Air Force, News f-15, F-15 Eagle, F-15 fighters, f-16 falcon, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35, f-35 joint strike fighter, f-35 jsf, F-35 Lightening II, F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter, F-35 model plane, Lockheed Martin F-35
The production of F-35 Lightning II has encountered another setback. The fuel tank of the JSF was found to be problematic, casting another gloom to the most controversial and expensive defense program of Pentagon.
To make up for the late arrival of the F-35s, the US Air Force is spending nearly $6 billion to upgrade and refurbish its F-15 jet planes. Almost half of the money allocated for the F-15s will be spent on new electronics. The remaining budget will be spent on older F-15s. Introduced 30 years ago, the F-15 was originally designed to fly for just 8,000 hours. The Air Force is looking forward to adding another 10 thousand hours with internal and external improvements to the F-15.
The US Air Force is also looking forward to upgrade its fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressors. The improvement involves equipping the jet planes with an electronic system that will improve the accuracy of replicating enemy fighters.
“To date, generally, it is considered that the aggressors under-replicate the current threat,” says Major Gary Barker, the ACC training operations division’s F-16 functional area and realistic training manager. “It’s very difficult for the aggressors to provide the threat picture that we think we would see in near-peer combat.”
The Air Force sees the System Capabilities Upgrade-8 (SCU-8) configuration as the solution. With the SCU-8, older Blocks 30 and 32 F-16s will have a helmet-mounted cueing system and a new center display unit, which Barker describes as having functionality similar to an Apple iPad
“With that, you can simulate missile WEZs [weapons employment zones] and provide more accurate cueing real-time that can aid in kill removal and weapons assessment airborne,” Barker says.
As of now, the current F-15s and F-16s are well-suited to deal with fourth-generation enemy fighters. But with the emergence of new warplanes such as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 or Russian Sukhoi PAK-FA, the Air Force has to take measures to keep up while waiting for the fifth-generation F-35 jet fighters.
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News Source: www.flightglobal.com, www.strategypage.com
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Lockheed Martin, the maker of F-16 fighter jets are losing some parts of the $3 Billion servicing work to BAE.
Last year, BAE won over Lockheed to refurbish the 130 units of F-16 owned by South Korea. It was the first the Pentagon’s biggest contractor lost such bid. BAE is looking at possibilities of taking on more F-16 repair and upgrade work to boost its international sales. “We’re looking at potentially where to take this next,” David Herr, president of BAE’s support solutions business said. “It’s a big opportunity for us.” Aside from South Korea, BAE had also talked with other nation the possibility of other F-16 work.
According to defense analyst Kevin Brancato; due to the military budget cuts, defense companies are now shifting their focus on servicing and improvement contracts. This means that Lockheed have to defend its turf from its rivals that may soon include Boeing. Lockheed Martin are busy with the development of the controversial F-35, the most expensive Pentagon’s development program in history.
Ellen Buhr, a company spokesperson said that Boeing is interested in international F-16 upgrades. Boeing had experienced working with the F-16 through its work on converting the jet planes into drones used for military target practice.
In total, there 2,271 units of F-16 owned by other nations.
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News Source: www.bloomberg.com
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Canada and Australia are looking at other jet planes for their military just in case the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program face new setbacks. Australia is thinking about buying 24 units of Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets, Defense Minister Stephen Smith said on Thursday, a day after Canada Defense Minister Peter McKay announced that they are considering other fighter jets apart from F-35.
McKay said that the Canadian government needs to ensure the balance between the military and taxpayer expenses.
The F-35 program is the costliest procurement program in US Defense history. It had been hampered due to numerous budget cuts that resulted delays and overruns. These announcements show that development partners are going frustrated with the $396 billion programme. Australia was expected to buy 100 units of F-35, but buying new F/A-18 can lesses their F-35 order.
Other countries had earlier expressed similar sentiments. Japan has cancelled their order of F-35 jet fighters while the Netherlands and Italy have trimmed down their orders.
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The Pentagon’s most expensive and highly-criticized weapons program finally showed progress as the Marine Corps established the first squadron of the F-35b jet fighters. The F-35b’s new operational squadron is stationed at an airbase in Yuma, Arizona.
Three F-35b jets have already arrived at the base with 13 more units will come over next year. According to the base spokesperson, the service built a new hangar for the planes as well as a high-end flight stimulator for the pilots and maintenance facilities. The new squadron will start its initial flights by December or early next year.
