Category Archives: Air Force

Small Diameter Bombs

Bombing capacity of F-35As has quadrupled with the arrival of small diameter bombs introduced to No. 3 Squadron in June.

Flying Officer Matthew Walker, left, delivers bomb familiarisation training to armament technicians from No. 3 Squadron, from left, Corporal Christopher Sorrensen, Leading Aircraftman Adam Fulmizi and Corporal Simon McMillan (Photo: Sergeant Guy Young)

The GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb, Increment 1 (SDB1), packs about 16 kg/35.3 lbs. of modern high explosive, guided by GPS-aided inertial navigation.

Wing Commander Simon Bird, Chief Engineer at Aerospace Explosive Ordnance Systems Program Office (AEOSPO) – Explosive Materiel Branch, said it was Air Force’s most advanced bomb and made best use of the F-35A’s internal weapon bay.

«We’ve got a next-generation bomb to go with our fifth-generation fighter», Wing Commander Bird said. «Where you used to carry one Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) in a position on the aircraft, SDB1 allows you to carry four bombs that each achieve very similar effects. Although at 285 lbs. the SDB1 is lighter than a 500 lbs. JDAM, it’s highly accurate and packs a more powerful, modern explosive. SDB1 is also designed to penetrate harder targets, or can fuse above ground to create area effects».

The bombs make use of «Diamondback» wings, which deploy after release to provide greater stand-off range.

«With JDAMs you’ve got to be very close to the target to engage it, but because of the wings on SDB1, a single F-35A can engage up to eight separate targets from outside the range they can defend against», Wing Commander Bird said. «What’s more, because an SDB1 is carried internally, the F-35A can remain low observable and will not be affected by any extra drag from carrying eight bombs».

Four bombs are fitted to new bomb release unit racks before loading on the aircraft.

«With an old JDAM, you had to take all the components and build it up, but that takes time, equipment and people», Wing Commander Bird said. «You can test the SDB1 without opening the box; you can test them before they’re even shipped to the base you’re going to operate from. This weapon comes fully assembled; you basically take it out of the box and load it».

About 15 armament technicians from No. 3 Squadron received familiarisation training on the bombs before planned test firings in coming months.

AEOSPO’s engineering, logistic and technical staff ensured introduction of the weapons and their delivery was a milestone towards the F-35A’s initial operational capability in 2020.


The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and DZYNE Technologies Incorporated successfully completed a two-hour initial flight of a revolutionary Robotic Pilot Unmanned Conversion Program called ROBOpilot August 9 at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Air Force Research Laboratory successfully conducts first flight of ROBOpilot Unmanned Air Platform

«This flight test is a testament to AFRL’s ability to rapidly innovate technology from concept to application in a safe build up approach while still maintaining low cost and short timelines», said Major General William Cooley, AFRL Commander.

«Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration», said Doctor Alok Das, Senior Scientist with AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation (CRI). «All of this is achieved without making permanent modifications to the aircraft».

As the vision for AFRL’s CRI Small Business Innovative Research project with DZYNE Technologies of Irvine, California, ROBOpilot interacts with an aircraft the same way as a human pilot would.

For example, the system «grabs» the yoke, pushes on the rudders and brakes, controls the throttle, flips the appropriate switches and reads the dashboard gauges the same way a pilot does. At the same time, the system uses sensors, like GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit, for situational awareness and information gathering. A computer analyzes these details to make decisions on how to best control the flight.

ROBOpilot also boasts a simple installation process. Users remove the pilot’s seat and install a frame in its place, which contains all the equipment necessary to control the aircraft including actuators, electronics, cameras, power systems and a robotic arm.

Das explains that this non-invasive approach to robotically piloted aircraft leverages existing commercial technology and components. ROBOpilot incorporates many subsystems and lessons learned from previous AFRL and DZYNE Technology aircraft conversion programs.

«ROBOpilot offers the benefits of unmanned operations without the complexity and upfront cost associated with the development of new unmanned vehicles», Das said.

