Category Archives: Air

Tanker Drone

Rolls-Royce engines have been selected by Boeing to power the U.S. Navy’s new MQ-25 Stingray aircraft, which will provide unmanned, carrier-based air-to-air refuelling.

Rolls-Royce to power Boeing MQ-25 aircraft for U.S. Navy
Rolls-Royce to power Boeing MQ-25 aircraft for U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy has awarded the MQ-25A engineering and manufacturing contract to Boeing to provide four aircraft. The MQ-25 is designed to provide the U.S. Navy with a much-needed refuelling capability and extend the range of combat aircraft from carriers.

Each MQ-25 aircraft will be powered by a single Rolls-Royce AE 3007N engine, manufactured in Indianapolis, U.S. The AE 3007N, the latest variant of the Rolls-Royce AE family of engines, will provide more than 10,000 lbs./4,536 kg of thrust and additional electrical power to the aircraft.

Jarrett Jones, Rolls-Royce, Executive Vice President, Customer Business, Government Relations and Sales, said: «Congratulations to Boeing for being selected to develop this historic aircraft in support of the U.S. Navy. For Rolls-Royce, it will expand our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) expertise with unmanned aircraft in the U.S. Navy fleet, which includes the Triton and Fire Scout aircraft».

The proven Rolls-Royce AE family of engines includes turbofan, turboprop and turboshaft variants, and the total AE engine fleet has accumulated more than 74 million engine flight hours. AE engines power aircraft for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and a variety of military and civilian aircraft in service around the world. Rolls-Royce has delivered nearly 7,000 AE engines from the company’s advanced manufacturing facility in Indianapolis.

The AE 3007H turbofan engine powers the U.S. Navy’s Triton and the Air Force Global Hawk, as well as commercial and business aviation aircraft. The AE 2100 turboprop powers the Lockheed Martin C-130J and LM-100J, as well as the C-27J and Saab 2000; and the AE 1107C turboshaft powers the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey operated by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. The MT7, a marinized variant of the AE 1107, will power the U.S. Navy’s Ship-to-Shore Connector hovercraft.

Korean Poseidon

The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Republic of Korea (ROK) of six (6) P-8A Patrol Aircraft for an estimated cost of $2.10 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on September 13, 2018.

State Department Notifies Congress of Potential $2.1B P-8A Sale to South Korea
State Department Notifies Congress of Potential $2.1B P-8A Sale to South Korea

The Republic of Korea (ROK) has requested to buy six (6) P-8A Patrol Aircraft, which includes:

  • nine (9) Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems 5 (MIDS JTRS 5) (one (1) for each aircraft, one (1) for the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and two (2) as spares);
  • fourteen (14) LN-251 with Embedded Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/Inertial Navigations Systems (EGIs) (two (2) for each aircraft and two (2) as spares);
  • forty-two (42) AN/AAR-54 Missile Warning Sensors (six (6) for each aircraft and six (6) as spares).

Also included are:

  • commercial engines;
  • Tactical Open Mission Software (TOMS);
  • Electro-Optical (EO) and Infrared (IO) MX-20HD;
  • AN/AAQ-2(V)1 Acoustic System;
  • AN/APY-10 Radar;
  • ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measures;
  • AN/ALE-47 Counter Measures Dispensing System;
  • support equipment;
  • operation support systems;
  • maintenance trainer/classrooms;
  • publications;
  • software, engineering, and logistics technical assistance;
  • foreign liaison officer support;
  • contractor engineering technical services;
  • repair and return;
  • transportation;
  • aircraft ferry;
  • other associated training, logistics, support equipment and services.

The total estimated program cost is $2.1 billion.

The ROK is one of the closest allies in the INDOPACOM Theater. The proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by enhancing Korea’s naval capabilities to provide national defense and significantly contribute to coalition operations.

