General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) recently completed Full Scale Static (FSS) testing on the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) wing after three months of extensive testing. MQ-9B includes SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian RPA produced by GA-ASI.
The testing included multiple load cases to 150 percent of expected maximum flight loads. The wing was loaded using specially designed fixtures to apply a distributed load across the wingspan – simulating gust and maneuver flight conditions – with no failures.
«Successful completion of FSS testing on the MQ-9B wing was a critical step in proving that our design meets stringent certification standards for structural strength and integrity», said Dee Wilson, Vice President, Engineering Research Development & Design Hardware. «The wing performed as expected, matching analytical predictions closely. Our engineering design, stress and test teams are commended for an exceptional effort in meeting this critical milestone».
This particular wing design is the culmination of a large development effort from multiple areas within GA-ASI and represents a major milestone in qualifying the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian RPA to fly in non-segregated airspace. The wing test success also establishes the baseline wing design for the entire MQ-9B product line. This is critical as GA-ASI starts deliveries to the multiple customers pursuing the MQ-9B including the United Kingdom, Belgium and Australia.
On November 11, the United States Space Force (USSF) surpassed another milestone when it marked the one-year operational anniversary of the Space Cockpit.
Space Cockpit is a situational awareness tool that allows satellite operators to visualize the satellites they control in a real-time, video game-like application. Originally commercial software, 1st Lieutenants Tory Smith and Jacqueline Cromer, Space Commercially Augmented Mission Platform (Space CAMP) software development leads, along with their product development team, spent months developing the software for Space Force professional’s use.
«Through their unique digital acumen and innovative thinking, Lieutenants Cromer and Smith set the gold standard for organic space software development», said Major General Kimberly Crider, USSF Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. «They exemplify the type of forward-leaning professionals we need to maintain our competitive advantage in the highly competitive and contested space domain».
Initial roll out to the field began November 11, 2019 to space professionals at Delta 6, offering an intuitive space domain visualization application to space operators that is updateable and customizable depending on the unique needs of the tactical user.
«It uses real, live location data for the satellites and simulates them in the application scene», said Cromer. «Operators can then go into the application to see where in space their satellites are, as well as quickly perform some actions in the application to see what other objects are around them and if there are threatening situations».
Originally geared towards Delta 6’s unique mission set that provides assured access to space through the $6.8 billion Air Force Satellite Control Network and defensive cyberspace capabilities for space mission systems, it has continued to evolve.
«Since then, development has continued to expand features to meet the needs of the Delta 6 operators. Additionally, it was introduced to other space operation groups enterprise-wide», said Smith.
The original version, dubbed The Predictive Interactive Groundstation Interface (PIGI), was introduced to the Department of the Air Force during a demonstration at Buckley Air Force Base (AFB), Colorado in 2019.
«After the successful demonstration, the project entered Phase II, which called for further development of the software for military use [which was] renamed Space Cockpit», said Smith.
During Phase II, the two lieutenants redeveloped the commercial software into something the USSF could use in daily space operations.
«Development began at Space CAMP in Colorado Springs in May 2019 taking some assets of PIGI, but with most of the work starting from the ground up following a user center design philosophy and adhering to DevSecOps (development, security and operations) methodologies», said Cromer.
Space CAMP is just one of many projects the U.S. Space Force has worked on with their private sector partners to further pursue the building of new acquisition authorities, enabling the Space Force to streamline requirements and outpace its adversaries.
December 2, 2020, Lockheed Martin announced the U.S. Space Force has determined the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5) is complete and ready for launch in 2021.
Built in a record time and at no additional cost to the government for the upgrade, SBIRS GEO-5 is the first military space satellite built on the company’s modernized, modular LM 2100 combat bus. SBIRS GEO-6, launching in 2022, is also being built on the new bus designed for speed and resilience.
«SBIRS’ role as an ever-present, on-orbit guardian against global ballistic missile threats has never been more critical», said Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Systems. «In 2019 alone, SBIRS detected nearly one thousand missile launches, which is about a two-fold increase in two years».
