Category Archives: Air Force

Ghostrider Block 30

The Air Force has received an upgraded version of its Ghostrider gunship.

Air Force Gets First Upgraded Ghostrider Gunship
Air Force Gets First Upgraded Ghostrider Gunship

The 4th Special Operations Squadron, 1st Special Operations Wing, at Hurlburt Field, Florida, received its first AC-130J Ghostrider Block 30 gunship this week during a ceremony at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Florida, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) said in a news release on March 8, 2019.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron currently operates and maintains the AC-130U Spooky.

The Block 30 model marks «a major improvement in software and avionics technology» over the original Block 20 software AC-130J, the release states.

«The Ghostrider is the newest and most modernized gunship in existence, fulfilling the same mission sets as the Spooky but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a precision strike package that includes trainable 30-mm and 105-mm weapons», according to the release.

The first Block 30 model will remain in a testing-only status for a year before it can deploy for battlefield operations, officials said.

Along with the 105-mm cannon the U-models sport, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30-mm cannon «almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill», Colonel Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st Special Operations Wing, told Military.com last May at Hurlburt.

The model achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.

The J-model also has improved turboprop engines, which reduce operational costs with better flight sustainability, the service has said.

It has the ability to launch 250-pound/113-kg, GPS- or laser-guided Small-Diameter Bombs (SDB). The aircraft is expected to carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, interchangeable with the SDBs on its wing pylons, AFSOC has said.

Palenske said last year that airmen have been waiting to see the aircraft in action.

«It’s going to be the most lethal, with the most loiter time, probably the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare. That’s my prediction», he said.

The fourth-generation J is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J-model sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force. The service plans to buy 32 of the aircraft.

Crews expect the J to be deployed in late 2019 or early 2020.

«It’s our big gun truck», Palenske said. «It’s going to have more powerful engines, a more efficient fuel rate. … You can keep the sensors on the bad guys longer … and it’s also going to have AGM-176 Griffin missiles on the back, so you can put 10 missiles on the back of them. It’s going to be awesome», he said.

SGM with Datalink

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) have successfully conducted initial testing of the Block I variant of the Dynetics GBU-69/B Small Glide Munition (SGM) incorporating a two-way datalink.

Dynetics Successfully Tests GBU-69 Small Glide Munition with Datalink
Dynetics Successfully Tests GBU-69 Small Glide Munition with Datalink

Flight tests, conducted in February achieved all test objectives including sending via the datalink updated target coordinates from the launch platform to the SGM, redirecting the munition to a secondary target located more than a mile from the initial target location and transmitting an in-flight command to inhibit munition arming. The munition also transmitted critical data such as its position, velocity, flight mode, and arming status back to the launch platform. Acknowledgement and verification of commands sent to and from the munition were verified via the Battle Management System on board the launch platform as well as a ground control station. Additionally, the SGM laser seeker was used for terminal guidance yielding a CE90 strike on the updated target coordinate.

 

Expanded System Capability

Dynetics initiated work with Raytheon Integrated Communications Systems to integrate the X-Net radio in 2017. Due to the highly collaborative design effort between the two companies, the SGM was able to accommodate the new hardware component within existing size, weight and power (SWaP) allocations for the munition electronics. A Dynetics-designed deployable mono-pole antenna, stowed under the wing prior to launch, is the only external modification made to the Block I datalink variant.

The RaytheonX-Net networked radio was designed to provide In-Flight Target Updates (IFTUs) in order to improve weapon performance in dynamic targeting environments and to receive telemetry data for both weapon performance and post-mission analysis. The X-Net is a new small form factor, software-defined, radio that meets the challenging SwaP requirements of small munitions. It is MIL-STD-6016 compatible and supports the SGM’s flyout range of over 20 nm.

The incorporation of a two-way datalink will greatly enhance the capabilities of the SGM allowing the weapon to be part of a network consisting of other airborne platforms and tactical air controllers. In the future, networked communications will facilitate collaborative strikes and lead to new tactics expanding SGM capabilities and effectiveness.

