Israel’s relationship with the F-35 program has been rocky at times, but its re-admittance restored its Security Cooperative Participant status in the program, and the IAF still plans to buy about 100 F-35s to replace much of its F-16 fleet. Now the Jerusalem Post reports the Pentagon has agreed to supply the F-35A Lightning II variant to Israel as early as 2012, instead of in 2014 or 2015. This would make Israel one of the first nations to receive the aircraft, and very possibly the first foreign nation. Previous objections to Israel’s installation of its own technology in the F-35 (as it has done with every US fighter it has received) were also reportedly overcome; at present, the only Israel technology in the standard version will be the JSF HMDS helmet mounted display system, designed in cooperation with Elbit Systems. Israel also asked to manufacture F-35 aircraft locally at a 1 : 2 ratio, but the reports did not indicate whether that request was granted.
The timing and technology agreements reportedly came in the wake of a Washington meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and may represent an attempt to deflect Israeli calls for an export version of the F-22A Raptor, which has more stealth and capability, and whose production line is currently scheduled to close in 2010. The Jerusalem Post also quotes an Israeli defense official as saying that:
“This plane [the F-35] can fly into downtown Tehran without anyone even knowing about it since it can’t be detected on radar.”
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. in Oakbrook, IL won a $61.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for maintenance dredging of the Port Jersey Channel in Jersey City, N.J. Work is expected to be complete by April 30, 2009. There were 15 bids solicited on May 30, 2007 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New York, NY (W912DS-08-C-0001).
No word on whether there’s a bonus fee for finding Jimmy Hoffa.
Dredging contracts are fairly regular features at DefenseLINK, given their importance to shipping and (among other things) the maintenance of low prices for consumer goods. The U.S. Army Engineer District in Philadelphia has a background page about dredging that explains the rationale and the different options.
DID recently covered the JHMCS helmet-mounted display system that equips American “teen series” fighters around the world, and explained its importance to air combat in the 21st century. The Elbit Systems/ Rockwell-Collins joint venture Vision Systems International, LLC (VSI) in San Jose, CA is also designing the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which kicks the JHMCS concept up several notches. It provides day or night imagery that applies to both air and ground attacks, and features advanced head tracking capability with near-zero latency, in order to provide a virtual heads-up display and imagery screen anywhere the pilot’s head moves. Since the F-35 will be the first tactical fighter jet in over 30 years to fly without a Head Up Display above its instrument panels, this capability is mandatory and HMDS will ship with the F-35s to all domestic and international F-35 customers.
VSI received a significant development contract in February 2006, and their product first flew aboard an F-35 in January 2007. The British will be receiving the F-35B STOVL(Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) variant for use on their new carriers, and so the Royal Air Force Centre for Aviation Medicine at MoD Boscombe Down was good enough to put the F-35 HMDS through its paces. Pilots from the RAF, U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems flew 2 specially modified BAE Hawk T Mk1s in flight regimes ranging from -2g to +9.5g. Their objective was to verify comfort, fit and stability under high G conditions.
Since the F-35B is only designed to +7g, this is beyond the RAF’s planned flight regime; but the carrier-based F-35C is designed to +7.5g loads, and the standard F-35A will be the most maneuverable with a design stressed for +9g maneuvers. Additional RAF flights with the VSI HMD have been underway through September and October 2007. VSI release.
A recent DID article explained the differences between the smaller MQ-1 Predator and MC-1 Sky Warrior UAVs, and their more advanced, higher-altitude cousin the MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer. The MQ-9 is also the basis for other UAVs, some of which are used for research. One is NASA’s Ikhana unmanned research aircraft (pron. ee-kah-nah, Choctaw language, means “intelligent”). NASA has also been intelligent, running wildfire related exercises and missions since August 2007. Ikhana flew over several of the Southern California wildfires on Oct 24/07, using its payload capacity to carry special thermal-infrared imaging equipment that can look right through smoke and haze, and record high-quality imagery of key hot spots.
Each flight is being coordinated with the US Federal Aviation Administration, in order to allow the remotely piloted aircraft to fly a safe and empty path in national civil airspace. The imagery is processed on board, downlinked, and overlaid on Google Earth maps at NASA Ames Research Center in Northern California. From there, the National Interagency Fire Center makes it available to incident commanders in the field, so they can assign their fire-fighting resources more intelligently. The mission is controlled by pilots operating from a ground control station at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. The above 3-D image was taken at 10:21 a.m. PDT over the Harris Fire in San Diego County, looking west. The hot spots (in yellow) are concentrated on the ridgeline in the left center of the photo.