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February 20, 2013

News Briefs February 20, 2013

Panetta to lead U.S. delegation to NATO defense ministerial

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will continue in his position until former Sen. Chuck Hagel is confirmed, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a tweet released Feb. 14.

The Senate will not consider Hagelís nomination to be the next defense secretary until it returns from recess Feb. 26.

Panetta will lead the U.S. delegation to the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels next week. Obama administration officials had expected Hagel to be confirmed in time to lead that effort.

When he announced he was leaving the department, Panetta said he would serve until his successor was confirmed.

Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., cancels March 16-17 air show

Luke Air Force Base officials have canceled their March air show, citing the possibility of steep federal financial cuts.

Base officials said Feb. 15 that they don’t want to waste taxpayer dollars with the threat of a deal not being reached on the massive, across-the-board spending cuts.

Part of the Glendale base’s plan to reduce costs includes significantly reducing flying not directly related to pilot training.

The automatic cuts were put into place by a bipartisan budget compromise in August 2011 that averted a default on the federal debt.

The base’s dual open house and air show was scheduled for March 16-17.

Luke has hosted open houses since the early 1950s and holds one about every two years.

More than 200,000 people attended the open house event in March 2011. AP

Langley AFB, Va., cancels May air show

Budget concerns out of Washington continue to be felt by the military in Virginia.

Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., announced Feb. 15 it is canceling an air show scheduled for May because of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration set to kick in March 1.

Langley said the decision to cancel the 2013 Air Power Over Hampton Roads Open House and Air Show was difficult because of its popularity but it’s necessary.

Col. Korvin Auch is commander of the 633rd Air Base Wing. He described the decision as prudent.

One week ago, the Navy postponed the overhaul of one of its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers because of budget concerns. It has said other cost-cutting actions might also be necessary. The military has a huge presence in Virginia. AP

Sequestration fears ground North Carolina show

Officials at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., have canceled the 2013 Wings Over Wayne Open House and Air Show over fears about sequestration.

A statement issued Feb. 15 said the decision came after what it called careful review and consideration of fiscal challenges facing the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense and the nation. The show was scheduled for May 18-19.

4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Jeannie Leavitt said remaining as mission-ready as possible and preserving our combat capability is imperative and the base is arranging spending to ensure the priority is met. AP

Iran plans to establish new navy base

Iran’s official news agency says the country’s navy plans to establish a new base near Pakistan’s border in the Sea of Oman.

The plans are part of Iranian ambitions to exert its naval power outside the Persian Gulf, including sending warships to the Mediterranean and claiming it might someday have ships in the Atlantic.

The IRNA report on Feb. 16 quotes Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying that the base will be built in Pasabandar, about 30 kilometers (100 miles) west of Pakistani major port of Gwadar.

Iran has conducted numerous naval drills in past years as it increases its presence in regional waterways. AP

New Zealand to keep military team in Afghanistan

New Zealand has announced it will keep a small team of military personnel in Afghanistan to help coalition forces after it formally withdraws from the country in April.

The group of 27 will be primarily based in Kabul undertaking planning and intelligence duties. Included are three elite special-forces troops.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key said Feb. 18 the country remains committed to international efforts to improve the security and prosperity of Afghanistan.

Most of the 27 will operate under an initial one-year commitment through April 2014.

Last year, New Zealand announced it was withdrawing from the country in April 2013, five months earlier than previously planned. The country has stationed about 145 soldiers in central Bamiyan province since 2003.

Ten New Zealand soldiers have died during the conflict. AP

ATK to restart production of missile rocket motors

Alliance Tech Systems Inc. plans to restart production of rocket motors for the AIM-9P Sidewinder missile at a facility in West Virginia.

The aerospace and defense contractor, known as ATK, says the Alleghany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, W.Va., produced more than 30,000 rocket motors for the supersonic, heat-seeking air-to-air missile between 1979 and 1990. ATK operates the Navy-owned facility.

ATK received a $17 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to produce the motors through the United State Foreign Military Sales program. Under the program, defense articles and services are procured by the U.S. government on behalf of foreign customers.

The company says in a news release that NATO countries and other international U.S. allies still use the AIM-9P Sidewinder. AP

UAE to buy U.S.-made drones in military expansion

A defense official in the United Arab Emirates says the Gulf nation has signed $1.4 billion in military contracts that include purchases of U.S.-made drones.

The drone deal, worth nearly $200 million, suggests Gulf Arab states are looking to boost surveillance capabilities to match claims by rival Iran of growing drone technology. The UAE says the Predator drones, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, will not be outfitted for weapons capabilities, but used for reconnaissance.

Iran has claimed it has developed its own sophisticated drones and managed to reverse-engineer a CIA drone seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace.

UAE military spokesman Maj. Gen. Obaid al-Ketbi also said the deals include 750 U.S.-made mine-resistant vehicles.

The contracts were announced Feb. 18 at a defense show in Abu Dhabi. AP




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