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  • Fight's On!
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 11:13 AM on Jul 12, 2010

    With a shrunken Lockheed Martin corporate presence at Farnborough, and the Joint Strike Fighter customer staying well clear of the show and any JSF media briefings, the competition is seeing a shot opportunity.

    Specifically, the challenge is aimed at Lockheed Martin's "fifth-generation" tag - which places the F-22 and F-35 in a class by themselves, implicitly superior to other designs, while placing competitors in the same generation as the F-16 and F-15.

    First to call Fox 3 for the air show was Boeing's new vice-president for the Super Hornet program, Kory Mathews. At last week's pre-show media briefing, Mathews said flatly that Boeing "views the whole concept of numeric generations to be meaningless and moot. It's about capability".

    Boeing's perspective is that most of the capabilities that the F-35 offers are already in place on the Super Hornet - and that features such as sensor fusion and network-enabled operations, identified as attributes of "fifth-generation" fighters, are already fielded and in combat use with the Block II version of the F/A-18E/F.

    As far as Boeing is concerned, the difference between the F-35 and the Super Hornet comes down to the degree of radar cross section reduction applied to the design, but the company and the US Navy both promote the concept of "balanced survivability".

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    Boeing will also be briefing at Farnborough on its vision for future tactical aircraft, beyond the F-35.

    Eurofighter will be taking a different tack:  Arguing that if there is such a thing as a fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 is not in that category. Eurofighter rolled out this case at last year's Defence IQ Fighter Conference in Athens and amplified it in its house magazine in May. Sample chart:

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    Of course this is selective evidence, but it does underscore an important point that many people overlook:  supercruise, supersonic maneuver and high altitude were an integral part of both the Advanced Tactical Fighter requirement that led to the F-22, and the requirements process that yielded the Typhoon. In both cases, the idea was to reduce the effective range of incoming missiles.

    The big difference was that in May 1986 the Pentagon went hard-over on stealth, effectively eliminating all the ATF competitors except Northrop and Lockheed, who would both get prototype contracts. The Europeans decided to stick to a combination of reduced RCS and countermeasures. 24 years later those decisions continue to be immensely important.

    Tags: ar99, farn10, jsf, hornet, typhoon

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