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June 28, 2013

News Briefs June 28, 2013

Luke AFB west of Phoenix to get 72 more F-35s

The Air Force has decided to assign three additional squadrons of the new F-35 fighter at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz.

The decision secures the future of the base 15 miles west of Phoenix as the current fleet of F-16s is retired. It brings the total to be assigned there for pilot training to six squadrons with 144 aircraft.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake announced the Air Force decision.

Luke serves as the Air Force’s primary pilot training base for the F-16 fighter. City officials worried it would be left without a mission before a decision last year designated it as a pilot training base set to receive 72 new F-35s. AP

 

Iraq official says Baghdad open to U.S. military aid

Iraq is open to greater American military cooperation as U.S. commanders explore ways to boost security assistance to the country, a top Iraqi official said June 27.

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has recommended that military American commanders look for ways to help improve the military capabilities of Iraq and Lebanon, which both face the risk of spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Dempsey said June 26 that the assistance would not involve sending U.S. combat troops, but could involve the U.S. sending in training teams and accelerating sales of weapons and equipment.

The last American combat troops left Iraq in December 2011, ending a nearly nine-year war that cost nearly 4,500 American and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives.

About 100 military and civilian Department of Defense personnel remain in Iraq as an arm of the American Embassy to act as liaisons with the Iraqi government and facilitate arms sales. The U.S. has similar offices in other countries. AP

 

N.M. Air Force fuel cleanup system struggles

An Air Force cleanup system used for sucking fuel contamination from Albuquerque, N.M., groundwater has been out of service for most of this month.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that new documents show Kirtland Air Force Base’s new jet fuel spill cleanup system shut down May 31 after its control system malfunctioned.

Officials say the Air Force initially hoped it would only be down for 72 hours, but it took around two weeks to repair.

Details were outlined in an Air Force report to the New Mexico Environment Department.

According to officials, the machine was running again June 12. But base civil engineer Brent Wilson told the newspaper Wednesday that other problems continue to plague the system, which is now only running intermittently as workers try to fix it. AP

 

Man deported for buying aircraft parts for Iran

Federal immigration officials have deported a Filipino national for his role in a scheme to illegally export military aircraft parts to Iran.

Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said June 26 that 41-year-old Alfredo Guerrero Espartiro conspired to purchase parts for F-5, F-4, C-130 and other aircraft for Iran.

The conspiracy was discovered by an undercover probe into Florida-based Southward Aviation Supplies.

Espartiro was arrested in January 2012 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. He served an 18-month sentence in federal prison.

Today’s Iranian air force fleet is stocked with aging American-made planes, purchased or gifted among the former allies before the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, when diplomatic relations ceased.

Many of the planes have fallen into disrepair, and broad embargos prevent Iran from getting parts legally. AP

 

Nevada PUC hearing air base electricity dispute

Nevada state regulators have agreed to hear an effort by the state’s dominant electric utility to block a nonprofit consumer cooperative from contracting with the federal government to provide electrical distribution service at a U.S. Air Force drone aircraft base in Indian Springs.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission rejected a request to dismiss NV Energy Inc. claims that its rights to serve Creech Air Force Base are violated by a $23.6 million contract the federal Defense Logistics Agency awarded last year to Pahrump-based Valley Electric Association.

A spokesman for Valley Electric said June 26 that NV Energy still supplies the electricity, while Valley Electric provides the transmission and distribution infrastructure.

The PUC June 25 didn’t immediately set a date for arguments on the issue of whether a federal contract is outside the jurisdiction of state regulators.

Commissioner David Noble said in an opinion that disputed facts need to be decided, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

Noble also criticized the Defense Logistics Agency Energy for failing to turn over information to NV Energy as required.

Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a proposed state law this month that would have brought Valley Electric under PUC authority.

Sandoval said Assembly Bill 391 didn’t clearly define the PUC regulatory role, and may have opened the door to expensive legal battles that would hurt rural economies and the viability of rural electric cooperatives.

Creech Air Force Base, about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is home to a squadron operating unmanned remotely controlled military Predator and Reaper aircraft over Afghanistan and elsewhere. AP

 

Pentagon to extend benefits to gay service spouses

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon will begin the process to extend health care, housing and other federal benefits to the same-sex spouses of military members as soon as possible.

The June 26 Supreme Court decision opens the door for married gay couples to get federal benefits.

Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves. It’s unclear how many of those are married.

The Pentagon has said that by Oct. 1, it would extend a variety of benefits to same-sex partners, including access to on-base commissaries and some health and welfare programs.

The repeal of the ban on openly gay military service took effect in September 2011. AP




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