The U.S. Air Force/Boeing X-37B spacecraft returned to earth by landing at Vandenberg AFB in California on December 3. Aside from some damage from space debris and a blown tire on rollout, the 244-day flight was a success, said officials.
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).
Pratt & Whitney has delivered the first F135 production-standard short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) engine to Lockheed Martin for the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter program. The engine manufacturer plans to deliver another 18 STOVL engines next year. Any further design changes will likely be limited to “mostly software tweaks,” a P&W representative told AIN. Meanwhile, the U.S.
Sixteen Harrier GR.7/9 V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) jets flew over the UK Midlands Wednesday to mark the type’s retirement from British military service. The 70-strong Harrier force fell victim to the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has since rushed to ground them in a vain attempt to stem criticism of the decision.
In a ceremony held at RAAF Amberley, Queensland, the Royal Australian Air Force retired its General Dynamics F-111 fleet on December 2. Affectionately known as the “Pig,” the F-111 served the RAAF from 1973 in the long-range attack and reconnaissance roles. It has been replaced by the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, although the new fleet is not yet operational.
Venezuela is buying up to 12 Shaanxi Y-8 transports from China. The order is part of a series of agreements between the two nations that has already seen 18 Hongdu K-8W jet trainers acquired for the air force, the first of which was delivered in March. The four-engine Y-8 is in widespread Chinese service, and was originally created as a reverse-engineered version of the Antonov An-12 Cub.
In November, Saab received the expected follow-on order for six more Gripen fighters for Thailand. Under a government-to-government deal finalized in 2008, Thailand already ordered two Gripen Cs and four Gripen D two-seaters as part of an air defense package that includes a Saab 340 Erieye radar platform. At the time, Thailand signaled its intentions to double its Gripen order with funding outlined in the subsequent five-year cycle.
The U.S. Air Force’s much delayed and troubled attempts to procure a new-generation tanker hit an embarrassing snag in November, when the evaluating office inadvertently sent out technical assessments of each proposal to the opposing bidders. The documents in question were the Integrated Fleet Aerial Refueling Assessments (IFARA) that model tanker operations in various scenarios.
On November 19, Lockheed Martin received a $3.5 billion contract modification to build 31 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the fourth low-rate initial production (LRIP) batch. Together with earlier long-lead funding, this brings the contract value for LRIP-4 to $3.9 billion. The batch comprises 10 F-35A CTOL aircraft for the U.S.
PZL-Mielec has flown the second Sikorsky S-70i “international” helicopter. It is the first to fly in Poland, where two more units are in final assembly. The Polish company previously shipped major subassemblies for the first S-70i to the U.S., where initial flight tests were completed at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Fla. facility last month.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is courting outside manufacturers to participate in its KF-X stealth fighter program. This program is expected to produce more than 120 aircraft for South Korea’s air force, and may be offered as an export to interested countries. The program’s total cost could reach $8 billion, which is causing the government of South Korea to hesitate in giving its approval.