The first C295 for India has successfully completed its maiden flight, marking a significant milestone towards its delivery by the second half of 2023. The tactical aircraft took off from Seville, Spain, on the 5 May at 11.45 local time (GMT+1) and landed at 14.45 after 3 hours of flight.
«This first flight represents a significant accomplishment for the first Make in India aerospace programme. With the Indian Air Force (IAF) set to become the largest operator of the C295 in the world, this programme exemplifies our commitment to improve the Indian Air Force operational capabilities», said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space.
India acquired 56 C295 aircraft in September 2021 to replace the (IAF) legacy AVRO fleet. The first 16 aircraft will be assembled in Seville, Spain, and delivered to the customer in ‘fly-away’ condition. The following 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
This programme will significantly contribute to developing the country’s military industrial ecosystem from the manufacturing to assembly, testing, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft.
The C295 programme comprises a total of 281 orders from 39 operators, making it an unmatched aircraft in its weight and mission class.
The U.S. Air Force has completed the Functional Configuration Audit, or FCA, of the latest variant of Raytheon Technologies’ Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM AIM-120D-3 is on-track toward fielding by both the Air Force and Navy this year.
The AIM-120D-3 features modernized hardware, including 15 upgraded circuit cards developed with model-based systems engineering initiatives under the Form, Fit, Function Refresh program, and uses the latest System Improvement Program-3F software. The missile brings tremendous capability to counter both current and future threats and is postured to receive continuous Agile software enhancements through upcoming SIP efforts.
«Integrated on 14 platforms in 42 countries, AMRAAM is the only fielded air-to-air weapon with the ability to counter peer threats at extended range», said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power, Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «The AIM-120D-3 takes the known and trusted AMRAAM to the next level to meet the evolving needs of the warfighter and combatant commanders».
The AIM-120D-3 Functional Configuration Audit follows a test program encompassing captive carry missions, platform bench testing and a series of live firings from multiple Air Force and Navy platforms – proving out the weapon’s effectiveness. F3R testing continues with the AIM-120 C-8 variant – designed for international customers – with FCA expected on that version later this year.
All AMRAAMs planned for production are D3 or C8 variants incorporating the F3R functionality.
During one of a series of tests that the new L-39NG jet aircraft from Aero successfully passed, engineers and pilots tested the use of weapons. They fired 230 missiles and dropped nearly 70 bombs to test engine effects, emergency load shedding, and accuracy.
Aero successfully conducted tests of the L-39NG’s primary weapons. This is one of many tests that the new Aero aircraft has undergone. The aircraft can carry both Eastern and Western weapon systems and the corresponding avionics system. The L-39NG eastern armament test phase took place on Hungarian territory, with the aircraft operating from the Pápa air base and using the missile range near Veszprem.
«The results of the tests were successful. It was a set of tests of the basic weapons that the L-39NG can use. However, we are considering an additional range of weapons according to specific customer requirements. The aircraft can carry both Eastern and Western armament and can equally have Western and Eastern avionics», says Petr Jinda, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer, Aero.
Weapons trials, which were divided into three phases, began on 13 February with the first part to determine the effect of missile firing on engine performance, followed by emergency load drops and the third phase was bombing and firing missiles for accuracy. All weapons tests met expectations.
Specifically, the designers and pilots tested the firing of S-5 missiles from UB-16 missile blocks and their effect on engine operation. They conducted tests of emergency bomb drops, overhead fuel tanks, and missile blocks. During the tests, the pilots fired a total of 230 S-5 missiles and dropped 42 P-50-75 and 24 OFAB-100-120 bombs.
The aircraft has a measurement system that records about 300 flight parameters. Video recordings are also used to evaluate the success of the tests. A digital video recorder is installed in the aircraft and the pilot’s Heads-Up Display (HUD) is also recorded. Aero uses a companion aircraft for filming, from which a cameraman films the progress of the tests from the rear cabin. The L-39NG aircraft itself then houses 5 additional cameras that record the tests from different angles. 2 drones with cameras were used to detect the exact impact of the weapons in the target area. All recordings and measurements are precisely synchronized in time for the purpose of evaluating the results of each test, determining the resulting accuracy of the shots and the trajectory of the dropped loads.
