On May 4 Boeing flew for the first time an F-16 that the company has converted for pilotless flight under the U.S. Air Force’s Full-Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) program. The flight took place at Cecil Field, near Jacksonville, Florida. A Boeing test pilot took the aircraft up to 41,000 feet during the 66-minute sortie.
United States Air Force
Still stunned by the Pentagon’s scrapping of the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk Block 30 program, Northrop Grumman said here at the show yesterday that it’s too early to determine whether the decision will impact the cost of other Pentagon UAV programs based on the big-winged jet. The Block 20 Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), the Block 40 Multi-Platform Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) and the U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) programs were all unaffected by the decision.
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. strategic tilt toward the Asia Pacific region plays to Raytheon Co.’s strength in active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a key technology being used and sought by countries in the region to enhance the capabilities of their legacy fourth-generation fighters.
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 stealthy, jet-powered Predator-C UAV may be heading for Afghanistan, where it will be operated by “a classified customer,” presumably the CIA. The U.S. Air Force published a procurement notice stating its intention to award a sole-source contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for a single aircraft to serve as “a test platform” in a “multi-agency role” as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The U.S. Air National Guard is conducting training flights with the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in restricted airspace around Fort Drum in western New York State, where an Air Guard wing has established the first such Reaper flight school.
South Korea is expected to issue a request for proposals for an F-16 radar retrofit this week. It could be the first country to decide between the Northrop Grumman Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) and the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR).
British, French and U.S. aircraft began the action in mid-March, in a “coalition of the willing” named Operation Odyssey Dawn that was led by U.S. Africa Command. On March 31, NATO took command. Eleven other nations sent aircraft to join the campaign.