Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - September 29, 2016

September 29, 2016

An F-35A caught fire at Mountain Home Air Force Base this past week, during engine start-up.  The pilot was able to safely egress from the aircraft.  Evidence suggests that the fire may have been connected to high rear winds, which have been known to cause fires in other jet engines following an aborted start.  Tailpipe fires occur when excess fuel is left in the tailpipe, and catches fire on start-up.

Military analysts in the U.S. are growing increasingly apprehensive over the emergence of new combat aircraft in Russia and China.  In testimony before Congress, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein emphasized that, "The most pressing challenge for the United States Air Force is the rise of peer competitors with advanced military capabilities rivaling our own."

Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who heads the F-35's Joint Program Office, told last week's Air Force Association conference that upgrades to the F-35 engine were planned for the mid-2020s, either from a new engine from improvements to the existing F135 engine.  The U.S. Air Force is currently funding the Adaptive Engine Transition program (AETP), which is expected to "demonstrate 25 percent improved fuel efficiency, 10 percent increased thrust, and significantly improved thermal management."

A Lockheed Martin test pilot has suggested that China's J-20 stealth fighter, which is now entering production, will out-class current fourth-generation U.S. and allied fighters and would threaten carrier groups.

India and France appear to have finally finalized terms for the delivery of 36 Rafale fighters.

Eight Chinese aircraft flew close to the disputed Senkaku islands, which are claimed by both China and Japan, during a Chinese military exercise in the East China Sea.

Lockheed Martin this past week rolled out the first F-35A fighter intended for delivery to Japan.  Japan has 42 F-35s on order, with the first four to be built in Fort Worth and the remaining 38 to be assembled in Japan.

North Korea held its first international air show this past week, showcasing its ability to continue to purchase fighter aircraft despite international sanctions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Space Highlights - September 28, 2016

September 28, 2016

India's ISRO successfully launched eight satellites into orbit on a single booster this week, including a weather satellite, and seven experimental satellites - three from Algeria, one each from Canada and the U.S., and two from Indian universities.

NASA has announced that the Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed the detection of water plumes on Jupiter's moon Europa, providing additional evidence for a suspected subsurface ocean that may harbor the seeds of life.

Europe's Rosetta probe is expected to crash into Comet 67P later this week.

A team of researchers pouring over data from the New Horizons spacecraft have postulated that Pluto's heart-shaped region is in fact a vast glacier of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide ice, stretched over a deep basin.  Other models of Pluto's features, meanwhile, suggest that miles below the surface, the same heart-shaped region must harbor a liquid water ocean - to explain why that zone ended-up as tidally locked and facing Pluto's moon, Charon.

The Hubble Space Telescope has identified an exoplanet circling a binary star system some 8,000 light years from Earth.  The icy planet orbits a pair of red dwarfs, and is at least as massive as the Earth, and possibly as large as Saturn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wide Body Report - September 27, 2016

September 27, 2016

A compressor stall caused an Air France Boeing 777-228 to declare an in-flight emergency this past week, shortly after take-off from Paris en route to French Guiana.  The airplane is equipped with two GE90-90B2 engines.

Crystal AirCruises has unveiled the configuration for their new Boeing 777-200LR airlines, which will feature an all-luxury configuration with a mere 84 seats aboard an airplane designed to seat nearly 300.

Air France plans to introduce its first Boeing 787 into service in January.

Air Canada intends to launch direct Montreal-to-Shanghai flights aboard the Boeing 787 in 2017.

Airbus has unveiled its second A350-1000 prototype, fresh from the paint shop.  Airbus has 195 copies of the stretched model currently on order.

Hawaiian Airlines is reportedly examining a buy of Airbus A380 super-jumbo aircraft, as it looks for options to provide direct flights between Hawaii and Europe.  If a sale were to go through, Hawaiian Airlines would be the first U.S. carrier to buy the Airbus super-jumbo jet.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Single Aisle News - September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016

S&P has downgraded Bombardier's debt rating, due to delivery delays that will see no more than seven C-Series airplanes delivered to customers before the end of this year, rather than the fifteen previously forecast.  Bombardier reports that they expect engine deliveries to catch up with demand next year.

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney expects to be behind in its previous delivery forecast by up to 100 engines over the next two years, as it struggles to grow its supply chain to keep up with demand for its Geared TurboFan (GTF) engines.  The CEO for United Technologies Corp. (UTC), Greg Hayes - the parent company for Pratt & Whitney - pointed to the GTF fan blades in particular as being a leading source for delays in production ramp-up.

IndiGo, the largest customer for the Airbus A320 NEO, has switched 20 of the aircraft in its backlog to the larger A321 NEO model.  IndiGo had a total of 430 A320 NEOs on order, powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G Geared TurboFan engines.

The World Trade Organization ruled against the European Union this past week, concluding that the EU had failed to rein in government subsidies to Airbus, giving the European airplane manufacturer an unfair advantage.

Southwest Airlines, the launch customer for Boeing's 737 MAX, has revealed that it expects to take delivery of the first airplane in late August or early September of next year - roughly a month ahead of schedule.

