United States Military Aviation

BMD

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Previous reports have said that HELIOS, which stands for High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance, is in the 60-kilowatt class but have also said that the manufacturer has been looking to increase its power to the 150-kilowatt class. Other sources have suggested that HELIOS has a rating closer to 100 kilowatts. You can read more about the Navy’s plans for HELIOS in this previous story of ours.
 
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BMD

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RISING SUN

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US Air Force Plans Massive Decommissioning Of Assets; MQ-9 Drones, F-16 Fighters, C-130 Planes In The ‘Axe List’​

The US, the most powerful military power in the world, is expected to remain the biggest stumbling block to China’s expansionist agenda. Even if a direct US-China confrontation does not happen, Washington is bound to ‘protect’ its allies in the Asia Pacific including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.


Maintaining a military-technological edge becomes imperative for the US to deny the Chinese PLA any advantage. And a plan has already been chalked out.


With the development of the 6th generation fighter jet, hypersonic weapons, and F-35 already in place, it is now considering retiring old airframes to make space for 21st-century alternatives.

Image
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) conducts flight operations with F-35C Lightning II assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 – via Twitter
US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall reiterated the service’s requirements during a panel at Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.


“If it doesn’t threaten China, why are we doing it?” he said, while mentioning the retirement of MQ-9 Reapers, the A-10 Warthogs, and older C-130s and refueling tankers as some examples.


These aircraft have played an important role in taking out insurgents in lesser-contested airspaces of the Middle East but might lose their edge in face of sophisticated air defense systems employed by an adversary like China.

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II - Wikipedia
A-10 Thunderbolt II – Wikipedia
US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown holds a similar view. “It’s really a tough decision of the things we’re going to let go, and how we transition from the current capabilities we have, to get to the capabilities of the future,” he was quoted as saying by Defense News.


Gen. Brown also stressed the need to make space for technological innovations and adapt to a more complex threat environment.


For 20 years, the service had been fighting in Afghanistan and the Middle East, where the anti-aircraft threat was very low allowing it to maintain complete air dominance over the airspace.


A sudden change to a modern, contested environment could spill the beans for the US Air Force pilots. For this, many aerial simulations and war games are being conducted to enhance the training and make game plans for a future conflict.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone – US Air Force
“We will not have the capabilities for any future crisis and contingencies,” Gen. Brown said. “That concerns me. If we don’t [change], we’re going to lose aspects of our national security because we’re holding on to the past,” he added, in an interview with Defense News.


The retirement of older airframes will also save maintenance costs which can be reinvested in cutting-edge technologies. The US Air Force also highlighted in its budget request for FY 2022 to retire over 200 aircraft including 48 F-15C/Ds, 47 F-16C/D fighters, 13 C-130H transport aircraft, 18 KC-135 and 14 KC-10 refuelers, 42 A-10 Warthogs, and the 20 RQ-4 drones. Also, it plans to shed 16 E-8 JSTARS surveillance and targeting aircraft.


Beijing has already announced its intentions to attain a full-fledged military capability akin to the United States. If things go as per the Chinese plan, this would be the first major challenge to the US dominance globally after the Cold War.


In addition, the situation has already started to go south with repeated threats over the invasion of Taiwan and the assertion of claimed economical rights in the South China Sea.


Interestingly, all the major “concerned” parties regarding China have already begun preparing at diplomatic and military levels. While the “anti-Russian” alliance NATO is already in existence, many “anti-China” alliances are also emerging to counter the growing Maoist influence.


The strongest of these is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the QUAD, which includes the United States, India, Japan, and Australia. Out of these four countries, India maintains diplomatic autonomy and has equally good relations with Russia and Iran as well.


MQ-9 Drones


The US Air Force has already indicated that the MQ-9 will be upgraded in the subsequent years. However, the intention is to eventually begin decommissioning the fleet in 2030 and complete it by 2035.


Many experts urged the service to reconsider its decision, as Reaper is not only critical for preserving US interests in conflict zones like those under Central Command and Africa Command but it can also be modified to new and crucial duties against Russia or China at a low cost.

