News Briefs – November 30, 2016


Pilot dead after Canadian fighter jet crashes

A pilot is dead after a Canadian CF-18 fighter jet crashed in western Canada during a training mission.
Canadian Forces spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed that the pilot died in the Nov. 28 crash.
He said the plane was based out of Alberta’s Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, the busiest fighter base in Canada. It provides fighter training for all Canadian Forces pilots.
Speaking in Ottawa, Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood said the plane came down on the Saskatchewan side of the border between the provinces during a routine training mission.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said he couldn’t speculate on what caused the crash. A helicopter from the base was dispatched to the crash site.
The Canadian government announced last week that it would look to buy 18 Super Hornet jet fighters from Boeing to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s. Canada is also holding an open competition to buy dozens more planes over the next five years. Canada remains part of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. AP

U.S. says mistaken coalition airstrikes in Syria were legal

The U.S. military says Sept. 17 airstrikes in eastern Syria that reportedly killed dozens did not violate the international law of armed conflict.
An Air Force general who led a coalition investigation of the attacks told reporters Nov. 29 at the Pentagon that the targets were believed, incorrectly, to be Islamic State fighters. The investigation determined they actually were fighters affiliated with the Syrian armed forces.
The U.S., Australia, Denmark and Britain participated in the attacks.
Syria denounced the attack and said it helped the Islamic State group.
Brig. Gen. Richard Coe said that because the mistake was not deliberate or a result of negligence, the attacks were not illegal.
Coe said investigators confirmed 15 deaths but believe there were more. He said outside observers say more than 80 people died. AP

Taiwan holds rescue exercise in disputed South China Sea

Taiwan held a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea on Tuesday as part of efforts to cement its hold over a key island in the strategically vital waterbody.
Eight vessels and three aircraft took part in the drill simulating a fire aboard a cargo ship that forced crew members to seek safety on Taiping in the Spratly island group.
Both coast guard and navy ships participated in the exercise.
While Taiwan claims all of the Spratlys, it only occupies Taiping and hasn’t challenged the presence of forces from China and other nations on other islands in the group. Coast guard head Lee Chung-wei told journalists that Taiwan’s sovereignty over Taiping is “undeniable,” but that it wants to turn the island into a base for humanitarian relief missions in the area.
“The purpose of this drill is to tell international society that we are keen to conduct humanitarian relief on the island. We want to maintain peace in this region and put away disputes,” Lee said.
In recent years, Taiwan’s chief rival, China, has been aggressively pushing its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, putting it in conflict with neighbors Vietnam and the Philippines. Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea, while Indonesia has become increasingly assertive in defending its exclusive economic zone that encompasses rich fisheries and a potential wealth of mineral resources. AP

Russia eyes supplying military hardware to the Philippines

Russia’s ambassador to the Philippines said Nov. 29 that Moscow is not discussing a military alliance with Manila, but rather a partnership and friendship that would see Russia supply arms and transfer technology to the long-standing U.S. ally.
Ambassador Igor Khovaev told a media forum that the two countries’ economic and trade commission will start work soon to identify specific areas of cooperation. The commission’s Russian co-chair will be visiting Manila soon, he added, without giving a date.
Khovaev said Russia is open to all options for bilateral cooperation, including the long-term supply of military hardware “without political conditionality” like adherence to human rights. He was apparently alluding to the U.S. Congress’ conditions for release of military assistance.
Since becoming the Philippines’ president in June, Rodrigo Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. He has declared his intentions to bolster relations with China and Russia — whose leaders he has met recently — as he revamps Philippine foreign policy, which has long leaned on Washington.
Khovaev said Duterte is also expected to pay an official visit to Russia next year.
Russia is “interested in long-term cooperation” that is comprehensive and includes “all forms — supply of arms and weapons, staff training, maintenance, transfer of technology,” he added.
Aside from supplying arms and weapons, Russia is also open to cooperation in all areas, including building infrastructure like railroads, supplying electric equipment, oil and gas ventures, increasing tourism, trade and people-to-people contacts, he said.
“Everything is possible,” he said. “What we need is a wish list from our Filipino partners.”
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza is due to fly to Russia next week. He said he will discuss defense cooperation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Kuzhugetovich, and will shop for Russian military equipment, specifically sniper rifles for ground troops. AP

China blasts Singapore’s military cooperation with Taiwan

A Chinese state newspaper is strongly criticizing Singapore over the Southeast Asian city state’s military training agreement with self-governing Taiwan, following the impounding of nine Singaporean infantry fighting vehicles transiting through Hong Kong.
The Communist Party-run Global Times said in an editorial Nov. 29 that Singapore was responsible for the incident, but gave no details about what laws or regulations have been broken by the shipping of the armored vehicles from Taiwan.
The editorial said China has long opposed all forms of military cooperation between other countries and Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a breakaway province to be reunited with by force if necessary.
Singapore’s defense ministry said it sent a team to Hong Kong over the weekend to ensure the security of the vehicles and “assess the situation.” AP

Plane maker Airbus plans 1,100 job cuts as it consolidates

Airbus wants to cut more than 1,100 jobs across Europe as it consolidates its activities and seeks to better compete with U.S. rival Boeing and others amid growing global demand for planes.
Airbus Group, parent of the plane maker, faces months of negotiations with unions after presenting a reorganization plan to the works council Nov. 29 in Toulouse, France.
The cuts will be spread across four countries, with 640 jobs cut in France, 429 in Germany, 54 in Britain and 39 in Spain, Airbus spokesman Jacques Rocca said.
Airbus, which has about 136,000 employees worldwide, hopes to make the cuts through voluntary departures, early retirement and relocating positions — but might resort to layoffs if necessary.
Yvonnick Dreno of the Workers Force union suggested workers could stage strikes if they can’t agree with management on conditions for the cuts.
“We have said we will not accept layoffs,” he said on BFM television. “If there is a need to have labor action, there will be action.”
Discussions are under way for the next six months, and the job cuts are meant to be finalized by the end of 2018.
Airbus Group says the cuts are needed as it merges the plane maker with the parent company and invests in digital projects.
Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders stressed the need for lifelong learning for employees in a fast-changing job market, and said the integration is aimed at ensuring “future competitiveness.”
The announcement came the day after the latest World Trade Organization ruling in a long-running dispute between Airbus and Boeing over government subsidies.
Airbus has had a challenging year, suffering losses linked to its troubled A400M military transporter and the A350 passenger jet, its long-delayed rival to Boeing’s popular 787. AP