Category Archives: Air

Enhanced Chinooks

The U.S. Army is continuing to modernize its heavy-lift helicopter fleet with an order for two more Boeing CH-47F Block II Chinooks and long lead funding for additional aircraft.

CH-47F Block II Chinook
The CH-47F Block II during first flight. The Block II Chinook is powered by cutting-edge technologies – including redesigned fuel tanks, a strengthened fuselage and an enhanced drivetrain (Photo Credit: Fred Troilo)

«Modernizing the Chinook for our Army customer is a priority», said Ken Eland, Boeing vice president and H-47 program manager. «CH-47F Block II improves readiness, limits future sustainment costs and provides commonality across the fleet. We’re dedicated to making CH-47F Block II the best option for the Army’s heavy lift mission, now and well into the future». The CH-47F Block II Chinook is powered by cutting-edge technologies – including redesigned fuel tanks, a strengthened fuselage and an enhanced drivetrain.

Last year, the Army awarded Boeing a $136 million contract for the first four CH-47F Block II aircraft, which began production in April 2022. The Lot 2 order valued at $63 million brings the total number of aircraft under contract to six. The separate Lot 3 advance procurement contract is valued at $29 million.

Boeing’s H-47 Chinook Block II expands upon 60 years of partnership with the U.S. Army. During that time, Boeing has delivered over 1,000 Chinooks to the U.S. Army, continuously modernizing the helicopter to meet evolving needs. The U.S. Army and 19 allied countries around the globe rely on the Chinook for its multi-mission capabilities including equipment and troop transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

French Navy

The French Navy has taken delivery of the first of six H160s that will perform search and rescue (SAR) missions. The aircraft is part of the interim fleet that will be delivered by the partnership formed between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines.

H160
French Navy takes delivery of first H160 for search and rescue missions

«The delivery of the first H160 to a military customer is a major milestone for the H160 programme», said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. «This is the first public service version of the H160 to be delivered worldwide. Furthermore, the delivery takes place soon after two H160s entered into service this summer, in Brazil for the private and business aviation segment and in Japan for news gathering missions», he added. «With this H160 we will strengthen our partnership with the French Navy, delivering the right helicopter for its critical search and rescue missions. Together with our partners, we will also ensure that the H160 is ready when needed».

In 2020 the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran for the delivery of four H160s in a Search And Rescue (SAR) configuration. In 2021, the DGA confirmed an option for two more H160s. The first H160 for the French Navy was delivered to Babcock by Airbus Helicopters in May 2022. It has since then been modified into a light military configuration by Babcock. The modular cabin was also adapted for SAR operations and a Safran Euroflir 410 electro optical system was integrated.

The H160 will gradually start operating from the Lanveoc-Poulmic naval air station (Brittany), Cherbourg airport (Normandy), and the naval air station in Hyères (Provence). The interim fleet of H160s will ensure critical search and rescue missions while awaiting the delivery of the H160M Guépard. In the frame of the French Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) programme, 169 H160M Guépards are foreseen to replace five types of helicopters in service with the French armed forces. The French Navy’s operational feedback with these H160s will benefit the design of the military version of the aircraft and its associated support system.

Babcock, in partnership with Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopters Engines, will ensure the highest level of availability for the French Navy and the continuity of SAR operations on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean coasts. Built by Airbus Helicopters, the H160 is certified for the use of night vision goggles, which are necessary for winching operations at night.

The H160, as a next generation medium twin-engine aircraft, powered by Arrano engines, is modular by design in order to address missions ranging from offshore transportation, private and business aviation, emergency medical services, and public services.

Hypersonic Missile

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, in partnership with Northrop Grumman, has been selected to develop the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) for the U.S. Air Force (USAF). HACM is a first-of-its-kind weapon developed in conjunction with the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), a U.S. and Australia project arrangement.

Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM)
U.S. Air Force selects Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Northrop Grumman to deliver first hypersonic air-breathing missile

Under this contract, the Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman team will deliver operationally ready missiles to the USAF.

«Raytheon Missiles & Defense continues to be at the forefront of hypersonic weapon and air-breathing technology development», said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «With advanced threats emerging around the globe, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile will provide our warfighters a much-needed capability».

The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile is an air-breathing, scramjet powered munition. Scramjet engines use high vehicle speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion, which enables sustained flight at hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 or greater. By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons, like HACM, are able to reach their targets more quickly than similar traditional missiles, allowing them to potentially evade defensive systems.

«The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile creates a new class of strategically important weapons for the U.S. military», said Mary Petryszyn, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems. «Our scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era for faster, more survivable and highly capable weapons».

Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman have been working together since 2019 to develop, produce and integrate Northrop Grumman’s scramjet engines onto Raytheon’s air-breathing hypersonic weapons. Their combined efforts enable both companies to produce air-breathing hypersonic weapons, the next generation of tactical missile systems.