The ROK procured and has operated U.S.-produced P-3 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) for over 25 years, providing interoperability and critical capabilities to coalition maritime operations. The ROK has maintained a close MSA acquisition and sustainment relationship with the U.S. Navy over that period. The proposed sale will allow the ROK to modernize and sustain its MSA capability for the next 30 years. As a long-time P-3 operator, the ROK will have no difficulty transitioning its MSA force to P-8A.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support does not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The prime contractor will be The Boeing Company, Seattle, WA. Additional contractors include:

  • ASEC;
  • Air Cruisers Co LLC;
  • Arnprior Aerospace, Canada;
  • AVOX Zodiac Aerospace;
  • BAE;
  • Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)/EMS;
  • Compass;
  • David Clark;
  • DLS or ViaSat, Carlsbad, California;
  • DRS;
  • Exelis, McLean, Virginia;
  • GC Micro, Petaluma, California;
  • General Dynamics;
  • General Electric, UK;
  • Harris;
  • Joint Electronics;
  • Lockheed Martin;
  • Martin Baker;
  • Northrop Grumman Corp, Falls Church, Virginia;
  • Pole Zero, Cincinnati, Ohio;
  • Raytheon, Waltham, Massachusetts;
  • Raytheon, UK;
  • Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa;
  • Spirit Aero, Wichita, Kansas;
  • Symmetries Telephonics, Farmingdale, New York;
  • Terma, Arlington, Virginia;
  • Viking;

The purchaser typically requests offsets. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the Purchaser and the prime contractor.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require approximately three (3) U.S. government personnel and ten (10) contractor personnel to support the program in country.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

 

Technical Specifications

Wing Span 123.6 feet/37.64 m
Height 42.1 feet/12.83 m
Length 129.5 feet/39.47 m
Propulsion 2 × CFM56-7B engines
27,000 lbs./12,237 kgf/120 kN thrust
Speed 490 knots/564 mph/908 km/h
Range 1,200 NM/1,381 miles/2,222 km with 4 hours on station
Ceiling 41,000 feet/12,496 m
Crew 9
Maximum Take-Off Gross Weight 189,200 lbs./85,820 kg

 

Phase I Complete

The Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) Commercial Modifications and Range Support (CMARS) Team accepted delivery of their newest commercial-derivative aircraft platform, July 30.

The U.S. Navy accepts the Gulfstream G550 with structural modifications on July 30. The aircraft is unique to the U.S. Navy and after further modifications will replace the aging range support aircraft in Point Mugu, California (U.S. Navy photo)
The U.S. Navy accepts the Gulfstream G550 with structural modifications on July 30. The aircraft is unique to the U.S. Navy and after further modifications will replace the aging range support aircraft in Point Mugu, California (U.S. Navy photo)

The Gulfstream G550, with structural modifications, was further modified to house specialized telemetry equipment, unique to the U.S. Navy’s application. The G550 is slated to serve as the replacement for one of the aging P-3 range support aircraft operated out of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in Point Mugu, California. The aircraft’s Airborne Early Warning (AEW) structural modifications allow room for installation of a telemetry system and additional equipment to support future missions.

During a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Gulfstream executives and PMA-207 leadership, Program Manager Captain Steven Nassau spoke to the complexity of this acquisition.

«Just getting to this point has been a process», said Nassau. «The team had to coordinate with AIR-5.0 Test and Evaluation leadership, AIR-2.0 Contracts, AIR-5.2 Ranges and AIR-5.1 test squadrons for mission equipment and airframe expertise, as well as AIR-6.0 Logistics for sustainment to keep this acquisition on schedule. Delivering the aircraft under cost and on schedule is a major milestone for such a complicated project».

PMA-207 CMARS Integrated Program Team Lead Chris Mullaney said credit should not only be given to those currently working on this project, but to those who have in the past as well.

«One of the original leads for this project was Jaimie Grubb. She, along with her Range Support Aircraft Team, had impressive foresight and solid planning at the beginning of this endeavor that paved the way for the successes we are seeing here today – delivery of a high-quality product on cost and on schedule», said Mullaney.

From here, the Phase II Integrator, Raytheon, will receive the G550 aircraft as Government furnished property and will develop, procure and integrate systems that will give the aircraft a multi-role capability in telemetry data collection, range safety and surveillance and communications relay. This modern, phased-array telemetry system will have the capability to support major programs in complex, robust and dynamic test environments for many years.

The aircraft is projected to be delivered for Initial Operating Capability (IOC) by August 2021.

Extreme Range Missile

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Florida, has been awarded a $51,078,802, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extreme Range (JASSM-ER).

