The U.S. Air Force successfully conducted the first flight test of its AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, on a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft on June 12 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
A sensor-only version of the ARRW prototype was carried externally by a B-52H Stratofortress during the test to gather environmental and aircraft handling data.
The test gathered data on drag and vibration impacts on the weapon itself and on the external carriage equipment of the aircraft. The prototype did not have explosives and it was not released from the B-52H Stratofortress during the flight test. This type of data collection is required for all Air Force weapon systems undergoing development.
«We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter», said Doctor Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. «We set out an aggressive schedule with ARRW. Getting to this flight test on time highlights the amazing work of our acquisition workforce and our partnership with Lockheed Martin and other industry partners».
The Air Force is leading the way in air-launched hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts. As one of two rapid prototyping hypersonic efforts, ARRW is set to reach early operational capability by fiscal year 2022.
«This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential – it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face», Roper said.
The flight test serves as the first of many flight tests that will expand the test parameters and capabilities of the ARRW prototype.
The ARRW rapid prototyping effort awarded a contract in August 2018 to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Florida, for critical design review, test and production readiness support to facilitate fielded prototypes.
The U.S. Navy christened its newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21), during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony Saturday, June 15, in Marinette, Wisconsin.
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota delivered the christening ceremony’s principal address. Deputy Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy Jodi Greene served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, Ms. Greene christened the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.
«The christening of the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul marks an important step toward this great ship’s entry into the fleet», said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. «The dedication and skilled work of our industry partners have ensured this ship will represent the great city of Minneapolis-Saint Paul and serve our Navy and Marine Corps team for decades to come».
The future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric «anti-access» threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ship will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wisconsin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama (for LCS-6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).
LCS-21 is the 11th Freedom-variant LCS, the 21st in the class. She is the second ship named in honor of Minnesota’s twin cities. The first was a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine that served from 1984 to 2008. Two U.S. Navy ships have been named for Minneapolis and two for St. Paul.
Ship Design Specifications
Advanced semiplaning steel monohull
389 feet/118.6 m
57 feet/17.5 m
13.5 feet/4.1 m
Full Load Displacement
Approximately 3,200 metric tons
Greater than 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range at top speed
1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km
Range at cruise speed
4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7,408 km
Watercraft Launch and Recovery
Up to Sea State 4
Aircraft Launch and Recovery
Up to Sea State 5
Combined diesel and gas turbine with steerable water jet propulsion
85 MW/113,600 horsepower
Two MH-60 Romeo Helicopters
One MH-60 Romeo Helicopter and three Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (VTUAVs)
Less than 50
Accommodations for 75 sailors provide higher sailor quality of life than current fleet
Integrated Bridge System
Fully digital nautical charts are interfaced to ship sensors to support safe ship operation
Core Self-Defense Suite
Includes 3D air search radar
Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) gunfire control system
Airbus has successfully completed a flight demonstration of a connected airborne battlespace scenario, centred on a Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft. The test was carried out as part of the development of Airbus’ Network for the Sky (NFTS) programme. This follows on from last August’s demonstration in Canada of secure mobile communications using a stratospheric balloon to simulate a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS), such as Airbus’ Zephyr Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
NFTS combines various technologies – satellite and ground communications, air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air tactical links, 5G mobile communications and laser connections – in a resilient, unified, secure, highly interoperable, mesh network. Aircraft, UAVs and helicopters currently use networks with limited bandwidth and interoperability, and often little resilience. NFTS will allow them to form an integral part of high-speed military networks.
«This unique demonstration is a significant milestone in realising our vision of secure connectivity, which will enable the future air combat cloud and enhance real time execution of military missions», said Evert Dudok, Head of Communications, Intelligence & Security at Airbus Defence and Space.
The demonstration scenario simulates the establishment of multi-Mbit/s, wideband communication links between ground forces operatives, a fighter jet, a MRTT, and a Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) on the ground. Both the operatives and jet fighter had to send video in real time to provide enhanced real-time situational awareness and receive instructions from the CAOC in return.
