Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wide Body Report - February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017

Airlines are continuing to squeeze additional seating capacity out of their aircraft.  Early Boeing 777 airlines featured 9 seats in each row of their economy class in the mid-1990s, where today's aircraft typically squeeze in 10 seats abreast.

Boeing has announced plans to make parts for its 737 and 777 airliners in Europe for the first time.

Korean Air has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Oman Air has added the Boeing 787-9 to its operational fleet, where it joins two new 737-800s which were also added over the past two months.

Boeing's total order book for the 787 Dreamliner recently reached 1,207 aircraft, three more than the Boeing 767 sold throughout its 40-year service history.

Lufthansa has taken delivery of its second Airbus A350-900.  The airline has an additional 14 on order.  Mumbai is expected to be the next destination serviced by Lufthansa's new extra-wide fleet.

Finnair expects to begin flying the Airbus A350-900 on its daily London to Helsinki route, beginning in late March.

Airbus has begun to retire the A380 prototypes that were part of the original flight test program.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Single Aisle News - February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017

Swiss expects to receive additional C-Series aircraft in time for its summer season - allowing the airline to expand the range of its connecting flights throughout Europe.

After announcing a slip in its MRJ program, Mitsubishi is still finalizing its new production delivery schedule.  Production targets for 2020, when the airplane is expected to enter service, have been scaled back from 10 aircraft per month to only one aircraft per month.

Indonesia's Citilink has taken delivery of their its A320 NEO, out of a total order for 35 of the new model.  Indonesia's NEOs will be powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines.

Qantas has deferred the initial deliveries of its A320 NEO family aircraft, as it prioritizes its investments towards longer range aircraft.

Speaking at a news conference, Airbus' CEO Tom Enders emphasized that engine maker Pratt & Whitney needs to continue to recover its delivery schedule for engines for the A320 NEO, after running into delays last year.

International Airlines Group, the holding company for British Airways, is reportedly considering an order for the A321 NEO, after placing a similar order for seven A321 NEO models for its Aer Lingus subsidiary.

China's C919 prototype is expected to make its first flight within the coming weeks, after completing most of its ground checks.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Japan's F-2 and the Lavi: The Road Not Taken

I was recently asked in an email if I might draw a comparison between the Lavi, and Japan's F-2 fighter.

As was pointed out in my book on the Lavi, prior to launching the Lavi program, Israel's government had twice asked for permission to set up a local assembly line for the F-16 in Israel, similar to what had already been granted for NATO partners in Europe, as well as to the local assembly lines that would later be granted for the F-16 in Turkey and South Korea. Israel was denied this option on both occasions, once in 1977 and again in 1980. Had the F-16 gone into production in Israel, it would have afforded Israeli developers an opportunity to modify the aircraft - which had originally been envisioned as a lightweight air-to-air day fighter - into the more versatile, multirole platform that the IDF required.

There were two, highly evolved versions of the F-16 which would later be developed, which provide some insight into the options that a local, Israeli assembly line might have afforded the IDF. The first was the F-16XL, a radically different, cranked-arrow delta-winged derivative of the F-16, which first flew in 1982. The second was the Mitsubishi F-2 which first flew in 1995. Both aircraft provide insight into what an evolved F-16 platform could accomplish.

The Mitsubishi F-2 was developed out of General Dynamics' conceptual proposals to the U.S. Air Force for the "Agile Falcon" program, which was intended to recover some of the air-to-air performance that had been eroded as the F-16 had been tasked with ever expanding air-to-ground roles. Between the Block 10 and the Block 40 editions of the F-16, the airplane had evolved from an empty weight of 15,140-lb (6,870-kg), to an empty weight of 19,020-lb (8,630-kg), as additional structural weight was added to increase its maximum payload capacity. New engine technologies had allowed the F-16 to effectively maintain its thrust-to-weight ratio, but they could not restore the effects of the added weight on wing loading. The Agile Falcon was intended to correct this, producing a derivative fighter with an expanded range and payload capacity, that also mirrored the earlier, intended wing loading of the Block 10 F-16A.
The F-2 was intended to recover the erosion in wing loading that had accompanied later models of the F-16.