Russia's Irkut has submitted paperwork to begin the certification process for its MC-21 airliner ahead of the first prototype flight.  The move comes as the Russian aviation authority has also approved the certification for the first two Geared TurboFan (GTF) engines to be delivered, a derivative of the same engines featured on the A320 NEO.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - September 22, 2016

September 22, 2016

The U.S. Air Force grounded 13 F-35A fighters after discovering peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks.  The defective insulation was tied to a supplier quality issue that effects a total of 57 aircraft.  The head of the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan has indicated that a repair is being assessed and that the aircraft will likely be flight worthy by year-end.

Russia has released footage of its PAK-FA stealth fighter testing its 30 mm cannon.

China expects to receive its first 4 out of 24 Su-35 fighters from Russia by the end of 2016.  The Su-35 is the latest derivative of the Su-27 Flanker, featuring new avionics, updated engines, and thrust vectoring nozzles.

A USMC pilot safely ejected from his AV-8B Harrier, which crashed off the coast of Okinawa this past week.

U.S. B-1 strategic bombers flew low in a show of force over South Korea for the second time since North Korea's fifth nuclear test took place earlier this month.

India's cabinet formally gave its approval this week to the long-delayed deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France.  Signing of a final contract could take place as soon as next week.

Israeli fighter jets shot down a UAV flown by Hamas near the Gaza Strip coast this past week, before it could enter Israeli air space.  The intercept comes during the same week that Israel took delivery of ten second-hand F-15C/D fighters from the United States, which are expected to be either be refurbished to make up for attrition losses, or to be cannibalized for spare parts to keep existing aircraft flying.

A new USAF study released by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center projects that both Russia and China will field their own long-range stealth bombers by 2025.

The U.S. Air Force has formally named its new B-21 bomber the "Raider".  The announcement came shortly after a revised official cost estimate projected the unit cost of each aircraft at $511 million per copy, $39 million less than the previous official estimate.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Space Highlights - September 21, 2016

September 21, 2016

Launch of the WorldView-4 Earth observation satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base has been delayed due to California wild fires.

In a head-to-head bid with SpaceX to win a contract for the launch of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites for the U.S. government, United Launch Alliance has suggested that SpaceX's lower bid may not be the best deal for taxpayers, when taking into account ULA's more reliable launch record.

Europe's Vega small-satellite launch system placed five Earth observation satellites into orbit, including one for the Peruvian government and four for Google's Terra Bella.

Despite encountering a number of technical glitches once in orbit, Israeli officials report that they have recovered from many of the problems encountered by the Ofek-11 spy satellite, and that it has successfully transmitted its first photographs from space.

China has successfully launched the Tiangong-2 orbital laboratory, which is expected to serve as a mini-space station for Chinese astronauts, allowing them to remain in orbit for up to 30-days.

North Korea's official news agency has announced that a recent rocket engine test was personally overseen by dictator Kim Jong Un, in preparation for launching a new satellite.  North Korea has frequently been accused of using purported satellite launch attempts as a cover to test new ballistic missile technologies.  The recent rocket motor test comes shortly after North Korea's fifth and largest nuclear weapons test earlier this month.

Researchers at MIT have developed a new technique that they believe may help future Mars rovers zero-in on signs of ancient Martian life.  The technique relies on Raman spectroscopy, a non-destructive process used to identify the chemical composition of rocks, to look for the signature of ancient organic compounds.

The European Space Agency is planning one last mission for its Rosetta comet probe: a dive towards Comet 67P to collect close-up images before it crashes into the surface.  The Rosetta probe and Comet 67P are currently heading away from the sun, and within a few months, the solar-powered spacecraft will cease to function.  The close-encounter is therefore viewed as a means to collect additional data before the spacecraft shuts down.

Launched in 2004, the Cassini spacecraft is being prepared for its final year exploring Saturn, before its planned termination in September of 2017.  Starting in late November, the spacecraft will shift its orbit, sending it to the edge of Saturn's outermost rings.

Astronomers believe they have detected evidence for a Neptune-like exoplanet in formation around the star TW Hydrae, a 10-million year old star some 175 light years from Earth.  Studies of young planetary systems such as this help scientists to improve their models of how planets form, enhancing their understanding of our own solar system.

Scientists believe they have identified the first binary planet outside of our own solar system.  Binary planets exist when a planet and its moon are close enough in size that the mutual center of gravity of the two - and about which both orbit - is outside of the radius of either body.  Within our own solar system, only the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon Charon fit that definition.  Now scientists have identified a pair of similarly sized gas giants that straddle the line between planets and stars.  It remains unclear if the two objects are big enough to be brown dwarfs (which are large enough to fuse heavy hydrogen but not ordinary hydrogen as stars do), or are a pair of rogue, binary planets without a parent star.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wide Body Report - September 20, 2016

September 20, 2016

Boeing's chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg acknowledged that production of the 777 will be cut further if sales continue to lag.

Down by 12.4%, Boeing is currently the worst performing stock on the Dow in 2016.  Overall, the Dow has risen by 4.01% for the year, with 20 out of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average up overall.