File:MQ-9 Reaper during Exercise Northern Strike 2019.png - Wikimedia Commons
MQ-9 Reaper during Exercise Northern Strike 2019 – Wikimedia Commons
The USAF wants to retire the older “legacy” platforms to free up money to support the new programs. This is obviously disappointing news for General Atomics’ unmanned aircraft section. The company has other projects in the works, such as the SkyGuardian variant of the Reaper.


The ever-changing battlefield and homeland security environments motivate our objectives in revolutionizing defense technology for the future force. #RPAS #DAS21
Learn more: New UAS and Tech Will Dominate a New Era in Air Warfare pic.twitter.com/FtO8O1pPTX
— GA-ASI (@GenAtomics_ASI) November 17, 2021




In addition, China’s state-run media, Global Times, reported in 2020 that China can easily take down US MQ-9 Reaper drones. A Chinese military expert said that for China, the MQ-9 is unworthy of concern because it lacks stealth capabilities and operates at a low speed and ceiling, making it an obvious target for ground-to-air missiles.


China can easily shoot down US MQ-9 Reaper drones – a type of aircraft that can only bully armed forces without a proper air defense system – should the US send them and launch attacks on China, experts said. US MQ-9 drones use China as imaginary enemy, ‘easy to shoot down’ - Global Times pic.twitter.com/rhCbmBwUQS
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 29, 2020




Global Times further highlighted that these drones could only be deployed to countries with less developed armed forces that do not have adequate air defense capabilities, noting that several US drones have been shot down in past missions.


In 2019, Iran, for example, shot down a US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, which analysts say, is technically more advanced than the MQ-9. Since 2017, Yemen’s Houthi fighters have shot down multiple MQ-9s.


Why C-130s?


Even as it plans to decrease the total Hercules fleet over the next few years, the US Air Force estimates it can maintain and repair 92 of its oldest C-130 military transport aircraft.


The Air Force confirmed budget estimates to downsize its C-130 fleet from around 300 aircraft to 255 aircraft in the foreseeable future during a Senate Armed Services Airland subcommittee hearing in June 2021.


A 255 C-130 fleet is the "right number" for the Air Force of that particular aircraft, says Lt. Gen. David S. Nahom, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs. Nahom says they're looking for state units who have older C-130s to transition to other missions, such as cyber.
— Oriana Pawlyk (@Oriana0214) June 8, 2021




Lt. Gen. David Nahom, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, stated that 163 of the 255 would be newer J-models that the service already possesses or is ordering from Lockheed Martin and that 92 older H models would receive necessary upgrades to keep them operational.


In June 2021, he first revealed these statistics at a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

File:Lockheed C-130 Canadian Air Force (22333914200).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Lockheed C-130 Canadian Air Force – Wikimedia Commons
Because of its tactical superiority, the C-130 is the airlift workhorse for supply missions all over the world. The C-130 is much more flexible and agile than its larger relative, the C-17 Globemaster III.


However, during a relatively close conflict, C-130s may be vulnerable while transporting supplies or personnel. Rather, the Air Force is considering more innovative solutions, such as a high-speed vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
 
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Picdelamirand-oil

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Demise of Super Hornet May Not Be Greatly Exaggerated After All
(Source: Special to Defense-Aerospace.com; updted Dec. 14, 2021)

The defeat of the Super Hornet in Finland, who opted for the F-35 instead, sinisterly sounds like another nail in what could be the coffin of Boeing fighter's international career. The end of production of the iconic fighter jet is now in sight, although it is still far from the end of service.

The Finnish defeat comes just a few weeks after a stark rejection by two loyal F-18 customers. Switzerland first, who opted for the F-35 in June, over basically the same line-up as in Finland (Gripen excepted). And - more humiliating - Canada second, who excluded Boeing from the short list earlier this month, leaving Saab’s Gripen facing Lockheed Martin’s F-35 in the final run to replace a geriatric fleet of CF-18.

