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Showing posts from September, 2013

China really wants to enter the jet fighter sales market.

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Big, nasty, superfighters like the PAK FA and J-20 are getting plenty of headlines regarding their performance.  Other designs like the updated Sukhoi Su-35 are getting plenty of attention as well.  Undoubtedly, these are the designs that current and future military planners are seeing as the biggest threat to western air dominance.  Much like the emergence of the MiG-25 during the Cold War, western air experts are seriously wondering if western designs can hold their own against these emerging threats.

But the MiG-25 wasn't the biggest fighter threat of the Cold War.  It was produced in relatively small numbers and it had a rather specialized role as an interceptor, meaning it wasn't a very good air-superiority fighter.

No, the biggest aerial threat during the Cold War was the MiG-21.


Was the MiG-21 a good fighter?  Not when compared to American F-16s and F-15s it wasn't.  It had quite a short range, and its wasn't the most agile of fighters, limited to a mere 7gs wi…

Retired RCAF Lt. General hired into Lockheed Martin's top spot in Canada.

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It's good to know a retired RCAF officer need not rely strictly on his or her modest pension after retirement.  There are plenty of other jobs in the private or public sector for those with the experience and credentials.

Take Lt. General Charles Bouchard for instance, just slightly over a year (the mandatory "cooling off period) after his retirement from the RCAF, Bouchard has now been chosen as the new boss in charge of Lockheed Martin's operations in Canada.  Quite the prestigious, and no doubt well compensated position.
Does the name sound familiar?  It should, Bouchard led NATO forces during the bombing runs over Libya a few years back.  While the actual benefits of that action are debatable, the operation itself went off rather smoothly.  
But perhaps you heard the name somewhere else, maybe more recently?
Back in December 2012, when the damning KPMG report prompted the Canadian federal government to hit the "reset" button on the F-35 purchase, retired RC…

South Korea changes the rules after the game is won.

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In a move not unlike an elementary school recess game of "soccer tag", South Korea has declared the unofficial winner of its K-X competition, the F-15SE, has now been disqualified for not following rules that weren't agreed upon at the start of the game.

As previously reported here, South Korea's K-X competition between the F-35A Lightning II, Eurofighter Typhoon, and F-15SE "Silent Eagle"was for 60 jet fighters to replace aging F-4s and F-5s. A hard and fast budget of 8.3 trillion won (US$7.2 billion) was set.  The F-35, in which the unit cost is still very much in flux, was the first eliminated. It could not be delivered at a fixed price due to U.S. foreign military sales regulations.

Shortly after, the Eurofighter Typhoon, very much the dark horse of the competition due to close S. Korean and U.S. ties, was eliminated.  Eurofighter's bid, while under budget, was dismissed because it didn't include enough two-seater models in its offer.  South K…

Textron's Scorpion: Future trend or dead end?

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Textron, parent company to Cessna, the well known civil aviation manufacturer, unveiled an interesting concept recently named the Scorpion.

It's a two-seat, twin turbofan design meant to be used as a light strike aircraft, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) platform, or a trainer.  Wing pylons are capable of mounting external fuel, weapons, or sensors.  A modular design allows easy customization for potential customers.



While it certainly appears sleek, with a tail quite reminiscent of the F-14 Tomcat, the Scorpion is certainly no dogfighter.  It's incapable of supersonic flight and those long, straight wings are designed with loiter time in mind, not high speed performance.  Still, the promise of an affordable ($3,000 per flight hour) light attack and ISR platform seems to have a lot of potential in the days of military budget cutbacks and uber-expensive stealth fighters.

But is there a market?


The concept is certainly not new.  Back in the 50s, the USN desire…

USAF general adamant about building new tankers, fighters, and bombers.

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United States Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh recently made a speech reinforcing the USAF's commitment to three very big and expensive projects.  In question are the KC-46 aerial tanker, the F-35 multirole fighter and the Next-Generation Bomber (B-3?).

While it would seem obvious that the USAF's top man would voice support for future projects, the cold, hard reality of the United States' sequestration means that any or all three of these projects could be ripe for the picking.


The KC-46 is desperately needed to replace the USAF's aging tanker fleet...  Supposedly.  The KC-46 is said to be the USAF's "top priority" possibly even beating out the F-35A.  It would seem rather odd, however, that the USAF is so keen on getting new tankers, while at the same time, contemplating retiring their existing KC-10 tanker fleet early.  Development of the KC-46 has not been smooth, with budget overruns of over $700 million and some controversy surrounding th…

The Netherlands will go ahead with its F-35 purchase... With a few caveats.

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Well, it looks like The Netherlands is going to go ahead with its F-35 purchase.

Sort of.

Out of the original 85 F-35As planned for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), only 37 will be purchased at a cost of $6 billion (with a 10% contingency budget).  This after years of speculation and controversy over the program's delays, cost increases, and offsets for the Dutch aerospace industry.  The Netherlands have already purchased two early production F-35As, but those jets were put into storage.



