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Grounded US F-35s to resume flying after oxygen problem
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 20, 2017

Lockheed Martin nears $40 billion deal for 440 F-35s
Washington (UPI) Jun 20, 2017 - Lockheed Martin is on the verge of securing the U.S. and foreign military sales needed to quickly increase production of the F-35 Lightning II, according to company officials.

The deal, which could be worth up to $40 billion, would produce and supply 440 F-35s to the U.S. and 10 allied buyers over several years.

"While not finalized, and we don't have a confirmed timetable, when an agreement is reached, it is expected to save an overall $2 billion dollars due to the ability to take advantage of the economy of scale savings buying three years of jets at once vice an annual procurement," Laurie Tortorello, senior manager for F-35 global communications at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, told UPI.

"This more than doubles the total amount of airplanes under contract, and that we'll be building," Lockheed executive Jeff Babione, said of the deal on Monday at the Paris Air Show.

Babione said the deal would support up to 150,000 jobs worldwide connected to the program, including its factories in Texas, Italy and Japan. Up to 200,000 jobs could be added over the life-cycle of the program.

Lockheed says the cost of each plane is falling rapidly, and is now standing at $95 million each. The company, which has taken heat from Congress and President Donald Trump over the estimated $400 billion cost of the program, has said it hopes to lower costs further over the next few years.

The deal would include all three variants of the F-35, designed for airfields, carrier operations, and vertical take-off and landing. Testing for the 5th fighter continues, with full-rate production expected to commence in April 2019.

The F-35 is a stealth, multi-role 5th generation fighter that is expected to replace much of the U.S. military's fighter fleet. It will be used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, and features the most sophisticated electronic warfare and sensor systems ever put on a fighter jet.

Dozens of F-35 stealth fighters that were grounded for 11 days due to an oxygen-supply problem aboard the expensive warplanes will resume flying on Wednesday, the US Air Force said.

Investigators were unable to identify a root cause of the issue, which had prompted the 56th Fighter Wing of Luke Air Force Base, Arizona to ground its F-35s.

"However, specific concerns were eliminated as possible causes including maintenance and aircrew flight equipment procedures," base spokeswoman Major Rebecca Heyse said in a statement.

The Lockheed Martin planes were grounded on June 9 due to five incidents since May 2 in which pilots experienced symptoms of hypoxia, of lack of oxygen.

Currently, the 56th Fighter Wing has 55 F-35A planes that are used to train pilots from the US and other air forces that are buying the jet.

Heyse said experts are continuing to probe the issue and several precautionary steps are being taken, including increasing the minimum levels for backup oxygen systems for each flight.

With a current development and acquisition price tag already at $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft -- most destined for the US Air Force -- the F-35 is the most expensive plane in history, and costs are set to rise further still.

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

Proponents tout the F-35's radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes.

Other problems include software bugs, technical glitches and even a faulty eject system that risked killing pilots who weighed less than 136 pounds (62 kilograms).

Rockwell Collins receives E-2D trainer contract
Washington (UPI) Jun 15, 2017
Rockwell Collins Simulation and Training Solutions has received a $34 million contract for the procurement of one E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Tactics Trainer. The trainer will support E-2D Hawkeye Integrated Training Systems III program. The contract provides for aircraft-to-simulator concurrency updates, engineering changes and retrofitting for other Hawkeye training systems,and testing of t ... read more

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