Indeed, nobody honestly believe that the Super Hornet could not meet the operational requirements of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Anyhow, Boeing likely received a ‘pay-back’ for its very aggressive commercial and legal posture, a few years ago, against homegrown aerospace champion Bombardier regarding the CSeries (now Airbus A220 Family).

Even though the F-35 was always a very serious contender to be reckoned with in both competitions, the logical progression from the Hornet to the Rhino, with its logistics, weaponry and training commonalities, as well as related savings, was – in theory - making Boeing’s case more appealing for the three air forces.

And with Helsinki going with the F-35 choice means that – in spite of the EA-18 G Growler Electronic Attack variant being part of the package - this “smooth transition advantage” is no longer attractive enough to make the cut. In just a few months, Boeing has lost more than $30bn of sales (est.), and no less than 188 units to produce (88 in Canada, 36 in Switzerland and 64 in Finland).

At home, given the priorities of the Pentagon in general and the US Navy in particular, the product - apart from its unquestionably appreciated and not yet substitutable EA-18G Growler - no longer benefits from a long-term budgetary commitment and lacks a clear technological roadmap. And regarding its carrier group strike future capability, the US Navy does not hide that it is more inclined to beef up its F-35Cs (or Bs for the USMC), and invest in the next generation of platforms (FA-XX/NGAD + MQ-25) than to buy additional Super Hornets.

The US Navy was a loyal Boeing customer though, having ordered and operated more than 600 aircraft since 1999. The last batch of 78 Super Hornets in Block III configuration was contracted in 2019, and the last aircraft should leave Boeing’s assembly line by 2024. Meanwhile the US Navy is pursuing a Service Life Modification (SLM) effort to keep a homogenous fleet of Block III Rhinos in service through 2033 and until the 2040’s. But, no further significant domestic orders are expected. Therefore, the end of the chain is looming, and despite the technical and financial uncertainties surrounding the F-35C, it is unlikely that Congress will heavily mobilize to keep it warm in the long run. All the more so since substantial orders for F-15s and T-7As will continue to fuel employment in the Boeing’s St. Louis plants.

A first request for a $900 million budget extension in 2022 for 12 new aircraft was made by three representatives from Missouri in April. Although initially rejected by the Senates, it has been included in the revised 2022 National Defense Authorization Act unveiled by the House and Senate Armed Services committees on Dec. 7. But that is in extremis, and only 12 aircraft, meaning an additional 6 to 9 months of production…

Therefore, Boeing is heavily relying on its export capture teams to keep its St Louis’ line hot. But from now on, potential prospects are likely to fall like dominoes.

The most immediate prospect is Germany. Last year, former Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (a.k.a. AKK) had formalized last a possible order of 30 Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to fulfill its NATO nuclear mission, when the Tornado will retire. But the new coalition that took power might have second thoughts and feel less compelled to materialize such order, by fear of being the last user of the type. The new government might instead apply more pressure onto the reluctant US to integrate nuclear weapons into locally-built Eurofighters, as was done in the past with the Tornado.

In theory, the dual-capable F-16 and F-15 could be an alternative. That might even bring back from the dead the highly inflammable political debate on the opportunity to buy a batch of F-35 –to be certified to carry the B61-12 Nuclear bomb by fiscal year 2026 - to perform the so-called “Büchel mission” (named after the city where nuclear-armed German aircraft are based). So, the Super Hornet is still some distance away from a signed contract in Germany…

The second major prospect is India. But there, then again, time will not be on Super Hornet’s side. Given the usual delays, complexities and protractions of local procurement procedures, the F-A/18 E/F's bid for the Indian Air Force (IAF) tender will gradually lose its competitiveness, notably compared with the F-15 (also marketed by Boeing), which will benefit from the support of the US Air Force, the launch customer for the vastly upgraded EX version. In addition, it is highly unlikely that the Dept. of State will authorize the sale of the sensitive Growler as part of the package, as was done in Finland and Germany.

