First aerial refueling

Approximately 3,000 feet/914 meters above Eglin Air Force Base, the HH-60W Jolly Green II connected with a HC-130J tanker for the inaugural aerial refueling by the Air Force’s newest combat search and rescue helicopter, August 5.

An HH-60W Jolly Green II connects with an HC-130J tanker for its first aerial refueling over southern Alabama, August 5, 2020. The Air Force’s newest combat search and rescue helicopter is currently undergoing developmental and operational testing (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Tristan McIntire)

The connection marked the start of two weeks of developmental testing of the aircraft’s aerial refueling abilities by 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) testers and their mission partners.

«This capability is essential for the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission since it greatly extends the operating range of the aircraft and thus allows the unit to extend their rescue capabilities over a larger battlespace», said Joe Whiteaker, 413th FLTS Combat Rescue Helicopter flight chief.

Throughout the tests, the aircrew and engineers will evaluate the helicopter’s ability to connect with the fuel drogue and its handling qualities during the fueling. They also monitor the functionality of the systems and gauges to ensure the aircraft receives the fuel appropriately with the proper pressures.

«Our job is to evaluate how difficult aerial refueling will be for operational pilots and to identify any unforeseen hazards due to the unique configuration of the HH-60W Jolly Green II, which may not have been present in the legacy HH-60G Pave Hawk», Whiteaker said.

Early missions will be during daylight hours. Testing will conclude with a nighttime evaluation using night vision goggles.

«This is a critical test milestone for the program as it reinforces the superior capabilities of the HH-60W Jolly Green II and its ability to support the Air Force’s CSAR mission», said Greg Hames, Sikorsky Combat Rescue Helicopter program director.

Major Andrew Fama, 413th FLTS pilot, was the Air Force pilot for the refueling mission. He evaluated the handling qualities and made the first contacts. He and the aircrew spent extra time preparing for the mission that included talking through the test sequence and rehearsing the phraseology used during the refueling. It was that extra time spent that made for a smooth mission without issues, according to Fama.

«It’s rare for a test pilot to have the opportunity to test a new aircraft replacing the one he or she flew operationally and to be the first one to do something like this», Fama said. «It was an honor to be the pilot to fly this mission and work with a truly professional test team».

The aerial refueling mission marks yet another 2020 milestone for the HH-60W Jolly Green II program. So far, the HH-60W Jolly Green II has undergone radar, weather and defensive system testing to name a few.

«The execution of this critical test is yet another demonstration of our successful partnership with the Air Force and brings us one step closer to delivering this much needed helicopter to our Airmen», Hames said.

Tactical Air Vehicle

Icarus Aerospace introduced TAV, a clean-sheet aircraft that is a force-multiplier solution for the world’s security and armed forces. The highly customizable, twin-turboprop TAV –Tactical Air Vehicle – is multi-role capable aircraft, with a rugged, versatile, and technologically advanced design.

Tactical Air Vehicle
First-of-its-kind «clean slate» tactical aircraft

«We’ve developed TAV to be in alignment with latest international military armed overwatch and persistent presence requirements and challenges. The aircraft platform defines a niche of its own and excels in addressing all existing and future daily threats facing our troops, security forces and our world», said Marko Ivankovic, Senior Product Development Manager and Flight Test Engineer for Icarus Aerospace.

In its baseline configuration, TAV will deploy with two crew in a tandem cockpit that features latest avionics configuration with sensor fusion and network centric capabilities. With a planned payload of 8,000 pounds/3,629 kg, TAV will have an unrefueled endurance of 6 ½ hours at its jet-like high-speed cruise.

Designed from the outset to be optionally-piloted, TAV can utilize its innovative software, avionics and systems to meet a wide variety of mission requirements, including battlefield management, communication relay, aerial refueling, re-arm & re-supply and medivac – with crew, remotely piloted or as a fully autonomous system.

TAV is the first in a family of specialized aircraft, including WASP, a mission-oriented version, focused on Close-Air Support (CAS), Maritime & Coastal Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare, and surveillance, and BRANTA, a long endurance, high-altitude Optionally-Piloted/Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (OPV/UCAV).

«We are now moving TAV into its next stage of development, to ensure that Icarus Aerospace has the financial resources to bring our exciting new program to fruition», said Ivankovic.

