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Few Fighters Fly At Farnborough; F-35B Zips By

Posted by Colin Clark on

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: Are the biggest air shows becoming no-fly zones for military aircraft?

Dominated today by the seemingly unending competition between Airbus and Boeing to see who announces the most commercial aircraft orders, this year’s show offers a very thin gruel of military aircraft flights or military aircraft on display.

A UK F-35B flew past this morning, barely rippling the sky. Other than that, an F-16 may fly (though it’s not listed on the Farnborough website) and that’s about it for fighter aircraft. We should see the Airbus A400M military cargo plane fly, along with Turkey’s T129 attack helicopter, Embraer’s KC-390 and Ukraine’s Antonov AN 178 cargo plane.

Several long-time airshow observers voiced amazement at the paucity of fighters and other US military aircraft, saying it demonstrated how few new aircraft are rolling off the lines in America and Europe. One of the observers, who didn’t want to be identified, raised questions about whether the big trade airshows are now so dominated by the commercial struggle between Boeing and Airbus that military aircraft have effectively been crowded out.

The UK rolled out its air warfare strategy today. Britain is not building advanced fighters anymore  (although BAE Systems does considerable work on the F-35), but the strategy includes a commitment to building a concept aircraft led by a government-industry group known as “Team Tempest.”

The concept aircraft is built by British firms including BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA and Rolls-Royce, which have joined with the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office. Each company is focused on a key tech area:

  • advanced combat air systems and integration (BAE Systems);
  • advanced power and propulsion systems (Rolls-Royce);
  • advanced sensors, electronics and avionics (Leonardo); and
  • advanced weapon systems (MBDA).

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