That said, the Indian Navy (IN) will certainly take advantage in showing interest in the Super Hornet, if only to get a better bargaining power. It could indeed obtain better conditions from other possible contenders, such as Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter - TEDBF), Russian Aircraft Corporation (Mig-29) or even Saab with its carrier-borne Gripen concept… Provided that the F/A-18 E/F demonstrates its compatibility with IN's current and future aircraft carriers - which Boeing is actively working on - the Super Hornet could also represent an interesting interim solution, should the IN decides to go down the (probably bumpy) road of the still-notional TEDBF. Let’s add however, that an Indian order of additional Rafale remains the most likely hypothesis at this stage, for a variety of reasons, including those logistics synergies and savings mentioned above, as the Indian Air Force already operates nearly 36 Rafale…

Beyond these two serious prospects, other potential customers – fearing to be the last operators of the type - would also be less inclined to consider the Super Hornet for the replacement of their fleets. Kuwait, another faithful F-18 Hornet customer is about to receive the last of its 28 FA-18 E/F ordered in June 2018. At the same time, Kuwait is just taking delivery of its first Eurofighter Typhoon over a total of 28 (22 single-seat and 6 two-seat) ordered from Italy in 2016 for $8.7 billion.

This double source allows the Kuwaiti Air Force to start a new page in its history and to be less dependent on Boeing for the future renewal of its fleet. In fact, apart from the USA, Kuwait is the only country to have performed the transition from the “Classic” to the “Super”. Admittedly, Australia also operates both types, but had zeroed in on the F-35 to replace its F-18 twenty years ago, and the 24 Super Hornets and 12 growlers bought after that were only meant to replace the F-111 and make for attrition.

With the defection of Canada, Switzerland and Finland, three long-time and loyal users of the Hornet are closing the door on its successor. There is little chance that other users will not follow the same path: Kuwait, Spain and Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur operates a micro-fleet of 8 Hornets (along with 18 Su-30MKM), and had a decade ago a plan - called Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) - for buying up to 36 new fighters from Western manufacturers. Without any MRCA resurrection in sight, one possibility for Boeing would be to entice the Malaysian customer into an early, partial renewal its front-line fighter fleet with an extremely attractive Hornet buy-back offer...

This hypothesis - unlikely at this stage, as the country is concentrating its meager resources on advanced training and light attack aircraft - would simply have the advantage of keeping the line open for a few more months. For its Part, the Spanish is in the costly process of upgrading and rejuvenating its Eurofighter fleet, while investing heavily in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) with Paris and Berlin.

Meawhile, the Armada also wonders how to prolong its carrier borne capability, with the forthcoming retirement of its small Harrier fleet in the early 2030s, with the F-35B as the only plausible candidate. But in both cases, the Super Hornet has no role to play: for both financial and logistics reasons, it is difficult to imagine Madrid adding a new type in its fleet, with no obvious operational advantage…

As for new customers, apart from the two very specific cases of India and Germany, we cannot see which country - even with naval aviation aspirations such as South Korea, Japan or Thailand - would opt for anything other than the F-35B or C. Brazil's purchase of Super Hornets was once considered, but the Gripen definitely shut the door by winning the FX-2 contest in 2013. And rumors about Argentina are far-fetched given the country's budget situation. In the Middle-East, no country other than Kuwait has shown any interest in the Super Hornet in recent years, at least publicly. In Asia, the United States has chosen to present the F-15 for customers not entitled to ask for the F-35, such as Indonesia. Only Bangladesh could possibly be a prospect, in the event of a prior Indian choice, although here again, constrained budgets make this option unlikely. And the Philippines have opted for a single-engine frontline aircraft…

Finally, with the Finnish, Swiss and Canadian F-18 being retired this decade, the market for second-hand classic Hornets may eventually come to life - there is talk of Kuwaiti F-18s being transferred to Tunisia for example - but it does not seem capable of providing a real pool of future Super Hornet customers within an acceptable timeframe.

