News Briefs – September 20, 2017

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U.S. veterans awarded France’s highest honor for WWII service

Ten California men who fought overseas with U.S. forces have been awarded the French government’s highest honor for their World War II service.

The veterans were each presented the National Order of the Legion of Honor during a ceremony Sept. 19 at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Among them was 94-year-old Sterling D. Ditchey, an Army Air Corps 1st lieutenant who flew 70 combat missions in Europe as a B-25 bombardier.

Ninety-five-year-old Ignacio Sanchez was part of 35 combat missions as a B-17 turret gunner.

The presentations were made by Christophe Lemoine, the consul general of France in Los Angeles.

Instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honor recognizes exceptional service to France. AP
 

Russian navy launches barrage of cruise missiles in drills

The Russian military says its warships have test-fired cruise missiles in an exercise that comes along with weeklong war games held by Russia and Belarus.

The Defense Ministry said Sept. 19 that the Northern Fleet’s flagship, the nuclear-powered Peter the Great missile cruiser, two nuclear submarines and a destroyer launched cruise missiles at mock targets. As part of the drills, crews also launched the Bastion anti-ship missiles.

The Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers began Sept. 14 at several firing ranges in Belarus and western Russia. They run through Wednesday.

Russia and Belarus kept the stated number of troops involved in the drills just below 13,000, a limit allowing them to dodge more intrusive inspections by NATO. They rejected claims by some NATO countries that estimated up to 100,000 troops could be involved. AP
 

Navy chief: budget cuts strain force amid ship crashes

The U.S. Navy’s top officer says that although commanders are ultimately responsible for problems leading to two recent fatal ship collisions — the spike in naval operations combined with budget shortfalls and uncertainty strained his force and made it difficult to do needed training and maintenance.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Navy has taken a series of steps to review safety standards, ship certifications and readiness of the force. The increased scrutiny includes ensuring that sailors are well qualified to stand watch and that commanders address “fatigue concerns” and make sure their forces get enough sleep.

Seventeen sailors were killed in two separate ship collisions in the Pacific in recent months, leading to the firing of six senior Navy officers. AP
 

Another major deal in defense sector as global tensions rise

Northrop Grumman is buying Orbital ATK for about $7.8 billion, with a backdrop of rising global tensions accelerating big deals in the defense sector.

Earlier this month, United Technologies said it would pay $22.75 billion for defense contractor Rockwell Collins.

Legislation is expected to pass easily Sept. 18 pumping $700 billion into the Pentagon budget as the U.S. responds to growing hostility from North Korea.

The U.S. military on Sept. 18 flew advanced bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula and near Japan, three days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan.

Saudi Arabia has a pending deal to acquire $500 million in precision-guided munitions from the U.S., part of a proposed $110 billion arms package to Riyadh, which is enmeshed in a civil war in Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition, which is supported by the United States, has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015.

The acquisition of Orbital would strengthen Northrop Grumman’s capabilities in military aircraft technology and missile defense. Orbital ATK makes launch vehicles and their propulsion systems, missile technology, defense electronics, precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition. It also builds up Northrop’s space operations with Orbital’s satellites and advanced aerospace structures.

Orbital ATK shareholders will receive $134.50 per share, a 22 percent premium to the company’s Friday closing price of $110.04. The deal’s total value is approximately $9.2 billion, including debt.

Shares of Orbital ATK surged 22 percent at the opening bell Sept. 18 in a year when the stock of most major defense contractors have hit all-time highs as clashes escalate.

Rockwell Collins, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Honeywell International Inc., have reached unprecedented heights in 2017.

Northrop Grumman Corp., which is based in Falls Church, Va., said that after the deal closes, Orbital ATK Inc., based in Dulles, Va., will become a separate sector within its business operations.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal and it’s expected to close in the first half of next year. AP