Military aircraft requirements in the Middle East and Asia worth billions of dollars remain unresolved, and will be a major talking point at next week’s Dubai Air Show. Most of the major aerospace companies will have a presence at the show, although the venue is unlikely to provide confirmation of any major order.
A Dassault Falcon 7X flies near the Burj Khalifa (just outside of the frame of this photo), the tallest building in the world, here in Dubai. Dassault, which also manufactures the Rafale fighter, has a strong business jet presence in the Middle East region, with more than 60 Falcons based here and 12 due for delivery over the next two years. Some 40 percent of Middle East sales are Falcon 7Xs–the French company’s flagship product.
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.
France’s Sagem announced that the infrared-guided version of its Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM, also known as Hammer) has been fielded by both the French air force and navy, and that it has been used operationally over Libya.
Japan is apparently proceeding on schedule with the F-X fighter competition, despite the large economic impact of the recent earthquake and tsunami, and a recent government reshuffle. A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman told Bloomberg news agency that a decision is likely by year-end.
South Korea is pushing ahead with the third phase of its fighter recapitalization program, and the short-listed candidates include the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter. It was nominated alongside the Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle for the FX-III requirement, which seeks 60 multirole fighters for around $7.86 billion.
India confirmed that it will upgrade its 51 Mirage 2000H fighters, and entered final negotiations with Thales, which will act as prime contractor. The long-delayed deal has been controversial in India because of cost, and the 20- to 25-year age of most of the airframes. Thales would not comment on Indian media reports that the contract could be worth $2.4 billion.
Eurofighter confirmed in Paris yesterday that an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar would enter service on the Typhoon in 2015, and announced the start of flight trials with the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM (beyond-visual-range, air-to-air missile).
Thales is “five years ahead of anybody in Europe or the U.S.” in active arrays for airborne radars, according to Jean-Nöel Stock, Thales vice-president UAVs and intelligence, and a former program director for Dassault Rafale airborne systems.
One of the most important weapons development programs here in France is the INS/GPS+laser-guided variant of Sagem’s AASM (armement air-sol modulaire in French, now also known by its NATO name of SBU-38 Hammer). The AASM has been achieving good success in its INS/GPS- and INS/GPS+IR-guided versions, and the laser version will provide the significant ability to hit moving targets.