Nine attempts were made July 20 and 21 to alter the online encyclopedia's entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, including the removal of any information critical of the Conservative government's plan to spend at least $16 billion on the new fighter aircraft.
Defence Department computers were also used to insert insults, aimed at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, into the Wikipedia Joint Strike Fighter page.
Ignatieff has questioned the proposed purchase. Quotes from news articles outlining opposition to the arms deal by University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers, a former NDP candidate, were also removed.
July 2010 Archives
Northrop Grumman delivered the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to the US Navy Atlantic Fleet today at Norfolk naval base in Virginia. Chief of Naval Operations Adm Gary Roughead formally accepted the E-2D from Gary Ervin, Northrop Grumman's president of the aerospace systems sector.
To read our recently published technical description on E-2D, click on this link: E-2D may not look pretty, but packs new punch
Here's a low-res copy of Flightglobal artist Giuseppi Picarella's cutaway drawing for the E-2D, which published as a poster in last week's magazine.
The aircraft procurement account for the US Air Force would be slashed by $2.263 billion next year if the subcommittee's version of the bill becomes law. By contrast, the navy's aircraft account is reduced by only $242 million and army aircraft spending would decline by $115 million.
A spokesman for the panel declines to identify the source of the cut until after the full committee votes on the bill, which is not scheduled until September.
So what could it be?
My colleague Gayle Putrich talked to Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia yesterday and he has a theory, which I think is very plausible. Aboulafia guesses such a huge cut could be the appropriators sending Lockheed Martin a message about the F-35.
Two months ago, the House Armed Services Committee passed a spending authorization bill that proposes to "ring-fence" funding for 12 F-35s. The funding would be released only if Lockheed achieves certain goals in the flight test program, such as completing 394 test flights and more than 3,900 test points by the end of the calendar year.
It's possible the appropriators acted on their colleagues threat. According to the USAF's budget justification materials, it costs about $2.05 billion for 12 F-35As in FY2011 budget, excluding long-lead production costs. Subtract $2.05 billion from the $2.263 billion figure, and you get a reasonable appropriations mark of about $121 million.
If Aboulafia's guess is correct, then it's even more clear that Congress is serious about holding Lockheed accountable for any more delays in the flight test program.
On the other land, it also could expose a potential loophole. Lawmakers may require Lockheed to complete 394 flight tests overall, but there's no objective goal for each of the three F-35 variants.
This appears to give Lockheed some room to maneuver as the flight test schedule for the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) has started falling behind. The four STOVL test aircraft have completed 21 fewer flight tests than planned this year.
However, Lockheed can still reach the overall objective of 394 flights by increasing the pace of sorties for the other two variants, which have so far proven more reliable. On Tuesday, Lockheed reported the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant has completed 56 flights this year, or 32 more than scheduled, and the carrier variant has completed six flights compared to only one on the schedule.
Who doesn't like watching a frozen chicken go splat on a perfectly good aircraft canopy?
If the video is not self-explanatory enough for you, feel free to peruse this 20-page write-up by Lockheed Martin on the actual birdstrike test. Birdstrike Impact Studies.pdf
Both the video and the report are courtesy of the F-35 discussion thread on F-16.net.
Ex-Lavi program manager and minister of defense Moshe Arens writes in Haaretz today that Israel would be better off launching a joint development program with Russia and India to build a new fighter rather than spend $11 billion to buy 75 Lockheed Martin F-35s. See excerpt below:
Are there alternatives to swallowing our pride and shelling out $3 billion for 20 F-35s? (The original plan had been to acquire 75 aircraft, which would have brought the price above $11 billion, but that was too expensive. ) Before we make that commitment, a little intellectual effort should be invested in looking at other options.
Does Israel still have the technological capability to design a first-rate fighter aircraft? That needs to be examined in some depth. No doubt some of the capability that existed at the time of the Lavi project has been lost over the years, but as has been proved time and again, Israel has a world-class technological capability. Its success in unmanned aerial vehicles is only one of a number of examples.
