fellow Marines told investigators the 25-year-old sergeant jumped on a grenade and shielded them from the blast after he was mortally wounded by insurgent fire. The recommendation went all the way up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who initially approved it, before rescinding the decision amid an inspector general’s complaint.
An independent review panel later found that the grenade did not detonate beneath Peralta’s body. Peralta’s award was downgraded to the Navy Cross. And years later, in 2014, a number of witnesses came forward to The Washington Post to say they had embellished the original story.
Still, Hunter has been fighting for years to get the Pentagon to upgrade the award to the nation’s highest honor. Two other defense secretaries, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, declined to overturn Gates’ ruling.
“Multiple eyewitnesses conveyed that from their respective fields of view, Peralta initiated several movements toward the grenade and pulled it into his body,” Hunter wrote. “In the spirit and tradition of the Medal of Honor, these eyewitness accounts are exceedingly sufficient, but they were overridden based on questionable forensic evidence assembled by Pentagon bureaucrats.”
Hunter is optimistic that Mattis, the former commander of 1st Marine Division, will look into the case. Hunter told the San Diego Union-Tribune Mattis had originally signed off on the Medal of Honor award recommendation before it went up to Gates.
“I believe you have the right perspective and familiarity with the facts to make an informed judgment on this matter,” he wrote. “Even more so, you have the courage to do what’s right where others have been too sensitive to internal Pentagon politics.”
The public affairs office for the defense secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.
The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.
For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.
“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”
The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.
U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018
(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)
“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”
As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.
The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.
The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.
Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During World War II, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps had an unusual soldier among its ranks, a 440-pound Syrianbear named Wojtek.
Wojtek first came to the company as a cub, but over the course of the war he matured and was given the rank of corporal in the Polish army.
Here’s Wojtek’s amazing story below.
After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Company began a long trek south toward Persia. Along the way, they bought an orphaned bear.
“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents, and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, former Polish soldier, told the BBC.
As he grew, his diet changed, but he remained friendly.
The bear became fond of drinking beer, as well as smoking, and even eating cigarettes. “For him one bottle was nothing, he was weighing 440 pounds. He didn’t get drunk,” Narebski said.
The bear became a major morale boost to the troops.
The company was fond of boxing and wrestling with Wojtek, as seen in this footage.
While he was still small enough, Wojtek would hang out of the passenger side of trucks, until he eventually grew so large he had to be transported in the back of cargo vehicles.
By 1943, the Polish company had reached Egypt and was preparing to reenter the war zone in Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.
Because of his fearsome size and strength, Wojtek carried crates of munitions much easier than his human comrades. He inspired the emblem for his company.
After the war, Wojtek spent his days in the Edinburgh zoo, where he was a beloved attraction. Wojtek died in 1963.
UPDATED: The Pentagon has named Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, as the commando killed in a May 5 raid near Mogadishu, Somalia. The raid reportedly targeted a propaganda radio operation run by the terrorist al-Shabaab organization. The release said Milliken was a member of an East Coast-based Navy special warfare unit, and many sources report he was a member of SEAL Team 6.
The U.S. military said May 5 a service member has been killed in during an operation against the extremist group al-Shabab as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked organization.
A statement from the U.S. Africa Command said the service member was killed Thursday during the operation near Barii, about 40 miles west of the capital, Mogadishu.
The statement said U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission with military.
A CNN report said the service member was part of a special operations task force deployed to the African nation, adding two more U.S. troops were wounded by small arms fire.
“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best SEALs,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Special Warfare Command. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate – and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.”
Both the United States and in recent weeks have declared new efforts against the extremist group. President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern areas of active hostilities.
A Somali intelligence official confirmed the U.S. military operation, saying U.S. forces in helicopters raided an al-Shabab hideout near the Somali capital on Thursday night and engaged with fighters.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the helicopters dropped soldiers near Dare Salaam village in an attempt to capture or kill extremists in the area.
The official said the fighters mounted a stiff resistance against the soldiers.
new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, last month declared a new offensive against al-Shabab, which is based in but has claimed responsibility for major attacks elsewhere in East Africa.
Also last month, the U.S. military announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades. The U.S. Africa Command said the deployment was for logistics training of army.
The U.S. in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers to and has carried out a number of airstrikes, including drone strikes, against al-Shabab.
The extremist group, which was chased out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to carry out deadly attacks there, has vowed to step up the violence in response to the moves by Trump and Mohamed.
