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    The Adaptive Engine Transition Program aims to transform the performance of jet engines.

    Constance Douris

    American air power is critical to mission success – it provides precision strike, rapid logistics, detailed reconnaissance and air dominance while denying those advantages to adversaries. It is essential that the U.S. continue to advance its air power to outpace future threats. One way the Air Force Research Laboratory is supporting the improvement of air power is by investing in revolutionary propulsion technology with the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP).

    The Adaptive Engine Transition Program aims to transform the performance of jet engines by designing and testing multiple 45,000-pound-thrust turbofan engine prototypes. The program’s goal is to improve the engine’s fuel efficiency by 25 percent, increase the thrust by 10 percent and reduce engine heating. Improving jet propulsion allows for more sorties to be accomplished with greater range using the same amount of fuel. 


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    The best of the best. 

    Dave Majumdar

    While the United States is by far the most dominant military force in history, it is American industrial prowess that ultimately enables Washington to conduct operations around the globe. With the ability to build the world’s best ships, submarines, aircraft, missiles, tanks and bombs, the United States would not be able to conduct its mission to build a benign international security environment where commerce and democracy can thrive. Though sometimes criticized by those on the left of the political spectrum, it is big defense contractors who build the weapons that U.S. forces need to do their duty.

    In no particular order, here are the five of the most prominent defense contractors that build the arsenal of democracy.

    Lockheed Martin:


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    The DND must ensure that the RCAF's replacement for the CF-18s can defend North America against emerging threats.

    Danny Lam

    The Liberal Government of Canada has announced that it intends to swiftly sole-source 18 F/A-18E Super Hornets to fill a perceived capability gap. The need flows from Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan’s views of existing treaty obligations under NORAD and NATO.


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    The Pentagon's shadowy Arsenal Plane is likely a modified B-52 bomber

    Kris Osborn

    The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.

    It is also possible that the emerging arsenal plane could be a modified C-130 or combined version of a B-52 and C-130 drawing from elements of each, Pentagon officials said. 

    Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.


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    There are plenty of U.S. allies and friendly nations around the world that could use a lightweight, low-cost fighter aircraft.

    Dave Majumdar

    Earlier this week, a diminutive two-seat military jet aircraft took flight from a runway in St. Louis, Missouri. While superficially resembling a fighter aircraft, the jet was Boeing and Saab’s entrant for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer competition. Unlike some of its rivals for the competition, the Boeing aircraft is specifically designed to meet the U.S. Air Force’s requirements to replace the long-serving Northrop T-38 Talon.


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    A stealthy 'what-if'. 

    Dave Majumdar

    Would Boeing have done any better? Hard to say—the Joint Strike Fighter was always a technically challenging and extraordinarily ambitious program. It is likely that Boeing would have run into similar but different technical and budgetary problems. 

    In October 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Lockheed Martin’s X-35 had won the Joint Strike Fighter contest over Boeing’s X-32.


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    Trump wants to appear like he’s in charge of military requirements (and F-35 pricing improvements).

    Richard Aboulafia

    Since the election, President Donald Trump has been making headlines with his promise to look at more Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  He has also discussed asking Boeing to develop an improved Super Hornet as part of this alternative acquisition path.  Clearly, Trump has been reading the news about these programs… from 2013.


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    The Air Force may find it difficult to choose among the array of integrated solutions being offered.

    Dan Goure

    A major issue for U.S. defense planners looking to an intensifying competition for military overmatch vis-à-vis prospective high-end adversaries, is the shrinking U.S. aerospace and defense sector. Decades of consolidation, driven by declining defense budgets, increasingly onerous regulations, the scarcity of major new programs, the war on profits and an unpredictable customer, has reduced the number of competitors in the major product lines to less than a handful of prime contractors. Below this level, the supply chain has thinned out to a degree that has logisticians and the operations and maintenance (O&M) establishment extremely worried. The once vaunted “Arsenal of Democracy” is or may soon be no more.


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    Thanks to some big upgrades in the "Super Hornet". 

    Mike Fabey

    A series of advanced technologies are being introduced into what Boeing calls its Block 3. It introduces new sensors suites, range extension and potentially stealthier attributes that Boeing says will make it a perfect companion for the F-35.

    A half-decade ago, U.S. Navy communicators were using defense journalists to send a clear message to Boeing: We love our F/A-18 E/Fs, but we’re done buying any more Super Hornets.

    Now, that plan has been turned on its head.

    Not only is the Navy planning to buy more of its mainstay aircraft, but Boeing is working on upgrades and technology that will not only keep the jets flying into the coming decades, but make them very much a major component of the service’s aerial strategy. And there’s every indication the Navy is on board with such plans for its favorite aviation weapon.


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    Years in space—and no one really knows why…

    Kyle Mizokami

    A mysterious space plane has spent more than 670 days above Earth, hurtling along an orbital path that includes some of the world’s most volatile hotspots. Known the X-37B, the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned mini-shuttle whizzes along an average of two hundred miles above the surface of the Earth. Exactly what it’s doing up there is bit of a mystery.


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    Should F-35 fans be worried? 

    Dave Majumdar

    Boeing is working on developing a new advanced Block III version of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to complement the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

    Unlike previous iterations of the Advanced Super Hornet—which Boeing was positioning to compete head-to-head with the stealthy single engine F-35—this version is a more modest effort designed to work with the Joint Strike Fighter and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network.

