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Farnborough Airshow 2018: the line-up

As the industry gets ready for the Farnborough International Airshow, Talal Husseini takes a look at the technology, displays and demonstrations we can expect at this year’s event.

Red arrows and airbus A400M in formation at FIA 2016. Image: Triple H Images /

Stow your tray table and fasten your seatbelt, the Farnborough Airshow (FIA) 2018 is making its descent into the UK next month. From 16-22 July, manufacturers, industry experts, and members of the public will gather to view the latest aircraft and aerospace technologies. Astronaut Tim Peake will also be returning to talk to young people who are interested in a career in the sector.

From fighter jets, military transport aircraft and UAVs to the latest digital technologies, here is what to look out for this year.       

Farnborough Airshow, set for 16-22 July, will showcase the latest military aircraft and technology capabilities. Image courtesy of US Air Force.

Military aircraft demonstrations

Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft 

Nicknamed ‘Herc’, the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft is almost 30m long and can hold more than 20,000kg total payload, while reaching a considerable cruise speed of 374mph. The versatile aircraft has been used for airborne assault, search and rescue, and aerial refuelling, as well as a troop, medevac and cargo transport aircraft. 

It is currently being tested by US’s DARPA to deploy and recover a swarm of UAVs known as ‘Gremlins’, which are lowered from Herc and soon get to work distributing arms and equipment to ground troops. On completion of their mission, the C-130 fishes the Gremlins out of the air using a special capture device similar to airborne refuelling, at a speed of four every 30 minutes.

Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon

With maximum speeds of 915mph at sea level and 1,500mph at altitude, the F-16 fighter jet is one of the fastest jets on display at Farnborough. The F-16 has the capacity to hold two 2,000lb bombs, two AIM-9 missiles, two AIM-120 missiles and two 2,400lb external fuel tanks. It is also armed with an M-61A1 20mm multi-barrel cannon with 500 rounds.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon at Farnborough Airshow last year. Image courtesy of: US Air Force

Lockheed F-35B Lightning II  

Recently, four new F-35 jet fighters arrived in the UK for the first time. The jets cost £92m per unit and will be used by the recently reformed 617 Squadron nicknamed ‘The Dambusters’, which will see a revival of the UK Navy’s ability to launch sea-borne operations from aircraft carriers. In total, the military plans to purchase 138 F-35 jets.

The F-35’s role in this year’s Airshow has yet to be confirmed. However, you can expect to see the fruits of the largest defence programme in the world, worth $1.3tn, sometime soon.

Historic military favourites: Spitfire, Apache, P-38 Lightning 

Many of the well-known historic military aircraft will be on display this year, including the Supermarine Spitfire, which made its first flight in 1936. The iconic plane was originally armed with eight Browning MK II machine guns, but Supermarine went on to develop many more variants. An MH434 Spitfire will be demonstrated for the public. 

Another vintage aircraft that will be given a live demo is the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, production of which ceased in 1945. It is easily recognised by its distinctive twin booms and central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. The P-38 was used primarily for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attacks, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, and as a long-range escort fighter. 

There will also be a static version of the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter for members of the public to look inside. The Apache is armed with a 30mm M230 chain gun carried between the main landing gear, and four hardpoints mounted on sub-wing pylons for armament and stores, typically using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rocket pods. 

Farnborough Airshow in 1970. Image courtesy of: Paul Townsend. 

Technology and innovation events 

Aerospace 4.0

Aerospace 4.0 is coming to FIA 2018, with a host of companies demonstrating how they can incorporate digital technologies into aerospace manufacturing. It will address the concepts such as big data, 3D printing, mobile and edge computing, augmented reality, machine learning and the internet of things (IoT) to make production cheaper. Aerospace 4.0 will have a dedicated exhibition hall showcasing hundreds of innovative products and additions throughout the week. 

Cargo Village

The Cargo Village will be set up at the Farnborough for the first time as a dedicated static display area to carry out demonstrations and showcase capabilities in the air cargo sector. It will also host the ‘New Routes to Market –The Future of Unmanned Aircraft’ panel discussion. The area will house up to 20 exhibitors across the sector.