Category Archives: Air Force

Croatian Rafale

At a ceremony attended by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Minister of the Croatian Republic Andrej Plenković, the French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and the Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier signed today in Zagreb, with the Croatian Minister of Defense Mario Banozic, two contracts for the acquisition of 12 Rafale fighters and associated logistics support.

Rafale
Croatia and France finalize Rafale acquisition

The state-to-state contract mainly covers the transfer of 12 Rafale fighters from the French Air Force along with their equipment, as well as a training service for the Croatian Air Force.

The logistics support contract covers all support resources, including additional spare parts for these aircraft, over a three-year period.

The selection of the Rafale, announced on May 28, after an international tender involving European and American aircraft, reflects its technological and operational superiority, as well as the excellent work done by the team «France» to consolidate its position in the European air forces.

«I am delighted, on behalf of Dassault Aviation and its partners, to be entering into a relationship of trust with Croatia, a European country, and to be writing a new page for the Rafale, which I am certain will give the Croatian Air Force complete satisfaction, while actively contributing to the exercise of Croatia’s national sovereignty», said Eric Trappier after the signing ceremony.

Global F-16 Program

PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company and one of Poland’s longest established aircraft manufacturers, is to be a manufacturing partner for one of the world’s most successful fighter aircraft programs. Beginning next year, PZL Mielec will build components and assemblies for the latest generation F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72, sustaining around 200 jobs, with approximately 60 new jobs being created.

F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72
PZL Mielec to manufacture major assemblies for global F-16 Fighting Falcon program

This development marks a significant new milestone for PZL Mielec, which was last involved in the production of fighter aircraft in the 1960s.

Beginning next year, PZL Mielec will manufacture the rear fuselage, center fuselage, cockpit structure, cockpit side panel and forward equipment bay for new production F-16s, exporting the aerostructures to Lockheed Martin’s final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina.

«Today’s announcement underlines our commitment to PZL Mielec and to growing Lockheed Martin’s industrial footprint in Poland, where we currently employ around 1,600 people directly and sustain work for more than 5,000 others in the Polish supply chain», says Robert Orzylowski, Lockheed Martin director for Poland, Central and East Europe.

«During our 20+ year strategic partnership with Poland, we’ve delivered technology transfer, research and development opportunities, long-term sustainable high technology jobs, growth and exports», Orzylowski adds. «Poland’s acquisition of the F-35 opened the door for a further expansion of this relationship and helped enable today’s exciting announcement».

With orders already secured for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72 from five customers, global interest remains high for new-build production aircraft and for F-16V Fighting Falcon upgrades.

Poland has operated F-16s in its own fleet for the past 15 years, and this summer marked a 100,000 flight-hour milestone.

«The F-16 Fighting Falcon remains a critical part of the Polish Air Force», says Danya Trent, Lockheed Martin vice president, F-16 Fighting Falcon program. «This new production work at PZL Mielec will further ensure Poland is part of the F-16 Fighting Falcon global enterprise for many years to come».

Beyond the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Poland is also procuring 32 F-35s, the first of which will be delivered in 2024. The complementary capabilities and interoperability between both fighter aircraft types serves to strengthen Poland’s airpower capabilities and enables partnerships across missions, training, equipment and tactics with other NATO members.

24-hour mission

A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

RQ-4D Phoenix
A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 (Photo courtesy of NATO AGS Force)

This important step to Full Operating Capability for the NATO Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force has been successfully achieved. The AGS team conducted its first mission of 24-hour duration demonstrating the team’s continuous efforts in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and therefore enhancing a vital Allied capability.

«I am very proud of the teamwork accomplished», said Brigadier General Houston Cantwell, Commander of the NATO AGS Force. «With this 24-hour mission, we have proven that we are on the right track to Full Operational Capability and are a valuable asset to NATO».

The challenge of this long mission focused on the airmen and soldiers operating the system; in particular their ability to hand over smoothly between shifts. The sensor operators, who are responsible for controlling the Synthetic Aperture radar, were also changed at the same time as the pilots.

In order for the unmanned aircraft to fly its mission safely, it is not only necessary to have well-trained pilots who are replaced after a certain period of time, but also the IT specialists who ensure that the satellite and communication link is guaranteed between the Main Operation Base in Sigonella and the NATO RQ-4D Phoenix.

