Executives from the Boeing Phantom Works described progress on various projects during a media tour at Edwards AFB recently. The unit does leading-edge research and development for the various Boeing divisions, including military aircraft.
A Lockheed Martin executive reported “lots of progress” in fixing problems associated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter helmet-mounted display system (HMDS). But the company continues developing an alternate helmet display in case the existing system fails to meet requirements. Critical design reviews of both systems are planned in the fourth quarter.
Lockheed Martin CEO-in-waiting Christopher Kubasik says the company is committed to righting ongoing problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which has doubled in unit cost and slipped in schedule by six years until full-rate production, now slated for 2019. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the government is responsible for $672 million of the $1 billion-plus cost overrun from the program’s first four low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts.
A machinists strike at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics plant in Fort Worth, Texas, which manufactures the F-16 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, has stretched into a seventh week, with no sign of an end. Demonstrations were also reported at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md., where union members are also employed, and at Lockheed Martin’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md.
Now out of production, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is troubled by an unresolved problem thought to be tied to its onboard oxygen generation system (Obogs). Nevertheless, the U.S. Air Force recently deployed the stealthy fighter to Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE, and it plans to add new capabilities to the aircraft over the next decade.
The joint Indo-Russian project to produce a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) for the Indian Air Force is facing a two-year delay. It will now take nine years instead of the stipulated seven to develop. The Indian Air Force attributes the delay to Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), which has a workshare of 25 percent in the program.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) reversed course on its Carrier Strike program, confirming a switch from the F-35C CV version back to the F-35B STOVL version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The decision was expected, and has been driven by a doubling of the estimated cost (to more than $3.2 billion) to convert for “cat and trap” operations one of two new British carriers that are already under construction.
The U.S. Navy has started the process of eventually replacing its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare derivative. On April 13, the service issued a request for information (RFI) seeking industry concepts for the F/A-XX fighter to replace Super Hornets and Growlers around 2030.
The U.S. Navy released a draft request for proposals (RFP) last month for its future airborne electronic warfare system, the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), signaling a shift in the $2 billion program to the technology development phase. Contained in under-wing pods on the Navy’s EA-18G Growler, the NGJ will suppress advanced, integrated air defenses, communications systems, datalinks and other threats, replacing the long-serving AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system on the Boeing EA-18G and retiring Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers.
The latest Selected Acquisition Report on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program has updated the Pentagon’s cost estimates. The eight international partners may take some comfort from the predictions of future unit recurring flyaway costs, once full-rate production begins. That is, if they defer the majority of their buys until then, which seems increasingly likely. The report also details the schedule delays that were officially approved last December.