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The Pentagon has approved the requirement for an “endurance upgrade” to the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system, with a larger air vehicle to provide increased payload and range to support special operations forces.
After also evaluating the Boeing A160T Hummingbird and Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-Max unmanned helicopters, the program office has recommended using the Bell 407 airframe, Capt. Patrick Smith, the Navy’s Fire Scout program manager, said Aug. 17 at the AUVSI International show in Washington.
The program office’s recommendation has yet to be endorsed by Navy leadership, but Northrop and Bell are already jointly developing an unmanned version of the civil Bell 407 light turbine helicopter, called the Fire-X, which first flew in December.
“The MQ-8C endurance upgrade package started as a joint urgent operational need statement from Special Operations Command. The requirement was validated [on Aug. 16] by the office of the secretary of defense,” Smith says.
“Our recommendation is to go with the 407 airframe, based on the time frame limitations,” he says. The requirement is to develop the larger MQ-8C within 24 months, for deployment in 2014, with plans to acquire 28 air vehicles over three years.
Plans to arm the basic MQ-8B Fire Scout, which is based on a Schweizer 333 helicopter, also have been approved. The rapid deployment capability program calls for fielding within 18 months, possibly on the Littoral Combat Ship, Smith says.
The Navy has selected a laser-guided 70 mm rocket, BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), as the initial weapon because it has existing safety approval for deployment on ships.
“Northrop Grumman will conduct a demonstration of Raytheon’s Griffin later this month, and we would like to become weapon-agnostic,” he says. Griffin is a 35-lb. tube-launched laser-guided mini-missile.
The Navy, meanwhile, has confirmed that an MQ-8B that went down over Libya on June 21 while operating from the USS Halyburton was “lost to enemy fire.” Communications and radar contact was lost while the aircraft was flying below cloud cover in an area where other allied aircraft had already come under heavy anti-aircraft fire.
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Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation vehicle, the CST-100, will climb to orbit aboard the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket through a series of unpiloted and piloted test flights planned for 2015-16, officials from the two companies announced Aug. 4.
A series of three test flights with the Atlas V and the seven-person CST-100 capsule are planned for 2015; with sufficient funding from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, Boeing could be ready to begin transporting astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the re-usable capsule in the first quarter of 2016 with all-NASA crews, says John Elbon, Boeing vice president and program manager of the company’s Houston-based Commercial Crew Program.
Boeing becomes the third of four companies developing a crew transportation service under the $270 million NASA CCDev-2 initiative announced earlier this year to select Centennial, Colo.-based ULA and the Atlas V for the launch component. The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser lifting body space plane and the Blue Origin capsule are the others.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has naturally chosen its own Falcon 9 for crewed as well as cargo versions of its Dragon capsule.
“This is the quickest way to close the gap and get U.S. crews flying again,” Elbon told reporters during a briefing. “It’s an affordable approach that will leave NASA funding to develop capabilities for exploration beyond low Earth orbit.”
With the retirement of the long-running space shuttle program last month, NASA must rely on Russia’s venerable Soyuz for the transportation of astronauts to and from the space station until U.S. commercial providers are available.
Elbon and George Sowers, ULA vice president of business development, laid out a flight test schedule that would follow a 2014 pad abort demonstration of the CST-100. Unpiloted flight tests would follow with an orbital systems checkout in the first quarter of 2015 and an abort demonstration at maximum dynamic pressure in mid-2015. The CST-100, crewed with Boeing test pilots, would attempt a rendezvous with the space station in late 2015. With sufficient develop funds, Boeing would be ready to launch its first NASA crews to the orbiting science laboratory in the first quarter of 2016.
Boeing selected the Atlas V 412 version, which is the core rocket configured with a single solid-rocket booster and a dual engine Centaur upper stage, for the test and demonstration phase. Operations are planned for Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Boeing completed an evaluation process in late July that included assessments of the SpaceX Falcon 9 and the ATK/Astrium Liberty rocket that would combine first and second stages from the U.S. and European partnership, as well as ULA’s Atlas V.