The JASSM-ER is intended to have a range of over 575 miles/925 km
The JASSM-ER is intended to have a range of over 575 miles/925 km

This contract effort includes all all-up round level systems engineering and programmatic activities to align and phase the work necessary to design, develop, integrate, test, and verify component and subsystem design changes to the JASSM-ER baseline electronics, hardware, firmware, and operational flight software.

JASSM-ER will also include preparation for final all-up round integration, system-level ground and flight testing, qualification, and incorporation into a future production baseline engineering change proposal.

This effort will concurrently mature a new missile control unit and necessary hardware and infrastructure to support future JASSM-ER production cut in.

Work will be performed in Orlando, Florida, and is expected to be completed by August 31, 2023. This award is the result of sole-source acquisition.

Fiscal 2017 and 2018 research and development funds in the amount of $4,898,622 are being obligated at the time of award.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity (FA8682-18-C-0009).

GPS III ground control

Once the next-generation GPS III satellites begin launching later this year, a series of updates to the current ground control system from Lockheed Martin will help the U.S. Air Force gain early command and control of the new satellites for testing and operations.

The fourth Lockheed Martin-built GPS Ill satellite is fully integrated
The fourth Lockheed Martin-built GPS Ill satellite is fully integrated

In 2016 and 2017, the Air Force placed Lockheed Martin under two contracts, called GPS III Contingency Operations (COps) and M-Code Early Use (MCEU), which directed the company to upgrade the existing Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) Operational Control System (OCS), which operates today’s GPS constellation. These upgrades to the AEP OCS are intended to serve as gap fillers prior to the entire GPS constellation’s operational transition to the next generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, now in development.

In April 2018, the Air Force approved Lockheed Martin’s critical design for MCEU, essentially providing a «green light» for the company to proceed with software development and systems engineering to deploy the M-Code upgrade to the legacy AEP OCS. The Air Force gave a similar nod to COps in November 2016. COps is now on schedule for delivery in May 2019 and MCEU is scheduled for delivery in January 2020.

«The Air Force declared the first GPS III satellite ‘Available for Launch’ last year, and it’s expected to launch later this year. Nine more GPS III satellites are following close behind in production flow», explained Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for Navigation Systems. «GPS III is coming soon, and as these satellites are launched, COps and MCEU will allow the Air Force the opportunity to integrate these satellites into the constellation and to start testing some of GPS III’s advanced capabilities even earlier».

 

MCEU Capabilities:

Part of the Air Force’s overall modernization plan for the GPS, M-Code is an advanced, new signal designed to improve anti-jamming and anti-spoofing, as well as to increase secure access to military GPS signals for U.S. and allied armed forces.

To accelerate M-Code’s deployment to support testing and fielding of modernized user equipment in support of the warfighter, MCEU will upgrade the AEP OCS, allowing it to task, upload and monitor M-Code within the GPS constellation. MCEU will provide command and control of M-Code capability to eight GPS IIR-M and 12 GPS IIF satellites currently on orbit, as well as future GPS III satellites.

 

COps Capabilities:

Following launch and check out, each future GPS III satellite will take its place in the GPS constellation. The COps modifications will allow the AEP OCS to support these more powerful GPS III satellites, enabling them to perform their positioning, navigation and timing missions for more than one billion civil, commercial and military users who depend on GPS every day. Besides the addition of GPS III, COps will also continue to support all the GPS IIR, IIR-M and IIF satellites in the legacy constellation.

Lockheed Martin has a long history of supporting ground systems, providing operations, sustainment and logistics support for nearly 60 Department of Defense satellites, including GPS, often allowing them to double their on-orbit operational design life.

Lockheed Martin also is currently under contract to develop and build ten GPS III satellites, which will deliver three times better accuracy and provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. GPS III’s new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems.

Oldest F-22 Raptor

In Greek mythology, a phoenix is an extraordinary bird that is born again, rising from the ashes of its predecessor.

Raptor #4006 takes off for the first time in nearly six years with Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot, behind the controls, July 17. The test jet recently completed an extensive refurbishment to get it back in the air. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft for the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)
Raptor #4006 takes off for the first time in nearly six years with Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot, behind the controls, July 17. The test jet recently completed an extensive refurbishment to get it back in the air. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft for the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)

A video aptly titled, «The Phoenix Rises», played at a ceremony held August 27 in Hangar 1635 to celebrate the rebirth of one of the original F-22 Raptors ever built.

