After protracted negotiations, Lockheed Martin reached an agreement in principle with the Pentagon for the fifth lot of low-rate initial production F-35s (LRIP-5). The company has reported new flight-test milestones for the Lightning II stealth fighter in recent weeks. But there was less good news from Canada, which is reconsidering its commitment to the F-35 on cost grounds.
China has conducted fixed-wing operations on an aircraft carrier for the first time. The initial trial was conducted by a pair of Shenyang J-15s, numbers “552” and “553,” on the Liaoning, (side number 16), the country’s ex-Russian vessel. The aircraft were unpainted apart from serial numbers and large photo-calibration marks. They are believed to be the second and third J-15 prototypes, and are powered by the Russian-made AL31F engine rather than the Chinese WS10H that has been installed in some other J-15 prototypes.
A short-notice, low-profile visit to the UAE by British Prime Minister David Cameron this week boosted the prospects of an order for the Eurofighter Typhoon. But government and military sources in London and Paris told AIN that the Emiratis are in no hurry to make a decision, and that the Dassault Rafale remains in contention. Dassault declined to comment on the latest development.
Aerobridge is initiating a limited activation in response to Hurricane Sandy. The organization is coordinating donated aircraft to bring first-response donations to Farmingdale, N.Y., where they will be picked up and transported via truck to Staten Island and Lower Manhattan to assist 5,000 children and disadvantaged families. Aerobridge is looking for pilots with aircraft who can acquire food, water, winter jackets, batteries and flashlights and fly them to Farmingdale.
As pounding rain and wind exceeding 90 mph heralded the arrival of Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern seaboard earlier this week, companies and operators participating in NBAA’s Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (Hero) database were already working with national emergency agencies and personnel to assist with post-storm relief efforts using business aircraft.
Flight-testing of the Lockheed Martin F-35 is ahead of the 2012 plan, and software development is making up lost ground, now standing at two months behind schedule. Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s v-p for F-35 program integration and business development, told a meeting in London sponsored by The Air League that the F-35B STOVL version that the UK will buy is 40 percent ahead on flights and test points. Of the nine million lines of software code in the aircraft, 87 percent is now in flight test, with another 6 percent in laboratory tests.
Dassault and Thales announced delivery of the first production Rafale to carry the Thales RBE2 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The companies noted that the aircraft, production number C137 for the French Air Force, is the first AESA-equipped European combat aircraft to enter service. The development was completed on time and budget, they added.
Photographs have recently appeared on Chinese Internet sites showing a Xian Y-7 transport aircraft that has been heavily modified to serve as a testbed for a carrier-borne airborne early warning and control (AEW) aircraft. These recent photos follow one that appeared in May 2011, which provided the first grainy visual evidence of development of a “Chinese Hawkeye” by Xian.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will convert half its fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets to EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. Australia’s Department of Defense will acquire Growler modification kits from the U.S. through a foreign military sale (FMS) for $1.5 billion, the department said on August 23.
With India’s first indigenous carrier (IAC-1) now under construction at the Cochin shipyard, there is speculation surrounding future aircraft carriers, and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma told AIN that the design of the second carrier has not been decided. IAC-1 has a ski jump, but it has not been decided yet whether a planned second indigenous carrier (IAC-2) would be similarly equipped with a ski jump for short-takeoff but arrested recovery (Stobar) operations. Russia has proposed joint development of an advanced carrier design to India.