I got a little bit more out of the military public affairs types on the recent "combat debut" of the F-35B in Afghanistan, and it turns out the $115 million stealth aircraft was used to obliterate a static cache of enemy weaponry.
Now, I originally intended to use this column to criticize the U.S. Marine Corps for putting together what appeared to be a big, taxpayer-funded PR stunt. Indeed, my inbox was inundated with press releases, photos, and video from the strike that the service clearly wanted (and subsequently got) covered in the media.
However, it's not really the Marine Corps' decision to drop bombs in theater. Personnel at U.S. Central Command are the ultimate authority on what kind of aircraft are used in its area of responsibility, and a spokesman told me that this wasn't a one-time thing: The squadron involved is now "in the rotation" with other platforms to hit targets in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Still, the F-35B in question was launched from a ship somewhere in the Arabian Sea (roughly a 1,000 mile one-way trip) to hit a static target on the ground. According to Navy Cmdr. Grant Neeley, a U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman, the target was a mined weapons cache that ground forces were unable to clear. The ground force commander then called in an air strike, and he received two: A GBU-12 (cost: $19,000+) and a GBU-32 JDAM (cost: $22,000).
So why the hell is a super-expensive, fifth-generation, stealth-with-all-the-bells-and-whistles aircraft being used to drop bombs presumably on a bunch of AK-47's and RPGs?
Perhaps I sound like an old man yelling at a cloud here, but using the world's most expensive aircraft to kill a bunch of guns on the ground doesn't seem like the best use of taxpayer money. That's not to mention the fact this particular aircraft, with a range just over 1,000 miles, probably had to get aerial refueling on the way in and on the way out.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of manned and unmanned aircraft at Bagram Air Field and other sites in Afghanistan. For a target as insignificant as this, a Predator drone would've done just fine, or perhaps it could've been punted to an Afghan Air Force pilot. Lord knows they need the practice.
On the same day the strike took place, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan implored his department to "work at all levels to find ways to save time [and money]" in a post on Twitter.
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."
Members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and 1st Transportation Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, prepare a seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTRV) to be lifted by a CH-53E Super Stallion at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on Jan. 16, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Clare J. McIntire)
If you are in the market for any size of military surplus vehicle, keep an eye on GovPlanet. The online auction house is about to start selling U.S. Navy and Marine Corps surplus M1161 ITV Growlers and seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement trucks.
Airmen with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron pump water from a flooded common living area to an area with less impact on the local population, Dec. 13, 2009, in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force/ Staff Sgt. Sharon Singer)