These 37 F-35As will be replacing the 68 F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons currently in service.  At one point, the RNLAF had 213 F-16s in service.



Thanks to military spending cuts, the F-35 is not the only victim of cutbacks.  The Dutch government is now considering selling off its brand new Karel DoornanJoint Logistic Support Ship.  Now, there are some that suggest that The Netherlands' loss could be Canada's gain, and that Canada should opt to purchase our first Joint Support Ship rat…

LockMart threatens to take away what it hasn't given yet

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The Canadian F-35 controversy never seems to stop.

Amidst concerns about the JSF's price, availability, performance, and suitability for Canada; Lockheed Martin has giving its F-35 Lightning II an extra "push" by marketing the F-35's advanced features, stealth, and potential job creation for Canadians.

Recently, Lockheed Martin has become a little more aggressive with its push, stating that Canada could lose out in approximately $10.5 billion worth of related contracts.  Given the estimated $9 billion procurement cost fixed to the CF-18 replacement, this certainly does appear to be "losing out" on a lucrative deal.  Looking closer, this is appears to be more fear-mongering than anything else.



As a Tier 3 partner in the JSF program, Canada has already invested into the F-35.  This has paid off already, with $500 million worth of F-35 related contracts awarded to Canadian firms already.  Canada's investment in the JSF program doesn't guarantee Canadi…

Is there more to a Boeing/Saab partnership than simply a trainer?

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Take out your tin-foil hats, it's time for some wild conjecture.


Previously, we looked at reports that Saab and Boeing are joining forces to offer a bid for the USAF's T-X program.  Most likely, offering a decontented two-seat Saab Gripen as a contender to replace the aging T-38 Talon trainer.  The move makes sense for all the parties involved, Boeing gets to offer a high performance, low maintenance airframe; while Saab manages to sell more Gripens (or derivative thereof) than it ever would have been able to on its own.  Additionally, the USAF gets access to a worthy platform capable of preparing pilots to fly the F-35, F-22, and possibly whatever other manned fighters the USAF introduces in the next 30-50 years.

But it doesn't stop there.  The winning contender for the T-X program will likely find itself performing other roles besides simply preparing pilots to fly high performance jets.  It will also likely be used as a mock adversary during aggressor training (think To…

Saab and Boeing team-up? This could be big.

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For the record:  I predicted Saab's involvement in the T-X program way back in May.
USAF's long delayed T-X program to replace the T-38 Talon trainer may find itself with another challenger soon, thanks to a possible collaberation between American aerospace giant Boeing and that scrappy Swedish company, Saab.




Other contenders have suggested updated and "Americanized" versions of existing designs.  Lockheed has proposed a version of the South Korean KAI T-50 "Golden Eagle".  Northrop Grumman has partnered with BAE to offer the Hawk T2/128.  Meanwhile, Italian manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi has offered up its M-346 "Master". Boeing had initially intended to field an all-new design on its own, recent buzz indicates that it may be in the stages of partnering with Saab to develop a T-X contender.

This could be big.

Why?  For one, because Boeing needs this.  It desperately wants to stay in the jet fighter business, but the Super Hornet is nearing the …

Is India backing out of the Rafale?

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On January 31, 2013, Dassault must have been happy.  It had scored a huge victory when it became selected as the winner of India MMRCA program.  Not only was this Dassault's first foreign sale for the Rafale, but its jet came out victorious against some very impressive competition.

With 126 fighters up for purchase, with six different contenders, it goes without saying that the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) competition was fierce.  The Rafale was considered alongside the Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed F-16IN Fighting Falcon, Boeing F-18E Super Hornet, Saab JAS-39E Gripen NG, and the Mikoyan MiG-35.  Selection of the Rafale was based on capability, price, and the usual industrial benefits.  Its similarities to the Indian Air Force's (IAF) current Mirage 2000 was likely seen a plus, as was its potential compatibility with India's upcoming INS Vishal aircraft carrier.

So what has happened since then?

In a word, delays.

But the truth is much more complicated and …

Is the F-35 worth $1.1 billion each?

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A recent article in the Hill Times (pay wall, sorry) states that total operating costs for the F-35 could reach $71 billion under a "worst case scenario".  Basically, the previous figure of $46 billion for 65 jets over 42 years could very well creep up depending on currency fluctuation, delays in production, or other unforeseen events.  This figures out to $1.09 billion per aircraft, over its lifetime in the RCAF.

Yikes.

Mind you, a lot of these factors would likely increase the price of ANY aircraft, but so much about the F-35's eventual cost is up in the air.  This uncertainty was the primary reason for its disqualification from South Korea's fighter selection, as well as giving other countries second thoughts.  Testing is still problematic, and U.S. Government funding isn't exactly a sure thing right now.

Even the $9 billion slotted to buy the initial 65 aircraft is looking overly optimistic, with the estimated cost quickly approaching that figure.  Even DND&…