Even with the latest Congressional investment, the Super Hornet line is due to close in 2024/25, when the last of the 78 aircraft ordered in 2018 and eventually the last batch of 12 included in the NDAA are scheduled to be delivered. Assuming a German order, due to long lead items, production on that program won't start until 2026, Boeing recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Therefore, the company would have to keep its line lukewarm for one to two years... Such a disruption in the production line could make the aircraft simply unaffordable, whereas one of its selling points was precisely its cost predictability and affordability... Although the end of the line was already predicted in the past, at this point, as Mark Twain famously said, the news of its demise would probably not be that “exaggerated”.
 

randomradio

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Nov 30, 2017
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Demise of Super Hornet May Not Be Greatly Exaggerated After All
(Source: Special to Defense-Aerospace.com; updted Dec. 14, 2021)

The defeat of the Super Hornet in Finland, who opted for the F-35 instead, sinisterly sounds like another nail in what could be the coffin of Boeing fighter's international career. The end of production of the iconic fighter jet is now in sight, although it is still far from the end of service.

The Finnish defeat comes just a few weeks after a stark rejection by two loyal F-18 customers. Switzerland first, who opted for the F-35 in June, over basically the same line-up as in Finland (Gripen excepted). And - more humiliating - Canada second, who excluded Boeing from the short list earlier this month, leaving Saab’s Gripen facing Lockheed Martin’s F-35 in the final run to replace a geriatric fleet of CF-18.

Indeed, nobody honestly believe that the Super Hornet could not meet the operational requirements of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Anyhow, Boeing likely received a ‘pay-back’ for its very aggressive commercial and legal posture, a few years ago, against homegrown aerospace champion Bombardier regarding the CSeries (now Airbus A220 Family).

Even though the F-35 was always a very serious contender to be reckoned with in both competitions, the logical progression from the Hornet to the Rhino, with its logistics, weaponry and training commonalities, as well as related savings, was – in theory - making Boeing’s case more appealing for the three air forces.

And with Helsinki going with the F-35 choice means that – in spite of the EA-18 G Growler Electronic Attack variant being part of the package - this “smooth transition advantage” is no longer attractive enough to make the cut. In just a few months, Boeing has lost more than $30bn of sales (est.), and no less than 188 units to produce (88 in Canada, 36 in Switzerland and 64 in Finland).

At home, given the priorities of the Pentagon in general and the US Navy in particular, the product - apart from its unquestionably appreciated and not yet substitutable EA-18G Growler - no longer benefits from a long-term budgetary commitment and lacks a clear technological roadmap. And regarding its carrier group strike future capability, the US Navy does not hide that it is more inclined to beef up its F-35Cs (or Bs for the USMC), and invest in the next generation of platforms (FA-XX/NGAD + MQ-25) than to buy additional Super Hornets.

The US Navy was a loyal Boeing customer though, having ordered and operated more than 600 aircraft since 1999. The last batch of 78 Super Hornets in Block III configuration was contracted in 2019, and the last aircraft should leave Boeing’s assembly line by 2024. Meanwhile the US Navy is pursuing a Service Life Modification (SLM) effort to keep a homogenous fleet of Block III Rhinos in service through 2033 and until the 2040’s. But, no further significant domestic orders are expected. Therefore, the end of the chain is looming, and despite the technical and financial uncertainties surrounding the F-35C, it is unlikely that Congress will heavily mobilize to keep it warm in the long run. All the more so since substantial orders for F-15s and T-7As will continue to fuel employment in the Boeing’s St. Louis plants.

A first request for a $900 million budget extension in 2022 for 12 new aircraft was made by three representatives from Missouri in April. Although initially rejected by the Senates, it has been included in the revised 2022 National Defense Authorization Act unveiled by the House and Senate Armed Services committees on Dec. 7. But that is in extremis, and only 12 aircraft, meaning an additional 6 to 9 months of production…

Therefore, Boeing is heavily relying on its export capture teams to keep its St Louis’ line hot. But from now on, potential prospects are likely to fall like dominoes.

The most immediate prospect is Germany. Last year, former Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (a.k.a. AKK) had formalized last a possible order of 30 Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to fulfill its NATO nuclear mission, when the Tornado will retire. But the new coalition that took power might have second thoughts and feel less compelled to materialize such order, by fear of being the last user of the type. The new government might instead apply more pressure onto the reluctant US to integrate nuclear weapons into locally-built Eurofighters, as was done in the past with the Tornado.

