Today's lesson: Never count out the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
This was supposed to be a big show for the Dassault Rafale. But after the first day it's already clear the United Arab Emirates isn't any closer to signing a long-awaited contract.
Meanwhile, the previously beleaguered F-35 -- beset by recent cost overrun predictions and a frustrating flight test delay -- has stormed back into the picture -- big-time. First, Lockheed re-energized its flight test program with two big announcements The BF-1 flight test article finally crossed state lines, launching its epic journey to Patuxent River, Maryland, where it will finally make the transition from forward flight to vertical landing. AF-1, meanwhile, finally got off the ground (see above), becoming the fourth different variant of the F-35 to make its debut flight since 2006.
But the F-35's biggest moment at the show did not come courtesy of Lockheed public relations department. Instead, it came from Brig Gen Ibrahim Naser Alalawi, deputy chief of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. Addressing the Dubai International Air Chiefs conference on Saturday, Alalawi shocked the audience by exposing the UAE's previously secret longing for a fifth generation fighter. Hence:
A top United Arab Emirates military leader aspires to obtain a fifth-generation fighter in the very near term, suggesting a potential new sales coup for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"I hope that within a couple years the UAE, like many other countries, will have a fifth-generation fighter," says Brig Gen Ibrahim Naser Alalawi, deputy commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. Alalawi was speaking at the Dubai International Air Chiefs conference held yesterday morning at Dubai's Knowledge Village Conference Centre.
Lockheed's F-35 is expected to be the only fifth-generation fighter available for sale for perhaps another decade. The Chinese J-12 and the Russian/Indian PAK-FA remain in the early stages of development.
The UAE has previously not been named among the several countries - including the UK, Australia and Israel - planning to buy the first export F-35s scheduled for delivery after 2013.