Farnborough 96

RUNNING FROM Monday September 2 to Sunday September 8, with trade-only days Monday to Friday and public days on Saturday/Sunday, the 1996 Society of British Aerospace Contractors’ show at Farnborough has been considerably improved since the last event in 1994.

The old familiar blue and white striped halls and chalets, built by the same contractor to the same style since the show moved to Farnborough in 1948, have finally been replaced by light, bright and modern clear-span structures. The weekend public days have also been enhanced to attract more families to the show, resulting in the introduction of in-flight simulators, computer games and the like, plus expanded flying displays including many historic aircraft.

Probably the most interesting of the military aircraft on show was the new Sukhoi Su-37 thrust-vectoring version of the Flanker, which was making its Western airshow debut. First flown on April 2, 1996, by test pilot Yevgeny Frolov, Project 711 — as it was originally known (the prototype aircraft also being appropriately coded 711 white) — was initially displayed to Russian experts and journalists at the Zhukovsky flight test centre near Moscow on July 31. Its first public display was at the Tushino Air Day in Moscow on August 18, providing an early glimpse of its remarkable agility.

The aircraft’s two Lyulka/Saturn AL-37FU afterburning turbofan engines are fitted with thrust-vectoring control (TVC) nozzles which are only operable in the pitch axis, steerable through a maximum deflection of ±15° vertically at a rate of 30°/second. For the future, Lyulka is examining the development of nozzles which will provide thrust vector deflection in yaw as well as pitch. This has produced an aircraft with exceptionally high manoeuvrability which should give the Su-37 supremacy in most dogfight situations. Unlike the German/US X-31A programme, which was specifically a technology demonstrator, the Su-37 is to be a production single-seat, multi-role, all-weather, air superiority fighter, which Sukhoi hopes will be ordered by Russian and other air forces. However, limited defence budgets are likely to be the main factor influencing potential buyers of this advanced fighter.

Flight testing of the AL-37FU TVC powerplant in the Su-37 is expected to be completed by the end of this year, enabling series production of the engine to begin next year. The five-month initial phase of the flight test programme, comprising some 50 flights, was completed just prior to the aircraft departing for Farnborough. A second phase of a further 50 test flights is due for completion by the end of the year. The possibility of developing a two-seat version of the Su-37 with enhanced strike capabilities is also being considered by Sukhoi.

Another Russian debutante was the MiG-AT, contender for the Russian Air Force advanced trainer order, which took part in the flying display. A 40-year-old Russian design was ajso seen at Farnborough for the first time — the MiG-2 ILF Lancer, an Israeli upgraded Fish bed.

Amongst the other military items at the show, Aero Vodochody brought along its L-59 derivative of the L-39 Albatros which it continues to promote on the international military jet trainer and light attack aircraft market. In a similar field, BAe was showing the Hawk Mk 100 which was paired with Embraer’s EMB-312H Super Tucano in a display to promote the Canadian NATO flying training scheme based at CFB Moose Jaw sponsored by BAe/Embraer/Bombardier/CAE. Other turboprop trainers included the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II, together with the JPATS-winning Raytheon Beech PC-9 Mk II.

Eurofighter 2000 DA2 also made its first Farnborough appearance. Because it had only just flown prior to Farnborough ’94, the overall programme delays dictated that it was more imperative to catch up with the flight test programme, than lose a week displaying at the show — so it was good to finally see it in action. Also of note — a production JAS 39 Gripen flew in the flying display for the first time since the prototype was demonstrated at Farnborough ‘92.

US military types predominated at the show with a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra and 0H-58D Kiowa Warrior; Boeing CH-47D Chinook; Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolt II; Gulfstream C-20G; Lockheed EC-130E Volant Solo 2; Lockheed Martin F-16C; C-17A Globemaster III, AH-64A Apache, AH-

64D Longbow Apache, AV-8B Harrier II, F-15E Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet; E-2C Hawkeye and the first production E-8C J-STARS; Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk and UH-60A Black Hawk.

For many, the highlight of the US contingent was the brief appearance of the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit stealth bomber. The aircraft took off from Whiteman AFB, Montana, at 0600hrs (GMT) on Monday September 2 and was due to make two flypasts at 1425hrs. However, it was delayed by having to fly around a tornado on the Eastern Seaboard until 1455hrs — then it had to hold off to the south of Farnborough while the TTTE Tornado, Gripen and Harrier GR.7 completed their displays. The B-2A finally performed its flypasts at 1514hrs, before returning home to land at 0311hrs (GMT) having been airborne for 21hrs 11 mins.

Farnborough US News Briefs

JOINT STRIKE Fighter (JSF) is set to become a high-profile feature at future Farnboroughs, with the aircraft likely to dominate the military market in the US during the first half of the 21st century. All three competitors chasing this valuable contract, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and the McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace/Northrop Grumman consortium were giving briefings on their own projects during the show.

The three competitors will be down-selected to two on November 7, with their main challenge being to make the aircraft more affordable, at a fly-away cost of $30 million per aircraft. Seven current aircraft will be replaced by the winner; the BAe Sea Harrier F/A-2, McDD AV-8B, Grumman EA-6B, Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDD F/A-18 Hornet, A-10A and Lockheed-Martin F-16. The USAF has a requirement for 2,000 aircraft, the US Navy 300, the USMC 600 and the Royal Navy 60.

So whoever wins, wins all — leaving the loser with dwindling markets and perhaps even struggling to survive.

THE E-8C JOINT-STARS serialled 92-3289 was wearing the WR tail code assigned to its base Warner-Robins AFB, Georgia. Many people will remember that the code was once worn by 81st TFW Phantoms and A-lOAs (and for a while 527th TFTAS F-16C/Ds) based at Bentwaters and Woodbridge in Suffolk until both bases closed in the early 1990s.

Following its recent grounding, when 1-2% of rivets were found to be of the incorrect specification, the E-8C has had restrictions placed on some of its performance. The aircraft on display wears four fin-tip colours, green/red/blue/yellow, each representing a squadron of the 93rd Airborne Control Wing.

The Wing’s first squadron to operate the J-STARS is 12th ACCS which became operational on January 30, and is represented on the tail by the green in the multi-coloured fin-tip. The second squadron will be the 16th ACCS (red fin-tip colour) though no date has been given for its operational commencement, while the 93rd Operational Support Squadron (OSS) is blue and 93rd Training Squadron, yellow. The second E-8C J-STARS is expected to be delivered between November 30-December 1.

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