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Showing posts from November, 2013

Super Hornet gets Joint Strike Missile.

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Not to be outdone by the Eurofighter Typhoon's upcoming addition of both the Storm Shadow and Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missiles, Boeing is now in the process of testing the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) on the F-18E/F Super Hornet.

Based on the Norwegian Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile, the JSM is a stealthy multi-role munition that can be fired at either ground or water based targets.  By using passive guidance methods (GPS, IR) it can avoid detection and interception by missile defense systems.  The JSM has a range of over 290km and carries a 125kg warhead.

The true secret to the JSM's success will be the fact that it is the only anti-ship missile small enough to fit into the F-35's weapons bay.  In fact, the JSM might be the only anti-ship missile cleared for use on the F-35, period.  The older, larger GM-84 Harpoon is currently not on the F-35's list of weapons.

Want to see what this fancy JSM can do?  Check it out here:
http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2013…

Eurofighter Typhoon gets a serious strike upgrade.

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One of the more glaring deficiencies of the Eurofighter Typhoon compared to its contemporaries (Super Hornet, Rafale, etc) has been its focus on air-superiority over strike capability.  As older Panavia Tornados get retired, however, the Typhoon will step up and take more of a ground-pounder role.  This means upgrades.

Most recently, trials have begun incorporating the Storm Shadow air launched cruise missile (ALCM).  The Storm Shadow is a big, stealthy missile with about a 500km range and a 450kg warhead.

If one 500km range ALCM isn't enough, then how about the slightly bigger Taurus KEPD 350?  It's already been ground tested and air trials are said to be happening soon.  The Taurus is quite similar to the Storm Shadow, with a slightly bigger warhead (500kg vs 450kg).

The Storm Shadow and Taurus are big missiles, and placement is limited to the inner wing pylons.  Normally, this is where the drop tanks would be located, but updates to the Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 versions of …

F-35 vs. Typhoon... FIGHT!

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Many services intending to utilize the F-35 Lightning II will do so as part of a mixed fleet.  For example, the USAF will combine the JSF with the F-22 Raptor.  The USN and the RAAF will fly the F-35 alongside the F-18E/F Super Hornet.  Britain and Italy will combine the F-35 with the Eurofighter Typhoon.


In both Britain and Italy's case, the F-35 is seen more as an heir apparent to the Panavia Tornado.  It should be noted that the Tornado was once considered for Canada's New Fighter Aircraft Program (which resulted in the CF-18), but one of the strikes against it was it was its emphasis on ground attack over air-superiorty.

Why are Britain and Italy adamant on flying a mixed force?  Because the two aircraft complement each other.  The Typhoon's ground attack capability (or lack thereof) is often considered its greatest liability.  The F-35, designed from the offset to provide an impressive strike role, has the opposite problem, according to Italian Colonel Vito Cracas:
“T…

S. Korea's decision not met with universal acclaim.

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Well...  That escalated quickly.



South Korea's decision to sole-source the F-35 despite its costs and being "disqualified" has already met with criticism.

From The Korea Times:


“As the stealth fighter is being manufactured and simultaneously tested, the U.S. side cannot guarantee capabilities and a fixed price in accordance with the FMS and buyers will have to take responsibility for this,” an industrial source said on condition of anonymity.

“What is worse, we cannot complain about it.” Ouch.

Update! South Korea buys 40 F-35s... Instead of 60.

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Despite initially disqualifying the F-35 on the grounds it was too expensive, South Korea has now decided to bite the bullet and order 40 units instead of the planned 60 fighters intended to be purchased under the FX-III program.

There is still a provision to obtain 20 more aircraft of type to be determined later.  This likely could mean an additional 20 F-35s, or some type of "Advanced F-15 Eagle".

Many of you will remember that out of the three aircraft being considered, the F-35 was the first eliminated due to its high cost.  The Eurofighter Typhoon was eliminated shortly thereafter on the grounds that the bid did not include enough two-seater aircraft.  This was odd considering the F-35 does not even have a two-seater version.  With the F-35 and Typhoon both disqualified, Boeing's F-15SE Silent Eagle was declared the de facto winner.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were so adamant about obtaining the stealthier F-35 that they refused to accept the F-15…

Will South Korea pay more or get less F-35s?

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South Korea is expected to announce the F-35 Lightning II as the winner of its F-X competition in the very near future, despite the F-35 being at one time eliminated from consideration due to costs.

