The threat of renewed U.S. government budget sequestration in FY2016 loomed large at this week’s U.S. Air Force Association (AFA) conference and exposition. Nevertheless, Air Force leadership seemed confident that they could protect their top-priority procurements: the F-35 stealth fighter, KC-46 tanker and the long-range strike bomber (LRS-B). This same week, the U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution to enable uninterrupted spending on operations and procurement from October 1, the start of FY2015. A definitive National Defense Authorization (NDA) for FY2015 is not expected until January.
Boeing won a $9.36 million contract modification from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to refine its concept for a radically improved vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft to the preliminary design review stage. Three other contractors have proposed concepts for the program.
Lockheed Martin (LM) staged a ceremonial rollout of the first two F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on July 24 at Fort Worth, Texas.
Lockheed Martin (LM) and BAE Systems reported progress this month on their rival upgrades for F-16 Fighting Falcons. Two aircraft from each company’s launch customer (Taiwan for LM, Korea for BAE) are now in rework, ironically just a few miles from each other in Fort Worth, Texas. Meanwhile, the ferry of Iraq’s first two new Block 52 aircraft in September is looking unlikely.
Britain’s new aircraft carrier is now afloat, but the total forecast cost of £6.1 billion ($10.4 billion) still threatens to sink other defense projects in the UK. To this cost must be added the forecast near-£2.5 billion ($4.28 billion) being contributed by the UK to development and initial test and evaluation of the F-35s that will fly from her decks, plus perhaps another £5 billion ($8.56 billion) for their production. However, the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are taking their cue from H.M.
Kongsberg and Raytheon announced a teaming agreement this week to develop and market the Norwegian company’s JSM (joint strike missile) for the air-launched OASuW (offensive anti-surface warfare) mission.
Nine heavy hitters from the Lockheed Martin F-35 program fronted Tuesday’s media briefing here at Farnborough. But even three senior Pentagon officials, one Air Force general and five industry chiefs could not conjure the actual hardware–although the good news at the show yesterday was that the F-35 was given clearance to fly with “a restricted flight envelope.” The four F-35Bs slated to fly to the UK were have been grounded at NAS Patuxent River after a June 23 engine fire at Eglin AFB in Florida.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 may yet show up here, but the odds were still against it yesterday, as AIN went to press. A senior Pentagon official said Thursday that all F-35 engines had been inspected and no faults found. But the organization responsible for the four F-35B STOVL versions that are supposed to make the transatlantic trip did not lift the grounding.
Time is running out for the Lockheed Martin F-35 to make its international debut. The fleet remains grounded after the engine fire on June 23. “We’re working day and night to provide evidence to the airworthiness authorities, but we haven’t learned enough yet,” said Lt Gen Chris Bogdan, head of the F-35 Joint Program Office.
Transatlantic ferry flights of four Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning IIs, due to make their international debut in the UK, were delayed this week by the engine fire that occurred June 23 at Eglin AFB. As a result, tentative plans to fly one or more of them over the naming ceremony for the UK’s new aircraft carrier were cancelled. HM The Queen will formally christen the big ship named after her, at Rosyth dockyard in Scotland on July 4.
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