At present, the multinational NATO AGS Force comprised of approximately 375 personnel from 24 nations.

Norwegian Poseidon

The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) on November 18, 2021 accepted the first of five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft that will be operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF).

P-8A Poseidon
Boeing delivers first P-8A Poseidon to Norway

«Norway is responsible for large maritime areas in a strategically important part of the world, and the new P-8A Poseidon will represent a tremendous improvement in our ability to both protect our sovereignty and understand developments in these areas. Today’s delivery of our first P-8A Poseidon is an important milestone in the modernization of Norway’s maritime patrol aircraft capability», said Mette Sørfonden, director general of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency. «I’m very pleased that the NDMA will soon be able to provide the Norwegian Armed Forces with a whole new generation of aircraft that will play an important role in preserving our national security for many years to come».

Norway’s first P-8A Poseidon aircraft, named Vingtor, was delivered to the NDMA during a ceremony at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. The milestone comes four years after the NDMA entered into an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the P-8A Poseidon, and two years before the new aircraft are scheduled to begin taking over maritime patrol duties in Norway’s high north.

«We’re honored to provide this unmatched, multimission maritime patrol capability to Norway», said Stu Voboril, vice president and program manager, P-8 Poseidon Programs. «Norway joins seven other global customers that have selected or already operate the P-8 Poseidon and benefit greatly from its long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. We look forward to enhancing our continued and enduring partnership with the U.S. Navy and the Royal Norwegian Air Force, and supporting the future fleet’s sustainment and training needs».

Norway’s four remaining aircraft are all in advanced stages of production and will be delivered to the NDMA in 2022. The five P-8As will replace the RNoAF current fleet of six P-3 Orions and two DA-20 Jet Falcons and will be operated by 333 Squadron at Evenes Air Station.

Norwegian companies Nammo, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, Andoya Space and Berget currently have agreements with Boeing that are part of a tailored industrial cooperation plan related to Norway’s acquisition of five P-8A Poseidon aircraft. Boeing continues to work with the NDMA and Norwegian industry to expand that plan and support economic growth throughout Norway.

The delivery to Norway also marks the 142nd P-8 Poseidon aircraft delivered to global customers, including the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Navy and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. First deliveries to New Zealand, Korea and Germany will take place in 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively.

To date, the global operating P-8 Poseidon fleet has amassed more than 400,000 mishap-free flight hours. The P-8 Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. In addition, the P-8 Poseidon performs humanitarian and search and rescue missions around the globe.

Flight Testing

Boeing Australia has expanded its flight-test program of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with two aircraft successfully completing separate flight missions at the Woomera Range Complex recently.

Loyal Wingman
Loyal Wingman test flights continue to expand the flight envelope (Boeing Photo)

The first Loyal Wingman aircraft developed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) demonstrated a range of key characteristics during the test flights to continue to expand the flight envelope. A second aircraft also successfully completed its first flight mission.

«It is so exciting seeing two aircraft in the air as the Loyal Wingman continues to excel in the flight-test program», said Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability. «This opens up significant capability agility for Air Force, particularly with features such as the reconfigurable nose».

«We’re heavily engaged in the payload development and the element of surprise that it gives us in the battlespace. You never really know what’s in the nose», said AVM Roberts.

Throughout the flight-test missions, the teams gathered aircraft performance data that will be used to inform and refine the digital twin of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with the view to accelerate the aircraft’s development where possible. The digital twin models the system’s entire lifecycle, from design and development to production and sustainment, and contributes to speed and first-time quality.

«We’re in a steady rhythm of flight testing on the way to mission and operational testing, enabling Boeing Australia, RAAF and our Australian industry team of more than 35 companies to progressively advance the flight characteristics and capabilities of the uncrewed teaming system», said Glen Ferguson, director of Boeing Airpower Teaming System – Australia and International. «I’d like to extend my thanks to our capability partner BAE Systems Australia, and to RUAG Australia for their specific roles in this latest test block».

The flight tests of aircraft one included the first time the landing gear was raised and engaged. RUAG Australia supplied the landing gear systems to the aircraft, and BAE Systems Australia was integral in the design, supply and support of the flight control and navigation systems tested as part of the flights.

«This is a great achievement for homegrown, Australian autonomous capabilities», said BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan. «Our partnership underpins a shared commitment to develop sovereign technologies and deliver a cutting-edge program for the nation’s defence».

