Category Archives: Air

British air power

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has today revealed that Britain’s combat air power has reached new heights whilst speaking in a brand-new hangar displaying one-hundred years of fighter jets.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sets sights on next century of British air power as major fighter jet milestones are reached
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sets sights on next century of British air power as major fighter jet milestones are reached

Speaking at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham, the Defence Secretary announced the UK now has nine F-35B Lightning II jets ready to be deployed on operations around the world.

The F-35B Lightnings II will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet alongside the Typhoon jets, which the Defence Secretary also announced have now been fitted with a state-of-the-art complex weapons suite to vastly increase its capability.

Under «Project Centurion», worth £425m over the past three years, the Typhoon now has deep strike cruise missile Storm Shadow, air-to-air missile Meteor and the precision attack missile Brimstone at their disposal.

It means the jets have boosted capabilities to intercept airborne missiles and strike ground based targets, seamlessly taking over from the Tornado’s attack role as it nears retirement.

Completed on-time and to budget, the upgrades transform the fleet into a world-leading multi-role combat air platform for decades to come.

Military engineers and personnel have worked together with hundreds of UK workers from British defence firms including BAE Systems, MBDA and Leonardo to reach the milestone.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement in front of four different aircraft, in a brand-new maintenance hangar at RAF Marham, which he opened today along with a state-of-the-art new training centre.

These facilities, along with resurfaced runways and new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically, are a key part of the £550m being invested in the Norfolk base.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: «As we bid farewell to the RAF’s first century, we are setting our sights on the next 100 years. Our nation is moving into a new era outside the EU, and our huge achievements in air capability make our commitment to a role on the world stage clear to both our allies and our enemies. The incredible F-35 jets are ready for operations, a transformed Typhoon has the power to dominate the skies into the 2040s and we continue to look even further into an ambitious future. The RAF has long shown Britain at its great and global best, and today it lifts our nation to even greater heights».

The year ahead will see the F-35B Lightning II pilots and ground crew continue learning how to operate and maintain the jets in the new centre, which features state-of-the-art simulators, classrooms, and physical aircraft mock-ups.

The facility provides a real-life training environment replicating the challenges that both pilots and crew will face in supporting and operating the F-35B Lightning II.

Pilots from 617 Squadron, who are already based at RAF Marham, will practice flying the next generation aircraft from four full mission simulators.

Having the F-35s ready for operations on time is a huge landmark in what is the biggest defence project in history, which the UK has been a leading partner in for almost 25 years.

Around 150 UK personnel had been working with the jets in the US before the first batch of aircraft came to the UK last summer.

Not only does the programme offer the UK a game-changing military capability, but with British industry manufacturing 15% of a global orderbook of over 3,000 jets, it supports around 25,000 UK jobs and is projected to be worth around £35bn to the national economy.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement in front of four aircraft, which represent the past and future of British fighter jets.

They included the Tornado, which has been in-service since 1979, making its combat debut in the 1991 Gulf War, and which will be retired later this year.

Its unique capabilities have now been transferred to the Typhoon.

In addition to the Typhoon and F-35B Lightning II, the Tempest concept fighter jet model was also on show.

The model, which represents an example of what the UK’s future capability might look like, was unveiled last Summer at Farnborough International Air Show, when the Defence Secretary launched the nation’s Combat Air Strategy to ensure the UK remains a world-leader in the sector for years to come.

The aim is then for a next-generation capability to have initial operational capability by 2035.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: «I am proud to confirm that the RAF’s Combat Air capability has taken yet another significant step towards the realisation of our Next Generation Air Force. With its cutting-edge stealth technology, our F-35s are now ready to deploy on operations and, alongside our combat-proven Typhoon, offer a step-change in our ability to employ air power around the world. Furthermore, the successful integration of Stormshadow, Brimstone and Meteor on Typhoon completes and enhances the transition of world-class capabilities from Tornado and allows a stalwart of the RAF’s Combat Air inventory to retire from service. The successful attainment of these milestones and the potential offered by Project TEMPEST will continue to assure the RAF’s ability to protect the nation, defend the United Kingdom’s interests and support the national prosperity agenda now and well into the future».

The RAF has already trialled its Typhoon and F-35B Lightning II Forces’ interoperability.