Base leadership joined the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force, along with Lockheed Martin and Boeing representatives, to welcome back to life Raptor #91-4006, which has been on the ground for almost six years.

The fifth-generation fighter was one of the first F-22 Raptors to have avionics installed for testing and has been at the 411th FLTS since it arrived in May 2001.

However, in November 2012, Raptor 4006 needed costly upgrades and the decision was made to put it into storage, possibly never to fly again due to the budget sequestration at the time, according to Lieutenant Colonel Lee Bryant, 411th FLTS commander and F-22 CTF director.

«This was a gainfully employed airplane when she was working», said Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot and member of the F-22 CTF. Rainey also emceed the ceremony.

After eventually getting approval and funding from the Air Force to overhaul the Raptor, a «purple» team of Air Force, Lockheed and Boeing personnel worked for 27 months here at Edwards to restore the jet back to flying status. This included 25,000 man-hours and almost 11,000 individual fixes/parts. The completed refurbishment extends the Raptor’s life from 2,000 flight hours to 4,000 FH and gives it newer avionics systems for testing.

Rainey was the first military F-22 Raptor pilot while in the Air Force and has worked on the Raptor program almost since its beginning. It was only fitting that the rise of the new phoenix was completed July 17 when Rainey took the newly refurbished Raptor to the sky for its «second first flight».

Raptor 4006 is currently the oldest flying F-22. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft, which will be an integral part of F-22 fleet modernization.

«It increases our test fleet from three to four giving us another flight sciences jet», said Bryant. «This will help us tackle the expanding F-22 modernization program».

Brigadier General E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, said he has flown 4006 numerous times when was assigned to the 411th FLTS as a project pilot and later as a squadron commander.

«Our warfighter needs her back flying again», said Teichert.

Today, the Air Force has 183 Raptors in its inventory and boasts that the F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.

The F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth, supercruise capability, maneuverability and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities from previous generations of fighters. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.

https://www.edwards.af.mil/News/Video/videoid/622051/
The Phoenix Rises

Operational Test-1

F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 are conducting their Operational Test-1 (OT-1) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and Carrier Strike Group 12 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Abraham Lincoln is currently underway conducting carrier qualifications (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maxwell Anderson/Released)
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Abraham Lincoln is currently underway conducting carrier qualifications (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maxwell Anderson/Released)

OT-1 evaluates the full spectrum of the F-35C’s suitability for operation within a carrier air wing and mission effectiveness to the maximum extent possible.

«The F-35C Lightning II brings stealth, enhanced electronic capabilities and a different sustainment model», said Rear Admiral Dale Horan, director, Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration Office. «Operating this new generation of aircraft out on the aircraft carrier brings a different set of tools, techniques and procedures, and we’re learning how to integrate them into the battle group».

The F-35C Lightning II has the ability to pass on the information it collects not only to other F-35s in the air, but to legacy aircraft, carrier air wings, strike groups and troops on ground, enhancing the warfighting potential of the fleet.

Evaluators have been assessing the suitability of the F-35C Lightning II aboard carriers by defining how well it performs with other aircraft and incorporates into an air plan, monitoring maintenance and identifying its logistics footprint.

«We hope to see how it integrates onboard the ship», said Horan. «Can we maintain it? Can we get the parts? Can we get it airborne? Can we repair it if it has a problem? Those are the kinds of things we are looking for».

In addition to assessing the suitability of the F-35C Lightning II on a Nimitz-class class aircraft carrier, OT-1 evaluators observed the effectiveness of the F-35C Lightning II in real-world scenarios.

«The effectiveness piece is what we’re doing when we’re airborne and executing missions», said Captain Matt Norris, from the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team. «We’ve been integrating with the strike group and accomplishing many missions like defensive counter air and anti-submarine warfare, for instance».

Previously, F-35C Lightning II and F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots have only conducted carrier qualifications together, so OT-1 marks the first time the F-35Cs have joined a carrier air wing to perform in a cyclic operations environment.

