Category Archives: Air Force

Micro-drone swarms

In one of the most significant tests of autonomous systems under development by the Department of Defense (DoD), the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), partnering with Naval Air Systems Command, successfully demonstrated one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms at China Lake, California. The test, conducted in October 2016 and documented on Sunday’s CBS News program «60 Minutes», consisted of 103 Perdix drones launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornets. The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing.

Perdix was developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 2013 based on an initial design from MIT’s AeroAstro Department
Perdix was developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 2013 based on an initial design from MIT’s AeroAstro Department

«I congratulate the Strategic Capabilities Office for this successful demonstration», said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who created SCO in 2012. «This is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that will keep us a step ahead of our adversaries. This demonstration will advance our development of autonomous systems».

«Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature», said SCO Director William Roper. «Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team».

The demonstration is one of the first examples of the Pentagon using teams of small, inexpensive, autonomous systems to perform missions once achieved only by large, expensive ones. Roper stressed the department’s conception of the future battle network is one where humans will always be in the loop. Machines and the autonomous systems being developed by the DoD, such as the micro-drones, will empower humans to make better decisions faster.

Originally designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering students, the Perdix drone was modified for military use by the scientists and engineers of MIT Lincoln Laboratory starting in 2013. Drawing inspiration from the commercial smartphone industry, Perdix software and hardware has been continually updated in successive design generations. Now in its sixth generation, October’s test confirmed the reliability of the current all-commercial-component design under potential deployment conditions – speeds of Mach 0.6, temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius, and large shocks – encountered during ejection from fighter flare dispensers.

The «60 Minutes» segment also featured other new technology from across the Department of Defense such as the U.S. Navy’s unmanned ocean-going vessel, the Sea Hunter, and the Marine Corps’ Unmanned Tactical Control and Collaboration program.

As SCO works with the military Services to transition Perdix into existing programs of record, it is also partnering with the Defense Industrial Unit-Experimental, or DIUx, to find companies capable of accurately replicating Perdix using the MIT Lincoln Laboratory design. Its goal is to produce Perdix at scale in batches of up to 1,000.



Propellers 2.6 inches/66 mm
Body 6.5 inches/165 mm
Wing span 11.8 inches/300 mm
Weight 10 oz/290 g
Endurance >20 min
Air speed >40‐60 knots/46-69 mph/74-111 km/h


DoD Announces Successful Perdix Micro-Drone Demonstration


French Spy’Ranger

Thales’s latest-generation Spy’Ranger mini surveillance and reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has been chosen by the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) to equip the French forces. Up to 70 mini-UAV reconnaissance systems (SMDR) will be made available from 2018. Each system consists of three mini-UAVs, a ground segment and the associated technical support.

Spy’Ranger is a latest-generation mini-UAS with the only EO/IR imaging system in the world capable of transmitting high-definition electro-optical and infrared imagery in real time
Spy’Ranger is a latest-generation mini-UAS with the only EO/IR imaging system in the world capable of transmitting high-definition electro-optical and infrared imagery in real time

Key Points:

  • Starting in 2018, Thales will provide French forces up to 210 mini reconnaissance UAVs;
  • The Spy’Ranger is the new «eye in the sky» for the combined arms tactical group, able to be operated in a standalone mode or connected to a Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Intelligence (C4I) system;
  • The Spy’Ranger is specifically tailored to the needs of the armed forces, as well as to those of essential operators.

The Armed forces require real-time access to ever more reliable imagery. Spy’Ranger will provide them with a decisive tactical advantage by offering the capacity to observe day or night, for long periods of time and at a distance of up to 30 km. Spy’Ranger is used in particular to carry out the following missions: provide support to a combined arms tactical group maneuver or to an offensive reconnaissance mission; provide a cover mechanism, support the neutralization of strong points and contribute to firing maneuvers by providing a «remote airborne eye» able to adjust shooting rounds on a target.

