Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II notched its 10,000th flight hour in September, and by the end of the month the combined Joint Strike Fighter fleet had flown 6,492 times for 10,077 hours. Illustrating the momentum that the program has built since operational production aircraft began training operations, more than half the total was amassed in the past 11 months. It had previously taken the program six years to reach the 5,000-hour milestone.
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) state-owned and -operated Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) presented a full line of its products and plans for further expansion of its export markets at last month’s Aviation Expo China exhibition, which was held in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The centerpiece of the Avic display was a line-up of models of those military aircraft programs that the conglomerate has been permitted to make public.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon are back in play for South Korea’s F-X III fighter requirement after that country made a sudden decision to reject the last remaining contender, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle, and restart the procurement process.
Software remains the biggest risk of the F-35 program, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program executive officer. In a presentation at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air & Space Conference on September 17, Bogdan also discussed progress in fixing the Joint Strike Fighter’s helmet-mounted display systems (HMDS), and program costs.
The Netherlands confirmed its previous choice of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II to replace the air force’s F-16s. But in a statement, the Dutch government noted that “based on current insights, the available financial room is sufficient for 37 aircraft.” A total of 85 had originally been planned.
There is no shortage of uncertainty about the future of Russia’s Sukhoi Perspektivniy Aviatsonnoi Kompleks-Frontovoi Aviatsii (PAK-FA)/T-50 fifth-generation fighter project. These doubts are driven by problems with major subsystems, delays with the aircraft’s introduction into service, and plans to defray some of the R&D cost by making India a developmental partner on the aircraft.
The premier position of the UK aerospace industry on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program was highlighted by a briefing and presentation at the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) show in London this week. Some 500 British companies are involved in producing “15 percent of each of the 3,100 F-35s that will be built,” according to Steve O’Bryan, vice president for F-35 program integration at Lockheed Martin. The company has calculated that the program will secure 24,000 high-technology jobs in the UK through 2039.
Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle fighter offering to South Korea benefits from development work on the F-15SA ordered by Saudi Arabia and an existing base of F-15Ks flown by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), the company said this week.
The Republic of Korea seems set to launch the F-15SE Silent Eagle, by confirming Boeing as winner of the F-X III contest for 60 more combat aircraft. The Yonhap news agency reported that the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35A have been eliminated. Boeing, Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin all said this week that they had received no official notification on the outcome of the F-X III contest. Yonhap said that “a final decision on whether to accept or reject the sole (remaining) candidate” will be made in mid-September.
The U.S. Navy says that the unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike system (UClass) could be operational as early as Fiscal Year 2018. On August 14, the Department of Defense announced the award of $15 million contracts to Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for preliminary design reviews (PDR) of the UClass air vehicle.