The latest Selected Acquisition Report on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program has updated the Pentagon’s cost estimates. The eight international partners may take some comfort from the predictions of future unit recurring flyaway costs, once full-rate production begins. That is, if they defer the majority of their buys until then, which seems increasingly likely. The report also details the schedule delays that were officially approved last December.
A seven-month investigation by the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board into unexplained hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, incidents experienced by F-22 pilots has not determined the root cause of the problem, the service said March 29. The investigation did produce a number of safety recommendations, and the Air Force continues to study the problem.
Russian Air Force commander Gen. Alexander Zelin has elaborated further about aircraft acquisition plans under the country’s Weapons Program 2011-2020. His comments addressed the Sukhoi series of combat aircraft, as well as airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, airlifters and the Yak-130 jet trainer. Zelin said that the air force will acquire about 60 Sukhoi PAKFA (T-50) fifth-generation fighters by 2020.
Northrop Grumman has gained a large new contract from the U.S. Air Force to supply its large aircraft infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM) system for fixed-wing platforms. In February it was one of two contractors the Army selected to demonstrate a next-generation common infrared countermeasures (CIRCM) system for helicopters and other aircraft, although a bid protest has stalled that program.
Lockheed Martin has described progress in the F-35 development program, and solutions to some of the problems that have recently been identified. Having exceeded the planned flight-test sorties and test points in 2011 by 15 percent, the company is hoping for similar gains this year. Of the 59,585 test points scheduled for the development phase through 2016, just over one-fifth had been flown by the end of December.
With a recent contract award from Northrop Grumman to provide electronic support measures (ESM) on the B-2 Spirit bomber, BAE Systems will be providing electronic warfare systems on all three U.S. Air Force low-observable platforms, including the F-22 and F-35 fighters, according to the company. The new ESM system will replace the original Lockheed Martin AN/APR-50 defensive management system on the 20 B-2s. The ESM system works in conjunction with the radar warning receiver to detect and alert aircrew to electronic threats.
An Anglo-French defense summit in Paris last week confirmed that the two governments will sign a risk-reduction contract soon with BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation for the Telemos Medium Altitude Long-Endurance (Male) UAV. “We look forward to taking further decisions jointly in the light of the outcomes of this risk-reduction phase to ensure that our respective sovereign requirements will be met in a cost-effective manner,” the governments added.
The acquisition cost of F-35s for the international partners is bound to be affected by the slowdown in U.S. production, Dave Scott, Lockheed Martin’s director for international F-35 customer engagement, told AIN. “But we’ll still be doing about 30 in each of the next few years for the U.S., and when you add orders that have already been confirmed by the partners plus Israel and Japan, it’s not a bad annual rate,” he continued.
Lockheed Martin yesterday unveiled a new version of the evergreen F-16 Fighting Falcon designated the F-16V. The new moniker is derived from the fighter’s long-standing unofficial nickname: Viper. It will apply to existing aircraft that are upgraded with AESA radars, and new builds. The F-16V will also include a new mission computer and cockpit display.
The pair of Singaporean F-15SG fighters on static display here are the most advanced Strike Eagles ever built–but not for much longer because the huge order from Saudi Arabia that was confirmed recently allows Boeing to fit a fly-by-wire system.