Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Air Force's F-35A may be about to get its first taste of combat
The Air Force's variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to fly combat operations if needed, a defense official said on Monday.
"They were already scheduled to come out here for an exercise," the defense official told Task & Purpose. "But they are operational, so when or if they get called to get on an ATO [air tasking order], they will be on one."
While Marine Corps F-35Bs flew more than 100 combat sorties against ISIS and the Taliban last year, this is the first time that Air Force F-35As have deployed to the CENTCOM theater of operations.
Their arrival comes nearly a month after ISIS lost its last enclave in Syria.
The F-35As come from the active-duty 388th and reserve 491th Fighter Wings based out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, according to U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
An AFCENT spokeswoman declined to specify exactly how many of the aircraft are now in theater, citing operational security concerns.
"This is a rotational deployment," said Maj. Holly Brauer. "They are going to be participating in some exercises coming up. It's a usual rotation."
The F-35 is meant to be able to operate within the world's deadliest air space, such as within the range of Russian or Chinese air defense systems. In addition to being stealthy, F-35s have a suite of sensors that allows them to detect enemies in the air and on the ground much further away than older U.S. aircraft.
But the F-35 program has run into cost overruns, problems, and lengthy delays that have forced the U.S. military to fly their legacy aircraft much longer than originally intended.
Nearly two decades since the program began, every F-35 variant remains beset by technical glitches. The Defense Department's 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation report found the F-35A's cannon, which is meant to attack ground targets, has an accuracy best described as "unacceptable."
"Although software corrections were made to the F-35 mission systems software to improve the stability of gun aiming cues, no software or hardware corrections have yet been implemented to correct the gun accuracy errors," the report stated. "Investigations into the gun mounts of the F-35A revealed misalignments that result in muzzle alignment errors. As a result, the true alignment of each F-35A gun is not known."
Despite this, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in February that he had not seen reports about significant problems with the F-35A's gun.
"Given what we've built the F-35 to do, I'm not sure that the gun is going to be the first place I would focus on," Goldfein said at the liberal Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C. "When we talk about fifth generation [fighters], stealth is actually only a small part of that. When we talk about fifth generation, it's about information fusion and being able to have displayed for you information that was not available."
WATCH NEXT: An F-35 Fires 5 Paveway Missiles At The Same Time
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.