Warplanes: September 13, 2001



@ Boeing has received a $29 million contract for long-lead production of new equipment that will be used later to refit NATO's fleet of seventeen US-built E-3A AWACS planes. This program will upgrade the computers, radar, displays, communications, navigation, and target identification systems. 

@ The German Navy says that when it is time to replace the Tornado strike fighters in 2020, it wants to buy a carrier-capable aircraft such as Rafale or the Joint Strike Fighter. While the German Navy insists that it would never want to build its own aircraft carriers, being able to deploy fighters on a British, US, or French carrier during a crisis could improve NATO inter-operability.

@ The US Marines have received the first of 17 upgraded TAV-8B Harrier trainers. These have night-vision gear, more powerful 408 Pegasus engines, and structural improvements. The Marines have ordered 47 new Litening-II precision-attack targeting pods from Northrop Grumman for $73 million; these will be used by Harriers.

@ Austria was forced to delay its plan to request bids for new fighters when the Finance Ministry refused to accept cost estimates from the Defense Ministry. The Finance Ministry wants to know how much will have to be spent for new facilities and weapons, why the cheaper Russian MiG-29SMT was kicked out of the competition, and what the total lifecycle cost will be. 

@ The US Air Force will base its Global Hawk strategic recon drones at Beale AFB and should be ready to begin operations in 2003.

@ Britain has unveiled a program designed to produce a hypersonic (Mach-5 or faster) aircraft by 2007. A subscale version could be flying as soon as 2004; it would be a 1.5 meter aircraft using the rocket engine from the Sea Dart naval missile. This program builds on 40 years of wind-tunnel experiments in how such an aircraft could be built. The British want an aircraft that can cruise at Mach-6.--Stephen V Cole


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