Sikorsky-Boeing team defiant on FVL first flight delays | Saab GlobalEye flies for the first time | India’s fighter procurement needs change, again
- The Sikorsky-Boeing team developing the SB-1 Defiant are rigorously testing the coaxial helicopter demonstrator before its maiden flight, officials from both companies have told Defense News. Defiant is likely to fly in the latter part of this summer, Randy Rotte, Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing for cargo helicopters and Future Vertical Lift said, caveating that the team is “really focused on providing information to the Army throughout the whole flight test program to inform them as they go forward, as they are doing their analysis of alternatives, as they are doing their technical readiness assessment, as they are preparing for their program of record.” The Army is assessing two flight demonstrators—the other being the Bell V-280 Valor which first flew in December—as part of an effort to inform requirements for its Future Vertical Lift family of helicopters that are expected to reach an initial capability in the 2030s.
- Two US Navy airmen were killed Wednesday after their F/A-18 Super Hornet crashed during a training flight off the coast of Key West, Florida. A statement from the service said that the pilot and weapons systems officer—who will remain unnamed until their families have been notified—were recovered from the water and declared dead after the two-seater jet crashed on its final approach to Naval Air Station Key West. US President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences: “Please join me with your thoughts and prayers for both aviators, their families and our incredible @USNavy.”
Middle East & Africa
- Qatar has signed a deal at its biennial defense expo, DIMDEX, with the NHI consortium—which includes Airbus’ and Leonardo’s helicopter divisions and Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker, which respectively hold 62.5 percent, 32 percent and 5.5 percent of the consortium—for the purchase of 28 NH90 and 16 H125 helicopters. A statement by Airbus from Doha said that 16 of the NH90s are in the tactical transport (TTH) configuration while the remaining 12 NH90s are in naval (NFH) configuration. The H125s will be received by the Qatar Armed Forces Air Academy for training purposes. Work will be split between Airbus—who will assemble the NH90 TTH aircraft from its facility in Marignane, France—and Leonardo—who will be responsible for final assembly and delivery of the 12 NH90 NFH helicopters in Italy. The deal is estimated to be worth at least $3.7 billion.
- Wednesday, March 13, saw Saab announce the successful first flight of its GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft. The flight took place at the firm’s airfield in Linkoping, Sweden, and the modified Bombardier Global 6000 jet was airborne for 1 hour 46 minutes during which extensive flight-test data was collected using the on-board instrumentation suite. Prior to the flight, a series of ground trials were conducted including high and low speed taxiing tests. “Today’s flight went as planned, with the performance level matching our high expectations. The aircraft’s smooth handling was just as predicted and a real pleasure for me to fly,” said Magnus Fredriksson, Saab Experimental Test Pilot. The maiden flight took place three weeks after Saab revealed the GlobalEye aircraft to the media for the first time on 23 February 2018. Its launch customer will be the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who ordered two in December 2015 followed by an additional unit in 2017.
- As a diplomatic row continues to escalate between the UK and Russia over last week’s poisoning of a Russian former double agent and his daughter in Salisbury, England, UK Defense Minister Gavin Williamson has promised to invest 48 million pounds ($67 million) in a new chemical warfare defense center at its Porton Down military research laboratory. “Today I can announce that we’re building on our world-class expertise of the defense science and technology laboratory at Porton Down. We’re investing 48 million pounds in a new chemical weapons defense center to maintain our cutting edge in chemical analysis and defense,” Williamson said in his speech. Porton Down was the facility where British scientists identified the nerve agent, Novichok, which was used to attack Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, and was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s. London has accused Moscow of being responsible for the attack, a charge Moscow denies.
- NATO member Bulgaria has finally been able to select Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG to overhaul and maintain its fleet of ageing MiG-29 fighter jets while it continues its search for new fighters from a Western manufacurer. Defense Ministry documents seen by the Reuters news agency say the contract will run until 2022. Sofia had initially hoped to sign a four-year deal worth $51.45 million with RSK MiG last December but had to put it off following an appeal by Ukrainian arms exporter Ukrinmash—an appeal Ukrinmash eventually lost. The decision to continue maintaining the Soviet-era MiGs comes as a procurement decision to purchase Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen by an interim government was cancelled by its replacement and the procurement process is expected to be started from scratch later this year.
- Boeing has found itself in consideration to supply aircraft to the Indian Air Force, after the firm abruptly asked for its twin-engine F/A-18 Super Hornet to be considered. The IAF had previously only been considering Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen, both single-engine fighters, for the competition, however, it has transpired that last month the government asked the air force to open up the competition to twin-engine aircraft and to evaluate Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, a defense ministry source said. Now, the defense ministry plans to within weeks issue a new request for information (RFI) for a fighter to be built in India. The competition will be open to both single and twin-engine jets, the official said, but both Lockheed and Saab said they had not been informed about the new requirements. Both firms had previously offered to build single-engine fighters in India in collaboration with local companies as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to build a domestic industrial base and defense industry under his ‘Make in India’ initiative. What will happen next? Who knows.
- First flight of Saab’s Global Eye:
Categories: Daily Rapid Fire