Category Archives: Air Force

Strike Weapon Platform

The U.S. Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) Office awarded Lockheed Martin a $25 million contract to support the next phase of the service’s Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign.

MC-130J Super Hercules
Airlifters like the MC-130J Super Hercules have the potential to deploy large quantities of JASSM-ERs, providing a significant increase in long-range standoff scale (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

The fourth phase includes a system-level demonstration in 2021 and continues to assess the potential to deliver large volumes of air-launched weapons via airlifters.

«Despite the Palletized Munitions program being relatively new, it’s moving very quickly», said Scott Callaway, Lockheed Martin Advanced Strike Systems director. «The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) contracting and Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) offices, and Lockheed Martin teams established this new contract in a record time of 30 days, supporting faster prototyping and a shorter timeline to bring this advanced capability to the warfighter in the field».

Initial studies show that airlifters have the potential to deploy large quantities of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) missiles, providing a significant increase in long-range standoff scale and complementing traditional strike and bomber aircrafts. This innovative approach enables warfighters to launch offensive operations from a greater number of airfields and engage a larger number of near-peer adversarial targets.

The overall goal of the experimentation is to develop a modular system to deliver air-launched weapons, leveraging standard airdrop procedures and operations. The system will have the ability to be rolled on and off multiple types of aircraft, including the C-17 Globemaster III and C-130.

Phase I successfully accomplished five high-altitude airdrops from an MC-130J Super Hercules (manufactured by Lockheed Martin) and a C-17 Globemaster III earlier this year using simulated weapons. During this effort, the U.S. Air Force tested the suitability of launching JASSM-ERs from an airlifter. JASSM is a long-range, conventional, air-to-ground, precision standoff missile for the U.S. and allied forces designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable targets.

Spanish Air Force

NHIndustries and its Partner Companies (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker) have delivered the first NH90 to the Spanish Air Force that will boost their Search and Rescue (SAR) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission capabilities.

NH90
First NH90 delivered to the Spanish Air Force for search and rescue missions

The Spanish Air Force will receive 12 NH90s intended to replace its aging fleet of AS332 Super Pumas and will be based in Cuatro Vientos, near Madrid. Spain has ordered a total of 45 NH90s in the tactical transport version, to be operated by the three Armed Forces. 13 helicopters have already been delivered to the Spanish Army Airmobile Force (FAMET) for the Maneuver III Battalion in Agoncillo.

Javier Salto, General of the Air Force highlighted that: «For the Spanish Air Force, the NH90 provides an essential asset capable of performing a wide range of missions, including tactical transport of troops and logistics support in peacekeeping or reconstruction missions and, of course, the main search and rescue missions in hostile conditions which is one of the most demanding and complex missions for helicopter units».

«The NH90 is particularly suited to operating in hot and high conditions and will prove to be a real asset to the critical missions performed by the Spanish Air Force», said Nathalie Tarnaud-Laude, Head of NH90 programme at Airbus Helicopters and President of NHIndustries.

The NH90 will provide all three of the Spanish armed forces with a versatile and modern transport system helicopter that offers unrivalled military capabilities.  The Spanish variant of the NH90 features next-generation General Electric CT7 8F5 engines, a personalized communications system and a sophisticated electronic warfare system developed by Indra and will be supported by training devices (including full flight simulators), automatic maintenance equipment (SAMe), and Automatic Mission Planning System (AMPS) developed as well by Indra. Airbus Helicopters in Spain is involved in the manufacturing of the fuselage and the avionics software development and integration.

The second GlobalEye

Saab delivers the second GlobalEye Swing Role Surveillance System to the United Arab Emirates on 30 September 2020.

GlobalEye
GlobalEye Early Warning and Control Solution

This follows Saab’s delivery of the first GlobalEye aircraft in April 2020 to the United Arab Emirates, which has ordered three GlobalEye aircraft. The initial contract was signed in late 2015.

«Completing the second GlobalEye delivery in five months is a testament to Saab’s in-house expertise as aircraft manufacturer, sensor provider and large system integrator. I am proud to contribute to the United Arab Emirates’ airborne surveillance capability with GlobalEye, which is the most advanced solution of its kind», says Micael Johansson, President and CEO of Saab.

