Category Archives: Air Force

Rapid Response Weapon

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress successfully released an AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, off the Southern California coast, May 14.

Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW)
Air Force conducts successful hypersonic weapon test

Following separation from the aircraft, the ARRW’s booster ignited and burned for expected duration, achieving hypersonic speeds five times greater than the speed of sound.

«This was a major accomplishment by the ARRW team, for the weapons enterprise, and our Air Force», said Brigadier General Heath Collins, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons. «The team’s tenacity, expertise, and commitment were key in overcoming the past year’s challenges to get us to the recent success. We are ready to build on what we’ve learned and continue moving hypersonics forward».

The 419th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, or GPB CTF, both at Edwards Air Force Base, California, executed the test.

«The test team made sure we executed this test flawlessly», said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Jungquist, 419th FLTS commander and GPB CTF director. «Our highly-skilled team made history on this first air-launched hypersonic weapon. We’re doing everything we can to get this game-changing weapon to the warfighter as soon as possible».

ARRW is designed to enable the U.S. to hold fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk in contested environments from stand-off distances. It will also expand precision-strike capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.

First Red Hawk

Boeing has unveiled the first T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer jet to be delivered to the U.S. Air Force. The jet, one of 351 the U.S. Air Force plans to order, was unveiled prior to official delivery.

T-7A Red Hawk
The first T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer has rolled out of the production facility in St. Louis, Missouri. Ushering in a new era of training for U.S. Air Force fighter and bomber pilots. The jets have red tails to honor the legendary Tuskegee Airmen who flew their aircraft with red tails during World War II. First jets scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph next year (Photo Credit- Eric Shindelbower)

The fully digitally designed aircraft was built and tested using advanced manufacturing, agile software development and digital engineering technology significantly reducing the time from design to first flight. The aircraft also features open architecture software, providing growth and flexibility to meet future mission needs.

«We’re excited and honored to deliver this digitally advanced, next-generation trainer to the U.S. Air Force», said Ted Colbert, president and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. «This aircraft is a tangible example of how Boeing, its suppliers and partners are leading the digital engineering revolution. T-7A Red Hawk will prepare pilots for future missions for decades to come».

The T-7A Red Hawk incorporates a red-tailed livery in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. These airmen made up the first African American aviation unit to serve in the U.S. military.

«The Tuskegee Airmen are one of the most celebrated units in our Air Force history, and the T-7A Red Hawk honors the bravery and skill of these trailblazers», said Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force. «Like the Airmen they were named and painted to pay homage to, the T-7A Red Hawks break down the barriers of flight. These digitally-engineered aircraft will make it possible for a diverse cross section of future fighter and bomber pilots to be trained, and provide an advanced training system and capabilities that will meet the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s national security environment».

The aircraft will remain in St. Louis where it will undergo ground and flight tests before being delivered to the U.S. Air Force. The T-7A Red Hawk program resides at Boeing’s St. Louis facility with the aft section of the trainer being built by Saab in Linkoping, Sweden. Saab will soon start producing that section at their new production facility in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Long lead items

The Department of the Air Force awarded $108 million to Northrop Grumman for advance procurement to support the B-21 Raider program.

B-21 Raider
Air Force awards B-21 Raider advance procurement to support acquisition of long lead items for production

Advance procurement funds will directly support the acquisition of long lead items necessary to build the first lot of production B-21 Raider aircraft. The award of advance procurement reaffirms the Air Force’s commitment to fielding what will become the backbone of the 21st century bomber fleet.

«The B-21 Raider program is foundational to the Air Force’s operational imperative for an effective, long-range strike family of systems to guarantee our ability to strike any target, anytime, anywhere, even in the most contested environment», said Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr.

«As the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Raider is a standout example of the innovation and pursuit of game-changing technology that has characterized our service since its inception», Brown continued. «The quality of the aircraft build, coupled with its open systems architecture design and built-in margin for future growth, will provide our warfighters the competitive advantage we’ll need to deter current and future conflicts, and fight and win if called upon to do so».

The B-21 Raider test aircraft currently being manufactured under the Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract with Northrop Grumman are being built on the same production line, using the same tooling, processes and technicians to build the production aircraft.

«The B-21 Raider test aircraft are the most production-representative aircraft, both structurally and in its mission systems, at this point in a program, that I’ve observed in my career. The right decisions are being made on this program to pave the way for a high-fidelity flight test campaign and an effective transition to production», shared Randall Walden, Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director.

The first B-21 Raider flight test aircraft recently entered loads calibration to undergo verification and validation testing of its structural design prior to flight. After loads calibration, further integration and ground testing will inform the program schedule and flight readiness.

