The U.S. Air Force will proceed with a service life extension program (SLEP) and avionics upgrade of 300 to 350 F-16 Fighting Falcons to compensate for an expected two-year slip in operational readiness of the F-35A Lightning II, service leaders told the U.S. Congress on November 2.
France’s Sagem announced that the infrared-guided version of its Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM, also known as Hammer) has been fielded by both the French air force and navy, and that it has been used operationally over Libya.
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.
Civilian and military leaders of the U.S. Air Force outlined priorities they plan to defend against potentially severe budget cuts, citing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and a future long-range bomber specifically, among other systems and capabilities.
Japan is apparently proceeding on schedule with the F-X fighter competition, despite the large economic impact of the recent earthquake and tsunami, and a recent government reshuffle. A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman told Bloomberg news agency that a decision is likely by year-end.
Boeing gained a $135 million contract to add the Lockheed Martin infrared search and track (IRST) system to the U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet by 2015. According to Lockheed Martin, the long-wave system can detect airborne threats with 40 times more accuracy than radar at maximum detection ranges, while offering a comparable scan volume.
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.
Flight tests of the Lockheed Martin F-35 resumed after a two-week grounding. The Joint Program Office (JPO) said that the failure of a control valve had led to the malfunction of the aircraft’s Integrated Power Package (IPP), supplied by Honeywell. But an investigation continues, while a permanent resolution of the problem is being worked, the JPO added.
South Korea is pushing ahead with the third phase of its fighter recapitalization program, and the short-listed candidates include the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter. It was nominated alongside the Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle for the FX-III requirement, which seeks 60 multirole fighters for around $7.86 billion.
A report by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has listed some risks arising from the decision by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to switch its Joint Strike Fighter selection from the F-35B STOVL (short takeoff and vertical landing) version to the F-35C carrier version.