In theory, the dual-capable F-16 and F-15 could be an alternative. That might even bring back from the dead the highly inflammable political debate on the opportunity to buy a batch of F-35 –to be certified to carry the B61-12 Nuclear bomb by fiscal year 2026 - to perform the so-called “Büchel mission” (named after the city where nuclear-armed German aircraft are based). So, the Super Hornet is still some distance away from a signed contract in Germany…

The second major prospect is India. But there, then again, time will not be on Super Hornet’s side. Given the usual delays, complexities and protractions of local procurement procedures, the F-A/18 E/F's bid for the Indian Air Force (IAF) tender will gradually lose its competitiveness, notably compared with the F-15 (also marketed by Boeing), which will benefit from the support of the US Air Force, the launch customer for the vastly upgraded EX version. In addition, it is highly unlikely that the Dept. of State will authorize the sale of the sensitive Growler as part of the package, as was done in Finland and Germany.

That said, the Indian Navy (IN) will certainly take advantage in showing interest in the Super Hornet, if only to get a better bargaining power. It could indeed obtain better conditions from other possible contenders, such as Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter - TEDBF), Russian Aircraft Corporation (Mig-29) or even Saab with its carrier-borne Gripen concept… Provided that the F/A-18 E/F demonstrates its compatibility with IN's current and future aircraft carriers - which Boeing is actively working on - the Super Hornet could also represent an interesting interim solution, should the IN decides to go down the (probably bumpy) road of the still-notional TEDBF. Let’s add however, that an Indian order of additional Rafale remains the most likely hypothesis at this stage, for a variety of reasons, including those logistics synergies and savings mentioned above, as the Indian Air Force already operates nearly 36 Rafale…

Beyond these two serious prospects, other potential customers – fearing to be the last operators of the type - would also be less inclined to consider the Super Hornet for the replacement of their fleets. Kuwait, another faithful F-18 Hornet customer is about to receive the last of its 28 FA-18 E/F ordered in June 2018. At the same time, Kuwait is just taking delivery of its first Eurofighter Typhoon over a total of 28 (22 single-seat and 6 two-seat) ordered from Italy in 2016 for $8.7 billion.

This double source allows the Kuwaiti Air Force to start a new page in its history and to be less dependent on Boeing for the future renewal of its fleet. In fact, apart from the USA, Kuwait is the only country to have performed the transition from the “Classic” to the “Super”. Admittedly, Australia also operates both types, but had zeroed in on the F-35 to replace its F-18 twenty years ago, and the 24 Super Hornets and 12 growlers bought after that were only meant to replace the F-111 and make for attrition.

With the defection of Canada, Switzerland and Finland, three long-time and loyal users of the Hornet are closing the door on its successor. There is little chance that other users will not follow the same path: Kuwait, Spain and Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur operates a micro-fleet of 8 Hornets (along with 18 Su-30MKM), and had a decade ago a plan - called Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) - for buying up to 36 new fighters from Western manufacturers. Without any MRCA resurrection in sight, one possibility for Boeing would be to entice the Malaysian customer into an early, partial renewal its front-line fighter fleet with an extremely attractive Hornet buy-back offer...

This hypothesis - unlikely at this stage, as the country is concentrating its meager resources on advanced training and light attack aircraft - would simply have the advantage of keeping the line open for a few more months. For its Part, the Spanish is in the costly process of upgrading and rejuvenating its Eurofighter fleet, while investing heavily in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) with Paris and Berlin.