Although the U.S. Air Force elected not to fund the Agile Falcon program, it was later proposed as a contendor for Japan's FS-X domestic fighter development effort. The F-2 fighter that resulted from this program, features a stretched fuselage, with an added center-plug section, but with an all-new wing that adds 25-percent to the wing area, as well as an enlarged horizontal tail. As a direct derivative of the F-16, the F-2 shared over 20% of its components with its U.S.-built predecessor - in contrast to the Lavi which, despite superficial similarities, bore no parts commonality with the earlier F-16. The added wing area allowed the F-2 to increase the available weapons stations from nine to eleven. Like the Lavi, the F-2 featured additional fuel capacity and external weapons load.

The F-2 features an empty weight of some 21,000-lb (9530 kg), with a maximum take-off weight of some 48,700-lb (22,100-kg). This compares to a Lavi empty weight of some 15,310-lb (6,940-kg), with a maximum take-off weight of some 42,500-lb (19,280-kg). Despite its larger size and greater take-off weight, it should therefore come as no surprise that the F-2 would offer slightly poorer range performance than the Lavi - as it also had to carry the additional empty weight that made its higher take-off weight possible. The F-2 also included a Japanese-developed avionics suite, including the first AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar to enter service on a production fighter, as well as a modernized cockpit. To afford a wider field-of-view for the head-up display (HUD), the F-2 replaced the single-piece F-16 canopy with a two-piece canopy, much like the Lavi had done, to protect the pilot from a fragmented HUD in the event of an ejection.

A Mitsubishi F-2 takes off for a training sortie, its F-16 lineage clearly evident.
The composite wing for the F-2, developed locally by Mitsubishi, was one of the more radical features to appear on the Japanese F-16 derivative. It featured a co-cured, all-composite structure, unlike the composite wing of the Lavi which featured a composite skin secured by fasteners to conventional metal spars. The Lavi developers had actually explored the option for developing an all-composite wing structure for the Lavi, but had backed away from it as too costly and ambitious at the time - after an initial co-cured test article had failed during test. The Japanese developers, however, continued to pursue this concept, to take the maximum benefit possible from composite weight savings. This remained, however, a relatively new and immature technology, with the F-2 static structures prototype developing cracks in its wing structure as the design continued to be learned out.

Among the most striking differences between the Lavi and the F-2 program, however, was cost. Japan's government originally envisioned a requirement for 141 F-2 fighters, a total which would eventually be reduced to a mere 94 aircraft. This represented a very small production run indeed. Japan's consitution forbade Japan from seeking export customers for the fighter, something which had also helped to persuade the U.S. government to permit Japan to develop the F-2 with extensive U.S. assistance. With such a small production run, it was no surprise that the unit cost would be considerably higher than for a similar, Block 52+ F-16, or even higher than the projected cost for the Lavi as envisioned under its original 300-aircraft production program. What was more surprising, however, was the high development price associated with the F-2. The entire Lavi development program, including flight testing, had been estimated by the U.S. General Accounting Office to total no more than $1.90 billion, in Fiscal 1985 dollars. Normalized against the same Fiscal Year currency, the F-2 would cost Japan a total of $2.31 billion to develop - a considerable amount for what had been sold as a relatively low-cost, derivative fighter program. The costs associated with developing the all-new, composite wing, as well as the all-new, Japanese avionics suite, eventually overshadowed the cost savings from utilizing an existing U.S. design as a starting point for the airframe.

The F-2 has of course gone on to serve the Japan Air Self-Defense Force well, and has provided an important technology development and learning milestone for the Japanese aerospace industry. It was not, however, an inexpensive alternative.

Thanks again to William Zhou for suggesting this topic.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017

The U.S. Air Force's Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans cautioned in testimony before Congress that increasing the short term buy rate for the F-35 would be counter productive, until the airplane's software and other development issues have been resolved.

The U.S. has deployed 12 F-22 fighters to Australia for wargames for the first time.

The U.S. has launched an upgrade program for its F-15 fighters to keep the aircraft competitive against emerging threats in China and elsewhere.

The U.S. has deployed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the South China Sea.  China has declared vast stretches of these waters to be Chinese territory, and has constructed man-made islands to help enforce its claim to the area.

The Philippines has taken delivery of an additional two FA-50 lightweight fighters from South Korea.  A total of 12 of the single engine fighters are currently on order.

Pakistan is attempting to secure a deal to sell its JF-17 single-engine fighter to Sri Lanka.  The JF-17 is assembled in Pakistan, but was developed by China, and features a Russian-made engine.

Turkish fighter-bombers targeted a Kurdish military camp during air strikes in northern Iraq.

Israeli fighters shot down a drone launched by Hamas from Gaza this past week.  The drone fell into the Mediterranean.