If it turns out that the capability to design the IAF's next fighter aircraft does exist in Israel, where could we go from there? Not to the U.S. Congress in search of funding, because we would have to remind them that 27 years ago they were fools to invest $1 billion in the development of the Lavi that Israel decided it did not want. We would have to look for partners who are prepared to invest resources in such a project, who have the necessary technological capability, and who are not involved in the F-35 project.
Are there such candidates? In theory, yes. France, with a great aeronautical industry, chose not to participate in the F-35 project. India, with a considerable aeronautical capability and a meteorically growing economy, might be another candidate. And there is Russia. Perhaps none of them would be interested, and perhaps all of them would be. It's worth a try.
Eurofighter has launched a new campaign to assert the supremacy of the Typhoon against the Lockheed Martin F-35 in air-to-air combat, describing internal simulations giving the former an advantage over a numerically superior F-35 attack force.
The campaign is aimed at challenging Lockheed's claims that the F-35 enjoys a 6:1 exchange ratio over modern fighters. Eurofighter also hopes to dispel creeping global acceptance of Lockeed's description of the F-35 as a fifth generation fighter that is implicitly superior to so-called fourth generation fighters, such as the Typhoon.
The challenge appears as several countries face decisions over buying both aircraft. On 20 July, Italy announced a decision to cancel a planned Tranche 3B contract for 25 Typhoons.
In Eurofighter's view, buying F-35s at the expense of fewer Typhoons reduces the air force's overall capability. Eurofighter respects the F-35 as a world-class fighter for the air-to-ground mission, but not as a fighter in the traditional role as an air-to-air machine, says Craig Penrice, a Typhoon pilot and marketing adviser.
Lockheed and programme officials have claimed that the days of traditional dogfighting are over. A promotional video released last year by F-35 supplier Northrop Grumman claims, for example, that "manoeuvrability is irrelevant" to a modern fighter. The video shows the F-35 can defeat opponents not with dogfighting skill, but by firing missiles agile enough to turn 180º.
Eurofighter, however, claims the F-35 lacks all-aspect, very low observable stealth, and is vulnerable to detection and defeat by non-stealthy opponents.
In an internal simulation series, Eurofighter found that four Typhoons supported by an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) defeated 85% of attacks by eight F-35s carrying an internal load of two joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) and two air-to-air missiles, Penrice says.
According to Laurie Hilditch, Eurofighter's head of future requirements capture, the F-35's frontal-aspect stealth can be defeated by stationing interceptors and AWACS at a 25º to 30º angle to the F-35's most likely approach path to a target.
Call it the C-17 Stairmaster.
It's Boeing's latest idea for a design refresh that retains the wing and T-tail, but narrows the fuselage by 4ft.
Boeing unveiled the idea for a more "fuel-efficient" C-17FE at a lightly-attended press conference today.
The design concept shrinks the airlifter's cross-section to the minimum required to accommodate a fully-armoured Stryker vehicle, says Tom Dunehew, vice president of C-17 business development.
As a trade-off, the C-17FE will not be able to carry an unspecified list of outsize equipment, but Dunehew declined to name them.
The idea also borrows upgrades from Boeing's earlier concept for the C-17B, including improved flaps, a 13% engine thrust upgrade and a precision landing augmentation system. Unlike the C-17B, the fuel-efficient concept omits the addition of a centre-line landing gear.
Dunehew also declines to estimate development costs, but says it would cost far less than to design an entirely new airframe. He acknowledges that launching the program would require a significant order to justify the development costs.
Boeing is continuing to evaluate new designs for the C-17. Asked whether Boeing has ever considered installing GE90-class engines on a twin-engined C-17, Dunehew replied that it was feasible. However, as a tactical airlifter, four engines are necessary to minimize the risk of a crash caused by an engine-out problem on takeoff.
In response to questions, Saito also said the F-X fighter decision would be delayed until after elections in Brazil in October, pushing contract award for 36 fighters a full year behind schedule.
