“The F-22 is the most amazing airplane I’ve ever flown in 37 years. God, I just wish we had 750 of them,” laments Gen Mike Hostage, commander of the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command. Sadly – for Hostage and his colleagues – the USAF has fewer than 200 of the Lockheed Martin stealth fighters. Aquisition of the F-22 was terminated after 187 production aircraft and eight test articles, leaving a fleet describes by the no-nonsense Hostage as “pathetically small”. It’s not all bad news, however. The USAF and the airframer are testing a series of upgrades for the fighter which should extend its capabilities and lifespan. Hostage expects the F-22 to be the “pre-eminent airplane in the world into the 2030s”. In a feature on the upgrade programme, in our 8 October issue, our defence reporter Dave Majumdar describes what the revamped F-22s will offer.
Meanwhile, Craig Hoyle bids farewell, along with the UK Royal Air Force, to the Vickers VC10, retired from military service over half a century after the type went into service as a state-of-the-art airliner. He looks back at the history of the British-built aircraft and the impact it has had on the RAF, the last operator of the VC10 in the world. And with the Airbus A330 Voyager replacing both the VC10 and the soon-to-retire Lockheed TriStar, he assesses the RAF’s plans for operating the A330s under a 24-year-service deal provided by private sector consortium AirTanker.
Hoyle also travels to Seville to see the Airbus Military A400M formally handed over to the French air force. And our business analysis examines how Marshall - famous for its military aircraft conversions – is increasingly eyeing the civil market. In news: China’s Comac studies a 300-seat aircraft, how the US government shut down will affect the industry and the balloon that strayed into the flightpath of a TAM Airbus A319.