All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

MQ-8C takes first flight

Northrop Grumman reported that the U.S. Navy successfully flew the MQ-8C Fire Scout system for the first time off the guided-missile destroyer, USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), Norfolk, VA, Dec. 16, off the Virginia coast.

After more than a year of land-based testing at Point Mugu, California, the MQ-8C Fire Scout grew its sea legs, making 22 takeoffs and 22 precision landings while being controlled from the ship’s ground control station.

 A Northrop Grumman MQ-8C has completed five days of dynamic interface tests on USS Jason Dunham. (Northrop Grumman)
A Northrop Grumman MQ-8C has completed five days of dynamic interface tests on USS Jason Dunham. (Northrop Grumman)

“The MQ-8C Fire Scout’s flights from the USS Dunham represent a significant Navy milestone. This is the first sea-based flight of the MQ-8C and the first time an unmanned helicopter has operated from a destroyer,” said Capt. Jeff Dodge, Fire Scout program manager at Naval Air Systems Command. “The extended capabilities will offer the Navy a dynamic, multipurpose unmanned helicopter with increased endurance, allowing for our ship commanders and pilots to have a longer on station presence.”

“These dynamic interface tests are an essential part in clearing the operational envelope of the system and are proving the system’s ability to operate off any air-capable ship,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace System. “We are on track to validate all of the critical performance parameters of this Navy asset and ready the system for deployment and operational use.”



Air – Unmanned Systems – MQ-8C Fire Scout


Operate Forward

The U.S. Navy has awarded General Dynamics NASSCO a $498 million contract for the detail design and construction of the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). Under this option, NASSCO will provide the detail design and construction efforts to build the second AFSB of the Mobile Landing Platform-class ships. The work will be performed at NASSCO’s San Diego shipyard and is scheduled to be completed by March 2018.

SAN DIEGO (Nov. 6, 2014) The mobile landing platform Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) successfully completed launch and float-off at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard.
SAN DIEGO (Nov. 6, 2014) The mobile landing platform Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) successfully completed launch and float-off at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard.

The MLP AFSB – based on the hull of an Alaska-class crude oil tanker – is a flexible platform and a key element in the Navy’s large-scale airborne mine countermeasures mission. With accommodations for 250 personnel and a large helicopter flight deck (capable of fielding MH-53E Sea Dragon MCM helos), the MLP AFSB will provide a highly capable, innovative and affordable asset to the Navy and Marine Corps.

According to Sam LaGrone, USNI Online Editor at the U.S. Naval Institute, the contract modification that funds the construction follows the first AFSB – USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB-1) – that was launched at the San Diego yard on November 6, 2014. Lewis B. Puller is slated to become operational in 2015 and will likely replace the current AFSB stand in – USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15). The second new AFSB will most likely based in the Pacific.

Jonathan William "Jon" Greenert is a United States Navy Admiral currently serving as the 30th Chief of Naval Operations.
Jonathan William “Jon” Greenert is a United States Navy Admiral currently serving as the 30th Chief of Naval Operations

Jonathan W. Greenert, Admiral, U.S. Navy said, «The need to clear mines and support special operations forces will not end anytime soon. Moreover, because she is over 40 years old, USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15) will be an interim solution that will need to be replaced in the near term. To provide an AFSB for the long term, we converted one Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and build another from the keel up that adds a flight deck, berthing, fuel storage, equipment storage, and repair spaces. Like Ponce, the new AFSBs will have a rotating crew of civilian mariners and military personnel so they can operate forward almost continuously».

«Thus, AFSBs can support patrol craft, auxiliary boats, helicopters, and special operations forces, providing a base of operations for everything from counter-piracy/smuggling, maritime security, and mine clearing to humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Although a port provides the potential for greater logistical capacity, they may not be readily available when or where they are needed most. AFSBs can operate globally in international waters, providing what may be the only way to support an important mission», added Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert.

The Chief of Naval Operations concluded by saying, «MLP/AFSBs are not a new idea, but with rotating crews and increased capacity, the MLP will dramatically improve our capability where it matters most – forward. They are a key element of my tenet to «Operate Forward», and are essential to effectively support our partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and elsewhere».

An artist’s conception of the Afloat Forward Staging Base
An artist’s conception of the Afloat Forward Staging Base


General Characteristics, Montford Point Class


Builder:                                    NASSCO

Propulsion:                            Commercial Diesel Electric Propulsion

Length:                                     239.3 meters (785 feet)

Beam:                                        50 Meters (164 feet)

Displacement:                      78,000 tons (fully loaded)

Draft:                                         9 meters (fully loaded); 12 meters (load line)

Speed:                                       15 knots/17 mph/28 km/h

Range:                                       9500 nautical miles/17594 km

Crew:                                         34 Military Sealift Command personnel

Accommodations:              250 personnel



USNS Montford Point (MLP 1)

USNS John Glenn (MLP 2)

USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP 3/AFSB-1) – Launched November 2014

USNS (MLP 4/AFSB-2) – Under construction


Future is here

The first Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II jet arrived at USAF’s Luke Air Force Base. The jet’s arrival marks the first international partner F-35 to arrive for training at Luke.

