On the 13th July, the operational version of the M-346 Fighter Attack, equipped with an optimised variant of Leonardo’s Grifo radar, successfully completed its maiden flight. The M-346FA is the new light attack variant from the Company’s M-346 Light Fighter Family of Aircraft (LFFA). It offers multirole capabilities with a single platform, cost-effectively delivering both training and combat roles.
Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Managing Director of Leonardo Aircraft, said: «I am extremely pleased with the work we have done to achieve this important milestone and the pace at which we have reached it. With this latest achievement, the most advanced training aircraft available on the market will soon be joined by the more versatile M-346 Fighter Attack. The M-346FA offers all of the advanced training capabilities of the core M-346 while also integrating latest generation sensors and equipment, allowing it to operate as an effective light attack aircraft. We will now continue development as we prepare to deliver the first aircraft to its international launch customer in 2021».
The aircraft’s primary sensor is Leonardo’s mechanically-scanning, multi-mode Grifo-M-346 radar, a specially-optimised variant developed by Leonardo for the M-346FA. The Grifo-M-346 is a reliable, high performance solution delivering great accuracy. The M-346FA is also protected by a complete Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS), while its high-end, network-centric communications suite which incorporates a Secure Communications system and Tactical Data Link ensures interoperability. The platform can also employ LINK-16 in order to interoperate with NATO forces.
The M-346FA can employ an extensive range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry (including IR guided, radar and/or laser/GPS) and can be fitted with a gun pod, reconnaissance sensors and target designation pods and electronic warfare, all integrated with a Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) system for both pilots.
In the training domain, the M-346FA benefits from all the advanced features of the M-346 trainer, including the ability to integrate into live-virtual-constructive (LVC) environments. This involves linking the real training aircraft in the sky with simulators on the ground and incorporating virtual friendly and opposing forces, allowing trainee pilots to challenge a wide range of tactical scenarios.
The trainer version of the M-346 is currently in service with the air forces of Italy, Singapore, Israel and Poland.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a nearly $1.2 billion contract to build the first lot of eight F-15EX Strike Eagle advanced fighter jets to help the service meet its capacity requirements and add capability to its fighter fleet. The award also covers support and one-time, upfront engineering costs. Already under construction at the Boeing F-15 production facility in St. Louis, the first two jets deliver next year.
The U.S. Air Force is also announcing the overall Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract with a ceiling value of nearly $23 billion for F-15EX Strike Eagle.
«The F-15EX Strike Eagle is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone», said Lori Schneider, Boeing F-15EX Strike Eagle program manager. «Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX Strike Eagle an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force».
The F-15EX Strike Eagle carries more weapons than any other fighter in its class, and can launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet/6.7 meters long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds/3,175 kg.
To further support the digital airframe and advance rapid technology insertion, the F-15 program serves as a pathfinder for the Department of Defense’s DevSecOps initiative, aimed at developing secure, flexible and agile software. Additionally, open mission systems architecture ensures its viability for decades.
«F-15EX Strike Eagle brings together benefits of digital engineering, open mission systems and agile software development to keep it affordable and upgradable for decades to come», said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager. «This means we can rapidly test and field new capabilities on F-15EX Strike Eagle keeping our warfighters ahead of threats».
Pilots and mechanics currently operating the F-15 anticipate transitioning to the F-15EX Strike Eagle in a matter of days as opposed to years. Future plans call for as many as 144 aircraft.
«We listened to our customer every step of the way when developing this exciting jet», said Kumar. «What we will soon deliver is a modern and robust aircraft that supports our nation’s defense by incorporating the latest systems, sensors and weapons».
Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office delivered the 500th F-35. In February, the F-35 Lightning II enterprise surpassed 250,000 flight hours.
The 500th production aircraft is a U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, to be delivered to the Burlington Air National Guard Base in Vermont. The 500 hundred F-35s include 354 F-35A Lightning II Conventional TakeOff and Landing (CTOL) variants, 108 F-35B Lightning II Short TakeOff/Vertical Landing (STOVL) variants and 38 F-35C Lightning II Carrier (CV) variants for the U.S. and international customers. The 250,000 flight hours include all F-35s in the fleet comprised of developmental test jets, training, operational, U.S. and international aircraft.
«These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military and industry teams», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin, vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. «The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented 5th Generation combat capability to the warfighter at the cost of a 4th Generation legacy aircraft».
