Over the past week, Global Defence Technology virtually tuned into the Air Force Association’s Aerospace Warfare Symposium, where we heard from top US Air Force leaders about all things F-35 and interest in Boeing’s E-7 Wedgetail.
First off, we can tell you that reports of the F-35’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
The F-35 – the Marmite of fighter jets, as we’ve come to call it – hit headlines again as claims emerged that the US Air Force’s potential purchase of a clean-sheet design fighter to replace the F-16 meant the F-35 project has failed. However, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr countered these claims on Thursday, saying the F-35 was the ‘cornerstone’ of the US tactical air capability.
The USAF plans to order a total of 1,763 F-35As and the model was originally planned as a replacement for the F-16. Brown’s comments about a new F-16 replacement and the recent acquisition of the F-15EX have been seen by many as a signal that the F-35 project has failed. However, it can also be seen as an acknowledgement that the Lockheed Martin stealth jet is not a magic bullet that will solve all of the USAF’s problems.
During the Aerospace Warfare Symposium, we also heard that the Air Force Chief of Staff isn’t ready to commit to Wedgetail.
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Despite interest in acquiring The Boeing E-7 Wedgetail to replace the Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft from some corners of the US Air Force, Brown said at the event that he wasn’t ready to commit to the aircraft.
Speaking during a media roundtable, Brown said: “I’m not going to commit to what platform is going to be replacing E-3. But we do need to take a look at our airborne moving target indications with the E-3, I realised that we have parts of Air Force which are Wedgetail fans. And I’ve actually had a chance to fly in a Wedgetail and talk to our partners and really the Royal Australian Air Force. It’s a capable platform.”
And finally, here’s what a stone used in Buckingham Palace has to do with explosive ordnance disposal testing.
The UK Ministry of Defence’s Portland Bill range is a magnetic test site chosen for its remote location and occurrence of non-magnetic Portland stone, which was used in the construction of Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.
We checked out the site, which is managed by QinetiQ, and its role in assessing equipment from items used for explosive ordnance disposal to mine countermeasure vessels.
MOD Portland Bill is home to the Land Magnetic Range, a system capable of simulating the Earth’s magnetic field, reducing it to zero or separating it into vertical and horizontal components. We can’t confirm that Buckingham Palace has similar powers, though.
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Quote of the week
“As far as next-generation air dominance (NGAD) versus F-35 [goes], we’re not going to take money from F-35 to do NGAD. We’re going to look at some of the other parts of the fighter force to take a look at NGAD, to help fund NGAD. [We] want to keep the F-35 on track, but also look at NGAD.”
US Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr on whether the service could cut F-35 funding to develop its next-generation fighter.