A large piece of debris found off the coast of Tanzania has been confirmed as part of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared in March of 2014, in what was widely considered to be a case of pilot suicide.

Aeromexico has unveiled its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, fresh from the paint hangar.

American Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787-9.  The aircraft has been configured for 285 seats, including 30 business class and 21 premium economy.

Taiwan's China Airlines expects to take delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 by the end of September.

Iran has reduced the number of airplanes that it plans to buy from Airbus by six units, following delays in U.S. regulatory approvals needed to export U.S.-manufactured components for the aircraft.  The deal was expected to include a mix of new and used aircraft, including the Airbus A350 and A380.

Singapore Airlines has decided not to extend the lease on its first Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Single Aisle News - September 19, 2016

September 19, 2016

The first flight training simulator for the Bombardier C-Series was unveiled by Flight Training Alliance in Frankfurt, Germany this past week.

AirAsia has become the first carrier in Southeast Asia to operate the Airbus A320 NEO in revenue flight.  AirAsia's NEOs are equipped with the CFM International LEAP-1A engine.

Airbus has delivered the first North American A320 NEO to Mexico's Volaris.  Volaris's NEOs are equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW1100G Geared TurboFan engines.

United Technologies' Pratt & Whitney division has revealed that it will miss this year's target for delivering 200 engines by year-end, expecting instead to produce only 150 engines in total.  The delays in the production schedule are tied to a number of pieces of key hardware in the manufacturer's new Geared TurboFan engine, including the aluminum fan blade.

Boeing's chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg has emphasized that Boeing has the financial ability to cover development of either a stretched 737 MAX or a clean-sheet Middle-of-the-Market (MoM) airline over the next several years.  Both aircraft would be aimed at recapturing the longer-range, 757-type routes that are currently being dominated by sales of the A321 NEO.

After months of media speculation, China's Comac has acknowledged that their new C919 prototype will likely miss its target date for conducting a first flight in 2016.

Russian officials expect to begin flight tests of their new PD-14 aircraft engine aboard an Ilyushin Il-96-300 transport later this year.  The PD-14 is being developed as a domestic alternative to the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engine, which is expected to power initial deliveries of the Irkut MC-21 single-aisle transport.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lavi - A Retrospective Journey - Video and PDF

Video edition for Lavi: A Retrospective Journey.

Original chart pack is available below:

Lavi - A Retrospective Journey

In the words of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, the Lavi was "Israel's single most ambitious and important technological program." It was not only Israel's largest defense program throughout the 1980s, but the largest technological undertaking by the State of Israel either before, or since.

The following summary provides a retrospective overview for the Lavi program, covering its political and historical chronology. It is intended to act as a supplement to the technological survey that I published online previously, and draws heavily from the book on the Lavi program that was published earlier this year.

To provide a little background about myself, I have been an engineering analyst and manager in the U.S. aerospace industry for over two decades, involved in the development and support of propulsion systems for a variety of U.S. and international aircraft programs - including the F-15, F-16, F-22 and F-35. The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employers, either past or present.

An Egyptian Mirage 5 Fighter at Cairo West
The Israel Defense Force has a long history of modifying the weapons systems that is procures to meet its specific defense requirements. A case in point is provided by the Dassault Mirage 5 fighter-bomber, an evolved version of the French Mirage III interceptor with added fuel and payload capacity, intended to transform the air-to-air Mirage into a more versatile, air-to-ground platform. The Mirage 5 was developed to meet Israel's specific requirements during the latter 1960s, with final aircraft assembly to take place in Israel. Deliveries, however, were suspended when the French government imposed an arms embargo on Israel following the 1967 Six Day War. The French would go on to sell the Mirage 5 to Israel's neighbors, including both Libya and Egypt - but not to Israel. Israel's cooperative experience with the co-production program, however, would nonetheless provide the basis for later Israeli domestic fighter aircraft production, including the manufacture of both the Nesher and Kfir fighter-bombers.

One of the first F-16As to be supplied to Israel.
By the mid-1970s, however, the Israeli government had refocused its fighter aircraft procurement efforts towards acquiring U.S.-developed aircraft, with the General Dynamics' F-16 becoming the primary focus for future Israeli fighter modernization efforts. In 1977 the Israeli government proposed a co-production scheme whereby the first 50 Israeli F-16 fighters would have been procured directly from the United States, with a further 200 to be manufactured locally in Israel. This would have provided the Israeli military with an opportunity to optimize the F-16 to meet specific Israeli needs, including the incorporation of additional air-to-ground capabilities and munitions. The proposal, however, was rejected by the Carter administration, as well as being opposed by the airplane's manufacturer, General Dynamics.