Developed by Thales in cooperation with French SMEs Aviation Design and Merio in under 13 months, Spy’Ranger will offer French Forces a number of innovations that provide real capability gains. Spy’Ranger will therefore markedly contribute to the gathering of frontline intelligence and to the protection of forces in operation.

Designed to operate in extreme, non-permissive environments, this new-generation system gathers and transmits accurate, operational beyond-line-of-sight image intelligence for joint battlegroup and brigade-level units
Designed to operate in extreme, non-permissive environments, this new-generation system gathers and transmits accurate, operational beyond-line-of-sight image intelligence for joint battlegroup and brigade-level units

The Spy’Ranger, developed by Thales in collaboration with several French SMEs, is a mini-UAV designed and manufactured in France. Spy’Ranger packs state-of-the-art technologies that provide much better performance:

  • Transportable in a backpack, Spy’Ranger can perform observation missions over a period of 2 hours 30 minutes, covering a range of 18.64 miles/30 km: a much larger surveillance area than those covered by systems currently in service;
  • Its gyrostabilized multi-sensor optronic payload has the highest resolution in the world for this range of platform, facilitating the positive identification of zones or objects over which it has flown;
  • Its tactical data link, protected to the highest standard, offers high speeds allowing the transmission of a high-definition image streams;
  • Its command and control software (C2) provides an effective user interface;
  • A mobile and digital support management system, based on Thales’s Smartfleet solution, that enables efficient execution and piloting of the Through Life Support’s.

Fully adapted to frontline air-land intelligence missions in battlefields in hostile environments (climate, electromagnetic, physical, etc.), the Spy’Ranger has been designed to optimize life cycle costs.

Thales Spy’Ranger: Mini-UAV system for reconnaissance roles

Pilatus for French AF

Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is delighted to announce the signing of three PC-21 fleet orders by end of December 2016, for a total of 21 PC-21s, of which 17 are for the French Air Force and two each for the Royal Jordanian Air Force and QinetiQ, a British company which operates the «Empire Test Pilots’ School». Together, these orders are worth over 300 million Swiss francs and will help to ensure jobs at Stans.

The PC-21 far surpasses all other turboprop trainers in terms of aerodynamic performance, cockpit equipment, flexibility and ease of maintenance
The PC-21 far surpasses all other turboprop trainers in terms of aerodynamic performance, cockpit equipment, flexibility and ease of maintenance

French Air Force

The French Air Force (Armée de l’air française), one of the world’s most prestigious air forces, has opted for the 21st century training system: the 17 PC-21s will be used to train future military pilots who will transfer to the Alpha Jet prior to their conversion on to the Dassault Rafale, a multi-purpose 5th generation fighter aircraft.

The contract signed on the 30th December 2016 by the French Air Force is with Babcock Mission Critical Services France (BMCSF), with Pilatus as a sub-contractor, in which role our PC-21 and other ground-based training material will contribute to completion of the overall contract.

In addition to the Swiss Air Force, France is now the second European nation to opt for the PC-21 as part of the world’s most advanced, most efficient integrated training system.


QinetiQ UK

Under the contract concluded with QinetiQ, a British company, Pilatus will provide two PC-21s to the «Empire Test Pilots’ School» (ETPS) based in Wiltshire, in the south of England. Operated by QinetiQ, ETPS functions as a training center for flight test engineers and test pilots, and enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide. The PC-21s with their modified flight instruments will be used to train test pilots and flight test engineers for customers from the United Kingdom and elsewhere.


Royal Jordanian Air Force

The Royal Jordanian Air Force, having placed an initial order for the PC-9 M in August 2015, re-evaluated their requirement in early 2016 due to previously unforeseen issues with their Lead in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) platform. The procurement decision was revised following a modification of the training concept, introducing the PC-21 all-through training model – currently the most advanced training system available anywhere on the market. The contract amendment was initially for eight aircraft but with an option for additional units, if required. The option was now executed for two more PC-21s’, with a total of ten PC-21s’ now providing the backbone of the nation’s future pilot training regime. The first deliveries will be undertaken mid-2017.

