Friday, January 20, 2012

Night flights commence for F-35

Pilots at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., have started to test fly the F-35 Lightning II fighter at night, Lockheed Martin announced Thursday.

Flown by company test pilot Mark Ward, aircraft AF-6, which is an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, took off at 17:05 on Wednesday afternoon and landed a little after sunset. The jet flew for a little more than an hour.

The sortie consisted of basic straight-in approaches, Lockheed’s press release said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country at Eglin AFB, Fla., Marine Maj. Joseph “O.D.” Bachmann flew the 33rd Fighter Wing’s third F-35B to the seaside base on Jan. 19. The addition of the short takeoff vertical landing fighter brings the total number of F-35s at the Florida base to nine. Two B-models and six F-35As were delivered earlier.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Embraer flies Indias prying plane in Brazil

BANGALORE: India’s dream of having a plane embedded with home-grown prying technologies finally inched closer to reality when the modified Embraer-built Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS) took off on its maiden flight from the Sao Jose dos Campos flight test facilities in Brazil on December 6.

As reported recently, the systems for the EMB-145I aircraft is being developed by Bangalore-based Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS), a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) facility.

The first aircraft will arrive in Bangalore early June for CABS’ integration and flight trials will be executed by test pilots from the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE).

“The first flight concludes another important phase in this programme and starts the flight test campaign. We are moving towards the delivery of the first aircraft during the first half 2012,” says Eduardo Bonini Santos Pinto, senior vice-president (Operations), Embraer Defence and Security. The EMB-145I is a member of Embraer’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) family of aircraft and systems, modelled on ERJ 145, one of the most successful regional jet platforms in the world, with more than 1,100 units delivered and 1,918 million hours flown.

The aircraft was piloted by Embraer pilot and co-piloted by Gp Capt N Tiwari, chief test pilot, ASTE.

“The aircraft took off smoothly and flew for more than an hour without any hiccups and followed the simulated prediction closely. This critical milestone will put India in the elite class of countries, which have developed similar systems,” G Elangovan, DRDO chief controller (Avionics) told Express from Brazil.

Cabinet clears Rs 6,600 crore French missile deal

NEW DELHI: India has cleared the Rs 6,600-crore acquisition of 490 French advanced missile systems to arm the Mirage-2000 fighter jets, which are being upgraded under a separate Rs 10,947 crore programme finalized in July, 2010.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the contract for the fire-and-forget MICA (interception and aerial combat missiles) with French armament major MBDA on Wednesday.

Sources say another major defence deal, the acquisition of 75 Swiss turbo-prop aircraft to train IAF rookie pilots for over Rs 3,000 crore, is likely to be cleared next week. IAF wants to induct the 75 Pilatus PC-7 basic trainers by 2013-14 since its 114 piston-engine HPT-32 aircraft have been grounded since August, 2009, due to repeated engine failures, leading to training of pilots being truncated.

TOI had earlier reported that all decks had been cleared for the MICA and Pilatus deals, even as the final calculations are underway to select the ``lowest bidder'' between French Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon for the mega MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to acquire 126 top-notch fighters at a cost likely to touch $20 billion.

The MICA systems will be fitted on IAF's 51 Mirage-2000s, which are to be progressively upgraded with the help of French companies Dassault Aviation (aircraft manufacturer) and Thales (weapons systems integrator).

While the first two fighters have been sent to France for the upgrade, the rest 49 will later be retrofitted with new avionics, radars, mission computers, glass cockpits, helmet-mounted displays, electronic warfare suites, weapon delivery and precision-targeting systems in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

The overall Mirage upgrade project cost will cross Rs 20,000 crore, and it will take over a decade to be completed. This has led to some criticism that it would probably have been better to go in for new fighters. IAF, however, swears by the Mirage-2000 fighters, which have had an excellent track record with the force.

Down to just 33-34 fighter squadrons (each has 16 to 18 jets) from a `sanctioned strength' of 39.5, IAF is going for a mix of new inductions and upgrades to retain its operational readiness even as it phases out older MiG variants.

For instance, 63 MiG-29s are being upgraded under a $964-million deal inked with Russia in March, 2008. Then, apart from the 126 MMRCA, IAF is also inducting 272 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia for around $12 billion. Moreover, the first lot of the around 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft will join IAF from end-2013 onwards.

Besides, India plans to induct 250-300 stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) co-developed with Russia from 2020 onwards, in what will be its biggest-ever defence project at around $ 35 billion.