News

13th
APR

Bae Systems Future Air Combat System (Tempest)

Bae Systems Future Air Combat System (Tempest) matt.jouppi@av Wed, 04/13/2022 - 15:31

The UK Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is a multi-national effort to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon around 2035. Rather than a single platform, FCAS will consist of a family of systems (FoS) architecture consisting of the Tempest manned fighter teamed with an unmanned aerial system (UAS). Tempest is expected to be low observable (LO), feature advanced power and thermal management capabilities (PTMS) and networked multi-spectral sensors. The UAS complement is being developed under project Mosquito. As of the time of this writing, UK and Italy remain the core Team Tempest partners but Sweden and Japan are in the process of determining their involvement.

Program History

Pre-History: Eurofighter, Rafale & Familiar Patterns (1978-1985)

The genesis of two distinct consortiums amongst European nations in the 1980s into the 1990s shares many similarities to the continent s current fighter projects in terms of the influence of distinct national priorities, comparative industry specialties as well as diplomatic and military friction between allies.

Both the Eurofighter and Rafale programs originate from a 1978 study between the UK, Germany and France on a common future fighter aircraft. Germany and the UK maintained similar requirements as F-4 Phantom operators, requiring a fighter optimized for air superiority and interception. The French desired a multi-role aircraft with an emphasis on air-to-surface first, to replace its Mirage-2000s and Jaguar fleets. The joint program was shelved in 1981 and Panavia consortium partners involved in the Tornado program (BAE, Aeritalia, Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm) launched the European Fighter Aircraft (EPA) program and associated Experimental Aircraft Program (EAP) demonstrator in October 1982. The French announced their own Avion de Combat experimental (ACX) demonstrator that December which would build upon earlier French investments in the Snecma M88 (now Safran) engine, airframe and avionics technologies. By the end of 1983, the chiefs of staff of the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France were again discussing a common EPA configuration, but irreconcilable differences emerged between the UK and France for design leadership between 1983-1985.

The foundational element defining French defense industrial policy in the Fifth Republic has been to maintain a self-sufficient industrial base in all aspects including aircraft design such as airframe, avionics, engine technologies. The French increasingly viewed cooperation with so many partners as detrimental to not only preserving but also expanding its industrial capabilities. In particular, Germany and the UK favored developing the Rolls-Royce & MTU RB199 rather than the M88 which would effectively end France s military turbofan industrial base. The UK and France each sought to entice German cooperation in 1984 with the German Foreign Minister supporting partnership with France and both the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe strongly favoring a partnership with the UK. Ultimately, Bavaria s Christian Social Union (CSU) party applied significant pressure to partner with the UK in order to preserve MTU s engine expertise. Furthermore, Germany had already committed to codevelop a next generation attack helicopter with France eventually becoming the Airbus Tiger. With German support for the UK, Italy soon followed. Spain briefly maintained cooperation with France on ACX, but by the end of 1985 France was left without any international partners. The four remaining nations would proceed to develop the Eurofighter Typhoon and France would develop the Rafale on its own.

UK Experience in LO Programs 1986-2005

The UK has explored low observables since at least the 1980s when the RAF considered acquiring the F-117 between 1986-1987. RAF pilots were briefed into the program and participated in flight tests in Nevada. The RAF briefly evaluated the F-117 for a second time in the early 1990s. Lockheed proposed a highly modified F-117B featuring a nose mounted radar, enlarged weapon bay and new larger wings. BAE was offered component work and the aircraft would have used EJ200 turbofans developed for the Typhoon. The UK also had involvement with the F-35 percussor programs in the 1980s which dealt with LO including ASTOVL.

After Desert Storm, the UK explored acquiring a LO Tornado replacement as part of the Future Offensive Aircraft (FOAS) program which established UK LO industry expertise. Between 1994-1999, BAE matured its Replica technology demonstrator which concluded in a series of radar pole tests. The Replica planform included a forward chine, lambda wings and V-tails sharing some details to the current Tempest concept. The model was assembled at BAE Warton from large carbon fiber composite skins manufactured by BAE Systems Samlesbury. FOAS was canceled 2005 as the UK shifted to consider UAVs instead.

UCAV Focus & UK-French Cooperation 2005-2017

In 2005, the UK released its Defence Technology Strategy (DTS) and Defence Industry Strategy (DIS) reports which established future industrial base priorities. The DTS eschewed the development of a new follow-on fighter stating:

The anticipated multi-decade operation of the Joint Strike Fighter and Typhoon has removed the requirement for the UK to design and build a future generation of manned fast jet aircraft for the foreseeable future The DIS identifies the UAV as an emerging system in aerospace. Although there are powerful drivers for the employment of unmanned systems (see subsection on UAVs), the development and employment of advanced combat capable UAVs clearly provides significant technical challenges. It also provides an opportunity for technological innovation to challenge the traditional economics of development, manufacture and employment of air systems.

At the time, the Typhoon had recently entered RAF service (2003) and production was expected to continue well into the next decade while development of the F-35 was ongoing. Instead, the DIS argued the UK needed to cultivate national design expertise with respect to unmanned systems and low observables. By launching an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator, the MoD would also be able to better assess the role of unmanned systems its future force structure. The UK subsequently launched the Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle (Experimental) (SUAVE) program and associated Taranis Technology Demonstrator. In December 2006, and BAE Systems was awarded 124 million develop Taranis with support from QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Aerospace. Fabrication of Taranis began in 2007 and flight testing began in 2013. Around this time, France s Dassault was working on its own nEUROn UCAV demonstrator which first flew in 2012.

Generally recognized as the two foremost European aerospace authorities, the UK and France had hoped to at least partially cooperate on their next generation combat aircraft prior to Brexit in 2016. In November 2010, the countries signed the Lancaster House treaties which promoted defense cooperation on a range of issues including aircraft carriers, communication systems and UAVs. In 2014, both nations jointly awarded 120/ 150 million to BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Finmeccanica as well as Dassault, Thales and Safran as part of the Future Combat Air System Demonstration Program Preparation Phase (FCAS DPPP). In February 2016, Prime Minister Cameron announced both nations would invest 1.54 billion ($2 billion) to fund a next generation UCAV prototype with flight testing by 2025 and initial operational capability by 2030. However, with the referendum on Brexit in June 2016 and PM Cameron s subsequent departure in July, further Anglo-French cooperation stalled and France began to more seriously explore defense cooperation with Germany.

Upon taking office in May 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron sought to establish greater strategic autonomy for Europe vis- -vis the U.S. With Brexit and the decline of transatlantic relations, France was left in a unique position within the EU as its sole nuclear power, as a key aerospace industry leader and as a major security provider. President Macron perceived a Franco-German alignment as a core pillar of Europe s future autonomy. In July 2017, France and Germany agreed to jointly develop a next generation fighter and FCAS DPPP had stalled by 2018 and was effectively canceled by 2019.

Manned Fighter Focus, Search for Partners, Combat Air Strategy 2015-2018

By the time of FCAS DPPP was facing political headwinds, the landscape of the UK s industrial base and fiscal environment had completely changed relative to the 2005 DIS/DTS. BAE System s Warton production line would soon conclude the RAF s order for 160 Typhoons in 2019. The Eurofighter consortium had limited export success for the type beyond Europe and the Gulf. Similarly, production of BAE s Hawk advanced jet trainer would soon end after 40 years. UK industry still maintained a 15% stake in the F-35 program, but lower fiscal outlays and rising program costs cast doubt on the procurement goal of 138 aircraft. The MoD s budget fell from 2.5% to 2% of GDP from 2010-2015 and did not increase significantly until the 2017/2018 period. Crucially, with the end of Taranis and FCAS DPPP, UK industry had limited opportunities for further research and development work. These pressures from domestic industry to cultivate human capital and support the local economy created the foundational imperative for a new manned fighter program.

As part of the 2015 SDR, the UK quietly began its Future Air Combat System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI) an effort to mature a group of capabilities to replace Typhoon and inform 2025 decision on further development. One of the earlier visible signs of the UK s pivot towards a manned fighter came in in March 2017 with the formation of a joint Japan-UK fighter working group. By February 2018, UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson announced the MoD would produce a new Combat Air Strategy which was unveiled that July. Williamson formally announced the Tempest project to develop a new manned fighter at the Farnborough air show stating, early decisions on how to acquire the capability will be confirmed by the end of 2020, before final investment decisions are made by 2025. At the time, the MoD planned to spend at least 2 billion ($2.65 billion) through 2025 to support technology maturation and risk reduction activities prior to full-scale development. Under the schedule, Tempest would achieve initial operational capability (IOC) by 2035. At the time of the announcement Team Tempest included BAE Systems, MBDA, Leonardo UK and Rolls-Royce (RR).

Search for International Partners 2018-2021

For the UK, international collaboration was imperative. Each generation of combat aircraft has proven to be more expensive and technically demanding than the last. The UK financed 33% of the Eurofighter s development costs at $11.8 billion in inflation adjusted dollars. International participation would further reduce procurement costs through economies of scale. After the Farnborough announcement, the UK government launched diplomatic outreach efforts to Italy, Sweden and Japan.

For decades, Italy has viewed the UK as its primary European defense industrial cooperation partner. The two nations forged a comprehensive relationship during the Tornado program which was solidified further by the Typhoon project. Like the UK, Italy s Typhoon final assembly line would soon close in the early 2020s absent additional export orders. After the July 2018 Farnborough airshow, the UK and Italy launched a joint fighter feasibility study examining common requirements. That September, Italian Defense Undersecretary Angelo Tofalo remarked that Italy should join Tempest immediately in order to be at the forefront of cooperation with the UK. Italy formally joined the UK FCAS program on September 11, 2019 when Secretary General of Defense Lt. Gen. Nicol Falsaperna, signed a statement of intent. Multiple Italian government and industry officials have since voiced a preference to merge Tempest with SCAF but this possibility remains unlikely.

Saab has a distinguished history in producing jet fighters since the 1940s and Sweden s government has ensured its industrial base persists with each new generation of indigenous combat aircraft. Sweden has often partnered with the UK on subcomponent work. BAE Systems had a role in marketing the Gripen in the early years of the program and UK components represented 30-35% of the total value of each Saab JAS 39 Gripen produced. UK-Swedish FCAS discussions began in 2018 and culminated in a July 2019 memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore future fighter technologies. In July 2020, Saab announced it would establish a FCAS center of excellence worth 50 million ($63 million) in Sweden. Unlike Italy, Sweden has not committed to the Tempest manned fighter. Sweden is instead interested in collaborating on the broader set of technologies within the FCAS SoS. In February 2021, Saab s CEO Michael Johansson said that that Sweden s participation in FCAS would bring additional capabilities to GlobalEye and Gripen E.

Japan launched its F-2 fighter replacement program in 2016 and quickly sought out opportunities to collaborate with the UK. Both countries foresaw the need to lower costs and leverage unique expertise between countries. A vocal contingent within the Japanese MoD and Parliament believed partnering with the UK would bring greater opportunity for local industry and secure more robust intellectual property (IP) rights.This group believed that any partnership with the U.S. would be marred by black boxes; components that could not be fully explained to Japan over security or IP concerns. In contrast, Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) officials appeared to be more supportive of an American partnership.

In response, the U.S. government showed a renewed willingness to address intellectual property issues and Japan subsequently established U.S. fighter working group in September 2019. The Japanese MoD s appraisal of Tempest also soured throughout the latter half of 2019 as it became clear that the UK would seek to retain leadership of any joint fighter program at the cost of Japanese industry. By March of 2020, the Japanese government decided future cooperation with the UK would be limited to a subsystem level the most significant being joint engine components and technologies. Refer to the engine and avionics section of this profile as well as the separate Mitsubishi F-X program profile on AWIN for additional details.

In December 2020, the UK, Italy, and Sweden signed an MoU to codify their FCAS relationship.

2021 Integrated Review & Defence Command Paper

In March 2021, the UK released its Integrated Review and associated Defence Command Paper (DCP). The document affirmed the 2018 combat air strategy, stating the UK would invest over 2 billion in FCAS through 2024:

Our investment in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme represents a paradigm shift in the UK s combat air industrial sector to achieve the pace, affordability and operational capability we need to meet our requirements. This approach will deliver capabilities twice as fast, at a lower cost, designed and delivered in a fully digital enterprise. Exploiting model-based design, systems engineering and embedding the latest agile design principles to deliver faster. FCAS has already created over 1,800 new STEM jobs in over 300 companies nationwide, sustaining and supporting over 18,000 existing highly skilled jobs in the sector, as well as tens of thousands more in the wider supply chains across the UK.

Left explicitly unstated was how the UK would fund FCAS. The IR was accompanied by a multiyear funding agreement to give the MOD an additional 16.5 billion ($22 billion) or approximately 4 billion ($5.3 billion) additional per year. Yet the DCP announced a number of high-profile RAF fleet retirements including the Typhoon Tranche 1, C-130J transport, Hawk T1 trainer and Sentry ISTAR fleets. Most significantly, the DCP cut F-35B procurement from 138 to 70-80 airframes. It appears that the RAF is paying for FCAS by cutting these legacy fleets and trimming F-35 procurement.

For further developments and analysis on budgeting, production and schedule refer to the Production & Delivery history section of the profile.

Features

13th
APR

Bae Systems Future Combat Air System (Tempest)

Bae Systems Future Combat Air System (Tempest) matt.jouppi@av Wed, 04/13/2022 - 15:31

The UK Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is a multi-national effort to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon around 2035. Rather than a single platform, FCAS will consist of a family of systems (FoS) architecture consisting of the Tempest manned fighter teamed with an unmanned aerial system (UAS). Tempest is expected to be low observable (LO), feature advanced power and thermal management capabilities (PTMS) and networked multi-spectral sensors. The UAS complement is being developed under project Mosquito. As of the time of this writing, UK and Italy remain the core Team Tempest partners but Sweden and Japan are in the process of determining their involvement.

Program History

Pre-History: Eurofighter, Rafale & Familiar Patterns (1978-1985)

The genesis of two distinct consortiums amongst European nations in the 1980s into the 1990s shares many similarities to the continent s current fighter projects in terms of the influence of distinct national priorities, comparative industry specialties as well as diplomatic and military friction between allies.

Both the Eurofighter and Rafale programs originate from a 1978 study between the UK, Germany and France on a common future fighter aircraft. Germany and the UK maintained similar requirements as F-4 Phantom operators, requiring a fighter optimized for air superiority and interception. The French desired a multi-role aircraft with an emphasis on air-to-surface first, to replace its Mirage-2000s and Jaguar fleets. The joint program was shelved in 1981 and Panavia consortium partners involved in the Tornado program (BAE, Aeritalia, Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm) launched the European Fighter Aircraft (EPA) program and associated Experimental Aircraft Program (EAP) demonstrator in October 1982. The French announced their own Avion de Combat experimental (ACX) demonstrator that December which would build upon earlier French investments in the Snecma M88 (now Safran) engine, airframe and avionics technologies. By the end of 1983, the chiefs of staff of the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France were again discussing a common EPA configuration, but irreconcilable differences emerged between the UK and France for design leadership between 1983-1985.

The foundational element defining French defense industrial policy in the Fifth Republic has been to maintain a self-sufficient industrial base in all aspects including aircraft design such as airframe, avionics, engine technologies. The French increasingly viewed cooperation with so many partners as detrimental to not only preserving but also expanding its industrial capabilities. In particular, Germany and the UK favored developing the Rolls-Royce & MTU RB199 rather than the M88 which would effectively end France s military turbofan industrial base. The UK and France each sought to entice German cooperation in 1984 with the German Foreign Minister supporting partnership with France and both the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe strongly favoring a partnership with the UK. Ultimately, Bavaria s Christian Social Union (CSU) party applied significant pressure to partner with the UK in order to preserve MTU s engine expertise. Furthermore, Germany had already committed to codevelop a next generation attack helicopter with France eventually becoming the Airbus Tiger. With German support for the UK, Italy soon followed. Spain briefly maintained cooperation with France on ACX, but by the end of 1985 France was left without any international partners. The four remaining nations would proceed to develop the Eurofighter Typhoon and France would develop the Rafale on its own.

UK Experience in LO Programs 1986-2005

The UK has explored low observables since at least the 1980s when the RAF considered acquiring the F-117 between 1986-1987. RAF pilots were briefed into the program and participated in flight tests in Nevada. The RAF briefly evaluated the F-117 for a second time in the early 1990s. Lockheed proposed a highly modified F-117B featuring a nose mounted radar, enlarged weapon bay and new larger wings. BAE was offered component work and the aircraft would have used EJ200 turbofans developed for the Typhoon. The UK also had involvement with the F-35 percussor programs in the 1980s which dealt with LO including ASTOVL.

After Desert Storm, the UK explored acquiring a LO Tornado replacement as part of the Future Offensive Aircraft (FOAS) program which established UK LO industry expertise. Between 1994-1999, BAE matured its Replica technology demonstrator which concluded in a series of radar pole tests. The Replica planform included a forward chine, lambda wings and V-tails sharing some details to the current Tempest concept. The model was assembled at BAE Warton from large carbon fiber composite skins manufactured by BAE Systems Samlesbury. FOAS was canceled 2005 as the UK shifted to consider UAVs instead.

UCAV Focus & UK-French Cooperation 2005-2017

In 2005, the UK released its Defence Technology Strategy (DTS) and Defence Industry Strategy (DIS) reports which established future industrial base priorities. The DTS eschewed the development of a new follow-on fighter stating:

The anticipated multi-decade operation of the Joint Strike Fighter and Typhoon has removed the requirement for the UK to design and build a future generation of manned fast jet aircraft for the foreseeable future The DIS identifies the UAV as an emerging system in aerospace. Although there are powerful drivers for the employment of unmanned systems (see subsection on UAVs), the development and employment of advanced combat capable UAVs clearly provides significant technical challenges. It also provides an opportunity for technological innovation to challenge the traditional economics of development, manufacture and employment of air systems.

At the time, the Typhoon had recently entered RAF service (2003) and production was expected to continue well into the next decade while development of the F-35 was ongoing. Instead, the DIS argued the UK needed to cultivate national design expertise with respect to unmanned systems and low observables. By launching an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator, the MoD would also be able to better assess the role of unmanned systems its future force structure. The UK subsequently launched the Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle (Experimental) (SUAVE) program and associated Taranis Technology Demonstrator. In December 2006, and BAE Systems was awarded 124 million develop Taranis with support from QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Aerospace. Fabrication of Taranis began in 2007 and flight testing began in 2013. Around this time, France s Dassault was working on its own nEUROn UCAV demonstrator which first flew in 2012.

Generally recognized as the two foremost European aerospace authorities, the UK and France had hoped to at least partially cooperate on their next generation combat aircraft prior to Brexit in 2016. In November 2010, the countries signed the Lancaster House treaties which promoted defense cooperation on a range of issues including aircraft carriers, communication systems and UAVs. In 2014, both nations jointly awarded 120/ 150 million to BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Finmeccanica as well as Dassault, Thales and Safran as part of the Future Combat Air System Demonstration Program Preparation Phase (FCAS DPPP). In February 2016, Prime Minister Cameron announced both nations would invest 1.54 billion ($2 billion) to fund a next generation UCAV prototype with flight testing by 2025 and initial operational capability by 2030. However, with the referendum on Brexit in June 2016 and PM Cameron s subsequent departure in July, further Anglo-French cooperation stalled and France began to more seriously explore defense cooperation with Germany.

Upon taking office in May 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron sought to establish greater strategic autonomy for Europe vis- -vis the U.S. With Brexit and the decline of transatlantic relations, France was left in a unique position within the EU as its sole nuclear power, as a key aerospace industry leader and as a major security provider. President Macron perceived a Franco-German alignment as a core pillar of Europe s future autonomy. In July 2017, France and Germany agreed to jointly develop a next generation fighter and FCAS DPPP had stalled by 2018 and was effectively canceled by 2019.

Manned Fighter Focus, Search for Partners, Combat Air Strategy 2015-2018

By the time of FCAS DPPP was facing political headwinds, the landscape of the UK s industrial base and fiscal environment had completely changed relative to the 2005 DIS/DTS. BAE System s Warton production line would soon conclude the RAF s order for 160 Typhoons in 2019. The Eurofighter consortium had limited export success for the type beyond Europe and the Gulf. Similarly, production of BAE s Hawk advanced jet trainer would soon end after 40 years. UK industry still maintained a 15% stake in the F-35 program, but lower fiscal outlays and rising program costs cast doubt on the procurement goal of 138 aircraft. The MoD s budget fell from 2.5% to 2% of GDP from 2010-2015 and did not increase significantly until the 2017/2018 period. Crucially, with the end of Taranis and FCAS DPPP, UK industry had limited opportunities for further research and development work. These pressures from domestic industry to cultivate human capital and support the local economy created the foundational imperative for a new manned fighter program.

As part of the 2015 SDR, the UK quietly began its Future Air Combat System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI) an effort to mature a group of capabilities to replace Typhoon and inform 2025 decision on further development. One of the earlier visible signs of the UK s pivot towards a manned fighter came in in March 2017 with the formation of a joint Japan-UK fighter working group. By February 2018, UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson announced the MoD would produce a new Combat Air Strategy which was unveiled that July. Williamson formally announced the Tempest project to develop a new manned fighter at the Farnborough air show stating, early decisions on how to acquire the capability will be confirmed by the end of 2020, before final investment decisions are made by 2025. At the time, the MoD planned to spend at least 2 billion ($2.65 billion) through 2025 to support technology maturation and risk reduction activities prior to full-scale development. Under the schedule, Tempest would achieve initial operational capability (IOC) by 2035. At the time of the announcement Team Tempest included BAE Systems, MBDA, Leonardo UK and Rolls-Royce (RR).

Search for International Partners 2018-2021

For the UK, international collaboration was imperative. Each generation of combat aircraft has proven to be more expensive and technically demanding than the last. The UK financed 33% of the Eurofighter s development costs at $11.8 billion in inflation adjusted dollars. International participation would further reduce procurement costs through economies of scale. After the Farnborough announcement, the UK government launched diplomatic outreach efforts to Italy, Sweden and Japan.

For decades, Italy has viewed the UK as its primary European defense industrial cooperation partner. The two nations forged a comprehensive relationship during the Tornado program which was solidified further by the Typhoon project. Like the UK, Italy s Typhoon final assembly line would soon close in the early 2020s absent additional export orders. After the July 2018 Farnborough airshow, the UK and Italy launched a joint fighter feasibility study examining common requirements. That September, Italian Defense Undersecretary Angelo Tofalo remarked that Italy should join Tempest immediately in order to be at the forefront of cooperation with the UK. Italy formally joined the UK FCAS program on September 11, 2019 when Secretary General of Defense Lt. Gen. Nicol Falsaperna, signed a statement of intent. Multiple Italian government and industry officials have since voiced a preference to merge Tempest with SCAF but this possibility remains unlikely.

Saab has a distinguished history in producing jet fighters since the 1940s and Sweden s government has ensured its industrial base persists with each new generation of indigenous combat aircraft. Sweden has often partnered with the UK on subcomponent work. BAE Systems had a role in marketing the Gripen in the early years of the program and UK components represented 30-35% of the total value of each Saab JAS 39 Gripen produced. UK-Swedish FCAS discussions began in 2018 and culminated in a July 2019 memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore future fighter technologies. In July 2020, Saab announced it would establish a FCAS center of excellence worth 50 million ($63 million) in Sweden. Unlike Italy, Sweden has not committed to the Tempest manned fighter. Sweden is instead interested in collaborating on the broader set of technologies within the FCAS SoS. In February 2021, Saab s CEO Michael Johansson said that that Sweden s participation in FCAS would bring additional capabilities to GlobalEye and Gripen E.

Japan launched its F-2 fighter replacement program in 2016 and quickly sought out opportunities to collaborate with the UK. Both countries foresaw the need to lower costs and leverage unique expertise between countries. A vocal contingent within the Japanese MoD and Parliament believed partnering with the UK would bring greater opportunity for local industry and secure more robust intellectual property (IP) rights.This group believed that any partnership with the U.S. would be marred by black boxes; components that could not be fully explained to Japan over security or IP concerns. In contrast, Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) officials appeared to be more supportive of an American partnership.

In response, the U.S. government showed a renewed willingness to address intellectual property issues and Japan subsequently established U.S. fighter working group in September 2019. The Japanese MoD s appraisal of Tempest also soured throughout the latter half of 2019 as it became clear that the UK would seek to retain leadership of any joint fighter program at the cost of Japanese industry. By March of 2020, the Japanese government decided future cooperation with the UK would be limited to a subsystem level the most significant being joint engine components and technologies. Refer to the engine and avionics section of this profile as well as the separate Mitsubishi F-X program profile on AWIN for additional details.

In December 2020, the UK, Italy, and Sweden signed an MoU to codify their FCAS relationship.

2021 Integrated Review & Defence Command Paper

In March 2021, the UK released its Integrated Review and associated Defence Command Paper (DCP). The document affirmed the 2018 combat air strategy, stating the UK would invest over 2 billion in FCAS through 2024:

Our investment in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme represents a paradigm shift in the UK s combat air industrial sector to achieve the pace, affordability and operational capability we need to meet our requirements. This approach will deliver capabilities twice as fast, at a lower cost, designed and delivered in a fully digital enterprise. Exploiting model-based design, systems engineering and embedding the latest agile design principles to deliver faster. FCAS has already created over 1,800 new STEM jobs in over 300 companies nationwide, sustaining and supporting over 18,000 existing highly skilled jobs in the sector, as well as tens of thousands more in the wider supply chains across the UK.

Left explicitly unstated was how the UK would fund FCAS. The IR was accompanied by a multiyear funding agreement to give the MOD an additional 16.5 billion ($22 billion) or approximately 4 billion ($5.3 billion) additional per year. Yet the DCP announced a number of high-profile RAF fleet retirements including the Typhoon Tranche 1, C-130J transport, Hawk T1 trainer and Sentry ISTAR fleets. Most significantly, the DCP cut F-35B procurement from 138 to 70-80 airframes. It appears that the RAF is paying for FCAS by cutting these legacy fleets and trimming F-35 procurement.

For further developments and analysis on budgeting, production and schedule refer to the Production & Delivery history section of the profile.

Features

24th
MAR

Xian Y-20

Xian Y-20 user+1@localho Thu, 03/24/2022 - 21:17

The Xian Y-20 Kunpeng is a four-engine transport aircraft designed to bolster the People s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) s strategic airlift capability. While China matures its own WS-20 engine for the project, early production Y-20s are powered by Russian UEC Saturn D-30KP-2 turbofan engines supplying 26,455 lbf. (117.7 kN) of thrust each at takeoff. The Y-20 is similar in configuration and role to the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.

Program History

In 2003, China s State Council authorized the establishment of a study group for a new transport aircraft. It issued a plan in February 2006 for 16 major projects from 2006 to 2020, one of which would be a heavy transport aircraft for China s military. The program was officially authorized on Feb. 26th, 2007.

China had since 2005 attempted to procure 34 Ilyushin Il-76s and four Il-78 aerial refuelers from Russia, but disputes over pricing between Russia and the (independent) plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan producing the aircraft killed the acquisition while Russia relocated the production line. Because of labor issues and the contract dispute, the plant would not guarantee delivery of any more than 16 aircraft (the number of airframes it already had on hand).

In the background, China approached Ukraine s Antonov to negotiate cooperation on developing an all-new airlifter. Antonov had since 2000 already worked with China s AVIC to upgrade the PLAAF s fleet of An-12s, Y-8s and An-2s and to design the wing of the ARJ 21. By mid-2006 Ukraine had offered China the An-70, a four-engine airlifter with a supercritical wing developed in the dying days of the Soviet Union that first flew in 1994.

Unfortunately, the An-70s 103,600 lb. (47,000 kg) payload capacity and 730 nmi. (1,350 km) range at maximum payload were considered insufficient for Chinese requirements. China also had no interest in the temperamental D-27 turbofan engine envisioned for the program. Instead, it proposed to design a new aircraft around the D-30KP-2. The new transport would require a range equal to or better than that of the Il-76TD.

Antonov responded by suggesting a derivation of the An-77, a variant of the An-70 with a dramatically increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 412,300 lb. (187,000 kg) and a 2 m (6.56 ft) fuselage plug forward of the wings to increase cargo volume. The An-77 concept originally called for CFM56-5A16 engines, but as proposed to China it would use the D-30KP-2. The proposal was designated Y-XX and included as objectives a 440,900 lb. (200,000 kg) MTOW and a 110,200 lb. (50,000 kg) payload.

