Thales is engineering a series of upgrades to the sensor systems aboard France’s Rafale that will be incorporated in the next batch of aircraft for the French armed forces and should enhance Dassault’s chances in current fighter procurements contests in Brazil, India and Switzerland.
Piaggio Aero Industries’ new management team is still refusing to go public on long-rumored plans that it will launch a new jet program. At the same time, the Italian manufacturer has reported that production rates for the existing P.180 Avanti II twin pusherprop are holding up well in soft market conditions.
The four partner nations in Eurofighter have agreed to delay until 2015 the introduction of the Meteor, the advanced rocket-ramjet beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed by MBDA. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is managing the development of Meteor, and is the only country to have committed to production so far. However, the MoD told the UK National Audit Office that it was falling into line with Germany, Italy and Spain.
The second of four planned Sukhoi SSJ100 prototypes–S/N 95003–took to the skies on December 24, joining the flight-test program started in May with the first flight of S/N 95001. The aircraft took off from the factory runway and safely landed after a two-hour, 30-minute flight that reached an altitude of 20,000 feet. Piloted by Sukhoi test pilot Capt.
Dassault in late December downgraded its 2008 delivery planning for Falcons, citing new FAA “constraints” and stricter enforcement of regulations. As a result, some deliveries have been postponed to the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, Dassault has reached a “definitive agreement” with Alcatel-Lucent on the latter’s shares in avionics specialist Thales. The ?1.57 billion ($2.2 billion) deal should close next spring.
Saab reacted with vigor to a statement by the Norwegian government that the Gripen fighter was inferior to the Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF in most aspects of performance–and was also more expensive. Norway had been evaluating the Gripen NG (New Generation) as an alternative to the JSF, and Saab had high hopes of launching the NG version with the help of its Scandinavian neighbor.
China’s new J-10 combat aircraft made its public debut at the Zhuhai airshow last month. Two examples of the fourth-generation fighter named “Vigorous Dragon” were part of an expanded Chinese defense presence at the event. The JH-7 fighter-bomber, L-15 jet trainer, J-8 interceptor and H-6Y bomber-tanker were also on flying and static display.
Although India’s 126-aircraft requirement is the main prize for the world’s fighter manufacturers, major procurement decisions in Brazil and Switzerland are expected to be made long before Delhi makes its choice.
Eurofighter has offered India codevelopment of an active antenna for the Typhoon’s Captor radar, as part of its bid to secure that country’s 126-unit order for a new combat aircraft. Eurofighter CEO Aloysius Rauen said that there had been “positive discussions” with India about a plan that would share the costs of converting the mechanically scanned Captor with the four original Eurofighter partner nations.
Thales is demonstrating for the first time at an NBAA Convention its new iDeck “avionics prototyping, advanced system simulation tool.” The simulation platform lets airframers and their customers design, validate and test their future avionics suite configurations and functionality before entering full-scale development.