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​Lockheed pulls out of FA-50 CRADA

Lockheed Martin has pulled its FA-50 out of an airworthiness assessment with the US Air Force, service officials tell FlightGlobal.

In August, the USAF and Lockheed were preparing to move the FA-50 into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). The CRADA allows the air force to assess an aircraft’s airworthiness without a programme of record. With a USAF stamp of approval as a gold standard in assessment, the CRADA can open up aircraft to direct commercial sales customers.

Both the company and the USAF have the ability to cancel a CRADA at any point in time, says NDMA office team lead Bob FitzHarris.

“Lockheed Martin decided to withdraw from the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement for FA-50 because we could not close on the final terms and conditions,” a Lockheed spokeswoman wrote in a 14 February email to FlightGlobal.

The FA-50, a joint venture with Lockheed and Korean Aerospace, is the advanced, light combat version of the T-50 Golden Eagle. Lockheed’s bid for the USAF’s trainer replacement, the T-50A, shares the same airframe and single General Electric F404 engine as the FA-50. The fighter variant is distinguished by its Elta Systems EL/M-2032 pulse doppler radar, which helps enable the aircraft’s air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

Discussions over Lockheed’s possible entrance into the CRADA emerged as Textron AirLand announced their own CRADA for their dual light attack fighter and trainer, Scorpion. Textron had previously flirted with the USAF’s T-X trainer programme, but has not announced an official bid.

In a 10 February interview with FlightGlobal, FitzHarris maintained the CRADAs have no effect on the service’s acquisition programmes, including the trainer replacement.

“NDMA activity has no play with the acquisition side, it’s strictly a technical evaluation of a design. What happens with the output of that is totally up to the company and it’s not part of the acquisition chain,” FitzHarris says. “We actually firewall the people doing the assessments off from the acquisition side. Primarily we use contractors to do our assessment, but we put it through our airworthiness board.”

Meanwhile, Textron has just finished phase one of its CRADA, which lays out how the company must meet requirements. Phase one includes a compliance assessment which tests the aircraft’s safety. The assessment includes flight and ground tests, as well as component analysis, Fitzharris says. Textron then takes that data and presents it to the USAF.

The USAF and Textron are now beginning to negotiate phase two, which encompasses the majority of the CRADA process.

The NDMA is also in initial talks to do a design assessment on the IOMAX Archangel, a modified Thrush Aircraft S2R-T660 turboprop designed for the light-attack market. The United Arab Emirates air force operates Archangel in counter-insurgency missions. The air force has not signed a CRADA with IOMAX, FitzHarris says.

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