In a series of operational trials, the evidence clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of both platforms when operating alongside one another.

With its larger payload and increased agility and range, the Typhoon will operate in concert with the stealthy F-35B Lightning II and its next-generation sensors, making the RAF one of the few air forces with the ability to exploit the synergy of 4th and 5th generation combat aircraft and delivering the UK a potent force equipped to counter evolving threats in the global environment.

The UK is a world-leader in the combat air sector, which supports over 18,000 highly skilled jobs with a mix of skills and technologies unique in Europe.

The sector delivers a turnover in excess of £6bn a year and has made up over 80% of defence exports from the UK over the last ten years.

First Look

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, and Boeing provided the first look at the SB>1 DEFIANT helicopter the companies have developed for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role technology demonstrator program. The SB>1 DEFIANT is designed to fly at twice the speed and range of today’s conventional helicopters and offers advanced agility and maneuverability. It will help inform the next generation of military helicopters as part of the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.

Sikorsky, Boeing Provide First Look At SB>1 DEFIANT
Sikorsky, Boeing Provide First Look At SB>1 DEFIANT

The helicopter is participating in the Army’s Joint Multi-Role-Medium Technology Demonstrator program. Data from SB>1 DEFIANT will help the Army develop requirements for new utility helicopters expected to enter service in the early 2030s.

As the lead providers of Attack, Assault, and Heavy Lift Helicopters for the Department of Defense (DoD) and with a proven track record and a demonstrated ability to exceed customer requirements for those missions with these programs of record, Boeing and Sikorsky have joined forces to develop the SB>1 DEFIANT for the DoD. Defiant is a fully integrated aircraft that represents an evolution of the military’s most capable platforms. Designed for the Army’s attack and assault missions as well as the Marine Corps long-range transportation, infiltration and resupply missions, the SB>1 DEFIANT is uniquely suited to provide the warfighter with unmatched capabilities for the U.S. Military’s various missions.

Sikorsky and Boeing have designed the SB>1 DEFIANT to provide the right combination of speed, lift and range that are paramount to both the assault and attack missions while increasing overall maneuverability and agility. Developed with 85 percent commonality between attack and assault aircraft, the SB>1 DEFIANT will reduce development and life-cycle costs and ensure minimal disruption or loss of existing rotorcraft expertise. Its open mission systems architecture allows rapid technology and capability insertion to meet evolving FVL requirements and provide the U.S. Military with evolutionary sustainability, affordability and readiness for years to come.

The aircraft’s capabilities are largely derived from the X2 rigid co-axial rotor system which has already proven its airworthiness through flights of the X2 and S-97 Raider. With two coaxial rotors on top that rotate in opposite directions, the extra lift from each rotor’s advancing blade balances out the diminished lift from the opposite side’s retreating blade to eliminate retreating blade stall. To provide the raw forward thrust for fast flight, the back of the SB>1 DEFIANT mounts a pusher propulsor, allowing the aircraft to fly twice as fast and twice as far as today’s conventional helicopter while increasing the overall maneuverability and agility required for specific mission objectives. This additional flight component also provides unique and unmatched maneuverability in all flight regimes including hover, low-speed flight and high-speed flight.

The perfect paradigm for upgradability and survivability in an open architecture environment, the SB>1 DEFIANT is ready to serve the U.S. Military for decades to come.

  • X2 Rotor System: A rigid, co-axial rotor system with pusher propulsor that provides improved mission objective capability, reduced wear on parts and systems, increased reliability and lower total lifecycle costs
  • Maneuverability and Agility: Improved agility and flight control augmentation allow tight assault formations with close proximity landings to deliver embarked troops as a cohesive unit and minimize exposure to hostile threats
  • Speed and Range: Twice the speed and distance of today’s conventional helicopters while increasing the overall maneuverability and agility needed for the US Military’s various missions
  • Survivability: Propulsor thrust coupled with large angular rates and precision attitude control enable the SB>1 DEFIANT to rapidly and precisely displace the aircraft position or flight path in response to threats or evolving tactical environments
  • Lethality: Rapid and precise acquisition of targets and prolonged engagement windows
  • Deployability: When folded for shipboard stowage, the SB>1 DEFIANT fits the footprint of a folded AH-1
Future Vertical Lift: the next-generation rotorcraft of the U.S. Military
Future Vertical Lift: the next-generation rotorcraft of the U.S. Military

Hungarian helicopters

The Hungarian Ministry of Defence has ordered 16 H225M multi-purpose helicopters equipped with the HForce weapon management system. Together with the helicopters, Airbus will also provide an extensive training and support package to ensure the highest level of operational availability.