The operative located in Getafe (Spain) was equipped with a standard handheld radio for NATO forces (ROVER). The fighter was deployed to obtain imagery of the area of interest and act as a communications node between the operative and the MRTT flying at 30,000 feet/9,144 m within a 150 km/93 miles radius in secure airspace. Communications were thus relayed between the fighter jet and the MRTT, via a wideband Line-Of-Sight (LOS) data link. The MRTT then routed the video along with its own communications via a wideband satellite link to a space teleport near Washington, D.C. The communications flow was then returned to Europe via a terrestrial link to the CAOC.
This complex scenario demonstrates the real-time operation of secure end-to-end communications across different networks and technologies: ground-air tactical link, air-air wideband link between two aircrafts, air-satellite relay and terrestrial networks. This type of configuration, known as a «hybrid network», represents the future of military communications and meets the needs of armed forces to be able to use a wide range of networks while allowing these to be managed dynamically and transparently. The solutions developed by Airbus thus allow secure Internet Protocol (IP) communications to be established, links to be reconfigured in real time and the available bandwidth to be allocated to data links based on operational priorities.
For this demonstration an MRTT aircraft has been equipped with Janus, Airbus’ new tri-band (Ku-Ka-MilKa) satellite antenna, as well as the latest version of the Proteus satellite modem, which is highly resilient against interference and jamming, and Airbus’ Aircraft Links Integration Management System (ALIMS).
This exercise paves the way for the development of the core capability for SMART MRTT connectivity, which will allow the MRTT to act as a high-end communication node. Network for the Sky (NFTS) sets the foundation for the connected airborne battlespace, with the objective to offer a full operational capability by 2020. The NFTS programme is part of Airbus’ Future Air Power project and is fully aligned with the development of the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
Over the five years of grinding war that has pitted Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed fighters, the United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military gear: night-vision goggles, flak jackets, vehicles, counter-battery radars, among other things.
Last year, after years of internal debate that preceded his administration, President Donald Trump began supplying Ukraine with sophisticated anti-tank missiles known as Javelins – a move that some feared would antagonize Moscow.
Now, U.S. lawmakers are moving to up the ante again, with legislation that would authorize supplying Kyiv with surface-to-air missiles.
The effort comes in an amendment being attached to legislation providing funding for the Defense Department; the amendment removes existing language prohibiting the sale of such missiles, known as MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS.
Sponsored by the two top lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Democrat Eliot Engel and Republican Michael McCaul – the measure, which is expected to pass easily, does not mean that the weapons will be supplied right away.
Any final decision would have to go through multiple approval processes at various U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Defense Department.
Moreover, targets for Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles are limited for now: Russia-backed separatists don’t have fighter jets, and Russia sending its own aircraft over Ukraine would undermine its assertions that it is not involved in the conflict.
Still, the move sends a clear message to the Kremlin of where Congress stands regarding the war in Ukraine. And, according to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, it’s a logical next step after the U.S. decision to supply Javelins to the Ukrainian armed forces.
«I don’t see this as generating more problems than the arrival of the Javelins did», Pifer, now a research fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). «We’re not talking about providing the Ukrainians with F-35 fighters or M-1 tanks».
The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a query seeking comment on the possibility of supplying the missiles.
One U.S. diplomat who has worked on Ukraine-related issues downplayed the significance of the amendment, telling RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely that it simply removed «an arbitrary restriction that is not in place for most countries».
The move comes as part of a broader effort in Congress to increase military support for Ukraine. Two separate pieces of legislation making their way through the House and the Senate call for authorizing up to $300 million in annual military support for Ukraine, an increase from past years.
And the House legislation calls for the first time for supplying anti-ship missiles and coastal-defense weaponry to Ukraine in response to an incident in November 2018, when Russian Coast Guard ships seized three Ukrainian boats and 24 sailors in the Kerch Strait near the Crimean Peninsula.
Though the overall death toll has surpassed 13,000, fighting around Ukraine’s Donbas region has ebbed and flowed in intensity since 2014, when the conflict with Russia first erupted.
In recent weeks, there’s been a sharp uptick in artillery shelling and gunfire, with Ukraine’s military reporting that at least six soldiers were killed last week.
