News Briefs – February 1, 2016


Pentagon tells Senate it won’t demote retired Petraeus

The Pentagon says it will not demote retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information while CIA director, an incident stemming from an affair with his biographer.
“The Army completed its review of his case and recommended no additional action,” Stephen C. Hedger, assistant defense secretary for legislative affairs, wrote the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 29. Given that review, Hedger said Defense Secretary Ash Carter “considers this matter closed.”
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Saturday. The Pentagon had no further comment.
Media reports had surfaced that indicated the Pentagon was considering downgrading Petraeus to a three-star general. Such a move, if taken, would have reduced his retirement salary.
In response, committee leaders urged Carter not to demote Petraeus, saying the retired officer had “admitted his guilt and apologized for his actions.”
At a committee hearing on Jan. 21, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the Army’s top civilian official said he believed no further action should be taken against Petraeus.
Petraeus resigned from the CIA in November 2012 after an extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. He pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor count of unlawful removal and retention of classified materials. He was spared prison as part of his plea and was given two years’ probation by a judge who faulted him for a “serious lapse in judgment.”
Petraeus admitted that he loaned Broadwell eight binders containing highly classified information regarding war strategy, intelligence capabilities and identities of covert officers. Petraeus kept the binders in an unlocked desk drawer at his home, instead of a secure facility that’s required for handling classified material.
When initially questioned by the FBI, he denied having given Broadwell classified information, but in his plea deal he avoided being charged with making a false statement. AP

Turkey says another Russian jet violated Turkey’s airspace

Turkey said Jan. 30 that a Russian warplane has again violated its airspace despite several warnings — two months after Turkey’s military shot down a Russian jet for crossing over its territory. The past incident seriously strained the previously close ties between the two countries, damaging a strong economic partnership.
A Foreign Ministry statement Jan. 30 said that a Russian SU-34 crossed into Turkish airspace from Syria on Friday, ignoring several warnings that were delivered both in Russian and in English by Turkish radar units. It said Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to the ministry Friday evening to “strongly protest” the violation.
“This violation is a concrete indication of Russian’s acts aiming to escalate problems, despite the clear warning by our country and by NATO,” the statement read. “We openly and clearly call on Russia to act responsibly so that the Turkish air space, which is a NATO airspace, is not violated.”
“We emphasize once again the fact that Russia will be held responsible for any dire consequences which can emerge from such irresponsible acts,” the statement said.
In November Turkey shot down a Russian plane which violated its airspace near Syria, touching off a crisis between the two countries.
Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 bomber near the border with Syria on Nov. 24, saying it violated its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings. Russia insists the plane never entered Turkish airspace. One pilot and a Russian marine of the rescue party were killed in the incident. AP

U.S. warship sails near disputed island in South China Sea

A defense official says a U.S. Navy ship has sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea to exercise the U.S.’s freedom to navigate in international waters.
The USS Curtis Wilbur destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, in the Paracels chain, Jan. 30 without notifying the three claimants to the surrounding seas beforehand, according to Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright in Washington.
China, Taiwan and Vietnam have claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from transiting ships.
Wright reiterated that while insisting on freedom of navigation, the United States took no position on the competing territorial claims to natural islands in the South China Sea.
In October, another U.S. warship sailed in the disputed Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built an island. AP

Royal Navy warships face pricey work after power problems

The British military says some of the Royal Navy’s most sophisticated warships will have to undergo major refurbishment because they keep breaking down.
The Ministry of Defense says the six Type 45 destroyers will get “a series of machinery upgrades” after incidents in which the $1.4 billion vessels lost power at sea.
In 2014, HMS Dauntless had to abandon a training exercise and in 2009 HMS Daring lost power in the Atlantic on her first voyage to the U.S.Officials have not disclosed the cost of the refit, which will involve drilling holes in the ships’ hulls to gain access to the engine room and install new generators.
Lord West, a former head of the navy, said Jan. 29 that it would be tens of millions of pounds. AP

Iran says it flew drone over U.S. aircraft carrier

Iranian state television is reporting that the Islamic Republic flew a surveillance drone over a U.S. aircraft carrier during an ongoing naval exercise.
The report Jan. 29 said the drone took pictures of the carrier, without elaborating.
The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the Persian Gulf from Bahrain, declined to immediately comment Friday. The nuclear-powered USS Harry S. Truman, based out of Norfolk, Virginia, is in the Gulf supporting operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Iran’s navy began a naval drill this week over a 3-million-square-kilometer area including parts of the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Iran said Jan. 27 its navy warned a U.S. warship to leave an area of the naval drill. The U.S. Navy denied being affected. AP

New bomber to be developed, manufactured in Utah

The military’s latest advanced strategic aircraft will be developed in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Northrop Grumman will develop and build a fleet of long-range strike bombers to replace the U.S. Air Force’s current, aging planes.
The Air Force selected Northrup Grumman for the $32 billion project to develop a replacement for the B-52 Superfortresses and B-1B Lancers.
The company’s 1,100 Utah employees are involved in manufacturing and testing navigational equipment and other high-precision systems that will be used on the new bomber. The company has employees in Salt Lake City, Clearfield, Ogden, Tooele and Hill Air Force Base.
The new aircraft is expected to be operational by the mid-2020s. Few details were provided about the aircraft because the contract is considered highly classified. AP