All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Core stage

Boeing on January 8, 2020 delivered the core stage of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) deep space exploration rocket, moving it out of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge.

The Boeing-built core stage of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) deep space exploration rocket arrives at the agency’s Pegasus barge on January 8 after rolling out of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans (Boeing photo)

The event marks the first time a completed rocket stage has shipped out of Michoud since the end of the Apollo program. SLS Core Stage 1 is the largest single rocket stage ever built by NASA and its industry partners.

The rollout follows several weeks of final testing and check-outs after NASA’s declaration of «core stage complete» during a December 9 Artemis Day celebration at Michoud.

NASA will transport the SLS core stage to its Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in the next few days for «Green Run» hot-fire engine tests later this year. After inspection and refurbishing for launch, the stage moves to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At Kennedy, the core stage will be integrated with the Interim Cryogenic Upper Stage (ICPS) and NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the uncrewed Artemis I mission around the moon – the first launch of a human-rated spacecraft to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

«The Boeing SLS team has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with NASA and our supplier partners to face multiple challenges with ingenuity and perseverance, while keeping safety and quality at the forefront», said John Shannon, Boeing SLS vice president and program manager.

SLS is the world’s most powerful rocket, evolvable and built to carry astronauts and cargo farther and faster than any rocket in history. Its unmatched capabilities will deliver human-rated spacecraft, habitats and science missions to the moon, Mars and beyond as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

«We are applying what we’ve learned from development of the first core stage to accelerate work on core stages 2 and 3, already in production at Michoud, as well as the Exploration Upper Stage that will power NASA’s most ambitious Artemis missions», said Shannon.

Systems Testing

The Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter was suspended in a soundproof chamber at the Joint Preflight Integration of Munitions and Electronic Systems (J-PRIMES) facility in mid-November for defense system testing.

A 413th Flight Test Squadron HH-60W Whiskey hangs in the anechoic chamber at the Joint Preflight Integration of Munitions and Electronic Systems hangar at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, January 6, 2020. The J-PRIMES anechoic chamber is a room designed to stop internal reflections of electromagnetic waves, as well as insulate from external sources of electromagnetic noise to facilitate testing air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronics systems on full-scale aircraft and land vehicles before open air testing (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

The 413th Flight Test Squadron’s HH-60W Whiskey spent approximately seven weeks testing the defensive systems upgrades from the legacy HH-60G Pave Hawk currently flown by Air Combat Command (ACC).

The J-PRIMES facility has the unique capability to capture high quality data on defensive systems by isolating the electromagnetic radiation inside the facility’s anechoic chamber. The chamber is a room designed to stop reflections of sound or electromagnetic waves and is insulated from external noise.

Testing the HH-60W Whiskey in J-PRIMES will characterize the performance of the helicopter’s systems before electronic warfare flight-testing. The tests ensure it is capable of defeating hostile threats while performing its designated combat Search and Rescue (SAR) mission.

The new aircraft arrived at the 96th Test Wing in early November. The Air Force is contracted to purchase 113 HH-60W Whiskey aircraft to replace its aging fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.

The J-PRIMES facility hosts similar test missions throughout the year. The facility provides an environment to facilitate testing air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronics systems on full-scale aircraft and land vehicles before open air testing.

The J-PRIMES test data will be used to support specification compliance and check for defensive system discrepancies or concerns.

This is an early, but critical step in the developmental process of the new HH-60W Whiskey. After J-PRIMES testing, this particular aircraft will begin flight test for its defensive systems.

«Developmental test has begun in earnest», said Joe Whiteaker, the squadron’s combat rescue helicopter flight commander. «Every new event brings us closer to getting this aircraft to the warfighter, which is what we are really focused on».

SPIKE LR missile

BAE Systems has successfully fired an integrated, long-range anti-tank guided missile from the CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) in a recent series of tests.

BAE Systems’ CV90 increases lethality by testing SPIKE LR anti-tank guided missile

This advancement further diversifies the CV90’s operational capabilities on the battlefield by enabling indirect fire at long distances or at air targets, boosting the vehicle’s lethality while increasing crew safety.