The design changed again, and the proposal was further enlarged in line with the An-170 proposal for an aircraft with a 507,000 lb. (230,000 kg) MTOW, 132,300 lb. (60,000 kg) payload and a standard wing profile. The requirements creep was largely driven by the desire to ensure the Y-XX could carry China s most modern (and heaviest) tank, the Type 99-IIA, also known as the Type 99A2, ZTZ-99-IIA or ZTZ-99A2. The Type 99 weighs at most 127,900 lb. (58,000 kg) in its combat ready configuration. Discounting fuel and ammunition this equates to roughly 121,250 lb. (55,000 kg).By July 2009 work was underway at the 606 Institute on the WS-20, and by August of that year work was underway on the rear fuselage of the first prototype Y-XX. By the end of the year the aircraft was known as the Y-20. In January 2012, the airframe for the first prototype was structurally complete. The C-17 may have directly influenced the design during this period through Su Bin, a Chinese national working in the aerospace industry in Canada who helped two PLA hackers steal 630,000 documents pertaining to the C-17 from Boeing between 2008 and 2014. Bin was arrested in Canada in July 2014, extradited to the U.S., and sentenced to 46-months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer and to violate the Arms Export Control Act.

In January 2013 a Y-20 was observed on commercial satellite imagery at a runway at the PLAAF s Yanliang airfield, surrounded by personnel and ground equipment. Yanliang airfield is associated with the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE), and the aircraft was likely undergoing taxi tests in preparation for its first flight, which took place on Jan. 26, 2013.

Features

Overall Design

The Y-20 features a high-mounted swept wing with a supercritical airfoil. It is anhedrally mounted to counteract the excessive roll stability associated with a high wing design. The aircraft has a large, swept T-tail; leading edge slats; large triple slotted flaps; and conventional ailerons, elevators and rudder. Large spoilers are mounted to the wing.

It has tricycle landing gear, with two wheels for the nose gear and twelve wheels for the main gear (in two arrays of three pairs).

Cargo Handling

The Y-20 features a pressurized cargo cabin and a rear ramp. Passengers typically enter through a door on the port side of the aircraft near the nose. paratroops doors aft of the wheel wells, though the Y-20 also supports static line jumps over the open cargo ramp. The Y-20 has also been photographed airdropping the ZBD-03 airborne infantry fighting vehicle.

The cargo bay is about 12.75 ft. (3.9 m) wide and about 12 ft. (3.7 m) tall, though the usable volume of the bay is slightly less than this suggests due to the rounding of the fuselage. Excluding the ramp, the bay is about 50.9 ft. (15.5 m) long, or 63.9 ft. (19.5 m) with the ramp included.

22nd
FEB

KAI KF-21 (KF-X)

KAI KF-21 (KF-X) shambo.pfaff@i Tue, 02/22/2022 - 21:12

The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae (Northern Goshawk) is a multi-role 4.5 generation fighter. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric (GE) F414-400K turbofan engines. The KF-21 was formerly designated as KF-X until April 2021. The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) plans to order at least 120 aircraft through 2032 at a projected program cost of more than $15 billion. Indonesia joined the program in 2010 and had planned to order 50 aircraft. The country's long-term participation in the program has since become remote as a result of budgetary pressures and more urgent operational requirements.

Program History

Prelude & Early Ambitions

In the early 1990s, South Korea sought to develop a robust domestic aerospace industry. Under the Peace Bridge II program, Lockheed Martin agreed to open a production line for F-16s in Korea. Hundreds of South Korean engineers were trained in the United States in preparation for domestic F-16 production and Lockheed Martin committed to a series of offset agreements including the development of a new Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) designated as the KTX-2 which would become the T-50. In response to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Korean government directed the creation of KAI in October 1999 from the three largest aerospace chaebols (Korean conglomerates): Daewoo Heavy Machinery, Hyundai and Samsung Techwin (formerly Samsung Aerospace).

As KAI gained experienced with the KTX-2 program, the Kim Dae-jung Administration began to study proposals to develop an indigenous fighter. In August 2001, Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin announced the government would begin development of an indigenous fighter in 2003 which would enter service in 2015. In 2002, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) wrote the initial Required Operational Characteristics (ROC) for a medium weight fighter which would be slightly superior to the F-16. The original requirements did not call for low observability (LO) or internal carriage of weapons. During the 197th meeting of the Korean Joint Chiefs in November 2002, initial KF-X ROCs were approved. A medium performance indigenous fighter would be developed to complement the higher-end F-15K which had been selected as the F-X in April 2002. The F-X program began in November 1997 and originally sought to procure 120 fighters by 2020 but was ultimately divided into three distinct phases for 40 (2002), 21 (including one attrition replacement, 2008) and 60 (revised down to 40, 2014) aircraft respectively.

Development work for the medium performance indigenous fighter would be led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) which coordinates nationwide defense R&D activities and reports directly to the Ministry of National Defense (formerly the Defense Acquisition Procurement Agency or DAPA until 2014). By 2007, South Korea was looking at developing a 5th generation, LO fighter. The world s first 5th generation fighter, the F-22, had reached initial operational capability (IOC) just two years prior following more than 20 years of development. Ambitious plans to expand domestic industry and discord amongst Korea s defense policy community greatly contributed towards the program s initial delays. Furthermore, differences in defense policy between subsequent administrations greatly affected the progress and funding of the KF-X program.

Feasibility Studies & Evolution of Requirements

Between 2002 and 2014, the government commissioned multiple feasibility studies on KF-X from the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis (KIDA), Korea Development Institute (KDI), Konkuk University and the Korean Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation Assessment (KISTEP). In 2012, the ADD also hired IHS Janes and Strategic Defense Intelligence to examine the KF-X s exportability.

In December 2007, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), an economic policy think tank staffed largely by government employees, found that the program would cost 10 trillion ($10.6 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) and result in only 3 trillion ($3.2 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) in economic benefits. KDI s ROCs assumed KF-X would be LO with internal carriage for four air-to-air missiles (AAMs) and performance characteristics in between the F-16 and F-15. In October of that year, four companies had submitted bids for KF-X (now nicknamed Boramae): Saab, Airbus (then EADS), Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Saab submitted two derivatives of its JAS 39 C/D fighter. The P305 was a single engine derivative while the P306 had twin engines, both stored weapons internally. EADS offered the Eurofighter Typhoon as the basis for a cooperative development program. Boeing and Lockheed Martin were operating under stringent U.S. export controls and kept a lower profile during the early stages of KF-X.

2009 marked a series of important milestones for the KF-X in terms of international participation and solidification of requirements. On March 9, 2009, South Korea and Indonesia and signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for the joint development of KF-X. Indonesia committed to fund 20% of the KF-X development and purchase 50 IF-X (Indonesian derivative KF-X) aircraft. South Korea attempted to solicit Turkish participation in the program but Korea and Turkey were reportedly unable to reach an agreement regarding leadership of a co-development program.

KF-X program requirements

In 2009, the government commissioned Konkuk University s Weapons System Concept Development and Application Research Center to study the feasibility of the KF-X program. The study was led by Major General (ret.) Shin Bo Hyun who had previously led the original F-X evaluation team in 2002. Major Gen. Hyun s report found development and production of the KF-X was feasible if the KF-X was effectively downgraded to a 4.5 generation platform. The study concluded 5th generation capabilities were not necessary in a North Korea scenario. Stand-off weapons would allow non-LO aircraft to conduct strikes. The study proposed the following ROCs :

  • Combat Radius: 1.5 times that of the F-16C/D Block 52 (approximately 500 miles or 800 km)
  • Service Life: 1.34 times that of the F-16C/D (approximately 10,700 hours)
  • Empty weight of 10.4 metric tons (22,928 lb.)
  • Reduced radar cross section (RCS), but not true LO
  • One to two engines

A 4.5 generation fighter would cost 6 trillion ($6.1 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) to develop and approximately 50 billion to build ($51 million in adjusted 2020 dollars). A production run of 250 aircraft would be required to reach sufficient economies of scale. A total of 120 KF-Xs could be built to replace the legacy Boeing F-4 Phantom and Northrop F-5 fleets. An additional 130 could be built to eventually replace the ROKAF s F-16 fleet. The study concluded that South Korean industry possessed 63% of the required technologies for the program. Konkuk University s conclusions were well received and the program ultimately abandoned hopes to produce a fifth generation fighter at least in the short term (Block II and notional Block III).

Ties to F-X

The DAPA under the Myung-bak Lee Administration (Feb. 2008 to Feb. 2013) lowered F-X Phase III ROCs in an effort to make the bid more competitive and emphasize technology transfer for F-X at the cost of platform capability (particularly in terms of LO). The new ROCs enabled Boeing s F-15 Silent Eagle (F-15SE) and Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon to participate alongside Lockheed Martin s F-35. EADS (Airbus) offered to invest $2 billion in the KF-X program as part of its Eurofighter Typhoon bid. In August 2013, the DAPA selected the F-15SE as the only qualified bidder of the F-X Phase III as Lockheed s bid exceeded the specified price restrictions and the Eurofighter Typhoon was disqualified for a bidding irregularity. Later that month, a group of 15 former ROKAF Generals signed a petition against the F-15SE s selection. The Defense Project Promotion Committee chaired by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin overturned the initial DAPA decision in accordance with new ROCs from the Joint Chiefs favoring LO performance. On March 24, 2014, Seoul announced its intent to purchase 40 F-35As a reduction from 60 for budgetary purposes. On Sep.24, it announced it had completed negotiations with the U.S. government regarding price, offsets and technical details. As part of the 7.34 trillion ($6.5 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) deal, Korea requested the transfer of 25 technologies to support the KF-X program.

KAI Down Select

In December 2014, the DAPA issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the KF-X program. Two teams participated throughout the competition: KAI-Lockheed Martin and Korean Air Lines (KAL)-Airbus-Boeing. The RFP requires a clean sheet design, but the KAL team reportedly wanted to use a modified F/A-18E/F with Airbus supplying components the U.S. manufacturer could not. However, Boeing ultimately withdrew before bidding which opened in February 2015. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) selected the KAI-Lockheed Martin team for the Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) program a month later. In November 2015, Indonesia agreed to fund 1.7 trillion ($1.54 billion in inflation adjusted 2020 dollars) or approximately 20% of the program s development costs. South Korea followed through by awarding the KF-X development contract to KAI in December.

The Finance Ministry approved 8.69 trillion budget ($7.65 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) for KF-X s development over a period of 10 years and 6 months. Korean industry and Indonesia will fund 20% of the aircraft s development costs each with South Korean government financing the remaining 60%. The total program is expected to cost 18 trillion ($15.1 billion) for both development and production of 120 aircraft. Lockheed Martin will provide more than 300 man-years worth of engineering expertise in assisting Seoul in designing its KF-X. Lockheed Martin will also offer more than 500,000 pages of technical documentation derived from the F-16, F-22 and F-35.

Design Evolution

With the objective of creating a reduced RCS but not LO design established, the ADD began exploring designs in 2012. The two primary candidates were a delta-wing canard design and a conventional tail and horizontal stabilizer layout which it considered to be European and U.S. style designs respectively. The C101 design followed the U.S. style wing-tail arrangement and progressed to the C-102, C-102E (single engine), C-102I (internal weapons bay), C-102T (twin-seat) and finally the C-103. The C-201 followed a similar progression with its own C-202, C-202E, C-202I, C-202T and C-203.

Separately, KAI initially wanted to develop its own KFX-E which had a single engine which it argued was cheaper than the more ambitious C-103 and C-203 designs put forward by the ADD. The company developed two versions of the KFX-E, one with a single vertical tail and one with canted twin tails. The KFX-E had an empty weight of 20,500 lb. (9.3 metric tons) and made use of technologies used on the FA-50 in flight control, landing gear, auxiliary power, electrical and environmental systems. During the 290th meeting of the Joint Chiefs in July 2014, the Joint Chiefs ruled that the KF-X must have two engines following an internal study as well as consultations with the DAPA, ADD and KIDA.

By the time Lockheed Martin won the separate F-X phase III in 2013, the ADD had moved to develop C-103 into the C-104 which featured conformal antennas and refined placement of internal systems. Full scale development began in late 2015. The design grew significantly from the original C-103 which had a 10.7-meter wingspan and 10.9 metric ton empty weight. The intake was enlarged on the C-105 design likely following the selection of the GE F414. The fuselage length and wingspan grew progressively throughout the design. The cockpit was moved forward in C-106 and the engines were spaced farther apart in C-107.

17th
FEB

KAI KF-21 (KF-X)

KAI KF-21 (KF-X) shambo.pfaff@i Thu, 02/17/2022 - 21:12

The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae (Northern Goshawk) is a multi-role 4.5 generation fighter. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric (GE) F414-400K turbofan engines. The KF-21 was formerly designated as KF-X until April 2021. The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) plans to order at least 120 aircraft through 2032 at a projected program cost of more than $15 billion. Indonesia joined the program in 2010 and had planned to order 50 aircraft. The country's long-term participation in the program has since become remote as a result of budgetary pressures and more urgent operational requirements.

Program History

Prelude & Early Ambitions

In the early 1990s, South Korea sought to develop a robust domestic aerospace industry. Under the Peace Bridge II program, Lockheed Martin agreed to open a production line for F-16s in Korea. Hundreds of South Korean engineers were trained in the United States in preparation for domestic F-16 production and Lockheed Martin committed to a series of offset agreements including the development of a new Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) designated as the KTX-2 which would become the T-50. In response to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Korean government directed the creation of KAI in October 1999 from the three largest aerospace chaebols (Korean conglomerates): Daewoo Heavy Machinery, Hyundai and Samsung Techwin (formerly Samsung Aerospace).

As KAI gained experienced with the KTX-2 program, the Kim Dae-jung Administration began to study proposals to develop an indigenous fighter. In August 2001, Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin announced the government would begin development of an indigenous fighter in 2003 which would enter service in 2015. In 2002, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) wrote the initial Required Operational Characteristics (ROC) for a medium weight fighter which would be slightly superior to the F-16. The original requirements did not call for low observability (LO) or internal carriage of weapons. During the 197th meeting of the Korean Joint Chiefs in November 2002, initial KF-X ROCs were approved. A medium performance indigenous fighter would be developed to complement the higher-end F-15K which had been selected as the F-X in April 2002. The F-X program began in November 1997 and originally sought to procure 120 fighters by 2020 but was ultimately divided into three distinct phases for 40 (2002), 21 (including one attrition replacement, 2008) and 60 (revised down to 40, 2014) aircraft respectively.

Development work for the medium performance indigenous fighter would be led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) which coordinates nationwide defense R&D activities and reports directly to the Ministry of National Defense (formerly the Defense Acquisition Procurement Agency or DAPA until 2014). By 2007, South Korea was looking at developing a 5th generation, LO fighter. The world s first 5th generation fighter, the F-22, had reached initial operational capability (IOC) just two years prior following more than 20 years of development. Ambitious plans to expand domestic industry and discord amongst Korea s defense policy community greatly contributed towards the program s initial delays. Furthermore, differences in defense policy between subsequent administrations greatly affected the progress and funding of the KF-X program.

Feasibility Studies & Evolution of Requirements

Between 2002 and 2014, the government commissioned multiple feasibility studies on KF-X from the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis (KIDA), Korea Development Institute (KDI), Konkuk University and the Korean Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation Assessment (KISTEP). In 2012, the ADD also hired IHS Janes and Strategic Defense Intelligence to examine the KF-X s exportability.

In December 2007, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), an economic policy think tank staffed largely by government employees, found that the program would cost 10 trillion ($10.6 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) and result in only 3 trillion ($3.2 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) in economic benefits. KDI s ROCs assumed KF-X would be LO with internal carriage for four air-to-air missiles (AAMs) and performance characteristics in between the F-16 and F-15. In October of that year, four companies had submitted bids for KF-X (now nicknamed Boramae): Saab, Airbus (then EADS), Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Saab submitted two derivatives of its JAS 39 C/D fighter. The P305 was a single engine derivative while the P306 had twin engines, both stored weapons internally. EADS offered the Eurofighter Typhoon as the basis for a cooperative development program. Boeing and Lockheed Martin were operating under stringent U.S. export controls and kept a lower profile during the early stages of KF-X.

2009 marked a series of important milestones for the KF-X in terms of international participation and solidification of requirements. On March 9, 2009, South Korea and Indonesia and signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for the joint development of KF-X. Indonesia committed to fund 20% of the KF-X development and purchase 50 IF-X (Indonesian derivative KF-X) aircraft. South Korea attempted to solicit Turkish participation in the program but Korea and Turkey were reportedly unable to reach an agreement regarding leadership of a co-development program.

KF-X program requirements

In 2009, the government commissioned Konkuk University s Weapons System Concept Development and Application Research Center to study the feasibility of the KF-X program. The study was led by Major General (ret.) Shin Bo Hyun who had previously led the original F-X evaluation team in 2002. Major Gen. Hyun s report found development and production of the KF-X was feasible if the KF-X was effectively downgraded to a 4.5 generation platform. The study concluded 5th generation capabilities were not necessary in a North Korea scenario. Stand-off weapons would allow non-LO aircraft to conduct strikes. The study proposed the following ROCs :

  • Combat Radius: 1.5 times that of the F-16C/D Block 52 (approximately 500 miles or 800 km)
  • Service Life: 1.34 times that of the F-16C/D (approximately 10,700 hours)
  • Empty weight of 10.4 metric tons (22,928 lb.)
  • Reduced radar cross section (RCS), but not true LO
  • One to two engines

A 4.5 generation fighter would cost 6 trillion ($6.1 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) to develop and approximately 50 billion to build ($51 million in adjusted 2020 dollars). A production run of 250 aircraft would be required to reach sufficient economies of scale. A total of 120 KF-Xs could be built to replace the legacy Boeing F-4 Phantom and Northrop F-5 fleets. An additional 130 could be built to eventually replace the ROKAF s F-16 fleet. The study concluded that South Korean industry possessed 63% of the required technologies for the program. Konkuk University s conclusions were well received and the program ultimately abandoned hopes to produce a fifth generation fighter at least in the short term (Block II and notional Block III).

Ties to F-X

The DAPA under the Myung-bak Lee Administration (Feb. 2008 to Feb. 2013) lowered F-X Phase III ROCs in an effort to make the bid more competitive and emphasize technology transfer for F-X at the cost of platform capability (particularly in terms of LO). The new ROCs enabled Boeing s F-15 Silent Eagle (F-15SE) and Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon to participate alongside Lockheed Martin s F-35. EADS (Airbus) offered to invest $2 billion in the KF-X program as part of its Eurofighter Typhoon bid. In August 2013, the DAPA selected the F-15SE as the only qualified bidder of the F-X Phase III as Lockheed s bid exceeded the specified price restrictions and the Eurofighter Typhoon was disqualified for a bidding irregularity. Later that month, a group of 15 former ROKAF Generals signed a petition against the F-15SE s selection. The Defense Project Promotion Committee chaired by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin overturned the initial DAPA decision in accordance with new ROCs from the Joint Chiefs favoring LO performance. On March 24, 2014, Seoul announced its intent to purchase 40 F-35As a reduction from 60 for budgetary purposes. On Sep.24, it announced it had completed negotiations with the U.S. government regarding price, offsets and technical details. As part of the 7.34 trillion ($6.5 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) deal, Korea requested the transfer of 25 technologies to support the KF-X program.

KAI Down Select

In December 2014, the DAPA issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the KF-X program. Two teams participated throughout the competition: KAI-Lockheed Martin and Korean Air Lines (KAL)-Airbus-Boeing. The RFP requires a clean sheet design, but the KAL team reportedly wanted to use a modified F/A-18E/F with Airbus supplying components the U.S. manufacturer could not. However, Boeing ultimately withdrew before bidding which opened in February 2015. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) selected the KAI-Lockheed Martin team for the Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) program a month later. In November 2015, Indonesia agreed to fund 1.7 trillion ($1.54 billion in inflation adjusted 2020 dollars) or approximately 20% of the program s development costs. South Korea followed through by awarding the KF-X development contract to KAI in December.

The Finance Ministry approved 8.69 trillion budget ($7.65 billion in adjusted 2020 dollars) for KF-X s development over a period of 10 years and 6 months. Korean industry and Indonesia will fund 20% of the aircraft s development costs each with South Korean government financing the remaining 60%. The total program is expected to cost 18 trillion ($15.1 billion) for both development and production of 120 aircraft. Lockheed Martin will provide more than 300 man-years worth of engineering expertise in assisting Seoul in designing its KF-X. Lockheed Martin will also offer more than 500,000 pages of technical documentation derived from the F-16, F-22 and F-35.

Design Evolution

With the objective of creating a reduced RCS but not LO design established, the ADD began exploring designs in 2012. The two primary candidates were a delta-wing canard design and a conventional tail and horizontal stabilizer layout which it considered to be European and U.S. style designs respectively. The C101 design followed the U.S. style wing-tail arrangement and progressed to the C-102, C-102E (single engine), C-102I (internal weapons bay), C-102T (twin-seat) and finally the C-103. The C-201 followed a similar progression with its own C-202, C-202E, C-202I, C-202T and C-203.

Separately, KAI initially wanted to develop its own KFX-E which had a single engine which it argued was cheaper than the more ambitious C-103 and C-203 designs put forward by the ADD. The company developed two versions of the KFX-E, one with a single vertical tail and one with canted twin tails. The KFX-E had an empty weight of 20,500 lb. (9.3 metric tons) and made use of technologies used on the FA-50 in flight control, landing gear, auxiliary power, electrical and environmental systems. During the 290th meeting of the Joint Chiefs in July 2014, the Joint Chiefs ruled that the KF-X must have two engines following an internal study as well as consultations with the DAPA, ADD and KIDA.

By the time Lockheed Martin won the separate F-X phase III in 2013, the ADD had moved to develop C-103 into the C-104 which featured conformal antennas and refined placement of internal systems. Full scale development began in late 2015. The design grew significantly from the original C-103 which had a 10.7-meter wingspan and 10.9 metric ton empty weight. The intake was enlarged on the C-105 design likely following the selection of the GE F414. The fuselage length and wingspan grew progressively throughout the design. The cockpit was moved forward in C-106 and the engines were spaced farther apart in C-107.

10th
FEB

Lockheed Martin F-16

Lockheed Martin F-16 user+1@localho Thu, 02/10/2022 - 21:17

The F-16 "Fighting Falcon" (known as "Viper" to its operators) is a single-engine multirole fighter. It was initially designed and produced by General Dynamics up until 1993 when the company sold the Fort Worth production line to Lockheed Martin. More than 4,500 F-16s have been produced and more than 2,800 aircraft remain in operation with 25 nations, making the type among the most prolific fighter families in the post-World War II period. Starting with the F-16 Block 30 and 32 in 1987, operators have had a choice of two powerplant options: the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) F100 and the General Electric (GE) F110 turbofan families. Lockheed Martin continues to offer new enhancements and upgrades for the type which is expected to remain in service past 2040.

Features (F-16 Block 70/72)

Airframe

In order to achieve the Air Force s ambitious maneuverability requirements, General Dynamics Harry Hillaker sought to design lightest possible airframe around the most powerful engine available. 78.4% of the F-16 s airframe consists of lightweight aluminum alloys. Other major airframe materials include titanium for the engine housing and composite materials on the horizontal and vertical tail. The radome and base of the vertical tail are comprised of fiberglass. The Block 70/72 has an empty weight of 20,300 lbs. or approximately two thirds that of an F-15C. For the Block 70/72, Lockheed increased the airframe service life from 8,000 hrs. to 12,000 hrs. while retaining the 9G/-3G load factor performance.

The F-16 design introduced several novel technologies to heighten agility and maneuverability. The use of forebody strakes, or leading-edge root extensions (LEX), both increased lift at high angles of attack (AoA) by 25% and resulted in a statically unstable aerodynamic configuration, improving pitch performance. Pitch rate is a highly desirable trait in maneuvering engagements as the more quickly the AoA is increased, the faster the aircraft can begin to turn. Furthermore, the ability to point the nose in any direction is vital for both target acquisition and engagement. The F-16 was the first fighter to introduce computer input driven fly-by-wire flight controls, an innovation which was necessary to control a relaxed stability aircraft. Hillaker originally envisioned using twin, canted vertical tails but the vortices generated by the LEXs at moderate angles of attack resulted in a substantial loss of directional stability. A large single tail suffered from less buffeting at high AoA while providing sufficient control authority.

The F-16 airframe utilizes full-length leading-edge slats and trailing edge flaperons to adjust the wing s camber the curve of the wing to modulate lift and drag during maneuvering. The wing itself is blended into the fuselage so they operate as a single lifting body. The sum of these features resulted in an aircraft which was more maneuverable than the higher-end F-15 it was meant to complement in many flight regimes. The F-16 is controllable to 26.5 degrees AoA. At its corner plateau (optimal turning environment) the F-16 can sustain a 20 per second turn rate relative to the F-15C s 15 per second. According to a Slovak government report, the Block 70 takes 25.3 seconds to accelerate from Mach 0.8 to 1.2. Compared to twin engine air superiority fighters like the F-15, F-22 and Eurofighter, the F-16 lacks high-altitude, high-speed performance. For example, the F-16 has a service ceiling of 50,000 ft. and top speed of Mach 2.0 versus the F-15 s 60,000 ft.and Mach 2.5. Such capabilities are useful to impart additional range to AAMs for BVR engagements.

More than 1,700 U.S. and international F-16s have received HAVE GLASS survivability treatments (see U.S. upgrades for additional details).

Avionics

The core of the Block 70/72 s avionics suite is the Northrop Grumman APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). The 10-kW class active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar consists of approximately 1,000 TRMs. Northrop Grumman maintains that 95% of SABR s modes and software are derived from the APG-81 AESA used aboard the F-35. Because SABR was developed as a drop-in replacement for the legacy APG-68(V)9 mechanically scanned array, SABR utilizes the existing power weight and cooling capacity of the baseline F-16, limiting its sustained power output. The APG-83 has a maximum detection range of 160 nautical miles (nm) or 296 km against aerial targets. Against a 1m^2 radar cross section (RCS) target, the APG-83 has a range of approximately 72 nm (134.5 km) relative to the 38 nm (70 km) for the preceding APG-68(V)9. SABR can maintain more than 20 simultaneous aerial target tracks across a 120 azimuth arc in front of the aircraft. Alternatively, power can be concentrated on six high-priority tracks. In an air to surface mode, SABR can map ground targets at ranges between 10-160 nm and is capable of ground moving target indication (GMTI).

Northrop Grumman markets the APG-83 as having robust electronic protection for operations in dense RF environments. The APG-83 can focus its radar energy to concentrate on specific parts of an adversary aircraft, a capability relevant to defeating deceptive electronic countermeasure techniques using the whole aircraft as the basis for the jammer s skin return. SABR is also fully integrated with L3Harris ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield electronic countermeasure suite. Viper Shield is a digital radio-frequency memory (DRFM) based jamming system which is also expected to provide enhanced situational awareness through passive detection.

Lockheed Martin s miniaturized Legion-Embedded System (ES) infrared search and track (IRST) pod builds upon this capability. Legion ES repackages the longwave sensor developed for the Legion pod and IRST21. Lockheed miniaturized and consolidated electronics in the F-16 s forward equipment bay which created additional room to house the processor for Legion-ES. As a result, the 300 lb., 77-inch-long Legion-ES pod on the left underside of the forward fuselage is significantly lighter and smaller than Lockheed s other podded IRST systems. In August 2021, an F-15C successfully cued an AIM-120 onto a target with the IRST2,1 demonstrating the added operational flexibility enabled by the pod in contested RF environments.

The Block 70/72 features a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD) measuring 6 x 8 in., new Raytheon supplied Modular Mission Computer (MMC) modules and an improved programable display generator. The MMC 7000 boasts twice the processing power and 40 times the memory of the legacy processor (484 times the processing power and 58 times the memory of the original F-16 processor). As with previous F-16 variants, the Block 70/72 s principal datalink is the Link 16 Multi-Function Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System Terminal (MIDS-JTRS).

The Block 70/72 does not feature an IR or UV missile approach warning system (MAWS) embedded within the airframe. However, operators can select from a variety of aftermarket systems such as Elbit s Passive Airborne Warning System (PAWS).

Powerplant

The Block 70 is powered by the GE F110-129 which produces 29,900 lbf. of thrust at full afterburner and 17,084 lbf. at military power. The Block 72 is powered by the P&W F100-229 which produces a maximum of 29,160 lbf. of thrust in afterburner or 16,699 lbf. at full military power. The engines are not interchangeable between types as the Block 70 has a larger big mouth inlet due to its higher airflow requirements required for the F110-229. The GE engine has a slightly lower rotor inlet temperature of 2,484 F (1,362 C) and thrust to weight ratio of 7.41 relative to the P&W engine s 2,730 F (1,499 C) and T/W ratio of 8.53.

Payload

The Block 70/72 can accommodate 15,000 lbs. of external stores on 11 stations (3 fuselage 2 sensors only, 6 wing, 2 wingtip). Because of the aircraft s long service life and widespread customer base, the Viper has been certified with more than 100 store types. For air-to-air missions, the F-16 is typically fitted with six AMMs (such as two AIM-9X and four AIM-120C-7/C-8), external fuel tanks.