The F-35 Lightning II operates from 23 bases worldwide. More than 985 pilots and over 8,890 maintainers are trained. Nine nations use the F-35 Lightning II from their home soil, eight services have declared Initial Operating Capability and four services have employed F-35s Lightning II in combat operations.
The governments of France and Germany have awarded Dassault Aviation, Airbus, together with their partners MTU Aero Engines, Safran, MBDA and Thales, the initial framework contract (Phase 1A), which launches the demonstrator phase for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
This framework contract covers a first period of 18 months and initiates work on developing the demonstrators and maturing cutting-edge technologies, with the ambition to begin flight tests as soon as 2026.
Since early 2019, the industrial partners have been working on the future architecture as part of the programme’s so called Joint Concept Study. Now, the FCAS programme enters into another decisive phase with the launch of the demonstrator phase.
This phase will, in a first step, focus on the main technological challenges per domains:
Next Generation Fighter (NGF), with Dassault Aviation as prime contractor and Airbus as main partner, to be the core element of Future Combat Air System;
Unmanned systems Remote Carrier (RC) with Airbus as prime contractor and MBDA as main partner;
Combat Cloud (CC) with Airbus as prime contractor and Thales as main partner;
Engine with Safran and MTU as main partner.
A Simulation Environment will be jointly developed between the involved companies to ensure the consistency between demonstrators.
The launch of the Demonstrator Phase underlines the political confidence and determination of the FCAS partner nations and the associated industry to move forward and cooperate in a fair and balanced manner. The increased momentum enables industry to deploy the necessary resources and best capabilities to develop this decisive European defence project. FCAS will be the cornerstone project guaranteeing Europe’s future operational, industrial and technological sovereignty.
The next important step in the FCAS programme will be the onboarding of Spain and the involvement of additional suppliers from Phase 1B onwards, which will succeed Phase 1A after its successful conclusion.
On January 31, 2020, Poland signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance to purchase 32 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) Aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin, and 33 Pratt & Whitney F-135 Engines.
The supersonic F-35A Lightning II represents a quantum leap in air dominance capability with enhanced lethality and survivability in hostile, anti-access airspace environments.
The United States’ offer to Poland for 32 F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft is valued at $4.6 billion.
The United States is providing a Total Package Approach that not only includes delivery of the 32 aircraft, but also provides aircraft, pilot and maintenance support training; advanced flight simulators, and ongoing aircraft maintenance; and a robust logistics support system.
3rd Marine Air Wing (MAW) made history when it welcomed the Marine Corps’ first F-35C Lightning II to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California, January 21, 2020.
The Marines and sailors of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, the «Black Knights», are extremely proud of their legacy and tradition of making aviation history.
«It should be no surprise that VMFA-314 is once again leading the way into the next generation of fighter attack aircraft», said Lieutenant Colonel Cedar Hinton, commanding officer of VMFA-314.
The squadron’s history began with its commissioning in 1943 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, as the «Bob’s Cats». In 1952, they were the first squadron in 3rd MAW to transition to jet aircraft and fly the F-9F Panther. In 1957, they officially became the «Black Knights» with the arrival of the F-4D Skyray. In October 1961, the «Black Knights» were the first Marine Corps squadron to transition to the F-4B Phantom and in 1982, the first in the Department of the Navy to fly the F/A-18 Hornet.
The «Black Knights» have proven themselves time and again from campaigns in the South Pacific to the Vietnam War and from Operation El Dorado Canyon to the Global War on Terror. VMFA-314’s storied history should give the American people confidence that the «Black Knights» will continue to fix, fly, and fight the next generation of aircraft.
The F-35C Lightning II is one of three variants fielded by the Department of Defense. It is a result of decades of advancements that provide aviation capabilities previously thought unattainable.
The «C» variant was designed to operate from an aircraft carrier and is the first 5th generation long-range stealth strike fighter jet designed for that mission. The F-35C Lightning II’s control surfaces and landing gear are better equipped for carrier operation than the other variants. The F-35C Lightning II is equipped with larger internal fuel storage, which when combined with its ability to refuel in-flight, extends its range and allows for enhanced flight time when compared to other aircraft.