Australia's first F-35, Fort Worth, Texas.  Pilot Al Norman
Australia’s first F-35, Fort Worth, Texas. Pilot Al Norman

«The Royal Australian Air Force is delighted to be the first foreign partner nation with F-35A aircraft arriving at Luke Air Force Base», Air Commodore Gary Martin, air attaché said. «This is an important milestone for Australia and we are looking forward to the commencement of our fifth-generation pilot training here at Luke in 2015».

Luke will be the central training hub for international F-35A Lightning II training. In the near future, international and U.S. students will be teamed together learning how to effectively employ the fifth-generation strike fighter.

Welcoming the aircraft, Brigadier General Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing Commander said, «Today, we take another tremendous step forward in our transition to the F-35A here at Luke. Australia is the first of 10 nations that will not only become part of the Luke community, but will share in calling the West Valley a home away from home».

«Welcoming our first Australian F-35A is a special day for Luke and the community that has been so supportive of us», Brigadier Pleus said. «Luke’s mission has been to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots. We will continue on that legacy as we train the world’s best F-35 pilots».

«The collaborative training we’ll be doing here on aircraft designed with stealth, maneuverability and integrated avionics will better prepare our combined forces to assume multi-role missions for the future of strike aviation», Pleus said. «From the bed-down of the F-35 and its infrastructure to the execution of training, our partner-nations have been an important piece of Luke’s F-35A team. The relationships we’re building now will be invaluable when we deploy together around the world protecting our respective countries».

Lockheed Martin Fort Worth Texas Photo by Alex Groves
Lockheed Martin Fort Worth Texas Photo by Alex Groves

Australia’s training will be conducted in conjunction with the 61st Fighter Squadron. Other partner-nations that will be joining the U.S. and Australia in the F-35A training program here will be Turkey, Italy, Norway, and the Netherlands, in addition to Foreign Military Sales countries Japan, Korea and Israel.

According to, the teamwork on the F-35A is not the first time Luke Air Force Base has worked with international partners on an airframe. Luke’s Airmen currently train on base alongside pilots and maintainers from Singapore and Taiwan on the F-16.

Virtually undetectable to an enemy that cannot hide, the Conventional TakeOff and Landing (CTOL) F-35A gives the Royal Australian Air Force the power to dominate the skies – anytime, anywhere. It’s an agile, versatile, high-performance 9g multirole fighter that provides unmatched capability and unprecedented situational awareness.

The F-35A’s advanced sensor package gathers and distributes more information than any fighter in history, giving operators a decisive advantage over all adversaries. Its tremendous processing power, open architecture, sophisticated sensors, information fusion and flexible communication links make the F-35A Lightning II an indispensable tool in future homeland defense, joint and coalition irregular warfare, and major combat operations.

The F-35A brings unparalleled performance to any theater in any conflict against any threat.

AU-1 First Flight, Fort Worth, Texas.
AU-1 First Flight, Fort Worth, Texas.



Length:                                                                          51.4 ft/15.7 m

Height:                                                                          14.4 ft/4.38 m

Wingspan:                                                                   35 ft/10.7 m

Wing area:                                                                   460 ft2/42.7 m2

Horizontal tail span:                                              22.5 ft/6.86 m

Weight empty:                                                          29,300 lb/13,290 kg

Internal fuel capacity:                                           18,250 lb/8,278 kg

Weapons payload:                                                  18,000 lb/8,160 kg

Maximum weight:                                                   70,000 lb class/31,751 kg

Standard internal weapons load:                   25 mm GAU-22/A cannon

Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles

Two 2,000-pound (907 kg) GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs

F135-PW-100 engine for F-35A Conventional TakeOff and Landing (CTOL)
F135-PW-100 engine for F-35A Conventional TakeOff and Landing (CTOL)

Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings):      F135-PW-100

Maximum Power (with afterburner):           43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/ 19,507 kgf

Military Power (without afterburner):        28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/ 13,063 kgf

Length:                                                                            220 in/5.59 m

Inlet Diameter:                                                           46 in/1.17 m

Maximum Diameter:                                               51 in/1.30 m

Bypass Ratio:                                                               0.57

Overall Pressure Ratio:                                         28

Royal Australian Air Force Logo
Royal Australian Air Force Logo

Speed (full internal weapons load):               Mach 1.6 (~1,200 mph/ 1931 km/h)

Combat radius (internal fuel):                          >590 NM/1,093 km

Range (internal fuel):                                             >1,200 NM/2,200 km

Max g-rating:                                                              9.0


Planned Quantities

U.S. Air Force:                                              1,763;

