The Lockheed Martin F-35 development program has met or exceeded the revised flight-test schedule that was written following a technical baseline restructuring (TBR) last August, according to Lockheed Martin officials. But some significant technical issues remain, and affordability continues to be a key concern for the new-generation combat aircraft.
F-16 Fighting Falcon
Although rebel forces have gained hardly any ground in Libya, NATO officials are still optimistic that airpower alone will eventually force Col. Ghaddafi’s regime from power. To that end, air strikes have increasingly focused on Libya’s defense and security infrastructure, including vehicle, ammunition and missile depots; intelligence and secret police headquarters; the presidential complex in Tripoli; and other command and control sites.
Lockheed Martin has learned “some painful lessons” during the development of the F-35, CEO Bob Stevens told journalists in late May. “There’s more realism now,” he added.
Held in Abu Dhabi, the IDEX defense exhibition is traditionally the platform for the United Arab Emirates to announce major deals. But apart from a possible buy of Predator UAVs and an H-60 upgrade (see separate stories), there was nothing on the UAE’s big-ticket items at last week’s event. Even the much-anticipated deal for the THAAD high-altitude air defense system has not been finalized.
Taiwanese president Ma Ying-Jeou renewed his nation’s plea to the U.S. for more F-16s, citing China’s recent unveiling of the J-20 stealth fighter. Ma spoke after witnessing an air defense exercise that involved the launch of 19 missiles, including indigenous Tien Chien (Sky Sword) AAMs and Tien Kung (Sky Bow) SAMs. The new ground-launched version of the Tien Chien was also fired.
The technology in Embraer’s newest business jet series, the Legacy 450 and 500, enables detailed exploration and development to take place much further ahead of first flight, according to Eduardo Camelier, chief test pilot for the Brazilian manufacturer. “We are flying this airplane before first flight a lot more than we did with the E170,” he said.
The high level of technology employed in Embraer’s newest business jet family, the Legacy 450 and 500 program, enables detailed exploration and development to take place much further ahead of first flight, according to Eduardo Camelier, chief test pilot for the Brazilian manufacturer.
Oman is set to buy a further 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft in a package worth $3.5 billion. The U.S. Congress was notified of the potential sale earlier this month. The package also includes conformal fuel tanks, 18 Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pods and four Goodrich DB-110 reconnaissance pods.
Japan is examining the possibility of continuing production of the Mitsubishi F-2 to bolster its fighter fleet in the face of growing Chinese capability, adding some 20 aircraft to the 94 (plus four prototypes) currently procured. The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) is looking for a new fighter and has stated a desire for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, but U.S. export restrictions have ruled that out.
Buoyed by last week’s endorsement of the F-35 from Canada, Lockheed Martin vice president Tom Burbage, delivered a business-as-usual update on the Joint Strike Fighter program here in Farnborough this week. There was some talk of the alleged mounting costs, but much more about the flight-test program and international partnerships.