Wednesday, December 29, 2010

China's 5th Generation Fighter Exposed?

Reports coming form internet sites in China have published images of a large, stealth-like aircraft that, if confirmed, could be the first hard evidence of China's new 5th Genaration multirole aircraft. The images show the parked aircraft being inspected, and taxiing along a taxiway. Analysts in the West accepted the images with some doubts, due to the Chinese' in displaying imaginary 'facts' but the photos released today seem genuine. recent reports coming from China mention Chengdu has recently completed two J-20 technology demonstrator aircraft sofar, one model will be used for the test flights and another one will be used for ground testing.

The development of such program was known for some time but has never officially attributed to a specific type or maker. In 2009 deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force He Weirong stated in a TV interview that China had multiple such programs underway and that an as-yet-undesignated fifth-generation fighter developed jointly by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation and Shenyang Aircraft Corporation would be in service by 2017-2019. According to U.S. intelligence assessments Chinese 5th generation aircraft could become operational by the turn of the decade.

"The impression here is of a big, long aircraft, 70+ feet from nose to tail, which would make sense for a number of reasons. Rob Hewson at Jane's has reported that Russia has supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class - with perhaps lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel" writes aerospace analyst Bill Sweetman, editor of Aviation Week/DTI. Chinese sources have claimed that production aircraft will be powered by two 13,200kg/WS-10 class high thrust turbofan engines, coupled with Thrust Vector Controlled (TVC) nozzles both made in China. Russian assistance has been speculated with the supply of 14,000kg class Salyut 99M2 turbofan engines powering the prototypes. The Chinese could also get Russian assistance in radar cross section simulation for the new stealth design.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fourth Airbus Military A400M Makes First Flight

The fourth Airbus Military A400M military airlifter has made its first flight – the culmination of a highly successful 2010 which also saw the fleet of Grizzly development aircraft complete just over 1,000 hours flight-time and 300 flights.

Known as Grizzly 4, the aircraft took off from Seville, Spain with a weight of 130 tonnes at 10h18 local time (GMT+1) and landed five hours and ten minutes later.

Experimental Test Pilot Klaus-Dietrich Flade captained the flight, supported by Experimental Test Pilot Christophe Cail. The crew also included Test Flight Engineers José Aragón-Gómez and, Bruno Bigand, and Flight Test Engineers José Casado-Corpas, and Catherine Schneider. Catherine is the first female Flight Test Engineer and test crew member to participate in an A400M first flight.

Grizzly 4 is the fourth of an eventual five aircraft which will conduct the 3,700 hour flight-test programme leading to first delivery in around two years time. It will be primarily dedicated to cargo and air-to-air refuelling operations and carries a medium flight-test instrumentation load.

Airbus Head of Flight Operations Fernando Alonso said: “The on-time first flight of Grizzly 4 highlights what has been an excellent first year of the flight-test programme. We end 2010 fully on schedule and with every expectation of rapidly building flight-hours and hitting our key test objectives in the year ahead. I am particularly proud of the seamless work done by the Airbus and Airbus Military teams in the Seville and Toulouse Flight Test Centres which has been instrumental in this achievement.”

The maiden flight of Grizzly 4 followed the completion of a series of milestones in recent months – notably the first paratrooper jumps from the aircraft, which were highly successful and demonstrated the excellent potential of the aircraft for this military operation. Flights with the ramp and doors open have proceeded smoothly.

An extensive programme of flying the aircraft with simulated icing shapes attached to the wings and tail has been completed. These flights were performed by Airbus and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) flight crews and represent the first set of certification tests completed on the A400M.

Preliminary tests of protective kits for rough-field operations have been completed in preparation for next year´s trials.

Flight and ground load testing is complete, as is measurement of cruise performance. All major aircraft systems have been tested and flutter tests throughout the flight envelope are extremely close to completion.

The Europrop International (EPI) TP400 engines have been performing well, with the in-flight relight capability having been successfully demonstrated and ground starts following an overnight cold-soak recently performed. Behaviour of the auxiliary power unit has been excellent, and it has been started as high as 40,000ft.

Following the A400M’s maiden flight on 11the December 2009, earlier this year Grizzly 2 and Grizzly 3 made their first flights in respectively April and July and their introduction into the fleet made possible the outstanding demonstrations of the A400M´s handling qualities at the Berlin and Farnborough airshows.

The A400M is an all-new military airlifter designed to meet the needs of the world's Armed Forces in the 21st Century. Thanks to its most advanced technologies, it is able to fly higher, faster and further, while retaining high manoeuvrability, low speed, and short, soft and rough airfield capabilities. It combines both tactical and strategic/logistic missions.

With its cargo hold specifically designed to carry the outsize equipment needed today for both military and humanitarian disaster relief missions, it can bring this material quickly and directly to where it is most needed. Conceived to be highly reliable, dependable, and with a great survivability, the multipurpose A400M can do more with less, implying smaller fleets and less investment from the operator. The A400M is the most cost efficient and versatile airlifter ever conceived and absolutely unique in its capabilities.

India, Russia Sign Contract to Design and Develop FGFA

A Contract for Preliminary Design of the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft was signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi here today. The Project involves design and development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft that will have advanced features such as stealth, supercruise, ultra-maneuvrability, highly integrated avionics suite, enhanced situational awareness, internal carriage of weapons and Network Centric Warfare capabilities.

The aircraft to be jointly developed is termed Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF). PMF draws upon the basic structural and system design of the Russian FGFA Technology Demonstrator with modifications to meet IAF specifications which are much more stringent. The broad scope of bilateral cooperation during the joint project covers the design & development of the PMF, its productionization and joint marketing to the third countries. Programme options include the design & development of a twin seater variant and the integration of an advanced engine with higher thrust at a later stage.

Today's contract is only the first in a series of such contracts which will cover different stages of this complex programme. The total cost including options and the value of production aircraft will make this the biggest Defence programme ever in the history of India involving production of over 200-250 aircraft.

The Contract was signed by Mr. A Isaykin, General Director, Rosoboronexport and Mr. M Pogosyan, General Director RAC MiG & Sukhoi from the Russian side and Mr. Ashok Nayak, Chairman, HAL and Mr. NC Agarwal, Director (D&D), HAL from the Indian side at Delhi.

Friday, December 17, 2010

FGFA/PAKFA - HAL, Sukhoi T-50 Preliminary Design by 2012; Cost USD 295 million

Russia and India have agreed the estimated cost of a design contract for their joint fifth-generation fighter project at $295 million, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman Ashok Nayak said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

"The cost of preliminary design is estimated at $295 million. The work is expected to be complete within 18 months," Nayak said. Russia's Sukhoi holding and India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) agreed in early 2010 to jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter jet based on the prototype T-50 design. India confirmed that it had finalized a draft contract at a meeting with Russia in early October.

