Hawk training jet damaged in landing accident

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A South African Air Force (SAAF) training jet was badly damaged in a landing incident on Thursday. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the BAE Systems Hawk Mk 120 jet trainer, operated by 85 Combat Flying School, was on final approach to land at AFB Makhado when it experienced a trim problem…

http://www.saairforce.co.za/news-and-events/1287/hawk-training-jet-damaged-in-landing-accident

F-35C at highest risk for fielding delay – IHS Jane’s 360

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The carrier variant of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Figher is most at risk of fielding delays due to ongoing software development problems, according to the Pentagon’s programme manager for the effort. “There could be a four to six month delay on 3F” software…

http://www.janes.com/article/36056/f-35c-at-highest-risk-for-fielding-delay

A time to reflect

Dear readers, 
I started this blog in November 2013 with the purpose of being an English version of the site Aerofatos. My idea was to publish news about military aviation in India, Russia and China. 
Unfortunately, the blog did not get the number of views to make it something sustainable. Despite the 500 Facebook fans, only 100-200 views per day were recorded. Very little for two hour of daily dedication. 
If any of you want to take responsibility for posting materials, please contact me. This is not a paid job. It is for someone who likes aviation. 
The aerofatos.com address will be available until May 2014. I will not renew with my host (Netfirms), but I can transfer to another person. The Facebook page also needs a new admistrador. 
But aerofatos.com.br remain online. In portuguese, sure.
Sorry for the inconvenience. 
Julio Ribeiro
aerofatos@gmail.com

Su-34 frontline bomber was put into service by Russian air forces

In accordance with the decision of the government of Russian Federation, the new Su-34 frontline bomber was put into service, Interfax reports with reference to a source close to the military-industrial sector. He reminded that the bomber successfully completed all the necessary tests and its deliveries were started long ago. The serial Su-34s are being manufactured by Novosibirsk Aviation Plant.
“Last year Sukhoi Company successfully implemented the first contract for delivery of 32 Su-34s to Russian air forces and started the implementation of the second contract for delivery of 92 bombers of the type”, – the source said.

Commander-in-Chief of the Russian air forces, Lieutenant General, Viktor Bondarev, said earlier that the air forces plan to expand their Su-34 fleet to 150-200 jets. According to him, 16 Su-34s will be delivered to the air forces in 2014. “In total we will receive 150 vehicles of the type or maybe even 200 ones”, – he said.

He reminded that, 14 Su-34 bombers were delivered to the units of Western and Southern Military Districts in 2013.
The equipment of Su-34 allows attacking several targets simultaneously. Great aerodynamics, large capacity of integral fuel tanks, fuel-efficient engines with digital engine control system, aerial refueling system and ability to use external fuel tanks allow Su-34 to have a range close to the range of a strategic bomber.

Now it’s PAK TA’s turn

An-225 Mriya: illustrative photo
The enterprises of Russian military-industrial sector have started the development of a next-generation military-transport aircraft – PAK TA (similarly to PAK FA it may stand for Perspective Airborne Complex of Transport Aviation). The project should be completed in the next decade, ITAR-TASS reports with reference to CEO of Ilyushin Aviation Complex, Viktor Livanov.
“The project does not have an approved name; for now it is called PAK TA – Perspective Airborne Complex of Transport Aviation. Today it is just a project that may be implemented by 2030”, – the source explained. According to him, the exact specifications for PAK TA will be elaborated later after negotiations with potential customers.

Livanov added that this aircraft will be offered to several customers, including Russian Ministry of Defense.

“The first wind-tunnel data showed us possible variants and now TsAGI (Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute named after N.E. Zhukovsky) will study them thoroughly”, – Ilyushin’s CEO said. He added that the scientific research work in the network of PAK TA project is being carried out by the specialists of TsAGI, Myasishcev Design Bureau and other enterprises.
Note: The company Antovov is Ukrainian. I’m curious to see who will make this new aircraft.

Aggressor squadrons feel the pinch of DoD cuts

Ongoing Department of Defense (DoD) defence cuts are impacting on the ability of the Aggressor units to deliver up-to-date training to US Air Force (USAF) and allied squadrons, a senior officer told IHS Jane’s in early March.
Speaking at the ‘Red Flag 14-2’ exercise at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada, commander of the 57th Adversary Tactics Support Squadron (ATSS), Lieutenant Colonel Jon Berardinelli, said that Aggressor units such as his are fleeing the cuts especially, and that it is affecting the delivery of realistic training scenarios.
“On the adversary side, we are feeling the impact of budget cuts. That just impacts our capability to replicate the newest threats. While we are pulling back the adversaries and not upgrading the equipment that we use to replicate the threats, those threats are getting better equipment. The older [Lockheed Martin] F-16s and [Boeing] F-15s are going to approach the point where we aren’t quite replicating country-X’s fighter or air defence system,” he said.

