In Brief: U.S. Drone ‘Brought Down’; F-35 Update; Coast Guard’s Cruise Ship Drama

Mike O'Brien

A SUSPECTED U.S. drone has crashed in the southern Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, according to reports on Tuesday.

The al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab said on Twitter that an American unmanned aircraft had come down near a town under its control.

A regional governor said that fighters had shot at it for several hours before it came down, the BBC reports.

The U.S. uses drones in Somalia to support the Somali government and African Union (AU) forces as they battle al-Shabab. The US Africa Command has yet to confirm the reports.

CONGRESS HASordered the Pentagon to put together an independent team of experts to review the development of software for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee asked the Pentagon to submit a report by March 3, 2014. The F-35 software program has proved to be one of the largest challenges for program engineers to keep on schedule.

"The committee continues to support the F-35 development and procurement program, and believes a software development review by the Department will ensure that the F-35 program remains on schedule to provide a fifth generation capability in support of our national security strategy," the Congressional order states.

Joe DellaVedova, the F-35 program office spokesman, said: "This is complicated and labor intensive work but this has leadership focus from industry and government to deliver on the promise of the F-35.

"With its stealth and its enhanced situational awareness, the F-35 will provide a backbone for our forces for generations to come. Our progress continues at a slow and steady pace and we are focused on completing things within the schedule and budget we’ve been given."

THE MIAMICoast Guard responded to a fire aboard the 917-foot cruise ship, Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas, 35 nautical miles northwest of West End, Bahamas, on Monday.

The fire reportedly began on the third deck of the aft mooring area of the ship and spread to the fourth deck crew lounge area. On board was 2,224 passengers and 796 crew members. The fire was extinguished by the ship's fire response crew.

The Coast Guard issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast (UMIB), diverted three cutters and launched an Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and an Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk to respond.

The Cutter Cormorant and the Cutter Yered escorted the Grandeur of the Seas to Freeport, Bahamas, where it is still moored for further evaluation. There were no reports of injuries onboard the ship.

The ship was on a seven-night cruise that began last week in Baltimore, Maryland.