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December 10, 2012

News Briefs December 10, 2012

Spaceplane mission gets green light

United Launch Alliance has cleared the next launch of an Air Force X-37B reusable spaceplane to occur this week at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., after concluding that it has sufficiently mitigated the chances of a booster anomaly repeating itself from a previous satellite launch.

A ULA Atlas V rocket is now scheduled to carry the X-37 orbital test vehicle into space on Dec 11, states the company’s Dec. 7 release.

This mission, dubbed OTV-3, will be the third space flight of the two-vehicle X-37 fleet. Back in early October, a ULA Delta IV rocket experienced an upper-stage engine malfunction during a GPS IIF satellite launch. The Atlas V utilizes a different version of this same engine, but the Air Force and ULA delayed the X-37 launch until they understood better what happened. ULA’s investigation of the Delta IV anomaly “concluded that a fuel leak occurred” and that the leak “started during the first engine start sequence,” states the release. While the anomaly investigation continues, “all credible crossover implications” for the Atlas V “have been thoroughly addressed and mitigated,” clearing the way for the OTV-3 launch, states the release.

China air force in large-scale drill amid tensions

China’s air force has staged one of its largest-ever drills amid heightened tensions with Japan and Beijing’s southern neighbors over territorial claims, state media reported Dec. 7.

The air combat exercises involving more than 100 pilots were held over 11 days last month in the vast northwestern region of Xinjiang, according to the website of the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and other official news outlets.

Pilots practiced engaging in dog fights and countering electro-magnetic interference, the reports said.

Aircraft taking part came from 14 separate units and included China’s most modern jet fighters, the J-10 and J-11, along with older models and two-seater Sukhoi Su-30s purchased from Russia, the reports said.

The exercises are a vivid demonstration of China’s vastly improved military capabilities that have unnerved other Asian nations and spur a renewed U.S. focus on the region. The Global Times newspaper published by People’s Daily called them the largest in recent years in both firepower and numbers of aircraft, and said they also involved large numbers of technicians and experts on missiles, radar and other related technologies.

They came amid stepped-up sea patrols around East China Sea islands claimed by China but controlled by Japan that followed an explosion of violent anti-Japanese protests across China in September.

Beijing has dispatched China Marine Surveillance vessels almost daily to confront Japanese Coast Guard cutters around the uninhabited rocks north of Taiwan, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Taiwan, which calls the islands Diaoyutai, also claims them.

The drills also follow renewed feuding between China and other claimants to islands and maritime territory in the South China Sea. Aggressive patrolling by Chinese vessels has prompted Vietnam and the Philippines to bolster their forces with additional ships, planes, and submarines, and has drawn in the U.S., which insists on free navigation through the region of crucial shipping lanes and rich fishing stocks and undersea mineral wealth.

While the exercises were being held, China’s navy also for the first time launched and recovered aircraft from the country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Ukrainian craft that will be armed with J-15 fighter-bombers, a Chinese adaptation of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33. AP

F-22 in Pearl Harbor event scrapes tail on landing

An F-22 fighter jet used in a flyover during a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor scraped its tail on a runway as it landed, causing $1.8 million in damage.

A Hawaii National Guard spokesman says nobody was hurt in the incident the morning of Dec. 7 on the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Lt. Col. Charles Anthony says the jet was coming back to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from a training exercise after taking part in the ceremony. He says the “mishap” happened roughly 90 minutes after the flyover.

In jet terms, the damage to the F-22′s horizontal stabilizers may be little more than a pricey fender-bender.

Anthony says it costs roughly $147 million to make one F-22 fighter. AP

Annual Tyndall Air Force Base air show canceled

The 2013 air show at a Florida Panhandle military base has been canceled because of budget cuts.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Melanie Holiday told The News Herald that officials at Tyndall Air Force Base had been planning for their March show when senior military officials told them to stop.

Holiday said Dec. 7 that budget cuts were to blame.

About 75,000 people attended the Gulf Coast Salute Open House and Air Show in 2011. It’s a longstanding tradition in Bay County, though it has been canceled periodically for various reasons. AP

U.S. committed to naval hub in Bahrain

U.S. Sen. John McCain says Washington is committed to keeping its Persian Gulf naval hub in Bahrain despite an Arab Spring-inspired uprising that has wracked the tiny kingdom.

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, says the U.S. has ìtoo much investedî in Bahrain to consider shifting the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet to another country. The 5th Fleet is the Pentagon’s main counterweight to Iran’s expanding military presence in the Gulf.

Washington has been pushed into a difficult position by Bahrain’s 22-month unrest. It backs Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, but U.S. officials have grown increasingly uneasy over crackdowns against Bahrain’s Shiite majority, which is seeking a greater political voice.

McCain said Dec. 9 he has held talks with Bahrain’s king and Shiite opposition groups during a global security summit. AP

Alabama lands its first Airbus supplier

Alabama has landed its first Airbus supplier.

A subsidiary of Labinal, Safran Engineering Services, announced Dec. 6 that it will operate an engineering supporting facility in Mobile that will hire 30 to 50 people. Labinal is part of the French aerospace company Safran Group.

Gov. Robert Bentley said he met with Labinal officials during a visit to the Farnborough International Air Show in England earlier this year and encouraged the company to locate in Alabama.

ìLabinal is very excited to be the first supplier to join the Airbus Engineering team in Mobile, Ala.,î said Karen Bomba, CEO. ìThis new office reflects Labinal and Safran Engineering Servicesí commitment to support our customers locally and expand our relationship with Airbus. We look forward to being in Alabama and being part of the Mobile community.

The announcement is the result of Airbus planning a $600 million aircraft assembly plant in Mobile. AP




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