Dr. J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense on operational and live fire tests and evaluations of weapon systems, has written to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, and the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief Frank Kendall that he is unhappy with the progress of the most expensive fighter plane ever produced on planet Earth, the Lockheed Martin F-35 — whose delivery to the Israel Air Force is scheduled to start in September.
Gilmore’s Aug. 9 memo, published Wednesday by Bloomberg News, suggests “the program is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” the F-35’s much touted, 21st century near-sci-fi capabilities, “for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion by the scheduled end” of the plane’s development in 2018.
Gilmore cautioned that “achieving full combat capability with the Joint Strike Fighter is at substantial risk.” He says that despite promises to the contrary by the manufacturer, “most of the limitations” that plagued the F-35’s software, data fusion, electronic warfare and, the most crucial aspect of a fighter aircraft — weapons employment, appear to persist.
Gilmore warned that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program “is running out of time and money to complete the planned flight testing and implement the required fixes and modifications,” observing that “flight testing is making progress but has fallen far behind the planned rate.” He pointed out that the F-35’s most sophisticated software capabilities “are just being added,” and that the system is, to put it mildly, full of bugs, which “continue to be discovered at a substantial rate.”
The US Air Force and the US Dept. of Defense both released statements saying Gilmore’s concerns were nothing new, and the F-35’s issues are being dealt with.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.
Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) is coming to Washington DC on his inaugural visit as Defense Minister against the background of a dispute between the White House and Congress over increasing US support for Israel’s missile defense research and development. He’ll be meeting with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who maintained a personal friendship with Liberman’s ousted predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon (Likud). Liberman and Carter are expected to discuss the White House proposal for a long-term US military aid, which would be larger than the current package, but conditioned on Israeli agreement not to solicit additional military aid from Congress.
Last Tuesday the Administration opposed a call by Congress to increase funding for Israel’s missile defense program by $455 million, to $600 million, well above the 2017 fiscal year White House budget request.
Israel is looking to expand the US annual military aid package from the current $3.2 billion to upwards of $4.5 billion, a portion of which would go to purchases from Israeli companies. The White House is looking at a more modest increase over 10 years, and for the entire amount to be spent in the US.
According to a senior defense ministry source speaking to Ma’ariv, the military aid package is not the central purpose of the visit, rather the trip is mainly planned for introductory meetings with key players in the defense department and in Congress. “We don’t expect dramatic breakthroughs in the coming week,” the source said.
Liberman will also meet with the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Committees.
On Wednesday, Liberman will attend the Lockheed Martin roll out ceremony for the F-35 fighter planes purchased by the Israeli air force — the first of which is expected to arrive in Israel in December. The defense minister will also tour an Elbit Systems plant and meet in New York with the defense ministry purchasing delegation.
According to Walla, there is a dispute between the professional echelon in the defense ministry and Prime Minister Netanyahu over the American proposal, with the DM staff recommending signing the aid package now, and Netanyahu preferring to wait out this administration and dealing with the next president, Clinton or Trump, either one of whom would be more pro-Israel.
Liberman is much more liked by the current administration than Netanyahu, because back when Secretary of State John Kerry was still pushing for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 borders, Liberman, then Israel’s foreign minister, supported the US effort, saying this was the best deal Israel could expect.
In that vein, Liberman is expected to use the opportunity of his US visit to allay fears regarding his hawkish reputation on defense, by making a major dovish statement about the two-state-solution.
United States army soldiers might be sent to Syria and Iraq to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.
His remarks directly contradict President Barack Obama, who has said the United States will not have any “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria. They also reflect the Obama administration’s concern that Russia has become the one and only Western power broker in the Middle East, filling the vacuum that President Barack Obama has left open by discarding opportunities to take the lead.
Carter told the committee:
We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.
Last week, U.S. soldiers participated with Kurdish forces to free hostages held by ISIS in northern Iraq, but the Pentagon said that the maneuver did not mean the United States was putting “boots n the ground” in the country.
But Carter has said that there probably will be “more raids of this kind and that the rescue mission “represents a continuation of our advise and assist mission.”
In simple English, the United States is putting boots on the ground in specific operations, for the time being, in the war against ISIS, but the White House is saying it isn’t.