The H225Ms selected by Hungary will be equipped with state-of-the-art communication capabilities and will be used for transport, combat search and rescue, and special operations missions
The H225Ms selected by Hungary will be equipped with state-of-the-art communication capabilities and will be used for transport, combat search and rescue, and special operations missions

«I am thankful for the trust that the Hungarian Government has placed in our company to support its ambitious ‘Zrinyi 2026’ armed forces modernisation programme. Our teams have witnessed the professionalism and enthusiasm of the Hungarian experts and pilots whose contribution has been key to ensuring the success of this project», said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. «This new contract confirms the H225M as a combat-proven, multi-role platform operated by the most demanding military customers worldwide. The Hungarian armed forces will be able to rely on the cost-efficient H145M/H225M tandem that will enable them to cover all of the major military missions, from light utility, tactical transport, combat search and rescue up to light attack».

The H225Ms selected by Hungary will be equipped with state-of-the-art communication capabilities and will be used for transport, combat search and rescue, and special operations missions. Its state-of-the art avionics and four axis autopilot, exceptional range and payload capacities, combined with a large cabin designed to carry up to 28 troops and powerful air-to-ground and air-to-surface armament as well as electronic warfare systems allow the H225M to carry out the most demanding missions. The helicopter has an all-weather capability supported by its night vision goggle compatibility.

The H225M is currently in service across the globe with 88 helicopters having been delivered so far. It recently surpassed the 100,000 flight hour milestone, following its first delivery to the French Air Force in 2006. Since then the 11-metric-tonne H225M has proven its reliability and durability in multiple combat environments and crisis areas.

With this contract, Hungary becomes the 9th country to have selected the H225M. A member of the multi-role Super Puma family of helicopters, this military variant is currently operational in France, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, and has recently been ordered by Kuwait and Singapore.

 

Characteristics

CAPACITY
Troop transport 2 pilots + 1 chief of stick + 28 seats
VIP transport 2 pilots + 8 to 12 passengers
Casualty evacuation 2 pilots + up to 11 stretchers + 4 seats
Sling load 4,750 kg/10,472 lbs.
EXTERNAL DIMENSIONS
Length 16.79 m/55.08 feet
Width 3.96 m/13 feet
Height 4.60 m/15.09 feet
WEIGHT
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 11,000 kg/24,251 lbs.
MTOW in external load configuration 11,200 kg/24,690 lbs.
Empty weight 5,715 kg/12,600 lbs.
Useful load 5,285 kg/11,651 lbs.
Maximum cargo-sling load 4,750 kg/10,472 lbs.
Standard fuel capacity 2,247 kg/4,954 lbs.
ENGINES 2 TURBOMECA MAKILA 2A1
Take-off power per engine 1,567 kW/2,101 shp
PERFORMANCE AT MAXIMUM GROSS WEIGHT, ISA*, SL**
Maximum speed (Vne***) 324 km/h/175 knots
Fast cruise speed (at MCP****) 262 km/h/142 knots
Rate of climb 5.4 m/s/1,064 feet/min
Service ceiling (Vz = 0.508 m/s = 100 feet/min) 3,968 m/13,019 feet
Hover ceiling OGE***** at ISA*, MTOW, take-off power 792 m/2,600 feet
Maximum range without reserve at Economical Cruise Speed 909 km/491 NM
Endurance without reserve at 148 km/h/80 knots >4 h 20 min

* International Standard Atmosphere

** Sea Level

*** Never Exceed Speed

**** Mode Control Panel

***** Out of Ground Effect

Safe-for-Flight

The «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 completed their carrier qualifications December 12 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), the final required component for Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing (CJSFW) to issue the squadron its safe-for-flight operations certification. This marks a major milestone for the U.S. Navy toward declaring Initial Operating Capability (IOC) next year.

