Category Archives: Air Force

Racer

Airbus Helicopters continues to progress with the development of its Racer (Rapid And Cost-Efficient Rotorcraft) technology demonstrator, funded by European Union’s H2020 framework through the Clean Sky 2 program, and aiming to provide the best trade-off between speed, cost-efficiency, sustainability and mission performance.

Racer high-speed demonstrator passes preliminary design review milestone
Racer high-speed demonstrator passes preliminary design review milestone

After the validation of the demonstrator’s aerodynamic configuration last year, key subsystems have now successfully passed their Preliminary Design Review (PDR) giving way to the launching of first components manufacture. Final assembly of the prototype is planned to start in Q4 2019.

«I want to thank all of our European partners for the excellence of their work and for their commitment in this fantastic project», said Tomasz Krysinski, Head of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters. «The PDR marks a major achievement for the Racer program as it allows to freeze interfaces and 3D definitions of the main subsystems, prior to detailed design and manufacture of key components».

Long-lead items are the first ones to be manufactured. Airbus Helicopters teams already launched production of the lateral drive shaft, one of the Racer’s most innovative components. Among key subsystems, Italy’s Avio Aero, a GE Aviation Business, is launching procurement and manufacturing for the aircraft’s lateral gear boxes housing, while Hamble UK based GE Aviation Integrated Systems is taking care of the wing’s titanium cradle part. Romania’s INCAS/Romaero has already started manufacturing the Racer’s composite side panel and Spain’s Aernnova the tail parts primary structure.

Together with its partners, Airbus Helicopters is currently refining the content of the future Racer flight demonstration in Clean Sky 2 which will begin in 2020 and include about 200 flight hours. The first part will focus on the progressive opening of the flight envelope and on assessing key performance objectives as well as speed, handling qualities, stability and aerodynamics. The second phase will aim at demonstrating the aircraft’s suitability to carry out potential missions where increased speed and efficiency would bring significant added value, such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Search & Rescue (SAR) and private transport. This second flight testing phase will also allow to mature low-noise flight procedures, unique to the Racer demonstrator formula.

French Phénix

Fifty-five years after the arrival of the first Boeing C135 tanker aircraft, the A330 Phoenix on Friday, October 12, took off from Istres air base on its first flight after having officially joined the Air Force.

The French Air Force’s first Airbus A330 tanker takes off to begin its operational trials, due to be completed in late 2019 when it is due to attain its IOC. France plans to order 12, with another three to follow after 2025 (FR AF photo)
The French Air Force’s first Airbus A330 tanker takes off to begin its operational trials, due to be completed in late 2019 when it is due to attain its IOC. France plans to order 12, with another three to follow after 2025 (FR AF photo)

Piloted by a crew of the MRTT team of the Military Aviation Expertise Center (CEAM), the new tanker aircraft made a first flight of flight refueling trial with the aircraft of the 2/2 «Côte-d’Or» Calibration Squadron.

This first flight marks the beginning of the experimental and test campaign that will allow the aircraft to be reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) within a year. Integrated into the 31st EARTS (strategic air refueling squadron), the trial team will perform many test flights to qualify the aircraft for all the missions it will carry out. The first phase will be dedicated to the air refueling missions of the various Air Force aircraft and those of our allies, in multiple configurations, by day or night and in all weathers.

Once the refueling capabilities are validated, the aircraft’s trials will be expanded to include strategic cargo and personnel transport and medical evacuation. The Phénix, so named by the Air Force as a symbol of the aircraft capable of «reborning» any aircraft it refuels in flight, will ultimately replace the Air Force’s entire fleet of strategic aircraft (C135, A310 and A340) which are now used for long-range missions.

Operated by the strategic air forces, the fleet of 12 aircraft (15 after 2025) will be stationed at the 125 Istres air base, whose role as our «logistics hub» will be increased tenfold.

Given that the A330 Phoenix is one and a half times larger than the C135, the entire infrastructure of Air Base 125 has had to be reviewed. A first maintenance hangar, a parking lot and new air traffic routes were thus created at the air base for the reception and implementation of the aircraft.

This site, the largest currently in terms of investments for the Ministry of the Armed Forces, will continue to accommodate 12 aircraft by 2023. In addition to two other maintenance hangars, Istres will have a new terminal for personnel and logistics transport missions which are currently carried out by the 1/60 «Estérel» transport squadron from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

AEW&C System

Speaking ahead of this week’s NATO conference, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the Ministry of Defence is in discussion with Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force about the potential for the E-7 Wedgetail radar aircraft to replace the current Sentry fleet.

