Reporter’s Notebook – 2012 Singapore Airshow
By Andrew Chuter and Wendell Minnick
Introducing the ‘Viper’
Lockheed Martin is offering F-16 fighter customers a new variant dubbed the Viper, which is intended to better operate with fifth-generation fighters.
The F-16 is officially known as the Fighting Falcon, but “Viper” is a common nickname used by F-16 pilots. Unveiled Feb. 15 at the 2012 Singapore Airshow, the new variant should not be confused with Lockheed’s F-16IN Super Viper, offered to India for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft contest.
The Viper program will offer customers options, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, upgraded mission computers and architecture, cockpit improvements, and fuel tanks that are flush with the fuselage.
“We believe this F-16V will satisfy our customers’ emerging requirements and prepare them to better interoperate with the fifth-generation fighters, the F-35 and the F-22,” said George Standridge, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ vice president of business development.
... And 2 C-130 Variants
Lockheed also announced plans to create two C-130J variants.
The C-130XJ (Expandable J) and the SC-130J (Sea Herc) will offer customers more capability choices than the current Super Hercules J model, Standridge said.
The C-130XJ offers the U.S. domestic and international markets a variant that does not feature all the capabilities inherent in the C-130J, thus providing a lower price. However, the XJ’s capability can expand after delivery in a variety of mission areas, except for the Enhanced Cargo Handling System, Standridge said. Interest is expected to come from the special mission market, which uses roll on/roll off mission packages, and operators who use airlift for low-threat air and land transport of troops and equipment.
The SC-130J Sea Herc will offer an affordable replacement for the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Standridge said.
A competition pitting Northrop Grumman against Raytheon to supply AESA radars for retrofits for F-16 fighter upgrade programs in South Korea and Taiwan heated up at the air show.
Northrop received official permission from the U.S. government to submit proposals to sell the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) to South Korea for 135 KF-16C/D Block 52 fighters and to Taiwan for 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters. The SABR is facing off against the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar, which received an export license in 2008.
A DSP-5 export license was issued in January, said Joseph Ensor, Northrop’s ISR and Targeting Systems vice president and general manager. The license allows for the release of technical information and other data to a foreign country. The DSP-5 is the first step in the Foreign Military Sales program.
In some ways, Raytheon’s possession of a DSP-5 since 2008 has given it advantages over Northrop. In addition, Raytheon’s earlier AESA radar, the APG-63(V)2, is the only AESA radar to have been installed on Lockheed’s F-16 Falcon, as well as Boeing’s F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet.
Singapore was the first to get an AESA radar, the APG-63(V)3, for the F-15SG. Jim Hvizd, Raytheon’s vice president of international strategy and business development, said that radar is being offered on the F-15 for South Korea’s FX-3 contest.
The winner of either of these competitions could provide a leg up in follow-on international and U.S. contests, Ensor said.
The stakes could be high with the Feb. 10 issuance by the U.S. Air Force of a request for information on AESA retrofits.
Indonesia’s Air Force will buy nine Airbus Military C295 transporters, the two sides announced at the air show. The $325 million deal will see the first machine delivered later this year and the final in mid-2014.
Airbus parent company EADS will hand over a sizable industrial package, including setting up a local production line by aerospace producer PT Dirgantara Indonesia and creating a service and delivery center.
Airbus and PTDI will set up a joint company to market the C295 in the region. Manufacture of structural components such as the rear fuselage and tail assembly are also part of the agreement.
Coast guards in two Asian countries have struck deals with Sikorsky Aircraft to supply helicopters for search and rescue (SAR) and other duties, the company said at the air show.
The U.S. helicopter maker said it had signed with the South Korea Coast Guard to deliver one S-92 in 2013 as part of the country’s Multi-purpose Helicopter Program. The deal could be expanded to include three additional helos for a program aimed at enabling the South Koreans to conduct SAR, maritime security, emergency medical services and personnel transport.
Sikorsky also announced it will supply four SS-76D helicopters to Japan to replace machines damaged in last year’s tsunami. First delivery is planned for later this year.