Design work has begun on the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, but India's next major fighter program will be the co-development of the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)—a derivative of the Sukhoi T-50 now in flight test and scheduled to enter service with the Russian air force in 2017. India plans to buy 144 single-seat FGFAs to replace its Su-30MKIs from 2020.
While it waits for the T-50, Russia is topping up its aging fighter force, having taken delivery of 12 new single-seat Su-27M3s and four two-seat Su-30M2s, upgraded others, with 48 new modernized Su-35Ss and 30 two-seat Su-30MKs to be delivered by 2015. The air force will also receive 92 new Su-34 fighter-bombers by 2020. These orders will keep the Su-27/30 family available for export for several years,
China, meanwhile, has no fewer than six combat aircraft development programs underway. These include the improved Chengdu J-10B single-engine and Shenyang J-11B twin-engine fighters, and Shenyang J-15 and two-seat J-15S carrier-based fighters modeled on the Su-33. China has also flown two new prototype stealth fighters: the 35,000 kg-class Chengdu “J-20” in January 2011 and 17,500 kg-class Shenyang “J-31” in October 2012. Chinese reports say the F-22-class J-20 is expected to be operational by 2019. The status of the J-31 is less clear, but China's Avic is promoting it for export.
Perhaps prompted by the unveiling of China's stealth fighters, after the end of Lockheed Martin F-22 production and delays in F-35 development, the U.S. Defense Department is accelerating plans to demonstrate next-generation air-dominance fighters. In October 2012, the Pentagon outlined plans for an 18-month concept definition effort funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that could lead to a prototyping program to be completed within five years. But “sixth-generation” fighters for the U.S. Air Force and Navy are not expected to be fielded until after 2030.
Introduction of advanced fighters is driving increased activity in the trainer market, as air forces address more-demanding training requirements. AWIN forecasts 2013-17 deliveries of almost 480 advanced trainers, lead by Pilatus (31%) and Embraer (16%).
A 28-aircraft deal with Iraq has put the Aero Vodochody L-159 back in production, while follow-on orders for 22 from Saudi Arabia and potentially 20 for India will extend BAE Systems Hawk production through 2015. Israel has ordered 30 Alenia Aermacchi M-346s for delivery beginning in 2014, following Italy and Singapore, and Indonesia has ordered 16 Korea Aerospace Industries T-50s. The Hawk, M-346 and T-50 are the leading offshore candidates for the U.S. Air Force's upcoming, but undefined and unfunded, T-X competition to replace its T-38 trainers. Boeing plans to offer a clean-sheet design.
Turboprop trainers are also in demand. Embaer continues to score customers for its EMB-314 Super Tucano, and a decision in the restaged U.S. Air Force light-attack competition against the Beechcraft AT-6 is expected early in 2013. The Pilatus PC-21 was boosted in 2012 with orders for 55 from Saudi Arabia and 24 for Qatar, for delivery beginning in 2014.
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The U.S.-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is set to dominate the combat-aircraft market for decades to come. To see a video analyzing the various contenders in the market, check out the AW&ST digital edition on leading tablets and smartphones or go to AviationWeek.com/video
Combat Aircraft To Watch
|MODEL/DESIGNATION||WING SPAN (FT.)||MAX LENGTH (FT.)||MAX HEIGHT (FT.)||WING AREA (SQ. FT.)||EMPTY WEIGHT (LB.)||GROSS WEIGHT (LB.)||ENGINES (NO./TYPE)||THRUST (AFTERBURNING)||PERFORMANCE||LOADING|
|Boeing Defense, Space & Security|
|F-15E Strike Eagle||42.8||63.8||18.7||609.4||37,000||81,000||2 X P&W F100-229 or GE F110-129||29,000 lb. ea||M 2.5-class||24,500 lb. external|
|F/A-18E/F Super Hornet||44.9||60.2||16||500||32,080/32,795||66,000||2 X GE F414-400||22,000 lb. ea||M 1.8+||11 weapons stations|
|Rafale C/B/M||36||50||17.5||492||22,000||54,000||2 X Snecma M88-2||17,000 lb ea||M 1.8||21,000 lb. external|
|Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH|
|Eurofighter||35.11||52.4||17.4||538||24,250||51,809||2 X Eurojet EJ200||20,000 lb. ea||M 2||16,535 lb. external|
|Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.|
|F-35A Lightning II||35||51.5||14.1||460||29,300||68,000||1 X P&W F135-100||43,000 lb.||M 1.6||Internal: 2 X AIM-120, 2 X GBU-2 |
|JAS 39C/D Gripen||27.6||46.3||14.8||323||15,000||28,000||1 X Volvo Aero RM12||18,100 lb.||M 2||8 weapon stations|
|Sukhoi Design Bureau JSC|
|Su-35||50.2||71.9||19.4||667||—||76,059||2 X NPO Saturn 117S||31,970 lb. ea||M 2.25||17,640 lb. external|