Missile Defense System

MBDA Deutschland and Lockheed Martin, the TLVS bidders consortium (TLVS JV), have submitted an updated proposal to the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw). The proposal includes development, test, certification and delivery of Germany’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defense system.

MBDA and Lockheed Martin submit proposal for Germany’s next generation Integrated Air and Missile Defense System

«More than 80 subcontractors will support the TLVS program. At peak performance, more than 6,000 highly qualified employees will benefit from the implementation of TLVS, with the majority in Germany. A broad spectrum of industrial capabilities is to be involved covering system of systems engineering, cybersecurity, digitization, as well as cutting edge radar, optical and electrical engineering including small and medium suppliers. With these capabilities the TLVS program will ensure defense against advanced and future air and missile threats», said Thomas Gottschild, managing director MBDA Deutschland. «In the last months we made progress in further detailing the Integrated Master Schedule, relevant specifications as well as performance simulations to de-risk the future contract».

Current threats demand a mobile IAMD system that is full 360-degree capable and based on an open network-centric architecture. Only the TLVS system has these capabilities and the ability to rapidly adapt to the ever-changing threat environments.

«Supporting Germany’s essential security interests, the TLVS Joint Venture between MBDA Deutschland and Lockheed Martin builds on our proud legacy of partnership with Germany to create jobs, share technical expertise and deliver capabilities to benefit industry on both sides of the Atlantic», said Scott Arnold, vice president, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. «TLVS is a demonstrated, modern system that can transform Germany’s defense capabilities and enable Germany as the NATO Framework Nation for Air & Missile Defense».

Designed to replace Germany’s aging, sectored Patriot systems designed in the late 1960s, the 2020 TLVS proposal provides protection from a broader threat spectrum with two mission-specific effectors, significantly enhanced sensor capabilities for long range engagements and a new communications and Battle Management system to support enhanced interoperability, data fusion and cyber resilience. TLVS will transform Germany’s defense capabilities and set an important precedent in how neighboring nations address persistent global threats for years to come.

Flight test

The U.S. Army successfully engaged multiple targets during a flight test using the Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS). The test, conducted as part of the IBCS Limited User Test (LUT), demonstrated IBCS’ ability to maintain continuous track custody of the targets, despite contested environment conditions, by fusing data from multiple sensors.

A Northrop Grumman produced Engagement Operations Center (EOC) and Interactive Collaborative Environment (ICE) emplaced at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico for the IBCS Limited User Test (Source U.S. Army)

«We are extremely pleased with how IBCS performed during this flight test», said Kenn Todorov, vice president and general manager, combat systems and mission readiness, Northrop Grumman. «We have been working on an extraordinary command and control system in partnership with the U.S. Army, and our goals are the same – to get this capability into the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible».

The first of two planned operational flight tests was conducted at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico by the soldiers from the U.S. Army 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Regiment. The test’s defense laydown included an Air and Missile Defense task force including two Battery and 1 Battalion engagement operations centers, two Patriot and Sentinel radars, and three Patriot Advanced Capability Three (PAC-3) launchers connected at the component level, to the IBCS Integrated Fire Control Network (IFCN).

The test began when two cruise missile surrogate threats were launched and flew at a low altitude in a maneuvering formation through a mountain range towards defended assets. IBCS fused real-time data from all sensors into a single, accurate composite track for each threat. The soldiers were presented with engagement solutions computed by IBCS which were then executed. The soldiers launched two PAC-3 missiles controlled by IBCS that successfully intercepted both threats. IBCS was able to perform all functions successfully despite being subjected to contested environment conditions designed to disrupt the IFCN network, demonstrating the resilience and survivability of the system.

The Limited User Test, which comprises several tests, is intended to simulate realistic warfighting operations and place performance stresses on the systems to ensure it will perform as intended under the most rigorous circumstances once deployed. This LUT is conducted to inform a Milestone C decision which will transition the IBCS program into the production and operational testing phase.

IBCS utilizes multiple sensors and effectors to extend the battlespace, engage threats providing 360° protection, increases survivability by enabling early detection and continuous tracking, and delivers transformational warfighting capabilities to defeat an increasingly complex threat.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

First Qualification Test

Northrop Grumman Corporation conducted its first ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter/160-centimeter-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) on August 13, 2020 in Promontory, Utah. This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur vehicle.

