Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II notched its 10,000th flight hour in September, and by the end of the month the combined Joint Strike Fighter fleet had flown 6,492 times for 10,077 hours. Illustrating the momentum that the program has built since operational production aircraft began training operations, more than half the total was amassed in the past 11 months. It had previously taken the program six years to reach the 5,000-hour milestone.
During a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Thales facility at Brest, French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the contract that launches a major upgrade for the Marine Nationale’s Dassault Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft. The upgrade equips the Atlantique 2 for service to at least its current planned out-of-service date of 2030, and beyond if its career is extended.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon are back in play for South Korea’s F-X III fighter requirement after that country made a sudden decision to reject the last remaining contender, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle, and restart the procurement process.
Software remains the biggest risk of the F-35 program, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program executive officer. In a presentation at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air & Space Conference on September 17, Bogdan also discussed progress in fixing the Joint Strike Fighter’s helmet-mounted display systems (HMDS), and program costs.
Flight trials of the MiG-29K on the INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) in the Barents Sea have been completed. Deliveries of the naval version of the fighter to India continue, with the carrier to follow on November 15, and the Russian Navy will soon receive its first MiG-29K.
The Netherlands confirmed its previous choice of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II to replace the air force’s F-16s. But in a statement, the Dutch government noted that “based on current insights, the available financial room is sufficient for 37 aircraft.” A total of 85 had originally been planned.
Russia’s Tactical Missile Corporation is negotiating with Dassault Aviation for the possible use of its missiles on the Rafale combat jets that have been selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The corporation, whose Russian acronym is TRV, told journalists attending last week’s Maks air show in Moscow that the Indian air force has large stocks of Russian air-launched weapons, which drives its interest in adapting them to the French warplane.
The premier position of the UK aerospace industry on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program was highlighted by a briefing and presentation at the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) show in London this week. Some 500 British companies are involved in producing “15 percent of each of the 3,100 F-35s that will be built,” according to Steve O’Bryan, vice president for F-35 program integration at Lockheed Martin. The company has calculated that the program will secure 24,000 high-technology jobs in the UK through 2039.
The U.S. Navy’s estimated $7 billion Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) development does not duplicate any existing airborne electronic attack capability. But the potential exists for some “overlap” with electronic attack systems being developed by other U.S. military services, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) advises.
Boeing is flight-testing an F/A-18F Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), an enclosed weapons pod (EWP) and “signature enhancements” designed to substantially increase the range and reduce the radar signature, compared with the U.S. Navy’s Block II Super Hornet.