The F-35 Lightning II variants include the F-35A Lightning II, which utilizes conventional takeoff and landing and is designed to operate from traditional land-based runways. The F-35B Lightning II is a short takeoff and vertical landing variant and specifically designed to operate from austere airfields and amphibious ships. 3rd MAW is proud that it now employs the first F-35C Lightning II squadron along with two F-35B Lightning II squadrons with more planned in the near future.
«The F-35C Lightning II represents the leading edge of advanced fighter attack aircraft today», said Hinton. «It will give the ‘Black Knights’ a technological advantage across the entire spectrum of tactical aviation. This includes everything from advanced sensor and weapon integration to increased range and endurance. We will be more survivable and more lethal than we have ever been».
The «Black Knights» are now one of three F-35 Lightning II squadrons in 3rd MAW, with more coming soon, which gives credence to 3rd MAW’s reputation as the Marine Corps’ premier and most lethal aviation wing.
The «Black Knights’» transition to the F-35C Lightning II began in June 2019 and was marked by the traditional «sun-down» ceremony where VMFA-314 flew the Hornet for the last time. After which, they began training on the F-35C Lightning II.
The next 3rd MAW squadron set to transition from the F/A-18 Hornet is VMFA-225, which will celebrate their last F/A-18 Hornet flight on January 23, 2020.
VMFA-314 spent the latter portion of 2019 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California preparing for their operations certifications and completing squadron-wide F-35C Lightning II qualifications. This process ensured the squadron was equipped with qualified personnel to implement the maintenance and safety programs necessary for an operational F-35 Lightning II squadron.
«Transitioning a squadron into a new aircraft with many new Marines comes with a lot of challenges», said Hinton. «However, it also provides a unique opportunity to start fresh and build a strong squadron culture from the ground up. We are all extremely excited to ensure the ‘Black Knights’ continue our legacy of leading from the front as we deliver this new capability to 3rd MAW».
3rd MAW will continue to pave the way for the future of Marine Corps aviation and «Fix, Fly, and Fight» as the Marine Corps’ largest aircraft wing.
F-35С Lightning II specifications
51.5 feet/15.7 m
14.7 feet/4.48 m
43 feet/13.1 m
668 feet2/62.1 m2
Horizontal tail span
26.3 feet/8.02 m
34,800 lbs/15,785 kg
Internal fuel capacity
19,750 lbs/8,960 kg
18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load
Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound (907 kg) GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
For the first time, Boeing and the U.S. Navy flew an F/A-18 Super Hornet equipped with an Infrared Search & Track (IRST) Block II pod in late 2019. IRST Block II is a critical component of the Block III Super Hornet. The Block III conversion will include enhanced network capability, longer range with conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, signature improvements and an enhanced communication system. The updates are expected to keep the F/A-18 Super Hornet in active service for decades to come.
IRST Block II is a passive, long-range sensor incorporating infrared and other sensor technologies for highly accurate targeting.
«The IRST Block II gives the F/A-18 Super Hornet improved optics and processing power, significantly improving pilot situational awareness of the entire battle space», said Jennifer Tebo, Boeing Director of F/A-18 Super Hornet Development.
Currently in the risk reduction phase of development, IRST Block II flights on the Super Hornet allow Boeing and the U.S. Navy to collect valuable data on the system before deployment to the fleet. The IRST Block II variant will be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2021, reaching Initial Operational Capability (IOC) shortly thereafter.
«The IRST Block II sensor gives U.S. Navy fighters extended range and increasing survivability. This technology will help the U.S. Navy maintain its advantage over potential adversaries for many years», said Kenen Nelson, Lockheed Martin Director of Fixed Wing Programs, supplier of the IRST Block II sensor.
The developmental Light Combat Aircraft (Navy) MK1 achieved an important milestone on 11 January 2020 with the successful Arrested Landing on board the naval aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. The aircraft was piloted by Commodore JA Maolankar who also undertook the maiden Ski Jump Take-Off from the carrier on 12 January 2020.
A Technology Demonstrator, LCA (Navy) has earlier been successfully tested during extensive trials at the Shore Base Test Facility at the Naval Air Station (NAS) at Goa.
With the completion of this feat, the indigenously developed niche technologies specific to deck based fighter operations have been proven which will now pave the way to develop and manufacture the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter for the Indian Navy, which is expected to proudly fly from the aircraft carriers by the year 2026.