The use of state-of-the-art technologies increases both the efficiency and quality of training
The use of state-of-the-art technologies increases both the efficiency and quality of training

Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pilatus, comments on the contracts as follows: «I am delighted we have finally won another European air force for our PC-21. An exceptionally rigorous selection process based on the strictest of criteria provides further proof that the PC-21 is the first choice worldwide for training military pilots. I am proud that our best-selling PC-21 is now destined to fly for ‘la Grande Nation’. France is already the 8th air force to choose the PC-21: these orders included, we will soon have a total of 209 PC-21s flying successfully from bases around the world. I’m confident that other European air forces will follow France’s example»!

Markus Bucher, CEO of Pilatus, adds: «Pilatus is pleased to be part of the programme of modernisation at QinetiQ Test Aircrew Training. Our PC-21 will provide a training platform for the next generation of test pilots worldwide. That a global leader in the test flight sector decides to replace ageing Hawks and Alpha Jets with the PC-21 is a tribute to our product’s performance and flexibility».

Pilatus feels obligated, and will endeavour, to provide our PC-21 customers with the Swiss quality and outstanding customer service which they deserve, delivering them with the world’s most up-to-date pilot training system – the Pilatus PC-21.

Training hours flown in expensive jets can now be done entirely in the PC-21, which saves a substantial amount of life-cycle cost
Training hours flown in expensive jets can now be done entirely in the PC-21, which saves a substantial amount of life-cycle cost


Aircraft Data

Take-off distance over 50 feet/15 m obstacle at sea level 2,618 feet/789 m
Landing distance over 50 feet/15 m obstacle at sea level 3,383 feet/1,031 m
Maximum rate of climb, sea level 4,091 feet/min/20.78 m/sec
Maximum operating speed (Velocity, Maximum Operating – VMO) 370 knots equivalent airspeed (KEAS)/426 mph/685 km/h
Maximum horizontal speed (Horizontal Velocity – VH) at sea level 323 knots true airspeed (KTAS)/372 mph/598 km/h
Max. horizontal speed (VH) at 10,000 feet/3,048 m 337 KTAS/388 mph/624 km/h
Stall speed
– flaps and gear up (Vs) 92 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS)/106 mph/170 km/h
– flaps and gear down (VSO) 81 KCAS/93 mph/150 km/h
G loads
– Maximum positive 8.0 g (aerobatic category); 5.0 g (utility category)
– Maximum negative -4.0 g (aerobatic category); -2.5 g (utility category)
Maximum range 720 NM/828 miles/1,333 km
Basic empty weight (typical, dep. on configuration) 5,026 lbs/2,280 kg
Maximum take-off weight, acrobatic category 6,834 lbs/3,100 kg
Fuselage length 36 feet 11 inches/11.233 m
Wing span 29 feet 11 inches/9.108 m
Other PC-21 attributes include significantly lower fuel consumption and noise emissions
Other PC-21 attributes include significantly lower fuel consumption and noise emissions

First flight

The prototype of the new Aermacchi M-345HET (High Efficiency Trainer) two-seat basic jet trainer has successfully completed its first flight from Venegono Superiore airfield (Varese, Italy) on December 29, 2016. The aircraft was flown by Quirino Bucci and Giacomo Iannelli from Leonardo Aircraft Division.

The M-345 is the latest-generation basic jet trainer from Leonardo
The M-345 is the latest-generation basic jet trainer from Leonardo

Quirino Bucci, Project Test Pilot Trainers of Leonardo Aircraft Division, expressed great satisfaction at the end of the 30-minute flight and said: «The aircraft conducted itself perfectly, meeting the expectations of the design parameters while showing excellent performance. The engine in particular demonstrated a great capacity to react to regime changes, which is a fundamental characteristic for a basic training aircraft».

The M-345 is the latest-generation aircraft from Leonardo for military pilot training and provides global Air Forces with an economically affordable and effective solution, thanks to a significant reduction in acquisition and life-cycle costs compared to those of powerful turboprop trainer aircraft. The test campaign will be completed within 2017. The next tests will check the advanced avionics systems, the engine and the flight envelope expansion, including altitude, speed and maneuverability.