The first batch of Loyal Wingman aircraft are serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defence customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities.

Off-Board Sensing Station

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) received a $17.8 million award from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to design and develop an unmanned Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) aircraft. AFRL is developing an open architecture concept Autonomous Collaborative Platform (ACP) to achieve its goals of rapid time-to-market and low acquisition cost, while extending and enhancing the sensing volume of manned platforms.

Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS)
GA-ASI Awarded OBSS Contract from AFRL

«We’re excited to continue working on this project with AFRL», said Chris Seat, senior vice president of Special Programs for GA-ASI. «Our experience in developing and delivering the most cost-effective and forward-looking UAS solutions puts GA-ASI in a great position to deliver the right ACP to meet our customer’s requirements».

The award covers the next 12 months as the base effort, and if the option is exercised, GA-ASI will spend the following 15 months manufacturing and flight demonstrating the aircraft with the award potentially growing to a total of $49 million.

Weapon System

Lockheed Martin and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., of Israel, signed an expanded teaming agreement, allowing the team to jointly develop, market, manufacture and support Rafael’s Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective (SPICE) 250 weapon system for sale in the United States and in Poland. This agreement marks the first time SPICE 250 is available for sale to the U.S. military.

SPICE 250
SPICE 250, pictured on the left-wing station of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, increases range, lethality and precision without the need for GPS

The addition of SPICE 250 builds on a 2019 teaming agreement, where Lockheed Martin and Rafael agreed to jointly market SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000 guidance kits for U.S. sale.

SPICE is a family of stand-off, autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems that provide affordable precision in a GPS-denied environment. The combat-proven SPICE family of products includes two guidance kits, SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000, as well as an all-up round, known as SPICE 250.

«Lockheed Martin’s deep expertise in weapon system integration will help us adapt SPICE 250 to meet U.S. standards», said Dave Pantano, Lockheed Martin program director. «We’re excited to leverage this experience and offer this unique, proven weapon system to aircraft operators for additional mission flexibility where it’s needed most».

In use since 2003, SPICE is combat-proven and in service with the Israeli Air Force and several other nations worldwide. It enables maximum loadout on F-16’s and F-15’s, reduces pilot workload, and provides multiple strike capability against multiple target types.

«GPS is not required to operate any of the products within the SPICE family, allowing for operations in a variety of locations and adverse environments», said Alon Shlomi, Rafael Air to Surface Directorate vice president. «By expanding our teaming agreement with Lockheed Martin, we’re able to offer the entire product portfolio to the U.S. military – providing warfighters with the opportunity to enhance mission flexibility».

Autonomous Teaming

The Skyborg team conducted a multi-hour flight test on October 26 of the Skyborg Autonomy Core System (ACS) aboard two General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger tactical unmanned vehicles during the Orange Flag (OF) 21-3 Large Force Test Event at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.

MQ-20 Avenger
Two General Atomics MQ-20 Avengers fly collaborative unmanned aircraft teaming experiments during Edwards Air Force Base’s Orange Flag 21-3 (Photo courtesy of General Atomics)

Skyborg is focused on demonstrating an open, modular, government-owned ACS that can autonomously aviate, navigate, and communicate, and eventually integrate other advanced capabilities.

This experimentation event built upon the basic flight autonomy behaviors demonstrated at OF 21-2. The flight demonstrated matured capabilities of the ACS that enabled two MQ-20s to fly autonomously while communicating with each other to ensure coordinated flight. Additionally, the aircraft responded to navigational commands, stayed within specified geo-fences, and maintained flight envelopes. Both aircraft were monitored from a ground command and control station.

The test community, especially the 412th Test Wing, has been instrumental in helping to integrate government-owned autonomy into operational test events. These test events facilitate trust between the warfighter and autonomous technologies to help inform future operational use cases.

«These operational experimentation tests continue to demonstrate emerging technologies and helps the enterprise posture to transition this capability to the warfighter while preparing for the high-end fight», said Brigadier General Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

«We have made tremendous progress in transforming ideas to reality in a short time frame. The team has continued the full court press to mature a Government-owned autonomy core and develop the foundational technologies for a future capability», said Major General Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander.

«Large force testing of autonomous unmanned-unmanned teaming is the natural evolution to fielding warfighter capability for the future fight», said Brigadier General Matthew Higer, 412th Test Wing commander at Edwards AFB, California.