The final selection was based on performance, reliability and cost, Elbon says. The Atlas V has scored 26 consecutive launch successes for national security, NASA and commercial payloads.
Nonetheless, Boeing intends to host a second launch component competition for operations beyond the 2015-16 test activities, Elbon said.
On July 18, ULA and NASA announced an unfunded Space Act Agreement to start qualifying the Atlas V as a human-rated spacecraft for CCDev-2 participants. The effort includes a “part-by-part” assessment of the rocket, a probabilistic risk assessment of spacecraft safety and a systems requirement review.
ULA also is working on an Emergency Detection System (EDS) as part of the initiative with $6.7 million in federal stimulus funding the company received under the 2010 CCDev-1 program. The EDS in combination with pad escape systems, also in development, should make a significant contribution to matching NASA’s human rating requirements, according to Elbon and Sowers.
ULA was formed in 2006 as a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin to produce the Delta IV as well as the Atlas V under the U. S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.
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AirVenture — The first Zeppelin to fly in the U.S. skies since the Hindenburg crashed in flames 74 years ago is here to give joyrides.
But the two are worlds apart, in technology, time and safety.
The Hindenburg, the first regularly scheduled aerial passenger service between the U.S. and Europe, was a an 803 ft long behemoth with a gas capacity of 706 million cu ft, and sleeping berths for 72 passengers. It was operated by a crew of 40 officers and men, and up to 12 stewards and kitchen staff. It was kept aloft by hydrogen, which was ultimately its downfall.
The Farmers Insurance Zeppelin NT here this week, built by the revived ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik company in Friedrichschafen, Germany, is just over a quarter the length of the Hindenburg, at 246 ft, and carries up to 12 passengers and two crew. Most importantly, it is filled with 290,000 cu ft of non-flammable hydrogen. It is powered by three 200-hp variable pitch, vectoring Lycoming piston engines, two on the hull and the third at the rear.
Unlike the well-known Goodyear airships, which are inflated bags known as blimps, the Zeppelin NT is a semi-dirigible with a structure of graphite reinforced plastic and three longitudinal aluminum girders that carry the motors and passenger gondola.
In that respect the new Zeppelins also differ from those of the past, which had a rigid skeleton covered in fabric that enclosed the decks and lounges and accommodated the huge gasbags.
Earlier this year, Goodyear committed to replace its famous blimps with three of the new Zeppelins, which will be assembled near Akron, Ohio. Each will cost about $21 million each, with technical support, and the first is slated for delivery in 2014. Interestingly, Goodyear worked with Zeppelin 90 years ago to introduce the rigid airships U.S.S. Macon and U.S.S. Akron to the U.S. Navy.
The Farmers Zeppelin, which is usually based in San Francisco and operated by Airship Adventures of California, will be giving rides at AirVenture through July 31.
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Two Chinese Su-27 fighters penetrated Taiwan’s airspace June 29 and were turned back by Taiwan Air Force fighters. The incident is believed to be the first serious Chinese fighter incursion into Taiwan airspace since 1999.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed the incursion in a news release on Monday, but would not verify local Chinese-language media reports that the Su-27s were chasing a U.S. surveillance aircraft.
The U.S. Pacific Command did not respond to inquiries about the incident.
An MND source said it is not Taiwan’s duty to protect U.S. surveillance aircraft and the incident is not considered serious.
“There is a line between the two sides, and if any Chinese aircraft flies too close, we will respond,” he said. “If they cross the line, we treat it as a hostile act, but occasionally they fly close to the line, and to be honest, this happens all the time and is not a real problem.”
The June 29 incident was an “unintentional” and “inadvertent” incursion by Chinese fighter aircraft, he said. “The Chinese military has no intention of antagonizing Taiwan” because relations across the Strait are “calm” and there is “no reason for trouble.”
The news comes as Taipei pushes the U.S. to release 66 F-16C/D fighters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last week that Washington would make a final decision on the fighters by Oct. 1.
Local media reports said the Su-27s were trying to catch a U-2 spy plane conducting a surveillance mission out of Osan Air Base, South Korea. The reports said the U-2 diverted to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, to avoid the Chinese fighters.