Thanks to its modern avionics, considerable external load-carrying capability on the wing pylons and performance, the new Aermacchi M-345HET is also suited for operational roles. Life cycle cost reduction is driven by long fatigue and two-level maintenance, the latter made possible by replacing the expensive general overhauls with the airframe and systems Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS). The avionics, based on the latest M-346’s experience, matches the standards of the latest combat jets, including HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controls, Head Up Display (HUD), Multi-Function Displays (MFD), the real-time data link. The aircraft is powered by a Williams FJ44-4M-34 turbofan engine with thrust of 3,450 lbs/1,540 kg. The operating efficiency is ensured by pressure refueling systems and on-board oxygen generation (OBOGS), both of which reduce ground support crews and ground operation times.

The aircraft met the expectations while showing excellent performance
The aircraft met the expectations while showing excellent performance



Wing span 27.78 feet/8.47 m
Length 32.32 feet/9.85 m
Height 12.27 feet/3.74 m
Wing area 135.6 feet2/12.6 m2
Take-off (Trainer) 7,275 lbs/3,300 kg
Take-off (Maximum) 9,920 lbs/4,500 kg
Engine, turbofan Williams FJ44-4M-34
Maximum Thrust 3,400 lbs/1,540 kg
Internal fuel 1,545 lbs/700 kg
Max level speed (SL/20,000 feet/6,096 m) 380/420 KTAS/437/483 mph/704/778 km/h
Limited Speed 400 KEAS/460 mph/741 km/h (0.8 MN)
Stall speed (landing, 20% fuel) 88 KCSA/101 mph/163 km/h
Rate of climb (SL) 5,200 feet/min/1,585 m/min
Service ceiling 40,000 feet/12,192 m
Take-off/Landing ground run (SL) 1,720 feet/520 m
Ferry range 760 NM/876 miles/1,410 km
Ferry range (clean/2 ext. thanks – 10% reserve) 1,000 NM/1,150 miles/1,850 km


Recapitalization program

The Air Force is well on its way to replacing a critical airborne battle management command and control weapon system with the December 28, 2016, release of the development request for proposal, or RFP, for the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS Recapitalization program.

An E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System from the 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron lands at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar after a mission on September 12, 2016 (U.S. Air Force file photo)
An E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System from the 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron lands at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar after a mission on September 12, 2016 (U.S. Air Force file photo)

The JSTARS is a key warfighting asset that provides airborne battle management command and control of joint and coalition forces, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information about ground movements to detect and track enemy forces. JSTARS first flew in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and has been a high-demand airborne command and control asset ever since its initial entry into the U.S. military arsenal.

The release of the RFP follows receipt of an Acquisition Decision Memorandum, or ADM, signed by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics on September 7, 2016.

«I can’t say enough about the outstanding effort by the entire Recapitalization team in reaching this important phase in the program», said Colonel Dave Learned, the JSTARS Recapitalization team program manager. «With the release of the RFP, we are keeping the Recapitalization program on track for successful delivery of a critical warfighting capability».

The RFP includes all aspects of the system, including the airframe, radar, communication systems and battle management command and control suite. The RFP will result in the delivery of three Engineering and Manufacturing Development, or EMD, JSTARS Recapitalization weapon systems for testing. There are also contract options for low-rate initial production for two more weapon systems and full-rate production of lots #1-3 for four additional weapon systems each, for a total of 17 aircraft.

In addition, options are included for ground support systems, such as training systems, mission planning and processing systems, system integration labs, support equipment and spares.

The Recapitalization program recently completed an 11-month pre-EMD effort with Northrop Grumman Corp., Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin. According to program officials, these activities helped assess the maturity of subsystem technology, reduced weapon system integration risk and provided information for the RFP.

Ongoing program work includes radar risk reduction efforts with contractors Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems and Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems are pursuing nonrecurring hardware and software engineering activities to ensure radars are scaled to meet JSTARS Recapitalization specific requirements.