A ceremony was held for the unveiling of the new squadron. It was attended by top Pentagon and Lockheed executives as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain who sits at the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The F-35 is the replacement for the aging fleet of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier jets. Lockheed Martin is building three variants of the jet fighter for the U.S. Military and other countries. The F-35b model has STOVL capabilities.
“This squadron will be the first, not only in the Marine Corps or the United States, but the first in the world to bring a fifth-generation, multi-role, (short takeoff vertical landing) stealth fighter … into an operational status,” Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos said during his speech at the unveiling ceremony.
The new F-35b squadron is fantastic addition to our military’s fleet. Start your own fleet of model airplanes from Warplanes. Warplanes has an extensive range of fighter jet models to choose from.
News Source: news.terra.com
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US Marine Corps pilots will start flight training for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. This progress with the development of F-35 emphasize the service’ confidence with the JSF program.
Lockheed Martin had delivered 10 units of the F-35B model at the air base. The model can take off from shorter runways and has the capability to land like helicopters. Preliminary orientation flights had been conducted by test pilots in May, but the flights had been limited in scope and speed. For instance, vertical landings had not been tested. Most pilot training are confined in classrooms and simulators. The military needs to extensively train the pilots and maintainers to fly and repair the aircraft before it can enter service operations. The leaders of the Marine Corps are anxious to get the F-35 into service as it needs to replace the aging Harrier jump jets and the F/A18 fighters. The F-35 program had been restructured three times and had suffered delays in production and training.
The progress in the F-35 training will allow pilots to finally take the aircraft to the skies and be a step closer for the $396 billion program to be useful for the military.
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News source: www.courant.com
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon estimates that it will still cost about $1 trillion to operate a fleet of 2,443 F-35 fighter jets over the next 50 years, but is continuing to analyze how to drive that staggering sum down, a top U.S. Marine Corps official told Reuters.
Lieutenant General Terry Robling, deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation, said top defense officials agreed last week to continue low-rate production of the new radar-evading warplane built by Lockheed Martin Corp, while keeping a close eye on the cost of maintaining and operating the new jets.
“Everybody was on board with … the program,” Robling told Reuters aboard a military aircraft on Saturday after a ceremony involving three F-35B jets at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. “We understand the costs are high. We understand that we need to do something, we need to make decisions down the road.”
Robling said the cost estimate would likely decline in coming years as more jets were built and flown, reducing the reliance on comparison data from other aircraft programs.
Unless the estimates do come down substantially, the Pentagon may have to decide to buy fewer airplanes, reduce the number of anticipated flight hours, or skip adding certain capabilities to the plane, Robling said, although he noted that decision point could still be five to 10 years off.
The estimated cost just to develop and buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is around $382 billion, but that number could increase somewhat when the Pentagon reports the cost of its major acquisition programs to Congress next month.
Defense officials say the cost of the program will increase somewhat since the Pentagon is postponing orders for 179 planes for five years to allow more testing and limit the number of costly retrofits to already produced planes.
The delays and budget pressures at home are prompting eight international partners who are helping fund the F-35 development — Britain, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Canada and the Netherlands — to rethink their orders as well.
-more at wtvr.com
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An F-35A Conventional Take-off and Landing aircraft conducted the first F-35 external weapons test mission last week at the Edwards Air Base in California. The mission further push the program’s flight test envelope.
For this mission, the F-35A carried an air-to-air AIM-9X missiles on the outboard wing stations. It also flew with two internal 2,000 pounds guided bombs (GBU-31) and two advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AIM-120) located in the two internal weapon bays of fighter jet. Four external pylons that can carry 2,000 pounds air-to-ground weapons were additionally mounted to the F-35. However, no weapons were launched during the mission.
The F-35 is a 5th generational multi-role fighter by Lockheed Martin and part of the Joint Strike Fighter family. It is part of the US Air Force most expensive defensive program.
The F-35 was designed to carry up to a maximum of 18,000 pounds load. It has ten weapon stations – four of them are in two internal weapons bay and the other six are located on the wings.
source: www.defensetalk.com, www.dailytech.com
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One of the problems with the Air Force’s drone fleet? There aren’t enough humans to operate the flying robots. And it’s contributing to a surprising Air Force decision to buy fewer drones — even as its own budget plan calls for the robots to get much busier.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced weeks ago that the armed, unmanned Predators and Reapers will fly more often in the coming few years, going up to 65 combat air patrols, or CAPs — teams of up to four flying robots — “with a surge capacity of 85.” That’s up from 61 today. But the Air Force’s budget figures, released on Monday, show that the flyboys will slow down their drone purchases, rather than increase them.
