Report Urges Industry Diversification in UK Shipbuilding Projects

By: Andrew Chuter, November 29, 2016

LONDON – The UK government could use the new Type 31 frigate program to boost national shipbuilding capabilities and end BAE Systems’ monopoly on the construction of surface warships here, said a report into the future of the industry released Nov 29.

Having the Type 31 built by an industry alliance not led by BAE could be a « pathfinder » towards the rejuvenation of naval shipbuilding, Sir John Parker said in a report about the implementation of a national shipbuilding strategy commissioned by the government.

The report has been published just days after the Ministry of Defence announced it was throwing open to public consultation a possible revamp of its wider defense industrial strategy. Parker’s recommendations will be considered as part of the wider strategy work.

Under new Prime Minister Theresa May, the government is championing the introduction of a new industrial strategy to boost Britain’s manufacturing sector.

Britain committed to building eight Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates and five Type 31 general-purpose frigates in the strategic defence and security review last year.

Parker, currently the chairman of Anglo American but previously a highly regarded figure in the shipbuilding sector here, recommended that all the Type 26’s should be built by BAE at its two yards in Glasgow, Scotland, but the Type 31 program should be led by another company or alliance.

BAE responded to the report issuing a statement saying that as the « custodian of the UK’s capability to design and build complex warships we are confident that we will continue to play a prominent role in the delivery of future UK warships. … The commitment to five River-class offshore patrol vessels and eight Type 26’s protects this capability and our shipbuilding skills providing continuous warship building production at our facilities in Glasgow into the 2030s. »

Parker justified the two-primes approach saying, « There is no precedence for building two first-of-class Royal Navy frigates in one location [in a similar timeframe]. »

The executive said the Type 31 program should « harness » regional shipyards in the UK that have demonstrated their competitiveness and capability to build fully outfitted blocks of the warship.

If the recommendation is accepted by the government it could open the door to largely commercial shipyards like the A&P Group, Babcock’s Appledore facility, Cammell Laird and Harland & Wolff.

Parker never mentioned the issue but most of the potential block builders are English-based and their presence on a program like the Type 31 would leave open some options to the government in London were Scotland to vote for independence in any future referendum.

Ahead of the last referendum in 2014 the government threatened to pull it’s warship orders out of Scotland had voters north of the border voted for independence.

Parker said there was already a renaissance in shipbuilding in a range of regional shipbuilding companies.

The national shipbuilding strategy « could take the industry on a transformational journey similar to that experienced by our rejuvenated car industry, » he said.

Once the world’s largest warship builder, the industry directly employs around just 15,000 people today.

Parker said an alliance approach could also be used to allow British yards to bid against international rivals for the construction of three large logistics supply ships. Contract award is expected in 2020.

Logistics vessels are not required to be built in Britain, unlike complex warships like the Type 26.

The Royal Navy’s two 70,000 tonne aircraft carriers now coming to the end of their build program at Babcock International’s Rosyth, Scotland, yard contracted out the construction of modules to several yards around Britain.

The BAE-led industry alliance responsible for the program had the huge modules floated around the coast of Britain to Rosyth where they were assembled like a giant Meccano set.

The Ministry of Defence recently announced it expected BAE to cut the first steel on the lead Type 26 frigate next summer.

The first warship is needed by 2023 to start replacing the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate fleet.

The Type 31 timeline has not been made public but work is someway behind the anti-submarine warfare frigate.

For the moment, the general-purpose warship is in the pre-concept stage, with program officials still looking which of several potential designs to adopt.

« The Type 26 is critical for the Royal Navy and the nation while the Type 31 is urgently required to maintain frigate fleet numbers.To establish a separate lead shipyard or alliance would appear to be the best way forward for Type 31e to minimise the overall risk, » Parker said.

One industry analyst, who asked not to be named, queried Parker’s take on which approach offered the greatest risk.

« Is it giving BAE two warship types to build or signing up a contractor who may not have built a complex ship of this nature in a generation? » he said.

The analyst said the problem for BAE in losing control of the Type 31e program would come in a design department which is likely to see a rundown in Type 26 work around the end of 2019.

BAE would still be able to compete for combat systems and block building work, said Parker.

The Anglo Amercian executive said he had called the general-purpose frigate the Type31e to emphasize the warship had to be exportable.

Parker said the MoD needed to get on and procure the Type31e as rapidly as possible and place it in service as early as possible in the 2020s.