«We’ve completed successful pre-EMD efforts with industry and continue to make progress on our radar risk reduction activities», said Learned. «Thanks to the amazing work by our team, the program is well-positioned for a successful EMD phase. But what’s really exciting is how that paves the way for us being able to equip operators with a weapon system that will be more efficient and reliable than the current system».

This proposal solicitation will be a full and open competition with an anticipated contract award in fiscal year 2018, to have assets available for initial operational capability by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024.

«Through significant effort by the Recapitalization team, and valuable feedback from industry, as well as Air Force and OSD leadership, we now have our final Development RFP out for industry competition», said Sueann Lachance, JSTARS Recapitalization Development RFP Program Management lead. «We’re excited to see official proposals».

Brimstone for RPAS

MBDA’s Brimstone precision strike missile is being planned as the UK’s guided missile solution for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) programme. If confirmed, the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Certifiable Predator B will enter service with the British weapon.

MBDA’s Brimstone missile planned for RAF’S Protector RPAS
MBDA’s Brimstone missile planned for RAF’S Protector RPAS

The integration plan is included as part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Main Gate selection of the aircraft and, if agreed, the missile will be integrated and fielded in line with the Platform’s introduction to service.

MBDA will now work together with UK MoD, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and GA-ASI towards a programme which would see the missile undergo integration onto the Air System with trials and firings towards the end of the decade. The missile has already successfully completed a series of trial firings on MQ-9 Reaper during early 2014 that saw the weapon engaging 70 mph/113 km/h and maneuvering targets with extreme precision from the RPAS; unmatched by any other weapon since.

The missile promises to arm Protector with the ability to strike fast moving, maneuvering targets with both man in the loop post launch guidance and also autonomous post launch all weather capabilities. This confirms that the missile is a true multiplatform weapon that can operate across fast jets, RPAS and, most recently, helicopters. A number of further enhanced capabilities are planned to be developed and incorporated into the solutions for Protector, AH-64E and Typhoon, demonstrating MBDA’s commitment to spirally evolve the weapon to meet changing customer needs and adapting to new threats.

The UK Sales & Business Development Director, James Allibone, highlighted the significance of the news saying, «Brimstone offers customers the ability to have one missile that can operate across their fleet of operational aircraft, whether they are jets, RPAS or helicopters. One missile for all platforms means customers benefit from simplified and more efficient training, logistics and inventory management as well as Brimstone’s outstanding precision against the most challenging of targets».


Missile Characteristics

Weight 110 lbs/50 kg
Length 5.9 feet/1.8 m
Diameter 7 inches/180 mm
Guidance Millimetric Wave Radar and Semi-Active Laser
Warhead Tandem Shaped Charge


AN-132D demonstrator

On December 20, 2016, rollout ceremony of the AN-132D aircraft-demonstrator, the first prototype of a new AN-132D multipurpose transport, was held. It will take a proper place in the line of the world-known ANTONOV transport aircraft.

ANTONOV Company completed construction of a new AN-132D aircraft
ANTONOV Company completed construction of a new AN-132D aircraft

Programme of the AN-132D creation is realized in accordance with the contract with the customer from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), in close cooperation with King Abdulaziz City Science and Technology (KACST) and Тaqnia Aeronautics Co. Enterprises of aircraft industry of Ukraine and leading suppliers of world aviation industry are involved in the project. In this programme ANTONOV Company represents Ukraine as an integrator of international cooperation, holder of high technologies.

Paying high attention to this event on the international level, the officials took part in the rollout ceremony, including: Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, and His Highness, Prince of KSA Turki Saud Mohammed Al Saud, representatives of governments of both countries, deputies of Ukraine, representatives of diplomatic missions of different countries.

The President of Ukraine gave a command to roll out the aircraft.

