News Briefs – August 10, 2020

India to ban imports of 101 items of military equipment

India said Aug. 9 that it will ban the imports of 101 items of military equipment in an effort to boost local production and improve self-reliance in weapons manufacturing.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said the government is planning to progressively implement the embargo on select military imports between this year and 2024.
The military equipment includes some high technology weapon systems and range from assault rifles and artillery to transport aircraft and light combat helicopters, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“Our aim is to apprise the Indian defence industry about the anticipated requirements of the Armed Forces so that they are better prepared to realise the goal of indigenisation,” Singh wrote on Twitter. “This is a big step towards self-reliance in defence.”
In May, India announced that global companies could invest up to 74 percent in the country’s defense manufacturing units, up from 49%, without requiring any government approval. It was hoped the new policy would attract foreign companies with high-end technologies to set up their bases in the country in collaboration with local industries.
The government then announced that India would stop importing weapons that can be made domestically, in line with the vision to make the Indian economy self-reliant amid the coronavirus crisis.
India, a major buyer of military equipment, had depended largely on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. But it has been diversifying its purchases by opting for U.S. equipment as well.
During President Donald Trump’s visit in February, the two countries signed a deal for India to buy more than $3 billion in advanced military equipment, including helicopters.
India was the third-biggest military spender in the world last year after the U.S and China, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report released in April. AP

Shipyard, union reach tentative deal to end strike in Maine

Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works and production workers reached a tentative agreement to end a strike that has stretched on for more than a month during a pandemic, officials announced Aug. 8. Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, is located in Bath, Maine.
The proposal, which was unanimously endorsed by the union’s negotiating team, will be put forth to the 4,300 members of Machinists Local S6 later this month, said Jay Wadleigh, a district union official.
A federal mediator helped to bring the two sides together on subcontracting, seniority and work rules. The tentative agreement, reached late Aug. 7, retains the company’s proposal for annual wage increases of 3 percent over three years, along with some health care improvements, Wadleigh said.
“It preserves our subcontracting process, protects seniority provisions and calls for a collaborative effort to get back on schedule,” he said.
Voting on the proposal will take place online and via telephone from Aug. 21-23.
Production workers went on strike June 22 after overwhelmingly rejecting the company’s final offer. The strike dragged on for more than six weeks. Frustration at the shipyard — a subsidiary of General Dynamics that builds guided-missile destroyers for the U.S. Navy — had been building among workers since the last contract in which the Machinists accepted concessions that were deemed necessary to win a U.S. Coast Guard contract — and save shipbuilding jobs.
Bath Iron Works lost that contract to another shipyard in 2016. It also lost a lucrative competition for Navy frigates in late April. Shipbuilders contended production workers shouldn’t shoulder the cost for problems they blame on mismanagement. AP

Russia warns it will see any incoming missile as nuclear

Russia will perceive any ballistic missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation, the military warned in an article published Aug. 7.
The harsh warning in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda is directed at the United States, which has worked to develop long-range non-nuclear weapons.
The article follows the publication in June of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to what could be a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.
In the Krasnaya Zvezda article, senior officers of the Russian military’s General Staff, Maj.-Gen. Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin, noted that there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as a nuclear attack.
“Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead,” the article said. “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”
The argument reflects Russia’s longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons.
In line with Russian military doctrine, the new nuclear deterrent policy reaffirmed that the country could use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or an aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.”
The policy document offered a detailed description of situations that could trigger the use of nuclear weapons, including the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies.
In addition to that, the document states for the first time that Russia could use its nuclear arsenal if it receives “reliable information” about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting its territory or its allies and also in the case of “enemy impact on critically important government or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the incapacitation of which could result in the failure of retaliatory action of nuclear forces.”
U.S.-Russia relations are at post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the accusations of Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election and other differences. AP

FAA: Boeing pressured safety workers at SC aircraft plant

Federal officials are seeking to fine Boeing $1.25 million, saying Aug. 5 that company managers pressured employees who were designated to perform safety-related work for the government at an aircraft factory in South Carolina.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that over a nearly two-year period, Boeing managers pressured employees to inspect a plane before it was ready, harassed inspectors to speed up, and threatened to replace them.
Sometimes managers at the plant in North Charleston waited outside a plane to keep track of how long it took safety-unit members to perform inspections, the agency said.
And Boeing retaliated against a safety-unit manager for complaining about undue pressure by not interviewing the “highly qualified manager” for a promotion, the FAA said in an enforcement letter to Boeing officials.
Chicago-based Boeing said it investigated the allegations, reported them to the FAA, and took corrective action.
The proposed civil penalties “are a clear and strong reminder of our obligations,” company spokesman Peter Pedraza said in a statement. “Undue pressure of any type is inconsistent with our values and will not be tolerated.”
For decades, the FAA has relied on employees of aircraft manufacturers to carry out some safety-related tests and analysis. The approach saves the government money, but it has come under scrutiny in Congress since two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets, which are built at a separate plant near Seattle.
Some lawmakers say letting company employees do safety analysis amounts to self-regulation, and Congress is considering changes in the FAA’s use and oversight of those company employees.
Boeing has 30 days to respond to the FAA proposal to levy civil penalties. Companies often negotiate to reduce or eliminate the fines.
The FAA lodged two complaints against Boeing. The first, for which the agency is seeking a penalty of $1.07 million, deals with how Boeing set up its program for having designated employees carry out safety functions on behalf of the FAA. They do inspections and issue certificates when a plane meets safety standards. They are supposed to be independent from other company workers.
The FAA said that from November 2017 to July 2019, Boeing employees in two different units at the South Carolina plant reported to managers who were not approved for those jobs and weren’t in position to look out for the FAA’s interests. Workers were subjected to undue pressure or interference by at least four managers, including a vice president, the FAA said in a letter to Boeing officials.
The FAA proposed a smaller civil penalty, $184,522, for an event in February in which “Boeing managers exerted undue pressure or interfered with” employees who were conducting a final inspection of a Boeing 787-9 jetliner before it left the factory.
The plane was being held up while safety employees tried to verify that a nonworking light had been repaired according to instructions. An employee for subcontractor Safran who did the work didn’t have the instructions and drawings but made a false log entry indicating they did, according to FAA. The agency faulted Boeing for not ensuring the work was done properly. AP

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