South Korea’s air force would be best served in the near term by a mix of fighters that includes an advanced version of Boeing’s F-15, according to retired U.S. Air Force general and former chief of staff Ronald Fogleman. The F-15 would provide needed combat capability to counter the threat posed by North Korea right away, whereas Lockheed Martin’s F-35 will lack full combat capability until around 2020 when its Block 3F software is installed and tested, he said.
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).
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of the MQ-8C Fire Scout on October 31. The unmanned helicopter, which is based on the Bell 407, flew twice that day at the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.
On the first flight in restricted airspace, the MQ-8C flew in a pattern around the airfield for seven minutes to validate autonomous control systems; on the second flight, it reached an altitude of 500 feet while flying in a pattern. The aircraft was operated by a combined Navy/Northrop Grumman flight-test team located at the naval base.
Buoyed by the recent win of Turkey’s long-range aerial and missile defense system (T-Loramids) tender, China’s radar and defense electronics industry is pushing to enter more markets outside its traditional customer base. These include nations in Latin America–such as Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile–as well as some of the former Soviet republics.
Eurofighter has signed a new development contract with the four European partner nations for the Typhoon. The Evolution Package 2 (EP2) comprises various improvements to the combat jet’s avionics. Two days earlier, EADS Cassidian said that flight testing of an earlier set of improvements had been completed.
Eight senior air force commanders from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East have agreed to speak at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference (DIAC), which immediately precedes the Dubai Air Show on November 16. They include the British and French air force commanders, and the commander of the USAF’s Central Command. Their decision to attend the conference and show may reflect a desire to reassure allies in the Gulf of their support, after recent disagreements over policy toward Egypt and Syria.
Delivery of a new SIGINT aircraft for the Royal Air Force has been postponed. The UK’s Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) has not yet reviewed the safety case. The Airseeker (the RAF’s name for the U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint system) is the latest airframe that could be delayed by the MAA’s detailed scrutiny, which British contractors have privately called overzealous.
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) last week notified Congress of another massive sale to Gulf countries by American companies. Saudi Arabia is buying air-launched weapons worth $6.8 billion for its new F-15SA Strike Eagles; the UAE is buying air-launched weapons worth $4 billion for its F-16s. The main U.S. contractors to benefit are Boeing (providing SLAM-ER and Harpoon missiles and small-diameter bombs) and Raytheon (providing JSOW missiles and Paveway “smart” bombs).
AeroVironment and Eurocopter are exploring opportunities for cooperation. The potential transatlantic team would combine AeroVironment’s unmanned aircraft technology and systems integration skills and knowledge with Eurocopter’s helicopter technology expertise, a Eurocopter spokesman told AIN.
MBDA reported a series of successful firings earlier this month of the Brimstone 2 air-surface missile being developed for the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). The new version of the 100-pound-class, low-collateral-damage weapon adds a laser to the original millimeter-wave (MMW) radar guidance system. The missile will be carried by RAF Tornados and, later, Typhoons and F-35s. MBDA is promoting the Brimstone for other platforms, including UAVs such as the Predator/Reaper series.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) said that an improved version of the Gray Eagle UAV flew for 45.3 hours on a demonstration flight earlier this month. The Gray Eagle was developed for the U.S. Army from the Predator UAS. The Improved Gray Eagle is a higher-power, higher-mtow version that GA-ASI developed using company funds, although the U.S. Army paid for the demo flight, the first of two planned by the end of the year.