Bulgaria became the world’s 40th Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) user when the European nation recently signed an agreement to purchase the missile from the U.S. Air Force through a foreign military sales contract. This letter of offer and acceptance allows the U.S. government to begin contract negotiations with Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, for production of an undisclosed quantity of missiles.
«AMRAAM delivers unprecedented air superiority to pilots, giving them a decisive advantage in the sky», said Paul Ferraro, vice president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense’s Air Power business. «The weapon will significantly improve Bulgaria’s ability to defend against advanced threats».
The AMRAAM is a dual-role missile, offering operational flexibility in air-to-air and surface-launch engagements. In the air-to-air role, the weapon’s advanced active guidance section and mature seeker design allow it to quickly find targets in the most challenging environments.
AMRAAM is the world’s most sophisticated, combat-proven air dominance missile. With more than 30 years of design, upgrades, testing and production, the AIM-120 missile continues to meet warfighter requirements in all weather and beyond visual range engagements. Its capabilities have been fully demonstrated in over 4,800 test shots and more than 10 air-to-air combat victories.
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.
«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».
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.
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».
Greece announced on September 12, 2020 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.
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.
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.
September 1, 2020, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced successful completion of captive carry tests of two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and are ready to proceed to first free-flight testing within the calendar year. The joint Agency and Service effort seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.
HAWC performers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies have each tested advanced air vehicle configurations that promise to achieve and sustain efficient hypersonic flight. Their upcoming flight tests will focus on hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.
«Completing the captive carry series of tests demonstrates both HAWC designs are ready for free flight», said Andrew «Tippy» Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work – that gives us faith the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to U.S. forces».
The HAWC program, since inception, has been executed as a joint program between DARPA and the USAF. In addition, DARPA is working in cooperation with military services and agencies, including the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to validate, and eventually transition key technologies. The extensive flight data collected is intended to increase the confidence in air-breathing hypersonic systems and reduce the risks to potential future acquisition programs across the U.S. government.
Boeing is delivering new technologies and performance improvements to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with the Block II Chinook helicopter. Boeing’s Philadelphia team recently delivered the first MH-47G Block II Chinook to SOCOM on time.
«This delivery marks a major step for the Chinook program», said Andy Builta, vice president and H-47 program manager. «The new Chinook will give U.S. Special Operations Forces significantly more capability for extremely challenging missions and will enable them to conduct those missions on the future battlefield».
The company is on contract for 23 more MH-47G Block II Chinooks, having signed a contract with SOCOM in July.
Boeing has more than 4,600 employees in Pennsylvania supporting Chinook, the V-22 Osprey, MH-139A Grey Wolf and a number of services and engineering efforts. Including suppliers and vendors, Boeing’s activities support an estimated 16,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.
After meeting several primary objectives during risk reduction flights at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in late July, DARPA’s Gremlins program now is targeting additional tests of its X-61A vehicle later this year. The program seeks to develop and demonstrate air launch and air recovery of up to four Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), known as Gremlins Air Vehicles (or just Gremlins), within 30 minutes.
Over several days in July, the technology development team completed multiple flight tests of the Gremlins air-vehicle ground and recovery systems, including demonstration of a recovery system safely retrieving and stowing the air vehicles. The team also conducted a controlled launch of a Gremlin flying for more than two hours and performed rendezvous and autonomous formation station-keeping between the air vehicle and a C-130 at a separation of 125 feet/38.1 m.
The July flights follow the program’s first flight test in November 2019, during which the program completed one captive-carry mission, and an airborne launch and free flight lasting more than 90 minutes.
«The air vehicle performed beautifully from launch through mission modes, and the consistency between the flight tests in November and July increases confidence in the X-61A», said Scott Wierzbanowski, the Gremlins program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «However, we made a decision to delay the first air recovery attempt and instead focus on key risk reduction activities to better ensure a smooth air recovery test later this year».
The program now calls for flight tests to resume in October with the key objective to recover first one, and then two, air vehicles in the same flight. By the end of the year, the program aims to complete the test series, culminating with airborne recovery of four Gremlins within 30 minutes. This final demonstration will showcase the capability of safe, effective, and efficient air recoveries, opening the way to dramatically expand the application and utility of attritable UASs.
Mission flexibility and affordability are the key attributes of the Gremlins system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while the latter remain beyond the range of adversary defenses. The Gremlins program is using a C-130 as the demonstration platform, but the recovery system is designed to be easily modified and compatible with a wide array of transport aircraft and weapons systems. Once Gremlins complete their missions, the transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews could prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.
Gremlins can incorporate several types of sensors weighing up to 150 pounds/68 kg, and integrate technologies to accommodate different stakeholders and missions.
The 411th Flight Test Squadron in conjunction with the 412th Range Squadron achieved the first successful flight of the Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, August 5. This event marked the first flight of the CRIIS at the Edwards Flight Test Range, and it was also the first flight on a fifth-generation fighter platform.
«This successful CRIIS flight test ensures that the 412th Range Squadron will achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for CRIIS and continue the legacy of providing leading edge Time-Space-Position Information (TSPI) capability for Edwards Flight Test Range customers that was started almost 30 years ago with the IOC of the nation’s first Advance Range Data System (ARDS) Global Position System», said Randall Heiling, 412th Range Squadron’s master architect.
CRIIS is a tri-service Test and Evaluation range system designed to replace the aging ARDS. The CRIIS system can downlink and relay aircraft TSPI, as well as other aircraft data to a test range ground station.
