News Briefs – March 18, 2016

Russian Air Force: Syria withdrawal to be complete in three days

The commander of the Russian Air Force says the withdrawal of the bulk of the Russian forces from Syria should be complete in two to three days.
Col.-Gen. Viktor Bondarev said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily March 17 that the Air Force aims to meet President Vladimir Putin’s deadline and pull out in the next two to three days.
On March 14, Putin announced the withdrawal of most of the Russian forces from Syria to end a five-and-a-half-month campaign there. The first group of bombers left for Russia on Tuesday. Moscow didn’t specify how many aircraft and troops would be withdrawn. It has not revealed how many soldiers it has deployed to Syria, but U.S. estimates of the number of Russian military personnel vary from 3,000 to 6,000. AP

German submarine builder warns Australia of Japanese risk

A German executive vying for a lucrative Australian submarine contract says awarding the contract to Japan could damage Australia’s relationship with China.
German’s ThysennKrupp Marine Systems, Japan’s Mitsubishi and French company DCNS are in the running to build 12 conventional submarines that the Australian navy expects will cost at least 56 billion Australian dollars ($43 billion).
Hans Atzpodien, the German company’s chairman, March 17 described the Japanese bid as a choice for Australia between its relationship with China, its biggest trading partner, and Japan, its second biggest partner.
Japanese defense officials argue that the military partnership between Japan and Australia will enhance peace and stability, especially maritime security, in the Asia-Pacific region amid China’s military buildup in the East and South China seas. AP

Army to station air defense unit at New Mexico missile range

The U.S. Army has chosen the largest military installation in the country to serve as home base for an air defense testing unit following a yearslong effort to increase the number of active-duty missions at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range.
The announcement was confirmed March 16 by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat who has been advocating for the range.
Heinrich described the 3,200-square mile installation as a national treasure due to its terrain, restricted airspace and expertise.
“At a time when Army installations across the country are facing reductions, adding a new mission to White Sands is a big deal,” Heinrich said.
The Pentagon’s proposed 2017 budget is largely flat. While slowing plans to buy fighter jets, Army helicopters and Marine vehicles, the nearly $650 billion request calls for increasing spending for cybersecurity and cutting-edge technologies.
The Air Defense Artillery Test Detachment will be made up of 143 soldiers. They’ll be supporting Army missile defense programs that work to put the best equipment in the hands of soldiers deployed around the world.
The missile range provides research and development testing for the U.S. Department of Defense — including the Army, Navy and Air Force — and private companies. It’s also the Army’s premier testing range for missile firings, laser research and for identifying vulnerabilities and developing countermeasures. AP

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