South Korea seems to be favoring F-35

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The South Korean air force rates all of the Western competitors for its F-X Phase 3 fighter program, including the F-35 Lightning, as capable of meeting the in-service date of 2016, an assessment that appears to raise the chances of the F-35 Lockheed Martin aircraft.

The Korean air force said in an unpublished briefing paper that the Eurofighter Typhoon is in service and can therefore meet the schedule. Although it notes that the F-35 and the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle are not fully developed, the air force believes they can be ready in time.

That judgment is less important for the F-15SE than for the F-35. But for the Lightning the air force’s assessment seems to sweep aside concerns that, while the stealth fighter is especially well suited to the air-to-ground part of the F-X Phase 3 requirement, its repeatedly delayed development schedule has become uncomfortably tight for South Korea’s needs.

The U.S. Air Force does not expect its F-35As to be operational until 2018. Its definition of initial operational capability is more demanding than South Korea’s, but the U.S. schedule offers little reassurance for potential buyers that would need the aircraft earlier.

Even if the South Korean air force’s assessment is not realistic, the expression of that view at least means that the service is willing to proceed as if the F-35 complies fully with its requirements.


BAE Systems Opens New F-35 Lightning II Robotic Facility

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BAE Systems has formally opened a new state-of-the-art titanium machining facility at its Samlesbury site in Lancashire. The robotic facility will be used to manufacture detail and assembly components of the Aft Fuselage, Vertical Tail and Horizontal Tail for the F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft, further reinforcing BAE Systems’ key role in the world’s largest defense program.

From the first sod being cut in May 2009, the 9000 meter square machining facility has taken just ten months to complete and a further eight months to become operational. It comprises two computerized Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS) which not only manage the manufacturing requirements and machine tool utilization, but also interface with order book requirements, thus ensuring components are produced and delivered on a ‘just-in-time’ basis.

Each FMS contains eight large hard metal milling machines, two long spar longeron machines and is supported by a number of secondary operations. The facility is equipped to allow two titanium components to be produced at the same time thus doubling efficiency. This capability will be critical in meeting the growing demands of the F-35 Lightning II program which, at full rate production, will potentially see aircraft produced at a rate of one per day.

The facility was formally opened by Mark Kane, BAE Systems’ Managing Director – Air Mission Support & Services who commented “This is a huge step forward in the development of our manufacturing capabilities. The facility contains extremely complex manufacturing systems that have taken years to design, with some being the first of their kind in world.

Mark added “This facility is also fundamental in ensuring we continue to play a key role in the F-35 program. We are steadily increasing our technical capability in support of the F-35 program and this facility will keep us quite literally at the cutting edge of manufacturing technology.”

- air-attack

Air Force Chief : Optimism growing on F-35

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F-35 Lightning II

Air Force chief Gen. Norton Schwartz is considerably “more optimistic” about the future of the F-35 Lightning II program given the significant progress being made on the plane’s test program.

“I am more confident than I was, to be sure,” about the F-35A — the Joint Strike Fighter version his service will fly — due to a recent string of testing successes with the jet, Schwartz said during a Wednesday meeting with the editorial staff of Defense News and Air Force Times.

The four-star’s confidence in the embattled program has been boosted because the plane is considerably ahead of its flight test schedule for this year. Furthermore, it hasn’t had a single structural failure during stress testing and has not experienced the “software reboot” problems that plagued the F-22 Raptor at a similar phase in its development, said Schwartz.

“I think we flew 46 [test] sorties in June, when 28 were scheduled; another indication that things are beginning to accelerate,” he said.

Most importantly, said Schwartz, price negotiations for the upcoming purchase of 32 low rate initial production jets, known as LRIP-4, “give me some confidence that we’re on a good recovery path.”

- AirForceTimes

Indonesia aiming to get jets from US

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A Defense Ministry spokesman said Indonesia told the US it wants to buy billions of dollars of American-made military aircraft, in hopes that a US-embargo on military sales to the country may soon be lifted.

“During a bilateral meeting, the Indonesian government expressed its interest to purchase F-16 and C-130H Hercules aircraft to complete its squadrons,” Defense Ministry spokesman I Wayan Midhio said yesterday.

Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates discussed the potential sale during the Shangri-La defense dialogue in Singapore last month. And the US welcomed Indonesia’s proposal to buy more US-made military equipment, Wayan added.

According to Wayan, the US pledged US$15.7 million to Indonesia in 2010 and $20 million in 2011 under the aegis of capacity-building programs to help “modernize” the Indonesian Military (TNI).

Indonesia currently has only four operational jet fighters — less than a single squadron — University of Indonesia’s military expert Andi Widjajanto said. Each squadron should have eight to 12 planes depending on operational, maintenance and training plans.

He said fifth-generation F-16 jet fighter costs between $120 million and $140 million, without munitions. A fourth-generation F-16 Falcon fighter costs between $88 million and $90 million, without munitions.

Flag of Indonesia

There is a surplus of F-16s on the global arms market due to production overruns by US defense contractor manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The company’s capacity still reflects Cold War production levels, Andi added.

The US is also replacing its squadrons of F-16 with newer F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightnings, he said. Both oversupply and change in preference have lowered prices for F-16s in the global market. It is unlikely that the country can purchase F-16s from the US because an embargo on arms sales to Indonesia is still in effect.

“Almost 90 percent of the embargo has been lifted since 2006, but lethal weapons sales have not been lifted and I think there is no sign that the US will do so,” Andi concluded.

