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USAF gets its last Predator drone

March 7th, 2011 by David No Comments

The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator UAV.

The US Air Force (USAF) has accepted delivery of its final Predator unmanned air vehicle (UAV).

The MQ-1 drone, tail number 268, was handed by Air Combat Command’s Irregular Warfare Division.

The MQ-1 is built by General Atomics. Operators include the US, UK, Italy and Turkey.

The USAF says that since the Predator’s maiden flight in July 1994, the type has amassed over 900,000 flight hours and kept mission capable rate over 90% in US service.

EADS will not dispute KC-X decision

March 7th, 2011 by David No Comments

The Pentagon’s selection of Boeing to fill its order for a KC-X future tanker aircraft will not be disputed by EADS, the Paris-based company says.

EADS North America says it will not dispute the US Air Force’s decision to update its KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft with Boeing’s KC-46, based on its 767 commercial airliner.

EADS lost its KC-45 proposal, which was based on the Airbus A330 airliner aircraft, after winning an initial order in 2008, which was successfully disputed and overturned by Boeing.

A statement from EADS said the firm expressed its appreciation to the Air Force for running a competition consistent with the rules set out in its Request for Proposal.

By USAF fleet effectiveness metrics, the EADS tanker had been decided the more capable aircraft, but Boeing was able to offer a less costly deal to the US Department of Defense. Boeing’s bid for the 179 aircraft deal dropped $16bn from its original tender in 2002.

“While we are obviously disappointed that our men and women in uniform are not getting the most capable tanker available, we will not take any action that could further delay the already overdue replacement of the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet,” said EADS North America chairman Ralph Crosby.

“Much is promised by our competitor, whom we congratulate. However, should they fail to deliver, we stand ready to step in with a proven and operating tanker,” added Crosby.

Cobham blames US budget for slow growth

March 4th, 2011 by David No Comments

London-based Cobham has blamed contracting US defence and security budgets for a slowdown in demand set to stymie revenue growth.

The defence components manufacturer posted pre-tax profits of £306m for 2010, up 4% from the previous year.

The firm’s chief executive Andy Stevens said a current freeze in US defence budget to 2010 levels will halt Cobham’s revenue growth in 2011 at the £1.63bn ($2.65 billion) made last year.

Cobham’s components formed a part of both the successful Boeing-led bid and the unsuccessful EADS proposal to supply the US Air Force with 179 KC-X future tanker aircraft.

Boeing wins $35bn US tanker deal

February 25th, 2011 by David No Comments

Boeing has defeated EADS to win a contract worth $35bn to replace the US Air Force’s fleet of aerial refuelling aircraft with its KC-767 aircraft.

Boeing says the contract calls on it to design, develop, manufacture and deliver 18 initial combat-ready tankers by 2017.

Boeing and EADS had tabled rival bids for the $35bn deal.

In 2008 EADS was announced to have won the contract with with US partner Northrop Grumman.

The award was withdrawn after the US Government Accountability Office upheld Boeing’s objections that the award process has been flawed.

The Boeing and EADS / Grumman Northrop’ bids both highlighted their US credentials.

Boeing is US-based and EADS is French-based, but both companies said the deal would provide around 50,000 US-based jobs, with aircraft production taking place in the US.

The KC-45 aircraft built by EADS is based on the Airbus 330 commercial airliner.

The KC-767, based on the Boeing 767 commercial airliner, will replace 179 Boeing KC-135 tankers.

The US Air Force presently has 400 KC-135s in service. The KC-135 was based on the Boeing 707 airliner, entered service in 1957, with production ceasing in 1965.

“Our team is ready now to apply our 60 years of tanker experience to develop and build an airplane that will serve the nation for decades to come,” said Jim McNerney, Boeing’s chairman, president and chief executive.

Military experts write to oppose UK Navy cuts

February 25th, 2011 by David No Comments

A group of senior retired military experts and academics have written a letter to the UK government to oppose the scrapping of the country’s Harrier fast jet carrier aircraft under the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) announced last year.

The letter to prime minister David Cameron criticises the retirement Joint Royal Navy / Royal Air Force Harrier Force of 70 aircraft, which has operated from the aircraft carriers Ark Royal and Illustrious. The two ships are scheduled for retirement this year and 2014 respectively.

The grouping’s letter criticises the effect the loss of a fast jet carrier air group could have on UK national security until the arrival of the new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, currently under construction, and the Harrier’s replacement, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

“Continuity of operations is highly desirable if the new carriers are to be brought into operational service quickly, with the right experience and supporting elements such as flight deck crews, command and staff officers at all levels,” says the petition.

“The first is the deprivation of fixed wing carrier-borne air capability for at least a decade. This not only removes a very important component of the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Fleet but also undermines support of the Army and of the Royal Marines in their amphibious role. This valuable operation can no longer be attempted even against a lightly armed aggressor without considerable risk,” adds the letter.

The letter was signed by several veteran Falklands War commanders, including admiral Sir John ‘Sandy’ Woodward, major general Julian Thompson and admiral Sir Jeremy Black. Academics listed as signatories include naval historians Nicholas Rodger, from Oxford university, and King’s College London’s Andrew Lambert.

The letter provides three alternatives to scrapping the Harrier force, including the retainment of a smaller amount of the aircraft alongside the RAF’s Tornado fighter aircraft, which was retained over the Harrier force in the SDSR.

The letter notes that the Tornado is more expensive to operate than the Harrier and has been itself partially replaced in RAF service by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The letter highlights the increased operational flexibility provided by the Harrier over the Tornado, and says keeping on 40 Harriers and 40 Tornadoes would save £5bn over 15 years.

As a further option, the experts suggest maintaining 48 Tornados, 30 harriers and buying or leasing 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole carrier-borne combat aircraft.

“It should be noted that the F/A-18 Super Hornet is better at air defence than the Typhoon, better at ground attack than Tornado and Typhoon and around one third to one fifth of the cost of the Typhoon,” says the letter.

“This F-18 squadron would not be difficult to form due to existing partnerships and training which the Royal Navy has, and is expected to continue to have, with the United States Navy. Furthermore, Britain would not be buying a substandard aircraft, as the Super Hornet is a very capable aircraft now being procured by the US Navy and the Australian Armed Forces,” adds the letter.

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