January 26, 2018

News Briefs – January 26, 2018

U.S. Navy says it received Iran broadcast about naval exercise

The U.S. Navy says it only received a radio message from Iranian naval vessels about an ongoing Iranian exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, countering Tehran claims of a tense encounter between the two fleets.

Lt. Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, says an American warship in the Gulf of Oman heard the message Jan. 22.
Morgan said Jan. 23 that the American vessel “continued to execute its mission and did not alter operations as a result of the radio transmission.”

Iranian media had alleged its navy either “warned off” or fired “warning shots” at Saudi or American vessels during an ongoing two-day annual drill in the strait.

The U.S. Navy and Iranian forces routinely have tense encounters in the Persian Gulf. AP

Electric Boat says its workforce continues to grow

General Dynamics’ Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., says its workforce continues to grow as it prepares to build a new class of ballistic-missile submarines.

The Day of New London reports Jeffrey Geiger, president of the U.S. Navy contractor, said Monday Electric Boat has 16,200 employees, the highest headcount in nearly 25 years. He discussed the company’s future at a hotel in Groton.

The Groton-based company plans to hire 2,200 employees in 2018 in Connecticut and at its Rhode Island manufacturing facility.

It hired more than 3,000 people last year, after receiving about 81,000 applications.

Electric Boat is doing the design and development work for 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the current fleet of 14. It’s building Virginia-class attack submarines.

More than $7 billion in federal funding was spent on submarine programs last year. AP

Head of Britain’s army warns of eroding capability

Britain’s army chief warned Jan. 22 that the country’s ability to withstand attack and respond to threats is being eroded by a lack of investment in the military, increasing pressure on the government to boost defense spending.

Gen. Nick Carter said Britain has been left exposed to adversaries such as Russia, which already boast capabilities Britain would struggle to match.

“The threats we face are not thousands of miles away but are now on Europe’s doorstep,” Carter told the Royal United Services Institute. “We have seen how cyber warfare can be both waged on the battlefield and to disrupt normal people’s lives.”

Carter joins the head of the air force, Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, in warning that Russia is an increasing threat. Prime Minister Theresa May said last year that Russia had “mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption” against other countries.

Carter’s comments seem intended to pressure Treasury chief Philip Hammond to refrain from further cuts to defense spending, which has been hit hard by government-ordered austerity following the 2008 financial crisis.

Some reports have suggested the government is considering combining elite units of paratroopers and the Royal Marines as part of plan to reduce the number of military personnel by 14,000. That would represent a 10 percent reduction from the current staffing level of 137,000.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers have called for the government to increase defense spending to 3 percent of gross domestic product, from the current 2 percent.
Carter said that without action now, Britain will be constrained in its ability to respond to respond to hostile powers.

“The time to address these threats is now,” he said. “We cannot afford to sit back.”

He called for Britain to greatly increase its ability to project power over land routes to Eastern Europe and said Britain needs contingency plans to deal with a number of potential Russian threats that can be put into place quickly in a crisis. AP

Mattis says Turkey gave U.S. notice about airstrikes in Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Turkey gave the U.S. military advance notice of its airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northern Syria.

Mattis defended Turkey, calling it a trusted NATO ally with “legitimate security concerns” about Syria.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him overnight Jan. 21 to Jakarta, Indonesia, Mattis said diplomats are working on a solution to Turkey’s armed confrontation with Syrian Kurds, who have been the key U.S. military ally in battling the Islamic State in Syria.

He said the U.S. forces based in Syria had not been put at risk by the Turkish attacks, since U.S. troops are not based in that part of Syria. AP

Iran’s navy kicks off annual drill near key Strait of Hormuz

Iran’s state TV says the country’s navy has kicked off its two-day annual drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The strait is a key waterway through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes and it has been the scene of previous confrontations between the United States and Iran.

The drill does not involve Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force the U.S. Navy often criticizes for harassing its vessels.

The Jan. 22 report says the air force and ground forces will also participate in the exercise in the Sea of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean near the strait.
Iranian Navy Adm. Habibollah Sayyari says the drill shows off Iran’s capabilities in securing its territorial waters and oil transit routes. AP

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