Although he wouldn’t be drawn on specific programmes, Col Berardinelli’s comments are likely to refer to hopes to fund upgrades for the 64th Aggressor Squadron’s Block 30 F-16Cs to enable them to better replicate enemy fighters. This includes an ambition to bring them up to System Capabilities Upgrade-8 (SCU-8) configuration, alongside Air National Guard examples. SCU-8 primarily includes the Thales Scorpion Helmet-Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT) system and the new CDU (Center Display Unit).

The Aggressor F-16s also do not possess an infrared air-to-air missile that simulates the Russian R-73 (AA-11) ‘Archer’, and a captive-carry Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder capability is desirable.
The Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control ‘SpectIR’ pod-mounted infrared search-and-track (IRST) system, that was packaged into a LANTIRN targeting pod in early 2012 and trialled during the only ‘Red Flag’ of 2013, has also not re-appeared at this year’s events. The pod was reported to have successfully acquired targets on ‘first pass’ and ‘maintained a tight track throughout the engagement, providing the pilot with a passive, weapons-quality cue that enabled weapon employment.’
However, despite the budget cuts and their effects on the Aggressor units senior USAF officials were keen to stress the continued importance of the ‘Red Flag’ series of exercises.
Deputy commander of the 414th Combat Training Squadron (CTS), Lieutenant Colonel Jordan Grant, told IHS Jane’s : “Everyone recognises the value of ‘Red Flag’. It’s even more important if you are going to have a smaller force [as] it is important that you invest in the right places in training.
“If you look at the cost of putting on a good ‘Red Flag’ it’s fairly small compared to buying another platform. You have all this money invested in your equipment around the air force but it doesn’t do any good if you’re not trained to use it. Here you get value out of your investments. In my estimation [‘Red Flag’] is probably going to grow.’

J-31 or Project 310?

As we’ve seen the J-20 project proceed to the pre-production prototype stage, Project 310 (Shenyang AC’s 5th gen design) is continuing its flight testing. Although, I and many other have called it J-31, it really hasn’t become an official PLAAF project yet, so it has no J designation Many have called it the J-21 project, because they expect it to receive that designation once it becomes official.
There have been a lot of discussions online about where this project is at and how is it funded, so I will give me take here. At this stage, project 310 only has one flying prototype in No. 31001. Some would compare it to No. 2001 of J-20 project, but I consider more as a proof of concept aircraft similar to X-35. 

For example, I think the pre-production prototypes should not longer see the gap between the engine nozzle and nacelle. From what I observed online, it seems to at least have received some funding from PLAAF to arrive at this stage, although SAC does has enough resource/funding to get here by itself. I think we are unlikely to see a second flying prototype until it becomes an official PLAAF project, since No. 31001 and a possible static prototype can give all the data PLAAF would need to make its decision.

Based on all I have read, it seems to be foregone conclusion that will happen. Once it does get designation and full funding from PLAAF, SAC is likely to make numerous changes on the next flying prototype and also start conducting radar and weapon testing.
Just looking from front, Project 310 has the contours that one would expect out a stealth aircraft. One does not need to look far before seeing comparison to F-35 and reading articles about “stolen technology” from F-35. Whether this jet will turn out to really be a stealth aircraft depends on all the little details that the designers have to look through to minimize returns from all around. Until we get to a later prototype, it’s really hard to say how well Project 310 will do in that area.
I am generally not too concerned about the electronics on the new Chinese aircraft, because I think they have really made huge progress here. I think they can achieve comparable target identification and situation awareness as F-22/35, since it will come into service at a later point when newer technology will become available. I think the biggest concern for this aircraft is its engine. 
This is a problem with all new PLAAF aircraft. Clearly, RD-93 will not be powering Project 310 in production. The 9.5t class “Medium Thrust” engine models have been around for several Zhuhai airshows. I would imagine that engine will be used on Project 310 and other projects like UAVs. Even though it has great important, it will not be as high priority as the WS-15 project. 
Since it began at a later point and has lower priority than WS-15, it definitely won’t be ready before WS-15. If we estimate that serial production of WS-15 will be under way by 2020, this medium thrust engine won’t be ready for serial production until 2025. PLAAF would have to either wait until then or find an interim selection. A large part of its test flight program may need to be done with a different engine.
The other question is what is the expected market for Project 310 outside of China. Unlike J-20, models resembling Project 310 have appeared in air shows since 2011 indicating that it should be available for export sooner rather than later. The problem is who can they sell it to. Ten years from now, most of the Western countries will probably go for F-35. 
The remaining ones will either go for the eurocanards or for super hornets if they are still in production. Due to politics, they are unlikely to go for a Chinese or Russian aircraft. We know that India and Russia are committed to the PAK-FA project, so what does that leave for Project 310? Most of China’s traditional customers in Asia, Africa and Latin America simply don’t have the money or the need for a low-end 5th gen aircraft. 
Project 310 will most likely be exported to Pakistan. After that, it will have to battle against F-35, PAK-FA and Gripen-E in the Middle East, South East Asia, Brazil and South Africa. Its main advantages are its cost and available production slot, but China will have to move fast.

