The UK Ministry of Defence has finally signed off on the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned air system for the British Army, awarding the system a formal Release to Service. The RTS award brings to an end a process to certificate the Watchkeeper for military service that has dragged on approximately three years longer than originally anticipated.
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).
The latest example of the stealthy Chengdu J-20 fighter has recently undergone high-speed taxi testing at the company airfield, suggesting that a first flight is imminent, possibly scheduled for this weekend. Thought to be the third flying example of the J-20, the new aircraft is being considered as a true developmental airframe for an operational fighter, and has introduced a number of significant improvements over the two technology demonstrators that preceded it. Many of the changes are measures taken to reduce the type’s radar cross section.
Boeing has announced the receipt of a new order for its P-8A Poseidon maritime patroller. Worth $2.4 billion, the contract covers 16 new aircraft for the U.S. Navy. Significantly, the order moves the program into full-rate production, earlier aircraft having been ordered on a low-rate initial production (LRIP) basis. A move to full-rate production had been delayed while Boeing proved that the P-8 could meet its 25-year life, plus other mission-related requirements.
The Pentagon proposes retiring the U-2 Dragon Lady and A-10 Warthog in the Fiscal Year 2015 defense budget it will present to the Congress next week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previewed the budget for reporters on February 24.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced today that the country’s government has approved the purchase of eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The first aircraft is scheduled to enter service at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia in 2017, and all eight are due for delivery by 2021. The initial deal is worth AUS$4 billion ($3.59 billion), of which around a quarter will be spent in Australia on aircraft support and base facilities. A further four aircraft are held as options. Australia becomes the second export customer for the Poseidon, following India.
On February 11 a U.S. Navy Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet made the type’s first flight equipped with an infrared search and track sensor. Developed by Lockheed Martin, the IRST sensor is intended to give the Block II Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler a long-range, passive detection and tracking capability against multiple air targets to augment the aircraft’s APG-79 AESA radar and other sensors. Fleet fielding is scheduled for 2017.
Boeing delivered the first of an expected two C-17 Globemaster III airlifters to Kuwait on February 13, leaving the company’s Long Beach, Calif., plant with 20 more jets to build before production ends.
A prominent contingent of three Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors has descended on Singapore for the airshow to highlight the type’s significant capabilities, which combine the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft with the mobility and no-runway operations of a helicopter.
A recent order for two Alenia C-27J Spartans by Peru has highlighted a new way to assess the merits of airlifters, which the company labels as “transport productivity.” Rather than use traditional methods of assessing operating costs, such as cost per flying hour, it is better to evaluate the transport cost per ton/mile, asserted Giovanni Timossi, Alenia’s v-p international sales for Asia and Oceania.
While much of the world’s media attention is focused on China’s indigenous fighter programs, such as the J-10, J-20 and J-21/31, Shenyang continues to develop the “Flanker” series that has been in PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) service since 1992. The latest versions to go into production are the J-15 carrier-borne fighter, and the J-16 multirole attack aircraft.