If the money is not available to match the timeline, « wider government support should be provided to allow early vessel build, » he said.

Money is a real issue if Parker is to meet his aspirations for an early start to the Type 31e.

« There is no money in the government’s ten-year equipment plan for Type 31e, and it would likely take somewhere between £1.5 billion and £2 billion to get the program on the road in the timescale Sir Peter is recommending, » said one industry executive who asked not to be named.

The report said the MoD needed to come up with a 30-year naval shipbuilding road plan for the different shipbuilding programs, with assured budgets not subject to « random » program changes triggered by annual budget adjustments.

Parker didn’t restrict his recommendations to the industrial aspect of shipbuilding. The executive also took a pot shot at MoD’s procurement and program governance shortcomings.

The executive said naval procurement took far too long. « There are too many people who think they have a vote and even a veto in the process. »

« There was a lack of governance systems that grip design and specifications to budget and time to contract, » he said.

Trevor Taylor, a defense-management analyst at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, said the report highlighted longstanding acquisition issues at the MoD.

« The report reflects the problems in defense acquisition that were visible at the time of the Smart Acquisition initiative in 1998.The Royal Navy appears to have learned little about the management of the supply base or the link between requirement and cost, » said Taylor

Source: defensenews.com

Boeing T-X Headed Toward First Flight

By: Valerie Insinna, November 29, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Boeing-Saab T-X trainer is on track to fly by the end of the year after completing afterburner engine runs last week, Boeing officials said.

Only a few more major tests remain before the plane makes its inaugural flight, said program manager Ted Torgerson during a Nov. 23 interview ahead of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC).

“We are clicking off all of our test points, we have tested around somewhere around nearly 1,200 test points on the jet on ground tests,” he said.

The next test involves putting the plane, engine running, through the motions of a flight — takeoff, climb and landing — with the aircraft tied down to the runway, Torgerson said. The company will also check how the airplane responds to simulated system failures. After that, a Boeing-Saab board will clear the aircraft for flight, and the Federal Aviation Administration will certify it. Finally, the company will conduct low-, medium- and high-speed taxi tests before flying the jet.

“We’re looking to fly soon, before the year is over” Tom Conard, the company’s T-X capture team leader, reiterated during a Tuesday briefing at I/ITSEC. “And as we’re preparing that jet to fly, our flight crews are training in the training system devices to prepare them exactly what they’re going to see in the jet.”

A second Boeing T-X was revealed to the press during a September rollout ceremony shortly before it went through structural proof tests. The company is currently powering all of the systems on the airplane, will fuel the plane in a matter of weeks and plans to move quickly through tests for an early 2017 flight, Togerson said.

The Boeing-Saab team is competing against one other clean-sheet design, manufactured by Northrop Grumman. Two other teams are banking on less risky existing designs. Lockheed Martin has partnered with KAI to offer the T-50A, a version of the Korean company’s T-50 trainer. Raytheon joined with Leonardo and CAE on the T-100, which uses Alenia Aermacchi M-346 as the basis.

If all goes according to schedule, the Boeing-Saab plane will fly around the same time as the US Air Force issues its final request for proposals, which officials have targeted for a December release. The service has already put forward several draft request for proposals, which detail threshold requirements as well as objective requirements that could knock hundreds of millions of dollars off a company’s total evaluated price.

Boeing, for its part, has stressed that its clean-sheet design was tailored specifically for the threshold requirements, and officials have not detailed how close it can get to the objective.

« We’re going to meet all the requirements and growth provisions for the future,” Conard said. « It has no radar, it has no weapons, it is not doing anything except advanced fast jet training. »

Asked whether Boeing plans to incorporate such features for potential opportunities currently under discussion by the Air Force — such as an exercise of light-attack aircraft that could inform a program of record, or a proposal to hire industry to play the aggressor role in training exercises — Conard demurred.

“We’ll look at that after we win T-X,” he said. “We’ve got to win T-X, and then from there we will able to adapt and work in future variants. And I’ll leave it at that.”

Source: defensenews.com

Unmanned maritime vehicle developer rides wave of success with defence customers

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  08/22/2012

What if you could put a robot in the middle of the ocean and leave it to remotely scan the seas continuously for a year? What if a Navy could do that and significantly increase the amount of maritime data it collates, while saving money on operational costs?

