Feb 10, 2017 00:50 UTC
Despite not having a US-based partner and prime contractor, Leonardo is to go it alone in the USAF T-X trainer competition
. Raytheon withdrew from the partnership last month. The Italian firm's US-subsidary, Leonardo DRS, will now act as prime contractor, although it remains unclear where the T-100 advanced jet trainer will be assembled if the company secures the contract.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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Feb 06, 2017 00:49 UTC
Myanmar is in advanced discussions
with the government of Pakistan to license-build the JF-17
fighter. The talks follow 2015's purchase of 16 of the fighter's Block II variant which feature air-to-air refueling capabilities and improved avionics from its predecessor. It has yet to be decided whether that model would be then built in Myanmar, or whether the newer Block III will be pursued.
FC-1/ JF-17, armed
The FC-1/ JF-17 Thunder is a joint Chinese-Pakistani project that aimed to reduce Pakistan’s dependence on western firms for advanced fighters, by fielding a low-cost multi-role lightweight fighter that can host modern electronics and precision-guided weapons. It isn’t a top-tier competitor, but it represents a clear step up from Pakistan’s Chinese MiG-19/21 derivatives and French Mirage III/V fighters. This positioning addresses a budget-conscious, “good enough” performance market segment that the West once dominated, but has nearly abandoned in recent decades.
Pakistan has fielded JF-17s in squadron strength, with more on order and a Block II R&D program nearing completion. India’s competing Tejas fighter is overcoming project delays by looking to foreign component sources, but Pakistan and China remain out front with their offering, even though they began their project much later than India did. Pakistan and China have even set up a joint JF-17 marketing agency to promote export sales, which hasn’t paid off as quickly as they had hoped, but it would be unwise to count them out just yet…
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Feb 01, 2017 00:49 UTC
A light-weight version of the Indo-Russian designed BrahMos
cruise missile is to be developed
for Russia's 5th-gen T-50 PAK FA
fighter aircraft. Already available in naval, submarine, and land variants, Indian and Russian developers will now collaborate on designing smaller variants of the short-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile with the specification that it will "fit the size of a torpedo tube and be almost 1.5 times smaller by its weight." Other potential warfighters that could have the new munition integrated include the MiG-35, recently selected to operate as Russia's newest multi-purpose fighter.
PAK-FA at MAKS-2011
(click to view larger)
Russia wants a “5th generation” fighter that keeps it competitive with American offerings, and builds on previous aerial and industrial success. India wants to maintain technical superiority over its rivals, and grow its aerospace industry’s capabilities. They hope to work together, and succeed. Will they? And what does “success” mean, exactly?
So far, preliminary cooperation agreements have been signed between Sukhoi/United Aircraft Corporation, for a platform based on Sukhoi’s T50/PAK-FA design. This DID FOCUS article consolidates specific releases and coverage to date, and adds analysis of the program’s current state and future hurdles.
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Jan 30, 2017 00:55 UTC
Boeing has won a $2.1 billion contract
for the provision of 15 KC-46
aerial refueling aircraft to the US Air Force. The contract, awarded on Friday, is in addition to the initial $4.2 billion contract awarded by the USAF to develop and test the aircraft, and an earlier $2.8 billion award for 19 planes. So far, the fixed-price contract has incurred cost-over runs of $2.4 billion, including a recent $201 million after-tax charge that Boeing announced on Wednesday.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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