Category Archives: Air

50th P-8A Poseidon

The U.S. Navy accepted its 50th P-8A Poseidon (P-8A) aircraft at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida on January 5, 2017. The Navy’s Poseidon is replacing the legacy P-3 Orion and will improve an operator’s ability to efficiently conduct anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The P-8A program of record calls for a total requirement for 117 of the 737-based anti-submarine warfare jets.

Navy partnership hits milestone, 50th P-8A delivered
Navy partnership hits milestone, 50th P-8A delivered

«I’d like to formally thank the team, including PMA-290, Boeing and our entire P-8A industry team, as we deliver the 50th P-8A Poseidon early and under budget», said Captain Tony Rossi, the Navy’s program manager for Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft. «This milestone demonstrates outstanding work ethic, professionalism and dedication to the fleet».

«The P-8A is special», added Rossi. «This is the first time a Navy combat aircraft was built from the ground up on a commercial production line. We’ve leveraged commercial expertise and experience, and a highly reliable airframe, the 737, which has reduced production time and overall production costs». Since the initial contract award, the program has reduced P-8 costs by more than 30 percent and has saved the U.S. Navy more than $2.1 Billion.

«Together, we and our industry partners are transforming today’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force for the evolving threats and diverse mission requirements», he said. «This replacement for the P-3C builds on lessons-learned, while enhancing those capabilities with unique features, such as an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret and increased acoustic processing capability with 64 passive sonobuoys, 32 multistatic sonobuoys and concurrent passive and active processing».

The fleet’s transformation from the legacy P-3C to the P-8A is expected to be completed by Fiscal Year 2019.

As of April 2016, all six active and one fleet replacement squadron at NAS Jacksonville have completed their fleet transition training from the P-3C to the P-8A and the first west coast P-8A squadron, VP-4, has relocated its home port from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. All squadrons will complete transition training by Fiscal Year 2019.

 

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

 

New Aerial Refueling

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed the first flight of an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with Aerial Refueling (AR). Under a 2013 Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) contract award, Northrop Grumman designed, developed, manufactured, and tested several sub-system upgrades necessary to accommodate an aerial refueling capability.

The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)
The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)

«The Northrop Grumman aerial refueling team continues to put outstanding effort into bringing this much-needed capability to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and our warfighters who rely on it», said Captain Keith Hash, program manager, E-2/C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office (PMA-231).

The aerial refueling capability will allow the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to provide longer on-station times at greater ranges, extending its mission time to better support the warfighter.

The upgrades installed to support aerial refueling include probe and associated piping, electrical and lighting upgrades, and long endurance seats that will enhance field of view in the cockpit and reduce fatigue over longer missions.

«First flight is an exciting day in the journey from concept to an aerial refueling equipped E-2D», said Jane Bishop, vice president, E-2/C-2 programs, Northrop Grumman. «This takes the E-2D to another level, which will bring more combat persistence to the U.S. and our allies».

The aerial refueling program will modify three aircraft for testing planned through 2018. Production cut-in and retrofit plans are scheduled to begin in 2018.

The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)
The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)

 

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is a game changer in how the Navy will conduct battle management command and control. By serving as the «digital quarterback» to sweep ahead of strike, manage the mission, and keep our net-centric carrier battle groups out of harms way, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the key to advancing the mission, no matter what it may be. The E-2D gives the warfighter expanded battlespace awareness, especially in the area of information operations delivering battle management, theater air and missile defense, and multiple sensor fusion capabilities in an airborne system.