An Israeli Merkava Mk 2 - first developed in the 1970s
Israeli weapons requirements have been unique, and different from those of the United States or other major weapons suppliers due to Israel's unique tactical and strategic situation. Foremost among these influences have been Israel's small size, and sensitivity to casualties. This reality is perhaps best embodied in the design of Israel's Merkava main battle tank. Developed in the 1970s to meet Israel's specific requirements, at a time when tanks under development elsewhere in the world were emphasizing either mobility or firepower, the Merkava was designed with an emphasis on crew protection. In addition to its advanced armored protection system, unique among modern tank designs, the Merkava was designed with the engine located in front of the crew - so that if the tank's armor were ever to be breached, an exploding shell would be more likely to damage the engine than the crew. This design was no accident, but was rather an outgrowth of Israeli sensitivity to casualties on the battlefield. The tank could be repaired or replaced. Its crew could not.

Similarly, Israel's small size and lack of strategic depth have translated into a military strategy that relies on transferring the battle onto enemy territory, and away from Israeli population centers, as quickly as possible. Similarly, unlike the United States, Israel cannot rely on having friendly air bases in close proximity to the command and control centers of every possible opposing adversary - meaning that Israel must rely on multirole aircraft to fulfill both short-range, air support and interceptor duties, as well as longer-range strike roles.

Flight times to Israel's population centers from neighboring air bases, at Mach 0.6 and 20,000 ft
Moreover, due to its small size, Israel's air force is constantly on the front line of Israeli's defenses, with opposing fighters operating from air bases only minutes away from Israeli population centers. In the words of one Israeli Mirage fighter pilot, some decades ago,
"At fifty thousand feet, in a supersonic Mirage, I can fly only north and south; otherwise, I’d be out of the country in a matter of seconds. You can see on one side Cyprus, Turkey – on the other Iraq and Sharm el-Sheikh. You have no trouble spotting the Suez Canal. But your own country is very difficult to see; it’s under the belly of your plane. You have to turn around and look back to see it. You become very aware of its smallness."

The 2nd Lavi prototype at the official roll-out ceremony
The Lavi program was consequently launched in February 1980, to meet Israel's specific fighter needs for a more versatile fighter-bomber platform. As originally envisioned, it would have been a small, short-range close-air-support aircraft. However, the airplane's size was increased in May 1981 to allow it to also fulfill the long-range strike role. The first prototype flew in December 1986. As designed, the airplane offered a platform with 50% more strike radius than a contemporary Block 40 F-16C, while maintaining a 20% lower empty weight. It also reserved volume for an avionics suite that was 80% larger by weight than that featured on Israel's original batch of F-16As - allowing it to internally integrate a sophisticated, Israeli-developed electronic warfare suite that made it be far more survivable in contested airspace.

President Reagan endorses Lavi funding
Much of the controversy that would subsequently surround the Lavi centered on the application of U.S. military assistance funds to help finance its development. This financial support was an outgrowth of the extensive U.S. industrial involvement in the program, with roughly half of the aircraft expected to be manufactured in the United States. Wherever possible, off-the-shelf components had been leveraged to reduce the overall cost of the program. Everything from the airplane's fly-by-wire control computers, to actuators, to the composite wings and tail were contracted to U.S. suppliers.

This extensive U.S. involvement led then President Ronald Reagan to formally endorse the application of U.S. military assistance funds towards the Lavi development effort in November of 1983. This public endorsement was subsequently codified as part of the U.S. military aid package to Israel under the Kemp-Long Amendment, which allowed Israel to apply existing security assistance funds towards the Lavi program.

Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, hijacked by the PLO in 1985
President Reagan's endorsement of the Lavi , however, was vigorously opposed by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who had a long history of opposing U.S. cooperation with Israel, of whatever variety. Weinberger had been a repeated proponent for suspending the delivery of weapons to Israel, including the delivery of jet fighter aircraft, in response to various U.S. and Israeli policy disagreements. This occurred following Israel's Osirak reactor raid, for example, which had eliminated Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons plant, as well as during Israel's 1982 Lebanon War. Weinberger would similarly go on to forbid the U.S. Navy from seeking Israeli assistance in staging a rescue attempt for the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, which was hijacked by PLO terrorists with American citizens on board. Going further, Weinberger would cemented his anti-Israel bias during the negotiations for the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon, where he passed along secret U.S.-Israeli understandings to Saudi officials, who in turn passed the information along to the leadership of the PLO to improve their bargaining position.

Added to this was Caspar Weinberger's longstanding rivalry with Secretary of State George Shultz.  Shultz had gone on record as a key supporter for applying U.S. military assistance funding to help finance the Lavi. Shultz's endorsement alone would have marked the Lavi as a continued target for Weinberger's displeasure.

Dov Zakheim (right) greets Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir
To lead his campaign to terminate the Lavi, Weinberger appointed Dov Zakheim as his Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Planning and Resources. An accountant by training, Zakheim campaigned against the Lavi exclusively on the basis of the program's purported costs. Zakheim was also an orthodox Jew who spoke fluent Yiddish and Hebrew, which facilitated his multiple trips to Israel to lobby for the program's termination. Significantly, at no time during this lobbying campaign did the question arise as to what aircraft would best meet Israel's defensive requirements. When presented with a list of aircraft and work-share agreements that would be presented to Israel's officials as alternatives for canceling the Lavi, Caspar Weinberger's only question had been, "What will the Saudis think?" Which aircraft would best meet Israeli national security needs was never an item for consideration.