But surveillance aircraft specialist Chris Pocock was skeptical. There are only three U-2s based in East Asia, all at Osan, to watch North Korea, Pocock said.
“They may also fly southwards along the China coast as far as Taiwan, but not on a routine basis,” he said.
The aircraft might have been a Navy EP-3 Aries or Air Force RC-135, which operate at lower altitudes and have been harassed by Chinese fighters in the past.
In 2000, two Chinese J-8 fighters intercepted an Air Force RC-135 in international airspace above the East China Sea. A year later, a J-8 fighter collided with a Navy EP-3 Aries near Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
Despite Chinese complaints, the U.S. surveillance aircraft flies regular missions along China’s coastline. They stay in international airspace because straying into Chinese territory would make them easy targets for S-300PMU-1/2 and Hongqi-10 surface-to-air missiles.
During the Cold War, Taiwan’s Black Bat 34th Squadron flew similar missions with three P-3A Orion signals intelligence aircraft. As well, China shot down five U-2 spy planes operated by Taiwan’s Black Cat 35th Squadron over Chinese territory. Both programs were handled by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Taiwan will soon take delivery of 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft for anti-submarine patrols. The aircraft will replace aging Grumman S-2T Tracker anti-submarine aircraft. Taiwan technically has two squadrons of the S-2T, but sources say that only a handful are still operational.
Taiwan has attempted to procure signals intelligence aircraft in the past from the U.S., but procurement problems and budget delays have hampered the acquisition. Taiwan has one EC-130 for surveillance operations, but it is limited in mission scope.
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Boeing’s decision to replace the engines of its popular 737 jetliner rather than replace it with an all-new airplane is a “dream scenario” for Spirit AeroSystems, a Spirit analyst said.
Spirit also will benefit from American Airlines’ record-setting order announced Wednesday for 450 narrowbody aircraft placed with Boeing and Airbus.
Spirit builds the 737 fuselage in Wichita.
It also builds parts of all Airbus aircraft at its plants in the United Kingdom.
“The American order is good news for us all the way around,” said Spirit spokeswoman Debbie Gann said.
Shares of Spirit jumped 7.3 percent Wednesday, gaining $1.50 to close at $22.07. Shares have traded between $17.93 and $26.49 in the past year.
The plan to replace the engines on the 737 with more fuel-efficient engines called the Leap X is subject to approval from Boeing’s board of directors. A Boeing official said Wednesday that the program is expected to be launched sometime this fall.
American’s order to Boeing includes 100 737 Next Generation aircraft with options for 40 more. It also committed to buy 100 of the planes with the new engines with an option for 60 more.
American’s order to Airbus is for 260 single-aisle aircraft, including 130 of A320 family of aircraft with new engines, called the A320neo, for new engine option.
Boeing’s decision to go with 737 engine replacement rather than replacing the 737 with an all-new design is good for Spirit, said Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia.
A new airplane would present a major risk, he said.
Boeing would put work on the new plane out for bid, he said. And there are no guarantees whether or how much work Spirit would win.
The 737 program accounts for half of Spirit’s revenue and keeps thousands of its 10,400 Wichita employees busy.
Without the program, “the big risk is keeping people working,” he said.
In addition, Boeing officials have said that a replacement plane would likely be a composite aircraft. A composite fuselage would require fewer workers than the aluminum 737.
Aboulafia called the 737 a “relatively labor intensive fuselage” by comparison.
“Building the same tube you’ve built for decades is very different from having to collaborate the design work and new equipment needed to build something new,” Aboulafia said.
Adding new engines to the 737 is not a major change to the design.
“It’s a minor derivative,” he said.
The re-engining project will keep the 737 in production for many more years, Aboulafia said.
For its part, Spirit is digesting the news of Boeing’s decision, Gann said.
“We’ll be obviously working closely with Boeing to support the re-engine,” she said. “We’ve been talking with Boeing about all kinds of possibilities trying to stay in a position where we can support our customer whatever they decide.”
