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October 3, 2012

September’s top stories: further F-35 developments

The US Air Force's F-35 programme made further advancements, as Russia's Su-30SM made its maiden test flight. wraps up the key headlines from September 2012.

By Liam Stoker

USAF starts F-35A JSF operational utility evaluation


US Air Force personnel commenced operational utility evaluation onboard the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, US.

The work, which is expected to last 65 days, is being conducted by two pilots from the 33rd Fighter Wing and two USAF test pilots.

The testing will collect data from all aspects of JSF training, including maintenance, classroom, simulator and flights, and will serve as a precursor to training other services and allies.

33rd Fighter Wing commander colonel Andrew Toth said the evaluation would give pilots an ‘outside look’ on how missions are conducted, adding: "At the conclusion of the evaluation we should receive the Air Education and Training Command’s approval that states we are ‘ready’ for training."

Boeing to cut tail upgrades for F-15 SE fighter


Boeing advised the Republic of Korea Air Force against fitting canted vertical tails aboard its F-15 Silent Eagle aircraft, citing poor cost-effectiveness of the upgrade.

The Korea Times quoted an unidentified official as saying: "Boeing argued that its test results show only a slight improvement through the modification of the tails."

Boeing originally offered ROKAF the F-15 SE aircraft with twin canted vertical tails and conformal weapons bays as part of the $7.9bn F-X III competition in March 2009.

The canted tails had been designed to reduce the fighter’s radar cross-section, while also reducing weight and increasing aerodynamic efficiency.

In response, Boeing moved to refute claims that it had suspended the development of the new feature, stating that it would propose canted vertical tails as an upgrade option, rather than as part of the package.

UK MoD receives first upgraded Puma HC Mk2 helicopter


The UK Ministry of Defence received its first upgraded Puma HC Mk2 helicopter from Eurocopter as part of the RAF’s Puma life extension programme.

With Puma Mk2s due to serve with the RAF until 2025, a total of three helicopters were reported to have completed the initial upgrade process before undergoing flight testing.

The multimillion pound programme has been designed to enhance performance and operational capabilities of the helicopters.

The upgraded Pumas represent a key element of the UK’s medium battlefield support helicopter capability, and are scheduled to enter service in 2012, followed by full operating capability in 2014.

Lockheed seeks contract for fifth batch of US F-35 jets


Lockheed Martin is planning to complete negotiations with the US Department of Defense regarding the acquisition of the fifth batch of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Lockheed has shipped 16 out of the 30 aircraft scheduled for delivery this year, and is holding talks for further international orders in an effort to help reduce the overall cost of the programme.

Reuters reported that while the majority of contract work was completed, the two sides were still negotiating final financial details, having commenced them in December 2011.

Sukhoi conducts Su-30SM jet’s maiden test flight


Sukhoi conducted the maiden test flight of the Su-30SM fighter jet, a further development of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MK combat aircraft. The Su-30SM features enhanced radar, radio and friend-or-foe systems.

The fighter was said to have performed flawlessly during the two hour test flight, with Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdukov saying that the technical capabilities of the aircraft will enable the nation’s air force to attain a higher level of pilot training.

A total of 30 fighters were ordered by the Russian Defence Ministry from Sukhoi as part of a potential $3.3bn deal in March 2012, to help enhance the combat effectiveness of the air force.

The contract has been awarded as part of the state arms programme for 2011-2020, which aims to replace the air force’s existing Sukhoi Su-24 frontline bomber aircraft fleet.

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