Sukhoi has moved the T-50 stealth fighter prototype from Siberia to Moscow.
The first six flights of the prototype of Sukhoi's Future Frontline Aircraft System (PAK-FA) program came at Komsomolsk-on-Amur airport, which in Russian might as well mean "middle of nowhere". Sukhoi released the picture above after the first flight event on 29 January.
But Sukhoi announced this morning that seventh test flight of the T-50 launched from Zhukovsky Air Field, which is about 30 miles outside Moscow. Zhukovsky also happens to be the location [fingers-crossed!] for the 2010 Moscow Air Show, also known as MAKS, in August.
Read the Google translation of the Sukhoi press release on the jump.
EADS North America, newly-unmuzzled as their own prime contractor for KC-X, has gone on attack. Bullet-style talking points circulated to allies in Congress -- and obtained by this blog -- reveal a level of aggression never quite shown by EADS' former overlords at Northrop Grumman.
The one page set of talking points, for example, takes aim at the reliability of their rival's refueling equipment: "Boeing's KC-767 boom doesn't meet the Air Force's requirement, and its hose pods don't work. So far only their art department has fixes." [Ouch.]
And this: "An aircraft that has never been built is not 'combat ready'." [Zing.]
Talking points are intended to guide friendly lawmakers as they make public comments on issues.
I'm paid to be a professional skeptic. When General Electric/Rolls-Royce announced a fixed-price deal for the F136 [pictured above], my radar starts looking for the loopholes.
As I wrote in my news article yesterday, the GE/Rolls Fighter Engine Team, to their credit, acknowledged their offer came with two strings attached. If the Department of Defense changes either the production rate or the performance specification for the engine, the team's offer is null and void.
Sorry, I can't let that go.
Click on the jump to read my email exchange on this issue this morning with GE/Rolls.
Flightglobal artist Tim Hall has produced a beautiful P-8A poster insert for the latest issue (27 April - 3 May) of Flight International magazine. It is the first detailed look under the skin at the P-8A's various modifications to the ubiquitous 737 Next Generation design. The poster is published with an adjoining technical description by my colleague John Croft. His article is not yet available online, but I'll post a link here as soon as it comes up.
Richard Whittle can take a bow. His new opus, "The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey", is not a good book. It's a great book. Despite the strongly worded subtitle, this is no one-sided, axe-grinding, accurate-but-unfair sort of books. It is a meticulously constructed, expertly written, history about one of my favorite subjects. The balance is so even that it's actually the source of my only quibble. Upon finishing the book, I'm disappointed that I still don't know what lessons the author thinks we should learn about the V-22 experience. Whittle, a former Dallas Morning News reporter and one of my former neighbors in the Pentagon's newsroom, leaves these most fundamental conclusions about the 50-year odyssey of building the "Dream Machine" to the judgment of his readers.
Check out the book on Amazon, read the review in The Washington Post, or set the DVR for Whittle's appearance Tuesday night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
After exceeding a reduced flight test schedule in the first
quarter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme faces new delays barring a strong
push during the final week of April.
Lockheed and government pilots beat a 29-sortie flight test
schedule during the first quarter, completing 33 flight tests from 1 January to
31 March, Lockheed Martin chief executive officer Bob Stevens told analysts
But the pace of flight tests stalled in the first three
weeks of the second quarter, with only five sorties completed through 21 April,
says Stevens, during the company's first quarter earnings teleconference.
April was expected to be a key month for the flight test
programme. After averaging one sortie almost every three days from January to
March, the programme planned to complete 29 flight tests in April alone, or
nearly one a day.
With nine days remaining on the calendar, Lockheed faces a
tough challenge. The programme needs to average about 2.5 sorties per day
through the end of April to remain on schedule.
Among the flight tests scheduled in April is the first
flight of the CF-1, the first F-35C carrier variant to join the flying test
fleet. In a hearing two weeks ago, senators singled out the completion of CF-1 first
flight before May as a key milestone for proving the programme is back on
Under the latest revised schedule, the programme expects to
complete 400 flight tests overall in 2010. A previous version of the schedule in
effect until earlier this year called for completing more than 1,200 flight
tests during the same period. Lockheed, however, is running at least six months
behind on delivering flight test aircraft.
The second F-35A variant - AF-2 - completed its first flight
on 20 April (shown pictured), becoming the 7th aircraft to enter flight tests.
Lockheed has already retired one flying aircraft - AA-1 - for live-fire testing.
Stevens cautioned analysts from making "hyperbolic"
reactions to any new minor delays in the flight test programme.
"I think there are going to be some periods where we do
better than planned and some periods where we don't do as well as planned,"
Stevens says, "but my goal here is to look at the long-term trend and
opportunities and make sure we're responding properly."
In between assignments in Fort Worth and Phoenix, I dropped by the Angel Thunder combat search and rescue exercise yesterday. Although based in Tucson, the exercise is conducted on a grand scale, covering ground from California to Texas.
