Following months of speculation, fueled by tidbits gleaned during the Zhuhai airshow in November, the first images of China’s newest combat aircraft were revealed in the week before Christmas. Believed to be designated the J-20, the aircraft is under development by Chengdu (611 Design Institute) and Shenyang, with the former leading the effort having effectively won a design competition in 2008.
On November 19, Lockheed Martin received a $3.5 billion contract modification to build 31 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the fourth low-rate initial production (LRIP) batch. Together with earlier long-lead funding, this brings the contract value for LRIP-4 to $3.9 billion. The batch comprises 10 F-35A CTOL aircraft for the U.S.
The U.S. National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform drafted a recommendation for large reductions in U.S. military spending in an effort to save $200 billion. The document suggests ending procurement of the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and slashing the planned buy of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The delivery in early September of a Dassault Falcon 7X to a Fortune 500 customer furnished opportunities to ride along on the flight to the airplane’s new home base, as well as to get some stick time in the level-D flight simulator at training provider CAE. Both experiences revealed quite a lot about Dassault’s flagship bizjet.
India will join Russia in the development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) as well as a multirole transport aircraft (MTA). At a meeting in Delhi, the defense ministers of both countries confirmed the projects, although India has not yet signed a draft $300 million preliminary design contract for the FGFA. The MTA agreement was signed last month, when Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Lockheed Martin has begun flight testing a new sensor for the F-35's targeting system, developed by the company's missiles and fire-control division. The test aircraft is a highly modified Boeing 737 operated by BAE Systems and is known as the CATBird (cooperative avionics testbed).
In the same week that the Chengdu JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft made its international debut at the Farnborough airshow, the product of this co-development between China and Pakistan was offered to Indonesia. The Pakistan Defence Minister signed a defense cooperation agreement with his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta.
Japan is examining the possibility of continuing production of the Mitsubishi F-2 to bolster its fighter fleet in the face of growing Chinese capability, adding some 20 aircraft to the 94 (plus four prototypes) currently procured. The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) is looking for a new fighter and has stated a desire for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, but U.S. export restrictions have ruled that out.
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.
Boeing announced here yesterday a set of potential enhancements to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet that it will market to export prospects. They include an enclosed weapons pod that is intended to lower the aircraft’s radar cross section. The countries currently evaluating or expressing interest in the Super Hornet include Brazil, Denmark, India, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Qatar.