“We live in a goldfish bowl,” sighed Lockheed Martin F-35 vice president customer engagement Steve O’Bryan. Speaking in London last March, he was referring to the stream of official reports, testimonies and comments that examine the Joint Strike Fighter program. This year alone, five major documents on the F-35 have reached the public domain. In January, a Pentagon operational test and evaluation report surfaced.
Geopolitical shifts including regime-change in Libya, the stiffening of international sanctions against Iran and violent unrest in Syria, are among the trends compelling Russian military export agency Rosoboronexport to keep looking for new clients worldwide. This is, to a large degree, one of its primary motives for exhibiting at the Farnborough International Airshow.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) reversed course on its Carrier Strike program, confirming a switch from the F-35C CV version back to the F-35B STOVL version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The decision was expected, and has been driven by a doubling of the estimated cost (to more than $3.2 billion) to convert for “cat and trap” operations one of two new British carriers that are already under construction.
The U.S. Navy has started the process of eventually replacing its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare derivative. On April 13, the service issued a request for information (RFI) seeking industry concepts for the F/A-XX fighter to replace Super Hornets and Growlers around 2030.
The U.S. Navy released a draft request for proposals (RFP) last month for its future airborne electronic warfare system, the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), signaling a shift in the $2 billion program to the technology development phase. Contained in under-wing pods on the Navy’s EA-18G Growler, the NGJ will suppress advanced, integrated air defenses, communications systems, datalinks and other threats, replacing the long-serving AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system on the Boeing EA-18G and retiring Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers.
After several years of testing, the U.S. Marine Corps has deployed the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) to Afghanistan. The APKWS is a conversion of the Hydra 70-mm unguided rocket into a precision-guided munition through the addition of the WGU-59/B mid-body guidance unit developed by BAE.
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.
Boeing has selected Elbit Systems to supply the high-resolution large area display (LAD) for future export versions of the F-15 Eagle and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The 11- by 19-inch LAD replaces several multifunction displays. It forms part of the F-15 Silent Eagle proposal to Korea, and the Super Hornet proposal for Brazil’s long-running fighter contest.
The French Rafale is reportedly well placed to triumph in the long-running fighter jet contest in Brazil, and also to secure the elusive order from the UAE, following the type’s success in India. Indian air force commander ACM N.A.K. Browne told AIN that his country would not accept a revised bid from the losing Eurofighter camp for the 126-aircraft MMRCA requirement.
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.