 

Hardware with system characteristics that provides:

  • Substantial target processing capacity (>3,000 reports per second)
  • Three highly automated and common operator stations
  • High-capacity, flat-panel color high-resolution displays
  • Extensive video type selection (radar and identification friend/foe)
  • HF/VHF/UHF and satellite communications systems
  • Extensive data link capabilities
  • Inertial navigational system and global positioning system navigation and in-flight alignment
  • Integrated and centralized diagnostic system
  • Glass Cockpit allows software reconfigurable flight/mission displays
  • Cockpit – 4th tactical operator
  • Open architecture ensures rapid technology upgrades and customized configuration options
The Hawkeye provides all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander
The Hawkeye provides all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander

 

General Characteristics

Wingspan 80 feet 7 inch/24.56 m
Width, wings folded 29 feet 4 inch/8.94 m
Length overall 57 feet 8.75 inch/17.60 m
Height overall 18 feet 3.75 inch/5.58 m
Diameter of rotodome 24 feet/7.32 m
Weight empty 43,068 lbs/19,536 kg
Internal fuel 12,400 lbs/5,624 kg
Takeoff gross weight 57,500 lbs/26,083 kg
Maximum level speed 350 knots/403 mph/648 km/h
Maximum cruise speed 325 knots/374 mph/602 km/h
Cruise speed 256 knots/295 mph/474 km/h
Approach speed 108 knots/124 mph/200 km/h
Service ceiling 34,700 feet/10,576 m
Minimum takeoff distance 1,346 feet/410 m ground roll
Minimum landing distance 1,764 feet/537 m ground roll
Ferry range 1,462 NM/1,683 miles/2,708 km
Crew Members 5
Power Plant 2 × Rolls-Royce T56-A-427A, rated at 5,100 eshp each
Unrefueled >6 hours
In-flight refueling 12 hours

 

Lion maiden flight

8 December 2016, the NH90 Sea Lion naval multi-role helicopter took off on its on-schedule maiden flight at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth. Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Deutschland; Ralph Herzog, Director in the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) and Vice Admiral Andreas Krause, Chief of the German Navy welcomed this important milestone in the programme.

German Navy NH90 Sea Lion performs maiden flight
German Navy NH90 Sea Lion performs maiden flight

«We are proud to be delivering this state-of-the-art naval helicopter to the German Armed Forces on time», said Wolfgang Schoder. «This new generation of NH90 naval helicopters, the Sea Lion, has benefited from experience gathered by other countries who have been using it». The NH90 has an increased number of sensors and improved navigation and communications equipment, which means that this military helicopter will also be able to operate in civil air space. The military friend/foe identification has also been updated to the latest standards.

For the BAAINBw in Koblenz, the Sea Lion is also a special project: «We need to keep to a tight schedule if we are to replace the Sea King in time. This requires all those participating in the project to coordinate quickly and efficiently to achieve this», explained Ralph Herzog. «By using an existing NH90 model as the basis for the Sea Lion and adding the required additional functionalities to it, we have been able to significantly reduce the delivery process. This model is also configured not only to be an adequate replacement for the Sea King but is designed so that it can be adapted to future roles».

«The Navy is looking forward, as the first customer, to be receiving the NH90 Sea Lion on time by the end of 2019», said Vice Admiral Andreas Krause. «We are now expecting a successful test phase». Meanwhile, the Navy is preparing intensively for the acceptance of the helicopters with technical and flight personnel already training. Further measures have commenced at their future home, the Nordholz naval air base. Infrastructural changes and new buildings are necessary.

Deliveries of NH90 Sea Lions to the Navy will start at the end of 2019. When deployed, it will take on a range of roles including search and rescue (SAR) missions, maritime reconnaissance, special forces missions as well as personnel and materiel transportation tasks. The German Armed Forces have ordered 18 of these helicopters altogether, with the last due to go into service in 2022. The second NH90 Sea Lion awaiting qualification testing is currently at the final assembly stage and series production at Donauwörth will commence in the summer of 2017.

In addition to its land-based use in SAR missions, the NH90 Sea Lion is also intended to operate on Type 702 (Berlin class) combat support ships. Thanks to its multi-role capability and future proofing, the Sea Lion will not merely replace the Bundeswehr’s Sea King Mk41 fleet but significantly enhance the Navy’s operational capabilities. The electronic fly-by-wire flight controls of the NH90 Sea Lion reduce the crew’s workload. Other benefits of this control system are its high precision and ease of use, which particularly come to the fore in over-water hovering, even in poor weather conditions.

