An 18-year-old woman died during Navy boot camp this month — about two months after another female recruit’s death, prompting a review of training and safety procedures.
Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles went into cardiac arrest April 23, 2019, after completing a fitness test at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois. She was transported to the nearby Lake Forest Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The cause of death remains under investigation, said Lt. Joseph Pfaff, a spokesman for Recruit Training Command. Navy Times first reported Nobles’ death April 25, 2019.
Recruits begin the 1.5-mile run portion of their initial physical fitness assessment at Recruit Training Command, April 10, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Susan Krawczyk)
“Recruit Training Command reviewed the training, safety, medical processes, and overall procedures regarding the implementation of the Physical Fitness Assessment and found no discrepancies in its execution,” Pfaff said. “However, there is a much more in-depth investigation going on and, if information is discovered during the course of the investigation revealing deficiencies in our processes and procedures that could improve safety in training, it would be acted on.”
Nobles, who was from Alabama, was in her sixth week of training.
Her father, Harold Nobles, told WKRG News Channel 5 in Alabama that he has questions for the Navy about his daughter’s death. For now, though, he said the family is focusing on getting her home and grieving first.
Both the Navy and Recruit Training Command take the welfare of recruits and sailors very seriously, Pfaff said.
“We are investigating the cause of this tragic loss,” he said. “… Our thoughts are with Seaman Recruit Nobles’ family and friends during this tragic time.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.
The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)
During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.
“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”
When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”
Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.
“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.
She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.
“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.
During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.
Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.
That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.
Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.
However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.
“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.
With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.
How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.
Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.
“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.
On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”
Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.
The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.
Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.
Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”
The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.
But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.
“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.
Drug testing for all applicants for military service is expanding to include the same 26-drug panel used for active military members, the Defense Department’s director of drug testing and program policy said.
The change, effective April 3, 2017, is due to the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population, Army Col. Tom Martin explained.
Currently, military applicants are tested for marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines, including methamphetamine; and designer amphetamines such as MDMA —also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” — and MDA, also known as “Adam,” he said.
The expanded testing will include those drugs as well as heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids and benzodiazepine sedatives, Martin said.
The new standards apply to all military applicants, including recruits entering through military entrance processing stations, as well as appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC, and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status.
Ensuring the Best Enter Military
With drug use incompatible with military service, the expanded testing is meant to ensure readiness by admitting only the most qualified people, Martin said. Incoming service members will be held to the same standards as current military members, who are subject to random drug testing up to three times a year, he added.
“Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”
About 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with roughly 2,400 of them testing positive for drugs, Martin said. Data indicates that about 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing, he said.
The updated policy allows applicants who test positive to reapply after 90 days, if the particular service allows it, Martin said. Any individual who tests positive on the second test is permanently disqualified from military service, he said, but he noted that the services have the discretion to apply stricter measures and can disqualify someone after one positive test.
Current policy allows for different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug, Martin said. The updated policy is universal and allows only one opportunity to reapply for military service regardless of drug type, he said.
The Russian government is holding a nationwide emergency drill that mobilizes civil defense forces on a massive scale, a move prompted by rising tensions between Russia and the United States regarding Syria – tensions some in the Kremlin believe could start a nuclear war.
The exercise, which started Tuesday and involves more than 200,000 emergency services workers, comes on the heels of news that Russia began last week deploying a battery of Russian S-300 air defense missile launchers in Syria. The NATO code name for the system is SA-10 Grumble. Capable of striking both manned aircraft and cruise missiles, it is the first time the Russians have ever deployed the advanced weapons system outside of their borders.
The pro-Kremlin Interfax news service says EMERCOM, the Russian emergency services ministry, is performing the drill through October 7. Quoting civil defense chief Oleg Manuilov, the article says the drill will affect up to 40 million Russians – about a quarter of the nation’s population – as well as use 50,000 pieces of unspecified emergency equipment.
“In practice, the (emergency) notification will be issued and we will gather the governing federal departments and agencies, Russian Federation authorities, and local governments,” said Manuilov.
Among other things, the drill will practice issuing protective gear, distributing sanitary supplies, and establishing casualty collection points, he said. Civil defense officials will also inspect local hospitals and clinics to determine their readiness and “quality of care” offered during an emergency.
The article called the drill and the training it offers a “reality check.”
Recent pro-Kremlin media reports have claimed in shrill tones that the United States wants to use its nuclear arsenal to punish Russia for its hand in the Syrian conflict.
Talks between the U.S. and Russia in an effort to broker a Syrian cease-fire ended Monday. The U.S. ended negotiations after accusing the Kremlin of joining with the Syrian Air Force in carrying out a brutal bombing campaign against the besieged city of Aleppo.
