Category Archives: Air Force

Second T-X
Takes Flight

Boeing and partner Saab have completed the first flight of their second production-ready T-X aircraft, which is identical to the first and designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force advanced pilot training requirement.

Designed for U.S. Air Force, Boeing T-X proves low risk, performance, manufacturing repeatability
Designed for U.S. Air Force, Boeing T-X proves low risk, performance, manufacturing repeatability

During the one-hour flight, lead T-X Test Pilot Steve Schmidt and Boeing Test Pilot for Air Force Programs Matt Giese validated key aspects of the aircraft and further demonstrated the low-risk and performance of the design, proving its repeatability in manufacturing.

«The jet handled exactly like the first aircraft and the simulator, meeting all expectations», said Giese. «The front and back cockpits work together seamlessly and the handling is superior. It’s the perfect aircraft for training future generations of combat pilots».

Both pilots trained for the flight using the complete Boeing T-X system, which includes ground-based training and simulation.

«Our successful flight test program is a testament to the fact that our offering is the right choice for the U.S. Air Force», said Schmidt. «This aircraft was built to Air Force requirements and designed to fulfill the Air Education and Training Command mission».

The Boeing T-X aircraft has one engine, twin tails, stadium seating, and an advanced cockpit with embedded training. The all-new, purpose-built design offers flexibility to evolve as technology, missions, and training needs change.

Boeing and Saab revealed their design in September 2016 and flew the first aircraft last December.

T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft. Initial operating capability is planned for 2024.

Swedish defense and security company Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions ranging from military defense to civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers’ changing needs. Saab is a $4 billion business with approximately 14,000 employees in about 35 countries.

34th Fighter Squadron

Combat-ready F-35A Lightning II multi-role fighter aircraft arrived April 15, 2017, at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, demonstrating U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European territorial integrity.

F-35 Lightning IIs from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxi after landing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 15, 2017. The fifth generation, multi-role fighter aircraft is deployed here to maximize training opportunities, affirm enduring commitments to NATO allies, and deter any actions that destabilize regional security (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier)
F-35 Lightning IIs from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxi after landing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 15, 2017. The fifth generation, multi-role fighter aircraft is deployed here to maximize training opportunities, affirm enduring commitments to NATO allies, and deter any actions that destabilize regional security (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier)

«The forward presence of F-35s support my priority of having ready and postured forces here in Europe», said Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the U.S. European Command commander and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe. «These aircraft, plus more importantly, the men and women who operate them, fortifies the capacity and capability of our NATO alliance».

The aircraft are deployed from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will train with European-based allies.

This long-planned deployment continues to galvanize the U.S. commitment to security and stability throughout Europe. The aircraft and personnel will remain in Europe for several weeks. The F-35A will also forward deploy to maximize training opportunities, strengthen the NATO alliance and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.

 

Fifth-Generation Fighter

«This is an incredible opportunity for (U.S. Air Forces in Europe) Airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft», said Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, commander of USAFE and Air Forces Africa. «As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations».

The introduction of the premier fifth-generation fighter to Europe brings state-of-the-art sensors, interoperability and a vast array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions that will help maintain the fundamental territorial and air sovereignty rights of all nations. The fighter provides unprecedented precision-attack capability against current and emerging threats with unmatched lethality, survivability and interoperability.

The deployment was supported by the Air Mobility Command. Multiple refueling aircraft from four different bases provided more than 400,000 pounds/181,437 kg of fuel during the «tanker bridge» from the U.S. to Europe. Additionally, C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft transported maintenance equipment and personnel to England.

VTOL X-Plane

DARPA has completed flight-testing of a sub-scale version of a novel aircraft design as part of its Vertical TakeOff and Landing (VTOL) X-Plane program, and is proceeding with work to develop a full-scale version of the groundbreaking plane. Developed and fabricated by Aurora Flight Sciences, the revolutionary aircraft includes 24 electric ducted fans – 18 distributed within the main wings and six in the canard surfaces, with the wings and canards tilting upwards for vertical flight and rotating to a horizontal position for wing-borne flight. The successful tests suggest there is a time in the not-so-distant future when VTOL aircraft could fly much faster and farther than any existing hover-capable craft, and take off and land almost anywhere.

