News Briefs – November 11, 2015

Military identifies remains of seven Pearl Harbor ‘unknowns’

The remains of seven crew members missing since the USS Oklahoma capsized in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor have been identified, the military said Nov. 9.
The names of the servicemen identified using dental records will be released after their families have been notified.
In June, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began digging up the remains of nearly 400 USS Oklahoma sailors and Marines from a veterans cemetery in Honolulu where they were buried as “unknowns.”
Within five years, officials expect to identify about 80 percent of the Oklahoma crew members still considered missing.
The military says it started the project because advances in forensic science and technology are improving the ability to identify remains.
On Nov. 9, officials exhumed the last four of 61 caskets containing unknown people from the Oklahoma. Many of the caskets include the remains of multiple individuals.
Families will have the option of receiving remains as they are identified, or waiting until the agency has more pieces of a body or even a complete skeleton. Navy casualty officers will let families know their options.
Altogether, 429 men on board the World War II battleship were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after.
Identification work will be conducted at agency laboratories in Hawaii and Nebraska. DNA analysis will be conducted at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
More than 2,400 sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Oklahoma’s casualties were second only to the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177 men. AP

Russia to deploy new weapons to counter U.S. missile shield

Russia will counter NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense program by deploying new strike weapons capable of piercing the shield, President Vladimir Putin said Nov. 10.
Putin told defense officials that by developing defenses against ballistic missiles Washington aims to “neutralize” Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent and gain a “decisive military superiority.”
He said that Moscow will respond by developing “strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses.” Putin’s statement comes amid a severe strain in Russia’s relations with the U.S. and its NATO allies, which have plunged to the lowest point since the Cold War over the crisis in Ukraine.
For many years, the Kremlin has protested the U.S.-led missile shield, voicing concern that it could eventually become capable of intercepting Russia’s nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, thus eroding the strength of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.
Washington, in turn, has argued that the shield was aimed to fend off missile threats from nations such as Iran and North Korea and wouldn’t be capable of dealing with the massive Russian nuclear arsenal.
Putin argued Nov. 10 that the U.S. has kept working on the missile shield despite Iran’s deal with six world powers that has curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
“So, references to the Iranian and the North Korean nuclear missile threat just have served to cover up the true plans, and their true task is to neutralize nuclear potential of other nuclear powers, … Russia in particular,” Putin said. “Regrettably, our concerns and cooperation proposals haven’t been taken into account.”
Putin added that in the future Russia may also work on the development of its own missile defense systems, but will now focus primarily on commissioning new strike weapons. He said that over the past three years Russian arms makers already have built and tested prospective weapons systems, :which are capable of performing combat tasks in spite of the multi-echelon missile defense system.”
“Such systems have begun to enter combat duty this year,” Putin said without elaborating. AP

UAE army announces $1.27 billion contract for surveillance aircraft

The United Arab Emirates Nov. 9 announced a $1.27 billion deal for upgraded Saab surveillance systems aboard new Bombardier aircraft that the Gulf Arab country has acquired.
Saab said the deal is for a new version of its Erieye radar system for the Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft.
The value of the deal is the largest announced so far at the biennial Dubai Airshow, which runs until Thursday. The show is taking place at Dubai’s newest airport, the Al Maktoum International.
Also Nov. 9, Lockheed Martin announced it has been awarded a $262.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to service Saudi Arabia’s F-15 sniper targeting system, search and track sensors and radars that allow for day and night low-level navigation.
Embraer Defense & Security announced Lebanon would be acquiring six A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft, a sale that was approved by the U.S. State Department in June. The deal includes logistics support for the aircraft, which are used in light air support missions, and training for Lebanese pilots and mechanics. The company did not disclose the value of the deal.
The sales reflect a shift in focus at the airshow this year from civil aviation to defense aviation needs. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been leading the war in Yemen against the country’s Shiite rebels since March and are part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Despite a drop in oil prices and subsequently lower revenue for Gulf Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not expected to cut back on defense spending in the coming years. The kingdom and its rival Iran are backing opposite sides of the war in Syria and support opposing political groups in Lebanon and Bahrain. In Yemen, Iran has given political support to the Shiite rebels, though it denies Saudi accusations that it has provided them with arms.
Compared with the last 2013 airshow, which included announcements of $140 billion in Boeing and Airbus orders by four major Gulf carriers, this year’s event has been largely a chance for Gulf carriers to showcase their new planes and for international businesses to meet potential aviation and aerospace clients in the region.
Meanwhile, India’s Jet Airways announced Monday its largest fleet order to date for 75 Boeing 737 Max aircraft to support its replacement strategy. The short-haul aircraft will likely be mostly used by Jet Airways in its flights to Gulf destinations in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s Abu Dhabi-based carrier, Etihad, owns a 24 percent stake in Jet Airways.
There was no information available on the price tag on the Jet deal and officials did not immediately respond to questions on the order. AP

Unions seek link of aerospace tax breaks, state workforce

Leaders of the two largest unions representing thousands of Boeing workers renewed calls Nov. 9 for lawmakers to pass measures that would tie the aerospace giant’s tax breaks in the state to job numbers.
The union leaders, who represent more than 50,000 employees at Boeing around Puget Sound, Wash., were joined by Democratic state Rep. June Robinson at a news conference in Seattle. They argued that Boeing has shipped some jobs out of Washington state in spite of tax breaks granted to the aerospace giant in 2013 to secure the 777X program in Everett. Those tax breaks could save the aerospace giant as much as $8.7 billion in taxes through 2040.
Union leaders want lawmakers to reconsider two measures introduced earlier this year by Robinson. One ties tax breaks to jobs, and the other requires aerospace suppliers to meet specific wage standards in order to be eligible for certain business tax incentives. The next legislative session begins in January. AP

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