Meanwhile, Russian officials confirmed the placement of the S-300 battery at a Syrian naval base soon after FOX News broke the story, according to RT News.
“This system is designed to ensure the safety of the naval base in Tartus and ships located in the coastal area,” said Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. “The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat.”
However, anti-Syrian rebels battling Russian forces such as the Al-Nusra Front possess no air power, raising the question of whether the air defense missiles are there to threaten U.S. aircraft patrolling the area or knock out a potential U.S. cruise missile strike.
The S-300 system is considered one of the most capable air defense systems in the world. First deployed in 1979, it has gone through recent upgrades and modifications which allow it to target multiple threats quickly and accurately.
The flat hats were made from dark blue wool and commonly featured an embroidered headband of the ship name the sailor belonged to on the front of the brim. Reportedly, that feature ended in January 1941 to make it harder for adversaries to learn the what U.S. ships were in port. The ship’s names were replaced with a U.S. Navy embroidery instead.
In 1866, a white sennet straw hat was authorized to be worn during the summer months to help shield the hardworking sailors from the bright sunlight.
But it wasn’t until 1886 where a high-domed, low rolled brim made of wedge-shaped pieces of canvas was written into uniform regulation.
Eventually, the canvas material was replaced by a cheaper, more comfortable cotton. This option became popular with the sailors who wore them as they could bend the cover to reflect their individual personality — and still be within regs.
It’s unclear exactly when the term “dixie cup” was coined, but since the popular paper product made its public debut in the early 1900s, it’s likely that’s when the term was coined.
Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.
Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.
Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.
All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.
While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.
The last of the Marine Corps‘ remaining EA-6B Prowlers have wrapped up their final mission in the Middle East, where they supported troops taking on the Islamic State group. Now, the electronic-warfare aircraft will soon be headed to the boneyard.
More than 250 members of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 are returning to North Carolina after spending seven months operating out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The squadron — the last to fly the service’s decades-old electronic-warfare aircraft — is only about four months away from being deactivated.
But that didn’t slow the Death Jesters downrange, where they were tapped with supporting two campaigns simultaneously: Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
“The mission of the Prowler is and always has been to deny, degrade and disrupt the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Robert Ryland, an electronic-countermeasures officer with VMAQ-2. Being based in Qatar, he added, allowed them to respond to missions for both operations.
Ryland declined to specify how many flight hours the crews flew throughout the deployment, due to operational security concerns. But the operational tempo remained high throughout the deployment, he said.
A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
“The presence of electronic warfare is extremely important to the supported unit,” he said. “Though this is the final EA-6B deployment, the need for electronic warfare will remain high worldwide in the future.”
The Marines were called on to support not only U.S. ground troops, but coalition forces as well. From planning missions to executing them, the squadron worked with troops from several countries.
“There were a lot of people on this deployment who’ve dedicated their entire lives to this aircraft, its community and most importantly, the electronic-warfare mission,” Ryland said.
The end of an era
The Prowler has been a part of the Marine Corps’ aviation arsenal since the Vietnam era. The aircraft has been vital on the battlefield, since, including during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in the fight against ISIS terrorists.
Seeing the Prowler used all the way up until its sundown says a lot about its capabilities, said 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Despite the aircraft’s age, Ryland said the Marines with VMAQ-2 were able to maintain high readiness throughout this final deployment.
“There’s sometimes a bit of a misconception that old equals having a hard time getting jets airborne, but that’s actually not the case with the Prowler,” he said.
Ryland credits their skilled maintainers, who’ve worked on Prowlers for a long time. Some joined VMAQ-2 when other Prowler squadrons deactivated.
Now as VMAQ-2 prepares to deactivate, too, the Marines with this squadron are on the lookout for new opportunities. Some will transition to other Marine Corps aircraft, join a different branch, or leave the military when their service time is up, Ryland said.
“Everybody has their own personal plan for what they’ll do next,” Ryland said.
Lt. Col. Greg Sand, EA-6B requirements officer with Marine Corps headquarters, told Military.com in 2017 that the Prowler’s sunset wouldn’t force anyone out of the Marine Corps.
Three EA-6B Prowlers.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
If Marines weren’t selected to transfer to work on another aircraft, he said they could always serve in B-billets or support their headquarters. And some with EA-6B aircrews were also transitioning to work with drone squadrons, he said.
Despite the end of the Prowlers’ era, the need for electronic-warfare capabilities on the battlefield isn’t going away. Throughout the aircraft’s sundown process, Stephenson said the Marine Corps has been building up a suite of new electronic-warfare capabilities across the Marine air-ground task force.
