News Briefs – August 16, 2019

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U.S. says it’s consulting on Asian missile deployment

A senior U.S. diplomat says Washington is consulting with its allies as it proceeds with plans to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Asia, a move China says it will respond to with countermeasures.
Washington has said it plans to place such weapons in the Asia-Pacific following the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The U.S. accused the other treaty signatory, Russia, of cheating by developing weapons systems banned under the treaty. However, many analysts say Washington has long sought to deploy intermediate-range missiles to counter China’s growing arsenal.
In a conference call Aug. 13, State Department Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Andrea Thompson said governments would decide whether or not to host such missiles.
“That’s a sovereign decision to be made by the leaders of those governments,” Thompson said. “Any decision made in the region will be done in consultation with our allies — this is not a U.S. unilateral decision.”
U.S. mutual defense treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Australia are considered the prime missile base candidates, although Beijing has warned that any nation that accepts such an arrangement will face retribution, likely in the form of an economic boycott or similar sanctions. AP
 

Russian fighter wards off NATO jet nearing minister’s plane

A Russian fighter jet warded off a NATO military aircraft that approached a passenger plane carrying Russia’s defense minister Aug. 13, according to media reports in Russia.
State-owned news channel Rossiya 24 broadcast a video of the in-flight encounter over the Baltic Sea shortly after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu returned to Moscow from a visit to Russia’s westernmost Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
The footage showed a Russian Su-27 maneuvering to drive off an F-18 fighter that flew close to the minister’s plane.
Russian news agencies carried a NATO statement saying warplanes of the Western military alliance moved to identify a Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea without knowing Shoigu was on it.
A similar incident occurred in 2017, when a Polish F-16 fighter approached Shoigu’s plane over the Baltic Sea and a Russian jet pushed it away.
There have been frequent encounters between Russian and NATO aircraft in recent years as both sides have increased military patrols amid growing tensions.
Some of the encounters trigger mutual accusations of pilots performing unsafe maneuvers. AP
 

Airbus extends lead over Boeing in 2019 airliner deliveries

Airbus is stretching its lead over Boeing in aircraft deliveries as Boeing continues to be held back by the grounding of its 737 Max.
Chicago-based Boeing said Aug. 13 it delivered 19 planes in July, down from 39 in July 2018. It also reported that it received no new orders for the Max in July — the fourth straight month without an order.
European rival Airbus reported 69 deliveries last month, including 52 A320neo and A321neo jets that compete with the Max.
This year through July, Boeing has delivered 258 airliners. That’s down 38 percent from a year earlier, and far behind Airbus’ 458 deliveries.
Boeing halted Max deliveries in March after the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people.
New orders for Boeing jets have plunged 71 percent through the first seven months of 2019. Of the 139 orders in that period, 36 have been for 737 variants including the Max. In the first seven months of last year, Boeing logged 311 orders for 737s, mostly the Max.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said last week that the company has not suffered any order cancellations for the plane due to the grounding. The Boeing website shows a backlog of unfilled orders for more than 4,500 Max jets.
Flyadeal, a budget carrier in Saudi Arabia, dropped an intention to buy up to 50 Max jets and switched last month to the Airbus neo. It never signed an order with Boeing, however. Also last month, the parent company of British Airways said it intends to buy 200 Max jets, although it has not signed a firm order either.
Air Lease Corp., which leases planes to airlines, disclosed last week that with Boeing’s approval it switched 15 of its 150 orders for Max jets to five Boeing 787s. Air Lease executives said they had a shortage of the larger 787s.
Last month, Boeing reported its biggest quarterly loss — nearly $3 billion — after taking a $4.9 billion after-tax charge for the cost of compensating airlines that lost use of their Max jets. AP