 

SGM’s History

The SGM, which became operational in 2017, was developed by Dynetics working in close collaboration with USSOCOM PEO-Fixed Wing under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). Dynetics invested corporate resources to develop the munition which was first demonstrated under the CRADA. The munition was tested, qualified and fielded in less than two years. The success of the SGM program was noted as one of the key accomplishments of the PEO-Fixed Wing Stand-Off Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGM) Team which was recently recognized with the 2018 David Packard Acquisition Excellence Award – the DOD’s highest acquisition team award recognizing exemplary performance and innovation acquiring and delivering products and capabilities for the Warfighter.

Dynetics has increased SGM production capacity in response to a 1000-unit order from USSOCOM in 2018. Other near term planned activities include integration of SGM on Special Operation Forces (SOF) unmanned aircraft and demonstration of a new composite low-collateral damage warhead. Both are scheduled to occur in 2019.

 

Small Glide Munition Additional Details

The SGM is managed out of the Dynetics Missile and Aviation Systems Division which specializes in the rapid and affordable development of products to meet specific and sometimes urgent customer needs. The division is the Corporation’s lead for research, development, prototyping, testing and production of advanced munitions and unmanned systems.

Inaugural flight

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona

This joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which has the objective to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. The objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost.

Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

«XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability», said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A (US Air Force video)

New H145

Airbus Helicopters is unveiling a new version of its best-selling H145 light twin-engine helicopter at Heli-Expo 2019 in Atlanta. Visible on the Airbus booth at the show, this latest upgrade brings a new, innovative five-bladed rotor to the multi-mission H145, increasing the useful load of the helicopter by 150 kg/331 lbs. while delivering new levels of comfort, simplicity and connectivity.

Airbus Helicopters unveils new H145 at Heli-Expo 2019
Airbus Helicopters unveils new H145 at Heli-Expo 2019

«We’re extremely happy to be able to showcase the new H145 to our customers here in Atlanta as this upgrade owes a lot to the feedback, they have provided us over the years about the aircraft», said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. «Our teams have worked hard to quickly bring to the market a set of innovations that we believe will contribute to the success of our customers’ operations. It is their trust in the H145 and all its predecessor variants over the last decades that have made it the fantastic helicopter it has become today, and I want to thank them for their continuous support».

The H145’s new five-bladed rotor brings a significant increase in overall performance, with a maximum take-off weight raised to 3,800 kg/8,378 lbs. and a useful load now equivalent to the aircraft’s empty weight. The simplicity of the new bearingless main rotor design will also ease maintenance operations, further improving the benchmark serviceability and reliability of the H145, while improving ride comfort for both passengers and crew. The reduced rotor diameter will allow the H145 to operate in more confined areas.

The new H145 introduces new levels of on-board connectivity to customers and operators through the integration of the wireless Airborne Communication System (wACS), allowing seamless and secure transmission of data generated by the helicopter in real-time, including in-flight.

European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification of the new H145 is planned for early 2020, with first deliveries to follow later that year. This upgrade will also be offered to current H145 customers as a retrofit option in order to deliver the same improvements in terms of useful load, simplified maintenance and comfort to the existing version of the H145.

Powered by two Safran Arriel 2E engines, the H145 is equipped with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) and the Helionix digital avionics suite. It includes a high performance 4-axis autopilot, increasing safety and reducing pilot workload. Its particularly low acoustic footprint makes the H145 the quietest helicopter in its class.

The new version of the H145 flies in the Pyrénées region of France
The new version of the H145 flies in the Pyrénées region of France

Modular Handgun

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units (U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein/Released)
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units (U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein/Released)

The M18 replaces the M9, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11 used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the M15 used for Military Working Dog training.

The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability, and durability to increase shooter lethality.

A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.