The NH90 Sea Lion shell is manufactured from advanced, high-strength composite materials. This offers optimum protection for the crew thanks to its excellent crash behaviour.

Five nations are already using the naval NH90 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter). They have already completed more than 30,000 flying hours with the 69 helicopters delivered so far: in humanitarian and SAR and military missions on land and on board naval vessels. The German NH90 Sea Lion programme has greatly benefited from the experience gained from these operations. Altogether 129 NH90 NFH helicopters have been ordered; the total for all NH90 models comes to 515. The whole NH90 fleet comprising 296 helicopters delivered so far has already completed over 120,000 flying hours.

 

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

Overall dimensions (rotors turning)
Length 64.18 feet/19.56 m
Width 53.48 feet/16.30 m
Height 17.42 feet/5.31 m
Weights
Maximum Gross Weight 23,369 lbs/10,600 kg
Alternate Gross Weight 24,250 lbs/11,000 kg
Empty Weight 14,109 lbs/6,400 kg
Useful Load 9,260 lbs/4,200 kg
Cargo Capacity
Cargo Hook 8,818 lbs/4,000 kg
Single or dual Rescue Hoist 595 lbs/270 kg
Rescue Hoist on ground 880 lbs/400 kg
Fuel Capacity
7-Cell Internal System 4,486 lbs/2,035 kg
Internal Auxiliary Fuel Tanks (each) 882 lbs/400 kg
External Auxiliary Fuel Tanks (each) 644 lbs/292 kg or 1,102 lbs/500 kg
Internal Dimensions
Width 6.56 feet/2.00 m
Length 15.75 feet/4.80 m
Height 5.18 feet/1.58 m
Volume 536.78 feet³/15.20 m³
Sliding doors opening 5.25 × 4.92 feet/1.60 × 1.50 m
Rear ramp opening 5.84 × 5.18 feet/1.78 × 1.58 m
NH90 General Performance (Basic Aircraft)
Maximum Cruise Speed* 162 knots/186 mph/300 km/h
Economical Cruise Speed* 140 knots/161 mph/260 km/h
Maximum Rate Of Climb* 2,200 feet/min/11.2 m/sec
One Engine Inoperative (OEI) Rate Of Climb 2 min Rating* 850 feet/min/4.3 m/sec
OEI Rate Of Climb Continuous Rating at 6,560 feet/2,000 m* 300 feet/min/1.5 m/sec
Hover Ceiling In Ground Effect (IGE)* 10,500 feet/3,200 m
Hover Ceiling Out of Ground Effect (OGE)* 8,530 feet/2,600 m
Maximum Range 530 NM/610 miles/982 km
Maximum Range with 5,511.5 lbs/2,500 kg payload 486 NM/559 miles/900 km
Maximum Endurance 5 h
Ferry Range (with Internal Aux Fuel Tanks) 864 NM/994 miles/1,600 km

* At 22,046 lbs/10,000 kg

Poseidon in Australia

Australia’s first P-8A arrived in the capital city of Canberra November 16, carrying Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, The Honourable Christopher Pyne, Minister for Defence Industry, The Honourable Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and other senior government leaders.

First P-8A Poseidon Arrives in Australia
First P-8A Poseidon Arrives in Australia

«The Poseidon is a cutting-edge surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft which will dominate the skies around our nation’s coastline», Prime Minister Turnbull said. «We just had a demonstration of some of the very impressive capabilities on board this morning. It is a potent and highly versatile aircraft».

This is the first of eight Australian P-8As under contract with Boeing as part of a cooperative program with the U.S. Navy begun in 2009 to collaborate on the aircraft’s development. Four additional Poseidon have been approved and funded by the Australian government. In addition to the U.S. Navy, the Indian Navy flies the P-8I variant and the United Kingdom has confirmed its purchase of nine of the P-8A variant.

