In Brief: Navy’s Next-Gen Amphib; F-35 Victory; Oklahoma Relief

Mike O'Brien

THE U.S. NAVY is getting ready for final tests for the amphibious assault ship America (LHA-6), the first of 11 next-generation "America-class" hybrid-electric amphibs that will enter the fleet.

The USS America is now nearly 90 percent complete at a Huntington Ingalls Industries facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and is expected to begin work in September 2016.

The America-class amphibs are built to accommodate next-gen Naval and Marine Corps air assets, including the MV-22 Osprey helicopter, the Vertical Take-off-and-Landing Harrier Jet and short variant of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, reports.

The America and the next amphib, Tripoli, will also carry the CH-53 Sea Stallion, MH-60 Sea Hawk and AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopters.

A HOUSE panel on Wednesday voted against a measure that would have placed restrictions on the budget of the controversial F-35 fighter program.

During a House Armed Services Committee mark up of its 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, Rep. Tammy Duckworth offered an amendment that would have temporarily locked the program’s funding.

The fighter program has been plagued for years by technical problems and hefty cost spikes and in a cost-cutting measure, Ms. Duckworth proposed prohibiting the Air Force and Navy departments from buying and F-35s or F-135 engines.

But Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio, said the amendment would cause another one-year delay and further drive up costs. Fifty-one members voted against it, with just 10 voting in favor.

THE AIR Force has announced it will cancel furloughs for civilian employees who were affected by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Workers at the Tinker Air Force Base whose homes were destroyed or left uninhabitable by the tornadoes of May 20 and 31 will be exempted from the unpaid time off, which is due to kick in on July 8 for 680,000 DoD employees.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said: "This is the right thing to do. Despite some facing devastating personal circumstances, our Oklahoma-based civilian employees have shown their resilience time and time again. The least we can do is remove this additional burden."

Tinker public affairs director Ralph Monson said 350 military service members and civilian employees lost their homes or were displaced due to damage.