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.
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.
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A week after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates praised Denmark and Norway for punching above their weight in the Libyan operations, both countries indicated they would scale back their contribution of F-16 fighters. They “have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one-third of the targets” said Gates, praising them for the effective use of their limited resources.
Since April 22 the Swedish air force Gripens have been conducting operations over Libya as part of the NATO response to UNSCR 1973. Sweden already maintained a unit of eight aircraft on a deployment alert for the Nordic Battle Group, and it was these aircraft that were sent to Sigonella in Sicily. They arrived within 23 hours of the parliamentary approval for the operation, their participation being sponsored by full NATO member Denmark.
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).
The Saab Gripen Demo, a two-seat technology demonstrator, is one month into its latest phase of a trials campaign aimed at showing off technologies and modifications, which could be applied to the basic design in upgrades and new-build machines. The aircraft is on display in the Paris Air Show static area (Stand 132).
NATO’s Operation Unified Protector has given the Eurofighter Typhoon the opportunity to finally make its combat debut, with both the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and Italian air force aircraft involved in the operation. RAF operations over Libya have been mounted by a six-aircraft detachment at Gioia del Colle in southern Italy, from where they are operating alongside 12 Panavia Tornado GR.Mk 4s.