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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    A 10 pilot 6000 FH

    On Nov. 14, 2016, Lt. Col. John Marks, a pilot with the 303rd Fighter Squadron, logged his 6,000th hour in the A-10 Thunderbolt II at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, becoming one of the highest time fighter pilots in the U.S. Air Force.

    Marks has started flying the “Hawg” little less than 30 years ago. During the last three decades, he has flown the A-10 in theater during 11 combat deployments with the mission to support and protect forces on the ground.

    “Six thousand hours is about 3,500 sorties with a takeoff and landing, often in lousy weather and inhospitable terrain,” said Col. Jim Macaulay, the 442d Operations Group commander in an Air Force release about the incredible milestone. “It’s solving the tactical problem on the ground hundreds of times and getting it right every time, keeping the friendlies safe. This includes being targeted and engaged hundreds of times by enemy fire.”

    Lt. Col. Marks has started flying the Thunderbolt at low-altitude, in Europe, during the Cold War, when the A-10 focused on developing tactics to attack Soviet tanks in the battlefield.

    During the years, the mission has evolved.

    A-10s have become more sophisticated, new sensors and weapons have become available and these have made the “Warthog” even more lethal. Flying at higher altitudes above Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the Thunderbolts remain the most efficient CAS (Close Air Support) platforms available.

    A 10 pilot 6000 FH today“In the end, we can cover the ground forces with everything from a very low-altitude strafe pass only meters away from their position, to a long-range precision weapon delivered from outside threat ranges, and everything in between,” said Marks.

    Noteworthy, Marks was part of an epic mission during the Gulf War, when two A-10s wiped out 23 Iraqi tanks (a story that we described in detail here.)

    “The trio of missions I flew on February 25, 1991, with Eric Salomonson on which we destroyed or damaged 23 Iraqi tanks with oil fires raging all over Kuwait certainly stands out,” he expressed. “The sky was black from oil fires and smoke and burning targets, lending to an almost apocalyptic feel.”

    Indeed, during the same mission, the A-10s landed twice at a FOL (Forward Operating Location), were refueled and re-armed to return over the battlefield and help the Marines near Kuwait City.

    “Recently, a mission I flew on our most recent trip to Afghanistan, relieving a ground force pinned down by Taliban on 3 sides and in danger of being surrounded, using our own weapons while also coordinating strikes by an AC-130 gunship, 2 flights of F-16s, Apaches, and AH-6 Little Birds, stands out as a mission I’m proud of,” continued Marks about one of the most rewarding missions of his career, which earned him the President’s Award for the Air Force Reserve Command in 2015.

    With such an experience, Marks serves as a mentor for younger pilots in training.

    A 10 over desert

    “I’ve watched him mentor young pilots in the briefing room then teach them in the air,” said Macaulay. “Every sortie, he brings it strong, which infects our young pilots that seek to emulate him.”

    “I like to think we can show them a good work ethic as well,” Marks added. “You always have to be up on the newest weapons, the newest threats, the newest systems. You can never sit still.”

    Marks has plans on flying the A-10 until he cans: his next goal is to reach 7,000 hours.

    SEE ALSO: The US's military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what we know about Trump's pick for Defense Secretary: Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis


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    saint mattis

    The social media team behind the Facebook page of Marine Special Operations Command was apparently pretty excited about retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis getting tapped for Secretary of Defense.

    So much so, in fact, that they posted a picture of the 66-year-old former four-star commander as a saint holding a grenade in one hand and a Ka-Bar knife in the other.

    The page posted up the meme photo with a caption that parodied the Catholic "Hail Mary" prayer, writing, "Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen."

    The photo depicting Mattis as the "Patron Saint of Chaos" (Chaos was Mattis' radio callsign in Iraq) has been floating around the Internet for quite some time, having been passed around in the military ranks by many of his adoring fans. Mattis is a legend within the ranks for both his strategic genius and love of his troops, and it's clear that those same troops love him back.

    saint mattis meme marsoc

    The meme has been along the sidebar of the /r/usmc community on Reddit for a while, and was shared on a thread talking about Mattis' announcement as Secretary of Defense on the incredibly popular Facebook page of Terminal Lance, a web comic that was created for active-duty infantry Marines.

    While it's not much of a surprise for many Marines to see the retired general portrayed in such a way, the posting by MarSoc got at least one negative comment, which spurred administrators to remove it, according to Marine Corps Times.

    "MARSOC is committed to professionalism and supporting our great country," Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler, a MarSoc spokesman, told The Times. "No offense was intended."

    SEE ALSO: 19 unforgettable quotes from legendary Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: America's B-2 stealth bomber is unlike any military aircraft in the world


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    f 35b uss america

    The US Marine Corps' recent proof of concept for the F-35B short takeoff, vertical landing variant aboard the USS America produced "the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world," according to one F-35 test pilot.

    Indeed the America is the US's newest amphibious assault ship, designed for waging war on beaches and coastal zones with the F-35's revolutionary technologies in mind.

    Both the America-class and the F-35 programs have faced criticisms, sometimes harshly, for their departure from traditional warfare roles, among other things. But lately these programs seem to be shaping up nicely. 

    The America abandons well decks, or the space to launch landing vessels to take beaches, in favor of increased hangar space to haul and maintain more aircraft. In its most plane-heavy configuration, the America can carry 20 F-35Bs.

