S. Korea Opts for KF-X Twin-Engine Fighter Development

20 Juli 2014

The Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the decision to take the C-103 twin-engine platform over the single-engine one, putting an end to a long-drawn-out heated debate, according to the ministry. (photo : pgtyman, kodef)

SEOUL — The South Korean military has chosen to equip its future fighter jet with two engines instead of one amid lingering worries over the economic and technical merits of the twin-engine aircraft development.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) held a top decision-making council Friday to make a choice about the number of engines for the KF-X jet, which is to be developed indigenously with technical assistance from a foreign partner.

South Korea aims to produce 120 or more KF-X aircraft after 2025 to replace the Air Force’s aging F-4s and F-5s, most of which will be decommissioned before the mid-2020s. The KF-X could be on par with an advanced F-16 jet armed with high-end avionics systems.

“The JCS formed a task force to review the costs, requirements and development schedules for the KF-X over the eight months,” JCS spokesman Eom Hyo-sik said. “As a result, the task force reached a decision that a twin-engine aircraft is a right choice as it meets future operational needs and can help catch up with neighboring countries’ aircraft development trends.”

Given the potential development period for a twin-engine jet, the spokesman said, the KF-X jet’s initial operating capability is to be scheduled for 2025, a two-year delay from the original goal.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is set to launch a bid for the engine contract as early as next month. Candidates would include the GE F414 and Eurojet EJ200, according to DAPA officials.

The JCS’ decision on the twin-engine platform comes amid heated debate over the feasibility of the KF-X jet development. The state-funded Korea Institute for Defense Analysis (KIDA) vehemently opposed the twin-engine design, citing high costs and technical challenges.

The KIDA assessed the KF-X development would cost about 9.6 trillion won (US $93 billion), but it expects the cost would be doubled if the jet is a twin-engine design.

The institute also claims an F-16 class jet with double engines doesn’t have a competitive edge in the export market dominated by US and European fighter aircraft.

“A new fighter aircraft is a massive endeavor at the best of times, and wildly unrealistic technical expectations do not help the project,” Lee Ju-hyung, a senior researcher at the KIDA said.

Kim Dae-young, a member of the Korea Defense and Security Forum, a Seoul-based private think tank, was worried if potential cost overruns would eventually hinder the development of indigenous avionics systems.

“Under the original KF-X plan, [active electronically scanned array] radars and other avionics shall be developed locally, but if development costs increase, those systems are likely to be adopted from foreign defense companies inevitably,” Kim said.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) also preferred a single-engine type on the basis of its T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet co-developed by Lockheed Martin. In recent years, KAI successfully fielded T-50’s lightweight fighter version, the FA-50, which were exported to Indonesia and the Philippines.

During an air and defense fair in October, KAI displayed a conceptual design with a 29,000-pound engine.

“A single-engine concept is in pursuance of both affordability and combat performance based on the advanced FA-50 technologies,” a KAI official said.

On the other hand, the Air Force, backed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development (ADD), brushed off concerns over costs overruns and technical difficulties.

“The KF-X is a 4.5-generation fighter that can carry weapons of 20,000 pounds or more,” an Air Force spokesman said. “Indonesia, a partner of the KF-X project, is supposed to buy a bunch of jets, and when mass production starts, the costs will go down.”

The spokesman added that a twin-engine aircraft larger than the KF-16 will provide more room for future upgrades and will help cope with growing air powers in the neighborhood — China and Japan — which are accelerating air force modernization.

Lee Dae-yeol, head of ADD’s KF-X project team, argues that a fighter with a new concept has better economic feasibility in terms of total life-cycle costs.

“The ADD has secured about 90 percent of independent technologies for the KF-X,” Lee noted. “Of the 432 technologies needed, the agency is only short of 48 items, such as engines and some avionics systems.”

The ADD hopes that it will be able to get those lacking technologies in offsets from Lockheed Martin, the successful bidder for South Korea’s F-X III fighter jet development program, and other foreign companies.

The ADD envisions that a KF-X Block 2 would have internal weapons bay, and Block 3 would feature stealth improvements to the level of the B-2 bomber or F-35 joint strike fighter.