«Completing the production of a complex missile-warning satellite during the challenging COVID environment is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to Lockheed Martin’s professionalism and dedication to the security of our Nation», said Captain Alec Cook, Space and Missile Systems Center’s SBIRS GEO-5/6 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations lead.
Both SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are slated to join the U.S. Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites, equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, which protect our nation 24-7. These sensors collect data that allow the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.
SBIRS GEO-5 was officially completed on October 29, 2020.
LM 2100 Bus: Focuses on Speed and Resiliency
The LM 2100 bus is the result of a Lockheed Martin internally-funded, multi-year modernization initiative. It is designed to provide greater resiliency and cyber-hardening; enhanced spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics; common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing; and a flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernized sensor suites.
«We added even further enhanced resiliency features to the LM 2100 to create an initial ‘combat bus’ for the Space Force. SBIRS GEO-5 has proven itself a valuable incremental step towards achieving the resilient missile warning that will be provided by the Next Gen OPIR Block 0 System, the follow-on to SBIRS», added McCormick.
In June 2015, the Air Force agreed to rebaseline SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 to upgrade both satellites to Lockheed Martin’s modernized LM 2100 bus at no additional cost. From that point, SBIRS GEO-5 was completed in approximately five years, in line with the government’s need to increase production speed and address emerging threats, and still supporting the government’s original 2021 launch date.
Besides SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6, the LM 2100 space vehicle is the baseline for three Next Gen OPIR Block 0 GEO satellites expecting to launch starting in 2025; and the future GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) satellites, which are expected to launch starting in 2026.
Lockheed Martin is proud to be part of the SBIRS team led by the Production Corps, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Division, at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Azusa, California, as the payload integrator.
On October 28, 2020, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) conducted an autonomous flight using a government-supplied Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) autonomy engine to support air-to-air targeting missions. The CODE autonomy engine was installed on a GA-ASI Avenger Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
The CODE autonomy engine was implemented to further understand cognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing on larger UAS platforms, such as Avenger. Using a network- enabled Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) radio for mesh network mission communications, GA-ASI was able to show integration of emerging Advanced Tactical Data Links (ATDL) and separation between flight and mission critical systems.
«This represents a big step on the path to more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft where operator input can be minimized to support optimal manning of multiple products for complex air battles», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «For this initial flight, we used Avenger as the flight surrogate for the Skyborg capability set, which is a key focus for GA-ASI emerging air-to-air portfolio».
As part of the autonomous flight, the CODE autonomy software controlled the maneuvering of the Avenger UAS for over two hours without traditional pilot input. GA-ASI furthered the development of the CODE software by adding behavioral functions for a coordinated air-to-air search with up to six aircraft (for the demonstration, five of the aircraft were virtual). The CODE operator, using a small form factor commercial computer running the government-provided software, set mission objectives for the flight in which the autonomy software was used to coordinate the six aircraft to accomplish the air-to-air search objective.
GA-ASI created ground and air adapter services that passed operator mission inputs to the flying constellation of aircraft using Link 16-formatted messages that followed Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol (JREAP). The open architecture of the CODE software enables communications between the aircraft, the CODE software and the autopilot.
Airbus Defence and Space has successfully completed a new test flight campaign for its Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) in Arizona, U.S.A.
The 2020 flight campaign succeeded despite global slowdowns due to the Covid19 pandemic. It focused on aircraft agility, control and operations to build upon previous campaigns, which have already proven the day and night stratospheric persistence of the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) essential in military and commercial markets.
This year’s campaign held during the first three weeks of November aimed to demonstrate operational flexibility and aircraft agility, particularly testing lower altitude flying and early stage transition to the stratosphere. It also allowed the validation of a new flight planning tool suite and the development of operational concepts through multiple, varied flights in short succession.
«Having proven stratospheric flight, we continue to further mature the operational system with the objective to be more flexible and robust in order to meet our customer needs. The outcome of this campaign is a valuable contribution to the full flight programme next year», said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.
The campaign team used a Zephyr aircraft, fitted with new software control systems and specific flight test instruments, plus associated lighter test aircraft to conduct multiple successful test flights during November.