This landmark event demonstrates the professional commitment and synergy between various agencies including Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Indian Navy in harnessing the potential of our scientists, engineers and naval flight testing community towards meeting the expectations of the nation.
The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Singapore of up to twelve (12) F-35B Lightning II Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.750 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on January 9, 2020.
The Government of Singapore has requested to buy up to twelve (12) F-35B Lightning II Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft (four (4) F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft with the option to purchase an additional eight (8) F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft); and up to thirteen (13) Pratt and Whitney F135 Engines (includes 1 initial spare). Also included are Electronic Warfare Systems; Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence/Communication, Navigation and Identification (C4I/CNI) system; Autonomic Logistics Global Support System (ALGS); Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS); F-35 Training System; Weapons Employment Capability and other Subsystems, Features and Capabilities; F-35 unique infrared flares; reprogramming center access and F-35 Performance Based Logistics; software development/integration; aircraft transport from Ft. Worth, TX to the CONUS initial training base and tanker support (if necessary); spare and repair parts; support equipment, tools and test equipment; technical data and publications; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics support. The total estimated cost is $2.750 billion.
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. Singapore is a strategic friend and Major Security Cooperation Partner and an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia Pacific region.
This proposed sale of F-35s will augment Singapore’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability, adding to an effective deterrence to defend its borders and contribute to coalition operations with other allied and partner forces. Singapore will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this aircraft and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Fort Worth, Texas, and Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Connecticut. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Singapore.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
51.2 feet/15.6 m
14.3 feet/4.36 m
35 feet/10.7 m
460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span
21.8 feet/6.65 m
32,300 lbs/14,651 kg
Internal fuel capacity
13,500 lbs/6,125 kg
15,000 lbs/6,800 kg
60,000 lbs class/27,215 kg
Standard internal weapons load
Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Lockheed Martin delivered the 134th F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the year on December 30, 2019, exceeding the joint government and industry 2019 delivery goal of 131 aircraft.
One hundred and thirty-four deliveries represent a 47% increase from 2018 and nearly a 200 percent production increase from 2016. Next year, Lockheed Martin plans to deliver 141 F-35s Lightning II and is prepared to increase production volume year-over-year to hit peak production in 2023.
«This achievement is a testament to the readiness of the full F-35 enterprise to ramp to full-rate production and we continue to focus on improving on-time deliveries across the entire weapons system», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. «We have met our annual delivery targets three years in a row and continue to increase production rates, improve efficiencies and reduce costs. The F-35 is the most capable fighter jet in the world, and we’re now delivering the 5th Generation weapon system at a cost equal to or lower than a less capable 4th Generation legacy aircraft».
The 134th aircraft is a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) model for the United States Marine Corps. In 2019, deliveries included 81 F-35s Lightning II for the United States, 30 for international partner nations and 23 for Foreign Military Sales customers.
Unit and Sustainment Costs Decrease, Readiness Improving
Using lessons learned, process efficiencies, production automation, facility and tooling upgrades, supply chain initiatives and more – the F-35 Lightning II enterprise continues to significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs.
The price of an F-35A Lightning II is now $77.9 million, meeting the $80 million goal a year earlier than planned.
The F-35’s Lightning II mission readiness and sustainment costs continue to improve with the global fleet averaging greater than 65% mission capable rates, and operational squadrons consistently performing near 75%.
Lockheed Martin’s sustainment cost per aircraft per year has also decreased four consecutive years, and more than 35% since 2015.
Program Maturity and Economic Impact
With more than 490 aircraft operating from 21 bases around the globe, the F-35 Lightning II plays a critical role in today’s global security environment.
Today, 975 pilots and 8,585 maintainers are trained, and the F-35 Lightning II fleet has surpassed more than 240,000 cumulative flight hours. Eight nations have F-35s Lightning II operating from a base on their home soil, eight services have declared Initial Operating Capability and four services have employed F-35s Lightning II in combat operations.
In addition to strengthening global security and partnerships, the F-35 Lightning II provides economic stability to the U.S. and international partners by creating jobs, commerce and security, and contributing to the global trade balance. Thousands of men and women in the U.S. and around the world build the F-35 Lightning II. With more than 1,400 suppliers in 47 states and Puerto Rico, the F-35 Lightning II Program supports more than 220,000 jobs.