During cyclic operations, aircraft simulate missions, practice aerial maneuvers and take off and land continuously with brief pauses to allow for maintenance, fuel and ordnance changes.

Aboard Abraham Lincoln, the F-35C Lightning II has been flying cyclic operations with F/A-18 Super Hornets, E-2D Hawkeyes and EA-18G Growlers, conducting missions it would execute in combat if required. The addition of the F-35C Lightning II brings advanced capabilities that transform the way an air wing conducts operations.

Operational Test-1 helps give the U.S. Navy an assessment of how the aircraft would perform on deployment. As adversaries advance and legacy aircraft age, the F-35C Lightning II is critical to maintaining air dominance.

«This is the first time we really see how the aircraft works on the aircraft carrier; how we do maintenance and sustain it while we’re at sea; how it integrates with the ship; how it interoperates with communications, datalinks, the other aircraft; and how we conduct missions and tie in to other aircraft when we conduct missions», said Horan.

And while pilots adapted to the new aircraft, the crew of Abraham Lincoln also adjusted to the F-35s. From Aviation Boatswain’s Mates to Air-traffic Controllers, each Sailor learned to manage the aircraft with its unique attributes and capabilities.

«The level of planning that is required to execute an evolution like we did for OT-1 is huge, so everyone aboard Abraham Lincoln should be proud of the level of effort that they put in and how well they executed», said Norris. «We can’t fly this aircraft without everything the ship does for us, and the Lincoln has been an impressive ship».

With the successful completion of OT-1, the fifth-generation aircraft is one step closer to becoming deployable in the U.S. Navy fleet.

«The aircraft looks like a naval aircraft on the flight deck. From that perspective, the big picture looks pretty good», said Horan.

Data and lessons learned during OT-1 will lay the groundwork for future F-35C Lightning II deployments aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers following the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II Initial Operating Capability (IOC) declaration.

 

F-35С Lightning II specifications

Length 51.5 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.7 feet/4.48 m
Wing span 43 feet/13.1 m
Wing area 668 feet2/62.1 m2
Horizontal tail span 26.3 feet/8.02 m
Weight empty 34,800 lbs/15,785 kg
Internal fuel capacity 19,750 lbs/8,960 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-400
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
Propulsion Length 220 inch/5.59 m
Propulsion Inlet Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Propulsion Maximum Diameter 51 inch/1.30 m
Propulsion Bypass Ratio 0.57
Propulsion 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) >600 NM/683.5 miles/1,100 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Max g-rating 7.5

 

Planned Quantities

U.S. Navy 260
U.S. Marine Corps 80
In total 340

 

Orion Spaceship

Technicians have completed construction on the spacecraft capsule structure that will return astronauts to the Moon, and have successfully shipped the capsule to Florida for final assembly into a full spacecraft. The capsule structure, or pressure vessel, for NASA’s Orion Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) spacecraft was welded together over the last seven months by Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans.

Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly on NASA's Orion Spaceship That Will Take Astronauts Further Than Ever Before
Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly on NASA’s Orion Spaceship That Will Take Astronauts Further Than Ever Before

Orion is the world’s only exploration-class spaceship, and the EM-2 mission will be its first flight with astronauts on board, taking them farther into the solar system than ever before.

«It’s great to see the EM-2 capsule arrive just as we are completing the final assembly of the EM-1 crew module», said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin vice president and program manager for Orion. «We’ve learned a lot building the previous pressure vessels and spacecraft and the EM-2 spacecraft will be the most capable, cost-effective and efficient one we’ve built».

Orion’s pressure vessel is made from seven large, machined aluminum alloy pieces that are welded together to produce a strong, light-weight, air-tight capsule. It was designed specifically to withstand the harsh and demanding environment of deep space travel while keeping the crew safe and productive.

«We’re all taking extra care with this build and assembly, knowing that this spaceship is going to take astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in four decades», said Matt Wallo, senior manager of Lockheed Martin Orion Production at Michoud. «It’s amazing to think that, one day soon, the crew will watch the sun rise over the lunar horizon through the windows of this pressure vessel. We’re all humbled and proud to be doing our part for the future of exploration».

The capsule was shipped over the road from New Orleans to the Kennedy Space Center, arriving on Friday, August 24. Now in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Lockheed Martin technicians will immediately start assembly and integration on the EM-2 crew module.

