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Are we about to witness one of the most heartbreaking divorces in the aerospace industry? To be followed by a groundbreaking new engagement?
According to an unconfirmed report - I repeat: UN-CON-FIR-MED- from a French industry newsletter, EADS is reviewing radically its strategy in the
. So far, EADS' presence in United States - represented by Ralph Crosby - was based on a somewhat difficult but close relationship with Northrop Grumman. But this era could be over. Disappointed by the poor results of the KC-X air tanker campaign, Tom Enders is now courting.... Lockheed Martin as EADS's partner of choice in the America . The objective of the talks would be to create a strategic transatlantic alliance between the two giants, aimed at opening up each other's markets and rebalancing their respective portfolios. ... US
Moreover, according to the (read my lips: unconfirmed) report, EADS could let Lockheed have an industrial share in the civilian A350 program, marking Lockheed's re-entry to the civil aerospace market. And provided Lockheed helps market the A400M in the
alongside the C-130J, the American giant could have better access to the semi-closed European defense market. US
January 2010 Archives
In honor of my visit later this week to Lockheed Martin's F-35/F-16 factory in Fort Worth, I am showing one of the coolest videos I've seen in a while. It's a training film from 1943 on the P-38's flight characteristics. I think I enjoyed watching this one more than even the spectacular Saab Draken promotional video from the early 1950s, which I posted here earlier. This one is pure 1940s-infomercial goodness.
US combat troops are "needlessly" dying because culturally-biased US Air Force officers rejected readily available lighter-than-air technology four years ago, says Ed Herlik, a former Air Force Space Command officer.
Now the managing director of the Market Intelligence Group (MIG), Herlik has gone public on YouTube with his frustration about what he calls an "illegal" move by a former Space Command official to countermand a direct order by a former USAF chief of staff. I've excerpted the key passage from the video below:
"Why aren't we doing this?
Part of this is the cultural resistance to lighter than air vehicles. The air force for example has absolutely no interest in airships. It's just too far from what they choose to do. On top of that, there are technical issues having to do with the altitudes, the environment, radio frequency interference, the number of aircraft in the air.
But frankly the bottom line inhibitors are right here: Budgets and careers. As with any technical innovation the old technology will be replaced to some extent, and the losers always resist, especially those whose careers are based on whatever technology is going away.
As far as the history, air force space command was assigned to this task by a chief of staff named Jumper back in about 2003. Several years later the technology problems had been solved, to include survivability, which meant that the threat to satellite budgets was then crystal clear.
At that point, and just as that chief of staff retired, an air force general wrote a cease and desist order countermanding the chief of staff. Yes, that is illegal. But they did it anyway.
Shortly thereafter the space community jettisoned the entire idea of persistent UAVs, pushing it to the Air Combat Command, which again for cultural reasons rejected the lighter than air piece.
That again left the army space and missile defense command as the only military organization trying to fly these. To their credit the high sentinel has flown a number of times reaching 73,000 feet. It simply doesn't have the funding to be turned into something effective over the battlefield."
I want to thank my editors for giving me the fascinating opportunity to spend a week touring one of the world's hottest and most innovative centers of aerospace technology. I'd also like to thank my guide on the trip - Arie Egozie, our knowledgeable and helpful correspondent in Tel Aviv, who facilitated my path through Israel's aerospace companies.
IntroductionGlobalisation came early to Israel's aerospace and defence industry. Lacking a domestic market large enough to support several major players, Israeli companies turned to the export market, achieving remarkable success in competition with the best technology offered by Western, Russian and - more recently - Chinese firms.
In the process, Israeli industry largely avoided the consolidation frenzy that swept the USA and Europe after the early 1990s. Four major firms today dominate Israel's industrial landscape, yet remain minuscule compared with their foreign rivals.
Time may be running out on the status quo. Competitive pressures abroad will grow as militaries cut spending.
The paradox of consolidation paradox looms. To continue to grow, Israel's industrial footprint must begin shrinking.
- IAI takes on privatized mindset
- Rafael seeks partnerships for export success
- Elbit Systems: Rocketing Revenues (pending link)
- Elbit to consider launching two UAVs
- IAI, Airbus discuss adapting A320 for airborne early warning
- Israeli industry welcomes F-35 agreement, but demands more
- Blog: Remember the Lavi
My coffee slurp was ambushed by a seemingly "gone rogue" quote by a Lockheed Martin guy yesterday at the Bahrain airshow. I had to re-read it a few times just to make sure I was interpreting it correctly. But, yes, there it was at the bottom of the following excerpt:
Some of you might be thinking, "Well, that's just common sense, isn't it?" Perhaps. But I don't question the logic. I myself attempted to extract the same basic statement from Lockheed executives at the Dubai Airshow in November, especially after the United Arab Emirates unexpectedly let it slip that Abu Dhabi is now on board the fifth-generation fighter bandwagon. I got bupkiss. Lockheed didn't bring so much as an F-35 brochure to Dubai, and executives stayed rigidly on message. Talking about an Israel sale opening up the Arab market for F-35s was not part of that message, whether it happened to be true or not.