Nayak said the contract could be signed by the representatives of India's HAL and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to India on December 20-22. The two sides agreed to develop both a single-seat and a two-seat version of the aircraft by 2016, focusing on the single-seat version in the initial stages of development. The costs will be shared equally between Russia and India.

The first Russian prototype T-50 made its maiden flight in January 2010. The new fighter aircraft is expected to enter service with the Indian Air Force by 2020.

Indian Air Force takes delivery of first of six C-130Js

At a ceremony, Lockheed Martin delivered the first of six C-130Js for the Indian Air Force. The new fleet was ordered under a U.S. Foreign Military Sale in late 2008. The sale is India’s first under the FMS route. “There are few mottos that impart such passion as that of the Indian Air Force, which is ‘Touch the Sky With Glory’,” said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for C-130 Programs, during 16 December ceremony. “Today begins a new glorious, enduring partnership with India as the fourth largest air force in the world proudly joins the worldwide C-130 family.”

As per Lockhed Martin, The first two of the Indian Air Force C-130J will be flown to India in early 2011, while two more will arrive in early summer and the last two will be delivered in late summer of 2011.

India′s final three C-130Js have now reached the final production positions at the Lockheed Martin Marietta facility. These aircraft will join the previous three, which are already in flight test prior to deliveries that will begin later this month.

Rosoboronexport to Begin Mi-17-V5 Helicopter Deliveries in March 2011

A contract for the procurement of 80 Mi 17-V5 helicopters along with spares and the associated equipment was signed between Ministry of Defence and M/s Rosoboronexport, Russia on 5th December 2008 at a cost of US $ 1,345,836,495.83.

The Mi-17-V5 helicopters will be utilized for Special Heliborne Operations, air-maintenance, transportation of troops and equipment, search and rescue, casualty evacuation and in armed helicopter roles. The delivery of these helicopters is likely to commence by March 2011.

This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Sonawane Pratap Narayanrao in Lok Sabha today.

Russian wings in the Indian skies

Russian-Indian cooperation in the aviation industry is targeting new horizons.

A cutting-edge fifth-generation fighter jet is in the works as part of a joint project between United Aircraft Corporation (UАC) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)

For decades, India has been buying Russian aircraft, both military and civil. A number of military aircraft has been produced at Indian plants under Russian licences. The first model designed specifically for India was the SU-30MKI heavy multirole fighter (MKI stands for Modernised Commercial Indian).
The first SU-30MKI contract was signed in 1996 and was followed by new orders in 2000, 2004 and 2007. The prime contractor in Russia has been IRKUT Corporation.

SU-30MKIs were the world’s first production air superiority fighters and also the first exported military aircraft that came with phased-array radars. In fact, the SU-30MKI is the engineering zenith (among production aircraft) in design among fourth-generation heavy-duty fighters. The SU-30MKI’s external design was largely influenced by Indian engineers.

Currently, Russia supplies to India aircraft produced at the Irkutsk aviation plant and also complete sets of SU-30MKI parts to be assembled by HAL. After all the contracted aircraft have been delivered, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will have 230 SU-30MKI fighters. These aircraft have already formed the core of the IAF and are deployed in critical areas, ensuring absolute air supremacy over potential enemies. In mock dogfights IAF pilots flying SU-30MKI generally defeat modern fighters produced elsewhere.

In November of 2008, British journal Flight, a reputed industry publication, conducted a survey among its website visitors asking them to select the best fighter from a list containing the SU-30MKI, F-22 and F-15. The Russian fighter was voted for by 59 per cent of the survey participants.

In November of 2009, Indian President Pratibha Patil took a ride in a SU-30MKI. Her predecessor, Abdul Kalam, did the same in 2006.

The President of IRKUT Corporation Oleg Demchenko made the following comments on the project: “The SU-30MKI programme opened a new stage of Russian-Indian partnership in the aircraft industry. We have progressed from aircraft sales to R&D cooperation and aircraft production at HAL facilities. Note that these fighters will be armed with Russian and Indian-made BraMos missiles. This one-two punch, SU-30MKI and BraMos, will offer unrivalled combat performance.

Mikhail Pogosyan, CEO of Sukhoy Aviation Holding Company and MiG Russian Aircraft Corporation said: “Developing collaboration with the Indian aviation industry is a top priority for Russian combat aviation producers.

Another custom-designed fighter is the MiG-29K. The contract with India was signed on 20 January 2004 envisaging the delivery of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and 4 two-seat MiG-29KUB fighters, and also provisions training for IAF pilots and technicians, supplying flight simulators, spare parts, and maintenance for the new aircraft at IAF bases.

On 19 February 2010, a ceremony was held at the Hansa naval base to commission the first set of sea-based MiG-29К/КUB fighters. The aircraft was included in the Black Panthers squadron. Indian Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony said: “Adoption of Russian fighters MiG-29K/KUB by the Indian Navy will contribute to India’s defense capability and strengthen the strategic partnership between our nations”.

Indian pilots gave high praise to the new fighters, and in March of 2010 India signed a contract for 29 more MiG-29K/KUBs. Today, MiG-29К/КUB is one of the best carrier-born combat aircraft in the world in terms of cost and effect. The Russian Navy has recently placed orders for the fighter. The MiG-29К/КUB became the basis for 4++ generation land-based aircraft, notably including the MiG-35 multi-purpose fighter.

This fighter combines excellent flight and operating performance with reinforced combat capability. The MiG-35 is fitted with advanced onboard avionics, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and a unique optical locator system (OLS) based on a technology originally designed for space applications.

MiG Corporation is also running a large-scale programme to upgrade India’s MiG-29 fighters. The respective contract between the Indian Ministry of Defense and MiG was signed in March of 2008. The upgrade will provide the entire IAF fleet of MiG-29 fighters with state-of-the-art avionics, standardized in line with similar systems in sea-based MiG-29K/KUB produced under the above-mentioned contract with the Indian Navy.

The upgraded MiG-29 onboard equipment will include a number of advanced systems developed and produced by HAL, Bharat Dynamics Ltd, and some other companies in other countries.

Today, India and Russia have effectively defined their long-term cooperation plan in developing combat aircraft. It includes the following aspects:

- Aircraft production under the SU-30MKI programme, which will be expanded with the SU-30MKI/BraMos combination;

- MiG-29K/KUB sales and production cooperation;
- MiG-29 upgrade programme carried out jointly by Russian and Indian companies;
- Potential sales contracts and production cooperation under MMRCA (MiG-35/MiG-35D);
- Russian-Indian Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) programme;

Coordinated delivery of these programmes will help India:

- Maintain and expand its standardised aircraft fleet as the basis for its Air Force and Navy to create integrated combat systems;

- Build an integrated infrastructure of after-sales maintenance for most aircraft of the Indian Armed Forces;

- Ensure sustainable development of its aviation and electronics industries.