MQ-25 Stingray

Boeing will build the U.S. Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft, the MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueler, through an $805 million contract awarded on August 30, 2018.

Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, known as T1, is currently being tested at Boeing’s St. Louis site. T1 has completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations designed to prove the agility and ability of the aircraft to move around within the tight confines of a carrier deck (Photo: Eric Shindelbower, Boeing)
Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, known as T1, is currently being tested at Boeing’s St. Louis site. T1 has completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations designed to prove the agility and ability of the aircraft to move around within the tight confines of a carrier deck (Photo: Eric Shindelbower, Boeing)

Boeing was awarded the engineering and manufacturing development contract to provide four aircraft. Boeing plans to perform the MQ-25 Stingray work in St. Louis.

«As a company, we made an investment in both our team and in an unmanned aircraft system that meets the U.S. Navy’s refueling requirements», said Leanne Caret, president and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. «The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world».

MQ-25 Stingray is designed to provide the U.S. Navy with a much-needed refueling capability. According to the U.S. Navy, the MQ-25 Stingray will allow for better use of combat strike fighters by extending the range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II aircraft. MQ-25 Stingray will also seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.

«MQ-25A is a hallmark acquisition program», said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts. «This program is a great example of how the acquisition and requirements communities work hand in hand to rapidly deliver capabilities to our Sailors and Marines in the fleet».

When operational, MQ-25 Stingray will improve the performance, efficiency, and safety of the carrier air wing and provide longer range and greater persistence tanking capability to execute missions that otherwise could not be performed.

«This is an historic day», said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. «We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing – all at relevant speed. Everyone who helped achieve this milestone should be proud we’re here. But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging».

The award is the culmination of a competitive source selection process supported by personnel from Naval Air Systems Command and the Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268) at Patuxent River.

MQ-25 is an accelerated acquisition program that expedites decisions that will enable rapid actions with less overhead. The intent is to significantly reduce development timelines from contract award to initial operational capability by five to six years. By reducing the number of key performance parameters to mission tanking and carrier suitability, industry has increased flexibility to rapidly design a system that meets those requirements.

Boeing has been providing carrier aircraft to the U.S. Navy for more than 90 years.

File photo dated January 29, 2018. Boeing conducts MQ-25 deck handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of The Boeing Co./Released)
File photo dated January 29, 2018. Boeing conducts MQ-25 deck handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of The Boeing Co./Released)

Armstrong Line

Airbus Perlan Mission II, the world’s first initiative to pilot an engineless aircraft to the edge of space, made history again yesterday in El Calafate, Argentina, by soaring in the stratosphere to a pressure altitude of over 62,000 feet/18,898 m (60,669 feet/18,492 m GPS altitude). This set a new gliding altitude world record, pending official validation.

Airbus Perlan Mission II soars to over 62,000 feet/18,898 m, setting second altitude world record and crossing Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)
Airbus Perlan Mission II soars to over 62,000 feet/18,898 m, setting second altitude world record and crossing Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)

The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet/27,432 m, passed the Armstrong Line, the point in the atmosphere above which an unprotected human’s blood will boil if an aircraft loses pressurization.

This marks a second glider altitude world record for Jim Payne and Morgan Sandercock, the same two Perlan Project pilots who soared the Perlan 2 to 52,221 feet/15,917 m GPS altitude on September 3, 2017, in the same remote region of Argentine Patagonia. The 2017 record broke a previous record that was set in 2006, in the unpressurized Perlan 1, by Perlan Project founder Einar Enevoldson and Steve Fossett.

«This is a tremendous moment for all the volunteers and sponsors of Airbus Perlan Mission II who have been so dedicated to making our nonprofit aerospace initiative a reality», said Ed Warnock, CEA of The Perlan Project. «Our victory today, and whatever other milestones we achieve this year, are a testament to a pioneering spirit of exploration that runs through everyone on the project and through the organizations that support us».

«Innovation is a buzzword in aerospace today, but Perlan truly embodies the kind of bold thinking and creativity that are core Airbus values», said Tom Enders, Airbus CEO. «Perlan Project is achieving the seemingly impossible, and our support for this endeavor sends a message to our employees, suppliers and competitors that we will not settle for being anything less than extraordinary».