Compass Call

BAE Systems has designed, tested, and delivered key components for the U.S. Air Force’s first EC-37B Compass Call aircraft. The delivery paves the way for developmental and operational flight testing of the Baseline 3 configuration of Compass Call in January 2023. Baseline 3 offers additional electronic warfare capabilities. Interim fielding is expected to follow the completion of testing by mid-2024.

EC-37B Compass Call
A milestone delivery for Compass Call

«Since the program’s inception, BAE Systems has consistently delivered advanced capabilities for Compass Call», said Jared Belinsky, director of Electronic Attack Solutions at BAE Systems. «This final hardware delivery for the first EC-37B Compass Call aircraft ensures an upgrade that will continue to outpace our adversaries».

Compass Call is being redesigned from the current EC-130H airframe model to the enhanced flight performance of a commercial business jet airframe known as the EC-37B. It is the Department of Defense’s only long range, full-spectrum stand-off electronic warfare jamming platform.

EC-37B Compass Call disrupts enemy command and control communications, radar, and navigation systems to restrict battlespace coordination. It suppresses air defenses by preventing the transmission of essential information between adversaries, their weapon systems, and control networks.

BAE Systems also recently successfully tested three third-party applications on Compass Call’s Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resource (SABER) technology. The hallmark of SABER is its open system architecture that enables the rapid integration of new technology through software updates instead of hardware reconfiguration. This allows for the rapid insertion of new capabilities to keep pace with emerging technologies.

Work on EC-37B Compass Call is being conducted at BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art facilities in Nashua, New Hampshire, Hudson, New Hampshire, and San Diego, California.

Australian Navy

The U.S. Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a firm-fixed price contract to produce an additional 12 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Procured via the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales agreement, the new aircraft will add a third ‘Romeo’ squadron of unparalleled capability to the RAN’s Fleet Air Arm. Sikorsky is a Lockheed Martin company.

MH-60R Seahawk
The Royal Australian Navy has placed a second order for U.S. Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters (Photo courtesy RAN)

«The ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopter instills confidence in navies worldwide for its high operational availability in the harsh maritime environment, and for the fully integrated mission systems and sensors that quickly generate a complete picture of the surface and subsurface domains», said Hamid Salim, vice president, Sikorsky Maritime & Mission Systems. «We thank the RAN for showing confidence in the broad mission flexibility of this proven multi-role helicopter. Ongoing and planned upgrades to the MH-60R Seahawk through partnership with the U.S. Navy, RAN, other international partners and industry will ensure the aircraft’s reliability and mission effectiveness against emerging threats for decades to come».

As part of the Australian Government’s Project SEA 9100 Phase 1 (Improved Embarked Logistics Support Helicopter Capability), the 12 new MH-60R Seahawk aircraft will create a common fleet of maritime helicopters supporting all of the RAN’s air capable platforms.

«Built upon a decade of partnership with the United States Navy and Lockheed Martin, the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multi-mission helicopter provides the Royal Australian Navy with an unparalleled maritime aviation platform», said Rear Admiral Peter Quinn, Head Navy Capability for the Royal Australian Navy. «The versatility of the MH-60R Seahawk to conduct a wide range of missions combined with the world-class support provided by our partners, was a significant factor in the decision by the RAN to make an additional investment in MH-60R Seahawk under the SEA 9100 Phase 1 program».

Lockheed Martin plans to deliver all 12 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters between mid-2025 and mid-2026. Sikorsky Aircraft Australia Limited in Nowra, New South Wales, currently provides depot level maintenance, supply support and logistics support for Australia’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopter fleet.

«The additional 12 MH-60R Seahawk aircraft is a testament to the Royal Australian Navy’s commitment to providing their service men and women the right aircraft for their mission needs», said Captain Todd Evans, U.S. Navy H-60 multi-mission helicopters program manager. «This effort continues the long-standing partnership between the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy».

The RAN was the first international navy to select the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, acquiring 24 aircraft from 2013 to 2016. The Fleet Air Arm’s 725 and 816 squadrons based at Nowra have accumulated more than 30,000 flight hours embarked on frigates, destroyers and supply ships.

Completely Autonomous

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) used a company-owned Avenger MQ-20A Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to fly a military aircraft using an Artificially Intelligent (AI) pilot deployed on an operationally relevant, Open Mission Systems (OMS) software stack on September 12, 2022.

MQ-20A Avenger
GA-ASI Flies Completely Autonomous UAS Flight Using Avenger MQ-20A

The Avenger’s completely autonomous flight used an AI pilot for close to 30 minutes as a part of a cooperating live, virtual, and constructive UAS swarm. The flight was performed as part of GA-ASI’s ongoing commitment and investment into the development of advanced autonomy of AI and Machine Learning (ML) for UAS.

