October's top stories: Russian arms deals and Waverider testing
As Russia announced arms deals with Iraq and India, the US Air Force revealed the fate of its X-51A Waverider programme. Airforce-technology.com profiles October 2012's top stories.
Lockheed Martin was tasked by the US Government to upgrade F-16 fighter aircraft owned by the Republic of China Air Force as part of a contract worth up to $1.85bn. The contract itself forms part of a $3.8bn arms package approved by US Congress in September 2011.
Under the contract, Lockheed will install an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, embedded global positioning system (GPS) and upgrade the aircraft's electronic warfare and avionics systems.
Lockheed Martin F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group vice president and general manager, Jeff Babione, said the upgrade programme enhances the strong value proposition associated with commonality between the US Air Force's F-16 programme and the fighter's customers worldwide.
India is likely to sign a contract with Russia for the supply of upgraded Su-30MKI fighter jets, with unidentified military sources quoted by Russia and India reported as suggesting the value of the contract would top $3.77bn.
The additional aircraft are being ordered to meet the Indian Air Force's (IAF) air defence requirements because of delays to the $10.2bn medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) programme, which was awarded to Dassault Aviation in February 2012.
The proposed contract takes the IAF's Su-30MKI fleet to 272, and the first aircraft is expected to be delivered during a 2014-15 timeframe.
Russia signed multibillion dollar deals with Iraq for the delivery of air defence systems for the nation's armed forces, representing the largest ever deal between the two countries.
The $4.2bn contracts were disclosed in a document released by the Russian Government during a meeting between the visiting Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.
Without providing any further details, the document confirmed the package would include 30 Mil Mi-28NE night / all-weather capable attack helicopters, an unspecified number of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets, 50 Pantsir-S1 gun-missile short-range air defence systems, armoured vehicles and other weapons.
Lockheed Martin saw the F-35A lurch further towards operational service with the successful completion of its first in-flight weapons test at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake test range in California, US.
The aircraft carried an instrumented 2,000lb GBU-31 BLU-109 joint direct attack munition (JDAM) internally, before deploying it from its left internal weapons bay over the test range.
The aircraft has already completed successful night flight and external missiles testing, as well as the first in-flight refuelling mission in January, February and April 2012 respectively, and the fighter is intended to replace the USAF's existing F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II fleet from 2028.
Having seen previous tests fail, the US Air Force announced plans to flight test its fourth and final experimental hypersonic X-51A Waverider jet in 2013. Air Force Research Laboratory's X-51A programme manager Charlie Brink revealed that USAF engineers are currently modifying the final X-51A vehicle for flight tests, which are scheduled to be conducted in late spring or early summer of 2013.
During its last test, conducted in an attempt to reach a speed of Mach 6, the Waverider crashed into the Pacific Ocean 15 seconds following separation from its preliminary rocket booster, before the Scramjet engine was ignited.
The Waverider is one of several projects aimed at developing a hypersonic aircraft, with the Pentagon and Nasa hoping that the project will lead to the production of faster missiles.
The US Air Force's F-35 programme made further advancements, as Russia's Su-30SM made its maiden test flight.
The US Air Force's experimental X-51A WaveRider failed another test as Syria lost further fighter jets at rebel hands.
Syrian attack helicopters and fighter jets launched an offensive against rebels as the UK received its first F-35.