According to Marine Corps planning documents, that includes pods or sensors that can be affixed to other aircraft and new signals intelligence and cyber capabilities.
“This will be the new way the Marine Corps plans to transition from utilizing the Prowlers to a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes and functions as a sensor, shooter and sharer and [includes] an EW node,” Stephenson said.
Marine units heading to sea or combat are already carrying some of those capabilities, Sand said. They offer commanders a great deal of flexibility, since they can be added to fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“A MAGTF commander can just walk out onto a flightline now, see the asset, and he or she owns that asset and can task that asset,” Sand said.
And Marine ground troops will still be able to call on joint forces when they need airborne electronic attack capabilities, he added.
“The Prowler in practical terms has been replaced in additional capacities by the Navy [EA-18G] Growler,” Sand said. “That’s a Super Hornet … with a pretty fierce EW capability. The Growler really is the follow-on to the Prowler.”
For now, VMAQ-2 still has a few months of work left before the Prowlers’ final flights. When the squadron does get ready to say goodbye to its beloved aircraft in March 2019, Ryland says they’ll hold a sundown ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Any Marine who worked with the Prowler, whether a year or decades ago, is invited to attend.
“The Prowler has been a really incredible workhorse for the Marine Corps, the United States and allied forces for many, many decades,” Ryland said. “I know the people who fly and fix these aircraft have a lot of respect for them and certainly for those who came before us.
“There is a tremendous amount of hard work and training that goes into performing the Prowler mission,” he added. “It’s a great honor, every time I get to fly in one.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The new Ford-class supercarriers are being delivered to the US Navy without the ability to deploy with the service’s new stealth fighters, and lawmakers have decided to put a stop to it.
It’s very difficult to get something like an aircraft carrier cheaply and quickly and have it work well. In the case of the Ford-class carriers, the Navy program is facing cost overruns, delivery delays, and missing capabilities.
The Navy has been accepting unfinished aircraft carriers that are lacking critical capabilities, such as the ability to deploy with fifth-generation fighters.
The service has been planning to complete the necessary work after delivery to skirt the caps imposed by Congress to keep costs from soaring, USNI News reported this week. The workaround ultimately results in higher costs in the long run.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), which should be delivered back to the fleet this fall, currently lacks the ability to deploy with F-35s, and the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), which is still in the works, will not be able to deploy with F-35s either, at least not upon initial delivery.
That’s a big problem for Congress.
“CVN-79 will not be able to deploy with F-35s when it’s delivered to the Navy,” a congressional staffer said this week, telling reporters that it’s “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”
The Navy argues that while the newest carriers may not be ready to carry F-35s upon delivery due to the need for additional modifications, none of which require significant redesigns to the ship, they will be ready to go by the time the air wing is stood up and the carrier-based F-35Cs are ready for operational deployment aboard the Navy’s new flattops.
An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter conducts a touch and go landing.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)
The “F-35C modifications for CVN-78 and CVN-79 are currently scheduled for a future post-delivery modernization maintenance period that will occur prior to the planned F-35C operations on those carriers,” Captain Daniel Hernandez, a spokesman for the Navy acquisitions chief, told Business Insider.
The two follow-on Ford-class carriers, CVN-80 and 81, “will be constructed with those modifications made during construction and will not require a post-delivery modification,” he further explained.
Congress isn’t having it
Lawmakers, however, are not satisfied with the Navy’s plans.
The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces has included a line in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which is still ongoing legislation, requiring that the USS John F. Kennedy be capable of deploying with F-35s before the Navy takes delivery of the new carrier.
Artist impression of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.
(U.S. Navy photo illustration courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)
Experts agree that it’s time for action.
“I think it’s a good idea to drive the Navy to make the ship more complete when it’s delivered because that’s a problem that’s getting worse, not better,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former Navy officer, told Business Insider, explaining that Congress will need to provide financial relief as changes to the service’s current approach to aircraft carrier development will likely result in higher upfront costs.
Lawmakers have proposed amending the cost caps on the new supercarriers, a change the Navy welcomes.
“The Navy supports the lifting of cost caps on CVN78 – CVN81 so that it can take full advantage of opportunities to deliver capability earlier and more rapidly incorporate new requirements into the ship baseline,” Hernandez told Business Insider.
The new legislative measures could address a serious problem for the Navy that truthfully extends well beyond the ability of its new carriers to carry F-35s.
