News Briefs – March 22, 2017


Israeli drone crashes in Syria, circumstances unclear

The Israeli military has confirmed that a drone crashed in Syria earlier this week in unclear circumstances.
In a statement, the military said the “Skylark” went down March 19 and that the incident was being investigated. The March 20 statement said there is “no risk of a breach of information.”
Hezbollah’s media arm published photographs of what it said was a drone it had shot down after infiltrating Syrian airspace in the Golan Heights.
Although Israel is not actively fighting in the Syrian civil war, it keeps close tabs on its enemies Iran and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group, which are both backing Syrian government forces.
Last week, Israel shot down a Syrian anti-aircraft missile fired at an Israeli aircraft carrying out an airstrike on a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy in Syria. AP

Taiwan announces plan to build own submarines

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen says the island will build its own submarines to get around China’s efforts to prevent it from purchasing such craft from overseas.
Tsai oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the construction of subs during a visit to the navy’s main base in Tsoying, also spelled Zuoying, March 21.
The craft will be built through a joint venture between the government’s Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology and the formerly state-owned CSBC Corp.
The announcement comes weeks after Tsai announced a $2.1 billion investment in the production of air force jet trainers to be designed and manufactured on the island.
China has successfully used its diplomatic and economic clout to prevent many overseas military purchases by Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory. AP

Israel’s multi-layer defense system nearing completion

A joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor will be operational soon, completing Israel’s multi-layer defense system, a senior Israeli air force official said March 20.
He said David’s Sling, meant to counter medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, will be operational in early April, marking the completion of the system.
That includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from Gaza.
The official spoke anonymously in line with protocol.
Israeli deployed its Arrow system Friday when Syria fired a missile at its jets after they carried out airstrikes targeting a weapons convoy bound for Hezbollah.
The official said the missile was identified as a ballistic threat and had a heavy warhead that could have landed inside Israel if not intercepted.
David’s Sling was developed by Israeli defense firm Rafael with American defense giant Raytheon. AP

U.S. Marines, Romanian troops hold Black Sea exercises

CAPU MIDIA, Romania — U.S. Marines and Romanian troops are taking part in joint exercises on the Black Sea coast.
In one maneuver March 20, they launched a Stinger missile at a surface-to-air firing range.
There are 450 Marines and 750 Romanian troops participating in the exercises to simulate defense of the Black Sea coastline and urban areas.
At one point, a Romanian soldier and a Marine shared a laugh while momentarily switching their weapons at the Capu Midia range.
The Spring Storm 17 exercises aim to increase interoperability of Romanian and U.S. troops in a region where NATO members are uneasy after Russia’s interventions in Ukraine.
The USS Carter Hall, LCAC Landing Craft Air Cushion and Assault Amphibious Vehicles are in Romania as part of the training, which began March 15 and ends March 22. AP

Merkel disputes Trump’s NATO debt claim

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is underlining Germany’s rejection of a claim by President Donald Trump that it owes NATO large sums for underspending on defense. She is also pointing to a history of decades of post-World War II military restraint.
Trump tweeted March 18 that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO.” Germany is short of a NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, with the figure currently at 1.23 percent.
Merkel said March 20 defense spending is “not just about contributions to NATO, but also about European contributions in Africa for example, U.N. missions.” She added: “Not a single NATO member state pays its entire defense budget into NATO.”
Merkel said that defense spending “can’t be uncoupled from historical developments from one day to the next.” AP

SpaceX capsule returns space station science to Earth

A SpaceX capsule is back on Earth with a full load of space station science samples.
The Dragon cargo ship parachuted into the Pacific March 19 off the Southern California coast. Astronauts set it free from the International Space Station 51/2 hours earlier.
The Dragon flew to the space station a month ago from the same Florida launch pad used for NASA’s Apollo moon shots. It took up more than 5,000 pounds of supplies and brought back just as much in completed experiments and used equipment.
NASA’s other supplier, Orbital ATK, plans to launch its own supply ship Friday, also from Cape Canaveral, Fla. That one, however, burns up on re-entry.
The space station is home to one Frenchman, two Americans and three Russians. AP