«CRIIS will enable F-22 Raptor flight testing for the foreseeable future», said Zachary Rumble, 775th Test Squadron, and F-22 Raptor Navigation Subject Matter Expert. «In initial testing, CRIIS appears to be more accurate than the legacy ARDS plate, with more room for growth».
Recent CRIIS flight testing has proven the ability of the system to record highly accurate TSPI on board the F-22 Raptor. A live stream test of CRIIS data from an F-22 Raptor to a mission control room is on track for later this summer.
«The CRIIS is truly a needed upgrade for the test enterprise», said Lieutenant Colonel David Schmitt, 411th FLTS and F-22 Raptor Combined Test Flight Director of Operations. «The ability to record and utilize TSPI in real-time is a foundational piece of what we do. It is a critical enabler, which unlocks many of the tools the experts use to verify the performance of everything from fire control radars, to datalinks, to new or upgraded munitions. This was the first flight at Edwards of what will hopefully be a long legacy of CRIIS performance across the test enterprise».
CRIIS is currently in the final stages of achieving IOC at Edwards, Eglin AFB, Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) Aircraft Division Patuxent River, Nellis Test and Training Range, NAWC Weapons Division (WD) China Lake, NAWCWD Point Mugu, and White Sands Test Center. CRIIS is being deployed on aircraft platforms such as the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Super Hornet. The CRIIS is expected to set a new tri-service standard for test range TSPI instrumentation.
A team of pilots and engineers from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River recently completed a crucial series of sea trials of the CH-53K King Stallion that not only provided them with valuable developmental test information about the aircraft, but could change the way the squadron conducts similar tests in the future.
The test team of 96 personnel embarked on the USS Wasp (LHD-1) in early June to conduct an intensive series of tests that were designed to establish the helicopter’s performance envelope for day and night launches and recoveries at a wide range of wind speeds, to test engaging, disengaging, folding, and unfolding the rotors in a variety of wind conditions, and to allow maintenance crews from Sikorsky and Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 to practice working on the aircraft in at-sea conditions.
«We went to sea with a robust test plan», said Maj Joshua «Felon» Foxton, CH-53K King Stallion sea trials project officer. «Typically, you include more test points than you can reasonably expect to accomplish, which gives us greater flexibility in executing the plan. But due largely to the success of the aircraft, we were able to accomplish all of our objectives while we were underway».
Over the course of the 14-day detachment, the team members who were embarked on Wasp accomplished just over 32 hours of flying, well over a third of which were flown at night. Altogether, the team achieved 364 landings, of which 74 were conducted using night vision devices. The team successfully launched and recovered to all spots, and was able to launch 13 sorties in the first eight days of ship-based maintenance.
Foxton praised the CH-53K’s performance, noting that the responsive and well-tuned fly-by-wire controls make shipboard landings much easier and more precise than is possible with many other helicopters. «It’s a real testament to the stability of the aircraft», Foxton said.
Lieutenant Colonel Fred «NOVAC» Neubert, department head and government lead test pilot for the CH-53K King Stallion program, agreed with Foxton’s assessment. «There may be other aircraft out there with similar performance capabilities, but I have not flown a helicopter with the outstanding handling qualities that the 53K provides», Neubert said.
The aircraft performed so well, in fact, that the test team succeeded in testing nearly all of the aircraft’s launch and recovery envelope expansion – the team’s primary test objective – within the first seven days of the trip, leaving the second week to thoroughly pursue the other objectives. As a result, the test team was able to devote more time to identifying refinements and minor improvements to suggest to the manufacturer than it otherwise would have had. Foxton recalled how, during one post-flight debriefing, one of the team’s veteran flight engineers pointed out, «Do you realize we just spent 15 minutes talking about whether we could improve the windshield wipers»?
«We were able to focus on those little things because the big things took care of themselves», Foxton said.
Teamwork was another major factor in the detachment’s success. «It can sometimes take weeks or months for a team to coalesce, but we had 14 days underway to forge a team», Foxton said. «Thanks to the professionalism of the contractors, our Marine counterparts in VMX-1, and our colleagues in the Navy, we were able to accomplish everything so thoroughly that we were actually ably to fly the aircraft off a day earlier than we had planned. That was inspiring».
Neubert and Foxton also had plenty of praise for the Wasp’s crew. «The crew was amazing», Foxton said. «They carefully negotiated winds and weather for us in order to get the ship in the exact position with the conditions we needed for every test point. Their true professionalism enabled all of our successes».
«One of the things that stands out about this detachment was the quality of the ship’s crew from the leadership on down, their commitment to figuring out a way to make it work no matter what we needed», Neubert said. «I think that reflects the command culture. The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Greg Baker, likes to get to ‘Yes.’ Every department embodied that mentality».
The envelope expansion testing that the team accomplished has resulted in the largest fleet envelope for any Navy and Marine Corps helicopter currently in existence, according to the squadron.
«I think this detachment is going to rewrite how we plan a test phase», Foxton said. «It’s an opportunity for us to find very specific efficiencies in our testing, which will in turn increase our speed to the fleet».
Neubert agreed. «In flight test, we specialize in risk mitigation and preparing for how we will respond to something that goes wrong», Neubert explained. «What we discovered in this test is that in the future, we’ll want to spend more time planning how we will we respond if something goes unexpectedly great».
«Our objective is to provide the fleet Marines with a safer and more effective platform with greater operational capability, and this detachment was a successful example of that», Neubert said. «This is why we do flight test – because we come from the fleet, and we want to give good products back to the fleet».