The particular scenario I was allowed to observe occurred on the live ordnance range near Gila Bend, Arizona. From my perch on a sun-drenched slope, I watched A-10s and AH-64s fire off thousands of rounds of ammunition on the other side of the valley. The attack aircraft provided covering fire for a rescue operation involving two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
Watching the helicopters perform, I tried to envision the same operation conducted by Boeing HH-47s -- the aircraft the USAF attempted to buy in 2006 to replace the aging HH-60s.
Also, I got buzzed four times by A-10 pilots, which, as I noted on Twitter, is another way of saying I had a good day at the office.
This information is unfortunately little consolation to the families and friends of the four crew members and passengers killed in the incident.
Brown-out remains by far the single-largest cause of US military helicopter crashes over the last decade, accounting for 80% of rotorcraft losses over that period. Hopefully, the incident will remind the public about the importance of finding new ways to solve the brown-out problem for rotorcraft.
Al-Qaeda has trained cats to infiltrate Creech AFB, sneak into the power substations and posthumously inherit 72 virginal kittens by shorting out the communications link to the US Air Force's Predators and Reapers flying over Afghanistan.
That is my satirical interpretation, anyway, of the following remarks yesterday at the Quad-A convention by Col Grant Webb, a Creech resident and director of training at the joint unmanned aircraft systems center of excellence. (Fast forward to about the 40-second mark.)
It also offers a glimpse into a point of philosophical friction between army and air force officers. For many army officers, the very idea of remote split operations is antithetical to the service's warrior mentality. As the army starts deploying its version of the Predator/Reaper family -- the MQ-1C Sky Warrior, the ground-based controllers will be stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's because the army believes that UAS crews and the troops they protect should be co-located. The air force prefers to station controllers at Creech, located comfortably on the outskirts of Las Vegas, relying on satellite communications to pilot Reapers and Predators flying half a world away.
Of course, as long as UAVs are controlled from the ground, the communications link will remain a single point of failure regardless of where the ground station is physically located. The Al-Qaeda suicide cat brigade is just one of the threats.
The US Army is not known for having a soft-spot for aviation. So it's perhaps not surprising that army aviators have been the fastest to embrace unmanned aircraft. On 14 April, the service celebrated passing the 1 million flight hour mark by unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), a milestone that will be feted next month with a celebration hosted by the Smithsonian.
Accordingly, the army released a UAS roadmap on 15 April that sets an ambitious course for aviation. By 2035, nearly every aircraft the army flies will be unmanned. The only two roles left primarily for manned aircraft will be -- curiously enough -- utility and medical evacuation. But UAVs or optionally-piloted vehicles (OPVs) will dominate flight hours for attack, armed reconnaissance, cargo resupply, communications relay and surveillance.
You can also watch my video above of the roadmap's unveiling this morning at the annual convention of the Army Aviation Association of America in Fort Worth, Texas. The speaker is none other than Gen Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the army.
Linkoping University is testing a 1:13 scaled demonstrator of a stealth fighter concept designed by Saab. First flight of the demonstrator occurred in November, and the university posted the video online last week. The DEW Line reader TangoViking noticed the update on Linkoping's web site and emailed me the link, along with this description:
They got CAD-drawings from Saab, money from the national aeronautical program, and a bunch of help to construct a flying scale-demonstrator in composite material of a stealth fighter. To me it looks just like the single-engine K-FX offer by SAAB to Korea. They cite one of the reasons for doing this is to demonstrate how to move from design to a flying demonstrator in short time kind of like a "flying wind tunnel".
Steven "Smiley" Enewold spoke to reporters today as the Northrop Grumman vice president who manages the $9 billion Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program.
Five years ago, I knew Enewold as Rear Adm Enewold, and his job was a lot different. He was the program executive officer for the then-$210 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, who left (voluntarily) after shepherding the Lockheed Martin-led industry team through the F-35B weight crisis.
BAMS and JSF are worlds apart, but they share one common feature. Both involve a mostly common airframe purchased by both the US Navy and US Air Force. BAMS is derived from the RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk, with a strengthened wing, anti-icing and a maritime sensor payload. Here's his reply:
UPDATE 2: Steeljaw Scribe has removed the brief from Scribd. As the brief is now firmly in the public domain, with probably dozens -- if not hundreds -- of downloads, I'm reposting my own copy here using Apture's embed tool. (Be patient if it takes a minute or two to upload the first time.)
UPDATE: Markov and Hull have done work for Institute for Defense Analyses in the past, but this brief may be an independent effort.
Four dead and several injured in CV-22 crash yesterday in Southern Afghanistan. There have been numerous safety incidents with the V-22 over the last several years, but this is the first fatal crash since December 2000.
Here's the statement released by the International Security Assistance Force:
KABUL, Afghanistan (April 9) - A U.S. Air Force
CV-22 Osprey crashed in southern Afghanistan late last night, killing
three U.S. servicemembers, one civilian employee, and injuring numerous
other servicemembers. The cause of the crash is unknown at this time.