The panel shown below includes (from left) Embraer executive vice president for defense Orlando Neto, Brazilian air force chief Lt Gen Junito Saito and Embraer chief executive officer Frederico Fleury Curado.
But this briefing was different, as shown by this tantalizing slide:
Don't get too excited about the line on F-22. No, Boeing is not the prime contractor for the F-22, but it's responsible for building one-third of the fuselage and integrating the avionics. In the latter role, Boeing expects a thriving business for F-22 modernization programs in the years ahead.
But pay close attention to the last line on slide. It's the one labeled "propietary" and indicates that it's in production today. We don't know what "it" is, and, of course, Lavender declined to elaborate or clarify.
And that may not have been the most interesting slide in Boeing's brief. Take a look at the one below, and note the bullet point for "enclosed weapons pod" and image.
Here's the F-22 display at Farnborough on 19 July as you've truly never seen it before: in infrared.
Flightglobal teamed up with FLIR Systems to produce live video of the flying displays at Farnborough this year. FLIR's Star Sapphire HD is installed atop a pole outside the Flightglobal chalet. Click here to watch the show today at 15:40 GMT.
Boeing vice president and general manager Shelley Lavender narrates as video of the F-15 Silent Eagle missile launch test is shown to reporters at the Farnborough Air Show today.
Keep a sharp eye our for the last few seconds of the video. The next slide in Lavender's presentation shows the latest big upgrade for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: a centreline-mounted external weapons pod.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) has kindly distributed a data sheet on the Predator C Avenger, which is something I've been looking for since the concept was unveiled in April last year. The document confirms that the fuselage length has expanded by 3ft compared to the 41ft-long test aircraft.
Wing Span: 20.11m (66ft)
Length: 13.4m (44ft)
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney PW545B
Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight: 7,257kg (16,000lb)
Fuel Capacity: 1,855kg (4,090lb) Internal; 2,722kg total
Weapons: Hellfire, GBU-12/49, GBU-31, GBU-32, GBU-38 JDAM, GBU-39, GBU-16/48
Payloads: EO/IR, Lynx SAR/GMTI, SIGINT/ESM, Communications relay
Max Altitude: 50,000ft
Max Endurance: 20h
Max Air Speed: 400KTAS
Standard Dash: 350KTAS
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Burbage part 1)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Burbage part 2)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Burbage part 3)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Q&A part 1)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Q&A part 2)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Q&A part 3)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Q&A part 4)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Q&A part 5)
- F-35 press briefing Farnborough 2010 (Q&A part 6)
Grasping at an opening in the market for a low-cost platform optimised for the booming aerial surveillance market, UK-based Gyrojet is single-handedly attempting to revive the autogyro.
The privately financed aerospace start-up is using the Farnborough air show to publicly reveal the Scorpion S3, a concept aircraft quietly in development since 2004.
The aircraft features a rotor mast that sweeps forward from the empennage at its base to the centre of gravity at the rotor hub, locately directly over the pilot's seat. In this configuration, the rotor mast doubles as a vertical stabiliser, with the rudder blended into the trailing edge. As an autogyro, the rotor mast is not required to contain a helicopter's bulky drive train and gearbox.
The aircraft can be powered in forward flight with either a piston or a gas turbine, says James Robb, sales and marketing director for Gyrojet advanced autogyros.
The company believes many law enforcement agencies want an aerial platform less costly to operate than a helicopter and with a more-effective low-speed envelope than a fixed-wing aircraft, Robb says. The Scorpion, a tail-dragger, takes-off after a short roll and requires a 25kt wind to remain airborne.
The aircraft model has successfully cleared wind tunnel testing, with the design proving more stable than initially hoped, says Robb. Deliveries could begin as early as 2012, and letters of intent from new customers are expected shortly by company officials.
The Lockheed Martin F-22 made its second consecutive appearance at the Farnborough Air Show at about 3:15pm today, flying in from Fairford Air Base. It's clear the F-22 has set a new standard in the art of the aerial display. I'm eager to see the day that the F-22 and Sukhoi PAK-FA appear at the same event, if that day ever comes.