    In the video below, the Marines placed 12 F-35Bs on the America to prove a concept that's been literally decades in the making, and thereby creating a ship that's not even technically classified as an aircraft carrier, yet one of the biggest and deadliest ships in the world. 

    SEE ALSO: Russia has just given up on trying to launch strikes from its rickety aircraft carrier

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The F-35 has hit another snag — this time because it’s too stealthy


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    ODA 574 Karzai

    Retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for defense secretary, is known for being an eminently quotable and beloved military commander. However, an incident in Afghanistan in 2001 is being touted as a potential smudge on Mattis' record.

    At the start of the war in Afghanistan, US clandestine operatives had to operate in exceedingly complex and dangerous environments behind the scenes. Consisting of  11 members, Special Forces A-Team ODA 574 was one of these clandestine groups.

    Having deployed with a mission to escort the future Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, this elite team, specializing in free-fall operations, neared Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city. Karzai, who was at the time an exile, had been raising a Pashtun militia to overtake the Taliban while ODA 574 provided protection by calling in precision airstrikes.

    JDAM

    One day, disaster struck when a 2,000 pound joint direct attack munition (JDAM) accidentally struck the team. Amidst the chaos, ODA 574 Captain Jason Amerine sent a mass casualty evacuation request which was acknowledged by the nearest base, Camp Rhino — a 45 minute flight by helicopter.

    Besides the Marines located at Camp Rhino, the closest support that 574 had was in Uzbekistan and Pakistan, some three hours away. A Special Forces liaison informed General Mattis, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, of the situation.

    Author Eric Blehm describes the tense scene in his New York Times bestseller, “The Only Thing Worth Dying For”:

    Mattis asked if they were still in contact and wanted more specifics, which Cairnes did not have.

    “Well, if they’ve taken fire,” said the general, “and you can’t tell me definitively how they got all scuffed up, I’m not going to send anything until you can assure me that the situation on the ground is secure.” Mattis went on to explain that there were nearly a thousand Marines at Camp Rhino for him to worry about, and he was not willing to dilute base security and risk sending his air squadron on a dangerous daylight mission just to assist an unknown number of casualties.

    Later, members of the Special Forces team discussed the situation amongst themselves:

    They could understand why Mattis wouldn’t send all of his helicopters, but no one in the tent could fathom why he wouldn’t do something to help their guys. “Where’s the love from the Marines?” said another member of the team. “They’re supposed to be frothing at the mouth for this kind of s***.”

    “These helicopters outside would be airborne already if it were Marines that were bleeding,” said the B-team’s communications sergeant.

    “You know what,” said Lee, who had watched the Marines endure abysmal conditions at the base since they’d arrived. “It’s not the Marines. It’s Mattis.”

    AP110201148779

    Twenty minutes after being denied by Mattis and hearing that there was at least one confirmed American KIA, the soldiers decided that the situation was dire and the Marine general needed to be persuaded for the second time:

    Inside, the expressions on the faces of Mattis’ staff showed their frustration and embarrassment. One Marine glanced away as they walked past, unable to meet their eyes.

    Mattis greeted the two Green Berets at the heavy wood door that led into his spartan concrete-floored office. He held a military-issue canteen cup filled with coffee in his left hand and gestured them inside with the other. After closing the door to a crack, he sat down at a small writing desk where a map was laid out.

    “Let’s hear it,” said Mattis

    “Sir,” said Lee, “we’ve got reports of mass casualties, and word is they expect the numbers to continue to rise. You are the closest American with the ability to respond.”

    “Do you have an update on how they got all scuffed up? Are they still in contact?”

    “With all due respect,” said Leithead, “we think that’s irrelevant.”

    “I hear you, but no, I’m not sending a rescue mission,” Mattis said. “We. Don’t. Know. The situation.”

    “The situation, sir,” said Lee, “is that Americans are dying. And they need your help.”

    “Look, when I have fighters over the scene so that I’ve got air superiority, then I’ll send choppers. That, or we wait till nightfall.”

    Exchanging a look with Leithead, Lee said, “That’s not good enough, sir.”

    Standing up, the general cleared his throat. “Sergeant,” Mattis called to his sergeant at arms, positioned outside the office. “We’re done. Escort these men out of here.”

    Without another word, Lee and Leithead walked out of the office toward the door to the command post, again passing Marines who wouldn’t make eye contact. Behind them, they heard Mattis say, “Nobody gets into my office.”

    Eventually, US military teams in Uzbekistan and Pakistan launched rescue efforts in broad daylight. When the dust finally settled, three members of 574 were killed, along with several of Karzai’s forces.

    Blehm explained to Business Insider that after several attempts, Mattis agreed to be interviewed about the incident, however, by the time he did, the book had already been published.  

    “As far as ... those guys were concerned, it didn't matter. Americans were wounded, dead, or dying and Mattis was the closest with the ability to respond — and they refused,” Blehm said.

    Black Hawk Down Super 61

    Just like the developing situation in Afghanistan, an answer of exactly who was at fault here would be, at best, complicated. As a career Marine educated in the art of war, Mattis would have undoubtedly recounted the harrowing events that unfolded during the ‘Black Hawk Down’ Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, where several members of a rescue team were killed.

    Conversely, leaving any servicemember unattended for would not only be against policy, but would tarnish the reputation of the US military. This is even confirmed by the resounding mottos of the military, such as the 9th Cavalry Regiment’s, “We can, We will”. Perhaps more importantly, however, is that a delay in rescue operations may lower the chance of survival for injured servicemembers.

