News Briefs – January 22, 2016

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China publicizes landing drills near Taiwan after elections

China has publicized recent live-fire landing exercises along the coast opposite Taiwan, days after the island elected an independence-leaning president.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s military channel said Jan. 212 the drills were held recently by the 31st army based in Xiamen, near the Taiwanese-held island of Kinmen.
It says they involved long-range rockets, self-propelled howitzers, amphibious tanks and helicopters.
The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond as to whether the drills were related to the Jan. 16 election that was won by Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party.
China routinely claims its exercises are planned well in advance and not timed to respond to specific events. However, the drills could be seen as a reminder of China’s threat to invade Taiwan should it ever declare formal independence. AP
 

Russia displays naval might off Syria’s Mediterranean coast

A Russian navy missile cruiser is on duty off Syria’s coast to help protect a Russian air base with an array of long-range missile systems.
On Jan. 21, the Russian military put its naval might in the eastern Mediterranean on display, taking a group of Moscow-based journalists on a rare visit to the Varyag cruiser.
The display of Russia’s military operations in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad comes ahead of planned peace talks Jan. 25 in Geneva, which are meant to pave the way for a political settlement for Syria.
To reach the cruiser, journalists boarded a Russian destroyer in Tartus, where Russia has had a supply and repair facility for its ships in the Mediterranean since Soviet times. It’s now the only such support facility outside the former Soviet Union. AP
 

Bahrain’s Gulf Air announces order of 19 new Airbus aircraft

Bahrain’s state-run Gulf Air announced Jan. 21 it will purchase 19 new Airbus aircraft worth a listed value of $2.35 billion, part of its effort to compete in the region’s race between carriers.
The Airbus announcement came at the start of the three-day Bahrain Air Show, which also saw an announced upgrade to a previous Boeing order.
In recent years, Gulf carriers including Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have begun to dominate international long-haul routes between the East and West, leaving Gulf Air largely behind.
The Jan. 21 deal will see Gulf Air purchase 17 A321neos and two A320neos. The planes are worth $2.35 billion at list prices, though carriers are typically able to negotiate discounts.
Gulf Air said in a statement it currently operates 28 Airbus aircraft in its fleet and that the “new aircraft will fit seamlessly into the airline’s current fleet.”
“This restructured order meets Gulf Air’s future fleet requirement and our network expansion plans,” Gulf Air CEO Maher Salman al-Musallam said.
Europe’s Airbus SA, based in Toulouse, France, also welcomed the deal. It said earlier this month it had exceeded its targets in 2015, taking in 1,036 net orders and delivering 635 jets to airlines and other buyers.
Also Jan. 21, Gulf Air announced it would upgrade a previous order for 16 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners to 787-9s, planes valued at $4.2 billion. It did not disclose the value of the previous deal. AP