Northrop Grumman conducted the first test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor to serve the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur on August 13 at its Promontory, Utah, facility

«Our new GEM 63XL motors leverage its flight-proven heritage while utilizing state-of-the-art manufacturing technology to enhance launch vehicle heavy-lift capabilities», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «The GEM 63XL increases thrust and performance by 15-20 percent compared to a standard GEM 63».

During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds/203,663 kg of thrust to qualify the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a cold-conditioned environment. This test demonstrated materials and technologies similar to the GEM 63 rocket motor that qualified for flight in October 2019.

Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019 with 100 percent success. The first flight of the GEM 63 motors will be on a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle planned for fourth quarter 2020, and GEM 63XL motors will support the Vulcan rocket in 2021.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

The GEM 63XL motor being prepared for static test firing in a Test Area test bay

Combat Vehicles

Production on the first Armoured Combat Support Vehicle (ACSV) has begun in London, Ontario at the General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada manufacturing facilities. These new vehicles will fulfill a variety of combat support roles such as that of Troop/Cargo Vehicle (TCV), ambulance, command post, and mobile repair and recovery.

Example of an Armoured Combat Support Vehicle

The contract for this project was awarded last September, and since then, a number of subcontracts have been awarded by General Dynamics to allow work to start. These subcontracts represent over $137 million in investments to more than 30 Canadian businesses from coast to coast to coast, creating and sustaining over 400 jobs across the country.

This is a big step forward as the government continues to deliver on Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada’s first fully costed and funded defence policy. As per the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, General Dynamics will re-invest an amount equal to the value of the contract to create and sustain well-paying jobs across the country.

These vehicles will replace the current fleets of M113 Tracked Light Armoured Vehicle (TLAV) and the LAV II Bison. The first vehicle is expected roll off the production line this December, with deliveries occurring through February 2025. Testing, training, and procurement of spare parts will be required before the initial vehicles are distributed to Canadian Armed Forces bases in 2022.



The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence: «These vehicles will form the backbone of the Army’s combat support fleet, and be used on a wide range of operations including domestic disaster relief and international peace support missions. Thanks to the flexibility found in our defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, work on the vehicles has started years earlier than expected and ensures that we continue to support well-paying Canadian jobs and critical innovation in communities across the country».

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry: «Our government has ensured that this contract supports Canadian jobs and provides benefits to Canadian industry, including small and medium-sized businesses. Through the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, this project will continue to strengthen key industrial capabilities that support the Canadian Armed Forces and help to keep Canada’s economy strong».


Quick facts

The current fleet of armoured support vehicles is comprised of the LAV II Bison and the M113 Tracked LAV, which have already been reconfigured and life-extended.

A contract was awarded to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada on September 5, 2019. This contract has a value of approximately $2 billion (taxes included) for 360 ACSV, initial spare parts, technical manuals, and training.

Subcontracts have been awarded to companies in seven provinces, and vary in value from $38,800 to $24,000,000. Key investments include:

  • $335,000 in Atlantic Canada to companies like L & A Metalworks Inc. and IMP Group Limited;
  • $26,000,000 in Quebec to companies like Terminal & Cable TC Inc. and Thales Canada Inc. Optronics BU;
  • $89,000,000 in Ontario to companies like Abuma Manufacturing Limited, Cornell Welding & Fabricating Ltd., and J/E Bearing & Machine Ltd.;
  • $20,000,000 in Western Canada to companies like Analytic Systems Inc. and JNE Welding.

The CAF’s Armoured Combat Support Vehicles will be available in eight variants, providing services such as: ambulances, vehicle recovery, engineering, mobile repair, electronic warfare, troop carrying, and command posts.

This fleet can be used in a wide variety of roles, such as part of Canada’s contribution to NATO’s assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe, or in the Canadian Armed Forces’ response to natural disasters in Canada.

Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, included a commitment to integrate Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+), in all defence activities across the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence. This ensures that every activity is informed by GBA+, and was done for this procurement.

The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy is the government’s main tool for ensuring economic benefits from large defence procurements, and it means that the supplier will reinvest an amount equal to the value of this contract – dollar-for-dollar – back into the Canadian economy. In addition, Canada required General Dynamics to provide a gender and diversity plan outlining the company’s efforts to promote workforce diversity and gender equality within its corporate and supply chain operations.