GlobalEye is Saab’s new airborne early warning and control solution. It provides air, maritime and ground surveillance in a single solution. GlobalEye combines Saab’s new Erieye Extended Range Radar and a range of additional advanced sensors with the ultra-long range Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.

Persistent attack role

The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron conducted the first flight of the MQ-9A Reaper carrying eight live AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on September 10, 2020, reinforcing the platform’s «persistent attack» role.

MQ-9A Reaper
An MQ-9A Reaper assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron sits on the ramp at Creech Air Force Base carrying eight Hellfire missiles. This was the first flight test of the MQ-9 Reaper carrying eight Hellfire missiles (U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Haley Stevens)

This new capability is part of the MQ-9 Operational Flight Program (OFP) 2409, a software upgrade set to field by the end of calendar year 2020. Previous to this software, the Reaper was limited to four AGM-114s across two stations. The new software allows flexibility to load the Hellfire on stations that previously were reserved for 500 lbs./227 kg class bombs or fuel tanks.

«The hardware/launcher is the same that we use on the outboard stations», said Master Sergeant Melvin French, Test System Configuration Manager. «Aside from the extra hardware required to be on-hand, no other changes are required to support this new capability and added lethality. The Reaper retains its flexibility to fly 500 lbs./227 kg bombs on any of these stations, instead of the AGM‑114s, when mission requirements dictate».

The new capability stems from a combined requirements process between Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command that sets the scope for each MQ-9 OFP update.

«History has proven the MQ-9’s ability to provide aerial continuity and attack support for air and ground forces during counter-insurgency and Close Air Support», said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Chmielewski, commander, 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron. «Doubling the firepower of this high-endurance aircraft with Hell fires improves the lethality and agility of the MQ-9 over many combat roles, with an arsenal of highly versatile, accurate, and collateral-friendly weapons for all Combatant Commanders».

In future conflicts, MQ-9 aircrew will be required to dynamically target priority targets and defend isolated personnel, explained Chmielewski. These missions require accelerated kill chains to engage priority targets, some with fleeting engagement opportunities, and to neutralize hostile threats immediately. Added firepower increases the persistent attack ability of the MQ-9 to respond immediately across its long mission times, where it previously may have exhausted its weapons inventory and had to slow the kill chain to coordinate for additional kinetic support to engage a priority target.

«The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron continues to break barriers to maximize MQ-9 relevance across the spectrum of conflict to develop capabilities for today and tomorrow’s warfighter», said Chmielewski. «This team never fails to impress me. OFP tests are very rigorous and require a squadron‑wide effort. Pair that effort with the fast-paced aspect of this OFP cycle, the Advanced Battle Management System demonstration, restrictions from COVID-19, and the unique approaches to overcome these challenges to deliver the tactical advantage to the warfighter without delay are proven impressive».

«Doubling the Hellfire capacity increases the MQ-9 flexibility, responsiveness, and lethality», said Captain Arthur James, lead MQ-9 OT&E Project Manager for this test. «While this capability is just one of the various upgrades to OFP 2409, it is one that benefits the MQ-9 across current and future AORs (area of responsibility) in which we are expected to fight».

New Capabilities

Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered a pair of sensors to enhance the capability of its Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance autonomous aircraft system. Enhancements include the deployment of the MS-177 multi-spectral camera system to provide additional high resolution imaging capability for operational users. The second new capability is the first fielding of the increment 1 upgraded AN/ASQ-230 system on Global Hawk to meet expanded electronic threats.

Global Hawk
Global Hawk takes off equipped with a MS-177 multi-spectral camera system. MS-177 provides high resolution imaging capability for operational users

The MS-177 camera system provides multiple channels of intelligence collection in visible and infrared bands and provides a dramatic increase in multi-spectral imaging capacity. When paired with a Global Hawk platform, the MS-177 provides collection coverage in areas that cannot easily be reached by other means. Fielding of the AN/ASQ-230 increment 1 enhances Global Hawk’s support against electronic threats.

«Ongoing improvements to Global Hawk underscore Northrop Grumman’s commitment to the United States Air Force’s ISR mission and reducing costs through agile development and leveraged solutions», said Leslie Smith, vice president, Global Hawk, Northrop Grumman. «New and improved payloads flying on our young, yet proven fleet of aircraft will allow our partners to deploy high value, networked assets to monitor adversaries while not risking the lives of military personnel well into the 2040s».

