NEWS

The F-35 will cost a staggering $1 billion every year

During a House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee hearing March 7, 2018, lawmakers were apprehensive about the strategy known as continuous capability development and delivery, or C2D2.


This strategy aims to do smaller, incremental updates instead of taking F-35s off the flightline to get months' worth of larger, packaged software and modernization upgrades needed to "keep up with the latest threats."

Citing a recent report delivered to Congress regarding C2D2, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said costs "may be as high as $11 billion in development and $5.4 billion in procurement" between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2024 to achieve all the requirements.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

"This potential cost of $16 billion is an astonishingly high amount and, as far as I am aware, greatly exceeds any cost figures previously provided to Congress," she said.

"It is important to remember this is a software-intensive effort, and the last 17 years of F-35 software development have seen dramatic cost increases and significant delays," Tsongas continued. "If Congress agrees to support this effort at this cost and under the proposed management regime, it should only do so fully aware of the significant risks involved."

Vice Adm. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, said the current cost estimate stands at roughly $10.8 billion for development, of which $3.7 billion will be shared by U.S. allies operating the F-35. The Pentagon would thus be responsible for only $7.2 billion over seven years.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Burdett)

Tsongas also queried Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy officials on whether the proposal is reasonable for the fifth-generation stealth jet.

"None of the services have a true comfort level until we have a ... cost of how this is going to happen scoped out," said Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, the Marine Corps' deputy commandant for aviation. "But year by year, we're going to put money into C2D2 at the levels that Admiral Winter is requesting currently."

Rudder testified alongside Winter; Air Force Lt. Gen Jerry D. Harris, deputy chief of staff for Plans, Programs and Requirements; and Rear Adm. Scott D. Conn, air warfare director for the office of the chief of Naval Operations.

Related: The Marines' F-35 will get its first taste of combat in 2018

Conn agreed with Rudder, and Harris added there are "funds laid in [the Air Force's] plan," as well as plans to reduce sustainment costs long term. He did not specify budget numbers.

C2D2 replaces what was once called Block 4 follow-on modernization, or the succeeding, repetitive mods to Block 4, the latest software modernization to upgrade the F-35's avionics and weapons delivery. Block 4 itself is slated for implementation sometime before the end of 2018.

"We just want to be sure this is rooted in reality," Tsongas said.

An F-35B flies near its base at MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. (Lockheed Martin)

In a follow-up discussion with reporters, Winter laid out worst- and best-case cost scenarios.

Going through all of the pre-planning and execution -- when developers and engineers are needed, at what point a certain batch of F-35 Lightning IIs can receive the work, among other factors -- Winter said once those calculations formally come together, $10.8 billion for development is roughly correct.

"That estimate will most likely come down, but I don't guarantee anything," Winter said.

"But we've also looked at, if all of that is correct, what are the modifications to the fleet aircraft, so the procurement elements of this, the software's going to be minuscule," he said, referring to the $5.4 billion figure Tsongas cited.

More: The F-35 hits an unusual snag: the US dollar

"If I had all the hardware updates on the first year, it would be a less [of] a procurement cost because all of my new aircraft would already have it in there," Winter said.

In his written prepared testimony for the hearing, Winter cited the Pentagon's lessons learned from upgrading the F-22 Raptor, but did not specify what modifications to the stealth jet have cost. At the Defense Department's order, Lockheed Martin Corp. stopped producing the F-22 in 2011.

"Based on experience from the F-22, an eight-to-10-year span between technology refresh events will maintain viable warfighting capability throughout each cycle," he said in his testimony.

The F-35's total cost has been projected at more than $1 trillion over a 50-year lifetime.

The Air Force snagged the alleged Minot M240 thief

The Air Force's long national nightmare is over. Its missing M240 machine gun was finally recovered from the home of an airman stationed at the base, according to a press release from the Air Force Global Strike Command.

The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.

Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.

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Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

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.

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History

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

The only good mines are one that are cleared — or better yet, never used in the first place. Today mines are generally seen as relics of bygone eras, deadly weapons that remain dangerous long after the war is fought. Forgotten minefields all over the world kill civilians by the score – more than 8,600 in 2016 alone. Many of these are children.

Many who join armed forces around the world do so with the idea that they can keep their children and families – along with the children and families of their fellow countrymen – safe from the imminent dangers of impending war. When faced with an existential threat, countries will go to horrifying lengths to defend themselves.

This isn't World War I — it's the 1980s. No one told Saddam or Khomeini.

Such was the case in the early 1980s, the nascent years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran fought a brutal war against Iraq since 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein smelled blood in the disorganized post-Revolution Iran and attempted to seize its access to the Persian Gulf by force.

The Iran-Iraq War was particularly brutal, even as far as warfare in the Middle East is concerned. The war was defined by eight years of stalemates and failed offensives, indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks — often using chemical weapons — and insane asymmetrical warfare.

Insane symmetrical warfare is a very clean term for the tactics Iran used to level the playing field of the Western-backed, technologically superior Iraqis. Iran recently purged its professional military of those loyal to the deposed Shah and was by no means ready to fight a war with a series of Revolutionary militias. The Ayatollah Khomeini was no military commander. He saw a success in war in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy versus the number his forces took, a World War I-era approach to warfare.

They also dug trenches. A lot of trenches.