The testing, which took place in difficult arctic conditions, used a Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ Spike-LR (long range) missile mounted on a BAE Systems Hägglunds’ CV90 to defeat a target at more than 2,000 metres/6,562 feet. The exercise marks the first time an integrated version of an anti-tank guided missile has been launched from the CV90. It also demonstrates the platform’s versatility to perform a wide range of missions, and shows the CV90 can easily adapt to new technologies for meeting current and future customer needs.

«This integrated anti-tank capability confirms that the CV90 is a true benchmark when it comes to expanding a family of multi-mission armoured fighting vehicles», said Dan Lindell, CV90 platform director at BAE Systems Hägglunds. «This new capability can alter the battlefield dynamic and is yet another example of how the CV90’s already superior mobility and survivability allows the warfighter to pack an even heavier punch in any terrain or weather conditions, and at any time on any battlefield».

The December testing took place in northern Sweden in below freezing temperatures with heavy snowfall and low visibility.

«We fully appreciate Rafael and their Spike team for working with us to demonstrate this important capability and look forward to continuing our collaboration to provide present and future customers with this powerful addition to the CV90’s lethality suite», Lindell said.

The long-range missile testing is yet another recent example of improved lethality on the CV90. BAE Systems is currently executing a Swedish government contract to provide a mortar variant of the CV90 called Mjölner that adds greater mobility to close indirect fire support.

More than 1,200 CV90s of numerous variants are in service with Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The vehicle has a combat-proven track record and is designed to accommodate future growth to meet evolving missions.

In-Water Testing

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s AQS-24 mine hunting sonar recently completed initial in-water testing of a next-generation Deploy and Retrieval (D&R) payload. Operated from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV), the AQS-24 D&R demonstrated the unmanned operations needed to perform a mine hunting mission off the MCM Mission Package aboard the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

The AQS-24B minehunter being deployed from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV)

«Achieving this important milestone demonstrated reliable unmanned mine hunting operations, while using operationally representative hardware from the LCS MCM Mission Module», said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. «This allows the program to begin preparation for further at-sea testing of the system for extended duration missions in rigorous conditions».

The MCM USV tests are ahead of planned user-operated evaluation system testing of the AQS-24 on LCSs. The company has multiple versions of the AQS-24 to provide mine hunting capabilities for navies. The AQS-24B is a deployed system which uses side-scan sonar for real-time detection, localization and classification of bottom and moored mines in addition to a laser line scanner for precise optical identification.

Integration of the AQS-24 sonar with USVs allows for the real-time transmission of all AQS-24 data to a remote sonar operator, who can then commence Real-Time Mission Analysis (RTMA) of all recorded mission data. RTMA significantly reduces MCM detect to engage timelines, as well as the real-time reacquisition and identification of bottom mines following traditional mine hunting sorties.

Black Eagle

Towards the close of the year, December 30, 2019, the Consortium of Unmanned Aircraft (PTTA MALE) launched (roll out) the prototype of Nir Air Crew (PUNA) type ‘Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE)’ which was able to fly for 30 hours, with three missions as well: Surveillance, Mapping, Defense.

Indonesia Introduced Black Eagle, Unmanned Aircraft

PUNA MALE was made aiming to help maintain the sovereignty of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia from the air, very efficiently and reduce loss of life (without a pilot). The need for efficient air surveillance continues to grow along with the increasing threat of border areas, terrorism, smuggling, piracy, and theft of natural resources such as illegal logging and illegal fishing.

The PTTA MALE consortium was formed in 2017, consisting of the Directorate General of Pothan, Defense and Security Research, BPPT, ITB, LAPAN, PT LEN, and PTDI. The initiative was started by the Ministry of Defense Balitbang in 2015, where it was agreed that the DRaft needs and Objectives (DR&O) of a vehicle to be operated by the TNI, especially the Air Force.