The decision came months earlier than expected.
Last month at the Paris Air Show, Boeing officials said they would not rush a decision, which would likely be made toward the end of the year.
Boeing has had separate teams studying the two options. Customers seemed to be leaning toward an all-new aircraft, officials have said.
Airbus outshined Boeing at the air show with announcements of hundreds of orders for the A320neo.
In addition, Boeing had to compete vigorously with Airbus for the American Airlines order.
In the end, the decision against launching an all-new plane came down to production worries, said Jim Albaugh, head of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division.
The challenges of producing a new composite airplane at the high production rates necessary to meet demand was a big stumbling block, he said.
“While the technology was there to do a new airplane, the production system is not understood how to build some 60 composite airplanes a month,” Albaugh said.
A new airplane would not be ready in the short time frame customers desired.
“They wanted more airplanes now,” Albaugh said.
In making the decision, Boeing was able to “stave off a disaster,” Aboulafia said.
“In 10 years, it (production) might be solvable,” he said. “I think they knew volume production of a composite tube is quite problematic given what we know about production today.”
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Boeing announced yesterday, July 19, that the first of three production 737-derived Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft that will be used in the U.S. Navy’s flight-test evaluations completed nearly 6 hr. of initial flight evaluations on July 7.
Besides putting the first production P-8A into the air, the flights also marked the first test of the CFM International CFM56-7BE engines on the P-8.
Three previous flight-test articles used standard CFM56-7Bs that do not have the lower fuel-burn improvements of the “evolved” engine series. The first 737 with these -7BE engines for a commercial customer is due for delivery shortly to China Southern Airlines. Combined with aerodynamic improvements, the engines should lower 737 fuel burn by 2%.
Called LRIP-1, the newest P-8A is the first of six low-rate initial production aircraft that Boeing is building under a $1.6 billion contract awarded in January.
Besides offering flight-test crews a chance to test the basic operating parameters of the aircraft and its engines, the second of the July 7 flights served to transfer the airplane from Boeing’s dedicated P-8 final assembly manufacturing line at its 737 factory in Renton, Washington, to the P-8 mission systems installation facility at Boeing Field in Seattle.
The LRIP contract calls for Boeing to produce three production-level aircraft for the P-8A flight-test program at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.
The flight-test aircraft already are at work. But they do not have the full mission systems suites of production aircraft.
LRIP-1 is to reach Patuxent River next year. After a year of flight testing it is slated to join the fleet in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2013.
The first day’s flight took off at 11:03 a.m. PDT and landed at 2:21 p.m. The aircraft was brought back to Renton for evaluation before a second flight at 5:11 p.m. and touching down at Boeing Field at 7:50 p.m.
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About 30 NASA engineers from across the agency will work with counterparts from United Launch Alliance (ULA) under a new agreement to begin qualifying the Atlas V rocket as a human-rated launch vehicle for private spacecraft being developed under the second round of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) effort.
Under a space act agreement (SAA), NASA and ULA will spend 6-9 months going though the Atlas V “part by part” to ensure it meets the human-rating requirements NASA has released in draft form. ULA also will continue work on the Emergency Detection System (EDS) it started developing with $6.7 million in federal stimulus funding under last year’s CCDev-1 program. Each party will pay for its own work under the unfunded SAA.
“The modifications required for Atlas V are pretty minimal,” George Sowers, ULA vice president for business development, said in a press teleconference July 18. “Probably the major one from the launch vehicle standpoint is the addition of this Emergency Detection System.”
Under development for both Atlas V and Delta IV, which is in the running to launch the Lockheed Martin Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the EDS is a vehicle health-monitoring system designed to detect an imminent launch-vehicle failure and alert the crew riding atop it of the need to abort.
Companies developing two of the four CCDev-2 human spacecraft — the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser lifting-body spaceplane and the Blue Origins capsule — have selected Atlas V as their preferred launcher, and Boeing is considering it for its CST-100 capsule. All three designs include launch-abort systems. In combination with the EDS and pad-escape systems also in development, the Atlas V should meet NASA’s human-certification requirements, Sowers says.
