Editors' Briefing: The Fortnight In Aerospace And Defense
Saudi Arabia has opened a second front in the war on Islamic extremism, taking on Yemen’s Houthi faction with a hastily-assembled but formidable coalition of Arab nations. Gulf Cooperation Council nations, with the exception of Oman, have deployed aircraft in support of Operation Decisive Storm, along with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. Pakistan is considering a request to join the coalition.
South Korea has chosen Korea Aerospace Industries as preferred bidder for the KF-X indigenous fighter, rejecting a late offer from Korean Air Lines with backing from Airbus. But the European company may yet at least partly replace Lockheed Martin as provider of foreign technical support for the program to avoid a U.S. veto over foreign sales and integration of non-U.S. weapons.
Raytheon did not bid for the U.S. Army’s Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) program, leaving Lockheed Martin as the only competitor. The decision is not a surprise, as JAGM has been scaled back to a new dual-mode guidance section for the AGM-114R Hellfire missile already produced by Lockheed.
Annual “unfunded requirements” wish lists sent by service chiefs to Congress for fiscal 2016 include 12 Boeing F/A-18E/Fs for the U.S. Navy, plus eight more Lockheed Martin F-35Cs. Congress added 15 electronic-attack EA-18Gs in 2015, keeping Boeing’s Super Hornet line open another year.
India is to equip two Airbus A330s with an indigenously developed airborne early warning and control system, with eventual plans for six aircraft budgeted at 5 billion rupees ($840 million). Boeing did not bid. Airbus will design and certify a 10-meter dia. radome to house the electronically scanned radar. A-50EI credit: Indian Air Force
France, Germany and Italy are to cooperate on development of a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft to be operational in 2025. The agreement, reached during a meeting of French and German ministers in Berlin on March 31, follows a joint proposal for the so-called MALE 2020 submitted by Airbus, Alenia Aermacchi and Dassault Aviation in the spring of 2014. Credit: Airbus Defense & Space
The U.S. Air Force will decide shortly how to meet an urgent request to equip, within 18 months. Air National Guard Lockheed Martin F-16s assigned for homeland defense with active electronically scanned array radars able to counter small radar cross-section targets such as cruise missiles.
A sustained-maneuver requirement of up to 7.5g likely forced General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman to abandon existing European designs for the T-X trainer competition, but is needed to train pilots for the 9g-capable F-22 and F-35, says the U.S. Air Force. GD has withdrawn as prime contractor for the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 bid. Northrop earlier dropped the BAE Systems Hawk.
International courier service TNT Express has agreed to a takeover by rival FedEx valued at €4.4 billion ($4.8 billion). The deal, announced on April 7, comes just over two years after an attempt by UPS to buy Netherlands-based TNT collapsed. But the deal means that TNT’s airline operations – TNT Airways - will have to be divested to comply with European airline ownership regulations.
Analysis of historical aircraft-storage data suggests 800 of the around 2,050 aircraft parked as of mid-March will fly again, while a sustained period of low fuel prices could see 150-200 aircraft a year stay in service instead of heading for the desert, says lessor Avolon.
The next five years of deliveries by Airbus and Boeing will be placed largely as expected because they represent a healthy mix of growth and replacement aircraft, says an analysis by CRT Capital. An analysis of their record backlogs suggests the manufacturers “can successfully manage delivery positions of troubled carriers by swapping slots with their more prosperous peers”.
Air Canada opposes improvements to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to allow Porter Airlines to fly Bombardier CSeries airliners from the downtown facility. Engineering consultants hired by PortsToronto estimate the proposed project, which includes lengthening the runway, could not be completed until 2019. Porter wants the changes so it can start flying 12 CS100s on order by early 2017.
A U.S. federal court has dismissed or ruled against three lawsuits brought by Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association that sought to limit loan guarantees made by the Export-Import Bank for foreign airlines’ purchases of U.S.-manufactured aircraft.
Pratt & Whitney is assembling the first geared turbofans for the Embraer E-Jet E2 and Irkut MS-21 airliners. The PW1900G for the E190-E2 is based on the PW1500G powering Bombardier’s CSeries. The PW1400G for the MS-21 is derived directly from the Airbus A320neo’s PW1100G. Both variants will begin tests later this year, with the E-Jet E2 and MS-21 to fly in 2016.
Facebook has flown a prototype of the solar-powered stratospheric unmanned aircraft it is developing to provide Internet infrastructure in remote parts of the world. The Aquila subscale prototype is being flown in the UK. The operational UAV will have a wingspan greater than a 737, and be able to stay aloft at altitudes of more than 60,000 ft. for months at a time, says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Arianespace orbited a second pair of operational Galileo navigation satellites for the European Commission on March 27, on a Russian Soyuz from Kourou, French Guiana. The mission follows the botched Soyuz launch in August, which injected the first two spacecraft into a lower-than-intended orbit after an upper-stage design fault. The satellites have since been repositioned successfully.
Russian has begun tests of its Ka-52K naval attack helicopter despite uncertainty over delivery of French-built Mistral helicopter carriers from which they are intended to operate. Visiting Russian Helicopters Progress Arseniev plant, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov reconfirmed plans to order 32 Ka-52Ks. Credit: Russian Helicopters
A consortium of oil and gas companies has committed £60 million ($88 million) to providing helicopter search and-rescue for offshore platforms in the North Sea. The five-year deal sees a pair of Bond Offshore Helicopters Airbus AS332L2 Super Pumas relocate from BP’s now-decommissioned Miller platform to Aberdeen’s Dyce airport, filling in a gap in the new government-run civilian SAR service.
Marat Tishchenko, chief designer of the Mil design bureau from 1970 to 1991, on March 13 after a long illness. He was 84. Tishchenko joined Mil in 1956 as an aerodynamicist, and took over as chief designer when founder Mikhail Mil died in 1970. He led development of the Mi-26, still the world’s largest operational helicopter, and later of the Mi-28 attack and Mi-34 civil helicopters. Credit: Станислав Збарасский
34 Years Ago in AW&ST
The space shuttle era opened with the launch of the orbiter Columbia from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 12, 1981. Commanded by astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen, the shuttle completed a 36-orbit, 54.5-hr. mission, landing on April 14 at Edwards AFB, California. Columbia was on its 28th mission when it disintegrated during reentry on Feb. 1, 2003, killing a crew of seven.
Read our original coverage of Columbia’s 1981 launch and other momentous events at: AviationWeek.com/100