Sailors direct an F-35C Lightning II assigned to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan J. Soto/Released)
Sailors direct an F-35C Lightning II assigned to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan J. Soto/Released)

The Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification (SFFOC) is the final step for VFA-147’s transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet to the F-35C Lightning II. This process ensures a squadron is manned with qualified personnel to implement maintenance and safety programs in support of fleet operations. All transitioning squadrons are required to complete this certification prior to independently conducting flight operations.

When introducing a new aircraft to the fleet, the appropriate Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) is assigned oversight responsibility for the transitioning unit. The VFA-125 «Rough Raiders» were re-activated in January 2017 to fulfill the appropriate FRS role for the Lightning II. Since completing their combat deployment last winter, VFA-147 has been working with the Rough Raiders to accomplish the safe-for-flight operations certification. The Argonauts will be able to operate independently from the Rough Raiders, having received their safe-for-flight operations certification.

«Since we returned from deployment last December, our team has been driving toward fully bringing this platform online for the U.S. Navy», said VFA-147 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Patrick Corrigan. «As the Argonauts close out 2018 and the final stages of our safe-for-flight certification, we continue to exhibit the relentless drive required to meet transition goals and milestones. With this certification, we are announcing that we have the right skills, training and people to take this mission and execute it, to its fullest potential».

The safe-for-flight operations certification encompasses areas such as equipment, personnel and programs. Not least among them is the requirement for the squadron to be in the physical custody of at least 30 percent of the assigned aircraft. Other requirements include the installation and operation of management information systems such as Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) and its accompanying support networks. There is also a requirement for operational F-35C Lightning II squadrons to maintain robust, on-track, maintenance programs, as well as complete various inspections ranging from weapons to safety. Aircrew complete a transition flight syllabus and maintain certain proficiencies in accordance with Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures and Standardization (NATOPS).

«The Argonauts’ safe-for-flight operations certification was earned through the herculean effort of squadron Sailors and is an acknowledgement that they have developed the skills to safely maintain and operate the F-35C Lightning II», said Joint Strike Fighter Wing Commander Capt. Max McCoy. «We eagerly look forward to declaring IOC and integrating the F-35C Lightning II into the carrier strike group. This aircraft is a key component to maintaining the U.S. Navy’s dominance anywhere in the world».

«VFA-147 continues to accomplish significant milestones, advancing this program closer to its ultimate goal of integrating the F-35C Lightning II into the fleet», said McCoy. «The exceptional performance of the squadron throughout the entire transition process is a testament to the hard-working Sailors who make the U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II program a reality. We will succeed because the professionals in this program will not let it fail. It is evident in all that they do. It is who we are as a team».

Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, ensures that each F-35C Lightning II squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C Lightning II will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier. Currently, the U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II program is scheduled to declare initial operating capability by the end of February 2019.

 

F-35C Lightning II launch From USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)

 

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

 

Joint Surveillance

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a 12-month, $330 million contract for Total System Support Responsibility (TSSR) of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) fleet. The integrated total systems support contract covers TSSR Period Year 19, which began November 1, 2018 and concludes October 31, 2019.

E-8C Joint STARS aircrew members monitor moving target indication data at their operator work stations during a mission supporting BALTOPS 2018 and Saber Strike 18 exercises at Fighter Wing Skrydstrup, Denmark, June 12, 2018. The JSTARS team consists of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing (ACW), plus active duty personnel assigned to the 461st ACW and Army JSTARS. They are in Denmark to participate in BALTOPS 2018 and Saber Strike 18. JSTARS brings a unique, manned, joint airborne command control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the exercises. During BALTOPS, the Georgia Airmen will join military forces from 17 nations to enhance flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate international resolve to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. The Saber Strike exercise facilitates cooperation between the U.S., Estonia, Latvia Lithuania, Poland, and other allied and partner nations to improve joint operational capability in a variety of missions and prepare the participating nations and units for future operations while enhancing the NATO alliance (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sergeant Roger Parsons) (Portions of the photo have been blurred for security purposes)
E-8C Joint STARS aircrew members monitor moving target indication data at their operator work stations during a mission supporting BALTOPS 2018 and Saber Strike 18 exercises at Fighter Wing Skrydstrup, Denmark, June 12, 2018. The JSTARS team consists of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing (ACW), plus active duty personnel assigned to the 461st ACW and Army JSTARS. They are in Denmark to participate in BALTOPS 2018 and Saber Strike 18. JSTARS brings a unique, manned, joint airborne command control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the exercises. During BALTOPS, the Georgia Airmen will join military forces from 17 nations to enhance flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate international resolve to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. The Saber Strike exercise facilitates cooperation between the U.S., Estonia, Latvia Lithuania, Poland, and other allied and partner nations to improve joint operational capability in a variety of missions and prepare the participating nations and units for future operations while enhancing the NATO alliance (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sergeant Roger Parsons) (Portions of the photo have been blurred for security purposes)