The United Arab Emirates has signed a deal for the delivery of Russia's Su-35 Flanker.  The aircraft would serve alongside the F-16E Block 60 fighters that the UAE purchased from the United States.  The UAE has also signed an agreement to help develop a lightweight fighter - possibly based on the MiG-29 - that would be locally assembled in the UAE.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Space Highlights - February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017

Rocket Lab has delivered its first Electron test rocket to the company's private launch facility in New Zealand.  Rocket Lab is the latest private developer to attempt to enter the satellite launch business.

Rocket motor manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne has acquired missile-target developer Coleman Aerospace, which currently provides missile targets to the Pentagon to test anti-ballistic missile systems.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured new images of Saturn's outermost F-ring, as it makes its latest set of "ring grazing" orbits.

NASA officials have concluded that the Juno spacecraft should remain in its current, 53-day orbit around Jupiter, rather than taking the risk of losing the spacecraft to a main engine failure.  Juno had originally been slated to enter a tighter, 14-day orbit, but the necessary engine firing could potentially cripple the spacecraft, after analysts identified a potential problem with the spacecraft's propulsion system.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has identified the building blocks for life on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, with the identification of organic compounds in one of its craters.

NASA has announced the identification of seven new earth-size exoplanets in orbit around a red-dwarf star some 40 light years away, three of which are believed to be in the star's "habitable zone," where liquid water could potentially exist on their surface.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wide Body Report - February 22, 2017

February 22, 2017

German Typhoon fighters were scrambled to intercept a Boeing 777 bound from Mumbai to London, after the airplane briefly lost contact with air traffic controllers.

Boeing rolled out its first 787-10 at its South Carolina plant.  This is the first Boeing wide body model that was not previously produced at its Everett facility.

Air India has put two Boeing 787s up for sale.  The airplanes are being offered under a sale and lease-back arrangement, under which Air India would agree to lease the airplanes from whichever lessor agrees to buy them.

At its 4Q investor's meeting, Finnair blamed delays in Airbus A350 deliveries for extra expenses in 2016 that adversely affected its profitability.  Finnair had to lease additional airplanes to make up for the absent A350s.

Despite solid sales and deliveries in 2016, Airbus executives have warned that a $2.3 billion cost overrun on its A400M military transport program would likely overshadow its 4Q earnings report.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Single Aisle News - February 21, 2017

February 21, 2017

Bombardier has affirmed its projections for delivering 30 to 36 C-Series aircraft in 2017, despite a slow start in January and February.

Bombardier has maintained, despite a complaint by Brazil to the World Trade Organization, that Canadian government investments in the C-Series have been in alignment with existing international agreements and regulations.

Despite production delays with the Pratt & Whitney Geared TurboFan (GTF) engines that power its E2 E-Jet series, Embraer remains confident that certification of the E190-E2 remains on schedule.

Norway's Wideroe has been named as the official launch customer for Embraer's E190-E2, with deliveries to commence in early 2018.  Wideroe has a firm order for three E190-E2 aircraft, and purchase rights on another 12 airplanes.

Japan's Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has held off on a potential deal to deliver Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) aircraft to Iran, amid uncertainty surrounding the approval of U.S. export licenses for the proposed deal.

Virgin Australia has delayed the delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to late 2019.

Boeing expects its first 737 MAX-9 prototype to fly in April, as outlines emerge for the slightly larger MAX-10.

India's Jet Airways expects to order at least 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft later this year.  The airline currently has 75 of Boeing's newest single aisle aircraft currently on order.

Air India has received its first A320 NEO aircraft, with a further 13 due to be delivered by year end.

An IndiGo A320 NEO had to be ferried back to Delhi for maintenance, after one of its Pratt & Whitney GTF engines reported an "oil chip detected" warning.  This is the fourth engine-related issue on the A320 NEO to be reported by either IndiGo or GoAir in less than a month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly been campaigning to sell the new Irkut MC-21 single aisle airliner to Uruguay.  The first MC-21 prototype is expected to fly later this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - February 16, 2017

February 16, 2017

Testing has begun at Edwards Air Force Base to certify a new suit intended to protect pilots of the F-35 under chemical and biological warfare conditions.

The unit cost of the F-35 continues to fall as expected as more aircraft are produced.

Israel's Defense Ministry reports that Israeli firms have earned work share packages worth just over $1 billion in value in connection with Israel's participation in the F-35 program.

A Japanese pilot made his first solo flight in an F-35A this past week, flying out of Luke Air Force Base.