In his speech at the ceremony, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, thanked ANTONOV’s team for conscientious works and said in particular: «This event is a result of productive, energetic work of ANTONOV Company and dozens of other enterprises of aircraft industry of Ukraine. This is our joint victory! AN-132D is a real international project. For the first time so many leading company of the world aviation field take part in development of the multipurpose transport aircraft. We are obliged to our partners from Canada, Great Britain, USA, Germany, France and other countries, which participate in creation of this new competitive aircraft. So, on the AN-132D platform we gathered cluster the best companies of the world aviation industry».

The AN-132D rollout ceremony was conducted under presence of heads of the companies-partners, including Doctor Khaled Abdullah Alhussain, Director of National Aerospace Technology Center of KACST, and Major General (retired) Ali M. Alghamdi, Chief executive officer (CEO) of Тaqnia Aeronautics Co.

The photos were given by Administration of the President of Ukraine
The photos were given by Administration of the President of Ukraine

T-X First Flight

Boeing and partner Saab on 20 December 2016 completed the first flight of their all-new T-X aircraft, which is designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force’s training requirements.

Boeing and partner Saab on 20 December 2016 completed the first flight of their all-new T-X aircraft, which is designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force’s training requirements (Boeing photo)
Boeing and partner Saab on 20 December 2016 completed the first flight of their all-new T-X aircraft, which is designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force’s training requirements (Boeing photo)

During the 55-minute flight, lead T-X Test Pilot Steven Schmidt and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger, who was in the seat behind Schmidt, validated key aspects of the single-engine jet and demonstrated the performance of the low-risk design.

«I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly», Schmidt said. «The aircraft met all expectations. It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach».

«It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission», Draeger added. «I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training».

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

With one engine, twin tails, stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training, the Boeing T-X is more affordable and flexible than older, existing aircraft.

Boeing and Saab revealed their first two T-X aircraft in September. The second is currently in ground testing and expected to fly in early 2017.

T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is planned for 2024.

First Tactical Airlifter

Airbus Defence and Space has delivered to the German Air Force its first A400M transport aircraft qualified for tactical operations and able to fly in areas subject to military threats.

Germany Receives First Tactical Standard Airbus A400M Airlifter
Germany Receives First Tactical Standard Airbus A400M Airlifter

The aircraft is the sixth A400M in German service and the first with the new capabilities in addition to the world-leading performance of all A400Ms as strategic transports. All aircraft will be retrofitted to the new standard and receive subsequent enhancements as those are certified.

Key aspects of the aircraft’s latest capabilities are improvements in its self-defence systems, ability to air-drop cargo loads, and paratrooping. Additionally, it can operate on unprepared runways, fly as low as 150 feet/45.7 m above the ground, refuel other aircraft as a tanker, and safely take-off and land in extremely high temperatures.

Airbus Defence and Space A400M Programme Manager, Kurt Rossner, said: «The A400M programme has made enormous progress this year in implementing these critical capabilities on the aircraft. In addition to having twice the payload-range of the legacy transports like the C-160 and C-130 that it is replacing, it can now also operate from any runway that those older aircraft could use. There is no other aircraft in the market with the A400M´s combination of tactical and strategic capabilities and it is going to transform Germany’s air mobility force».

The new aircraft is fitted with a Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) incorporating a Missile Warning System, Radar Warning Receiver, and an Expendables Dispensing System to eject flares and radar-confusing chaff. The DASS for all A400Ms is integrated by Airbus Defence and Space at Ulm.

Military and humanitarian loads of up to 8 tonnes/17,637 lbs each, including for example 24 × 1 tonne/2,205 lbs pallets, are fully certified for air-dropping from the aircraft’s ramp and further loads are being continually qualified in flight test.

Paratroops can be dropped from the ramp or side paratroop doors in sticks of up to 20, and sticks of 30 have already been successfully demonstrated with certification to follow. Flight testing continues to build the numbers next to 40 and then 58 in a single pass.

The A400M is certified to operate from grass runways and has successfully completed testing of operations from gravel and sandy soil with certification in process. Low-level flight in mountainous terrain is cleared down to 150 feet/45.7 m above ground by day and 300 feet/91.4 m by night under the pilot’s manual control. Development of automatic low-level flight is well advanced.