The flights demonstrated take-off, climb, cruise, upgraded flight control and descent phases, followed by successful landings. The objectives of the test campaign were all achieved showcasing a more resilient and capable aircraft.
Zephyr is the world’s leading, solar-electric, stratospheric UAS. It harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic, filling a capability gap complementary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.
With the conclusion of this year’s successful test flight campaign, Zephyr has come another step closer to an operational reality. Zephyr will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both commercial and military customers alike. Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionize disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills. It provides persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.
Already in July 2018, the Zephyr team conducted a successful test flight campaign when Zephyr S flew in the stratosphere for nearly 26 days (25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes).
It remains the longest flight duration of an aircraft ever made without refuelling. The aircraft persisted in the stratosphere day and night, consistently achieved a dawn altitude of 60,000 feet/18,288 meters as well as its highest altitude of 71,140 feet/21,683 meters.
About the Airbus Zephyr Programme
The original target mission of the Zephyr is to provide local persistence at an affordable price with a re-usable solar-powered aircraft, providing a wide scope of applications, ranging for example from maritime surveillance and services, border patrol missions, communications, forest fire detection and monitoring, or navigation. Operating in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet/21 kilometres, the ultra-lightweight Zephyr has a wingspan of 82 feet/25 meters and a weigh of less than 165 lbs./75 kg, and flies above weather (clouds, jet streams) and above regular air traffic, covering local or regional footprints.
Ideally suited for «local persistence» (ISR/Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance), the Zephyr has the ability to stay focused on a specific area of interest (which can be hundreds of miles wide) while providing it with satellite-like communications and Earth observation services (with greater image granularity) over long periods of time without interruption.
Boeing recently completed flight tests with five high-performance surrogate jets operating autonomously in a team at the new Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry, Australia.
Boeing’s advanced autonomy technology, including on-board command and control and data sharing capabilities, were tested using the 3.4-meter (11-foot) aircraft.
«The tests demonstrated our success in applying artificial intelligence algorithms to ‘teach’ the aircraft’s brain to understand what is required of it», said Emily Hughes, director of Phantom Works International. «The data link capabilities enabled the aircraft to communicate with the other platforms so that they could collaborate to achieve a mission».
Testing lasted 10 days, with aircraft incrementally added until the five operated together. During testing, the aircraft reached speeds of 270 kilometers (167 miles) per hour.
«With the size, number and speed of aircraft used in the test, this is a very significant step for Boeing and industry in the progress of autonomous mission systems technology», Hughes said.
The activity was the final milestone delivered in partnership with the Queensland government as part of Boeing’s Advanced Queensland Autonomous Systems Platform Technology Project. During the project, Boeing has worked with over 90 personnel from a number of small-to-medium enterprises including RFDesigns, Amber Technology Ltd., Premier Box, McDermott Aviation and Five Rings Aerospace.
Technology and capabilities proven under this program will form part of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System and future Boeing autonomous platforms.
Oshkosh Defense, LLC, an Oshkosh Corporation company, announced on December 1, 2020 the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Detroit Arsenal has placed an order for 2,738 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV), 1,001 companion trailers, and associated kits. The Oshkosh Defense JLTVs will be supplied to the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force along with a select group of NATO and non-NATO allies. This is the second largest order of Oshkosh Defense JLTVs, with a contract value of $911 million.
The Oshkosh Defense JLTV is designed for the future battlefield with reconfiguration capabilities to meet the demands of the Warfighter’s evolving mission requirements. It offers the world’s only light tactical vehicle with the protection, off road mobility, network capability and firepower options to maneuver with combat formations.
«The men and women of Oshkosh Defense take great pride in what they do», said George Mansfield, Vice President and General Manager of Joint Programs for Oshkosh Defense. «Designing, building, and delivering the world’s most capable light tactical vehicle, the Oshkosh JLTV, is one of our greatest accomplishments. And we plan to continue building the Oshkosh JLTV for many years to come».