Under last year’s defense budget, the Air Force bought 48 Reapers, the bigger, faster, more lethal descendant of the Predator. (The Air Force stopped buying Predators in 2010.) In the proposed budget, the Air Force wants to buy half as many — 24 armed, spying drones. And its budget chief, Maj. Gen. Edward Bolton Jr., was unsure when the service will start buying the next-generation, jet-powered, stealthy Avenger drone in earnest.
There are a couple reasons for the shift. One is that there aren’t enough airmen who know how to remotely pilot the things. Another is that the Air Force says it can do more stuff with fewer drones. And of course, there’s the budget crunch.
“It turned out, when the [Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council] established this past year the requirement of 65 CAPs, we determined we could meet that with this [reduced] production rate,” Bolton told Danger Room during a Monday afternoon briefing.
After the briefing, Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, the Air Force’s public-affairs chief, told Danger Room that the reduced Reaper purchase has to do with flesh-and-blood concerns — namely a lack of airmen trained to fly the drones and analyze the data the robots collect.
Well, sort of, clarifies Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman. “Manning was a consideration in reducing the MQ-9 Reaper purchases for [the next fiscal year], but not the only consideration,” Cassidy emails Danger Room. “The MQ-9 crew production rate and the attrition rate of the [Predator] allowed the reduction of MQ-9 purchases [next year] without impact to the Air Force ramp-up to 65 CAPs.”
But the Air Force has acknowledged it’s got a people problem with its unpeopled planes. “Our No. 1 manning problem in the Air Force is manning our unmanned platforms,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, the vice chief of staff, recently told the Los Angeles Times.
In recent years, the Air Force relaxed its restrictions on who can fly its drones, in order to make up the shortfall; there are pilots now flying Reapers who have never grabbed the throttle of a traditional aircraft. But it hasn’t been enough. Contractors are brought in to the drone bases to remotely pilot the Predators and Reapers, as well as to help analyze the endless hours of full-motion video they collect. Thousands of airmen have been shifted into new jobs, in order to better scour all the video.
Absent a big crash program to train up new drone experts– or switch to the Army’s preferred method of using pasty, video-gaming teenagers to pilot their robot planes — the manpower problem is likely to get worse. In the next few years, the sensor and video packages carried by Air Force drones are going to get more sophisticated, like when the panopticon Gorgon Stare spy suite comes online. And the Air Force will cut 9,900 personnel over the next year, although it’s unclear what specialties the cashiered airmen will have performed.
When top Pentagon officials like former Defense Secretary Bob Gates browbeat the Air Force into accepting 65 unmanned CAPs, top service officials complained that there was no formal “requirement” for the drones — no way of knowing when it had satisfied the other services’ need for robotic eyes in the sky. Even drone-backers at the top of the Air Force thought all those patrols were overkill. So it’s not surprising that they chose to slow the rate of drone buys, when budgets got tight.
Instead, the Air Force’s priority future upgrades and purchases are all in manned planes. Upgrading the software on the F-22 Raptor, even as it’s got big problems with its oxygen systems. Enhancing the radar on F-15s. Extending the service life of F-16s. Buying 19 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even as they develop 13 expensive new flaws. An arguable exception is that the service’s desired next-generation long range bomber won’t always be piloted by a human being; it’s “optionally manned,” as the Air Force calls it.
But a recent congressional study obtained by Danger Room explains the Air Force’s preference for manned planes. About 40 percent of the air fleet is robotic. Yet over 90 percent of the Air Force’s procurement money is spent on planes with a human in the cockpit. Of course, part of the allure of drones is that they are cheap. And obviously, drones are the weapon of choice for the Obama administration’s Shadow Wars against terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Asked by Danger Room, Bolton said that the new budget figures “should not” be interpreted as a sign that the Air Force prefers its manned planes.
“This budget really is a manifestation of the strategy that was laid out by Secretary Panetta on the 26th of January,” Bolton said. “And so our real challenge within this budget was to first determine how we could build a budget that could implement that strategy, and then secondly, how could we do that within the necessary physical constraints as based upon the guidance of the Budget Control Act passed to us by [the White House].”
Except Panetta was clear that day that the Air Force would “provide unmanned capabilities through their operators as well” — and would increase its Predator and Reaper flights. The robots are still waiting for the humans to catch up.