The integration of Sukhoy and MiG capabilities under Mikhail Pogosyan’s leadership helps maximise the scope of the Russian-Indian combat aviation development programme.

The most exciting and cutting-edge engineering work will be the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project. Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the UAC Board of Directors Sergei Ivanov said: “We have already agreed upon all the principal arrangements with India regarding the development of the fifth generation fighter”. Ivanov also noted that the Russian Sukhoy T-50 and the Russian-Indian FGFA will be developed simultaneously. In November of 2010, Sergei Ivanov became the co-chair of the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic, Technical and Cultural Cooperation. Experts believe that this appointment will boost collaboration in the aircraft industry.
India’s defense minister said that the IAF will buy 250 to 300 FGFAs.

India and Russia also made steps to launch the Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) programme to develop a new aircraft capable of carrying 20 tons of cargo for replacing An-12, An-32 and other transport aircraft in Russian and Indian air fleets. The contract to design and produce MTA was signed between HAL and UAC on 9 September 2010. Under its terms, the parties will invest 300 million dollars in the joint venture. MTA manufacturing facilities will be located both in Russia and India. The Indian Defense Ministry will place its first order for 45 MTAs, whereas the Russian Air Force is expected buy about 100 new aircraft.

HAL CEO Ashok Nayak said in a statement that the initial plan is to produce 205 aircraft, of which 30 per cent will be sold on the global market. He expects that the first MTA will take off in 2016-2018.

In compliance with the contract, a joint venture was registered in India in November to manage the MTA project.

Currently, UAC is in the process of launching full-scale production of the IL-476 military transport aircraft based on thoroughly upgraded IL-76. India has IL-76 in service along with its modifications: IL-78MKI tanker aircraft and А-50EI airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft

Among other Russian aircraft that India might find useful is the Beriev Be-200 Altair amphibious aircraft. With this unique multi-purpose system Russia could confidently bid in the tender for new maritime patrol aircraft that will soon be announced by the Indian Coast Guard.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First C130J aircraft to be delivered to India next week

WASHINGTON: The first of the six state-of-the-art C-130J military transport aircraft would be delivered to India on December 16, its manufacturer Lockheed Martin said today.

India has placed orders for six of these aircrafts. "The first C-130J for India will be formally delivered on December 16 at a ceremony in Marietta," Lockheed Martin said in a statement.

"Two will be flown to India in early 2011, while two more will arrive in early summer and the last two will be delivered in late summer of 2011," it said.

Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said on Wednesday that in conjunction with the purchase of six C-130J transport aircraft in 2008 the recent USD 4.1 billion C-17 Indian deal with Boeing will double US-India defense trade and provide the Indian Air Force a strategic airlift and humanitarian response capability that is unique to the region and emblematic of India's ambitions to play an increasingly global role.

"Once all the aircraft have been delivered, ladies and gentlemen, India will have the second largest C-17 fleet in the world behind the US - a highly visible manifestation of the US-India defense partnership," Blake said.

Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules is the most advanced airlifter ever built.

The C-130J combines the latest in aerospace technology with a proven, rugged airframe design, resulting in an aircraft that gives an operator more capability with greater operational efficiency.

The Indian Air Force's new Super Hercules will be the longer fuselage or "stretched" variant of the C-130J, similar to those being delivered to the US Air Force.

With this India joins the growing number of nations with C-130J fleets including the US, Australia, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The C-130J carries eight 463L pallets, 97 medical litters, 24 CDS bundles, 128 combat troops and 92 paratroops.

Equipped with an Infrared Detection Set (IDS), the aircraft will be able to perform precision low-level flying, airdrops, and landing in blackout conditions. Self protection systems and other features are included to ensure aircraft survivability in hostile air defence environments.

In addition the aircraft is equipped with air-to-air receiver refueling capability for extended range operations.

Lockheed Martin will integrate this equipment and other capabilities into the Indian configuration as agreed between the governments.

High cost of Indian Mirage 2000 fighter upgrade causing a rethink

French President Nicholas Sarkozy may miss signing of the Mirage 2000 upgrade deal with the Indian Air Force (IAF) during his visit to India. While officially, “negotiations are still going on”, according India’s senior foreign ministry officials, the reason for the delay seems to be that the high cost of upgrading the fighters is causing a rethink, informed sources told

The cost of upgrading the 51 fighters is working out to an average of Euro 45 million per piece which is well over the price of acquiring a new generation fighter such as the Rafale or F-16 which is around Euro 30million-35 million. India is seeking to upgrade the fighters with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities, Look-down, shoot-down capabilities, Advanced Electronic Counter Counter Measures (ECCM) and Multi-target, multi-shoot capabilities.

The total cost is around Euro 2.4 billion of which work worth Euro 1.5 billon will be directly with the French company Dassault and the rest for work done and equipment supplied by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

In comparison, India signed a similar upgrade contract for 62 MiG-29 fighters in 2008 for around $850 million which works to $13.71 million (Euro 10.28 million approximately) per fighter.

Further, the bulk of the IAF Mirage 2000 fleet was acquired in 1986-87 which makes it over 20 year old. The upgradation process is expected to take 7-9 year and residual life of the airframe after the upgrade will be about 15-10 years. A new fighter instead will have a life of 30 plus years.

Air Force Attack Helicopters Deal - Field Trials Conducted for Boeing AH-64 Apache Longbow Helicopters

Boeing has responded to an Air Force / Ministry of Defence Request for Proposal (RFP) for 22 attack helicopters and has offered the Boeing AH-64 Apache Longbow attack helicopter platform for this requirement. The Indian Air Force has conducted field trials for the Apache Longbow helicopters, which offer a range of capabilities including lethal attack, peacekeeping, reconnaissance over land and sea.

"We responded to the RFP for 22 attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force with our Apache Longbow helicopters and completed field trials this year. The Apache Longbow is the only available combat helicopter with a spectrum of capabilities for virtually any mission requirement. We believe it is uniquely suited to meet the commander’s needs – including reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack -- in both land and littoral environments -- all without reconfiguration. The Apache is a versatile aircraft capable of meeting the needs of operators in both military and paramilitary markets."
-- Dr. Vivek Lall, Vice President, Boeing Defense, Space and Security, India

The Boeing AH-64 Apache is a four-blade, twin-engine attack helicopter with tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement, and tandem cockpit for a crew of two. The Apache was developed as Model 77 by Hughes Helicopters for the United States Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter program to replace the AH-1 Cobra. First flown on 30 September 1975, the AH-64 features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems.

The U.S. Army is the primary operator of the AH-64, however it has also become the primary attack helicopter of several nations it has been exported to, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, Greece and the Netherlands. U.S. AH-64s have served in conflicts in Panama, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Israel has made active use of the Apache in its military conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza Strip; while two coalition allies have deployed their AH-64s in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Russian Air Force to receive first Su-35 by yearend - Sukhoi

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry will receive its first Su-35 fighter plane by the end of the year, Russia's Sukhoi Aircraft Design Bureau said on Monday.

