Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Space Highlights - March 30, 2016

March 30, 2016

China made its third successful orbital launch of this year, with the launch of the BeiDou-22  GPS satellite aboard a Long March 3A booster.

India's ISRO is preparing to launch a record 22 satellites aboard a single booster this May.  A total of four micro satellites (85 to 130 kg each) and 17 nano-satellites (4 to 30 kg each) will be hitching a ride together with India's Carosat 2C remote sensing satellite.  The micro and nano satellites represent a variety of national and university experiments from around the globe, including experiments the United States, Canada, Germany and Indonesia.

U.S. satellite launch companies are campaigning to retain a ban on the use of Indian launch vehicles for the launch of commercial U.S. satellites.  The ban does not apply to university or scientific payloads, but requires a special waiver for the launch of commercial payloads in India.

Russia launched a Soyuz 2-1A rocket this past week, placing a second Bars-M reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lost contact with the Hitomi X-ray satellite this past weekend.  Hitomi was only recently placed into orbit on February 17th.  The satellite was intended to search for evidence of black holes.

NASA researchers have identified the tallest peak on Saturn's moon, Titan using data collected from the Cassini space probe.  The 10,948 ft (3,337 m) high peak is in a range of mountains labeled the Mithrim Montes.

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Chicago have developed a computer model that explains the sustained eruptions observed at Saturn's moon Enceladus.  Using data from the Cassini space probe, the researchers identified the cyclic, tidal stresses which continuously drive the eruptions, and were able to correctly model the timing of the geysers - in contrast to previous models which failed to correctly identify the timing of eruptions.

Amateur astronomers identified what appears to be a comet or asteroid that collided with Jupiter this past weekend.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wide Body Report - March 29, 2016

March 29, 2016

While coach class seating continues to shrink at airlines throughout the world, Japan Air Lines (JAL) has announced that it will be upgrading its business class seating on its international 777 flights.

A Boeing 777 narrowly avoided a night-time collision with a "large" drone aircraft while on approach for landing at London's Heathrow Airport this past week.  The unidentified drone reportedly came within 10 feet of the passenger jet.

Air India has had another of its 787 airliners grounded, this time in Paris, due to continued technical issues.  A 787-800 was similarly grounded last week in Delhi.  Air India has a fleet of 21 Dreamliners, out of a total of 27 placed on order.

Rolls-Royce has announced that it will be delaying the roll-out of its planned upgrade package for the Trent 1000 engine for the Boeing 787 until 2017.  The upgrade includes a projected 2% fuel efficiency improvement.

The first Airbus A350-900 destined for Cathay Pacific Airways took to the air for the first time this past week.  Delivery to the airline is expected in late April or early May.

The first A350 to service Miami International Airport arrived this past week when TAM Airlines flight 9610 arrived from Sao Paulo.

The first A380 to service the UK's Birmingham airport arrived from Emirates this past week, offering service to Dubai.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Single Aisle News - March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016

Swiss Air Lines expects to see its first Bombardier C-Series airline delivered by June, and to be in operational service with the type by the third quarter.

A Bombardier executive has signaled that the federal financial assistance currently being contemplated by the Canadian government would be welcome, but is not necessarily required to complete C-Series development.

Lufthansa Airlines has announced that it will not accept additional deliveries of A320 NEO aircraft until certain conditions - which have been communicated to Airbus - are met. The corrective actions being mandated by the airline are reportedly tied to engine issues, as well as airplane fault codes identified with the first aircraft.  Lufthansa has received two A320 NEOs to date, but has formally accepted only the first aircraft in operational service.

GE Aircraft has been advertising how they have been able to employ "3D printing" technology to revolutionize the manufacture of fuel nozzles for its CFM International LEAP engines, replacing up to 20 separate parts with a single 3D printed design.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - March 24, 2016

March 24, 2016

Delays in software validation for Blocks 2B and 3i for the F-35 have resulted in a four-month slip in the overall program, according to Joint Program Office (JPO) chief Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan.  This means that full combat capability, under software Block 3F is currently not expected until late 2017.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that "While Pratt & Whitney has implemented a number of design changes that have resulted in significant reliability improvements, the F-35A and F-35B engines are still at about 55 percent and 63 percent, respectively, of where the program expected them to be at this point."

Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has proposed additional investments in modernize the F-22 and to purchase additional F-35 fighters, before launching a 6th generation fighter program.

Japan has opened talks with both Lockheed Martin and Boeing Corp regarding possible partnerships in the development of a new 5th generation fighter aircraft for Japan.

Russia intends to begin a formal flight test program for its MiG-35 fighter, a derivative of the 1980s era MiG-29, within the next few weeks.  The first prototype MiG-35 flew in 2007.  The latest deliveries, however, are expected to be production-standard examples.

Pakistan is reportedly looking to take delivery of its first J-10 fighters, as part of a deal first signed in 2009 but which has since languished as Pakistan absorbed the jointly-built JF-17 lightweight fighter.  Pakistan was originally looking at a buy of 36 J-10 fighter-bombers, which have a range and payload similar to late model F-16s.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Space Highlights - March 23, 2016

March 23, 2016

Diwata, the first Filipino-made and developed satellite, and the third satellite to be launched by the Philippines, is expected to be launched this week by Orbital Sciences Corporation, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The United Arab Emirates has contracted Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to launch its first space probe destined for Mars.  The UAE Space Agency has announced plans to launch a space probe to Mars in July 2020.

A NASA researcher has suggested that the mysterious spikes of methane that have been periodically detected in the Martian atmosphere might be the result of meteorite impacts, bringing fresh concentrations of the gas.  Methane naturally breaks down under solar radiation in the thin Martian atmosphere, making the methane spikes an unexplained mystery.

NASA has released a "gravity map" of Mars, which researchers hope will shed insight into the interior composition of the red planet.  Initial studies have already confirmed that Mars' outer core must still be molten.

Scientists reviewing data from Earth-based telescopes have detected changes in the brightness of Ceres' spots - which were recently mapped by the Dawn spacecraft - which appear to suggest that the crater where the spots are located will periodically vent water vapor, changing the brightness of the region.

Evidence from the New Horizons spacecraft indicates that Pluto still has an ammonia-rich, water "ocean" beneath its surface.

Data from the New Horizons spacecraft suggests that Pluto will periodically "thaw" enough to allow lakes and rivers of liquid nitrogen to run across its surface.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wide Body Report - March 22, 2016

March 22, 2016

Boeing has begun major assembly for the first 787-10, the largest member of the 787 Dreamliner family.

Despite slowing sales during the past year, there is reason to believe that the smallest member of the 787 family, the 787-8 and its Airbus counterpart, the A330-800 NEO, will continue to be a part of the airline market for some time to come - filling a niche in capacity and range that is not well served by its larger stablemates.

New orders for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner have lagged thus far in 2016, with a net order tally of minus-three for the year.

Air France-KLM has dropped its remaining order for two Airbus A380 super-jumbo airliners, placing an order for three A350s instead.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Single Aisle News - March 21, 2016

March 21, 2016

Canada Jetlines has indicated that it would consider a buy of C-Series aircraft if Canada's federal government loosens restrictions on foreign ownership of domestic airlines.  Canada Jetlines' CEO suggested that there were investors in the United States and Europe who might be willing to provide the capital needed for the low-cost airline to expand, but that Canadian law restricted such investment.

Canada's government is expected to delay any decison on providing financial assistance to Bombardier until after the federal budget is released this coming week.

The Airbus A320 NEO made its Asian air show debut at the India Aviation event in Hyderabad.  The first A320 NEO delivered to low-cost carrier IndiGo was on display at the small, regional air show event.

Software and hardware updates that are expected to resolve the remaining engine start-up issues for the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) engines for the A320 NEO are expected to be delivered in June.

The first production Boeing 737 MAX has entered final assembly for eventual delivery to Southwest Airlines.

Boeing officials are hoping to get a boost in sales for the 737 MAX, leveraging engine issues that have slowed introduction of the A320 NEO.  The 737 MAX features the CFM International LEAP-1B engine, which has yet to be certified.