The design process begins with the ‘preliminary design, basic design’ activity by making twice the wind tunnel model and the results of tests in 2016 and 2018 at BPPT, and making the ‘engineering document and drawing’ in 2017, with budgets from Balitbang Kemhan and BPPT.

The year 2019 starts with the ‘manufacturing’ stage, which begins with the ‘design structure’ process, the ‘Finite Element Method’ calculation, the creation of 3D drawings, and detailed 2D drawings done by BPPT engineers and supervised by PT Dirgantara Indonesia. Then proceed with the process of making ‘tooling, molding’, molding and then fabricating with the pre-preg process with autoclave.

In this year also the procurement of ‘Flight Control System (FCS)’ is produced in Spain. The integration process by BPPT engineers and PT Dirgantara Indonesia who have received training to integrate and operate the control system.

In 2020 two (2) prototype units will be built, each for the purpose of flight testing and for testing the strength of structures at BPPT. In the same year (2020), the process of certifying military products will begin and it is expected that by the end of 2021 a type certificate will have been obtained from the Indonesian Ministry of Defense Feasibility Center (IMAA).

The integration of the weapons system on the PUNA MALE prototype was carried out starting in 2020 and is projected to be certified as getting a military product type certification in 2023.

 

Black Eagle

Hammam Riza, Head of BPPT said that today (December 30) is a symbol of mastery of key technologies from one of the aerospace technologies. Hammam Riza also hopes that the latest defense technology innovations will continue to be supported by the national industry, so as to be able to meet the needs of the defense industry and at the same time reduce the import of the defense industry. Hamman representing the Minister of Research and Technology/KaBRIN gave the name PUNA MALE with Black Eagle.

For the development of Elang Hitam, the consortium has compiled a roadmap consisting of 3 major parts, namely: 1) Platform Development, 2) Flight Control System Development, and 3) Weapon System Development.

Based on the release of the Bureau of Cooperation and Public Communication, Ministry of Research and Technology/BRIN and BPPT PR, here are the specifications of PUNA MALE Elang Hitam, which was launched today.

 

CHARACTERISTICS

AIRCRAFT DIMENSION
Length 8.30 m/27.23 feet
Wing Span 16 m/52.49 feet
OPERATIONAL PERFORMANCE
Radius 250 km/155 miles (Line of Sight)
Ceiling 7200 m/23,622 feet
Endurance up to 30 hours
Payload 300 kg/661 lbs.

 

PUNA MALE Elang Hitam will later fill the needs of the Indonesian Air Force squadron, help monitor the territory of the Republic of Indonesia through air vehicles, and support the development of the defense and security industry in Indonesia.

Advanced Arresting Gear

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced that High Cycle Testing of its Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system for Ford-class aircraft carriers was successfully completed over a two-day period in October 2019 at the Runway Arrested Landing Site (RALS) in Lakehurst, New Jersey. High Cycle Testing was conducted at RALS on a single AAG system that is identical to the three systems aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). Five F/A-18E/F Super Hornets were involved in the testing to simulate the operational tempo of carrier flight operations at sea.

General Atomics Advanced Arresting Gear System Completes Critical High Cycle Testing

«Over and over again, in rapid succession, AAG sustained an aircraft arrestment rate of nearly one per minute, successfully testing the system’s capability to handle the recovery sequence required for combat readiness», stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. «Arresting aircraft at a high rate over a sustained period on the same wire is an aggressive test and shows the ability of the system to withstand extreme conditions. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) has the capability for an even higher operational tempo than demonstrated at the test site because it has three wires and clears aircraft from the flight path more efficiently».

High cycle testing is part of the verification and validation of AAG System requirements. The AAG system test program has completed more than 5,000 arrestments at the land-based test facilities at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and 747 arrestments aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) during the ship’s initial sea trials. The U.S. Navy has also issued an Aircraft Recovery Bulletin for the fleet air wing, clearing the AAG system for use on all Ford-class carriers.

«We look forward to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) getting back out to sea in early 2020 to conduct more robust flight operations», continued Forney. «We anticipate executing significantly more sorties during this phase, utilizing both jet and prop aircraft. AAG works as intended, and we will continue to collaborate with the U.S. Navy to ensure system readiness and reliability to meet operational objectives».

