Boeing gained a $135 million contract to add the Lockheed Martin infrared search and track (IRST) system to the U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet by 2015. According to Lockheed Martin, the long-wave system can detect airborne threats with 40 times more accuracy than radar at maximum detection ranges, while offering a comparable scan volume.
Russia’s first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, made its public debut last week at the Moscow Air Show (MAKS 2011), where Russian air force commander General Alexander Zelin gave an update on this and other re-equipment programs. The two T-50 prototypes flew in formation, before one gave a restrained solo display.
Sukhoi’s T-50 fifth-generation fighter program has made significant strides since the first aircraft (T-50-1) flew at the Knaapo factory’s airfield back in January 2010. The most important recent milestone is the first flight of the second aircraft (T-50-2), which is now scheduled to join T-50-1 in flight trials.
The design institute at Chengdu flew a J-10B development aircraft fitted with the indigenous Shenyang Liming WS-10A Taihang engine at the end of July. All previous J-10s, apart from the first few prototypes, have flown with the Russian AL-31FN engine. The aircraft with the homegrown engine is coded “1035” and is presumably the fifth J-10B prototype, although that number may include a ground-test article.
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.
Nearly a year after the Sukhoi T-50 made its first flight, another fifth-generation fighter program made its debut, in the form of Chengdu’s J-20. The aircraft was revealed in late December 2010, before making a first flight on January 11 this year.
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).
After the preliminary design review was completed on schedule in April 2003, every subsequent milestone in the F-35 program was missed by at least one year. Yet Lockheed Martin continued to exude optimism, rejecting criticism that production was being ramped up before development and producibility issues were solved.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 development program has met or exceeded the revised flight-test schedule that was written following a technical baseline restructuring (TBR) last August, according to Lockheed Martin officials. But some significant technical issues remain, and affordability continues to be a key concern for the new-generation combat aircraft.
Development of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for the Eurofighter Typhoon is continuing, although the four European partner nations still have not collectively committed funds. However, at the Paris Air Show later this month they plan to sign a letter of intent (LoI) with Eurofighter that confirms their intention to eventually adopt and pay for the new technology.