Tag Archives: US Air Force

Trump’s focus on F-35 costs may serve US well

Donald Trump’s latest tweet on the F-35 will cause Lockheed Martin executives to have a not-so-merry Christmas, while the opposite will be true in the Boeing board room. After meeting top executives from both companies and being briefed on the F-35 this week, Trump on Thursday said he has asked Boeing to ‘price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet’.

Lockheed Martin’s stock immediately went down again, mirroring the effect of Trump’s earlier tweet about the F-35. However, the president-elect criticism  probably is not pointed at the F-35 itself, but at the program’s costs. Trump has made it very clear now that he will not accept such overruns after he moves into the White House in January. At the same time, Donald Trump seems to be preparing for an arms race, even stating this week that the US should expand its nuclear capabilities.

Being the businessman that he is, Trump obviously wants to keep the costs of such an arms race down. He probably realizes that his country is at a disadvantage compared to Russia and China, who are able to produce weaponry against far lower costs. China for example is developing new stealthy jets at an impressive and alarming rate. In Russia, a single new Sukhoi T-50 is many millions and millions of dollars cheaper than a single new F-35. This is indeed worrying for Trump. The signs of an arms race are already there and not to be ignored.

When it comes to the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet as an alternative for the Lockheed Martin F-35 – that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It will definitely not be as stealthy and not as capable in the domain of  gathering and spreading data. Also, the F-35 is getting closer to being fully combat ready every day.

But Trump most likely is not interested in ditching the F-35 in favour of a cheaper Super Hornet. He is interested in costs, and that may serve the US well in the end.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A US Air Force F-35A, seen at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Boeing and Saab’s T-X airborne

Boeing and partner Saab on Tuesday 20 December completed the first flight of the all-new T-X aircraft,. Bot companies earlier joined efforts in an attempt to win the US Air Force’s TX competition, which is aimed at replacing hundreds of ageing T-38 Talon trainers.

During the 55-minute flight, lead T-X Test Pilot Steven Schmidt and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger, who was in the seat behind Schmidt, validated key aspects of the single-engine jet and demonstrated the performance of the design.


“I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly,” Schmidt said. “The aircraft met all expectations. It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”

“It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission,” Draeger added. “I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training.”

Both pilots trained for the flight using the complete Boeing T-X system, which includes ground-based training and simulation.

Boeing and Saab revealed their first two T-X aircraft in September. The second is currently in ground testing and expected to fly in early 2017.According to Boeing, with one engine, twin tails, stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training, their T-X is more affordable and flexible than older, existing aircraft.

Why Boeing plays its cards right with the T-X

Boeing this week gave itself a handful of exactly the right cards when it comes to the winning the T-X competition that is aimed at replacing hundreds of ageing US Air Force T-38 training jets over the next decade. Their solution is the twin-tailed, single-engined and apparently cleverly designed Boeing T-X, developed in partnership with Swedish Saab. The new jet may very well come out victorious.

It’s not often these days that a major aircraft manufacturer unveils a jet that was 100 percent designed from scratch. All eyes were therefore set on Boeing as the company revealed its T-X on Tuesday 13 September. Prior to that, only an artist’s impression and a few sneak peeks of the aircraftwere revealed. Boeing is producing two aircraft at first, which are registered as BT-X in the Federal Aviation Authority register.

Stealing looks
The result positively surprised many; a futuristic looking jet that however also steals some looks from the legendary F-104 Starfighter, especially when it comes to the front section. The rear more resembles modern fighter such as the F-15, F-22 and F-35. As a whole, it even looks remarkably similar to the new-ish AirLand Scorpion.

Stealing parts
And yet, the BT-X was actually not 100 percent designed from scratch and steals more than just looks for other jets. It steal the F-16’s front and main landing gear and internally uses many parts of the Saab Gripen. In the past, this design method was also succesfully used on aircraft such as the F-117. Commonality helps keeping development and production costs low and gives the jet an immediate edge over its competitors, being the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50, Leonardo/Raytheon T-100 (based on the M-346) and the Northrop Grumman T-X design. According to Boeing, their BT-X can be produced and put together relatively simple, whatever that precisely means.

Yes, Lockheed Martin T-50 is an exisiting design and also should benefit from lower development costs, and the same goes for the T-100. But both are non-US designs, and the lengthy and unimpressive process that finally led to the US designed KC-46 over the existing European Airbus A330 MRTT as the US Air Force’s next tanker aircraft, proves Washington’s preference for US designs.

