Controversial from the start, the UK’s new aircraft carrier program has endured many twists and turns. It is now 14 years since the government first defined the need for new carriers and it will be another four years before the first of the two Queen Elizabeth II-class warships is delivered. Beyond that, it will be another four years before the carrier-strike capability becomes fully operational, in 2020.
Open-sea testing of the new Indian Navy aircraft carrier Vikramaditya and her primary weapons, in the form of MiG-29K/KUB deck fighters, means that the MiGs won’t be making appearance here at the 2012 Farnborough International Airshow. The ship has been bought from Russia to replace the former British-built HMS Hermes, which India acquired in 1986 and renamed Viraat.
The naval prototype of India’s Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) made its first test flight on April 27. Already delayed by four years, the program still faces design concerns, including weight. Strengthening of the rear airframe for carrier operations, and the addition of an arrestor hook, has made the aircraft about 1,000 pounds overweight.
Since the late 1980s China has aggressively pursued a policy of modernizing its defense industries, with the aim of rivaling those of the West and Russia. Now the results of that policy are reaching the front line, allowing China’s forces to transition from a Cold War inventory that was dominated by huge quantities of unsophisticated equipment to a leaner force equipped with systems that are smarter and more competitive with those fielded by the West.
The prototype MiG-29K (side number 311) was loaded by crane onto India’s new aircraft carrier in Severodvinsk last month. The Sevmash Dockyard said that work to convert the former Russian cruiser Gorshkov is 90 percent complete.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has gone to sea for the first time. An F-35B short-takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) version landed on the small U.S. aircraft carrier Wasp on October 3 at the start of a two-week trial during which 67 takeoffs and landings are scheduled. Some observers have raised concerns about the potential for damage to carrier decks from the aircraft’s F135 engine. It develops 39,400 pounds of thrust in the hover and 38,100 pounds of thrust in short takeoff.
The first publicly observed flight of the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter in January and the more recent emergence of the ex-Soviet Varyag aircraft carrier demonstrate China’s progress toward becoming a modern military power by 2020. But China’s ability to project force outside the region remains limited in the near term, the U.S.
The U.S. Navy stepped closer to the first carrier landing of an autonomous, unmanned aircraft following the July 2 carrier touchdown of a manned F/A-18D surrogate aircraft. It is equipped with the same avionics and software planned for the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft.
More imagery has been released through the Chinese media showing the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a “Flanker” derivative intended for service aboard China's first aircraft carrier. The new material includes video of the fighter taking off.