Meawhile, the Armada also wonders how to prolong its carrier borne capability, with the forthcoming retirement of its small Harrier fleet in the early 2030s, with the F-35B as the only plausible candidate. But in both cases, the Super Hornet has no role to play: for both financial and logistics reasons, it is difficult to imagine Madrid adding a new type in its fleet, with no obvious operational advantage…

As for new customers, apart from the two very specific cases of India and Germany, we cannot see which country - even with naval aviation aspirations such as South Korea, Japan or Thailand - would opt for anything other than the F-35B or C. Brazil's purchase of Super Hornets was once considered, but the Gripen definitely shut the door by winning the FX-2 contest in 2013. And rumors about Argentina are far-fetched given the country's budget situation. In the Middle-East, no country other than Kuwait has shown any interest in the Super Hornet in recent years, at least publicly. In Asia, the United States has chosen to present the F-15 for customers not entitled to ask for the F-35, such as Indonesia. Only Bangladesh could possibly be a prospect, in the event of a prior Indian choice, although here again, constrained budgets make this option unlikely. And the Philippines have opted for a single-engine frontline aircraft…

Finally, with the Finnish, Swiss and Canadian F-18 being retired this decade, the market for second-hand classic Hornets may eventually come to life - there is talk of Kuwaiti F-18s being transferred to Tunisia for example - but it does not seem capable of providing a real pool of future Super Hornet customers within an acceptable timeframe.

Even with the latest Congressional investment, the Super Hornet line is due to close in 2024/25, when the last of the 78 aircraft ordered in 2018 and eventually the last batch of 12 included in the NDAA are scheduled to be delivered. Assuming a German order, due to long lead items, production on that program won't start until 2026, Boeing recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Therefore, the company would have to keep its line lukewarm for one to two years... Such a disruption in the production line could make the aircraft simply unaffordable, whereas one of its selling points was precisely its cost predictability and affordability... Although the end of the line was already predicted in the past, at this point, as Mark Twain famously said, the news of its demise would probably not be that “exaggerated”.

It's actually pretty interesting. If France allows Germany to go for F-35s, then the SH will cease production and will no longer be available for either Indian contests. Otoh, forcing Germany to go for SHs will ensure it as a long term competitor, including in India.
 

Picdelamirand-oil

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It's actually pretty interesting. If France allows Germany to go for F-35s, then the SH will cease production and will no longer be available for either Indian contests. Otoh, forcing Germany to go for SHs will ensure it as a long term competitor, including in India.
The new German government will not decide on the SH for a long enough time for the assembly line to close. It should not be forgotten that the Greens are now part of the German government. France doesn't need to do anything for that, especially not to authorize the purchase of the F-35.
 
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_Anonymous_

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The new German government will not decide on the SH for a long enough time for the assembly line to close. It should not be forgotten that the Greens are now part of the German government. France doesn't need to do anything for that, especially not to authorize the purchase of the F-35.
Last time the Greens shared power they not only ensured the arrival of a Merkel but also her winning at least 4 terms which she duly achieved. Wonder who's the new Merkel this time around .
 

AbRaj

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Boeing has unveiled a new model of a proposed reusable hypersonic aircraft at a conference this week. The design is an evolution of concepts that were first displayed publicly four years ago and could potentially have military and commercial applications, including as a space launch mothership, according to the company.
Aviation Week Senior Editor Guy Norris spotted the model at the annual AIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition in San Diego, California, which opened on Monday and will wrap up on Friday, and posted pictures of it on Twitter. There is little hard information about it so far, but The War Zone has already reached out to Boeing for details.

On Twitter, Aviation Week's Norris said that the design was an evolution of a concept that Boeing had unveiled at the 2018 SciTech Forum. It is "a refined, more realistic Mach 5 reusable air-breathing design targeting military and space launch roles," he explained. Mach 5 is the accepted threshold for hypersonic speed.