If you're a defense industry executive or spokesperson, the party is officially over. For the first time in a decade, put on the glum look. If yours is rusty, look up at the gloomy British skies above Farnborough for reference.
I have a feeling it's going to be that kind of a show. Lockheed Martin's participation has been slashed in half, which apparently includes the budget for the (sad face) company's media dinner. Honeywell has no corporate presence at all, although that decision was made in 2008. There's a "new reality" in the global defense market these days, as Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens says, and it suits the prevailing British weather like a matching pocket square.
The gloominess extends to the display and static line-up of military aircraft. Yes, the Airbus A400M will make its Farnborough debut, as will the Saab Gripen NG demonstrator. But the two biggest aerial stars -- Lockheed F-35 and Sukhoi T-50 -- remain too involved in early flight tests to join the show this year.
Something always -- happens -- at these shows. Maybe the rumors are true and the United Arab Emirates will finally confirm an order for 60 Dassault Rafales.(Of course, we heard the same rumors last year at Dubai and Paris.) The rhetorical war between Boeing and EADS will no doubt continue, but will we finally learn details about Boeing's configuration for the KC-767 NewGen Tanker? Eurofighter and Boeing have launched preliminary attacks on claims of superiority by Lockheed's F-35, which will be without its biggest customer, defender and apologist.
Perhaps the bright spot at Farnborough this year will be the sight of so many new mock-ups for stealthy, unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). But any cheer they offer may be tempered by the reality -- there's that word again -- that they are only mock-ups and one wonders where the money will materialize to actually demonstrate and produce them.
Keep track of everything that happens -- as it happens -- on our show web site. No matter how dour the official mood, Farnborough's flying display never disappoints!
I'm starting to like this new "Photo op" feature for the blog, especially with images like this coming in.
I received this photo yesterday from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. It shows the Guardian -- a Predator B with a Raytheon SeaVue maritime search radar and (hark!) winglets -- flying over the space shuttle Discovery in March, shortly before the April launch date.
So far, in a freakish coincidence, both photo op's feature aircraft operated by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency.
I asked Lockheed Martin yesterday for a photo of the re-winged P-3B that has been delivered to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. That's a significant event in itself. The agency's 16 P-3s were grounded for two years after the US Navy discovered a corrosion crisis across the fleet. But the photo struck me for another reason entirely.
Gone was the dome search radar on top of the fuselage. In its place is what briefly looked to me like a miniature version of the phased-array "tophat" antenna that sits atop the 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. After a few more gulps of coffee and some furious Google browsing, I realized that it's just the radar structure without the dome on top. That's something you don't see everyday, so I'm posting here in case anybody else gets confused!
China has allowed the carrier-based J-15 to be photographed (above) and videotaped (below) for the first time after reportedly achieving first flight last August.
The J-15 is credited by the Chinese as indigenous development, but the Russians consider it a rip-off of a Sukhoi Su-33 that China acquired from the Ukraine. Moscow also has complained that China ripped off the Su-27 by starting a production line for the carbon-copy J-11B.
"The Air Force may find that our proposal does not meet all mandatory [request for proposals] requirements, that we do not have qualified subcontractors and teaming partners, that we are not a capable and responsible contractor, that we have not obtained or processed the classified information that is needed to prepare a proposal, that we have not demonstrated that the company has the facility and personnel clearances that are prerequisites to receiving, handling and storing classified information, and that our failure to meet the proposal submittal deadline was attributable to our failure to act diligently and promptly," the document states.
But wait, there's more.The company tells the SEC the air service might conclude Antonov "is not an acceptable subcontractor, that required teaming agreements have not been entered into, and that using [a] Ukranian commercial aircraft as the basis for a KC-X tanker proposal is unacceptable."
Boeing has flown the company-owned F-15E1 testbed sporting a conformal fuel tank modified into an internal weapons bay. A second flight will ferry the aircraft to Point Mugu, California. On the third and final flight in the series, the F-15E1 will fire a Raytheon AIM-120 advanced medium range air to air missile (AMRAAM).
