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.
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 Saturday the Indian Navy formally took delivery of the INS Vikramaditya. The aircraft carrier is the former Soviet Admiral Gorshkov, which has been refurbished and retrofitted by the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk in the north of European Russia (see story page 22). India’s defense minister, Arackaparambil Kurian Antony, attended the ceremony.
The future of the Russian navy aircraft carrier component is in doubt after the Russian defense ministry decided to have its nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser, the Admiral Nakhimov, rather than its aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, repaired and refitted at Sevmash, the nation’s largest dockyard.
India will launch its 37,500-ton indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) on August 12 at the Cochin Shipyard in Kerala. The ship is scheduled for induction by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, the former Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, now the INS Vikramaditya, conducted final trials in the Barents Sea this week with its squadron of MiG-29K combat jets embarked. It is due to be delivered by year-end, after a delay of more than four years.
The U.S. Navy recorded another first on May 14 when it conducted the first catapult launch of the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator (UCAS-D) from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush under way off the coast of Virginia.
The Indian Naval air arm is set to double its fleet of 217 aircraft in the next decade. The fleet–a mix of 14 models–“has emerged as a mini air force,” said assistant chief of naval staff (Air) Rear Admiral D.M. Sudan.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first shore-based arrested landing of the X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator on May 4 in advance of sea-based trials planned this month.
China has conducted fixed-wing operations on an aircraft carrier for the first time. The initial trial was conducted by a pair of Shenyang J-15s, numbers “552” and “553,” on the Liaoning, (side number 16), the country’s ex-Russian vessel. The aircraft were unpainted apart from serial numbers and large photo-calibration marks. They are believed to be the second and third J-15 prototypes, and are powered by the Russian-made AL31F engine rather than the Chinese WS10H that has been installed in some other J-15 prototypes.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy completed the first shore-based trials in early November of a wireless handheld device that will enable operators to maneuver the X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) on Navy carrier decks. The tests were conducted at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
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