The E-7 Wedgetail, the UK Ministry of Defence’s preferred successor to the Royal Air Force’s E-3 AWACS, is based on the Boeing 737, and is an in-service, off-the-shelf aircraft that presents little developmental risk (RAAF photo)
The E-7 Wedgetail, the UK Ministry of Defence’s preferred successor to the Royal Air Force’s E-3 AWACS, is based on the Boeing 737, and is an in-service, off-the-shelf aircraft that presents little developmental risk (RAAF photo)

The E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System is able to fly for long periods of time and manage the battlespace from the sky, providing situational awareness and tracking multiple airborne and maritime targets at the same time. It then uses the information it gathers to direct other assets like fighter jets and warships. It has already been proven on operations in the battle against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Further discussions are set to take place before any investment decision is made, as the MOD follows a stringent approvals process to ensure the aircraft meets the military requirement and represents value-for-money. If selected, UK industry could be involved significantly with the programme, from modification work to through life support.

Speaking ahead of the meeting of Defence Ministers in NATO, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: «The Wedgetail is the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlespace surveillance aircraft, and has already proved itself in Iraq and Syria. Running air operations from the sky, it could be an excellent asset for the RAF and give us a real edge in this increasingly complex world. Our future with Australia will already see us operate the same maritime patrol aircraft, world-class Type 26 warships and supersonic F-35 jets. Wedgetail may join that formidable armoury and help us work together to take on the global threats that we both face».

Following market analysis and discussions with other potential providers, the MOD has concluded that the potential procurement of the E-7 represents the best value for money option for the UK against need, whilst representing a significant opportunity for increased defence cooperation and collaboration with our key ally Australia.

The MOD will work closely with Boeing to ensure Britain’s leading defence industry could also benefit from any deal.

Named after Australia’s largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, the high-performing aircraft has been proven on operations with the Royal Australian Air Force, having seen action against Daesh over Syria and Iraq and impressing US Forces in the ‘Red Flag’ series of large-scale exercises.

The Wedgetail uses a standard Boeing 737 airliner modified to carry a sophisticated Northrop Grumman active electronically-scanned radar and can cover four million square kilometres over a single 10-hour period. If selected, it would replace the E-3D Sentry, which entered service in 1992.

It is a proven and reliable aircraft that has been in-Service with the Royal Australian Air Force for some time, with potential to considerably reduce the risk normally associated with acquiring a complex new platform of this nature. The aircraft is based on the Boeing 737 airliner family as is the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft due to enter service in 2019.

The news represents a further development of the UK’s increasingly close military capability and industrial relationship with Australia, who recently selected the British Type 26 design for its future frigate. That decision confirmed the UK’s world-leading ship design capabilities, whilst strengthening collaboration in anti-submarine warfare and demonstrating the value of the global five-eyes partnership.

With its proven interoperability, the Wedgetail could also link up with the RAF’s latest arrival, the F-35 Lightning, providing pilots with the latest intelligence and situational awareness demonstrating how a modernised next generation Air Force can fight and win in an increasingly complex and dangerous environment, characterised by high speed and low observability.

With Australia also a partner in the F-35 programme, the RAF and the Royal Australian Air Force will have further opportunities to work together across platforms and with other allies such as the United States to share and collect data and conduct joint training missions, all leading to faster, more effective and more integrated combat forces.

First Phénix

The first Airbus A330 Phénix Multi-Role Tanker Transport Aircraft (MRTT) arrived Thursday afternoon (on September 27) at Istres air base, in south-eastern France. Its reception operations, managed by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), will be completed, allowing its hand-over to the Air Force.

The French Air Force’s first Airbus MRTT tanker aircraft lands at its new home base at Istres, in south-eastern France, where it will be officially inducted on October 19 (FR AF photo)
The French Air Force’s first Airbus MRTT tanker aircraft lands at its new home base at Istres, in south-eastern France, where it will be officially inducted on October 19 (FR AF photo)

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly will travel to Istres on October 19 for the official ceremony marking the arrival of the first Phoenix MRTT in the Air Force, together with General Lavigne, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force.