Indonesia is the only KF-X partner at the moment. Indonesia is to bear 20 percent of the projected development costs, while the Korean government will take 60 percent. The funding for the remaining 20 percent remains unclear, as KAI is expected to bear part of the money.


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F-35s Return to Limited Flight Operations

The 26 Air Force F-35s Lightning II joint strike fighters assigned here returned to limited flight operations July 17 with the approval of commanders and Air Force airworthiness authorities.

The decision to return to flight was coordinated between the F-35 Joint Program Office, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Materiel Command to ensure accurate return to flight instructions were delivered to Airmen.

“This is the same process the Air Force uses after any suspension of operations,” said Col. Carl Schaefer, Air Force Joint Strike Fighter Integration Chief. “Safety remains our top priority as the F-35 resumes development and training flights.”

The Navy and Marine Corps variants here also returned to limited flight operations July 17 with the approval of Navy airworthiness authorities.

The return has a limited flight clearance that includes an engine inspection regimen and restricted flight rules according to defense officials. While the safety investigation is not yet complete, recently completed inspections indicate that the aircraft can resume flight under the prescribed flight limitations. The limits will remain in place while the safety investigation continues its analysis to determine root cause.

Under the rules of the flight resumption, the F-35s are limited to a maximum speed of Mach 0.9 and 18 degrees of angle of attack. They can go from minus 1 G to 3 Gs, defense official said. After three hours of flight time, the front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.

“In terms of our current training syllabus, we don’t anticipate these flight limitations will slow down our training,” said Navy Capt. Paul Haas, 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander.

Despite the grounding, Air Force, Marine and Navy F-35 maintainers and pilots remained busy completing academic and flight simulator training and conducting additional inspections on the aircraft.

“I definitely wouldn’t call this ‘down time’ here,” said Haas. “There is always more work for our team to do with this program. It’s always moving forward, and this experience drives that point home. There were a lot of valuable lessons learned by our community during this incident, both locally and at the higher F-35 program level.”

While the F-35s have returned to limited flight, it will not be appearing at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference July 15.

“While we’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to participate in the airshow,” he added, “we remain fully committed to the program itself and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and to partners.”

The F-35 fleet was grounded July 3 in the wake of a June 23 engine fire on the runway at Eglin . No one was injured during the incident.

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Eurofighter and NETMA Sign Storm Shadow Integration Contract

FARNBOROUGH, UK: Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH today (July 17th) confirmed that NETMA, the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency, has placed an order with it to integrate the Storm Shadow long range attack missile onto the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Representatives from NETMA, Eurofighter, and the four core nations of the Eurofighter Program (the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Germany) convened for the Contract Signing Ceremony in the Eurofighter Pavilion at the Farnborough Air Show on Thursday.

Under the terms of what is known as a ‘Contract 4’ order from NETMA, Eurofighter will work with the three Eurofighter Partner Companies (BAE Systems, Airbus Space & Defence, and Alenia Aermacchi) and their supply base – including MBDA, the makers of the Storm Shadow missile – to integrate the weapon on the aircraft. The Contract will form part of what is known as the P2E enhancement package. Flight trials with Storm Shadow on Typhoon have been progressing since late 2013 and, working with Eurofighter operators, we expect to deliver an operational capability in line with their requirements.

Storm Shadow is a long range, all-weather, high precision, stand-off weapon already in service on Royal Air Force Tornados. It has been proven in operations to great effect in Iraq and Libya neutralizing hardened command bunkers and other high value targets. The stealthy weapon design allows it to penetrate layered air defences whilst the long range of Storm Shadow allows it to be launched outside those defences increasing the launch aircraft survivability.

In the deep attack role Eurofighter Typhoon will carry two Storm Shadow missiles whilst maintaining the ability to carry 8 air-air missiles. This will enable Eurofighter Typhoon to fight its way in and out of the combat area.

Graham Farnell, General Manager of NETMA said: “We are delighted to be able to place this Contract with Eurofighter and we look forward to still further enhancements as the Program progresses.”

Alberto Gutierrez, Chief Executive Officer of Eurofighter, said: “This is yet further evidence of a solid roll-out of capability from Eurofighter and also demonstrates the value of forward investment by industry to ensure a progressive and pro-active approach to weapons systems enhancement.”