The U.S. Air Force expects to relax its pilot weight restrictions for the F-35 in April.  The weight restrictions were invoked after testing showed that lighter weight pilots could be injured in the event of an ejection, due to the heavier weight of the F-35's helmet.  A modified ejection seat, that adjusts to the pilot's weight, has been tested to resolve the problem.

The U.S. Air Force is seeking an interim 500-lb bomb with the ability to strike moving targets for use aboard the F-35.  The Raytheon GBU-12 500-lb bomb and the GBU-38 500-lb Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) have both already been earmarked for the F-35, but neither has a moving target capability.

U.S. and Chinese military aircraft had another "unsafe" encounter this past week near disputed air space in the South China Sea.

U.S. defense officials are warning that years of budget cuts due to sequestration, combined with extensive U.S. commitments worldwide, have reduced U.S. fighter fleet readiness levels to an all time low.  On average, fewer than half of USMC F/A-18s and just over half of U.S. Navy F/A-18s are ready to fly, and fewer thatn three-quarters of U.S. Air Force fighters are available.  The rest are grounded awaiting maintenance or spares.

Sweden has launched another push to market the Saab Gripen to India, in a contest for a new single-engine fighter for the Indian Air Force that is expected to pit the Gripen against the F-16.

A Russian air strike in Syria mistakenly killed three Turkish soldiers near the Turkish-Syrian border.

Russia's PAK-FA stealth fighter is expected to fly with a new prototype engine for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2017.  All PAK-FA prototypes to date have flown with an engine derived from the same AL-31F that has powered Russia's Su-27s since the 1980s.

Israel's Elta has been contracted in a consulting role to assist in the development of an advanced radar for Korea's proposed KF-X stealth fighter.

Fifty years after the Six Day War, Israel's military archives has released a batch of recordings from the June 1967 air strikes that launched Israel's offensive against Egypt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Space Highlights - February 15, 2017

February 15, 2017

India successfully launched a record breaking 104 satellites aboard a single launch booster this week, including 88 Earth observation microsatellites from the U.S. start-up Planet Labs, as well as microsatellites from Israel, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates.

Arianespace conducted its first Ariane 5 launch of the year, placing the SKY Brasil-1 and Telkom-3S satellites on a trajectory towards geostationary orbit.

NASA has identified three candidate landing sites for its planned 2020 Mars rover mission.

Researchers examining data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft are puzzling as to why they have discovered only one ice volcano of the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.  A leading theory is that other cryovolcanoes must have once existed, but have since crumbled away due to the warmer conditions that exist at Ceres - as opposed to moons and other bodies where cryovolcanoes have been found further away from the sun.

A team of researchers has released a dataset documenting more than 100 likely exoplanets that need to be independently confirmed.  The team has cataloged observations from 1,624 stars, all within 325 light years from Earth.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wide Body Report - February 14, 2017

February 14, 2017

Singapore Airlines has signed a letter of intent for 20 Boeing 777-9s and 19 787-10s.  The 777-9 is a 777X model, currently under development.

The Boeing 777 currently flies seven out of the world's ten longest routes, making it the preferred airplane for the longest haul flights.

President Trump may reportedly be attending the roll-out for the first Boeing 787-10.

An Airbus A350-900 has begun revenue service to New Delhi for the first time, with Lufthansa assigning the aircraft to its Munich to New Delhi route.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Single Aisle News - February 13, 2017

February 13, 2017

Canada's federal government has approved $282 million in "repayable program contributions" to Bombardier, to help complete production ramp-up of both the C-Series airline and the Global 7000 business jet.  Bombardier previously received a government loan from the provincial government in Quebec.

Luxair has revealed that the Bombardier C-Series is currently the preferred option for its plans for fleet renewal.  A final agreement, however, is not expected before 2018.

Brazilian officials have opened a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over financial assistance provided to Bombardier by the Canadian government.

Russian officials report that United Aircraft, the Russian holding company that includes the Irkut MC-21 development program as part of its portfolio, broke even last year, despite heavy investment in MC-21 development.

Chinese officials have stepped up their publicity campaign for the Comac C919, ahead of the airplane's first flight.