Italy:                                                                         60;

Netherlands:                                                       37;

Turkey:                                                                100;

Australia:                                                            100;

Norway:                                                                 52;

Denmark:                                                              30;

Canada:                                                                  65;

Israel:                                                                      33;

South Korea:                                                      40;

Japan:                                                                     42;

In total:                                                           2,322



F-35A Lightning II CTOL (Conventional Take-off and Landing)

Upgrading the Spearfish

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has awarded BAE Systems a £270 million ($424 million) contract to upgrade the Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo for the Royal Navy’s submarines. Following the completion of the design phase, existing torpedoes will be upgraded by BAE Systems at its Broad Oak facility in Portsmouth to the new design with initial deliveries in 2020 continuing until 2024, said BAE Systems’ representatives. Key subcontractors for the Spearfish Upgrade programme include MBDA TDW (responsible for an Insensitive Munitions warhead), Atlas Elektronik UK (fibre-optic guidance link and signal processing in the digital homing head), GE Intelligent Platforms (processing boards), and Altran (safety electronic unit).

Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Mod 1
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Mod 1

The upgrade, known as Spearfish Mod 1 extends the life of the torpedo, improves safety through the introduction of an Insensitive Munitions warhead and by utilizing a single fuel propulsion system that will offer cost and safety benefits over the current dual-fuel (using Otto fuel II and HAP, Hydroxyl Ammonium Perchlorate) system and provides more capable data links between the weapon system and the launching vessel (replacement of the current copper/cadmium wire guidance link with a fibre-optic system). This results in capability improvements for the Royal Navy as well as significant reduction in through-life operating costs.

The anti-submarine and anti-surface Spearfish Mod 0 torpedoes are currently deployed the BAE Systems designed and built Trafalgar and Vanguard submarines, as well as the Astute Class submarines. Spearfish can be used in defensive and offensive situations and its advanced design delivers maximum warhead effectiveness at high speed with outstanding maneuverability, low radiated noise, advanced homing and sophisticated tactical intelligence.

The torpedo can operate autonomously from the time of launch and is capable of variable speeds across the entire performance envelope. Its high power density bespoke engine allows it to attain exceptional sprint speed in the terminal stage of an attack. The result is an underwater weapon that provides decisive advantage against the full range of submarine and surface threats in all operational environments. Extensive in-water testing will demonstrate consistently high performance and outstanding reliability.

Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Tail
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Tail

John Hudson, Managing Director for BAE Systems’ UK Maritime Sector, said: «Upgrading the Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Mod 0 will provide sophisticated advances for the Royal Navy with increased operational advantage in the underwater domain». He continued: «As well as sustaining and creating jobs in the Solent region, the contract allows the opportunity to work on one of the most exciting development programmes in the country, underpinning BAE Systems’ position at the forefront of underwater systems development over the last 40 years».

The contract also ensures the sustainment of the UK’s torpedo manufacturing capability at BAE Systems’ Broad Oak facility in Portsmouth through to the mid-2020s, and underpins plans to maintain Spearfish in Royal Navy service beyond 2050.


Length:                                              5 m

Weight:                                             <2.000 tonnes

Speed:                                                70 mph/61 Knots/113 km/h

Materials:                                        Aluminium and Titanium

Crouching Tiger

Airbus Helicopters has completed official delivery of the first two Tiger helicopters in the new HAD-E version (Helicoptero de Apoyo y Destrucción, Support and Destruction Helicopter) for the Spanish Army Airmobile Force (FAMET), said Gloria Illas, Airbus Helicopters España.

Tiger HAD-E version (Helicoptero de Apoyo y Destrucción, Support and Destruction Helicopter)
Tiger HAD-E version (Helicoptero de Apoyo y Destrucción, Support and Destruction Helicopter)

As for the combat helicopters, Tiger deliveries belong to the new HAD-E version, which offers numerous advantages compared to the HAP-E Tigers (Hélicoptère d’Appui Protection, Support and Escort Helicopter) currently in service: a new MTR390-E (Enhanced) turboshaft with 14% more power, an improved optronic vision system, Spike air-to-ground missiles, an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system coupled with an interrogator and a new electronic warfare and countermeasure system.

The Spanish Army purchased a total of 24 of these helicopters. To date, six HAP-E version Tiger helicopters have been delivered to the Attack Helicopter Battalion. Their satisfactory deployment in Afghanistan during 2013 represents an important milestone for this helicopter.

