Category Archives: Air Force

Fire control radar

Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered its 500th AN/APG-81 fire control radar for the F-35 Lightning II. The Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array is the cornerstone of the F-35’s advanced sensor suite, providing unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.

Northrop Grumman delivered its 500th AN/APG-81 radar for the F-35 Lightning II (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman Corporation)

«As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team, our continued investment in facilities and equipment, production enhancements in process and design, and expanded supply chain capability through second sourcing helped reach this milestone», said Chris Fitzpatrick, director, F-35 programs, Northrop Grumman. «The 500th delivery of this top-of-the-line fighter radar was made possible by our continuous focus on quality and excellence across our company».

The AN/APG-81 radar has long-range active and passive air-to-air and air-to-ground modes that support a wide range of demanding missions. These modes are complemented by an array of stealth features as well as electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions.

Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35. In addition to producing the AN/APG-81 radar, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

ATHENA

Lockheed Martin recently demonstrated their laser weapon system for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) at a government test range at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where the system successfully engaged and shot down multiple fixed wing and rotary drones.

The ATHENA system shown here destroyed multiple drones in a real-world demonstration for the Air Force

The Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) operated in a fully-netted engagement environment with a government Command and Control (C2) system and radar sensor. The radar track was provided to airmen who operated ATHENA via cues from the C2, then ATHENA’s beam director slewed, acquired, tracked and defeated the drone with a high-energy laser.

Validating this type of full kill-chain performance has been a priority of the U.S. Air Force and other branches of the Department of Defense, and it remains a requirement for laser weapons to be effective against Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) on the battlefield.

«We’ve watched in recent news this type of laser weapon solution is essential for deterring unmanned vehicle type threats, so it’s an exciting time for us to watch airmen compete Lockheed Martin’s critical technology. ATHENA has evolved to ensure integration and agility are key and it remains an affordable capability for the warfighter», said Sarah Reeves, vice president of Missile Defense Programs for Lockheed Martin.

The ATHENA system was developed by Lockheed Martin to integrate seamlessly and provide a cost-effective, complementary anti-drone capability with the network of systems the warfighter is already using. ATHENA was operated by USAF personnel during this demonstration, and it was able to destroy multiple drones in engagements representative of what is being encountered by U.S. armed forces today.

The ATHENA high-energy laser system is transportable and therefore enables the Air Force to emplace it anywhere they need to defend bases and high-value assets.

Jammer Pod

Saab carried out the first flight tests with its new advanced Electronic Attack Jammer Pod (EAJP) with successful results on 4 November 2019. The pod’s interfaces with the aircraft’s hardware and software as well as cockpit control and monitoring were tested during the flight.

Saab’s New Electronic Attack Jammer Pod in the Air

The purpose of Saab’s new EAJP pod is to protect aircraft against radars by sophisticated jamming functions, thereby blocking the opponent’s ability to attack them. The first flight marks an important step of the pod’s development programme.

Saab is sharpening its electronic attack capabilities and the new advanced pod is an important element of this development. The EAJP is a strong complement to the built-in electronic attack capabilities of the highly advanced on-board electronic warfare system on Saab’s new Gripen E/F fighter. It can also be used on other aircraft types. The pod forms part of Saab’s Arexis family of electronic warfare systems.

«We performed the flight tests with a Gripen fighter and this new pod is an important part of the development of our new electronic attack capability», says Anders Carp, Senior Vice President and Head of Saab’s business area Surveillance.

Electronic warfare systems are also used for self-protection by passively detecting hostile radar systems and missiles, protecting the aircraft or platform by using active and passive countermeasures. Offensive electronic warfare, also known as electronic attack, involves actively sending jamming signals to disrupt the sensors in the enemy’s air defence systems so they do no longer constitute a threat.

Indian Rafale

October 8th, 2019, Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, hosted the handover ceremony of the first Indian Air Force Rafale in Mérignac, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale final assembly facility. The event was placed under the high patronage of the Honourable Shri Rajnath Singh, Minister of Defence of India and the Honourable Ms. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces of France.

Ceremony held in Dassault Aviation Mérignac facility on October 8th, 2019, in the frame of the celebrations of Air Force Day

The ceremony, 3 years after the signature of the contract in 2016 for the acquisition of 36 Rafale to equip the Indian Air Force, marks the concretization of the strategic relationship between India and France and the celebration of the history of mutual trust between India and Dassault Aviation for more than 65 years.

The handover of the first IAF Rafale, materializes the determination of the French Authorities to fulfill the expectations and needs of the Government of India to comfort India’s protection and sovereignty and illustrates the exemplary cooperation between Dassault Aviation and the Indian Air Force, one of the most remarkable partner Dassault Aviation’s has ever worked with.

