Category Archives: Fighters

Zero-G HMDS+

Collins Elbit Vision Systems (CEVS) – a joint venture between Collins Aerospace, an RTX business, and Elbit Systems of America – has been awarded a contract by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division for development, engineering, logistics and test support of the Improved Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System used in Block III F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G aircraft.

Zero-G Helmet Mounted Display System+ (HMDS+)

With this award, CEVS is formally introducing the Zero-G Helmet Mounted Display System+ (HMDS+). The Zero-G HMDS+ will provide an augmented view of the battle space inside the pilot’s helmet to allow for faster decision making, increasing survivability and effectiveness.

«The team followed a new development process that incorporated early and continuous pilot input to field the best solution. The result is an innovative and adaptable HMDS that will follow a long, successful line of fielded HMDS from CEVS», said CEVS Co-General Manager Jeff Hoberg.

In addition to providing improved capability, the balanced and ultra-lightweight design of the Zero-G HMDS+ will significantly decrease the physiological strain pilots experience.

For the last 30 years, CEVS has been at the forefront of developing and delivering solutions that keep pilots safe and battle ready.

F-16 Block 70

The first F-16 Block 70 aircraft for the Slovak Republic was unveiled at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina, during a visit from the country’s Minister of Defence, Martin Sklenár.

F-16 Block 70
This F-16 Block 70 jet is the first of 14 to be delivered to the Slovak Republic

The Slovak Republic will be the first European country to receive this newest and most capable version of the Fighting Falcon. The F-16 Block 70 aircraft will deliver decades of 21st Century Security capabilities in support of the Slovak Republic’s national security.

«These F-16s will enable the Slovak Air Force to stay ahead of threats in the region, and be part of the allied mission in Europe, NATO and around the world», said OJ Sanchez, vice president, Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin. «This jet represents the strong partnership between Lockheed Martin, the United States, the Slovak Republic and allies».

This F-16 Block 70 jet is the first of 14 to be delivered to the Slovak Republic.

First flight test of AIM-120C-8

The U.S. Air Force and Raytheon, an RTX business, successfully completed the first flight test of the AIM-120C-8 – the latest international variant of AMRAAM developed under the Form, Fit, Function (F3R) refresh. The AIM-120C-8 was fired from an F-15C Eagle and downed the aerial target, meeting all primary objectives for the flight test.

US Air Force, RTX complete first flight test of AIM-120C-8

«AMRAAM is a combat-proven missile trusted by more than 40 international partners for both air-to-air and surface-to-air missions», said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power at Raytheon, an RTX business. «With the advancements from F3R, which updates both the missile’s hardware and allows for future Agile software upgrades, we are maximizing the capabilities of this munition for allies around the world».

Under the F3R program, engineers used model-based systems engineering initiatives and other digital technologies to upgrade multiple circuit cards and advanced processors in the guidance section of the missile and to re-host legacy software in the AIM-120D-3 and AIM-120C-8 AMRAAMs.

This AIM-120C-8 flight test follows the completion of flight testing of the AIM-120D-3. Flight testing on the AIM-120D-3 was completed in just 11 months after the initial flight test and concluded with showcasing the success of the missile in a highly contested environment.

Recently, the U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon a $1.15 billion AMRAAM contract to produce AIM-120D-3 and AIM-120C-8 missiles for 19 countries.

Global Combat Air

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a contract extension worth £656 million to BAE Systems to progress the concepting and technology of the next generation combat aircraft, known as Tempest in the UK.

New multi-million pound investment to boost technologies for the UK’s future combat aircraft

The new funding will build on the ground-breaking science, research and engineering already completed under the first phase of the contract delivered by UK Tempest partners BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce.

The UK Tempest partners, working in close collaboration with the MoD, will now progress the maturity of more than 60 cutting-edge technology demonstrations, digital concepts and new technologies. These are critical to the UK’s sovereign defence capability and will help shape the final requirements – together with the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) partners in Japan and Italy – for the combat air platform, due to enter service with the Royal Air Force by 2035.