Tiger HAD-E
Tiger HAD-E




Main Assets

Length (rotor rotating):                                                          15.82 m (51.90 ft)

Fuselage length:                                                                          13.85 m (45.43 ft)

Rotor diameter:                                                                           13.00 m (42.85 ft)

Height:                                                                                               3.84 m (12.60 ft)

Width:                                                                                                4.53 m (14.85 ft)

Disc area:                                                                                         133 m² (1,430 ft²)


Typical characteristics

Maxi Take-Off Weight (MTOW) – ISA (International Standard Atmosphere), SL (Sea Level):                                           6,600 kg/14,553 lb

Engine 2 × MTR 390 – Step 1-5:                                    1,092 kW/1,464 shp

Super contingency power (One Engine Inoperative):           1,322 kW/ 1,774 shp

Standard fuel capacity:                                                        1,105 kg/2,435 lb

Standard fuel capacity + external fuel tanks:         1,689 kg/3,723 lb



Fast cruise speed at MTOW, SL:                                     271 km/h/146 kts

Mission duration (standard):                                             2 h 30 min

Maximum endurance with external fuel tank:        5 h 00 min

Max range «armed» with standard fuel tanks:        400 NM/740 km

Max range «not armed» with external fuel tanks: 610 NM/1,130 km


Flight envelope

Operating temperature:         – 30°C to ISA + 35°C

Service ceiling:                              -500 m to 4000 m/-1,640 ft to 13,123 ft

Tiger HAD-E with 70 mm unguided rockets (up to 52 rockets)
Tiger HAD-E with 70 mm unguided rockets (up to 52 rockets)


Typical configurations


4 Air-to-Air Mistral

+ 8 Hellfire or Spike

+ 30 mm turreted gun



68 rockets 68 mm


52 rockets 70 mm

+ 30 mm turreted gun



2 Air-to-Air Mistral

+ 4 Hellfire or Spike

+ 34 rockets 68mm


26 rockets 70 mm

+ 30 mm turreted gun


Armed Reconnaissance

4 Air-to-Air Mistral

+ 44 rockets 68 mm


38 rockets 70 mm

+ 30 mm turreted gun


Air-to-Air combat

4 Air-to-Air Mistral

+ 30 mm turreted gun



30 mm turret-mounted gun (Nexter 30M781)

Total Ammunition capacity:

450 rounds;

Rate of fire: 750 rounds per minute;

Bursts: 5/10/25 bullets;

Azimuth: +/-90°;

Elevation: +28°/-25°

Optimized firing domain:

ATG (Air-To-Ground): up to 1,500 m;

ATA (Air-To-Air): up to 1,000 m

30 mm turret-mounted gun (Nexter 30M781)
30 mm turret-mounted gun (Nexter 30M781)



Versatile 68 mm or 70 mm unguided rocket system (change of rocket type without change of any fixed part on helicopter)

68 mm (up to 68 rockets):

2 inner launchers of 22 rockets;

2 outer launchers of 12 rockets

70 mm (up to 52 rockets):

2 inner launchers of 19 rockets;

2 outer launchers of 7 rockets

Firing Control for:

rocket inner pods elevation;

sub-ammunition ejection delays;

rocket types

Growth potential for laser guided rockets



Air-to-Air Mistral Missile:

Off boresight capability;

Multicell seeker;

2 × 2 missiles (outer launchers);

Range = up to 6000 m

Air-to-Ground missiles

Hellfire (laser guided):

2 M299 launchers × 4 missiles;

Range = 8000 m;

Self-designation or Collaborative designation;

Locked Before Launch (LOBL) or Locked After Launch (LOAL)

Spike ER:

2 × 4 missiles;

Range = 8000 m;

(Fire-and-follow) with electro-optical or fiber optics technologies

Tiger HAD-E (Spanish Army Airmobile Force)
Tiger HAD-E (Spanish Army Airmobile Force)

Swedish destroyer

Defence and Security Company Saab presented the newly developed next generation Carl Gustaf M4 at the 2014 Association of the U.S. Army exhibition in Washington D.C. The Carl Gustaf M4, known in the U.S. as M3A1 MAAWS (Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-tank Weapon System), is the latest man-portable shoulder-launched multi-role weapon system from Saab designed to provide users with flexible capability and help troops to remain agile in any scenario.

The new Carl-Gustaf M4 is a man-portable multi-role weapon system
The new Carl-Gustaf M4 is a man-portable multi-role weapon system

Since 1948, Carl Gustaf has been supporting dismounted infantry around the world in dealing with a full range of battlefield challenges. A marked evolution in the history of the system, the new Carl Gustaf M4 model meets the needs of modern conflict environments while offering compatibility with future innovations.

The new lightweight Carl Gustaf M4, weighing approximately 15 pounds (<7 kg, some 3 kg lighter than the earlier Carl Gustaf M3 and half the weight of the 14.2 kg M2 version), offers significant weight savings to the soldier. According to Nicholas de Larrinaga, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, this has been achieved by constructing the recoilless rifle’s barrel out of titanium, saving 1.1 kg (compared to the M3’s steel barrel), building its outer casing our of carbon fibre (saving 0.8 kg), and by redesigning the weapon’s venturi to save a further 0.9 kg. The redesign has also served to decrease the size of the Carl Gustaf, bringing the M4’s total length down to under 1,000 mm (M2 – 1,130 mm; M3 – 1,065 mm).