“I personally don’t foresee any additional redundancy requirements,” he says. “The Atlas V is currently single-fault tolerant in most of the active failure modes, but a detailed assessment of that down through all the different parts and failure modes is part of what we’re trying to accomplish during this SAA.”
Sowers says ULA already is working with Sierra Nevada and Blue Origins, using those companies’ CCDev-2 funding as well as its own, to adapt the EDS to their vehicles. Under the SAA with NASA, the company will develop hazard analyses to fly humans on the Atlas V, develop a probabilistic risk assessment of the vehicle’s safety and conduct a systems requirement review.
Full-scale certification of the vehicle as safe for flight will be conducted at the system level of launch and crew vehicles, according to Ed Mango, NASA’s commercial crew program manager. Mango says the agency hopes to have at least one commercial crew vehicle ready to fly — either on an Atlas V or the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9 — by “mid-decade.”
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Atlantis astronauts sailed past the midpoint of NASA’s STS-135 final shuttle program mission on July 14, steeped in a demanding cargo exchange with the International Space Station, but working well ahead of schedule.
The 13-day flight to the orbiting science laboratory is scheduled to conclude with a dawn landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 21. Touchdown at the Shuttle Landing Facility is scheduled for 5:58 a.m. EDT.
“We’ve had a wonderful mission so far,” Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson reported as the four-member shuttle crew prepared to take several hours off to share an “All American” meal of barbecue with their six U.S., Russian and Japanese space station hosts.
“We brought up about 10,000 pounds of food and supplies, and that will hopefully sustain the station for about a year to come,” Ferguson said. “We have a couple of more days docked, then it’s the long road back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.”
The transfers, overseen by Atlantis mission specialist Sandra Magnus, are intended to sustain six-person operations aboard the orbiting science laboratory through 2012, as NASA transitions to post-shuttle era commercial resupply services provided by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. The strategy, however, relies on regular launches of cargo-laden Russian Progress space freighters as well.
As they took their first break since the July 8 launch of Atlantis, the shuttle astronauts reported that 75% of the 9,400 lb. of food, spare parts and research equipment they delivered in the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module had been off-loaded. More than half of the 2,300 lb. of equipment from the shuttle’s mid-deck had made its way across the station threshold as well.
Over the remaining days of the flight, 5,600 lb. of trash and unneeded station gear will be stowed aboard Raffaello, which was temporarily transferred from the shuttle’s cargo bay to the station on July 11. Another 1,500 lb. of station discards will return to Earth in the mid-deck.
“There are bags and boxes everywhere, just like your house on moving day,” says Chris Edelen, NASA’s lead space station flight director. “But it’s a controlled chaos. The [Mission Control] team is working very closely with the crew. They have choreographed the movement of equipment in and out of the logistics module so there is a place for everything.”
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Two planes collided on a taxiway at Boston’s Logan Airport on Thursday night, causing one to be injured.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that a Delta 767 collided with an Atlantic Southeast jet on a taxiway around 7:30pm local time.
“While taxiing out for departure, the wing from Flight 266 from Boston to Amsterdam made contact with the vertical stabilizer of ASA Flight 4904, also on departure from Boston to Raleigh-Durham,” a statement from Delta Air Lines said.
“Both aircraft have been removed from service for inspections and passengers are currently being reacommodated on other aircraft.”
Boston Logan International Airport spokesman Phil Orlandella said one person was complaining of neck pain after the crash, but that no one else had been injured, myFOXboston.com reported.
A passenger aboard the larger Amsterdam-bound jet, 30-year-old Jacob Crane, of Atlanta, told the Boston Herald that he had watched his plane’s wing run into the other plane’s tail.
“I saw it coming. We were taxiing pretty quick. I saw the wing and I said we’re not going to clear that. It was like ‘oh, they hit,’ and that was that.
“It was generally pretty calm but there were some people … a Russian guy was grabbing for the emergency exit,” Crane said. “But it was like no big deal. Nobody was hurt. There was a girl next to me that started crying and bawling but everybody else was pretty calm.”