BOEING'S HYPERSONIC VALKYRIE WILL LIKELY STRUGGLE TO CATCH UP WITH LOCKHEED'S SR-72 By Tyler RogowayPosted in THE WAR ZONE
IS THIS CONCEPT ART OF A MYSTERIOUS SPACE LAUNCH MOTHERSHIP A MISSING LINK IN AREA 51'S PAST?By Tyler Rogoway and Joseph TrevithickPosted in THE WAR ZONE
HYPERSONIC STRIKE AIRCRAFT CAPABILITY IS PART OF THE AIR FORCE'S SHADOWY PROJECT MAYHEMBy Joseph TrevithickPosted in THE WAR ZONE
AIR FORCE'S MAYHEM PROJECT TIED TO HYPERSONIC ENGINES FOR PLANES SUCH AS THE SR-72By Joseph TrevithickPosted in THE WAR ZONE
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH LOCKHEED'S GABBING ABOUT THE SECRETIVE HYPERSONIC SR-72?By Tyler RogowayPosted in THE WAR ZONE
The model Boeing has at its booth at the 2021 SciTech Forum has some very general similarities in its overall planform with the one it displayed in 2018, the latter of which is seen in the video below, but the new design is significantly different in many respects. It has a flatter central fuselage, as well as shorter wings and twin tails. The positioning of two engines underneath the fuselage has been changed, with them now being contained inside two distinct fairings rather than side-by-side.
Aviation Week's Defense Editor Steve Trimble also noted that there is a conspicuous gap between the mold line of the forward fuselage and where the wing root starts on either side, despite them looking like they might be supposed to be aligned. It is unclear if this is simply a product of how the model was made or if it actually reflects a true aspect of the design.
It's not clear what kind of engines Boeing might expect to power this aircraft, but the company has explored various advanced high-speed jet engines in the past, including scramjets and so-called "combined cycle" concepts. A turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine configuration pairs traditional jet turbines with ramjets or scramjets. Ramjets and scramjets simply do not work optimally, or even at all, at lower speeds, so the other turbines would be used for flight in those speed regimes. Viable TBCC engine arrangements are highly complex and are considered by some as a holy grail technology when it comes to designing viable reusable hypersonic aircraft that can take off and land using existing runway infrastructure.

We don't know what exactly prompted Boeing to debut its updated hypersonic aircraft concept now. The company's unveiling of its hypersonic concept at the AIAA event in 2018, which was dubbed Valkyrie, was seen as a response from the company to Lockheed Martin's unusually public pitching at the time of its own proposed advanced hypersonic military aircraft called the SR-72. The SR-72 was billed as a potential spiritual successor to Lockheed's SR-71 Blackbirdsupersonic spy plane that could also carry out strike missions.
The appearance of Boeing's hypersonic aircraft model at the AIAA conference interestingly follows the Air Force's release of more information about Project Mayhem. Details about this effort are still limited, but it is becoming clear that the core focus is on the development of hypersonic aircraft capable of performing strike and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as you can read more about here.

Of course, Boeing has a long history of interest in such designs for various applications, including as high-speed airliners and as platforms to conduct different kinds of military missions. This is not the first time Boeing has explored the idea of a reusable hypersonic platform for launching payloads into space, as an alternative to traditional space launch rockets, either.

BOEING
An artist's conception of a notional hypersonic airliner that Boeing first put out in 2018.
In 2017, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) hired Boeing to develop a reusable hypersonic spaceplane, designated the XS-1, However, that particular program was canceled in 2020. It is all but certain that work on similar concepts is being done in the classified realm, as well. Existing and emerging threats to U.S. government assets in space are continuing to drive a surge in interest in novel ways to rapidly get payloads into orbit to help replace damaged or destroyed satellites in a crisis.


In March 2021, the Australian branch of Boeing's Research & Technology division announced that it had entered into a partnership with Hypersonix Launch Systems, also based in that country, to work on the development of what was described as a "sustainable hypersonic vehicle." This aircraft would use Hypersonix's SPARTAN scramjet engines and be capable of serving as a space launch mothership.
Various other firms, such as aerospace startup Hermeus, have been working on their own hypersonic aircraft concepts in recent years, again with eyes toward both military and commercial aviation sales.
We will certainly be interested to learn more about Boeing's latest, refined hypersonic aircraft concept and what its specific plans for the design might be.

Update 1/6/2022:
Boeing has provided the following brief statement to The War Zone regarding this new hypersonic aircraft concept:
Boeing has been developing a hypersonic reusable aircraft design concept that could support various Department of Defense military applications. This concept model was shown at the AIAA SciTech Forum in San Diego.
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