AFRL developed the system using a Direct to Phase II SBIR contract. During the past year, AFRL and DZYNE designed, built and tested ROBOpilot. Engineers demonstrated the initial concept in a RedBird FMX simulator, a full motion, feature-rich advanced aviation training device. ROBOpilot successfully completed simulated autonomous takeoffs, mission navigation and landings in both nominal and off-nominal conditions in this Federal Aviation Administration-certified trainer.

As an early adopter of creating disruptive innovation through paradigm shifts, AFRL established the Center for Rapid Innovation in 2006 to streamline AFRL’s application of new and existing technologies to address dynamic changes in air, space, ground, and cyber battlespaces and solve evolving and urgent operational challenges. The execution of this unique process uses diverse subject matter expertise and a collaborative government-industry technical and management capability to rapidly develop, test and deploy innovative prototype solutions for dynamic operational environments.

CRI routinely uses the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to identify both disruptive technology and innovative engineering talent for its projects. Working with teams of innovative small businesses, CRI has demonstrated numerous operational successes such as back-packable, precision strike platforms for high-value fleeting targets; counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED); counter drone capabilities; and secure on-the-move communications. Several efforts have even transitioned to Air Force Programs of Record.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.

Above Mach 4

An Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Air Force Test Center ground test team set a record for the highest thrust produced by an air-breathing hypersonic engine in Air Force history.

The AEDC Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit at Arnold Air Force Base supports recent testing for the Air Force Research Laboratory Medium Scale Critical Components Scramjet program. The Northrop Grumman-produced engine was successfully operated at conditions above Mach 4 and has set the record for highest thrust produced by an air-breathing hypersonic engine in Air Force history (U.S. Air Force photo)

«AFRL, in conjunction with Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) and Northrop Grumman, achieved over 13,000 pounds/5,897 kg of thrust from a scramjet engine during testing at Arnold Air Force Base», said Todd Barhorst, AFRL aerospace engineer and lead for the Medium Scale Critical Components program.

The 18-foot-long/5.5-meter-long Northrop Grumman engine endured a half hour of accumulated combustion time during the nine months of testing.

«The series of tests, ran in conjunction with AEDC and AFRL, on this fighter-engine sized scramjet was truly remarkable», said Pat Nolan, vice president, missile products, Northrop Grumman. «The scramjet successfully ran across a range of hypersonic Mach numbers for unprecedented run times, demonstrating that our technology is leading the way in delivering large scale hypersonic platforms to our warfighters».

«The plan for a larger and faster hypersonic air breathing engine was established 10 years ago during the X-51 test program, as the Air Force recognized the need to push the boundaries of hypersonic research», Barhorst said. «A new engine with 10-times the flow of the X-51 would allow for a new class of scramjet vehicles».

An evaluation of the nation’s test facilities concluded that none could test an engine at this large of a scale in a thermally-relevant environment. To address the issue, AEDC’s Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit facility underwent a two-year upgrade to enable large-scale scramjet combustor tests over the required range of test conditions. The AEDC team also successfully leveraged technology developed by CFD Research Corporation under the Small Business Innovative Research program. This technology proved crucial in achieving most of the required test conditions.

«Our collective team has worked hard over the past few years to get to where we are today», said Sean Smith, lead for the AEDC Hypersonic Systems Combined Test Force ground test team. «We’ve encountered numerous challenges along the way that we’ve been able to overcome thanks to the dedication and creativity of the team. We’ve learned quite a bit, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. These groundbreaking tests will lead the way for future hypersonic vehicles for a range of missions».

«After years of hard work, performing analysis and getting hardware ready, it was a great sense of fulfillment completing the first successful test of the world’s largest hydrocarbon fueled scramjet», added Barhorst.

Electronic attack

Raytheon Company delivered the first Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) pod to the U.S. Navy to begin ground and aircraft integration testing. Raytheon will deliver 15 EMD pods for mission systems testing and qualification as well as 14 aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification.

