Category Archives: Air

H225M in naval configuration

Airbus Helicopters has delivered the first H225M in naval combat configuration to the Brazilian Navy. Stationed at the naval base in São Pedro d’Aldeia, the aircraft will boost the Brazilian Navy’s mission capabilities including anti-surface warfare and maritime surveillance.

H225M
First ever naval combat H225M delivered to the Brazilian Navy

Developed by the engineering team at Helibras (the Brazilian subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters), this naval version of the H225M aircraft is the most complex configuration that has ever been produced for this multirole helicopter. The aircraft’s embedded systems include the EWS IDAS-3 (countermeasure system), MBDA Exocet AM39 B2M2 missiles, the APS143 tactical radar and the naval mission system N-TDMS (Naval Tactical Data Management System) developed in partnership with Atech and Airbus Defense and Space, which is responsible for making the command and control of all embedded systems, including the missile system.

«We are very proud of this achievement, which proves the industrial and technological capability of the Airbus Helicopters teams in France and Brazil to deliver one of the most modern solutions in the world to the Brazilian Armed Forces», said Alberto Robles, Head of Latin America at Airbus Helicopters. «Designed to meet the most demanding requirements of the Brazilian Navy, the advanced anti-surface warfare and tactical capabilities open new mission capabilities for the H225M utility helicopter».

The last stage of the firing campaign with the Exocet AM39 B2M2 missiles was successfully carried out last June, representing a major milestone in the programme, which led the way to qualification and delivery.

The naval H225M is part of the contract signed by the Brazilian government in 2008 and which includes 50 H225Ms to be operated by the three armed forces. So far, 39 H225Ms have been delivered to the Brazilian Armed Forces, all of them assembled locally by Helibras.

Croatian Rafale

At a ceremony attended by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Minister of the Croatian Republic Andrej Plenković, the French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and the Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier signed today in Zagreb, with the Croatian Minister of Defense Mario Banozic, two contracts for the acquisition of 12 Rafale fighters and associated logistics support.

Rafale
Croatia and France finalize Rafale acquisition

The state-to-state contract mainly covers the transfer of 12 Rafale fighters from the French Air Force along with their equipment, as well as a training service for the Croatian Air Force.

The logistics support contract covers all support resources, including additional spare parts for these aircraft, over a three-year period.

The selection of the Rafale, announced on May 28, after an international tender involving European and American aircraft, reflects its technological and operational superiority, as well as the excellent work done by the team «France» to consolidate its position in the European air forces.

«I am delighted, on behalf of Dassault Aviation and its partners, to be entering into a relationship of trust with Croatia, a European country, and to be writing a new page for the Rafale, which I am certain will give the Croatian Air Force complete satisfaction, while actively contributing to the exercise of Croatia’s national sovereignty», said Eric Trappier after the signing ceremony.

Global F-16 Program

PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company and one of Poland’s longest established aircraft manufacturers, is to be a manufacturing partner for one of the world’s most successful fighter aircraft programs. Beginning next year, PZL Mielec will build components and assemblies for the latest generation F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72, sustaining around 200 jobs, with approximately 60 new jobs being created.

F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72
PZL Mielec to manufacture major assemblies for global F-16 Fighting Falcon program

This development marks a significant new milestone for PZL Mielec, which was last involved in the production of fighter aircraft in the 1960s.

Beginning next year, PZL Mielec will manufacture the rear fuselage, center fuselage, cockpit structure, cockpit side panel and forward equipment bay for new production F-16s, exporting the aerostructures to Lockheed Martin’s final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina.

«Today’s announcement underlines our commitment to PZL Mielec and to growing Lockheed Martin’s industrial footprint in Poland, where we currently employ around 1,600 people directly and sustain work for more than 5,000 others in the Polish supply chain», says Robert Orzylowski, Lockheed Martin director for Poland, Central and East Europe.

«During our 20+ year strategic partnership with Poland, we’ve delivered technology transfer, research and development opportunities, long-term sustainable high technology jobs, growth and exports», Orzylowski adds. «Poland’s acquisition of the F-35 opened the door for a further expansion of this relationship and helped enable today’s exciting announcement».

