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July 3, 2014

News Briefs July 3, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,194

As of July 1, 2014, at least 2,194 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

At least 1,817 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

Outside of Afghanistan, the department reports at least 133 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, 11 were the result of hostile action.

The AP count of total OEF casualties outside of Afghanistan is five more than the department’s tally.

The Defense Department also counts three military civilian deaths.

Since the start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, 19,830 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department. AP

Man charged in Iran documents case seeks release

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Federal prosecutors say a former defense contractor engineer charged with trying to ship sensitive military documents to Iran last year had already provided people in the country with information about a U.S. Air Force fighter jet program.

Prosecutors made the assertion in response to a request by Mozaffar Khazaee to be released from prison while he awaits trial.
Prosecutors objected, saying he’s a flight risk and a danger to the United States.

Khazaee’s attorney says he has no criminal record, is not a flight risk and did not believe any materials he took to Iran involved sensitive information.

Khazaee pleaded not guilty in February to charges of transporting property stolen from companies where he’d worked, including jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney. AP

Malfunction caused Lake Ontario drone crash

The GPS and other systems in an Air Force drone failed multiple times during a routine training mission in upstate New York, causing the unmanned aircraft to crash into Lake Ontario in November, according to an investigation whose results were released Tuesday.

The MQ-9 Reaper crashed about 35 miles southwest of Fort Drum, N.Y., where it had taken off. Nobody was injured in the crash, although the drone was destroyed upon impact. The crew was training the drone for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, according to a report put together by an Air Force accident investigation board.

The report says the drone had been properly maintained and inspected prior to its flight, but there were multiple failures with its GPS and a navigation system after about two hours of flight. While the drone’s ground-based air crew tried to return the Reaper to base, the drone lost its connectivity with them and switched to autopilot to return to base on its own on a path that avoids populated areas and potential obstructions, the report said.

While another air crew tried to establish a link with the drone, another GPS and inertial guidance system error occurred. Seconds later, the drone began an automated right turn that inverted it and eventually led to an unrecoverable flat spin, the report says. Soon after, the Reaper crashed into the New York portion of Lake Ontario. It took about 15 minutes from the time the first GPS error was noted until the Reaper crashed. The Air Force valued the loss at about $10.6 million.

Most of the drone’s parts were not recovered and pieces of it later washed ashore about 12 miles east of where it crashed.

The drone and its air crew were assigned to the Syracuse-based 17 4th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, New York.

The accident investigation board is based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, which is home to Air Combat Command. AP

GAO denies protest over Coast Guard patrol cutters

The Government Accountability Office has denied a protest from two Mississippi shipbuilders over the award of design contracts for U.S. Coast Guard offshore patrol cutters.

VT Halter Marine and Ingalls Shipbuilding protested the February award of contracts to Maine-based Bath Iron Works Corp., Fla.,-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. and Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC.

Each of the three companies received a preliminary and contract design award worth about $22 million. There are plans for 25 of the ships, which could be worth more than $11 billion in contracts.

In a 21-page report made public Monday, the GAO said Ingalls and VT Halter Marine did not demonstrate that the selection process was unequitable and found no merit to their challenges based on technical or past performance evaluations.

Ingalls chose to protest after receiving a debriefing of the offshore patrol cutter evaluation in February, Ingalls spokesman Bill Glenn said at that time.

Ingalls Shipbuilding offered the Coast Guard a strong, fully compliant proposal to provide a very capable, cost effective offshore patrol cutter design and believe our protest has merit, he said. AP

Philippines to get 1st new fighter jets next year

The Philippine president said July 1 his country’s ill-equipped military will receive its first new fighter jets in nearly a decade next year to help defend the country’s territory.

President Benigno Aquino III said two of 12 FA-50 multi-purpose fighters will be delivered by their South Korean manufacturer next year and the rest are expected to follow in the next three years. The Philippines has scrambled to modernize its military, one of Asia’s weakest, amid increasingly tense territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Aquino said the Philippines has had no fighter jets for territorial defense since a fleet of F-5 jets was decommissioned in 2005. The anemic air force is being strengthened with the purchase of new assault helicopters, long-range patrol aircraft and C130 cargo planes, he said.

It’s saddening to think about the state of the air force that we inherited: Once regarded as among Asia’s strongest, the air force seemed to have failed to take off from decades of anomalies, abuse and neglect, Aquino said in a speech at Clark freeport north of Manila marking the anniversary of the Philippine air force.

Aquino said with the acquisition of the FA-50s, we can again defend our territory in a more effective way.

The Philippine military signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. in March to buy 12 FA-50s for 18.9 billion pesos ($420 million), the biggest deal so far under a military modernization program that has been repeatedly stalled by a lack of funds. AP

Japan’s Cabinet approves larger military role

Japan has allowed its military to use force in some situations to defend other nations, in one of the biggest changes to its security policy since World War II.

The Cabinet July 1 eased Japan’s longstanding ban on the right to exercise what is known as collective self-defense.

Previous governments have said that Japan’s war-renouncing constitution limits the use of force to defending Japan.

The Cabinet isn’t changing the constitution, but the government will now be able to authorize greater military engagement under a new interpretation of the charter. AP




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