What you don't see on the F-15E1 are the other proposed features in the Silent Eagle upgrade package. These include options such as tail fins canted by 15deg, a BAE Systems digital electronic warfare suite (DEWS) and -- perhaps most importantly -- treatments and treatments to reduce the F-15's frontal-aspect radar cross section in X-band.
First flight comes as South Korea is expected to issue a request for proposals for a new batch of fighters, with the F-15SE competing against the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Teasing reporters assembled for a press conference/lunch, EADS North America piled 17 binders full of the company's 8,000-page proposal for the KC-X contract on the table behind my chair. Most annoyingly, the binders were taped shut. A spokesman thumbed through one of the apparently least sensitive binders (way too briskly, I might add) in my presence just to confirm they were real.
A different set of the same binders -- as well as a six CD-ROM package -- were delivered by EADS vice president Jim Hvizd to the KC-X source selection committee at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, this morning. For those keeping score, EADS delivered their proposal one day earlier than Boeing.
Perhaps a Hawker Beechcraft King Air wasn't available, or EADS didn't worry about playing any "buy American cards" with the choice of chartered aircraft. But give them points for style. It was the very Italian-made Piaggio Aero P180 Avanti that for EADS delivered a cargo potentially worth a $35 billion contract.
On the other hand, if a negative response opens the door for Antonov to protest the RFP deadline, the Pentagon may face an at least 30-day delay anyway. Your move, Secretary Donley.
The mystery continues, meanwhile, about the configuration of the An-112. When the book on KC-X is written, An-112 will almost certainly be a footnote. But it still drives me nuts that I don't know what it is. Adding jet engines to the An-12 seems absurd. Transforming the An-70 -- a perhaps under-appreciated modern airlifter -- into a jet-powered tanker is more credible in comparison to the An-12, but still a fairly absurd idea.
Chuck Arnold, adviser to board of directors for US Aerospace, still declines to say what the An-112 is. But Arnold has told me one thing it is not, and that's a revival of the An-218. If you're unfamiliar with the aircraft, it was launched by Antonov at the 1991 Paris Air Show as a project to challenge the Airbus A330, but abandoned by 1995.
It was 11pm in Kiev last night when Arnold says he sealed the deal. Tiny US Aerospace would offer Antonov aircraft for KC-X, facing off against Boeing and EADS for a roughly $35 billion tanker contract. Arnold didn't get to sleep until a few hours later. First, he had to call the Pentagon to inform a wide range of military officials that a Ukrainian-built aircraft would enter the KC-X competition. He was honest - if diplomatic - about their reactions.
"Everyone's been rather reserved on this," Arnold says. "They haven't had time to think about this."
Tell me about it. I've been covering the KC-X contract war for nearly a decade, and I've seen a lot of strange things. But a surprise bid by a small American firm offering a non-existent Ukrainian transport with no announced supply chain to the US Air Force one week before the deadline for proposals? Well, that tops them all.
Arnold has been traveling for most of the day and missed the storm of coverage that erupted after the story broke, which included aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia's verdict that the Antonov-based KC-X proposal is "dumb beyond belief" and a "complete waste of time". But Arnold is at least not unaware of the apparent absurdity of the situation.
"Most of the first responses I get are like yours," he says, adding with mock disbelief: "'Are you offering a Ukrainian manufacturer for the KC-X tanker project?'"
The answer to that posed question from Arnold is a definitive yes. It's still unclear how seriously we should take this bid. It's the kind of story that makes me worry I'm falling for this year's most belated April Fool's joke. After speaking with Arnold for 25 minutes, he gave the impression of not only sincerity, but also a surprising -- and arguably unjustified -- confidence for his team's chances. He patiently answered some of the many questions his announcement raises, so I'll try to now put his responses into the public record. I didn't tape-record the phone interview. I wasn't expecting a return phone call at 5:30pm on the eve of a holiday weekend. But I'll do my best to paraphrase the conversation based on my notes.