"Israel is extremely interested and we very much hope that we will make a deal with Israel for F-35s this year," Patrick Dewar, a corporate vice president at Lockheed Martin told Reuters at the Bahrain air show.
"When we talk about Israel, somewhere between 75 and 100 jets," he said, when asked to estimate the size of the market for F-35s.
Dewar also said he expected more countries in the region to express interest for the plane that is designed to replace F-16s and F-18s fighter jets.
"I think very shortly after that there are going to be a series of countries here in the Gulf region that will also publicly state their interest in F-35s and the United States government will start talking to them about it," he said.
Now the statement is "out there", so we can discus the implications. The UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia are each in various stages of negotiations over fighter sales. The Dassault Rafale figures prominently in these talks, as does the Lockheed F-16 and Boeing F-15. If Israel completes a deal for F-35s this year, which mind you is a big 'if', could the F-35 suddenly become the new darling of the Arab world?
The US Missile Defense Agency today released video showing an air-to-air engagement by the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (YAL) on 10 January. The chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) appears to track the target -- named Missile Alternative Range Target Instrument (MARTI) -- for several seconds. To my knowledge, the results of this test have not been announced. It's difficult to judge the success (or otherwise) of this test based on the video. Honestly, it kind of reminds me of my childhood Atari console, shooting asteroids.
But the crew's injuries will undoubtedly heal faster than the wounded pride of both the Finnish and global Hornet community.
Tail number HN-468 had become a cause-celebre in Hornet circles. After colliding with an F/A-18C in 2001, the two-seater managed to land with a crippled structure forward of the cockpit. Five years later, Finland's Patria and Boeing teamed up to launch a 100,000-man-hour, $18.5 million program to make HN-468 fly again. Patria acquired a second-hand nose section from a retired Canadian F-18B, mating the two sections together to create the "Frankenhornet".
For Finland, this was no vanity project, but an attempt to salvage a critical piece of its investment in national security for an affordable price. For the Hornet community, it was an example uncommon in the global fighter industry of solidarity and support for a member in need.
The project came to a seemingly successful fruition on 3 December, when the restored and repaired HN-468 flew again. But yesterday's crash occurred after the Frankenhornet completed only 4h of a 20h flight test program. The English-language Helsingin Sanomat newspaper explains what happened.
Initial indications are that the pilots put the plane into a vertical ascent to an altitude of more than 10,000 metres, before cutting off thrust and allowing the plane to fall tail-first towards the ground. The aircraft was then spun through 180 degrees into a precipitous dive.
At this point it apparently lost manoeuvrability, and the crew - instructed by a second Hornet that had taken off from the Halli air force base at the same time and was observing the exercise - deployed their ejector seats at a height of approximately 4,500 metres after failing to regain control.
According to FAF experts, the entire incident was over in the space of something like fifteen seconds.
Question #1: Favorite aircraft?
MiG-21 - Simple, powerful and ubiquitous; the AK-47 of fighter jets
Question #2: Favorite airline?
Air America - "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere" indeedQuestion #3: Dream destination?
Sea of Tranquility, Moon -- You said 'dream', right?
In an interview on the exercise, Major Juan Balesta, the 41-year old Commander of the 111 Squadron stressed that a two-ship formation of Eurofighters involved in a dogfight simulation "against" the F-15s enjoyed full control of the engagement. The Typhoons managed to smash a formation of eight F-15s which had the role of the attacker with the first Eurofighter jet managing to "shoot down" four F-15 fighter jets. The second Eurofighter managed to disable three F-15 jets. Eventually the pilots were using the Eurofighter Typhoon to full capacity and taking advantage of its enormous capabilities. Trump that.This apparently refers to an exercise that ended last March. Who thinks Eurofighter is just trying to compensate for something, like a rumored beat-down by Dassault Rafale's at Al Dhafra?
A NASA-led engineering team is unveiling a new aircraft design at an American Helicopter Society event in San Francisco. The 2pm PST presentation is entitled "aerodynamic and acoustic design of a low-noise tail-sitter". The aircraft was profiled briefly this morning by the Daily Press newspaper, in NASA-Langley's nearby city of Hampton, Virginia. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of detail yet.
I haven't seen a tailsitter seriously pursued since the Skunk Works' legendary founder Kelly Johnson canceled the XFV-1. He apparently decided trying to land a plane looking straight up is not exactly practical.
I wonder how NASA's team intends to solve that problem.