The M4 enables soldiers to deal with any tactical situation
The M4 enables soldiers to deal with any tactical situation

The Carl Gustaf M4’s current default sight is the same telescopic sight used on the M3 model, although it can also mount a red-dot sight or, through its integrated 1913 Picatinny rail mounts, be fitted with a variety of other sighting options.

It is also compatible with future battlefield technology such as intelligent sighting systems for programmable ammunition. With a wide variety of munitions available, it is a weapon system capable of handling multiple tactical situations, bridging the gap between full-scale operations and low intensity conflicts, and providing the modern warfighter with unprecedented flexibility and capability on the battlefield. The Carl Gustaf M4 enables soldiers to deal with any tactical situation – from neutralizing armored tanks or enemy troops in defilade, to clearing obstacles and engaging enemies in buildings.

The Carl-Gustaf M4 is compatible with all existing and future Carl-Gustaf ammunition from its wide range of anti-armour, anti-structure, anti-personnel and support rounds
The Carl-Gustaf M4 is compatible with all existing and future Carl-Gustaf ammunition from its wide range of anti-armour, anti-structure, anti-personnel and support rounds

The new generation Carl Gustaf is a further development of today’s widely deployed Carl-Gustaf M3. This «outdated» version has long been in service with the U.S. Army Rangers and has been employed by every U.S. Special Operations Force in the U.S. military. Versions of the system are in service with more than 40 nations globally.

The latest M4 design and capability enhancements were recently showcased to a select group of visitors at a ground combat systems demonstration held in Sweden. The demonstration included a comprehensive series of successful firings with a range of ammunition types against a variety of targets. The new Carl-Gustaf is attracting a high level of interest.

In addition, development does not stop here. Future complementary improvements to this new formidable system will include development of smart programmable ammunition, advanced sighting systems, and expanded confined space capabilities.


Little pigeons
can carry great messages

Insitu, Inc. (Bingen, Washington) is being awarded a $41,076,746 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of three low rate initial production RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft systems. This award provides for the procurement of the air vehicles, ground control stations, launch and recovery equipment, initial spares, and system engineering and program management (Source: US Department of Defense).

RQ-21A Blackjack
RQ-21A Blackjack

Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington, and is expected to be completed in January 2016. Fiscal 2014 procurement funds (Marine Corps) in the amount of $38,309,942 and fiscal 2015 research and development funds (Marine Corps) in the amount of $2,766,804 will be obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.



The RQ-21A Blackjack, a larger twin-tailed follow-on to the ScanEagle, was selected in 2010 for procurement by the Navy and Marine Corps to fill the requirement for a Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS). The system provides persistent maritime and land-based tactical Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) data collection and dissemination capabilities to the warfighter. The air vehicle’s open-architecture configuration can integrate new payloads quickly and can carry sensor payloads as heavy as 25 pounds.

The RQ-21A completed its first shipboard flight in February 2013 from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19)
The RQ-21A completed its first shipboard flight in February 2013 from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19)



RQ-21A will consist of five air vehicles, two ground control stations and multi-mission payloads that will provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications relay for up to 12 hours per day continuously with a short surge capability for 24 hours a day. Payloads include day/night full-motion video cameras, infrared marker, laser range finder, communications relay package and Automatic Identification System receivers. Ancillary equipment includes launch/recovery mechanisms, tactical communications equipment and spares.

RQ-21A will have a minimal operating radius of 50 nautical miles (92,6 km) and the air vehicle will be capable of airspeeds up to 80 knots (92 mph/148 km/h) with a service ceiling of 15,000 feet (4572 m) density altitude. The fully autonomous launch and recovery system will require minimal space for takeoff and recovery from an unimproved expeditionary/urban environment, as well as from the deck of U.S. Navy ships.

The Marine Corps requirement is 32 RQ-21A systems, and the Navy requirement is 25 RQ-21A systems for shipboard, special warfare and expeditionary missions. In July 2010, the Department of the Navy awarded a contract for the design, development, integration and test of RQ-21A. The Marine Corps exercised an early operational capability option and took delivery in late 2011 of two systems.

The RQ-21A completed its first shipboard flight in February 2013 from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19). Low-rate initial production was approved in May 2013 and accepted by the Marine Corps in January 2014. Initial operational test and evaluation began January 2014 with Initial Operational Capability slated for spring 2014. The RQ-21A will be deployed by Marine UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) squadrons.