The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy applies to this contract, ensuring that General Dynamics will invest 100 percent of the value of the contract back into the Canadian economy, providing opportunities for Canadian small and medium businesses, and supporting innovation and skills development for Canadian workers.

Navigation Technology

L3Harris Technologies is on track to begin building the U.S. Air Force’s first Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) after completing the program’s critical design review.

Signals readiness to begin building first Navigation Technology Satellite-3

L3Harris will integrate the program’s experimental payload with an ESPAStar Platform, planned for launch in 2022. The system is designed to augment space-based position, navigation and timing capabilities for warfighters.

The NTS-3 payload features a modular design and can adapt to support various mission needs. The experiment will demonstrate capabilities that can be accomplished through a stand-alone satellite constellation or as a hosted payload.

«Collaboration with our customers has enabled us to move rapidly through important milestones to design this experimental satellite», said Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. «Our goal is to deliver new signals to support rapidly evolving warfighter missions».

Less than a year after award, the company cleared the first development hurdle in half the time similar satellite programs take. The Space Enterprise Consortium selected L3Harris for the $84 million contract in 2018 as the prime system integrator to design, develop, integrate and test NTS-3. L3Harris is combining experimental antennas, flexible and secure signals, increased automation, and use of commercial command and control assets.

Designated as one of the Air Force’s first vanguard programs, NTS-3 will examine ways to improve the resiliency of the military’s positioning, navigation and timing capabilities. It will also develop key technologies relevant to the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation, with the opportunity for insertion of these technologies into the GPS IIIF program. The program is a collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, U.S. Space Force, and Air Force Lifecycle Management Center.

L3Harris has more than 40 years of experience transmitting GPS navigation signals. The company’s technology has been onboard every GPS satellite ever launched.

Blue Angels

The U.S. Navy delivered a C-130J aircraft to the Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron (NFDS) this month completing the squadron’s logistics transport aircraft transition from a legacy C-130T to a C-130J.

The new Blue Angels C-130J flies over Marshall Aerospace and Defense Group in Cambridge, England. The aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team, August 4

«This has been a great example of cooperation between allies and professionals. Coordination and work to deliver this Blue Angels C-130J highlight a unique program office partnership with UK MoD and Marshall Aerospace. The team has worked through challenges to deliver this high-visibility asset to our fleet, and provide a ‘new’ aircraft to support our Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron for years to come», said Major General Greg Masiello, program executive officer air ASW, assault and special mission programs. «We have all been able to witness the transformation of this particular C-130 Hercules transition into a valuable addition to our Blue Angels flying demonstration team. We are pleased to deliver this Super Hercules as the Blue Angels transition to Super Blues. Definitely a job well done by all involved».

The aircraft, purchased from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MoD) in June 2019, underwent a year-long refresh, which turned a former UK MoD aircraft into the logistics and transport aircraft that will be used by the Blue Angels.

Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) and UK MoD co-managed the refurbishment with all efforts performed at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (ADG) in Cambridge, England.

«The UK MoD was proud to work alongside multiple stakeholders to help deliver this great aircraft to the United States Navy Blue Angels. It really was a team effort from both sides of the Atlantic», said Air Marshal Sir Julian Young, director general Air for Defence Equipment and Support. «This C-130J aircraft served the Royal Air Force well over the years, and I am delighted that following a refurb it will now go on to serve another military force. With its bright new livery, I’m sure the new Blue Angels C-130J aircraft will turn heads wherever it goes».

This is the sole C-130J in the Navy’s fleet and while it is almost identical to its sister aircraft, the KC-130J, currently flown by the Marine Corps, it required a collaborative effort between NAVAIR engineering and Lockheed Martin to identify configuration deltas and test requirements. These efforts were done to meet U.S. and FAA requirements and included a major rework inspection, hardware and software configuration changes, and ground and flight testing.

«The teams were united in the one task to meet the needs of the fleet», said Captain Steve Nassau, PMA-207 program manager. «The return of an organic-based logistics aircraft to the Blue Angels squadron will free up much needed assets currently being utilized to meet the NFDS mission needs.  Thank you to everyone within the entire NAVAIR enterprise and our allies across the ocean for executing this delivery with utmost expedience».

The aircraft, now bearing the distinctive Blue Angels Blue and Gold, will be sure to thrill air show attendees for years to come.