With the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy has faced challenges with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and the arresting gear for recovering planes, the propulsion system, and the advanced weapons elevators, basically everything required for an effective next-generation aircraft carrier.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia’s new heavy attack drone, called the Okhotnik (Russian for “hunter”), just made its visual debut as a flying wing stealth platform intended to fight Moscow’s enemies from the air and inform the next generation of jet fighters.
The picture of the Okhotnik, posted on a Russian aviation blog and first reported at Aviation Week, shows a drone on a snowy runway with a flat flying wing design like the B-2 Spirit bomber of the US Air Force.
The B-2 represents the US’s stealthiest plane despite being originally built in the early 1980s, which owes to the flying wing design.
Fighter jets which hit supersonic speeds and maneuver tightly need vertical fins, meaning Russia’s Okhotnik likely places stealth above turning and air-to-air combat.
In July 2018, Russian media quoted a defense industry source as saying the Okhotnik could perform “any combat task in an autonomous regime,” but that the drone would require a human pilot to pull the trigger.
US drones only perform in an air-to-ground role, as they’re subsonic aircraft that would be sitting ducks to enemy fighters.
But the defense industry source claimed the “Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” further suggesting some air-to-air role.
Again, this seems to suggest a connection between the combat drone and air superiority fighters, though Russia’s own media describes the drone as having a takeoff weight of 20 tons and an airspeed in the high subsonic range.
Russia frequently makes unverified and dubious claims about its combat aircraft. Russia dubbed the Su-57, meant to fight F-22 and F-35 fighter s or beat top-end air defenses, “combat proven” after a few days of dropping bombs on militants in Syria who had no anti-air capabilities.
But the sixth generation of fighter aircraft, or even the true purpose of the current, fifth generation of fighter aircraft, remains an open question. Many top military strategists and planners have floated the possibility of pairing advanced manned fighter jets with swarms of drones or legacy aircraft to act as bomb trucks or decoys.
US senators have been advised not to use videoconferencing platform Zoom over security concerns, the Financial Times reports.
According to three people briefed on the matter, the Senate sergeant-at-arms — whose job it is to run law enforcement and security on the Capitol — told senators to find alternative methods for remote working, although he did not implement an outright ban.
With the coronavirus outbreak forcing millions to work from home, Zoom has seen a 1,900% increase in use between December and March to 200 million daily users. This has been accompanied by a string of bad press about its security and privacy practices, to the point where CEO Eric Yuan was forced to publicly apologize last week.
This week the company admitted to “mistakenly” routing data through China in a bid to secure more server space to deal with skyrocketing demand. “We failed to fully implement our usual geo-fencing best practices. As a result, it is possible certain meetings were allowed to connect to systems in China, where they should not have been able to connect,” Yuan said.
The news sparked outrage among some senators, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal called for the FTC to launch an investigation into the company.
“As Zoom becomes embedded in Americans’ daily lives, we urgently need a full transparent investigation of its privacy and security,” the senator tweeted.
While the Senate has told its members to stay away from Zoom, the Pentagon told the FT that it would continue to allow its staff to use the platform. A memo sent to top cybersecurity officials from the Department of Homeland Security said that the company was being responsive when questioned about concerns over the security of its software, Reuters reported.
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.
Fort Jackson, SC is a major hub of military education. The base hosts, Army basic training and AIT, the Adjutant General School, Finance School, Chaplain School, and the Interservice Postal Training Activity. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of people come through the base every year. This year, the base hosted a very special guest and assisted him with research.
Michael B. Jordan spent four days at Fort Jackson to prepare for an upcoming movie role. He was hosted by the base Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle, Jr. “Glad we could show him Army hospitality and the training excellence that we have here,” Brig. Gen. Beagle said.
Jordan previously appeared in the blockbuster hits Creed and Black Panther. Although it is unclear what movie he was preparing for, the actor is appearing in the upcoming action thriller Without Remorse. Based on the Tom Clancy book of the same name, Without Remorse follows a former CIA Navy SEAL who seeks revenge after his wife is killed by a drug lord and finds himself in a larger conspiracy. The book exists in the same universe as Jack Ryan.
Recently, the Tom Clancy film franchise has been in a slump. Although older films based on the late author’s works like The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games are still widely popular, recent films like The Sum of All Fears and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit have been met with mixed reviews. The Tom Clancy name was reinvigorated with the release of Amazon’s television series Jack Ryan. Moreover, the titular main character is played by 13 Hours star John Krasinski. The show has been renews for a third season.
Without Remorse was originally slated to be released by Paramount Pictures. However, in July 2020, the studio began talks with Amazon who seeks to acquire the rights to the film.