While operational commanders try to target an elusive enemy from the air over Iraq and Syria, senior U.S. commanders and aerospace academics are wrestling with an associated question: how to take advantage of tremendous advances in information networking to prosecute modern air campaigns. During the recent Air Force Association (AFA) conference, the shortcomings of current military air systems networking were explored in some frank comments during a panel session entitled “The Combat Cloud,” and in other discourse.
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.
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.
The all-British Taranis UCAV demonstrator has flown in fully stealth mode during a second phase of flight testing, BAE Systems revealed at the Farnborough Airshow this week. The flights took place last winter from Woomera, South Australia, at a location that the company is still not allowed to acknowledge by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). “The overall achievements and objectives of the Taranis program remain highly classified,” Chris Garside, engineering director BAE Systems told a media briefing.
The U.S. Air Force announced that it released a request for proposals (RFP) to industry on July 9 for its new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program to develop the next generation heavy bomber. The service said it expects to make a contract award next spring.
Detailed requirements for the bomber are classified and in a press release the Air Force described the platform in generalities. It nevertheless designated the LRS-B as a top priority, along with the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and KC-46A tanker.
In his last act as British Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves le Drian, signed an agreement at the Farnborough Airshow yesterday to launch a two-year co-operative feasibility study for an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV). The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) deal is worth £120 million (more than $180 million) for six industry partners: BAE Systems, Dassault Aviation, Rolls-Royce, Safran, Selex and Thales.
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.
Japan’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) has released images and footage of the ATD-X (advanced technology demonstrator-experimental), following the appearance of a privately taken blurred image a few weeks ago.
Made public this weekend, the new images were taken on May 14 and show the aircraft being moved out of the paint shop, resplendent in TRDI’s house colors and bearing the serial 51-0001. In April, Japan’s defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, told journalists that the ATD-X is scheduled to fly this year.
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.
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