The Pentagon approved full-rate production of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle multi-role unmanned aircraft on July 26. That same day, manufacturer General Atomics reported the first flight of an improved version of the aircraft that it will demonstrate to the U.S. Army later this year.
Defense » Military Aircraft
News and issues relating to the defense aerospace business, with emphasis on current/in-use, in-development and prospective programs for manned military aircraft and unmanned combat aircraft vehicles (UCAVs).
Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reached an agreement in principle to fund the next two low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, comprising 71 aircraft. The company and DOD jointly announced the “handshake agreement” on July 30 in advance of signing the LRIP contracts, which will provide consecutive, 4-percent reductions in the unit cost of U.S. military variants, they said. The parties said they will release cost details when the contracts are finalized.
Less than three years after it was renamed Cassidian, the defense and security business of EADS is being rebranded again. In fact, the EADS name will disappear in a reorganization that includes application of the “globally recognized Airbus brand” to all the group’s activities. “We affirm the predominance of commercial aeronautics in our group,” said CEO Tom Enders.
The bid deadline for the U.S. Navy’s high-profile VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program closed on August 1 with apparently only one bidder—Sikorsky Aircraft—submitting a proposal. The Navy declined to identify the number of bids received, but other companies that had earlier announced plans to compete for the VXX contract confirmed that they have decided not to submit proposals.
Contract negotiations between the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and AVX Helicopter, Bell Helicopter and the Sikorsky/Boeing team–the potential Phase I vendors for the joint multi-role technology demonstrator (JMR-TD)–are nearing completion. Announcement of the awards for a new U.S. Army medium helicopter are planned for September, according to an Army spokesman.
Assembly of the first F-35 Joint Strike fighter to be produced outside the U.S. has begun in Italy. Manufacturers delivered major structural components to the new final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base, west of Milan, where the first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, designated AL-1, will be assembled for the Italian air force. The facility is operated by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aermacchi.
On behalf of the seven European nations buying the Airbus Military A400M, the French government defense procurement agency (French acronym DGA) announced that the new airlifter had achieved military certification.
A briefing on the Eurofighter Typhoon organized by BAE Systems at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford last week provided a further indication that some key upgrades to the combat jet are being funded by Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman. The four original partner nations have proved reluctant to collectively fund in the near term enhancements that extend the aircraft’s air-to-ground capability, such as integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The four partners have also so far failed to approve full development of the Captor-E AESA radar by the Euroradar consortium.
Raytheon Systems revealed a series of planned upgrades to the Paveway IV “smart” 500-pound bomb for the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). In British service since 2008, the weapon has been dropped more than 1,000 times, said T.J. Marsden, chief engineer of weapons systems for Raytheon’s UK subsidiary. He described Paveway IV as the UK’s primary air-to-ground weapon.
There may be no Farnborough Air Show this year, but two other defense shows in the UK this summer are boosting the country’s claim that it’s the best place to do business in Europe. The government-supported Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) event in London scheduled for September 9 through 13 has attracted more than 1,200 exhibitors (including 40 international pavilions), and the organizers expect nearly 30,000 visitors.