It’s unclear how Russia would respond if Washington did in fact move forward to supply the surface-to-air missiles.
And it’s unclear how that would affect stalled peace negotiations, including the so-called Minsk Trilateral Contact Group meetings and the Normandy Format talks. Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called for restarting both efforts; last week, the Trilateral Group – comprised of officials from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – met for the first time in weeks.
But Konstantin Kosachyov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament and a Kremlin ally, criticized the overall increase in U.S. military funding for Ukraine.
«In this way Washington fuels Ukraine’s internal conflict. Such foreign support may create a dangerous delusion in Kiev that a solution can be achieved by military means», Kosachyov said in a post to his Facebook page on June 11. «Each million dollars of military support to Kiev spells more casualties and months and even years of war against one’s own people, for which the United States will bear its share of responsibility».
The MANPADS would have no immediate battlefield use, Pifer noted, since Russian military aircraft have not been used in the conflict. Drones, however, are widely used by both sides in the conflict.
While Moscow reacted angrily when Washington agreed to supply the Javelins to Ukraine, there have been few remarks by Russian officials on the subject since the 210 missiles and 37 launchers arrived in April 2018.
Ukraine has showcased the Javelins in publicized drills but its armed forces have not used them in combat against Russia-backed forces in eastern battlefields.
The special U.S. envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, has said that the Javelins are being stored in a secure facility far from the front line.
Ukrainian and U.S. sources with knowledge of the storage locations have told RFE/RL that the missiles and launchers have been separated into smaller groups and are held in strategic locations around the country, possibly in underground bunkers, where they can be moved quickly to areas that border Russia or the eastern front line.
In March, the top U.S. military commander for Europe told the Senate Armed Services Committee that even if the Javelins hadn’t been deployed, their presence had been registered by Russia-backed forces.
«They take that into consideration in the deployment of their forces and where they put them», General Curtis Scaparrotti told the committee.
Since 2014, Ukraine has received more than $3 billion in total support, including security and nonsecurity assistance, from the United States.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, will build six production VH-92A Presidential Helicopters under a contract from the U.S Navy. These helicopters are part of the 23 aircraft program of record for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Under the terms of the contract, known as Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1, Sikorsky will begin deliveries of six VH-92A helicopters in 2021. The remaining production aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and 2023. The contract also provides spares and training support.
The contract award follows an affirmative Milestone C decision on May 30 from the U.S. Navy moving the development program into production.
«The authorization to exercise the program’s first Low-Rate Initial Production lot is a testament to the hard work and dedication from the team to deliver this important asset on budget and within the planned acquisition timeline», said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Eric Ropella, PMA-274 presidential helicopter program manager. «This award is an example of acquisition done right».
Helicopter Proves Ready for Presidential Mission
The VH-92A test aircraft at Patuxent River, Maryland, have proven their production readiness by undergoing rigorous U.S. government testing and operational assessments, which included operating on the south lawn of the White House. The VH-92A has flown over 520 flight test hours establishing the aircraft’s technical maturity and readiness of its mission systems.
«This production decision validates the modifications to Sikorsky’s most successful commercial helicopter making it capable to transport the President of the United States at anytime, anywhere around the world», said Dave Banquer, Sikorsky VH-92A program director. «Sikorsky has been building and providing helicopter transportation for every U.S. President and Commander in Chief since Dwight D. Eisenhower. We are excited to build the next generation of transport with the VH-92A helicopter».
Prepared for Production
The VH-92A aircraft will provide safe, reliable and capable transportation for the President, Vice President and foreign heads of state.
This program ensures long term affordability and maintainability by utilizing the FAA certified S-92 aircraft which has industry leading reliability and availability. The S-92 fleet surpassed 1.5 million flight hours in April and averages 14,600 hours of safe flight per month.
Sikorsky and the U.S. Navy integrate mature mission and communication systems into the aircraft. This aircraft provides communication capability to perform the duties of Commander in Chief, Head of State and Chief Executive.