The aircraft is designed to be an innovative stealth fighter with supersonic capability and equipped with cutting-edge technologies, including state-of-the-art sensing and protection capabilities. This will make the aircraft one of the world’s most advanced, interoperable, adaptable and connected fighter jets in service, delivering battle-winning next generation weapons to protect the UK and its allies.

«The next tranche of funding for future combat air will help fuse the combined technologies and expertise we have with our international partners – both in Europe and the Pacific – to deliver this world-leading fighter jet by 2035, protecting our skies for decades to come», said Ben Wallace, UK Secretary of State for Defence.

«Today, as planned, the UK MOD is releasing the next tranche of funding for future combat air. This shows that the UK is committed to working with international partners to deliver a next-generation fighter jet for 2035. We are facing a growing threat from our adversaries, who are investing in combat air and air defences of their own. By investing in GCAP, we will stay ahead of these intensifying and proliferating threats, and provide a highly credible deterrent capability for decades to come», said Richard Berthon, MOD Director Future Combat Air.

«This contract reflects the continued commitment by the UK Government and ensures we continue to mature this significant programme and the vital technology pipeline that will drive innovation into – and beyond – the combat air sector for decades to come. This important work is at the core of the newly created Global Combat Air Programme; a major international partnership and ambitious endeavour between the UK, Japan and Italy with the shared goal to deliver the next generation of combat air fighter jets», said Herman Claesen, Managing Director, Future Combat Air Systems – BAE Systems Air Sector.

GCAP builds on the substantial progress already made in the UK by BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the UK MoD who have been working in partnership since 2018 to research, evaluate and develop a host of next generation future combat air systems capabilities.

The programme will span many decades, creating thousands of jobs and economic value to the UK, Italy and Japan while sustaining critical sovereign skills for the three nations. The programme is inspiring current and future generations to play their part in this vital international endeavour. There are already more than 2,800 people working at the UK partners and wider industry, with almost 600 organisations on contract, including SMEs and academic institutions.

Across UK industry, work on this programme is driving investment in new digital technologies, tools and techniques, including model-based systems engineering with open architectures, digital twins and virtual environments. This will ensure the next generation combat aircraft will be delivered more rapidly and more cost-effectively than previous combat air programmes.

European Common Radar System

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded BAE Systems a £870 million contract to deliver a new radar to enhance the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Typhoon fighter jet fleet and strengthen the aircraft’s control of the airspace whilst providing cutting-edge electronic warfare capabilities.

Multi-million pound contract to equip Royal Air Force Typhoons with latest advanced radar capabilities

The contract, awarded by the Ministry of Defence to BAE Systems, will see further development of technology and integration work on the European Common Radar System (ECRS) Mk2 radar by BAE Systems and Leonardo UK. The work is expected to lead to initial flight testing in 2024.

BAE Systems leads the overall design, development, manufacture and upgrade of the Typhoon aircraft for the UK and Leonardo is the lead for the aircraft’s main sensing and survivability systems including its radar and defensive aids sub-system.

The contract is part of the UK Government announcement made in July 2022, to invest £2.35 billion in the continued technology advancements in Typhoon capabilities, as recognition of its long-term role supporting national security and defence priorities.

«Typhoon is a fantastic aircraft which continues to provide crucial support to defence and security operations around the world, including NATO air policing in Eastern Europe. The continued evolution of Typhoon as a world-class combat air platform ensures the RAF maintains its advantage and protects the vibrant eco-system that supports our sovereign combat air capability in the UK, through sustaining and evolving the technical skills central to the UK’s future combat air strategy», said Andrea Thompson, Managing Director – Europe & International at BAE Systems’ Air Sector.

«The ECRS Mk2 Radar programme will deliver world leading capabilities developed by our skilled engineers in both Edinburgh and Luton. We are extremely proud to be contributing in such a way to the safety and security of the United Kingdom as well as ensuring that the UK is equipped to play a central role in next generation combat air programmes. ECRS Mk2 will not only provide critical capability to Typhoon but will also develop and sustain critical skills relevant to the Global Combat Air Programme», said Mark Hamilton, Managing Director Electronics UK, Leonardo.