The first modernized Su-35 was presented at the 2007 MAKS air show outside Moscow. The Russian Defense Ministry signed a deal with Sukhoi on the purchase of 48 modernized Su-35 jets in 2009.

Sukhoi is also holding talks with customers in South-East Asia, the Middle East and South America on Su-35 sales.

The Su-35 Flanker-E, a modification of the Su-27, is a heavy class, long-range, multi-role fighter, whose technical characteristics can be compared with those of fifth-generation jets.

Russian Air Force to procure 1,500 new aircraft by 2020

MOSCOW: The Russian Air Force will procure over 1,500 new aircraft and significantly increase the number of high-precision weapons in its arsenal by 2020, a deputy Air Force commander said on Wednesday.

"Overall, we are planning to acquire and modernize about 2,000 aircraft and helicopters by 2020...including more than 1,500 new aircraft and about 400 modernized," Lt. Gen. Igor Sadofyev told reporters in Moscow.

According to the general, in 2011 the Air Force plans to adopt Su-27SM, Su-30M2 and Su-35S multirole fighters, Su-34 fighter-bombers and Yak-130 combat trainers as well as Ka-52 and Mi-28N attack helicopters, Mi-8 armed assault helicopters, Ka-226 and Ansat-U light multipurpose helicopters.

"The priority for the strategic aviation is the modernization of 80 percent of existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, Tu-22M3 bombers and Il-78M aerial tankers...and the extension of their service life," Sadofyev said.

He also said that the share of high-precision weaponry in the Russian Air Force arsenal would increase by 18 times, including the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) - by six times.

"In addition to a thorough upgrade of the aircraft fleet, the measures planned until 2020 will allow us to increase the share of high-precision weaponry to 70 percent of the total, or by 18 times," the general said.

Sadofyev added that the number of all-weather aircraft, capable of carrying out day and night missions would increase almost five-fold, and the share of UAVs would constitute about 30 percent of the total by 2020.

However, Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies told RIA Novosti that Russia's ability to fund and manufacture 1,500 military aircraft over the next decade is "questionable."

"The defense aerospace industry suffered from a decade plus of serious under-investment following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and only in the past few years has there been any appreciable improvement in the flow of cash," Barrie said.

"With regard to increasing the percentage of precision guided-weapons in the Air Force inventory, Russia's Tactical Missile Systems (TRV) has been designing and developing a range of 'precision' munitions, including the Kh-38 family of air-to-surface missiles, since at least the early 1990s," Barrie continued.

He said these projects had been hampered by the lack of adequate state funding until recently. He noted, however, that funding has been "noticeably improved," which will likely increase the pace of development on the Kh-38, as well as other weapons projects.

Russian air force completing MiG-31BM modernization program

MOSCOW: The Russian air force is completing a modification program for its MiG-31 interceptor aircraft to the MiG-31BM standard, the force's commander Col.Gen. Alexander Zelin said on Friday.

"The air force is currently carrying out the vital task of deep modification of the MiG-31 aircraft to MiG-31BM standard. This task is being successfully carried out," he said.

The MiG-31BM is fitted with upgraded avionics and digital datalinks, a new multimode radar, color multi-function cockpit displays, a new, more powerful computer and ability to carry new air-to-air and possibly air-to-surface missiles such as the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile.

Information on display next to a MiG-31BM in 2009 associated the aircraft with air-to-air missiles including the Vympel R-73 (AA-11 Archer), R-77 (AA-12 Adder), and R-33S (upgraded AA-9 Amos) and the K-37M (AA-X-13 Arrow).

The air force is also accepting other new aircraft, including the Su-34 strike aircraft, the forthcoming Su-35, the Yak-130 advanced trainer, and Ka-52 and Mi-28 helicopters, he said.

Manufacturer's tests are also underway on the Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation fighter prototype.

Russia's missile forces to replace Topol-M with multiple-warhead RS-24

MOSCOW: Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) will be rearmed with multiple-warhead RS-24 missiles instead of the RS-12M Topol-M (SS-27 Sickle) mobile intercontinental ballistic missile systems, SMF Commander Lt. Gen. Sergei Karakayev said on Tuesday.

"The mobile missile system with the RS-24 ballistic missile is an improved version of the Topol-M, and during production experience with fifth generation mobile missile systems was taken into account," Karakayev said, adding that the missile proved itself a reliable weapon. "Therefore it was decided to rearm the SMF with this type of missile system," he continued. "At the same the Topol-M mobile missile system will not be supplied to the Strategic Missile Forces in the future."

RS-24 is believed to have up to six independent warheads, and is thus more likely to be able to penetrate anti-missile defense systems than the single warhead Topol-M.

The SMF said in August that the Topol-M and RS-24 missiles would be the mainstay of the ground-based component of Russia's nuclear triad and would account for no less than 80% of the SMF's arsenal by 2016.

As of June 2010, the SMF operated at least 50 silo-based and 18 road-mobile Topol-M missile systems. The RS-24 was commissioned in 2010 after successful testing.

The RS-12M Topol is a single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile, approximately the same size and shape as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM. The first Topol missiles entered service in 1985.

The missile has a maximum range of 10,000 km (6,125 miles) and can carry a nuclear warhead with a yield of 550 kilotons.

Next year the SMF will hold 10 intercontinental ballistic missile launches, twice as many as in 2010, Karakayev said.


The Msta-S was developed by the design bureau of the Ural Heavy Machinery plant (UZTM) as a replacement for the 152-mm Akatsia self-propelled gun with a T-80 tank chassis and the 2A65 Msta-B artillery system.

Northrop Grumman Air Force KC-X was abandoned, Boeing likely rising by withdrawal

Northrop Grumman to buy on March 8 for the U.S. Air Force KC-X tanker competition, EADS North America does not support the Company no longer participate virtually abandoned by announcing in a year and a half down from heaven to hell was an experience.

Northrop Grumman to buy 68 units in February 2008 as the primary delivery of next-generation aerial tanker competition has been won. Northrop at a 184 million dollar per KC-45 tanker aircraft, including R & D to supply 1.5 billion U.S. dollars, but in August the same year as Boeing's protest is the plan collapsed.

After reviewing the various conditions since last February 24 that the U.S. Department of KC-X request for proposals (RFP) to announce the participation requirement, but eventually developed, based on Boeing's 767 fixed RFP for a small gas reported that Northrop and has decided to boycott.

KC-X plans to first 179 cars to replace the KC-135 is preparing for a budget of $ 3,500,000,000. I was alone with the U.S. Air Force Boeing fait accompli against qualified to negotiate the price and performance problems that have been embraced, the external friction between the EU will be unable to avoid,If EADS and Northrop to leave without any regrets, except in cooperation with other U.S. companies likely to participate, but due to the current economic crisis is likely to nationalistic atmosphere of the good times can not be seen.