    As most veterans know, a general rule of thumb in the military is to expect the unexpected, and to develop a contingency plan for the worst. However, when time is of the essence and lives are on the line, there may be instances where years of military training cannot prepare oneself, or indoctrinated protocols may have to be compromised.

    In any case, the only thing permanent is that that the fateful day will probably be analyzed by military tacticians for years to come, and that the lives of Master Sergeant Jefferson Davis, Sergeant First Class Daniel Petithory, and Staff Sergeant Brian Prosser were abruptly cut short.

    An earlier version of this post was written by David Choi.

    SEE ALSO: These are the favorite weapons of the Army Special Operations Forces

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These £6.2 billion aircraft carriers are the navy's largest ships ever built


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    Mattis

    President-elect Donald Trump just tapped Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for Defense Secretary, so it's worth asking what kind of leadership the Pentagon is in for.

    As it turns out, according to a number of those who served with him, the more than 3 million civilian and military personnel of DoD can expect a well-read history buff with a strategic mind, a senior man who is not above talking to even the most junior personnel, and a sometimes gruff, opinionated leader who isn't afraid to tell it like it is.

    Business Insider spoke with a number of people who served with Mattis, and gathered up other anecdotes, to understand what the former four-star general is really like when he's in charge.

    Here's what we learned.

    SEE ALSO: 19 unforgettable quotes from legendary Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis

    Mattis has often been praised by senior leaders at the Pentagon as both a strategic thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of history, and an incredible leader.



    That reputation was earned over a 44-year career in the Marine Corps, where he rose to the highest rank of four-star general, eventually retiring as the top leader of US Central Command in 2013.



    Before he took that job, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates praised him as one of the most formidable "warrior-scholars" of his generation. "General Mattis is one of our military’s foremost strategic thinkers and combat leaders," he said.

    Source: Stripes



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    General Mattis

    President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a "strategic mistake" at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.

    In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: "We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake."

    The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.

    But it is interesting as it's the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.

    "I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea," he said. "But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private."

    Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it's up to the civilian leadership to make the decision. 

    Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed "the generals' revolt." Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.

    He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, "you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can't retire. They're going. That's all there is to it."

    He added: "You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation."

    Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: "There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve."

    SEE ALSO: Here’s what legendary Marine General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is really like, from people who served with him

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch the Air Force drop 8 armored Humvees out of a plane from 5,000 feet


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    Iraqi troops have advanced cautiously to avoid civilian casualties.Winter is approaching in Mosul.

    Temperatures have dropped sharply and rain is turning access roads that the Iraqi military has been using to get around recaptured districts into fields of mud. Children wear woolen hats as they play outside their bullet-riddled homes, with gunfire and the heavy thud of artillery rippling overhead.

    Nearly seven weeks into the offensive, the advance has slowed. IS has been pushed out of more than 20 neighborhoods, but the majority of the city is still under their control. Now, the fighters’ tactics are bogging down Iraqi forces, who say they faced more than 630 suicide car bomb attacks in the first 45 days of the operation — that’s an average of 14 every day.

    On a recent afternoon in the neighborhood of Gogjali, located on the eastern side of Mosul’s city limits,  soldiers from Iraq’s elite “Counter Terrorism Service” (CTS) took a pause from the fighting to huddle around a fire. The twisted metal of a military Humvee destroyed by an Islamic State group bomb blast lay nearby on the side of the road. It’s been a bruising campaign so far, and CTS units have been at the very front of it, incurring some of the heaviest losses of all.

    Iraqi commanders are considering whether to make changes to their current strategy that, up to now, has encouraged civilians to stay in their homes.

    iraqi special forces mosul

    “We will watch the situation,” said Sabah al-Noman, spokesperson of the Iraqi CTS, speaking to VICE News outside a military command outpost on the eastern edge of the city.  “If the situation needs the people in the next neighborhoods to displace from their house we will do that.”

    The current approach has been to try to avoid a mass exodus of civilians that could cause a humanitarian crisis and potentially afford IS fighters a means of escape. But it hasn’t worked — the continued presence of families has hampered the aerial bombardment of IS positions, and the military’s ground forces haven’t been able to break through in the ways they expected.

    And the civilian cost continues to rise regardless. The United Nationssaid there has been a “staggering” number of casualties in Iraq since the operation began. In November alone the civilian toll was more than 900 killed and a similar number injured, according to figures released by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.  Most of those deaths were in Mosul.

    At field clinics on the front lines and in the emergency wards of nearby hospitals, many of the patients are women and children. Doctors say that entire families are arriving in need of critical care after a mortar round or airstrike has hit their home, and that the balance of the patients has shifted dramatically during the course of the campaign.

    “Nowadays they are civilians, more than 90 percent they are civilians,” said Doctor Lawand Meran, director of the West Erbil hospital. “We are in a very bad situation, we receive patients beyond our capacity.”

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why some people have a tiny hole above their ears


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    Donald Trump phone

    US president-elect Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen may not signal a major shift in the US’ longstanding one-China policy, but Beijing is “cautiously watching” Trump’s next moves while pondering its own, say experts on US-China relations.

    Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said she did not believe that Trump intended to indicate he would change the foreign policy approach to the Taiwan Strait.

    “I expect China will engage intensely with Trump’s transition team about Taiwan, both to determine Trump’s intentions in making the call and to warn of the consequences should he follow up with similar actions,” Glaser said.