Typhoon is a highly capable and extremely agile multi-role combat aircraft. It is capable of being deployed for the full spectrum of air operations, including air policing, peace support and high-intensity conflict. The RAF Typhoons are deployed alongside F-35B Lightning II to provide frontline capability for the UK.

The Typhoon programme supports more than 20,000 jobs across all regions of the UK every year, contributing £1.4 billion to the economy annually. The ECRS Mk2 radar programme sustains more than 600 highly-skilled jobs across the country, including more than 300 at Leonardo’s site in Edinburgh, more than 100 electronic warfare specialists at the company’s site in Luton, and 120 advanced engineers at BAE Systems’ site in Lancashire.

AMRAAM missiles

Raytheon Technologies was awarded a $1.15 billion contract for AIM-120 D-3 and C-8 AMRAAM missiles. This is the largest AMRAAM missile contract to date and the fifth production lot of the highly advanced missiles developed under the Form, Fit, Function Refresh, also known as F3R, which updates both the missile’s hardware and allows for Agile software upgrades.

An AIM-120 D-3 sits at Raytheon’s Tucson, Arizona plant. The AIM-120 D-3 is the latest variant of the combat-proven AMRAAM, developed under the Form, Fit, Function refresh, known as F3R

«We recognize AMRAAM is the most advanced, combat-proven missile, and we owe it to the warfighters to ensure they have the technology they need when they need it», said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power for Raytheon. «Be it air-to-air or surface-to-air, AMRAAM continues its proud legacy with greater power and precision than ever before with this contract».

In addition to providing missiles to both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, the contract also supplies AMRAAM all-up-rounds and/or spares to 18 countries, including Ukraine, extending the production line for both the U.S. and Allied partners.

Under the F3R program, engineers used model-based systems engineering initiatives and other digital technologies to upgrade multiple circuit cards and other hardware in the guidance section of the missile and to re-host legacy software in the AIM-120 D-3 and AIM-120 C-8 AMRAAMs.

571 Sidewinder

Raytheon Technologies was awarded a $264 million modification to a production Lot 23 contract originally awarded in December 2022. Under the modification, Raytheon, an RTX business, will produce and deliver 571 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and associated parts for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and foreign military sales customers.

AIM-9X Sidewinder
Raytheon Technologies awarded $264 million U.S. Navy modification contract to produce AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles

«AIM-9X Sidewinder is the world’s most advanced, combat-proven infrared missile, providing advanced capabilities to the U.S. and our international allies», said Kim Ernzen, president of Naval Power at Raytheon. «The weapon’s versatility and inherent growth potential makes it a triple-threat missile offering an unmatched level of lethality and survivability to counter threats».

Included in the modification, Raytheon will also provide captive air training systems, containers, spare assets, and related kits and support equipment. The majority of work will be performed within the continental U.S. and is expected to be completed in August 2026.

The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is a triple-threat missile that can be used for air-to-air engagements, surface-attack, and surface-launch missions without modifications. A U.S. Navy-led joint program with the U.S. Air Force, the AIM-9X Sidewinder also has 31 Foreign Military Sales partners. The advanced infrared-tracking, short-range missile is combat proven in several theaters around the world.

Software applications

An F-35A Lightning II from the 461st Flight Test Squadron recently took flight with a complement of software applications developed by government and industry providers previously tested on the F-22A Raptor – demonstrating for the first time the ability to use the same tactical software applications on both stealth fighters.

F-35A Lightning II
Two F-35s from the 461st Flight Test Squadron fly in the skies above Edwards Air Force Base, California. The squadron recently took flight with a complement of software applications developed by government and industry providers previously tested on the F-22A Raptor – demonstrating for the first time the ability to use the same tactical software applications on both stealth fighters (U.S. Air Force photo by Kyle Larson)

That success was immediately followed by another milestone when those applications were updated by software developers at Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah and flown at Edwards AFB less than 24 hours later.