Lavi or not Lavi. That is the question

IAI Lavi: a competitive aircraft in the export market against American aircraft such as the F-16C/D and the F/A-18C/D
When we look at the prototype of the Israeli fighter IAI LAVI you think: I must be crazy. This is a Chinese J-10! To resolve this doubt see “The chronological history of the J-10 programme”… Please, don’t confuse the old Lavi – a single-engined 4th generation fighter developed in Israel in the 1980s with the new Lavi: the local name of new M346 trainer.

J-10: Jewish blood?
The Early 1980s: The then Chinese leader and Chairman of the  Central Military Commission (CMC) Deng Xiaoping announced that China would  spend RMB 500 million to develop a new generation fighter with better  performance.
1982: Representatives of the PLA General Staff Department,  PLA Air Force, PLA Naval Aviation Corps, and the Chinese Ministry of  Aeronautics met in Beijing to discuss the concept of the new-generation fighter  and initial requirement. The fighter was required to be superior to the  indigenous J-8II and Soviet MiG-23, and approach the U.S. F-16 in general  performance, and can form the backbone of the Chinese fighter fleet in the  1990s. A second meeting was held six months later.
January 1984: The PLAAF adjusted some requirements for the  new fighter aircraft. The Ministry of Aeronautics received three  design proposals submitted by aircraft design institutes in Shenyang, Xi’an and  Chengdu. These proposals included a conventional configuration, a tailless  delta-canard configuration, and a variable-sweep wing configuration.
May 1984: After comparing the three design proposals, the  Ministry of Aeronautics decided to chose the tailless delta with canard design  submitted by Chengdu-based 611 Institute (now Chengdu Aircraft Design  Institute). The development task of the new-generation fighter was officially  assigned to the 611 Institute and Chengdu Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (now  Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation, CAC). Four key technological areas were identified, including the tailless delta-canard configuration,  computerised flight control, integrated avionics design, and computer-aided  design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM).
1986: The new-generation fighter designated  J-10  became  one of the state’s key  projects.  Wang Ang was appointed as the programme’s chief  executive director, andh Song Wen-Cong  the  chief  designer.
1987: China obtained some technologies of the  cancelled Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Lavi (“Lion”) fighter. The Lavi  development began in October 1982 under the help of the United States, and the  aircraft made the first flight in December 1986. However, the U.S. was not  prepared to finance an aircraft that would compete in export market with the  F-16C/D and F/A/-18C/D, and a dispute arose to the final cost. The Israeli  Government was unable to finance the project along and the development  programme was finally cancelled in 1987. China was believed to have received  the software originally developed for Lavi’s “fly-by-wire” control system  shortly after its cancellation, despite  denial of such  cooperation by both sides.
1990: The J-10 project encountered great setback  because China was unable to obtain crucial technological assistance from  Western countries resulted by the arms embargo imposed by the United States and  European Union after 1989. In particular China was unable to produce a suitable  engine for the fighter aircraft.
1993: Chengdu had constructed the first full-scale metal  mockup of the J-10. Wind tunnel testing revealed potential problems with  low-speed performance and less-than-expected maximum AOA at subsonic speeds. At  the same time the main trend in fighter aircraft development was a transition  from single-purpose fighters such as high-speed interceptor or low-altitude  dogfighters to multirole aircraft combining good subsonic and supersonic  air-to-air performance with extensive air-to-ground capabilities. Added  requirements for air-to-ground operations called for an in-depth redesign of  the J-10 to accommodate terrain-following radar, more and sturdier hardpoints,  an entirely new targeting, flight control and navigation systems.
The mid-1990s: Russia became involved in the J-10  development programme by contributing its Lyulka-Saturn AL-31F turbofan engine.
1996: The first prototype ’1001′ reportedly made its maiden flight but the design was not entirely successful.
March 1998: After a 15-month delay, a modified second prototype ’1003′  made its maiden flight. The same year the aircraft received its  official service designation “J-10″. By then, the development  programme was already two years behind the schedule.