    William Stanton, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de factor embassy on the self-ruled island, was quoted by Central News Agency on Monday as saying the call was probably arranged ahead of time and Washington should have made such a move earlier.

    Daniel Blumenthal, a China specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, said China was “prepared for the US to return to advocating on behalf of our own interests”.

    “[China] advances its own version of the one-China policy, very different from our own, every day through missile and cyber coercion and diplomatic isolation. Those moves are not in our interests,” Blumenthal said.

    Beijing has been restrained in its response to the phone call, the first time that the leaders of the US and Taiwan had spoken officially since 1979, when Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

    “The world is very clear on China’s solemn position. The US side, including president elect Trump’s team, is very clear about China’s solemn position on this issue,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing.

    Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during an interview in Luque, Paraguay, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

    Shi Yinhong, an expert on US-China relations at Renmin University of China, said that by tolerating Trump’s boundary pushing, Beijing had shown goodwill towards the new American leader. Trump insists he will take a hard line with China over trade, currency and presence in the disputed South China Sea, but his foreign policy direction with the world’s second-largest economy remains otherwise unknown to outsiders.

    Shi said China would respond with measures if Trump crossed what Beijing saw as a red line.

    “China wants to establish good relations with Trump. That’s why it agreed to the latest UN resolution [on further sanctions] against North Korea recently,” he said.

    Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University, said Beijing could use the North Korean issue as leverage in its relationship with the new administration at the White House.

    “Don’t expect Beijing to work with you on North Korea, on Iran or on Islamic State. Can Tsai Ing-wen help you with that?” Shen said.

    Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said Beijing would deliver a more robust response if Trump escalated the Taiwan issue after taking office next month. The recent development would take a toll on Taiwan’s international standing.

    Glaser said Beijing would take “forceful actions” if it perceived Trump as supporting Taiwanese independence.

    “Today, China is much more powerful and would certainly take forceful actions if it believed that the US was supporting Taiwan independence,” she said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why Boeing 747s have a giant hump in the front


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    putin

    For the most part, Russia's incursion into Syria has met with wild success militarily.

    Russia's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, seems stronger than ever and the US has been relegated to a role on the sidelines of Syria's fate.

    This excursion has allowed Russia to flex its military might in a number of ways that could woo over potential clients for foreign military sales, if not for one problem: Moscow's equipment keeps breaking down catastrophically. 

    Earlier this week, Russia lost yet another fighter jet off its aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov. That's at least the second one since the carrier began it's first-ever combat deployment in November. Satellite photos now suggest that Russia has entirely given up on using the carrier to launch strikes.

    Another huge blow to Russia's military credibility came on December 4, when footage tweeted by Rami al-Lolah showed what appeared to be Russia's vaunted S-300 missile defense system catastrophically malfunction in Syria. 

    The S-300, in addition to the previously deployed S-400, were thought by experts to provide Russia with an almost impenetrable air defense zone within Syria and the Mediterranean. Even President Obama admitted that Russia's air defenses considerably limit the US's options in Syria.

    Russia even went so far as to taunt the US to intervene against Assad while the S-300 was in place.

    The footage below, however, suggests that the system has serious problems. 

    Russia has also delivered the S-300 missile system to Iran

    SEE ALSO: KERRY: Not enforcing Obama's red line in Syria 'cost' the US considerably in the Middle East

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch the Air Force drop 8 armored Humvees out of a plane from 5,000 feet


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    Donald Trump James Mattis

    If the Democrats choose to oppose the nomination of Gen. James Mattis for Defense Secretary, it's probably not going to go well for them — regardless of the final outcome.

    The nomination of the retired Marine general has put Democrats in a bit of a pickle: Since he hasn't been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years, he requires a waiver from Congress — giving Democrats an opening to oppose a Trump nominee.

    But in the case of this nominee, he is more than qualified for the position, having served 44 years in the Marine Corps, where he last retired as the head of the military's Central Command in Tampa, Florida. Even Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a Marine veteran who said he would oppose a waiver, called Mattis "exceptionally qualified."

    Where does the fight eventually lead? 

    Democrats can try to hold up the nomination of Mattis and fight against a waiver. As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has said, her position is based on maintaining civilian control of the military as a "fundamental principle of American democracy." 

    The principle is maintained by a 1947 law that requires a military officer to be off active duty for 10 years before leading the Department of Defense. It was amended to seven years in 2008. Mattis, having retired in 2013, would be just more three years shy of that limit if confirmed after Trump takes office.

    Interestingly, this wouldn't even be an issue if Trump nominated another reported candidate, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane — an officer who retired in 2003. He said he declined Trump's offer of the position for family reasons. In the case of Keane, he would have easily had the votes from a Republican-controlled Congress, and a former military officer would be leading the department.

    But some Democrats don't view Mattis as civilian enough— as if three more years of him serving as a scholar in residence at places like Dartmouth and Stanford or contributing on corporate boards has not given him enough experience outside of uniform. 

    Mattis' qualifications should not be questioned. If confirmed as Defense Secretary, his legendary status within the ranks would instantly boost morale. His time served at Central Command and Joint Forces Command give him the bona fides to be able to lead a large organization with many different services and civilian workers.