Global Hawk’s combination of autonomy, range, endurance and payload, and an average aircraft age of under nine years, make Global Hawk a valuable asset for domestic and international customers with critical ISR collection requirements. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments recently published a report highlighting the key role systems like Global Hawk play around the globe.

In the future, Global Hawk is uniquely positioned for additional missions that connect the joint force as one, including persistent high capacity backbone, pseudo-satellite communications coverage, and joint all-domain command and control.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

High Energy Laser

Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S), a Raytheon Technologies business, delivered the next high-energy laser weapon system to the U.S. Air Force. It will be deployed overseas for operator training and experimental testing and evaluation. Following the completion of the Directed Energy Weapon Initial Operational Employment Review and Approval Process, High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) is now certified for use in combat.

HELWS
Raytheon Intelligence & Space delivers another Air Force laser system ready for operational use

«HELWS builds directly on the feedback we received from operators in the field», said Annabel Flores, vice president of Electronic Warfare Systems at RI&S. «We’ve made the system more rugged. We improved its accuracy and overall efficiency based on real-world lessons learned in an operational environment».

This system features a number of improvements, including ruggedized enhancements to ensure transportability and survivability in a wide range of operational environments; a new beam director for more accurate targeting; and a robust power system for additional magazine depth – the ability to fire the laser for a longer period of time.

«You can take down dozens of drones on a single charge», said Flores. «And if you are plugged into a generator, you have deep, rechargeable magazines».

Mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, HELWS uses a variant of RI&S’ Multi-spectral Targeting System, an electro-optical/infrared sensor that detects, identifies and tracks unmanned aerial threats.

A prior version of HELWS was deployed in a forward operating environment earlier this year and recently passed 1,000 hours of operations. RI&S is contracted to deliver another further improved system to the Air Force later this year.

Evreux Squadron

Florence Parly, the Minister of the Armed Forces, and her German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, laid, Thursday, September 17 on the air base 105 of Evreux (Eure), the first stone of the building which will house the first Franco-German air transport squadron. The ceremony was followed by a trip by the two ministers across the Rhine to the Airbus Defense and Space site for a status update on the advancement of the combat system of the future (SCAF). «Defense Europe» is on the move.

Evreux Squadron
The Franco-German Evreux Squadron, a «Revolution» for European Defense

«The birth of this squadron embodies the «Defense Europe» in the most beautiful and concrete way», said Florence Parly, laying the first stone, with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German Minister of Defense, of the building that will house the future Franco-German C-130J tactical transport squadron on Air Base 105 at Evreux.

A major asset for European defense, this squadron will be unique in Europe. «This is a first, a real revolution», explains Florence Parly. «For the first time, French and German pilots, mechanics and airmen will train, operate and accomplish missions together, sharing daily life in the same squadron».

This binational squadron will be made up of ten aircraft (four French and six German) by early 2024. This fleet of Super Hercules, multi-role par excellence, considerably strengthens the capabilities of the Air and Space Force in the field of tactical air transport. It is also resolutely part of the ramp-up of helicopter in-flight refueling capability, particularly for the benefit France’s H225M Caracal helicopters.

 

Parly: «Giving substance to ideas we pushed with strong political will»

To welcome these new aircraft, the Air Base 105 at Evreux had to undergo a transformation. Large-scale works have been undertaken for the construction of aircraft parking lots and operational areas. From summer 2021, 260 French and German soldiers will gradually transfer to the air base.

A training center with a simulator and training aids will also be set up within three years. This ramp-up of the Evreux air base is also fully in line with the Family plan of the Ministry of the Armed Forces with the integration, at the local level, of military families in terms of housing and education.

The Franco-German squadron, which will be commanded by a French officer and assisted by a German counterpart, shows a common desire to go further in building a strong, united Europe with the capacity for autonomous action. For this, the Franco-German relationship is the foundation in the field of Defense.

Proof, once again, that Defense Europe is not just a concept but well and truly a reality, Florence Parly and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer traveled to Manching (Bavaria) on Thursday afternoon, to the Airbus Defense and Space site.

