News Briefs – March 4, 2016

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State officials ask to keep German military at Holloman base

New Mexico congressmen have asked the President Barack Obama to advocate keeping the German Air Force presence in the United States at Holloman Air Force Base.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce March 2 sent a letter highlighting the mutually beneficial arrangement the base currently has with the Luftwaffe.

The Chief of Staff of the German Air Force has recommended consolidating its two operational Tornado wings in Germany and to not renew the contract with Holloman due to increasing budget constraints.

The letter was sent in advance of the president’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s meeting next week with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. AP

U.S. delivers 8 Black Hawks to Jordan for its anti-IS battle

The United States gave Jordan eight refurbished helicopters March 3 for the battle against Islamic State extremists along the kingdom’s borders.

Pro-Western Jordan is part of a U.S.-led military coalition against IS, which controls large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq.
The kingdom also faces internal threats from IS sympathizers. Earlier this week, Jordanian troops killed seven suspected IS-linked militants in a raid in the north of the country. The suspects had allegedly plotted attacks in Jordan.

Alice Wells, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, said in a handover ceremony Thursday that the delivery of the Black Hawks is part of ongoing military support for Jordan that also includes additional guns and surveillance equipment.

Wells told her hosts at Marka military airport in the capital of Amman that “as you employ these aircraft in the fight against Da’esh, please know that we are honored to partner with you.” Da’esh is an alternative Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

The ambassador said the helicopters will also help secure Jordan’s borders, which are currently being monitored with a U.S.-built electronic detection system.

After she spoke, one of the helicopters swooped low over the seven others parked on the tarmac.

U.S. officials said eight more Black Hawks of an upgraded type are to be delivered to Jordan by the end of 2017, as part of a U.S. military aid package of several hundred million dollars.

Wells said the U.S. has also expedited delivery of more than 26,000 rifles and machine guns, more than 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition, hundreds of bombs and 5,000 night vision devices to Jordan. AP

Stealthy Zumwalt to depart for builder trials on March 21

The first ship in a new class of destroyers that’s under construction at Maine’s Bath Iron Works is going to be heading back to sea later this month.

Sean J. Stackley, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, said Wednesday that the Zumwalt will depart on March 21. He made the remark at a meeting of the American Society of Naval Engineers outside Washington.

The 600-foot Zumwalt tasted the open ocean for the first time in December before returning to the shipyard for adjustments and repairs.

Capt. Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman, said the ship is on track to complete trials and to be delivered later this spring despite repairs that were necessary to one of the ship’s 12 propulsion motor drives after the previous outing. AP

U.S. Navy chief in Gulf gets report into Iran boat incident

The U.S. Navy says results of an internal investigation into how 10 American sailors entered Iranian territorial waters have been handed over to the commander overseeing the region for review.

Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said March 2 that fleet commander Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan received the findings on Sunday.

Stephens says that Donegan can endorse the report as is, add to or revise it, or call for further investigation within 30 days.

The sailors were detained while transferring their two small armed boats from Kuwait to Bahrain in January near Iran’s Farsi Island, which is in the middle of the Persian Gulf.

They were released unharmed less than a day later, but details of how they ended up in Iranian hands remain unclear. AP

Boeing sues U.S. over pollution at old Wichita aircraft plant

Boeing is suing the federal government over pollution at the company’s old aircraft plant in Wichita, Kansas.

A lawsuit filed March 2 in U.S. District Court in Kansas seeks to recover unspecified past and future costs for cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination at the facility.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the litigation.

Boeing contends it is entitled to recover costs for pollution associated with a period when the government owned the site, as well as a time between 1940 and 1979 when the government was actively involved in manufacturing activities.

Its lawsuit argues the government controlled military aircraft production and waste handling through regulations, contractual requirements, military specifications and inspections.

The company says the cleanup costs are necessary to address a threat to human health or the environment. AP

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