1999: Chengdu had produced seven  prototypes for flight testing. The first five were powered by an indigenous WS-10 engine  while the last two were powered by a Russian-made AL-31F engine and also featured some modifications in avionics.
December 1999: Two J-10 prototypes were transferred from  Chengdu to China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) based at Yanliang, Shaanxi  Province for further flight tests and service evaluations.
2000: Development of the two-seat fighter-trainer variant  J-10S officially began at Chengdu, with Yang Wei appointed as the chief  designer.
May 2000: Intensive flight tests of the J-10 were carried  out by CFTE at Yanliang. By late 2000 the flying models accumulated over 140 flight hours.
Summer 2000: The first successful live test of the ejector  seat for the J-10 fighter was carried out on a test plane.
2001: China ordered 54 specially configured AL-31FN engines  from Russia to power the initial batch of the J-10 fighter. These engines were  received in 2002~04.
Summer 2002: After two years of flight tests in Yanliang,  the J-10 prototypes were relocated to the PLAAF’s Dingxin Airbase in  Gansu Province for weapon and fire-control tests.
28 June 2002: The first flight of the pre-production model  J-10. Small batch production of the aircraft began shortly after.
10 March 2003: J-10 fighter officially entered PLAAF service. Six J-10s were  delivered  to the PLAAF Flight Test & Training Centre at Cangzhou AFB, Hebei Province  for operational trial and evaluation. During the handover ceremony, two J-10 fighters made demonstration flights to senior PLA officials.
Spring 2003: The test of the J-10’s fire-control radar was  carried out onboard a modified Y-8 radar testbed in Shandong Province.
Summer 2003: The J-10 conducted its first successful aerial  refuelling simulation.
26 December 2003: The two-seat J-10S fighter-trainer variant  made its first flight.
December 2003: The first successful air-to-air missile test  launch from the J-10.
Early 2004: The J-10 fighter received its design  certificate, marking the ending of the 18-year development programme.
August 2004: The first J-10 regiment was formed in the PLAAF 44th Air Division based at Mengzi AFB, Yunnan Province.
2005: The J-10S fighter-trainer variant completed its flight  test and received its design certificate.
July 2005: China reportedly ordered an additional 100  modified AL-31FN engines worth US$300 million from Russia for more J-10  fighters. Production continues at a rate of 2~3 units per month at the moment.
November 2006: Chinese state media  announced that the new-generation  J-10 fighter had achieved initial operational capability (IOC). The aircraft was officially declassified. CAC /  AVIC-I were planning to demonstrate the aircraft during the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show, but this was cancelled the last minute, possibly due to political concerns.
October  2008: Chinese state media confirmed that the J-10 would attend the 2008 Zhuhai Air Show in both static and flight demonstration.
Currently: J-10A is in service with PLAAF (04 batch, S/N 50x5x, 30x5x, 20x6x, 78x1x). The August 1 Aerobatic Demonstration Team also flies J-10AY (05 batch) to replace the old J-7GB. Recent images confirmed that PLAN is receiving its first batch of J-10As (06 batch, dubbed J-10AH, S/N 83x4x) which have been deployed at the eastern China coast facing Japan. They could be modified to carry YJ-83K AShMs in the future. Currently more J-10As (07 batch) are being produced for both the existing as well as new J-10 units (S/N 20x3x).**
Other versions: The production of J-10B finally started in 2013 after some delay, due to the availability of a suitable engine. It was speculated that the first batch of production J-10Bs will be powered by Russian AL-31FN engine and could enter the service with PLAAF 44th Division as early as late 2013. It was rumored in June 2013 that a further upgraded semi-stealth multi-role variant (J-10C) with enhanced 4th generation electronics including a more powerful AESA radar, more composite material and a more powerful engine was under development. The latest images (December 2013) indicated the 01 batch have been produced and are preparing for the delivery. Meanwhile the J-10C 2-01 prototype took to the sky for the first time on December 31, 2013. The aircraft appears to have high similarity with J-10B except an extra yellow antenna on its back. In late 2010 the first batch of J-10Ss (advanced trainer) are entering the service with PLAN (dubbed J-10SH? S/N 83x4x) along with J-10As. **