Under the Joint STARS TSSR program, Northrop Grumman continues its longstanding partnership with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to provide total systems support to the 116th and 461st Air Control Wings for all facets of sustainment and support of the 16 aircraft Joint STARS fleet at Robins Air Force Base and forward operating locations overseas. Northrop Grumman will provide program management, engineering technical support, aircrew and maintenance training, supply chain and spares management, technical data and publications, program depot maintenance and overall customer support.

«The C2ISR division looks forward to the continued teaming with Northrop Grumman to improve critical aircraft availability to our combatant commanders while executing our Joint STARS 2030 roadmap», said Colonel David Menke, senior materiel leader, Command and Control Information Systems (C2ISR) division, digital directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, U.S. Air Force.

«While supporting the Joint STARS mission over the past 33 years, we have focused on keeping the high-demand E-8C fleet available and mission capable for the combatant commanders. Our commitment to the supported soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen at the forward operating locations remains steadfast», said Jane Bishop, vice president, military aircraft surveillance programs, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

«The 24/7 support we provide to our warfighters under TSSR coupled with the rapid fielding of new capabilities is an effective way to ensure mission success. We completed the Air Force Tactical Receive System-Ruggedized upgrade in just 12 months and are now implementing a fifth-generation upgrade to the fleet’s central computers», Bishop added. «The E-8C’s continue to serve as a low-risk pathfinder for the U.S. Air Force through continued fleet capability enhancements while the Air Force develops the follow-on advanced battle management system».

Joint STARS is the only platform in the U.S. arsenal that combines accurate wide-area moving target detection with synthetic aperture radar imagery to locate, classify and track surface targets in all weather conditions from standoff distances. The fleet has flown more than 130,000 combat mission hours in support of the U.S. Central Command since September 11, 2001.

Team JSTARS, consisting of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing, the active-duty 461st Air Control Wing and Army JSTARS detachment, provides joint airborne command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support over land and water to combatant commanders around the globe. The total force integration unit operates the world’s only Joint STARS weapon system based out of Robins Air Force Base. In addition to work at Robins Air Force Base, TSSR is supported by employees and partners at the Northrop Grumman Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence in Melbourne, Florida, the Lake Charles Maintenance and Modification Center, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and more than 30 major suppliers across the United States.

Quiet Supersonic

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works began manufacturing the first part for the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft, marking a milestone to bring supersonic commercial travel over land one step closer to reality.

Supersonic Commercial Travel Begins to Take Shape at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works
Supersonic Commercial Travel Begins to Take Shape at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works

«The start of manufacturing on the project marks a great leap forward for the X-59 and the future of quiet supersonic commercial travel», said Peter Iosifidis, Low Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «The long, slender design of the aircraft is the key to achieving a low sonic boom. As we enter into the manufacturing phase, the aircraft structure begins to take shape, bringing us one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world».

Earlier this year, NASA selected Lockheed Martin to design, build and flight test the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator. The X-59 will conduct its first flight in 2021. It will be used to collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by the aircraft, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land.

X-59 is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet/16,764 meters at a speed of about 940 mph/1,513 km/h and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.

A machinist prepares the milling equipment for the first manufactured part of the aircraft structure for the X-59 QueSST at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Palmdale, California (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
A machinist prepares the milling equipment for the first manufactured part of the aircraft structure for the X-59 QueSST at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Palmdale, California (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

First Korean Tanker

Busan, South Korea, 12th November 2018: The first Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has landed in Gimhae Air Base in Busan, South Korea for its acceptance tests.