Northrop Grumman Corporation’s AN/ALQ-257 Integrated Viper Electronic Warfare Suite (IVEWS) has completed U.S. Air Force Laboratory Intelligence Validated Emulator (LIVE) testing. The system exceeded multiple benchmarks and demonstrated the ability to counter modern Radio Frequency (RF) threats. This was the first time the ultra-wideband architecture in IVEWS underwent LIVE testing.
«As advanced radio frequency threats continue to proliferate, the protection afforded by IVEWS is essential», said James Conroy, vice president, navigation, targeting and survivability, Northrop Grumman. «This successful evaluation under very challenging conditions is an important step on the path to fielding the suite».
During the test, simulated air defense radar pulses were injected directly into IVEWS to verify the suite’s ability to recognize and counter advanced threats. The signals used in LIVE testing are validated models that provide realistic representations of radio frequency threats. LIVE is an intelligence validated, closed-loop RF direct-injection threat radar emulator based on threat capabilities and features. It allows for the testing electronic warfare systems in realistic environments.
Fully digital and founded on secure, modular, open systems design principles, the receiver/exciter architecture in IVEWS provides significant advantages over heritage systems. This technology allows for extended frequency coverage, full spatial coverage, and more rapid responses. Featuring highly efficient broadband power amplifiers and adaptive countermeasure modulations, it is designed to detect, identify, locate, and defeat next generation sensors and weapons.
IVEWS is a program of record electronic warfare suite for the U.S. Air Force F-16 fleet. The system is exportable for current and previous generations of F-16 aircraft.
Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, researchers successfully conducted flight experiments December 2-6, 2022, in Rome, New York to prove the viability of communications at radio frequencies above 300 gigahertz, or GHz, known in research communities as terahertz, or THz, band. Over three days of flight experiments, researchers from AFRL’s Information Directorate, in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and Calspan Flight Research, conducted measurement of propagation loss between two aircraft at Air Force relevant altitudes and ranges.
Propagation loss is a measure of the reduction in the frequency intensity as the frequency propagates away from one aircraft to another. It is defined as the difference between the source level and the received frequency level.
«AFRL has been an early supporter of research and development in sub-THz and THz frequencies and since 2014, we have been enabling innovative communications and networking technologies at this new spectrum frontier», said Doctor Ngwe Thawdar, AFRL program manager and subject matter expert. «Terahertz frequencies are currently underutilized due to lack of advanced electronic devices but with recent advances in radio frequency, or RF, electronics; however, the past two decades of research and development from DARPA Microelectronics Technology Office have made it possible for experimentation in terahertz band».
The flight experiments are a part of AFRL’s Terahertz Communications program which aims to determine the viability of utilizing terahertz band frequencies to service future Department of the Air Force communication needs.
«There were physics-based models but no known terahertz channel propagation data for airborne communications before our experiments», said Thawdar.
Research institutions in the U.S., Europe and Asia are conducting early channel-sounding work but to date they have been at short ranges on the ground, she added.
Almost all RF systems commercial or defense utilize a combination of frequency bands below 100 GHz to create airborne and satellite links for voice, data, and command and control communications, Thawdar said. Since frequencies above 300 GHz remain unregulated, increasing demand for higher data rates in communication systems has led the research community, including AFRL, and wireless industry companies to seek the next available wide bandwidth by exploring new parts of the spectrum.
The research was assisted by Northrop Grumman’s Terahertz Electronics program, which aims to produce critical device and integration technologies required for ensuring the development of compact, high-performance electronic circuits capable of operating at various frequencies.
«This experiment is a significant advance in radio frequency technology capabilities», said Doctor William Deal, Northrop Grumman terahertz technologist. «Pushing system frequencies into the submillimeter wave range opens significant new portions of the electromagnetic spectrum to practical applications. With our expertise and long-term investments in advanced microelectronics, we are uniquely qualified to further mature the technology for future mission needs».