Standard Payloads: day/night, full-motion video; electro-optical/infrared cameras; mid-wave infrared imager; infrared marker; laser rangefinder; communications relay; Automatic Identification System receivers for shipping traffic data
Standard Payloads: day/night, full-motion video; electro-optical/infrared cameras; mid-wave infrared imager; infrared marker; laser rangefinder; communications relay; Automatic Identification System receivers for shipping traffic data



Length:                                                 8.2 ft/2.5 m

Wingspan:                                          16 ft/4.8 m



Empty structure weight:           81 lb/36 kg

Max takeoff weight:                     135 lb/61 kg

Max payload weight:                   39 lb/17 kg



Endurance:                                        up to 16 hours

Ceiling:                                                 >19,500 ft/5,944 m

Max horizontal speed:                90+ knots/104 mph/167 km/h

Cruise speed:                                    60 knots/69 mph/111 km/h

Engine:                                 8 HP reciprocating engine with EFI; JP-5, JP-8


Payload Integration

Onboard power:                             350 W for payload

Onboard connectivity:               Ethernet (TCP/IP), data encryption


Standard Payload Configuration

Electro-optic imager

Mid-wave infrared imager

Laser rangefinder

IR marker

Communications relay and AIS (Automatic Identification System)


Technicians prepare an RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System for it's first flight from the Webster Field Annex at Naval Air Station Patuxent River
Technicians prepare an RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System for it’s first flight from the Webster Field Annex at Naval Air Station Patuxent River

Workhorse for Spain

According to Mr. Julien Negrel, NHIndustries Business Director, NHI delivered to the Spanish Army Airmobile Force (FAMET) the first NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter built in Spain. This delivery took place on Friday 19th December 2014 in Albacette, in the Airbus Helicopters Spain facility.

The Spanish version of the NH90 TTH
The Spanish version of the NH90 TTH

«This delivery is the proof that the NH90 is not only the best helicopter in its class to modernize the Spanish armed forces, but it is as well a true industrial partnership creating skilled jobs in Spain», declared Xavier Poupardin Delegated Managing Director of NHI. «The Spanish NH90 program is the result of an excellent cooperation between Industry and the Spanish Ministry of Defense, the Spanish Ministry of Industry with the support of the Directorate General of Armament and Equipment (DGAM)», added Xavier Poupardin.

The Spanish version of the NH90 TTH, the GSPA, will be the workhorse of the Spanish armed forces for the next decades, replacing several types of previous generation helicopters. Its main missions will be Tactical Troop Transport, Search and Rescue, Personnel Recovery and Medical Evacuation. NHI and Airbus Helicopters España will supply a total of 22 NH90 helicopters to the Spanish Armed Forces under a delivery schedule that continues through to 2019.

The NH90 is the optimal choice for modern operations thanks to its large full composite airframe, its excellent power to weight ratio, and its wide range of role equipment. It features a redundant Fly-by-Wire flight control system for reduced Pilot’s workload and enhanced flight characteristics.

The NH90 is proposed in two main variants, one dedicated to naval operations, the NH90 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) and the NH90 TTH (Tactical Troop Transport) for land based operations. As of today, 230 helicopters have been delivered in Naval and Tactical transport variants since the beginning of the program and 51 since the beginning of 2014. They are in service in Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Greece, Oman, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

NH90 TTH (Tactical Troop Transport)
NH90 TTH (Tactical Troop Transport)




External Dimensions

Overall dimensions (rotors turning)

Length:                                                                                19.56 m (64.18 ft)

Width:                                                                                  16.30 m (53.48 ft)

Height:                                                                                  5.31 m (17.42 ft)



Maximum Gross Weight:                                           10,600 kg (23,369 lb)

Alternate Gross Weight:                                            11,000 kg (24,250 lb)

Empty Weight:                                                                  6,400 kg (14,109 lb)

Useful Load:                                                                        4,200 kg (9,260 lb)


Cargo Capacity

Cargo Hook:                                                                        4,000 kg (8,818 lb)

Single or dual Rescue Hoist:                                      270 kg (595 lb)

Rescue Hoist on ground:                                             400 kg (880 lb)

Crew (2 + 1); 20 troops in full crashworthy or up to 12 strechers


Fuel Capacity

7-Cell Internal System:                                                2,035 kg (4,486 lb)

Internal Auxiliary Fuel Tanks (each):                   400 kg (882 lb)

External Auxiliary Fuel Tanks (each)                   292 kg (644 lb)

or                                                                                               500 kg (1,102 lb)

NH90 Helicopter
NH90 Helicopter


Internal Dimensions

Width:                                                                                    2.00 m (6.56 ft)

Length:                                                                                   4.80 m (15.75 ft)

Height:                                                                                   1.58 m (5.18 ft)

Volume:                                                                                 15.20 m³ (536.78 ft³)

Sliding doors opening:                                    1.60 × 1.50 m (5.25 × 4.92 ft)

Rear ramp opening:                                          1.78 × 1.58 m (5.84 × 5.18 ft)


NH90 General Performance (Basic Aircraft, at 10,000 kg)