A330 MRTT Republic of Korea Air Force Take Off
A330 MRTT Republic of Korea Air Force Take Off

The aircraft, which was piloted by a joint Airbus and ROKAF crew, arrived in South Korea after a ferry flight from the Airbus Final Assembly Line in Getafe, Spain, with a stop in Vancouver, Canada.

It will now undergo ground and flight tests in Gimhae. The ROKAF will be supported by a team from Airbus, which will be based in South Korea for the duration of the tests until the aircraft is officially handed over to the customer. The photo shows the aircraft leaving Getafe.

The A330 MRTT can carry up to 111 tonnes of fuel; this is the highest capacity of all tanker aircraft, even those which have additional fuel tanks in the cargo deck. It has the capacity of offloading 50,000 kg of fuel to a broad range of receivers during a 4-hour loitering mission at over 1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km from its take-off point.

To refuel receptacle-equipped aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35A Lightning II, or even the A330 MRTT itself (when fitted with an UARRSI), the A330 MRTT is provided with the advanced Airbus Defence & Space Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). Its fast fuel flow rate (up to a maximum of 3,600 kg/min – 1,200 US gal/min) makes the ARBS the most capable new generation flight proven Boom available. Excellent handling qualities are provided for the operation of the ARBS, rated as such by independent assessments.

Under-wing Pods provide simultaneous Hose and Drogue refuelling at high fuel offload rate (1,300 kg/min – 420 US gal/min), allowing receivers to minimise refuelling time and increase operation efficiency. The Cobham 905E Under-Wing Pods, currently in service and proven in operation, enable the A330 MRTT to refuel any NATO or allied Probe-equipped receivers such as the Eurofighter, the Tornado, the Jaguar, the F/A18 Hornet or the Sukhoi 30. The A330 MRTT physical compatibility with receivers across the world is established, demonstrated and certified to allow coalition interoperability. The 900 series Wing-Pods incorporate a digitally controlled and electrically operated Hose drum unit, optimizing reliability and maintainability.

Large probe-equipped aircraft such as the A400M or C295, can be refuelled, at a high fuel offload rate of 1,800 kg/min – 600 US gal/min via the Cobham 805E Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU). The FRU, a removable Hose and Drogue unit, allows refuelling receivers with a different fuel type. This option assures NATO fuel type to be transferred from Wing-Pods, while an alternative fuel type is dispensed from the FRU. Those Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) systems are controlled from an advanced Fuel Operator Console that is positioned in the cockpit, increasing the safety of the AAR operation by ensuring a timely and synchronized reaction of the flight crew to unexpected events. It also features an Enhanced Vision System, a high definition 2D/3D digital system that enables performing day and night refuelling and can provide high resolution video recording of the refuelling operations.

Maritime Surveillance

The DGA has awarded Dassault Aviation the detailed definition study of the future surveillance and maritime intervention aircraft of the AVSIMAR (AVions de Surveillance et d’Intervention MARitime – Maritime Surveillance and Response Plane) program. This contract is part of a global effort to streamline the acquisition and support of specialized military aircraft, based on the design of Dassault Aviation’s Falcon series business aircraft.

Dassault has been awarded a contract for the definition study for the French Navy’s new maritime surveillance aircraft, based on the Falcon 2000 LXS bizjet and which will replace the present Falcon 50M and Falcon 200 Gardians now in service (Dassault photo)
Dassault has been awarded a contract for the definition study for the French Navy’s new maritime surveillance aircraft, based on the Falcon 2000 LXS bizjet and which will replace the present Falcon 50M and Falcon 200 Gardians now in service (Dassault photo)

A first phase of the program has already identified the best technical solution, based on the Falcon 2000 LXS business aircraft, which is faster and more durable than the aircraft currently in service. The recently awarded study, which has a duration of 12 months, is preparing the acquisition contract planned for 2020. In particular, it must define the necessary adaptations to fulfill the operational missions of surveillance and maritime intervention, which in essence are very varied.

The AVSIMAR program must renew the air component of the French Navy dedicated to the surveillance and intervention for the maritime defense of the territory and the action of the State at sea. This mission is currently performed by 8 Falcon 50M and 5 Falcon 200 Gardian, who will be nearly forty at the time of their replacement. The Falcon 50M has recently distinguished itself by allowing the detection of escaped oil slicks from the two cargo ships colliding off Corsica.