The AFRL experiments are the first THz communications flight tests to deliver an important technical milestone toward the Air Force’s electromagnetic spectrum dominance, according to Thawdar.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon Technologies a $320 million contract to produce and deliver 1500 GBU-53/B StormBreaker smart weapons, which are air-to-surface, network enabled weapons that can engage moving targets in all weather conditions using its multi-effects warhead and tri-mode seeker.
«Having StormBreaker in the warfighter’s arsenal provides unprecedented capability against moving targets, regardless of conditions», said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «It also expands our production line and reinforces our commitment of ensuring the warfighter has the next-level munitions they need to safely and successfully accomplish the mission».
GBU-53/B StormBreaker is fielded on the F-15E Strike Eagle with testing underway on the F-35B Lightning II and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; between the three platforms, GBU-53/B StormBreaker has had hundreds of successful operational test shots to date.
Australia’s aerospace company Hypersonix Launch Systems has been selected to provide hypersonic vehicles to the United States’ Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for testing.
The Australian start-up was selected from a field of major international aerospace companies competing for the DIU contract under the Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities (HyCAT1) program.
The Silicon Valley-headquartered organization that taps into ‘non-traditional’ innovators, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and its U.S. Air Force and Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (USD R&E) partners, selected Hypersonix Launch Systems to provide a hypersonic vehicle for its Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities (HyCAT1) program. DIU’s contract with Hypersonix demonstrates the United States’ increased willingness to source commercial technologies from allied countries to meet urgent strategic challenges.
DIU selected Hypersonix from the 63 respondents to the agency’s September 2022 HyCAT solicitation seeking vehicles usable for high cadence long-endurance testing of: hypersonic platforms and components; sensors for detecting and tracking; and systems for communications, navigation, guidance and control. Specifically, DIU requested a vehicle capable of operating in a ‘representative environment’ that can maintain speeds above Mach 5 with a manoeuvrable/non-ballistic flight profile and at least a 3-minute flight duration with near-constant flight conditions. DIU also wishes the flights to be repeated at short intervals.
Hypersonix responded with its DART AE (Additive Engineering) vehicle. DART AE makes significant use of 3D-printing and is powered by a hydrogen-fuelled SPARTAN scramjet engine, capable of flying non-ballistic flight patterns at speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 7 and up to 1000 kms in range (400 seconds flight time). The DART AE has a modular payload bay of up to 20 lbs./9 kg and Hypersonix plans to fly it in early 2024.
«Our vehicles are capable of non-ballistic flight patterns to at least Mach 7, which exceeds the HyCAT1 specification», said David Waterhouse, Managing Director, Hypersonix Launch Systems.
«Our longer-term focus is to capture a slice of the emerging multi-billion-dollar commercial market for deployment of small satellites, but clearly Australia’s strategic defence allies see immediate potential in our technology. This is our first major contract and a key step in our commercialisation process – we couldn’t be happier. This puts Australia one step closer to being a major player in the international space race», David Waterhouse added.
Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, announced the delivery of three Bell 505 helicopters to the Royal Bahrain Air Force. Bell delivered the aircraft during an inspection and acceptance event in February 2023 at Bell’s Mirabel facility.
«We are honored to provide the Bahrain Defense Force another premiere Bell asset to train the next generation of Bahrani pilots», said Sameer Rehman, managing director, Africa and Middle East, Bell. «Generations of Bahraini pilots have flown in Bell helicopters, and the Bell 505 will continue the tradition of excellence for years to come».
The Bahrain Defense Force has flown the Bell 212 and multiple generations of AH-1 attack helicopters. This delivery marks the first 505 helicopters for the country and includes a package with training, tooling, and spares.
«With low operating costs and high reliability, the Bell 505 has emerged as a customer favorite to prepare cadets for a safer and more effective transition to advanced helicopters», Rehman added.
