A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on March 26 at 4:18 p.m. EDT. This marks the 83rd successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, 138th launch for ULA and first mission for the U.S. Space Force.
The AEHF-6 satellite will bring additional capabilities and resilience to the constellation which already ensures «always-on» communications and the ability to transmit data anywhere, anytime. Once on orbit, AEHF-6 will complete the constellation, as well as mark the first launch under U.S. Space Force control. AEHF-6 will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket in an Atlas V 551 configuration.
«While this is the final AEHF satellite launch, it really brings the constellation to full strength, capability and truly marks the beginning of the AEHF system’s full lifecycle», said Mike Cacheiro, vice president for Protected Communications at Lockheed Martin. «Still, it is a bittersweet moment for everyone involved, knowing this is our last launch for the AEHF program. Myself, as well as all of the employees who have supported the program at Lockheed Martin are incredibly grateful for our continued partnership with the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missiles Systems Center».
AEHF-6 is part of the AEHF system – a resilient satellite constellation providing global coverage and a sophisticated ground control system. Together the constellation provides survivable, protected communications capabilities for national leaders and tactical warfighters operating across ground, sea and air platforms. The anti-jam system also serves international allies to include Canada, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and now Australia.
Lockheed Martin developed and manufactured AEHF-6 at its satellite production facility located in Sunnyvale, California. In January, the satellite shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station courtesy of a Super Galaxy C-5 aircraft from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the AEHF system, and the AEHF team is led by the Production Corps, Medium Earth Orbit Division, at the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, will build 12 additional HH-60W Jolly Green II Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH) following a second Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract award by the U.S. Air Force, known as Lot 2, and valued at over $500 million. The award follows a string of significant program milestones in 2019, including first flight, a Milestone C decision by the Air Force, and award of the first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract for 10 aircraft. The HH-60W Jolly Green II is an all-new helicopter based on the proven UH-60M Black Hawk and customized for the U.S. Air Force’s rescue mission.
«This second contract award demonstrates the confidence the U.S. Air Force has in Sikorsky’s proven ability to deliver and support the next generation combat search and rescue helicopter», said Greg Hames, Sikorsky’s CRH Program Director. «Our team works daily – and in close collaboration with our customer – to ensure we build and deliver this highly capable and much-needed helicopter to the warfighter».
Since achieving the Milestone C decision from the Air Force in September 2019, which moved the CRH program into low rate initial production, the program continues to progress, reaching key milestones and executing an aggressive flight test schedule. Currently seven CRH aircraft are in flight, two of which are with the Air Force at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, with all aircraft engaging in expanded flight tests to support the path forward to Required Assets Available (RAA). Low rate initial production of CRH Lot 1 aircraft major assembly is underway, with Lot 2 assembly to follow. The program remains on track to meet contract delivery of RAA in 2020.
The HH-60W Jolly Green II arrived on February 27, 2020 at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, the site of the annual Air Force Association (AFA) Air Warfare Symposium, offering a first-hand look of the much-anticipated aircraft to service members who perform critical search and rescue operations. The Air Force also assigned the new helicopter its proper name – Jolly Green II – in a name reveal event hosted by Barbara M. Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force.
«We respect the long tradition of assigning a moniker that communicates the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission. Jolly Green II is a fitting tribute to its history and to airmen and women worldwide», said Dana Fiatarone, Sikorsky’s Vice President, Army and Air Force Systems. «The name is greatly respected by our workforce – past and present – and it’s an honor to build this critical aircraft for the Air Force and bring it to the symposium today to provide our customer with the opportunity to view the Jolly Green II in person. We look forward to continued production and executing on the recent Lot 2 contract award».
The HH-60W Jolly Green II Combat Rescue Helicopter is significantly more capable and reliable than its predecessor, the HH-60G Pave Hawk. The aircraft hosts a new fuel system that nearly doubles the capacity of the main fuel tank on a UH-60M Black Hawk, giving the Air Force crew extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battle space. The HH-60W Jolly Green II specification drives more capable defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, weapons, cyber-security, environmental, expanded adverse weather sensor capabilities, and more comprehensive net-centric requirements than currently held by the HH-60G.
The U.S. Air Force program of record calls for 113 helicopters to replace the Pave Hawks, which perform critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services. A total of nine aircraft will be built at Sikorsky’s Stratford, Connecticut, facility during the Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the program – four EMD aircraft and five System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA).
The governments of France and Germany have awarded Dassault Aviation, Airbus, together with their partners MTU Aero Engines, Safran, MBDA and Thales, the initial framework contract (Phase 1A), which launches the demonstrator phase for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
This framework contract covers a first period of 18 months and initiates work on developing the demonstrators and maturing cutting-edge technologies, with the ambition to begin flight tests as soon as 2026.
Since early 2019, the industrial partners have been working on the future architecture as part of the programme’s so called Joint Concept Study. Now, the FCAS programme enters into another decisive phase with the launch of the demonstrator phase.
This phase will, in a first step, focus on the main technological challenges per domains:
Next Generation Fighter (NGF), with Dassault Aviation as prime contractor and Airbus as main partner, to be the core element of Future Combat Air System;
Unmanned systems Remote Carrier (RC) with Airbus as prime contractor and MBDA as main partner;
Combat Cloud (CC) with Airbus as prime contractor and Thales as main partner;
Engine with Safran and MTU as main partner.
A Simulation Environment will be jointly developed between the involved companies to ensure the consistency between demonstrators.
The launch of the Demonstrator Phase underlines the political confidence and determination of the FCAS partner nations and the associated industry to move forward and cooperate in a fair and balanced manner. The increased momentum enables industry to deploy the necessary resources and best capabilities to develop this decisive European defence project. FCAS will be the cornerstone project guaranteeing Europe’s future operational, industrial and technological sovereignty.
The next important step in the FCAS programme will be the onboarding of Spain and the involvement of additional suppliers from Phase 1B onwards, which will succeed Phase 1A after its successful conclusion.
Lockheed Martin delivered the second of two KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelers to representatives from France’s Armée de l’Air on February 4, at the company’s Aeronautics facility in Marietta, Georgia.
France has received a total of four Super Hercules aircraft – two C-130J-30 Super Hercules combat delivery airlifters and two KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelers – through a Foreign Military Sale with the U.S. government. The two C-130J-30 Super Hercules airlifters were delivered in 2017 and 2018, and first KC-130J Super Hercules delivered in September 2019. All of these Super Hercules are operated in conjunction with France’s existing C-130H fleet.
«France’s C-130 crews have long demonstrated the unmatched and proven performance of the Hercules aircraft in support of critical missions», said Rod McLean, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions at Lockheed Martin. «This additional KC-130J Super Hercules expands the Armée de l‘Air’s already robust airlift and refueling resources to not only serve as a national asset, but a global resource as well».
France is the 17th country to choose the C-130J Super Hercules for its airlift and refueling needs. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced tactical airlifter in operation today, offering superior performance and enhanced capabilities with the range and versatility for every theater of operations and evolving requirements.
As the preeminent tactical aerial refueling tanker, the KC-130J Super Hercules is a battle-tested solution that takes full advantage of the tremendous technological and performance improvements inherent in the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. A true force multiplier, the KC-130J Super Hercules refuels both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft as well as conducts rapid ground refueling.
With this delivery, France joins a global community of KC-130J Super Hercules operators. In 2018, Germany announced the acquisition of a C-130J-30/KC-130J Super Hercules fleet, to be operated in partnership with France – making this the first operator relationship of this type in C-130J Super Hercules history.
The C-130J Super Hercules is the global standard in tactical airlift, providing a unique mix of versatility and performance to complete any mission – anytime, anywhere. The Super Hercules worldwide fleet has more than 2 million flight hours and is the airlifter of choice for 20 nations.
The RAF’s (Royal Air Force) new submarine-hunting Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) has touched down for the first time in the UK.
The aircraft is the first of a new £3 billion programme, including the purchase of nine state-of-the-art P-8A Poseidon jets, which will improve the UK’s ability to track hostile targets below and above the waves.
P-8A Poseidon aircraft will protect the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and be central to NATO missions across the North Atlantic, co-operating closely with the US and Norwegian Poseidon fleets.
The UK’s purchase of the P-8A Poseidon is in response to increased threats such as Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic returning to Cold War levels, while China is also investing heavily in new Arctic facilities, infrastructure and ice-capable ships.
Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: «Our Poseidon fleet will soon join an integrated UK force of fighter jets, ships, submarines, helicopters and highly-trained Royal Marines, ready to operate in Arctic conditions. The UK will not stand by if peace in the Arctic region is threatened. RAF Lossiemouth’s strategic northerly location makes it one of the most important air stations in the UK: already home to half of the UK’s Typhoon Force, and now sitting at the heart of our anti-submarine operations».
The P-8A Poseidon is designed to carry out extended surveillance missions at high and low altitudes. The aircraft is equipped with cutting-edge sensors which use high-resolution area mapping to find both submarines and surface vessels.
Each aircraft carries sonobuoys which are dropped from the aircraft into the sea to search for enemy submarines, surveying the battlespace under the sea and relaying data back to the aircraft.
Poseidon will also be armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk-54 torpedoes capable of attacking both surface and sub-surface targets.
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said: «The Poseidon MRA1 is a game-changing Maritime Patrol Aircraft. I am delighted and proud to see the ‘Pride of Moray’ and her crews returning to maritime patrol flying from Scotland, working alongside the Royal Navy to secure our seas and protect our nation».
First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said: «The arrival of the first Poseidon marks a significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations. This will give the UK the ability to conduct long range patrols and integrate seamlessly with our NATO allies to provide a world-leading capability. This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes. I look forward to working with the RAF and our international partners on this superb aircraft».
All nine UK Poseidons will be delivered to the RAF by the end of 2021 and achieve full operational capability from RAF Lossiemouth in 2024. The aircraft will be flown initially by 120 Squadron, the leading anti-submarine warfare squadron in World War 2, with 201 Squadron joining the programme in due course.
Named the ‘Pride of Moray’, the first UK Poseidon arrived at Kinloss Barracks, used previously by the RAF Nimrod MPA fleet, and now home to the Army’s specialist air support engineers, 39 Engineer Regiment.
P-8A Poseidon will temporarily operate from Kinloss until October 2020 while £75 million of planned runway and taxiway resurfacing works is completed at Lossiemouth by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. Routine Typhoon training will also temporarily relocate from Lossiemouth to Kinloss in June and July while the intersection of the runways there is resurfaced.
Michelle Sanders, DE&S P-8A Poseidon Delivery Team Leader, said: «Seeing the first RAF Poseidon MRA Mk1 landing in the UK is an incredibly proud moment for all of the team at DE&S. Close, collaborative working with colleagues in Air Capability, the US Navy and industry has helped us deliver this very capable aircraft. Moray’s RAF Lossiemouth is one of the most important air stations in the UK: it is already home to four RAF Typhoon squadrons – half of the RAF Typhoon Force – and will become the centre of operations for the UK Poseidon fleet».
UK defence is investing £470 million in upgrading RAF Lossiemouth’s infrastructure, including a new £132 million strategic facility for the P-8A Poseidon fleet, upgraded runways and operating surfaces, a new Air Traffic Control Tower, upgraded facilities for IX (Bomber) Squadron which moved to Scotland in 2019, new personnel accommodation, upgraded drainage and electrical supplies.
When these developments are complete there will be 550 additional military personnel based at RAF Lossiemouth, taking the total number of military personnel employed there to 2,532.
On January 31, 2020, Poland signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance to purchase 32 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) Aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin, and 33 Pratt & Whitney F-135 Engines.
The supersonic F-35A Lightning II represents a quantum leap in air dominance capability with enhanced lethality and survivability in hostile, anti-access airspace environments.
The United States’ offer to Poland for 32 F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft is valued at $4.6 billion.
The United States is providing a Total Package Approach that not only includes delivery of the 32 aircraft, but also provides aircraft, pilot and maintenance support training; advanced flight simulators, and ongoing aircraft maintenance; and a robust logistics support system.
The new capability for Airbus’ C295 to serve as an aerial tanker brings additional flexibility for this tactical airlifter, further increasing its already-proven versatility and opening additional mission opportunities.
Airbus Defence and Space developed a removable Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) kit for the twin-engine aircraft that utilises a 100-foot-long/30.5-meter-long deployable hose with a «basket» at the end – enabling the transfer of fuel to receiver aircraft equipped with a probe. A remote vision system allows crewmembers aboard the Airbus C295 tanker to monitor refuelling operations from the cargo cabin.
Recent flights to test the kit involved an Airbus-owned C295 that refuelled a C295 from the Spanish Air Force, as well as proximity tests with the Airbus C295 and a fast fighter aircraft – a Spanish Air Force F-18 Hornet.
The Airbus C295’s removable refuelling system – which weighs 1,500 kg/3,307 lbs. – consists of up to three additional fuel tanks, an operator’s console, and the hose drum unit.
Making the Airbus C295 an even more valuable platform
«Customers are increasingly interested in purchasing not just an aircraft, but a versatile platform that can be used for different missions», explained Martín Espinosa, the Airbus Defence and Space engineering technical manager responsible for the Airbus C295’s aerial refuelling test campaign. «The development of the air-to-air refuelling capabilities of the Airbus C295 forms part of this strategic vision».
The Airbus C295’s aerial refuelling capability would be a highly valuable mission-extender for customers using Airbus C295s. These customers include the armed forces of current and future Airbus C295 operators responsible for civil and military Search and Rescue (SAR) missions.
Additionally, it could serve as a cost-effective platform to train fighter pilots in the skills needed for air-to-air refuelling. «The Airbus C295 tanker kit could facilitate training of fighter pilots for missions involving refuelling, or even for AAR services on a lease-by-the-hour basis at a fraction of the cost of heavier aircraft», explained Luis Díaz-Miguel, the Tactical Airlifters Marketing Manager.
Captain Gabiña, a Spanish Air Force pilot involved in the aerial refuelling tests, gave high marks to the Airbus C295 in its new role as tanker. «The degree of difficulty in flight test is always high since it involves performing manoeuvers that no one has done before. It should be noted that due to the positive behaviour of the aircraft, the operation has been good and straightforward», he said.
The Spanish Air Force, Ejército del Aire, is the third European air force to opt for the Swiss-produced PC-21, the Next Generation Trainer. Pilatus has committed to delivering a total of 24 PC-21s to Spain. The single-engine turboprop trainer aircraft will replace the Casa C-101 jet trainers used since 1980.
The Ministry of Defence was looking for a new, highly efficient training platform to provide advanced training for Spain’s future military pilots tasked with protecting future generations. After a long and extremely professional evaluation, Pilatus beat several prestigious competitors to win the tender with the PC-21. The contract, which is worth over 200 million euros, was signed on 01 January, 2020 evening with the Spanish Dirección General de Armamento y Material (DGAM). Comprising an integrated training system, the order includes simulators developed and produced by Pilatus, spare parts and logistics support in addition to the PC-21 aircraft.
Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of Pilatus, is enthusiastic about this major order from Spain: «As a small Swiss aircraft manufacturer I’m delighted at our repeated success in winning through over large, international competitors. This result is proof that, with our PC-21, we can deliver the very best training system in the world».
Pilot training starts in 2021
The PC-21 will provide Spain with the most advanced training system currently on offer, and will also deliver a cost-effective, ecologically viable training platform. Experience with existing PC-21 customers has shown that the cost of training for a military pilot can be reduced by over 50 percent with the PC-21. These single-engine turboprop aircraft require much less fuel than any comparable jet trainer.
Oscar J. Schwenk commented further: «I’m delighted to see us win a new air force to add to our existing customer portfolio. We shall provide Ejército del Aire with the first-class customer service they are entitled to expect from Pilatus. Bienvenidos a Pilatus y muchas gracias por elegir el PC-21 – viva España»!
About the PC-21 success model
For years, people believed that single-engine turboprops would never replace jet trainers. But with defence budgets coming under increasing pressure, air forces are looking for new ways of managing and maintaining their complex systems in mission-ready condition. Seeking to support this change, Pilatus developed performance-related services specifically tailored to the PC-21 Training System. The goal is to ensure an affordable product to match the performance criteria defined by air force customers. That is achieved by providing a highly sophisticated and integrated service package in line with current air force requirements.
Prestigious air forces around the world have chosen the cost-effective, highly efficient training platform created by Pilatus. They are the proof that the PC-21 is the training system of the future. Since 2006, with the order for Spain, Pilatus has already sold 235 PC-21s to nine air forces – including Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, France and Australia.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), along with partner Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., completed the successful fourth flight test of the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) demonstrator January 23, 2020, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
During the test event, the Valkyrie demonstrator’s flight successfully met all of the test objectives, and the envelope was expanded beyond prior tests before safely landing in the Arizona desert. According to AFRL XQ-58A Valkyrie Program Manager Michael Wipperman, flying at higher altitude allowed researchers to gather data in an operational environment more representative of real-world flight conditions.
«Flying at this altitude helped us gather important data such as vehicle response to temperature and vibration, which will prepare us as we move toward our next flight test», said Wipperman.
This test event represents a return-to-flight for the XQ-58A Valkyrie, which experienced a mishap upon landing after a successful 90-minute flight in October 2019. Following a Safety Investigation Board probe into the mishap, Wipperman says the resulting information was outbriefed to the convening authority, and the recommendations were taken and approved to ensure the success of this latest test.
«We’re very pleased with the outcome of this fourth flight test», said Wipperman. «We were able to show recovery for a successful flight at even higher altitudes. Given that we have overcome these challenges, we have confidence that the aircraft can continue its progression into flying in more representative conditions».
Developed as part of AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, the XQ-58A Valkyrie is designed to be a runway-independent, reusable unmanned air vehicle capable of a broad range of operational missions. The XQ-58A Valkyrie was developed through low cost procurement and is designed to be significantly less expensive to operate than traditional piloted or unpiloted vehicles, while capable of achieving the same critical missions. Taking only 2.5 years from contract award to first flight, it is the first example of a class of unmanned air vehicles developed through this time-saving process, which seeks to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.
A total of five flights are planned for the XQ-58A Valkyrie, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems. The fifth flight, scheduled for later this year, will be a capability demonstration showcasing the ability of the vehicle to support operational needs.
Saab started assembly production on January 10, 2020 of its section of the T-7A Red Hawk aircraft, the advanced trainer developed and produced together with Boeing for the United States Air Force (USAF).
Saab is responsible for the development and production of the aft fuselage section for the advanced trainer, with seven aft units being produced in Linköping, Sweden for final assembly at Boeing’s U.S. facility in St. Louis, Missouri.
«In little over a year since we signed the Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract, we are starting production of our part of the T-7A Red Hawk jet. This achievement is possible due to the great collaboration between Saab and Boeing, and it is an honour to be part of this programme for the United States Air Force», says Jonas Hjelm, head of Saab business area Aeronautics.
The work is being performed in Linkoping, Sweden, after which future production of Saab’s part for the T-7A Red Hawk will be moved to our new U.S. site in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The Saab facility in West Lafayette is an important part of Saab’s growth strategy in the United States, creating strong organic capabilities for the development, manufacturing and sales of its products.
Boeing is the designated prime contractor for the T-7A Red Hawk advanced pilot training system acquisition by the U.S. Air Force. Saab and Boeing developed the aircraft with Saab as a risk-sharing partner. Saab received the EMD order from Boeing, on September 18, 2018.