Type 31 frigate

Team 31 has successfully completed its Whole Ship Preliminary Design Review (WSPDR) marking the end of the Engineering functional design phase. The review provides a key indicator of the compliance, maturity and engineering risk in proceeding into Detailed Design and maturing the 3D CAD model. The WSPDR was the whole ship culmination event of a large number of specific reviews which addressed the maturity of the individual systems comprising the Type 31 Ship.

Babcock Team 31 completes Whole Ship Preliminary Design Review

WSPDR was held, virtually, over a period of 10 days in June, using an independent board comprising around fifteen subject matter experts, to review the design and interrogate the engineering team. Although this was a Team 31 milestone event, attendees and contributors also came from the Authority (the UK Ministry of Defence).

The independent board were impressed with the rate of progress made since contract award in November 2019, and the level of technical maturity of the design. The Engineering team in particular, and all contributors to the successful WSPDR, are to be commended for their efforts.

Graeme Thomson, Babcock Type 31 Programme Director said: «Completing the Whole Ship PDR is a key milestone for the Type 31 programme and signals our move into Detailed Design. I’d like to thank all involved, a lot of hard work went into achieving this positive outcome. I look forward to the next stage in this exciting and challenging programme».

Progress on the Type 31 programme continues at pace. Babcock’s Rosyth facility has seen significant investment in the last decade and is embarking on a new era of digitising facilities and systems to bring advancements and efficiencies into the manufacturing, build and assembly process for the frigates. This includes the installation of additional Advanced Manufacturing capability and the construction of a new assembly hall capable of housing two Type 31 frigates. Ground breaking for the new hall took place in April, signalling the commencement of the civil works programme.

UUV Charging Station

Northrop Grumman and Seatrec, Inc. were recently winners of an Explorer Prize, which concluded the Discovery competition phase of the Powering the Blue Economy Ocean Observing Prize, sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The competition is designed to bring innovative technology in marine renewable energy to enable more persistent and pervasive ocean observing, a growth multiplier in the overall contribution of the ocean to the economy also known as the Blue Economy.

Northrop Grumman and Seatrec Recognized for Self-Sustaining Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Charging Station Design

The two companies teamed and submitted the Mission Unlimited UUV Station, to power and transfer data from Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV). The next phase is the Develop competition, where the winners of this prize will actually produce their designs.

Endurance and range improvements for UUVs have seen incremental improvements over the last 20 years as batteries gradually improved, but UUVs and autonomous undersea vehicles (AUVs) are still energy-limited. Typically, they must make a near surface approach at least once a day to offload data to assets above the water line or receive a power recharge by a costly surface vessel reducing the time spent on mission.

The Mission Unlimited UUV Station proposal submitted by the team can significantly reduce daily vessel costs and extends operational time, by integrating three key technologies working together to seamlessly power and transfer data from unmanned underwater vehicles:

  • NiobiCon connectors charge the UUVs: Northrop Grumman’s self-insulating electrical connector can be mated or de-mated while the fully powered electrical contacts are submerged underwater.
  • Thermal energy harvesting provides unlimited energy: Seatrec’s innovation extracts energy from the ocean’s vertical temperature gradient and converts it to stored electricity.
  • Data bubbles transfer data: Northrop Grumman’s data bubbles transport large amounts of data from the subsea to the end-user by Radio Frequency (RF) satellite communications.
Two Seatrec Inc energy harvesting modules attached to a profiling float going as deep as 1000 m/3281 feet

«The Mission Unlimited UUV Station design will provide scalable underwater charging and data transfer», said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. «Extending the endurance, working time and utility of unmanned underwater vehicles directly supports the U.S. Navy’s focus on distributed maritime operations».

«This DOE and NOAA prize provides a unique opportunity to combine Seatrec’s technology to harvest energy from temperature differences in the ocean with Northrop Grumman’s innovation of NiobiCon connectors and data bubbles», said Doctor Yi Chao, founder and CEO, Seatrec. «We believe this strategic partnership will provide a transformative solution for persistent and sustainable ocean observing systems».

The Mission Unlimited UUV Station design will increase the endurance and range of any existing UUV and dramatically reduce the data latency between collection and analysis. The proposed solution will also increase the types of data that can be collected by providing the increased power needed to improve spatial coverage, temporal resolution, and types of variables from new, higher power sensors.

Northrop Grumman’s NiobiCon wet-mateable connectors enable underwater power transfer and data exchange without using seals, oil or moving parts