VTOL X-plane hovering in place before transitioning to horizontal flight
VTOL X-plane hovering in place before transitioning to horizontal flight

Subscale testing began on the VTOL program in March of 2016 and the first phase of testing ended after six flights with demonstration of auto take off, sustained hover, directional and translational control (including lateral and rearward flight), waypoint navigation, and auto landing. Later, the aircraft wing and canard tilt mechanisms, tilt schedules, and wing-borne flight controls were enabled for testing. Four of the test flights featured an expanded flight envelope in which the vehicle experimented with increases in air speed until the wing generated most of the lift.

«The VTOL demonstrator was designed specifically to test the aerodynamic design of the aircraft, validate flight dynamics, and develop the flight and mission-systems controls for application to the full-scale vehicle», said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. «The aircraft exhibited exceptional flight characteristics, with no loss in altitude even as it transitioned from vertical to horizontal flight. It also demonstrated aerodynamic effectiveness of the distributed propulsive system».

The subscale aircraft flight and mission control architectures will, for the most part, be carried over into the full-scale VTOL aircraft, but with a few additions and improvements. According to Bagai, the full-scale aircraft will incorporate a triple-redundant flight control system instead of a single system. A hybrid turboshaft engine driving electric generators to power the fan units, versus the demonstrator’s batteries, will power the full-scale aircraft. Finally, the full-scale aircraft fan units will be synchronized to the generators and turn at a constant RPM, but incorporate variable pitch, whereas the demonstrator’s fans are speed controlled.

Composite image of VTOL subscale test aircraft in horizontal flight
Composite image of VTOL subscale test aircraft in horizontal flight

In addition to serving as a flight controls systems developmental aircraft, the VTOL subscale demonstrator advanced a number of technologies such as 3D-printed plastics for flight structures and aerodynamic surfaces as well as embedded distributed electric propulsion. The subscale demonstrator also improved methods to develop the aerodynamic databases upon which the air-vehicle control system is modeled, and provided lessons for the flight control system.

With the subscale test flights completed, the aircraft will be preserved for possible additional tests in the future. Meanwhile, all ongoing-program efforts will focus on the development of the full-scale VTOL X-Plane aircraft, which now bears the official designation of XV-24A.

The XV-24A will weigh 12,000 pounds/5,443 kg compared to the demonstrator’s 322 pounds/146 kg, and will aim to demonstrate specific performance objectives stipulated by DARPA: flight speeds in excess of 300 knots/345 mph/555.6 km/h, full hover and vertical flight capabilities, and – relative to helicopters – a 25 percent improvement in hovering efficiency and 50 percent reduction in system drag losses during cruise.

«These are ambitious performance parameters», Bagai said, «which we believe will push current technologies to the max and enable a new generation of vertical flight operational capabilities».

DARPA Completes Testing of Subscale Hybrid Electric VTOL X-Plane

 

Maiden flight

ANTONOV Airlines’ new multipurpose aircraft, the AN-132D, took to the skies for its maiden flight on March 31, 2017, from the company’s airfield in Kiev, Ukraine.

ANTONOV AN-132 makes first flight
ANTONOV AN-132 makes first flight

The first prototype of the new aircraft flew for 1 hour and 50 minutes captained by ANTONOV test pilot 1st class, Victor Goncharov, accompanied by test pilot General Mohammed Ayash of the Taqnia Aeronautics Company, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, co-piloted by ANTONOV test pilot, 2nd class, Bohdan Zagoruyko. Volodymyr Nesterenko, a leading ANTONOV test flight engineer, was also on board the flight, which was escorted by a new AN-178 jet transport.

