Faced with growing costs in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, Denmark is reviewing its options for a new fighter and has invited Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Saab (Gripen E) to submit information for alternatives. A decision is due in 2015. Dassault (Rafale) may have been approached, but at the time of writing appeared unlikely to respond. The company has a history of not bidding on programs that it calculates have little chance of success.
AIN Defense Perspective
Operational testing and evaluation of the F-35A has begun, with the delivery of four aircraft to Nellis AFB. They were accepted by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center in a ceremony on March 19. Eight more F-35As will join them by 2019. The Air Force has now received 24 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft. Another 34 F-35s have been delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.
MBDA has confirmed that production rounds of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile are scheduled for delivery before year-end. However, MBDA managing director Steve Wadey would not disclose which air force will be the first to get the new missile, which MBDA UK claims represents a “step change in the air-to-air world.” AIN reported last year that French Rafale and Swedish Gripen fighters would be flying operational Meteors ahead of the four Eurofighter nations.
The first T-50 advanced jet trainer for the Indonesian Air Force has been flown in Korea by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The first export order for the T-50 was placed in 2011, and is worth $400 million for 16 aircraft, according to the Indonesians.
Ilyushin and the Russian defense ministry have begun a joint flight-test and certification program for the Il-76MD-90A airlifter. The first flight in the program took place on March 18 at the Gromov Flight Test and Research Institute, in Zhukovsky, using the prototype (RA-78650) that first flew from the Aviastar manufacturing facility in Ulyanovsk in September last year.
During a press conference at last week’s Heli-Expo convention in Las Vegas, Kamov general designer Sergei Mikheyev dropped something of a bombshell when he revealed that the Kamov Design Bureau had produced the initial conceptual design for China’s Changhe (CAIC) Z-10 attack helicopter. Having made its public debut at last year’s Zhuhai airshow, the Z-10 is in the early stages of production and has entered service with at least one Chinese army unit.
The Obama Administration notified Congress on March 7 of planned revisions to the U.S. Munitions List (USML) in the aircraft and gas-turbine engine categories. The revisions will move items considered to be non-sensitive or having dual military and commercial uses from the State Department-administered USML to the more flexible Commerce Control List (CCL) under the administration’s export control reform initiative.
The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to build six more MQ-8C unmanned helicopters based on the Bell 407, bringing to 14 the number of new, larger Fire Scouts under contract. The Navy plans to acquire a total of 30 MQ-8Cs under a rapid development effort that calls for deployment next year.
The NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) announced this week that it has awarded a contract to the trinational Panavia consortium to further upgrade the Tornado for the Italian air force. The latest in a series of upgrades will allow Italian Tornados to carry the small-diameter bomb (SDB) and the advanced anti-radiation guided missile (AARGM).
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is soliciting proposals from industry for a vertical takeoff and landing experimental aircraft (VTOL X-plane) that would demonstrate “radical” improvements over the current state of VTOL flight. In late February, Darpa issued a broad agency announcement seeking proposals by May 1.