The U.S. Air Force is terminating the C-130 avionics modernization program (AMP) and culling 286 aircraft from its fleet over the next five years as it restructures to meet budget constraints. At the same time, the service plans a service-life-extension program (SLEP) for 350 F-16s to compensate for delayed deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Hungary extended until 2026 the lease contract with the Swedish government for the 14 Saab Gripen C/D fighters that it received in 2006 and 2007. The agreement was due to expire in 2016. According to press reports in Budapest, Hungary currently pays $130 million per year to operate the aircraft, which were surplus to Swedish air force requirements. Saab said it is pleased by Hungary’s “long-term strategic decision.”
Team Rafale has won the $10 billion-plus Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition to supply 126 aircraft. The news emerged unofficially from the Indian Ministry of Defence after the Dassault representative was told that the Rafale had finally scored its first export success. The French jet beat the Eurofighter Typhoon in the final MMRCA evaluation round.
There was good news for the F-35 program when U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ended the two-year “probation” for the STOVL version a year early. Lockheed Martin F-35B executive v-p Larry Lawson said that “critical engineering challenges” had been solved.
BAE Systems revealed L-3 Link Simulation & Training as its partner to provide the ground-based training system for BAE’s Hawk Advanced Jet Training System (AJTS), proposed for the U.S. Air Force T-X jet trainer replacement program. L-3 Link, based in Arlington, Texas, joins Northrop Grumman as announced partners on the BAE pursuit team.
Thales signed a fixed-price availability contract with the French ministry of defense for support of the Rafale fighter. The company is the last of the three big Rafale contractors to agree to a long-term partnership deal for support. Dassault signed a 10-year agreement in 2008, and engine supplier Snecma followed with a five-year agreement in 2010.
Former Grumman and Gulfstream Aerospace chief test pilot Robert Smyth, 84, died Tuesday at his home at the Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, Fla. During his career at Grumman, he test flew the F9F Cougar, F11F Tiger, A-6A Intruder, F-14A Tomcat and the Gulfstream I twin turboprop, in addition to helping with the Apollo Lunar Module development in the 1960s. Smyth joined Gulfstream in 1981 and retired in 1993 as vice president of operations. His family is planning a remembrance ceremony.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program faces fresh challenges as the new year begins. First, a long-awaited “should cost” review from the U.S. Defense Acquisition Board might clarify whether Lockheed Martin’s continued optimism on the average procurement unit costs (APUC) is justified. In addition, big cuts to the U.S. defense budget seem unlikely to spare the F-35, which is the Pentagon’s highest profile acquisition, and might undermine the basis for the APUC calculations.
The first international Joint Strike Fighter, an F-35B for the UK, was rolled out on November 22, one week before a parliamentary report shed more light on the UK’s decision to switch from the STOVL F-35B version to the conventional carrier landing F-35C version.
The saga of the UAE’s new fighter procurement took another turn Wednesday when the Emirates’ top decision-maker on defense contracts described Dassault’s offer for the Rafale as “uncompetitive and unworkable.”