The AN-132 programme is being developed following a contract with a customer from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in close cooperation with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the Тaqnia Aeronautics Co. Leading suppliers of the global aircraft industry are involved in the project.

The AN-132D was met by Piotr Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, and the aircraft creators at the ANTONOV Company’s flight test base. The head of the state thanked the participants of the programme and said in particular: «I am proud of my compatriots, thousands of employees of ANTONOV Company and other enterprises of Ukraine, who have worked and will do a lot to launch series production of this aircraft. But today the important event was happened – our aircraft rose into the sky. I saw the aircraft landing. It was well done»!

Oleksandr Kotsiuba, President of ANTONOV, congratulated colleagues and partners on the successful completion of this stage of the programme’s development.

According to him, the next important step will be the presentation of the AN-132D in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will be conducted after the completion of more aircraft tests.

In his turn Dr. Khaled Abdullah Alhussain, Director of National Aerospace Technology Center of King Abdulaziz City Science and Technology, emphasized importance of AN-132 for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He expressed confidence, that the sky of his country will meet this aircraft hospitably and will become a native for it.

The AN-132 multipurpose turboprop aircraft is intended for operation on short and medium-haul routes.

The new aircraft will perform various tasks including the transportation of raw materials, mail and other cargo, including bulk cargo, ULDs and light self-propelled and non-self-propelled vehicles weighing up to 9.2 tonnes.

The aircraft will also be deployed for emergencies, including civilian and casualty evacuation from disaster areas and airdropping paratroop rescue teams.

Contract negotiations

It said in the Defense-aerospace.com that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to begin contract negotiations for acquiring 56 Airbus C-295 transport aircraft as replacements for its ageing Avro HS-748 aircraft.

After several years of hesitation about how to replace its Avro HS-748 turboprop transports, the Chief of Staff of the Indian Air Force said negotiations will shortly be opened with Airbus to buy at least 60 C-295s (Airbus photo)
After several years of hesitation about how to replace its Avro HS-748 turboprop transports, the Chief of Staff of the Indian Air Force said negotiations will shortly be opened with Airbus to buy at least 60 C-295s (Airbus photo)

According to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, due attention is being paid to all assets of IAF, fighters and transporters included, and that «contract negotiations for 56 C-295 aircraft to replace the ageing Avro fleet are likely to commence shortly».

Separately, official sources indicated that the Border Security Force (BSF) is also looking at four C-295s for movement of its troopers within the country.

That takes the projected number to 60, but as the aircraft will be made in India by the Tata Group, their number should go up eventually, keeping in mind the regional connectivity plans of the Civil Aviation Ministry, particularly in India’s northern Himalayan cities.

Airbus officials have also said they are looking at a sizeable share of the Indian civil aviation market, pointing out that the C-295 is already operational in 19 countries.

The air chief’s statement is significant as it clearly indicates that the process of acquiring the C-295s is now on a firm track.

The aircraft is to be made in India by the Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL) in partnership with Airbus, and as per their announcement in 2014, once a contract is awarded, Airbus Defence and Space will supply the first 16 aircraft in «fly-away» condition from its own final assembly line in Spain and the subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by TASL.

The arrangement will include undertaking structural assembly, final aircraft assembly, systems integration and testing, and management of the indigenous supply chain.

Asked how the IAF was overcoming many challenges in the transport domain, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said that IAF will also induct another six Lockheed Martin C-130J Special Operations aircraft within the first half of 2017 while one more Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic lift aircraft is being acquired to take their number to 11. Ten C-17s are already operational with the IAF.

It may be recalled that IAF has already inducted the first lot of six C-130Js. One of them, however, had crashed and a case has now been made for its replacement.

About the AN-32 aircraft, which is the workhorse of the IAF and has been under upgrades, he said that their first lot is due for «phase out in 2023-24 and a suitable replacement will be considered at an appropriate time».