As part of this campaign, Zakheim had also arranged for all of the Lavi-related contracts with U.S. suppliers to be channeled through his office for review and approval, taking advantage of the Pentagon bureaucracy to delay the contract review process, and further hobble the program's progress. In Zakheim's own words, once the contracts arrived in his office, "We sat on them for at least a week." This delay was later extended into a full halt on all the contract reviews and approvals, at the personal direction of Caspar Weinberger. This halt would not be lifted until the threat of direct Congressional intervention arose.

Israeli Air Force Chief Amos Lapidot points out Lavi
cockpit features to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
Within Israel the Lavi program was also controversial, due to its large price tag and the potential threat that it placed on funding for Israel's other military needs. The Lavi had both supporters, and opponents within the Israeli government and military. Among its supporters were two successive Israel Air Force chiefs, a Chief of Staff, and two successive Ministers of Defense. By the latter 1980s, however, the tide had begun to turn against the program. Foremost among the program's detractors was Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin.

To understand why the Lavi went from being a cornerstone of Israeli weapons development and defense strategy, to being the subject of intense budget debates, it is essential to understand that the Lavi was launched in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Following this war, Israeli domestic defense spending skyrocketed to new heights. In 1981 when the Lavi program was launched, Israel's domestic defense budget consumed some 23% of Israel's GDP, constituting a greater share of Israel's national income than either the Vietnam War or the Korean War had consumed in the United States, and far more than the 6% of America's GDP that was devoted at the height of the Reagan defense buildup. This heightened level of Israeli defense spending, however, was unsustainable.

When initially launched, the Israeli military projected a requirement for 300 Lavi fighters. In studies conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), it was projected that at this production level, the unit fly-away cost for the Lavi would amount to approximately $17.8 million in 1985 dollars, as compared to the cost for an F-16C outfitted with Israeli avionics, which was projected to cost around $16.9 million per copy. On this basis, the Lavi was indeed cost competitive with the F-16 or other alternatives. As Israel's defense budget began to shrink during the latter 1980s, however, and Israel's military contemplated smaller aircraft buys, the unit cost of the Lavi - with its much smaller production run - began to escalate. On a 150 aircraft purchase, it was projected that the unit cost of the Lavi would increase by some 55%, making it a much less attractive option. The only means, therefore, to maintain the cost objective for the Lavi would have been to obtain additional, export orders for the aircraft.

Obtaining these additional orders was not out of the realm of possibility. The Long Island-based Grumman Corp. had been contracted as a U.S. partner for the program, with provisions that should additional export orders for the airplane emerge, Grumman would be authorized to set up a second assembly line in the United States. Such an arrangement could easily have facilitated the submission of the Lavi as a contender in U.S. procurement competitions, where the U.S. was actively looking for a new close air support and Wild Weasel platform - roles that the Lavi had been intended to fill.

IAI workers protest the cancellation of the Lavi
The Lavi program was ultimately canceled in a vote by the Israeli Cabinet on August 30, 1987 in a narrow vote that largely followed party lines - with 12 votes in favor of cancellation, 11 opposed and one abstention. Protests by Israeli aerospace workers would last for days. Israel Aircraft Industries would layoff 4,000 employees in the immediate aftermath of the vote, including some 1,500 engineers. To put that total into perspective, as a fraction of the total population, this would have been equivalent to the United States laying off over 220,000 aerospace employees - a huge impact to the local economy.

The cancellation was a blow from which the Israeli aerospace industry has never recovered. In August of 1987 Israel Aircraft Industries employed over 22,000 workers. Today, they employ just over 16,000 - even after decades of population growth.

F-16I fitted with conformal fuel tanks
As for the Israeli Air Force, it would be the turn of the century before an evolved, long-range version of the F-16 became available - in the form of the Block 52+ F-16I. But while the F-16I boasted a strike radius some 50% greater than the earlier Block 40 F-16C, it was able to achieve this only with an empty weight that was some 10% greater than the earlier F-16C model. From a performance and survivability, standpoint the evolved F-16 still could not fully match the capabilities of the Lavi, in the role for which it had once been developed.

The F-35 - 33 of which are on order by Israel
To this day, many of the issues which surrounded the Lavi development program and the decision to launch it still remain. Today, for example, the Israel Defense Force has been actively lobbying the developer of the F-35 - Israel's next new fighter - to offer a version with additional range and payload. According to media reports, these overtures have been met with little enthusiasm on the part of Lockheed Martin - which assumes that the Israelis have no other aircraft options and will accept whatever U.S. product they are offered.

And to add a few words about the process that went into writing and publishing this book, I would start by pointing out that no one writes a book like this because they believe it will lead to their financial fortune. You write a book like this because you have something to say.

Writing this book was a process that spanned decades. I first began to explore the story behind the Lavi decades ago, as a graduate student and teaching assistant for a senior-level engineering class in airplane design. It was at that time that I first began to evaluate the trade studies that had gone into shaping the Lavi, leveraging my knowledge as an aerospace engineer to assess the airplane's design features and how they had evolved. Out of this grew the first draft of my book on the Lavi, which I submitted to a series of eight publishing houses in 1993. At that time, the manuscript was a little over 86,000 words in length. None of the original eight publishing houses were interested in the book at that time.