The flight made use of GA-ASI’s novel Reinforcement Learning (RL) architecture to develop and validate an RL agent in an operationally relevant environment. RL agents provide a new and innovative tool for next-generation military platforms to make decisions under dynamic and uncertain real-world conditions. The team flew “chase and avoid behavior” where real-time updates were made to the flight path in order to avoid adversaries using live fused tracks. Live tracks were provided to the system using the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor network that was supplied by Lockheed Martin.

«The flight was a tremendous success and demonstrated a number of groundbreaking capabilities in the race to operationalize autonomy for Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA)», said GA-ASI Senior Director of Advanced Programs Michael Atwood. «It’s exciting to see how AI can be used to advance how and where we fly unmanned systems as the complexity of the battlespace increases. Our ‘chase and avoid’ agent’s ability to dynamically update the flight path as threats were identified is the first step towards building an ecosystem of collaborative autonomous combat aircraft».

TacIRST is a new class of multifunction, embeddable sensor system with an open architecture. It was developed by Lockheed Martin to provide a range of capabilities for both crewed and uncrewed aircraft. «We anticipated the need for passive, long-range threat detection by autonomous aircraft and are proud to see this capability integrated successfully on the Avenger», said Terry Hoehn, Director of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Threat Warning Systems. «We look forward to further collaboration and testing with GA-ASI».

The team used a government-furnished CODE autonomy engine and the government-standard OMS messaging protocol to enable communication between the RL agent and the Tactical IRST. By utilizing government standards, such as CODE and OMS, rapid integration of autonomy for collaborative combat aircraft becomes possible.

General Dynamics Mission Systems also supplied key technologies to the flight. The mission computer used to host the OMS software is part of the Digital Backbone Node (DBN) family of systems from General Dynamics Mission Systems. The DBN architecture enables rapid and secure deployment of evolving capabilities needed for CCA through application of the latest government open architectures, high-performance computing, advanced cooling, and a high-speed backplane with multi-level security to maximize battlefield collaboration between platforms.

This flight was another in an ongoing series of autonomous flights performed by GA-ASI using internal research and development funding to prove out important AI/ML concepts for advanced UAS.

HSVTOL aircraft

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, announced on September 19, 2022 it has entered into a teaming agreement with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), a global aerospace and national security company, for Bell’s High-Speed Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HSVTOL) aircraft. As part of the collaboration, SNC will specifically support the design and development of mission systems for HSVTOL variants.

HSVTOL
Teaming agreement signed to add mission systems support for new Bell aircraft development

Bell’s HSVTOL vehicles blend the hover capability of a helicopter with the speed, range and survivability features of fighter aircraft, with low downwash hover capability and jet-like speeds of more than 400 kts/460 mph/741 km/h. This family of scalable aircraft concepts is designed to carry out USAF and USSOCOM missions across the full spectrum of conflict and political scenarios, including personnel recovery, contested logistics and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike.

«In an effort to advance technical maturity and deliver HSVTOL capability to warfighters sooner, Bell is assembling a team of industry-leading partners. We’re thrilled to have SNC onboard», said Jason Hurst, vice president, Innovation, Bell. «We’ve made significant progress in Bell’s HSVTOL technology development in 2022, and we look forward to showing this progress in the upcoming year».

«SNC is delighted to join the Bell’s HSVTOL development team, and we are already hard at work to deliver the visionary mission systems that Bell demands for their visionary aircraft», says Derek Hess, vice president, strategic program business development at SNC. «Our nation’s warfighters will benefit from this HSVTOL program’s ground-breaking operational capabilities».

Similar to Bell’s innovation development, SNC continues to leverage its mission systems expertise to explore dynamic new opportunities. SNC also supports Bell with additional mission systems expertise for the development of the Bell 360 Invictus for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) competition.

Bell is currently executing its HSVTOL risk reduction effort and participating in the AFwerX HSVTOL Concept Challenge, a crowdsourcing effort for the United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Bell is one of 11 companies from more than 200 challenge entrants selected to receive market research investments aimed at advancing HSVTOL technology.

Brazilian helicopters

The Brazilian armed forces, through the Combat Aircraft Programme Coordinating Committee (COPAC), have acquired 27 single engine H125 helicopters to boost the training capacity of the Brazilian Navy and the Air Force.

H125
The Brazilian armed forces acquire 27 H125 helicopters

The H125 will be produced in the H125 final assembly line located in Itajubá, Brazil at Helibras’ factory where the H225Ms for the Brazilian armed forces are also assembled. These new helicopters will replace the ageing AS350 and Bell 206 helicopters currently in service with the Brazilian Air Force and the Brazilian Navy respectively.

