News highlights from the Singapore Air Show this week: Lockheed Martin announced a new version of the evergreen F-16 fighter designated F-16V. It includes the upcoming AESA radar upgrade as well as a new mission computer and cockpit display.
RQ-4 Global Hawk
The U.S. Air Force is terminating the C-130 avionics modernization program (AMP) and culling 286 aircraft from its fleet over the next five years as it restructures to meet budget constraints. At the same time, the service plans a service-life-extension program (SLEP) for 350 F-16s to compensate for delayed deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) previewed a Fiscal Year 2013 budget submission on January 26 that slows procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, terminates the Global Hawk Block 30 and retires some C-5As and C-130s. The $613 billion DoD budget will be submitted to Congress in February with the federal budget.
The Pentagon is now spending $3.3 billion annually to develop and buy unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but this sum is still only 8 percent of the total devoted to all aircraft, according to a new report on UAS by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The report mostly rehashes previously published material, but it does contain an updated inventory of UAS platforms in service provided by the DoD’s UAS Task Force.
Northrop Grumman is hoping that funds to re-engine the first two operational E-8C JSTARS radar surveillance aircraft will be provided in the Fiscal 2013 budget next year. The test bed aircraft is now flying with JT8D-219 engines that Northrop Grumman has modified with a new pneumatic system that it claims “vastly improves reliability and the hardware’s life cycle.” Although the JT8D is hardly new technology, the 17 operational E-8Cs are powered by even older JT3Ds. A $1.7 billion program to replace them was started some years ago, and the test bed first flew with JT8Ds in December 2008.
Raytheon has come to Dubai to press the case for its special-mission aircraft expertise in a region where the U.S. company sees a healthy market for airborne ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
Northrop Grumman flew the Euro Hawk UAV demonstrator for the German air force (GAF) to Manching airbase near Munich for further development and testing. The journey from Edwards AFB in California on July 20 took slightly more than 22 hours, four hours longer than originally planned, and was delayed 48 hours by weather and flight-plan difficulties.
Photographs of a new Chinese UAV have been posted on Chinese websites. They show a joined-wing design that was previously shown in model form at the Zhuhai airshow.
The appearance of the marinized variant of the General Atomics MQ-9 Predator B at the recent Paris Air Show heralds an export drive for the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to European NATO countries, as well as Australia, Japan and other prospects. The aircraft at Paris belonged to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has named it the Guardian.
Northrop Grumman officials during a Paris Air Show briefing reported that the first Block 40 Global Hawk high-altitude UAV for the U.S. Air Force is scheduled to make its first flight this week equipped with the Northrop Grumman/Raytheon radar technology insertion program (RTIP) sensor.