With orders already secured for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72 from five customers, global interest remains high for new-build production aircraft and for F-16V Fighting Falcon upgrades.

Poland has operated F-16s in its own fleet for the past 15 years, and this summer marked a 100,000 flight-hour milestone.

«The F-16 Fighting Falcon remains a critical part of the Polish Air Force», says Danya Trent, Lockheed Martin vice president, F-16 Fighting Falcon program. «This new production work at PZL Mielec will further ensure Poland is part of the F-16 Fighting Falcon global enterprise for many years to come».

Beyond the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Poland is also procuring 32 F-35s, the first of which will be delivered in 2024. The complementary capabilities and interoperability between both fighter aircraft types serves to strengthen Poland’s airpower capabilities and enables partnerships across missions, training, equipment and tactics with other NATO members.

24-hour mission

A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

RQ-4D Phoenix
A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 (Photo courtesy of NATO AGS Force)

This important step to Full Operating Capability for the NATO Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force has been successfully achieved. The AGS team conducted its first mission of 24-hour duration demonstrating the team’s continuous efforts in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and therefore enhancing a vital Allied capability.

«I am very proud of the teamwork accomplished», said Brigadier General Houston Cantwell, Commander of the NATO AGS Force. «With this 24-hour mission, we have proven that we are on the right track to Full Operational Capability and are a valuable asset to NATO».

The challenge of this long mission focused on the airmen and soldiers operating the system; in particular their ability to hand over smoothly between shifts. The sensor operators, who are responsible for controlling the Synthetic Aperture radar, were also changed at the same time as the pilots.

In order for the unmanned aircraft to fly its mission safely, it is not only necessary to have well-trained pilots who are replaced after a certain period of time, but also the IT specialists who ensure that the satellite and communication link is guaranteed between the Main Operation Base in Sigonella and the NATO RQ-4D Phoenix.

At present, the multinational NATO AGS Force comprised of approximately 375 personnel from 24 nations.

Britain’s flagship

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) has welcomed fighter jets from a third allied nation on to her flight deck after working with the Italian Navy and Air Force.

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)
Third nation’s F-35B Lightning II lands on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deck in milestone moment

Britain’s flagship is currently in the Mediterranean following months in the Indo-Pacific region as part of her global deployment.

As she heads west back to the UK, the ship has continued her busy programme of working with allied nations and partners.

The latest series of exercises saw HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) work with Italian F-35B Lightning II stealth jets.

They are the same B variant as the joint Royal Air Force (RAF)/Royal Navy and U.S. Marine Corps stealth fighter currently embarked in the Portsmouth-based UK flagship. Italy is the only other NATO partner aside from the U.S. and UK to operate that variant.

The landings and takings off by the Italians means HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) has now hosted jets from three different countries since leaving home in May, with the Italians the first European NATO partner to land on the UK flagship’s flight deck.

«The fact that U.S., Italian and UK F-35Bs Lightning II are able to fly to and from one another’s decks offers tactical agility and strategic advantage to NATO», said Royal Navy Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group. «Today’s activity is a telling demonstration of the ability of the UK’s flagship to work seamlessly with other nations; Italy is the third nation to land an F-35B Lightning II on to the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and the seventh military operating F-35B Lightning II aircraft that the UK’s Carrier Strike Group has exercised with on CSG21!»

Earlier during their deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and her jets trained with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) Carrier Strike Group and her impressive air wing in the Pacific Ocean, which includes the traditional carrier variant, F-35C Lightning II – launched by catapult.

The UK carrier also conducted multi-carrier exercises with the French Carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R91), the USS Essex (LHD-2), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the Japanese Carrier JS Ise (DDH-182) and the Japanese A variant of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and her task group, including Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and Diamond, Type 23 frigates HMS Kent (F78) and HMS Richmond (F239), Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and RFA Tidespring (A136).

Norwegian Poseidon

The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) on November 18, 2021 accepted the first of five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft that will be operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF).

