During a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Thales facility at Brest, French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the contract that launches a major upgrade for the Marine Nationale’s Dassault Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft. The upgrade equips the Atlantique 2 for service to at least its current planned out-of-service date of 2030, and beyond if its career is extended.
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).
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) state-owned and -operated Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) presented a full line of its products and plans for further expansion of its export markets at last month’s Aviation Expo China exhibition, which was held in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The centerpiece of the Avic display was a line-up of models of those military aircraft programs that the conglomerate has been permitted to make public.
Last week the UK/Germany-based 328 Group announced that it had handed over the last of 17 Dornier 328 twin-turboprop transports to Sierra Nevada for supply to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The U.S. Air Force operates these aircraft as the C-146A Wolfhound. The handover ceremony for the last aircraft took place on July 9, but announcement was delayed, possibly owing to the sensitive nature of these aircraft. Following the handover at 328 Group’s facility at Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany, the aircraft departed for Sierra Nevada’s facility at Centennial, Colorado.
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, has joined forces with Bell Helicopter on the V-280 being proposed for the DoD’s joint multi-role (JMR) technology demonstrator program. The move by Lockheed Martin comes one month after the company announced it is developing a “universal” avionics and weapons package for the Army’s JMR aircraft even before selection of an airframe. As many as 4,000 helicopters could be acquired under the program.
Bell Boeing, the joint venture that produces the V-22 and MV-22 tiltrotor for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, announced that it had successfully demonstrated the capability of that aircraft to serve as an aerial refueling tanker in trials with F/A-18C/D fighters. The test V-22 used a retractable refueling drogue. Bell Boeing has been promoting the V-22 for other roles, including that of the Greyhound COD resupply mission for aircraft carriers.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon are back in play for South Korea’s F-X III fighter requirement after that country made a sudden decision to reject the last remaining contender, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle, and restart the procurement process.
An MQ-1 Predator UAV supported firefighters in their efforts to control the huge California Rim Fire in August-September, according to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The company noted that the UAV’s more-than-24-hour endurance offered a “value-added capability” over helicopters, which ground commanders had relied on previously but are required to refuel every two hours.
Even as French aircrews began training in the U.S. on the Reaper UAS, EADS Cassidian announced that it had received a one-year extension to its support contract for the Harfang UAS that the French air force intends to replace with the American drone. Cassidian also noted that the similar Heron UAS operated by the German air force and supported by the company has logged 15,000 hours over Afghanistan. The Germans are also considering a Reaper buy as a replacement for the Israeli-origin UAVs.
C-17 production will end in 2015, Boeing announced. Denis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, described the decision as “difficult but necessary.” Since production of the heavy airlifter for the U.S. Air Force began winding down some years ago, Boeing has extended the line every six months, based on signed or anticipated export orders.
Software remains the biggest risk of the F-35 program, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program executive officer. In a presentation at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air & Space Conference on September 17, Bogdan also discussed progress in fixing the Joint Strike Fighter’s helmet-mounted display systems (HMDS), and program costs.