“Defence, and the U.S. government sector in general, has continued to be a very quick growing sector for us,” said Bill Vass, CEO of Liquid Robotics Inc., a California-based company developing self-propelled and continuous Unmanned Maritime Vehicles (UMVs). “The need for a platform that collects ocean data, whether it’s for persistent surveillance or to act as a communication hub, is getting greater and greater all the time. The cost of doing that [via traditional methods] is going up all the time too, so we’re a game-changer from a cost perspective.”

The company, which develops UMVs that use wave and solar energy to remotely power themselves for up to 12 months at a time, recently created a new subsidiary, Liquid Robotics Federal LLC, to focus on its rapidly growing government and defence business.

“With the new federal subsidiary we’re expecting to do some deals with the large defence contractors, and we’re already talking to quite a number of them. It will accelerate our business in the defence sector,” Vass told Defence IQ in an exclusive interview.

“Establishing a dedicated federal subsidiary and attracting as accomplished a government market executive as Grant Palmer, provides the right infrastructure and the right leader, at the right time to address the growing demands of the U.S. government to monitor and protect America’s maritime security interests and enable advanced scientific missions.”

The company’s autonomous platform is known as the SHARC (Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft) to its defence clients – commercially it is called the Wave Glider – with the core platform focused on surveillance and communication. However, as the technology matures the company will look to develop a range of different sub-systems that can be used for a wide variety of applications.

Vass explained that “as more people hear about us and see what we’re doing, the more ideas they have about how they could apply the platform.” But ultimately, Vass said, “our goal is to do any type of data collection, monitoring and surveillance that you would do with a boat.”

Navies are looking at SHARC for applications including long duration surveillance at sea, vessel support, and it can even act as a communication hub, like an ocean-based GPS satellite.

“If you’re planning any type of operation in the ocean, knowing the nowcasting and what’s going on at a specific location is very important. These applications are being used by the U.S. Navy and other navies around the world.”

On the commercial side, where Vass has recently signed a deal with Schlumberger to form the Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas joint venture, the applications are vast. For example, the company was recently the subject of a Discovery Channel feature where its technology was being used to track sharks and view them in real-time via an iPad app.

The vast majority of the company’s federal business is in the defence sector, with the split being around 70% defence, 30% commercial and civilian according to the CEO. This is a trend Vass expects to continue, with defence being the company’s “largest and fastest-growing customer base.”

The role of unmanned aerial systems in the military has increased significantly over the last decade. If the maritime community embraces this technology to anywhere near the same extent over the next few years, Liquid Robotics could be the next big company to emerge from Silicon Valley.

Source: Defence iQ

Embraer concepts reveal work continues on all-new narrowbody airliner

By:   Stephen Trimble São Paulo

23 Aug 2012

Embraer is carefully preparing for a narrowbody airliner that could succeed a re-engined and possibly re-winged E-Jet family sometime after 2025.

Early concepts showing a new airliner with high-aspect ratio wings and ultra-high-bypass ratio engines mounted over the aft fuselage between a noise-shielding split-tail were revealed by Embraer in a presentation at LABACE in mid-August.

However, the new configurations are likely only initial designs. Antonini Puppin Macedo, a conceptual aircraft designer for Embraer, calls them « very preliminary ».

But they offer a window into Embraer’s ongoing effort to prepare to defend its hard-won turf in the commercial aircraft sector against new competitors from China, India, Japan and Russia.

Embraer had been close to launching a new narrowbody airliner until last November, but then took a step back to avoid challenging the re-engined and upgraded Boeing 737-7 Max and Airbus A319neo in the 130-seat class.

Embraer instead decided to re-engine its current E-Jet family that occupies the market segment just below the 120-seat threshold, with entry-into-service scheduled no later than 2018.

But it is clear that decision only postponed Embraer’s goal to eventually field an all-new narrowbody aimed at the 130-seat market provided that Airbus and Boeing vacate the segment, with their all-new narrowbodies in the future ranging between 150-220 seats.

Macedo’s presentation revealed that Embraer is steadily and deliberately working on the technologies that will be necessary to compete for orders in a market segment that has been dominated by the Airbus-Boeing duopoly for 25 years.

The presentation showed pictures of new laboratories managed jointly by Embraer and Brazilian universities. One slide showed an image of a laboratory focused on developing manufacturing techniques for low-weight composite materials. Another slide revealed a facility aimed at developing automated drilling systems for a complete fuselage barrel.

