The Week Ahead in Defense: April 9, 2018

A flight of five U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters takes off.  (US Army photo)
A flight of five U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters takes off. (US Army photo)



The Army has released the names of two soldiers killed in the latest of a string of deadly military aviation disasters in the last several weeks. Chief Warrant Officer Ryan Connolly, 37, and Warrant Officer James Casadona, 28, were killed April 6 when their AH-64E Apache helicopter crashed in a training area at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

The tragedy brings the death toll for service members killed in aircraft crashes to five over the last week alone.

On April 4, Thunderbirds member and former F-35 test pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was killed when his F-16 demonstration aircraft went down near Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

On April 3, four Marines were killed when their CH-53E Super Stallion crashed near El Centro, California during desert landing training. Those killed in the crash included Capt. Samuel A. Schultz; 1st Lt. Samuel D. Philips; Gunnery Sgt. Richard D. Holley; and Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad. They were attached to HMH-465, out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

In a non-deadly mishap the same day, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier went down shortly after takeoff from Ambouli International Airport, Djibouti. The pilot, who has not been identified, ejected before the aircraft crashed.



From’s Richard Sisk:

"President Donald Trump's strong condemnation Sunday of an alleged Syrian chemical attack on a Damascus suburb raised the possibility that he would again call on the Navy for a response.

Following a chemical attack in northwestern Syria last April, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers Ross and Porter launched a total of 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) against a Syrian airfield believed to have been the point of origin for the aircraft that carried out the attack.

In a series of Tweets Sunday, Trump called Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an "animal" and said Russian President Vladimir Putin shared the blame for a suspected chemical attack in a Damascus suburb on Saturday that reportedly killed at least 40.

Trump said Syria would have 'a big price to pay.'

On Sunday night, Defense Department officials published a statement saying the DoD was not currently conducting air strikes in Syria.

'However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable,'" they said.



Via the Associated Press:

"Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday night approved funding for up to 4,000 National Guard troops for duty along the border with Mexico. The Pentagon will pay for the operation through the end of September.

A Defense Department memo said the Guard members will not perform law enforcement functions or 'interact with migrants or other persons detained' without Mattis's approval. It said 'arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defense,' but it did not further define that.

Arizona and Texas announced Friday they would send 400 Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border by next week, in response to President Donald Trump's call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said about 150 Guard members would deploy next week. And the Texas National Guard said it was already sending Guardsmen to the border, with plans to place 250 troops there in the next 72 hours as an 'initial surge,' according to a Guard spokesman. Two helicopters lifted off Friday night from Austin, the state capital, to head south."



Over at Military Times, reporter Tara Copp has an in-depth investigation highlighting all military aviation mishaps since Fiscal 2013. Since then, she reports, 133 service members have been killed in aircraft mishaps. And the number is climbing year-over-year, with the most dramatic spike taking place in the Navy.

Could budget shortfalls and personnel cuts be to blame, or is something else the culprit? Read the whole report here.



The largest maritime expo in the United States starts up Monday in National Harbor, Maryland with panels featuring senior leaders from the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard and International heads of Navy.

Also on offer this year: the production version of the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, an unmanned boat that is set to feature prominently in the littoral combat ship’s future mine countermeasures mission package; models of proposed designs for the Navy's MQ-25 carrier-launched unmanned aerial system; and updates on the F-35C Navy-variant Joint Strike Fighter, among other programs.

The show continues through April 11. Follow all Sea-Air-Space show coverage here.

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