F-16 weapons

Credit: Lockheed Martin

Variants

The F-16 family comprises over 140 distinct configurations and variants owing to its long production run and versatile airframe. Most configurations can be classified within a three-tiered system. The first tier is the standard tri-service designation series progression of models A, B, C, etc. The second tier is Block series which further denotes changes in production configurations over time within a tri-service variant such as F-16C Block 30 vs. F-16C Block 50. At more granular level exists Operational Flight Program (OFP) M-series mission tape standards which can involve both hardware and software modifications: M1, M2, M3, M4, M4.1, M4.2, M4.3, M5, M5.1, M5.2, M6, M6.1, M6.2, M6.5, M7, M7.1, M7.2, M8.03, M8.1 and M8.2 (see U.S. F-16 upgrades for additional details). For example, an F-16CM Block 50 M7.2+ designated aircraft denotes an airframe built as a F-16C Block 50 which underwent the CCIP upgrade and has now been further updated to the OFP M7.2+ configuration. The major variants are described below, for minor country specific configurations refer to the production & delivery history section of the profile.

F-16A/B Block 1

The original F-16A/B Block 1 variant which reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 1979 was developed as a low-cost, lightweight day fighter to complement the F-15. The aircraft was manufactured by the U.S. and a consortium of NATO partners - Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway - who became known as the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF). The design made the F-16 one of the most capable dogfighters of its generation, boasting a high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading, rapid acceleration, small size, a tight turn radius and a seat tilted back 30 deg. for better g-tolerance. The design included minimal electronics. Its APG-66 radar had a limited beyond visual range (BVR) combat capability and it could carry only infrared (IR) guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAMs).

F-16A/B Block 5, 10, 15

The main alteration incorporated in the F-16A/B Block 5 was the change of the aircraft's radome color from black to grey to reduce visual signature. It also incorporated minor improvements in reliability and mission readiness which continued with Block 10. A Multinational Staged Improvement Program (MSIP) I began with Block 15, which reached IOC in November 1981 and introduced some enhancements (already present in the C/D variant) to improve BVR and air-to-ground combat capabilities. The APG-66 received an early track-while-scan mode. Internal provision was made for AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles. Have Quick I secure UHF radios were installed. Two hardpoints were also added on the chin of the engine inlet. To offset the change in center of gravity caused by the new hardpoints and stores, tail area was increased by 30%, which also increased stability. The airframe was also strengthened to increase max external stores by 1,000 lb.

F-16A/B Block 15 OCU and ADF

Block 15 OCU (for Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft entered service in late 1987. The engine was replaced with a F100-PW-220 turbofan with better reliability. The block also included the wide-angle head-up display (HUD) and strengthened airframe already in use on C/D variants. Additional weapons were integrated, including the AGM-65 Maverick anti-tank missile, Penguin Mk. 3 anti-ship missile as well as provision for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). In addition, these aircraft received ALE-40 chaff dispensers, an APX-101 identification friend or foe (IFF) transponder, an improved computer and provision for the ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod.

The F-16 Block 15 Air Defense Fighter (ADF) is a conversion that was applied to U.S. Air National Guard (ANG) aircraft which enhanced air combat abilities so they could better intercept Russian bombers flying over the Artic Circle towards North America. The version's externally distinguishable features include four blade antennas in front of the canopy, a 150,000-candlepower searchlight below and front of the nose on the port side and, in A-models, long and thin horizontal bulges at the base of the tail. Internal modifications included ARC-200HF/SSB radios with the Have Quick II Secure Speech Module; APX-109 advanced IFF (AIFF) system; APG-66A radar with look down/shoot down capability, better detection of small targets and continuous wave illumination for guiding AIM-7s; compatibility with AIM-120; and capacity for 6 beyond visual range AAMs (BVRAAMs).

F-16AM/BM Mid-life Update (MLU)

The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program is an extensive modernization effort which was conceived to bring early European F-16s to a standard comparable with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Block 50 aircraft. The extensive upgrade was deemed necessary once it became clear the F-16 would not be replaced by a follow-on aircraft at the end of the 20th century as originally planned.

The MLU package begins with a complete structural assessment of the fighter and repair of any deficiencies in the airframe. Reassembled aircraft then receive a vastly improved modular mission computer to manage stores, fire control and HUD graphics. MLU kits have since evolved but initially began with the APG-66(V)2 radar with 25% better range, a track-while-scan mode that can handle up to ten targets and six AIM-120 engagements, an improved Doppler beam sharpening mode, better ground mapping, a medium-resolution Doppler navigation system and better electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM). Also added is an APX-111 AIFF system, wide-angle HUD, two 4x4-in. color multifunction displays (MFDs), improved display generators, a new data recorder, better controls, an improved data modem with provision for Link 16, an electronic warfare (EW) management system, a GPS receiver, a digital terrain system and provision for reconnaissance pods. Under the tri-service designation system, MLU aircraft receive an additional M suffix. For example, a modified F-16A becomes F-16AM. Sub configurations exist within the MLU series as documented by the M-series of mission tapes.

F-16A/B Block 20

The Block 20 is specific to Taiwan. The George H.W. Bush Administration agreed to supply Taiwan with F-16s and hoped selling A/B models would provoke less concern in Beijing than selling F-16C/D Block 50/52s. However, the F-16A/B Block 20s are in most respects built to the same standard as the Block 50/52 and F-16AM/BM (MLU) configuration. Structurally, the Block 20 features an amalgamation of components including the tail of a Block 50, wings of a Block 40 and landing gear of the A/B, limiting its maximum take-off weight to 37,500 lbs. The Block 20 is powered by the P&W F100-220E and features an APG-66(V)3 radar. Deliveries for this version began in 1997.

F-16C/D Block 25

In November of 1984, the F-16C/D Block 25 variant entered service with an APG-68 radar, compatibility with the Maverick missile and improvements to the controls, HUD and cockpit screens. These enhancements expanded the aircraft's mission profile to include precision strike, night attack and BVR interception.

F-16C/D Block 30/32

With deliveries beginning in 1987, Block 30/32 aircraft were the first to offer a choice of engine ("0" indicating GE, "2" Pratt and Whitney). They also included compatibility with the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and doubled the capacity of chaff/flare dispensers.

F-16C/D Block 40/42

The USAF originally procured the Block 40/42 expressly for air-to-surface strike operations. Block 40/42 deliveries began in December 1988 and introduced an APG-68(V)5 radar and compatibility with Paveway II/III laser-guided bombs (LGBs). Most importantly, these variants also introduced provision for the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system, which comprises two pods: an AAQ-13 navigation pod with a terrain-following radar and a fixed IR sensor; and an AAQ-14 targeting pod with a forward looking infrared system (FLIR), laser designator/rangefinder and missile boresight correlator. Both pods are integrated with a wide-angle HUD. These changes permitted the aircraft to conduct precision attack at night and in all weather conditions and also increased ordinance capacity. Prior to CCIP, USAF Block 40/42s were sometimes referred to as F-16CG/DG.

F-16C/D Block 50/52

The F-16C/D Block 50/52 entered service in 1992 with 29,000 lbf. class engine offerings (the F110-GE-129 orF100-PW-229), APG-68(V)5 radar with longer range and better reliability, an ALR-56M RWR, ALE-47 countermeasure dispenser system, Honeywell H-423 ring laser gyro inertial navigation system, GPS receiver, MD-1295A improved data modem, APX-101 IFF system and color cockpit displays. Owing to its long production run (over 800 aircraft from 1991-2017), the Block 50/52 features significant changes in its installed mission equipment between production batches. For example, aircraft produced after July 2000 feature an onboard oxygen generating system and more advanced versions of the APG-68 were incrementally introduced. The Block 50/52+ is a subtype introduced in 2002 and is detailed below.

F16ES (Enhanced Strategic)

The F-16ES was a development of the Block 50/52 proposed to compete against Boeing s F-15E for an Israeli strike fighter requirement in 1994. Lockheed modified a Block 30 test aircraft to demonstrate the concept with conformal fuel tanks and two separate internal FLIR mounts on the top and bottom of the nose. Lockheed claimed the aircraft had a combat radius of 1,025 miles when carrying two 2,000 lbs. bombs, four AAMs, one 320-gallon centerline tank, two 600-gallon underwing tanks and the CFTs. While Israel selected the F-15I, the technologies developed for the ES would be instrumental in the subsequent F-16C/D Advanced Block 50/52+, F-16I and F-16E/F Block 60.

Advanced Block 50/52+

Later Block 50/52 aircraft are sometimes referred to as Advanced Block 50/52 or 50+/52+ and feature a host of country specific modifications. The Block 50/52+ can often be distinguished visually from preceding variants by its Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) mounted on top of the wings along the upper fuselage. The CFTs cumulatively hold more than 3,000 lbs. of JP-8 fuel internally, freeing up additional stores stations for munitions and significantly reducing drag. The CFTs are 24 ft. long and weigh 900 lbs. when empty and cannot be used by earlier Viper models as they require a new internal fuel feed system.

D model Advanced Block 50/52+s incorporates a dorsal spine connecting the rear canopy to the base of the vertical tail. The fairing adds 30 cubic ft. of additional space for avionics and electronic warfare equipment which is understood to be country specific. The dorsal spine for Israeli and Singaporean aircraft is believed to house the Elisra Self Protection System-3000 (SPS-3000) as well as Wild Weasel equipment to employ the AGM-88 anti-radiation missile without the external ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System pod.

Additional improvements to the Advanced Block 50/52 include the APG-68(V)9 radar, which can detect a 0 dBsm target (1.0 m^2) at 38 nm or 70.4 km a 30% increase in detection range over the (V)8. The radar s signal processor boasts a tenfold improvement in memory capacity and fivefold improvement in processing power. The APG-68(V)9 is capable of 2 ft. (0.6 m) resolution imagery in its synthetic aperture radar mode.

Production of the Block 52+ began in 2003 and ended in 2017 with orders from Greece, Israel, Singapore, Poland, Morocco and Iraq. Oman, Chile and Turkey ordered the Block 50+.

F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon

F-16 Block 60 features

The core features of the thoroughly modernized Desert Falcon. The dorsal spine on the F variant houses a secondary environmental control system, chaff and flares dispensers, Thales data link, and IEWS components.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The F-16E/F Block 60 is a unique variant of the Viper that is in service only with the UAE, whose government funded its $3 billion development. The Desert Falcon features a thoroughly modernized avionics suite with 5th generation features, including:

  • The Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar, a 10-kW class array featuring 1,020 Transmit Receiver Modules (TRMs)
  • The Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite (IEWS), an electronic support measures (ESM) system developed by the company s Rolling Meadows division. IEWS is arguably the most advanced system on the Block 60 and comprises both the LR-105 passive receiver and an active jammer. The LR-105 radar warning receiver (RWR) features short and long baseline interferometer antennas to provide passive geolocation capability against both airborne and ground emitters. The IDEW s active jammer features an adaptive cross polarization capability enabling IDEWs to gauge the polarization of a threat signal and retransmit it with an orthogonal/cross polarization to defeat coherent monopulse Doppler radars. IEWS is capable of automatically jamming and releasing expendables from its eight countermeasures dispensers. The Block 60 can also be fitted with the Raytheon ALE-50 towed fiber-optic decoy.
  • The AAQ-32 Internal FLIR Targeting System (IFTS), a mid-wave IR Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) targeting system based upon the AAQ-28 Litening pod. The system provides laser ranging and target designation, AGM-65 Maverick guidance compatibility, long-range target detection, identification and track capability and can act as a pilotage sight in degraded environmental conditions or at night.
  • An advanced cockpit with three 5 x 7 color displays and a wide-angle HUD,

The Block 60 features an entirely new liquid cooling system which was required to operate the type s considerably more powerful avionics. Supplemental air cooling is provided by an improved environmental control system which was developed for the F-16I. The Block 60 features a new mission computer which boasts a 40 X improvement in processing speed (12.5 million operations per second) and memory as well as a new fiber-optic architecture which provides a thousand times the bandwidth of a MIL-1553B databus.

The addition of so many internal systems as well as the CFTs raise the Block 60s empty weight by 21% from 18,917 lbs. on the F-16C Block 50 to 22,900 lbs. In a fully loaded configuration, the Block 60 has an MTOW of 50,000 lbs. GE developed the most powerful variant of its F110 family to maintain the Block 60 s maneuvering and handling qualities. The GE F110-132 features a three-stage long chord blisk fan (combines compressor blades and disks), radial augmentor and improved power management capabilities. GE states the engine s static thrust is in the 32,500 lbs.-class in afterburner and 19,000 lbs. at military power.

In January 2014, the U.S. government announced the potential sale of equipment to support a deal between Abu Dhabi and Lockheed for another 30 F-16s of a Block 61 standard. Lockheed confirmed the new version would incorporate unspecified stand-off weapons. Analysts believe those weapons to be the AGM-84E Stand-off Land-attack Missile - Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW). However, the UAE ultimately opted not to expand its Desert Falcon fleet.

F-16I Sufa

The F-16I Sufa, meaning Storm in Hebrew, is a further development of the F-16D Block 52+ with Israeli specific mission systems. The variant was conceived to provide the IAF with long-range air to surface strike capability at an affordable cost relative to the heavier F-15I. The Sufa s landing gear have been significantly strengthened, granting it the highest MTOW of any F-16 at 52,000 lbs. The incorporation of additional Israeli avionics correspondingly raises its empty weight to approximately 21,000 lbs. (without CFTs). Israeli specific equipment has been provided by the following firms:

  • Elbit stores management system, IGAC mission computer, head up display, Dash IV Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), Israel Color Display Processor
  • Rafael ARC-210 UHF/VHF radio, ARC-164 UHF radio
  • Elta SATCOM
  • Elistra SPS-3000 EW suite
  • Israel Military Industries pylons and external tanks
  • Astronautics Multi-Function Display (two 4 x 4 displays), air data computer
  • IAI CFTs and OBOGS

Major on-Israeli equipment includes the Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)9 radar, Terma EW displays, BAE AIFF and Rokar countermeasure dispenser system. The Sufa also features an improved ECS to provide supplemental cooling air for its mission systems.

F-16CJ Wild Weasel

USAF Block 50/52s were primarily tasked with the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission to enable the aircraft to take over the role of the F-4G Wild Weasel. The first F-16CJ/DJ was delivered on May 7, 1993. The aircraft integrates the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and carries the Raytheon (formerly Texas Instruments) ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS) on the starboard intake hardpoint, permitting fully autonomous employment of the weapon. Wild Weasels often carry either the Northrop Grumman ALQ-131 or Raytheon ALQ-184 self-protection jammer pods.

In 2007, USAF fielded an upgrade to the ASQ-213 pods called HTS Revision 7 (HTS R7), which added a precision geo-location capability that allows the F-16 to target PGMs against air defense elements based on radar emissions detected by the HTS. The data derived from HTS R7 can also be transmitted to other aircraft via Link-16.

F-16CM/DM Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP)

Prior to this point, the USAF Block 40/42 fleet specialized in employing precision guided munitions while the Block 50/52 fleet executed SEAD missions. Furthermore, maintenance technicians had to be recertified to maintain each separate fleet of airframes. The Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP), initiated in 1997, sought to bring all USAF Block 40/42 and 50/52 aircraft to a common standard that included Link 16 Low Volume Terminal (LVT) datalink, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JMHCS), modular mission computer and color MFDs. Lockheed delivered the first CCIP upgraded F-16 (a Block 52 #92880) in 2002. The upgrade covered 651 airframes (254 F-16C/D Block 50/52s and 397 Block 40/42) from 2002-2010 at a cost of more than $2 billion. USAF aircraft undergoing the CCIP simultaneously received the FALCON STAR upgrade to ensure a service life of 8,000 hrs.

F-16C/D Block 40, 42, 50 and 52 aircraft that underwent the CCIP modification received an additional suffix letter (M) on technical orders. For example, F-16CJ/CGs became F-16CMs and F-16DJ/DGs became F-16DMs. However, this nomenclature is typically only found in select USAF technical documents. While CCIP in theory brought common capabilities to the Block 40/42/50/52 fleet, USAF pilot training for the nine squadrons of Block 50/52 emphasizes SEAD more than training for the Block 40/42 aircrews. Some of these Block 50/52 aircraft have been upgraded with the latest HAVE GLASS V RAM coatings.

F-16C+/D+ Combat Upgrade Plan Integration (CUPID)

The ANG launched the Combat Upgrade Plan Integration (CUPID) in 1998 to bring its Block 25/30/32s F-16s to a similar modernized and standardized configuration as the active component CCIP upgrade. Modified aircraft are occasionally referred to as F-16C+ /F-16D+. Enhancements included the Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), night vision capability, JDAM integration, the AX-113 AIFF antennas and sniper targeting pod. Pre-block ANG F-16s utilize the Thales Scorpion HMD instead of JHMCS. The ANG also added ALQ-213 compatibility to its Block 30/32s.

F-16V

Lockheed s F-16V program offers existing F-16 operators a variety of avionics enhancements to take legacy F-16s up to 4.5 generation standards. The F-16V upgrade is modular in nature but is comprised four main elements: the Northrop Grumman APG-83 SABR, the new Modular Mission Computer, Center Pedestal Display and Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). Unlike the Block 70/72 upgrade, the V upgrade does not automatically include an improved internal ECM system such as the L3Harris ALQ-254 Viper Shield.

F-21 (Proposed Indian Configuration)

The F-21 is Lockheed s F-16 derivative offering to India. Lockheed made the designation change in February 2019 at Aero India. The F-21 configuration features a CFT mounted drogue aerial refueling receptacle developed by ADP (Skunk Works), new pylon capable of carrying three air-to-air missiles, 12,000 hrs. airframe life and dorsal spine (for both single-seat and twin-seat aircraft) for avionics growth. The F-21 includes all the enhancements developed for the F-16V including APG-83 SABR, modernized cockpit and auto-GCAS. The designation change is a marketing strategy on behalf of Lockheed to differentiate its India offering from that of the country s principal rival, Pakistan s F-16. For additional details regarding Lockheed s bid, refer to the end of the profile s production and delivery history section.

Analysis: F-16 Block 70/72 Market Prospects

The F-16 Block 70 occupies a robust yet ultimately confined niche in the global fighter market as its greatest virtues both promote and undercut its appeal depending upon the operator. The F-16 is a known quantity with a mature, global system of training and support infrastructure that is immediately accessible to new operators. Thus, the Block 70/72 is marketed as a low risk, affordable fighter which can be easily inducted into air forces that are either standing up a fighter capability for the first time or are transitioning from Eastern fighter types to Western ones. The F-16 Block 70/72 is especially attractive to operators whose force structure can only support one fighter type given its multirole capabilities and diverse payload/armament options. Legacy Viper operators seeking to expand their fighter fleets without incurring new infrastructure and support costs such as Morocco and Taiwan have shown demand for the Block 70/72. Despite its old airframe, the Block 70/72 s mission systems have been thoroughly modernized to the point at which it is competitive with newer 4.5 generation fighter designs. The U.S. Air Force is expected to operate its F-16 fleet until at least 2040 ensuring the family will continue to receive lifecycle support.

While the F-16s versatility and mature user base are its greatest selling points, the aircraft is outclassed by its peers in high-end mission sets such as air dominance and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD). Lockheed Martin is keenly aware that the Block 70/72 and F-35 represent opposite ends of the fighter market and thus do not compete with one another directly. However, the F-35 is only an option for well financed, NATO and major non-NATO ally air arms with clear paths through U.S. technology export controls. The F-35 s market for the time being is largely relegated to Western Europe, Northern Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Demand within Eastern European and Gulf demand for the type is expected to grow later in the decade. In contrast, demand for the Block 70/72 is most pronounced in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It is within these markets that the F-16 Block 70 regularly competes against its more modern 4.5 generation peers. The Boeing F-15EX, F/A-18E/F + EA-18G and Eurofighter Typhoon occasionally compete with the Block 70 but largely represent separate market niche for heavier, more expensive twin-engine fighters. The Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale most frequently complete against the Block 70/72 on the basis of cost, performance and other customer requirements.

Production & Delivery History

The F-16 is currently the most widely used fighter in the world. At the time of this writing, 4,598 F-16s have been produced in more than 140 versions. A total of 29 countries have operated or have placed orders for the type. Five nations - the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea - have manufactured the fighter:

  • From 1973 to September 2017, 3,640 F-16s were produced at the main USAF Plant 4 facility in Fort Worth. Lockheed acquired General Dynamics aircraft division in 1993 and subsequently became the prime contractor for the program. Peak production reached 286 airframes in 1987 at 30 airframes per month.
  • Belgium s SABCA produced 222 F-16s for both Belgium and Denmark.
  • Fokker in the Netherlands produced 300 F-16s covering orders from the Netherlands and Norway.
  • Starting in 1988, Turkish Aircraft Industries produced 277 F-16s for both Turkey and Egypt.
  • South Korea produced 128 F-16s from 1995 to 2004.

Lockheed Martin is in the process of transitioning the F-16 production line to Greenville, South Carolina. On Jan. 31, 2022, the Greenville plant completed the first depot sustainment for a USAF F-16. The first Block 70 is expected to roll off the assembly line and take flight by the end of 2022, followed by flight testing in 2023 and a transfer to Bahrain by 2024. The company currently has a backlog of 128 Block 70/72 aircraft worth $14 billion, ensuring production will continue until at least 2028. As of early 2022, the global order book and requirement outlook for the Block 70/72 is as follows:

Greg Ulmer, Executive Vice President of Lockheed s Aeronautics division, told Aviation Week in November 2021 that the Block 70/72 line is several months behind schedule due to COVID-19 and issues related to a subassembly supplier.

United States

USAF F-16 distribution as of early 2022. Of the 931 aircraft in service, GE engines power 68% of the fleet at 635 aircraft relative to P&W s share of 296.

Credit: Aviation Week Intelligence Network

In total, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has ordered 2,230 F-16s, 1,900 single-seaters and 330 two-seaters, representing nearly 50% of all new build deliveries. From 1978 to 1985, USAF received 785 F-16A/Bs, ranging from Block 1 to Block 15. From July 1984 to 2004, USAF received 1,444 F-16C/Ds of Blocks 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50 and 52. The last F-16A/B was withdrawn from the USAF inventory in 2008. As of early 2022, 931 F-16s remain in the Air Force inventory including 322 pre-block Block 25/30/32 airframes and 609 post-block Block 40/42/50/52. The distinction stems from the Common Configuration Improvement Program (CCIP) which brought all 40/42/50/52 aircraft to an identical configuration. The Air National Guard (ANG) component includes some 332 F-16C/D Block 25/30/32/40/42/50 airframes of which approximately 56% are pre-Block models. The USAF s pre-Block examples will be progressively retired throughout the 2020s while the post-Block aircraft will receive upgrades to remain operational into the 2030s. 64% of this fleet is powered by GE F110-family engines.

In December 2021, the Fiscal 2022 NDAA authorized the retirement of 47 F-16C/Ds.

USAF Upgrades

the USAF is undertaking four main enhancements to its post-block fleet: (1) the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), (2) integration of the APG-83 AESA, (3) incorporation of the Digital RWR and (4) the Operational Flight Program series of upgrades. The combination of these efforts will preserve the remaining CCIP modified airframes until 2040 and effectively bring them to 4.5 generation standards similar to the F-16V and Block 70/72.

F-16 SLEP

Image Credit: USAF

The USAF s F-16 SLEP program seeks to extend the service life of the post-block fleet from 8,000 to 12,000 hrs. of service life (approximately 15 years). Though funding for only 300 conversions have been budgeted as of the Fiscal 2021 request (Fiscal 2022 did not include a Future Years Defense Program or FYDP projection). The nine-month process costs $2.4 million per airframe and involves holistic strengthening or replacement of all major airframe components covering the wings, bulkheads, longerons, canopy, etc. The work is undertaken by the 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron based at Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah. The first four modified airframes were delivered in 2018 and the last airframe will be delivered in Fiscal 2026.

In March 2015, a Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) was issued for improved air to air detection and tracking capabilities for the homeland defense mission. An initial acquisition of 72 APG-83 s for Air National Guard (ANG) F-16s was funded in Fiscal 2017 and Fiscal 2018. To field the capability more rapidly, the service initially sought to minimize the upgrade of all non-AESA related components and software. Thus, Phase I of the AESA refit process had minimal changes to the OFP software but did include the purchase new hardware for later integration during Phase III This includes new center display units, high-speed data network components and remote interface panels. Aircraft at Andrews AFB were the first aircraft to receive the upgrade in January 2020. The subsequent Phase III effort will equip 505 active component and ANG aircraft with SABR beginning in Q1 of Fiscal 2022. In 2021, the ANG stated that 230 of its 332 aircraft still require funding for the APG-83. The previous FYDP associated with Fiscal 2021 projected a total program cost of $1.6 billion for 330 radars (increased to 505 as of Fiscal 2022). The AESA and associated hardware costs were approximately $2.4 million per airframe but the total conversion cost (including labor and spares) was $4.15 million.

The second major avionics improvement program will replace legacy analog ALR-69 and ALR-56M with the Next Generation Electronic Warfare (NGEW) Digital Radar Warning Receiver (DRWR). In January 2021, the Air Force announced it had awarded Northrop Grumman (NG) $250 million to develop the system after a competitive evaluation against L3Harris. NG expects the program could result in the acquisition of 450 NGEWs worth $2.5 billion. As of the time of this writing, the system has yet to receive a tri-service designation and is referred to as the DRWR in budget justification documents. The NGEW is understood to build upon NG s latest APR-39 installed on the MC-130J and may feature more advanced electronic support measures (ESM) functions. Northrop says the NGEW will be fully integrated with SABR and leverages an open-systems, ultra-wideband architecture, providing the instantaneous bandwidth to defeat modern threats . The company s test aircraft fitted with both SABR and NGEW took part in the 2021 Northern Lightning exercise at Volk Field, WI, in September. The first F-16 fitted with NGEW is expected to fly over the summer of 2022. Separately, the U.S. ANG and reserve aircraft will be fitted with the Elbit PAWS.

In April 2020, the Air Force released its F-16 Operational Flight Program (OFP) M7.2+ configuration to its more than 600 block 40/42/50/52 aircraft. The $455 million enhancement adds AIM-120D and AGM-158B JASSM-ER compatibility, facilitates integration of the APG-83 AESA, adds an Integrated Communication Suite as well as 42 other enhancements. The Air Force aims to release new OFP updates into two-year cycles. OFP M8.0.3 rectifies Modular Mission Computer shortfalls in memory and throughput. OFP M8.1 includes a programable display generator and M8.2 adds an ethernet high speed data network to facilitate future upgrades such as a digital targeting video pod. M8.1 installs will conclude in 2024 and M8.2 in 2026.

The USAF s Fiscal 2022budget requests $613 million in procurement for F-16 modifications as well as $224 million in research development test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds.

HAVE GLASS Survivability Treatments

One of the less-discussed aspects of the F-16's evolution is its incorporation of some radar cross section (RCS) reduction techniques under the HAVE GLASS program. In the late 1980s, U.S. and Soviet designers explored the application of RAM to fourth generation fighters such as MiG-29M (izdeliye 9.15) in 1986 and F/A-18A/B/C/D in 1989. The aim of these modifications is not to achieve full stealth capability but to modestly delay detection and potentiate self-protection jamming. This is due to the nature of the radar range equation. To achieve a 90% reduction in detection range from a threat radar, one must reduce the RCS of the target by a factor of 10,000. Conventional wisdom holds that tactically significant RCS reductions require careful shape management from inception and cannot be retrofitted LO is 90% a function of shaping and 10% of materials.

HAVE GLASS I included a canopy coated with indium-tin-oxide (ITO) and a specially treated radar bulkhead. Canopies and radar bulkheads can be significant contributor of RCS as oncoming radar waves can penetrate and bounce around within the enclosed space, accumulating energy (freak waves). Modified aircraft can be visually identified by the gold coloration of their canopies. Dutch aircraft began receiving the modification under the Pacer Bond program in 1986. HAVE GLASS effectiveness was noted by the French during the 1987 Paris Air Show and contributed toward a desire to strengthen the Rafale s signature reduction measures.

HAVE GLASS II started in the late 1990s and consisted of the Pacer Mud (FMS-3049 RAM) and Pacer Gem I/II (FMS-2026 IR topcoat) programs. FMS-3049 was comprised of ferromagnetic particles within a high dielectric constant polymer base. The combination both slows down and absorbs radar energy. RAM was applied to approximately 60% of the aircraft s surface in 10-12 mm thick layer, adding some 100 kg to the aircraft. The 10-12 mm thickness likely indicates FMS-3049 was optimized against the X-band frequency frequently which is typically used for engagement radars. Lockheed used its Computer Aided Spray Paint Expelling Robot (CASPER) system developed for the F-22 to apply RAM in the F-16 s inlet duct and other difficult to access

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Lockheed Martin F-16

Lockheed Martin F-16 user+1@localho Thu, 02/03/2022 - 21:17

The F-16 "Fighting Falcon" (known as "Viper" to its operators) is a single-engine multirole fighter. It was initially designed and produced by General Dynamics up until 1993 when the company sold the Fort Worth production line to Lockheed Martin. More than 4,500 F-16s have been produced and more than 2,800 aircraft remain in operation with 25 nations, making the type among the most prolific fighter families in the post-World War II period. Starting with the F-16 Block 30 and 32 in 1987, operators have had a choice of two powerplant options: the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) F100 and the General Electric (GE) F110 turbofan families. Lockheed Martin continues to offer new enhancements and upgrades for the type which is expected to remain in service past 2040.