«This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter», said Staff Sergeant Richard Maner, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Armory at the 37th Training Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. «The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol».

«The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting», said Master Sergeant Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JBSA-Lackland. «It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before».

So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to Joint Base Andrews, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JBSA-Lackland, two Regional Training Centers (Guam and Fort Bliss), Malmstrom AFB and F.E. Warren Air Force Base (AFB). All Security Forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.

«Once all Security Forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare Airmen, Guardian Angel/Office of Special Projects (PJ) communities, Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and other high-level users», said Master Sergeant Shaun Ferguson, Air Force Security Forces Center (AFSFC) Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements Program Manager. «Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements».

New Generation Fighter

France and Germany have awarded the first-ever contract – a Joint Concept Study (JCS) – to Dassault Aviation and Airbus for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme. The launch of the JCS was announced by the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and her German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, at a meeting today in Paris.

Airbus and Dassault Aviation sign Joint Concept Study contract for Future Combat Air System
Airbus and Dassault Aviation sign Joint Concept Study contract for Future Combat Air System

The decision by both countries represents a milestone to secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in the military aviation sector for the coming decades. Starting date for the two-year study is 20 February 2019.

Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, said: «This new step is the cornerstone to ensure tomorrow’s European strategic autonomy. We, as Dassault Aviation, will mobilize our competencies as System Architect and Integrator, to meet the requirements of the Nations and to keep our continent as a world-class leader in the crucial field of Air Combat Systems».

Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said: «FCAS is one of the most ambitious European defence programmes of the century. With today’s contract signature, we are finally setting this high-technology programme fully in motion. Both companies are committed to providing the best solutions to our Nations with regard to the New Generation Fighter as well as the systems of systems accompanying it. We are truly excited about having been given this opportunity and appreciate the trust placed in both our companies».

This planned Next Generation Weapons System will consist of a highly capable manned «New Generation Fighter» (NGF) teaming with a set of new and upgraded weapons as well as a set of unmanned systems (Remote Carriers) linked by a Combat Cloud and its Ecosystem embedded in a System-of-Systems FCAS architecture.

The JCS is based on the bi-nationally agreed High Level Common Operational Requirements Document (HLCORD) signed at Berlin Air Show ILA in April 2018 between the Defence Ministers of France and Germany as well as respective national concept studies.

Its aim is to conceptualise the different FCAS capabilities and to pave the way for future design, industrialisation, as well as an estimated full operational capability by 2040. The study will prepare and initiate demonstrator programmes for launch at the Paris Air Show in June 2019.

First Two KC-46A

The first two Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aircraft departed Everett’s Paine Field this morning for McConnell Air Force Base (AFB), where the 22nd Air Refueling Wing (22 ARW) will be the first unit to have the world’s newest air refueling tankers.

The first two Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tankers departs Everett, Washington for McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. These aircraft, the first delivered by the program, will join the U.S. Air Force 22nd Air Refueling Wing (Boeing photo)
The first two Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tankers departs Everett, Washington for McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. These aircraft, the first delivered by the program, will join the U.S. Air Force 22nd Air Refueling Wing (Boeing photo)

McConnell, in Wichita, Kansas, will receive two more tankers in the weeks ahead. Then Oklahoma’s Altus Air Force Base will receive four planes to support aircrew training.

The Air Force will soon begin evaluating the Boeing KC-46’s systems in operationally realistic scenarios, which is required before the aircraft can be used in combat. It will also continue validating the Boeing KC-46’s refueling capabilities, with aircraft including the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy cargo plane, and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter. Prior testing involved the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane, and McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle and McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighters, among others.