Russia's Aviadvigatel has begun testing the thrust reverser for its PD-14 engine, which is being developed as an all-Russian alternative to the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G that will be featured on initial airline deliveries.  The PD-14 is not expected to be competitive on a fuel efficiency basis, but will be marketed to military customers as well as airlines which are unable to order U.S.-made content.

Friday, March 18, 2016

An Aerospace Firm - And a Window into a Different World

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced a plan this past week to launch a new push to enter additional civilian aerospace markets:

This is not the first time that IAI has sought to rebalance its civil versus military work portfolio. What makes this particular announcement so unusual is the context:
Attempts to lay-off around 1,500 workers have so far failed because of strong union and political opposition, leaving the company seeking another solution to alleviate its poor financial performance.

In other words, with a work force of just over 16,000 employees - a far cry from its heyday in the mid-1980s when IAI employed over 22,000 - IAI is still struggling to stand on its own merits financially. This is in no small measure due to its role as a government-owned corporation, and its relative weakness vis-a-vis the demands of its labor unions.

IAI has identified a number of civilian aircraft programs that it is targeting to expand its portfolio, including a light business jet, and bids to attract additional subcontract work from Boeing and other major manufacturers.

The reality, however, is that aerospace is and always has been an intensely competitive industry. The drive to continuously develop new technologies to maintain a market advantage is relentless. This is very different from other major manufacturing industries - most of which rely less on technology development and more on repackaging existing technologies in new ways. Major aerospace development efforts require enormous financial investment, and the risk of missed milestones, even for a successful product, can challenge the financial well being of even the most successful companies - as Canada's Bombardier has most recently demonstrated. The fact that IAI is therefore struggling to reap the financial rewards of this industry should therefore come as no surprise. But IAI is not just another aerospace firm. For Israel, it represents an investment in Israel's defense capabilities, and the ability to develop new and innovative means to provide Israel's armed forces with an advantage on the battlefield.

In this context therefore, it should be expected that IAI has and will continue to struggle. Regardless of changes in the world around it, IAI remains an Israeli national defense asset that also moonlights as a civil aerospace firm as a supplement to its primary responsibility.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - March 17, 2016

March 17, 2016

Two F-35s at the Luke Air Force Base training complex successfully dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time this past week, marking another milestone in the build-up towards operational readiness for the new fighter.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan emphasized in recent interviews that he expects the recently announced contract award to Pratt & Whitney to provide engines for the B-21 stealth bomber to also result in lower unit prices for the F135 engine which powers the F-35 - despite the fact that the two engines will not be exactly the same.  Bogdan heads the Air Force's F-35 Program Office.

The independent watchdog group, Project on Government Oversight has cautioned that the F-35 stealth fighter my not be fully combat ready until 2022. The group cites program deficienies that are still being worked out in making its assessment.

Speaking at congressional hearings, the U.S. Air Force's deputy chief of staff emphasized that the Air Force would prefer to focus on developing its next 6th-generation fighter on-time and on-budget, rather than pursue a re-start of production for the F-22.

U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work voiced his concern during Congressional hearings regarding the shrinking size of the U.S. Air Force, pointing out that the Air Force has shrunk from 88 squadrons just before the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, down to just 54 squadrons today.  Work suggested that many of the United States' fourth-generation fighters will need to soldier-on for longer than anticipated to keep the Air Force's fighter wings from dwindling further.  Other studies have similarly suggested that the historic U.S. advantage over China and other potential adversaries is dwindling as the U.S. inventory shrinks and as other air forces modernize.

Despite months of negotiations, the final details on an anticipated deal to supply Rafale fighters to India continue to elude negotiators.

The Italian Air Force used the debut appearance of its Eurofighter Typhoons at this year's Red Flag exercise to test the airplane's multirole capabilities - a strategy that is reportedly aimed at garnering export sales as much as it is at providing training for Italian pilots.

The delivery of Japan's stealth fighter demonstrator for flight test has reportedly been delayed until at least April.