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Lockheed Martin unveiled the latest version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon at the Singapore Airshow. The F-16V features several enchancements that will make the fourth-generation jet fighter to operate better with fifth generation jet fighters like the F-35 and F-22. This newest version of the F-16 has an upgraded mission computer and architecture, an improved cockpit and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
The AESA radar will allow the F-16V to broadcast radio signals that are spread out among different frequencies that will make it difficult to detect over background noise. It allows the fighter jet to send powerful signals while remaining stealthy. Lockheed Martin has also developed a process to install AESA radars on existing F-16s on lesser costs.
F-16V is latest evolution of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The “V” stands for viper, the nickname that pilots from the US Air Force gave the Fighting Falcon for its resemblance to TV show Battlestar Galactica’s Colonial Viper Starfighter. It had come a long way from the earlier incarnations of F-16. The first versions were F-16A (one seat) and F-16-B (two seat). Enhancements like improved cockpit avionics and all-weather capability were made in F-16C/D. Other versions like F-16IN and F-16IQ is also in operation.
The US Airforce had been using the F-16 since 1978 and over 4,450 units have been built. The F-16 will remain in service until 2025. The US Air Force no longer order units of F-16, but Lockheed Martin continues to produce the aircraft for other countries that operate the Fighting Falcon like Italy, Denmark, South Korea, Israel and Pakistan.
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Acting Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall says it was “acquisition malpractice” to approve production of the Lockheed Martin F-35 years before the first flight of the single-engine stealthy fighter occurred.
“It should not have been done,” Kendall told an audience Feb. 6 hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But we did it.”
Then-procurement chief Kenneth Krieg approved the first lot of production in 2006. The contract for long-lead articles came in April 2006 for low-rate initial production Lot 1, and that aircraft rolled off of the production line in 2008.
At the time, program executives, including the incoming director of the program, Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, argued that swift entry into production was of paramount importance to aggressively ramp up production numbers quickly, thereby attaining a low per-unit cost as quickly as possible.
Davis, now a three-star general, commands the Air Force’s Electronic Systems Center, which has oversight of such key programs as the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program and the next-generation space surveillance fence. He and Lockheed Martin executives also contended that the use of new modeling and design tools dramatically diminished the likelihood of major problems being discovered in flight testing that could prompt a costly redesign.
Kendall, who is the acting procurement czar awaiting Senate approval, takes issue with that view.
“What we are seeing is that the optimistic predictions when we started the production of the F-35—that we now have good enough design tools and good enough simulation and modeling that we wouldn’t have to worry about finding things in test—were wrong,” Kendall said. “We are finding problems in all three of the variants that are the types of things, historically in a state-of-the-art, next-generation fighter aircraft, you are going to find, where our design tools are not perfect.”
These include so-called structural hot spots on all three F-35 variants that have yet to be fully understood or addressed. Today, the program has achieved only 20% of its flight-test program, and Pentagon procurement officials have sharply reduced the purchase numbers in recent years to curtail the potential of discovering major problems in testing that would cause a redesign and retrofit of a growing fleet.
This problem, dubbed “concurrency,” is frustrating senior Pentagon leaders because of its unknown scope. During an interview last year with Aviation Week, JSF program executive Vice Adm. David Venlet said the real risk of encountering major concurrency cost is retired around 2015 if testing goes as planned.
Meanwhile, after contentious discussions last year, he and Lockheed Martin executives agreed to equally split the cost of any concurrency modifications for low-rate-initial-production Lot 5 aircraft. This was the first such arrangement in the program and sets the precedent for burden sharing moving forward.
Despite institutional frustration at the Pentagon over the concurrency problem, Kendall says, “We don’t, at this point, see anything that would preclude continuing production at a reasonable rate.”
Testing, however, is not without its hiccups. After a grounding of six F-35 test aircraft at Edwards AFB, Calif., owing to poorly packed ejection seat parachutes, the Joint Program Office (JPO) announced that AF-1 resumed flying Feb. 3.
The aircraft were grounded because personnel at seat-maker Martin Baker installed some parachutes backward. The “head-box assembly” for AF-1 was installed the morning of Feb. 3 and a crew flew later in the day, JPO spokesman Joe Dellavedova says.
Three more head-box assemblies were expected to be delivered over the weekend and are slated for installation. The F-35 test jets are the first slated to undergo the fix, with the nine training aircraft at Eglin AFB, Fla., next in line. Training operations there have not been affected as the Air Force has not yet given the nod to conduct those flights yet.