News Briefs – December 7, 2019

Company to pay $1M for selling Army subpar grenade launchers

A Colorado weapons manufacturer has agreed to a $1 million settlement for allegedly shipping subpar grenade launchers to the U.S Army.
U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said Dec. 3 that Capco, based in Grand Junction, Colo., supplied the Army with M320 grenade launchers between July 2016 and March 2018 even though company officials knew the barrels did not meet specifications. Prosecutors say the company also knew that two shipments included launchers with firing pins made of the wrong type of steel but did not tell the Army.
Capco did not admit any liability in the settlement and released a statement Tuesday saying it has no reason to believe its products were unsafe or ineffective.
The government was alerted to the concerns about Capco’s production process by a man who was a quality engineer at the company. AP

Most Marines won’t face criminal trials in California probe

Most of the Marines who were labeled as criminals in front of their colleagues at Camp Pendleton after a human smuggling probe won’t go to court.
The Marine Corps announced Dec. 3 that six Marines have pleaded guilty to various charges in courts-martial but 13 will be dealt with administratively and allowed to leave the service.
The Marines were pulled from formation at the Southern California camp in July. That came after two other Marines were arrested at a San Diego border checkpoint with three Mexican passengers in their car.
Some Marines in formation were berated and handcuffed on suspicion of crimes ranging from human trafficking to drug and weapons charges.
But last month a military judge said the public arrests violated their rights, putting the criminal cases in jeopardy. AP

U.S. warship seizes suspected Iran missile parts set for Yemen

A Navy warship has seized a “significant cache” of suspected Iranian guided missile parts headed to rebels in Yemen, U.S. officials said Wednesday, marking the first time that such sophisticated components have been taken en route to the war there.
The seizure from a small boat by the U.S. Navy and a U.S. Coast Guard boarding team happened last Nov. 27 in the northern Arabian Sea, and the weapons have been linked to Iran.
Officials said the incident illustrates the continuing illegal smuggling of weapons to Houthi rebels and comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were meeting, with Iran as the main topic.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive military mission.
The U.S. has consistently accused Iran of illegally smuggling arms to Houthi rebels battling the Yemeni government and has seized smaller and less sophisticated weapons in transit.
According to officials, the USS Forrest Sherman was conducting routine maritime operations when sailors noticed a small wooden boat that was not displaying a country flag. The Navy and Coast Guard personnel stopped, boarded the boat for inspection and found the weapons.
Officials did not provide the exact number of missiles or parts but did describe it as a significant cache. They said the small boat was towed into port, and the people on the boat were transferred to the Yemeni Coast Guard. The weapons are still on board the U.S. ship.
Smuggling weapons into Yemen is a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution. AP

Boeing delays crew capsule test flight to space station

Boeing has delayed its first test flight of its Starliner crew capsule to the International Space Station.
The launch is now targeted for Dec. 19.
NASA said Dec. 3 that the two-day postponement was caused by problems with ground equipment at the Cape Canaveral pad. Both the Starliner and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket are healthy, officials said.
It will be the first trip to space by a Starliner. No astronauts will be aboard. Instead, a mannequin loaded with sensors and named Rosie — after World War II’s Rosie the Riveter — will occupy the commander’s seat.
SpaceX conducted a similar test flight of its Dragon crew capsule in March.
The two companies expect to start launching astronauts to the space station for NASA next year. It will be the first time since the end of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011 that U.S. astronauts rocket into orbit from home soil.
NASA astronauts have been riding Russian rockets to the space station, for tens of millions of dollars per seat, while awaiting the repeatedly delayed commercial crew vehicles.
SpaceX’s crew Dragon is a much enhanced version of its cargo Dragon, which has been delivering supplies to the space station since 2012. AP

United buying 50 Airbus jets to replace older Boeing planes

United Airlines will replace some of its older Boeing planes with 50 new Airbus jets starting in 2024.
Chicago-based United announced Dec. 3 that it placed an order for Airbus A321XLR jets, a long-range version of the European company’s single-aisle A321neo. They will eventually replace United’s 53 Boeing 757-200s.
Terms weren’t released. United also will delay delivery of larger Airbus A350s.
The decision is a setback for Boeing, which is also based in Chicago and is reeling from the grounding of its 737 Max jets after two deadly crashes.
United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella says the Max doesn’t have the range of the A321XLR and Boeing hasn’t decided whether to build a new mid-size plane.
He says United will use the Airbus jets mostly between the East Coast and Europe. AP

Ryanair closing two bases due to Boeing plane grounding

Europe’s busiest airline, budget carrier Ryanair, says it is closing bases in Nuremberg, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden, because of delays to deliveries of Boeing 737 Max airplanes, which have been grounded for months over safety concerns.
The company said in a statement Dec. 4 that it now expects to receive 10 aircraft rather than the 20 previously planned.
As a consequence, the low-cost carrier is predicting passenger traffic will drop from 157 million to 156 million.
The company says it expects to cut summer capacity in a number of other existing bases and is currently “in discussions with our people, our unions, and our affected airports to finalize these minor reductions.”
The Boeing plane has been grounded globally after two fatal crashes. AP