October 4, 2017

News Briefs – October 4, 2017

Navy confirms 2 dead as training plane crashes in Tennessee

An instructor and a student pilot died in the crash of a military training jet in southeastern Tennessee, U.S. Navy officials confirmed Oct. 2.

The T-45C Goshawk crashed the afternoon of Oct. 1 in Tellico Plains, Tenn., about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Knoxville.

Lt. Liz Feaster said the names of the two pilots who died are being withheld until 24 hours after family members are notified.

The Navy identified pilot Lt. Patrick Lawrence Ruth, 31, and student aviator, Lt. j.g. Wallace Eugene Burch, 25, as the two sailors who died in the crash. Ruth was from Metairie, La., and Burch hailed from Horn Lake, Miss.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director David Chambers estimated Oct. 1 that the crash in the Cherokee National Forest left a debris field at least a half mile (.8 kilometer) long. Rescuers were unable to reach the plane’s cockpit before suspending operations Sunday, Chambers told WATE-TV.

The plane was based at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi, part of one of five naval air training wings. Student pilots typically begin flying the T-45C after earlier training on a propeller aircraft.

In April, the Navy grounded its fleet of T-45C Goshawks amid reports of problems with the cockpit oxygen systems, later limiting them to low-altitude flights. Pilots said they were experiencing oxygen deprivation, prompting concerns from elected officials including U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican. The T-45 returned to regular use in July, after Navy officials said they had fixed the problem.

At least three other T-45Cs assigned to NAS Meridian have had mishaps in the last three years. A Goshawk assigned to Meridian skidded off the end of a runway in California on May 22, 2015, while the pilot was training to land on an aircraft carrier. The lone pilot was rescued from San Diego Bay by boaters. On Sept. 7, 2016, a jet crashed near the airfield at Meridian, with the student and instructor ejecting safely. Another Goshawk crashed Jan. 17 on the runway at NAS Meridian, with the pilots again ejecting safely. AP

Russia starts delivery of MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia

Russia on Oct. 2 started delivering six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia, part of Moscow’s promised military hardware that could worsen tensions in the war-weary Balkans.

Two of the warplanes were transported, disassembled, on a Russian cargo plane that landed at a military airport near Belgrade the afternoon of Oct. 2. All six are to arrive by Oct. 20, when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is expected in the Serbian capital.

Moscow is handing over the MiGs for free, but it’s estimated the overhaul of the secondhand aircraft will cost Serbia some 200 million euros ($235 million.)

Russia has also promised the delivery of 30 battle tanks and 30 armored vehicles to Serbia, which was at war with its neighbors Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that in addition to the jets, the country will boost its anti-aircraft defense. It has been negotiating the purchase of the Russian-made S-300 systems.

“We will continue to protect our freedom and independence,” Vucic said.

Serbia has been on the path to join the European Union, but under political and propaganda pressure from Moscow it has steadily slid toward the Kremlin and its goal of keeping Balkan countries out of NATO and other Western bodies.

Serbia is a member of the Western military alliance’s Partnership for Peace program.

A NATO official, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said “the defense equipment which NATO’s partners procure is a sovereign choice for those countries. There are no restrictions imposed by NATO.”

Serbia’s archrival, NATO-member Croatia, is shopping for a new fighter to replace the nation’s aging MiG-21s. The two leading contenders for the planned contract reportedly include Israeli version of American Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Swedish Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. AP

Iran and Iraq hold joint drill near Iraqi Kurdish region

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency is reporting that Iranian and Iraqi armed forces have held a joint military drill near the international borders of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.

The Oct. 2 report quotes Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the ground forces of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, as saying “Iran and Iraq have common enemies and they need to ensure the security of their own borders against threats.”

Iran has already closed its borders and stopped flights to Iraqi Kurdistan airports following a referendum on support for independence from Iraq Oct. 2.

Ahead of the vote, Iran’s army and Guard launched a military exercise in its northwestern Kurdish region. The army’s drill is ongoing and entering its third phase. AP

U.S. army chief says Russia war games broke observer rules

The U.S. Army’s commander in Europe says Russia broke up its Zapad war games with Belarus into parts to avoid having international monitors watch the weeklong exercises last month.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said Oct. 2 that the two countries deployed “way over 12,700” personnel, the limit beyond which Europe’s OSCE security organization should be allowed to send observers.

Hodges said, “My guess is that there probably were over 40,000 service members.”

He told reporters at NATO headquarters that Russia and Belarus “broke it up into all these little exercises” but that “these were all connected, because this was a whole of government effort.”

Russia’s defense ministry said the Zapad exercises would involve 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems and 10 warships. AP

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