Monday, November 30, 2009

More F-35s to Test?

More F-35s to Test?: "We could learn as early as this week what the Pentagon plans to do in a bid to prevent the F-35 development program going massively over budget and schedule. Acquisition chief Ashton Carter met with program officials over the weekend and the prevailing rumor going in was that the Pentagon would add money and aircraft in Fiscal 2011 to accelerate flight testing and get the program back on track to complete development in 2013.

Remember that two aircraft were removed from the flight-test program two years ago as part of a 'mid-course review' that increased reliance on integration labs and flying testbeds. The mission-system test aircraft were cut to replenish the management reserve within the program budget, which had been eroded by the SWAT redesign, assembly delays and other issues.

Even if the Pentagon adds money and aircraft to the test program, dont expect any sudden acceleration. Lockheed Martin still has to get all the test aircraft flying - and keep them flying, which has so far not proved that easy. No sooner had the first F-35B arrived at Pax River on Nov. 15 to begin STOVL flight testing when the aircraft went down for 10-12 days maintenance to remove and replace the time-expired transparency-removal detonation chord bonded to the canopy. The down time was anticipated, and the work planned for Pax, says Lockheed.

blog post photo
Canopy chord keeps BF-1 grounded. (Photo: JPO)

Diverting early production aircraft to the test program would seem likely to impact the build-up of the training unit at Elgin, which is scheduled to receive its first CTOL F-35As in July 2010. But one report suggests the additional test aircraft would be Navy carrier-capable F-35Cs, the final version to fly and last to enter service. That would add mission-system test aircraft only towards the end of the development program, but would avoid impacting training, which has to start in 2010 to meet the Marine Corps 2012 initial operational capability deadline.

(Via Ares.)

Return to sender: Russian General Refuses to Accept Russian UAVs

Russian General Refuses to Accept Russian UAVs: "Russia's air force is refusing to buy domestically-manufactured unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) because they do not meet performance specifications, General Alexander Zelin, commander in chief of the air force said on Thursday.

‘Unfortunately, we havent managed to make UAVs that meet the technical and tactical specifications that we need,’ he said.

The general added that the Russian-made UAVs were unsatisfactory both because of their speed and flight altitude, but also because of the quality of the observation equipment aboard.

‘To put such drones into service is simply a crime,’ he said. ‘I am, therefore, refusing to sign any acceptance papers.’

The Russian army currently has first generation UAVs which can fulfill reconnaissance missions.

Russia recently bought 12 UAVs from Israel in a deal worth $53 million. Zelin said the Israeli UAVs were better quality and performed better than the Russian-made ones but said he doubted Tel-Aviv would be willing to transfer its know-how in this field to Moscow to enable Russian manufacturers to build better UAVs themselves.

(Via Ares.)

New Airbus glitch causes concern

(CNN) -- An Airbus airplane was forced to turn back to New York 90 minutes into a flight to Paris, Air France said Monday.

The Air France A380 turned back due to a "minor incident," the airline said, refusing to say what the technical hitch was.

Airbus also declined to specify what caused the plane to turn back, saying the incident was an issue for the Air France maintenance team not the aircraft's manufacturer.

The pilots made the decision to turn back "in strict accordance with procedures and as a precautionary measure... following a minor technical problem in order to carry out ground checks," Air France said.

The plane landed at New York's John F. Kennedy International airport "without incident" at 10:17 p.m. ET on Friday, November 27, Air France said. The plane was serviced and later completed its transatlantic journey, the airline said.
Air France had begun flying the brand-new A380 across the Atlantic only days before, Airbus said.

Its inaugural commercial flight from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport to JFK was on November 21.

Air France became the fourth airline to operate the superjumbo when it received its first A380 at the end of last month.


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