Update: NASA released a video of the "Puffin" Personal Air Vehicle about two months ago. The video shows how NASA intends to solve the classic tailsitter landing problem. The pilot is standing upright on landing, rather than looking straight up at the sky. (h/t: Commenter Urban)
Yet, here was tiny Lebanon's air force, who, unable to restore ancient bombers to flying status, converted Hueys into bombers. I told this story previously during the rush of the Dubai air show, but I don't think I did it justice. So here's the full briefing, which I've finally obtained. It tells the story very well and in great detail. I used my pocket camera to snap the video below, which came at the end of the Lebanon officer's presentation.
The US Air Force's Air Armament Center wants to fix that. A request for information released on 15 January seeks a non-lethal weapon called, with appropriate simplicity, the "Car Stopper". See below:
The Air Force Air Armament Center (AAC), 308th Armament Systems Wing, Rapid Acquisition Cell is seeking information that could lead to development of an air-delivered capability to disable moving ground vehicles while minimizing harm to occupants. Development schedule is expected to be a critical factor in any potential development effort, so responses should focus on feasibility and maturity of the key technologies. Responses should include candidate integration concepts which take maximum advantage of existing infrastructure in order to minimize cost and development time.A quick Google search for "car stopper" led me to Eureka Aerospace, which it turns out is already being funded by the US Marine Corps and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to do exactly that.
I called up James Tatoian, Eureka's chairman and chief executive officer. He was not aware of the Air Armament Center's RFI, so I sent him the link. Eureka plans to demonstrate an improved version of its microwave-based car stopper next month for the Marines at Dahlgren naval warfare center. Tatoian describes his system as a 1.2m-wide "flat screen-like" antenna weight about 50-55lbs. With that aperture, it can disable cars up to 200m away by disrupting their electrical systems. One drawback: the car has to rely on electricity to operate, so many cars manufactured before the mid-1970s are immune to its effects. See video demonstration below:
Lockheed Martin and the JSF Program Office estimate that life-cycle support costs for the F-35 will be significantly lower than those for the F-16, F/A-18 and the AV-8B based on our acquisition approach, Air System design, detailed cost models and economies of scale.Unlike previous fighter development programs, supportability is a major contractual requirement on F-35, with half of the program's Key Performance Parameters dedicated to sustainment.F-35 has a design requirement to be twice as reliable and take half the time to repair as the airplanes it is replacing. These requirements influenced every design trade, aircraft configuration decision, and component selection, as well as the strategy for performance-based logistics.Achievement of our supportability goal is accomplished through rigorous system qualification testing and the application of new, advanced diagnostic and prognostic technologies. F-35 Air System design criteria have imposed the most stringent reliability, logistic footprint and sortie-generation rate requirements of any fighter program.In addition, with more than 3000 aircraft in the baseline program and potentially 4500 aircraft with additional Foreign Military Sales, the program economies of scale are unprecedented and will be a significant economic factor favorable to F-35.F-35 will most certainly be less expensive to operate than different platforms operated in small numbers by individual services, allowing countries to share training, maintenance, overhaul, repair and supply costs. Also, F-35 is procuring the spares along with the original production parts to reduce sustainment costs.All of these improvements are reflected in the F-35 Program's annual detailed life cycle cost estimating process which involves all participating services. This process looks at every element of the life cycle costs for the next 65 years. The NAVAIR figures cited in the leaked internal document are an independent assessment and are not definitive.The F-35 program is committed to working with the JSF Program Office and Naval Air Systems Command to develop the most accurate estimate possible of F-35 life-cycle support.
My buddy Addison Schonland, IAGBlog podcaster, has a great interview with Airbus A400M chief test pilot Ed Strongman. I was interested to learn that a single 11,000shp TP400 can make the C-130 climb at a rate of 1,000ft/min. But we'll most likely remember the interview for Strongman's bold statement the C-130 is for the last century, and the still-unproven and financially unstable A400M is for this century.
In the last few months, the F-35 has seemed precariously close to starting down this road. In October, Inside the Air Force reports the second Joint Estimating Team (JET) study determined F-35 costs exceeded the $15 billion overrun in the first study. Meanwhile, Senators Carl Levin and John McCain call a closed-door hearing on F-35 costs in December, saying afterward they are "deeply concerned" about growing costs and "apparent delays". Finally, Bloomberg reports last week that the Pentagon is factoring the JET's estimates into next year's budget request, slashing 10 of the 47 F-35s from the production plan. Perhaps not least, a US Navy study surfaces on this blog yesterday backing up the the JET study, and raising alarms about the F-35's affordability.
In some places, the F-35 death spiral watch has already begun.
As might be expected, Lockheed Martin does not share the opinion.
I interviewed Dan Crowley, F-35 executive vice president, yesterday. He responds to talk about an F-35 death spiral scenario by making two points: 1. Lockheed and the program office do not agree with either of the JET studies. 2. The company has a plan to avoid the death spiral even if the Pentagon's budgeters follow the guidance in the JET report.