Raytheon delivers first Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band pod for Navy testing

NGJ-MB is a high-capacity and power airborne electronic attack weapon system for the EA-18G Growler. It will protect air forces by denying, degrading and disrupting threat radars and communication devices.

«The first NGJ-MB pod is out the door», said Stefan Baur, vice president of Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. «We are one step closer to extending the Navy’s jamming range and capability. Delivery of this pod will allow for the initial verification of ground procedures, mass properties, aircraft installation, and Built In Test checks in preparation for future chamber and flight test».

Additionally, in the third quarter of 2019, Raytheon will utilize a Prime Power Generation Capability pod installed on a commercial Gulfstream aircraft in order to conduct power generation flight testing and risk reduction efforts in support of the initial flight clearance process.

Raytheon’s NGJ-MB architecture and design include the ability to operate at a significantly enhanced range, attack multiple targets simultaneously and advanced jamming techniques. The technology can also be scaled to other missions and platforms.

Electronic warfare pod

Northrop Grumman Corporation has received a $44 million contract award for the Electronic Attack Pod Upgrade Program (EAPUP) from the U.S. Air Force. Placed under an existing contract, this third production order will significantly increase the number of EAPUP systems for the Air Force.

Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Attack Pod Upgrade Program brings fifth-generation electronic countermeasures to the fourth-generation fleet

Operating in the modern air warfare environment with advanced, rapidly proliferating electronic warfare systems and radar-guided weapons requires an equally sophisticated level of protection and proven technology. The EAPUP – an upgraded, digital AN/ALQ-131 pod – will replace the Air Force’s current electronic attack pods. The AN/ALQ-131A is currently available to international partners.

«The new technology in EAPUP will protect U.S. Air Force pilots and coalition partner aircraft from modern and future threats», said Michelle Scarpella, vice president and general manager, global logistics and modernization, Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman received the order following a series of rigorous tests designed to verify the system’s capabilities and readiness for operations. The tests were representative of modern combat scenarios and involved multiple, simultaneous threats. The pod demonstrated the ability to identify, locate and counter sophisticated threats and keep aircrews safe during missions in contested airspace.

«The advanced electronic warfare capability integrated in EAPUP is mature, scalable and in production today. Available globally, it is ready to give aircrews the protection they need in dense electromagnetic spectrum environments», said Brent Toland, vice president, land and avionics C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), Northrop Grumman.

EAPUP will bring the Air Force’s electronic attack pod inventory into the digital age, delivering fifth-generation capability to fourth-generation aircraft and making it among the most capable electronic warfare pod in the Department of Defense inventory. At the core of EAPUP is Northrop Grumman’s advanced electronic warfare technology, built upon the expertise gained from the company’s broad portfolio of programs for multiple services.

Northrop Grumman has more than 60 years of experience delivering electronic warfare systems for a wide variety of fighter, bomber and transport aircraft.

Combat Aircraft

A new project to develop a novel unmanned combat aircraft has been announced by the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Dstl to develop conceptual unmanned aircraft for RAF

The Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept looks to offer additional capability, deployed alongside fighter jets like the F-35 and Typhoon – offering increased protection, survivability and information for the manned aircraft – and could even provide an unmanned combat air «fleet» in the future.

Specifically, in a break with traditional approaches for combat air systems in the UK, the innovative LANCA concept aims to deliver dramatic reductions in traditional cost and development timeline.

Under LANCA, a technology demonstrator project known as ‘Mosquito’ has awarded contracts for Phase 1 of the work, which will produce a preliminary system design for an unmanned air vehicle and assessment of the key risk areas and cost-capability trade-offs for an operational concept. Initial flight test of the demonstrator air vehicle could take place as early as 2022.

Phase 1 will include the exploration of novel design, development, prototyping, manufacture, and support, to enable low-cost rapid development and evolution of a potential future unmanned combat air system. Dstl, which provides science and technology for the defence and security of the UK, is delivering the technical oversight, project management, and partnering for Project Mosquito.

