Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Northrop Grumman Distances Shipbuilding

Northrop Grumman,one of the main U.S. shipbuilders,is reflecting on its role as shipbuilder to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.Frankly,the contractor no longer seems to be comfortable with that role.CEO Wes Bush says that shipbuilding has little synergy with Northrop's other activities.He feels it may be time to spin the division off,while the rest of the company focuses on high tech information systems,electronic systems and aerospace systems projects.Shipbuilding may be a bit too boilerplate for Northrop at this point,especially in light of likely defense budget constraints in the offing.
In any event,Northrop is making major moves at its shipyards.It is laying off 642 workers at its Pascagoula,Mississippi shipyard by the end of the year,following a previous layoff of 400;decided to close its Avondale,Louisiana shipyard entirely in 2013;and will also shut its small shipyard in Tallulah,Louisiana down by year's end.The closures are attributed to the timing of contracts and the cyclical nature of shipbuilding.The consolidation will reduce future costs,increase efficiency and address shipbuilding overcapacity,Wes Bush stated.
The company has been promoting its unmanned systems division,as well as its participation in the Navy's CANES,or Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program,which involves moving critical data seamlessly over a common network system through expert integration,making the fleet more agile.
Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Honors:Specialist Faith R. Hinkley

A former high school cheerleader and National Honor Society member,Specialist Faith R. Hinkley,U.S. Army,23,died on 7 August during a rocket attack in Iskandariya,Iraq.Specialist Hinkley,the latest of more than two dozen female service members to die in the Iraq War,was killed by shrapnel as she and two comrades attempted to take shelter in a bunker when their office came under militant attack.
A Human Intelligence Collector with the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion,201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord,Washington,Specialist Hinkley was a native of Monte Vista,Colorado,and the second resident of that town to be killed in the Iraq War.The first was U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Glen R. Martinez.Specialist Hinkley had enlisted in August,2007 after studying for a year at the University of Colorado,surprising those who knew her.She had received the National Defense Service Medal,Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon,and was to return home in about a month.Her brigade had deployed to Iraq last September.It was her first deployment.
Corporal Martinez died in May,2008 when the Humvee he was riding in struck a roadside bomb near Fallujah.Monte Vista is a small farm town of 4300 in Southern Colorado's San Luis Valley.
As of 24 August,4407 U.S. service members had died in the Iraq War,according to the Defense Department.U.S. combat operations in Iraq have formally ended,but training and advice missions will continue for some time in support of the young democracy,as will special forces counterterrorism activity.Iraq will remain an unpredictable and dangerous posting,regardless of one's military operational specialty or location.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Early Signs

Some early signs of seasonal change are appearing in the Mid-Atlantic region.One of them is fall webworm.This relatively harmless insect,the caterpillar of a moth,drapes its webs over leaves beginning in the middle of August.Another sign is premature turning.Here and there,isolated leaves are changing color,shutting down early because of stress-especially dryness.Ragweed,a native plant that causes allergic reactions,is popping up now.Fortunately,it is shallowly rooted and easily pulled.Old field aster and Canada goldenrod have matured,but may not be quite ready to bloom.Small acorns are becoming noticeable on oak branches.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pakistan Relief Ops Begin

Two helicopters from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed from the USS Peleilu(LHA 5)to participate in relief operations for victims of monsoon flooding in Pakistan.They were the first of 19 Marine and Navy helicopters that have been detailed to the mission.
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group will deploy to Pakistan in late August with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.Its sailors and Marines will provide supplies,transportation and support to the flooded areas along with the Pakistan military.This group is based on the USS Kearsarge(LHD 3).
The Peleilu and the Kearsarge are amphibious assault ships.Besides landing craft,each can carry dozens of aircraft,from helicopters to AV-8B Harrier II jump jets.With a ship's company of about 1,000,they can transport around 2,000 Marines and their gear anywhere in the world.Northrop Grumman builds them,and is working on the first of the new America class of amphibious assault ship,scheduled for delivery in 2013.
The situation in Pakistan is grave,being described as worse than the Haiti earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami combined.Thousands were killed,but millions are homeless.Disease is spreading.The Pakistani people have welcomed aid from U.S. servicemembers,but militants are discouraging it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Navy Helo Thwarts Attack

A Navy helicopter broke up a pirate attack on the merchant ship Ice Explorer early on Monday morning,the NATO defence alliance revealed.The ship,which was in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia,radioed a mayday when the crew spotted suspicious activity.The USS Kauffman(FFG 59)dispatched the helicopter,and the pirates dumped weapons and other items into the sea when they realized they'd been detected.A Navy boarding party seized some of the pirates' gear.
The Ice Explorer's alert crew was pivotal to the successful outcome,a Navy officer said.They caught the pirates in the act before it was too late.At least 17 ships and several hundred mariners are currently being held by Somali pirates,who demand millions of dollars of ransom for their release.NATO,as well as Russia,China and India have been staging naval patrols off the Somali coast for some time,with mixed results.Even when prates have been apprehended,there is often nowhere to send them and they are released.
The USS Kauffman is an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate.It can carry two Seahawk helicopters.Displacing 4100 tons,the relatively small warship can cruise at 29 knots.
The 9 August incident closely resembles several other engagements between Somali pirates and naval helicopters in recent years.Confronted with military opposition,the pirates seldom resist.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Little To Mow

The Mid-Atlantic region is in various stages of drought.It's not a good summer for those in the lawn-mowing business,as the grass has been dormant for many weeks now.Nor can it be good for lawn application vendors,since there isn't a real lawn to apply anything to.The lawns are just barely alive brown thatches.
There are a good number of butterflies around,though.Swallowtails of various types seem especially abundant this year.Perhaps they're ranging farther because of the arid conditions.They may be searching extensively for their favored plants or water.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Coast Guard Marks 220th Birthday

The U.S. Coast Guard was established by the Treasury Department as the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August,1790.This armed 10-ship force policed maritime trade,collecting tariffs and arresting smugglers.In 1915,the RCS absorbed the U.S. Lifesaving Service and assumed the Coast Guard name.The U.S. Lighthouse Service was added in 1939,as was the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1942.
The Coast Guard's homeland security responsibilities grew markedly in the wake of the 9-11 attacks,and it has always served alongside,or even within,the U.S. Navy in our nation's wars.Since 2003,six Coast Guard cutters and more than 400 personnel have been detailed to the Persian Gulf for various security and training assignments related to the Iraq War.
All told,the Coast Guard has 11 core missions,from icebreaking to fisheries enforcement and national defense.Special attention is paid to defending Washington,D.C. from terrorist attack,whether by patrols with the 25-foot Response Boat-Smalls on the Potomac River,or by Dolphin helicopters armed with machine guns and .50-caliber Precision Fire Weapons.
Strong efforts are underway to prevent the Coast Guard's budget from being cut,given the multitude of vital tasks the service performs today as in the past.