    And he would serve as an important check on Trump — and his controversial national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — on everything from torture to sending US forces into harm's way.

    jim mattis iraq

    That's especially true since Mattis, now 66, has taken to the lecture circuit in recent years and has repeatedly stressed the importance of a commander in chief giving the military a clear political end state — a policy desperately needed when the US still remains in what have been dubbed "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    "Secretary of Defense Mattis will never commit anyone into harm's way without the national interests at stake and a plan to win," Nate Fick, a former Marine captain who twice served under Mattis in Afghanistan and Iraq, told Business Insider. "I think that that’s welcome."

    Option 1: Democrats oppose Mattis, and he secures the nomination anyway

    Let's just say Democrats decide to go nuclear against the Mattis appointment, and somehow he ends up as Defense Secretary anyway.

    Republicans would have plenty of ammunition to criticize their counterparts, especially considering their opposition stems from an arbitrary standard of three years. Though Mattis has offered some colorful, and somewhat controversial, quotes over the years, his military service record is exemplary. His leadership ability isn't in question.

    "I think he would be fantastic," Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine officer who served under Mattis and is open to a waiver, told The Eagle-Tribune. "He has led one of the most significant commands of our nation. He is a deep thinker and a student of history. He has a library of something like 6,000 books. That’s precisely the kind of thoughtfulness and perspective we need in our secretary of defense."

    General Mattis

    So at the end of the day, the only fight Democrats have against him is a 1947 law they know can easily be waived.

    From there, they'd be starting off a new president's term having been beaten back from this opposition, when they would have been better served opposing some of Trump's more controversial picks, such as Ben Carson, his nominee to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions.

    Option 2: Democrats oppose Mattis, and Trump replaces him with a far worse pick

    Here's where Democrats really need to decide on what is important. Is it important to maintain a stringent view that Mattis cannot get a waiver? Because if that's the course of action, Trump's next step could be to nominate someone whom Democrats are guaranteed not to like.

    Among the names floated during the nominating process were former Sen. Jim Talent, a Republican from Missouri, who served in the Senate for much of the Bush administration. He currently serves on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress that examines the US-China relationship and prepares an annual report on its national-security implications.

    Unlike Mattis — who has called the invasion of Iraq a "strategic mistake"— Talent is an Iraq War hawk. Though he wasn't in Congress for the 2002 vote to go to war, he said in 2006 that he still would have invaded Iraq even with the knowledge there were no weapons of mass destruction.

    Another civilian name on the reported short list was that of Stephen Hadley, the former national security adviser to President George W. Bush. A controversial figure, Hadley was largely responsible for the false allegation that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger prior to the invasion, which made its way into President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. He later apologized.

    Democrats shouldn't just roll over and play dead on a Mattis appointment. They and their Republican colleagues definitely need to ask some hard questions of Mattis' views on the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, women in the military, and how he might counter geostrategic foes such as Iran, Russia, and North Korea.

    But with former defense secretaries endorsing him for the job (Rumsfeld, Gates, and Panetta, among others), bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and a large portion of the men and women in uniform rallying around him, Democrats would be wise to oppose Mattis on substantive issues — not the issue of whether his uniform has sat unworn in his closet for long enough.

    "Considering the other picks that [Trump] has made, this would be the wrong target" for Democrats to oppose, Panetta said at a national security forum over the weekend.

    "I believe that civilian control and civilian involvement in the Defense Department is an important principle, but I also don’t think a military background should be disqualifying," he later told a Washington Post reporter after his talk.

    SEE ALSO: Here’s what legendary Marine General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is really like, from people who served with him

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: America's B-2 stealth bomber is unlike any military aircraft in the world


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    pearl harbor, december 7. 1941, naval air station airfield

    WASHINGTON, DC — Under the South Pacific sun on December 7, 1941, troops serving the US fleet at Pearl Harbor began a calm Sunday morning unaware that Japanese bombers were headed toward America's most important Pacific base.

    There, like a string of pearls draped across the docks and waterfront, was the majority of the US's naval might.

    The devastating Japanese onslaught began at 7:48 a.m., eventually killing 2,402 Americans and wounding many others, sinking four battleships, and damaging military airfields.

    The Pearl Harbor attack spurred America into World War II, leading ultimately to Allied victory over the Japanese in the Pacific and the Nazis and other Axis powers in Europe. 

    Here are photographs from the attack and its immediate aftermath.

    Kamelia Angelova contributed to this report.

    SEE ALSO: 'We were lucky': Pearl Harbor vet describes how he survived the infamous attack

    On the morning of December 7, 1941, an attack planned by Admiral Isoroku Yamamotoa was carried out to demobilize the US Navy. This picture shows one of more than 180 planes used in the attack.



    At 7:00 a.m., an Army radar operator spotted the first wave of the Japanese planes. The officers to whom those reports were relayed did not consider them significant enough to take action. This photo shows an aerial view of Battleship Row in the opening moments of the raid.



    The Japanese hit most of the US ships in Oahu before 8:00 a.m. Here a Japanese plane flies over Pearl Harbor while black smoke rises from the area.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    US Soldiers Iraq

    According to my long-time friend, Dan Gouré, “the U.S. military is a pale shadow of its former self.” Furthermore, it is now too small to succeed because the “demand for U.S. military forces continues to grow even as their overall capacity declines.” But if the U.S. military is too small to succeed, the core question is: Succeed at what?

    Missions drive requirements and capabilities. If America’s responsibility is to be the world’s policeman and provide security in every region around the globe, then Gouré is correct. But polling shows that Americans are increasingly tired of U.S. overseas military interventions and want our allies to carry their own weight in defending themselves.