For Phase 1, contracts were awarded to three teams led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, Boeing Defence UK Ltd, and Callen-Lenz (Team BLACKDAWN partnered with Bombardier Belfast and Northrop Grumman UK Ltd).

LANCA originated in 2015 studies by Dstl to understand innovative Combat Air technologies and concepts that might offer radical reductions in cost and development time. Subsequently LANCA was brought into the RAF RCO as part of the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI). LANCA aims to explore the utility and feasibility of unmanned capability adjuncts to existing and future Fast Jet aircraft, specifically those that offer substantial reductions in traditional cost and development timelines.

Project Mosquito has two planned phases. After the 12-month Phase 1, Phase 2 will select up to two of the Phase 1 solutions to further mature the designs, complete manufacturing of the technology demonstrator and conclude with a limited flight-test programme.

The RAF RCO, in partnership with Dstl, is adopting creative approaches to deliver this challenging project. For example, by conducting a competition to access ‘best of breed’, it has enabled non-traditional suppliers to propose their approach to meet the MOD’s ambitious aims. Additionally, subject matter experts within the MOD are assigned as technical partners to each team, supporting industry with technical and operational advice and decisions. This will enhance the opportunity of this game-changing concept in a coherent approach for future combat air systems.

Wind Tunnel 9

Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland, is on the verge of delivering an unprecedented capability.

Rob Hale, engineering technician, left, Parth Kathrotiya, system engineer, center, and Zack Russo, engineering technician, pose with the Mach 18 nozzle at AEDC Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland. The team at Tunnel 9 recently completed an initial shakeout of the Mach 18 system, and the calibration to bring Mach 18 to full operating capability is set to occur later this year (U.S. Air Force photo by A.J. Spicer)

In late April, the team at Tunnel 9 completed an initial shakeout of the Mach 18 system and, later this year, facility engineers are set to begin a full calibration on Mach 18. If successful, this would allow for testing at Mach Numbers never before realized in an AEDC facility.

«For years, important programs have asked for a validated capability in this Mach range to reduce risk in vehicle designs», said Tunnel 9 Site Director Dan Marren. «With this accomplishment, the team has added something new to the fight and quite possibly cemented continued battlespace dominance by the USA».


Early Research

Researchers have been working for decades to achieve a higher Mach capability, and the desire to attain such Mach Numbers dates back to the inception of Tunnel 9.

Tunnel 9, which became operational in 1976, was originally conceptualized to achieve Mach Numbers of 10, 15 and 20.

Initially, Tunnel 9 was only able to deploy Mach 10 and Mach 14 capabilities. It would be some time before the significant leaps in technology needed to eclipse Mach 14 would come around due to a lack of understanding of the physics required to operate at that level.

During the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the National Aerospace Plane Program was seeking data above Mach 14 and, believing the technology was ready, provided some funding to Tunnel 9 to develop Mach 18.

However, the nozzle design methodology and the diagnostics that would be used to examine the physics of the flow were immature. The flow quality of the nozzle was deemed poor, and the design was scrapped.

Around 30 years ago, Marren and current Tunnel 9 Technical Director John Lafferty were beginning their careers at what was then known as Naval Surface Warfare Center Tunnel 9. The young engineers worked with Doctor Wayland Griffith from North Carolina State University, who was a visiting summer professor at Tunnel 9. The trio researched a phenomenon called supercooling, which they believed could be used to relax the need to have the facility heater operate up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit/2,760 degrees Celsius to achieve higher Mach Numbers.

Marren, Lafferty and Griffith found that the supercooling method worked, though they did not yet have access to the advanced diagnostics needed to verify the flow physics. Although their tests were not completely conclusive, the trio published their conclusions anyway. This data would later become the foundation of the Mach 18 capability, as researchers at NASA read the report and began their own research into the supercooling phenomenon.