As part of this order, 59 vehicles will be delivered to NATO and non-NATO allies – including Lithuania, North Macedonia, and Brazil. As the industry-leading tactical vehicle manufacturer, Oshkosh Defense takes great pride in working with both domestic and international customers to give the Warfighter a necessary technological edge at the best price. Oshkosh Defense strives every day to meet or exceed our customers’ ever-changing needs with next-generation defense technologies and advanced mobility systems.
Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully completed multiple rounds of tests on its Solid Fuel Ramjet (SFRJ) tactical engine configuration – a technology to enable long range precision fires, one of the U.S. Army’s key priorities.
Conducted as part of phase one of the U.S. Army’s XM1155 Extended-Range Artillery Projectile (ERAP) program, the SFRJ tests validated gun-launched survivability and performance predictions, and demonstrated the potential of extending projectile range to more than 100 kilometers/62 miles, which is a significant increase compared to current fielded artillery projectiles.
The XM1155 ERAP program will provide an extended range, guided 155-mm artillery round capable of defeating moving and stationary targets in all terrain and weather conditions. The munition system is being designed to provide multi-domain battlespace dominance against high level targets.
«Successful completion of the rigorous tests of the Solid Fuel Ramjet demonstrates maturation of the technology to survive the very challenging gun-launch environment and significantly extend the range of the U.S. military’s current field artillery with a high level of confidence», said Pat Nolan, vice president, missile products, Northrop Grumman.
Work under the contract will be completed at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, West Virginia, Ronkonkoma, New York; Plymouth, Minnesota; and in partnership with SPARC Research based out of Warrenton, Virginia.
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.
In a ceremony held on November 27, 2020 at the Embraer facility in Gavião Peixoto (São Paulo, Brazil), Embraer delivered the first modernized EMB 145 AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control), designated E-99, to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). Four additional E-99 aircraft will be modernized as part of the contract.
«For Embraer, it is a privilege to continue meeting FAB’s needs to keep this robust and modern aircraft updated. It plays a strategic role in Brazil’s defense system and has already proven its operational effectiveness», said Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. «As part of Embraer’s growth strategy for the coming years, we have invested in diversifying our business portfolio of defense and security with innovative solutions to better meet the defense global market needs, which goes far beyond our jets».
The mission systems and related subsystems, including electronic warfare, command and control, electronic countermeasures, and aerial surveillance radar were updated as part of the modernization process, expanding FAB’s capacity to carry out Flight Control and Alarm missions and Electronic Reconnaissance, among others.
The E-99M project is conducted by COPAC with support from Embraer and various international suppliers, such as SAAB, Aeroelectronica International (AELI), and Rohde & Schwarz. In addition to modernization, the project entails technology transfer agreements that will enable technological advancements for the Brazilian defense industry.
Atech, an Embraer Defense and Security company, participates in the development of the command and control system. Six mission planning and analysis stations were also acquired, which will be used for the training and improvement of crews.
Built on the successful ERJ 145 regional jet platform, with more than 1,200 units delivered and 30 million flight hours, the FAB E-99 aircraft can detect, track, and identify targets in their patrol area and transmit this information to allied forces. The aircraft can also perform airspace management, fighter positioning and interception control, signals intelligence, and surveillance missions.
Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) announced today that its Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division has been awarded a contract modification from General Dynamics Electric Boat in support of construction on the first two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
The contract modification, valued at approximately $2.2 billion, provides continued design support efforts, as well as the construction and delivery of six module sections for each of the first two Columbia-class submarines.
As part of the contract, Newport News will deliver the completed modules to Electric Boat for final assembly. The contracted module delivery dates are scheduled to start in November 2022 with the last module delivery taking place by January 2028.
«We are pleased to be a crucial design and manufacturing contributor to the Columbia-class program», said Charles Southall, Newport News’ vice president of Columbia-class Submarine Construction. «This contract continues NNS’ longstanding and strong commitment to the Navy’s undersea enterprise through the design and construction of major modules and assemblies necessary to achieve program objectives».
Newport News is a major contractor and shipbuilding partner in the Columbia-class program, and in May 2019 began advance construction activities on the lead ballistic missile submarine under contract to Electric Boat.
The Columbia class will replace the fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The lead ship is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2027.