Features (F-16 Block 70/72)

Airframe

In order to achieve the Air Force s ambitious maneuverability requirements, General Dynamics Harry Hillaker sought to design lightest possible airframe around the most powerful engine available. 78.4% of the F-16 s airframe consists of lightweight aluminum alloys. Other major airframe materials include titanium for the engine housing and composite materials on the horizontal and vertical tail. The radome and base of the vertical tail are comprised of fiberglass. The Block 70/72 has an empty weight of 20,300 lbs. or approximately two thirds that of an F-15C. For the Block 70/72, Lockheed increased the airframe service life from 8,000 hrs. to 12,000 hrs. while retaining the 9G/-3G load factor performance.

The F-16 design introduced several novel technologies to heighten agility and maneuverability. The use of forebody strakes, or leading-edge root extensions (LEX), both increased lift at high angles of attack (AoA) by 25% and resulted in a statically unstable aerodynamic configuration, improving pitch performance. Pitch rate is a highly desirable trait in maneuvering engagements as the more quickly the AoA is increased, the faster the aircraft can begin to turn. Furthermore, the ability to point the nose in any direction is vital for both target acquisition and engagement. The F-16 was the first fighter to introduce computer input driven fly-by-wire flight controls, an innovation which was necessary to control a relaxed stability aircraft. Hillaker originally envisioned using twin, canted vertical tails but the vortices generated by the LEXs at moderate angles of attack resulted in a substantial loss of directional stability. A large single tail suffered from less buffeting at high AoA while providing sufficient control authority.

The F-16 airframe utilizes full-length leading-edge slats and trailing edge flaperons to adjust the wing s camber the curve of the wing to modulate lift and drag during maneuvering. The wing itself is blended into the fuselage so they operate as a single lifting body. The sum of these features resulted in an aircraft which was more maneuverable than the higher-end F-15 it was meant to complement in many flight regimes. The F-16 is controllable to 26.5 degrees AoA. At its corner plateau (optimal turning environment) the F-16 can sustain a 20 per second turn rate relative to the F-15C s 15 per second. According to a Slovak government report, the Block 70 takes 25.3 seconds to accelerate from Mach 0.8 to 1.2. Compared to twin engine air superiority fighters like the F-15, F-22 and Eurofighter, the F-16 lacks high-altitude, high-speed performance. For example, the F-16 has a service ceiling of 50,000 ft. and top speed of Mach 2.0 versus the F-15 s 60,000 ft.and Mach 2.5. Such capabilities are useful to impart additional range to AAMs for BVR engagements.

More than 1,700 U.S. and international F-16s have received HAVE GLASS survivability treatments (see U.S. upgrades for additional details).

Avionics

The core of the Block 70/72 s avionics suite is the Northrop Grumman APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). The 10-kW class active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar consists of approximately 1,000 TRMs. Northrop Grumman maintains that 95% of SABR s modes and software are derived from the APG-81 AESA used aboard the F-35. Because SABR was developed as a drop-in replacement for the legacy APG-68(V)9 mechanically scanned array, SABR utilizes the existing power weight and cooling capacity of the baseline F-16, limiting its sustained power output. The APG-83 has a maximum detection range of 160 nautical miles (nm) or 296 km against aerial targets. Against a 1m^2 radar cross section (RCS) target, the APG-83 has a range of approximately 72 nm (134.5 km) relative to the 38 nm (70 km) for the preceding APG-68(V)9. SABR can maintain more than 20 simultaneous aerial target tracks across a 120 azimuth arc in front of the aircraft. Alternatively, power can be concentrated on six high-priority tracks. In an air to surface mode, SABR can map ground targets at ranges between 10-160 nm and is capable of ground moving target indication (GMTI).

Northrop Grumman markets the APG-83 as having robust electronic protection for operations in dense RF environments. The APG-83 can focus its radar energy to concentrate on specific parts of an adversary aircraft, a capability relevant to defeating deceptive electronic countermeasure techniques using the whole aircraft as the basis for the jammer s skin return. SABR is also fully integrated with L3Harris ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield electronic countermeasure suite. Viper Shield is a digital radio-frequency memory (DRFM) based jamming system which is also expected to provide enhanced situational awareness through passive detection.

Lockheed Martin s miniaturized Legion-Embedded System (ES) infrared search and track (IRST) pod builds upon this capability. Legion ES repackages the longwave sensor developed for the Legion pod and IRST21. Lockheed miniaturized and consolidated electronics in the F-16 s forward equipment bay which created additional room to house the processor for Legion-ES. As a result, the 300 lb., 77-inch-long Legion-ES pod on the left underside of the forward fuselage is significantly lighter and smaller than Lockheed s other podded IRST systems. In August 2021, an F-15C successfully cued an AIM-120 onto a target with the IRST2,1 demonstrating the added operational flexibility enabled by the pod in contested RF environments.

The Block 70/72 features a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD) measuring 6 x 8 in., new Raytheon supplied Modular Mission Computer (MMC) modules and an improved programable display generator. The MMC 7000 boasts twice the processing power and 40 times the memory of the legacy processor (484 times the processing power and 58 times the memory of the original F-16 processor). As with previous F-16 variants, the Block 70/72 s principal datalink is the Link 16 Multi-Function Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System Terminal (MIDS-JTRS).

The Block 70/72 does not feature an IR or UV missile approach warning system (MAWS) embedded within the airframe. However, operators can select from a variety of aftermarket systems such as Elbit s Passive Airborne Warning System (PAWS).

Powerplant

The Block 70 is powered by the GE F110-129 which produces 29,900 lbf. of thrust at full afterburner and 17,084 lbf. at military power. The Block 72 is powered by the P&W F100-229 which produces a maximum of 29,160 lbf. of thrust in afterburner or 16,699 lbf. at full military power. The engines are not interchangeable between types as the Block 70 has a larger big mouth inlet due to its higher airflow requirements required for the F110-229. The GE engine has a slightly lower rotor inlet temperature of 2,484 F (1,362 C) and thrust to weight ratio of 7.41 relative to the P&W engine s 2,730 F (1,499 C) and T/W ratio of 8.53.

Payload

The Block 70/72 can accommodate 15,000 lbs. of external stores on 11 stations (3 fuselage 2 sensors only, 6 wing, 2 wingtip). Because of the aircraft s long service life and widespread customer base, the Viper has been certified with more than 100 store types. For air-to-air missions, the F-16 is typically fitted with six AMMs (such as two AIM-9X and four AIM-120C-7/C-8), external fuel tanks.

F-16 weapons

Credit: Lockheed Martin

Variants

The F-16 family comprises over 140 distinct configurations and variants owing to its long production run and versatile airframe. Most configurations can be classified within a three-tiered system. The first tier is the standard tri-service designation series progression of models A, B, C, etc. The second tier is Block series which further denotes changes in production configurations over time within a tri-service variant such as F-16C Block 30 vs. F-16C Block 50. At more granular level exists Operational Flight Program (OFP) M-series mission tape standards which can involve both hardware and software modifications: M1, M2, M3, M4, M4.1, M4.2, M4.3, M5, M5.1, M5.2, M6, M6.1, M6.2, M6.5, M7, M7.1, M7.2, M8.03, M8.1 and M8.2 (see U.S. F-16 upgrades for additional details). For example, an F-16CM Block 50 M7.2+ designated aircraft denotes an airframe built as a F-16C Block 50 which underwent the CCIP upgrade and has now been further updated to the OFP M7.2+ configuration. The major variants are described below, for minor country specific configurations refer to the production & delivery history section of the profile.

F-16A/B Block 1

The original F-16A/B Block 1 variant which reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 1979 was developed as a low-cost, lightweight day fighter to complement the F-15. The aircraft was manufactured by the U.S. and a consortium of NATO partners - Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway - who became known as the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF). The design made the F-16 one of the most capable dogfighters of its generation, boasting a high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading, rapid acceleration, small size, a tight turn radius and a seat tilted back 30 deg. for better g-tolerance. The design included minimal electronics. Its APG-66 radar had a limited beyond visual range (BVR) combat capability and it could carry only infrared (IR) guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAMs).

F-16A/B Block 5, 10, 15

The main alteration incorporated in the F-16A/B Block 5 was the change of the aircraft's radome color from black to grey to reduce visual signature. It also incorporated minor improvements in reliability and mission readiness which continued with Block 10. A Multinational Staged Improvement Program (MSIP) I began with Block 15, which reached IOC in November 1981 and introduced some enhancements (already present in the C/D variant) to improve BVR and air-to-ground combat capabilities. The APG-66 received an early track-while-scan mode. Internal provision was made for AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles. Have Quick I secure UHF radios were installed. Two hardpoints were also added on the chin of the engine inlet. To offset the change in center of gravity caused by the new hardpoints and stores, tail area was increased by 30%, which also increased stability. The airframe was also strengthened to increase max external stores by 1,000 lb.

F-16A/B Block 15 OCU and ADF

Block 15 OCU (for Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft entered service in late 1987. The engine was replaced with a F100-PW-220 turbofan with better reliability. The block also included the wide-angle head-up display (HUD) and strengthened airframe already in use on C/D variants. Additional weapons were integrated, including the AGM-65 Maverick anti-tank missile, Penguin Mk. 3 anti-ship missile as well as provision for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). In addition, these aircraft received ALE-40 chaff dispensers, an APX-101 identification friend or foe (IFF) transponder, an improved computer and provision for the ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod.

The F-16 Block 15 Air Defense Fighter (ADF) is a conversion that was applied to U.S. Air National Guard (ANG) aircraft which enhanced air combat abilities so they could better intercept Russian bombers flying over the Artic Circle towards North America. The version's externally distinguishable features include four blade antennas in front of the canopy, a 150,000-candlepower searchlight below and front of the nose on the port side and, in A-models, long and thin horizontal bulges at the base of the tail. Internal modifications included ARC-200HF/SSB radios with the Have Quick II Secure Speech Module; APX-109 advanced IFF (AIFF) system; APG-66A radar with look down/shoot down capability, better detection of small targets and continuous wave illumination for guiding AIM-7s; compatibility with AIM-120; and capacity for 6 beyond visual range AAMs (BVRAAMs).

F-16AM/BM Mid-life Update (MLU)

The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program is an extensive modernization effort which was conceived to bring early European F-16s to a standard comparable with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Block 50 aircraft. The extensive upgrade was deemed necessary once it became clear the F-16 would not be replaced by a follow-on aircraft at the end of the 20th century as originally planned.

The MLU package begins with a complete structural assessment of the fighter and repair of any deficiencies in the airframe. Reassembled aircraft then receive a vastly improved modular mission computer to manage stores, fire control and HUD graphics. MLU kits have since evolved but initially began with the APG-66(V)2 radar with 25% better range, a track-while-scan mode that can handle up to ten targets and six AIM-120 engagements, an improved Doppler beam sharpening mode, better ground mapping, a medium-resolution Doppler navigation system and better electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM). Also added is an APX-111 AIFF system, wide-angle HUD, two 4x4-in. color multifunction displays (MFDs), improved display generators, a new data recorder, better controls, an improved data modem with provision for Link 16, an electronic warfare (EW) management system, a GPS receiver, a digital terrain system and provision for reconnaissance pods. Under the tri-service designation system, MLU aircraft receive an additional M suffix. For example, a modified F-16A becomes F-16AM. Sub configurations exist within the MLU series as documented by the M-series of mission tapes.

F-16A/B Block 20

The Block 20 is specific to Taiwan. The George H.W. Bush Administration agreed to supply Taiwan with F-16s and hoped selling A/B models would provoke less concern in Beijing than selling F-16C/D Block 50/52s. However, the F-16A/B Block 20s are in most respects built to the same standard as the Block 50/52 and F-16AM/BM (MLU) configuration. Structurally, the Block 20 features an amalgamation of components including the tail of a Block 50, wings of a Block 40 and landing gear of the A/B, limiting its maximum take-off weight to 37,500 lbs. The Block 20 is powered by the P&W F100-220E and features an APG-66(V)3 radar. Deliveries for this version began in 1997.

F-16C/D Block 25

In November of 1984, the F-16C/D Block 25 variant entered service with an APG-68 radar, compatibility with the Maverick missile and improvements to the controls, HUD and cockpit screens. These enhancements expanded the aircraft's mission profile to include precision strike, night attack and BVR interception.

F-16C/D Block 30/32

With deliveries beginning in 1987, Block 30/32 aircraft were the first to offer a choice of engine ("0" indicating GE, "2" Pratt and Whitney). They also included compatibility with the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and doubled the capacity of chaff/flare dispensers.

F-16C/D Block 40/42

The USAF originally procured the Block 40/42 expressly for air-to-surface strike operations. Block 40/42 deliveries began in December 1988 and introduced an APG-68(V)5 radar and compatibility with Paveway II/III laser-guided bombs (LGBs). Most importantly, these variants also introduced provision for the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system, which comprises two pods: an AAQ-13 navigation pod with a terrain-following radar and a fixed IR sensor; and an AAQ-14 targeting pod with a forward looking infrared system (FLIR), laser designator/rangefinder and missile boresight correlator. Both pods are integrated with a wide-angle HUD. These changes permitted the aircraft to conduct precision attack at night and in all weather conditions and also increased ordinance capacity. Prior to CCIP, USAF Block 40/42s were sometimes referred to as F-16CG/DG.

F-16C/D Block 50/52

The F-16C/D Block 50/52 entered service in 1992 with 29,000 lbf. class engine offerings (the F110-GE-129 orF100-PW-229), APG-68(V)5 radar with longer range and better reliability, an ALR-56M RWR, ALE-47 countermeasure dispenser system, Honeywell H-423 ring laser gyro inertial navigation system, GPS receiver, MD-1295A improved data modem, APX-101 IFF system and color cockpit displays. Owing to its long production run (over 800 aircraft from 1991-2017), the Block 50/52 features significant changes in its installed mission equipment between production batches. For example, aircraft produced after July 2000 feature an onboard oxygen generating system and more advanced versions of the APG-68 were incrementally introduced. The Block 50/52+ is a subtype introduced in 2002 and is detailed below.

F16ES (Enhanced Strategic)

The F-16ES was a development of the Block 50/52 proposed to compete against Boeing s F-15E for an Israeli strike fighter requirement in 1994. Lockheed modified a Block 30 test aircraft to demonstrate the concept with conformal fuel tanks and two separate internal FLIR mounts on the top and bottom of the nose. Lockheed claimed the aircraft had a combat radius of 1,025 miles when carrying two 2,000 lbs. bombs, four AAMs, one 320-gallon centerline tank, two 600-gallon underwing tanks and the CFTs. While Israel selected the F-15I, the technologies developed for the ES would be instrumental in the subsequent F-16C/D Advanced Block 50/52+, F-16I and F-16E/F Block 60.

Advanced Block 50/52+

Later Block 50/52 aircraft are sometimes referred to as Advanced Block 50/52 or 50+/52+ and feature a host of country specific modifications. The Block 50/52+ can often be distinguished visually from preceding variants by its Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) mounted on top of the wings along the upper fuselage. The CFTs cumulatively hold more than 3,000 lbs. of JP-8 fuel internally, freeing up additional stores stations for munitions and significantly reducing drag. The CFTs are 24 ft. long and weigh 900 lbs. when empty and cannot be used by earlier Viper models as they require a new internal fuel feed system.

D model Advanced Block 50/52+s incorporates a dorsal spine connecting the rear canopy to the base of the vertical tail. The fairing adds 30 cubic ft. of additional space for avionics and electronic warfare equipment which is understood to be country specific. The dorsal spine for Israeli and Singaporean aircraft is believed to house the Elisra Self Protection System-3000 (SPS-3000) as well as Wild Weasel equipment to employ the AGM-88 anti-radiation missile without the external ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System pod.

Additional improvements to the Advanced Block 50/52 include the APG-68(V)9 radar, which can detect a 0 dBsm target (1.0 m^2) at 38 nm or 70.4 km a 30% increase in detection range over the (V)8. The radar s signal processor boasts a tenfold improvement in memory capacity and fivefold improvement in processing power. The APG-68(V)9 is capable of 2 ft. (0.6 m) resolution imagery in its synthetic aperture radar mode.

Production of the Block 52+ began in 2003 and ended in 2017 with orders from Greece, Israel, Singapore, Poland, Morocco and Iraq. Oman, Chile and Turkey ordered the Block 50+.

F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon

F-16 Block 60 features

The core features of the thoroughly modernized Desert Falcon. The dorsal spine on the F variant houses a secondary environmental control system, chaff and flares dispensers, Thales data link, and IEWS components.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The F-16E/F Block 60 is a unique variant of the Viper that is in service only with the UAE, whose government funded its $3 billion development. The Desert Falcon features a thoroughly modernized avionics suite with 5th generation features, including:

  • The Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar, a 10-kW class array featuring 1,020 Transmit Receiver Modules (TRMs)
  • The Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite (IEWS), an electronic support measures (ESM) system developed by the company s Rolling Meadows division. IEWS is arguably the most advanced system on the Block 60 and comprises both the LR-105 passive receiver and an active jammer. The LR-105 radar warning receiver (RWR) features short and long baseline interferometer antennas to provide passive geolocation capability against both airborne and ground emitters. The IDEW s active jammer features an adaptive cross polarization capability enabling IDEWs to gauge the polarization of a threat signal and retransmit it with an orthogonal/cross polarization to defeat coherent monopulse Doppler radars. IEWS is capable of automatically jamming and releasing expendables from its eight countermeasures dispensers. The Block 60 can also be fitted with the Raytheon ALE-50 towed fiber-optic decoy.
  • The AAQ-32 Internal FLIR Targeting System (IFTS), a mid-wave IR Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) targeting system based upon the AAQ-28 Litening pod. The system provides laser ranging and target designation, AGM-65 Maverick guidance compatibility, long-range target detection, identification and track capability and can act as a pilotage sight in degraded environmental conditions or at night.
  • An advanced cockpit with three 5 x 7 color displays and a wide-angle HUD,

The Block 60 features an entirely new liquid cooling system which was required to operate the type s considerably more powerful avionics. Supplemental air cooling is provided by an improved environmental control system which was developed for the F-16I. The Block 60 features a new mission computer which boasts a 40 X improvement in processing speed (12.5 million operations per second) and memory as well as a new fiber-optic architecture which provides a thousand times the bandwidth of a MIL-1553B databus.

The addition of so many internal systems as well as the CFTs raise the Block 60s empty weight by 21% from 18,917 lbs. on the F-16C Block 50 to 22,900 lbs. In a fully loaded configuration, the Block 60 has an MTOW of 50,000 lbs. GE developed the most powerful variant of its F110 family to maintain the Block 60 s maneuvering and handling qualities. The GE F110-132 features a three-stage long chord blisk fan (combines compressor blades and disks), radial augmentor and improved power management capabilities. GE states the engine s static thrust is in the 32,500 lbs.-class in afterburner and 19,000 lbs. at military power.

In January 2014, the U.S. government announced the potential sale of equipment to support a deal between Abu Dhabi and Lockheed for another 30 F-16s of a Block 61 standard. Lockheed confirmed the new version would incorporate unspecified stand-off weapons. Analysts believe those weapons to be the AGM-84E Stand-off Land-attack Missile - Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW). However, the UAE ultimately opted not to expand its Desert Falcon fleet.

F-16I Sufa

The F-16I Sufa, meaning Storm in Hebrew, is a further development of the F-16D Block 52+ with Israeli specific mission systems. The variant was conceived to provide the IAF with long-range air to surface strike capability at an affordable cost relative to the heavier F-15I. The Sufa s landing gear have been significantly strengthened, granting it the highest MTOW of any F-16 at 52,000 lbs. The incorporation of additional Israeli avionics correspondingly raises its empty weight to approximately 21,000 lbs. (without CFTs). Israeli specific equipment has been provided by the following firms:

  • Elbit stores management system, IGAC mission computer, head up display, Dash IV Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), Israel Color Display Processor
  • Rafael ARC-210 UHF/VHF radio, ARC-164 UHF radio
  • Elta SATCOM
  • Elistra SPS-3000 EW suite
  • Israel Military Industries pylons and external tanks
  • Astronautics Multi-Function Display (two 4 x 4 displays), air data computer
  • IAI CFTs and OBOGS

Major on-Israeli equipment includes the Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)9 radar, Terma EW displays, BAE AIFF and Rokar countermeasure dispenser system. The Sufa also features an improved ECS to provide supplemental cooling air for its mission systems.

F-16CJ Wild Weasel

USAF Block 50/52s were primarily tasked with the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission to enable the aircraft to take over the role of the F-4G Wild Weasel. The first F-16CJ/DJ was delivered on May 7, 1993. The aircraft integrates the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and carries the Raytheon (formerly Texas Instruments) ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS) on the starboard intake hardpoint, permitting fully autonomous employment of the weapon. Wild Weasels often carry either the Northrop Grumman ALQ-131 or Raytheon ALQ-184 self-protection jammer pods.

In 2007, USAF fielded an upgrade to the ASQ-213 pods called HTS Revision 7 (HTS R7), which added a precision geo-location capability that allows the F-16 to target PGMs against air defense elements based on radar emissions detected by the HTS. The data derived from HTS R7 can also be transmitted to other aircraft via Link-16.

F-16CM/DM Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP)

Prior to this point, the USAF Block 40/42 fleet specialized in employing precision guided munitions while the Block 50/52 fleet executed SEAD missions. Furthermore, maintenance technicians had to be recertified to maintain each separate fleet of airframes. The Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP), initiated in 1997, sought to bring all USAF Block 40/42 and 50/52 aircraft to a common standard that included Link 16 Low Volume Terminal (LVT) datalink, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JMHCS), modular mission computer and color MFDs. Lockheed delivered the first CCIP upgraded F-16 (a Block 52 #92880) in 2002. The upgrade covered 651 airframes (254 F-16C/D Block 50/52s and 397 Block 40/42) from 2002-2010 at a cost of more than $2 billion. USAF aircraft undergoing the CCIP simultaneously received the FALCON STAR upgrade to ensure a service life of 8,000 hrs.

F-16C/D Block 40, 42, 50 and 52 aircraft that underwent the CCIP modification received an additional suffix letter (M) on technical orders. For example, F-16CJ/CGs became F-16CMs and F-16DJ/DGs became F-16DMs. However, this nomenclature is typically only found in select USAF technical documents. While CCIP in theory brought common capabilities to the Block 40/42/50/52 fleet, USAF pilot training for the nine squadrons of Block 50/52 emphasizes SEAD more than training for the Block 40/42 aircrews. Some of these Block 50/52 aircraft have been upgraded with the latest HAVE GLASS V RAM coatings.

F-16V

Lockheed s F-16V program offers existing F-16 operators a variety of avionics enhancements to take legacy F-16s up to 4.5 generation standards. The F-16V upgrade is modular in nature but is comprised four main elements: the Northrop Grumman APG-83 SABR, the new Modular Mission Computer, Center Pedestal Display and Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). Unlike the Block 70/72 upgrade, the V upgrade does not automatically include an improved internal ECM system such as the L3Harris ALQ-254 Viper Shield.

F-21 (Proposed Indian Configuration)

The F-21 is Lockheed s F-16 derivative offering to India. Lockheed made the designation change in February 2019 at Aero India. The F-21 configuration features a CFT mounted drogue aerial refueling receptacle developed by ADP (Skunk Works), new pylon capable of carrying three air-to-air missiles, 12,000 hrs. airframe life and dorsal spine (for both single-seat and twin-seat aircraft) for avionics growth. The F-21 includes all the enhancements developed for the F-16V including APG-83 SABR, modernized cockpit and auto-GCAS. The designation change is a marketing strategy on behalf of Lockheed to differentiate its India offering from that of the country s principal rival, Pakistan s F-16. For additional details regarding Lockheed s bid, refer to the end of the profile s production and delivery history section.

Analysis: F-16 Block 70/72 Market Prospects

The F-16 Block 70 occupies a robust yet ultimately confined niche in the global fighter market as its greatest virtues both promote and undercut its appeal depending upon the operator. The F-16 is a known quantity with a mature, global system of training and support infrastructure that is immediately accessible to new operators. Thus, the Block 70/72 is marketed as a low risk, affordable fighter which can be easily inducted into air forces that are either standing up a fighter capability for the first time or are transitioning from Eastern fighter types to Western ones. The F-16 Block 70/72 is especially attractive to operators whose force structure can only support one fighter type given its multirole capabilities and diverse payload/armament options. Legacy Viper operators seeking to expand their fighter fleets without incurring new infrastructure and support costs such as Morocco and Taiwan have shown demand for the Block 70/72. Despite its old airframe, the Block 70/72 s mission systems have been thoroughly modernized to the point at which it is competitive with newer 4.5 generation fighter designs. The U.S. Air Force is expected to operate its F-16 fleet until at least 2040 ensuring the family will continue to receive lifecycle support.

While the F-16s versatility and mature user base are its greatest selling points, the aircraft is outclassed by its peers in high-end mission sets such as air dominance and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD). Lockheed Martin is keenly aware that the Block 70/72 and F-35 represent opposite ends of the fighter market and thus do not compete with one another directly. However, the F-35 is only an option for well financed, NATO and major non-NATO ally air arms with clear paths through U.S. technology export controls. The F-35 s market for the time being is largely relegated to Western Europe, Northern Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Demand within Eastern European and Gulf demand for the type is expected to grow later in the decade. In contrast, demand for the Block 70/72 is most pronounced in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It is within these markets that the F-16 Block 70 regularly competes against its more modern 4.5 generation peers. The Boeing F-15EX, F/A-18E/F + EA-18G and Eurofighter Typhoon occasionally compete with the Block 70 but largely represent separate market niche for heavier, more expensive twin-engine fighters. The Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale most frequently complete against the Block 70/72 on the basis of cost, performance and other customer requirements.

Production & Delivery History

The F-16 is currently the most widely used fighter in the world. At the time of this writing, 4,598 F-16s have been produced in more than 140 versions. A total of 29 countries have operated or have placed orders for the type. Five nations - the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea - have manufactured the fighter:

  • From 1973 to September 2017, 3,640 F-16s were produced at the main USAF Plant 4 facility in Fort Worth. Lockheed acquired General Dynamics aircraft division in 1993 and subsequently became the prime contractor for the program. Peak production reached 286 airframes in 1987 at 30 airframes per month.
  • Belgium s SABCA produced 222 F-16s for both Belgium and Denmark.
  • Fokker in the Netherlands produced 300 F-16s covering orders from the Netherlands and Norway.
  • Starting in 1988, Turkish Aircraft Industries produced 277 F-16s for both Turkey and Egypt.
  • South Korea produced 128 F-16s from 1995 to 2004.

Lockheed Martin is in the process of transitioning the F-16 production line to Greenville, South Carolina. On Jan. 31, 2022, the Greenville plant completed the first depot sustainment for a USAF F-16. The first Block 70 is expected to roll off the assembly line and take flight by the end of 2022, followed by flight testing in 2023 and a transfer to Bahrain by 2024. The company currently has a backlog of 128 Block 70/72 aircraft worth $14 billion, ensuring production will continue until at least 2028. As of early 2022, the global order book and requirement outlook for the Block 70/72 is as follows:

Block 70 competitions and requirements

Greg Ulmer, Executive Vice President of Lockheed s Aeronautics division, told Aviation Week in November 2021 that the Block 70/72 line is several months behind schedule due to COVID-19 and issues related to a subassembly supplier.

United States

US F-16 fleet distribution

USAF F-16 distribution as of early 2022. Of the 931 aircraft in service, GE engines power 68% of the fleet at 635 aircraft relative to P&W s share of 296.

Credit: Aviation Week Intelligence Network

In total, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has ordered 2,230 F-16s, 1,900 single-seaters and 330 two-seaters, representing nearly 50% of all new build deliveries. From 1978 to 1985, USAF received 785 F-16A/Bs, ranging from Block 1 to Block 15. From July 1984 to 2004, USAF received 1,444 F-16C/Ds of Blocks 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50 and 52. The last F-16A/B was withdrawn from the USAF inventory in 2008. As of early 2022, 931 F-16s remain in the Air Force inventory including 322 pre-block Block 25/30/32 airframes and 609 post-block Block 40/42/50/52. The distinction stems from the Common Configuration Improvement Program (CCIP) which brought all 40/42/50/52 aircraft to an identical configuration. The Air National Guard (ANG) component includes some 332 F-16C/D Block 25/30/32/40/42/50 airframes of which approximately 56% are pre-Block models. The USAF s pre-Block examples will be progressively retired throughout the 2020s while the post-Block aircraft will receive upgrades to remain operational into the 2030s. 64% of this fleet is powered by GE F110-family engines.