Pressure is growing on military to assume full security for the country as the 22,000-strong African Union multinational force that has been supporting the fragile central government plans to leave by the end of 2020.
The U.S. military has acknowledged the problem. The AU force will begin withdrawing in 2018, and head of the U.S. Africa Command, Commander General Thomas Waldhauser, has said that if it leaves before security forces are capable, “large portions of are at risk of returning to al-Shabab control or potentially allowing ISIS to gain a stronger foothold.”
Fighters linked to the Islamic State group are a relatively new and growing challenge in the north of the country, which has seen a quarter-century of chaos since dictator Siad Barre fell in 1991.
In 1944, the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), distributed a secret pamphlet that was intended as a guidebook to citizens living in Axis nations who were sympathetic to the Allies.
The “Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” declassified in 2008 and available on the CIA’s website, provided instructions for how everyday people could help the Allies weaken their country by reducing production in factories, offices, and transportation lines.
“Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant,” reads the current introduction on the CIA’s site. “Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.”
We’ve collected below some of the timeless instructions on how to be a terrible employee. What’s most amusing is that despite the dry language and specificity of the context, the productivity-crushing activities recommended are all-too-common behaviors in contemporary organizations everywhere.
See if any of those listed below — quoted but abridged — remind you of your boss, colleagues, or even yourself.
Organizations and Conferences
Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.
Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable”and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.
In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.
In the 1960s, when a single military incident had the potential to spark a nuclear war, the US government needed a surveillance plane that absolutely could not be detected, intercepted, or shot down.
The answer was the SR-71.
The Lockheed Martin SR-71, or the “Blackbird” as it is commonly known, flew at the upper 1% of earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of 80,000 feet and speeds of over 2,000 mph — much faster and higher than any plane before it.
And every inch of the aircraft was meticulously designed to baffle radar detection.
The SR-71 was a marvel of engineering that flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years. The plane holds records for speed and distance that stand to this day. It was so fast that the plane’s common protocol for avoiding missiles was to simply outrun them.
Former US Air Force Major Brian Shul describes his career as a pilot of iconic Blackbird in his book “Sled Driver.” He describes one incident in particular that he would never forget — something that reveals just how intense and difficult piloting the SR-71 could be.
As a Blackbird pilot, Shul is often asked about the plane’s top speed.
“Each SR-71 pilot had his own individual ‘high’ speed that he saw at some point on some mission,” Shul explains in the book.
Because the planes are so precisely engineered, and so costly, no pilot ever wanted to push the Blackbird to its absolute operating limits of temperature and speed. But you could fall short of those limits and still be going astonishingly fast: “It was common to see 35 miles a minute,” says Shul.
As far as his personal high speed goes, Shul says, “I saw mine over Libya when Ghaddafi fired two missiles my way, and max power was in order. Let’s just say that the plane truly loved speed and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn’t previously seen.”
Tales of the Blackbird’s speed and achievements in espionage are unsurpassed, but Shul’s most amazing anecdote in “Sled Driver” is the story of his slowest-ever run, which started off as a simple flyby to show off for friendly troops. It ended up the stuff of military legend.
While returning from a mission over Europe, Shul received a call from his home base in Mildenhall, England, requesting that he do a flyby of a small RAF base. An air cadet commander in that base was himself a former Blackbird pilot. Knowing what a spectacular sight the plane could be, he thought that a low-altitude flyby might give his troops a morale boost.
The Blackbird made its way to the RAF base, ripping through the skies over Denmark in just three minutes, and slowing down only to refuel midair.
Using the sophisticated navigation equipment aboard the Blackbird, Shul’s navigator, Walter, led him toward the airfield. He slowed the lightning-fast ship to sub sonic speeds and began to search for the airfield, which like many World War II-era British airbases had only one tower and very little identifiable infrastructure around it.
As the two got close, they were having trouble finding the small airfield. Shul describes the moments leading up to the flyby: “We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt (the navigator) said we were practically over the field — yet there was nothing in my windscreen.”
As the airfield cadets assembled outside in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the Blackbird, Shul and his navigator eased off the accelerator and began circling the forest looking for any sign of the base.
During the search, the Blackbird’s speed had fallen well below advisable or even safe levels.
“At this point we weren’t really flying, but were falling in a slight bank,” recalls Shul.
With the engines silent on the low-flying Blackbird, the cadets on the ground couldn’t see or hear anything. There was simply no way they could have expected what would happen next: “As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward.”
Shul describes what happened next as a “thunderous roar of flame … a joyous feeling.”
The cadets must have seen “107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane leveled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass.”
