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  • F-35 LRIP 8 Contract Awarded

    ​Archived image of F-35A strike fighters in flight. Courtesy photo.

    The Pentagon on Friday awarded Lockheed Martin a $4.7 billion contract for the eighth Lot of F-35 strike fighters, the program office announced. The contract covers 43 F-35s of all three variants, including 29 for US services and 14 for five international partners. It also includes $0.5 billion of advanced procurement on the next batch. A “handshake deal” for low-rate initial production Lot 8 was struck last month, but the award marks about a $300 million overall “better deal” for the government than was expected at that time, a program office spokesman said.  The contract represents an average unit cost “approximately 3.5 percent lower than the LRIP 7 contract signed in 2013 and a 57 percent reduction since LRIP 1,” the program office said in a statement.  Not including engines, airframe unit prices were quoted as follows: 19 F-35As for the Air Force, $94.8 million each; Six F-35Bs for the Marine Corps, $102 million each; and four F-35Cs for the Navy, $115.7 million each. The Marine Corps and Navy versions are more complex than the USAF model, which will also be made in larger numbers. The contract is the second one in which the Air Force unit price for the fifth generation fighter came in under $100 million, making it comparable in cost to some fourth generation fighters sold in recent years. (See also F-35 LRIP 8 Numbers In.)

  • More F-35 Lot 8 Details

    The Lot 8 contract for F-35 strike fighters signed Friday carried some additional agreements covering the program, according to a program office statement. In addition to continuing Lockheed Martin’s agreement to cover “100 percent of all cost overruns,” the contact says the two parties will share the savings from cost underruns, to the tune of 20 percent for the government and 80 percent for Lockheed Martin. There’s also a clause that the two parties will share equally any costs arising from known concurrency problems associated with the system development and demonstration phase, which runs until 2017. “Newly discovered concurrency changes identified during the LRIP 8 production period will be authorized via engineering change proposals,” a system program office spokesman said, but he couldn’t say whether that means the government will pick up the tab. “The assumption is (that) concurrency should end/diminish greatly when SDD ends,” he said in an emailed statement. The cost burden of those changes also “depends on future contract clauses,” he added. The government pays F-35 program fees based on achievement of performance milestones, not by a calendar system.

  • F-35 Partners and the Box Score

    The Lot 8 contract for the F-35 program awarded Friday includes 14 jets for international partners. They include two F-35As each for Israel, Italy, and Norway; four F-35As for Japan and four F-35Bs for Britain. The contract also provides “manufacturing support equipment as well as ancillary mission equipment,” the program office reported. Israel has a stated need for 75 F-35s, but has recently signaled that number may climb above 100, although it may buy them in smaller lots than planned. Lockheed Martin will start delivering on Lot 8 in early spring of 2016, the program office reported, and once the lot is complete, “more than 200 F-35s will be in operation by eight nations,” it said in a statement.  To date, the F-35 program has delivered 115 F-35s, and more than 3,200 of the fighters are planned to be built by the US, eight development partner nations, and, so far, three Foreign Military Sales customers.

  • Sat-Sparse Pacific Problems

    Future intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations—especially in the Pacific—may be hampered by spottier satellite coverage than currently enjoyed over Iraq and Afghanistan, Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle warned. "The good news for the CENTCOM [area of responsibility] and the European AOR is that there's a greater amount of satellite and comm capability than there is in other parts of the world," Carlisle said in a briefing at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 17.  Existing coverage and pre-staged assets have eased the task of providing popup demand for ISR in Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, but "in the Pacific, [bandwidth] was one of the biggest challenges," he said. Even before potential adversary jamming and disruption, ISR coverage suffers simply due to a lack of "assets on orbit," Carlisle noted. "As we shift from one combatant command to another, now we realize our toolbox might be different," added Col. Ray Alves, ACC U-2 and MC-12 program manager. "Maybe we don't have enough satellites … are there other ways—perhaps an airborne node or something like that" that can be used to deliver comparable ISR support. "It's just a matter of evolving the tactics to make sure we are able to service the combatant commanders," Alves added.

  • Hercules' New Flak Vest


    Ohio Air National Guard C-130Hs are testing a new lighter weight and more secure cockpit armor plating system that the Air Force is looking to install across its legacy Hercules fleet. "This enhanced armor system will not only ensure our aircrews increased safety from airborne and ground threats …but  [it] is lighter and easier to install for our maintainers," 910th Maintenance Group Commander Col. Davis Post said in a release. The new system replaces the old design's Velcro fasteners with mounting brackets that keep the bulky plates in place and prevent them from chafing against the C-130's nose wheel when the wheels are retracted. The mounting hardware is presently fitted to every aircraft, allowing the modular plates to be installed or removed depending on mission requirements. The Air Force awarded Macro Industries a $16.9 million contact for the kits last year, and installation work should be completed fleet-wide by early 2016, according to the Defense Department’s contract announcement.

  • New Sense and Avoid Technology for RPAs


    The manufacturer of the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper announced two new technological developments related to the company’s “sense and avoid” research efforts. Working with the Federal Aviation Administration and Honeywell, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., recently tested a proof of concept SAA system, marking the first successful test of the FAA’s Airborne Collision Avoidance System for Unmanned Aircraft, according to a company release. The system includes sensor fusion capabilities to provide the pilot a clear picture of traffic around the aircraft and automatic collision avoidance. It was tested in early September at GA-ASI’s Palmdale, Calif., facility on a Predator B aircraft. The test is touted as a “major step forward for integrating RPAs safely into domestic and international airspace,” GA-ASI President Frank Pace said, adding the system will now undergo extensive flight testing with the FAA, NASA, and other industry partners. In a separate development, GA-ASI said it has also tested a pre-production air-to-air radar for SAA systems, called the “Due Regard Radar” on a Beechcraft King Air, tracking multiple aircraft out to 10 miles. The radar eventually will help enable routine operations in domestic and international airspace, according to the release.

  • SECAF Visits Guam


    Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James visited Andersen AFB, Guam, Nov. 19-20, gaining insights into several ongoing Pacific missions such as the continuous bomber presence. James was briefed on the CBP, theater security package rotations to and from Andersen, the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile battery site, and the Pacific Regional Training Center. James also held an “all call” for airmen where she discussed USAF priorities and engaged with members of the 36th Wing. James talked about Guam’s importance in the US rebalance to the Asia Pacific, and how Andersen serves an important role in projecting US power and influence in the region. “There is a lot of activity going on here right now, and even more is projected to occur in the next few years,” she said. “You have a lot riding on your shoulders but I am certain you are up to the task.”

  • A Talon for Vance Airpark


    Andy Swanner and Marty Quinn, members of the aircraft maintenance section, help move a T-38 Talon Nov. 1, 2014, out of the Vance AFB, Okla., west gate and transport it to the main gate to be displayed as a static. Air Force photo by SSgt. Nancy Falcon.

    A static display T-38A Talon trainer recently joined the Vance AFB, Okla., airpark thanks to funds raised by the surrounding community of Enid, Okla., base officials announced. Vance received Talon serial number 65-10325 from the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, Ga., and plans to repaint the aircraft in the 1990's color scheme of Vance's 71st Flying Training Wing, which still operates a squadron of upgraded T-38C. Vance's airframe formerly served the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., as a test and chase platform until it retired to Robins in 2004, according to the museum. The T-38 will join the airpark's historical lineup of training aircraft flown by training units at Vance including a BT-13, T-6, T-28, T-33, T-41, and T-37 already on display. Vance units began flying the T-38 in 1963.  The trainer went on display on Nov. 1.