In December 2021, the Fiscal 2022 NDAA authorized the retirement of 47 F-16C/Ds.

USAF Upgrades

the USAF is undertaking four main enhancements to its post-block fleet: (1) the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), (2) integration of the APG-83 AESA, (3) incorporation of the Digital RWR and (4) the Operational Flight Program series of upgrades. The combination of these efforts will preserve the remaining CCIP modified airframes until 2040 and effectively bring them to 4.5 generation standards similar to the F-16V and Block 70/72.

F-16 SLEP

Image Credit: USAF

The USAF s F-16 SLEP program seeks to extend the service life of the post-block fleet from 8,000 to 12,000 hrs. of service life (approximately 15 years). Though funding for only 300 conversions have been budgeted as of the Fiscal 2021 request (Fiscal 2022 did not include a Future Years Defense Program or FYDP projection). The nine-month process costs $2.4 million per airframe and involves holistic strengthening or replacement of all major airframe components covering the wings, bulkheads, longerons, canopy, etc. The work is undertaken by the 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron based at Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah. The first four modified airframes were delivered in 2018 and the last airframe will be delivered in Fiscal 2026.

In March 2015, a Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) was issued for improved air to air detection and tracking capabilities for the homeland defense mission. An initial acquisition of 72 APG-83 s for Air National Guard (ANG) F-16s was funded in Fiscal 2017 and Fiscal 2018. To field the capability more rapidly, the service initially sought to minimize the upgrade of all non-AESA related components and software. Thus, Phase I of the AESA refit process had minimal changes to the OFP software but did include the purchase new hardware for later integration during Phase III This includes new center display units, high-speed data network components and remote interface panels. Aircraft at Andrews AFB were the first aircraft to receive the upgrade in January 2020. The subsequent Phase III effort will equip 505 active component and ANG aircraft with SABR beginning in Q1 of Fiscal 2022. In 2021, the ANG stated that 230 of its 332 aircraft still require funding for the APG-83. The previous FYDP associated with Fiscal 2021 projected a total program cost of $1.6 billion for 330 radars (increased to 505 as of Fiscal 2022). The AESA and associated hardware costs were approximately $2.4 million per airframe but the total conversion cost (including labor and spares) was $4.15 million.

The second major avionics improvement program will replace legacy analog ALR-69 and ALR-56M with the Next Generation Electronic Warfare (NGEW) Digital Radar Warning Receiver (DRWR). In January 2021, the Air Force announced it had awarded Northrop Grumman (NG) $250 million to develop the system after a competitive evaluation against L3Harris. NG expects the program could result in the acquisition of 450 NGEWs worth $2.5 billion. As of the time of this writing, the system has yet to receive a tri-service designation and is referred to as the DRWR in budget justification documents. The NGEW is understood to build upon NG s latest APR-39 installed on the MC-130J and may feature more advanced electronic support measures (ESM) functions. Northrop says the NGEW will be fully integrated with SABR and leverages an open-systems, ultra-wideband architecture, providing the instantaneous bandwidth to defeat modern threats . The company s test aircraft fitted with both SABR and NGEW took part in the 2021 Northern Lightning exercise at Volk Field, WI, in September. The first F-16 fitted with NGEW is expected to fly over the summer of 2022. Separately, the U.S. ANG and reserve aircraft will be fitted with the Elbit PAWS.

In April 2020, the Air Force released its F-16 Operational Flight Program (OFP) M7.2+ configuration to its more than 600 block 40/42/50/52 aircraft. The $455 million enhancement adds AIM-120D and AGM-158B JASSM-ER compatibility, facilitates integration of the APG-83 AESA, adds an Integrated Communication Suite as well as 42 other enhancements. The Air Force aims to release new OFP updates into two-year cycles. OFP M8.0.3 rectifies Modular Mission Computer shortfalls in memory and throughput. OFP M8.1 includes a programable display generator and M8.2 adds an ethernet high speed data network to facilitate future upgrades such as a digital targeting video pod. M8.1 installs will conclude in 2024 and M8.2 in 2026.

The USAF s Fiscal 2022budget requests $613 million in procurement for F-16 modifications as well as $224 million in research development test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds.

HAVE GLASS Survivability Treatments

One of the less-discussed aspects of the F-16's evolution is its incorporation of some radar cross section (RCS) reduction techniques under the HAVE GLASS program. In the late 1980s, U.S. and Soviet designers explored the application of RAM to fourth generation fighters such as MiG-29M (izdeliye 9.15) in 1986 and F/A-18A/B/C/D in 1989. The aim of these modifications is not to achieve full stealth capability but to modestly delay detection and potentiate self-protection jamming. This is due to the nature of the radar range equation. To achieve a 90% reduction in detection range from a threat radar, one must reduce the RCS of the target by a factor of 10,000. Conventional wisdom holds that tactically significant RCS reductions require careful shape management from inception and cannot be retrofitted LO is 90% a function of shaping and 10% of materials.

HAVE GLASS I included a canopy coated with indium-tin-oxide (ITO) and a specially treated radar bulkhead. Canopies and radar bulkheads can be significant contributor of RCS as oncoming radar waves can penetrate and bounce around within the enclosed space, accumulating energy (freak waves). Modified aircraft can be visually identified by the gold coloration of their canopies. Dutch aircraft began receiving the modification under the Pacer Bond program in 1986. HAVE GLASS effectiveness was noted by the French during the 1987 Paris Air Show and contributed toward a desire to strengthen the Rafale s signature reduction measures.

HAVE GLASS II started in the late 1990s and consisted of the Pacer Mud (FMS-3049 RAM) and Pacer Gem I/II (FMS-2026 IR topcoat) programs. FMS-3049 was comprised of ferromagnetic particles within a high dielectric constant polymer base. The combination both slows down and absorbs radar energy. RAM was applied to approximately 60% of the aircraft s surface in 10-12 mm thick layer, adding some 100 kg to the aircraft. The 10-12 mm thickness likely indicates FMS-3049 was optimized against the X-band frequency frequently which is typically used for engagement radars. Lockheed used its Computer Aided Spray Paint Expelling Robot (CASPER) system developed for the F-22 to apply RAM in the F-16 s inlet duct and other difficult to access spaces. Some 1,700 U.S. and international F-16s received HAVE GLASS II treatments.

HAVE GLASS V, for 5th generation, was first observed on an F-16CMs in 2012. Some pre-Block models started to receive the modification by December 2019. HAVE GLASS V modified airframes are distinguished by their single-tone dark gray livery.

The effectiveness of HAVE GLASS is difficult to assess with publicly available information. A clean configuration F-16A reportedly has an RCS of 5 m2 relative to the 10 m2 for the F-15. HAVE GLASS is believed to have brought the F-16 s RCS down to the 1-3 m2 range a 40-80% decrease. Assuming the mid-point RCS value of 2 m2 and using data from Russian export catalogs, it is possible to deduce that the S-400 s 92N6E fire control radar wou

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Airbus A330 MRTT

Airbus A330 MRTT user+1@localho Wed, 02/02/2022 - 21:17

The Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker-Transport (MRTT) is a European air-refueling tanker derived from the widebody civil airliner bearing the same name. It reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 2011. MRTT is typically powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B high-bypass turbofan engines supplying 71,100 lbf. (316 kN) of thrust each, and its centerline boom refueling system is capable of offloading 3,600 kg (7,937 lb.), or 1,200 US gal (4,542 L) of fuel to a receiving aircraft per minute.

Program History

The A330 MRTT s originated as a larger application of the A310 MRTT. The A310 MRTT was itself a development of the A310 MRTT, which was originally considered in 1994 as a replacement for older tankers. Airbus believed a market for 110 aircraft existed, and with A310-300s already in service with a number of western air arms a tanker conversion was a logical step.

In 1996, Airbus began marketing the A310 MRTT. The airplane would be fitted with two underwing refueling pods and could be equipped with a boom, and its main deck was reinforced for cargo handling purposes.

On July 21, 1997, Airbus and Lufthansa Technik AG signed a contract with the German Air Force to convert two A310s to the MRTT configuration. The service had already acquired two A310s in 1996 from Lufthansa. Two more aircraft followed.

The A310 conversions were not as successful as expected in the 1990s only six were performed, four for the German Air Force and two for Canada. The MRTT concept proved to be much more viable when applied to the larger A330. In December 2004, Australia became the A330 MRTT launch customer when it awarded a contract for five aircraft to EADS (now Airbus).

An A310 was used as a testbed for the boom system, which was ideal because of the preceding MRTT integration work and the similarities between the A310 and A330. Both aircraft have the same fuselage cross-section and the same APU configuration. The first A330 MRTT intended for Australia rolled out of the EADS CASA (now Airbus) facility in Getafe in June 2007. The remaining four were modified to the MRTT configuration in Brisbane by Qantas Defense Services starting in June 2008. Australia expected to take delivery of the first aircraft in late 2008, but delays related to Australian airworthiness requirements delayed deliveries until May 2021.

Fortuitously, Australia specified a boom capability on its MRTTs, which would be required to refuel the Lockheed Martin F-35A as it entered service to replace Australia s force of Boeing F/A-18 Hornets. It would also extend the operational range of Australia s Boeing C-17 Globemaster III airlifters. This ensured that boom integration aboard the A330 was well underway by the time the KC-X program kicked off in the U.S.

KC-X Program and Recompete

In cooperation with Northrop Grumman EADS offered the A330 MRTT to fulfill the U.S. Air Force s KC-X requirement for 179 tankers. These wouldreplace the service s fleet of KC-135s. an RFP for an initial batch of 80 aircraft was issued in January 2007.

The Air Force had previously attempted to lease Boeing KC-767s starting in 2002 to replace some of the KC-135s. By late 2003 this had become a proposal to acquire 80 aircraft and lease 20 more, but the program was terminated in January 2006 over allegations surrounding a procurement official seeking employment at Boeing while working on the program. The scandal led to the firing and prosecution of both the former official, by then a Boeing Vice President, and of Boeing CFO Michael M. Sears, and the resignation of Boeing CEO Philip M. Condit.

Boeing s KC-X offering was based on the 767-200LRF, a new 767-family aircraft incorporating the doors, floors, and wings of the 767-300F and the cockpit, tail section and flaps of the 767-400ER. It was an evolution of the earlier KC-767 proposal for the Air Force, which is distinct from the 767-200ER-derived tankers sold to various export customers.

To fulfill U.S. industrial requirements Airbus would establish a facility in Mobile, Alabama to modify A330s to the MRTT configuration. The MRTT was selected to fulfill the requirement in February 2008. As the winner it became known as the KC-45A. Boeing filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which was sustained by the GAO on June 18, 2008.

The GAO recommended a new source selection, and on July 9, 2008 Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered an expedited recompetition run directly by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD AT&L) instead of by the Air Force. Northrop was ordered to stop work on the contract and a draft RFP was issued in August 2008. The DoD intended for proposals to be due in October and for a source selection to be made by the end of 2008, but this quickly proved to be overambitious, and the second iteration of KC-X was canceled in September. Gates anticipated a third recompete after the new administration took office.

A year later, in September 2009, Gates announced the resurrection of KC-X. This time the program would be run by the Air Force, with OSD oversight. The contract would cover 179 aircraft and make up the first stage of a three-stage effort to recapitalize the U.S. tanker force. A new draft fixed-price RFP was structured to focus on 373 mandatory requirements, with 93 non-mandatory requirements that would decide the competition if the proposals were within 1% of each other on price.

The new requirements immediately aroused controversy, and Northrop threatened to not bid on the RFP in a December letter to USD AT&L, the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force. The letter emphasized the need for a competitive process to preserve the credibility of the source selection and held out a Northrop withdrawal in an effort to pressure the Air Force to modify the draft RFP. Its position was supported by the Alabama congressional delegation and by EADS. The Air Force put out a final RFP in February 2010, with deliveries of four preproduction test articles to begin in FY 2015. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) would be declared in 2017.

Northrop withdrew from KC-X on Mar. 8, 2010. EADS submitted an independent bid on April 20. It marketed the MRTT as the KC-45, with a proposal largely similar to the one it had offered with Northrop s cooperation. This included assembly at a new Mobile, Alabama Airbus facility. Following months of delays and a dark horse bid from Antonov offering an An-70 derivative with U.S. engines, Boeing s proposal was selected on Feb. 24, 2011 and designated the KC-46A. The contract covered 18 aircraft to be delivered by 2017, including the four preproduction examples. EADS refrained from submitting a protest, citing Boeing s very aggressive proposal and the high degree of financial risk it was assuming on the fixed-price contract.

Features

Overall Design

The A330 MRTT is based on the Airbus A330-200 widebody commercial jet with additional equipment to perform aerial refueling as well as military transport and aeromedical evacuation missions. The A330-200 itself is a shortened variant of the A330-300 fitted with a new center wing fuel tank for additional range. Powered by a pair of either General Electric CF6-80E1A3 or Rolls Royce Trent 772B turbofans, the aircraft has a maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.86, a ferry range of 8,000 nm (14,800 km) and a maximum takeoff weight of 514,000 lb. (233,000 kg). The glass cockpit holds a flight crew of two, each with side-stick controllers for the aircraft's fly-by-wire control system. An optional Defensive Aid System (DAS) can protect the aircraft in medium threat environments with systems including a missile warning system, infrared (IR) laser jammers, cockpit armor and fuel tank inerting systems.

With 245,000 lb. (111,000 kg) of fuel in its standard internal tanks, the A330 is the first aircraft adapted for aerial refueling that did not require installation of extra fuel bladders, enabling it to carry its full load of fuel while reserving all of its main and lower decks for passengers and cargo. If required, the A330 MRTT can be equipped with a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI), allowing it to receive fuel in flight from boom-equipped tankers at 1,200 gal/min (3,600 kg/min).

Refueling System

The MRTT is designed for multiple fuel offload systems. It can carry:

  • The Airbus Defence & Space (ADS) Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) to refuel receptacle-equipped aircraft, at a rate of 1,200 gal/min (3,600 kg/min).
  • Two Cobham 905E underwing pods to refuel probe-equipped aircraft at an offload rate of 420 gal/min (1,300 kg/min). The pods are permanently installed at the hardpoints already available on the common A330/A340 wing, where the outer engines reside on the A340.
  • Some A330 MRTTs also are equipped to carry a removable Cobham 805E Fuselage Refueling Unit (FRU), which is installed at the aft centerline near the boom, to refuel large, probe-equipped aircraft (such as the A400M or C295) at up to 600 gal/min (1,800 kg/min). The 805E can also offload a type of fuel different from the under-wing pods. It is not compatible with the ARBS and is directly integrated into the fuselage.

Airbus and the aircraft's operators have described multiple refueling mission profiles for the A330 MRTT. These are detailed below.

  • Remain on station 1,000 nmi (1,852 km) from base for 4 hr. and 30 min. while offloading 110,230 lb. (50,000 kg) of fuel.
  • Remain on station 500 nmi (926 km) from base for 5 hr. while offloading 132,200 lb. (60,000 kg) of fuel.
  • Deploy 3,600 nmi (6,700 km) with four Eurofighter Typhoons, refueling them en route.
  • Deploy 2,800 nmi (5,200 km) with four fighters while carrying 44,100 lb. (20,000 kg) of cargo or 26,400 lb. (12,000 kg) of cargo and 50 passengers.

Unlike in earlier tanker designs, the A330 MRTT's air-to-air refueling (AAR) systems are controlled remotely at a console in the cockpit, rather than at the rear of the aircraft, allowing better coordination with the flight crew. This requires an optronics system since the operator cannot directly view the refueling stations from the tail as on the KC-135 or KC-10.

Situated behind the pilots, the Air Refueling Operator (ARO) console provides visibility aft of the aircraft through the Enhanced Vision System (EVS). EVS incorporates a set of high-definition cameras that feed 2D/3D digital displays - one large display with three smaller ones above it - to provide a 270-deg. view behind the aircraft in day, night or adverse weather conditions. The console monitors the refueling equipment and records refueling operations. Another console is available for an instructor or mission coordinator, who has access to the interphone, communication systems and mission systems. AAR and mission data, along with video of the AAR operation behind the aircraft, also are provided to the flight crew's displays to enhance their situational awareness.

Engines

Like civil A330-200s, the MRTT is offered with three engine configurations, the GE CF6-80E1A3 / 1A4B, the Pratt & Whitney PW4168A and the Rolls-Royce Trent 772B. Most MRTTs are delivered with the Trent 772B.

The GE CF6-80E1A3 is a high-bypass ratio axial flow turbofan engine capable of supplying 72,000 lbf. (320 kN) of thrust at takeoff. At the time it entered service in December 2001 it was the highest thrust member of the CF6 family. The CF6-80E1A4B, which Saudi aircraft are equipped with, is very similar to the E1A3 and is rated for the same takeoff thrust. The CF6-80E1 series of engines feature an integrated fan and low pressure (LP) compressor, a 14-stage high pressure (HP) compressor, a two-stage HP turbine and a five-stage LP turbine.

The Pratt & Whitney PW4168A is a high-bypass ratio axial flow turbofan engine capable of supplying 68,600 lbf. (305 kN) of thrust at takeoff. It features a single-stage fan, a five-stage LP compressor, an 11-stage HP compressor, an annular combustor, a two-stage HP turbine and a five-stage LP turbine.

The Trent 772B is a high-bypass ratio axial flow turbofan engine capable of supplying 71,100 lbf. (316 kN) of thrust at takeoff. It features a fan, a four-stage LP turbine, an eight-stage intermediate pressure (IP) compressor, a single-stage IP turbine, a six-stage HP compressor, an annular combustor and a single-stage HP turbine. The LP, IP and HP systems all have separate coaxial shafts.

Cargo and Passenger Handling

In the transport mission, the A330 MRTT can carry up to 300 troops or a payload of 99,000 lb. (45,000 kg). The upper deck is offered in a variety of passenger configurations. A single class configuration yields the 300 troop capacity but more typical is a two-class configuration accommodating 266 passengers, with 30 in business seats and 236 in economy. The maximum certified capacity is 380 passengers. VIP cabin configurations also are offered.

Even with all AAR systems installed, the A330 MRTT provides as much cargo volume as a C-130 and as much payload weight as the A400M. The A330-200 fuselage includes three lower deck cargo compartments (forward, aft and bulk) with a maximum usable volume of 4,200 ft3 (120 m3). This lower deck can accommodate a variety of pallet loads including eight 463L (88 x108 in.) NATO pallets plus one LD3 container and one LD6 container; or 25 LD3s. While configuring the main deck for cargo stowage would yield another 11,830 ft3 (335 m3) of contiguous space (enough for 26 NATO pallets), none of the A330 MRTTs currently in service or on order have cargo doors installed on the main deck, and the current decks are not capable of handling large pallets or containers. Airbus quotes range-payload performance (at ISA+15 conditions) as:

  • 99,000 lb. (45,000 kg): 3,800 nmi (7,000 km)
  • 88,000 lb. (40,000 kg): 4,500 nmi (8,400 km) [equivalent to 300 troops with equipment]
  • 66,000 lb. (30,000 kg): 5,500 nmi (10,200 km)
  • 44,000 lb. (20,000 kg): 6,500 nmi (12,000 km)
  • 22,000 lb. (10,000 kg): 7,500 nmi (13,900 km)

In the aeromedical evacuation role, the A330 MRTT can accommodate up to 130 NATO stretchers on its main deck. Other configurations are available to allow more intensive care for a smaller number of patients. There is also an option to install medical beds over designated fold down seats to allow mixed configurations.

Capability Compared to the KC-46A

The MRTT s primary competitor, the KC-46A, carries two underwing refueling pods capable of offloading 400 U.S. gal of fuel per minute and a cockpit-controlled fly-by-wire refueling boom offloading 1,200 U.S. gal of fuel per minute. These rates are comparable to a similarly configured MRTT. The KC-46A can carry up to 212,300 lb. (96,300 kg) of fuel, over 30,000 lb. (13,610 kg) less than the considerably larger MRTT.

Unlike the MRTT, the KC-46A does not feature a cargo bay underneath the cabin; it has space for a maximum of 114 passengers (FAA certification for only 58) and three pallets. In a pure cargo configuration, it can handle a maximum of 18 463L pallets. Its aeromedical evacuation configuration includes 24 litters and space for 30 ambulatory patients. The airlifter-like cargo and passenger capacity of the MRTT gives it added versatility and has made it successful in a market where many countries are seeking to replace a portion of both their tanker and airlift capacity with a single fleet.

Variants

Some operators refer to the A330 MRTT by different names. In RAAF service the aircraft are known as the KC-30A, and in the RAF they are known as the Voyager KC2 and Voyager KC3. The KC2 carries only the underwing refueling pods while the KC3 also has the FRU. In general, MRTTs vary in which of the standard Airbus refueling offerings they carry and in additional avionics required by the operator.

Upgrades

A330 MRTT Enhanced

Airbus has since 2014 offered a new version of the tanker based on an updated commercial A330-200 that features a series of structural and aerodynamic modifications, including changes to the wing slats and flaps, as well as introduction of new Power-8 avionics computers. One of the new standard MRTTs made its first flight on Oct. 20, 2016. All MRTTs delivered since August 2018, when Singapore received its first MRTT, have been delivered with these updates.

The new standard MRTT has an enhanced MTOW of 533,500 lb. (242,000 kg) and a new Tanker Integrated Mission System (TIMS) enabled by the Power-8. TIMS includes touchscreen displays, improved encryption and Link 16 capability, centralized mission data recording and mission planning features. TIMS also includes electronic flight bags.

A3R and A4R

In 2018, Airbus revealed that it was working on a fully automated boom refueling capability for the MRTT known as A3R (automatic air-to-air refueling). A3R enables automatic contact between the boom and receivers and was tested aboard an Airbus-owned A310 MRTT from 2018 to 2021, successfully making contact with receiving aircraft including an A330 MRTT, a Portuguese F-16 and Singaporean F-16s and F-15SGs. Airbus in December 2021 indicated that it is also pursuing an A4R capability fully autonomous refueling that does not require a human in the loop.

Boom Upgrade 3

Upgrade 3 is a software upgrade for the ARBS that alters the aircraft s control laws to mitigate bow wake issues associated with refueling large aircraft. It also includes revised displays and a new stick for the ARO.

Production and Delivery History

As of January 2022, the MRTT was serving in the national militaries of seven countries and with NATO. 51 aircraft are in service and at least another 13 will be delivered over the next decade with existing commitments taken into account. India and Spain have also selected MRTT to fulfill their tanker requirements.

MRTTs are converted from green A330-200s at Airbus Getafe, Spain facility. Getafe has three hangars for MRTT conversions. Iberia Maintenance s facility in Madrid has another two hangars that can be used for overflow capacity under an agreement with Airbus if required.

Australia

Australia s initial fleet of MRTTs was procured under Project AIR 5402, which yielded a source selection in April 2004 for five aircraft. All five would be equipped with the wing mounted pods and the centerline boom option. A contract was signed in December 2004.

Australia currently operates seven A330 MRTTs, which it calls the KC-30A. Deliveries for the first batch began on June 1, 2011 and concluded on Dec. 3, 2012. In August 2014, the country's defense minister announced plans to convert two ex-Qantas A330s as part of the 2015 Defence White Paper review. This program was dubbed AIR 7403 Phase 3, with $914.4 million AUD ($785.12 million USD in 2021) budgeted for the program in 2015. Conversion efforts for both aircraft were underway in May 2016. The sixth was delivered on Sep. 18, 2017 and the seventh and final Australian MRTT was delivered in mid-2019. The final aircraft features a VIP cabin. When the white paper was released in 2016 it mentioned the possibility of procuring additional refuelers, but the government decided against it.

The Royal Australia Air Force lists its KC-30A as capable of carrying 270 passengers and 34,000 kg of cargo pallets and containers. The aircraft are powered by General Electric CF6-80E1A3s and carry Link 16 datalinks, military communication and navigation systems, and the Large Aircraft Infra-Red Counter Measures (LAIRCM) system.

While in Australian service the MRTT has been qualified to refuel a variety of U.S. origin tactical aircraft, including the F-22 and F-35.

France

On Nov. 20, 2014, France announced it was ready to order 12 A330 MRTTs under an agreement valued at 3 billion ($4.4 billion in 2021). Under the agreement, Paris would order one aircraft in 2014, eight in 2015 and the remaining three at an unspecified future date. At the time of the announcement the French defense minister noted that the aircraft would receive the local name of "Phoenix." The first aircraft entered service in late 2018. France took up the option for the last three aircraft in September 2018, with all 12 to be in service by 2023. At this time it was also considering procuring an additional three, to bring the total to 15. These were contracted by December 2018.

As of January 2022, six aircraft were in service. Deliveries will terminate in 2025 under current plans. The fleet of 15 MRTTs is replacing 14 KC-135Rs, two A340s and three A310s. The A340s and A310s have already been withdrawn, and the KC-135 drawdown is expected to be complete in 2023.

The contract covered development and qualification of the specific French configuration, which includes Trent 772B engines, Thales avionics and a passenger capacity of 271. For medevac missions, the French MRTTs are outfitted with the MoRPHEE (Module de R animation pour Patient Haute Elongation d Evacuation) intensive care module carrying up to ten patients and 88 other passengers. Airbus says the contract also covers associated support and training systems, such as spares, ground support equipment, training devices and five years of in-service support from the first delivery.

India

India released a tender in 2006 to acquire six new tankers in addition to the service s six Ilyushin Il-78s, which were delivered in 2003 and 2004. Both the Il-78 and A330 MRTT were considered for the requirement. On May 28, 2009, India selected the MRTT. The tender was subsequently terminated by the Indian government in January 2010. Under the procurement regulations in place at the time, the government was obliged to procure the cheapest capability meeting the requirements stipulated by the tender.

A new tender was launched, and in November 2012 the Indian government designated EADS as its preferred vendor for the program. In early 2013 the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) once again selected the A330 MRTT. Final negotiations for the sale, estimated to be worth more than $2 billion, ensued with Airbus officials pre-signing a contract in the hopes the Indian MoD would sign in 2014. However, the procurement process was put on hold after the deal was referred to the MoD's vigilance department for clearance following allegations against Airbus by India's federal probe agency - the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - of alleged financial irregularities. As of May 2015, the contract had not been signed but New Delhi's defense minister stated the process was "still on track." The Indian Air force had hoped to induct the tankers starting in 2017. In July 2016, the tender was canceled due to the high operational cost expected for the aircraft.

A new RFI was launched in January 2018 with the expectation that aircraft would begin arriving in three years. The MRTT, KC-46A and Il-78 were all considered before the Il-78 was disqualified in February. The RFI included provisions for bidders to submit offers for both new build and used aircraft. The vagaries of the Indian procurement system delayed an RFP repeatedly, and by March 2020 the tanker acquisition had morphed into a wet lease. The Indian government sought quotes from both Airbus and Boeing. To expedite the process, it intended to procure 1-2 aircraft to start and either lease or buy more thereafter.

In April 2021, reports suggested the Indian government was in talks with France for a ten year wet lease on a French Air Force MRTT. This would be followed by a lease for 4-5 more aircraft provided by Airbus and operated by AirTanker, the British firm leasing MRTTs to the British Royal Air Force since 2008.

MRTTs marketed to India carry under-wing pods and the FRU but not the ARBS, yielding a three-point hose-and-drogue system. At present India does not operate any tactical aircraft that would require boom refueling, but this could change in the unlikely event India selects the Boeing F-15EX to fulfill its outstanding requirement for 110 fighters. Other competitors include the Boeing F/A-18E/F, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-21 (an F-16 Block 70 derivative), Saab Gripen E/F, UAC MiG-35 and UAC Su-35.

NATO Multinational MRTT Fleet

At the 2012 NATO Summit, NATO members agreed to establish a multinational tanker force to augment the alliance s non-U.S. air refueling capability. Ten European countries signed a letter of intent agreeing to move the effort forward: Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Spain. The European Defence Agency (EDA) would supervise the effort, though procurement would be handled by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and the aircraft would be NATO owned.

In December 2014, the Dutch defense minister indicated that the Netherlands, Norway and Poland would partner on the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF), or what NATO now calls the Multi Role Tanker Transport Capability (MRTT-C). The four new tankers would effectively replace the Netherlands two McDonnell Douglas KDC-10s. In July 2016, just prior to the signing of the MMF contract, Poland withdrew from the program, reportedly over cost and industrial offsets.