«This joint procurement contract represents the realisation of a project that will equip both the Brazilian Air Force and Navy with modern aircraft that will meet the needs of the Forces for the next 30 years», said Commander of the Air Force, Lieutenant Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior.

«Airbus Helicopters is proud to see the H125 supporting the training of the next generation of pilots of the Brazilian armed forces. The H125 is a versatile helicopter used widely in both the civil and military markets as a training platform thanks to its ruggedness, reliability, and easy maintenance. We are honored by the continued confidence of the Brazilian armed forces after more than 40 years of cooperation», said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters.

The new H125 helicopters will have a G500H TXi double glass cockpit and VEMD (Vehicle & Engine Multifunction Display) and will be compatible with the use of Night Vision Goggles (NVG). They will also include different types of mission equipment such as a winch and a hook so that the training of future pilots is as representative of their missions as possible.

The Brazilian armed forces currently operate a total of 156 Airbus helicopters deployed from its eight bases across the country. Its fleet ranges from the light single engine Ecureuil family to the multi-purpose heavy H225M helicopter, 67 and 41 helicopters respectively, to cover a wide array of missions such as tactical transport, search and rescue missions, and civil population support.

The worldwide best-selling H125 has accumulated more than 37 million flight hours with more than 5350 helicopters currently in operation. The model, known for its robustness and versatility, is widely used in high-performance missions.

Infographic H125
Infographic: Airbus Helicopters and the Brazilian Armed Forces

X-Plane

DARPA’s AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY X-Plane program, nicknamed ANCILLARY, aims to develop and flight demonstrate critical technologies required for a leap ahead in Vertical TakeOff and Landing (VTOL), low-weight, high-payload, and long-endurance capabilities. The goal is to build a plane that can launch from ship flight decks and small austere land locations in adverse weather without launch and recovery equipment typically needed for these systems.

X-Plane
AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY X-Plane

«The ability for the warfighter to deploy and retrieve such systems in challenging conditions without reliance on infrastructure would minimize personnel, costs, and vulnerability during sensitive operations», said Steve Komadina, the DARPA program manager for ANCILLARY.

A large non-traditional commercial industry base has fueled recent VTOL research investments and advanced controls leading to innovative vehicle configurations spanning size, weight, power, and cost. Advancements in small propulsion systems, high capacity low weight batteries, fuel cells, materials, electronics, and low-cost additive manufacturing can now enable new architectures and designs to be explored in this trade space.

«ANCILLARY plans to use a multi-disciplinary approach that will bring together developments in advanced control theory, aerodynamic modelling, and advanced propulsion to solve a combination of challenging design objectives», said Komadina. «The upcoming Proposers Day and Expo on September 20, 2022, will not only bring together traditional aircraft manufactures, but also non-traditional military contractors that have been investigating commercial VTOL solutions».

Industry and academic technologists and researchers who could supply needed component and manufacturing techniques are encouraged to attend.

AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY)

First Australian Triton

Northrop Grumman Corporation on September 14, 2022 unveiled Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton autonomous aircraft during a ceremony at its High-Altitude, Long-Endurance (HALE) aircraft production site in California. The event, attended by Australian, U.S. government and defense officials, highlights the continued progress of the MQ-4C Triton program for both the Royal Australian Air Force and U.S. Navy.

MQ-4C Triton
Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton on the runway in Palmdale, California (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

«Today marks a significant milestone for Australia and the MQ-4C Triton program», said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. «As we get ready for final system integration and flight test, we are one step closer to delivering this extraordinary maritime awareness capability to Australia».

Australia is a cooperative program partner in the Triton program and was critical in helping shape the requirements for the system. As partners, U.S. and Australian defense forces will be able to share data collected by their respective Tritons, a critical ability in one of the world’s most strategically important regions.

«Triton will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with an unprecedented capability to monitor and protect our maritime approaches», said Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. «Triton will work alongside the P-8A Poseidon and this unmanned aircraft system will allow us to cover significant areas, at longer ranges and has the ability to stay airborne longer than a traditional aircraft».

Northrop Grumman initiated the build of the first Australian Triton in October 2020 at its production facility in Moss Point, Mississippi, and met another major production milestone in December 2021 when the fuselage and one-piece wing were mated in Palmdale, California. The aircraft is scheduled for production completion in 2023 and delivery to Australia in 2024.

Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous HALE systems perform critical wide-area Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (ISR&T) missions. Today, autonomous HALE systems operate across the globe, with greater than 24-hour endurance, collecting essential ISR&T data over land and sea to enable rapid, informed decision-making. In the future, these systems will connect the joint force, implementing advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence and machine learning while delivering indispensable capabilities with fewer people to provide information at the speed of relevance.