Progress continues across all elements of the B-21 Raider program. The fiscal year 2022 Defense Appropriations Act provided funding for five new military construction projects to stand-up the B-21 Raider mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), South Dakota, the Raider’s first main operating base. Construction of a low observable maintenance hangar, the first of its kind on the 80-year-old conventional bomber base, is already underway.

An environmental impact statement is set to begin this year to inform final decisions on the second and third main operating bases to bed-down the full B-21 Raider fleet. As announced by the Secretary of the Air Force in 2019, preferred locations for the second and third B-21 Raider main operating bases are Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, respectively.

Strategic Deterrent

The Department of the Air Force’s new weapon system, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, has officially been designated the LGM-35A Sentinel.

LGM-35A Sentinel
Shown is an illustration of the LGM-35A Sentinel, the Air Force’s newest weapon system known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. The new designation, approved by Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, modernizes the intercontinental ballistic missile leg of the Nation’s nuclear triad (U.S. Air Force illustration)

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall approved the designation for the system that modernizes the InterContinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) leg of the Nation’s nuclear triad.

«Our Nation’s nuclear deterrent force, two legs of which is operated by Airmen, has quietly provided a strategic security shield for decades», Kendall said. «All that time, the Department of the Air Force has kept the watch; always vigilant and ready. The name Sentinel recognizes the mindset that thousands of Airmen, past and present, have brought to the deterrence mission, and will serve as a reminder for those who operate, secure, and maintain this system in the future about the discipline and responsibility their duty entails».

The Air Force determined the LGM-35A Sentinel would provide continuity in strategic deterrence and cost less than extending the life of the current ICBM fleet, comprised of the aging Minuteman III. Replacing the 1970s-era missile modernizes the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad and brings the Minuteman’s more than 50 years of service to a close.

«As the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the Minuteman III Weapon System has been and will continue to be integral to our Nation’s defense», said Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. «As we look ahead to the next 75 years, investing in nuclear modernization is as relevant as ever and we are committed to transitioning to the Sentinel, which will ensure our Nation is ready to provide strategic deterrence for tomorrow».

Ghost Bat

Boeing Australia congratulates the Australian Government and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on their selection of ‘MQ-28A Ghost Bat’ as the military designator and name for the first Australian-produced military combat aircraft in over 50 years.

MQ-28A Ghost Bat
The newly-named MQ-28A Ghost Bat during the second test flight series at Woomera Range Complex in South Australia

Australia’s Defence Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, announced the designator and name at a dedicated ceremony held at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.

«The introduction of the new popular name is a rare and special moment in aviation history for our RAAF partners and industry team of over 35 Australian suppliers», said Glen Ferguson, director Airpower Teaming System Australia and International.

«Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability», said Ferguson.

With a rapid development timetable of just three years from ideation to first flight, the development program leverages advancements in digital engineering, advanced manufacturing and unique Australian supply chain technologies.

While the RAAF Loyal Wingman development program name will phase out, Boeing’s product name for global customers will remain the Airpower Teaming System.

«Our enduring partnership with Commonwealth of Australia and Australian Defence Force (ADF) is fundamental to the successful development of MQ-28A’s complex technologies and capabilities, and has global export potential for Australia», said Dr Brendan Nelson AO, president Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific.

During 2022, the program will continue to accelerate the development and testing of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat, with a focus on sensor and missionisation capabilities to deliver on RAAF commitments. These requirements will continue to expand as Boeing moves towards the aim of delivering an operational capability for the ADF.

Boeing unveils Ghost Bat, the new name for Loyal Wingman

500th C-130J Airlifter

Hercules history is made once again, with the announcement that Lockheed Martin recently delivered its 500th C-130J Super Hercules airlifter. This Super Hercules (Lockheed Martin aircraft #5934) is a C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 130th Airlift Wing located at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston, West Virginia. The 130th Airlift Wing is a longtime C-130 operator that is currently modernizing its legacy Hercules fleet with C-130Js.

C-130J Super Hercules
Lockheed Martin Reaches Super Herculean Milestone with Delivery Of 500th C-130J Airlifter

The U.S. government operates the largest C-130J Super Hercules fleet in the world. This delivery represents the U.S. government’s continued transition to the C-130J Super Hercules as the common platform across the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.

«This delivery represents the thousands of people – past and present – that design, build, fly, maintain and support C-130Js around the world», said Rod McLean, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Air Mobility & Maritime Missions (AMMM) line of business. «Like its namesake, the C-130J Super Hercules is a legend defined by its strength and power. Yet, it is the people who are part of the C-130J operator, production, supplier and industry partner communities who truly define the Super Hercules and helped the C-130J Program reach this monumental achievement».