As NASA continued to study that process, those at Tunnel 9 moved on to missile defense projects and other sub-Mach 20 priorities.

In the mid-2000’s, higher Mach Number hypersonics once again became a priority. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, or OSD, turned to AEDC to push the boundaries of hypersonic test capabilities.


Advancements in technology and equipment

Fortunately for those at AEDC, computer-based Modeling and Simulation and diagnostic technologies had greatly advanced in the more than two decades since the capability was first sought, and many of those at Tunnel 9 who had worked the original request for the National Aerospace Program were still employed at the facility. A team was assembled and a program was designed.

Initial risk reduction efforts began in 2014 and focused on the development of three state-of-the-art efforts: a new material for the nozzle, new laser diagnostics to verify the understanding of the flow physics, and a new nozzle contour based on that understanding. This three-year effort leveraged two Small Business Innovation Research programs and investment funds from AEDC to successfully achieve its goals.

Following this risk reduction effort, Lafferty convinced Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to construct the new capability for $6.5 million. With that, the team at Tunnel 9 set out in 2017 to achieve Mach 18 capability. Their goal was to accomplish this in three years.

Prior to Lafferty proposing the Mach 18 program to the OSD, Lafferty and Tunnel 9 Chief Facility Engineer Nick Fredrick had proposed a low-level technology effort, funded with an approximately $200,000 fallout from the AEDC budget, to investigate and demonstrate the feasibility of all the technologies required for Mach 18. The project received around $3 million in additional funding through the Small Business Innovation Research program. Half of this funding came from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Commercialization Readiness Program to investigate new throat materials, and the remaining $1.5 million was to be used to develop new advanced laser-based diagnostics to probe non-intrusively into the flowfield.

«Early in the Mach 18 nozzle design process, we at Tunnel 9 quickly realized that the existing technologies used in our facility would be inadequate to develop a Mach 18 capability with the flow quality that we required», Fredrick said. «The work with SBIR allowed us to bring the experts that would eventually work with us to achieve our goals. Their work was critical to the success of the Tunnel 9 Mach 18 capability».

In the years since Marren and Lafferty had first worked with Griffith, what Marren had referred to as «three miracles of science» had occurred. First, materials technology had progressed significantly. To accomplish testing at higher Mach Numbers, the team at Tunnel 9 needed a high-temperature nozzle throat material four times stronger than anything that had previously existed. That material, developed as part of this program, is now available.

The second «miracle» was advancements in diagnostics. Available non-intrusive laser diagnostics had become fast enough and with sufficient signal to noise to verify the understanding of the flow during supercooling. Two efforts converged to provide this understanding. First, Jeff Balla, a researcher at NASA Langley, had completed the research started by Lafferty and Marren more than two decades prior using modern tools and diagnostics. Balla delivered that information to Tunnel 9 personnel that verified the flow density. Second, an SBIR with PlasmaTec was completed that allowed measurements of the flow velocity and temperature. The data from all three of these measurements verified the understanding of the flow physics including its required chemical makeup.

«The recent development of ultra-short pulse-width laser systems has made low-density velocity and temperature measurements possible», said Michael Smith, Tunnel 9 advanced diagnostician and physicist. «These diagnostics provide the verification that the Mach 18 facility is truly providing the flow quality for which it was designed».

The third miracle was the advancement of nozzle design tools. Working with Ken Tatum and Derik Daniel, AEDC counterparts at Arnold Air Force Base, and John Korte, a subject matter expert in high Mach nozzle design who had recently retired from NASA Langley and now works for Analytical Mechanics Associates, the Tunnel 9 team was able to include this new understanding of the flow physics into the design of a new high Mach Number wind tunnel nozzle contour for the first time.

«This promises to produce the best possible flow quality for any nozzle at these Mach Numbers», Lafferty said.


Team’s efforts pay off

Those at Tunnel 9 scoped out the construction of the Mach 18 undertaking that began in 2017.