Russia has begun withdrawing at least some of its expeditionary force from Syria, broadcasting images of Russian fighters returning after a Russian-brokered ceasefire - which ensured the survival of the Assad government in Syria - went into effect.  It is unclear, however, whether all of the Russian fighter aircraft will be withdrawn.

The Obama administration is pursuing a proposed sale of an additional ten F-16 fighters to Pakistan, despite a likely showdown with Congress over the sale.

Argentina and Israel have resumed talks over a possible sale of 14 Block 60 Kfir fighters to Argentina.  Talks were suspended in November pending Argentine elections.  The Kfir airframes would be refurbished from former Israeli air force stocks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Space Highlights - March 16, 2016

March 16, 2016

Europe's ExoMars space probe was successfully launched this week by a Russian booster, on its way to investigate trace elements in the Martian atmosphere.  The probe also carries a small, demonstrator rover - the first to be produced in Europe.

India has successfully launched IRNSS-1F, the sixth of seven planned GPS satellites, providing India with an independent GPS capability.

Russia has delayed the launch of the Resurs-P3 Earth-observation satellite.  The launch was aborted by the rocket's automatic systems, the cause of which is currently being investigated.  The delay in launching the Resurs-P3 will also result in a delay for the planned launch of the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft and Progress MS-2 cargo missions to the International Space Station - both of which had been planned for later this month.

China launched Laos' first communications satellite into orbit this past week, from China's Xichang launch center.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has marked its tenth anniversary in orbit around the red planet.  During that time the orbiter has collected more than 216,000 images, documenting seasonal changes, landslides, and paving the way for Mars landers.

Detailed images from the Rosetta space probe, documenting the unique crystaline ice structure of comet 67P, confirm that the comet was formed in the protosolar nebula from which our solar system emerged some 4.6 billion years ago.

Researchers believe that the "bite mark" made by a range of cliffs on Pluto may have been caused by methane ice sublimating beneath the surface.

Investigation continues into Pluto's "snakeskin" terrain - a region of mountains on the eastern side of Pluto's "heart".  The region is composed of a series of mountain ridgers with a strong methane ice signature.  The terrain is of special significance, since conventional methane ice is not expected to have the strength to support such steep slopes.  Studies indicate that either the methane ice crystals must be exceedingly large, or must be a form of methane clathrate ice - which relies on a skeleton of water ice to provide its strength.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wide Body Report - March 15, 2016

March 15, 2016

Amazon is leasing 20 Boeing 767F cargo planes from Air Transportation Service Group (ATSG) to support its daily deliveries.

United Airlines plans to refit 19 of its Boeing 777 airlines for 10-abreast economy seating.  The high-density configuration is aimed at domestic routes.

Boeing has announced a reshuffle of its senior leadership.  Two of the newly promoted figures, Mike Delaney and Greg Hyslop, became known at Boeing's Seattle facility when they were given the responsibility for transfering thousands of jobs out of the Washington State region.

Boeing has revealed plans to accelerate the introduction of its 777X models from 2020 to 2019, to help protect its market share from encroachment by Airbus' A350-1000 now under development.

Finnair has begun daily flights of its Airbus A350 airlines out of Hong Kong and Singapore.

Singapore Airlines has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900.

Emirates is introducing the first scheduled service to Vienna featuring the Airbus A380 super-jumbo airline.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Single Aisle News - March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016

United Airlines has confirmed that it has placed an order for 25 Boeing 737-700 airplanes, in addition to the order for 40 placed in January.  The airplanes were reportedly offered by Boeing at a rock-bottom discount to prevent Bombardier's C-Series from gaining a foothold in the U.S. market.

Delta Air Lines president Ed Bastian has suggested that the Bombardier C-Series may be having difficulties finding a market, in part, due to the heavy engineering investment that went into it. "t’s highly engineered, which I think has been some of the challenges they’ve faced in marketing it, getting to a price point to get paid for that engineering."

IndiGo has taken delivery of its first A320 NEO.  The NEO takes advantage of the same Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) technology that also powers the Bombardier C-Series, Embraer E-Jet E2, and Mitsubishi Regional Jet to deliver double-digit reductions in fuel consumption.

