Tag Archives: Pentagon

Stealth fighter daylight landing

Crash Grounds All F-35 Stealth Fighters

The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters Thursday so that engineers could conduct urgent inspections following the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.

Preliminary data from a Marine Corps F-35B that was completely destroyed in a South Carolina crash last month showed a potential problem with a fuel tube, officials said.

“The US services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft,” said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program.

He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes will be returned to operational status.

Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.

According to Pentagon figures, 320 F-35s have been delivered globally, mainly to the US but also Israel and Britain, as well as other partner countries.

Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been “paused,” not grounded.

“F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability,” a British defense ministry spokesman said.

– ‘Ready and prepared’ –

The Israeli military said it was taking additional precautions and conducting tests on its version of the F-35, known as the F-35I.

But if the planes are “required for operational action, the F-35I aircraft are ready and prepared,” a statement read.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in South Carolina. The pilot survived after ejecting.

The incident occurred only one day after the US military first used the F-35 in combat, when Marine Corps jets hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, Defense News reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to make 80 percent of the fleet of key fighters, including the F-35, mission capable within a year.

The order sent ripples through the Pentagon, where officials have for years bemoaned a general lack of readiness for key equipment.

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

Proponents tout the F-35’s radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes.

Senate Sends Defense Bill To President Trump For Signing

The US Senate easily passed a $716.3 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that ramps up military spending and bolsters America’s posture against Russia, while avoiding policy changes that would have antagonized President Donald Trump.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 87 to 10 in the Senate a week after clearing the House of Representatives, and now heads to the White House for Trump’s signature.

The bill provides $69 billion in special war funding known as overseas contingency operations, authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for members of the armed forces, and invests tens of billions in modernizing the Pentagon’s air and sea fleets and missile defenses.

It notably prohibits delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey, a NATO ally with increasingly fraught relations with Washington, until Ankara can confirm it will not buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

And while China and Russia are classified as “strategic competitors” to the United States, the legislation negotiated between the House and Senate left out a proposal by senators that would have blocked a deal Trump reached with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE that eases tough financial penalties on the firm for helping Iran and North Korea evade American sanctions.

The capitulation smoothed things over with the White House, but it angered Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who voted against the bill.

“It’s time we opened our eyes,” Rubio told colleagues.

“We are engaged in a geopolitical competition, not with some poor agrarian country trying to catch up, but with a global super power who is quickly nipping at our heels and doing so unfairly, with the intent of replacing us in the world as the most powerful country militarily, economically, geopolitically and technologically.”

The NDAA also includes a provision allowing the administration to waive some Russia-related sanctions that would have barred Washington from selling defense-related equipment to countries using Russian technology.

Supporters of the provision stress that the change will help certain countries wean themselves off of Russian influence.

The bill including provisions which allow for better assessment of risks to US national security from transactions involving foreign firms aiming to gain access to sensitive American technology.

It also extends a restriction on US-Russian military cooperation, and authorizes $65 million to revamp the US nuclear arsenal by developing new “low-yield” nuclear weapons.

This year’s NDAA was named after Senator John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and national security hawk who is home in Arizona battling brain cancer.

“This year’s NDAA represents an important opportunity to implement an effective approach to confront a growing array of threats around the world,” McCain said.

Congress has passed the NDAA for 57 consecutive years, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal noted its success marks “a victory for the notion that national security is above politics and party.”

Pentagon Weighs Military Response After Syrian ‘Chemical Attack’ On Its Own People

Global outrage is mounting over an alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria, as the Pentagon weighs America’s options for a retaliatory strike.

Military action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad seemed likely, after President Donald Trump warned of a “big price to pay” and spoke of imminent “major decisions” within the next 48 hours.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he won’t rule anything out militarily.

But thanks to the Trump administration’s whipsawing messaging over whether America will even stay in Syria, and the dangerous complexities of the multi-national conflict, the Pentagon’s options appeared limited.

The attack on the rebel-held Syrian town of Douma killed at least 48 people Saturday after a “poisonous chlorine gas attack” in Eastern Ghouta, rescuers and medics said.

By Monday, the United States and France had promised a “strong, joint response” and Britain, too, joined a growing chorus demanding action.

Syria and its ally Russia have dismissed allegations that the attack was carried out by Syrian forces as “fabrications” and have warned against using them to justify military action.

– Russia risks –

Perhaps the biggest risk for Pentagon planners is Russia, and its large presence which since late 2015 has been deeply enmeshed with Assad’s military.

 

Trump made a rare personal criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin following Saturday’s attack, a break from his reluctance to single out the strongman by name as he has sought better coordination with Moscow in the Syria crisis.

“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

– Past as prelude? –

After a deadly sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed scores of people in April last year, Trump quickly ordered a retaliatory strike.

The US military blasted 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat air base, which the Pentagon said Assad’s jets had used to launch the deadly chemical attack.

The action won Trump bipartisan praise because it was seen as limited in scope and designed to respond to a specific incident, rather than pulling America deeper into Syria’s civil war.

“The president responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year,” Republican Senator John McCain, a frequent Trump critic said.

“He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

– What is the goal? –

Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst for the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said Trump’s administration needs to figure out what its long-term goal is in Syria as it weighs its military options.

She described a few potential military responses, including a tactical strike such as the one last year, or a broader attack on Assad’s air forces including taking out his radar and air-defense systems, and hitting multiple air bases.

“I expect the question from the Pentagon to the civilian leadership is what is the goal,” Cafarella said.

She also said another option likely under consideration is to tackle Iranian-backed militias in Syria.

Such a move would not be in direct response to the latest alleged chemical attack, but would signal a willingness to curtail Iranian influence in Syria.

“We want to ask whether the president is going to broaden his response in order to also punish Assad’s backers Russia and Iran,” she explained.

Another possibility is Trump asking an ally to conduct military action against the regime.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Trump had shared information “confirming” toxic weapons were used in Douma, without elaborating.

– Hawk at Trump’s side –

Trump on Monday began working with his new national security advisor, John Bolton, a staunch hawk on Iran and American military intervention in general, so the president’s outlook on Syria — and whether he still wants to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US forces — may soon morph again.

The US personnel in Syria belong to a coalition providing weapons, training and other support to forces fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Daniel Davis, a retired army lieutenant colonel and fellow at the Defense Priorities military think tank, cautioned against US military action.

“The absolute worst policy option for the United States is to get deeper involved in Syria’s civil war, which however brutal, has no bearing on our security or prosperity — especially when further intervention risks a clash with nuclear-armed Russia,” he said.