These F-35A Lightning II flights were the latest successes of an innovation project developed by a team of Edwards AFB’s test pilots, software developers from the 309th Software Engineering Group and the Air Combat Command Federal Laboratory. This project has now accomplished three key advancements that team members call game-changers for the future of the stealth-fighter fleet, and potentially all Defense Department aircraft.

These innovations are the ability to use the same software across different military aircraft; the ability to source that software from a diverse set of suppliers including software industry leaders and government labs; and the ability to update that software in less than a day, 30-60 times faster than previously possible. Together these improvements are poised to deliver cutting-edge technology to the stealth fighter fleet at a fraction of the current time and cost, team members said.

Historically, military aircraft have relied solely on the aircraft manufacturer to perform software upgrades or modifications, with limited ability to integrate software from external vendors. Additionally, because of the integrated nature of stealth aircraft software, development and implementation of software changes have previously required a lengthy process, limiting front-line aircraft to annual software updates regardless of operational developments and requirements.

In short, each aircraft required a unique development and testing process, driving up costs and delaying implementation.

To change this dynamic, the team partnered to develop and implement a government-owned and -controlled «app store» for these fighters. This was accomplished by combining government-owned software architecture with advanced processing onboard these aircraft and setting up a government software space for new tactical software. The team is now working to populate this space with the advanced capabilities these fighters need to maintain their dominance in the skies.

«The ability to use common software across the F-35 and F-22 is going to dramatically change how we bring capabilities to the front line», said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Raven LeClair, project co-founder and F-35A Lightning II test pilot. «Now, instead of having to define, purchase, test and field a software capability on each aircraft individually, we can gain a lot of efficiencies by developing a capability once and fielding it on all 5th gen fighters, saving hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, in development costs and saving years in development time».

The team also highlighted the benefits brought by access to a larger pool of software providers.

«There has been a lot of attention on how the military can harness the best contributions from government, industry and academia to maintain its edge, but there have historically been sizable barriers to entry into the defense market», said U.S. Air Force Major Allen Black, project co-founder and F-22A Raptor test pilot. «This has been especially true with aircraft software since only the aircraft’s manufacturer could develop and integrate software onto the aircraft. They produce a fantastic product but being able to add to that baseline with capabilities created by software leaders in fields like Artificial Intelligence (AI)/autonomy and cybersecurity will be transformative. This has the added benefit of increasing the number of companies and personnel working to modernize and enhance our combat aircraft fleet, resulting in higher throughput and faster progress modernizing our aircraft».

While emphasizing the significant benefits of cross-platform compatibility and a more open market for software, the team is quick to point out that speed of delivery is perhaps the most vital.

«This project helps to set the foundation required for agile combat employment. We need to be able to rapidly adapt and update our weapon systems based on emerging intel or changing conditions while executing distributed operations», said Marine Corps Major Kyle McLeod, F-35A Lightning II Test Pilot and Project Lead.

«The National Defense Strategy identifies the need to rapidly experiment and then streamline acquisitions to get capabilities out to the warfighter on strategically relevant timelines», said Major Cameron Jones, F-22A Raptor test pilot and part of the founding team. «It is vital that we are able to rapidly develop and deliver capability, because the best software in the world won’t make a difference if it’s late to the fight».

The team has taken up that mission and is working to establish that ability on existing weapon systems that weren’t originally built to accommodate the modern pace of software innovation.

«This project allows us to load new software and update existing software, separate from the safety of flight systems of the aircraft, so we can make changes in a matter of hours instead of months», Jones said. «This capability means that developers will be able to make quick changes based off pilot feedback, dramatically shortening the time to get a fieldable product».

«This project helps to set the foundation required for agile combat employment», said Marine Corps Major Kyle McLeod, the project’s lead F-35A Lightning II test pilot. «We need to be able to rapidly adapt and update our weapon systems based on emerging intel or changing conditions while executing distributed operations. We demonstrated just that with this test. We flew a set of applications at Edwards, updated the simulated threat dataset in the software from the development location at Hill AFB, and re-flew the software in less than 24 hours».

One of the team’s top priorities has been to leverage this new technology to help secure these aircraft from cyberattacks, said Omar Morales, 309th SoftWare Engineering Group (SWEG) F-35A Lightning II lead software engineer.