The C-130J Super Hercules is the current production model of the legendary C-130 Hercules aircraft. The airlift choice of 26 operators in 22 nations, the global C-130 fleet has surpassed more than 2 million flight hours and holds more than 54 world records.

Defined by its versatility, there are 17 different mission configurations of the C-130J Super Hercules that includes transport (military and commercial), humanitarian aid delivery, aerial firefighting, natural disaster relief support, medevac, search and rescue, weather reconnaissance, and aerial refueling.

As the most advanced C-130 ever produced, the C-130J-30 Super Hercules (which is 15 feet/4.6 m longer than legacy C-130 models) offers these enhancements and advancements compared to legacy models:

  • 30% more passengers and cargo;
  • 50% more CDS bundles;
  • 44% more paratroopers;
  • 30% crew reduction;
  • 14% more fuel efficient;
  • 20% improvement in payload/range capability;
  • Integrated defensive suite and 250 knot ramp/door;
  • Automated maintenance fault reporting;
  • Unmatched situational awareness with digital avionics and dual HUD.

Adversary Air

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract to Blue Force Technologies to develop an unmanned air vehicle that supports adversary air (ADAIR) training missions. The Bandit program contract was awarded as the result of a Strategic Financing (STRATFI) proposal selected by AFWERX with a $9 million initial value and options to complete the design and build of up to four air vehicles.

ADAIR
A newly awarded Air Force Research Laboratory Small Business Innovation Research contract will develop an unmanned air vehicle design that supports adversary air (ADAIR) training missions for pilots of Air Force fighter aircraft (Courtesy illustration/Blue Force Technologies)

Under the Bandit program, Blue Force Technologies, a small aerospace and defense company based in North Carolina, will mature a high-performance unmanned air vehicle design that pilots of Air Force fighter aircraft can use to train against. The air vehicle is a part of a proposed autonomy-based system providing adversary air training for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter crews at greatly reduced costs compared to current manned capabilities.

The 12-month effort will mature the vehicle design to critical design level, perform engine ground testing and validate the design of the engine installation under the technical guidance of AFRL subject matter experts. Options under this contract, if exercised, will complete the design and engineering tasks, produce up to four air vehicles and complete initial flight testing.

Alyson Turri, the AFRL Bandit program manager, said «these small unmanned ADAIR systems can be flown in training scenarios so that fighter pilots can train against tactically relevant adversaries in threat representative numbers. The goal is to develop an unmanned platform that looks like a fifth-generation adversary with similar vehicle capabilities».

The Bandit program aims to provide an air vehicle solution for the unmanned ADAIR capability which, when integrated with autonomy, mission payloads and sensors, will revolutionize the adversary air training mission and provide key opportunities for pilots to interact with the unmanned systems in a training environment.

SBIR work with Blue Force Technologies began in 2019 and covered the initial requirements development, vehicle design, analysis and build of a structural test article supporting unmanned ADAIR.

AFRL is coordinating the Bandit program with Air Combat Command and has aligned the vehicle development effort in support of the unmanned ADAIR capability. ACC Commander Gen. Mark Kelly addressed the need for alternate approaches to costly adversary air sorties at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Life Cycle Industry Days in August 2021.

E-6B Mercury Aircraft

Northrop Grumman Corporation announced it was recently awarded the Integrated Modification and Maintenance Contract for the U.S. Navy’s E-6B Mercury platform, a derivative of the commercial Boeing 707 aircraft. The work will be performed at Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Maintenance and Fabrication Center in Lake Charles.

E-6B Mercury
Northrop Grumman selected by U.S. Navy for sustainment and modernization of E-6B Mercury aircraft. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement (Source: U.S. Air Force; Staff Sergeant Jacob Skovo)

«We are laser focused on providing the most relevant capabilities while improving mission readiness», said Mary Petryszyn, corporate vice president and president of Defense Systems at Northrop Grumman. «As leaders in aircraft sustainment and modernization, the U.S. Navy’s E-6B Mercury fleet is another example of our strong partnership with the Navy in achieving those goals».

Over the next five years, Northrop Grumman will perform modifications to the Navy’s E-6B Mercury aircraft improving command, control and communications functions that connect the national command authority with the United States’ Nuclear Triad. The company will establish a consolidated production line for core modifications required under the $111 million contract. Northrop Grumman may also take on additional, smaller modifications and select depot maintenance tasks as required.

As part of the critical Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) strategic communications mission, the E-6B Mercury operates across a wide frequency spectrum to transmit and receive secure and non-secure voice and data information. The aircraft provides survivable, endurable, reliable airborne command, control, and communications in support of the President, Secretary of Defense, and United States Strategic Command.

