On April 19 Lockheed Martin rolled out from its Marietta, Georgia, facility the first of a new batch of special-mission Hercules for the U.S. Air Force. The company has a contract for 21 HC/MC-130Js, but this number is expected to rise to 31 (11 HCs and 20 MCs). They will replace ageing first-generation aircraft currently serving in Special Operations Squadrons.
Defense » Military Aircraft
News and issues relating to the defense aerospace business, with emphasis on current/in-use, in-development and prospective programs for manned military aircraft and unmanned combat aircraft vehicles (UCAVs).
Earlier this week at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter announced the joint development of a new high-capacity unmanned helicopter. Known as Fire-X, the machine is initially aimed at a U.S. Navy requirement for a medium-range unmanned air system that is expected to be announced next year. It has applications in several roles, including ISR and battlefield supply duties.
Hawker Beechcraft successfully completed the maiden flight of its second AT-6 production-representative test vehicle (PRTV) on April 5 in Wichita. The first PRTV first flew with the new mission avionics suite last September. The second PRTV is the first to fly with the intended powerplant, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68D rated at 1,600 shp (1194 kW).
The UK’s Secretary of Defense, Bob Ainsworth, confirmed on March 22 that the Royal Air Force would receive three Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft to provide its signals intelligence (Sigint) gathering capability, the final agreement having been reached on March 19. The announcement brought to an end any lingering speculation concerning the immediate future of RAF Sigint.
HAL on March 29 made the first flight of its light combat helicopter (LCH) prototype, conducting hover tests for around 15 minutes at Bangalore, India. At the controls were group captain Unni Pillai and group captain Hari Nair. Ground runs began in early February.
The average unit production cost (APUC) for the F-35 is now predicted to be as high as $112 million in current dollars, according to a Pentagon review of the program conducted later last year, which led to a restructuring of the program. The APUC estimate does not amortize the cost of system design and development (SDD). That cost has now risen by $3.2 billion, to $53.2 billion.