Northrop Grumman rolled out the X-47B UCAS-D (unmanned combat air system-demonstrator) in December 2008 and since then has been busy preparing the first of two vehicles for its maiden flight, expected shortly. Low- and high-speed trials have been completed at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, where the second X-47B is in final assembly.
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.
Lockheed Martin may be focusing a large proportion of its promotional efforts on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but the company insists there is still a lot of life left in the F-16 and that production could continue alongside that of the F-35 for some years. Meanwhile, the company has outlined a sustainment and supportability plan that projects to at least 2040.
While the British are touting their UCAV capabilities to the world, the six European countries that have partnered to produce the Neuron UCAV demonstrator are quietly getting on with their own tasks.
The British government is reviewing a security agreement signed previously with the U.S. that could preclude future cooperation with Europe on unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). Last week’s unveiling of the all-British Taranis stealthy UCAV demonstrator by BAE Systems has brought renewed focus on whether European governments and industry can or should unite to fully develop such a system.
The Eurofighter Typhoon partner companies will announce here today their decision to kick-start the development of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for the four-nation combat aircraft. The Indian air force competition for 126 AESA-equipped fighters is driving the move because the four European air forces that fly the Typhoon have no immediate requirement for an AESA.
Amid tight security, the Taranis Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (shown above) was unveiled at BAE Systems Warton airfield last Monday. Uncleared visitors were not allowed to approach the aircraft, but the stealth-driven configuration seemed unchanged from artists’ impressions previously released. The Taranis concept demonstrator is due to fly next year from an undisclosed overseas airbase.
Canada has selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its next combat aircraft, Peter MacKay, the country’s defense minister, announced last Friday. The $9 billion commitment covers 65 JSFs. The first is due for delivery in 2016 to begin replacement of the CF-18 Hornet fleet. The commitment does not include ongoing training and support, which is estimated at a further $7 billion.
How cool is this? A high-altitude spyplane that can stay airborne for four days, driven by a liquid hydrogen power system, was unveiled last Monday at the Boeing Phantom Works in St. Louis, Missouri. Darryl Davis, the president of this advanced technology development shop, is here at the Farnborough show to describe rapid progress with the Phantom Eye program. A scale model is in the Boeing Pavilion here this week.
While development of the T-50 PAK-FA gathers pace, the Su-35 remains Sukhoi’s export priority for the next five to seven years. The aircraft is designed to plug the gap between the existing Su-30 and future fifth-generation fighters. According to Sukhoi, the Su-35 already incorporates some fifth-generation technology, thereby having an edge over other fourth-generation combat platforms.