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December 18, 2013

News Briefs December 18, 2013

Navy to christen USS Milwaukee in Marinette

The U.S. Navy is preparing to christen its newest littoral combat ship the USS Milwaukee, which will make it the fifth naval vessel to bear the name of Wisconsin’s largest city.

The ship will be christened Dec. 18 at the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard, Marinette, Wisc., by Sylvia Panetta, the wife of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Littoral combat ships are speedy warships designed to conduct water combat immediately off an enemy’s shore. They can be used to hunt submarines and pirates, defend ground troops and support unmanned aerial vehicles such as Predator drones.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the littoral ship program represents the future of the Navy, and the name of its newest ship is fitting.

ìMilwaukee’s christening serves as a tribute to this great American city, but also to the hard working people of Wisconsin and our nation’s entire industrial base,î he said in a statement.

The USS Milwaukee will be 388 feet long and is designed to be extra-speedy. Unlike ships built for a single purpose, littoral ships can be refitted to suit a specific mission. For example, an anti-submarine package can be swapped out for a mine-warfare package if war conditions change.

`Littoral’ is an aquatic term that pertains to the shore of any large waterway.

Among the other ships named USS Milwaukee were an ironclad vessel built for Civil War service and a light cruiser that served through World War II in the Atlantic. AP

NATO commander concerned about Russian missiles

NATO’s supreme commander says reports that Russia may have deployed state-of-the-art missiles near the alliance’s eastern borders show the need for more and better communications between Russian and NATO military leaders.

The Russian Defense Ministry gave an oblique response to a report in the German newspaper Bild’s claim that Russia has sent the Iskander short-range missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic. The ministry said the move wouldn’t violate any treaties.

Nevertheless, U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove told reporters in Berlin that such a move would be cause for concern and underscores the need for ìregular, trusted relations and communicationsî with Russia’s military.

Breedlove said NATO and Russian aircraft operate close to one another in the Baltic, the Mediterranean and elsewhere and ìthere can be no room for miscalculation. AP

Bomber to be cut up at Ariz. base under arms pact

The final B-52G bomber being eliminated under a weapons treaty met its end at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 19.

Base officials say a rescue saw will be used to sever the bomber’s tail section from the fuselage.
That’ll make the plane the 39th B-52G eliminated under the New START Treaty and the last such elimination required under the treaty.

The treaty between the United States and Russia limits the number of deployed strategic warheads.

The U.S. Air Force still flies B-52G’s, and two of the bombers were in the news recently after they flew a training mission across a newly declared Chinese maritime air defense zone. AP

Pentagon to test force for use of drug ‘spice’

The Pentagon says it’s going to start testing the troops to see if they are using synthetic marijuana, also known as spice.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said Dec. 16 that before the drug became illegal, random testing in 2012 in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps estimated use as high as 2.5 percent, more than twice as high as overall use of illegal drugs.

Warren says that following legislation outlawing synthetic marijuana, use among troop use fell to about half of a percent. Nevertheless, Warren says the Defense Department is adding the substance to the list of drugs that it routinely samples for, with urinalysis tests among troops. AP

Lockheed Martin CEO Hewson to become chairman

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has named President and CEO Marillyn Hewson to the additional role of chairman.

Executive Chairman Robert Stevens is stepping down from his post and as a board member on Dec. 31. He will retire from the Bethesda, Md., company early next year.

Hewson’s appointment as chairman is effective on Jan. 1, 2014. AP

Washington state courts Airbus amid Boeing tension

Even as they try desperately to hang on to Boeing, officials in Washington state have been courting the main competitor of the aerospace giant.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that state officials have moved to connect Airbus with Washington suppliers and signed a five-year confidentiality agreement to allow further exploration of business opportunities with the company.

One expert said for years it was generally frowned upon for Washington state officials to jeopardize the relationship with Boeing by seeking ties with Airbus.

However, the recent steps by Washington state came amid tension created when Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and started an assembly line in South Carolina to build its 787 passenger plane.

Airbus says it has no plans to establish a physical presence in the state but does plan on increasing ties with state suppliers. AP

Boeing boosts stock buyback plan by $10 billion

Boeing Dec. 16 that its board of directors approved a $10 billion increase in its stock buyback program. The aircraft maker will also raise its quarterly dividend payment by about 50 percent.

Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney said the moves reflect its operational performance, increasing cash flow and confidence in the future.

The increase in the share buyback program is in addition to the $800 million remaining authority in Boeing’s current stock repurchase program. Boeing will resume buying back its own stock in January and it expects repurchases to be made over the next two to three years.

The Chicago-based company said it has declared a quarterly dividend of 73 cents per share payable March 7, 2014, to shareholders of record Feb. 14. AP




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