 

General Characteristics

Primary Function Aerial refueling and airlift
Prime Contractor The Boeing Company
Power Plant 2 × Pratt & Whitney 4062
Thrust 62,000 lbs./275.790 kN/28,123 kgf – Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)
Wingspan 157 feet, 8 inches/48.1 m
Length 165 feet, 6 inches/50.5 m
Height 52 feet, 10 inches/15.9 m
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 415,000 lbs./188,240 kg
Maximum Landing Weight 310,000 lbs./140,614 kg
Fuel Capacity 212,299 lbs./96,297 kg
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load 207,672 lbs./94,198 kg
Maximum Cargo Capacity 65,000 lbs./29,484 kg
Maximum Airspeed 360 KCAS (Knots Calibrated AirSpeed)/0.86 M/414 mph/667 km/h
Service Ceiling 43,100 feet/13,137 m
Maximum Distance 7,299 NM/8,400 miles/13,518 km
Pallet Positions 18 pallet positions
Air Crew 15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew
Passengers 58 total (normal operations); up to 114 total (contingency operations)
Aeromedical Evacuation 58 patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory) with the AE Patient Support Pallet configuration; 6 integral litters carried as part of normal aircraft configuration equipment

 

Bell helicopters

Bell announced that PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), has signed a purchase agreement with the Indonesian Army for nine Bell 412EPI helicopters.

Indonesian Army selects nine Bell 412EPI helicopters to fleet
Indonesian Army selects nine Bell 412EPI helicopters to fleet

Under the contract, Bell will deliver the nine helicopters to PTDI, who will then perform customization work before final delivery to the Indonesian Army. In 2016, Bell and PTDI signed an expanded Industrial and Commercial Agreement which enabled the two companies to expand their support and services in Indonesia to Bell helicopter operators.

Bell has been present in Indonesia for more than 50 years with an estimated 110 aircraft currently in operation. Bell’s presence in Indonesia includes a Bell-authorized service facility, a certified maintenance facility and dedicated customer service engineers located in Jakarta.

 

Specifications

SPEEDS AT MAX GROSS WT
Velocity to Never Exceed (VNE) 140 knots/161 mph/259 km/h
Maximum Cruise 122 knots/140 mph/226 km/h
Range at Long Range Cruise Speed (VLRC) 363 NM/418 miles/672 km
Max Endurance 3.8 hrs
CAPACITIES
Standard Seating 1 + 14
Maximum Seating 1 + 14
Standard Fuel 331 US gal/1,251 litres
Auxiliary Fuel (Optional) 33 or 163 US gal/123 or 617 liters
Cabin Volume 220 feet³/6.2 m³
Aft (Baggage) Compartment Volume 28 feet³/0.8 m³
WEIGHTS
Empty Weight (IFR Standard Configuration) 7,071 lbs./3,207 kg
Maximum Gross Weight (Internal) 11,900 lbs./5,398 kg
Maximum Gross Weight (Internal, Optional) 12,200 lbs./5,534 kg
Useful Load (Internal, IFR Standard Configuration) 4,829 lbs./2,190 kg
Useful Load (Internal, Optional, IFR standard configuration) 5,129 lbs./2,190 kg
Cargo Hook Capacity 4,500 lbs./2,041 kg

 

Maiden flight

According to Kelvin Wong, Jane’s International Defence Review correspondent, Zhong Tian Guide Control Technology Company (ZT Guide), a Xi’an-based manufacturer of electronic and industrial equipment, announced on 20 January that it has successfully completed the maiden flight of its Fei Long-1 (Flying Dragon-1 or FL-1) Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (MALE UAV).

The Fei Long-1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle made its public debut in November 2018 (Source: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong)
The Fei Long-1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle made its public debut in November 2018 (Source: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong)

The prototype FL-1 – which was first unveiled at the Airshow China 2018 exhibition in Zhuhai and called the «Large Payload Long Endurance Universal Unmanned Transportation Platform» – was launched from Pucheng Neifu Airport near Xi’an following 18 months of Research and Development (R&D) work by ZT Guide’s Zhong Tian Fei Long subsidiary, the company said in its statement.