President Barack Obama placed a check mark on his list of duties of protocol night and called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to assure him that the agreement with Iran ensures “the peaceful nature” of Tehran’s nuclear program. The White House summary of the phone call omitted Netanyahu’s response, which included two major concerns that he raised:
One, the agreement allows Iran to develop extensive capabilities that will serve it in arming itself with nuclear weapons whether at the end of the period of the agreement in another 10-15 years, or earlier if it violates the agreement.
Two, the agreement channels hundreds of billions of dollars to Iran’s terrorism and war machine, a war that is directed against us and against others in the region.
President Obama’s “reassurance” on the aspect of terror was nothing but an expression “of our concerns regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats toward Israel.” He did expound on how his “concerns” will thwart terror.
According to the White House version, President Obama noted that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon while ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward.
The White House was careful not to admit that Iran has 24 days to hide the evidence between the time that IAEA inspectors will ask to sniff for nuclear weapons development and the time they actually arrive.
“Snap inspections,” which Obama once said would part of the final deal, will not happen.
The President is going through the motions to show Congress how much his administration is Israel’s greatest ally and supporter, and he reminded Prime Minister Netanyahu last night that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will visit Israel next week.
The President told the Prime Minister that the visit “is a reflection of the unprecedented level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel, and that the visit offers a further opportunity to continue our close consultation on security issues with Israeli counterparts as we remain vigilant in countering the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities in the region.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Security Cabinet last night that if weren’t for Israel, Iran would have nuclear weapons today. He explained:
The pressure that we applied and the actions that we undertook over the years led to the fact that Iran did not arm itself with nuclear weapons and I can safely say that were it not for Israel’s actions, including by governments that I led, Iran would have already armed itself with nuclear weapons.
And therefore, at present there is one mission – to ensure that it does not arm itself with nuclear weapons in the future.
Iran appears to be testing the resolve of the United States and President Barack Obama in its latest adventure with a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz.
U.S. forces operating in the region heard and responded to the distress call sent by the M/S Maersk Tigris, sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, during a confrontation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Marshall Islands are under a defense treaty with the United States; the U.S. is obligated to come to the defense of that nation should it be attacked.
The Iranian forces contacted the master of the cargo ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, ordering him to divert to Iranian waters. When he refused, the Iranian vessel fired warning shots across the bow of the Danish ship. IRGC forces then boarded the ship and guided it towards southern Iran.
By the time the U.S.S. Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer reached the location – more than 60 miles away at the start of the distress call – the Maersk was heading to Iran.
Apparently under Admiralty law, a commercial firm is allowed to go to court and obtain a court order to seize a ship to satisfy a debt, according to retired U.S. Navy captain and Fox News military analyst Chuck Nash.
Nash told Fox News journalist Gretchen Carlson on Wednesday that an Iranian company did just that about 10 or 12 years ago, after cargo that was to be shipped with a Maersk vessel never arrived.
Last Friday, four Iranian ships also dogged the heels of a Maersk ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz. But that vessel was sailing under the flag of the United States of America, and eventually the Iranians abandoned their pursuit.
This week the targeted Maersk vessel was flagged under the Marshall Islands, which clearly emboldened its pursuers.
“The U.S. is under no obligation” to do [anything to defend the vessel] in the maritime realm, Nash explained. He pointed out the treaty with the Marshall Islands is a “clear spoken defense agreement should they be attacked” – on land.
The U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense has confirmed the above facts, saying the shipping company told U.S. Central Command that the Iran Navy “contacted the vessel and directed the Maersk Tigris’s master to divert further, into Iranian waters.” He added: “The master initially declined and one of the IRGC patrol craft fired shots across the Maersk Tigris’s bow. The master then complied and diverted under escort by the IRGC vessels.”
The Maersk issued a distress call when the shots were fired. The U.S.S. Farragut received that call and immediately launched a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to monitor the situation, and itself headed to site, he added.
The real questions now are:
What is the status of the MaerskTigris, forced to a southern Iranian port city by Iranian forces?
Where are the 34 sailors who were aboard the Maersk and what is their condition? Are they now hostages of Iran?
Who has the obligation to rescue the crew of the Maersk? Who will ensure their safety?
How will the United States consider this situation as it continues to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear development activities?
