Britain’s new aircraft carrier is now afloat, but the total forecast cost of £6.1 billion ($10.4 billion) still threatens to sink other defense projects in the UK. To this cost must be added the forecast near-£2.5 billion ($4.28 billion) being contributed by the UK to development and initial test and evaluation of the F-35s that will fly from her decks, plus perhaps another £5 billion ($8.56 billion) for their production. However, the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are taking their cue from H.M.
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
Australia will order 58 more Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters for $12.4 billion, the government said on April 23. Including jets the country has already ordered, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be able to field three squadrons of the fifth-generation fighter.
Boeing’s Super Hornet production line in St. Louis, Mo., would be sustained until 2017 if the U.S. Navy receives the 22 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare variants it seeks on a list of “unfunded” priorities the service has submitted to Congress. Industry and government analyses show a need for 50 to 100 more Growlers, Boeing contends.
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin will retrofit early production lots of F-35Bs delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps with modified bulkheads to address cracking issues that came to light during durability testing of ground articles last fall. It will build redesigned bulkheads into the fighter beginning with low-rate production lot (LRIP) 9, said Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy program manager with the Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office (JPO).
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.
The U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4B Global Hawk is among 16 acquisition programs that experienced problems during early testing last year that need to be corrected, according to the Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
The U.S. Navy recently completed engineering and manufacturing (EMD) development of the ship-based component of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (Jpals). The EMD phase of Jpals Increment 1A for ship systems included auto landings by F/A-18C Hornets to the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Increment 1B phase calls for integrating the system on aircraft.
The sunset could be farther off than thought for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the mainstay of the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based fighter fleet. With initial operational capability of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter that will eventually replace the F/A-18 now planned in early 2019, Boeing and partner Northrop Grumman are proposing an “Advanced Super Hornet” upgrade designed to operate until 2030 and beyond.
Bell Boeing, the joint venture that produces the V-22 and MV-22 tiltrotor for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, announced that it had successfully demonstrated the capability of that aircraft to serve as an aerial refueling tanker in trials with F/A-18C/D fighters. The test V-22 used a retractable refueling drogue. Bell Boeing has been promoting the V-22 for other roles, including that of the Greyhound COD resupply mission for aircraft carriers.
Boeing is flight-testing an F/A-18F Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), an enclosed weapons pod (EWP) and “signature enhancements” designed to substantially increase the range and reduce the radar signature, compared with the U.S. Navy’s Block II Super Hornet.
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