First Training System Delivered
Lockheed Martin delivered and installed the first VH-92A training device at the Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1 in Quantico, Virginia, earlier this year. Marine pilots, avionics technicians and squadron personnel are actively engaged in hands-on learning through the suite of devices. The Flight Training Device (FTD) is a replica of the VH-92A cockpit to give pilots mission-oriented flight training in a simulation-based training device.
The training suite allows maintainers to hone their skills to effectively maintain the aircraft and practice troubleshooting.
Maritime forces from 18 nations commenced the in-port operations for the 47th annual multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9-21.
BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region and one of the largest exercises in northern Europe, enhancing flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations.
Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet, will lead the exercise on behalf of Naval Forces Europe.
«No one nation can face today’s challenges alone, we are much stronger together», Lewis said. «Our partner and NATO alliances must continue to strengthen our deterrence and defense efforts and adapt through improving readiness and responsiveness».
The focus of the exercise is for ground, maritime and air forces to work together in exercising air defense, maritime interdiction, anti-subsurface warfare, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, to strengthen the development of joint teams across all layers of the battlespace.
The exercise will include the participation of 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft, two submarines and 8,600 personnel in a joint operational environment.
«I think BALTOPS represents the habit we have made in operating in a coalition environment and in a multinational environment», said U.K. Royal Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Burns OBE. «One of the advantages, particularly in the NATO framework, as we operate together more and more, we standardize our procedures so we now have a generation of military folk who are used to operating together with standard procedures».
Nations participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
BALTOPS is an opportunity to promote partnerships, presence, and professionalism through an unambiguous display of strength in the Baltic region.
Northrop Grumman Corporation shipped the inert abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) from the Northrop Grumman facility in Magna, Utah, to Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It will be integrated with the LAS and Orion spacecraft destined for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, designated Artemis 1.
The abort motor is a key component of the LAS, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The shipment of the abort motor brings Orion one step closer to Artemis 1 and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.
«Crew safety is always a top priority, and Orion’s Launch Abort System is state-of-the-art», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman, and former four-time shuttle astronaut. «The solid propulsion we use in the abort motor is high-performing and reliable; it should inspire confidence in any future Orion crew members and their families».
The purpose of Orion’s LAS is to safely pull the spacecraft and crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. The abort motor underwent a series of component tests culminating in a successful static test in December 2018 at the Northrop Grumman facility in Promontory, Utah. Data from these tests confirmed motor activation within milliseconds and under both extreme cold and hot temperatures, ensuring crew safety.
The abort motor, which stands over 17 feet/5.2 m tall and spans three feet in diameter, is unique in that it has a manifold with four exhaust nozzles. The motor, shipped via thoroughfare in a transporter, will be unloaded at Kennedy Space Center. Integrating the abort motor is the first step in Orion’s LAS integration process.
Northrop Grumman’s next major abort motor milestone is the Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test (AA-2) set to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in early July. In addition to the launch abort motor, Northrop Grumman is providing the launch vehicle designed to simulate an SLS launch for AA-2. The abort will take place during Max-Q, when the dynamic pressure on the spacecraft is greatest.
Northrop Grumman is responsible for the launch abort motor through a contract to Lockheed Martin, Orion’s prime contractor. The Orion LAS program is managed out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Northrop Grumman produces the abort motor at its Magna, Utah facility and the attitude control motor for the LAS at the company’s Elkton, Maryland facility. The company also manufactures the composite case for the abort motor at its facility in Clearfield, Utah.
A technology kit developed by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, was used for the first time to operate a Black Hawk helicopter with full-authority, fly-by-wire flight controls. The May 29 flight marked the official start to the flight test program for the soon-to-be optionally piloted aircraft. Follow-on flight testing aims to include envelope expansion throughout the summer leading to fully autonomous flight (zero pilots) in 2020.
«This technology brings a whole new dimension of safety, reliability and capability to existing and future helicopters and to those who depend on them to complete their missions», said Chris Van Buiten, Vice President, Sikorsky Innovations. «We’re excited to be transforming a once mechanically controlled aircraft into one with fly-by-wire controls. This flight demonstrates the next step in making optionally piloted – and optimally piloted – aircraft, a reality».