Shul and his navigator returned to base in silence. They were both shocked by the momentary lapse in speed that nearly saw their Blackbird plummeting towards the hard ground. They had come close to a full-on catastrophe — much too close for comfort.
The pair felt sure that their commander would have had a panic attack, and would be furiously waiting at base to ream the pilots and take their wings.
Instead, they were greeted by a smiling commander who told them that the RAF had reported “the greatest SR-71 fly-past he had ever seen.”
The spectators had taken their near-fatal mistake as an especially brave and well-executed stunt carried out by erudite professionals. The commander heard about the “breathtaking” flyby, and heartily shook both Shul and Walter’s hands.
Apparently, some of the cadets watching had their hats blown off from the extremely close passage of the Blackbird in full thrust. The cadets were shocked, but only the two pilots knew just how close a call the flyby had been.
As the pilots retired to the equipment room, they still looked at each other in a dazed silence. Finally, they broached the subject of the perilously low speeds.
“One hundred fifty-six knots (180 mph). What did you see?” The co-pilot Walter asked Shul, “One hundred fifty-two (175 mph),” he responded. These speeds are fast for a car, but in an aircraft designed to travel in excess of 2,000 mph, they are disturbingly slow and unsafe.
A year later, as Shul and Walter ate in a mess hall, he overheard some officers talking about the incident, which by then had become exaggerated to the point where cadets were being knocked over and having their eyebrows singed from the Blackbird’s raging thrusters.
When the younger officers noticed the patches on Shul’s uniform, indicating that he flew the SR-71, they asked him to verify that the flyby had occurred. Shul replied, “It was probably just a routine low approach; they’re pretty impressive in that plane.”
Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.
The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.
The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.
The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.
Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.
“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”
Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.
About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.
“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”
Since its creation, the U.S. Marine Corps has been involved in some of the most epic military battles in history. From raising the flag at Iwo Jima to hunting terrorists in Iraq, it’s pretty much a guarantee that a Navy Corpsman was right next to his brothers during the action.
The unique bond between Marines and their “Doc” is nearly unbreakable.
Since the Marine Corps doesn’t have its own medical department and falls under the Department of the Navy, the majority of the medical treatment Marines receive comes directly from the Naval Hospital Corps.
So, why are some Corpsmen considered Marines when they’re in the Navy and never went through the Corps’ tough, 13-week boot camp? Well, we’re glad you asked.
It’s strictly an honorary title and not every Corpsman earns that honor. In fact, it’s hard as f*ck to earn the respect of a Marine when you’re in the Navy — it’s even harder getting them to say happy birthday to you every Nov. 10.
After a Corpsman graduates from the Field Medical Training Battalion, either at Camp Pendleton or Camp Lejeune, they typically move on to one of three sections under the Marine Air Ground Task Force, or MAGTF. Those three sections consist of Marine Air Wing (or MAW), Marine Logistics Group (or MLG), and Division (or the Marine Infantry).
Not every Corpsman goes through the FMTB and, therefore, some won’t have the opportunity to serve with the Marines.
Once a Corpsman checks into his unit, however, he’ll eat, train, sleep, and sh*t with his squad, building that special bond.
This starts the journey of earning the honorary title of Marine.
Once the unit deploys, the squad’s Corpsman will fight alongside his Marines, facing the same dangers as brothers. That “Doc” will fire his weapon until one of the grunts gets hurt, then he’ll switch into doctor mode.
Can you spot the “Doc” in this photo? It’s tough, right? I’m the tall drink of water in the middle.
After a spending time with the grunts, studying Marine culture, Corpsmen can take a difficult test and earn the designation of FMF, or Fleet Marine Force, and receive a specialized pin.
Notice the mighty eagle, globe, and anchor placed directly in the middle of the pin. Once a “Doc” gets this precious symbol pinned above his U.S. Navy name tape, he earns a measure of pride and the honorary title of Marine.
Within the last few years, 360-degree cameras have hit the market and they’re changing the way we record our favorite memories. They may also have implications for how our nation fights its enemies.
When it comes to fighting a ground war, having as many sets of surveilling eyes as possible is a good idea — an idea that could save lives.
Although the infantrymen that patrol hostile streets on a daily basis are highly-trained, it’s near impossible to recount every single detail exactly as it happened after the fact.
In the event that something abnormal happens on a trip outside the wire, having footage from a 360-degree camera can provide you with all the analysis you need.
It could help with your disability claim
A lot of sh*t can happen while you’re outside the wire in a short amount of time.
