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UK MoD Set to Order Its First Batch of F-35 Lightning II Combat Aircraft

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon today announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has reached agreement in principle on an order for the first production batch of four Lightning II stealth combat aircraft – which will operate from both the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers and RAF land bases.

A formal contract is expected to be placed within weeks for the F-35B aircraft, which form part of the MOD’s investment in Lightning II over the next five years to procure an initial 14 of these multi-role fifth generation aircraft, together with the necessary support arrangements and infrastructure.

Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said:

“Today’s announcement is a major step forward. The Lightning II will equip the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force with a highly advanced multi-role stealth combat aircraft, operating from both our new Queen Elizabeth class carriers and land bases.

“These aircraft will form part of the first UK-based squadron of F-35s, which will take up station at RAF Marham in 2018. This programme is also bringing substantial industrial benefits to the UK, providing thousands of skilled jobs in the UK aerospace industry.”

Bernard Gray, the MOD’s Chief of Defence Materiel, said:

“I am delighted that this agreement prepares the way for the first batch of operational combat aircraft. It ensures the MOD remains on target for achieving both operational capability from land bases and the start of flying trials aboard the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018.”

Air Commodore Mark Hopkins, Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for Lightning II, said:

“Lightning II will be a genuinely transformational aircraft when it enters service with the RAF and the Royal Navy. With highly advanced sensors, systems and weapons, this fifth generation stealth aircraft will offer a quantum leap in terms of capability and, alongside Typhoon, will offer the UK flexible and adept Air Power for the foreseeable future.

“As the first batch order for aircraft to form part of our first operational squadron, this marks a very significant milestone in this programme.”

It is anticipated that the contract will be finalised in the coming weeks, which will allow deliveries of the aircraft, within the contract, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, to commence from mid-2016.

The aircraft provide an important step on the path to rebuilding the UK’s carrier strike capability. They feature short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) and the latest stealth and intelligence surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology.

Background Information

  • The UK has already taken delivery of three F-35B jets to date, which are based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, US, and an order was placed for a fourth UK aircraft in September 2013 which will be delivered early in 2016. These are for test and evaluation. The UK’s first operational Squadron will transition to RAF Marham in Norfolk in 2018, which will become their Main Operating Base.
  • The agreement is part of a larger contract award which will be let by the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office (JPO), based in Washington DC, with Lockheed Martin, and will procure a total of 43 aircraft for the Programme across six nations.
  • Significant UK sub-contractors to the programme include BAE Systems, Cobham, GE Aviation, Honeywell, Martin Baker, MBDA, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Selex Galileo, Ultra Electronics & EDM Limited.

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Selex Wins Order for Gripen’s Raven AESA Radar

By on Thursday, July 17th, 2014

A multi-million contract has been awarded to Finmeccanica – Selex ES by defence and security company Saab to supply the Raven ES-05 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar for Saab’s Gripen Next Generation (NG) fighters.

A NATO-interoperable, multi-role fighter designed for the future network-centric warfare environment, Gripen NG will provide superior situation awareness thanks to a number of Selex ES products.

In addition to the Raven ES AESA radar, the company will also provide the Skyward-G IRST (Infrared Search & Track) passive sensor and IFF (Identification Friend-or-Foe) system, both of which will be contracted for in the next few months.

Selex ES’s participation in the Gripen NG program dates back to 2009, when an agreement was signed with Saab for the development of the Raven ES AESA radar. This was followed in 2010 by the selection of the Skyward-G IRST sensor and the IFF system.

A production-standard Raven AESA radar is now installed on Gripen demonstration aircraft, while flight tests with the Skyward G IRST have been underway since March, achieving excellent results and demonstrating the value of a passive sensor as an integral part of a weapons system. The IFF system will be delivered later in the year.

In a recent development, Selex ES’s new BriteCloud Expendable Active Decoy (EAD) has been chosen as an electronic warfare option for the Gripen NG and all other versions of the aircraft. Currently, the BriteCloud EAD is the only product of its type on the market and Saab will be the first partner to offer the new decoy, boosting the desirability of Gripen NG for new customers. Live BriteCloud trials on-board the platform are expected to take place by the end of 2014.

Currently, Gripen C/D versions are in service in Sweden, South Africa, Hungary, Czech Republic and Thailand. Gripen NG is in full scale development for Sweden and has been down-selected and in final negotiations for Brazil.

The capability and price of Gripen NG makes it a highly attractive proposition and there is growing interest world-wide. With retrofit opportunities on the Gripen C/D and new Gripen NG purchases, Finmeccanica – Selex ES expects to provide up to 200 sets of sensor equipment over the next 10 – 15 years.