The first A321 NEO prototype to be equipped with Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) engines made its first flight this past week, roughly a month after the first A321 NEO prototype equipped with the competing CFM International LEAP-1A engine first flew.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has announced that it will be reshuffling its leadership team, ahead of the push to bring its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) through flight test, and to market.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - March 10, 2016

March 10, 2016

In addition to ongoing reliability and operational issues with the airplane's mission software, it has been revealed that the radar system on the F-35 also requires frequent reboots - sometimes while the airplane is flying.

The U.S. Air Force has named seven major suppliers supporting the B-21 bomber program, including engine supplier Pratt & Whitney - which also produces the engines for the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

Although the pace of China's military budget growth has slowed together with the overall Chinese economy, China continues to transform its military into a modern fighting force, complete with the latest technology in fighters, missiles, and warships.

China has announced the formation of a new conglomerate responsible for the development of jet engines, combining previously existing design bureaus into a single, larger entity to pool resources.  The new conglomerate combines Sichuan Chengfa Aero Science & Technology Co, Avic Aviation Engine Corp, and Avic Aero-Engine Controls Co.  Although Chinese industry has succeeded in reverse engineering a variety of weapons systems, a modern, reliable, indigenous Chinese engine has continued to elude developers.

Administrative snags have delayed the formal launch of Turkey's indigenous fighter program.

Israeli officials have reportedly shared intelligence with Russia that shows that Iran has transferred Russian-supplied SA-22 surface-to-air missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon - prompting Russia to temporarily suspend the delivery of additional missiles to Iran.  The SA-22, also known as the Pantsir-S1, is one of the newest Russian mobile missile designs, combining a medium-range surface-to-air missile battery with radar guided artillery.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Space Highlights - March 9, 2016

March 9, 2016

SpaceX successfully placed the SES-9 communications satellite into orbit this past week, but was unsuccessful in recovering the booster rocket - which crashed at sea on landing.

The latest Ariane 5 booster is being rolled into position in French Guiana for launch later this week.  The rocket carries the Eutelsat 65 West A communications satellite, on what will be the second Ariane 5 launch of the year.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) expects to launch its sixth navigation satellite, the IRNSS-1F, later this week.  This will be ISRO's second launch of the year.

Europe's ExoMars orbiter has been fueled and shipped to Russia for launch later this month.  ExoMars is expected to be the second European mission to Mars, and is expected to return high-resolution stereo images of the surface of the planet while it surveys the Martian atmosphere.

NASA has released pictures from the New Horizons spacecraft that appear to depict a mountain chain on Pluto covered in methane snow, as well as cloud banks.

NASA's Cassini space probe has revealed a series of evolutionary changes on the shoreline of a methane lake on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.  The changes were captured during a series of radar imaging passes, collected across a number of years, and appear to show shifts in the shoreline as well as the emergence and disappearance of a small island.

NASA has marked the one-year anniversary of the arrival of the Dawn spacecraft at Ceres with the release of images of a mountain observed from the spacecraft's new, lower orbit.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wide Body Report - March 8, 2016

March 8, 2016

Norwegian Air Lines has introduced service to the UK's Gatwick airport with its new 787-9 Dreamliner, inaugurating the only non-stop service between the UK and New York.

Boeing is assisting in the investigation of an Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 that suffered a nose gear collapse at Addis Ababa last week.  The aircraft was on taxi for departure when the collapse occurred.

Malaysian officials have confirmed that the debris found on a beach in Mozambique most likely belongs to Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared in 2014 in what was widely believed to have been a case of pilot suicide.

Airbus is evaluating whether to introduce a new version of its A350 family of airlines - an airplane featuring higher seating capacity but slightly shorter range, dubbed the A350-8000.  The new model is being evaluated as a competitor with certain models of the Boeing 777X now under development.

An Airbus A380 flying for Emirates recently completed the longest commercial passenger flight ever recorded, when it flew from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Single Aisle News - March 7, 2016

March 7, 2016

Bombardier has begun a series of "route-proving" flights for the C-Series, demonstrating performance and fuel consumption across a number of future C-Series routes, beginning with operations from Swiss' central hub in Zurich.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced his intention to seek additional, federal Canadian funding to help the C-Series transition into production.

