News

December 20, 2017
 

News Briefs – December 20, 2017

UK’s newest, most expensive aircraft carrier needs repair

The British navy’s newest and most expensive aircraft carrier needs repairs after a faulty shaft seal was identified during sea trials.

Officials say the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which cost roughly 3 billion pounds ($4 billion) to build, will be “scheduled for repair” at Portsmouth.

Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Dec. 19 the repairs wouldn’t be paid for by taxpayers because contractors who built the ship would be responsible.

A Royal Navy statement says the problem won’t prevent the ship from sailing or interfere with the extensive sea trials program underway.
Queen Elizabeth II earlier this month attended the commissioning ceremony of the carrier, which is named after the monarch. AP
 

U.S. forces carry out airstrike against extremists in Somalia

The U.S. military’s Africa command says its forces conducted an airstrike against Islamic extremists in Somalia last week, approximately 30 miles northwest of Kismayo, killing eight militants and destroying one vehicle.

In its statement released Dec. 18, the U.S. Africa Command said that it assess no civilians were killed in the strike.

The statement said U.S. forces will continue to use “all authorized and appropriate measures” to protect U.S. citizens and to disable extremist threats. This includes partnering with the multinational African force in Somalia and the Somali National Security Forces to attack the extremist rebels of al-Shabab, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the East African region.

Al-Shabab is allied to al Qaeda and has been fighting for years to impose Shariah law in Somalia. AP
 

Man detained after incident at UK base used by U.S. Air Force

A Royal Air Force base in Britain used by the U.S. Air Force was briefly locked down and a man was taken into custody after a disturbance Dec. 18, police said. American service members fired shots, according to county police.

No one was injured other than the detained man, who had cuts and bruises. The nature of the disturbance was unclear, though British media reported that a car tried to ram the gates.

The U.S. has air-refueling assets stationed at the RAF Mildenhall base in Suffolk, about 80 miles north of London.

The base is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 100th Air Refueling Wing, which is responsible for American refueling operations across Europe. Other units, including the 501st Combat Support Wing, the 352nd Special Operations Wing and the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron are also stationed there.

The Pentagon urged all individuals near the base to avoid it, but the lockdown was lifted about an hour after the incident started. AP
 

China’s warplanes hold drill near Japan, South Korea, Taiwan

China sent several warplanes Dec. 18 on a long-range drill to the Sea of Japan, prompting South Korea to scramble fighter jets in response.

Chinese air force spokesman Shen Jinke said the air force dispatched bombers, fighters and reconnaissance planes through the Tsushima Strait to “test its ocean combat ability.”

Shen said in a statement that it was the first time the Chinese air force has flown through the strait that lies between South Korea and Japan and leads to the Sea of Japan.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said five Chinese warplanes entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone.

Self-ruled Taiwan’s military says China’s air force held a separate drill the morning of Dec. 18 through the Bashi Channel separating Taiwan from the Philippines. AP
 

SpaceX capsule back at space station with pre-Christmas haul

A recycled SpaceX capsule is back at the International Space Station, just in time for Christmas.

NASA astronauts used the space station’s big robot arm to grab the Dragon capsule out of orbit Dec. 17. It’s the second visit for this particular supply ship, which made a delivery for NASA back in 2015 as well, and only the second time a Dragon has had a repeat performance 250 miles up.

“It’s a great day to see Dragon back at ISS again,” Mission Control radioed.

Replied spaceman Joe Acaba: “It’s a beautiful spacecraft, and we’re looking forward to digging into it and getting some science on board.”

Acaba assisted Mark Vande Hei in capturing the Dragon as the two spacecraft raced over the Pacific, midway between Australia and New Guinea. Flight controllers in Houston then took over, securing the capsule to its berthing spot just over two hours later.

SpaceX launched the Dragon from Cape Canaveral Dec. 15, using a previously flown Falcon rocket. It was the first time SpaceX had flown a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on top, at the heart of the company’s effort to drive down launch costs.

The Dragon holds nearly 5,000 pounds of station goods, including lab mice and barley seeds, the latter a Budweiser experiment. The beer maker — eager to serve the first brews on Mars — wants to see how well the 20 barley seeds sprout in weightlessness.

As for Christmas presents, NASA isn’t saying, in true Santa style.

But NASA did share that it electronically sent up a copy of the newly released “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” movie Dec. 15, as a special holiday treat for the astronauts.

The two Americans and one Russian on board were joined Dec. 19 by another trio — U.S., Russian and Japanese — who launched earlier Dec. 17 from Kazakhstan.

SpaceX plans to keep its Dragon at the orbiting outpost until mid-January. The Dragon is the only supply ship capable of returning experiments to Earth; all the others burn up on re-entry.

NASA has been relying on commercial shippers SpaceX and Orbital ATK to keep the space station well-stocked, ever since the shuttles retired in 2011. Russia also has a fleet of cargo carriers. AP




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