    To begin, the paramount responsibility of the U.S. military is to defend against existential threats to the homeland and American way of life. In that regard, there is only one truly existential threat: Russia’s nuclear weapons inherited from the former Soviet Union.

    That is offset by the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal, which acts as a powerful deterrent, just as it did vis-à-vis the Soviet Union during the Cold war – when both sides had significantly more warheads pointing at each other threatening Armageddon.

    Unlike during the Cold War when the U.S. and Soviet Union were engaged in an arms race, both countries weapons are capped at 1,550 warheads and at relative parity as a result of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty agreed to by Washington and Moscow in 2010.

    Moreover, the U.S. strategic arsenal is also a deterrent against China’s nuclear weapons, North Korea, or any other unfriendly country— such as Iran—that might eventually become a nuclear power.

    In terms of having to defend against a conventional military invasion, the U.S. is in a fortunate and relatively unique geostrategic position with two vast oceans on its flanks and friendly neighbors to its immediate north and south. And while both Russia and China have expeditionary military capability, neither has sufficiently large power projection capability to be a credible military threat to invade America.

    aircraft carrier

    So if America as a country is relatively safe, how big a military does a superpower need?

    According to a world’s 20 strongest militaries index developed by Credit Suisse that used six weighted variables – number of active personnel (5 percent of total score), tanks (10 percent), attack helicopters (15 percent), aircraft (20 percent), aircraft carriers (25 percent), and submarines (25 percent) – the U.S. is already ranked as the strongest military in the world. Russia and China were ranked second and third, and it’s worth noting that countries such as North Korea and Iran didn’t even make the list.

    It’s hard to fathom how a country that spends more than the next eight countries in the world combined—including both Russia and China—can have a military that’s considered too small.

    I would argue that what we have is a military that’s worn down from more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq—and to a lesser extent, Syria. What we have is a military that is spread thin, providing primary defense for wealthy allies in Europe and Asia who can more than afford to take greater responsibility for their own defense.

    If, as Gouré asserts, “NATO allies lack enough forces in Europe to oppose a determined Russian offensive,” it’s largely because our European allies want to engage in “crises and conflicts beyond NATO borders” rather than focus on collective defense against direct military threats to Europe, which is the raison d’être for the alliance.

    Similarly, Japan and South Korea are the 4th and 11th largest economies in the world, respectively. Along with Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and India – all of whom have a stake in what happens in the region – these countries have enough economic horsepower to shoulder the primary burden of balancing China in their own neighborhood, as well as countering North Korea.

    Japan Navy

    If our allies took more responsibility for their own defense and policing their neighborhoods rather than over-reliance on U.S. military forces to defend them, the U.S. military would be more than big enough to fight a major war against an adversary that was a direct threat.

    Indeed the U.S. military is anything but small. According to a July 2016 Congressional Budget Office report, the U.S. active duty military force structure includes: 

    • 30 Army brigade combat teams (about the equivalent of 10 divisions); more than 450,000 active duty military personnel
    • 101 Air Force tactical aircraft squadrons (nearly 200 attack aircraft and more than 1,000 fighter aircraft) and 9 bomber squadrons (more than 100 bombers) plus airlift, air refueling, and unmanned air system squadrons; more than 300,000 active duty military personnel
    • 11 Navy aircraft carriers, 10 carrier air wings, more than 100 surface combatants, and 51 attack submarines; more than 500,000 active duty military personnel, which includes 24 Marine Corps infantry battalions

    The problem isn’t that the U.S. military is too small. The problem is that we keep asking the military to do too much. Or worse, what it shouldn’t do: regime change, democratic nation-building, and humanitarian intervention.

    Dr. Gouré concludes that a “force that is too small to fail is one that the U.S. increasingly could be reluctant to send in harm’s way save when national survival is at risk.” Yet that is exactly only when the U.S. military should be sent in harm’s way.

     

    This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author. Charles V. Peña is a senior fellow with Defense Priorities.He has more than 25 years of experience as a policy and program analyst and senior manager, supporting both the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security. Peña is the former director of defense-policy studies at the Cato Institute and author of Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism. You can follow him on Twitter @gofastchuck.

    SEE ALSO: Democrats have no good outcomes if they try to oppose Mattis for Defense Secretary

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    generals

    Just before the 1st Marine Division advanced on the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003, Maj. Gen. James Mattis pinned a star onto each collar of his assistant division commander, Col. John F. Kelly. He was now a brigadier general, and the first to be promoted on the battlefield since the Korean War.

    Not far from there, another colonel in the unit named Joe Dunford was leading his regimental combat team.

    By the end of the campaign, they had fought together in places like Nasiriyah, Al Kut, and eventually Baghdad. The division they were in — along with the US Army and UK armored elements — carried out one of the most aggressive, high-speed attacks in history, and 1st Marine Division's ground march was the longest in the history of the Marine Corps, for which it earned the Presidential Unit Citation.

    Those three officers went on to become four-star generals. Mattis retired in 2013 as the commander of Central Command, while Kelly retired as commander of US Southern Command in 2016. Dunford became commandant of the Marine Corps, and eventually chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he remains.

    All three remain good friends. And if President-elect Donald Trump's picks for his Cabinet are all confirmed, they'll once again be serving together — only this time, it'll be in the White House.

    Secretary of Defense James Mattis

    AP110201148779

    Mattis has often been praised by senior leaders at the Pentagon as both a strategic thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of history and an incredible leader. His legendary status among Marines mainly originated from his command of 1st Marine Division, where he popularized its motto, "No better friend, no worse enemy."