Embraer has begun ground tests for its new E190-E2 regional jet.  The E190-E2 features the same Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) engine as the Bombardier C-Series, together with a new wing design intended to further improve its fuel performance over the original E190.

Airbus expects to resolve the remaining issues surrounding engine start-up times for the A320 NEO to be resolved in time for a mid-2016 delivery of A320 NEO aircraft to Qatar.  Qatar's CEO, meanwhile, has announced that the airline has opened up talks with engine manufacturer CFM International, and would consider switching to CFM's LEAP-1A engines if the issues with the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) are not resolved quickly.  The LEAP-1A engine has not been certified as of yet, however, and a switch in engine selection would further delay deliveries to Qatar.

Despite initial focus on engine start-up issues surrounding the Geared Turbofan (TM) engine, the majority of the cockpit faults reported on the new A320 NEO now entering service, have been connected with unrelated false alarms triggered by the airplane's avionics software.

Pratt & Whitney has been testing the efficacy of substituting synthetic engine oils in its Geared Turbofan (TM) engines, as part of an agreement with ExxonMobil and French manufacturer NYCO.

Boeing has begun flight test of its second 737 MAX prototype, with a first flight lasting 2 hours 21 minutes.

The pilot's union for Southwest Airlines has pointed out that the Boeing 737 MAX, currently on order by the airline, is not listed under the current union contract - bringing up grounds for further contract re-negotiation.  The airline and the pilots union have been struggling for several months to arrive at a new contract agreement.

Boeing officials are reportedly debating whether to launch an all-new "middle-of-market" airplane, which would replace the Boeing 757 in operational service, and would compete with the larger Airbus A321 NEO models currently competing for this market.

Russia's Irkut has received a second composite wing panel for its prototype MC-21 single-aisle airline.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lavi - A Book Review from Moshe Arens

It was gratifying this past week to see my book reviewed by Moshe Arens, the man who as an Israeli Member of Knesset and later Minister of Defense was instrumental in promoting the launch of the program and its eventual evolution towards the long-range, survivable strike-fighter that it eventually became.

Moshe Arens describes it as an "excellent book," that "describes the Byzantine intricacies that were involved" in the behind-the-scenes political battles surrounding the Lavi program.

Most notably, however, Dr. Arens was also a member of Israel's Cabinet at the time of the Lavi cancellation, going on in his review to provide additional details and insight into the Cabinet vote that ultimately cancelled the Lavi. As Arens illuminates, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres was swayed at the time, among other factors, by the advice of Al Schwimmer. Schwimmer was one of the founders of Israel Aircraft Industries who had gone on the record as opposing the Lavi in favor of launching a "next generation" fighter - presumably a stealth aircraft. The coalition campaigning for the Cabinet to cancel the program therefore spanned between Shimon Peres and the call for a new, more advanced development effort, and former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman who had previously endorsed the Lavi as a lightweight, single-role A-4 replacement - and not as the multi-role, deep-strike fighter that the Lavi had become. In Arens' words:
During the cabinet debate we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of Peres arguing for the cancellation of the Lavi because it was not sufficiently advanced, while Weizman argued for the cancellation because the Lavi was in his opinion too advanced an aircraft.

Of course, no follow-on fighter development effort was ever funded following the cancellation of the Lavi, and Israel's aerospace industry has never fully recovered from the cancellation. Israel Aircraft Industries went from a work force of some 22,000 employees in August of 1987, to 17,050 just one year later, to fewer than 14,000 employees by 1994. Even today, decades after the fact, IAI employs just a little over 16,000 employees.

The cancellation of the Lavi was but one example where decisions that are made on one day, can have far reaching effects that span across decades to come.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Review: Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War

Shlomo Aloni
Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War
West Midlands, UK: Helion & Company Limited, 2015
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 5-Stars

Shlomo Aloni's detailed, sortie-by-sortie account of air operations in the 1956 Suez War continues in the tradition of his previous retellings of Israeli operations in the 1948 and 1967 wars.  Utilizing official records, Shlomo Aloni has reconstructed each operational mission, including the aircraft and pilots assigned, as well as details from the official pilot logs.  This is the type of detail that would have been unthinkable a little over a decade ago.