Please click on the jump to read the paraphrased Q and A with Arnold:
A Los Angeles-based attorney, who lists hot-tubbing with a glass of bordeaux as a hobby and known mostly as the editor of a best-selling book compiling love letters of great men, is fronting a new bid for the KC-X contract based on the Ilyushin Il-96, a four-engined airliner and cargo transport never previously (to my knowledge) operated as a tanker.
Can this competition possibly get any stranger?
Apparently, yes. The Ilyushin intrusion into the KC-X race quickly fizzled. Maybe it was someone in Moscow's idea of a prank.
But now there's a new development.
My buddy John Bennett at Defense News got the big scoop this morning: Antonov is joining the race for the KC-X contract. Bennett quotes an industry source and has a copy of the cooperation pact detailing the plans.
I confirmed the story an hour ago by looking up a regulatory filing submitted yesterday by Antonov's US-based partner for KC-X, which is a small company I've never heard of called US Aerospace Inc.
As I reported on Flightglobal's news section, the 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission confirms the US Aerospace/Antonov team's intent to compete for KC-X.
Here's where it gets weird. Three different Antonov aircraft will be offered. The well-known An-124-100 is in the mix, perhaps in the unlikely case the US Air Force decides it needs a four-engine tanker slightly larger than the C-5 to replace the KC-135E. Another aircraft to be proposed is called the An-122, which Bennett reports is a two-engine variant of the An-124. The third aircraft is the real mystery. It's designated the An-112 in the regulatory filing. The only reference I can find to such an aircraft is a Wikipedia entry for the An-12, but it's listed as a concept for a jet-powered, swept-wing variant! (Think of a C-130 that looks like a B-47 and you get the idea.)
Can this competition get crazier? Yes, it can.
True to form, Sweetman picks up exactly where he left off on his last F-35-related blog update on 3 May by hitting the F-35 program where it counts: the bank.
His first F-35-themed blog entry today attempts to decipher what is for me -- and many others -- the most puzzling riddle about the current F-35 debate, and that is the yawning gap between Secretary of Defense Bob Gates' "indepedent" cost estimators and Lockheed Martin's recent statements about the price of the next lot of low rate initial production (LRIP).
Gates' auditors -- called the CAPE for cost analysis and program evaluation -- say the F-35 costs are spiralling upwards, rising from $297 billion in the previous official estimate to $382 billion over 30 years. Lockheed says that actual pricing for the LRIP-4 contract for 43 aircraft will likely fall 20% below the CAPE's estimate. As a result, some aerospace journalists, including Defense News Editor Vago Muradian, have described the CAPE estimate as "pessimistic".
Most others, including myself, remain thoroughly confused and half-wishing we had taken Accounting 101 in college more seriously.
Sweetman, an outspoken critic of the F-35's cost, performance and basic need, suffers from no such hesitation. He doesn't accuse Lockheed of lying, but of merely talking around the cost debate by discussing price, which is not the same thing.
"One thing we know for sure is that Lockheed Martin and the team have not significantly changed the cost of the aircraft over the time span of the LRIP-4 negotiations," Sweetman writes.
Sweetman argues that Lockheed is keeping price down by pressuring suppliers to accept losses today in order to recoup margins at a later time. The logic of the argument is difficult to question, but it could be made stronger by presenting evidence of such a ploy.
There's another statement in Sweetman's entry I want to discuss. It's this: "Keep in mind that Lockheed Martin has been talking only about the F-35A price and that only 23 of the 43 aircraft in LRIP-4 are A-models."
It's my understanding that's no longer true. As of late April and early May, it was accurate to say that Lockheed intended to negotiate a fixed-price contract for only the F-35A model. That strategy appears to have changed since then under pressure from Gates. On two occasions since early May I have been told by Steve O'Bryan, Lockheed's F-35 vice president of business development, that the fixed-price deal for LRIP-4 will include all three variants, including the carrier variant which only flew for the first time less than a month ago.