Macedo also described Embraer’s methodical development of fly-by-wire technology, which is typical of the airframer’s strategy to make incremental advances with every new product.

Embraer first developed a rudimentary fly-by-wire system with Aeritalia (now AleniaAermacchi) for the AMX fighter-trainer. The next system that appeared on the 170 airliner was a partial, open-loop fly-by-wire governing pitch and yaw but not roll, as the ailerons are controlled by a hydro-mechanical system.

With the Legacy 500, Embraer is integrating – with acknowledged difficulties – a closed-loop, three-axis fly-by-wire system for the first time. However, the system on the Legacy 500 and its sister 450 aircraft, developed by Parker Aerospace, could be the last time Embraer outsources the system. The KC-390 airlifter offers Embraer an opportunity to develop its own software for the flight control computer, which translates the sidestick inputs to the control surfaces and monitors the feedback.

By the time Embraer unveils an all-new commercial aircraft, it will have steadily matured an almost entirely in-house capacity to design and integrate a fly-by-wire control system.

Meanwhile, Embraer has steadily increased its usage of composites to now include all primary control surfaces and the fuel-carrying sponson of the KC-390. Embraer also is building a composite manufacturing facility in Evora, Portugal. « When it comes to the point of using these technologies, it’s all linked, » says Mauro Kern, executive vice-president for engineering and technology. « There’s consistency to what’s being developed in [the research and technology portfolio] to what’s being used in the next programmes, » Kern says.

Embraer’s strategy is shaped by developing performance improvements and new technologies that reduce the cost of operating the next generation of commercial aircraft, especially in terms of fuel cost. Each year, a technology roadmap with a 10- to 15-year horizon is reviewed and updated, Kern says.

« We have today 40 – a little over 40 – different [research and technology] projects going on here in several different areas – cabin comfort and biofuels, for example, » he explains. « We understand that in some areas we are maybe at the forefront of the technology already. In others, we are lagging behind, so we need to catch up. »

Source: Flight International

India’s Light Combat Aircraft Prepares For Operational Clearance

August 27, 2012
By Jay Menon

NEW DELHI — India’s indigenously developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is likely to win its final operational service clearance, following testing as part of an air exercise in February.

The single-seat, single-engine supersonic fighter will be put to the test during the “Iron Feast” exercise to be held in Pokhran in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

“The Tejas will display its capabilities in the exercise, where its lethality, endurance and precision will be tested, and if the aircraft meets all parameters, its first squadron will be deployed in Bengaluru,” says Air Marshal Anjan Kumar Gogoi, chief of Southwestern Air Command.

The Tejas is designed to carry air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided and standoff weaponry.

As of March, the LCA had undergone more than 1,816 test flights up to speeds of Mach 1.4. Initial Operational Clearance-1 (IOC-1) was achieved in January 2011. According to the Indian defense ministry, the Tejas has undertaken weapon trials, including flights with a laser-guided bomb. Various sensor trials also were conducted early this year. All told, the Tejas program has clocked 1,903 flights, totaling 1,120 hr.

The Indian air force (IAF), which has ordered 40 Tejas Mk-1s from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), has begun to induct the LCA, according to a ministry official. Out of the 40 aircraft, 20 were ordered under the IOC standards, with the rest under Final Operational Clearance standards. IAF plans to induct six LCA squadrons over the next 10 years, the official adds.

The first two squadrons, comprising 40 aircraft, will have first-generation Mk. 1 fighters. The additional four squadrons would be more-powerful Tejas Mk. 2s. The final price tag of the Mk. 2 only will be available after its development phase is complete , the official says.

The LCA’s design and development program is being led by the Aeronautical Development Agency, with HAL as the prime contractor.

The Indian government so far has approved 118.45 billion rupees ($2.1 billion) for the development of the Tejas, of which 50.51 billion rupees has been spent, the official says.

Kratos Awarded $4.6 Million Contract for the Development of a New Wide Band/High Data Radio Upgrade for the U.S. Navy

06:17 GMT, August 28, 2012

SAN DIEGO

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., a leading National Security Solutions provider, announced Aug. 27 that its Micro Systems, Inc. subsidiary has received a $4.6M contract award from Navy Aerial Target and Decoy System program office (PMA-208) for the development of a new wide band / high data rate radio upgrade that will be integrated into all sub-systems of their System for Navy Target Control (SNTC). The award represents the first phase of a planned three-phase upgrade development effort directed at fielding a significantly more capable ground control system for the Navy’s world-wide target operations. Full rate production will be the subject of a separate contract activity at the conclusion of the development and qualification effort.

