News Briefs – April 18, 2018


Memorial held for Thunderbirds pilot killed in crash

SANTA CLARITA, Calif.–Fighter jets flew overhead in the missing-man formation during a Southern California memorial for a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds pilot who was killed in a crash during training.
Family, friends and fellow pilots remembered Maj. Stephen Del Bagno during the gathering Sunday at Saugus High School, his alma mater.
His father, Joe, spoke of Del Bagno’s pride in being part of the Air Force and a fellow member of the flight demonstration team praised his skills.
The 34-year-old Del Bagno died April 4 when his F-16 Fighting Falcon known as Thunderbird 4 crashed in the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Nellis Air Force Base.
Del Bagno’s name will be added to a wall at his high school that honors heroes. AP

Navy: Training jet flew too low – for thrills – before crash

The Navy is citing pilot error for a military training jet crash in Tennessee that killed the two aboard, saying it was being flown for thrills and too low.
Navy officials say in a report the T-45C Goshawk was flying below allowable altitudes last October when it plunged into woods near Tellico Plains, Tenn.
The crash killed 31-year-old instructor Lt. Patrick Ruth from Metairie, La., and 25-year-old student pilot Lt. j.g. Wallace Burch from Horn Lake, Miss. Both were stationed at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi.
The report cites a “culture” within the individual training unit and Naval air training at large that allowed pilots to fly “beyond the bounds” of approved Naval Air Training Command curriculum. It also says leadership failed to ensure training operations adhered to approved publications. AP

Judge: Lawsuit against military transgender ban to continue

A federal judge in Seattle has ordered President Donald Trump not to take any action barring transgender troops from serving in the military, finding that it’s unclear whether recent tweaks to his administration’s policy are constitutional.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman was one of four federal judges around the country who late last year blocked the president from overturning an Obama-era directive allowing transgender troops to serve openly. The Justice Department asked her to dissolve that injunction as moot, citing changes to the policy that would allow transgender troops to serve in some cases.
In an order April 13, Pechman said that because the tweaks were announced just last month, the parties had not had time to argue about whether the policy is unconstitutionally discriminatory or whether the military is entitled to deference.
Pechman ordered the parties to prepare for trial. AP

Refugee policy general named next Australian defense chief

An Australian army general who led a secretive military operation to stop asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat has been named the country’s next defense force chief.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said April 16 that Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell will replace Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin as chief of the Australian Defense Force in July. Binskin will retire after four years in the top job.
Campbell came to public attention as the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, an operation a newly elected conservative government established in 2013 to stop thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia from reaching Australian shores in rickety Indonesian fishing boats at a rate of 37 boats a month.
No asylum seeker boat has reached Australia since July 2014. AP

Russia threatens to freeze cooperation with U.S.

Russian lawmakers have submitted a wide-ranging bill that could freeze crucial exports to the United States.
The bill, which was drafted by leading lawmakers at the State Duma in response to the new round of U.S. sanctions announced last week, proposes a wide range of restrictions for U.S. businesses in Russia and for cooperation with the U.S. Among them is a proposal to ban or restrict titanium exports that are crucial for U.S. aircraft maker Boeing.
Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told Russian news agencies that the bill could be put up for vote this week.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on April 13 that the Kremlin has yet to see the bill and come up with its decision on it. AP