Late last week, Romanian defense minister Mircea Dusa signed the contract for a €600 million ($817 million) deal to acquire 12 Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM fighters from Portugal. An initial installment was paid at the same time. The acquisition of F-16s will finally allow Romania to operate NATO-compatible aircraft, and also brings to an end a long-running saga to provide a replacement for the dwindling LanceR fleet of upgraded MiG-21s.
General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon
Boeing and the U.S. Air Force completed the first flight of an unmanned QF-16 aerial target from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., on September 19. Flown by two Air Force test pilots in a ground station, the modified Lockheed Martin F-16 reached an altitude of 40,000 feet and a speed of Mach 1.47.
The Netherlands confirmed its previous choice of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II to replace the air force’s F-16s. But in a statement, the Dutch government noted that “based on current insights, the available financial room is sufficient for 37 aircraft.” A total of 85 had originally been planned.
Lockheed Martin selected the Northrop Grumman scalable agile beam radar (SABR) for planned radar upgrades of approximately 445 U.S. and Taiwanese air force F-16s. Northrop Grumman announced the selection on July 31.
Assembly of the first F-35 Joint Strike fighter to be produced outside the U.S. has begun in Italy. Manufacturers delivered major structural components to the new final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base, west of Milan, where the first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, designated AL-1, will be assembled for the Italian air force. The facility is operated by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aermacchi.
The U.S. Air Force reinstated flight training at combat squadrons that saw their operations curtailed in April by “sequestration” budget cuts. The service announced the resumption of flight training on July 15; it stays in effect until the new fiscal year begins on October 1.
Although the F-35 is in much better shape now than it was a year ago, “we’re not declaring victory yet–it’s still a development program,” said Lockheed Martin v-p of F-35 program integration Steve O’Bryan at the Paris Air Show. But O’Bryan noted that the top U.S. government procurement official had recently expressed cautious optimism and declared that there are no technical showstoppers.
Elbit Systems of America is supplying an upgraded, second-generation joint helmet-mounted cueing system (JHMCS II) for Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced jet trainers and is promoting the system for operators of its first-generation JHMCS 1 and new users. The company featured the JHMCS II at this year’s Paris Air Show.
BAE Systems expects that the U.S. and Korean governments will sign a letter of offer and acceptance later this year authorizing the foreign military sale (FMS) of BAE’s F-16 avionics and weapons upgrade to the Republic of Korea Air Force. The company provided an update on the Korean program and a sales pitch for further F-16 upgrades during a Paris Air Show briefing on Tuesday.
Elbit Systems of America debuted an upgraded Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) II at this year’s Paris Air Show (Hall 3 Stand E111).
The JHMCS II provides a new optical-inertial tracker and replaces the JHMCS subsystems with a lightweight aircraft interface unit. The system is designed as a “low-cost, low-integration” helmet-mounted display for both new aircraft installation, as the JHMCS II, and as an upgrade for already equipped aircraft, the Digital JHMCS.