Wayne Armstrong, Sr. Vice President of Kratos’ Unmanned Systems Solutions Division and General Manager of Micro Systems, Inc., commented, « We have worked in partnership with PMA-208 for many years and look forward to continuing that relationship as we undertake the development of a more advanced system for satisfying the Navy’s future needs for the operation of their high performance aerial, sea surface, and land targets. »

Ship Trials Clear Unmanned Little Bird For French Demo

August 09, 2012
By Graham Warwick

LAS VEGAS — Boeing’s H-6U Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) has completed autonomous takeoffs and landings from a ship as the unmanned helicopter is readied for a French navy demonstration late this year.

The demonstrator aircraft completed 14 landings and takeoffs from a leased commercial oil-rig tender in 20 hr. of flight tests off Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in July.

Two safety pilots were on board, one watching for air traffic and the other monitoring the landings and takeoffs, but the helicopter operated autonomously under the command of a ground control station operator on the ship’s bridge.

Boeing had previously landed the ULB on a moving platform towed by a truck and on a pitching platform simulating deck motion in conditions up to sea state 4. Conditions for the sea trial were calm, with a maximum of only plus or minus 3 deg. pitch and plus or minus 6 deg. roll.

Trials were conducted at vessel speeds up to 10 kt. and wind over deck up to 10 kt. from different directions.

Landings use a differential GPS system that exchanges the relative positions of the helicopter and ship over a data link, and software that allows the aircraft to anticipate deck motion, and is accurate to within 10 cm, Boeing says.

Boeing has two ULB demonstrators, a 3,100-lb. gross-weight aircraft based on a commercial MD Helicopters MD 530, and a 4,700-lb. gross-weight aircraft based on the MH-6M Mission Enhanced Little Bird.

One of the helicopters has been shipped to France for the automatic deck-landing sea trials on a navy La Fayette-class frigate late this year, led by prime contractor Thales and shipbuilder DCNS.

Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

Le futur moyen courrier russe MS-21 s’offre les moteurs de Pratt & Whitney

23/04/2012 – Emmanuel Grynszpan, à Moscou

Le moyen courrier russe MS-21 sera équipé au choix d’un réacteur américain ou russe. Le futur concurrent des monocouloirs de Boeing et d’Airbus, composé à 35 % de matériaux composite, entrera sur le marché autour de 2020.

Tout comme le dernier avion civil russe, le Sukhoi Superjet, le MS-21 recevra lui aussi un moteur étranger. Déterminée à revenir sur le marché de l’aéronautique civile après 20 années d’absence, la Russie intègre au maximum les technologies étrangères pour rattraper son retard. Constructeur du MS-21, la société d’Etat Irkut, plus connue pour ses célèbres avions de combat Sukhoï, devrait signer à la mi-mai un contrat avec le motoriste américain Pratt & Whitney.

Le quotidien russe « Kommersant » rapporte qu’Irkut va acheter « pour commencer » 100 réacteurs PW1000G pour son bimoteur MS-21. Des réacteurs coûtant 5,4 millions de dollars à l’unité. Le nouveau moteur de Pratt & Whitney a déjà été sélectionné comme moteur exclusif pour le C-Series de l’avionneur canadien Bombardier et du japonais Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ). Il est également dans le catalogue d’Airbus pour l’A320 Neo.

Irkut est également tenu par son propriétaire OAK (corporation d’Etat russe regroupant la quasi totalité des actifs aéronautiques du pays) d’offrir à ses clients le choix d’un autre moteur. Logiquement, c’est le russe ODK (filiale d’OAK regroupant les fabriquant de réacteurs), qui a été choisi pour équiper le MS-21. Ce futur moteur, le PD-14, va également recevoir une commande de 100 exemplaires. Le PD-14 coûte 6 millions de dollars à l’unité. Selon Kommersant, Pratt & Witney sont disposés à offrir des rabais importants par rapport au prix catalogue.

Safran pas intéressé

La filiale motoriste de Safran, Snecma, qui fabrique le moteur de l’avion régional Superjet 100 de Sukhoï, en partenariat avec le russe Saturn, ne s’est pas porté candidat à l’appel d’offre du MS-21. « Nous avons déjà fort à faire avec le Superjet », confie une source chez Snecma. « Les Russes ont choisi des partenaires européens pour le Superjet tandis que pour le MS-21, ils piochent plutôt dans les technologies américaines, ce qui est logique ».

