News Briefs – February 24, 2020

Judge orders Navy to review, release USS Thresher documents

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Navy to begin releasing unclassified documents related to a submarine that imploded 57 years ago.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ordered the Navy on Feb. 10 to review 300 pages of documents per month starting in April, the Portsmouth Herald reported Feb. 18.
There are about 3,600 identified pages of records concerning the USS Thresher that are set to be released before May 15, with a rolling production every 60 days.
Nearly 130 lives were lost April 10, 1963, when the Thresher sank 8,000 feet to the seafloor after conducting deep-dive exercises 220 miles off Cape Cod. AP

More Russian weapons for Serbia despite U.S. sanction threats

Serbia has received a sophisticated anti-aircraft system from Russia, despite possible U.S. sanctions against the Balkan state, which is formally seeking European Union membership.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the pro-government TV Prva on Feb. 23 that the Pantsir S1 air-defense system was purchased after suggestions from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Buy Pantsir, it showed its best efficiency in Syria,” Vucic quoted Putin as saying during one of their recent, frequent meetings.
“This anti-aircraft system is very efficient for targeting drones which are becoming crucial in modern warfare,” Vucic said.
Despite seeking to join the EU, Serbia under Vucic’s populist leadership has strengthened close political and military ties with its Slavic ally Russia.
Serbia has pledged to stay out of NATO and refused to join Western sanctions against Russia for its policies in Ukraine.
Russia’s arming of Serbia is watched with unease in the West amid growing tensions in the Balkans which went through a devastating civil war in the 1990s. NATO intervened in Serbia to stop a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999.
U.S. officials have openly spoken about introducing sanctions against Serbia in case Moscow sells more arms to the country, especially with weapons that could jeopardize the security of neighboring NATO-member states. AP

Russia will replace 2 cosmonauts set for launch to space

Russia’s space agency said Feb. 19 that two cosmonauts scheduled to launch to the International Space Station will be replaced with alternates for medical reasons.
Roscosmos said crew members Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin will be replaced by their designated backups, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, for the launch scheduled for April 9.
Speaking at Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA spokesman Rob Navias said U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy, who had trained with Tikhonov and Babkin, would remain on the crew and launch as planned with the two Russian alternates.
Sergei Krikalev, head of manned programs for Roscomos, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that the Russian crew members will be replaced due to unspecified medical reasons.
One of the cosmonauts was “temporarily unfit” for the mission, Krikalev said. He refused to elaborate.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said Tikhonov received an unspecified injury during training.
The International Space Station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Russian Oleg Skripochka. AP

Debris found in fuel tanks of 70 percent of inspected 737 Max jets

Debris has been found in the fuel tanks of 70% of grounded Boeing 737 Max jets that have been inspected by the company, Boeing confirmed on Feb. 22.
Inspectors found the debris in 35 out of about 50 jets that were inspected. They are among 400 built in the past year that Boeing hasn’t been able to deliver to airline customers.
Boeing temporarily halted production last month because the planes were grounded after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.
Although debris hasn’t been linked to those crashes, metal shavings, tools and other objects left in planes during assembly can raise the risk of electrical short-circuiting and fires. On Tuesday the company had said debris was found in “several” planes but it did not give a precise number.
The debris was discovered during maintenance on parked planes, and Boeing said it immediately made corrections in its production system to prevent a recurrence. Those steps include more inspections before fuel tanks are sealed.
“This is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated on any Boeing aircraft when it’s delivered to the customer,” the company said in a Feb. 22 statement.
Boeing previously said the issue does not change the company’s belief that the Federal Aviation Administration will certify the plane to fly again this summer.
A Boeing spokesman cautioned against applying the 70 percent to all 400 jets, saying there’s no way to know how many have the same problem until they’re all inspected.
An FAA spokesman said the agency knows that Boeing is inspecting undelivered Max planes and said the agency has increased surveillance. AP

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