AAG is a turbo-electric system designed for controlled and reliable deceleration of aircraft. AAG is installed on board USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) along with the GA-EMS Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which uses electromagnetic technology to launch aircraft from the deck of naval aircraft carriers. In addition to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), EMALS and AAG are being delivered for the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) and the USS Enterprise (CVN-80).

AMRAAM Production

Raytheon Company was awarded the following contract as announced by the Department of Defense on December 27, 2019.

U.S. Air Force awards Raytheon $768 million Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile contract

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded a $768,283,907 non-competitive fixed-price incentive (firm) contract for Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Production Lot 33. This contract provides for the production of the AMRAAM missiles, captive air training missiles, guidance sections, AMRAAM telemetry system, spares and other production engineering support hardware.

Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, with an expected completion date of February 28, 2023. This contract involves unclassified foreign military sales to Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and United Kingdom, which accounts for 47% of the contract value. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Dominance Division Contracting Office, Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, is the contracting activity.

 

Modern, Versatile and Proven

The AMRAAM air-to-air missile is the world’s most sophisticated air dominance weapon. With more than 25 years of design, upgrades, testing and production, the AIM-120 missile continues to meet all warfighter requirements. Its capabilities have been fully demonstrated in over 4,200 test shots and 10 air-to-air combat victories.

The AMRAAM missile is a versatile and proven weapon with operational flexibility in a wide variety of scenarios, including air-to-air and surface-launch engagements. In the surface launch role, it is the baseline weapon on the Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) launcher.

In the air-to-air role, no other missile compares to the AMRAAM missile. The weapon’s advanced active guidance section provides aircrew with a high degree of combat flexibility and lethality. Its mature seeker design allows it to quickly find targets in the most combat challenging environments.

Procured by 37 countries including the U.S., the combat-proven AMRAAM missile has been integrated onto the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, F-22 Raptor, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado and Harrier. The AIM-120C5 and AIM-120C7 missiles are fully integrated onto the F-35 Lightning II and support the U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II Initial Operational Capability (IOC) as the only air-to-air missile qualified on the F-35 Lightning II.

Space Operations

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective December 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command (SPOC).

14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command

Air Force military and civilian personnel previously assigned to the Fourteenth Air Force are now assigned to SPOC by virtue of the redesignation action.

The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF’s) mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

On December 20, President Donald Trump signed the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, officially establishing the USSF as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces.

In accordance with a redesignation memorandum for record signed by Barrett, Major General John E. Shaw, former Fourteenth Air Force commander, was redesignated as commander of Space Operations Command; in addition to Shaw’s role as U.S. Space Command’s (USSPACECOM’s) Combined Force Space Component commander.

The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

«It is an honor and privilege to lead the U.S. Space Force’s Space Operations Command. Every day, all around the planet, people count on us to make a difference – to provide a space-enabled combat edge to the warfighters that keep our country, our allies, and our partners safe», Shaw said. «We will not let them down».

Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

Enforcer missile

MBDA has been awarded by the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) a contract for the acquisition of Enforcer missile systems for the German Armed Forces. Signed on 20 December, the contract will fulfil the German requirement for a lightweight, day/night, precision-guided, shoulder-launched weapon system with an effective range of more than 1,800 m/1.118 mile.

Germany procures Enforcer missiles from MBDA

Thomas Gottschild, Executive Group Director Strategy and Managing Director MBDA Germany said: «The German customer has chosen the Enforcer after a detailed, competitive evaluation for the ‘Leichtes Wirkmittel 1800+’ requirement. With this contract, we are partnering with the German Armed Forces to ensure the Bundeswehr has this comprehensive weapon for years to come».

Éric Béranger, CEO of MBDA said: «With the addition of the shoulder-launched Enforcer, MBDA is now firmly embarked in a complete renewal of its family of battlefield engagement weapons that started with Brimstone 3 and Missile Moyenne Portée (MMP), a Medium Range missile introduced last year into the French Army. Enforcer, MMP and Brimstone now form the core of a portfolio that we hope will see many further developments».

