The heavy rain that forced organizers to cancel the last day of the Dubai Airshow was a metaphor for the main defense story of the week. The prospect of the UAE ordering a new fighter–specifically the Eurofighter Typhoon–had been talked up by UK officials in particular, and reinforced by an eve-of-show visit by the British Prime Minister.
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).
China’s first unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), the Lijian or Sharp Sword, made its first flight on November 21. The event took place at an unidentified flight-test site in southwest China after several months of ground testing. The first flight lasted approximately 20 minutes, and unofficial video footage was soon available on Chinese websites.
France and the UK have agreed a common military staff requirement for a future medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS, according to Gen. Denis Mercier, commander of the French Air Force. However, he cautioned that the move would not automatically result in the development by European industry of a Male UAV “because there is no money available at the moment.” European aerospace leaders have been pressing for the launch of a “Euro-Male” development program.
Boeing formally announced the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) program, based on the Bombardier Challenger business jet. Development has been under way for some time, with Field Aviation in Toronto already modifying a Boeing-owned Challenger 604 to serve as the demonstrator.
This week’s Dubai Airshow was the first time that a UAE Air Tractor AT-802i has been shown in public. The UAE purchased 24 of these highly modified agricultural aircraft, and took delivery of the first in late 2010. Media reports suggest that six of the aircraft are being donated to Jordan but probably with armament capability removed.
Aerospace and defense contractor AAR (Stand 2118) has announced new contracts with U.S. government agencies. Here at the Dubai Airshow, the company is emphasizing its increasing global reach.
In June this year the second multi-year procurement contract was signed for the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. It will deliver 93 MV-22s for the Marine Corps and seven more CV-22s for the US Air Force over the course of five years. With the current annual rate of production running at around 40 aircraft, that means that in the near future there will be considerable production capacity available for foreign military sales (FMS) as deliveries to the U.S. military drop off.
Boeing has selected the Bombardier Challenger 605 business jet to be the platform for its maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) offering. This program was announced in 2012 as a cheaper alternative to Boeing’s high-spec P-8 Poseidon maritime patroller that is on show here at the Dubai Airshow. However, the MSA mission suite draws heavily on the technology developed for the P-8, albeit sized for a business jet application. At the time of the MSA launch the platform had not been selected.
The path to a fully multi-role Eurofighter Typhoon is finally becoming clear. At a media briefing here tomorrow (Wednesday), the company hopes to announce the first test flight in Italy of an aircraft carrying the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The jet’s full operational clearance to drop smart bombs came recently. Meanwhile one of the prototypes will fly next spring with the Selex AESA radar.
Making its public debut at the Dubai Airshow is the Air Tractor AT-802i, an agricultural aircraft heavily modified for counter-insurgency/light attack/ISR missions. The aircraft were purchased by the UAE with a mission system integrated by Iomax, and it is believed that a batch of 24 is nearing the end of delivery after the first arrived at the end of 2010. The U.S.-based company has now migrated the mission system from the Air Tractor AT-802 to the outwardly similar Thrush 510P airframe and launched the aircraft as the ArchAngel at this year’s Paris Air Show.