La production en série du MS-21, qui était à l’origine prévue pour 2016, vient d’être reportée à 2020, selon le vice-Premier ministre, Dmitri Rogozine. Les essais vont démarrer en 2015-2016, précise-t-il dans des propos rapportés par Interfax. Premier avion moyen courrier conçu depuis la fin de l’époque soviétique, le MS-21 devra transporter jusqu’à 212 passagers sur 5.500 kms, suivant les versions. Son prix doit être autour de 65 millions de dollars.

L’avion qui n’existe aujourd’hui que sous forme de maquette, possède déjà à son actif 156 commandes fermes, dont 50 de la compagnie malaisienne Crecom, auxquelles il faut ajouter 84 options.

Source: la Tribune / AFP

Honda out to shake up market with first jet next year

By Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO | Mon Jan 30, 2012

(Reuters) – Honda Motor Co (7267.T) expects to grab at least a quarter of the world market for small business jets soon after delivering its first aircraft next year, achieving the company’s long-standing goal of taking to the skies, an executive said.

Honda, Japan’s No.3 car maker and the world’s biggest manufacturer of motorcycles and engines, is in the final stages of getting its $4.5 million HondaJet certified. It aims to ramp up the pace of production to 80 a year in the first half of 2013.

Honda received more than 100 orders for the seven-seater jet in three days when it began taking orders in 2006, promising a quieter engine, 20 percent better fuel economy over competing models and operational costs of two-thirds or less.

It has not disclosed an updated number of orders, but Michimasa Fujino, a Honda executive and CEO of its North Carolina-based subsidiary, Honda Aircraft Company, said it held a backlog of about three years from orders taken through its nine dealerships in North America and Europe.

« I’m very optimistic about our prospects, » Fujino, who initiated Honda’s foray into aviation research in 1986, told a small group of reporters at the automaker’s Tokyo headquarters on Monday.

« We’re doing with HondaJet what the Civic did to American cars from the 1960s. Our competitors are still producing with technology from the 1990s, » he said, referring to Textron Inc’s (TXT.N) Cessna and Brazil’s Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA), which now dominate the 200-a-year small business jet market.

The Civic, known for its reliability, durability and mileage, has consistently been among the United States’ best-selling cars since its launch in 1973, forcing industry giants such as General Motors Co (GM.N) to follow suit with cars to meet the country’s tighter emissions regulations.

Honda’s ambition of making jets traces back to its iconic founder, Soichiro Honda. The HondaJet will make Honda the only car maker in the world to build its own aircraft.

Its engine is made by a joint venture between Honda and General Electric Co (GE.N).

Honda Aircraft is aiming to turn a profit by 2018, Fujino said.

BRAZIL, CHINA CLAMOURING FOR JETS

The business jet industry is expecting a rebound in sales this year after the global economic crisis hammered sales over the past three years.

While the small business jet market has traditionally been limited to North America and Europe so far, Fujino said he was fielding about a call a week from China, both from prospective buyers and eager dealers, while interest was also greater than he anticipated in Brazil, India and the Middle East.

« Right now we want to focus on delivering on the orders that we have, but I’d like to enter Brazil and China earlier than we’d initially planned, » he said, declining to specify a timeframe. New demand from emerging markets could expand the global small-jet market to about 300 a year, he said.

Fujino said he was also seeing more interest in the smallest end of the market as medium-sized jet users look to downsize to get more for their fuel, much like the trend in the car industry.

« Most of our customers are owners of small- and medium-sized businesses, and many are looking to get the most out of the jets that they need, » he said.

With operational costs of about $1,000-$1,200 an hour, HondaJet could make travelling in a group of five or six cheaper and more efficient than flying commercially between small cities, he said. Competitors offer at best $1,800 by comparison, he added.

Honda Aircraft will add 300-350 factory staff to bring its total workforce to around 1,000 in the first half of 2013, Fujino said.

(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Source: Reuters

Lockheed’s F-35 fighter jet under renewed pressure

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON | Tue Feb 7, 2012

(Reuters) – Key U.S. senators raised fresh questions about Lockheed Martin Corp’s $382 billion F-35 fighter program on Monday as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer underscored deep flaws in the way the multinational arms program was set up from the start.