Taking to heart the feedback that I had received from the one publisher that had actually reviewed the original manuscript draft, I continued to refine and expand the book over the succeeding decades, fleshing out those areas where the original manuscript had required further elaboration. By the time that I was ready to resubmit the manuscript for publication in November of 2013, it had grown to over 170,000 words in length. The book was subsequently picked up by the second publisher that I had submitted it to, and a contract was signed in April of 2014. Signing the book contract was not the end of the publication process, however, but only the beginning. What followed was a series of milestones which eventually led to publication:
  • April 2014 - book contract signed
  • July 2014 - final manuscript submitted (reduced to 115,000 words in length at the request of the publisher)
  • May 2015 - copy-edited manuscript received from the publisher (reviewed, edited and approved by the author in June 2015) 
  • September 2015 - proof copy received from the publisher (reviewed, edited and approved by the author by the end of September)
  • October 2015 - book index submitted by the author
  • December 2015 - book submitted to the printer for release in January of 2016
In short, the process of publishing a book can be a significant task, above and beyond writing the original book manuscript, in and of itself.

A word should also be added about the relationship between the publisher and author. In this electronic age where would-be authors can independently publish their works electronically, if they choose to do so, the importance of an experienced publishing house is sometimes overlooked. As a first-time author, the contract terms will not be as generous for a new author as they might be for an established, well-known author or celebrity, and the temptation may exist to abandon traditional print media. Despite this temptation, however, an experienced publisher can be essential to opening doors, getting your book exposed and on book shelves, and ensuring a quality finished product - all opportunities that would never be available to the self-published author. It should be remembered that both author and publisher have something to bring to the table, towards making the book an eventual success, and I was fortunate to have found a good publisher that helped to make my own book into a reality.

Finally, I will emphasize again that no one writes a book like, believing that they are going to become wealthy or famous in the process. The market for history books does not lend itself to making famous authors. You write a book like this because you have something to say. It has been, and continues to be my hope that the lessons of these past events may yet go on to inform generations to come, and that the mistakes of the past need not be repeated.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - September 15, 2016

September 15, 2016

Lockheed Martin reported the first successful integration of the F-35 stealth fighter with the U.S. Navy's Aegis weapons system during flight tests.  During the tests, a USMC F-35B acted as an over-the-horizon sensor node, relaying data to the Aegis system.  The Aegis integrated weapons system is deployed aboard several types of U.S. warship.

South Korea, which already has 40 F-35 fighters on order, is contemplating an expanded buy to include 20 additional fighters.

In a memo released by the Pentagon's top weapons testing official, Dr. Michael Gilmore warned that the F-35 "is actually not on a path toward success, but instead on a path toward failing to deliver the full Block 3F capabilities for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion."

India and Russia have reportedly reached agreement over India's participation in the manufacture of the PAK-FA stealth fighters to be produced for India.  The deal had previously been on the verge of collapse in recent months, due to escalating program costs and to a decision by the Russian military to reduce their own initial production buy to as few as 18 fighters.

Russian military analysts are predicting that Chinese air power will soon match Russian and U.S. capabilities, pointing out that, "aircraft engines remain one of the few fields in which the country still lags largely behind top players."

Boeing has unveiled the first prototype for its proposed T-X trainer, which is being pitched to the U.S. Air Force as a replacement for the T-38 supersonic trainer.  The airplane, powered by a GE F404 engine, is a joint development effort between Boeing and Sweden's Saab.  It will be competing against the Lockheed/Korean Aerospace Industries T-50, as well as against Northrop Grumman's recently unveiled aircraft.

The U.S. B-1 bomber made a rare appearance in the skies over South Korea, as the U.S. reacted to North Korea's recent nuclear weapons test.  The B-1 was escorted by U.S. and South Korean fighter jets.

Israeli fighters struck a Syrian army position after a stray mortar landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.  The area has continued to be subject to skirmishes between Syrian army and opposition forces, leading to Israeli reprisal raids when mortar or artillery fire crosses the frontier.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Space Highlights - September 14, 2016

September 14, 2016

United Launch Alliance has announced that it can expand the number of launch slots available to accommodate customers who had planned to launch with SpaceX, but which are currently delayed while SpaceX conducts its investigation over last week's launch failure.

India's ISRO successfully launched the INSAT-3DR weather satellite into orbit this week.

Blue Origin, a start-up space launch provider funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced plans for a new, large rocket booster labelled the New Glenn that would rival United Launch Alliance's largest Delta IV Heavy boosters.  To date, Blue Origin has only launched sub-orbital satellites into space, although the company has demonstrated booster recovery techniques similar to SpaceX's vertical landing recovery system.

Shortly after a successful launch of the Ofek 11 surveillance satellite, Israeli officials reported that the reconnaissance satellite was experiencing technical malfunctions.

NASA successfully launched its OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission this past week.