P-8A Poseidon
Boeing delivers first P-8A Poseidon to Norway

«Norway is responsible for large maritime areas in a strategically important part of the world, and the new P-8A Poseidon will represent a tremendous improvement in our ability to both protect our sovereignty and understand developments in these areas. Today’s delivery of our first P-8A Poseidon is an important milestone in the modernization of Norway’s maritime patrol aircraft capability», said Mette Sørfonden, director general of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency. «I’m very pleased that the NDMA will soon be able to provide the Norwegian Armed Forces with a whole new generation of aircraft that will play an important role in preserving our national security for many years to come».

Norway’s first P-8A Poseidon aircraft, named Vingtor, was delivered to the NDMA during a ceremony at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. The milestone comes four years after the NDMA entered into an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the P-8A Poseidon, and two years before the new aircraft are scheduled to begin taking over maritime patrol duties in Norway’s high north.

«We’re honored to provide this unmatched, multimission maritime patrol capability to Norway», said Stu Voboril, vice president and program manager, P-8 Poseidon Programs. «Norway joins seven other global customers that have selected or already operate the P-8 Poseidon and benefit greatly from its long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. We look forward to enhancing our continued and enduring partnership with the U.S. Navy and the Royal Norwegian Air Force, and supporting the future fleet’s sustainment and training needs».

Norway’s four remaining aircraft are all in advanced stages of production and will be delivered to the NDMA in 2022. The five P-8As will replace the RNoAF current fleet of six P-3 Orions and two DA-20 Jet Falcons and will be operated by 333 Squadron at Evenes Air Station.

Norwegian companies Nammo, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, Andoya Space and Berget currently have agreements with Boeing that are part of a tailored industrial cooperation plan related to Norway’s acquisition of five P-8A Poseidon aircraft. Boeing continues to work with the NDMA and Norwegian industry to expand that plan and support economic growth throughout Norway.

The delivery to Norway also marks the 142nd P-8 Poseidon aircraft delivered to global customers, including the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Navy and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. First deliveries to New Zealand, Korea and Germany will take place in 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively.

To date, the global operating P-8 Poseidon fleet has amassed more than 400,000 mishap-free flight hours. The P-8 Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. In addition, the P-8 Poseidon performs humanitarian and search and rescue missions around the globe.

Flight Testing

Boeing Australia has expanded its flight-test program of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with two aircraft successfully completing separate flight missions at the Woomera Range Complex recently.

Loyal Wingman
Loyal Wingman test flights continue to expand the flight envelope (Boeing Photo)

The first Loyal Wingman aircraft developed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) demonstrated a range of key characteristics during the test flights to continue to expand the flight envelope. A second aircraft also successfully completed its first flight mission.

«It is so exciting seeing two aircraft in the air as the Loyal Wingman continues to excel in the flight-test program», said Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability. «This opens up significant capability agility for Air Force, particularly with features such as the reconfigurable nose».

«We’re heavily engaged in the payload development and the element of surprise that it gives us in the battlespace. You never really know what’s in the nose», said AVM Roberts.

Throughout the flight-test missions, the teams gathered aircraft performance data that will be used to inform and refine the digital twin of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with the view to accelerate the aircraft’s development where possible. The digital twin models the system’s entire lifecycle, from design and development to production and sustainment, and contributes to speed and first-time quality.

«We’re in a steady rhythm of flight testing on the way to mission and operational testing, enabling Boeing Australia, RAAF and our Australian industry team of more than 35 companies to progressively advance the flight characteristics and capabilities of the uncrewed teaming system», said Glen Ferguson, director of Boeing Airpower Teaming System – Australia and International. «I’d like to extend my thanks to our capability partner BAE Systems Australia, and to RUAG Australia for their specific roles in this latest test block».

The flight tests of aircraft one included the first time the landing gear was raised and engaged. RUAG Australia supplied the landing gear systems to the aircraft, and BAE Systems Australia was integral in the design, supply and support of the flight control and navigation systems tested as part of the flights.

«This is a great achievement for homegrown, Australian autonomous capabilities», said BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan. «Our partnership underpins a shared commitment to develop sovereign technologies and deliver a cutting-edge program for the nation’s defence».