Somehow KC-45's round was developed based on the A330-200 Airbus A330 MRTT (KC-30) and Royal Australian Air Force 5, the Royal Air Force 14, UAE Air Force 3, Royal Saudi Air Force has six, while comparable to the final order The Boeing KC-767 and four units of Italy and Japan, respectively, have been ordered, i dont have an Italian Air Force specifications for four public has not supplied, it central to the rear fuselage boom and hose-drogue combination mounted under the wing jaegeupyusiseutemgwa hose-drogue wingpod flight refueling systems, and others result of a complex system equipped with a wing to the "flutter" phenomena have been discovered, because it does not resolve. India late last year to No. 4 while completing the delivery of Japan's refueling boom on the rear fuselage, the center has just installed.
Northrop Grumman / EADS KC-45 and Airbus A330 MRTT (KC-30) was developed based on the Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and a juikha Cobham 905E refueling pods on the fuselage 1 2 gaemit Cobham 805E Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU ) to attach.

AH-1Z approved for full rate production

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.: The U.S. Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Cobra was approved for full rate production .

The H-1 program office received official word on the milestone III approval decision from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Dr. Ashton B. Carter through an acquisition decision memorandum.

"This is the culmination of a lot of focused hard work by a lot of dedicated professionals," said Col. Harry Hewson, the Marines' program manager for light and attack helicopter programs. "We spent the past two years executing a very detailed risk reduction program that tested every part of the weapons and fire control system on the AH-1Z. It performed very well in operational test last spring and I am confident that it will do as well in combat as the UH-1Y is doing right now in Afghanistan. The next phase of this program is getting the Zulu into the hands of the fleet and into combat. The Zulu is going to give the Marines on the ground a whole new level of long range targeting and precision firepower for close air support."

After completing operational testing this summer, the AH-1Z was determined to be operationally effective and suitable, a finding that is a prerequisite to the full rate production decision.

"Getting the Zulu into full rate production is very important for the Marines and for our Nation," said Rear Adm. Steve Eastburg, Program Executive Officer for Air, Assault and Special Mission Programs. "Both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z deliver superb combat effectiveness to the Marine warfighter. We continue to build in production cost efficiencies to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the most for every dollar spent."

The AH-1Z Cobra helicopters are part of the Marine Corps’ H-1 Upgrade Program. The program’s goal is to replace AH-1W helicopters with new and remanufactured AH-1Z which provide significantly greater performance, supportability and growth potential over their predecessors.

A total of 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Z helicopters are anticipated, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2021.

The AH-1Z is expected to achieve initial operating capability and embark on its first deployment in 2011.

The AH-1Z and the UH-1Y, the Marine Corps’ combat utility helicopter, are 84 percent identical. The UH-1Y was approved for full rate production in 2008.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rescuers find wreckage of missing U.S. F-22 fighter jet

A rescue plane has discovered the wreckage of an U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet that went missing Tuesday night, the Elmendorf-Richardson airbase in Alaska said in a statement on Wednesday.

The fighter jet lost contact with air traffic control at 7:40 p.m. Alaska time Tuesday (04:40 GMT on Wednesday) while on a night-time training mission.

The crash site has been located at about 160 kilometers north of Anchorage. A rescue team is searching for a missing pilot, the airbase said in a statement.

F-22 is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology.

The $150-mln plane entered service with the USAF in 2005. Over 160 F-22s have been built by Lockheed Martin with projected goal of 187 aircraft. The export sale of the F-22 is prohibited by U.S. federal law.

The USAF already lost two F-22s – during takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in December 2004 and during a test flight near Edwards Air Force Base in March 2009.

Russian MiG-31 fighter crashes in Urals, pilots eject

MOSCOW: A Russian MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor/fighter crashed on Friday in the Perm region of the Urals, but the pilots ejected safely.

The Defense Ministry has grounded all MiG-31s following the crash.

A preliminary cause of the crash was that the plane went into a tailspin, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee's military department said.

The crash site has been located and investigators have arrived at the scene, he added.

Officials said the plane was not carrying any weapons and posed no danger to residential areas.

Defense Ministry spokesman Vladimir Drik said the pilots were "in a satisfactory condition."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saab Receives Rapid 3D Mapping Order for Gripen Simulators

STOCKHOLM, Sweden: Defence and security company Saab has received an order from FMV, the Swedish Defence Material Administration, for the delivery of 3-dimensional (3D) models to the Swedish Gripen simulators. The 3D-models will give the simulators a highly realistic visualisation model.

The 3D-models will be generated by the system Rapid 3D Mapping based on aerial images, developed by Saab.

“This is an important milestone that proves that 3D-models generated by our new product Rapid 3D Mapping can be used with excellent results for visualisation in simulators”, says Ulf Hellberg, Head of Business Development within Saab’s business area Dynamics.

“The 3D-models provides the customer with a more realistic solution compared to traditional ways of building visualisation models”, says Magnus Brege, Marketing Director Rapid 3D Mapping.

The world-leading technology behind Rapid 3D Mapping is a result of Saab’s unique competence in image processing, navigation and systems integration resulting from the long experience in developing advanced systems for missiles.

Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions ranging from military defence to civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers’ changing need.

Pakistan to arm fighter aircraft with Chinese missiles

Beijing: Pakistan has confirmed it will buy Chinese missiles and flight systems to equip its 250 JF-17 Thunder jet fighters as it seeks to deepen military cooperation with Beijing, state media said Thursday.

Rao Qamar Suleman, air chief marshal of the Pakistan Air Force, told the Global Times newspaper Chinese radar systems and SD-10 mid-range homing missiles would be used on the fighters co-developed by the two nations.

"PAF has no plans to install Western devices and weapons on the aircraft for the time being," the newspaper quoted Suleman as saying.

Pakistan may also buy up to four Chinese surface-to-air missiles, as it seeks stronger cooperation with China to help upgrade its armed forces, Suleman told the China Daily in a separate interview.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual Zhuhai Air Show now under way in southern China.

Chinese defence experts played down the comments, saying any cooperation did not target any country and did not compare with deals adopted during a visit to India this month by US President Barack Obama, the China Daily said.

Among the deals struck during Obama's trip was a preliminary accord worth 4.1 billion dollars for India's air force to buy 10 C-17 transport aircraft from US aviation giant Boeing.

Pakistan had initially planned on arming its JF-17 fighters with missiles made by French firm Thales SA in a deal reportedly worth 1.2 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars).

But French officials confirmed to AFP in April the deal had been put on hold without explanation. The French daily Le Monde reported that it was cancelled to avoid damaging relations with Pakistan's nuclear rival India.