NASA's Curiosity Rover has sent home images of the Murray Buttes, a region of layered rocks on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp.  These layers, unlike many of the others that Curiosity has studied, appeared to be the result of shifting sand dunes which left deposits over millions of years.

Researchers continue to process images of Saturn's moon Titan, sent back by the Cassini space probe, to obtain new and clearer views of its cloud-shrouded surface.

Scientists studying the Globular Clusters - miniature galaxies that orbit the Milky Way - have concluded that the distribution of stars in Globular Cluster NGC 6101 can only be explained if the small galaxy harbors a series of black holes.

Scientists studying the death of the red supergiant star N6946-BH1 believe that they have captured data from the formation of a black hole, as it emerged from the dying star's core.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wide Body Report - September 13, 2016

September 13, 2016

Despite the continued slump in 777 sales, Boeing officials are hopeful that increased margins on the 737 and 787 will eventually reverse the downward profit forecast for the manufacturer.

A preliminary report indicates that a Boeing 777 operated by Emirates that crashed last month had been attempting to perform a go-around when it crashed into the runway.  All 300 passengers and crew were evacuated before fire engulfed the aircraft.  The pilots had received a warning signal for wind sheer during approach when the accident occured.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Adelaide after an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER was forced to divert due to engine trouble.  The airplane had been enroute from Dubai to Brisbane.

Norwegian has added non-stop service from Oakdale, CA to both Barcelona and Copenhagen aboard its Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Aeromexico's first Boeing 787-9 has left the paint hangar, on its way towards customer delivery.  Aeromexico will be the second airline in Latin America to fly the 787.

Cathay Pacific plans to open routes to Melbourne flying both the Airbus A350-900 and the Boeing 777-300ER in 2017.

Currently the Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner appear poised to divide much of the wide body market between them, with no clear advantage for either manufacturer.

Vietnam Airlines has signed a memorandum of understanding for the delivery of ten more Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

Thai Airways International will delay the launch of its planned Airbus A350 flights to Melbourne until October, due to "additional inspections and requirements from Australian authorities."

Airbus' successful implementation of automation has been key to maintaining its production schedule for the A350's composite wing - something that Boeing has in the past struggled to implement.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Single Aisle News - September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016

Bombardier has cut its year-end delivery forecast for the C-Series from 15 to 7 airplanes, due to production ramp-up delays at engine supplier Pratt & Whitney.

Embraer reports that no delays to its flight test schedule are expected for the new E190-E2 E-Jet, despite delays in engine deliveries that have afflicted Bombardier.  Both the E190-E2 and the Bombardier C-Series are equipped with versions of Pratt & Whitney's Geared TurboFan engine.

AirAsia has taken delivery of its first A320 NEO, marking the 17th NEO aircraft delivered to date, and the second to be equipped with CFM LEAP-1A engines.

Embraer has set aside $200 million to pay for potential fines that may arise from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into an alleged bribery scandal involving the sale of aircraft to India's armed forces.

Mitsubishi Aircraft's MRJ (Mitsubishi Regional Jet) prototype has returned to flight test, following identification of a sensor that led to two aborted attempts to ferry the aircraft to the United States.  Mitsubishi Aircraft intends to attempt another ferry flight by the end of September.

Airbus delivered 61 aircraft in August, bringing the total deliveries for the year to 400 aircraft, and putting Airbus back on track for delivering 645 aircraft by year end.

Boeing continues to examine stretched versions of the 737 MAX-9, referred to by some as a potential MAX-10 version, to counter the Airbus A321 NEO which has dominated sales in that size class.  The aircraft could be available by 2020, if Boeing chooses to launch the stretched derivative.  Boeing officials are evaluating whether a simple stretch would provide the necessary range to compete with the Airbus aircraft, or if they would need to also fit the larger, more fuel efficient version of the LEAP engine developed for the Airbus model.

China's Comac reports that it is on-track to launch the first flight of its C919 single-aisle transport by year-end.  The C919 is expected to be powered by the CFM International LEAP-1C.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - September 9, 2016

September 8, 2016

The U.S. Air Force has completed its final unmanned QF-4 flight, with the last QF-4 to fly unmanned serving as a target drone for the F-35.  The QF-4 - unmanned platforms rebuilt from vintage F-4 fighters - is being phased out in favor of QF-16 drone aircraft.

The first prototype engine for future versions of Russia's PAK-FA stealth fighter is expected to be completed by October.  Current versions of the PAK-FA are equipped with Type 117 developmental engines - an upgraded version of the AL-31F engine which first powered the Sukhoi Su-27 in the 1980s.

A Russian Su-27 fighter flew dangerously close to a United States P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft during an intercept over the Black Sea, coming within 10-feet of the U.S. aircraft, and leading the United States to formally protest the "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter.

Chinese officials have confirmed that the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is developing a new long-range strategic bomber - although no details on its range or configuration have been provided.

Photographs have emerged of China's new J-20 stealth fighter deployed to air bases in Tibet for the first time.  The photographs emerged only days after Chinese officials warned India against deploying the supersonic BrahMos missile along the Himalayan border.  Analysts are projecting that China will have some 36 J-20 fighters in operational service by early 2018.