The IAF had acquired more than 100 AN 32s beginning mid-1980s from the Soviet Union, and these are being upgraded by Ukraine, which is now an independent state after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

About the Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) that was proposed (in 2007) to be designed and built in collaboration with Russia, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said that «the agreement with Russia for MTA could not mature as their proposal did not meet some of the Air Staff Qualitative requirements (ASRs)».

LITENING pod for RDAF

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) to provide LITENING advanced targeting pods for its F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. LITENING gives pilots powerful capabilities for detecting, identifying and tracking targets at extremely long ranges.

Northrop Grumman to Provide LITENING Advanced Targeting Pods to Royal Danish Air Force
Northrop Grumman to Provide LITENING Advanced Targeting Pods to Royal Danish Air Force

Denmark was the first international partner to take delivery of the fourth generation of the LITENING pod. With this award, the RDAF will expand the use of LITENING to additional aircraft in its fleet.

«As a key member of NATO, Denmark supports a wide range of missions. LITENING gives the RDAF powerful capabilities to carry out these missions, whether they call for targeting or Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)», said Doctor Robert Fleming, vice president, programmes, Northrop Grumman.

The Northrop Grumman LITENING Advanced Targeting System, now in its fourth generation, gives aircrews superior situational awareness and targeting capabilities for strike and ISR missions. Technologies include digital, high definition video, 1K forward-looking infrared and charge-coupled device sensors, laser imaging sensors and advanced data links. These advances deliver more accurate target identification and location at longer ranges than previous targeting pod systems, while also reducing pilot workload.

LITENING pod has been integrated on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, AV-8B Harrier II, B-52 Stratofortress, C-130 Hercules, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet and has achieved more than two million operating hours.

Patrol Aircraft

For the first time since its introduction into service in December 2016, the Italian Air Force’s ATR 72MP has flown overseas to attend the Langkawi International Maritime And Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia, from March 21 to 25. During the show, the aircraft and its crew will be available to delegations and guests for hosted visits and briefings. Leonardo envisions significant export opportunities for the aircraft in the region due the aircraft’s low cost of operation, ease of maintenance and exceptional versatility in a number of maritime roles.

The ATR 72MP, designated P-72A by the Italian Air Force, is at the forefront of maritime patrol capability, enabling defence, homeland security and environmental protection missions
The ATR 72MP, designated P-72A by the Italian Air Force, is at the forefront of maritime patrol capability, enabling defence, homeland security and environmental protection missions

The ATR 72MP, which was developed by Leonardo using the ATR 72-600 turboprop as a base, can perform roles including maritime patrol, search and identification of surface vessels, Command, Control and Communication, ISR, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, SAR (Search and Rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes.

The ATR 72MP is equipped with Leonardo’s ATOS mission system, which uses advanced data fusion techniques to present a single tactical picture to the operator that integrates information from all of the aircraft’s on-board sensors. One key sensor on the ATR 72MP is Leonardo’s Seaspray AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar. Seaspray provides a powerful surveillance capability with a range of modes, all in a highly reliable package. The aircraft also uses the latest communication systems, able to transmit or receive information in real time to/from command and control centers either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system, fully integrated with the ATR 72MP’s mission system and avionics.

Aircraft carriers
in the sky

DARPA recently completed Phase 1 of its Gremlins program, which envisions volleys of low-cost, reusable Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) – or «gremlins» – that could be launched and later retrieved in mid-air. Taking the program to its next stage, the Agency has now awarded Phase 2 contracts to two teams, one led by Dynetics, Inc. (Huntsville, Alabama) and the other by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (San Diego, California).

DARPA’s Gremlins program seeks to develop innovative technologies and systems that would enable existing aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air. In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded Phase 2 contracts for Gremlins to teams led by Dynetics, Inc., and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
DARPA’s Gremlins program seeks to develop innovative technologies and systems that would enable existing aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air. In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded Phase 2 contracts for Gremlins to teams led by Dynetics, Inc., and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

«The Phase 1 program showed the feasibility of airborne UAS launch and recovery systems that would require minimal modification to the host aircraft», said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager. «We’re aiming in Phase 2 to mature two system concepts to enable ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’ using air-recoverable UASs that could carry various payloads – advances that would greatly extend the range, flexibility, and affordability of UAS operations for the U.S. military».