The P-8A Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. A derivative of the Next-Generation 737-800, the P-8A combines superior performance and reliability with an advanced mission system that ensures maximum interoperability in the future battle space. The aircraft is militarized with maritime weapons, a modern open mission system architecture, and commercial-like support for affordability.

 

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

 

2nd Test Vehicle

Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), seeks to greatly increase the effectiveness of forward-deployed small-deck ships such as destroyers and frigates by enabling them to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for specially designed unmanned air systems (UASs). DARPA last year awarded Phase 3 of Tern to a team led by the Northrop Grumman Corporation to build a full-scale technology demonstration system. The program has since made significant advances on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and DARPA has tasked Northrop Grumman with building a second test vehicle.

Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), has made significant advances during Phase 3 on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and funding of a second test vehicle
Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), has made significant advances during Phase 3 on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and funding of a second test vehicle

«DARPA has been thinking about building a second Tern test vehicle for well over a year», said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. «Adding the second technology demonstrator enhances the robustness of the flight demonstration program and enables military partners to work with us on maturation, including testing different payloads and experimenting with different approaches to operational usage».

Tern envisions a new medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS that could operate from helicopter decks on smaller ships in rough seas or expeditionary settings while achieving efficient long-duration flight. To provide these and other previously unattainable capabilities, the Tern Phase 3 design is a tailsitting, flying-wing aircraft with a twin contra-rotating, nose-mounted propulsion system. The aircraft would lift off like a helicopter and then perform a transition maneuver to orient it for wing-borne flight for the duration of a mission. Upon mission completion, the aircraft would return to base, transition back to a vertical orientation, and land. The system is sized to fit securely inside a ship hangar for maintenance operations and storage.

Tern has accomplished the following technical milestones for its test vehicle in 2016:

  • Wing fabrication: Since Phase 3 work started at the beginning of 2016, Tern has finished fabricating major airframe components and anticipates final assembly in the first quarter of 2017. Once complete, the airframe will house propulsion, sensors, and other commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems to make up the full-scale technology demonstration vehicle.
  • Engine tests: In Phases 2 and 3, Tern has successfully tested numerous modifications to an existing General Electric engine to enable it to operate in both vertical and horizontal orientations. This type of engine was chosen because it is mature and powers multiple helicopter platforms currently in use.
  • Software integration: This summer, Tern opened its Software Integration Test Station (SITS), part of the System Integration Lab that supports software development for the program. The test station includes vehicle management system hardware and software, and uses high-fidelity simulation tools to enable rapid testing of aircraft control software in all phases of flight. The SITS is helping ensure the technology demonstration vehicle could fly safely in challenging conditions such as launch, recovery, and transition between horizontal and vertical flight.

Additional tests are about to start. A 1/5th-scale version of the approved vehicle model is in testing in the 80’ × 120’ wind tunnel at the NASA Ames Research Center’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC). Data collected during this test will be used to better characterize aircraft aerodynamic performance and validate aerodynamic models.

«We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing», said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, which oversees Tern. «As we keep pressing into uncharted territory – no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before – we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships».

Tern is currently scheduled to start integrated propulsion system testing in the first part of 2017, move to ground-based testing in early 2018, and culminate in a series of at-sea flight tests in late 2018.

DARPA and the Navy have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to share responsibility for the development and testing of the Tern demonstrator system. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) has also expressed interest in Tern’s potential capabilities and is providing support to the program.

Tern Phase 3 Concept Video

F-35 on USS America

Five Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on Friday, October 28. America will embark seven F-35Bs – two are scheduled to begin the third shipboard phase of Developmental Test (DT-III) and five are scheduled to conduct operational testing. America, the first ship of its class, is an aviation-centric platform that incorporates key design elements to accommodate the fifth-generation fighter.

