Defense Sector Makes Strong Showing at Farnborough

 - July 13, 2012, 3:02 PM
There was plenty of defense news at the 2012 Farnborough airshow. (Photo: Mark Wagner)

AIN’s team of editors and reporters provided full coverage of the Farnborough International airshow this week. All the stories can be found online. Major items of defense interest included the prospects for industrial cooperation in Europe on a new generation of unmanned aerial systems, such as the BAE Taranis and Mantis and Thales Watchkeeper. As at the Paris Air Show last year, a flying display by the Airbus Military A400M airlifter, now named the Atlas, was cancelled. Engine reliability problems were to blame. Airbus Military is also still facing challenges on the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport. The presence of Omega Air’s KDC-10 in the static park was a reminder that a commercially run refueling service is available as an alternative.

The Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 advanced jet trainer is vying for export orders, but a chance to display it dynamically in eight-ship formation was lost when the Farnborough organizers turned down a Korean Air Force request for the Black Eagles team to appear in the show. Highlights from the Farnborough display instead were the debut of the Russian Yak-130 trainer, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, and a tight formation by three helicopters from the expanding AgustaWestland portfolio.

Much-needed progress in upgrading the Eurofighter Typhoon was announced by the four-nation consortium. As ever, the Lockheed Martin F-35 program was a major talking point, especially regarding British plans to operate the stealth fighter from aircraft carriers. Lockheed Martin also briefed on F-16 upgrades–a market for which BAE Systems and Boeing are also in contention. The latest Saab Gripen NG was on display.

Companies in the Finmeccanica group made a strong showing; there was news of radar and electronic warfare developments, a new version of the C-27J airlifter, and a fourth customer for the Falco UAV. Another company with lots of news was MBDA, which reported progress in the Meteor BVRAAM program, revealed a new ASM and discussed the arming of UAVs. AIN also reported on the latest missile defense developments at Raytheon.

Low-cost surveillance was a major topic. Saab brought the new 340 maritime security aircraft. Boeing revealed plans to downsize mission systems from the P-8, E-3 and Wedgetail onto a business jet. The optionally piloted Diamond DA42 was on display near the Tecnam multimission aircraft from Austrian company Airborne Technologies.

News of the sale of Hawker Beechcraft to Chinese interests came during the show; it will not include the company’s defense business. AIN reported on the company’s T-6C turboprop trainer, and the UK Military Flying Training System competition in which it is a contender, along with the Pilatus PC-21 and Grob G120TP.