Another first-of-its kind achievement this year for the Perlan Project was the use of a special high-altitude tow plane rather than a conventional glider tow plane. During yesterday’s flight, Perlan 2 was towed to the base of the stratosphere by a Grob Egrett G520 turboprop, a high-altitude reconnaissance plane that was modified for the task earlier this summer. Operated by AV Experts, LLC, and flown by chief pilot Arne Vasenden, the Egrett released Perlan 2 at around 42,000 feet/12,802 m, the approximate service ceiling of an Airbus A380.

To soar into the highest areas of Earth’s atmosphere, Perlan 2 pilots catch a ride on stratospheric mountain waves, a weather phenomenon created when rising air currents behind mountain ranges are significantly strengthened by the polar vortex. The phenomenon occurs only for a brief period each year in just a few places on earth. Nestled within the Andes Mountains in Argentina, the area around El Calafate is one of those rare locations where these rising air currents can reach to 100,000 feet/30,480 m or more.

Built in Oregon and home-based in Minden, Nevada, the pressurized Perlan 2 glider incorporates a number of unique innovations to enable its mission, and reached an altitude of 62,000 feet/18,898 m during its second mission (Airbus photo)
Built in Oregon and home-based in Minden, Nevada, the pressurized Perlan 2 glider incorporates a number of unique innovations to enable its mission, and reached an altitude of 62,000 feet/18,898 m during its second mission (Airbus photo)

Built in Oregon and home-based in Minden, Nevada, the Perlan 2 glider incorporates a number of unique innovations to enable its ambitious mission:

  • A carbon-fiber capsule with a unique high-efficiency, passive cabin pressurization system that eliminates the need for heavy, power-hungry compressors.
  • A unique closed-loop rebreather system, in which the only oxygen used is what the crew metabolizes. It is the lightest and most efficient system for a sealed cabin, and its design has applications for other high-altitude aircraft.
  • An onboard «wave visualization system» that graphically displays areas of rising and sinking air in cockpits. For commercial flights, following lines of rising air would allow faster climbs and save fuel, while also helping aircraft avoid dangerous phenomena such as wind shear and severe downdrafts.

Unlike powered research aircraft, Perlan 2 does not affect the temperature or chemistry of the air around it, making it an ideal platform to study the atmosphere. The experiments carried aloft in its instrument bay are yielding new discoveries related to high-altitude flight, weather and climate change.

Perlan’s other sponsors: United Technologies; Weather Extreme Ltd.; BRS Aerospace (Airbus photo)
Perlan’s other sponsors: United Technologies; Weather Extreme Ltd.; BRS Aerospace (Airbus photo)

This season, Perlan 2 is flying with experiments developed by The Perlan Project’s science and research committee, as well as projects created in collaboration with organizations and schools in the U.S. and Argentina. Perlan 2 research projects currently include:

  • An experiment measuring radiation effects at high altitudes, designed by students from Cazenovia Central School & Ashford School in Connecticut. This project is in coordination with Teachers in Space, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization that stimulates student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
  • A flight data recorder, developed by Argentina’s Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas para la Defensa (CITEDEF);
  • A second flight data recorder, designed by students at Argentina’s La Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (UTN);
  • A space weather (radiation) instrument;
  • An experiment titled «Marshmallows in Space», developed by the Oregon Museum of Science & Discovery to teach the scientific process to preschoolers.
  • Two new environmental sensors, developed by The Perlan Project.

The Perlan 2 will continue to pursue higher altitude flights and conduct research in the stratosphere as weather and winds permit through the middle of September.

 

About Airbus Perlan Mission II

Airbus Perlan Mission II is an initiative to fly an engineless glider to the edge of space, higher than any other winged aircraft has operated in level, controlled flight, to open up a world of new discoveries related to high-altitude flight, weather and climate change. This historic endeavor is the culmination of decades of research and engineering innovation, and the work of a tireless international team of aviators and scientists who volunteer their time and expertise for the non-profit Perlan Project. The project is supported by Airbus and a group of other sponsors that includes Weather Extreme Ltd., United Technologies and BRS Aerospace.

The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet/27,432 m, passed the Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)
The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet/27,432 m, passed the Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)