On the first point, Crowley claims the cost of the F-35 have actually declined by half over the first four lots of low-rate production. Lockheed has also delivered aircraft on a year-over-year basis based on the cost profile adopted under the 2007 selected acquisition report, he says. "Why would you suddenly adopt a more conservative [cost estimating] position when we outperform than plan," Crowley says.
Crowley acknowledges that the Pentagon has, however, taken a more conservative budgeting position, although he notes the new philosophy is not exclusively applied to the F-35. In fact, Lockheed "supports" and "understands" why the government is going conservative, he says.
That leads to the second point. If the Fiscal 2011 budget request slashes F-35 production orders in the fifth year of low-rate production, Crowley says, the program still has options to avoid Spinney's proverbial death spiral, including one option that seees to mark a radical departure from industry practice. It's important to note that Lockheed doesn't expect the Pentagon to slash the production budget, but perhaps the number of orders. If that happens, Lockheed might seek to deliver more aircraft than the Pentagon orders at no extra price, Crowley says.
A Pentagon briefing dated 4 January shows a
The presentation is authored by David E. Burgess, director of the cost department for the Naval Air Systems Command.
The chart shows predictions that the F-35B/C fleet will cost more to operate from Fiscal 2020 to FY2045 than the aircraft they replace. The data could be significant as the F-35 program has been justified primarily as a cost-saving effort, with three variants sharing a common design.
I'll be reporting more about this briefing tomorrow, so stay tuned.
Militaryphotos.net has posted the clearest frontal view yet of the RQ-170, courtesy of the latest issue of Combat Aircraft monthly magazine. The US Air Force still refuses to release official photos of the Skunk Works project, so we have to rely on these shots from the aviation paparazzi. This particular shot appeared in the latest Combat Aircraft. More photos are available inside the magazine.
This photo offers the best view I've seen of the inlet and the hump (presumably, SATCOM antenna?) on the upper fuselage. It also provides a better perspective on the aircraft's nose and leading edge. I'm still struggling to identify the aircraft's true mission based on the photos. There is no visible payload, sensor or weapon, which is not surprising since this is a stealth aircraft.
Some day it would also be nice to know why the US Air Force pushed the RQ-170 Sentinel into production around the same time that it cancelled the competition between the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 for the joint unmanned combat aircraft systems (J-UCAS) contract.
If you're like me, you've probably asked yourself many times: What would happen if the people who designed dogfight simulations tripped on LSD?
Well, now we know.
China's version of YouTube has spawned the Sgt Pepper of dogfight cartoons, featuring, among many others, the J-10, FC-20, B-2, F-117, KC-10 and F-22. There's even an A380 refueling from what appears to be a PLAAF KC-10, for good measure.
I must thank (and for obvious reasons I use that term loosely) the Key Publishing Military Aviation Forum for the heads-up. The video has also appeared recently on the Air Force Times web site.
The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter engages its short takeoff/vertical landing propulsion system in flight for the first time, near Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., on Jan. 7. F-35 Lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson said afterward that the aircraft flew smoothly with the STOVL system engaged and was very easy to control.
The US Navy posted this presolicitation notice on the fbo.gov web site earlier this week. Apparently, the US Air Force or Air National Guard is also on board, hence the A-10s.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to award a sole source contract to BAE Systems, Nashua, NH for the FY10-12 development of the Fixed Wing (FW) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II for AV-8B and A-10 platforms to support a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD). It is anticipated that the resultant contract shall be Cost-Plus Incentive Fee type for the development of FW APKWS II weapons that show operational utility upon integration with AV-8B and A-10 platforms. Fifty (50) FW APKWS II plus FW APKWS II tests units (quantities TBD) including Navy Shipping and Storage Containers (NSSC) are to be delivered for technical demonstrations and operational assessments.
As to material published by the press, the Center states that the Air Force Command, through the Management Committee of the Project F-X2 (GPF-X2), ended the final report of the technical analysis of competing aircraft and stresses that, to date moment, not forwarded to the Ministry of Defense.
Finally, the Air Force Command emphasizes that technical analysis report remains founded on the valuation of the business, technical, operational, logistical, industrial and commercial compensation (offset) and technology transfer.
Brigadier Air Antonio Carlos Bermudez Moretti
Chief MEDIA CENTER OF AIRCRAFT
In the midst of all this fighter market activity, the Ottawa Citizen's David Pugliese reports today on the next big fighter contract battlefront. Canada is gearing up to buy at least 65 fighters by 2015. But, as Pugliese says on his Defence Watch blog, Ottawa may not be in such a rush to replace the CF-18. Nor, Pugliese writes, is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter necessarily a shoo-in for the contract, as I noted on my visit to Ottawa last May.