News Briefs – September 26, 2016


F-35 from Arizona base catches fire during engine start

Authorities say an F-35A fighter jet from Arizona caught fire during an engine start at an Air Force Base in Idaho.
Officials at Luke Air Force Base in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale say a “ground emergency” occurred about 9:30 a.m., Sept. 23 as the aircraft was preparing for a training mission at Mountain Home Air Force Base.
They say the fire was quickly extinguished and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
The pilot and seven airmen on the ground crew were taken to a base medical center for evaluation and all have been released.
The F-35A Lightning II is assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke.
Seven F-35s from Luke have been at the Mountain Home base since Sept. 10 for two weeks of surface-to-air training. AP

Bath Iron Works to lay off 30 employees

Bath Iron Works in Maine will lay off 30 employees but says the cuts aren’t related to the loss of a $10.5 billion contract with the Coast Guard.
The company says eliminating 160 positions, which include 30 layoffs, will help it reduce costs. The rest of the cuts will come through retirements, transfers, resignations and canceled job postings.
The Bath-based shipyard employs 5,500 workers and is one of the Maine’s biggest private employers. In recent years, the company’s president has said it would face significant layoffs if the company didn’t win the contract to build nine new Coast Guard cutters.
The Portland Press Herald reported that the company stated it regrets the impact of layoffs on employees and families. AP

Italian navy ship docks in Iran

An Italian navy ship docked in the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas Sept. 24 in the first official visit by a Western naval vessel to the country in several years.
The Italian navy said the frigate Euro — named for a wind that blows across the Mediterranean from North Africa — was part of an EU anti-piracy mission and would remain docked in Iran for three days before returning to Italy.
The Italian navy said the visit comes as part of the resumption of “historic and excellent relations” between the two navies. It posted a picture on its Twitter account showing an Iranian girl handing flowers to an Italian officer in Bandar Abbas.
The last time an Italian naval vessel visited Iran was the frigate Bersagliere in April 2001. The frigate Euro last visited in 1999.
Iranian forces have had a series of tense encounters with U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf over the past year. Iran briefly detained 10 U.S. sailors in January after their boats drifted into Iranian waters.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said the Euro would visit other Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf. It noted that the visit comes two weeks after an Italian navy delegation visited the capital, Tehran.
Tehran has moved to improve relations with Western nations following last year’s nuclear agreement, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for it curbing its uranium enrichment program. AP

India signs deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets

India on Sept. 23 signed an $8.78 billion deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in “ready to fly” condition, meaning they will be made in France.
The agreement to replace older planes in the Indian air force is a departure from an earlier plan to purchase 126 Rafales, mainly to be built in India.
The first of the Rafales, made by Dassault Aviation, will be delivered in three years and the last in 51/2 years, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Talks between France and India over the purchase began four years ago. The deal, signed by Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and his visiting French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian, includes a clause stipulating that Dassault will invest about 30 percent of the contract price in India’s domestic aeronautics-related programs and 20 percent in the licensed manufacture of Rafale components, according to Rahul Bedi, an analyst for the Jane’s Information Group.
India has become the world’s biggest arms importer, with an economic boom enabling it to modernize its military. Major arms manufacturers are wooing the country as it replaces its obsolete Soviet-era weapons and buys new equipment.
The Indian air force has an approved strength of 42 squadrons with 16 to 18 aircraft each, but at present has only 32 squadrons, said Praful Bakshi, an aviation expert.
France has used Rafales in several combat missions in recent years: over Libya in 2011, in Mali last year and currently as part of the international campaign against Islamic State group militants in Iraq from a French air base in the United Arab Emirates. AP

U.S. grants Airbus, Boeing permission to sell aircraft to Iran

Aviation giants Airbus and Boeing Co. have received permission from the U.S. government to sell aircraft to Iran, part of landmark deals potentially worth some $50 billion in total following last year’s nuclear accord.
The announcements Sept. 21 came as Iranian and U.S. leaders are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and show that the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama is honoring the economic terms of the nuclear pact.
The next administration, however, may change that equation for Airbus and Boeing, whose possible deal with Iran would be the biggest for an American company since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover.
European airplane manufacturer Airbus announced the license from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control early Wednesday. Boeing followed with its own announcement later in the day.
Though based abroad, Airbus needed the approval of the U.S. Treasury for the deal because at least 10 percent of the manufacturer’s components are of American origin.
Airbus applied for two licenses to cover its deal with Iran to ensure the fast delivery of some of the aircraft, Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon told The Associated Press. The license announced Wednesday covers the first 17 planes involved in the deal, which will be A320s and A330s, he said.
Dubon said Airbus hoped to receive a second license allowing it to sell the remaining planes to Iran soon. AP