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The Pentagon’s Most Expensive Aircraft Just Got Even More Expensive
When the Department of Defense approved Lockheed Martin’s CH-53K King Stallion for Marine Corps use, a leaked decision memo revealed the brand-new heavy-lift helicopters would cost $138.5 million apiece — which, at millions more than the infamously pricey F-35A Lighting II joint strike fighter, makes the King Stallion the most expensive aircraft in the Pentagon’s arsenal.
Now, the helicopter is looking even more costly. On May 9, Bloomberg reported that new King Stallion will cost closer to $144 million apiece, 4% more than the “program acquisition unit cost” projected by the DoD last month, according to Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation.
To further complicate matters, the aircraft won’t achieve initial combat capacity until the end of 2020, a year later than initially expected.
The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter.Photo via Lockheed Martin
To be fair to the Pentagon, the King Stallion may be worth a lot of baksheesh. Engineers at Lockheed designed the copter to haul up to 27,000 pounds — triple the cargo of the CH-53E Super Stallion, the Pentagon’s current heavy-lift copter of choice — without any major changes in the aircraft’s dimensions. Here’s what Task & Purpose’s Brian Jones wrote of the King Stallion in March:
When I was in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, the CH-53 was so critical to combat operations it was the only squadron the Marine Corps kept two iterations of. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) had a CH-53E Super Stallion squadron and a CH-53D Sea Stallion squadron. But both versions of the aircraft were decades old, but were incredibly busy across the theater of operations. Those platforms desperately need to be upgraded.
The new CH-53K King Stallion certainly seems to be an excellent iterative development of this combat-tested and combat-proven platform. The new helicopter can hoist an external payload of more than 27,000 pounds, more than triple what the CH-53E could do. While the old version, the CH-53E, was just barely too thin to hold a Humvee in its fuselage, the new helicopter can hold a Humvee.
As Bloomberg notes, it’s likely the King Stallion program will end up costing far less than the initial projections suggest, but the optics of a heavy-lift copter that’s significantly more expensive than the much-maligned F-35 program will prove burdensome for the Pentagon in coming weeks. House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Massachusetts Democrat, questioned the King Stallion program for costing “a heck of a lot of money.” And that was before the news of this most recent cost hike.
When reached for comment by Bloomberg, a Navy spokeswoman emphasized that the Pentagon and Lockheed remain “committed to reducing program costs over the life of the program.” But if this helo is going to cost more than an advanced fighter jet, it should at least transform into a giant murderbot — or come with decent cupholders.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.
(Reuters Health) - While army suicides have historically decreased during wartime, that trend appears to have reversed in recent decades, a new study of U.S. records finds.
Researchers poring over nearly 200 years of data found that unlike earlier times when there was a decline in suicide rates among U.S. Army soldiers during and just after wars, the rate has risen significantly since 2004, according to the report in JAMA Network Open.