With the funding and the assistance Tunnel 9 engineers were receiving on nozzle design, the Mach 18 project looked feasible. The OSD pushed for completion and implementation of the capability as quickly as possible.

Eventually, Tunnel 9 would receive $6.5 million in additional funding from the Hypersonic Test Capability Improvement Project, an OSD investment program that aims to improve capabilities for hypersonic weapon systems development, to move the Mach 18 project forward.

The nozzle design and build, the successful incorporation of the new nozzle throat material, and the diagnostic demonstration all occurred within the three-year timeframe and were completed within budget and on-schedule.

The shakeout of the Tunnel 9 capability has occurred in phases. Around two years ago, diagnostic and supercooling checkouts were done by applying to the Tunnel 9 Mach 14 nozzle the pressure and temperature conditions similar to those of Mach 18.

A full checkout of the throat technologies using the Mach 14 nozzle occurred last year.

In April, Tunnel 9 took advantage of an opportunity to accelerate a portion of the Mach 18 calibration. Those at the facility are in the process of repairing one of the four compressor motors used to create a vacuum source and proper pressure ratio required to maintain fully operationally test capability.

While that motor is out for repair, the facility can still perform a subset of conditions. For example, the validation of Mach 18 design condition, the highest part of the simulation envelope for the Mach 18 test capability is possible without the fourth motor.

The Tunnel 9 team performed the initial calibration using the final Mach 18 hardware. To accomplish this, they aligned the facility to ready it for a test, validated the survival and performance of the new throat design, verified the thermodynamic quality of the test medium, and confirmed the facility flow is of a high quality for future acquisition customers.

«To date, there have been four test entries at Tunnel 9 to demonstrate the feasibility of the Mach 18 capability», Fredrick said. «The first three of these tests were performed in the existing Mach 14 nozzle and were used to validate the assumptions that the flow would be condensation-free at the proposed Mach 18 freestream conditions and that the new nozzle throat material can survive and is shape-stable at both Mach 14 and Mach 18 nozzle supply conditions. The most recent test entry validated the new Mach 18 nozzle with the new nozzle throats at the design condition. This validation included measurements of the flow uniformity for comparison to computational fluid dynamics results, measurements of the nozzle freestream velocity and temperature, and measurements to detect condensation. Only one test remains – the calibration of the nozzle at all of the desired test conditions».

The full calibration to bring Mach 18 to full operating capability is set to occur in the fall.

«Mach 18 is a long time coming and will fill a real gap», Lafferty said. «However, I never thought we would have multiple test customers lined up to collect data even before we had finished the shakeout and calibration. It is satisfying to know it will be used once complete».

Maiden flight

The first Airbus C295, purchased by the Government of Canada for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement (FWSAR) program, has completed its maiden flight, marking a key milestone towards delivery by the end of 2019 to begin operational testing by the RCAF. The aircraft, designated CC-295 for the Canadian customer, took off from Seville, Spain, on 4 July at 20:20 local time (GMT+1) and landed back on site one hour and 27 minutes later.

The photo above shows the first RCAF C295 during its maiden flight


FWSAR program facts and figures

The contract, awarded in December 2016, includes 16 C295 aircraft and all In-Service Support elements including, training and engineering services, the construction of a new Training Centre in Comox, British Columbia, and maintenance and support services.

The aircraft will be based where search and rescue squadrons are currently located: Comox, British Columbia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Trenton, Ontario; and Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

Considerable progress has been made since the FWSAR program was announced two and a half years ago: the first aircraft will now begin flight testing; another five aircraft are in various stages of assembly; and seven simulator and training devices are in various testing stages.

In addition, the first RCAF crews will begin training in late summer 2019 at Airbus’ International Training Centre in Seville, Spain.

The FWSAR program is supporting some $2.5 billion (CAD) in Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) to Canada, through high-value, long-term partnerships with Canadian industry.

As of January 2019, 86 percent of key Canadian In-Service Support (ISS) tasks have been performed in-country by Canadian companies in relation to establishing the FWSAR ISS system. Airbus is thus on track in providing high value work to Canadian industry and has demonstrated a successful start to the development and transfer of capability to Canadian enterprises for the support of the FWSAR aircraft.

Beyond direct program participation, Airbus is generating indirect business across Canadian military, aeronautical and space industry including Small and Medium Businesses in support of the ITB program.

Multirole Tanker

On 2 July 2019, the Directorate General of Armament (DGA) received the second A330-MRTT Phénix multi-role tanker aircraft (MultiRole Tanker Transport) at Air Base 125 in Istres. This aircraft was delivered to the Air Force three months early and with a first MedEvac (Medical Evacuation) capability, so as to reach full operational capability in the fall.

The French Air Force’s second A330 tanker/transport aircraft at Istres air base. Visible in the background are two of the aircraft it will replace: the upgraded C-135F Stratotanker (right) and the Airbus A310 transport (FR AF photo)

It will allow medicalized transport of a dozen very seriously injured patients, or the medical transport of 40 lightly-injured patients requiring less medical assistance.

The MRTT Phénix is based on the airframe of the Airbus A330 airliner, militarized to allow it to meet its specific mission requirements: support of the air component of the nuclear deterrent; contribution to the permanent security posture; projection of forces and medicalized transport in case of emergency medical evacuation.

Thanks to its versatility, the MRTT Phoenix replaces two distinct fleets for this entire range of missions: the current in-flight refueling fleet of C135-FR and KC135R, and the strategic personnel and freight transport fleet of A310 and A340.

The military programming law 2019-2025 provides for the acceleration of the modernization of the equipment of the forces, and in particular of the tanker aircraft fleet. It will bring forward to 2023, two years earlier than planned, the delivery of the first twelve aircraft, and creating the conditions allowing a subsequent increase of the fleet to fifteen aircraft in following years.

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes this early delivery: «The Phoenix is an essential aircraft for the French forces, and for and our deterrence. It will replace aircraft, some of which are 60 years old, and represents a real revolution for the Air Force. Its versatility makes it a technological marvel, and it is an undeniable industrial success and an example of what a great European company – Airbus – knows how to build».

Falcon Heavy

SpaceX is targeting Monday, June 24 for a Falcon Heavy launch of the STP-2 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The primary launch window opens at 11:30 p.m. EDT, or 3:30 UTC on June 25, and closes at 3:30 a.m. EDT on June 25, or 7:30 UTC. A backup launch window opens on June 25 at 11:30 p.m. EDT, or 3:30 UTC on June 26, and closes at 3:30 a.m. EDT on June 26, or 7:30 UTC. Deployments will begin approximately 12 minutes after liftoff and end approximately 3 hours and 32 minutes after liftoff.

At 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 25, SpaceX launched the STP-2 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Falcon Heavy’s side boosters for the STP-2 mission previously supported the Arabsat-6A mission in April 2019. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon Heavy’s center core will attempt to land on the «Of Course I Still Love You» droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Space and Missile Systems Center teamed with multiple commercial, national, and international mission partners for the historic DoD Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) launch. SMC procured the mission to provide spaceflight for advanced research and development satellites from multiple DoD research laboratories, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and universities.

The STP-2 mission will use a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle to perform 20 commanded deployment actions and place 24 separate spacecraft in three different orbits. The spacecraft include the Air Force Research Laboratory Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) satellite; the NOAA-sponsored Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC-2) constellation; four NASA experiments; and many other missions. For more detailed descriptions of the experiments on STP-2, visit our website at

The DoD Space Test Program accelerates space technologies into operational capabilities by providing space access for cutting edge, DoD-sponsored experiments and demonstrations. STP, through its Johnson Space Center location, is the single face to NASA for all DoD payloads on the International Space Station and other human-rated launch vehicles, for both domestic and international partners.

STP-2 Mission