By its versatility, the A330 Phénix will replace two types of aircraft in the air force’s fleet: the C135 and KC135 tanker aircraft, some of which will be nearly 60 years old by the time they are retired, and the A310 and A340 strategic transport aircraft, used for both personnel and freight. Twelve Phénix aircraft will be delivered to the Air Force by 2023, out of a planned total of 15, as specified by the 2019-2025 Military Programming Law, and the minister’s wish to accelerate their delivery.

Its missions will include supporting the air component of the nuclear deterrent, the contribution to France’s permanent security posture, the projection of forces and power as well as the medical evacuation in case of emergencies or natural catastrophes.

The MRTT Phoenix is based on an Airbus A330 commercial aircraft, modified to meet specific military requirements, principally mid-air refueling. This type of aircraft is already in service with several of our allies.

This first MRTT Phénix aircraft is due to enter operational service with the strategic air force command in 2019, after a technical and operational evaluation campaign carried out by the Air Force and intended to develop the procedures for use its operational employment, doctrine and procedures.

In addition, on September 27th, the second MRTT Phénix aircraft, scheduled to be delivered in 2019, made its first test flight out of the Airbus plant in Getafe (Spain), following its conversion into a military plane.

Ballistic missile bases

Boeing will provide its MH-139 helicopter and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the more than 40-year-old UH-1N «Huey» helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases.

Boeing will provide its MH-139 helicopter and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the fleet of UH-1N «Huey» helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases (Photo: Fred Troilo, Boeing)
Boeing will provide its MH-139 helicopter and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the fleet of UH-1N «Huey» helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases (Photo: Fred Troilo, Boeing)

The program awarded on September 24, 2018, is valued at $2.4 billion for up to 84 helicopters, training devices and associated support equipment.

«We’re grateful for the Air Force’s confidence in our MH-139 team», said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift. «The MH-139 exceeds mission requirements, it’s also ideal for VIP transport, and it offers the Air Force up to $1 billion in acquisition and lifecycle cost savings».

The MH-139 derives from the Leonardo AW139, which is used by more than 270 governments, militaries and companies worldwide. Leonardo will assemble the helicopters at its northeast Philadelphia plant, with Boeing integrating military-specific components at its facility south of that city.

The contract also includes operations, maintenance, training systems and support equipment for the MH-139 aircraft.

«We’re proud to provide the U.S. Air Force with solutions across the entire services ecosystem», said Ed Dolanski, president of U.S. Government Services, Boeing Global Services. «With the AW139 platform’s more than 2 million flight hours and established supply chain, we look forward to applying our expertise to drive cost savings while supporting mission readiness».

H225M order

Airbus Helicopters has secured an additional order of four H225M (previously known as EC725) multirole utility helicopters from the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), as part of the fleet strengthening programme. This follow-on order will bring the RTAF’s H225M fleet to 12 units by 2021.

Royal Thai Air Force places order for two additional EC725s
Royal Thai Air Force places order for two additional EC725s

Specially equipped with emergency flotation gear, fast roping, cargo sling, search light and electro-optical systems, these four new multirole H225M helicopters will join RTAF’s existing fleet of six H225Ms for combat search and rescue missions, search and rescue flights and troop transport operations. The air force will also be receiving two H225Ms from its earlier order, by end of this year.

This latest contract will also cover on-site technical support and continuing airworthiness management organisation services, fully supported by Airbus’ Thailand team.

«The H225Ms have served the Royal Thai Air Force well since the delivery of its first batch in 2015, and we are truly honoured by this renewed order, underscoring their continued trust and confidence in our helicopters and the committed support to their fleet. With its proven versatility, reliability and endurance, we know that the H225 will continue to capably fulfil the most challenging missions. RTAF can count on our Thailand-based customer centre for continued availability of the fleet», said Philippe Monteux, Head of Southeast Asia and Pacific region.

Featuring state-of-the-art electronic instruments and the renowned 4-axis autopilot system, the 11-ton-catergory twin-turbine H225M offers outstanding endurance and fast cruise speed, and may be fitted with various equipment to suit any role. Close to 90 units are in service, achieving 100,700 flight hours to-date.

