News Briefs – January 9, 2017


Facility for Army flight training complete at Alabama airport

Construction for the new Army flight training facility has been completed at the Dothan Regional Airport in Alabama.
CAE USA, the new Army fixed wing training contractor, announced the completion of the 75,000-square-foot facility this week, the Dothan Eagle reported. Construction of the facility began in April last year.
Training is expected to begin in March.
The completion of our new Dothan Training Center ahead of schedule and less than nine months after groundbreaking is a major milestone,” said Ray Duquette, CAE USA president and general manager. “We are now in the final stages of preparing to welcome our first class of Army students.”
The training center will include classrooms, student and instructor lounges, a fitness center and cafeteria. The purpose is the train Fort Rucker flight students to fly the Army’s C-12 airplane used primarily for passenger and light cargo duties.
CAE says more than 600 Army and Air Force pilots are expected to train annually at the Dothan center.
Dothan will be the 161st operational site for the CAE, whose headquarters are located in Montreal, Canada. The fixed wing training contract was won by Tampa, Florida-based CAE USA, a subsidiary company, which employees about 1,000 workers.
Duquette said in April the facility will employ “a little less than 100.” AP

U.S. to send 300 Marines to Afghanistan’s Helmand province

The United States will send some 300 Marines to Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces, who have been struggling to drive Taliban insurgents out of the opium-rich region.
U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, a spokesman for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said the Marines will begin deploying this year and will remain in the province for nine months, where they will work with the Afghan army and militarized national police.
“The Marine Corps has a long operational history in Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand Province. Advising and assisting Afghan defense and security forces will assist in preserving gains made together with the Afghans,” he said.
The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but thousands of troops remain in the country, where they train and assist Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations.
The Taliban are battling Afghan forces on a number of fronts, and the fighting has been particularly intense in Helmand, where the insurgents have repeatedly assaulted the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, in recent months.
Helmand is the main source of poppies for Afghanistan’s thriving opium trade, which is worth an estimated $4 billion a year, much of which funds the insurgency. Provincial officials estimate the Taliban controls 85 percent of the province, up from just 20 percent a year ago.
In northern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed two police officers and wounded another three, according to Sakhi Dad Haidari, head of the Badakhshan province’s criminal investigation department. The Taliban claimed the attack.
Over the past week, Afghan forces have been carrying out clearing operations in different parts of the province. Haidari said around a dozen insurgents have been killed and wounded. AP

Navy, Trump planning biggest fleet expansion since Cold War

Navy shipbuilders like what they’re hearing from President-elect Donald Trump, who’s vowed to build up the fleet to meet new threats from Russia and China.
Emboldened by the promise, the Navy last month revised upward the number of ships it needs to 355, more than the number used by Trump during his election campaign.
The proposal calls for adding another aircraft carrier, 16 large surface warships and 18 more nuclear-powered attack submarines, among other ships.
Shipbuilders like the idea but wonder where the funding will come from. The naval analyst at the Congressional Research Service suggests the Navy will need an additional $5 billion to $5.5 billion a year over the Navy’s current spending goal. AP

Engine drops from B-52 bomber in rural North Dakota

The military believes an engine that dropped from a B-52 bomber during a training mission last week in rural North Dakota suffered a “catastrophic failure,” disintegrated and fell into a river, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said.
An in-flight emergency was declared Jan. 4 and the crew landed the plane safely, according to Minot Air Force Base, N.D. No injuries were reported on the ground or among the plane’s five crew members. No weapons were on board, according to the military.
A B-52 has eight engines, according to Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer.
The Air Force said the engine fell in a remote area about 25 miles northeast of the base that’s near Minot, a city about 110 miles north of Bismarck.
“They do believe at this point that it was really a catastrophic failure of that one engine,” James told the Minot Daily News. “Another way of putting that is it disintegrated and then fell out of the aircraft upon disintegration.
“They think it’s at the bottom of a river, so recovery of that is something we would like to do because that helps in understanding what happened,” she said.
Dom Christianson, who lives in Upham, told KXMC-TV that he saw several military helicopters flying over the J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Minot. The Souris River runs through the refuge.
“Average day until about noon, when we had helicopters flying over town and flying really low out across the refuge out here,” he said. “It went on for about four hours.”
Base spokesman Maj. Jamie Humphries told The Associated Press Jan. 6 that a military team is surveying the area but is hampered by large amounts of snow.
Former National Transportation Safety Board chairman and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Rosenker told KFGO-AM radio that the incident is “absolutely extraordinary.”
James said there is “zero indication” the engine incident is a widespread problem within the B-52 fleet.
“There’s no evidence of that. It appears this was a one-off situation, but again I want to emphasize it just happened and it will be fully investigated,” James said.
The investigation is expected to take months, Air Force officials said. In the meantime, there are no restrictions on the roughly two dozen other bombers at the base, Humphries said. AP