The setup of the Dassault Reliance JV (DRAL) production facility in Nagpur as well as the significant support of  the educational and scientific policy of the Indian Government through the establishing of an engineering center in Pune, the creation of the «Dassault Skill Academy» and the implementation of a vocational training programme «Aeronautical Structure and Equipment Fitter», demonstrate Dassault Aviation full commitment to the «Make in India» and «Skill India» initiatives in building the foundations for a national aerospace and defence ecosystem to become a worldwide reference of the sector.

Supported by Dassault Aviation partners, Thales already present in Nagpur, Safran to inaugurate its facility in Hyderabad as well as the French aeronautics and defence community among which twenty companies are already settled in India, this approach will mutually benefit both Indian and French industries and will contribute to guaranty both countries to meet tomorrow’s aeronautical challenges.

«I am particularly honored to host this ceremony today as India is part of Dassault Aviation’s DNA. The long and trustful relationship we share is an undeniable success and underpins my determination of establishing for the long term Dassault Aviation in India. We stand alongside the Indian Air Force since 1953, we are totally committed to fulfill its requirements for the decades to come and to be part of India’s ambitious vision for the future», has declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

THOR’s Hammer

With small unmanned aircraft systems – frequently called drones, becoming more common every day, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico, has developed a counter-swarm high power weapon that should cause those with nefarious intentions of using drones against United States forces at U.S. military installations at home or overseas to think twice about such actions.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Tactical High Power Operational Responder developed for airbase defense (Courtesy photo/AFRL Directed Energy Directorate)

AFRL exhibited the technology, called the Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR), at the 2019 Air Force Association Air, Space, and Cyber Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. and Virginia, September 16-18.

Although AFRL’s THOR is not a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder and lightning, it is a counter-swarm electromagnetic weapon that AFRL developed for airbase defense. The system provides non-kinetic defeat of multiple targets. It operates from ground power and uses energy to disable drones.

«THOR is essentially a high-powered electromagnetic source that we put together to specifically defeat drones», said Stephen Langdon, chief of the High-Powered Microwave Technologies Branch of AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate.

A demonstration system has been built and tested on military test ranges near Kirtland AFB where it has successfully engaged multiple targets. Further testing against a larger set of drone types in swarming configurations is being planned.

THOR stores completely in a 20-foot/6-meter transport container, which can easily be transported in a C-130 Hercules aircraft. The system can be set up within three hours and has a user interface designed to require very little user training. The technology, which cost roughly $15 million to develop, uses high power electromagnetics to counter electronic effect. When a target is identified, the silent weapon discharges with nearly instantaneous impact.

Rather than being used just as harmless hobby systems, drones can also be employed as weapons intended to cause harm at long standoff ranges. As they become more common and technically mature, it is important that there be a safe way to protect air bases against these threats.

With much of the necessary basic research previously completed at AFRL, THOR was rapidly developed and tested in 18 months.

Although there are other drone defensive systems available, including guns, nets and laser systems, THOR looks to extend the engagement range to effect and decrease the engagement time over these other deterrent devices.

Langdon said the THOR team hopes to transfer the technology to a System Program Office soon in order to get it into the hands of U.S. warfighters as soon as possible.

Aerial Refueler

Lockheed Martin delivered the first of two KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelers to representatives from France’s Armée de l’Air’s 62st Transport Wing at Orléans-Bricy Air Base on 19 September 2019.

The first KC-130J for France’s Armée de l’Air’s 62st Transport Wing takes off from the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Georgia (Photo by Todd R. McQueen)

France will receive a total of four Super Hercules aircraft – two C-130J-30 combat delivery airlifters and two KC-130J aerial refuelers – through a Foreign Military Sale with the U.S. government. The two C-130J-30 airlifters were delivered in 2017 and 2018, and a second KC-130J will deliver in 2020. All of these Super Hercules are operated in conjunction with France’s existing C-130H fleet.

«The KC-130J provides Armée de l’Air crews with a proven solution that delivers much-needed fuel in any environment, at any time», said Rod McLean, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions at Lockheed Martin. «In choosing to operate both the C-130J-30 and the KC-130J, France has built a diverse airlift fleet that expands both the capabilities and global reach of the French Armed Forces».

France is the 17th country to choose the C-130J for its airlift 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 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 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 operators. In 2018, Germany announced the acquisition of a C-130J-30/KC-130J fleet, to be operated in partnership with France – making this first such operator relationship in C-130J history.