Maximum Cruise Speed:                                               300 km/h (162 kts)

Economical Cruise Speed:                                            260 km/h (140 kts)

Maximum Rate of Climb:                                              11.2 m/s (2,200 ft/min)

OEI (One Engine Inoperative) Rate of Climb 2 min Rating:        4.3 m/s (850 ft/min)

OEI Rate of Climb Continuous Rating at 2000 m (6560 ft):       1.5 m/s (300 ft/min)

Hover Ceiling IGE (In Ground Effect):                   3,200 m (10,500 ft)

Hover Ceiling OGE (Out of Ground Effect):      2,600 m (8,530 ft)

Maximum Range:                                                               982 km (530 NM)

Maximum Range with 2,500 kg payload:             900 km (486 NM)

Maximum Endurance:                                                     5 h

Ferry Range (with Internal Aux Fuel Tanks):     1,600 km (864 NM)

GSPA Helicopter
GSPA Helicopter


Power System – Twin engine with dual channel FADEC

(Full Authority Digital Electronic Control)

Two Turbomecca (RTM 322-01/9 or RTM 322-01/9A enhanced version)


Two General Electric (GE T700/T6E1 or CT7-8F5 enhanced version)


NH90 Engines Power Ratings

(Uninstalled power data-ISA/Sea Level)


RATING                                                                                     RTM 322-01/9

OEI 30 sec (100%):                                                              2,172 kW (2,913 shp)

OEI 2 min:                                                                                 1,855 kW (2,488 shp)

OEI Continuous:                                                                   1,781 kW (2,388 shp)

AEO TOP (All Engines Operating)(30 min) (x2):1,781 kW (2,388 shp)

AEO Continuous (x2):                                                        1,664 kW (2,231 shp)


RATING                                                                                     GE T700/T6E1 (*)

OEI 30 sec (100%):                                                              2,095 kW (2,809 shp)

OEI 2 min:                                                                                 1,842 kW (2,470 shp)

OEI 60 min:                                                                              1,692 kW (2,269 shp)

AEO TOP (30 min) (x2):                                                    1,692 kW (2,269 shp)

AEO Continuous (x2):                                                        1,577 kW (2,115 shp)

(*) GE engines with Integrated Particle Separator (IPS)


Role Equipment

Door mounted pintle machine gun (7.62 mm or 12.7 mm)

Armour protection for cabin (modular)

Self-protection suite


The Apocalypse Machine

As is known, the Vanguard-class is a British class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) in service with the Royal Navy. Commissioned into service between 1993 and 1999, HMS Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant, and Vengeance were originally designed for a 25-year lifespan. However, this has been extended by up to 13 years, postponing the requirement for a new class of SSBN and bringing the procurement timeframe into line with the Ohio-class replacement program (U.S. Navy).

The first computer generated image of the replacement to the Vanguard class
The first computer generated image of the replacement to the Vanguard class

According to Jon Rosamond, USNI News, the concept work on Britain’s so-called Successor SSBN began in 2007, with the Ministry of Defense appointing an industry team consisting of shipbuilder and design lead BAE Systems plus Babcock (providing the torpedo handling/launch system, signal ejector system, and through-life support expertise) and Rolls-Royce (responsible for the nuclear steam-raising plant). The MOD approved the so-called «Initial Gate» business case for the new submarines in 2011, releasing funds for a five-year assessment phase intended to bring the design to 70 percent maturity.

In 2013, BAE Systems has been awarded contracts totaling £79 million by the UK Ministry of Defence to begin procuring its first long lead items for the Vanguard Successor programme, which will carry the nation’s nuclear deterrent capability from 2028. The MOD released a concept image depicting an aggressively raked sail, X-shaped stern, and bowplanes located below the waterline when the boat is surfaced. Displacing about 17,000 tons, Successor will be slightly larger than the UK’s current SSBNs (15,900 tons).

Propulsion system components, high-grade steel for the pressure hull and other critical long-lead items for the first ship have now been ordered and some manufacturing activities have started. Tony Johns, Managing Director of BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines, said: «Following the Government’s announcement in May 2011 that the programme had passed its «Initial Gate», it is now well into its third year of a five-year design and development phase, during which the submarine’s concept design and operational requirements are being matured into a detailed design. The «Main Gate» procurement decision – giving permission to proceed for full production – is due in 2016».

By aligning the procurement of the Vanguard and Ohio replacements, the U.K. opened up opportunities for collaborative work with the United States in several areas, notably the design of the Common Missile Compartment (CMC) and the nuclear powerplant, and the integration of sonar arrays and associated combat systems.

HMS Victorious is pictured near Faslane in Scotland
HMS Victorious is pictured near Faslane in Scotland

Although Successor will be fitted with three quad-pack CMC modules, providing 12 launch tubes for Trident D5 ballistic missiles (down from Vanguard‘s 16 tubes), the British government has decided that just 8 operational missiles will be routinely carried on patrol. Meanwhile, General Dynamics Electric Boat will supply outfitted tubes – 87 inches (2.21 m) in diameter and 45 feet (13.72 m) high – for CMC assembly in the U.K.