The unusually blunt talk about the most expensive U.S. arms program came a week before the release of a fiscal 2013 budget plan that is expected to postpone funding for 179 warplanes until after 2017, a move that has Australia and other international partners questioning their own procurement plans.

Cuts to the F-35 program are part of the Pentagon’s plan to start implementing $487 billion in defense spending reductions over the next decade.

The leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee blasted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision to lift a « probation » imposed on the Marine Corps variant of the F-35 a year ahead of schedule, saying the move appeared premature and was not vetted with Congress.

Senator Carl Levin, the committee’s chairman, and Senator John McCain, its top Republican, cited continuing cost overruns on the F-35 program and said Panetta had wasted a chance to « focus Lockheed Martin’s attention and disrupt ‘business as usual’ in this multibillion-dollar effort. »[ID:nL2E8D6IKK]

They said Lockheed’s fourth production contract for 32 F-35 jets was expected to overrun its target cost of $3.46 billion by $245 million, and that the cost of retrofitting planes already built would add $237 million more to the program’s budget.

Panetta last month threw his support behind the F-35B model, which takes off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter, during a carefully orchestrated visit to a Maryland military base where the warplanes are being tested.

But a week later, he told reporters the Pentagon would further slow procurement of new F-35s to allow more time for development and testing — news that could prompt the eight international partners to cut or delay their orders as well.

Australia has already said it is rethinking its plans to buy 12 jets, Turkey has put off buying two jets, and Italy may follow suit, according to FlightGlobal. The other partners are Britain, Denmark, Norway, the Netherland, and Canada.

« ACQUISITION MALPRACTICE »

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acting acquisition chief, said the U.S. military was committed to the program, but he told industry executives at a Washington think tank that the United States was clearly « paying the price » for starting production of the new jets years before their first flight test.

« Putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice. It should not have been done, » Kendall said in remarks after a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Initial development work on the fighter began in 1996 under the Clinton administration. Lockheed then beat out Boeing Co to win the program in 2001, early in the administration of former President George W. Bush.

Kendall said the plane’s problems so far were typical of those seen with other fighter jets and there was nothing that would prevent continued production at the current low rates.

The F-35 has completed about 20 percent of its required testing and should accomplish an additional 15 to 20 percent of testing in each of the coming years, Kendall said.

Lockheed, which says the F-35 will account for 20 percent of its revenues once it reaches full production, insisted that the program was continuing to make good progress, citing Panetta’s decision to lifted probation for the Marine Corp variant and better than expected flight test results for 2011.

Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said the U.S. government’s plan for concurrent production and development would have affected any winning bidder. He noted that most fighter plane programs had some degree of this concurrency.

« Lockheed Martin has worked hard during the past decade to cost effectively meet government procurement requirements, » he said, noting that each successive batch of F-35 jets had less « concurrency » costs — the cost of retrofitting already built planes to deal with problems found during testing.

Kendall said the Pentagon had counted on improved design and simulation tools to catch possible problems before jets went into low-rate production, but those design tools failed. He said he hoped no more serious issues came up in coming years, which would allow Lockheed to increase output and cut costs.

« The key to getting the cost down on the F-35 is getting the production rate up and we need to do that as soon as we’re ready to do it, but we’re not ready to do it yet, » he said.

TAKING AIM AT COSTS

President Barack Obama last month nominated Kendall, who has held a series of jobs at the Pentagon since 1982, to permanently take over as chief arms buyer. The Senate must approve the nomination, but no hearing date has been set.

Kendall, who had been the deputy chief arms buyer for the past two years, said he was already working on various initiatives to rein in chronic cost overruns and schedule delays on other major weapons programs, as well as service contracts that comprise about half of Pentagon procurement spending.

He discussed measures to train acquisition officials, review and analyze requirements to understand the full cost of programs before they are launched, and underscored the Pentagon’s commitment to maintaining the defense industrial base.

Kendall also warned that there were no simple, single-point solutions, including the fixed-price contracts favored by lawmakers and Pentagon officials on the F-35 program and others.

He said the United States was not facing another « procurement holiday » and cuts to weapons programs would not be as steep as after the end of the Cold War.

But he said the cuts would approach those post-Cold War levels if lawmakers did not reverse another $500 billion in spending cuts that are due to take effect in January 2013.

Source: Reuters

(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Richard Chang)