This was an opportunity to take stock of the development of the Future Air Combat System (FCAS, French: Système de combat aérien futur, SCAF) and the Eurodrone, two structuring projects for Defense Europe. «For each of these Franco-German projects, the efforts made on both sides of the Rhine are colossal. And it is a source of pride to see our teams working together with ardor to give shape to the ideas that we have brought forward with a strong political will», notes Florence Parly.

 

Weapon systems of the future

Particularly close, this Franco-German cooperation notably enables the development of ambitious and innovative programs. This is particularly the case with SCAF, in which Spain is also a stakeholder.

The objective of SCAF? Allow collaborative air combat. Clearly, the aim is to make national military capabilities (Rafale for France, Eurofighter for Germany and Spain, drones, surveillance and air refueling aircraft, command systems) interoperable with future capabilities, like the New Generation Fighter (NGF).

Ultimately, all of these vectors will be interconnected as part of the weapons system of the future (Next Generation Weapon System – NGWS) for which France is leading the project.

At the end of a full day, marked with the seal of European Defense, Florence Parly reaffirmed her «will» and her «determination» to bring Franco-German friendship to life through concrete advances to benefit of a «stronger and more sovereign Europe».

‘Fires Up’ Engine

Boeing Australia powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft in September, as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight.

Loyal Wingman
Boeing Australia has completed the engine run on its first Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight (Boeing photo)

This milestone comes on the heels of Boeing completing the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year, a major step forward for the unmanned vehicle serving as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming System, an artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft developed for the global defense market.

«This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team», said Doctor Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. «We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft».

Powering on the engine is part of ground testing and preparations for first flight

Greek Air Force

Greece announced on September 12, 2020 its intention to acquire 18 Rafales to equip its air force.

Rafale
Greece announced its intention to acquire 18 Rafales to equip its air force

This announcement illustrates the strength of the partnership that has linked the Greek Air Force and Dassault Aviation for more than 45 years, and demonstrates the enduring strategic relationship between Greece and France.

Greece ordered 40 Mirage F1 from Dassault Aviation in 1974, then 40 Mirage 2000 in 1985 and finally 15 Mirage 2000-5 in the year 2000; this latest contract also includes the modernization of 10 Mirage 2000 to the 2000-5 standard with a large contribution from Greek industry.

«I am delighted with this announcement, which reinforces the exceptional relationship we have had with Greece for nearly half a century, and I thank the Greek authorities for their confidence in us once again. Dassault Aviation is fully mobilized to meet the operational needs expressed by the Greek Air Force, and thus contribute to ensuring Greece’s sovereignty and the safety of the Greek people», said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

KF-X project

According to Oh Seok-min from the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea began assembling a prototype of what would be the country’s first indigenously developed fighter jet Thursday, September 3, 2020, in a landmark step that means the ambitious project is materializing.

This undated photo provided by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration on September 3, 2020, shows a prototype of South Korea’s envisioned fighter jet being assembled at the Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI) facility in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province

Under the KF-X project worth 8.8 trillion won (US$7.3 billion), South Korea has been working since late 2015 to develop a home-grown cutting-edge fighter aircraft to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.

Following the design confirmation last year, Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI) got down to the final assembly of a prototype jet at its assembly line in Sacheon, 440 kilometers/273 miles south of Seoul, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

KAI is the country’s sole aircraft manufacturer and is in charge of the KF-X project.

The prototype is expected to be ready in the first half of 2021, and the agency is eyeing 2026 for the completion of development after ground and flight tests, according to DAPA.

Last month, the state-run Agency for Defense Development (ADD) produced a prototype of an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system as a key part of the envisioned combat jet.

«Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the KF-X project has been under way as planned, and the prototype is expected to be available next year», DAPA official Jung Kwang-sun said.

The aircraft is designed to be able to fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.81, with its flying range reaching 2,900 kilometers/1,802 miles. It bears outward similarities to the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II, according to the KAI.

With a maximum payload of 7,700 kilograms/16,976 lbs., the fighter is capable of installing 10 pods for missiles and fuel barrels. It will be able to carry several types of air-to-air missiles, such as Germany’s IRIS-T and European developer MBDA’s active radar guided Meteor missiles, it added.