Gremlins Phase 2 research seeks to complete preliminary designs for full-scale technology demonstration systems, as well as develop and perform risk-reduction tests of individual system components. Phase 3 goals include developing one full-scale technology demonstration system and conducting flight demonstrations involving airborne launch and recovery of multiple gremlins. Flight tests are currently scheduled for the 2019 timeframe.

Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program envisions launching groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft – including bombers, transport, fighters, and small, unmanned fixed-wing platforms – while out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable unmanned systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional manned platforms.

Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) Phase 2 Concept Video

Wideband Global
SATCOM

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on March 18 at 8:18 p.m. EDT.

A Delta IV rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 with the Air Force's ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite
A Delta IV rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 with the Air Force’s ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite

«This launch commemorates the 70th anniversary of the USAF», said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. «We are absolutely honored to play a role in this important milestone, while safely delivering WGS-9 to orbit».

This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (5, 4) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) powered by one common booster core and four solid rocket motors built by Orbital ATK. The common booster core was powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing 705,250 pounds/319,896 kg of thrust at sea level. A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage. The booster and upper stage engines are both built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. ULA constructed the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) launch vehicle in Decatur, Alabama.

This is ULA’s 3rd launch in 2017 and the 118th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

«Thank you to the women and men of United Launch Alliance and all of our teammates who have worked tirelessly together to ensure today’s mission success», said Maginnis. «The team’s number one priority was safely and reliably delivering one of our nation’s most critical satellites».

WGS-9, the third Block II Follow-on satellite, supports communications links in the X-band and Ka-band spectra. While Block I and II satellites can instantaneously filter and downlink up to 4.410 GHz, WGS-9 can filter and downlink up to 8.088 GHz of bandwidth. Depending on the mix of ground terminals, data rates and modulation and coding schemes employed, a single WGS satellite can support data transmission rates over 6 Gbps, and WGS-9 with its advanced digital channelizer may support over 11 Gbps. WGS satellites are an important element of a new high-capacity satellite communications system providing enhanced communications capability to our troops in the field.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

A Delta IV rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 with the Air Force’s ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite

The Air Force's ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite, encapsulated inside a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to its Delta IV booster inside the Mobile Service Tower at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-37
Delta IV, WGS-09 Spacecraft Lift and Mate on Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

F-35 Fires ASRAAM

The F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet has successfully conducted its first firing trials of the MBDA Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM).

F-35 successfully conducts first firings of MBDA’s ASRAAM
F-35 successfully conducts first firings of MBDA’s ASRAAM

The trials are the first time a British-designed missile has been fired from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and the first time any non-US missile has been fired from the aircraft.

Conducted from both Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Edwards Air Force Base in the USA, the effort has seen both flight trials and air-launched firings of the ASRAAM successfully take place.

MBDA is currently under contract, awarded in 2016, to produce the highly capable infra-red (IR) guided air-to-air missile for the UK’s F-35s. ASRAAM’s large rocket motor and clean aerodynamic design gives it a high kinematic capability that delivers superior end-game performance compared with other countries’ in-service IR missiles.

The trials were conducted by the integrated test teams at Patuxent and Edwards, which include Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, MBDA and Northrop Grumman.

The development trials work is being conducted under the integration programme for ASRAAM onto the UK’s F-35 aircraft. This effort is currently progressing to plan and these integration activities will allow the Initial Operating Capability of the aircraft by the UK.

MBDA is also under contract for the ASRAAM Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) to build replenishment missiles for the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The CSP effort makes use of ASRAAM’s commonality with the CAMM missile family, also being bought by the Royal Navy and British Army, to deliver extensive cost savings across the UK Armed Forces.