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April 1, 2013

News Briefs April 1, 2013

U.S. Air Force says B-2 mission cost $2.1 million

The U.S. Air Force says it cost $2.1 million to send two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers on a training exercise over South Korea that was widely viewed as a show of force in response to threats from North Korea.

The service’s Global Strike Command said March 29 in a statement that the total flight time for the B-2s was 75 hours. The aircraft made the more than 6,500-mile round trip from the Midwest state of Missouri to a South Korean island range March 28.

North Korea has threatened nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the decision to send the B-2s for drills with South Korea was part of normal military exercises with a close ally and not intended to provoke a reaction from North Korea. AP

Army wants to ground heavy training pilots

The Army is trying to thin out the ranks of its civilian helicopter instructor pilots with a 250-pound weight limit.

New military rules set to take effect April 1 at the Army’s aviation training center at Fort Rucker, Ala., limit their weight.

The Army is defending the limit, saying heavier pilots increase costs because more fuel is required to keep them aloft.

A union representing civilian pilots at Fort Rucker has filed a federal lawsuit trying to block the new weight restriction, but a judge hasn’t ruled.

The suit includes six flight trainers whose weight ranges from 252 to 272 pounds, including flight suits.
The civilian trainers who sued work for URS Federal Support Services Inc., a contractor.

The lawsuit was first reported by The Dothan Eagle. AP

Gitmo hunger strike grows; extent in dispute

One of the best known prisoners in Guantanamo says a hunger strike at the U.S. base in Cuba has grown to include 130 men in a protest over their confinement.

Shaker Aamer tells his lawyer that he has lost 32 pounds during the strike that began Feb. 6. Aamer says prison officials have been trying to break the strike without success.

Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia but has been a resident of both Britain and the U.S. There has been an international campaign to free him after he’s spent more than a decade at the prison without charges. U.S. officials have accused him of links to terrorism.

Aamer spoke to his lawyer March 29 about the strike. A prison spokesman said Monday that 39 prisoners are on strike, up two from last week. AP

Gay West Point grad fined $100 in protest case

A gay West Point graduate discharged from the military for revealing his sexual orientation has been fined $100 in case resulting from his arrest during a 2010 White House demonstration.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office says Dan Choi was convicted and fined March 28 by a judge hearing his case. Choi was one of 13 people arrested after they handcuffed themselves to the White House fence. His trial began in 2011 but was put on hold during an appeal. He was convicted of failing to obey lawful order.

Choi, who represented himself, was alternately emotional and angry as his trial resumed. He called as a witness the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a civil rights movement veteran. He later raised his voice at a Park Police officer, another witness. AP

Putin attends military exercise in southern Russia

President Vladimir Putin has attended a military exercise in the Black Sea intended to showcase Russia’s resurgent military might.

Putin ordered the conduct of the maneuvers from aboard the presidential plane on a flight home from South Africa. The exercise involved about 7,000 troops, 30 navy ships, dozens of combat aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles.

Putin, accompanied by his defense minister, flew in a military helicopter to watch the maneuvers March 29.
The Kremlin said the exercise’s goal is to check the military’s quick response capability.

The chief of the military’s general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, told Putin that a convoy of 80 armored vehicles quickly made a 280-mile journey from their base to the exercise area. The drill also involved scrambling several airborne units. AP

Military contractor pulling out from Georgia base

Nearly 300 people are expected to be laid off when a contractor at the Robins Air Force Base shuts down at the end of May.

DynCorp officials tell the Telegraph of Macon its contract with the U.S. Air Force is expiring and all employees working at the Robins Air Force base will be let go.

The company’s vice president of communications, Ashley Burke, says Virginia-based DynCorp had a one-year contract with the U.S. Air Force to provide maintenance support to aircraft including C-130, C-117, C-5 and F-15 planes.

Houston County Career Center manager Jane Simpson says the state Department of Labor will offer to help workers find new jobs. Burke says it is not yet clear whether the company will transfer employees to other locations. AP

University, companies discuss Sandia Labs contract

The University of New Mexico is talking to several private companies about the possibility of collaborating on a bid to manage the $2.4 billion Sandia National Laboratories.

UNM president Bob Frank told Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday that a number of private companies have expressed interest in partnering with the university, and the school has met with all of them.

If the contract is rebid, we’d like to see ourselves as a significant collaborator with the contractor that wins the award, Frank said.

The contract for longtime manager Lockheed Martin expires in September with a potential six-month extension. Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration has said it plans to put a new contract to bid. Lockheed Martin has managed Sandia since 1993 and said it wants to continue doing so.

Frank said a management partnership including UNM could result in a more integrated relationship, with a greater number of university faculty and students working in the labs. More important, it could lead to the commercialization of technologies developed at the lab. AP

Military aircraft cut from Louisville air show

The Kentucky Derby Festival says military aircraft won’t be a part of this year’s air show at Thunder Over Louisville due to federal budget cuts.

Organizers of the event told The Courier-Journal May 29 that fighter jets, bombers and attack helicopters that have thrilled crowds in the past have been grounded from air shows due to spending cuts.

The show, however, will go on.

Festival spokeswoman Aimee Boyd said organizers have lined up civilian aircraft acts that will perform from around 3 p.m. until just before the fireworks show begins.

The April 20 event had 15 acts booked as March 29.

ìWe saw this coming last July and started doubling and tripling up on civilian aircraft,î said Thunder producer Wayne Hettinger.

Mike Berry, Derby Festival president and CEO, said spectators will still enjoy the acts.

ìIt will be a wonderful … but very different air show,î he said. AP




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