The text is supplemented by historical, black-and-white photographs, as well as by full color profiles of the many aircraft that took part.  Pilot accounts from the various sorties help to bring this book to life, rounding out a series of historical references on Israel's air wars that has been unparalleled.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - March 3, 2016

March 3, 2016

The U.S. Air Force has dropped laser-guided bombs from the F-35 for the first time during flight test this past week.

A Norwegian pilot who is part of the F-35 flight test program has published a review of the F-35's handling qualities, in which he praises the superior high angle-of-attack control qualities of the F-35's fly-by-wire control system.

The Israeli Cabinet is reportedly considering a motion to cancel or delay their existing order for F-35 fighters, due to the cost of the aircraft and its lack of combat-readiness at the present time.

Israeli officials have been considering an alternative buy of advanced F-15 fighters, rather than dedicating all of their U.S.-supplied military aid towards purchasing more F-35s.  The Obama administration has reportedly resisted such a buy.  This, combined with Israeli opposition to selling the F-15 to Qatar - one of the few remaining nations currently contemplating a purchase of new F-15s - is expected to result in the shut-down of the F-15 production line within the next two years.

The Kuwaiti parliament has approved the purchase of the Eurofighter Typhoon, paving the way for payment on the order to begin.

Industry analysts have been suggesting that Russia's PAK-FA stealth fighter prototype was a 5th-generation fighter "in name only."  Among other shortcomings, reports suggesting that the new "stealth" fighter had a radar cross section of between 0.3 and 0.5 square meters - an order of magnitude greater than what has been reported for U.S. stealth fighters.

Even as Russian developers struggle to bring the PAK-FA into service, Russian officials have announced that Sukhoi has begun design studies for a proposed "6th generation" fighter that would be introduced in the mid-2020s.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Space Highlights - March 2, 2016

March 2, 2016

SpaceX has delayed launch of the SES-9 communication satellite twice, pushing back their next launch attempt to the end of this week due to high winds at the launch site.

In reaction to delays in testing of an upgraded Russian boost vehicle, satellite developer Iridium has lined up launch slots for their Next satellite fleet with SpaceX.

China has revealed plans to launch over 20 satellites in 2016, exceeding the launch total currently planned for the U.S.

Satellite imagery indicates that Iran is preparing to attempt another satellite launch sometime in March.  Like North Korea, the Iranian launch has been characterized by international analysts as being largely a test for Iran's military ballistic missile technology.

NASA's solar powered Opportunity rover has begun climbing the slope of "Knudsen Ridge", the steepest grade that it has yet traversed.

Additional images continue to be transmitted by the Dawn spacecraft, as it maps the surface of Ceres in ever greater detail.

Images of Pluto's north pole, captured by the New Horizons spacecraft, reveal giant canyons that appear to represent an older period of tectonic activity than similar canyons that appear elsewhere on Pluto.  The northern canyon walls are degraded, suggesting a less recent origin.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wide Body Report - March 1, 2016

March 1, 2016

The British Airways 777 that was damaged in an engine fire last September has returned to flight following repairs.

Despite headlines last year, highlighting Delta's ability to find a low-cost second-hand 777 of unknown pedigree, market analysts maintain that the aftermarket value for used 777 long-haul aircraft continues to be steady.

Etihad Cargo has taken delivery of its 11th Boeing 777 freighter.

The Angolan airline Taag has taken delivery of an additional two Boeing 777 aircraft.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has been awarded a contract to supply components for the vertical and horizontal tail on the 777X now under development.  IAI manufactures similar components for current-generation 777 aircraft.

Airbus continues to ramp-up production of the A350-900 and A330, even as it prepares for the larger A350-1000 to enter flight test.

Airbus has announced plans to deploy its first ten A350-900 aircraft out of its Munich hub, beginning in January 2017, replacing its A340 aircraft.