Israeli warplanes returned to Israel after participating in Red Flag exercises in Nevada, alongside fighter aircraft from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

The Obama administration is expected to approve the sale of fighter jets to Qatar and Kuwait in the coming days, despite Israeli objections over the sales.  The anticipated sale would include the delivery of 36 Boeing F-15 fighters to Qatar and 28 Boeing F/A-18E/F fighters to Kuwait.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the commanding officer of the Corps' Combat Development Command, highlighted plans to develop laser weaponry to equip future U.S. military aircraft.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Space Highlights - September 7, 2016

September 7, 2016

An explosion aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a pre-flight fueling test destroyed an Israeli-built Amos-6 satellite, that had been contracted to supply satellite coverage to sub-Saharan Africa by Facebook Inc.  The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

The news blackout that followed China's reacent launch of a Gaofen-10 Earth observation satellite has led to speculation that the satellite launch likely failed.  Although news of the launch itself was announced by official Chinese media, and the launch was covered by Chinese television, there was no subsequent announcement confirming that the satellite had successfully reached orbit and deployed.  If the launch attempt did indeed fail, this would be the first Chinese launch failure since 2013.

India's ISRO plans to launch five satellites in September, aboard two rocket boosters.  The first, scheduled for September 8, will carry an INSAT-3DR weather satellite.

Iran has announced plans to launch three satellites into orbit later this month, prompting renewed fears that Iran has been using purported satellite launch attempts to further develop intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology, capable of launching a nuclear weapon against the United States.

Scientists pouring over images returned from the Rosetta spacecraft have finally located the resting site of the Philae comet lander, which was successfully deployed by Rosetta but which lost power soon after landing on Comet 67P.  The lander has been identified, wedged into a dark crack on the comet's surface, where its solar panels were unable to maintain a steady power supply.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has identified cryovolcanos on the surface of Ceres, leading to a more complex picture of the largest member of the "asteroid belt."  Scientists now believe that the surface of Ceres is composed of a mixture of ice and rock, which allowed for the formation of "ice volcanoes" earlier in its history - a marked contrast from Vesta, the other asteroid that the Dawn spacecraft orbited and mapped, which cooled off quickly after its formation and which displays none of the diversity in surface features found on Ceres.

NASA has announced a new launch window in 2018 for its InSight Mars lander - a spacecraft that was previously targeted for launch in March 2016, but which had its earlier launch window scrubbed due to technical glitches.  The InSight lander is expected to drill into the surface of Mars to monitor seismic activity.

Among the leading potential landing sites for NASA's next Mars rover, due for launch in 2020, is a suggestion submitted by a high school student to land the rover at Gusev Crater - where NASA's earlier Spirit rover shut-down after becoming stuck in the sand and loosing its solar-electrical power supply.

The discovery of a 3.7 billion year old fossil in Greenland has pushed back the date for the earliest evidence for life on Earth by another 200 million years, and has also provided researchers with fresh hope that if life did emerge on Mars, the fossilized record might still be intact.  The fossil remains of stromatolites - an early, microscopic life form - date from a time when the surface of the Earth and Mars are believed to have been very similar.

NASA's Juno spacecraft has become the first probe to capture images from a direct flyover of Jupiter's northern pole, providing close-up visual light and infrared imaging of Jupiter's stormy pole for the first time.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which made a flyby of Pluto a little over a year ago, captured a distant image of Quaoar, another Kuiper belt object even further from the Sun than Pluto.  Although the image is fuzzy, it provides scientists with a unique, oblique angle image with which to compare similar images taken from Earth, as they attempt to more accurately gauge the body's size, reflectivity and shape.  Quaoar is roughly half the size of Pluto.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wide Body Report - September 6, 2016

September 6, 2016

Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) has estimated that it will take three years to overhaul all 100 Rolls-Royce Trent engines that equip its Boeing 787 fleet, to correct a turbine blade corrosion problem that has already forced the airline to ground some of its high-time aircraft for repair.  The turbine corrosion problem led to three engine failures earlier this year.

A United Airlines Boeing 787 will make its first appearance at the Minneapolis airport this week.

Uzbekistan Airways has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Singapore Airlines' low-cost subsidiary, Scoot has taken delivery of its 12th Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Complicating Boeing's reduced revenues from 777 widebody orders, has been a set of production snarls at the Everett facility, which union workers have blamed on a faulty robotic fuselage manufacturing system, that was intended to speed the installation of rivets.

Angola's government has approved a loan to help the state's flagship carrier take delivery of its third Boeing 777-300ER.

A pair of Pakistani sisters has become the first pair of sisters to simultaneously fly the Boeing 777 airliner at the same time, flying on behalf of Pakistan International Airlines.

Thai Airways International has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900.

Airbus' first A350-1000, a stretched model with an all-new wing intended to compete with Boeing's 777 airliner, has completed its trip through the paint-hangar, and remains on track for first flight by the end of this year.

Cathay Pacific has begun revenue flights to London Gatwick aboard the Airbus A350-900.