According to official specifications the FL-1 has a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 3,200 kg/7,055 lbs. with a payload capacity of 1,400 kg/3,086.5 lbs. inclusive of fuel. Two hardpoints can be mounted under each wing, with each hardpoint capable of carrying up to 250 kg/551 lbs. of stores.

The FL-1 bears a strong physical resemblance to the 3,300 kg/7,275 lbs.-class Cai Hong-5 (Rainbow-5 or CH-5) MALE UAVs manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). It has an aerodynamically shaped fuselage that measures about 10 m/32.8 feet long and features a bulged nose section and retractable tricycle undercarriage, mid-mounted wings that are approximately 20 m/65.6 feet in span, and a V-shaped tail assembly incorporating a pair of fins and rudders.

Both air vehicles are also equipped with a ventral Electro-Optical/InfraRed (EO/IR) turret, although the FL-1 features pronounced wing root fairings, which offer some visual distinction from the CH-5.

The air vehicle is powered by a rear-mounted heavy fuel engine of an undisclosed type with a dorsal intake. This engine drives a three-bladed pusher propeller, which enables the vehicle to cruise at speeds of up to 240 km/h/149 mph/130 knots at altitudes of 16,404-19,685 feet/5,000-6,000 m and attain an operating ceiling of 26,246 feet/8,000 m.

NG helmet

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) Human Systems Division working with members of the Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps or ATAC, one of the center’s premier leadership development programs, are in the early stages of acquiring the next generation helmet for aircrews in fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of the F-35 Lightning II.

A helmet sits turned on at a booth during AFWERX Helmet Challenge at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nevada, November 14, 2018. The purpose of AFWERX Las Vegas is to solve problems for the Air Force by getting entrepreneurs and innovators to come together to brain storm ideas (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)
A helmet sits turned on at a booth during AFWERX Helmet Challenge at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nevada, November 14, 2018. The purpose of AFWERX Las Vegas is to solve problems for the Air Force by getting entrepreneurs and innovators to come together to brain storm ideas (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

Recently, with recommendations from ATAC, the Human Systems Division awarded $600,000 in grants via AFWERX Vegas to three companies to develop and present prototypes for the helmet by the end of May 2019.

The team worked closely with AFWERX Vegas, an Air Force innovation hub specializing in engaging entrepreneurs and private sector vendors, to identify the pool of companies that could potentially develop the new helmet faster, more efficiently and with cutting edge technology.

Replacing legacy helmets on fixed-wing aircraft has become a priority in part because over time new requirements have added sub-systems, and devices, that the helmets were not originally designed for.

«It (legacy helmet) is a 1980’s designed helmet that was not made to withstand and balance everything – technology – that we are putting on them», said 1st Lieutenant Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Human Systems Division. «If the weight is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain. Our goal is to find a helmet that is lighter, has more stability and is compatible fixed-winged aircraft and equipment».

Michael DeRespinis, program manager with the Human Systems Division said that working with AFWERX has been beneficial in that it has helped increase competition to replace the helmet and is facilitating the rapid delivery of prototypes.

DeRespinis also said that the division would like to select one of the prototypes and put that company on contract by September 2019 for further development activity and future production.

Because of AFWERX Vegas, a process that in the past would have taken years to complete, will now only take months, which in turn will allow the Human Systems Division to field the helmets to aircrews faster.

The ATAC team comprised of a group of competitively selected mid-level military and civilian acquisition professionals from across AFLCMC, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center, are focused not only on supporting the Human Systems Division during this process, but also on figuring out the best way to transition technology.

«Innovation hubs like AFWERX are starting to spin up around the Air Force», said Adam Vencill, a member of ATAC and a program manager by trade. «A challenge the Air Force has is getting products on contract that comes out of these hubs. We (ATAC members) were tasked to create a business model that helps that transition process».

Nicole Barnes, ATAC contract specialist and member said that working with AFWERX, the Human Systems Division and being part of a rapid acquisition process has been rewarding. She added that the ATAC program is an example of leadership’s commitment to the workforce and to positive change.