Monarch Aircraft Engineering has unveiled a technician training program to support both the Airbus A320 NEO and Boeing 737 MAX among Middle East airlines.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair is expected to exercise its options to purchase a further 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the coming weeks.  Ryanair already has a firm order for 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which are due to begin delivery in 2019.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - February 10, 2017

February 10, 2017

The USAF has reported that in its first appearance at a Red Flag exercise, the F-35A and allied aircraft scored 15 simulated kills against opposing aircraft, for every F-35A that was lost.  Critics of the F-35 have already pointed out, however, that the kill-to-loss ratio is really a measure of how many opposing aircraft were shot down by other allied aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor which also took part in the exercise, compared to how many F-35s were lost in the simulated engagements.

Royal Australian Air Force pilots are expected to appear at this year's Avalon Air Show flying the F-35A for the first time.  The two Australian F-35s are currently stationed at Luke Air Force Base, where four Australian pilots are undergoing training.

Russia is currently expected to receive its first serial production copies of the PAK-FA stealth fighter in 2018.

Progress towards concept development of South Korea's proposed indigenous KF-X stealth fighter is reportedly being delayed by the lack of export licenses for technology transfer from the United States - which KAI was relying on for the supply of four key items: the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, infrared search and track (IRST) systems, an electronic optics targeting pod (EOTGP), and the radio frequency (RF) jammer.

Russian officials are attempting to repackage their proposals to sell the MiG-35 fighter to India, after failing to find a customer for the MiG-29 derivative.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Space Highlights - February 9, 2017

February 9, 2017

Launchers for microsatellites continue to carve out their own niche in the satellite market.

SpaceX's first launch from Complex 39A, since their failed booster explosion occurred last September, has been slated for February 18th.  The next launch is expected to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has contracted India's ISRO to launch its Nayif-1 microsatellite later this month.  The Nayif-1 will act as a relay station for amateur radio signals.

Data from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover suggests that the ancient atmosphere of Mars - at a time when Mars was able to support lakes and rivers of liquid water on its surface - had significantly less carbon dioxide than what scientists had assumed would be necessary to keep the surface temperature warm enough to support liquid water.

NASA has selected a landing site for its InSight Mars lander, which is scheduled to reach the surface of Mars in November 2018.  InSight is expected to drill a 15 foot deep hole into the surface of Mars.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has fired its rocket motor to make a course correction, and align it for its anticipated flyby of 2014 MU69 in January 2019.

Astronomers using the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) have identified a new gas giant, labeled KELT-18b orbiting a bright, hot star.  The planet is estimated to be 18 percent more massive than Jupiter, but with 1.57 times the diameter.  The planet has an orbital period of only 2.9 days, making it a "hot Jupiter" planet.

A team of European astronomers reports that they have identified a low-mass warm Jupiter orbiting a nearby K-type main-sequence star.  The planet, designated EPIC 218916923b, is the least massive warm Jupiter discovered to date.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wide Body Report - February 8, 2017

February 8, 2017

A Swiss International Airlines Boeing 777 en route from Zurich to Los Angeles made an emergency landing in Iqaluit, Canada, after loosing power on its left engine during flight.  A second airplane was sent to Iqaluit to pick up passengers and crew, while a spare engine to replace its GE90 motor had to be flown in.

Qatar Airways has launched service on what is now the world's longest commercial flight, connecting Aukland, New Zealand to Doha aboard a Boeing 777-200LR.

Both Boeing and the International Association of Machinists are racheting up their campaigns in advance of a vote at Boeing's South Carolina plant, to determine whether workers at the plant will join the union.

Ethiopian Airlines has taken delivery of its third Airbus A350-900.

A third Airbus A350-1000 has entered flight test.  The new model is expected to accumulate some 1600 flight hours of testing over a 10-month period.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Single Aisle News - February 7, 2017

February 7, 2017

An Aviation Week pilot report gives a favorable review of the Bombardier C-Series, reporting that, "I have yet to fly a jetliner with more docile yet responsive handling qualities."

Reports continue to confirm that an oil seal and cumbustor liner are currently causing the majority of in-service issues for Pratt & Whitney's Geared TurboFan (GTF) engines.  Plans are underway to have new parts available later this year, with more than 50 spare engines in rotation to maintain fleet readiness.

Airbus expects to assemble its first A320 NEO in China, at its Tianjin assembly plant, for delivery in September.  Airbus' Chinese assembly floor has delivered more than 300 pre-NEO A320s.

A prototype Boeing 737 MAX has begun flight tests out of Darwin, Australia to evaluate the airplane's performance under tropical conditions.

American Airlines has confirmed that it will not include seatback entertainment screens as part of its Boeing 737 MAX order, reflecting what appears to be an industry trend away from in-flight entertainment systems on shorter-haul routes.

