News Briefs – March 2, 2016

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Iraqi forces launch push to retake area north of Baghdad

Iraq says security forces have launched a new push to retake a key area north of the capital, Baghdad, and dislodge Islamic State militants from there.
A statement by the Joint Operations Command says the “new offensive” began early March 1 in an agricultural area northeast of the city of Samarra, with the aim to cut IS supply lines. Samarra is 60 miles north of Baghdad.
The command says paramilitary forces, mostly Shiite militias, and the Iraqi air force are backing the push on the area, called Jazerat Samarra.
The offensive comes on the heels of two massive bombings in as many days by the Islamic State group in the area — in the town of Muqdadiyah and in Baghdad –that killed at least 110 people. AP
 

Russian warplane crashes on training exercise, pilot killed

The Russian military says one of its warplanes crashed while on a training exercise in southern Russia and the pilot was killed.
The Defense Ministry statement, carried by the Tass news agency, says the Su-25 ground attack aircraft went down the evening of Feb. 29 in an uninhabited area in the Stavropol region. The crash caused no casualties or damage on the ground.
The Su-25 is one of the aircraft the Russian military has deployed in Syria to provide air support for the Syrian army.
Since Russia began the air campaign five months ago, its warplanes have flown thousands of missions. Russia is known to have lost only one aircraft — an Su-24 shot down by a Turkish jet in November.
The military said the cause of the crash is under investigation. AP
 

Air Force proposal would reduce jets at Arizona base

Under a new Air Force proposal, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., could start losing some of its jets as soon as fall 2018.
The Air Force recently agreed to delay retirement of the A-10 “Warthog” until 2022, reported the Arizona Daily Star. That aircraft is a mainstay of operations at the Tucson base.
The latest details from the Air Force show that it would begin phasing out several jets housed at D-M, including the A-10s, in fiscal year 2019. It calls for D-M to lose 25 active-duty A-10s in that year, which begins Oct. 1, 2018.
Under the plan, Davis-Monthan would also lose six EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare planes that year.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, Tucson Rep. Martha McSally and other A-10 backers in Congress blocked an earlier plan that would have begun retiring the aircraft in 2015.
The new retirement schedule will give the A-10 a temporary reprieve and let local supports get to work identifying new missions for D-M, said Brian Harpel, president of D-M support group DM50.
“It goes back to what we’ve been saying, the A-10’s going to go away at some point in time — it’s not if, but when,” Harpel said.
The DM50 has joined with the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, the city of Tucson, Pima County and other interested groups to lobby for new missions that would keep D-M open and relevant in the future.
The base is a boon for the local economy, pumping in nearly $1 billion annually, according to Harpel. AP
 

Lockheed Martin agrees to $5M settlement over Kentucky plant

Lockheed Martin and its subsidiaries have agreed to pay $5 million to the federal government over contamination from hazardous waste at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in western Kentucky.
The plant owned by the U.S. Department of Energy hasn’t operated since 2013. Prior to that it enriched uranium for nuclear power plants.
WFPL-FM says Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin is settling two lawsuits that contend the company knowingly didn’t properly handle hazardous waste. The lawsuits cover the period between 1984 and 1998.
WFPL says lawyers representing the plaintiffs and a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin didn’t return calls. But the company’s annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission said it is admitting no liability or wrongdoing and is settling to avoid further costs of litigation. AP