 

Fast Facts

Length 97 feet 9 inches/29.61 m
Height 38 feet 10 inches/11.84 m
Wingspan 132 feet 7 inches/40.41 m
Powerplant 4 Rolls-Royce AE 2100D-3 GE-Dowty Aerospace R391 6-blade propellers, all composite
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 164,000 lbs./74,389 kg
Payload (2.5 g)* 50,000 lbs./22,670 kg
Operating Weight Empty 81,000 lbs./36,740 kg
Zero Fuel Weight** 131,000 lbs./59,420 kg
Landing Distance (135,000 lbs./61,235 kg) 3,100 feet/945 m
Range (40,000 lbs./18,144 kg payload) 2,390 NM/2,750 miles/4,425 km
Maximum Cruise Speed 355 KTAS/410 mph/660 km/h

* Higher payload allowable with wing relieving fuel

** Higher zero fuel weight allowable with wing relieving fuel

Red Hawk

The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk.

The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan made the announcement during his speech at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, September 16.

Donovan was joined on stage by one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Colonel Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Also seated in the audience were members of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

After a short video highlighting the aircraft’s lineage, Donovan said, «ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest Red Tail»! A drape was then lifted to reveal a quarter-scale model of a T-7A Red Hawk painted in a distinct, red-tailed color scheme.

«The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II», Donovan said. «The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron».

The Tuskegee Airmen subsequently painted their Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.

The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.

«The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft», Donovan said. «The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities».

Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels.

The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.

«The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day», said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. «But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat».

A $9.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base (AFB), Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

Peregrine missile

Raytheon Company is developing a new medium-range, air-launched weapon called the Peregrine missile that is half the size and cost of today’s air-to-air missiles, yet delivers greater range and effect.

Raytheon unveils Peregrine advanced air-to-air missile

Developed to strengthen the capabilities of current fighter aircraft, the new, smaller Peregrine missile is faster and more maneuverable than legacy medium-range, air-to-air missiles, and doubles the weapons loadout on a variety of fighter platforms. Its sophisticated, miniaturized guidance system can detect and track targets at any time of day and in any weather condition.

«Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance», said Doctor Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. «With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development».

The Peregrine missile benefits from military off-the-shelf components, additive manufacturing processes and readily available materials to offer an affordable solution for countering current and emerging airborne threats.

The Peregrine missile is a small, fast, lightweight air-to-air weapon for use against drones, manned aircraft and cruise missiles. Through the use of additive manufacturing and readily available materials, it effectively doubles the number of missiles current fighter jets can carry, at a significantly lower cost than current weapons.

The new, smaller Peregrine is faster and more maneuverable than legacy medium-range, air-to-air missiles. Its relatively compact airframe, weighing just over 150 pounds/68 kg and is about 6 feet/183 cm long, offers greater flexibility and precision.

Peregrine can seek out and engage targets in spite of bad weather in the battlespace. Its sophisticated sensor, guidance and propulsion systems can detect and track moving or stationary targets at any time of day and in challenging weather conditions.

The system’s compact airframe doubles the weapons loadout on current aircraft, allowing U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to achieve air dominance. It can be easily integrated on today’s fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets and is compatible with current launch gear.

Golden Eagle

September 15 2019, two new «Adir» (F-35I) aircraft landed in Nevatim Air Force Base (AFB). The two fighter jets will join the ranks of the IAF’s «Adir» Division, which was declared operational in December 2017.

Two new «Adir» aircraft land in Israel

The continuous integration of the «Adir» aircraft is another aspect of the long-running military cooperation between Israel and the U.S., which continues to show optimal results. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is the first force in the world besides the United States to operate the «Adir» (F-35I).

The «Adir» Squadron’s capabilities provide another component to the air force’s existing operational and strategic capabilities, which ensure its supremacy in all missions, the first of which being protecting Israel.

The «Adir» is currently operated by the 140th («Golden Eagle») Squadron. In several months, the 116th («Defenders of the South») Squadron is due to be established as the second «Adir» squadron. The establishment of the squadron’s first building was celebrated last April in a ceremony, which also saw the reveal of its new emblem. «The squadron – as part of the ‘Adir’ Division – signifies the IAF’s momentum», said Brigadier General Eyal Grinboim, then commander of Nevatim AFB.

«The establishment of the 116th Squadron marks the beginning of the ‘Adir’ Division», said Lieutenant Colonel N’, commander of the squadron’s establishment crew. «A major part of the establishment process touches upon the complexity of this transformation. We take a well-developed squadron and maintain its power while creating another one to function alongside it».

 

Specifications

Length 51.4 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.4 feet/4.38 m
Wingspan 35 feet/10.7 m
Wing area 460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span 22.5 feet/6.86 m
Weight empty 29,300 lbs/13,290 kg
Internal fuel capacity 18,250 lbs/8,278 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-100
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Engine Length 220 in/5.59 m
Engine Inlet Diameter 46 in/1.17 m
Engine Maximum Diameter 51 in/1.30 m
Bypass Ratio 0.57
Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6 (~1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h)
Combat radius (internal fuel) >590 NM/679 miles/1,093 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Maximum g-rating 9.0

 

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.