    “We’ve been working with the Navy over the last year—year-and-a-half—to understand what does the carrier air wing need from a complementary perspective with the F-35, with the [EA-18G] Growler, E-2D and Block III is that” Dan Gillian, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F program manager told The National Interest at the Navy League’s Sea Air and Space conference. “Block III is that complementary asset.”


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    The U.S. Air Force should consider expanding the T-X buy to replace the T-38As serving in ancillary roles such as the aggressors.

    Dave Majumdar

    The long-serving Northrop T-38A Talon advanced jet trainer is a mainstay of the United States Air Force. Though elderly, the Talon remains an excellent aircraft, but it is clear that the service must proceed with the T-X Advanced Pilot Training (APT) program.


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    When it comes to Super Hornets, Kindley said, the default answer to almost every breathing issue is “contamination.” 

    Mike Fabey

    The Navy aviation community writ large is trying to get “crazy smart” about its own maintenance and testing procedures for the F-18, overcoming a sense of remote-control upkeep that has been associated with the Hornets and Super Hornets.

    U.S. Navy F/A-18 operators have enough of the hypoxia and other breathing-related problems that have seemingly plagued the aircraft over the past couple of years.

    One squadron, for example, has come up with a rather simple solution for a jet that gives its pilots such grief,

    “They put them on probation,” Capt. David Kindley, program manager for the Navy’s mainstay aircraft, told Scout Warrior in an interview.  “They put it in jail.”

    And to get out of jet jail, the aircraft must go through a pretty rigorous round of testing and vetting. “They are taking ownership of their own (hypoxia-related) issues),” Kindley says. “They are getting pretty smart on maintenance – crazy smart.”


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    The United States Air Force has completed its first ever overseas deployment of the stealthy new Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

    Dave Majumdar

    The United States Air Force has completed its first ever overseas deployment of the stealthy new Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

    Eight of the single-engine strike fighters deployed to RAF Lakenheath in Great Britain as part of the United States’ efforts to reassure America’s European allies and deter potential Russian aggression in the theater. The aircraft—which belong to the Thirty-Fourth Fighter Squadron—are normally stationed with the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.


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    “We took swift action to self-report the incident to the Air Force, and we remediated the oxygen system at no cost to the government,” Boeing spokesman Ben Davis told the Air Force Times.

    Thomas Phippen

    Airline mechanics caused $4 million in damage to an Air Force One plane in 2016, according to a Department of Defense investigation released Wednesday.

    Three Boeing Co. mechanics “failed to observe explicit warnings” and contaminated one VC-25A plane’s oxygen system, increasing the risk of fire, according to the report.


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    Boeing? Leonardo? Northrop Grumman? Lockheed? Who? 

    Dave Majumdar

    If the U.S. Air Force chooses Boeing’s submission for its T-X advanced jet trainer competition, the company expects to build the aircraft in Saint Louis, Missouri.

    The move would generate up to 1,800 jobs in the Midwestern city and keep the company’s plant open for the foreseeable future after production of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler inevitably comes to a close. Boeing has thus far built two prototype T-X aircraft for the Air Force’s competition.

    “Our highly skilled St. Louis workforce designed, assembled and brought Boeing T-X to life, and they continue to define the future, not just for our company, but for our customers and the global aerospace industry,” Shelley Lavender, St. Louis senior executive and president of Boeing Military Aircraft, said in a statement.


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    Boeing's X-32. 

    Robert Farley

    Chosen in 2001, the F-35 went on to become the largest Pentagon procurement project of all time, and one of the most beset by trouble. The X-32 escaped all of the most significant challenges to the F-35. The X-32 never faced decades of testing and redesign; it never saw massive cost overruns; it was never subjected to an endless series of articles about how it couldn’t out-dogfight an F-16A. Nostalgia for what might have been is common in aircraft competitions, and it’s impossible to say whether the X-32 would have run into the same difficulties of the F-35.  Given the complex nature of advanced fighter projects, the answer is almost certainly “yes.”


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    What didn't they buy? 

    Dave Majumdar

    Additional details are emerging about President Donald Trump’s $109.7 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that was formally signed on May 20. Some of the big winners in the deal include defense industrial giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon among others. The massive arms deal had been in the works for the past two years and was coordinated via the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Threat-Based Security Cooperation Working Group.

    Lockheed Martin garnered a substantial portion of the massive deal. Altogether, the company netted more than $28 billion from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA):


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    The idea behind Phantom Express is that as a reusable spaceplane, it could be turned around and launched back into space quickly.

    Dave Majumdar

    Earlier this month, Boeing and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that they hope to build a new space plane to quickly carry satellites and other payloads into orbit. Called the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, the new robotic spacecraft would be an autonomous, reusable spaceplane. The spaceplane would be used to lift a small expendable upper stage aloft to where it could launch a small satellite of about 3,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.

    “Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk,” Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement.


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    The company expects that it will see robust demand for its military aviation products including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler and the F-15 Eagle.

    Dave Majumdar

    Boeing expects to see the fortunes of its defense business improve over the next several years and much brighter prospects for its tactical fighter products.  Nonetheless, the company faces uncertainty over how future U.S. defense spending will shape up.

    The company expects that it will see robust demand for its military aviation products including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler and the F-15 Eagle.

    “We see our defense business strengthening. We still see it as a modest growth business going forward,” Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said at Sanford C. Bernstein’s Strategic Decision Brokers Conference on June 1.


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