Enforcer provides low-collateral precision effects capabilities against the threat from lightly armoured static and moving targets, targets behind cover, and against targets at long range also in urban environments. Resulting from a multinational MBDA development effort, the Enforcer will complement the ‘Wirkmittel 90’ shoulder-launched unguided munition capability in the German Armed Forces. MBDA is now set to complete qualification, and prepare for series production.

The modular design of the Enforcer system enables a range of future development options, including a prospective ‘family’ of Enforcer munitions for land, air and sea applications.

 

The Enforcer concept is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-launched guided munition in the 2 km/1.2 mile class. Modular design offers prospect of a future family of Enforcer munitions

Key features of Enforcer at a glance:

  • Fire-and-forget missile system
  • Range up to 2,000 m/1.243 mile
  • High precision over full range
  • Lock-On Before Launch (LOBL)
  • Capability against lightly armoured and soft skinned targets
  • Effect against targets behind cover through airburst capability
  • Multi-effects warhead
  • Enclosed space firing capability
  • Lightweight (missile + launch tube < 9 kg/19.84 lbs.)
  • Day and night operation
  • System weight (sight and two munitions) < 20 kg/44.09 lbs.
  • Missile weight < 7 kg/15.43 lbs.
  • Modular architecture

134 F-35s in 2019

Lockheed Martin delivered the 134th F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the year on December 30, 2019, exceeding the joint government and industry 2019 delivery goal of 131 aircraft.

An F-35B Lightning II for the United States Marine Corps at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas – the 134th F-35 Lightning II delivered in 2019

One hundred and thirty-four deliveries represent a 47% increase from 2018 and nearly a 200 percent production increase from 2016. Next year, Lockheed Martin plans to deliver 141 F-35s Lightning II and is prepared to increase production volume year-over-year to hit peak production in 2023.

«This achievement is a testament to the readiness of the full F-35 enterprise to ramp to full-rate production and we continue to focus on improving on-time deliveries across the entire weapons system», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. «We have met our annual delivery targets three years in a row and continue to increase production rates, improve efficiencies and reduce costs. The F-35 is the most capable fighter jet in the world, and we’re now delivering the 5th Generation weapon system at a cost equal to or lower than a less capable 4th Generation legacy aircraft».

The 134th aircraft is a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) model for the United States Marine Corps. In 2019, deliveries included 81 F-35s Lightning II for the United States, 30 for international partner nations and 23 for Foreign Military Sales customers.

 

Unit and Sustainment Costs Decrease, Readiness Improving

Using lessons learned, process efficiencies, production automation, facility and tooling upgrades, supply chain initiatives and more – the F-35 Lightning II enterprise continues to significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs.

The price of an F-35A Lightning II is now $77.9 million, meeting the $80 million goal a year earlier than planned.

The F-35’s Lightning II mission readiness and sustainment costs continue to improve with the global fleet averaging greater than 65% mission capable rates, and operational squadrons consistently performing near 75%.

Lockheed Martin’s sustainment cost per aircraft per year has also decreased four consecutive years, and more than 35% since 2015.

 

Program Maturity and Economic Impact

With more than 490 aircraft operating from 21 bases around the globe, the F-35 Lightning II plays a critical role in today’s global security environment.

Today, 975 pilots and 8,585 maintainers are trained, and the F-35 Lightning II fleet has surpassed more than 240,000 cumulative flight hours. Eight nations have F-35s Lightning II operating from a base on their home soil, eight services have declared Initial Operating Capability and four services have employed F-35s Lightning II in combat operations.

In addition to strengthening global security and partnerships, the F-35 Lightning II provides economic stability to the U.S. and international partners by creating jobs, commerce and security, and contributing to the global trade balance. Thousands of men and women in the U.S. and around the world build the F-35 Lightning II. With more than 1,400 suppliers in 47 states and Puerto Rico, the F-35 Lightning II Program supports more than 220,000 jobs.