The Royal Air Force on Thursday 29 September started one if its largest operations in recent history, deploying Eurofighter Typhoons to the Far East. Meanwhile, the Red Arrows embark on a world tour that takes the team and its twelve Hawk trainer jets to 15 different countries.
The operation is named Eastern Venture and marks the first time Typhoons deploy to countries such as Japan and South Korea. There, the jets take part in military exercises alongside the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) and Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).
Four Typhoons will fly to Japan with the support of Voyager tanker aircraft and a C-17 cargo aircraft. In Japan, the jets will operate from Misawa airbase in exercise Guardian North 16, that also sees Japanese F-2 and F-15 fighter aircraft participating.
Next, the Typhoons will head to South Korea, undoubtedly as a show of force to neighbouring North Korea. Osan Air Base will host the aircraft, as well as ROKAF F-15s and F-16s. US Air Force F-16s and A-10s are permanently based at Osan.
Meanwhile, the Red Arrows will visit India, China, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates amongst other countries, taking part in airshows and flying the UK flag.
Lockheed Martin announced that it will offer the T-50A in the United States Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training (APT) competition, on Thursday 11 February. The T-50A was developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to replace the T-38 and train the next generation of pilots to fly 5th Generation aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.
Lockheed Martin also announced that it has selected the company’s Greenville Operations facility in Greenville, South Carolina, as the preferred Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) site for the T-50A.
“The T-50A is production ready now. It is the only offering that meets all of the APT requirements and can deliver those capabilities on schedule,” said Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works). “We carefully studied a clean-sheet option for the APT competition and determined that it posed excessive risk to the APT cost and schedule requirements.”
The KAI T-50 has been ordered by several other air forces. The first Iraqi air force aircraft is now involved in test flights, and the first deliveries are scheduled for this year. Also Thailand ordered the T-50, as well as South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The South Korean KF-X program is in trouble because of a US ‘no’ over technology transfer concering several key elements of the design. The US move is a surprise for the Koreans after their ‘yes’ to the purchase of forty Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraf last year. Seoul has started a probe into the proceeding.
South Korea is willing to spend close to 15 billion USD on the indigenous KF-X fighter jet, a program that should result in a fighter aircraft that should serve alongside the F-35s ordered and F-15Ks already in service. A total of 120 aircraft is said to be on the cards for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).
With Washington’s refusal to hand over key technologies, it seems the program suffers a severe setback at an early stage. The goal was to have the KF-X ready to fly in 2025.
The Republic of Korea Air Force huge KF-16 upgrade deal is back on track. After having a quarrel with BAe Systems, the upgrade now landed – as expected – with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
The US Congress has already been informed by the US State Department of this new proposed Foreign Military Sale that will make 134 KF-16C/Ds better than ever before. The modifications include a new Modular Mission Computer, Active Electronically Scanned Array Radars (AESA), an AN/APX-125 or equivalent Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) System, an Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems, Upgraded Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) and AN/ALQ-213 EW Management Units.
Moreover the RoKAF is getting 3 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) II Group C Helmets, five GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), some weapon practice equipment, guidance units, spare parts, training and some other stuff for 2.5 billion dollar.
Work will primarily be done by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, and Northrop Grumman Corporation in Falls Church, Virginia. Negotiations are not entirely over, however, as Seoul is asking for US orders for its industry (offsets) in return.
The South Korean Ministry of Defence has given Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) a green light to go ahead with its development of the next-generation fighter jet for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF).
The KF-X – as the project is called – aims to provide the Asian nation with at least 120 new modern combat jets. Together with the F-35 they will have to replace the aging fleets of McDonnell Douglas F-4s and Northrop F-5s of the RoKAF, and they will eventually take over the essential role of Korea’s Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Starting in 2025 the KF-X is expected to slowly enter service. The initial budget for the development has been put on US$ 7.8 billion, with more than 8 billion dollars reserved for initial production.
To get the bid KAI teamed up with Lockheed Martin, with whom it has cooperated as well on the successful T-50 advanced training jet and F-50 light fighter/attack aircraft. The partners beat the Korean Air Lines/Airbus team.
What the KF-X will look like is still uncertain. There are several designs on the drawing board, including a version with canards near the cockpit and with both single and double engines. Lockheed Martin prefers a single engine concept, because it is cheaper to develop and easier to design.
The development of a KIA/Lockheed Martin aircraft takes place next to the planned introduction of 40 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft into RoKAF service, with the first of these stealthy combat jets planned to arrive in 2018 or 2019. The deal was announced in September, after Seoul ditched the earlier selection of 60 newly developed Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagles. A public revolt of former Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) generals pushed the Seoul government in the direction of the Lightning.