To guarantee the intervention capability of the French Navy, the 2019-2025 military programming law provides for the delivery of the first three aircraft by 2025.

Next generation MICA

The French Defence Procurement Agency DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) has awarded MBDA the contract for the MICA NG (Missile d’Interception et de Combat Aérien Nouvelle Génération) programme to develop the next generation of the MICA missile. With deliveries scheduled to begin in 2026, MICA NG will be available to arm the current and future versions of the Rafale combat aircraft.

MBDA to develop the next generation of the MICA missile
MBDA to develop the next generation of the MICA missile

MICA NG is intended as the replacement for the MICA missiles currently in operational service with the French armed forces and exported to 14 countries worldwide. The NG programme includes an extensive redesign of the current MICA family while keeping the same aerodynamics, mass and centre of gravity. This is done to minimise the amount of adaptation required to operate the new system with existing platforms and launchers. The unique concept that has ensured the ongoing success of MICA for two decades remains: the option of two different seekers (infrared and radio frequency) and two launch modes (rail and ejection) in a single missile casing.

The technological step changes introduced with this change of generation will provide the capability to counter future threats. This includes targets with reduced infrared and electromagnetic signatures, atypical targets (UAVs and small aircraft), as well as the threats normally countered by air-to-air missiles (combat aircraft and helicopters).

More specifically, the infrared seeker will use a matrix sensor providing greater sensitivity. Meanwhile the radio frequency seeker will use an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Antenna), enabling smart detection strategies. The reduced volume of electronic components within MICA NG will allow it to carry a larger quantity of propellant, thereby significantly extending the range of the missile. Utilising a new double-pulse rocket motor will also provide additional energy to the missile at the end of its flight to improve manoeuvrability and the ability to intercept targets at long range. Lastly, the addition of internal sensors will allow the monitoring of the status of the weapon throughout its life (including during storage and transport), contributing to significantly reduced maintenance requirements and cost of ownership.

MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier said at the programme launch: «We are proud of the work completed with the DGA to achieve maximum technical and financial optimisation. The fact that we have reached this stage is thanks to the vision that we were able to share with our French customer to address its operational challenges, as well as our own long-term commercial challenges. The upgrading of the MICA family will enable us to support the armed forces throughout the remaining operational life of the Rafale».

 

About the MICA missile

MICA entered service in 1997, and was designed to replace the short-term MAGIC 2 missile and the medium-range Super 530 D missile with a single weapon system equipped with two interchangeable seekers: one being radio frequency and the other infrared. Approximately 5,000 MICA missiles in various versions have been ordered by 22 armed forces around the world.

A test launch

The U.S. Air Force has conducted a test launch of unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 11:01 Pacific Standard Time November 6, 2018, at Vandenberg AFB
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 11:01 Pacific Standard Time November 6, 2018, at Vandenberg AFB

The Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) says in a statement the missile was launched at 11:01 p.m. Tuesday November 6, 2018, to determine the accuracy and reliability of the system and such tests «are not related to any real-world events».

The command says the missile’s re-entry vehicle reached its intended target but details about the test can’t be released.

The Air Force tests Minuteman missiles by launching them from California to a target in the Pacific Ocean.

In July, a missile was intentionally destroyed over the Pacific due to an unspecified in-flight anomaly.

The Air Force Global Strike Command is located at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

 

General characteristics

Primary function Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
Contractor Boeing Co.
Power plant Three solid-propellant rocket motors: first stage ATK refurbished M55A1; second stage ATK refurbished SR-19; third stage ATK refurbished SR-73
Technologies chemical systems division thrust first stage: 203,158 pounds/92,151 kg; second stage: 60,793 pounds/27,575 kg; third stage: 35,086 pounds/15,915 kg
Weight 79,432 pounds/36,030 kg
Diameter 5.5 feet/1.67 m
Range 5,218 NM/6,005 miles/9,664 km
Speed approximately Mach 23/15,000 mph/24,000 km/h at burnout
Ceiling 700 miles/1,120 km
Date deployed June 1970, production cessation: December 1978
Inventory 450