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U.S. Marines Send F-35 Stealth Fighter Squadron to Japan 

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It marks the first time for that stealth aircraft to be stationed overseas.

The US Marine Corps said it has sent a squadron of F-35B fighter jets to Japan, marking the first operational overseas deployment for the controversial aircraft that is under scrutiny from president-elect Donald Trump.

The deployment of the 10 planes to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Honshu Island marks a major milestone for the F-35, which has been bedeviled by technical glitches and soaring cost overruns.

With a current development and acquisition price tag already at $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the most expensive plane in history, and costs are set to go higher still.

The Marines’s version of the plane, known as the F-35B, is capable of conducting short takeoffs and vertical landings.

Trump last month sent shockwaves through the aerospace industry when he tweeted that he wanted rival Boeing to price out a possible alternative.

“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted December 22.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet does not have stealth capabilities and has been in use since the late 1990s.

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

Proponents of the F-35 tout its speed, close air-support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information. Read the rest of this entry »

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Russian Warplanes Buzz USS Ronald Reagan, U.S. Launches 4 Fighter Jets in Response

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 F/A-18 Super Hornets Escort Russian planes Out.

Two Russian warplanes flew within one mile of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, forcing the U.S. Navy to launch four fighter jets in response Tuesday, a Navy spokesman told Fox News.

Two Russian warplanes flew within one mile of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, forcing the U.S. Navy to launch four fighter jets in response Tuesday, a Navy spokesman told Fox News.

The USS Reagan was sailing in international waters east of the Korean peninsulaStars and Stripes reports. It adds that the U.S. is currently engaged in joint military exercises with South Korea. Read the rest of this entry »


The Top-Secret Flights that Ended the War

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70 years after the atomic bombings, time stands still on the island of Tinian

 writes:Imagine disembarking on the shore of a remote tropical island. Walking cautiously past swaying palm trees into the heavy undergrowth, you soon encounter what appears to be the fossilized bones of an enormous prehistoric creature. The thick parallel lines might have been ribs, and the long straight stretches its spine or appendages. Naturally you’re moved to wonder how it appeared when alive, how it moved about and what it ate.

For dyed-in-the-wool history buffs or those merely looking for an exotic place off the beaten track to relax, Tinian beckons. It’s an easy trip from Japan. If you take a Delta Airlines flight to Saipan during daylight hours, be sure to request a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. On the plane’s approach to neighboring Saipan, you’ll get a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the “ribs” of that prehistoric creature — the four runways of North Field — which in the waning months of World War II was the largest operational U.S. air base in the world.

Home to barely 3,000 people, the 101-sq.-km island of Tinian is one of three inhabited islands of 14 that make up the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Over a period of half a century — between 1899 and 1944 — Tinian went from being controlled by Spain to Germany, Japan and finally the U.S., which in July 1944 captured the island in an eight-day campaign that was largely overshadowed by the bigger and bloodier battle on Saipan, located just 9 km to the north.

From the late 1930s, Japan had begun to augment its military presence in the Nampo Shoto (groups of islands south of the main archipelago), sending 1,280 convicts from Yokohama Prison to Tinian to expand Hagoi Field, located at the north end of the island, with a 1,450-meter-long runway.

Once in American hands, teams of U.S. Navy construction battalions (known as “CBs” or “Seabees”) swarmed over the island, eventually moving an estimated 11 million tons of coral to build runways, taxiways, buildings and some 145 km of roads. The former Japanese airstrip was extended for use by the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range B-29 bombers, adding three more 2,440-meter runways.

It was from North Field’s runway, “Able,” that a specially modified B-29 christened Enola Gay, took off in the early hours of Aug. 6, 1945, to drop the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima.

Retracing history

I’d visited Tinian once before in 2007, but left to my own devices failed to find several of the places I’d wanted to see. This time I had much better luck, thanks to an introduction to the island’s resident historian, Don Farrell.

Farrell, who’s married to a native of Tinian, has taken up the story of his new home with gusto. In addition to publishing an illustrated guidebook for visitors in 2012 titled “Tinian: A Brief History,” he’s currently nearing completion of his magnum opus, a detailed history of the atomic bomb project that promises to shed new light on Tinian’s role in the war.

Arriving at the lobby of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino clad in sandals, Bermuda shorts, aloha shirt and a baseball cap, Farrell appears like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe — if Crusoe had driven a Mazda pickup truck.

“What would you like to see?” he asks me while delivering a firm handshake.

“What do you say we retrace the actual route the bomb parts took from their arrival on the island?” I suggest.

After stopping for bottled water and gasoline, we head north. Our first destination is Tinian’s small port, where the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, on a top-secret mission, delivered the housing and key components of the uranium bomb on July 26, 1945. (Four days later a Japanese submarine would sink the ship east of the Philippines, with great loss of life.)

No ships, or people, are in port and there’s little left to see. We turn around and head northward on a bumpy, but still negotiable, road marked “8th Avenue.” (The roads in Tinian, named after streets in Manhattan, also include Broadway, Columbus Avenue and Riverside Drive.)

On our way north, we deviate up an overgrown hillside leading to the ruins of the Rasso Jinja, a Shinto shrine at the top of Mount Lasso, which at 171 meters marks the highest point on Tinian. Little remains of the shrine or the B-29 homing tower that stood close by. What can be seen is the concrete foundation of the old U.S. Army hospital. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Air Force Seeks Laser Weapons for Next Generation Fighters

The U.S. Air Force has released a new request for a high-powered laser weapon that could be mounted on a next-generation air dominance fighter in the post-2030 era.
“The emphasis of this effort is to identify potential laser systems that could be integrated into a platform that will provide air dominance in the 2030+ highly contested Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) environments,” the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) said in a Request for Information document posted on FEDBIZOPPS last week.

This is a Lockheed Martin concept for a sixth-generation concept aircraft to replace the F-22 Raptor. The Air Force released a request to arm its next generation fighters with offensive lasers. Lockheed Martin Illustration

This is a Lockheed Martin concept for a sixth-generation concept aircraft to replace the F-22 Raptor. The Air Force released a request to arm its next generation fighters with offensive lasers. Lockheed Martin Illustration

The AFRL is particularly interested in lasers that would be at technology readiness level four (TRL4) by October 2014. That means the basic components are already integrated enough to work together in a lab. But the USAF wants the laser to be at TRL5 or better by 2022, which means the system’s components could be integrated with “reasonably realistic supporting elements” to be tested in a simulated environment.

“Laser and beam control systems are being investigated independent of platform in the flight regime from altitudes Sea Level to [65,000ft] and speeds from Mach 0.6 to 2.5,” the AFRL posting states.

Read the rest of this entry »