Background information:
Eurofighter Typhoon is the most advanced new generation multi-role/swing-role combat aircraft currently available on the world market. Seven nations (Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman) have already ordered the Eurofighter Typhoon. Eurofighter Typhoon is currently the largest military procurement program in Europe.

Its high technology strengthens the position of European aerospace industry in the international market. The program secures more than 100,000 jobs in 400 companies. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH manages the program on behalf of the Eurofighter Partner Companies Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems and Airbus Defence and Space in Germany and Spain, which are the most important aviation and aerospace companies in Europe.

Since delivery of the first Eurofighter Typhoon to the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom end of 2003, a total of 412 aircraft have been delivered to six nations. The 100th Eurofighter was delivered to the Royal Air Force in September 2006. The 200th aircraft was handed over in November 2009 to the German Air Force. The 300th aircraft was delivered to the Spanish Air Force in November 2011 and the German Air Force received the 400th Eurofighter in December 2013.

In the past 10 years the Eurofighter fleet has demonstrated its high operational effectiveness in international missions and training exercises and has accumulated more than 250,000 flying hours.

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NUSQN 725 Successfully Launches First Mk 54 Torpedo

In only seven months of operating the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Maritime Combat Helicopter, NUSQN 725 has achieved successful Mk 54 torpedo firings during the current deployment to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre (AUTEC).

In a Royal Australian Navy first, a total of three Mk 54 torpedoes were employed against dynamic targets provided by United States Navy staff at the AUTEC range.

NUSQN 725 aircrews were required to utilize all available MH-60R sensors to localize, track, and correctly classify these targets prior to being given approval for the weapon release.

For the participating crews it was the culmination of an intense anti-submarine warfare training period covering all areas of MH-60R tactical operations with detailed lectures and challenging simulator events preparing the crews well for the exercise.

Lieutenant Steve McConville from Gauntlet 03 crew said being the first Royal Australian Navy MH-60R to employ the Mk54 was a fantastic opportunity.

“This is a significant event for the Royal Australian Navy and Fleet Air Arm. As the aircraft captain it was a privilege to be involved in the first launch.”

Maintenance staff involved in the event also gained significant experience from the weapon loading evolutions. Working alongside their United States Navy counterparts provided them with valuable exposure as to how the aircraft interfaces with a range of weapons.

As a maintenance watch supervisor Chief Petty Officer Roderick Stuart had the responsibility of ensuring aircraft were correctly loaded and configured.

“The weapons events were a significant achievement for the squadron maintenance teams.”

“The benefits gained from the deployment to AUTEC will definitely lay solid foundations to continue these events on return to Australia.”

The weapons employment sorties were monitored and evaluated by United States Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Atlantic Weapons School instructors with detailed debriefing and feedback provided to all crews. The United States Navy instructional staff were extremely impressed with the skills displayed by the Australian crews, and assessed all events as successful.

The Mk 54 torpedo is being introduced to the Royal Australian Navy for the MH-60R and P-8A. It provides significant capability improvements over the Mk 46 currently in use with the S-70B and AP-3C aircraft. Defence also has in service the MU90 torpedo which is also considered to be a superior Anti-Submarine Warfare weapon.

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Eurofighter Typhoon Jets to Get Long Range Strike Capability

By on Monday, July 21st, 2014

Storm Shadow missiles are to be fitted to RAF Typhoon fast jets following a £120 million agreement signed today.

Storm Shadow, which provides long-range air to surface capabilities, is 1 of the most advanced missiles of its kind. It is capable of defeating various targets including bridges, airfields, harbours and parked aircraft.

The missiles, produced by MBDA, have previously been deployed on Tornado GR4 aircraft during operations over Iraq and Libya. These will now be fitted onto Typhoon Tranche 2 and 3 aircraft ready to enter service with the RAF in 2018.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology Philip Dunne said:

“Storm Shadow has a deserved reputation for accuracy and reliability. The integration of Storm Shadow onto RAF Typhoons is another powerful sign of our commitment to the continued capability development of this world class aircraft.

“The ability to prosecute stand-off targeting while maintaining control of the airspace will provide Typhoon with unique battle winning capability.”