The aircraft is certified to receive fuel in-flight from a tanker, and as a tactical tanker itself to refuel fighters and other large aircraft by day, with night operations demonstrated and close to certification.

In this latest configuration the A400M is certified to operate in temperatures up to 55°C at sea level, ensuring excellent «hot and high» performance at operationally challenging airfields around the world. And it is approved to take-off and fly on only three of its four powerful engines in the event of a mechanical problem or battle damage, adding to its outstanding level of operating autonomy.



Overall Length 45.10 m/148 feet
Overall Height 14.70 m/48 feet
Wing Span 42.40 m/139 feet
Cargo Hold Length (ramp excluded) 17.71 m/58 feet
Cargo Hold Height 3.85-4.00 m/12 feet 7 inch-13 feet
Cargo Hold Width 4.00 m/13 feet
Cargo Hold Volume 340 m3/12,000 feet3
Maximum Take Off Weight 141,000 kg/310,850 lbs
Maximum Landing Weight 123,000 kg/271,200 lbs
Internal Fuel Weight 50,500 kg/111,300 lbs
Maximum Payload 37,000 kg/81,600 lbs
EuroProp International TP400-D6 11,000 shp/8,200 kW
Maximum Operating Altitude 12,200 m/40,000 feet
Maximum Cruise Speed (TAS) 300 knots/345 mph/555 km/h
Cruise Speed Range 0.68-0.72 M
Range with Maximum Payload (37,000 kg/81,600 lbs) 1,780 NM/2,050 miles/3,300 km
Range with 30,000 kg/66,000 lbs Payload 2,450 NM/2,796 miles/4,500 km
Range with 20,000 kg/44,000 lbs Payload 3,450 NM/3,977 miles/6,400 km
Maximum Range (Ferry) 4,700 NM/5,406 miles/8,700 km


Flight Testing

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), tactical reconnaissance radars, and electro-optic surveillance systems, today announced the commencement of flight testing for its MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (ER) series with the successful first flight of the company’s production representative MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER aircraft from its El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, California, on October 29th.

Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER)
Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER)

«The flight of our capital MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is a significant milestone in the continued evolution of the MQ-1C program with our U.S. Army customer», said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. «This marks the next step in delivering the aircraft’s increased endurance and payload capability to the warfighter».

MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER, developed by GA-ASI on Internal Research and Development (IRAD) specifically to increase endurance and payload capacity, is a next-generation derivative of the combat-proven Gray Eagle UAS, which has accumulated over 300,000 flight hours since 2008. MQ-1C ER is expected to complete flight testing in June 2017, at which point it will begin a series of Army test events culminating in the program’s second Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation in late 2017. The first four aircraft are expected to be delivered in Q2 and Q3 2017, with an additional 15 over the course of 2018.

MQ-1C ER delivers an advanced Medium-altitude Long-endurance (MALE) capability for the Army, adding increased payload capacity, greater range and endurance, and improved maintainability. The aircraft is engineered with a Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTOW) of 4,200 pounds/1,905 kg compared with Gray Eagle’s MGTOW of 3,600 pounds/1,633 kg. The incorporation of MQ-1C ER’s straight belly design allows for more than 910 pounds/413 kg of internal fuel and a centerline hard point that can accommodate an optional fuel pod with an additional 450 pounds/204 kg. With endurance at more than 40 hours, the aircraft will exceed the Army’s requirement for 14 hours on station at 621 miles/1,000 kilometers for all mission types.

MQ-1C ER features an upgraded Heavy Fuel Engine-180 (HFE-180) which provides increased horsepower and reliability. HFE-180 includes propulsion reliability enhancements, an improved cooling system and high-performance induction system. The new engine began flight tests on Block 1 Gray Eagle in February 2016.

MQ-1C ER’s enhanced capabilities will expand the tactical range for Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveillance (ISR), electronic warfare, and attack missions for the U.S. Army and other prospective customers.