The updated MiG-35 multirole fighter for the Russian Air Force made its public debut in January, with manufacturer MiG unveiling an aircraft that differs in detail from the MiG-35 first shown in 2007. The aircraft is an upgraded MiG-29 with enlarged wing and tail, additional underwing weapon stations and improved radar, infrared sensor and electronic warfare system.
Turkey’s Stealthy TF-X
Turkish Aerospace Industries
BAE Systems in January signed an agreement to assist Turkish Aerospace Industries in development of the indigenous TF-X fighter, paving the way for a contract worth more than £123 million ($165 million) to the UK company. The agreement was ratified in May and a TFX prototype is planned to fly by 2023. A choice of powerplant for the twin-engine fighter is planned early in 2018.
Republic of China Air Force
Taiwan is to develop an advanced trainer, the XT-5, based on the AIDC F-CK-1 indigenous fighter (pictured). A contract was awarded in February to the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology. A prototype is expected to fly in 2020, and 66 aircraft are slated to be procured to replace Taiwan’s AT-3s and F-5s by 2026.
Antonov’s modernized An-132D light transport made a 1-hr. 50-min. first flight from Kiev, Ukraine, on March 31, powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A turboprops. The aircraft is being developed jointly with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and Taqnia Aeronautics, which plans to build it locally.
France and Germany in July announced high-level plans to collaborate on development of a new combat aircraft as part of a strengthened defense agreement between the countries. They also signed a letter of intent to develop a maritime patrol aircraft. Airbus later unveiled a future airpower concept that combines a low-observable manned fighter with small unmanned combat aircraft.
Saab’s JAS 39E Gripen E fighter made its first flight on June 15. The prototype, coded 39-8, made a 40-min. flight from the company’s development facility at Linkoping, Sweden. The Gripen E has a more powerful General Electric F414G engine, increased maximum takeoff weight and internal fuel capacity, extra hardpoints, new avionics and a Leonardo Raven ES-05 active, electronically scanned array radar.
Light Attack Experiment
U.S. Defense Department
Four aircraft underwent assessment by the U.S. Air Force beginning Aug. 9 under its OA-X light attack experiment: The Sierra Nevada Corp./Embraer A-29 Super Tucano (pictured) and Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, as well as the L3 Technologies/Air Tractor AT-802L Longsword and Textron’s twin-jet Scorpion. The follow-on Combat Dragon III operation demonstration will involve the A-29 and AT-6.
Scaled Composites flew its latest experimental aircraft, the Model 401, on Oct. 11 for an unidentified “proprietary customer,” to demonstrate low-cost manufacturing techniques. Scaled has built two of the Mach 0.6 aircraft, which is powered by a 3,045-lb.-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-15D.
The Russian Aerospace Forces in October announced it will replace its Czech-made Aero Vodochody L-39 jet trainers with a new aircraft, the SR-10 from small design bureau KB SAT. The light jet with forward-swept wings will serve as the service’s new initial trainer. First deliveries are planned for 2018.
United Aircraft Corp.
United Aircraft Corp.
Russia’s Beriev A-100 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft made its first flight from Taganrog on Nov. 18. The A-100 is based on an Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A airlifter, with an active, electronically scanned array radar developed by Vega Corp. in the rotodome. The aircraft is to begin replacing the A-50 and A-50U in 2020.
United Aircraft Corp.
United Aircraft Corp. rolled out the first modernized Ilyushin Il-78M-90A tanker for the Russian Air Force at the Aviastar SP plant in Ulyanovsk at the end of November. Powered by Aviadvigitel PS-90A-76 turbofans, the four-engine tanker is based on the modernized Il-76MD-90A military airlifter.
Britain’s F-35 Carrier
The first of two new UK Royal Navy aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was formally commissioned into service on Dec. 7. Built by the Babcock/BAE Systems/Thales Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the 65,000-ton ship was launched in July 2017. The Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is scheduled to embark on the ski-jump-equipped carrier for first-of-class flight trials toward the end of 2018.
An eventful year for military aircraft programs, 2017 saw the launch of Turkish fighter and Taiwanese advanced trainer programs, Franco-German cooperation and the continued modernization of the Russian Air Force. We review the year’s milestones.
Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.