CV-22 was carrying U.S. Forces when it crashed approximately seven
miles west of Qalat City, in Zabul Province. The injured were
transported to a nearby base for medical treatment.
conducts long range infiltration and resupply for U.S. Forces. It
employs tilt-rotor technology that allows it to take off and land as a
helicopter. While in the air the engines can roll forward, allowing the
aircraft to fly faster than a standard helicopter.
The CV-22 is a
modified version of the Marine MV-22.
Update: For some context on the current state of the CV-22 program, here's text from recent testimony by David Van Buren, acting assistant secretary of the air force for acquisition, who testified before Congress on March 24. (Source: CQ Congressional Testimony)
In FY11, the
Air Force CV-22
Osprey program will receive the 13th CV- 22 of a 50
aircraft program of record, declaring Full Operational Capability in
FY16. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) declared the CV-22's
Initial Operational Capability in March 2009 and stood up the third CV-22
operating base at Cannon AFB, NM. AFSOC's CV-22s have self-deployed
overseas to Africa, Central America, and most recently Iraq. They are
currently enroute for another operational deployment.
The CV-22 has encountered challenges with
its high operational tempo and small fleet size. This coupled with lower
priority versus combat operations on spare parts has resulted in lower
availability rates. The FY11 President's Budget added $126.2 million
through the FYDP, for initial spares and support equipment. The Joint CV-22
Program Office along with the cooperation and support of industry
partners are aggressively working to increase the reliability and
availability of the CV-22 platform
Morocco isn't taking any chances with its 24 Lockheed Martin F-16s.
The country has asked the US Air Force to shop around for insurance. The $50 million per aircraft policy, which includes a (gulp!) $250,000 deductible, covers the risk for the 3-5-month period between aircraft delivery in Fort Worth and aircraft arrival in Morocco. The USAF posted the solicitation earlier today.
If you're wondering if this is normal, the USAF's solicitation puts to rest any doubt. The USAF asks a series of questions to would-be bidders, including a few that reveal an almost touching naivete.
In an attempt to obtain the maximum insurance possible at the lowest
cost, should we be considering insurance for the fleet of jets or per
jet? Are there other options?
Should a claim arise is it reasonable to assume it would be handled
between Morocco and your company?
What certificates/licenses is an insurance company required to hold to
insure aircraft? Would your company be willing to provide evidence of
As of today, the quoted price of a future F-35 could be as much as 90% different depending on whether you ask Lockheed Martin or the US Department of Defense.
There's a lot of confusimg terminology and inflation-indexed numbers floating around, but it comes down to a profound difference of opinion. If Lockheed tells you the F-35 will cost $1, the DOD says it will cost $1.45.
Thanks mostly to a series of legislative, policy and programmatic changes last year, the F-35 cost estimate has become more of a riddle than a reliable data point.
The government's side of the story looks really bad for Lockheed. Through the first five months of Fiscal 2010, Lockheed had completed only 3% of the scheduled flight tests. The Government Accountability Office and the Defense Contract Management Agency has released a series of documents showing that learning curves on the production line are tens of thousands of man-hours behind schedule. The Department of Defense has removed about 120 aircraft from the production budget over the next five years.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration signed the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, allowing the Pentagon to set budgets based on independent (and usually more conservative) cost estimates rather than relying on data reported by sometimes optimistic program managers. Accordingly, DOD's officially projects that a future F-35 previously expected to cost $50 million in 2002 will now cost at least $79 million, and maybe even $95 million (not adjusting for inflation).
For its part, Lockheed has never backed off the claim that the F-35 will cost $50 million (in 2002 dollars). Company officials do acknowledge a six-month delay for aircraft deliveries, but they believe they can recover. Moreover, a weight problem caused the development contract's price tag to double, but the first three lots of low-rate initial production have been delivered at costs below the government's previous estimates. Lockheed expects the fourth LRIP contract, which is now being finalized, will continue to cost the government less than the figure originally budgeted in 2007.
That track record creates a puzzling situation. Here we have a contractor insisting that the F-35's price tag is almost half what the customer believes.
The story broke yesterday but seemed straight out of the 1980s: Russia's leading business newspaper Vedomosti reported that Sukhoi sold 16 Su-30s to Algeria and six Su-30s to Uganda, accepting payment in oil shipments rather than cash. It wasn't exactly a Soviet-era Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, but it was pretty close. One problem: It wasn't true.
Navy Times has an important article today on the 33rd Operations Group, the F-35 training unit for pilots and maintainers. The headline says "F-35 pilot training on track". Thanks to the data in the article, however, we know that's not entirely accurate. The article says:
• Air Force: 58th Fighter Squadron stood up in October. Has seven
officers and one enlisted airman. First F-35A expected to arrive this
• Marine Corps: VMFA-501 stood up April 2. Has eight
officers and 23 enlisted Marines. First F-35B expected to arrive spring
• Navy: VFA-101 stands up in October 2011. First pilots
expected to arrive in early 2011. First F-35C expected to arrive in
This means the first arrivals for the F-35A and F-35B are delayed six months, and only the F-35C remains on track, according to September 2008 program schedule shown below. (The slide comes from presentation to an economic development council in Florida.)