On July 28, 2016, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed an MOU agreeing to move forward with a contract for two aircraft and an option for five more. The contract with Airbus was signed shortly thereafter, and the first deliveries were expected in 2016. Germany and Norway formally joined the MMF program on Sep. 25, 2017. Their admission included the exercise of the option for the additional five MRTTs. It also added a new option for four aircraft to be exercised as more countries joined the program in the future. Belgium s admission in February 2018 converted one of these options to a contract. The Czech Republic joined in October 2019, though another option was not exercised until September 2020, a few months after the first MRTT was delivered to Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands on June 29, 2020.

The Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) is managing the acquisition phase on behalf of NATO. The aircraft are being delivered in a common specification with a refueling boom and the two under-wing pods. They are equipped with the Trent 772B engine.

Qatar

In April 2014, Doha selected the A330 MRTT to fill its requirement for two tankers. A contract was expected soon after but by late 2019 no contract had been signed and it was clear that the deal had fallen through.

Saudi Arabia

On Jan. 3, 2008, Riyadh confirmed it had selected Airbus (then EADS) to supply three A330 MRTTs. On July 27, 2009, Airbus announced it had received a follow-on contract to double the order to six. The first MRTT entered service with the Royal Saudi Air Force on Feb. 25, 2013. All six were in service by the end of 2015.

Riyadh's aircraft are powered by General Electric CF6-80E engines and carry the boom and under-wing pods. Their main decks are configured to carry up to 266 passengers in a two-class configuration.

Singapore

The Republic of Singapore Air Force ordered six A330 MRTTs, of the enhanced A330-200/300 version, in February 2014, announcing the deal on March 6, 2014. The aircraft were bought to replace the country's four ex-U.S. Air Force KC-135Rs, and all six were delivered by January 2020. A fact sheet prepared by Singapore's MoD states the nation's aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 772B engines and have the two-class 266-seat passenger cabin configuration. Singaporean MRTTs will receive Airbus A3R automated refueling capability after it achieves final certification.

South Korea

On June 30, 2015, South Korea selected the MRTT over the KC-46A and a KC-767 proposal offered by Israel Aerospace Industries to fulfill a requirement for four tankers. The Airbus proposal was priced at that time at $1.3 billion ($1.5 billion in 2021). The first two aircraft were delivered in January and March 2019. The second pair arrived in the latter half of the year.

In South Korean service the MRTT is known as the KC-330 Cygnus. Its aircraft are equipped with the boom system and use the Trent 772B engine. They also feature the AN/AAQ-24(V) LAIRCM countermeasures system.

Spain

In 2016, Spain expressed interest in acquiring three MRTTs. The plan stalled for years until 2020, when the Spanish government committed to the program in an effort to bolster Airbus in Spain to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on industry. Spain s previous tanker capability, the Boeing KC-707, was retired in 2016.

A contract was finally signed on Sep. 21, 2021 to convert three A330s formerly serving with Iberia (Spain s flag carrier). The first MRTT conversion for Spain will be completed in 2024 under current plans. Spanish MRTTs will have the hose and drogue refueling pods and the aeromedical evacuation cabin configuration.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UAE ordered three A330 MRTTs in February 2008. Deliveries ran from Feb. 6, 2013, to Aug. 6, 2013. In November 2019, the UAE opted to acquire another three MRTTs despite the previous request for three KC-46As in May 2019. On Nov. 14, 2021, the UAE selected two more A330s. It is not clear whether any of these five aircraft have been contracted yet.

Emirati A330 MRTTs are equipped with a boom, under-wing pods and the UARRSI. They are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 772Bs and have 256 passenger seats.

United Kingdom

The UK operates its A330 MRTTs (known as the KC2/KC3 Voyager locally) under a leasing arrangement with AirTanker, a private consortium of Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Thales, Cobham and Babcock. The company has 14 MRTTs in service. These aircraft took over the Royal Air Force (RAF) refueling role from the Vickers VC-10 and Lockheed Tristar, which were retired in September 2013 and March 2014, respectively.

The RAF operates two versions of the Voyager: the KC2 with two under-wing pods and the KC3, a "three-point" tanker with the two under-wing pods and the FRU. Neither version carries a boom. The fleet of 14 includes seven KC3s, with five of them fitted with the FRU at any given time. The main decks are all configured for 291 passengers in the transport role and 40 patients when configured for aeromedical evacuation.

The leasing arrangement was initiated when the UK MoD awarded AirTanker the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) contract in March 2008. This "private finance initiative" contract runs until 2035 and is valued at 10.5 billion over 27 years. Other than for inflationary increases (which is tied to the Retail Price Index), costs are fixed for the duration of the contract. However, the UK's National Audit Office has reported the overall cost of the program may reach 12.3 billion.

RAF service members pilot and crew the Voyagers on all military missions. However, Air Tanker owns, manages and maintains the aircraft and also provides infrastructure, support and training facilities. RAF personnel in the two Voyager squadrons can also be supplemented by 14 RAF "Sponsored Reserve" pilots who are also civilian employees of AirTanker.

The AirTanker A330 MRTTs are designed to be converted to and from tankers, an operation that is part of the consortium s business plan and key to reducing costs of the FSTA program. The conversion back to civil configuration is carried out by AirTanker engineers using facilities at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, the company's base where it carries out most of its activities.

Nine of the 14 Voyagers form a core fleet that is constantly available to the RAF. At any one time, at least one of these nine aircraft flies without its military equipment on the Civil Aircraft Register. This allows the aircraft to move personnel around the world, including to the Falklands Islands, more easily as they do not need to obtain the clearances required for transit of military aircraft. The remaining five Voyagers (all KC2s) will form a surge capability for RAF but will also be released for use by other nations as tankers (with the U.K. MoD s agreement) and for use in the charter market without its military equipment onboard.

AirTanker established its first commercial partnership with the charter airline Thomas Cook Airways in June 2014. The company leased one of the A330s for three years on what the airline describes as a moist lease" or "damp lease basis, meaning AirTanker also supplies the pilots and cabin crew. On May 1, 2015, the company initiated flights with the aircraft, servicing two destinations in Mexico. Thomas Cook Airlines ceased operations on Sep. 23, 2019 under compulsory liquidation.

United States

The MRTT is again in contention in the U.S. as the Air Force moves ahead with its KC-Y competition to procure a Bridge Tanker to fill an emerging gap between the KC-46A and the notional KC-Z future tanker. As with KC-X, the competition will pit the KC-46A against the MRTT. A team of the Kansas Modification Center (KMC) and the National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR) Werx has also proffered a longshot bid for tanker conversions of passenger-to-freighter converted Boeing 777-300ERs. The Air Force wants to acquire 140 to 160 new tankers at a rate of up to 15 aircraft per year starting in 2029.

Airbus is partnering with Lockheed Martin on its KC-Y offering, marking the MRTT as the LMXT. It is expected to have improved range and fuel offload capability compared to the MRTT, to incorporate an open systems architecture and to have networking features viewed as desirable to support the Air Force s ABMS concept. Lockheed has also stated the LMXT will feature U.S.-made engines. At the end of January 2022, Lockheed confirmed A330s offered for the program will be built at Airbus Alabama facility and converted to LMXTs at the Lockheed facility in Marietta, Georgia.

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20th
JAN

TAI TF-X

TAI TF-X user+1@localho Thu, 01/20/2022 - 21:17

TF-X is a prospective fifth-generation fighter under development for the Turkish air force. The program is led by state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with the cooperation of BAE Systems. In Turkish, the program is known as the Milli Muharip U ak (MMU) the National Combat Aircraft. Turkish sources also infrequently refer to the program as F-X, but this document will exclusively use TF-X to avoid confusion with other F-X programs such as F/A-XX, KF-X and Japan s F-X.

Program History

Turkey s Role in the F-35 Program

On Dec. 12, 2006, Turkey selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II as its New Generation Fighter Jet. It signed a letter of intent with Lockheed Martin to become a partner on the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program on Feb. 6, 2007, planning to acquire as many as 116 F-35As by 2031 (it later reduced this target to 100). These would replace its aging McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom IIs, F-4E 2020s and F-16C/D Block 30s and Block 40s. Newer F-16C/D Block 50s would remain in service into the 2030s.

Turkish industry played a significant role in the program. The country was designated a Level-III partner, representing the lowest tier of partner nations directly involved in the F-35 s system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. In terms of manufacturing workshare, Turkish involvement was more substantive. TAI delivered center fuselages to F-35 final assembly and checkout (FACO) facilities in Cameri, Italy and Fort Worth, Texas. It also produced composite skins, weapon bay doors and fiber placement composite air inlet ducts for the program. Other Turkish F-35 suppliers include Alp Aviation, which manufactured structural components, landing gear components and engine parts (including titanium integrated blade rotors); Ayesas, which made the missile remote interface units and the panoramic cockpit display; Fokker Elmo, which made 40% of the electrical wiring and interconnection system for the F-35 and the F135; Havelsan, which worked on the training system; and Kale Group, which worked with TAI on aerostructures, with Heroux Devtek for landing gear lock up assemblies and with Pratt & Whitney on F135 components.

Turkey also envisaged the inclusion of indigenous weapons on its F-35As from the start. This was to include:

  • The Precision Guidance Kit (HGK)
  • The G KDO AN (Peregrine) beyond visual range (BVR) AAM
  • The BOZDO AN (Merlin) short-range air-to-air missile (AAM)
  • The SOM family of air-launched cruise missiles.

When Turkey planned to acquire the Russian S-400 surface to air missile system, the U.S. raised concerns about the impact this would have on the F-35. Under the Fiscal 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act as signed into law in February 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) was prohibited from using funds to transfer F-35As to Turkey if the S-400 acquisition continued. Turkey consistently expressed its intent to move ahead with the S-400 acquisition anyway. On April 1, 2019, the U.S. suspended F-35A deliveries to Turkey. Deliveries of the S-400 began in July 2019.

Shortly thereafter, on July 17, 2019, Turkey was officially ejected from the JSF program. Its removal presented immediate and serious transitional issues for the program, which would need to substitute Turkish components used in the fighter. By this time four Turkish F-35As had already been produced. Though Turkey owned the planes, the U.S. has prevented them from leaving the country. At the time the U.S. Department of Defense estimated that 900 Turkish parts would have to be substituted and that the expulsion would result in losses totaling $9 billion to Turkish industry over the life of the program. Notably this total includes 188 parts produced for a Kale Group joint venture with Pratt &Whitney for the P&W F135 turbofan engine aboard the F-35.

Following Turkey s ejection from the JSF program, Russia s Rostec publicly offered the Su-35 as a replacement. On Oct. 15, 2019, President Erdogan indicated that Turkey had also received an offer for the Su-57. The Director of Russia s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dimitry Shugayev later indicated that the Su-57 was not on offer and was reserved for Russia s air force.

TF-X

The TF-X program was initiated on Dec. 15, 2010 to provide an indigenous replacement for Turkey s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s, which are expected to begin leaving service in the 2030s. It also began with a view towards the development of Turkey s aerospace industry, which has extensive experience manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles and upgrading or remanufacturing combat aircraft, but which has never designed a fighter.

On Aug. 23, 2011, a contract was signed between TAI and the Savunma Sanayii M ste arl (SSM) Undersecretariat for Defense Industries to initiate concept design for the new fighter. The concept studies were completed by Sep. 29, 2013. Three planforms were apparently evaluated and were first displayed publicly at the 2013 International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul. Of the three, two were single engine concepts, one with a conventional arrangement (FX-5) and the other with a large V-tail and close-coupled control canards (FX-6). In this design the V-tail surfaces contribute to pitch, roll and yaw; combined with the canards they yield a highly agile fighter. A 2018 estimate indicated that the FX-5 and FX-6 designs would feature an MTOW between 50,000 lb. (22,680 kg) and 60,000 lb. (27,215 kg). This would make either configuration lighter than the F-35A by over 10,000 lb. (4,535 kg).

The third and final design (FX-1) is a twin-engine layout with a planform resembling that of the F-22 and a conventional tail. It appears to be most optimally designed for supercruise capability and to maximize range. This design would have an MTOW between 60,000 lb. (27,215 kg) and 70,000 lb. (31,750 kg), significantly lighter than the F-22. All three feature caret inlets and standard low-observable features such as chined noses, edge alignment and sawtooth interfaces between the fuselage, access panels and the radome.

Diagram  Description automatically generated

11th
JAN

Boeing KC-46

Boeing KC-46 user+1@localho Tue, 01/11/2022 - 22:17

The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus is a U.S. air-refueling tanker based on the commercial Boeing 767 airliner. The aircraft will replace the KC-10 and partially replace the KC-135 in U.S. service. A total of 179 aircraft are on order for a total program cost of at least $44 billion with $34.9 billion in procurement and $6 billion in research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds. As of the time of this writing, the KC-46 has two foreign military sales (FMS) customers: Japan and Israel. As of the time of this writing, 52 KC-46As have been delivered to the U.S. Air Force and a single example has been delivered to Japan.

Program History

The KC-46 s genesis began from a 2001 U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort to lease 100 tankers to replace the service s oldest KC-135s. Northrop Grumman partnered with EADS (Airbus) to offer the KC-30 based upon the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) while Boeing offered a modified KC-767. The USAF awarded Boeing a $20 billion contract in 2003 but the program was suspended in December over allegations of misconduct on behalf of a senior USAF official charged with overseeing the program. The contract was ultimately canceled in 2005 and the USAF proceeded to completely restructure its tanker recapitalization strategy.

The Air Force published a tanker roadmap in 2006 that called for a three-step replacement for a then-combined fleet of over 500 Boeing KC-135 and KC-10 tankers. A KC-X contract award for the first 179 aircraft would be succeeded by a follow-on KC-Y contract 15-20 years later. Finally, a KC-Z, representing a purpose-built refueling system, would come last. In April 2006, the USAF completed an analysis of alternatives validating the plan. The initial request for proposals was released in January 2007.

Northrop Grumman paired with EADS to again offer an MRTT derivative (KC-45) while Boeing again offered a KC-767 derivative (KC-46). Airbus planned to open an MRTT modification and assembly line in Alabama as part of its proposal. The USAF selected Northrop s KC-45 in February 2008 but Boeing protested the award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that March. The GAO sustained Boeing s protest in June 2008 stating, The Air Force, in making the award decision, did not assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation, which provided for a relative order of importance for the various technical requirements .

10th
JAN

Chengdu J-20

Chengdu J-20 user+1@localho Mon, 01/10/2022 - 21:17

The J-20 is a fifth-generation, twin-engine fighter designed by Chengdu. Early production aircraft are powered by Russian supplied AL-31FN Series 3 engines. Subsequent production configuration J-20As are powered by the AL-31 or derivatives of the WS-10 depending upon the production batch. Future aircraft may be powered by the WS-15. Much of the existing Western literature describes the aircraft as a low observable (LO) interceptor, but domestic sources universally describe the aircraft as China s premier air superiority fighter. As of early 2022, approximately 60-70 J-20s are likely in operation with the PLAAF or are undergoing testing with Chengdu.

Program Development History

The J-20 s development history spans more than three decades. The People s Republic of China (PRC) is believed to have developed an interest in low observables in the 1980s. In 1992, Yu-Ping Liu Chief Scientist at Northrop Grumman and co-holder of the YF-23 patent, stated China lacked LO engineers working in system design and system integration. Furthermore, much of the domestic literature drew upon Western efforts and produced few innovations. At that time, the PRC lacked basic experience in LO as well as the required infrastructure such as radar target scattering facilities. The Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group or CAC ( , abbreviated as ) at that time had experience with the J-5, J-7, J-9 and J-10 programs. The Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) Number 611 Design Institute or serves as the primary design group under CAC. Their rival, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation s (SAC) Design Institute ( ) or 601 Institute, drew experience from Chinese Flanker programs such as the J-11. During the early 2000s, images of unknown credibility emerged regarding CAC and SAC concepts for Project 718.

Image

Image: CAC s J-XX proposal as of the China Aerospace Science and Technology from 2000.

The first credible look at a CAC s J-XX conceptual framework emerged in 2001. Song Wencong ( ), chief designer of the Chengdu J-10, published an academic paper titled, Research on Aerodynamic Layout of a High Lift Aircraft with Small Aspect Ratio ( ). The work describes a prospective fighter configuration featuring a blended lifting body with a canard-delta planform separated by a pair of leading-edge root extensions (LEX). The design featured pair of caret inlets similar to the F-22 and F/A-18E/F. Song Wencong notes the incorporation of S-shaped intakes, fuselage shaping, and an internal weapons bay would provide excellent signature performance. An image from the China Aerospace Science and Technology expo in 2000 shows a Chengdu model closely matching these aforementioned features. SAC s design effort reportedly was led by Li Tian ( ) whose team developed the Snowy Owl concept.

SAC s proposal features a tri-plane planform consisting of canards, trapezoidal wings and a four-tail layout. The planform reportedly was optimized to exceed the PLAAF s high AoA requirement.

Some have alleged both Chengdu and SAC sought Russian assistance in the early phases of the J-XX program such as supplying technical details on the canceled MiG 1.44 demonstrator. Renowned Russian aerospace authority, Piotr Butowski, argues cooperation at an official level was highly unlikely. For example, Russian specialists arriving in China to work on Su-27s and Su-30s are denied access to domestic Chinese Flankers let alone more sensitive projects. Butowski believes that any technical assistance on behalf of the Russians would have been on an individual and unsanctioned basis.

It s unknown when Chengdu won source selection, but the company appointed Yang Wei ( ) to lead development of the project. Yang Wei worked under Song Wencong on the J-10 program and developed its flight control system. He had graduated with a master s in-flight dynamics from Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU, ). Separately, work on the accompanying WS-15 powerplant began sometime prior to 2005 when the first bench test was conducted. Development work on the J-20 had progressed significantly by November 2009. The People s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commander Gen. He Weirong ( ) stated China was close to testing its next generation fighter prototype.

On Jan.11, 2011, the first J-20 technology demonstrator took flight for 18 min. Test pilot Li Gang ( ) had been preparing for the flight for more

5th
JAN

Chengdu J-20

Chengdu J-20 user+1@localho Wed, 01/05/2022 - 21:17

The J-20 is a fifth-generation, twin-engine fighter designed by Chengdu. Early production aircraft are powered by Russian supplied AL-31FN Series 3 engines. Subsequent production configuration J-20As are powered by the AL-31 or derivatives of the WS-10 depending upon the production batch. Future aircraft may be powered by the WS-15. Much of the existing Western literature describes the aircraft as a low observable (LO) interceptor, but domestic sources universally describe the aircraft as China s premier air superiority fighter. As of early 2022, approximately 60-70 J-20s are likely in operation with the PLAAF or are undergoing testing with Chengdu.

Program Development History

The J-20 s development history spans more than three decades. The People s Republic of China (PRC) is believed to have developed an interest in low observables in the 1980s. In 1992, Yu-Ping Liu Chief Scientist at Northrop Grumman and co-holder of the YF-23 patent, stated China lacked LO engineers working in system design and system integration. Furthermore, much of the domestic literature drew upon Western efforts and produced few innovations. At that time, the PRC lacked basic experience in LO as well as the required infrastructure such as radar target scattering facilities. The Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group or CAC ( , abbreviated as ) at that time had experience with the J-5, J-7, J-9 and J-10 programs. The Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) Number 611 Design Institute or serves as the primary design group under CAC. Their rival, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation s (SAC) Design Institute ( ) or 601 Institute, drew experience from Chinese Flanker programs such as the J-11. During the early 2000s, images of unknown credibility emerged regarding CAC and SAC concepts for Project 718.

Image

Image: CAC s J-XX proposal as of the China Aerospace Science and Technology from 2000.

The first credible look at a CAC s J-XX conceptual framework emerged in 2001. Song Wencong ( ), chief designer of the Chengdu J-10, published an academic paper titled, Research on Aerodynamic Layout of a High Lift Aircraft with Small Aspect Ratio ( ). The work describes a prospective fighter configuration featuring a blended lifting body with a canard-delta planform separated by a pair of leading-edge root extensions (LEX). The design featured pair of caret inlets similar to the F-22 and F/A-18E/F. Song Wencong notes the incorporation of S-shaped intakes, fuselage shaping, and an internal weapons bay would provide excellent signature performance. An image from the China Aerospace Science and Technology expo in 2000 shows a Chengdu model closely matching these aforementioned features. SAC s design effort reportedly was led by Li Tian ( ) whose team developed the Snowy Owl concept.

SAC s proposal features a tri-plane planform consisting of canards, trapezoidal wings and a four-tail layout. The planform reportedly was optimized to exceed the PLAAF s high AoA requirement.

Some have alleged both Chengdu and SAC sought Russian assistance in the early phases of the J-XX program such as supplying technical details on the canceled MiG 1.44 demonstrator. Renowned Russian aerospace authority, Piotr Butowski, argues cooperation at an official level was highly unlikely. For example, Russian specialists arriving in China to work on Su-27s and Su-30s are denied access to domestic Chinese Flankers let alone more sensitive projects. Butowski believes that any technical assistance on behalf of the Russians would have been on an individual and unsanctioned basis.

It s unknown when Chengdu won source selection, but the company appointed Yang Wei ( ) to lead development of the project. Yang Wei worked under Song Wencong on the J-10 program and developed its flight control system. He had graduated with a master s in-flight dynamics from Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU, ). Separately, work on the accompanying WS-15 powerplant began sometime prior to 2005 when the first bench test was conducted. Development work on the J-20 had progressed significantly by November 2009. The People s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commander Gen. He Weirong ( ) stated China was close to testing its next generation fighter prototype.

On Jan.11, 2011, the first J-20 technology demonstrator took flight for 18 min. Test pilot Li Gang ( ) had been preparing for the flight for more

4th
JAN

Chengdu J-20

Chengdu J-20 user+1@localho Tue, 01/04/2022 - 21:17

The J-20 is a fifth-generation, twin-engine fighter designed by Chengdu. Early production aircraft are powered by Russian supplied AL-31FN Series 3 engines. Subsequent production configuration J-20As are powered by the AL-31 or derivatives of the WS-10 depending upon the production batch. Future aircraft may be powered by the WS-15. Much of the existing Western literature describes the aircraft as a low observable (LO) interceptor, but domestic sources universally describe the aircraft as China s premier air superiority fighter. As of early 2022, approximately 60-70 J-20s are likely in operation with the PLAAF or are undergoing testing with Chengdu.

Program Development History

The J-20 s development history spans more than three decades. The People s Republic of China (PRC) is believed to have developed an interest in low observables in the 1980s. In 1992, Yu-Ping Liu Chief Scientist at Northrop Grumman and co-holder of the YF-23 patent, stated China lacked LO engineers working in system design and system integration. Furthermore, much of the domestic literature drew upon Western efforts and produced few innovations. At that time, the PRC lacked basic experience in LO as well as the required infrastructure such as radar target scattering facilities. The Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group or CAC ( , abbreviated as ) at that time had experience with the J-5, J-7, J-9 and J-10 programs. The Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) Number 611 Design Institute or serves as the primary design group under CAC. Their rival, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation s (SAC) Design Institute ( ) or 601 Institute, drew experience from Chinese Flanker programs such as the J-11. During the early 2000s, images of unknown credibility emerged regarding CAC and SAC concepts for Project 718.

Image

Image: CAC s J-XX proposal as of the China Aerospace Science and Technology from 2000.

The first credible look at a CAC s J-XX conceptual framework emerged in 2001. Song Wencong ( ), chief designer of the Chengdu J-10, published an academic paper titled, Research on Aerodynamic Layout of a High Lift Aircraft with Small Aspect Ratio ( ). The work describes a prospective fighter configuration featuring a blended lifting body with a canard-delta planform separated by a pair of leading-edge root extensions (LEX). The design featured pair of caret inlets similar to the F-22 and F/A-18E/F. Song Wencong notes the incorporation of S-shaped intakes, fuselage shaping, and an internal weapons bay would provide excellent signature performance. An image from the China Aerospace Science and Technology expo in 2000 shows a Chengdu model closely matching these aforementioned features. SAC s design effort reportedly was led by Li Tian ( ) whose team developed the Snowy Owl concept.

SAC s proposal features a tri-plane planform consisting of canards, trapezoidal wings and a four-tail layout. The planform reportedly was optimized to exceed the PLAAF s high AoA requirement.

Some have alleged both Chengdu and SAC sought Russian assistance in the early phases of the J-XX program such as supplying technical details on the canceled MiG 1.44 demonstrator. Renowned Russian aerospace authority, Piotr Butowski, argues cooperation at an official level was highly unlikely. For example, Russian specialists arriving in China to work on Su-27s and Su-30s are denied access to domestic Chinese Flankers let alone more sensitive projects. Butowski believes that any technical assistance on behalf of the Russians would have been on an individual and unsanctioned basis.

It s unknown when Chengdu won source selection, but the company appointed Yang Wei ( ) to lead development of the project. Yang Wei worked under Song Wencong on the J-10 program and developed its flight control system. He had graduated with a master s in-flight dynamics from Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU, ). Separately, work on the accompanying WS-15 powerplant began sometime prior to 2005 when the first bench test was conducted. Development work on the J-20 had progressed significantly by November 2009. The People s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commander Gen. He Weirong ( ) stated China was close to testing its next generation fighter prototype.

On Jan.11, 2011, the first J-20 technology demonstrator took flight for 18 min. Test pilot Li Gang ( ) had been preparing for the flight for more

20th
DEC

Airbus Tiger (EC665)

Airbus Tiger (EC665) user+1@localho Mon, 12/20/2021 - 21:17

The Tiger (formerly EC665) is an attack helicopter built by Airbus and is powered by a pair of Turbomeca Rolls-Royce MTR390 engines. Each nation uses the Tiger in slightly different roles such as force protection and armed reconnaissance, which has led to multiple divergent aircraft configurations across France, Germany, Spain and Australia. As of the time of this writing, 161 Tigers are in operational service of the more than 180 helicopters delivered.

Program History

In 1974 the Bundeswehr (German Military) conducted a threat analysis of projected threats from Warsaw Pact forces and concluded its military urgently needed to field a fleet of modern anti-tank helicopters. Early West German Army staff requirements determined it would need a 5-ton-class helicopter with a 2 -hr. endurance, cruise speed of 168 mph (270 kph), night vision capability and an armament of at least eight 2 -mi. (4 km)-range anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). West German doctrine assumed NATO forces would establish air superiority, but the new helicopter was expected to defend itself from adversary helicopters. An interim purchase of Panzerabwehrhubschrauber 1 (PAH-1, meaning anti-tank helicopter 1) helicopters, was approved in 1975 to buy time for the development of a dedicated anti-armor helicopter; the PAH-1 was a Messerschmitt-B lkow-Blohm (MBB) BO 105s armed with six HOT Semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) missiles. Germany examined the acquisition of the McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache and joined the Italian Mangusta program prior to its partnership with France.

Having withdrawn from NATO s integrated military command in 1966, French military requirements for new combat helicopters in the early 1970s reflected substantially different military doctrine and national defense objectives when compared to West German requirements. Under a European intervention scenario, French Army staff predicted they would face overwhelming numbers of armored forces supported by integrated air defense systems. France foresaw the need to procure two new types of combat helicopters. One type would defeat armored forces and the other would protect the anti-armor helicopter from aerial threats.

In November 1975, German and French defense ministers discussed the need for both nations to acquire modern anti-tank helicopters capable of operating at night. Political disagreements and divergent requirements delayed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) until May 1984. The MoU outlined the development of three helicopters which would all share the same airframe and engines. Germany would acquire 212 Panzerabwehrhubschrauber 2 (PAH-2) helicopters by 1996. France would acquire 140 H licopt re Antichars avec Missile Antichars de 3e G n ration (Anti-tank helicopter with third generation ATGMs, HAC-3, which was eventually shorted to HAC) and 75 H licopt re d'Appui Protection support and protection helicopter by 2000.

The program was nearly canceled in 1986 after rising costs and disagreements over the new helicopter s targeting and night vision system. Key stakeholders within the Bundeswehr s leadership favored the purchase of AH-64 Apaches. Even before the deterioration in negotiations, Germany had sought to integrate the Apache s Martin-Marietta target acquisition and night vision system (TADS/PNVS) into the Franco-German helicopter. France refused to incorporate U.S. components and was eventually able to convince Germany to adopt a European TADS/PNVS equivalent. Renewed negotiations produced an amended MoU in November 1987 which culminated in the adoption of the name Tiger/Tigre for the joint project as well as a developmental contract in November 1989. French and German industry drew closer to facilitate the realization of the program. The helicopter divisions of Aerospatiale and Messerschmitt-B lkow-Blohm (MBB) continued to work on the program until they merged in 1992 to form Eurocopter.

In December 1992, the Defense Ministry rescoped the requirements of the PAH-2 variant. The resulting Unterst tzungshubschrauber Tiger (UHT), which translates to Support Helicopter Tiger, was developed as a multirole platform rather than an attack helicopter solely focused on the destruction of enemy armor. Additional missions include combat support, escort, reconnaissance and anti-aircraft roles.