The collision caused the tail of the commuter jet to bend over completely, according to myFOXboston.com.
The crash came three months after a Comair plane was involved in a dramatic smash with an Air France A380 on the tarmac at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport — an incident which made headlines globally after being caught on film.
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The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was not supposed to live this long. But with the latest slippages in the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and aging fighter forces worldwide, Boeing talks about stretching production to 1,000 aircraft and keeping the line open to the end of the decade, despite the recent loss in India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition. The program is close to 700 aircraft, including 41 additional U.S. Navy aircraft announced this year to mitigate JSF delays.
Active campaigns include Brazil and Denmark. A Middle Eastern customer—possibly Kuwait—has expressed interest. The Super Hornet is Boeing’s candidate for the next Japanese fighter order, competing with the Eurofighter Typhoon and JSF. The idea of another Super Hornet buy is being mooted in Australia, which could face a front-line fighter gap if the JSF slips further. Boeing says a number of JSF partners have asked for information on the Super Hornet.
Boeing’s strategy is not to initiate comparisons with JSF, although Boeing Military Aircraft President Chris Chadwick called Lockheed Martin on the mat in May for what he termed “fundamentally untrue” statements about the Super Hornet’s price. However, Boeing never talks about its product without pointing out that it offers “date and cost-certain” capabilities and that all Super Hornets and Growlers have been delivered on cost, and on or ahead of schedule. Recently, Chadwick suggested that the JSF “might become a niche fighter” on the international market because of its cost.
More details have emerged about the “international roadmap” features that have been disclosed piece-by-piece over the past year. The most visible are the conformal fuel tanks (CFT) above the body and the low-radar-cross-section (RCS) centerline weapons pod. Those are to be wind tunnel-tested this year, with a decision on a flight-test program to follow.
The CFTs carry 3,200 lb. of fuel. Boeing says they have no net drag at cruising speed, because they reduce trim drag enough to offset their added frontal area. As a result, a configuration with CFTs and a centerline tank delivers as much range as a three-tank configuration today. The weapon pod carries four AIM-120 missiles, a 2,000-lb. bomb or two 500-lb.-class weapons.
Transonic acceleration and specific excess power, particularly when temperatures at altitude are high, were criticized on the Super Hornet when it entered service. A roadmap option is an enhanced-performance engine (EPE) variant of the General Electric F414, offering up to a 20% thrust boost. That would take the EPE to 26,500 lb. of thrust, giving it the best thrust/weight ratio of any fighter engine—almost 11:1. It has a new core, based on demonstrations conducted with U.S. government funds in 2004 and 2006, and a redesigned fan and compressor. A third test engine was run in 2010.
GE says that it has developed 17 new or derivative engines successfully from the same technology readiness level. Unfortunately, India did not accept that argument.
Also on the roadmap menu is a spherical-coverage missile-approach warning system and an infrared search-and-track (IRST) system in a chin pod. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working on a repackaged, updated version of the AAS-42 IRST (originally developed in the 1980s for the Grumman F-14D) for the Navy’s Hornet fleet, carried in a modified fuel tank. Boeing is open to other options for the international aircraft. (Japan, for instance, has its own domestic IRST technology on the F-15J Kai upgrade.)
Inside the cockpit, a new option is a big-screen display comprising an 11 X 19-in. panel, which could be flight-tested next year. Based on commercial technology, the panel is a hedge against obsolescence and a potential cost-saver as well as offering options for new display formats. A low-profile head-up display using digital LCD projection eliminates the big optical box that previously ruled out a panoramic display.
Boeing has been taking a working model of the big-screen cockpit to trade shows and bases worldwide, both to promote it and to get pilot reactions to conceptual display formats.
Although Boeing is careful to keep the “international” label attached to the new options, they are all designed for retrofit to Block 2 aircraft, all but 24 of which belong to the U.S. Navy. And while the modified aircraft will not directly match the F-35C in signatures, it closes the gap in RCS and range (with the CFTs), is lighter and more powerful, and current estimates say it will be less expensive to buy and operate.