The Week Ahead in Defense: May 14, 2018

Flames and smoke rise from an Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane after it crashed near Savannah, Ga., Wednesday, May 2, 2018. (James Lavine via AP)
Flames and smoke rise from an Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane after it crashed near Savannah, Ga., Wednesday, May 2, 2018. (James Lavine via AP)

 

1. CLUES TO DEADLY CRASH

From Military.com’s Matthew Cox:

The recent C-130 crash that killed nine Air National Guard members may have been caused by one or both engines on the aircraft's left wing failing shortly after takeoff, veteran C-130 pilots say.

The Air Force's investigation into the May 2 crash of the Puerto Rican National Guard WC-130 near Savannah, Georgia, could take months to complete, but the rare video footage of the crash offered clues to experienced C-130 pilots such as Dusty Cook, a former Marine Corps major who flew the venerable four-engine, turboprop aircraft for more than 10 years.

"It looked like it was a critical engine failure ... like the number one engine failed and just this dynamic rollover," Cook told Military.com. "It looks like it lost lift and it lost power on the left side, and that is why I am assuming it was the number one engine.”

Pilots routinely train for emergency mishaps such as engine failure, so why did the plane roll over? Was it the age of the aircraft, which was on its retirement flight? Was it poor maintenance? Or was it somehow related to the massive defense spending cuts under sequestration, a crippling budgetary bind that so many generals warned against?

 

2. NAVY SPECOPS LEADERS SUSPENDED

From the Virginian-Pilot:

"Two leaders of a Virginia Beach-based naval special warfare unit currently deployed to Africa have been suspended from their overseas duties while the Navy investigates allegations of sexual misconduct, Lt. Jacqui Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said.

Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Marcus Hicks, commander of special operations in Africa, suspended the team's commanding officer and the command master chief, the senior enlisted sailor, on Thursday, Maxwell said. They have not been relieved of command.

… The personnel were assigned to a unit advising and assisting in operations against violent extremist operations in East Africa, primarily al-Shabab and the Islamic State in Somalia, Maj. Casey Osborne, a spokesperson for Special Operations Command Africa, said."

 

3. MARINES' DRONE BADGE UNVEILED

From Military.com:

The newest approved breast insignia for Marine officers and enlisted troops is here and ready to be worn.

This week, the Marine Corps unveiled the pair of badges. While Commandant Gen. Robert Neller approved the devices for wear last November, the badges were then still in the design phase, officials said at the time.

Unmanned aerial systems officers and enlisted operators joined the small community of Marines authorized to wear a breast insignia as part of a slate of decisions made by the Marine Corps Uniform Board late last year.

The decision followed the Pentagon's creation of an "R" distinguishing device on awards to honor contributions to battle from a remote location. The device is most commonly associated with drone operators.

 

4. COURT FIGHT OVER BURN PITS

Via the Associated Press:

"Veterans and their families asked a federal appeals court May 9 to reinstate dozens of lawsuits alleging that a government contractor caused health problems by using burn pits during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 60 lawsuits allege that KBR Inc. — a former Halliburton subsidiary — dumped tires, batteries, medical waste and other materials into open burn pits, creating harmful smoke that caused gastrointestinal illnesses, neurological problems, respiratory problems, cancers and other health issues in more than 800 service members.

The lawsuits, which were filed in multiple districts around the country and then consolidated, also alleged that at least 12 service members died from illnesses caused by the burn pits.

Last year, a judge in Maryland dismissed the lawsuits, finding that the U.S. military made all of the key decisions and had control over KBR's use and operation of burn pits. The lower court found that analyzing military decision-making during war is a political question not appropriate for judicial review.

In arguments before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a lawyer for the service members asked the court to reverse that ruling and allow the lawsuits to move forward."

 

5. NEW CHINESE CARRIER STARTS SEA TRIALS

Via the Associated Press:

"China's first entirely home-built aircraft carrier began sea trials Sunday in a sign of the growing sophistication of the country's domestic arms industry.

The still-unnamed ship left dock in the northern port of Dalian at 7:00 a.m. to 'test the reliability and stability of its propulsion and other system,' the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Liaoning provincial maritime safety bureau issued an order for shipping to avoid a section of ocean southeast of the city between Sunday and Friday.

The 50,000-ton carrier will likely be formally commissioned sometime before 2020 following the completion of sea trials and the arrival of its full air complement.

The new carrier is based on the former Soviet Union's Kuznetsov-class design, with a ski jump-style deck for taking off and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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