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Australia to Order 58 More F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft

The Government has approved the acquisition of an additional 58 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

The fifth generation F-35 is the most advanced fighter in production anywhere in the world and will make a vital contribution to our national security.

Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020.

Australia has been working with the United States as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme since the Coalition joined in 2002. Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance.

The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including in regional areas and for the local defence industry with more jobs and production for many locally-based skilled and technical manufacturers.

The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.

Around $1.6 billion in new facilities and infrastructure will be constructed, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.

As a result of the Howard Government’s decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win well in excess of $1.5 billion in JSF-related production and support work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.

The F-35 will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. For over three decades, the Classic Hornet has been the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability. These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.

The new 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.

The Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.

The Government remains committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force.

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Mexican Navy Places Initial Order for Beechcraft T-6C+ Trainers

By on Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Beechcraft Corporation, part of the Textron Aviation segment of Textron Inc., announced today it has received an initial order from the Mexican Navy Secretaría de Marina (SEMAR) for two T-6C+ military trainers.

This purchase represents the first step in modernizing the Mexican Navy’s fixed-wing aviation fleet and follows a recent expansion of the Mexican Air Force training fleet to include 12 T-6C+ aircraft. The Navy trainers are scheduled for delivery in the summer of 2014.

In addition to the aircraft, Beechcraft’s Global Mission Support organization is working on a second contract with SEMAR that is expected to include two years of parts support, training for pilots and mechanics, and the placement of Field Service Representatives who will provide technical expertise and training to maintenance personnel.

“We are pleased to expand the reach of the T-6C+ to a second military fleet customer in Mexico with this initial order from the Mexican Navy,” said Russ Bartlett, senior vice president, Defense. “SEMAR not only recognizes the value of a proven, reliable airframe with the T-6C+ in standing up its new training capability, but this selection also acknowledges the significant benefits our Global Mission Support team offers in providing on-the-ground service, support and training for the fielded aircraft.”

The T-6C+ features a hard-point wing, Heads-Up Display, Up-Front Control Panel, an integrated glass cockpit and an advanced Esterline CMC Cockpit 4000 avionics suite that greatly expands advanced training opportunities. The systems are integrated with a Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS), providing the student pilot and instructor with a simpler interface to the digital cockpit.

The CMC Cockpit 4000 avionics suite is the first in its class to incorporate a fully integrated and FAA-certified dual FMS/GPS navigation suite that meets the required navigation performance standards for current worldwide airspace equipment. The open architecture design of the Cockpit 4000 provides the flexibility to expand capabilities and continuously meet current and future training needs.

In addition to accommodating instruction in instrument flight procedures and basic aerial maneuvers, the T-6 delivers world-class training capability that is appropriate for teaching the most basic introductory flight training tasks through the more challenging and complex advanced training missions that could previously be accomplished only in far more expensive jet aircraft. The T-6 has been used to train pilots, navigators, and weapons systems operators from more than 20 countries around the world. To date, Beechcraft has delivered more than 825 T-6 trainers, which have amassed more than 2.2 million flight hours.

Textron Aviation is the leading general aviation authority and home to the iconic Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker brands which account for more than half of all general aviation aircraft flying. Textron Aviation includes the businesses of Cessna Aircraft Company and Beechcraft Corporation.

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Airbus wants money for Germany’s scrapped Eurofighter order: report

By on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Airbus is demanding 900 million euros ($1.2 billion) in compensation from Germany for cancelling an order for a batch of 37 Eurofighter jets, according to a newspaper report Monday.

The amount had emerged in a closed-door parliamentary budget meeting last week in which the scrapped fighter-jet order was also reported to lawmakers, said the Handelsblatt business daily.

Industry sources however put the Airbus compensation demand at about 800 million euros, said the newspaper.

None of the details has been confirmed by the companies involved or the German defence ministry, but industry sources said last week the down-scaling had long been on the cards and was not unexpected.

The Eurofighter consortium, Europe’s largest defence program, is a joint project of the Airbus Group, BAE Systems and Italian defence group Finmeccanica. It is in fierce competition with other fighter-jet makers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Dassault Aviation.

National news agency DPA last week quoted unnamed government sources as saying the German defence ministry would reduce its total order for Eurofighter jets from 180 to 143.

The reduction had already been decided in late 2011 by the then defence minister Thomas de Maziere, the DPA report said.

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Germany cuts order for Eurofighter jets: report

Germany’s defence ministry is planning to reduce its order for Eurofighter jets from 180 to 143, according to media reports on Thursday.

National news agency DPA quoted “government sources” as saying that the ministry’s number two, Stephane Beemelmans, had informed parliament’s defence committee about the decision late Wednesday.