A total of seven Tiger prototypes were built, including two static test articles (PT6 and PT7). On April 27, 1991, the first Tiger prototype (PT1) took flight. PT2 followed in April 1992 and featured the HAP avionics systems by 1996. PT3 flew in November of 1993 and tested UHT mission systems. PT4 was built to the HAP configuration and conducted live fire tests including eight Mistral missiles, 50 rockets and 3,000 rounds of 30mm cannon ammunition. PT5 was the last flying prototype and was equipped with the full UHT avionics package. PS1 was built as a preproduction example to test manufacturing processes. Serial production began with the German UHT S01, which flew in August 2002 and HAP S01 for the French, which flew in March 2003.

Features

Airframe

Divergent French and German requirements ensured multiple variants of the Tiger would be produced, but all variants share the same airframe with most of the differences stemming from mission systems. The base airframe is characterized by its survivability and agility.

The Tiger airframe takes a holistic approach to survivability incorporating signature reduction, durable airframe and an extensive countermeasures suite. The Tiger s design minimizes its IR signature by mounting the engines within the fuselage. An exhaust gas dilution system further reduces emitted heat and drives exhaust up to the rotor. Radio-frequency (RF) reduction is achieved through multiple techniques. The Tiger is comparatively small relative to its contemporaries such as the AH-64 Apache. Basic shaping techniques and extensive use of composite materials further reduce the Tiger s RF signature. Seventy-seven percent of the Tiger s airframe weight is comprised of composite materials such as Kevlar (carbon aramid) frames and beams as well as Nomex honeycomb with carbon and Kevlar face laminates. The extensive use of composite materials reduced the Tiger s airframe weight by 30%. An additional 11% of the aircraft s weight is aluminum and 6% is titanium.

The airframe is built to protect the crew from vertical crashes at speeds of up to 10 m per sec. (m/s) or 23 mph. The floor of the cockpit and landing gear are built to absorb energy from a crash. The landing gear can accommodate a 6-m/sec. (13.4-mph) descent without sustaining damage. Hot-pressed boron carbide ceramic armor inserts are mounted in the seats to protect the crew against ballistic threats. The airframe s armor is resistant to 23mm cannon fire. The Tiger features self-sealing fuel tanks to further improve its ballistic protection. Lastly, the Tiger s electronics feature electromagnetic interference (EMI) protection against both lightning strikes and electromagnetic pulses.

Agility and maneuverability were also key requirements that shaped the Tiger s design. Both qualities are essential to facilitate nap-of-the-Earth (NOE) operations e.g. object avoidance at low altitude and to improve survivability. The Tiger has a maximum speed of 175 kt. (201 mph), can pivot 40 deg. in 1 sec. and can perform a complete barrel roll in less than 5 sec.

Avionics

The Tiger has three main avionics subsystems which vary depending upon the variant: electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, helmet-mounted display and countermeasures suite.

20th
DEC

Lockheed Martin F-35 (JSF)

Lockheed Martin F-35 (JSF) user+1@localho Mon, 12/20/2021 - 21:17

The F-35 Lightning II / Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a U.S. fifth-generation, single engine, multirole fighter developed in partnership with eight nations and produced by Lockheed Martin. It is designed in three variants and is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine. Each variant features a different derivative of the F135 engine. As of December 2021, more than 730 F-35s have been delivered to the U.S., international JSF partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. Production is expected to continue into the 2040s.

Features

Low Observable Technology

All variants of the F-35 use a variety of techniques to reduce their radar cross section (RCS). Some of these techniques were used on previous low observable aircraft while others have been improved or are completely new. As with the F-22, the F-35 uses planform alignment to orient flight surfaces, fuselage facets and gaps to concentrate radar reflections into a minimum number of angles. The canopy is metalized to reduce scattering from the cockpit. Doors and access panels have sawtooth edges. Internal weapons bays allow the aircraft to carry air-to-air weapons and a small number of ground-attack weapons while keeping the ordnance shielded from radar.

The engine exhaust is also designed with low-observability to radar in mind. The nozzle consists of vanes with rear-facing facets that abut into a circular, sawtooth pattern. The outer surfaces of the vanes appear to be covered with RAM. In addition, towards the front of the nozzle, the vanes are covered by skin panels with sawtooth patterns that also adjoin with each other in a sawtooth fashion. These panels are likely radar-absorbent structures whose purpose is to reduce scattering in the gap between the vanes and fuselage around the nozzle.

Low observable technologies significantly matured between the development of the F-22 and the subsequent F-35 as shown by the F-35 s use of Diverterless Supersonic Inlets (DSIs) and improved Radar-Absorbent Material (RAM) coatings. Lockheed Martin began internal research and development on low observable Mach 2 inlets in the early 1990s which informed the X-35 s development. In the Spring of 1997, Lockheed Martin had two competing X-35 design proposals. One featured Caret inlets (used in the F-22 and F/A-18E/F) and the other used DSIs. Lockheed had demonstrated the feasibility of DSIs through flight testing of a modified F-16 in December 1997. Inlet designs of modern fighter aircraft must provide flow compression and boundary layer control such that the engine is fed high pressure, low distortion airflow across multiple flight regimes. The F-22 s 2-D Caret inlets use a boundary layer diverter and bleed system feeding into serpentine ducts to regulate airflow at the cost of manufacturing complexity and weight. Lockheed Martin studies showed incorporating DSIs would lower weight, be easier to manufacture and lower the X-35 s RCS. The F-35 s DSIs have a 3-D bump and forward swept cowl which feed into a bifurcated, serpentine duct eliminating the need for a boundary layer diverter and bleed system.

The F-35 s RAM represents a significant improvement in signature reduction and maintenance needs when compared to the F-22 and B-2. Gaps between parts on the skin of the aircraft generate radar returns, the F-22 and B-2 solve this problem by applying a thick topcoat of RAM on top of the gaps. Lockheed Martin reduced the number of parts on the F-35 s skin and used improved manufacturing technologies (such as precision laser alignment of parts during assembly) to eliminate gaps. Lockheed Martin claims that parts fit so precisely that 99% of maintenance requires no restoration of low-observable surfaces . This new approach reduces the amount of RAM required, greatly lessens the airframe's need for line maintenance (by as much as two orders of magnitude compared to the F-22) and also makes the F-35's low observability features more resilient by mitigating the risk of skin abrasions. The F-35 still receives a RAM topcoat that is applied in thicker layers at high scattering areas, such as the engine inlets. The coating also reduces skin friction and drag, thereby saving fuel and likely reducing the aircraft's IR signature. Beneath the RAM-embedded material is a conductive layer that further reduces RCS by modifying the radio waves before they bounce back out through the RAM.

Avionics


APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar
The F-35's radar, the Northrop Grumman APG-81, evolved from the APG-77 featured on the F-22A. Compared to conventional, mechanically-scanned radars, the APG-81's active electronically scanned array (AESA) delivers greater range, 1,000-times faster scanning and the ability to engage many more targets simultaneously. The APG-81 features at least 1,200 transmit receiver modules. Detection range varies with the square root of antenna size and fourth root of transmitted power. However, the APG-81 features better transmit/receive modules and improved processing than the APG-77. In 2000, a senior U.S. Air Force official predicted the JSF radar would have 75% of the detection range of the F-22 s. APG-81 capabilities include: Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), high gain Electronic Support Measure (ESM) and Electronic Attack (EA), cruise missile detection and tracking and air-to-air multitarget detection and tracking. The APG-81 can simultaneously operate in air-to-air and air-to-surface modes. A maritime targeting mode will be installed later and is expected to include an inverse SAR mode.

AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System
In addition to the radar, the JSF bears a unique Distributed Aperture System (DAS) that provides unmatched levels of visual situational awareness. Six mid-wave IR cameras, each weighing 16-17 lb., are situated around the aircraft to enable the DAS to see in all directions: one camera is mounted on each side of the chine line beneath the canopy, one camera is mounted in front of the canopy, one camera is mounted on the dorsal (in front of the boom refueling receptacle for the F-35A) and two cameras are mounted on the underside of the fuselage. Each camera provides a 95 field of regard, combining to form 570 overlapping coverage. The DAS informs the pilot of threats such as surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and other aircraft. When a threat is detected, the system boxes it in the visor projection or draws the pilot s attention to it with alert signals and lines.

Generation III Helmet Mounted Display System
The F-35 does not have a Head-up Display (HUD) like most modern fighter aircraft. Relevant flight reference, navigation and weapons employment functions which are typically displayed on a HUD are instead shown on the F-35 s Generation III (Gen III) Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS). The HMDS supports off boresight AIM-9X shots. The pilot looks at a target through the HMDS and locks onto it. The AIM-9X can maneuver up to 90 from the aircraft s centerline to pursue the target.

The Gen III helmet projects the feed from the DAS onto the pilot's visor, showing the image from the DAS during the day or night in whichever direction the pilot's head is turned, including down and backwards, essentially letting the pilot see through the aircraft. The Gen III helmet also bears an ISIE-11 digital night vision camera which projects its two megapixels of data at 60 hertz onto the HMDS.

AAQ-40 Electro-Optical Targeting System

The Lockheed Martin AAQ-40 Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS) is a mid-wave infrared sensor which provides F-35 pilots with long-range IRST, air-to-air targeting forward-looking infrared (TFLIR), high resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR), laser designation and laser spot tracking capabilities. EOTS provides additional passive detection capability along with the ASQ-239 electronic warfare suite. The APG-81 can cue the AAQ-40 to locate and track airborne targets. The system is housed in a low observable aperture in the lower forward fuselage. Space, power and cooling constraints presented major challenges to the development of EOTS the system occupies approximately four cubic feet and weighs 202 lbs. The EOTS is mounted right below the radio frequency support electronics of the APG-81 and is cooled with polyalphaolefin (PAO) liquid coolant in a similar manner as the APG-81.

ASQ-239 Electronic Warfare Suite
The BAE ASQ-239 Electronic Warfare/Countermeasure System (EW/CM) integrates RF and IR spectrum self-protection and ESM functions. The ASQ-239 supports: emitter geolocation, high gain EW through the APG-81, multi-ship emitter location, radar warning and self-protection countermeasures and jamming. Lockheed Martin claims the F-35 s EW systems are capable of transmitting ten times the radiated power of legacy fourth generation aircraft, enabling the F-35 to provide stand-off jamming capabilities. Pre-Block 4 aircraft have six multi-element antenna array sets covering the Band 3 and Band 4 frequency spectrum (S band for IEEE designation). Two antenna apertures are installed on the leading edge of each wing and one antenna aperture is installed next to the aft wing tip of each wing. The antenna placement for the F-35C is slightly altered to account for the F-35C s longer-folding wing. Band 2 and 5 antennas will be installed as part of the Block 4 modernization program.

ASQ-242 Communications, Navigation and Identification System
The Northrop Grumman ASQ-242 Communications, Navigation and Identification System is an integrated avionics system which combines the following functions: identification, friend-or-foe (IFF), secure, jam-resistant and low probability of intercept communications and navigation and landing aids. The F-35 has two primary methods of communication, voice radio and data links. Radios include SINCGARS, HAVEQUICK, GUARD and VMF 220D.

The F-35 s primary data link is the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) which provides low probability of intercept communications between F-35s. Each F-35 within a four-ship formation can share data that one aircraft collects within the whole formation. In 2009, Chief of the USAF s Electronic System Center Airborne Networking Division Michael Therrian, explained MADL is a Ku-band data link which transmits a narrow beam between aircraft using a daisy chain system. The first aircraft sends the narrow beam signal to the second aircraft which in turn sends the signal throughout the rest of the formation. MADL trades bandwidth for low observability. Conventional data links like Link 16 have higher bandwidth capacity but broadcast signals which can be located by adversary electronic support measures. The F-35 can communicate with legacy platforms such as the F-15 and F-16 using Link 16 but its use will be subject to the threat environment and techniques, tactics and procedures which will be developed by the services to mitigate the limitations of Link 16.

Weapon Systems

While equipped with six external hard points (not including the centerline gun pod mount for the F-35B and F-35C), the F-35 must carry its weapons internally in two weapon bays to maintain its low observability. For strike missions, the JSF can internally accommodate two Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) -2,000-lb. GBU-31s for the F-35A and C, 1,000-lb. GBU-32s for the F-35B - along with two AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs). The bay can also house the GBU-38 500-lb. JDAM, GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB), GBU-12 500-lb. laser-guided bomb (LGBs) and AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), as well as the U.K.'s AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) and Brimstone air-to-surface missile. In the air-to-air role, the F-35 can currently accommodate four AIM-120s internally. The U.S. its close allies Australia and the UK use the more advanced AIM-120D with a maximum range of 100 nautical miles. Other operators use the AIM-120C-7 and C-8 (obsolescence modification of the C-7). A pair of AIM-9X Block IIs can be carried on LO pylons. U.S. Navy budget documents suggest the latest variant of the Sidewinder features RAM to reduce its RCS, though its sill expected to degrade the F-35's LO performance.

The F-35A carries a GAU-22/A four-barrel, 25mm cannon internally; the B and C variants have no internal cannon but can carry a reduced RCS missionized gun pod externally. Four 25mm rounds are being developed for the F-35: the ATK PGU-23 training round, Nammo s PGU-47/U armored-piercing explosive (APEX) round for all F-35 variants, Rheinmetall's PGU-48A/B Frangible Armored Piercing round for the F-35A and the General Dynamics/ATK PGU-32 semi-armored piercing high explosive incendiary (SAPHEI-T) round for the F-35B and C. The PGU-48/U and PGU-32 rounds are specialized to defeat targets particular to the respective service. Over 3,400 rounds of PGU-23, PGU-47 and PGU-48 rounds were fired from F-35As against both ground and aerial targets. The DoD Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) reported that it found the accuracy of the gun, as installed on the F-35A, to be unacceptable . Possible remedial actions include re-boresighting and correcting gun alignments. A total of 2,685 PGU-23 and PGU-32 rounds were fired from the missionized gun pod during tests. The DOT&E reports the gun pod meets air-to-ground contract specifications and do not share the accuracy errors of the F-35A.

In March 2018, the USAF awarded Rheinmetall Switzerland a $6.5 million contract for 40,000 rounds of PGU-48A/B rounds. In October 2018, Orbital ATK was awarded a $1.5 billion contract to deliver 332,993 rounds ammunition across multiple types including the PGU-32.

Blocks

To support the concurrent development and early production efforts, the F-35 is being fielded in Blocks. Some blocks incorporate hardware as well as software changes. Blocks 0, 0.1, 0.5, 1A, 1B and 2A supported testing and limited training capability for early LRIP and System Development and Demonstration aircraft. Block 2B began flight testing in February 2014 and provides initial combat capabilities to the F-35 including expanded MADL capability, multi-ship sensor fusion and the carriage of two AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs and two PGMs (either the GBU-32 JDAM or GBU-12). The USMC declared IOC on the Block 2B software in July 2015 which comprises 87% of the final code and will deliver the initial warfighting capabilities.

The Block 3i configuration forms the stepping stone for full Block 3F warfighting capability. Block 3i rehosts Block 2B software with substantial hardware changes. Block 3i includes new radar, EW and Integrated Core Processor (ICP) modules. The configuration also adds the third generation HMD which corrects the Gen II helmet s poor night vision acuity. The USAF declared IOC with the Block 3i configuration.

Block 3F configuration represents the full warfighting capability configuration for the F-35 including:

  • Full Flight Envelope: 9g maneuvering and top speed of Mach 1.6
  • Full Weapon Capability of: GBU-31 1,000 lbs. JDAM, GBU-32 2,000 lbs. JDAM, GBU-39 SDB I, Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) C1, AIM-120D, AIM-9X and GAU-22 cannon

According to Lockheed Martin, Block 3F software has more than 8.3 million lines of code which is approximately four the amount of code in the F-22. Block 3F was released on late LRIP 9 aircraft during the Fall of 2017. There were 31 different versions of the Block 3F software by the end of October 2017. In December 2018, the F-35 began the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) phase using version 30R02 of the Block 3F software. DoD Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) Robert Behler announced that 30R02 improves the F-35 s suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), electronic attack, air interdiction and offensive counter air capabilities. See upgrades section for additional information about future Block capabilities. Note, upgrades beyond FOC (Block 4) are discussed in the upgrades section of the profile.

Variants

F-35A

The F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) variant is the U.S. Air Force (USAF) model powered by the P&W F135-100 turbofan. The aircraft will replace the F-16 and A-10. The variant reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in August 2016 and by the 2030s it will constitute the bulk of the service's fighters. The F-35A can be visually distinguished by its boom refueling receptacle port on the top of the airframe and gun blister mounted on the upper port side (left from the perspective of the aircraft when facing forward).

F-35B

The F-35B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant is the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) model, intended to replace the service's AV-8Bs on amphibious assault vessels and F/A-18s at land bases and on aircraft carriers. The design is most distinguished by its unique lift system. The F135-600 engine has a rear nozzle that can rotate downward 90 deg. for vertical thrust, while also swiveling left and right for yaw control in a hover. The engine also drives a shaft connecting it, via a clutch, to a two-stage lift fan located behind the cockpit and exhausting downward through nozzle vanes that vector the vertical thrust fore and aft. Finally, compressor bleed air is fed to nozzles in the wings to provide vertical lift and roll control. Together, these systems allow the F-35B to take off from short runways or decks and land vertically. The F-35B can be visually distinguished by its shortened canopy as a result of the lift fan. The panel lines as well as associated markings are visible from both the top and bottom of the airframe. The B variant also has two diamond-shaped roll ducts on the underside of each wing.

F-35C

The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is the U.S. Navy (USN) model, intended to provide a stealthy strike platform to complement the F/A-18 in U.S. carrier air wings. It is most distinguished by its larger wings (which include two control surfaces each instead of one on the A & C variants) and horizontal stabilizers, as well as its tailhook and reinforced landing gear. The F-35C is powered by a single F135-400 turbofan engine. USN declared its F-35C's had reached IOC in 2019. The F-35C has a diminished flight envelope with a g-limit of 7.5 when compared to 9.0 for the other variants. Like the F-35B, the F-35C lacks an internally mounted cannon.

F-35I

The IAF version of the JSF is based off the F-35A and is sometimes designated as the F-35I for its unique features and has been dubbed the Adir (Great). Israel has insisted it be allowed to install indigenous technologies on the JSF. After long deliberations, it was decided that the first squadron of F-35s will be delivered to Israel with only unique Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) capabilities developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The C4I system and the software will facilitate future indigenous weapon and electronic warfare capabilities. In terms of weapons capabilities, Israel has received a license to integrate Rafael s Spice GPS/EO/IIR bomb-guidance systems. Rafael is about to complete the development of a Spice seeker and tail kit that could fit into the JSF s weapons bays. In July 2018, Lockheed Martin and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to market the Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective (SPICE) series of PGMs. Rafael has previously expressed interest in integrating the Python 5 short-range AAM to fit into the F-35 s internal bay, the AIM-9X is currently only certified for external carriage.

Production & Delivery History

As of the time of this writing, the U.S., eight partner nations (including the U.S. as well as Canada - the later has yet to formally order aircraft) and eight FMS customers have collectively committed to field over 3,000 aircraft, though several countries have expressed interest in increasing their fleets. As of December 2021, more than 730 aircraft have been delivered. Lockheed Martin produces all F-35s at Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth, Texas. The facility covers over 6 million square feet with a production bay over a mile long. The company also supports two final assembly and check-out lines outside (FACO) of the United States including one in Northern Italy (Cameri) managed by Leonardo and one in Nagoya Japan (Aichi Prefecture) managed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Lockheed Martin is currently producing F-35s under Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lots as the DoD will not grant a full rate production (FRP) decision until the NAVAIR managed Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) is ready. In April 2021, Lockheed's CFO Kenneth R. Possenriede stated Lot 16 production was expected to be awarded in Q4 of 2021. The $9 billion order is expected to comprise a 50-50 split between U.S. and international orders. The Navy awarded Lockheed a $904 million contract to support long-lead items for 133 Lot 16 aircraft on Dec. 30, 2020.

In May 2020, Lockheed Martin announced it expected to deliver 141 F-35s in 2020, only seven more than 2019, as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic was expected to tapper production for three months by 18-24 aircraft. Lockheed Martin has not commented on which customers would be affected. However, an Australian Parliamentary Committee was briefed by the RAAF that a small number of its jets could be delayed by one or two months as a result of COVID-19. Lockheed ultimately delivered 123 aircraft in 2020, including 74 U.S. and 49 foreign aircraft (31 international partner nation and 18 FMS jets).

In June 2021, Lockheed announced it planned to deliver between 133-139 aircraft in 2021. Delays as a result of COVID-19 are now expected to persist longer than anticipated. The company had previously expected to deliver 169 aircraft in 2022 and approximately 175 aircraft a year thereafter. Lockheed had stated the peak production capacity of the FT. Worth plant was 185 aircraft per year. In September 2021, the JPO and Lockheed reached a "production smoothing" agreement to help Lockheed recover from enduring supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. Under the framework, Lockheed would deliver 156 aircraft per year for the next several years.

United States

The U.S. DoD estimates the entire domestic program will cost $397.7 billion, including $324.5 for procurement 2,456 aircraft (not including the construction of 18 test aircraft and six static ground test articles) for three services - 1,763 F-35As for USAF, 273 F-35Cs for USN and 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs for USMC. RTD&E outlays are expected to reach $70.07 billion over the life of the program. The JPO estimates that over their lifetimes these aircraft will require operations and sustainment (O&S) spending of $1.196 trillion. All of these figures are in FY21 dollars.

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force orders alone represent approximately 50% of projected F-35 deliveries throughout the life of the program. The USAF had plans to replace 281 A-10s and more than 900 F-16s with F-35As. The service had planned to acquire 80 F-35As per year starting in 2022 but the service subsequently revised the maximum procurement rate down to 60 aircraft per year (including 48 in recent years + 12 in the unfunded priority request or UPL until FY22). The lower annual procurement rate would extend Air Force procurement by six years or from 2038 to 2044. Growing concerns over both cost per flight hour (CPFH) and Block 4 retrofit costs resulted in the USAF reducing its FY22 buy to just 48 aircraft with no additional aircraft in the UPL. Going forward, the performance of LM's proposed sustainment strategy and rollout of Block 4 into the mid-2020s is expected to impact the overall POR and forthcoming USAF and Joint Staff future tactical aircraft (TACAIR) study which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021.

Since at least 2018, the Air Force has become increasingly concerned with the F-35A's high cost per flight hour (CPFH) as well as broader sustainment issues affecting the type such as its mission capable (MC) rates, cost per tail per year, etc. CPFH figures vary widely due to different methodology and the base year from which they were tabulated. The F-35's CPFH figures are often measured in FY12 constant dollars as that is when the program was rebaselined or in then year (TY) dollars when adjusted U.S. DoD operations & maintenance account deflator values. For example, according to CAPE, the F-35A's CPFH of $44,000 in TY2019 compared to the F-16's $22,000. The F-35 lifecycle sustainability plan (LSP) that was approved in January 2019 highlights eight lines of effort that assess cost per flying hour, cost per tail per year and overall ownership cost, according to former F-35 program executive officer Vice Adm. Mat Winter. In Feb. 2021, Air Combat Command's Gen. Mark Kelly expressed skepticism that LM would be able to lower that figure to FY12 $25,000 ($29,036) by 2025 under the proposed performance based logistics contract (PBL). Lockheed Martin reduced the cost per flying hour by 15% from 2015-2019 and another 18% from 2019-2021. However, to achieve the $25,000 flight hour goal, LM, the USAF and P&W would have to make cumulatively reduce costs by more than 30%.

Lockheed s plan for addressing concerns about the F-35A s hourly operating costs includes a major limitation. As the airframe supplier, Lockheed directly controls only 39% of the F-35A s hourly operating cost, a company official said (as shown in the table above). By contrast, the Air Force controls about 47% of the cost. The F135 engine supplier, Pratt & Whitney, is responsible for the last 14%. In absolute terms, that means the Air Force s share of the $33,000 CPFH (FY12) comes out to $15,510. Lockheed s share is $12,870, leaving P&W with $4,620 of the total bill.

By using a variety of tools, including an emerging, supply-based performance-based logistics deal and the opening of repair depots, Lockheed believes it has a solid plan to reduce the airframe portion of the cost per flight hour by 40% by the end of fiscal 2025. Since the company s cost-saving plan only applies to its $12,870 share of the overall hourly cost, a 40% reduction would reduce the F-35A s hourly cost attributable to the airframe by only $5,148, lowering Lockheed s share of the overall total to $7,722 (table above also includes notional FY21 adjusted PBL values).

In absolute terms, Lockheed s plan, if realized, would reduce the cost per flight hour of the F-35A to $27,852, which is still $2,852 higher than the company s commitment. To hit the $25,000 (FY12) target by the end of fiscal 2025, Lockheed needs help from the Air Force and Pratt, which account for $20,130 of the $33,000 hourly cost. Fortunately, neither would be required to match Lockheed s plan to cut its share of the cost by 40% over the next 4.5 years. Instead, the Air Force and Pratt would need to reduce their costs by only 14.2% to match the overall, $25,000 cost goal. In September 2021, Lockheed Martin was awarded F-35 PBL worth up to $6.6 billion. The contract is structured over FY21, FY22 and FY23 in one year option segments. CPFH could drop by 8% over the period to $33,400 in 2023.

The Air Force is evaluating levers to reduce its share of the F-35A s hourly operating cost, Gen. Charles Brown, Air Force chief of staff, said in Congressional testimony in early June. But the Air Force s options are constrained in some cases by enterprise-wide interests. For example, Lockheed has outlined a seemingly straightforward path for the Air Force to achieve a roughly 33% manpower cost reduction for line maintenance: By cross-training maintainers on multiple systems, the Air Force could cut the number assigned to each F-35A to nine from 12. However, that proposal may require the Air Force to bifurcate a common pool of aircraft maintainers, creating separate training and career pipelines for the F-35A and the rest of the fighter fleet.

Another core sustainment metric aside from CPFH is cost per tail per year (CPTPY) - the overall sustainment cost for the whole fleet divided by the number of aircraft in service. CPTPY is an important complementary metric to CPFH because the latter is highly variable with the total number of flight hours. For example, increasing flight hours decreases CPFH but would increase total sustainment costs as reflected by CPTPY. An April 2021 GAO report (above) highlighted the significant discrepancy in actual CPTPY costs above USAF projections in FY12 dollars. Notably, GAO's analysis is somewhat limited by taking current costs and projecting them forward. In practice these metrics (MC, CPFH, CPTPY) all vary with production lot. Subsequent lots have generally shown better reliability (mean time between failure) of components and greater availability including fewer man hours in maintenance.

However, the net effect of these growing sustainment concerns has put significant pressure on the 1,763 POR as the service would not be able to sustain that fleet at current CPFH metrics. Additionally, the service appears to be recalibrating its assessment that only fifth generation fighters could participate in Day 1 actions against near-peer threats. Created in January 2018 as an internal think-tank, the Air Force Warfighting Integrating Capability (AFWIC) office had torn up the long-standing assumption that only stealthy fighters could perform a useful role in the future. By the end of 2018, the AFWIC s team of analyst had adopted a new fighter roadmap which envisioned a great power war. The principal role for each F-35A was to launch two stealthy cruise missiles Lockheed s AGM-158 JASSM from just inside defended airspace. That kick-down-the-door pairing would be combined with mass launches of multiple JASSM each from F-15Es and F-15EXs, the source said. Other missions namely, defensive counter-air and homeland defense could be performed by the F-35, but other aircraft, such as F-15EXs and F-16s, also could be used. Driven by this new appreciation for a portfolio of fighter capabilities, the AFWIC team also reconsidered how many of each type would be needed. AFWIC s fighter roadmap by the end of 2018 had capped F-35A deliveries at about 1,050 jets. If new aircraft orders are maintained at a rate of two to 2.5 squadrons a year between 48 and 60 jets for the foreseeable future, the Air Force is at least 10 years away from hitting the 1,050 cap in AFWIC s fighter roadmap.

In the meantime, the Air Force faces other decisions about whether to invest in more fourth-generation fighters, F-35As or next generation aircraft. The Air Force still operates 232 F-16C/D Block 25 and Block 30 jets, which were delivered in the mid-1980s. Air Force officials have said they expect to make a fleet replacement decision for these so-called pre-block F-16s in four to seven years. When the Air Force established the program of record for buying 1,763 F-35As, the plan assumed replacing all of those pre-block F-16s. As a replacement decision enters the DOD s five-year budgeting horizon, however, Air Force officials have been more flexible. In February 2020, the head of Air Combat Command, who was then Gen. Mike Holmes, said that low-cost, attritable aircraft would be considered for the pre-block F-16 replacement in the 2024-2027 timeframe. Discussions of a FT-7 (modified Boeing T-7A Red Hawk) or new build F-16 Block 70 were also reportedly discussed as options. In February 2021, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Brown announced CAPE would conduct a tactical combat aircraft (TACAIR) study for its future force structure. A "clean sheet" 4.5 generation aircraft would be evaluated as a potential option according to Gen. Brown. In May 2021 as part of its budget rollout, the Air Force revealed plans to replace the 600 "post-Block" F-16s by the prospective multi-role fighter (MR-X) or the F-35 should its sustainment metrics improve.