The first batch of Loyal Wingman aircraft are serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defence customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities.

Gremlin Air Vehicles

An unmanned air vehicle demonstrated successful airborne recovery during the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Gremlins program’s latest flight test deployment last month. During the deployment, two X-61 Gremlin Air Vehicles (GAV) successfully validated all autonomous formation flying positions and safety features before one GAV ultimately demonstrated airborne recovery to a C-130 Hercules.

X-61 Gremlin Air Vehicles (GAV)
Gremlins Air Vehicle during a test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, October 2021

«This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery», said Lieutenant Colonel Paul Calhoun, program manager for Gremlins in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «Such a capability will likely prove to be critical for future distributed air operations».

During the final experiment, the team refurbished an X-61 vehicle and conducted a second flight within 24 working-hours. In addition, many hours of data were collected over four flights including air vehicle performance, aerodynamic interactions between the recovery bullet and GAV, and contact dynamics for airborne retrieval. Unfortunately, one GAV was destroyed during the flight tests.

«Airborne recovery is complex», said Calhoun. «We will take some time to enjoy the success of this deployment, then get back to work further analyzing the data and determining next steps for the Gremlins technology».

Safe, effective, and reliable air recoveries promise to dramatically expand the range and potential uses of unmanned air vehicles in conflict situations. The GAVs can be equipped with a variety of sensors and other mission-specific payloads. They can also be launched from various types of military aircraft, keeping manned platforms safely beyond the range of adversary defenses. After air retrieval, the GAVs can be refurbished by ground crews to prepare them for another mission within 24 hours.

Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is developing the Gremlin vehicles.

DARPA Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery

Off-Board Sensing Station

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) received a $17.8 million award from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to design and develop an unmanned Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) aircraft. AFRL is developing an open architecture concept Autonomous Collaborative Platform (ACP) to achieve its goals of rapid time-to-market and low acquisition cost, while extending and enhancing the sensing volume of manned platforms.

Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS)
GA-ASI Awarded OBSS Contract from AFRL

«We’re excited to continue working on this project with AFRL», said Chris Seat, senior vice president of Special Programs for GA-ASI. «Our experience in developing and delivering the most cost-effective and forward-looking UAS solutions puts GA-ASI in a great position to deliver the right ACP to meet our customer’s requirements».

The award covers the next 12 months as the base effort, and if the option is exercised, GA-ASI will spend the following 15 months manufacturing and flight demonstrating the aircraft with the award potentially growing to a total of $49 million.

Weapon System

Lockheed Martin and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., of Israel, signed an expanded teaming agreement, allowing the team to jointly develop, market, manufacture and support Rafael’s Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective (SPICE) 250 weapon system for sale in the United States and in Poland. This agreement marks the first time SPICE 250 is available for sale to the U.S. military.

SPICE 250
SPICE 250, pictured on the left-wing station of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, increases range, lethality and precision without the need for GPS

The addition of SPICE 250 builds on a 2019 teaming agreement, where Lockheed Martin and Rafael agreed to jointly market SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000 guidance kits for U.S. sale.

SPICE is a family of stand-off, autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems that provide affordable precision in a GPS-denied environment. The combat-proven SPICE family of products includes two guidance kits, SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000, as well as an all-up round, known as SPICE 250.

«Lockheed Martin’s deep expertise in weapon system integration will help us adapt SPICE 250 to meet U.S. standards», said Dave Pantano, Lockheed Martin program director. «We’re excited to leverage this experience and offer this unique, proven weapon system to aircraft operators for additional mission flexibility where it’s needed most».

In use since 2003, SPICE is combat-proven and in service with the Israeli Air Force and several other nations worldwide. It enables maximum loadout on F-16’s and F-15’s, reduces pilot workload, and provides multiple strike capability against multiple target types.

«GPS is not required to operate any of the products within the SPICE family, allowing for operations in a variety of locations and adverse environments», said Alon Shlomi, Rafael Air to Surface Directorate vice president. «By expanding our teaming agreement with Lockheed Martin, we’re able to offer the entire product portfolio to the U.S. military – providing warfighters with the opportunity to enhance mission flexibility».