The agreement, signed at the Farnborough International Air Show today, 17 July, was signed between the NATO Eurofighter Tornado Management Agency, on behalf of the partner nations, and Eurofighter GmbH.

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F-15E Takes First Flight with New Radar System

The first 389th Fighter Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle received a Radar Modernization Program, or RMP, upgrade here in June.

The inaugural flight with the new radar system was flown by Capt. Matthew Riley, a 389th Fighter Squadron pilot, and Maj. Jacob Lindaman, a 389th FS weapon systems officer.

“The new radar system does everything faster, is extremely precise and requires less maintenance,” Riley said. “It can designate air-to-air and air-to-ground simultaneously, allowing us to track enemy aircraft and identify ground targets at the same time.”

According to the Air Force’s first RMP report, the new radar system is designed to retain functionality of the old legacy radar system while providing expanded mission employment capabilities to include:

  • Near simultaneous interleaving of selected air-to-air and air-to-ground functions
  • Enhanced air-to-air and air-to-ground classified combat identification capabilities
  • Longer range air-to-air target detection and enhanced track capabilities
  • Longer range and higher resolution air-to-ground radar mapping
  • Improved ground moving target track capability

“In order to maintain our combat edge in today’s challenging environment, Air Combat Command must balance resources between refurbishing our existing fleet and investing in future weapon systems,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, the commander of ACC.

The RMP replaces the F-15E’s more than 20-year-old legacy APG-70 mechanically scanned radar with an active electronically-scanned array, or AESA, system designated as the APG-82(V)1.

“The old radar system is hydraulic, has moving parts and requires three maintainers to perform repairs after every 30 flight hours,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Schildgen, a 366th Fighter Wing avionics manager. “The new radar system is a beam scan, doesn’t have any moving parts and is projected to only require one maintainer to perform repairs after more than 2,000 flight hours.”

The modification process is managed by Boeing representatives and takes two to three months to complete for each aircraft. The tentative plan is to complete RMP for 47 aircraft from the 389th FS and 391st Fighter Squadron by 2017.

So far, the F-15E fighter aircraft has flown more than 11 hours with the new radar.

“This radar was made exclusively for the strike eagle and should outlast the jets,” Riley said.

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India clears defense procurement worth $3.5 bn: report

India’s new Hindu nationalist government cleared Saturday proposals worth nearly $3.5 billion to modernize the nation’s aging Soviet-era military hardware and boost its domestic defense industry, a report said.

The move underscored the desire of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to move quickly to update the country’s military as India looks to defend itself against an increasingly assertive China and from rival Pakistan.

The government earlier this month announced a 12 percent rise in military spending in the annual budget as part of efforts to overhaul its armed forces, declaring “there can be no compromise” with defense.

The Defence Acquisition Council on Saturday approved defense procurement proposals worth 210 billion rupees ($3.48 billion), many of which were longstanding, at a meeting chaired by Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, the Press Trust of India said.

“There are many proposals in the pipeline for the defense forces,” Jaitley said at the first council’s first meeting since the Bharatiya Janata Party government took office in May after scoring a landslide election victory.

“Today, we have tried to expedite quite a few of them,” Jaitley, who is also the finance minister, was quoted by the PTI as saying.

Defence ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

India is one of the world’s biggest arms importers, traditionally relying on Russia and in more recent years the United States for equipment and technology due to weaknesses with its own industry.

But slow procurement over decades and the collapse of a string of defence deals during the previous center-left Congress party government’s rule has left the military short of key equipment.

The BJP has been pushing for greater indigenization of the military industry as India imports around 70 percent of its defence hardware.

Among the major proposals to receive approval was a 90-billion-rupee tender to provide five fleet support ships for the navy that would be open to all public and private sector shipyards, PTI said citing defence ministry officials.

In his first budget, Jaitley hiked defence spending for the current financial year to 2.29 trillion rupees ($38.3 billion). He also said he would further open up the military industry to foreign investment, lifting the cap to 49 percent from 26 percent, with Indian companies retaining overall control.

But defence analysts said the new limit would fail to lure foreign firms because it was less than 50 percent and they feared losing rights to sensitive technology.

Western nations are wooing India’s government in hopes of clinching multi-billion arms deals while New Delhi is keen to leverage their eagerness to do business to win technology transfers.

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