Even if the Summer 2021 TACAIR study validates the full 1,763 POR, a bow wave of modernization priorities in the mid-2020s into the early 2030s may force the USAF to reduce its buy of F-35s. The USAF's FY22 aircraft procurement budget was $15.7 billion of which $3.76 billion was for the modification of in-service aircraft and $9.74 billion for new build aircraft (remainder on spares, infrastructure, etc.). By mid-decade the USAF aircraft procurement account will be under enormous strain to fund at least five B-21s annually at FRP worth more than $3.4 billion, as well as T-7A FRP, KC-46 FRP, HH-60W FRP, MH-139 FRP and 72 TACAIR platforms per year (F-35 & F-15EX). If trends continue, the USAF would need more than a 30% higher procurement budget for new build aircraft than its FY22 request. The budget outlook becomes even more bleak later in the decade as NGAD RDT&E reaches its apex and transitions to production, MQ-Next enters service around 2031 and KC-Y (KC-46 follow-on) also enters service. Thus, the USAF has a narrow window in the 2020s in which it is able to afford to buy 60 F-35As per year to recap its legacy TACAIR platforms before the wave of next generation platforms enter service. If the USAF buys 60 F-35As per year through 2030, the USAF would reach the 2018 AFWIC figure of 1,050 airframes

The FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a number of measures to correct the trajectory of F-35 O&S efforts across the services and re-align procurement. The bill mandates each of the services to generate CPTPY figures by October 1st, 2025 which will come into force by FY2027. If any variant is unable to meet the CPTPY, procurement could be proportionally reduced. Perhaps most significantly, the JPO would transfer all O&S responsibilities to the respective services by FY2028 followed by all acquisition responsibilities by FY2030. The bill also requests an acquisition strategy from the Secretary of the Air Force and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to outfit the F-35A with an adaptive cycle engine by FY2027. The NDAA discusses the prospect of B and C model engine upgrades.

Department of the Navy

Cumulatively, the USN and USMC plan to buy 693 F-35s including 353 Bs and 67 Cs for the USMC as well as 273 C models Navy. These aircraft will be procured into the early 2030s to replace the legacy Hornet and AV-8 Harrier. The Navy's slow induction of F-35Cs and expansion of its Super Hornet POR has effectively meant legacy hornets in carrier air wings have already been replaced. The FY22 budget request's UPL adds five F-35Cs for $535 million, increasing C model procurement from 15 to 20 if authorized. The Navy will operationally deploy F-35Cs for the first time in 2021 from the USS Carl Vinson.

As of the time of this writing, the USMC's POR for 353 Bs and 67 Cs remains in flux. U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger may alter the service s POR as a result of an external review following the Force Design 2030 . The wide-reaching for structure plan recommended cutting the number of F-35s per squadron from 16 to 10 while maintaining a requirement for 18 fighter/attack squadrons. The external study will re-evaluate the USMC s existing F-35 POR. The latest Selected Acquisition Report current as of the FY2021 PBR does not alter the USMC s POR.

Australia

Australia has a program of record for 72 F-35As which will be delivered by August 2023. A fourth squadron is being considered which would increase the fleet to 100 aircraft. Australia established the AIR6000 program in 1999 to study the replacement of its Legacy Hornet and F-111 Aardvark fleets. Australia joined the JSF program as a level three partner in 2002.

In December 2021, the Australian Audit Office reported the nation's total F-35 acquisition cost is AU$15.63 billion ($11.1 billion), including payments for RDT&E contributions, aircraft procurement, military construction, weapons and training under the AIR 6000 program. Australian F-35A procurement under the AIR 6000 program is divided into two phases: 14 aircraft under Phase 2A/2B Stage 1 and 58 aircraft under Phase 2A/2B Stage 2. The roll-out of the first two aircraft occurred on July 24, 2014 and the first aircraft took flight on Sep. 29. As of December 2021, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has taken delivery of 44 airframes. The RAAF is the first international customer to receive Block 3F airframes. First arrival in Australia is occurred in December 2018 with an IOC of December 2020 and FOC in December 2023. The RAAF considers the addition of maritime strike capability critical toward the FOC. One of the squadrons will be based at RAAF Tindal, with the remainder at RAAF Williamtown. Canberra will spend AUS$1.5 billion upgrading those bases as part of the F-35 acquisition.

On Dec. 17, 2014, the JPO announced Australia would be one of the countries in the Pacific region to host heavy airframe and engine maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U) work. In February 2015, the Australian Minister of Defence announced BAE Systems Australia and TAE Aerospace will be assigned to support regional depot maintenance for airframes and engines respectively. The U.S. Government assigned depot level work for 65 components in November 2016. BAE Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia, RUAG and GE Aviation Australia will perform maintenance for 64 out of 65 components for the Asia-Pacific. In August 2017, the U.S. announced BAE Systems Australia will provide the Asia-Pacific F-35 Regional Warehouse capability as part of the F-35 Global Support Solution. The warehouse will be located in Williamstown and will manage the organization and provision of spares for multiple F-35 operators in the Asia-Pacific region. Total Australian industry participation in the F-35 program exceeds A$1 billion ($720 million in 2018 U.S. dollars) by the end of 2018 with A$5-9 billion expected over the program ($4.31-6.47 billion).

In December 2018, RAAF Air Marshall Leo Davies said Defence had planned to request the 28-additional aircraft in the early 2020s. Air Marshall Davies suggested Australia may wait longer likely as a result of the major changes expected through the Block 4 follow-on modernization program. Australia s DWP update released in July 2020 outlines plans for additional air combat capability between 2025 and the early 2030s valued at A$4.5-$6.7 billion ($3.1-$4.65 billion). In March 2021 interview with ASPI, Air Marshall Hupfeld was non-comital on a follow-on F-35 order, "We look at all options...What s the sixth generation of airpower going to look like when we decide on the next round of F-35s? Is F-35 still valid if there s a sixth-generation aircraft? Will sixth-generation air combat capability be an aircraft? I don t know the answer to that, but they re the things I keep my eyes open for. The [uncrewed] loyal wingman is an example of what may be part of the solution when we look at the next phase of our air combat capability program. And I d never say never to any of those". As of the time of this writing, Australia remain supportive of Boeing's Air Power Teaming offering but has yet to formally commit toward fielding the aircraft operationally.

Belgium

In October 2018, Belgium officially selected the F-35 as the victor of its international fighter competition. Belgium was the last of the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) nations to choose the F-35 to replace its F-16 fleet. The Defence Ministry reports the total cost of the acquisition of 34 F-35As as well as training and associated military construction costs total 4 billion ($4.5 billion in 2019 dollars) by 2030. The DSCA notification issued in January 2018 included a $6.53 billion estimated cost for the acquisition of the aircraft, related equipment and support services. The Defence Ministry estimates the total cost of the aircraft throughout its projected 40-year service life will reach 12.4 billion ($14.1 billion in 2019 dollars).

The competition originally included the Dassault Rafale, Saab Jas 39 Gripen, Boeing F/A-18E/F, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35A. In 2017 both Saab and Boeing withdrew from the competition citing requirements which reportedly favored the F-35. Dassault was disqualified by not responding to the Request for Proposals (RFP). Instead, the French Defense Minister sent a letter outlining a broader industrial and diplomatic partnership conditional on the sale of the Rafale. The F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon were subsequently left as the only qualifying bids.

Canada

Canada first joined the JSF program as a tier three partner in February 2000, contributing $150 million ($222.6 million in 2018 dollars) toward its development. Canada had planned to purchase 65 F-35As to replace its CF-18 Hornet fleet. In September 2015, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau campaigned that he would withdraw Canada from the F-35 program and hold a competition excluding the F-35. Canada s 2017 Defence Policy Report outlined that an open competition would be held to replace the CF-18 with 88 new fighter aircraft. In October 2016, Ottawa announced its intention to purchase 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an interim fighter to bridge this gap. However, trade disputes between Boeing and Bombardier effectively canceled the purchase. Canada will now acquire 18 retired RAAF Hornets as an interim fighter, but the aircraft are approximately the same age as Canada s existing CF-18 fleet.

Eligible suppliers for the $11 billion Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) submitted bids in 2019. In May 2019, the U.S. Government was in discussions with Canada regarding FFCP bid language which would require all competing firms to guarantee Canadian businesses 100% of the value of the deal in economic benefits. The U.S. Government took issue with the economic offset clause as written as it would exclude the F-35 and violate Canada s prior commitments as a F-35 partner nation. Canada ultimately modified the language of the bid to allow Lockheed Martin to participate. In November 2018, Dassault reportedly withdrew from the competition as a result of information security requirements. France is not part of the Five Eyes intelligence agreement. Dassault s withdrawal leaves the Saab JAS 39 E/F, Boeing F/A-18E/F and Lockheed Martin F-35. Canada is subsequently disqualified Boeing's bid on December 1st, 2021. The country is expected to announce source selection by March of 2022 and deliveries expected to run between 2025 and 2031.

Denmark

Denmark first jointed the JSF program as a tier three partner in 2002. In June 2016, Denmark selected the F-35 as its preferred replacement for its fleet of 44 F-16s which first entered service in in 1980. The Defense Ministry projects a total program cost of 66.1 billion kroners or $10 billion in November 2018 dollars for 27 F-35As. The acquisition cost is reportedly 20 billion Danish Krone or $3 billion in 2019 dollars. In a April 2021 rollout ceremony, Denmark's first F-35A was presented. The first six aircraft will go to Luke AFB, AZ, training. The aircraft will be subsequently based in Denmark between 2022-23 and with the last F-35A to to be delivered by the end of 2024.

On April 14, 2014, Denmark issued request for information to Lockheed for the F-35A but also requested information on the F/A-18F, Typhoon and JAS 39E/F. Responses were due July 21, 2014. That month, Sweden's FXM defense export agency decided not to make a formal offer of the JAS 39E/F, believing the competition was biased toward favor of the F-35A. In a report discussing the Government s reasoning for choosing the F-35, the Danish Ministry of Defence concluded that Lockheed Martin s bid was superior to both Boeing and Eurofighter s bids in terms of strategic, military, economic and industrial aspects. A key finding of the MoD was the F-35 s airframe is built to last 8,000 flight hours when compared to 6,000 for both the Eurofighter Typhoon and F/A-18E/F. Therefore, a smaller number of F-35s could be procured to meet the same mission demands i.e. 28 F-35As compared to 34 Eurofighters and 38 F/A-18E/Fs. The procurement was subsequently curtailed to 27 F-35As.

Finland

On December 10, 2021, Finland announced its intent to acquire 64 F-35A Block 4s upon completing the HX competitive evaluation process. Like Norwegian aircraft, Sweden's F-35s will be fitted with brake-parachutes. Deliveries will get underway in 2025 to support training in the U.S, Finnish F-35s will arrive in-country in 2026 and the type will replace the Finnish Air Force s McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets between 2028 and 2030. This decision will have a strong impact on the Defense Forces operational capability, said Antti Kaikkonen, Finland s defense minister, announcing the decision alongside Prime Minister Sanna Marin on December 10. The F-35, Kaikkonen said, would define Finnish Air Force s combat capability through into the 2060s. Helsinki s decision comes on the back of Switzerland s selection of the same aircraft in July and means that the F-35 has been successful in virtually every fighter contest it has participated in Europe. We are honored the Government of Finland through its thorough, open competition has selected the F-35, and we look forward to partnering with the Finnish Defense Forces and Finnish defense industry to deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft, said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin s general manager of the F-35 program. Defense officials scored F-35 as the best based on the air, land and sea scenarios posed to the bidders, although no details of the scoring system or what the other bidders achieved was revealed. The F-35 was also deemed to have the highest operational effectiveness and the best development potential.

Helsinki plans to sign the Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the Foreign Military Sale in the first quarter of 2022. Finland had budgeted 10 billion for the procurement, with the Finnish Parliament approving the use of 9.4 billion.
The breakdown of costs includes 4.7 billion for the aircraft, equivalent to 73.4 million ($83 million) for each of the 64 aircraft. Air-to-air missiles package is valued at 754 million, while the maintenance equipment, spare parts, training equipment and initial maintenance for the first five years of operations will cost 2.92 billion. Officials have put aside 777 million for infrastructure construction and project costs, while 823 million is available for additional contracts, and amendments, as well as future buys of weapons. They also note that the operating costs are well within the threshold of 10% - 254 million - of the annual defense budget, with officials noting the type s operation is possible with the resources of the Defense Forces. None of the bids were significantly cheaper in terms of operating and maintenance costs, defense officials said. The Lockheed aircraft scored 4.47/5.0, the next best package scored 3.81 - likely the Boeing F/A-18E/F & EA-18G.

Finland envisages arming its F-35s with the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Small Diameter Bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb kits, the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile and the JASSM-ER cruise missile. Procurement officials say the F-35 s maintenance will be based on a solution modified from F-35's global maintenance system, adding that the proposed system meets domestic security of supply requirements. Finland s non-aligned status means it cannot rely on allies in wartime like other operators of the F-35 can. Lockheed Martin says Finland will be able to rely on the F-35 s Global Support Solution but it will work to enable Finnish industry to undertake the repair of around 100 critical components so that the fleet can be supported if Finland becomes isolated in the event of a conflict. There will also be additional stockpiles of F-35 spares in Finland. Lockheed Martin says it will provide work for Finnish industry which will last up to 20 years. Among the companies to benefit is Patria who will build 400 forward fuselages for the wider program. Kaikkonen said the contest was tough, and there can be only one winner, adding: I would like to stress that all countries involved, are very close and valued partners for Finland, they continue to be so. Our cooperation with all of them is based on long term partnerships, mutual trust and common security interests, Kaikkonen added.

Israel

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is on contract to receive 50 F-35s. These aircraft are referred to both as F-35As and F-35Is depending upon the source as Israeli aircraft feature unique modifications. Jerusalem purchased a first batch of 19 JSFs for $2.75 billion in 2010. These aircraft are being produced as part of LRIPs 8, 9 and 10. The first two aircraft were delivered in December 2016, the IAF declared IOC a year later in December 2017. In November 2014, the Israeli Defense Minister concluded terms for a $4.4 billion contract for 31 additional F-35s. However, the proposal ran into unexpected resistance in the Israeli cabinet, in which the Intelligence Minister raised concerns about the aircraft's capabilities and the Finance Minister raised concerns about cost. The IAF and Defense Ministry rejected the Intelligence Minster's concerns as "old and irrelevant" and stated the alternatives to additional F-35s would cost more.

On Nov. 30, the cabinet voted to purchase 14 aircraft in the second batch under a $2.8 billion contract that will also cover two additional simulators and spare parts for the fleet of 33. On November 27, 2016, Israel's cabinet approved exercising the option to procure an additional 17 F-35s for a total of 50 aircraft. In February 2018, the DoD announced a $147.96 million contract to deliver Block 3F+ upgrades to the IAF. These upgrades will enable Israeli specific hardware and software modifications.

In December 2018, IAI opened a new production line for outer wing sets which will deliver kits starting in 2019. A total of 700 wing kits will be manufactured during the first phase, IAI is expected to produce 811 pairs of wings by 2034. Israeli industrial participation in the F-35 program is expected to reach $2.5 billion by the 2030s. Israel was originally included within the European MRO&U zone for depot level overhauls, but Israel has insisted that it will field its own local depot level MRO capability for its F-35 fleet.

As part of an offset agreement related to the UAE's potential F-35 acquisition, Israel has expressed interest in an additional squadron of F-35As which would bring its total fleet to 75 aircraft. Furthermore, Israel is reported to have obtained greater access to modify its aircraft as part of the offset deal. The first instrumented F-35I test aircraft arrived in Tel Nof Air Force Base in November 2020.

Italy

On June 24, 2002, Italy joined the JSF as a Level II partner and contributed $1 billion toward the development of the program. Rome currently plans to acquire a total of 60 F-35As and 15 F-35Bs for its air force, the Aeronautica Militare (AM). The Italian Navy will acquire 15 F-35Bs. As of December 2021, 14 F-35As and one F-35B have been delivered to the AM and three F-35Bs has been delivered to the Italian Navy.

Rome originally planned to acquire 131 F-35s (69 F-35As and 60 F-35Bs) to replace its IDS Tornado, AMX light combat aircraft and AV-8B Harriers. In February 2012, Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola announced cuts to the F-35 program as part of a broader effort to enact defense spending cuts. The center-left Democratic Party called for further cuts to the F-35 program in 2014 which did not materialize. In 2018, Italian participation in the F-35 program was threatened by the Five Star Movement which campaigned to withdraw from the program entirely. In June 2018, Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta clarified that the Government would continue the acquisition of 90 F-35s. However, the government would not seek additional aircraft beyond 90 and the procurement of aircraft may be slowed to reduced Italy s financial burden.

Italian industry is the largest contributor to the F-35 program outside of the U.S. and UK. Italian industrial participation in the F-35 program broadly falls within three categories: (1) final assembly of aircraft, (2) manufacture of components for the global supply chain and (3) depot level sustainment responsibility for Europe. Italy maintains one of two Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) lines outside of the U.S. The Cameri plant was built between 2011 and 2013 at a cost of 795.6 million euros ($900 million in 2018 dollars). The facility covers approximately 101 ac

15th
DEC

Airbus Tiger (EC665)

Airbus Tiger (EC665) user+1@localho Wed, 12/15/2021 - 21:17

The Tiger (formerly EC665) is an attack helicopter built by Airbus and is powered by a pair of Turbomeca Rolls-Royce MTR390 engines. Each nation uses the Tiger in slightly different roles such as force protection and armed reconnaissance, which has led to multiple divergent aircraft configurations across France, Germany, Spain and Australia. As of the time of this writing, 161 Tigers are in operational service of the more than 180 helicopters delivered.

Program History

In 1974 the Bundeswehr (German Military) conducted a threat analysis of projected threats from Warsaw Pact forces and concluded its military urgently needed to field a fleet of modern anti-tank helicopters. Early West German Army staff requirements determined it would need a 5-ton-class helicopter with a 2 -hr. endurance, cruise speed of 168 mph (270 kph), night vision capability and an armament of at least eight 2 -mi. (4 km)-range anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). West German doctrine assumed NATO forces would establish air superiority, but the new helicopter was expected to defend itself from adversary helicopters. An interim purchase of Panzerabwehrhubschrauber 1 (PAH-1, meaning anti-tank helicopter 1) helicopters, was approved in 1975 to buy time for the development of a dedicated anti-armor helicopter; the PAH-1 was a Messerschmitt-B lkow-Blohm (MBB) BO 105s armed with six HOT Semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) missiles. Germany examined the acquisition of the McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache and joined the Italian Mangusta program prior to its partnership with France.

Having withdrawn from NATO s integrated military command in 1966, French military requirements for new combat helicopters in the early 1970s reflected substantially different military doctrine and national defense objectives when compared to West German requirements. Under a European intervention scenario, French Army staff predicted they would face overwhelming numbers of armored forces supported by integrated air defense systems. France foresaw the need to procure two new types of combat helicopters. One type would defeat armored forces and the other would protect the anti-armor helicopter from aerial threats.

In November 1975, German and French defense ministers discussed the need for both nations to acquire modern anti-tank helicopters capable of operating at night. Political disagreements and divergent requirements delayed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) until May 1984. The MoU outlined the development of three helicopters which would all share the same airframe and engines. Germany would acquire 212 Panzerabwehrhubschrauber 2 (PAH-2) helicopters by 1996. France would acquire 140 H licopt re Antichars avec Missile Antichars de 3e G n ration (Anti-tank helicopter with third generation ATGMs, HAC-3, which was eventually shorted to HAC) and 75 H licopt re d'Appui Protection support and protection helicopter by 2000.

The program was nearly canceled in 1986 after rising costs and disagreements over the new helicopter s targeting and night vision system. Key stakeholders within the Bundeswehr s leadership favored the purchase of AH-64 Apaches. Even before the deterioration in negotiations, Germany had sought to integrate the Apache s Martin-Marietta target acquisition and night vision system (TADS/PNVS) into the Franco-German helicopter. France refused to incorporate U.S. components and was eventually able to convince Germany to adopt a European TADS/PNVS equivalent. Renewed negotiations produced an amended MoU in November 1987 which culminated in the adoption of the name Tiger/Tigre for the joint project as well as a developmental contract in November 1989. French and German industry drew closer to facilitate the realization of the program. The helicopter divisions of Aerospatiale and Messerschmitt-B lkow-Blohm (MBB) continued to work on the program until they merged in 1992 to form Eurocopter.

In December 1992, the Defense Ministry rescoped the requirements of the PAH-2 variant. The resulting Unterst tzungshubschrauber Tiger (UHT), which translates to Support Helicopter Tiger, was developed as a multirole platform rather than an attack helicopter solely focused on the destruction of enemy armor. Additional missions include combat support, escort, reconnaissance and anti-aircraft roles.

A total of seven Tiger prototypes were built, including two static test articles (PT6 and PT7). On April 27, 1991, the first Tiger prototype (PT1) took flight. PT2 followed in April 1992 and featured the HAP avionics systems by 1996. PT3 flew in November of 1993 and tested UHT mission systems. PT4 was built to the HAP configuration and conducted live fire tests including eight Mistral missiles, 50 rockets and 3,000 rounds of 30mm cannon ammunition. PT5 was the last flying prototype and was equipped with the full UHT avionics package. PS1 was built as a preproduction example to test manufacturing processes. Serial production began with the German UHT S01, which flew in August 2002 and HAP S01 for the French, which flew in March 2003.

Features

Airframe

Divergent French and German requirements ensured multiple variants of the Tiger would be produced, but all variants share the same airframe with most of the differences stemming from mission systems. The base airframe is characterized by its survivability and agility.

The Tiger airframe takes a holistic approach to survivability incorporating signature reduction, durable airframe and an extensive countermeasures suite. The Tiger s design minimizes its IR signature by mounting the engines within the fuselage. An exhaust gas dilution system further reduces emitted heat and drives exhaust up to the rotor. Radio-frequency (RF) reduction is achieved through multiple techniques. The Tiger is comparatively small relative to its contemporaries such as the AH-64 Apache. Basic shaping techniques and extensive use of composite materials further reduce the Tiger s RF signature. Seventy-seven percent of the Tiger s airframe weight is comprised of composite materials such as Kevlar (carbon aramid) frames and beams as well as Nomex honeycomb with carbon and Kevlar face laminates. The extensive use of composite materials reduced the Tiger s airframe weight by 30%. An additional 11% of the aircraft s weight is aluminum and 6% is titanium.

The airframe is built to protect the crew from vertical crashes at speeds of up to 10 m per sec. (m/s) or 23 mph. The floor of the cockpit and landing gear are built to absorb energy from a crash. The landing gear can accommodate a 6-m/sec. (13.4-mph) descent without sustaining damage. Hot-pressed boron carbide ceramic armor inserts are mounted in the seats to protect the crew against ballistic threats. The airframe s armor is resistant to 23mm cannon fire. The Tiger features self-sealing fuel tanks to further improve its ballistic protection. Lastly, the Tiger s electronics feature electromagnetic interference (EMI) protection against both lightning strikes and electromagnetic pulses.

Agility and maneuverability were also key requirements that shaped the Tiger s design. Both qualities are essential to facilitate nap-of-the-Earth (NOE) operations e.g. object avoidance at low altitude and to improve survivability. The Tiger has a maximum speed of 175 kt. (201 mph), can pivot 40 deg. in 1 sec. and can perform a complete barrel roll in less than 5 sec.

Avionics

The Tiger has three main avionics subsystems which vary depending upon the variant: electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, helmet-mounted display and countermeasures suite.

15th
DEC

Lockheed Martin F-35 (JSF)

Lockheed Martin F-35 (JSF) user+1@localho Wed, 12/15/2021 - 21:17

The F-35 Lightning II / Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a U.S. fifth-generation, single engine, multirole fighter developed in partnership with eight nations and produced by Lockheed Martin. It is designed in three variants and is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine. Each variant features a different derivative of the F135 engine. As of December 2021, more than 730 F-35s have been delivered to the U.S., international JSF partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. Production is expected to continue into the 2040s.

Features

Low Observable Technology

All variants of the F-35 use a variety of techniques to reduce their radar cross section (RCS). Some of these techniques were used on previous low observable aircraft while others have been improved or are completely new. As with the F-22, the F-35 uses planform alignment to orient flight surfaces, fuselage facets and gaps to concentrate radar reflections into a minimum number of angles. The canopy is metalized to reduce scattering from the cockpit. Doors and access panels have sawtooth edges. Internal weapons bays allow the aircraft to carry air-to-air weapons and a small number of ground-attack weapons while keeping the ordnance shielded from radar.

The engine exhaust is also designed with low-observability to radar in mind. The nozzle consists of vanes with rear-facing facets that abut into a circular, sawtooth pattern. The outer surfaces of the vanes appear to be covered with RAM. In addition, towards the front of the nozzle, the vanes are covered by skin panels with sawtooth patterns that also adjoin with each other in a sawtooth fashion. These panels are likely radar-absorbent structures whose purpose is to reduce scattering in the gap between the vanes and fuselage around the nozzle.

Low observable technologies significantly matured between the development of the F-22 and the subsequent F-35 as shown by the F-35 s use of Diverterless Supersonic Inlets (DSIs) and improved Radar-Absorbent Material (RAM) coatings. Lockheed Martin began internal research and development on low observable Mach 2 inlets in the early 1990s which informed the X-35 s development. In the Spring of 1997, Lockheed Martin had two competing X-35 design proposals. One featured Caret inlets (used in the F-22 and F/A-18E/F) and the other used DSIs. Lockheed had demonstrated the feasibility of DSIs through flight testing of a modified F-16 in December 1997. Inlet designs of modern fighter aircraft must provide flow compression and boundary layer control such that the engine is fed high pressure, low distortion airflow across multiple flight regimes. The F-22 s 2-D Caret inlets use a boundary layer diverter and bleed system feeding into serpentine ducts to regulate airflow at the cost of manufacturing complexity and weight. Lockheed Martin studies showed incorporating DSIs would lower weight, be easier to manufacture and lower the X-35 s RCS. The F-35 s DSIs have a 3-D bump and forward swept cowl which feed into a bifurcated, serpentine duct eliminating the need for a boundary layer diverter and bleed system.

The F-35 s RAM represents a significant improvement in signature reduction and maintenance needs when compared to the F-22 and B-2. Gaps between parts on the skin of the aircraft generate radar returns, the F-22 and B-2 solve this problem by applying a thick topcoat of RAM on top of the gaps. Lockheed Martin reduced the number of parts on the F-35 s skin and used improved manufacturing technologies (such as precision laser alignment of parts during assembly) to eliminate gaps. Lockheed Martin claims that parts fit so precisely that 99% of maintenance requires no restoration of low-observable surfaces . This new approach reduces the amount of RAM required, greatly lessens the airframe's need for line maintenance (by as much as two orders of magnitude compared to the F-22) and also makes the F-35's low observability features more resilient by mitigating the risk of skin abrasions. The F-35 still receives a RAM topcoat that is applied in thicker layers at high scattering areas, such as the engine inlets. The coating also reduces skin friction and drag, thereby saving fuel and likely reducing the aircraft's IR signature. Beneath the RAM-embedded material is a conductive layer that further reduces RCS by modifying the radio waves before they bounce back out through the RAM.

Avionics


APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar
The F-35's radar, the Northrop Grumman APG-81, evolved from the APG-77 featured on the F-22A. Compared to conventional, mechanically-scanned radars, the APG-81's active electronically scanned array (AESA) delivers greater range, 1,000-times faster scanning and the ability to engage many more targets simultaneously. The APG-81 features at least 1,200 transmit receiver modules. Detection range varies with the square root of antenna size and fourth root of transmitted power. However, the APG-81 features better transmit/receive modules and improved processing than the APG-77. In 2000, a senior U.S. Air Force official predicted the JSF radar would have 75% of the detection range of the F-22 s. APG-81 capabilities include: Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), high gain Electronic Support Measure (ESM) and Electronic Attack (EA), cruise missile detection and tracking and air-to-air multitarget detection and tracking. The APG-81 can simultaneously operate in air-to-air and air-to-surface modes. A maritime targeting mode will be installed later and is expected to include an inverse SAR mode.

AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System
In addition to the radar, the JSF bears a unique Distributed Aperture System (DAS) that provides unmatched levels of visual situational awareness. Six mid-wave IR cameras, each weighing 16-17 lb., are situated around the aircraft to enable the DAS to see in all directions: one camera is mounted on each side of the chine line beneath the canopy, one camera is mounted in front of the canopy, one camera is mounted on the dorsal (in front of the boom refueling receptacle for the F-35A) and two cameras are mounted on the underside of the fuselage