China is a strong ally of Pakistan and Islamabad draws heavily on Beijing for its defence and infrastructure needs.

Pakistan's air force has a fleet of Chinese aircraft, including F-7PGs and A-5s, but also US-built F-16s and French Mirages. The medium-tech JF-17 or Thunder jets, manufactured jointly with China, are a recent addition.

Indian Light Fighter Tejas LSP-5 makes first flight

Tejas, India’s Light Combat Aircraft, achieved an important milestone today when the fifth Limited Series Production (LSP-5) aircraft made first flight. LSP5 aircraft is the first LCA in the Operational Configuration for the Indian Air Force.

The LSP-5 was piloted by test pilot Lt Cdr Ankur Jain, from the Indian Navy. The aircraft took off at 1054 hours and achieved a max speed of 0.8 mach, 4G turns, and an altitude of 11 km during the 40 min flight.

LCA Tejas LSP-5The flight was uneventful and all systems functioned normally, clearing all the test points.

This is the culmination of the efforts of all the stakeholders viz., HAL, IAF, DRDO Labs, Defence PSUs, CEMILAC, DGAQA and Aeronautical Development Agency. This has been a great team effort to get the final standard aircraft in the flight line.

The LSP-5 first flight was directed by Wg Cdr Sreedharan Toffeen, Test Director. Gp Capt G Thomas, Chief Test Pilot of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) piloted the chase aircraft.

Lockheed reassures India over F-16 fighter

NEW DELHI -- Lockheed Martin said it improved its version of the F16IN Super Viper on offer to India under the country's largest ever combat aircraft tender.

The corporation's tailor-made advanced F-16IN aircraft for the Indian air force has improved electronic scanned array radar, enhanced high-thrust engine and larger weapons inventory.

"The F-16 has a long history of operations around the world," Michael R. Griswold, director of advance development program at Lockheed Martin, told reporters. "The F-16 that we are offering here to India is by no means the end of the line of F-16s. In fact, it represents the beginning of what we think is great future for F-16 in India."

The F-16 Fighting Falcon, originally made by General Dynamics, first flew in 1974 and was inducted into the U.S. Air Force in 1978. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corp., which became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.

More than 4,400 of the F-16 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. No units are sold in the United States any more but upgraded versions are available to export customers, such as India and Pakistan.

Air trials in India have finished for the most part and Lockheed also has shown additional features to the Indian air force during laboratory testing. "We had to provide new capability beyond what the F-16 block has," said Griswold.

Lockheed is one of six aircraft manufacturers chasing the $9.5 billion contract for 126 aircraft under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft Competition, known as the MRCA. Up to 20 of the first units will be purchased from overseas manufacturing bases. The rest of the planes must be produced in India through stringent technology transfer agreements.

Delivery will start within 36 months of contract signing and be completed 48 months later.

Also in the running for the MRCA are the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault-Rafale, Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Mikoyan MiG-35 and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The acquisition is strategically important for India because of its aging jet-fighter fleet.

The air force attained 44 squadrons during the 1980s after acquiring Mirage 2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar aircraft. But many of the air force's older aircraft -- mostly MiG planes including MiG-21 units -- are obsolete with some not airworthy and others lost to accidents. As a result, the country has 32 squadrons, a worry for Indian defense officials as they believe the country's air superiority over Pakistan could be threatened.

The Indian air force phased out the MiG-23MF air-defense interceptor in 2007 and retirements of MiG-23BN ground-attack aircraft began in March 2009. The MiG-23s will be replaced by MRCA winner.

The F-16IN is based on the F-16E/F Block 60 version supplied to the United Arab Emirates and conformal fuel tanks, AN/APG-80 active electronically scanned array radar, GE F110-132A engine with 32,000 pounds of thrust and an electronic warfare suite with infra-red searching and helmet-mounted cueing system.

In April, during an interview in Dallas, Orville Prins, Lockheed's vice president of business development in India, praised the F-16IN version of the F-16 "I can assure you, the Super Viper is much more advanced in all aspects than the F-16s being given to Pakistan," he said.

AgustaWestland that it has been awarded a contract for nine T129 combat helicopters

AgustaWestland that it has been awarded a contract for nine T129 combat helicopters. The contract is valued at €150 million also including a spare parts package. The nine T129 helicopters will be assembled by Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) and delivered by mid 2012 in a basic configuration, one year earlier of the 51 T129s already on order. This contract increases the total ordered by the Turkish Land Forces Command to 60. TAI is the Prime Contractor for the overall ATAK Programme, with ASELSAN as the supplier of avionics and mission equipments while AgustaWestland is acting as subcontractor to TAI. As the Prime Contractor of the ATAK Program, TAI is responsible for ensuring the T129 ATAK helicopter meets all the operational requirements of the Turkish Land Forces Command.

Ironic that while the rest of Europe disarms, Turkey is going full speed ahead. They have an original order for 100 F-35's and increased it by another 20. They have a huge ship building program going on (definitely under the radar but real) and the armed forces in general are sharpening their teeth on insurgents in Northern Iraq.

The Sixth Generation Fighter

The technologies are emerging, but what’s needed is a program to pull them together.

Within the next few years, we will begin work on the sixth generation [fighter] capabilities necessary for future air dominance.” The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael B. Donley, and the USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, issued that statement in an April 13 Washington Post article.

The Air Force may have to move a little faster to develop that next generation fighter. While anticipated F-22 and F-35 inventories seem settled, there won’t be enough to fix shortfalls in the fighter fleet over the next 20 years, as legacy fighters retire faster than fifth generation replacements appear.

The Air Force will have to answer a host of tough questions about the nature of the next fighter.

Should it provide a true “quantum leap” in capability, from fifth to sixth generation, or will some interim level of technology suffice? When will it have to appear? What kinds of fighters will potential adversaries be fielding in the next 20 years? And, if the program is delayed, will a defense industry with nothing to work on in the meantime lose its know-how to deliver the needed system?

What seems certain is that more is riding on the Air Force’s answers than just replacing worn-out combat aircraft.

Initial concept studies for what would become the F-22 began in the early 1980s, when production of the F-15 was just hitting its stride. It took 20 years to go from those concepts to initial operational capability. Industry leaders believe that it will probably take another 20 years to field a next generation fighter.

That may be late to need. By 2030, according to internal USAF analyses, the service could be as many as 971 aircraft short of its minimum required inventory of 2,250 fighters. That assumes that all planned F-35s are built and delivered on time and at a rate of at least 48 per year. The shortfall is due to the mandatory retirement of F-15s and F-16s that will have exceeded their service lives and may no longer be safe to fly.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has set the tone for the tactical aviation debate. He opposed the F-22 as being an expensive, “exquisite” solution to air combat requirements, and has put emphasis on the less costly F-35 Lightning II instead. He considers it exemplary of the kind of multirole platforms, applicable to a wide variety of uses, that he believes the US military should be buying in coming years. He and his technology managers have described this approach as the “75 percent” solution.