The real question is:  Will S. Korea spend approximately 2.2 trillion won ($2.1 billion US) more than the 8.3 trillion ($7.2 billion US) originally budgeted in order to take possession of 60 jets, or will they substantially drop the order to 40 in order to stay in budget?

Either way, the reality of the F-35 is clear.  If Canada wants 65 of them, its going to have to cough up substantially more than the $9 billion set aside for acquisition.

Will the Typhoon see big sales in the Persion Gulf region?

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When British Prime Minister David Cameron made an impromptu visit to the Dubai Air Show this week, many saw it as a sign that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would be announcing a purchase of the Eurofighter Typhoon.  This wasn't the case, but it still appears that the Typhoon will be the UAE's choice for an upcoming purchase of 60 cutting edge fighter jets in an estimated $9 billion deal.

The Typhoon is up against the Dassault Rafale in a bid to replace the UAE's aging fleet of Mirage 2000s.  Despite the Rafale being the early frontrunner, the Eurofighter Consortium managed to pull ahead using its considerable political, industrial, and economic might.  The UAE are also likely to order additional F-16 "Desert Viper's" from Lockheed Martin, although that deal has yet to be finalized.

Next on the list is Bahrain.  Already in the process of upgrading its F-16 fleet, Bahrain is looking to replace its retiring F-5 fleet with a new multi-role aircraft.  The Typhoon…

Bad Luck Boeing...

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Boeing has been on a bit of a bad luck run lately.  After winning South Korea's F-XIII competition by default, its F-15SE Silent Eagle was unceremoniously booted out of the running for not being stealthy enough.

It gets worse.

After word got out that the USN might be ordering a 36 more Super Hornets, the Pentagon quickly kiboshed the rumor.  Now it looks like Boeing will have to shut down production of F-18E/F if it doesn't find orders soon.

Things don't look promising.  The Super Hornet is being pushed as a likely alternative to the F-35 for Canada's next fighter, but that decision looks like it going to be put off until 2015, at the earliest.  That may be too late to keep the Rhino assembly line open.  It currently only has enough orders to stay open until 2016.

What else is there?

Australia is a small victory, but they are only ordering few dozen Super Hornets to tide them over until the F-35 is ready.



There's Brazil, but they seem to be in an indefinite hold…

[RANT] Remembrance Day has new face.

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Today, if you turn on the news channel, or look at the front page of a paper, you will likely see the by-now familiar image of grizzled WWII or Korean War veteran, in a dress uniform, possibly a wheelchair, with a single blood-red poppy accenting their medals and insignias.  These old soldiers did their part.  We appreciate them for it.  They remind us that our freedom, our culture, our very way of life, is a debt we owe to those who have fought and sacrificed for us.

This Remembrance Day, and those after it, needs a new image, however.

Meet Corporal Bruce Moncur.  During Canadian operations in Afghanistan, Moncur was involved in a "friendly fire" incident involving an A-10.  One minute, Moncur was sitting down, eating his breakfast, the next minute he was laying on the ground with the grey matter of his brain exposed thanks to a piece of depleted uranium the size of a bottle cap.

Thankfully, Bruce Moncur survived this incident, and is now making a slow recovery.  5% of hi…

UAV Myths.

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Let me start out by saying that I hate the term "drone".  Calling a UAV a drone implies that it is completely autonomous and acts without oversight or input.  Not so.  Most UAVs are also completely unarmed and quite far removed from Terminator-like killing machines.

A recent article at Cracked.com (of all places) separates some of the commonly believed fiction from fact.

Here it is.

Rise (and fall?) of the indigenous 5th gen fighters.

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You would think that talk of a JSF "death spiral" would encourage the Pentagon to cling on to every potential F-35 sale like a hungry dog with a turkey leg.  Recent events in Turkey would suggest otherwise, however.  A recent decision to purchase Chinese missile defense systems has the potential of getting Turkey kicked out of the JSF club.

Like Canada, Turkey is a "Level 3 Partner" in the JSF program.  Unlike Canada, however, Turkey is much more committed to the program, looking at ordering 100 (vs 65) airframes in total and possibly buying its first two within months.  The F-35 won't be Turkey's only fighter however, as it recently purchased some F-16s, not to mention plans on an indigenous fifth generation fighter design (with a little help from Saab).



Turkey isn't the only country working on its own "5th generation" stealth fighter, however.  South Korea believes it can build its own as well, known as the KAI KFX.  S. Korea's current …