-          The Jakarta Post

Lockheed Martin offers F-35 to India

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US defense major Lockheed Martin said on Monday that it will offer its latest fifth generation F-35 fighters to meet Indian Navy’s requirements for carrier-based combat aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for Business Development Orville Prins told India Strategic that a presentation about the aircraft was made to the Indian Navy recently after it expressed interest in the newer generation of aircraft for its future carrier-based aircraft requirements.

“We have received the Request for Information (RFI) from the Navy seeking information about the F-35 aircraft, which are capable of taking off from aircraft carriers. We are going to offer our aircraft to them,” Lockheed Martin vice president Orville Prins said.

News agencies also reported that last week top executives from Lockheed Martin met with officials from the Ministry of Defense and conveyed to them that the United States had made the F-35 Lightning-II available for IAF’s 5th generation fighter requirements.

Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for Business Development, Rob Weiss told Press Trust of India after the meeting that they had indicated that the F-35 was ready to be in reckoning for India’s fighter needs beyond the induction of the 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft. The offer would come in handy for India as the country’s security experts have been struggling to find partners to develop futuristic 5th generation fighters.

“In the next few years a number of countries are joining the F-35 programme and Indian Air Force could also consider joining,” Weiss said. “We briefed top IAF officials about the new fighters.” With embedded antennas, aligned edges, internal weapons and fuel and special coatings and material, the F-35 fighter uses stealth to pick and choose engagements while reaming undetected by enemy defence systems.

Representatives of Lockheed Martin, which is developing the aircraft, have indicated in the past that the aircraft could be available to India if the Indian Air Force (IAF) opted for the F-16 Super Viper in its quest for some 200 Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCAs) but recently, the company made a presentation to the Indian Navy without this condition.

Commenting on other projects of the company in India, Prins said the C-130 J Hercules aircraft are likely to be delivered to the IAF by February next year, two months ahead of the original schedule.

He said IAF is also planning to order six more aircraft as the construction of ground infrastructure is also going on schedule at the Hindan air base near here.

Prins said the IAF has also shown interest in the air to air refuelling tanker-version of the C-130J, which can be offered to it by the company.


- India Strategic

- The Times of India

Bases aim for new combat jets

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The new F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter is tardy, billions over budget and the roar of its jet engine could eclipse the older planes it’s due to replace.Despite these concerns, U.S. Air Force officials at 11 bases in 7 states — and civilian leaders of communities that surround these military installations — are scrambling to convince Pentagon brass to choose their facility to house the latest air-combat bling.

For bases, success during a first round of selections in 2011 could mean survival in a post-Cold War era of downsizing. For military communities, it means a much-needed economic shot-in-the-arm.

“We feel strongly that it would be foolish to not support this, with the state of the economy,” said Adam Park, a spokesman for Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.

So far, Lockheed Martin Corp. has built just a few of roughly 2,400 F-35s the United States has said it wants to buy, but the plane’s cost already has more than doubled to some $113 million apiece.

What’s more, the joint strike fighter — “joint” because different versions are also being built for the U.S. Marines and Navy — isn’t likely to be ready for Air Force operations until 2015, two years behind schedule.

In Idaho, Mountain Home Air Force Base’s 20 F-15C Eagles are departing this summer, while C-130 cargo planes that exited Gowen Field last year left vacant hangars. The base’s 22 A-10 “Warthog” tankbusters are 34 years old and counting.

“In order to maintain our relevancy, eventually we’re going to need a new mission,” said Col. Tim Marsano, of the Idaho Air National Guard.

Air Guard F-16 pilots from Vermont were among the first to be scrambled over New York City’s “Ground Zero” after the Sept. 11 attacks, but Burlington’s 18-plane squadron is aging.

“In a perfect world, there would be a one-for-one replacement with the F-35s, and these F-16s would retire,” said Brigadier General Steve Cray, of the Vermont Air National Guard’s Green Mountain Boys.

- AP

“We need to move into the F-35C” – Navy Rear Adm. Michael C. Manazir

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The Navy needs the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter‘s fifth-generation capabilities, according to Navy Rear Adm. Michael C. Manazir .

The service’s acting director of air warfare spoke to reporters because he wanted to “completely dispel the rumor that the Navy is soft on F-35C.

The F-35C is the aircraft-carrier version of the joint strike fighter. The F-35A model is for the Air Force, and the F-35B will be a vertical take-off and landing model for the Marines.

The FA-18E and FA-18F Super Hornets are great airplanes, Manazir said, but they do not have the capabilities that the F-35C’s will bring to the Navy. Delays in the joint strike fighter program and the cost increases associated with them caused some supposition that the Navy would turn to the FA-18s, he added.

The Navy has had the F-35C on its horizon for more than a decade, the admiral said. In that time, the FA-18′s capabilities have grown, with the latest aircraft – the E, F and G models – reaching the fourth-generation airframe’s limits. “We need to move into the F-35C to realize our vision of tactical air coming off of carriers,” he said.

“We’re completely committed to the F-35C,” he added, noting that staying with the Super Hornet would put the United States at a disadvantage against a near-peer competitor.

Still, the admiral said, the Super Hornet program is not ending, just yet. The Navy wants to buy 124 of the aircraft through fiscal 2013 to bring its number of Super Hornets to 515. Beginning in fiscal 2016, he said, aircraft carriers will deploy with a mix of Super Hornets and F-35C’s.