Five years later than planned, billions of dollars over budget and despite multiple attempts to kill it, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is finally beginning its operational use with the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines — the first service among 12 nations to buy the stealthy fighter — declared initial operational capability (IOC) for the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35B on July 31.
First deliveries of Embraer’s KC-390 tanker/transport to the Brazilian air force have been delayed to first half 2018, from late 2016, by cuts in defense spending. The first prototype, which flew once in February, will resume flight tests in the third quarter and Embraer now expects certification in the second half of 2017.
Brazilian and Swedish governments have agreed financing terms for the acquisition of an initial 36 Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen NG fighters. Brazil will have an eight-year grace period, then pay over 25 years at an interest rate of 2.19%. Embraer will produce 15 of the aircraft and co-develop the two-seat JAS 39F. Deliveries are to begin in 2019.
U.S. Air Force
A laser-armed Block 60 version of the Lockheed Martin AC-130J gunship could be operational by 2020, says U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. Some Block 60s could carry a high-energy laser, while others could carry a longer-range version of the Active Denial millimeter-wave “pain ray”.
Alenia Aermacchi has completed flight tests of drag-reducing winglets on the C-27J tactical transport. Benefits include improved hot-and-high runway performance, increased payload, range and endurance and an overall reduction in operating costs. The competing Airbus C295 is now available with winglets.
A Greek Lockheed Martin F-16D that crashed in Spain on Jan 26, killing the two pilots and nine French airmen on the ground, was incorrectly trimmed as it took off, say French investigators. The aircraft yawed heavily to the right, crashing into a crowded ramp at Albacete air base, triggering a fireball.
Royal Australian Air Force electronic-attack Boeing EA-18G Growlers will carry the Raytheon ATFLIR pod to validate targets and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles for self-defense, additions the U.S. Navy is now looking at. The first of 12 Australian Growlers rolled out on July 30, for delivery in 2017 after testing in the U.S.
Evidence is strengthening that a section of airfoil found washed ashore on La Reunion Island on July 29 is the right wing flaperon from a Boeing 777, presumably Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014. Barnacles indicate the debris has been floating some time, and Indian Ocean currents suggest the part could have drifted from the arc west of Australian where the search for MH370 is focused. For updates on this story, visit: http://aviationweek.com/MH370
Airbus says it will deliver the first A320neo to launch customer Qatar Airways before year-end after resuming flight testing of the initial Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered variant on July 27 following a three-month grounding after discovery of a snap-ring failure in the combustor section.
Delta Air Lines plans to acquire a 3.55% of China Eastern Airlines for $450 million, strengthening the SkyTeam alliance's position in China’s growing business-travel market. Delta has small stakes in AeroMexico, Brazil’s GOL and owns 49% of the U.K.’s Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Czech manufacturer Aircraft Industries completed the first flight of the prototype upgraded L410NG commuter airliner on July 15 at Kunovice. With more-powerful General Electric H85 turboprops, increased fuel capacity and payload, glass-cockpit avionics and upgraded cabin, the 19-seat L410NG is planned for delivery beginning in 2017.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan has drop-tested a low sonic-boom supersonic aircraft in a repeat of an earlier test that ended in deliberate destruction of the model after it veered off course. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says the “supersonic experimental airplane successfully flew over the boom measurement system” in the D-Send 2 test on Jul 24 at the Esrange Space Center in Sweden.
U.K engineering company GKN is to grow its work on Airbus and Boeing commercial programs with the acquisition of the Netherlands’ Fokker Technologies. The €706 million ($779 million) deal includes defense work on the Lockheed Martin F-35 and Fokker’s 5.5% share in the NHIndustries consortium building the NH90 military helicopter.
Belgian chemical company Solvay will become the second largest supplier of aerospace composites under its planned $5.5 billion cash acquisition of U.S.-based Cytec Industries. Composite materials, primary for aircraft structures, account for two thirds of Cytec’s $2 billion in annual sales.
Entry into service of Bombardier’s Global 7000 large-cabin, long-range business jet has been delayed to second half 2018, from 2016, the Canadian manufacturer citing development challenges. The first flight test aircraft is in assembly at Toronto. No date is given for Global 8000 service entry, which was planned for 2017.
Airbus Defence and Space
Airbus Defence and Space is to lead development of the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons (Juice) spacecraft under a €350.8 million ($388 million) contract. To be launched in 2022, Juice will conduct the first thorough exploration of Jupiter's moons since NASA's Galileo mission launched in 1989.
The co-pilot’s earlier-than-planned unlocking of the feathering tail mechanism on SpaceShipTwo was the probable cause of the sub-orbital vehicle’s fatal crash on Oct 31, 2014, concludes the National Transportation Safety Board. Investigators also criticized developer Scale Composites’ aircrew procedures. Virgin Galactic has added an automatic inhibit to the unlock system on the second SS2 and will use its own test pilots to fly the vehicle.
This week's top aerospace and defense news you need to know.
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.