    The 66-year-old retired general is the only pick that has a legal roadblock in front of him. A 1947 law, updated in 2008, requires military officers to be out of uniform for at least seven years before leading the Pentagon. Mattis would need a waiver, which Republicans have already signaled support for.

    When asked recently if he was concerned by Mattis as Trump's pick, Gen. Joe Dunford just said, "No."

    If confirmed, Mattis would replace Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who supports Mattis and called him "extremely capable."

    Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly

    gen john kelly

    John Kelly just accepted Trump's request for him to serve as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to CBS News.

    Like Mattis, he is a blunt speaker who opposes the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

    "What tends to bother them is the fact that we're holding them there indefinitely without trial. ... It's not the point that it's Gitmo," he told Defense One earlier this year. "If we send them, say, to a facility in the US, we're still holding them without trial."

    Kelly is also the most senior-ranking military official to lose a child in combat since 9/11. His son, Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.

    If confirmed, Kelly would replace Jeh Johnson.

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford

    joe dunford

    Joe Dunford is the last of the three generals who is still in uniform. He served briefly as commandant of the Marine Corps before President Barack Obama nominated him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in May 2015. He earned the nickname "Fighting Joe" during his time with 1st Marine Division.

    Dunford has been in the Marine Corps for 39 years, less than Mattis' 44 years and Kelly's 45. His chairmanship term is scheduled to run through 2017. Though the Joint Chiefs are not part of the president's Cabinet, they are appointed by — and serve as the top military advisers to — the president.

    Trump is likely to replace many of Obama's appointees, but Dunford may not be one of them.

    Typically, Joint Chiefs chairmen serve two terms, and having comrades like Mattis and Kelly in Dunford's corner would make it much harder for Trump to replace him.

    Trump has floated other generals and admirals for his Cabinet, including Gen. David Petraeus for secretary of state and Adm. Michael Rogers for director of national intelligence. Michael Flynn, his controversial choice for national security adviser, is a retired lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency.

    These choices don't come without pushback. Some, like Phillip Carter, a former Army officer with the Center for a New American Security, have argued that Trump's reliance on retired military brass for traditionally civilian-led organizations could jeopardize civil-military relations.

    SEE ALSO: Here’s what legendary Marine General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is really like, from people who served with him

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    Ash Carter

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Military leaders are trying to fix the lengthy, inconsistent process for investigating senior officers accused of misconduct.

    The Associated Press has learned the leaders are seeking to change a hodgepodge system in which investigations can drag on for years while taxpayers pay six-figure salaries to senior officers who have been relegated to mid-level administrative posts.

    The chiefs of the four military services have sent a memo to Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying trust in the disciplinary system is strained. It outlined plans to set up a task force to study the issue.

    That task force would be created by the end of the year, and likely would include members of the military, lawmakers and former investigators. Proposed changes would be expected within 10 months.

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    Engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have finished an advanced prototype of a device called Z-Man. Inspired by the gecko's ability to stick to surfaces, Z-Man will allow soldiers to scale walls quickly — like a real-life Spider-Man.

    Follow Tech Insider: On Facebook

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    f 35b

    President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Monday that the "F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th."

    His comments promptly put a dent in the stock of Lockheed Martin, the defense giant that leads the F-35 program, and led to immediate questions over its future.

    The F-35 program, officially launched on October 6, 2001, represents a revolutionary attempt by all branches of the US military to replace a fleet of more than 2,000 aging Cold War-era aircraft. 

    The total cost for developing and procuring the three varieties of the F-35 will likely reach $1 trillion dollars over the lifetime of the program. But a single Air Force F-35 costs less than Trump's own plane, a Boeing 757, argued Dr. Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit that writes about defense spending and acquisition. The group receives contributions from Lockheed Martin.

    "I think the president-elect doesn’t realize how far this program has come in terms of reducing risk and cost," Thompson said in an interview with Business Insider on Monday.

    "We’re looking at a price for the Air Force version F-35 that will be well below $100 million. It's not uncommon for wide-body jets to go for multiples of that amount," Thompson said, adding that jetliner's like Trump's "don’t have to survive being shot at."

    The F-35 program did suffer frequent and costly setbacks during its development, but the project's failures are mostly in the rearview. Recent news on the F-35 has seen the program turning a corner, as pilots finally start to test the new plane's abilities, which have provided game-changing potential in combat aviation. 

    "Trump is apparently operating on the basis of old information and doesn’t know the history of the program," said Thompson.  

    f35 variants

    Thompson argued that the F-35, a single program that will provide new planes for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy despite the staggering price tag, was actually a smart move. 

    "If we had tried to replace aging Cold-War era planes with separate aircraft for each service, it would have cost much, much more." He estimated it could have cost up to four times as much to produce three different planes for each service instead of just one. 

    While the F-35 program dealt with cost and time overrunsduring development, the issues likely owed as much to the ambition of the project as to mismanagement by defense officials. 

    Should Trump move, at this point, to alter or cancel the F-35 program, which has only just begun to ramp up production, Trump would "waste billions of dollars and destroy thousands of jobs," Thompson said.

    Said Thompson: "This program is in good shape, and the entire military is counting on it."

    Trump hit on a larger point while asserting that billions of dollars go to waste in defense acquisition. In 2015, Sen. John McCain issued a blistering report entitled"America's most wasted" about the "Army's costly misfire," or the services attempt to source a new handgun.