The Kingdom of Bahrain joins other countries in the region employing the Bell 505 as their advanced military trainer of choice. Horizon International Flight Academy in the UAE operates 12 Bell 505s, and the Royal Jordanian Air Force signed an agreement for 10 Bell 505s in November 2022. More than 30 Bell 505 helicopters operate throughout the Middle East and Africa. Additionally, the Bell 505 is the military training helicopter for the Montenegro Air Force, Republic of Korea Army and Republic of Korea Navy.
Bell has delivered more than 400 Bell 505 helicopters to domestic and international customers. The Bell 505 program has collectively achieved more than 100,000 flight hours. The Bell 505 recently became the world’s first single engine helicopter to fly on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel.
President of the United States Joe Biden has selected the livery design for the «Next Air Force One», VC-25B, a design that will closely resemble the livery of the current Air Force One, VC-25A, while also modernizing for the 21st century.
While accounting for the VC-25B’s larger 747-8i aircraft, the VC-25B livery has three primary differences with the VC-25A’s livery. The light blue on VC-25B is a slightly deeper, more modern tone than VC-25A’s robin’s egg blue. Additionally, the VC-25B engines will use the darker blue from the cockpit area vice the VC-25A’s robin’s egg blue. Finally, there is no polished metal section on the VC-25B because modern commercial aircraft skin alloys don’t allow for it.
A formal contractual decision for a VC-25B livery was not required until this year for Boeing to conduct engineering, certification preparation, and supplier selection activities for the program. The Air Force previously displayed a red, white, and blue livery for the VC-25B because it had been publicly expressed as a preferred livery in 2019. A thermal study later concluded the dark blue in the design would require additional Federal Aviation Administration qualification testing for several commercial components due to the added heat in certain environments.
The VC-25B Program will deliver a new fleet of aircraft to enable POTUS to execute the duties of Head of State, Chief Executive, and Commander in Chief. The aircraft will be uniquely modified to provide the POTUS, staff, and guests with safe and reliable air transportation with the equivalent level of communications capability and security available in the White House.
The VC-25B aircraft will replace the current VC-25A fleet, which faces capability gaps, rising maintenance costs, and parts obsolescence. Modifications to the aircraft will include electrical power upgrades, a mission communication system, a medical facility, an executive interior, a self-defense system, and autonomous ground operations capabilities.
VC-25B deliveries are projected for 2027 for the first aircraft and 2028 for the second aircraft. The Air Force remains postured to keep VC-25A available and mission-ready until delivery of the VC-25B.
Bahraini, American and Lockheed Martin officials celebrated the first F-16 Block 70 for the Royal Bahraini Air Force on March 10, 2023 at Lockheed Martin in Greenville, South Carolina.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has a unique history with the F-16: It was the first F-16 operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council beginning in the early 1990s, and now is receiving the first F-16 Block 70.
«Today’s ceremony represents the next generation of the powerful and proven legacy of the F-16, and demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to advancing this program and getting this much-needed aircraft and its advanced 21st Century Security capabilities to the warfighter», said OJ Sanchez, vice president, Integrated Fighter Group, which includes the F-16 program. «With the Block 70 iteration, we are transforming 4th generation for the next generation for the Royal Bahraini Air Force and other partners and allies around the world».
This F-16 Block 70 jet is the first of 16 jets for Bahrain, and took its first flight on January 24, 2023. From here, it will begin additional flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base before arriving in Bahrain in 2024.
Six countries have selected Block 70/72 aircraft. In addition to the current official backlog of 127 jets to-date to be built in Greenville, Jordan has signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for 12 jets and Lockheed Martin has received a contract to begin its long-lead activities. Bulgaria has also signed an LOA for an additional eight jets for its fleet. Once these are finalized, the backlog will increase to 147.
«The F-16 celebrated today was built by our talented, committed workforce in Greenville», said Danya Trent, vice president, F-16 Programs and Greenville site leader. «We are proud to call Greenville the global home of the F-16 and look forward to continuing to produce jets serving missions around the world».