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft launches for the first time off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Wooddy/Released)
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft launches for the first time off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Wooddy/Released)

The ship’s design features several aviation capabilities enhanced beyond previous amphibious assault ships which include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment, as well as increased aviation fuel capacity. America is capable of accommodating F-35Bs, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and a complement of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.

The third test phase will evaluate F-35B Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) operations in a high-sea state, shipboard landings, and night operations. The cadre of flight test pilots, engineers, maintainers, and support personnel from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are assigned to Air Test & Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

«It’s exciting to start the execution phase of our detachment with VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1) on USS America», said Lieutenant Colonel Tom «Sally» Fields, F-35 Patuxent River ITF Government Flight Test director assigned to VX-23. «During the next three weeks, we will be completing critical flight test for both Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT). The F-35 Pax River ITF and VX-23 will be conducting DT work that will establish the boundaries of safe operation for the F-35B in the 3F configuration. VMX-1 will be conducting OT operations focused on preparing maintenance crews and pilots for the first deployment of the F-35B aboard USS Wasp (LHD-1), scheduled to start in just over a year».

The operational testing will also include simulating extensive maintenance aboard a ship, said Colonel George Rowell, commanding officer of VMX-1, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. Rowell stated one of the VMX jets on board will be placed in the hangar bay, taken apart, and put together again, just to make sure everything goes well.

The maintenance work will include the replacement of a lift fan, the specialized equipment made by Rolls Royce and Pratt and Whitney that gives the F-35B variant its short take-off, “jump jet” capability, Rowell said. The Marine Corps variant of the F-35 Lightning II reached the fleet first, with the service declaring initial operational capability July 2015.

«The F-35 Lightning II is the most versatile, agile, and technologically-advanced aircraft in the skies today, enabling our Corps to be the nation’s force in readiness – regardless of the threat, and regardless of the location of the battle», said Lieutenant General Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, Marine Corps. «As we modernize our fixed-wing aviation assets for the future, the continued development and fielding of the short take-off and vertical landing, the F-35B remains the centerpiece of this effort».

«The America class of amphibious assault ship design enables it to carry a larger and more diverse complement of aircraft, including the tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey, the new F-35 Lightning II, and a mix of cargo and assault helicopters», added Davis. «America is able to support a wide spectrum of military operations and missions, including putting Marines ashore for combat operations, launching air strikes, keeping sea lanes free and open for the movement of global commerce, and delivering humanitarian aid following a natural disaster».

This graphic illustration depicts the U.S. Navy's first live fire demonstration to successfully test the integration of the F-35 with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. During the test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, September 12, an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon threat. The aircraft then sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target (U.S. Navy graphic illustration courtesy of Lockheed Martin/Released)
This graphic illustration depicts the U.S. Navy’s first live fire demonstration to successfully test the integration of the F-35 with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. During the test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, September 12, an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon threat. The aircraft then sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target (U.S. Navy graphic illustration courtesy of Lockheed Martin/Released)

Merlin maiden flight

Just in time for the Corps’ 352nd birthday, the Royal Marines new flying steed has taken to the skies for the first time. The Merlin Mk4 – much better adapted to operations at sea than the Mk3 it is replacing – will be the mainstay of Commando Helicopter Force for the next decade and beyond.

The Leonardo Merlin Mk4 helicopter, modified as an assault transport for Britain’s Royal Marines, made its maiden flight last week. A total of 25 Merlin Mk3s will be modified to this new standard, and all should be delivered by late 2020 (RN photo)
The Leonardo Merlin Mk4 helicopter, modified as an assault transport for Britain’s Royal Marines, made its maiden flight last week. A total of 25 Merlin Mk3s will be modified to this new standard, and all should be delivered by late 2020 (RN photo)

You’ve never seen a Merlin like this before. This is the Royal Marines’ flying steed of tomorrow, the fourth incarnation of a battle-proven helicopter – and the one best suited to both commando operations and flying at sea.