This is the first full authority fly-by-wire retrofit kit developed by Sikorsky that has completely removed mechanical flight controls from the aircraft.
Through DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky is developing an OPV approach it describes as pilot directed autonomy to give operators the confidence to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one or zero crew. The program aims to improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations.
Sikorsky has been demonstrating its MATRIX Technology on a modified S-76B called the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). The aircraft, which has been in test since 2013, has more than 300 hours of autonomous flight.
Sikorsky announced in March that its S-92 helicopter fleet update will include the introduction of phase one MATRIX Technology that will bring advanced computing power to the platform. This foundation enables adoption of autonomous landing technology.
Northrop Grumman Corporation demonstrated its in-production, innovative solution for the U.S. Army’s Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) program during an open «Sense Off» competition at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico from May 16 – June 1.
«Our mature, gallium nitride (GaN)-based design demonstrated an advanced system with our current capabilities aligned with the Army’s requirements», said Christine Harbison, vice president, land and avionics C4ISR division, Northrop Grumman. «Our solution supports the need for rapid deployment with an architecture that allows for significant margin of capability growth to protect our warfighters today and in the rapidly changing threat environment».
Northrop Grumman’s LTAMDS solution demonstrated a mission capable system with growth potential leveraging advanced, affordable, low-risk, in-production and fielded technologies from across the company’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) portfolio. The system provides a 360-degree full-sector mission capability. Designed from the outset to meet the warfighters’ current and future needs, Northrop Grumman’s LTAMDS solution aligns with the Army’s top requirements, including speed to field. An embedded logistics capability enables quicker and more affordable modernization and better sustainability over the life-cycle of the program.
Northrop Grumman’s LTAMDS solution builds upon the company’s decades of expertise in sea, land, air and space-based military radar technology and high-performance microelectronics. The company’s offering is the latest Northrop Grumman sensor product to incorporate and use GaN high power density radio frequency components for greater performance.
Having successfully completed the demonstration phase, the company will deliver its final LTAMDS proposal to the Army in the coming weeks for evaluation.
Raytheon Company and the U.S. Navy completed the final developmental test of the latest generation of the Ship Self Defense System, or SSDS, Integrated Combat System for the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). The test was conducted off the coast of California from the Navy’s unmanned Self Defense Test Ship simulating a scenario CVN-78 may encounter once deployed.
During the raid scenario exercise, two anti-ship missile surrogate targets were located, classified, tracked and engaged using the SSDS Integrated Combat System adapted for CVN-78.
«This successful dual-target test demonstrates the maturity of the Ship Self Defense System ICS and paves the way for operational testing to begin», said Mike Fabel, Raytheon’s SSDS program manager. «SSDS is a critical capability that enables CVN-78 to defend herself and her crew against current and emerging threats».
The Raytheon Ship Self-Defense System ICS includes:
Dual Band Radar: This technology searched for, located and tracked the targets. DBR then provided uplink and radar illumination to the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile to support missile guidance.
Cooperative Engagement Capability, or CEC: The capability validated and processed the Dual Band Radar data for SSDS. CEC is responsible for providing a single, integrated air picture by fusing data from multiple sensors to improve track accuracy.
Ship Self Defense System: SSDS processed the CEC data, classified the targets, determined the appropriate engagement ranges, passed launch commands to the interceptor missiles, and scheduled Dual Band Radar support for the engagements.
Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and Rolling Airframe Missile: Successfully engaged and defeated both targets using live and simulated interceptors.
The Ship Self-Defense System ICS for CVN-78 has now successfully engaged three of three targets over the course of its first two test exercises.
Background on SSDS
Proven and deployed, SSDS is an open, distributed combat management system in service on US carriers and amphibious ships, including CVN, LSD, LPD, LHA and LHD classes. SSDS MK 2 is the premier self-defense system for the U.S. Navy. SSDS is integrated with Raytheon’s Cooperative Engagement Capability for the seamless extraction and distribution of sensor-derived information. This further enhances each ship’s anti-air warfare capability through sharing of available data to all participating CEC units, improving situational awareness, increasing range, and enabling cooperative, multiple, or layered engagement strategies.