News Briefs – May 24, 2019

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F35-B fighters land in UK’s Cyprus base for training, tests

Six F35-B Lightning warplanes, the U.K.’s newest fighter, arrived May 21 at a British air base on Cyprus for training and a systems test in the aircraft’s first overseas deployment.
The jets from 617 Squadron, flown by three British Royal Navy and three Royal Air Force pilots, touched down at RAF Akrotiri for what officials said will be a six-week deployment on the eastern Mediterranean island nation as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn.
RAF Akrotiri Station Commander Christopher Snaith said the deployment will let pilots put the planes through their paces, test logistics and sharpen ground crew training.
Snaith said the training aims to prepare the aircraft for its first deployment aboard the U.K.’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and to develop its strike capability.
There are no current plans to have the aircraft conduct combat missions, said Snaith.
Flight training will take place over waters south of Cyprus and won’t involve any weapons.
Snaith said RAF Akrotiri was selected for training because it’s far away enough from the U.K. to “stretch logistics,” but familiar enough to U.K. pilots, some of whom have flown out of the air base before. AP
 

Six Russian planes intercepted by U.S. off Alaska coast

U.S. military officials say four Russian bombers and two fighter jets were intercepted off Alaska’s western coast by U.S. aircraft but had not entered U.S. or Canadian air space.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement that its early warning system identified the four Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and two Su-35 fighters.
Two pairs of F-22s fighter jets met the Russian aircraft on May 20 but further details of the encounter were not provided.
The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation said on Twitter that the U.S. planes accompanied the Russian aircraft along part of their route.
The agency said the Russian planes made scheduled sorties over the neutral waters of the Chukotka, Bering and Okhotsk seas, as well as along the western coast of Alaska and the northern coast of the Aleutian Islands. AP
 

Trump nominates aerospace executive for Air Force secretary

President Donald Trump has nominated an aerospace executive to be the next secretary of the Air Force.
Trump says in a tweet that he has chosen Barbara Barrett, former chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to replace Heather Wilson who is stepping down at the end of this month after two years on the job.
Barrett, 68, served as ambassador to Finland in 2008 during the administration of then-President George W. Bush. She also served as deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and was vice chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.
This is the second time she’s been picked for the Air Force job. In 2003, Bush announced he would nominate her, but she was never confirmed. She’s a trained civilian pilot and was certified for space travel. AP
 

Turkish military receiving Russian defense system training

Turkey’s defense minister says its military personnel are receiving training to operate the S-400 missile defense system despite U.S. and NATO objections to Ankara’s decision to purchase the Russian technology.
Hulusi Akar also told a group of reporters late May 21 that Turkey was “making preparations” and “considering all options” against possible U.S. sanctions on Turkey over the purchase.
Turkey’s S-400 deal with Russia has deepened a rift with the U.S., which says the Russian system is not compatible with NATO systems and could put at risk the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, of which Turkey is also a partner.
Turkey has repeatedly said that the S-400 agreement is a “done deal” and cannot be canceled but Akar said U.S. officials insist that “no deal is a done deal.” AP
 

Taiwan navy holds drill amid China tensions

Taiwan’s navy has held a major live-firing exercise off the island’s east coast in an area increasingly threatened by Chinese ships and planes.
The May 22 drills are part of the annual Han Kuang exercises that simulate an attack by China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.
In addition to firing of cannons and missiles by navy craft and the release of depth charges, fighter jets launched missiles and anti-submarine warfare aircraft released buoys.
Along with its vast array of ballistic missiles, submarines are considered among China’s most potent weapons against Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949.
China has upped its military threat against Taiwan, with President Xi Jinping this year saying Beijing would not rule out using force. AP
 

Air China asks Boeing compensation for MAX 8 delays

Air China Ltd., one of China’s three major state-owned airlines, is joining carriers that are asking Boeing for compensation for the grounding of their 737 Max jetliners following two fatal crashes.
An employee of Air China’s publicity department said May 22 the carrier also has asked Boeing for compensation for disruption due to delays in delivery of new aircraft.
The employee declined to give his name or details of the claim.
Air China becomes the second Chinese carrier to ask Boeing for compensation following state-owned China Eastern Airlines Ltd. last month.
China was among the first governments to order carriers to suspend use of the 737 Max in March following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people. AP