Boeing T-38 contract
The Boeing T-X is just that: a design mainly from a US contractor, with just the right amount of development to be done. Considering criticised projects such as the And remember, Boeing earlier in 2016 won a ten-year contract worth $855 million for updating T-38 trainer jets, the very aircraft the T-X will replace. It’s the perfect way to gain expertise and insight into the exact requirements of modern day fighter pilot training.

Engine
Also, Boeing uses the afterburning General Electric F404 engine in its design, as do the T-50 and Northrop Grumman T-X competitor – not to mention the Saab Gripen. The yet-to-fly Leonardo/Raytheon T-100 will use two Honeywell/ITEC F124 turbofans and is he only contender to use two engines and not use afterburner. That’s a problem for the joint US-Italian designed T-100 right there in terms of costs, maintenance and performance. Northrop Grumman meanwhile has it hands full with developing the new Longe Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), also known as the future B-21.

The US Air Force’s new trainer should be fully operational in 2024 at the latest. A decision on which design wins the competition, is to be taken over the next few years. Boeing drew its cards right. No need even for a pokerface, it seems.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Boeing & Saab unveil their T-X trainer

Boeing and its partner Saab revealed their entry in the US Force’s T-X competition on Tuesday 13 September. The Boeing T-X is an all-new aircraft designed for training mission and according to the design team incorporates the latest technologies, tools and manufacturing techniques. An afterburning F404 engine provides power.

The Boeing T-X aircraft has one engine, twin tails, stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training. The system also offers state-of-the-art ground-based training and a maintenance-friendly design for long-term supportability.

Both Boeing and Saab will use the two production T-X aircraft, revealed today, to show the U.S. Air Force the performance, affordability, and maintainability advantages of their approach. “Our T-X is real, ready and the right choice for training pilots for generations to come,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret.

“It’s an honor to build the future of Air Force training,” said Saab President and CEO Håkan Buskhe. “We have created the best solution thanks to great cooperation and a clear strategy since day one.”

The T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft. Initial operating capability is planned for 2024. Other entries into the competition are the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50, Leonardo/Raytheon T-100 (based on the M-346) and the Northrop Grumman T-X design.

F-35 test fleet completes surge

The F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, recently completed 25 missions comprising of 12 Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) and 13 Weapon Separation Tests as part of a month-long weapon’s firing test surge. Historically, only one WDA take places every month given the myriad of coordination required.  The highest number previously accomplished in a month, was three in November of 2014 during 2B software testing.

These successful test events — performed using the F-35’s newest block 3F software — demonstrated the accuracy of the Lockheed Martin fighter jet.  Five of the test events featured dropping multiple weapons.  The F-35 weapons test team was given exclusive use of the Sea Test Range, an instrumented Pacific Ocean test area off the central coast near Point Mugu Naval Air Station, California.  Tests were also conducted at the US Navy’s China Lake Weapons Range, California and the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

During the surge period, a total of 30 weapons were dropped or fired, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, GPS-guided 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb, AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air heat-seeking missile and GPS/laser-guided munition.

“The WDAs rely on the full capability of the F-35 — multiple sensors, navigation, weapons envelope, mission planning, data links and inter-agency range scheduling — all working in sequence to put steel on target,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer.  “This was a tremendous effort by the F-35 test team.  They surged and worked seven days a week for more than a month to expend 30 ordnance and advance weapons testing.  This testing has moved us that much closer to delivering the full F-35 capability to warfighters within the next two years.”

The F-35 is a multi-role, next-generation fighter that combines advanced stealth with speed, agility and a 360-degree view of the battlespace.  The F-35 will form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades to come and replace legacy tactical fighter fleets with dominant air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities to deter and defeat potential adversaries.

The US Marine Corps declared the F-35B combat-ready IOC in July 2015, the U.S. Air Force declared F-35A IOC earlier this August. The US Navy intends to attain F-35C IOC in 2018.  More than 200 F-35s have flown in excess of 66 thousand fleet-wide hours, with over 300 F-35 pilots and 3,000 maintainers trained to operate and support this next-generation aircraft.

Featured image (top): Several F-35s gather for take off from Edwards Air Force Base in May 2016. (Image © Elmer van Hest)