To Khomeini, as long as the math worked and his fighters were sufficiently motivated by religious fanaticism and revolutionary spirit, he could push all the way to Baghdad. So he enlisted large numbers of civilians with little or no military training to execute his plans. This entrenched incompetence included the field command leadership who most often sent men to die in droves using human wave attacks, another World War I relic. The horror doesn't stop there.

The New York Times' Terence Smith, writing about Iran in 1984, described the use of child soldiers by Iran to clear minefields. Young boys, aged 12-17 years, wore red headbands with the words 'Sar Allah' in Farsi (Warriors of God) and small metal keys that the Ayatollah declared were their tickets to Paradise if they were martyred in their mission. Many were sent into battle against Iraqi tanks without any protection and bound by ropes to prevent desertion.

They were the first wave, making the way for Iranian tanks by clearing barbed wire and minefields with their bodies.

Iranian child soldiers marching off to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

These children weren't the only human wave attackers, but they certainly were the most notable – and effective. In the same interview, Smith notes the Iranian commanders are unapologetic. Iraq has many tanks and a lot of support. Iran has very few. What Iran had is exactly what the Ayatollah predicted, a large population filled with religious fervor.

The total number of casualties inflicted on Iran and Iraq throughout the war isn't clearly known, but what is known is a number ranging anywhere between 500,000 to one million killed and wounded in the eight-year slugfest.

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This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

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11 memes that will make you want to join the Navy

Technically, there are five branches of service to choose from if you're thinking about joining the military (including the Coast Guard). There's a high level of rivalry among branches that can spark a lot of friendly sh*t talking. As veterans, we still love to take cheap shots at one another — but it's always in good fun.

We've said it time-and-time again that the military has a dark sense of humor and we flex those comedic muscles at the other branches as often as possible. Since the U.S. Navy is hands-down the most dominant force to ever patrol the high seas, sailors do things that no other branch can do: kick ass while floating in the middle of nowhere.

The Army and the Air Force can't compete with the Navy since they have no ships. The Marines can't conduct business without the Navy navigating them around the world. Lastly, The Coast Guard is a bunch of land-hugging puddle jumpers.

Since we managed to sh*t talk to everyone (in good fun), it's time to nail each of them, once again, through memes making you reconsider why you didn't join the Navy instead.

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History

Tom Clancy used this wargame for 'Red Storm Rising'

Tom Clancy's 1986 novel Red Storm Rising is arguably his literary tour de force. Following on the heels of 1984's The Hunt for Red October, it cemented Clancy's status as the inventor of the techno-thriller genre. Despite being a massive best-seller, Clancy never won a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize for his contributions to the field of literature.

In Red Storm Rising, "Dance of the Vampires" featured a Soviet attack on a NATO carrier force centered on USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and the French carrier Foch (R99). In the book, the Nimitz was badly damaged by two AS-6 Kingfish missiles, while the Foch took three hits and was sunk.

There was little understanding of how new technology like the Tu-22M Backfire would play into a war.

(DOD painting)

But how did Clancy manage to make that moment in the book so realistic? The answer lies in a wargame designed by Larry Bond called Harpoon. Bond is best known as a techno-thriller author of some repute himself, having written Red Phoenix, Cauldron, and Red Phoenix Burning, among others. But he designed the Harpoon wargame, which came in both a set of rules for miniatures and a computer game. (Full disclosure: The author is a long-time fan of the game, and owns both miniature and computer versions.)

Alas, poor Foch, you were doomed from the start.

(U.S. Navy photo)

At WargameVault.com, Larry Bond explained that while the end result had been determined, what was lacking was an understand of two big areas: How would all these new systems interact, and what would the likely tactics be? As a result, they ran the game three times, and it was not a small affair: A number of others took part, resulting in each side's "commander" having "staffs" who used written standard orders and after-action reports.

A simulated massacre of Tu-22M Backfires off Iceland also shaped the plot of 'Red Storm Rising.'

(U.S. Navy)

Each of the three games had very different results, but the gaming helped to make Red Storm Rising a literary masterpiece of the last 20th century. Incidentally, Harpoon further shaped Red Storm Rising through a scenario called the "Keflavik Turkey Shoot" – a gaming result that convinced Clancy to include the Soviet Union taking Iceland in the early portions of the book.

While she sits in reserve today, at the time of 'Red Storm Rising,' USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was the latest and greatest in naval technology.

(US Navy photo)

Bond released a collection of those scenarios, and some other material into an electronic publication called "Dance of the Vampires," available for $8.00 at WargameVault.com. It is a chance to see how a wargame shaped what was arguably the best techno-thriller of all time.

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These Dutch destroyers can inflict max pain on the Russian navy

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Today, the centerpiece of the Dutch navy consists of four powerful air-defense vessels. While the Dutch Navy calls them "frigates," these ships actually are really more akin to smaller guided-missile destroyers. Their armament is close to that of the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers. These vessels replaced two Tromp-class guided-missile destroyers and two Jacob van Heemskerck-class guided-missile frigates.

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4 reasons why the Navy will always be on missile defense patrols

The Navy has recently wanted to end ballistic missile defense (BMD) patrols. This mission, usually carried out by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers equipped with RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missiles, has been to protect American allies from ballistic missiles from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, or from hostile peers or near-peers like Russia and China.

In June 2018 though, the Navy wanted to get away from this mission. The reason? They want to shift this to shore installations to free up the destroyers for other missions. Well, the ballistic missile defense mission is not going to go away any time soon. Here's why:

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