Production of current U.S. fighters continues, for now. Additional U.S. Navy procurement will keep the Boeing F/A-18E/F line open to 2015, and a Saudi Arabian order for 85 F-15SAs will keep it in production to 2020. Boeing is proposing a suite of F/A-18E/F upgrades to potential export customers, including Brazil and Kuwait.
With the F-35's initial operational capability date still undefined, the U.S. Air Force is to upgrade 300 F-16s with active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars to keep them in service through 2030. Taiwan is following suit and there is interest in the upgrade from Greece, Poland, Portugal and Singapore. BAE Systems is to upgrade South Korea's F-16s with AESAs.
Europe is moving to catch up with the U.S. in fielding fighters with AESA radars. The first production Rafale with Thales RBE2 AESA entered operational testing in 2012, with squadron deliveries to begin in 2013. An Indian contract for 126 AESA-equipped Rafales is expected to be signed early in 2013.
The four nations behind the Eurofighter Typhoon, which lost in India and Japan but is competing in South Korea, are expected to award a development contract for an AESA to the Selex Galileo-led Euroradar consortium early in 2013, aiming for fielding in 2015. Meanwhile, production has begun under the 112-aircraft Tranche 3a contract, which could be the final batch for partners Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K.
Sweden and Switzerland signed a framework agreement in 2012 covering joint development and procurement of the Saab JAS 39E, based on the Gripen NG demonstrator, with a more powerful General Electric F414 engine, increased range and weapons capacity, and Selex Galileo/Saab AESA radar. Deliveries are to begin in 2018, first to Sweden, which plans to buy 60-80, then to Switzerland, which intends to order 22.
At the same time as U.S. and European fighter-makers compete for export orders to keep production lines open, more countries are looking to develop combat aircraft to advance their aerospace ambitions. Amid domestic political obstacles, South Korea continues to pursue plans to develop an indigenous stealth fighter, the KF-X, to replace its F-16s starting in 2020. Concept definition was completed in 2012.
Indonesia has a 20% stake in the KF-X program, and intends to take 50 of the 250 aircraft planned, as a follow-on to its purchase of Korea Aerospace Industries' T-50 supersonic trainers. Turkey's Turkish Aerospace Industries, meanwhile, will complete a funded feasibility study of the proposed TFX program in early 2013, and recommend a strategy for fielding a new fighter and trainer after 2023.
While Japan has selected the F-35 to replace its F-4EJs, and is to modernize its F-15Js, it is planning indigenous development of a stealth fighter. The new F-3 would begin replacing its Mitsubishi F-2s in the first half of the 2030s and the F-15s in the second half, with some 200 aircraft planned. A subscale technology demonstrator is to fly in 2014.
India's attempts to develop an indigenous light combat aircraft, the Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas, have not gone as planned. The first of 40 Tejas Mk1s became operational in 2012, but the overweight, underpowered aircraft does not meet requirements. Development of a larger Mk2, with a more powerful GE F414 engine, is planned, with a requirement for 80 for the Indian air force plus 50 naval variants for the Indian navy.