News Briefs – March 23, 2018


U.S.-South Korean military exercises to begin April 1

The Pentagon says the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises postponed for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will begin April 1.

The announcement March 19 comes at a potentially pivotal moment in U.S. diplomacy over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, with a summit meeting planned for this spring.

In a brief statement, the Pentagon says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, agreed to go forward with the maneuvers “at a scale similar to” that of previous years.

The Pentagon says North Korea has been notified of the schedule “as well as the defensive nature” of the exercises. South Korean officials said recently that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had indicated his acceptance of the maneuvers.

Kim and President Donald Trump have agreed to meet this spring. AP

First commercial launch scheduled at Kodiak spaceport complex

Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell says the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak will be launching its first commercial spaceflight next month.

The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports that the Coast Guard has notified mariners of the launch, which is scheduled for some time between April 6-13.

Alaska Aerospace has launched 19 rockets in collaboration with government agencies including NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency since the spaceport opened in 1998. But in recent years, the publicly owned corporation has partnered with commercial launch companies amid the growth of the private spaceflight industry.

The Daily Mirror reports that sources with knowledge of the industry have refused to name the company that will launch in April due to a non-disclosure agreement. AP

UK air force Red Arrows jet crashes at Wales air base

A jet belonging to the British military’s Red Arrows aerobatic team crashed March 20 at an air base in Wales, killing an engineer and injuring the pilot, the air force said.

The Royal Air Force confirmed there had been an incident involving a Hawk jet, the type used by the Red Arrows. Group Capt. Nick Tucker-Lowe said a Red Arrows engineer had been killed in the “tragic accident” and the pilot was receiving medical care. He didn’t disclose the pilot’s condition or release the names of the air crew.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said it was called the afternoon of March 20 “to reports an aircraft had crashed” at RAF Valley, a training base near Holyhead in north Wales. Video shot by a witness showed black smoke billowing from the airfield.

Another witness, Sian Rebecca Williams, said she saw a parachute open, “and then the plane hit the runway with a bang and a crumbling noise. Then it just burned bright orange and there was smoke everywhere.”

Founded in 1965, the Red Arrows are famous for their airborne stunts, red, white and blue vapor trails, dramatic flybys and trademark diamond formation. Their red single-engine jet trainers are a familiar sight at air shows and military events.

The team has had few fatal accidents, but two Red Arrows pilots died in 2011 — one when his jet crashed after taking part in an air show in southern England and the other when he was ejected from his aircraft while it was on the ground. AP

Senate turns back resolution limiting U.S. military in Yemen

The Senate March 20 rejected a resolution that would prohibit U.S. troops from helping a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. But the unusual vote — coming as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince met with President Trump — showed the continued unease in Congress with military action abroad.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned senators against the measure, but he had little choice but to allow the vote.

The resolution was being forced by a coalition of liberal and libertarian-leaning lawmakers, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, and Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. They argued Congress should not cede its wartime authority for military action to the White House.

The resolution was tabled, 55-44. AP