News Briefs – February 22, 2016

U.S. Air Force test-launches Minuteman missile from California

The U.S. Air Force says an unarmed Minuteman 3 missile has been launched from California’s central coast in the latest test of the intercontinental system.
The missile blasted off at 11:34 p.m., PST, from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles.
“There was a slight delay due to some instruments downrange but it went within the launch window,” said Carla Pampe, chief of civic outreach for Air Force Global Strike Command.
The Air Force says the missile carried a test re-entry vehicle that headed for a target area 4,200 miles away to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The Air Force routinely uses Vandenberg to test Minuteman missiles from bases around the country.
“While ICBM launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base almost seem routine, each one requires a tremendous amount of effort and absolute attention to detail in order to ensure a safe and successful launch,” Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a press release. “This specific test will provide accuracy and reliability data that is essential to on-going and future modifications to the weapon system, which are key to improving the already impressive effectiveness of the Minuteman III force.”
This test involved personnel from Vandenberg’s 576th Flight Test Squadron and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and the 91st Missile Wing, Minot Air Force Base, N.D. AP

U.S. drone crashes in southern Afghanistan; no injuries

The U.S. Air Force says that one of its drones has crashed at a base in southern Afghanistan but there were no casualties and no hostile fire is suspected.
In a statement, Capt. Bryan L. Bouchard says the MQ-9 Reaper went down at Kandahar Airfield late Feb. 20.
He says the cause is under investigation “but hostile fire was not a factor.”
Kandahar Airfield, the largest base in Afghanistan, is being renovated by the U.S.-NATO mission for mixed military and civilian use. AP

Navy offering reward for information on bomb threats

The Navy is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for a series of fake bomb threats made against a San Diego base and nearby shipyards.
Navy spokesman Brian O’Rourke said Friday that since November, 11 fake bomb threats have been made. O’Rourke said many of the threats have been written on porta-potties.
One threat was phoned in Feb. 18 to Naval Base San Diego. The base was not locked down but law enforcement officials were called out and scoured a building before determining it was a hoax.
O’Rourke said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating. It is not clear yet whether the threats are linked in any way. AP

Lockheed Martin drops challenge of Oshkosh Defense contract

Lockheed Martin has dropped its legal challenge of a multibillion-dollar military contract awarded to Oshkosh Defense.
The largest American defense contractor sued the military in December, after it lost a bid for a $6.7 billion contract to build nearly 17,000 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles to replace about a third of all Humvees by 2040.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims recently denied Lockheed Martin’s request for a preliminary injunction that would halt production of the JLTV as the company protested the military’s decision to award the contract to Oshkosh Defense.
“Throughout this protest process, we have remained confident that Oshkosh provided the most capable vehicle and best overall value in the JLTV competition,” parent company Oshkosh Corp. CEO Wilson R. Jones said in a statement. “Because the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ JLTV testing and evaluation process was extremely thorough, our nation’s soldiers and Marines can rest assured they will be receiving the most advanced light tactical vehicle ever built.”
The military awarded Oshkosh Corp. the contract over Lockheed Martin and AM General LLC in late August.
Oshkosh was forced to stop work after Lockheed protested the contract award with the Government Accountability Office. GAO dismissed Lockheed’s challenge and filed a federal lawsuit.
With the Department of Defense spending shrinking, competition for military contracts has intensified and the number of contract protests filed with the GAO has increased. The contract provides economic stability for the Oshkosh area and the 3,000 Oshkosh Defense employees.
Lockheed had planned to build the plant in the south Arkansas town of Camden. State lawmakers had authorized the issuance of $87 million in bonds in an incentive package had Lockheed won the JLTV contract. AP

China accuses U.S. of militarizing South China Sea

China has accused the U.S. of militarizing the South China Sea, just days after it was revealed Beijing had deployed surface-to-air missiles on an island in the disputed area.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters Feb. 19 that patrols by U.S. military aircraft and Navy vessels along with joint exercises with regional partners had raised tensions and constituted true militarization.
U.S. and Taiwanese officials this week confirmed commercial satellite images showing the missiles placed on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel chain. China has not denied the appearance of the missiles.
The deployment follows China’s building of new islands by piling sand atop reefs and then adding airstrips and military installations. The buildup is seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to claim virtually the entire disputed sea and its resources. AP

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