With a recent contract award from Northrop Grumman to provide electronic support measures (ESM) on the B-2 Spirit bomber, BAE Systems will be providing electronic warfare systems on all three U.S. Air Force low-observable platforms, including the F-22 and F-35 fighters, according to the company. The new ESM system will replace the original Lockheed Martin AN/APR-50 defensive management system on the 20 B-2s. The ESM system works in conjunction with the radar warning receiver to detect and alert aircrew to electronic threats.
F-35 Lightning II
The acquisition cost of F-35s for the international partners is bound to be affected by the slowdown in U.S. production, Dave Scott, Lockheed Martin’s director for international F-35 customer engagement, told AIN. “But we’ll still be doing about 30 in each of the next few years for the U.S., and when you add orders that have already been confirmed by the partners plus Israel and Japan, it’s not a bad annual rate,” he continued.
Progress has been made in fixing night-vision, latency and jitter problems experienced by pilots using the F-35 Joint Stike Fighter’s helmet-mounted display system (HMDS). But despite the prospect of a solution to this issue, aircraft maker Lockheed Martin also charted a possible alternative course using an HMDS with night-vision goggles (NVGs).
Pratt & Whitney’s engines power a wide range of military aircraft in operation around the world, but 2011’s developments in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Lightning II program made the company’s year–especially as its F135 became the sole powerplant for all three Lockheed Martin JSF variants: the conventional F-35A, STOVL F-35B and carrier-based (CV) F-35C.
The U.S. Air Force is terminating the C-130 avionics modernization program (AMP) and culling 286 aircraft from its fleet over the next five years as it restructures to meet budget constraints. At the same time, the service plans a service-life-extension program (SLEP) for 350 F-16s to compensate for delayed deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) previewed a Fiscal Year 2013 budget submission on January 26 that slows procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, terminates the Global Hawk Block 30 and retires some C-5As and C-130s. The $613 billion DoD budget will be submitted to Congress in February with the federal budget.
There was good news for the F-35 program when U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ended the two-year “probation” for the STOVL version a year early. Lockheed Martin F-35B executive v-p Larry Lawson said that “critical engineering challenges” had been solved.
More than the usual number of reporters descended on the Pentagon January 5, hopeful of learning how, specifically, the Department of Defense will cull billions of dollars from its budget over the next decade. Would the troubled F-35 program be further restructured or reduced? Would the V-22 get clipped?
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program faces fresh challenges as the new year begins. First, a long-awaited “should cost” review from the U.S. Defense Acquisition Board might clarify whether Lockheed Martin’s continued optimism on the average procurement unit costs (APUC) is justified. In addition, big cuts to the U.S. defense budget seem unlikely to spare the F-35, which is the Pentagon’s highest profile acquisition, and might undermine the basis for the APUC calculations.
GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce ended their self-funded development of an alternative engine for the F-35, bowing to Pentagon opposition and looming, deep reductions in U.S. defense spending.