    LCS littoral combat ship USS Freedom Pacific.JPG

    The report went into scathing details on how the Army put forth a "350-page requirements document micromanaging extremely small unimportant details and byzantine rules and processes the Army wants followed, many of which are unnecessary or anticompetitive."

    Additionally, the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), while innovative and promising, have met difficulties and setbacks throughout their development, resulting in billions of dollars in overruns. 

    Paul Francis, managing director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, described systematic issues in military spending while discussing the LCS program at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

    "Once the money wheel starts to turn, the business imperatives of budgets and contracts and ship construction take precedence over acquisition and oversight principles," he said.

    SEE ALSO: Trump tweets that the F-35's cost is 'out of control' — and now the stock of the company that makes them is diving

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    John Kerry John McCain

    John McCain, the chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Monday he backed President-elect Donald Trump's criticism of the costs of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter-jet program, but he said a president does not have the authority to cancel it because funds have already been appropriated.

    In an interview with Reuters, McCain, a leading Republican voice on national security and outspoken critic of Pentagon cost overruns, said, however, that Trump would have the power to reduce future purchases of the new-generation fighters if he decided to do so.

    "He can reduce the buy over time, next year, as we look at it again," McCain said. "But right now, the acquisition … of lots of them is already taking place, and I'm happy to say at fixed-price contract. The president, I'm sure, can examine it."

    SEE ALSO: 'The entire military is counting on it': Trump says the F-35 program is 'out of control,' but that ship has sailed

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    NOW WATCH: This is how pilots train to fly the F-35 — America’s most expensive fighter jet


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    obama white house

    The White House said on Monday it supported reviews by Congress of Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, saying intelligence agencies have been cooperating closely with lawmakers from both parties.

    "We certainly have long supported the principle of congressional review of this matter," spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing.

    SEE ALSO: Bipartisan group of senators call for US to investigate Russian cyberattacks

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    Donald Trump

    At a Donald Trump rally in January, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin promised that Trump would be a commander-in-chief who would "kick ISIS' ass." 

    But a new report on Monday from the United States Institute of Peace says not so fast.

    Completely eliminating the terrorist organization requires not just destabilizing the Islamic State group's hold on territory or taking down the group's leaders, but getting to the root of the problem — extremist ideology. And that's easier said than done.

    "The organization is certain to survive in altered physical form too, perhaps as a more traditional terrorist organization," the report says. "Elimination of the group's territory may not fundamentally undermine its endurance." 

    According to the group, ISIS would still be able to take advantage of tensions and vulnerability in Iraq, Syria and Libya over the next decade to maintain its influence in the region. The report predicts that the group will likely be able to expand its power into countries like Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Somalia, Tunisia and Yemen. 

    The report identifies six "enabling conditions" allowing violent extremism to thrive in those areas, including political instability, economic downturns and social media. Of course, tackling these problems in multiple countries is far from a one-man job.

    Trump, who in August claimed President Barack Obama was the "founder of ISIS," hasn't been extremely forthcoming about his strategy for defeating the terrorist organization. 

    Sarah Palin and Donald TrumpTrump said he would "bomb the hell" out of ISIS in a radio ad in November 2015. He offered precious else when asked about his approach to taking down ISIS in an NBC News interview in September of this year. "I have a substantial chance of winning," Trump said at the time. "If I win, I don't want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is."

    Trump later said if elected, he would give military generals 30 days to provide him with comprehensive plans to defeat ISIS. According to CNBC, he said he would draw on their plans and his own ideas to destabilize and eliminate the group.

    The institute advised against "taking the bait" from extremists in its report, though. 

    "ISIS and al-Qaeda have both deliberately tried to lure the United States into a wider military confrontation — on their turf," the report reads. "Terrorists historically have tried to provoke adversaries into actions that are costly, messy, deadly and, in the long-term, ineffective." 

    Any rash actions could also backfire and end of stoking the very polarization that leads to extremism. All in all, eradicating the organization will prove to be difficult if not altogether impossible.

    "Extremist organizations quickly morph and adapt tactics — often faster than large bureaucracies and major armies," concludes the report. "The reality is that jihadis may always be one step ahead."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    jpn f35

    Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world's premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy

    But while the idea of launching a single advanced stealthy plane for multiple service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.

    Former US Navy commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really held a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it's set to replace: stealth.

    "The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way," Harmer said. "The only thing it does that legacy can't do is stealth."

    Indeed, the F-35's low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane's mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could "never in a million years" win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.

    F 15 Eagle AIM 9 Sidewinder air to air

    Defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, however; they instead wanted to change aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, is designed to shoot down foes from long distance before they're ever close enough to really dogfight.

    But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35's advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, the F-16, and the F-18. 

    These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.

    "For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities." Harmer said. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US's cheaper planes to buy and operate.

    Navy aircraft carrier

    But an F-15, the Air Force's air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won't do as an afterthought. In today's contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

    "The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace," Harmer said, adding that the US had "literally never done that." Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory: the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world's most contested airspaces, it's the F-22 it talks about sending. 

    f-22 f22 raptor inherent resolve arabian sea

    "There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming," Harmer added. 

    But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.

    "As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we've incurred the 'sunk cost' of the R & D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes."

    SEE ALSO: 'The entire military is counting on it': Trump says the F-35 program is 'out of control,' but that ship has sailed

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