In October 2014, the U.S. Navy awarded Electric Boat $84 million to start CMC missile tube manufacturing: 12 for the Successor lead ship, 4 for the Ohio replacement program and 1 for the Strategic Weapons System-Ashore test facility at Cape Canaveral. Meanwhile Rolls-Royce is developing the RN’s third-generation pressurized water reactor (PWR3) with technological support from the United States, under the terms of a 1958 intergovernmental agreement to share atomic energy technology for defense purposes. The PWR3 design has benefitted in particular from lessons learned with the S9G reactor that powers the Virginia-class submarines.

Compared with the Vanguards’ PWR2 system (27,500 shp, 20.5 MW), the PWR3 has a simpler circulation design and should be easier to operate. According to Rolls-Royce representatives, it promises a «huge improvement in terms of safety, integrity and availability, while at the same time reducing the through-life costs».

Vanguards’ PWR2 system (27,500 shp, 20.5 MW)
Vanguards’ PWR2 system (27,500 shp, 20.5 MW)

Meanwhile, the U.K. is also participating in the U.S.-led Trident missile life-extension program, which will keep the D5 ballistic vehicle – capable of delivering up to 12 independently targetable nuclear warheads – in service into the 2040s.

One major decision remains outstanding: Whether to replace the Vanguards on a one-for-one basis, at an estimated cost of $17.28-$22 billion (at 2006/07 prices), or attempt to benefit from improved reliability and maintainability by ordering just three SSBN submarines. However, the cost savings inherent in a three-boat solution would be too small compared with total program expenditure, and the RN believes that 4 SSBNs is the minimum required to maintain a credible and continuous at-sea deterrent.

«We have a proud history of collaboration with the United States on submarine programs and I’m pleased to say that continues today», Will Blamey, the Successor program director at BAE Systems Submarines said. «We’re more than halfway through the five-year assessment phase and are making good progress with the submarine design. We’re fully focused on achieving our program objectives and remain confident the first submarine will be in service by 2028».


Striking Distance

The U.S. Air Force has approved full rate production for Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER).

JASSM-ER is integrated on the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B
First B-1B live JASSM drop. China Lake Range

JASSM-ER successfully completed U.S. Air Force Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) flight-testing in 2013. During IOT&E, the program had a 95 percent success rate, scoring 20 successes in 21 flights. Lots 11 and 12 of the JASSM contract awarded in December 2013 included 100 ER missiles.

«The full rate production decision demonstrates that our customer, at all levels of the U.S. Air Force, has confidence in JASSM-ER», said Jason Denney, long-range strike systems program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. «JASSM-ER provides warfighters with a first day, first strike capability in an anti-access, area-denial environment».

Armed with a dual-mode penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, JASSM and JASSM-ER cruise autonomously day or night in all weather conditions. Both missiles share the same powerful capabilities and stealthy characteristics, though JASSM-ER has more than two-and-a-half times the range of the baseline JASSM for greater standoff margin. These 2,000-pound cruise missiles employ an infrared seeker and Global Positioning System receiver to dial into specific target aimpoints. The infrared seeker allows the weapon to find its target even in areas where GPS signals are jammed.

JASSM is integrated on the U.S. Air Force’s B-2
JASSM is integrated on the U.S. Air Force’s B-2

«The baseline JASSM has a range in excess of 200 n miles (370 km), is powered by a Teledyne turbojet engine, and carries a WDU-42B (J-1000) 1,000-lb-class blast fragmentation/penetrating warhead. The JASSM-ER is powered by the Williams International F107-WR-105 turbofan engine, but is otherwise identical. It has a range of about 500 n miles (926 km)», Lockheed Martin’s representative Melissa Hilliard told IHS Jane’s.

JASSM and JASSM-ER are critical weapons for the U.S. Air Force. Extremely effective against high-value, well-fortified, fixed and relocatable targets, the stealthy JASSM-ER is integrated on the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B, but there are efforts under way for F-15E, F-16, and B-52 integration. JASSM is integrated on the U.S. Air Force’s B-2, B-52, F-16, F-15E, and internationally, on the Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18A/B.

Produced at the company’s award-winning manufacturing facility in Troy, Alabama, more than 1,500 JASSM cruise missiles have been assembled for testing and operational use toward a total U.S. Air Force objective of 4,900.



Weight:                                  2250 lbs./1020.58 kg

Warhead:                             1000 lbs./453.59 kg (WDU-42/B)

Engine Type:                       Williams International F107-WR-105

Length:                                   168 in/4.267 m

Storage:                                 15 years

Range:                                    >500 NMI/>926 km