Gates has also forecast that a Russian fifth generation fighter will be operational in 2016—Russia says it will fly the fighter this year—and a Chinese version just four years later. Given that US legacy fighters are already matched or outclassed by “generation four-plus-plus” fighters, if Russia and China build their fifth generation fighters in large numbers, the US would be at a clear airpower disadvantage in the middle of the 2020s. That’s a distinct possibility, as both countries have openly stated their intentions to build world-class air fleets. If they do, the 75 percent solution fails.

What You See Is What You Get

The Air Force declined to offer official comment on the status of its sixth generation fighter efforts. Privately, senior leaders have said they have been waiting to see how the F-22 and F-35 issues sorted out before establishing a structured program for a next generation fighter.

The Air Force has a large classified budget, but it seems there is no “black” sixth generation fighter program waiting in the wings. A senior industry official, with long-term, intimate knowledge of classified efforts, said the F-22 wasn’t stopped at 187 aircraft because a secret, better fighter is nearly ready to be deployed. He said, “What you see is what you get.”

That opinion was borne out in interviews with the top aeronautic technologists of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, the three largest remaining US airframers. They said they were unaware of an official, dedicated Air Force sixth generation fighter program and are anxiously waiting to see what capabilities the service wants in such a fighter.

The possibilities for a sixth generation fighter seem almost the stuff of science fiction.

It would likely be far stealthier than even the fifth generation aircraft. It may be able to change its shape in flight, “morphing” to optimize for either speed or persistence, and its engines will likely be retunable in-flight for efficient supersonic cruise or subsonic loitering.

The sixth generation fighter will likely have directed energy weapons—high-powered microwaves and lasers for defense against incoming missiles or as offensive weapons themselves. Munitions would likely be of the “dial an effect” type, able to cause anything from impairment to destruction of an air or ground target.

Materials and microelectronics technologies would combine to make the aircraft a large integrated sensor, possibly eliminating the need for a nose radar as it is known today. It would be equipped for making cyber attacks as well as achieving kinetic effects, but would still have to be cost-effective to make, service, and modify.

Moreover, the rapid advancement of unmanned aircraft technologies could, in 20 years or so, make feasible production of an autonomous robotic fighter. However, that is considered less likely than the emergence of an uninhabited but remotely piloted aircraft with an off-board “crew,” possibly comprising many operators.

Not clear, yet, is whether the mission should be fulfilled by a single, multirole platform or a series of smaller, specialized aircraft, working in concert.

“I think this next round [of fighter development] is probably going to be dominated by ever-increasing amounts of command and control information,” said Paul K. Meyer, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s Advanced Programs and Technology Division.

Meyer forecast that vast amounts of data will be available to the pilot, who may or may not be on board the aircraft. The pilot will see wide-ranging, intuitive views of “the extended world” around the aircraft, he noted. The aircraft will collect its own data and seamlessly fuse it with off-board sensors, including those on other aircraft. The difference from fifth generation will be the level of detail and certainty—the long-sought automatic target recognition.

Directed Energy Weapons

Embedded sensors and microelectronics will also make possible sensor arrays in “locations that previously weren’t available because of either heat or the curvature of the surface,” providing more powerful and comprehensive views of the battlefield, Meyer noted. Although the aircraft probably won’t be autonomous, he said, it will be able to “learn” and advise the pilot as to what actions to take—specifically, whether a target should be incapacitated temporarily, damaged, or destroyed.

Traditional electronics will probably give way to photonics, said Darryl W. Davis, president of Boeing’s advanced systems division.

“You could have fewer wires,” said Davis. “You’re on a multiplexed, fiber-optic bus ... that connects all the systems, and because you can do things at different wavelengths of light, you can move lots of data around airplanes much faster, with much less weight in terms of ... wire bundles.”

Fiber optics would also be resistant to jamming or spoofing of data and less prone to cyber attack.

A “digital wingman” could accompany the main fighter as an extra sensor-shooter smart enough to take verbal instructions, Meyer forecasted.

Directed energy weapons could play a big role in deciding how agile a sixth generation fighter would have to be, Meyer noted. “Speed of light” weapons, he added, could “negate” the importance of “the maneuverability we see in today’s fashionable fighters.” There won’t be time to maneuver away from a directed energy attack.

Pulse weapons could also fry an enemy aircraft’s systems—or those of a ground target. Based on what “we have seen and we make at Northrop Grumman,” Meyer said, “in the next 20 years ... that type of technology is going to be available.”

With an appropriate engine—possibly an auxiliary engine—on board to provide power for directed energy weapons, there could be an “unlimited magazine” of shots, Meyer said.

Hypersonics—that is, the ability of an air vehicle to travel at five times the speed of sound, or faster—has routinely been suggested as an attribute of sixth generation fighters, but the industry leaders are skeptical the capability will be ready in time.

While there have been some successes with experimental hypersonic propulsion, the total amount of true hypersonic flying time is less than 15 minutes, and the leap to an operational fighter in 20 years might be a leap too far.

“It entails a whole new range of materials development, due to ... sensors, fuzes, apertures, etc.,” Meyer noted, “all of which must operate in that intense heat environment at ... Mach 5-plus.”

Still, “it is indeed an option that we would consider” because targets will be fleeting and require quick, surgical strikes at great distances. However, such an approach would probably be incompatible with a loitering capability.

Davis said he thinks hypersonics “will start to show up in sixth generation,” but not initially as the platform’s power plant, but rather in the aircraft’s kinetic munitions.

“I think it will start with applications to weapons,” Davis said. And they may not necessarily be just weapons but “high-speed reconnaissance platforms for short missions on the way to the target.”

Because of the extreme speed of hypersonic platforms and especially directed energy weapons, Davis thinks it will be critical to have “persistent eyes on target” because speed-of-light weapons can’t be recalled “once you’ve pulled the trigger,” and even at hypersonic speed, a target may move before the weapon arrives. That would suggest a flotilla of stealthy drones or sensors positioned around the battlefield.

Not only will hypersonics require years more work, Davis said it must be combined with other, variable-cycle engines that will allow an aircraft to take off from sea level, climb to high altitude, and then engage a hypersonic engine. Those enabling propulsion elements are not necessarily near at hand in a single package.

The sixth generation fighter, whatever it turns out to be, will still be a machine and will need to be serviced, repaired, and modified, according to Neil Kacena, deputy director of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works advanced projects division. He is less confident that major systems such as radar will be embedded in the aircraft skin.

“If the radar doesn’t work, and now you have to take the wing off, ... then that may not be the technology that will find its way onto a sixth gen aircraft,” he said. In designing the next fighter, life cycle costs will be crucial, and so practical considerations will have to be accommodated.

