It’s that most wonderful time of the year…
As spring turns to summer, it can only mean one thing – air show season is upon us. That means that the esteemed Farnborough International Air Show (FIA) is around the corner.
With that in mind members of the UK’s Independence Defence Media Association (IDMA) made their way to the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) in London for lunch and a chin-wag about what to expect at this year’s event.
The hot topic was of course the F-35, five of which are set to appear at FIA 2016 – assuming no repeat of the 2014 shenanigans.
In fact the first two F-35As touched down in the Netherlands at Leeuwarden Air Base on 23 May. This made them the first two F-35s to cross the Atlantic east-bound. In 2014 the US Marine Corps suspended the first flight of this kind following an engine fire which grounded the fleet of aircraft.
While there are people on both sides of the arguments as to whether investing in the F-35 is the best way forward, it is what the UK has ended up with.
While Lockheed is the main contractor, raising concerns that the UK has not investing fully in its domestic industry, there is plenty of UK-based industry involved in the manufacture of the aircraft, including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and GE Aviation.
One consideration for the UK looking to the future is how to keep a high-specification industrial base alive as it looks to the relationship with the US for more of its equipment.
And speaking of the UK buying US equipment, the P-8 Poseidon will also be making itself known at the show after the UK committed to buy nine aircraft through a sole-source procurement.
A foreign military sale has been agreed upon will sees the cost of each aircraft and all the added services set to be around £250 million each.
Beyond that what can we expect? Well the Airlander is set to make an appearance. If you want my personal views check out my blog on the beast. I will say no more.
Also expect chatter about future unmanned capabilities. As Farnborough will occur after the UK EU referendum it will be interesting to see how we are placed with our partnership with the French on the unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).
It is almost certain that in the future we could expect to see a mixture of F-35, Typhoon (which will be taking to the skies at FIA) and UCAVs making up a fighter capability.
To date the UK and France have agreed upon a £1.5 billion investment in UCAV development.
Things I’m personally going to be looking out for at Farnborough include the presence of the newly-named Leonardo (the artist formally known as Finmeccanica), Boeing celebrating its centenary at the event and whether I can wangle my way into an aircraft for a flight!
As I post this there are just a mere 47 days to go. So if you want to wear-in some comfy shoes for the event my advice would be to buy them now…