Future Skyborg experimentation events will explore direct manned-unmanned teaming between manned aircraft and multiple ACS-controlled unmanned aircraft.

Background: The Skyborg Vanguard team is a unique relationship that pairs Major General Heather Pringle, Commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory as the Skyborg Technology Executive Officer (TEO) and Brigadier General Dale White, Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft as the Skyborg PEO. The Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force (ET-CTF), under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Adam Brooks, serves as the executing agent for these test missions at the 412th Test Wing, Commanded by Brigadier General Matthew Higer at Edwards AFB.

Japanese Pegasus

Boeing has delivered its first KC-46A Pegasus tanker to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) marking the program’s first delivery to a customer outside the United States.

KC-46 Pegasus
Boeing Delivers First KC-46A Pegasus Tanker to Japan

«This is an exciting and historic moment for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Boeing as Japan joins the United States with the world’s most advanced, proven and safe multi-mission combat aerial refueling capability», said James Burgess, Boeing vice president and program manager, KC-46 Pegasus Program. «We are looking forward to decades of partnership with our Japan customer to ensure aircraft mission effectiveness and enable the success of the JASDF».

The Japan KC-46A Pegasus is capable of refueling JASDF, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft. Globally, the KC-46A Pegasus has already completed more than 5,000 sorties and transferred more than 50 million pounds of fuel to other aircraft through its boom and drogue systems.

«Japan’s acquisition of KC-46A Pegasus tankers marks a significant milestone for both the program and U.S.-Japan cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and plays a critical role in the security alliance between both countries», said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan. «With its ability to carry cargo and passengers, the KC-46A Pegasus tanker can also support Japan’s humanitarian and disaster relief efforts».

The versatile, multi-role tanker carries 18 military standardized pallets (463L) in cargo configuration and accommodates a mixed load of passengers and cargo. It is also equipped with robust defensive and tactical situational awareness systems that will help Japan secure and maintain its air superiority.

The U.S. Air Force and JASDF awarded Boeing a Foreign Military Sale contract for this first JASDF KC-46A Pegasus in December 2017, and exercised an option for a second in December 2018. Options for the third and fourth JASDF KC-46As were exercised in October 2020.

Boeing builds KC-46A Pegasus aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and other international customers on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. In addition, Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16 percent of the KC-46A Pegasus airframe structure.

Boeing is currently assembling the second KC-46A Pegasus for Japan and has delivered 48 KC-46As to the U.S. Air Force, beginning with the first delivery in January 2019.

First Bahrain Viper

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, celebrated the completion of the first AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter for the Kingdom of Bahrain on September 30. Bell delivered the first of 12 production aircraft to Naval Air Systems Command as part of the 2019 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract. Foreign military sales of the AH-1Z Viper bring the advanced, dedicated capabilities of the aircraft directly to international operators and help increase interoperability and amplify effectiveness of allied forces. The helicopter will be prepared for shipment to Bahrain with the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) before being transported to Bahrain in 2022.

AH-1Z Viper
Bell Completes First Bahrain AH-1Z Viper

«This is an extraordinary achievement by the H-1 Program and brings the Royal Bahraini Air Force a step closer to fielding the advanced capabilities of the AH-1Z Viper », said Mike Deslatte, Bell H-1 vice president and program director. «The men and women of Team Viper, a group of premier suppliers, have done an exceptional job of delivering to the U.S. Government, on time and on contract».

Bell designed the AH-1Z Viper specifically to meet the stringent operational requirements of the U.S. Marine Corps, which focus on full marinization and a reduced logistical footprint. The aircraft has a fully integrated glass cockpit and the ability to carry a wide variety of munitions.

The composite rotor system further enhances the Viper’s ability to provide close air support to ground forces in any environment, while the fully integrated Target Sight System (TSS) enhances pilots’ capabilities to identify clearly, acquire, track and engage targets beyond maximum weapon range.

«The Viper will provide significant benefits to the Bahrain Defence Force as they modernize their fleet of attack helicopters», said Deslatte. «Having a proven state-of-the-art platform will help contribute to the security of Bahrain while improving interoperability with U.S. forces».

Bell continues to work to deliver aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps, Bahrain and Czech Republic. The company also keeps the H-1 up to date with planned capability improvements designed to ensure the Viper maintains its strategic technological edge throughout its service life.