In the event that something bad happens and the platoon doc wasn’t there to witness it, there’s a good chance that it was captured clearly with the 360-degree camera. That dramatic footage will come in handy when you’re battling the VA for compensation.
You could update your terrain maps
One of the most significant issues with serving in a war that takes place in a developing country is that enemies can quickly take down and rebuild their dried-mud structures.
With the help of a 360-degree camera, if a structure is, in fact, rebuilt after being wiped away via airstrike, the new footage will help you update terrain maps. By simply carrying one of these versatile tools, you’ll record new information without even trying.
It’s called surveillance, people.
We thought so.
The footage could be better than any war trophy
Who here wants to document an awesome firefight where you kick enemies’ asses from all angles?
It can help identify high-value individuals
This may come as a shocker, but when the bad guys interact with allied forces, they typically lie about their identities. Having a 360-degree camera on deck can help analysts identify potential threats, even if the allied troop isn’t looking.
The Nazis concocted all sorts of weird military technology, but the Me 323 Giant was certainly one of the biggest.
With six engines over a 181 foot wingspan and the ability to haul 95,000 pounds of gear, the Giant was an incredible aviation feat. Doors in its nose opened up and allowed tanks, artillery, and personnel to hop inside and be transported up to 675 miles away. But it was also a big, slow, flying elephant with wings.
The Me 323 was helped answer a question plaguing the Germans early in the war: How do we get a bunch of tanks, troops, and artillery across the English channel and take London?
As Tyler Rogoway details at Foxtrot Alpha, in 1940 the Luftwaffe gave aircraft manufacturers Junkers and Messerschmitt just 14 days to come up with a proposal for an aircraft that could pull off such a feat. Junkers had a tough time coming up with a usable design and Messerschmitt was eventually chosen to spearhead the concept, which became the Me 321.
Though the Germans ultimately cancelled their planned invasion of Britain, called Operation Sea Lion, the Me 321 was used extensively on the Eastern Front. But the large cargo glider was riddled with problems, though it did see some success when used in Russia.
In 1941, German transport pilots were asking for something better than the Me 321. Only 200 of them were built, and while a bunch were scrapped, at least a few were upgraded to what would become the Me 323. It was the largest land-based transport aircraft of World War II, according to the Daily Mail.
From Foxtrot Alpha:
The final production configuration of the Me323 had a high wing made of wood and fabric that was braced near the center of the wing and fuselage. The fuselage was built out of a tubular metal skeleton with wooden cross-beams and fabric covering. The cockpit sat high atop the aircraft’s bulbous nose, which was a clam-shell door design, allowing it to open wide for outsized cargo to be loaded and unloaded. The cargo hold was cavernous for the time, measuring 36 feet long, 10 feet wide and 11 feet high, which is very roughly the size of a first generation C-130’s cargo hold. All said, the Me323 could carry a wide variety of items. For example, it could haul a pair of four ton trucks or 52 drums of fuel or 130 fully outfitted combat troops.
Just because it could lift a lot didn’t mean it could do so quickly. The Giant’s maximum speed was a paltry 135mph at sea level, and that figure got only worse as it climbed. This was helped somewhat by replacing wooden propellers on early models with metal variable pitch propellers on later ones. A crew of five was used on most missions, which included two pilots, two engineers and a radioman. During flights through areas that were of high risk, the radioman and the engineers could man three of the aircraft’s five MG 131 machine guns, although dedicated gunners were often carried for these higher-risk missions, allowing the crew to concentrate on flying and navigating, while still employing all five guns against Allied fighters. The Giant’s five .51 inch machine guns were located on the aircraft’s upper wings and in the nose and tail.
So how did the Giant fare? Not so great, as it turned out. In 1943, a fleet of Giants was dispatched to airlift supplies to German troops in Tunisia, since the sea lanes were littered with Allied ships. Hitler didn’t really think this one through, since a gigantic bullseye of a target flying at 135 mph wasn’t exactly the best solution.
Sure, the Me 323 had gun ports with machine guns and some German fighter escorts to defend against attacks, but that didn’t seem to matter on April 22. According to World War II Today, of the 27 Me 323 aircraft that attempted the hop from Sicily to Tunisia, 22 were shot down in the Mediterranean.
The good news, of course, was that the crashed planes made really awesome diving spots about 70 years later. But the bad news: The fleet of Giants got so beat up that none were capable of flying around summer 1944, according to Foxtrot Alpha. No intact Me 323 survives today, although the German Air Force Museum has a main wing on display.
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.