Today is our 272nd day back in Iraq.
There have been no new casualties in Iraq of Afghanistan.
We find this morning's Cost of War passing through: $ 1, 611, 516, 900, 000 .00
Let's dive right in - I've got a lot of stories piling up.
We'll start with some military hardware first. With Israel having their elections soon, it might be worth noting that they're throwing some money around to their friends in the US. Mostly manufacturers of military hardware, of course. It's a complex deal, but we're selling some of those Flying Turds to Israel
, while at the same time blocking sales to the rest of the Middle East. Never mind the fact that while we allegedly build the best hardware, we don't even use it---we sell it.
The Pentagon's top weapons buyer announced Sunday that the U.S. would not yet sell F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Arabian Gulf region nations on the same day Israel confirmed it would buy 14 additional F-35s.
In a deal worth about $3 billion, Israel said it would buy 14 additional fifth generation fighters built by Lockheed Martin Corp., which would bring the Israeli fleet to 33. The Israeli Defense Ministry bought 19 F-35s in 2010.
The U.S. is leading the development of the F-35, as allies across the globe to include the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Turkey have also financed the world's most expensive weapons program. U.S. militaryn leaders have emphasized the international support of the program throughout its history.
Frank Kendall, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics, told a crowd of reporters Sunday at the IDEX defense conference in Abu Dhabi that he didn't expect any "near-term" F-35 sales to Gulf states such as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, according to reports.
He explained that the current fleet of fourth generation fighters such as the Block 60 F-16s flown by the UAE could meet the threats of the region, according to reports. UAE flies 80 Block 60 F-16s, which is the most advanced F-16 variant in the world. The most advanced F-16 flown by the U.S. is the Block 50/52+.
Israel will receive its first two F-35s next year with the last one set to arrive by 2021.
The Israeli purchase follows the announcement by Egypt on its plans to buy 24 Rafale multirole combat fighters from Dassault Aviation. Developed in the 1970s and 80s, the French built the fighter to be comparable to the American F-16.
We'll skip over to nearby Iraq for a look at some of their stuff. When our involvement ended, we left literally tons of supplies and hardware behind. Some of it was abandoned in place, but quite a lot of it was transferred to the fledgling Iraqi army, where it was left to rust alongside vintage Soviet-era equipment. But then ISIS happened. All of a sudden, that junk in the desert became critically important, and a cottage industry sprung up overnight
to bring all that back to fighting condition.
In a military scrapyard in the southern Iraqi desert, abandoned army equipment sat for years waiting to be melted down to steel bars. Now, thanks to new conflict and a resourceful old mechanic, some of the rusty warhorses have won a reprieve.
Last June's stunning offensive by Islamic State militants who control much of northern and western Iraq left the army in disarray and much of its U.S.-supplied equipment was taken over by the advancing radical Sunni Muslim fighters.
Baghdad's Shi'ite-led government appealed for reinforcements from across the world to help it fight back. But for retired military mechanic Madhi al-Sukaini, the answer lay nearer to home.
"The scrap yard where thousands of bits of army equipment are dumped is close to where I live and it was a constant reminder of the long war with Iran," Sukaini said, referring to the relics from the 1980-88 conflict.
The scrap yard also contains guns, vehicles and tanks - some of them identifiable only by barrels still poking through the sand - from Iraq's 1990-91 occupation and defeat in Kuwait and from the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
"One time I passed by and an idea flashed in my mind: Why don’t I repair some of the dumped armored vehicles to help in the war against Daesh?" he said, referring to the Islamic State by its Arabic acronym.
So the 65-year-old veteran of Saddam's army set to work with his sons to restore some of the old vehicles and supply them to Shi'ite militias now fighting to push Islamic State out of the late dictator's home city of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
Of course, the Middle East isn't the only place interested in military supplies. Our economy doesn't work unless there's a war somewhere, and sometimes it can be insightful to look at the Pentagon's buying patterns. So I find it interesting that a future item on the Pentagon's list is a new jungle boot. The boot our soldiers use now for jungle combat dates back to the Vietnam era. It was discovered that these sucked when we took them to Iraq, and some of you may recall the rushed development of a desert boot during the first Gulf War. So, I do find it interesting that a new jungle boot is high on the wish list. Where are we headed next?
The U.S. Army has said it wants to expand its reach into the Pacific and soldiers hope that includes a new boot designed for tropical environments versus the arid and mountainous climates soldiers faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Service leaders are testing equipment designed for these jungle conditions to possibly update the gear issued to soldiers. Chief among these programs is the Army boot.
Soldiers like Sergeant 1st Class Desmond Politini, who completed jungle training in Malaysia this past year, said Friday at a Pentagon meeting with reporters that the service-issued boots failed to perform well in the jungle climate.
The Army started a program last April to test commercially available jungle boot designs under PEO Soldier's Soldier Enhancement Program where soldiers suggest equipment that would help them in the field.
PEO Soldier officials have tested commercially available jungle boot designs along with military models to include the Army's Vietnam-era Jungle Boot. Service officials said the testing will be completed Feb. 25 and the results will be reviewed March 11-13.
Army will then provide the data analysis to the Maneuver Center of Excellence and decide whether the service wants to develop requirements for a hot weather tropical boot. Army officials will have a number of options it could pursue to include a service-wide issued jungle boot, a boot issued to units deploying to tropical climates, or even no new jungle boot at all.
"The ongoing Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) Jungle boot initiative will reveal through data collection and soldier feedback the best salient characteristics for a future hot weather tropical boot," PEO Soldier said in a statement.
Finally, while it's not quite hardware, the US Navy has had a training program for marine mammals for decades. Every now and again, it bubbles up in the news, and then just as quietly disappears. Maybe we shouldn't be sending animals to war...but nevertheless, a state Department of Agriculture (which somehow oversees such matters) has authorized some more training for dolphins in San Diego
A Navy plan to fly four bottlenose dolphins to Hawaii from San Diego in March for sea mine training and research drew some criticism but was approved by the state Board of Agriculture on Tuesday by a 5-2 vote.
Although the Navy has transported marine mammals here at least every two years and sometimes every year in the past on short-term permits issued by the board chairman, according to officials, state legal counsel concluded it was "appropriate" for the latest request to go through board review.
The Navy's marine mammal program, which falls under the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, said it has about 85 dolphins and 50 sea lions in San Diego.
The dolphins will be used March 10-31 out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on a training "mobility evolution" measuring the animals' response and medical condition during the transit and use, the Navy said.
Daily activities will include the search for simulated targets that vary by depth, ocean topography and time of day and evaluating the animals' performance, said Mark Xitco with the Pacific space and naval warfare program, who answered board questions via speakerphone Tuesday.
And lastly....while my ancestors were from islands, it wasn't that one...so I tend not to make a big deal out of today. But if you do, have a good one!