China's Comac is inching towards a planned first flight of its C919 prototype in March.  The C919 prototype will be powered by a CFM International LEAP-1C engine.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has changed leadership, with president Hiromichi Morimoto retiring on March 31st, following a series of delays for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) development plan.  Morimoto will be replaced by Hisakazu Mizutani, who is currently president of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' (MHI's) Integrated Defense and Space Systems unit.  MHI will also be replacing the CEO at Mitsubishi Aircraft, with Yuichi Shinohara, an MHI Senior VP, becoming the new CEO, effective immediately.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - February 3, 2017

February 3, 2017

A week after President Donald Trump took credit for cutting $600 million from the F-35 program, industry analysts have confirmed that the announced cost reduction on the Lot 10 aircraft was already part of planned cost saving measures that had already been reflected in the Pentagon's budget.

The Japanese government has secured $100 million in cost reductions in the support equipment for its F-35 fighters, currently on order.

Lockheed Martin has delivered the first F-22 Raptor to pass through its Inlet Coating Repair Speedline facility in Marietta, Georgia.

The Indian Navy has released a request for proposal to procure 57 carrier-borne fighters to replace its current fleet of MiG-29Ks, after rejecting a navalized Tejas fighter as a viable alternative.

China is expected to receive an additional ten Su-35 fighters from Russia during 2017, after delivering the first four at the end of 2016.

Turkey has signed an agreement with the UK's BAE Systems to support in developing Turkey's proposed TF-X stealth fighter jet.  The contract is valued at $125 million.

While production of the 5th generation F-35 continues to ramp up, the U.S. Air Force is already looking ahead to what its 6th generation fighter needs will be.

Both Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have announced that they will bow-out of the U.S. Air Force's T-X advanced trainer competition, slated to provide a replacement for the T-38 Talon.  Raytheon had been planning to offer the T-100 in cooperation with Italy's Leonardo - a version of the M-346 trainer already in production.  Northrop Grumman had developed and flown a prototype for its contendor, but concluded that the profit margins in what was expected to become a bidding war would prove to be unattractive.  This leaves the Lockheed/Korean T-50, and Boeing's clean sheet design produced in cooperation with Saab, as the only likely contendors for the deal.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Space Highlights - February 2, 2017

February 2, 2017

India's ISRO has added another small payload to its PSLV-C37 launch, scheduled for later this month, bringing the record-setting launch attempt to 104 satellites in total.

SpaceX has added a new launch order from satellite operator Iridium Communications, adding an additional five satellites.  The next SpaceX launch attempt is scheduled for later this month.

In the first launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from Arianespace's French Guiana launch site, Spain's SmallGEO satellite was successfully placed into orbit.

Five independent teams are lined up to attempt the first-ever, private moon landing, hoping to win Google's Lunar XPRIZE competition.

NASA has released new close-up images of Saturn's rings from the Cassini spacecraft, taken from its adjusted, "ring-grazing" orbits.

Evidence continues to mount that the underlying surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, which is believed to be made up largely of ice, has been cloaked by dust from surrounding asteroids and asteroid impacts.  Instruments on the Dawn spacecraft continue to point to an underlying icy crust and mantle.

NASA is preparing for another close flyby of Jupiter by the Juno spacecraft later this week.

Scientists report that they have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a "hot jupiter" exoplanet.  Originally identified 20 years agao, 51 Pegasi b was the first "hot Jupiter" to be discovered.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wide Body Report - February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017

Boeing Corporation is forecasting higher earnings in 2017, despite cuts in its 777 production schedule.  Much of the optimism is based on the expectation that the 787 Dreamliner, following decades of losses, is finally poised to begin making a profit with each airplane delivered.

LOT Polish Airlines has announced plans to lease three Boeing 787-9s.

Nigeria's Arik Air has cancelled an order for two Boeing 747-8s, replacing them with an order for two 787-9s.  The cancellation further erodes prospects for the 747, which has been sustained in production by freighter orders rather than as a passenger jet during the past several years.

Etihad Airways has announced that it will be deploying its newly delivered Boeing 787-9 airplanes along its Middle East and Far East routes.

An Emirates A380 was forced to divert to a New Zealand Air Force base, after the main runway at Aukland Airport was blocked by a Singapore Airlines airplane, which was experiencing mechanical difficulties.

Airbus has released its official weights tables for the A330 NEO.  Customer deliveries are expected in March 2018.  The A330 NEO features the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engine.