* Maintenance work carried out on USAF JSTARS aircraft by Northrop Grumman, has resulted in four of their fleet being grounded over concerns with the quality of the work. The four planes are being inspected for any possible safety of flight issues on the ground at Robins Air Force Base, GA, home of the 116th Air Control Wing. Assembly of an independent review team is also underway which will be tasked to “inspect and validate quality assurance processes at the contractor’s depot,” according to a service spokesperson.
Middle East & North Africa
* Backers of Syrian rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad are to send new types of heavy weapons following the collapse of a week long ceasefire last week. However the new arms, which include Russian-made rocket launchers and artillery, are believed not to represent any major shift in support. The USA, alongside neighboring governments, looking to topple Assad for a more friendly regime have sent military support to militias fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army for the last number of years. Even Islamist and Jihadist groups have often benefited (either directly or indirectly) from Western-backed patronage as the ever shifting ground of alliances and players in the conflict continue to muddy the waters of an increasingly complex conflict.
* Angola is to receive the first of their refurbished Mi-24P helicopters from Russia later this month. Work completed by manufacturer Russian Helicopters includes rotor blade and tail rotor blade replacements as well as engine, transmission unit and avionics repairs. Sudan, Mali, and Nigeria will also join Angola in receiving refurbished Russian attack helicopters after it was announced at this year’s Africa Aerospace & Defense (AAD) Expo in South Africa.
* While the UK doesn’t look set to acquire Gripen fighters anytime soon, Saab are keen that their GlobalEye AEW&C platform would be an ideal replacement for the RAF’s current fleet of six Boeing E-3 Sentrys. The company believes that products such as its EyrieEye ER system – or a larger package like the Bombardier Global 6000-based GlobalEye – are still in the running in the UK market, even though London looks set to keep the E-3s operational until 2035. Until then, recent GlobalEye purchaser UAE may provide some operational reviews before the UK decides to go the full monty on GlobalEye.
* Leonardo-Finmeccanica could have their third consecutive head honcho face jail time as Italian prosecutors request a 16-year jail sentence for Mauro Moretti, the company’s current CEO. While Moretti’s predecessors’ main wrongdoings relate to 2013’s well publicized Indian helicopter bribery scandal (AKA Choppergate), Moretti’s troubles stem from his time as head of Italy’s railways. Prosecutors are looking to find top rail brass culpable for a 2009 crash of a cargo train carrying liquefied gas, which burst into flames and resulted in the deaths of 32 people. You can change your name, but the scandals follow.
* Google are unwittingly getting themselves involved in geopolitics quite a lot recently. Following the recent hubbub over the apparent removal of Palestine from Google Maps, Taiwan has requested that the IT giant blur satellite images of their military installations on Taiping Island in the South China Sea. The latest Google Earth images of the island showed four three-pronged structures arranged in a semi-circular fashion on the beach next to an airstrip, unseen on previous images. A company statement states that the request is under review. Meanwhile, China frantically screencaps.
* It’s back to the drawing board for KAI’s KUH-1 Surion as the Korean-made utility helicopter failed a number of extreme climate tests in the USA. If successful, the testing would have given the Surion an international standard and boosted export chances. Several parts will now be redesigned to rectify the defects found during the testing, which puts the helicopter through very challenging humid and freezing temperatures.
* Well folks, it’s finally a done deal! France and India’s defense ministers inked contracts for 36 Dassault Rafale fighters on Friday, with pictures of French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, surfacing on Parrikar’s Twitter account stating “Rafale will significantly improve India’s strike & defence capabilities.” Due to be delivered over the next six years, the Rafales are estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, haggled down from an original figure of $13.47 billion.
UBSortie: A Russian Su-25UB spotted during the renewed Syrian Army offensive last week. The aircraft had been originally withdrawn by Moscow from Syria in March: