Category Archives: Air Force

Demonstration Flights

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) today announced the first flight of the Guardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in Japan during an opening ceremony on Iki Island. The demonstration flights, taking place over the next three weeks, intend to promote the civil and scientific applications of the RPA.

GA-ASI Begins Demonstration Flights in Japan
GA-ASI Begins Demonstration Flights in Japan

«We thank the Mayor of Iki and the many other public and private stakeholders for their making this demonstration possible», said Linden Blue, CEO GA-ASI. «We believe that these flights of long-endurance RPAs in Japan’s maritime environment will provide valuable information, and we look forward to reviewing the important data gathered from these flights».

Mayor Shirakawa provided a statement, which said: «We are delighted to host the RPA flight demonstration on our island of Iki. The demonstration is an important milestone for the many peaceful uses of RPAs, including maritime disaster security and maritime resource management. Iki is located near the boundaries of Japan, so surveillance capabilities are an important matter for us. Furthermore, holding the nation’s first demonstration of this kind has great economic significance for our island. I thank the national government’s ministries and agencies and the many other public and private stakeholders for their cooperation».

The Guardian will collect data for scientific research that will be shared across multiple government agencies, while operating from the island of Iki, in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture.

This is the first demonstration of a long endurance RPA by a private company in Japan. The aircraft’s sensors include a long-range maritime surface-search radar, stabilized optical and infrared video cameras, and an active collision-avoidance system, which includes a short range air-to-air radar. This configuration is similar to that operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland security over the maritime approaches to the U.S.

For demonstration purposes, the Guardian flights will consist of approximately 10 five-hour sorties over a three-week period, originating out of Iki Airport; however, this aircraft configuration is capable of more than 20 hours endurance in a single sortie. The Guardian system will demonstrate various missions, including:

  • Meteorological, disaster-relief and oceanic observations;
  • Marine accidents and rescue support;
  • Air space management and support of communications.

GA-ASI is leading the demonstrations in cooperation with Iki Airport personnel and Japanese national authorities. The sensor data collected by Guardian will be provided to scientific research institutions, and flight data will be given to airspace management organizations to help establish procedures for using RPA systems in national and international civil airspace.

GA-ASI has sent its own team of experienced RPA pilots, sensor operators, and maintenance personnel to Japan to ensure safe operations during all phases of the demonstration. The demonstration is funded by GA-ASI and the equipment used belongs to the company.

Solar UAV

A new solar electric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which has the potential to fly for up to a year before needing maintenance, has become a step closer to reality following a new agreement between two cutting-edge British companies, BAE Systems and Prismatic.

Solar UAV to be developed with the potential to stay airborne for a year
Solar UAV to be developed with the potential to stay airborne for a year

Engineers from Prismatic and BAE Systems will collaborate on the development of the new solar powered High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) UAV known as PHASA-35, with work already underway to prepare the first aircraft to be ready for flight tests in 2019.

The technology would offer a year-round, low cost persistent service for a wide range of needs including surveillance and vital communications to remote areas, using only the sun to power the aircraft during the day and recharge the batteries for overnight operation.

Solar HALE vehicles offer a significantly cheaper alternative to conventional satellite technology, with PHASA-35 (standing for Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft), being a concept solar electric UAV that uses proven, long life battery technology and ultra-lightweight solar cells to potentially maintain flight for up to 12 months.

The PHASA-35 concept has a 35-metre/115-foot wingspan and weighs just 150 kg/331 lbs. – its lightweight, efficient build allows it to fly at high altitudes for long periods of time.

A quarter scale model (named PHASE-8) completed a successful maiden flight in 2017, with Prismatic Ltd and BAE Systems now looking to take the technology a step further.

BAE Systems will invest in the development and flight testing of the PHASA-35 system as part of its drive to continually develop new technologies to support aircraft of the future, working collaboratively with SMEs and academia.

BAE Systems has a portfolio of patents and patent applications covering approximately 2000 inventions internationally, and under the agreement with Prismatic, it will provide expertise in aerospace technology and project management to progress the PHASA-35 programme through to a marketable offering.

First light

The U.S. Air Force’s fourth Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite transmitted its first images back to Earth. The milestone, known as «first light», occurred in February when the SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, turned on its powerful sensors for the first time during space vehicle checkout.

The U.S. Air Force’s SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite encapsulated within its protective fairings prior to its January 19, 2018 launch
The U.S. Air Force’s SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite encapsulated within its protective fairings prior to its January 19, 2018 launch

SBIRS GEO Flight-4 is the latest satellite to join the Air Force’s orbiting missile warning constellation. Equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, the satellite collects data for use by the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

Launched on January 19, SBIRS GEO Flight-4 began responding to the Air Force’s 460th Space Wing’s commands just 37 minutes after liftoff. Using its liquid apogee engine, the satellite successfully propelled itself to a Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) altitude of about 22,000 miles/35,406 km. There, it deployed its solar arrays and antennas, and began initial check out.

«First light was a tremendous milestone for SBIRS GEO Flight-4 and we are very pleased with the high quality and definition of the images we received back», said Tom McCormick, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) systems mission area. «With the launch of this satellite, SBIRS can now provide global coverage, with better-than-specified sensor pointing accuracy and the ability to detect even more targets than anticipated».

SBIRS GEO Flight-4 completes the baseline SBIRS constellation. It joins SBIRS GEO Flights-1, 2 and 3, which were launched in 2011, 2013 and 2017 respectively.

In 2014, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.86 billion contract for the SBIRS GEO-5 and 6 spacecrafts. Following that award, the company offered the government a no-cost contract modification, transitioning to its modernized LM 2100 satellite bus, to demonstrate how production cycle times and costs could be drastically reduced on future space vehicles. The modification also provides improved resiliency and validates how modernized sensor suites could be incorporated.

SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are currently greater than 50 percent through production and on track for delivery to the Air Force very early in the next decade.

H-X program

On 27 April 2018, the Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command sent a Request for Quotation (RFQ) concerning the HX Fighter Programme to the governments of Great Britain, France, Sweden and the United States to be forwarded to the five companies who responded to the requests for information.

Finland has sent invitations to tender to five governments to compete for its H-X program to replace its F-18 Hornet fighters, which calls for 64 new fighters and has a tentative cost of about €10 billion (FAF photo)
Finland has sent invitations to tender to five governments to compete for its H-X program to replace its F-18 Hornet fighters, which calls for 64 new fighters and has a tentative cost of about €10 billion (FAF photo)

They were requested to give a quotation on the following aircraft: Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet (United States), Dassault Rafale (France), Eurofighter Typhoon (Great Britain), Lockheed Martin F-35 (United States) and Saab Gripen (Sweden).

The Finnish Government’s Defence Policy Report and a number of Finnish defence administration plans set out the guidelines for the RFQ. The Government’s Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy endorsed the Programme, and Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö authorised the Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command to submit the RFQ.

 

Scope of procurement

The aim of the HX Fighter Programme is to replace the operational capability of the Finnish Air Force’s Hornet fleet that is to be phased out as from 2025. The Programme is tasked to define, on the basis of the available resources, the best possible military capability and bring the maximum added value to the entire defence system.

The desired capability has been defined and based on this an entire procurement package will be negotiated and built around each multi-role fighter option. The package contains 64 aircraft along with the technical systems, training systems, maintenance tools, testing equipment and spare parts as well as weapons, sensors and other type-specific support functions.

To reduce the risk involved in the integration of different systems, the tenderers are requested to provide comprehensive solutions meeting the operational requirements. Each tenderer is responsible, together with its government, for the complete package including effective weapons, sensors and special systems, system integration and mission support systems.

 

Decision-making considerations

The Decision-making model and Evaluation will be based on the following decision-making areas: Military Capability, Security of Supply, Industrial Participation, Affordability, and Security and Defence policy assessment.

The procurement will have an impact on the Finnish Defence Forces’ operations and on the Finnish Air Force’s combat capability until 2060. The selected system should offer the best capabilities, supporting elements and capacity for further development for the entire life cycle.

The military capability assessment will be made using five scenarios: Counter-Air, Counter-Land, Counter-Sea, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Long-Range Strike. The candidates’ capability to adapt to the Air Force’s agile combat support at different types of operating bases in dispersed locations will also be assessed.

The tenderer shall provide an industrial cooperation and in-country security of supply solution to enable wartime operations. The operating and maintenance costs of the selected system shall be covered with the defence budget.

Military Capability is the only decision-making area where the candidates will be compared. The other areas are assessed as pass/fail.

Defence and security policy will be assessed separately.

 

Procurement procedure and schedule

In the RFQ phase, the tenderers will provide binding information on the solutions, to be assessed by the HX Fighter Programme. The procurement procedure is divided into several phases. The RFQ that was now sent starts the first phase of negotiations, during which the preliminary candidate-specific procurement packages will be determined. The next phase will commence in the second half of 2019. During this phase, the final contents of the procurement packages will be negotiated and determined with each tenderer. The final quotations will be requested in 2020, at the end of the second negotiating phase. The Finnish Government will decide on the procurement in 2021.

The HX Fighter Programme aims to negotiate the best possible solution with each tenderer.

 

Industrial participation

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö has decided on an industrial participation obligation for the HX Fighter Programme: The HX Programme includes an obligation to the tenderers for industrial participation at a minimum of 30 per cent of the total contract value. This will be sufficient to ensure the domestic industry’s significant involvement, ensure sufficient security of supply and reinforce Finland’s defence technological and industrial foundations.

Utility Aircraft

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation Inc. announced the renewal of their exclusive teaming agreement for a next-generation Fixed-Wing Utility Aircraft (FUA) on April 27, 2018.

Sierra Nevada Corporation announces renewal of exclusive teaming agreement with Textron Aviation
Sierra Nevada Corporation announces renewal of exclusive teaming agreement with Textron Aviation

«SNC evaluated the available aircraft manufacturers and was pleased to select and partner with Textron Aviation», said Tim Owings, executive vice president of SNC’s Integrated Mission Systems (IMS) business area. «Textron Aviation is known as an industry leader in building safe, reliable and flexible aircraft. Our exclusive agreement with Textron Aviation will provide our customers with the best value and one of the most capable aircraft on the market today».

SNC, with more than 50 years of experience in systems integration, equipment manufacturing and servicing for both commercial and military aircraft, will lead the effort as the prime contractor, designing and integrating the Mission Equipment Package. As a world leader in aviation and the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for the Beechcraft King Air aircraft, Textron Aviation has a versatile and capable fleet, providing best-of-breed aircraft and OEM support from turbo prop to jet.

«Textron Aviation is happy to be exclusively partnered with Sierra Nevada Corporation», said Bob Gibbs, vice president, Special Mission Sales. «Together we will develop an aircraft that can be manufactured specifically for this FUA effort. Combining Textron Aviation’s 90 years of unrivaled innovation, proven performance and manufacturing capability to build reliable, flexible aircraft and SNC’s track record for integrating military mission equipment will provide the best aircraft for the mission».

SNC’s IMS business area is a trusted provider of high-quality, multi-mission Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) products and services with years of experience supporting the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, commercial and international customers. The IMS team engineers, builds, integrates, modifies, fields and supports low-cost, turn-key air- and ground-based ISR systems and has sustained over 7,300,000 multi-mission/multi-intelligence flight hours worldwide.

MALE Program

The first full scale model of the European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft (MALE RPAS) was unveiled on April 26, 2018 during a ceremony held at the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show, which opened its gates at Schönefeld airport.

Leading aerospace contractors from France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled at the Berlin air show a full-scale mockup of the future European MALE drone, emphasizing their commitment to the program (Airbus photo)
Leading aerospace contractors from France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled at the Berlin air show a full-scale mockup of the future European MALE drone, emphasizing their commitment to the program (Airbus photo)

The reveal ceremony, led by Dirk Hoke, Airbus Defence and Space Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO and Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director, confirms the commitment of the four European States and Industrial partners to jointly develop a sovereign solution for European Defence and Security.

The unveiling of the full-scale model and the reaffirmed commitment comes after a nearly two-year definition study launched in September 2016 by the four participating nations Germany, France, Italy and Spain and follows the Declaration of Intent to work together on a European MALE unmanned aerial system signed by the countries in May 2015.

«While still a lot of work lies ahead of us, this full-scale model represents a first milestone of what Europe can achieve in a high-technology sector if it bundles its industrial strength and know-how», said Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. «The MALE RPAS will become an integral part in guaranteeing Europe’s sovereignty in the future. This programme is ideally suited to meet urgent capability requirements of Europe’s armed forces. This innovative partnership also eases the countries’ constrained budgetary situation through clever pooling of research and development funds», he added.

«Today’s unveiling reflects our companies’ total dedication to the European Defence and Security sovereignty. Cooperation and high technology legitimate the leadership of the European Industry and guarantee the strategic autonomy of Europe», declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. «Innovative programmes through efficient partnerships will serve European competitiveness and will offer new alternatives to the off-the-shelf acquisition of non-European products. Dassault Aviation reaffirms its full support to Airbus Defence and Space as programme leader of the MALE RPAS».

«Unmanned technologies and their applications represent one of the key technological foundations for the future evolution of European Defence Industries», said Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director. «The European MALE RPAS is orientated to foster the development of high technologies and will contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe providing Armed Forces with a high performance and sovereign operational system», he added.

Airlift for NATO

The world’s largest aircraft, the AN-225 «Mriya», landed in Berlin, Germany today, as its Ukrainian owner, Antonov Company, announced it is ready to provide additional support to the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) programme with the necessary number of AN-124-100 aircraft for strategic air transportations in the interest of NATO and EU nations.

After Russia recently withdrew from its airlift support agreements with NATO, Ukraine’s Antonov has offered to step in with its fleet of airlifters and has brought the world’s largest aircraft to the Berlin Air Show to make its point (AC photo)
After Russia recently withdrew from its airlift support agreements with NATO, Ukraine’s Antonov has offered to step in with its fleet of airlifters and has brought the world’s largest aircraft to the Berlin Air Show to make its point (AC photo)

The AN-225, which is operated by Antonov Company’s air transportation division, Antonov Airlines, is taking part in the Berlin Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace (ILA) Air Show.

The AN-225, with its 250-tonne payload capacity, is part of a fleet of heavy lift aircraft operated by Antonov Airlines, including seven AN-124-100s, two of which have an increased payload capacity of 150 tonnes.

The fleet is undergoing a modernisation programme, ensuring it can continue to safely fly outsized and emergency cargo globally, with a rapid turnaround time.

The AN-225 will be at the ILA Berlin Air Show 2018 until Sunday, 29th April 2018.

Antonov Airlines specialises in the transport of outsized and project cargo worldwide using its fleet of seven AN-124-100-type «Ruslan» aircraft with up to 150 tonnes payload, its 60-tonne payload AN-22, and its unique 250-tonne payload AN-225 «Mriya», which is the largest aircraft in the world, and smaller AN-26 and AN-74 aircraft.

More than 28 years after launching as the first company to offer the AN-124-100 commercially, Antonov Airlines continues to deliver air cargo solutions across the aerospace, defence, energy, humanitarian, industrial, automotive, and oil and gas sectors.

Antonov Airlines is a division of Antonov Company, headquartered in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a Ukrainian state-owned enterprise, which designs, develops, produces and maintains the AN aircraft.

The UK Office of Antonov Airlines is based at Diamond Hangar, London Stansted Airport. The USA Office of Antonov Airlines is based at Houston, Texas.

Manned-Unmanned
Teaming capabilities

Airbus Helicopters and Schiebel have tested Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) capabilities between an H145 platform and a CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS), thus becoming the first European helicopter manufacturers to demonstrate this technology with the highest level of interoperability (LOI°5).

Airbus Helicopters and Schiebel have tested Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM\u002DT) capabilities between an H145 platform and a CAMCOPTER S\u002D100 Unmanned Air System (UAS), thus becoming the first European helicopter manufacturers to demonstrate this technology with the highest level of interoperability (LOI°5)
Airbus Helicopters and Schiebel have tested Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM\u002DT) capabilities between an H145 platform and a CAMCOPTER S\u002D100 Unmanned Air System (UAS), thus becoming the first European helicopter manufacturers to demonstrate this technology with the highest level of interoperability (LOI°5)

The companies carried out test flights with the support of the Austrian Armaments and Defence Technology Agency. The two aircraft jointly flew different scenarios including the detection of objects hidden in places not accessible by traditional helicopters. The S-100 was controlled and piloted by an operator sitting in the helicopter. During the flights, the control was also temporarily handed over to a ground-based control station by the pilot in order to simulate the return of the manned helicopter for refueling.

The trials carried out by Airbus Helicopters and Schiebel went up to MUM-T LOI 5. This allows the manned platform to exercise full control of the UAS including its take-off and landing. LOI 1, the lowest level, is the indirect receipt and /or transmission of sensor data obtained by the UAS to the manned aircraft.

«Manned-Unmanned Teaming multiplies the capabilities of both systems», said Mark R. Henning, Program Manager at Airbus Helicopters. Smaller UAS with vertical take-off and landing capabilities can, for example, fly around obstacles as trees or buildings closer than a helicopter could. They are able to explore unknown territory and deliver information to the helicopter crew which is operating from a safe position and which can then step in with the helicopter’s superior effects, having received a clear picture from the UAS. Our airborne MUM-T management system will become a highly attractive feature for our entire product range including the NH90, NFH, and the Tiger together with the H145 as it adds an extremely valuable operational capability. The MUM-T capability can be implemented in any kind of helicopter and can interact with all types of unmanned systems, in particular Airbus Helicopters’ new VSR 700 UAS.

In the framework of the test, the challenges of data transfer interference and electromagnetic compatibility of the UAS with the helicopter as well as the integration of a complete UAS mission planning and control system into the helicopter’s architecture were successfully managed. The S-100 mission planning and control system was provided by Schiebel. The next step will be to optimize the human machine interface based on a thorough analysis of the crew workload using the results of the flight tests.

The H145 is a tried-and-tested, twin-engine H145 civil helicopter that was first delivered in 2014. It is a rugged workhorse and best in its class for rough EMS and police missions. The H145M is the helicopter’s military version.

Airbus Helicopters and Schiebel successfully demonstrate the highest levels of Manned-Unmanned Teaming capabilities
Airbus Helicopters and Schiebel successfully demonstrate the highest levels of Manned-Unmanned Teaming capabilities

Preliminary design
review

According to Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times correspondent, a U.S. Air Force official told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that the new B-21 Raider bomber has completed its preliminary design review and that he was «comfortable» with the progress made by builder Northrop Grumman Corp.

B-21 Raider bomber finishes preliminary design review, and Air Force official is 'comfortable' with progress
B-21 Raider bomber finishes preliminary design review, and Air Force official is ‘comfortable’ with progress

The bomber is now on its way to critical design review, said Lieutenant General Arnold Bunch Jr., the military deputy of the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.

Citing the «nature of the work», Bunch declined to go into further detail about how the Air Force planned to spend the $2.3 billion it requested for the bomber program for fiscal year 2019 when asked by Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas). However, he said the program was «continuing engineering manufacturing development» and «some of those risk reduction areas».

The first set of software for the platform has been delivered, and the program is getting «set up» for the next set of software to come in, Bunch told the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Airland during a hearing about Air Force modernization efforts.

«We’re making everything ready to begin our test program in the future», he said. «We’re making good progress. I’m comfortable today with where we’re at, and the progress that Northrop Grumman is making on the program».

Northrop Grumman, which won the bomber contract in 2015, is building the aircraft at its plant in Palmdale. The plant also churns out the Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drone for the Air Force, the closely related Triton drone for the Navy and the center fuselage for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The defense giant has been hiring at a rapid pace in Palmdale and expects to have 5,200 employees at the site by late 2019.

Hypersonic strike

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Space, Huntsville, Alabama, is the successful offeror of a $928,000,000 ceiling indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the hypersonic conventional strike weapon.

Lockheed Martin beat out two competitors to win the $928 million contract to develop a hypersonic conventional strike weapon for the US Air Force, a Mach 5+ missile to follow on from the X-51A Waverider technology demonstrator (USAF photo)
Lockheed Martin beat out two competitors to win the $928 million contract to develop a hypersonic conventional strike weapon for the US Air Force, a Mach 5+ missile to follow on from the X-51A Waverider technology demonstrator (USAF photo)

This contract provides for the design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon.

Work will be performed in Huntsville, Alabama. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and three offers were received. Fiscal 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be obligated at the time of award on the first task order.

Air Force Life Cycle Management, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity (FA8682-18-D-0003).