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Iran Press TV

Sen. McCain vows to ban use of Russian rocket engines

Iran Press TV

Thu Jan 28, 2016 7:38AM

US Senator John McCain has said he plans to introduce legislation to reinstate restrictions on the use of Russian rocket engines for US military space launch.

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, rebuked senior Pentagon officials who sought to defend the use of Russian rocket engines to send US military satellites into space.

However, Air Force Secretary Deborah James and the Pentagon acquisition chief, Frank Kendall, reassured the frustrated lawmakers on Wednesday that they were moving quickly to rely more on American-made rockets for the launches.

McCain, his voice rising at times, said using the $30-million Russian RD-180 engine was enriching President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, and putting US national security in danger.

'So we now have senior Russian politicians, friends of Vladimir Putin, that are making tens of millions dollars in the pass-through money that is paid for the Russian rocket engines,' McCain said, asking the Air Force secretary whether she found that disturbing.

James answered affirmatively, but added she could not be certain whether any Russian officials were benefiting from the sales.

McCain said he would introduce the legislation on Thursday to repeal a provision-- tucked into a $1.1 trillion spending bill–that allows the purchase and use of rocket engines manufactured by a Russian company.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The US Congress banned the use of the RD-180 rocket engine for military use as part of a series of sanctions against Russia imposed over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

However, US lawmakers weakened the curb late last year, worrying that it could drive United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, out of business.

Shortly after the ban was loosened, ULA announced that it had ordered 20 new RD-180 rocket engines from Russia on top of 29 engines it had ordered the previous year.

The Russian engines would be used to lift off the Atlas-5 rockets until a new American-made engine was developed and certified, ULA said at the time.

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