News Briefs – April 6, 2016


USS Paul Hamilton leaves Hawaii after 20 years

Hawaii is losing the USS Paul Hamilton after having the Navy’s guided-missile destroyer stationed in Pearl Harbor for more than 20 years.
The ship left April 5 and will swap home ports with USS William P. Lawrence in San Diego, which is currently deployed and expected to arrive in Hawaii later this year, KHON-TV reported.
Officials say the move supports efforts to bring the Navy’s most advanced vessels and ships with greater capacity to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“The Navy is committed to basing approximately 60 percent of Navy ships and aircraft in the region by 2020,” said Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific and Navy Region Hawaii. “As such, our readiness and the warriors’ ethos in Hawaii will continue to be critical to maintaining security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
The USS Paul Hamilton has been operating out of Pearl Harbor since it was commissioned in 1995. The vessel was named for a secretary of the Navy who served from 1809 to 1812 and played a major role in the creation of naval hospitals, according to KUSI-TV.
The William P. Lawrence is named after a vice admiral who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and later commander of the U.S. Naval Academy. AP

Chinese military to prosecute former top general for bribery

China’s military says a former top general will be tried in a military court on charges he took bribes.
The official Xinhua News Agency said April 5 that military prosecutors have proof that Guo Boxiong and his family took advantage of his position and accepted bribes to arrange promotions and assignments for others.
It said Guo has confessed to the bribe taking charges.
The announcement ensures a swift trial, conviction and what is likely to be a heavy penalty against the former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission led by president and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
Formerly one of 25 members of the party’s Politburo, Guo is among the biggest figures to fall in Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption drive. AP

Vermont Air Guard to get first F-35s in 2019

The Vermont Air National Guard says it’s going to take delivery of its first F-35 fighter planes in 2019, a year earlier than originally planned.
The Vermont Guard said April 4 that moving up the arrival of the first of 18 planes will give the Air Force more time to train maintenance crews for active Air Force units that will be receiving the F-35s.
Air Force Lt. Gen. John Cooper says delivering F-35s to the Vermont Guard at the Burlington International Airport in South Burlington will allow the Air Force to take advantage of Vermont’s experienced aircraft maintenance personnel.
The F-35s will replace the Vermont guard’s aging F-16 aircraft.
A number of local residents have sued to prevent the Air Force from stationing the F-35s in Burlington. The suit is pending. AP

Keel laying held in Rhode Island for new Navy submarine

The keel has been laid for the future USS South Dakota, the nation’s 17th Virginia-class attack submarine.
The milestone was marked in a ceremony April 4 at the Rhode Island manufacturing plant for General Dynamics’ Electric Boat.
The submarine’s sponsor is Deanie Dempsey, wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey. She says she’s thrilled to start a relationship with the submarine and crew.
In a Navy tradition, Dempsey wrote her initials on a metal plate to be mounted on the submarine, which is being built in modules. It doesn’t have a traditional keel running the length of the vessel.
Martin Dempsey says the “merging of men and machines” is remarkable.
Groton, Conn.,-based Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia are building the South Dakota. AP

U.S., Australian and Philippine forces start combat drills

Thousands of U.S. and Philippine troops, along with Australian defense forces, began annual drills April 4 to prepare to quickly respond to a range of potential crises, including in the disputed South China Sea.
The exercises have been opposed in recent years by China, which has territorial disputes in the South China Sea with several countries, including the Philippines, and suspects the drills are part of efforts to contain Beijing. Washington and Manila say the drills are not directed against China, and that they also focus on responding to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will fly to the Philippines to witness some of the 11-day exercises, underscoring the importance Washington puts on the joint combat drills that have been staged 32 times, said U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. John Toolan, who heads the 5,000 American military personnel taking part in the maneuvers.
Carter’s presence will “reaffirm that the relationship that we have with the Philippines is rock solid and we’re side by side,” Toolan, who heads U.S. Marine forces in the Pacific, said at a news conference.
A highly mobile rocket system that has been deployed in hot spots such as Afghanistan will be used during the Balikatan, or Shoulder to Shoulder, exercises for the first time, he said.
“We are very, very expeditionary. We can move this stuff anywhere we need to,” Toolan said.
Filipino military officials said a key exercise will involve U.S., Australian and Philippine forces retaking an oil rig seized by hostile units in a mock assault in an unused rig off the western province of Palawan, which faces the South China Sea.
The Philippines has turned to the United States, a longtime treaty ally, and others to rapidly acquire patrol ships and planes as its territorial rifts with China have escalated in the last four years. The disputes in the South China Sea also involve Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
“The Philippines is the least capable armed forces in the region, and the U.S., being a big brother, is a big help,” said Philippine Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, who heads the contingent of about 3,500 Filipino military personnel involved in the exercises.
While many Filipinos welcome American support in strengthening the Philippines’ territorial defense, left-wing activists and nationalists have opposed a growing U.S. military presence in the former American colony, along with China’s increasingly assertive advances in disputed waters.
Dozens of left-wing activists protested at the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Monday, waving placards that read “No to China aggression” and “U.S. troops, Philippines is not your playground.” AP