 

Characteristics

CAPACITY
Troop transport 2 pilots + 1 chief of stick + 28 seats
VIP transport 2 pilots + 8 to 12 passengers
Casualty evacuation 2 pilots + up to 11 stretchers + 4 seats
Sling load 4,750 kg/10,472 lbs
EXTERNAL DIMENSIONS
Length 16.79 m/55.08 feet
Width 3.96 m/13 feet
Height 4.60 m/15.09 feet
WEIGHT
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 11,000 kg/24,251 lbs
MTOW in external load configuration 11,200 kg/24,690 lbs
Empty weight 5,715 kg/12,600 lbs
Useful load 5,285 kg/11,651 lbs
Maximum cargo-sling load 4,750 kg/10,472 lbs
Standard fuel capacity 2,247 kg/4,954 lbs
ENGINES 2 TURBOMECA MAKILA 2A1
Take-off power per engine 1,567 kW/2,101 shp
PERFORMANCE AT MAXIMUM GROSS WEIGHT, ISA*, SL**
Maximum speed (Vne***) 324 km/h/175 knots
Fast cruise speed (at MCP****) 262 km/h/142 knots
Rate of climb 5.4 m/s/1,064 feet/min
Service ceiling (Vz = 0.508 m/s = 100 feet/min) 3,968 m/13,019 feet
Hover ceiling OGE***** at ISA*, MTOW, take-off power 792 m/2,600 feet
Maximum range without reserve at Economical Cruise Speed 909 km/491 NM
Endurance without reserve at 148 km/h/80 knots >4 h 20 min

* International Standard Atmosphere

** Sea Level

*** Never Exceed Speed

**** Mode Control Panel

***** Out of Ground Effect

Combat Rescue
Helicopter

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, announced on September 18, 2018 that final assembly of the first HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter Weapons System and Operational Flight Trainers is underway, supporting the smooth entry of the aircraft into the U.S. Air Force fleet in 2020.

Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter Weapons System, Operational Flight Trainers in Final Assembly
Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter Weapons System, Operational Flight Trainers in Final Assembly

Completion of the HH-60W training systems at subcontractor FlightSafety International’s facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is expected in the first quarter of 2019. The Weapons System Trainer will be based at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, home of the formal HH-60W training unit. The Operational Flight Trainer will be at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, site of the first operational unit.

The HH-60W flight trainers will conform to the highest Federal Aviation Administration standards and include the capability to link with other simulators on the Combat Air Forces Distributed Mission Operations (CAF DMO) network. The flight simulators will train the full aircrew, allowing pilots and special mission aviators to train together in the same device while experiencing more complex and realistic training scenarios.

«I am excited to get these trainers in the hands of the U.S. Air Force Rescue Warriors», said Tim Healy, Director, Air Force Programs, Sikorsky. «The combat rescue mission is uniquely challenging in that it requires much of the mission planning to occur while in flight rather than prior to flight. This is due to the time-critical nature of the mission and the reality that the threat, location and condition of isolated personnel to be rescued are not fully known prior to takeoff. This requires that the aircrew become highly skilled at using the enormous networking and information capabilities that reside within the HH-60W, and that takes training and practice. These Weapons Systems and Operational Flight trainers will allow that training at the highest fidelity and realism ever seen».

Sikorsky’s current contract with the U.S. Air Force for the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase of the program includes delivery of nine HH-60W helicopters as well as six aircrew and maintenance training devices, and instructional courseware designed specifically for the HH-60W aircraft. The Program of Record calls for 112 helicopters to replace the Air Force’s aging H-60G Pave Hawk fleet, which performs critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services.

Ready for Training

The U.S. Air Force will announce a winner in its T-X Advanced Pilot Training System competition this summer, and Boeing’s T-X team is ready.

Boeing T-X is the right choice for the U.S. Air Force Training Mission. Meet the people who helped make it possible
Boeing T-X is the right choice for the U.S. Air Force Training Mission. Meet the people who helped make it possible

«This is an exciting time», said Ted Torgerson, T-X senior director. «Only our (Boeing) T-X is built specifically for the U.S. Air Force. Our new, flexible design meets all requirements and can evolve as technologies, missions and training needs change».

Boeing designed, built and flew the first T-X in only 36 months. «We built a special culture here with T-X. Our team dedicated a lot of time and talent to it, and we have already accomplished incredible things. I’m proud to be a member of this team», added Torgerson.

Boeing’s T-X team shares a common view of the program and each other.