It’s important not to forget that Iran continues to hold U.S. citizens hostage, even as Secretary of State John Kerry carries on his nuclear development negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. They are:
Saeed Abedini, 34, of Idaho, arrested during a 2012 trip to Tehran to visit family and sentenced to eight years in prison. Married father of two;
Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent seized by Iranian intelligence in 2007 as he was investigating a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian free-trade zone — the longest-held hostage in Iranian custody, assuming he is still alive;
Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine arrested and charged with espionage in 2011 while visiting family in Tehran; and
Jason Rezaian, the bureau chief for The Washington Post in Tehran, arrested in July 2014 on undisclosed “security-related offenses.” In January 2015 an Iranian prosecutor revealed Rezaian would be tried in a revolutionary court by one of the country’s most notorious hanging judges.
It is important to remember the names and circumstances of each of the hostages and to remind each candidate who stands for office as elections approach in 2016.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is starting a weeklong visit to the Middle East, concluding a year of secret negotiations over a $10 billion arms deal involving Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The deal includes American made missiles, warplanes and troop transports, to help each country in facing threats from Iran.
The NY Times quoted a senior administration official who said the goal of the new deal is “not just to boost Israel’s capabilities, but also to boost the capabilities of our Persian Gulf partners so they, too, would be able to address the Iranian threat — and also provide a greater network of coordinated assets around the region to handle a range of contingencies.”
When Chuck Hagel leaves the region, he will also, supposedly, answer the puzzling riddle of how can Israel afford to spend even more billions of dollars, when her entire $3 billion in U.S. military aid is already spoken for. In everybody’s mind, there can be only one answer: Israel will ask the U.S. to pay the U.S. whatever it takes, so Israel can get the new, really shiny stuff.
Highest on Israel’s shopping list for things it couldn’t possibly pay for out of its own shrinking budget: new missiles designed to take out the enemy’s air-defense radar, and then, also, advanced radar for Israeli warplanes, and don’t forget new refueling tanker planes. In short, it’s all the stuff you need if you’re going out to bomb the nuclear facilities of an unnamed country a thousand miles away.
In addition Israel will also buy the V-22 Osprey troop transport aircraft, which combines the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.
If you ask me, Israel needs these units like it needs a hole in the head. Besides the fact that they’ve had a terrible reputation, rife with corruption (a Marine Lieutenant Colonel was kicked off the service after it was discovered he fixed reports to favor the new aircraft), Israel is not facing the troop transport issues the U.S. military does around the globe. It’s a whole lot cheaper to fly the troops across the border in any direction on good, old fashioned choppers, than to utilize and maintain these unwieldy behemoths. But since the entire U.S. military aid to Israel program is, essentially, intended to support jobs creation on Long Island and in Washington State, what do I care.
They accused former President GW Bush of being an irresponsible spendthrift when he invested trillions of dollars of money we didn’t have in invading and destroying the only enemy of Iranian expansionism in the region – Saddam Hussein. But, as it turns out, the president was smarter than we thought. By making Iran the undeniable bully of the Middle east, utilizing Shiite power in Iraq to bolster its own, now U.S. military industrial companies are able to cash in on the new market and sell everybody in the region those state-of-the-art American mega weapons. USA! USA!
“This year the United States provided $3.1 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, the highest the United States has ever provided,” a Pentagon official said. In addition, the United States provides about $300 million in missile defense to Israel, he noted.
Elsewhere in the region, in 2010 Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase 84 F-15 tactical fighters in a deal worth $29.4 billion, the official said, and the first F-15s have rolled off the line in St. Louis and are undergoing flight testing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
During Hagel’s trip, the UAE is expected to move forward with the purchase of 25 F-16 Block 60 Desert Falcon fighters manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The expected value of the sale is $425 billion, the official said.
The United Arab Emirates wants to buy 26 F-16 warplanes, at $5 billion, and they also need those precision missiles that can be launched from those same jets at distant ground targets. Saudi Arabia is also in for them advanced missile.
The deal with Israel was in discussion over the past year between former defense secretary Leon E. Panetta and former defense minister Ehud Barak. The Times reports the two had 18 additional telephone discussions on the arms deal. After being sworn in as the new defense secretary, Hagel’s first face-to-face discussion with any foreign counterpart was with Barak, to get the deal done. When Hagel starts will move to finalize the arms deal with Barak’s successor, Moshe Yaalon.