«In addition to ensuring cyber best practices in the software development pipeline, we’re also using this new software environment to add cyber protection tools from leaders in industry», Morales said. «Our test included cybersecurity applications that we are evaluating that can monitor the aircraft and identify anomalous behavior. We are working to leverage these types of products to allow us to identify and then fix potential cyber issues quickly, even between sorties, while also defending the aircraft in real time».

Team members say this project’s benefits go beyond the improved software capabilities it brings to the aircraft. The project is proving to be a source of inspiration and motivation for those who joined the test world to make a difference.

«Working on this project has been incredibly fulfilling for our team, as our people genuinely believe they are making a difference for our nation», said Jarron Lembke, 309th SWEG project team lead.

The idea was submitted to the Air Force’s annual Spark Tank competition, ultimately advancing to become a finalist where it was pitched to the senior leaders of the Air Force including the Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown, Jr. and former Chief of Space Operations General John «Jay» Raymond. The project is now part of the of the Air Force vice chief of staff’s Innovation Portfolio and is continuing to revolutionize software development and fielding, including ongoing work on software to control unmanned wingmen.

F-35A Lightning II: Software applications

Fifth Successful Test

Northrop Grumman Corporation announced the fifth consecutive successful flight test of the U.S. Navy’s AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER). The missile successfully detected, identified, located and engaged an advanced, land-based, emitter target.

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet carries the AARGM-ER (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)
  • First firing overland against operationally-representative modern air defense system targets.
  • AARGM-ER deliveries will begin later this year to support Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the U.S. Navy in 2024.
  • The missile is being integrated on the Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler as well as the Air Force F-35A Lightning II, Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II and Navy/Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II.



Gordon Turner, vice president, advanced weapons, Northrop Grumman: «AARGM-ER provides the Navy with a demonstrated capability to stay ahead of adversary threats. This successful live fire continues to prove the missile’s extended range, readiness and effectiveness».

U.S. Navy CAPT Alex Dutko, Navy program manager for Direct and Time Sensitive Strike (PMA-242): «AARGM-ER once again demonstrated high-speed employment of lethal effects against an air defense system target. This is another successful step in our government-industry team’s effort to deliver this critically needed capability to our warfighters».


Details on AARGM-ER

AARGM-ER development uses digital modeling and integrated advanced AARGM sensors and electronics in a new high-performance air vehicle with upgraded propulsion and an optimized warhead. The new missile will provide the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps with a vital counter-air-defense capability that can engage advanced and long-range threats while pilots remain outside of lethal engagement ranges. The AARGM-ER government-industry team recently received the William J. Perry award, recognizing their exceptional contributions to precision strike systems which strengthen national security and shapes the nation’s precision strike combat advantage.

Most advanced AMRAAM

The U.S. Air Force has completed the Functional Configuration Audit, or FCA, of the latest variant of Raytheon Technologies’ Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM AIM-120D-3 is on-track toward fielding by both the Air Force and Navy this year.

Most advanced AMRAAM variant, AIM-120D-3, completes critical milestone for operational use

The AIM-120D-3 features modernized hardware, including 15 upgraded circuit cards developed with model-based systems engineering initiatives under the Form, Fit, Function Refresh program, and uses the latest System Improvement Program-3F software. The missile brings tremendous capability to counter both current and future threats and is postured to receive continuous Agile software enhancements through upcoming SIP efforts.

«Integrated on 14 platforms in 42 countries, AMRAAM is the only fielded air-to-air weapon with the ability to counter peer threats at extended range», said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power, Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «The AIM-120D-3 takes the known and trusted AMRAAM to the next level to meet the evolving needs of the warfighter and combatant commanders».

The AIM-120D-3 Functional Configuration Audit follows a test program encompassing captive carry missions, platform bench testing and a series of live firings from multiple Air Force and Navy platforms – proving out the weapon’s effectiveness. F3R testing continues with the AIM-120 C-8 variant – designed for international customers – with FCA expected on that version later this year.

All AMRAAMs planned for production are D3 or C8 variants incorporating the F3R functionality.