Northrop Grumman provides sustainment and modernization support that includes: contractor logistics support and fleet stewardship; modifications and upgrades; mission planning, weapon systems development and pilot training; as well as software design engineering and integration solutions on autonomous, tactical, fixed wing and special mission aircraft systems, including:

F-35 Lightning II; P-3 Orion; BACN E-11A; E-8C; A-10 Thunderbolt II; B-2 Spirit; RQ-4 Global Hawk and more. This contract continues the company’s expansive growth in aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade.

Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.

Future Fights

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is pleased to announce its new category of future-forward Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), focused on information dominance and airspace supremacy. Leveraging three decades of experience across millions of successful combat flight hours, the new Evolution line of advanced UAS joins GA-ASI’s existing Predator-class and Mojave-class aircraft in delivering next-generation UAS that lead the pack in advanced, affordable, attritable and autonomous combat power.

Evolution
GA-ASI Announces Evolution Class of UAS for the Future Fights of Tomorrow

The name Evolution refers to the evolutionary path GA-ASI has followed as it chartered the realm of unmanned aircraft through its rich, 30-year history of UAS innovation, designing for the future, and the force-multiplying power UAS provide modern warfighters. In the past three decades, GA-ASI has launched more than 25 UAS variants, beginning with the Gnat in 1992.

Evolution establishes a third aircraft class within GA-ASI, joining the well-known Predator line and recently announced Mojave line of expeditionary UAS featuring Short-TakeOff and Landing (STOL) capability. Evolution includes the development of GA-ASI’s next-generation UAS solutions designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its future force, as well as new UAS concepts such as Defender, Sparrowhawk and the recently announced Gambit.

«We’re continuing to grow and respond to the rapidly changing world», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «As we celebrate our 30-year anniversary as a company, our new Evolution-series aircraft will merge our unique heritage of advanced and affordable UAS technologies with innovative technologies for the future. We’re looking ahead to new concepts and never-before-seen aircraft that meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow».

Manned Unmanned Teaming

The capstone flight test used real mission sensors on multiple unmanned military platforms and a manned military fighter aircraft, to execute a combat mission.

MUM-T
BAE Systems demonstrates manned-unmanned teaming capabilities in flight test

BAE Systems and the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) have completed a successful flight test of advanced Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) technology at a Department of Defense flight test range. The technology enables the rapid infusion of new payloads and platforms into the fleet to quickly enhance mission effectiveness and counter adversary technology.

The capstone flight test used real mission sensors on multiple unmanned military platforms and a manned military fighter aircraft, to execute a combat mission. The team of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) worked together to develop and execute autonomously the necessary tactics to complete the mission. The aviator used the Human Machine Interface (HMI) to monitor the mission’s progress and interact with the UAVs as desired.

«The development of autonomous technology is crucial to protect our warfighters against emerging threats», said Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. «This flight test demonstrates our team’s commitment to accelerate the deployment of reliable and innovative manned-unmanned teaming solutions for mission success».

During this most recent flight test, the team achieved its primary goal of demonstrating collaborative mission execution in an operationally representative environment. BAE Systems’ HMI was developed through extensive virtual and constructive simulation testing with assistance from pilots and electronic warfare officers. Test feedback from the manned aircraft operator also underscored the maturity of the MUM-T technology offering, highlighting its user-friendly interface, which increases mission safety and lethality.

«Our deep expertise in developing and fielding safety-critical flight control systems means that safety and assurance are integrated into our MUM-T architecture and software from the ground up», said Matthew Trouve, director of Development Programs for Military Aircraft Systems at BAE Systems. «This provides the warfighter with the necessary trust and confidence in our solution to operate in the same environment as autonomous unmanned teammates».

BAE Systems has developed its purpose-built architecture to be open, flexible, and assured. The company’s underlying MUM-T algorithms enable decentralized autonomous decision-making at the tactical edge, allowing the architecture to be easily adapted for new missions and incorporate future technology. A software development kit also allows third parties to introduce new algorithms and technologies to support future missions.

Over the next year, BAE Systems will continue development efforts with the DOD and invest in additional capabilities to further mature its MUM-T suite for operational readiness. The next phase of flight tests will enhance the mission suite’s capabilities and technology, showcasing flexibility and openness for integration on an additional manned aircraft type and another unmanned platform to execute a different mission.

BAE Systems’ MUM-T program leverages its more than 40 years of experience in flight control systems and 20 years of autonomous systems development expertise. Work for the MUM-T program is based at the company’s state-of-the-art facility in Endicott, N.Y.