The reduction had already been decided in late 2011 by the then defence minister Thomas de Maziere, the report said.

Out of the total order, more than 100 jets worth around 14 billion euros ($19.2 billion) have already been delivered, it added.

The defence ministry and manufacturer Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH did not comment on the report.

Beemelmans was fired from his post as secretary of state Thursday over a series of procurement problems, including of a scandal-tainted drone project, by new Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Defence Committee chairman Hans-Peter Bartels meanwhile said Germany should further cut its Eurofighter fleet, according to business daily Handelsblatt.

“We should reduce the Euro Fighter fleet to 108 machines, that’s enough,” he said.

The Eurofighter consortium, Europe’s largest defence programme, is in fierce competition with other fighter-jet makers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Dassault Aviation.

Industry players and analysts voiced little surprise over the reduced German order of Eurofighters, a joint project of the Airbus Group, BAE Systems and Italian defence group Finmeccanica.

Ian King, CEO of BAE Systems, when asked about the issue during a conference of analysts, said: “It’s not something that worries us.”

Edward Hunt, senior consultant at IHS Defence, said that “the decision not to acquire the 37 aircraft is not unexpected” and “has been on the cards for a while”.

“Germany has been focussing on other air force and defence requirements over the last 10 years or so and does not appear to consider its fast jet fleet as much of a priority,” he said.

Hunt added that the 37 aircraft of the cancelled order, so-called Tranche 3Bs, “would have been the most advanced model yet and optimised for future higher-tempo air-to-air and strike operations”.

“It is worth noting, however, that none of the partner nations have definitely confirmed that they will receive the 3B models.”

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General Dynamics gets $10 billion Saudi arms order

The Canadian subsidiary of US arms maker General Dynamics has won a $10 billion order for armored vehicles for Saudi Arabia, Canada’s Trade Minister Ed Fast announced Friday.

The deal comes as Saudi Arabia is accumulating weapons at a rapid pace and amid growing tensions in the Middle East, and drew criticism from the Canadian opposition.

For a US company, albeit its Canadian arm, to sign such a deal could be a sign that close defense cooperation continues despite recent tensions between Washington and Riyadh.

US President Barack Obama is due to fly to Saudi Arabia next month to reassure America’s ally, which was angered by his outreach to Iran and perceived lack of leadership in Syria.

The vehicles will be produced by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS) in London, Ontario, and the deal could be worth up to $13 billion if all options are exercised.

The agreement also includes associated equipment, training and support services, the firm said.

Canada’s Fast said the 14-year “landmark contract” will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs in Canada, and boost more than 500 companies that supply parts and materials to General Dynamics.

“This is an Olympic win for Canada and for Canadian manufacturers,” rejoiced Jayson Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters industry association.

Fast said the Canadian subsidiary’s bid beat out competitors in France, Germany and other European countries.

But the Canadian opposition questioned the virtue of selling arms to a country with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, warning they could be used to oppress its own people.

“Is this just open-for-business for whomever wants to buy arms from us?” New Democratic Party MP Paul Dewar was quoted as saying by the daily Globe and Mail.

“I am concerned what these arms could be used for.”

In 2011, concerns were raised after Saudi Arabia sent troops in armored vehicles to help its ally Bahrain put down Shiite protests.

Similar protests erupted again Friday on the anniversary of the uprising.

Canada’s advanced manufacturing sector supports 1.7 million Canadians and posted combined revenues in 2012 of Can$164.6 billion, according to the most recent government figures.

Canadian trade with Saudi Arabia is relatively modest at Can$900 million last year, but Fast has sought to change that by embarking on two trade missions to Riyadh in the past two years.

– Bahrain protests –

Canada’s arms manufacturing sector is also considered small but Ottawa has vowed to beef up arms exports as part of its overall economic strategy.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile has emerged as one of the biggest buyers of Western military equipment, alongside its neighbor the United Arab Emirates over the past year.

The kingdom was already ranked as the world’s tenth largest weapons importer two years ago and is quickly moving into the top five, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms sales.

Its recent military procurements include American and British fighter jets, as well as various munitions and missiles produced by US firms Boeing and Raytheon.

Saudi Arabia has been annoyed at Washington over what it sees as the United States abandoning its leadership role in the Middle East.

Obama has been reluctant to arm the rebels fighting Saudi Arabia’s enemy Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and his allies see him as naive for for seeking a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States currently dominates worlds arms sales, which are estimated at more than $43 billion annually, followed by Russia, Germany, France and China.

India, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore are the top buyers, accounting for nearly one-third of all arms purchases.

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