«Collectively we’ve worked hard and have been dedicated to developing new techniques and shaping new ideas for the common goal of delivering a new T-X aircraft and ground-based training system that will help train the next generation of pilots», said Jim Robinson, T-X ground-based training systems lead engineer.

A Boeing T-X win will support 17,000 U.S. jobs in 34 states.

First Flight

The first L-159T2 for the Czech Air Force made its first flight on August 2, 2018, at Aero Vodochody Airport. Czech Air Force ordered three L-159T2 twin seat aircraft with several upgrades on board in 2016 to fulfil operational missions and advanced jet training. The L-159T2s are supposed to be delivered to the 21. Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav till the end of this year.

The L-159T2 for the Czech Air Force made its first flight
The L-159T2 for the Czech Air Force made its first flight

The successful first flight of L-159T2 with tail number 6028, piloted by Aero’s test pilots Vladimír Kvarda and David Jahoda, lasted 30 minutes. «Aero achieved another important milestone. Thanks to this cooperation with our national customer, the L-159 program got additional features. Based on requirements of the Czech Air Force, we will deliver additional twin seaters that are suitable for not only advanced pilot training but are also equipped for military operations», said President & CEO of Aero Vodochody Giuseppe Giordo.

These new T2 twin seat aircraft have newly built central and forward fuselage, several significant improvements, mostly in equipment of both cockpits and in the fuel system, and are fully NVG compatible. Each cockpit is further equipped with two Multi-Function Displays and upgraded version of an ejection seat VS-20. The aircraft is also adapted to offer a pressure refueling capability. The Grifo radar, commonly used in single seat version, is now integrated also into the dual seat L-159T2 as well as the self-protection systems (countermeasures and radar warning receiver).

The L-159 aircraft is operated by Czech Air Force, Iraqi Air Force and US company Draken International. In the past, L-159s were leased by Hungarian Air Force to train pilots.

At Farnborough Air Show 2018, Aero Vodochody and its strategic partner, Israeli IAI, introduced a multirole aircraft for close air support F/A-259 Striker. The F/A-259 Striker combines the robustness and effectiveness of its successful predecessor – the L-159 Alca – with the latest advances in avionics and aircraft systems technology. Using benefits of a wet wing, F/A-259 Striker provides superior performance, great maneuverability, and a high range.

 

L-159

L-159 aircraft mates Aero’s long-term experience in development and production of military jet aircraft, in the category of which Aero represents historically the largest producer in the world, with latest advances in avionics, engine and aircraft systems technology. The L-159 is a light multi-role combat aircraft designed for a variety of air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft is equipped with a state-of-the-art multi-mode radar for all-weather, day and night operations and can carry a wide range of NATO standards stores including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and laser guided bombs. The two-seat L-159 is a derivate of the single-seat L-159, primarily designed for Advanced and Operational/Lead-In Fighter Training. The L-159 configuration can also be tailored to customer specific requirements and adapted to needs of basic training as well as combat missions including air-to-ground, patrol and reconnaissance missions.

Jamaica Defence

Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, announced on August 14, 2018 the delivery of two Bell 429s to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). A third Bell 429 is scheduled for delivery to the JDF next year. The three aircraft will be used to complete a range of missions including, search and rescue, medical evacuations, natural disaster relief, national security and military training.

Bell Announces Delivery of Bell 429S to Jamaica Defence Force
Bell Announces Delivery of Bell 429S to Jamaica Defence Force

The JDF began its helicopter operations in 1963 with two Bell 47Gs. Its active fleet includes four Bell 407s, two Bell 412s and two Bell 206s.

«Over the years, our mission has evolved resulting in the need to acquire the Bell 429 to more effectively meet the demands of our mission profiles and further prove our rotary wing capability», said Colonel Roderick Williams, the JDF’s Colonel Adjutant Quartermaster and a former Commanding Officer of the JDF Air Wing. «The Bell 429 offers excellent performance and advanced avionics with outstanding maintainability and aircraft readiness for multi-mission operations».

Designed with the future in mind, the Bell 429 meets or exceeds today’s airworthiness requirements to enhance occupant safety, with the adaptability to remain at the forefront as mission requirements evolve. Advanced capabilities of the 429 include Single-Pilot Instrument Flight Rules (SPIFR), Category A operations and an integrated avionics glass cockpit. The use of metallic and composite parts in its construction creates balance between rigidity and flexibility, safety and durability.