Syria says Turkey shoots down Syrian warplane
A Syrian military spokesman says Turkey’s armed forces have shot down a Syrian warplane near the countries’ border, and called the act a “blatant aggression.”
The unnamed spokesman was quoted by Syrian state TV as saying the plane was downed March 23 in Syrian airspace as it was attacking rebels who have been on the offensive in the coastal province of Latakia. The spokesman said the pilot ejected from the aircraft.
Turkey is among the main backers of Syrian opposition fighters trying to remove President Bashar Assad from power.
The downing of the plane came as Syrian government troops were trying try regain a border crossing point with Turkey near the town of Kassab that rebels captured March 21. AP
California Marine base may lose 8 percent of staff
A Southern California Marine training site could lose 8 percent of its personnel as part of the expected drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, officials said.
About 840 Marines attached to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center were slated to be deactivated at the end of May. Another 245 Marines connected with an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron will move to Hawaii this summer, base spokesman Jason Smith told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
About 13,000 Marines are currently stationed at the vast desert center 130 miles east of Los Angeles. Smith said 3rd Battalion Marines will be reassigned to other units.
First activated in San Diego in 1925, it was the first Marine unit to swarm Baghdad during the Iraq War, and its members helped pull down the large bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, according to the group’s website.
Because there will be fewer deployments, the average daily population at Twentynine Palms was not expected to change, Smith told the newspaper.
The 932-square-mile military base in the Mojave Desert trains Marines in live-fire combat exercises. Several mock Afghan villages have been built at the base to train forces to fight in urban environments. The villages feature fake markets, hotels and other businesses, and they are complete with actors who create scenarios that pose a full range of challenges from peacekeeping to direct combat. AP
North Korea launches 30 short-range rockets
South Korea says rival North Korea has launched 30 short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast in the latest in a series of apparent protests against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills.
Analysts say the impoverished North chafes against the annual drills because it has to spend precious resources responding with its own exercises. Pyongyang claims the allies’ drills are invasion preparation.
Major Kim Nam-wook of the South Korean Defense Ministry says the rockets flew about 60 kilometers (37 miles) early March 22.
North Korea last year responded to the drills with threats of nuclear war against the South and the United States.
It has toned down its rhetoric this year. Analysts say that’s because it believes better ties with Seoul might win it much-needed aid and outside investment. AP
Presidential jet getting repainted in Texas
A wide-body jet that serves as Air Force One when President Barack Obama is aboard has landed in North Texas for a paint job.
The iconic Boeing 747 that bears the words “United States of America” landed March 20 at Fort Worth Meacham (MEE’-chum) International Airport.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Leading Edge Aviation Services, Inc. will work on the jet with the tail number 28000.
Boeing spokeswoman Jennifer Hogan says the aircraft is completing a yearlong heavy maintenance cycle and is in Fort Worth to be repainted. Hogan says the jet will be returned to presidential service after inspections and flight tests.
No schedule was provided for updating the jet’s famed blue and white paint scheme. AP