Toward that end, he said, Lockheed Martin is working on new composite manufacturing techniques that use far fewer fasteners, less costly tooling, and therefore lower start-up and sustainment costs. It demonstrated those technologies recently on the Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft program.

Given the anticipated capabilities of the Russian and Chinese fifth generation fighters, when will a sixth generation aircraft have to be available?

Davis said the Air Force and Navy, not industry, will have to decide how soon they need a new generation of fighters. However, “if the services are thinking they need something in 2020” when foreign fifth generation fighters could be proliferating in large numbers, “we’re going to have to do some things to our existing generation of platforms,” such as add the directed energy weapons or other enhancements.

Kacena agreed, saying that Lockheed Martin has “engaged with both services and supplied them data and our perspectives” about the next round of fighter development. If the need exists to make a true quantum leap, then sixth generation is the way to go, but, “if it’s driven by the reduction in force structure [and] ... the equipment is just getting old and worn out in that time frame, then [we] may very well be on a path of continuous improvement of fifth generation capabilities.” Lockheed Martin makes both the F-22 and F-35.

He said the company’s goal is to find the knee in the curve where “you get them the most bang for the buck without an 80 to 90 percent solution. Something that doesn’t take them beyond the nonlinear increase in cost.”

Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance and a fighter pilot, said the next fighter generation may well have characteristics fundamentally different from any seen today, but he urged defense decision-makers to keep an open mind and not ignore hard-learned lessons from history.

Although great strides have been made in unmanned aircraft, said Deptula, “we have a long way to go to achieve the degree of 360-degree spherical situation awareness, rapid assimilation of information, and translation of that information into action that the human brain, linked with its on-site sensors, can accomplish.”

Numbers Count, Too

Despite rapid increases in computer processing power, it will be difficult for a machine to cope with “an infinite number of potential situations that are occurring in split seconds,” Deptula added, noting that, until such a capability is proved, “we will still require manned aircraft.”

It’s important to note that America’s potential adversaries will have access to nearly all the technologies now only resident with US forces, Deptula said. Thinking 20 to 30 years out, it will be necessary to invest properly to retain things US forces depend on, such as air superiority.

However, he warned not to put too much emphasis on technology, per se. “Just as precision air weapons and, to a certain degree, cyberspace are redefining our definition of mass in today’s fight, we have to be very wary of how quickly ‘mass’ in its classic sense can return in an era of mass-precision and mass-cyber capabilities for all.”

In other words, numbers count, and too few fighters, even if they are extremely advanced, are still too few.

Hanging over the sixth generation fighter debate is this stark fact: The relevant program should now be well under way, but it has not even been defined. If the Pentagon wants a sixth generation capability, it will have to demonstrate that intent, and soon. Industry needs that clear signal if it is to invest its own money in developing the technologies needed to make the sixth generation fighter come about.

Moreover, the sixth generation program is necessary to keep the US aerospace industry on the cutting edge. Unless it is challenged, if the “90 percent” solution is needed in the future, industry may not be able to answer the call.

Under Gates, Pentagon technology leaders have said they want to avoid cost and schedule problems by deferring development until technologies are more mature. Unfortunately, this safe and steady approach does not stimulate leap-ahead technologies.

Meyer said, “We need to have challenges to our innovative thoughts, our engineering talents, our technology integration and development that would ... push us ... to the point where industry has to perform beyond expectations.”

He noted that today’s F-35 is predicated on largely proven technologies and “affordability,” but it was the B-2 and F-22 programs that really paved the way for the systems that underpin modern air combat.

The B-2 bomber, he noted, “was a program of significant discovery,” because it involved a great deal of invention to meet required performance. The B-2 demanded “taking ... basic research and developing it in the early ... phases” of the program, which yielded nonfaceted stealth, enhanced range and payload, nuclear hardening, new antennas, radars, and flight controls.

Today, Meyer said, most programs are entering full-scale development only when they’ve reached a technology readiness level of six or higher (see chart).

“We probably had elements on the B-2 ... that were at four, and a lot at five,” Meyer said.

Programs such as the sixth generation fighter “are the ones we relish because they make us think, they make us take risks that we wouldn’t normally take, and in taking on those risks we’ve discovered the new technologies that have made our industry great,” he asserted.

Davis said that other countries are going to school on the US fighter industry and taking its lessons to heart.

“We still think you have to build things—fly them and test them—in order to know what works and what doesn’t,” said Davis. “And, at some point, if you don’t do that, just do it theoretically, it doesn’t get you where you need to be.”

He added, “If we don’t continue to move forward, they will catch us.”

Fighter Generations

The definition of fighter generations has long been subject to debate. However, most agree that the generations break down along these broad lines:

Generation 1: Jet propulsion (F-80, German Me 262).

Generation 2: Swept wings; range-only radar; infrared missiles (F-86, MiG-15).

Generation 3: Supersonic speed; pulse radar; able to shoot at targets beyond visual range (“Century Series” fighters such as F-105; F-4; MiG-17; MiG-21).

Generation 4: Pulse-doppler radar; high maneuverability; look-down, shoot-down missiles (F-15, F-16, Mirage 2000, MiG-29).

Generation 4+: High agility; sensor fusion; reduced signatures (Eurofighter Typhoon, Su-30, advanced versions of F-16 and F/A-18, Rafale).

Generation 4++: Active electronically scanned arrays; continued reduced signatures or some “active” (waveform canceling) stealth; some supercruise (Su-35, F-15SE).

Generation 5: All-aspect stealth with internal weapons, extreme agility, full-sensor fusion, integrated avionics, some or full supercruise (F-22, F-35).

Potential Generation 6: extreme stealth; efficient in all flight regimes (subsonic to multi-Mach); possible “morphing” capability; smart skins; highly networked; extremely sensitive sensors; optionally manned; directed energy weapons.

Technology Readiness Levels

Pentagon leaders now seek to reduce weapon risks and costs by deferring production until technologies are mature. Pentagon technology readiness levels—TRLs—are defined as follows:

TRL 1: Basic principles observed and reported. Earliest transition from basic scientific research to applied research and development. Paper studies of a technology’s basic properties.

TRL 2: Invention begins; practical applications developed. No proof or detailed analysis yet.

TRL 3: Active R&D begins. Analytical and lab studies to validate predictions. Components not yet integrated.

TRL 4: Basic elements are shown to work together in a “breadboard,” or lab setting.

TRL 5: Fidelity of demonstrations rises. Basic pieces are integrated in a somewhat realistic way. Can be tested in a simulated environment.

TRL 6: Representative model or prototype. A major step up in readiness for use. Possible field tests.

TRL 7: Prototype of system in operational environment is demonstrated—test bed aircraft, for example.

TRL 8: Final form of the technology is proved to work. Usually the end of system development. Weapon is tested in its final form.

TRL 9: Field use of the technology in its final form, under realistic conditions.