The very first Merlin Mk4 took to Somerset skies earlier this week after technicians and engineers at Leonardo – previously Agusta-Westland – in Yeovil completed turning a battlefield Merlin Mk3 into a battlefield Merlin Mk4.

The difference? Well, for a start it’s maritime grey not battlefield green (although it’s easily distinguishable from its submarine-hunting Merlin Mk2 sisters by the lack of a radar dome under the cockpit).

Less obvious to the eye is a folding main rotor head and folding tail which make it much more suited to operating from Royal Navy (RN) carriers and assault ships at sea.

In addition, inside the crew of four have access to a vastly-improved avionics suite.

The first Merlin Mk4 is likely to be ready for front-line operations by late 2017, with the entire fleet of 25 converted by the end of 2020.

At present the two troop-carrying squadrons of Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), based at Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) Yeovilton – 845 and 846 NAS – operate the Merlin Mk3 and Merlin Mk3i (the latter has undergone enhancements and improvements which plug the gap between Nos.3 and 4).

Watching the Merlin Mk4’s maiden flight was Colonel Lenny Brown, the Royal Marine in charge of CHF – who can’t wait for his men and women to get their hands on the upgraded helicopter.

«What a fantastic achievement for Leonardo, the Merlin project team and all those involved at Commando Helicopter Force», he said.

«This is truly a leap forward in CHF’s capability to support 3 Commando Brigade at the speed and range required on the modern battlefield, whether operating embarked in Royal Navy warships or on land».

Initial
Operational Testing

Lockheed Martin announced on October 21 the CH-53K King Stallion successfully completed initial operational testing by the U.S. Marine Corps to verify the key capabilities of the heavy lift helicopter. The week-long operational assessment by Marine Corps pilots, aircrew and maintainers marked an important step in support of a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Milestone C decision early next year.

U.S. Marine Corps pilots maneuver the King Stallion as it delivers a 12,000 lbs/5422 kg external load after a 110 NM/126.6 miles/204 km mission
U.S. Marine Corps pilots maneuver the King Stallion as it delivers a 12,000 lbs/5422 kg external load after a 110 NM/126.6 miles/204 km mission

«This successful operational assessment by the Marine Corps is a clear sign of the maturity and the robust capability of the King Stallion», said Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President CH-53K Programs. «This was a key requirement in support of the upcoming Milestone C decision, and its success is another important step in our transition from development into production».

The U.S. Marine Corps’ initial operational testing included external lift scenarios of 27,000 lbs/12,200 kg in hover and a 12,000 lbs/5,422 kg 110 nautical mile/126.6 miles/204 km radius mission. Ground events included embarkation/debarkation of combat equipped troops, internal and external cargo rigging, Tactical Bulk Fuel Delivery System (TBFDS) operation and medevac litter configuration.

Overall, post evaluation interviews of aircrew, ground crew and flight surgeons revealed a high regard for the operational capability demonstrated by the CH-53K King Stallion. This customer assessment is a pre-requisite to Milestone C and is intended to minimize risk to successfully pass the U.S. Marine Corps operational evaluation (OPEVAL) phase for a future full rate production decision.

«OT-B1 (Operational Test) is a critical milestone for the program because this is the first time an operational test has been done utilizing an ’All Marine’ crew», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for Naval Air Systems Command’s Heavy Lift Helicopters Program. «All test objectives were met, and the aircraft performed very well. This further increases our confidence in the design, and is another key step to successfully fielding the CH-53K».

The operational testing was based out of the Sikorsky Development Flight Center (DFC) in West Palm Beach, Florida, where CH-53K development flight test is continuing to make excellent progress now with all four Engineering Development Model (EDM) aircraft in flight status.

The CH-53K King Stallion will carry three times the external payload of the predecessor CH-53E Super Stallion equating to a 27,000-pound external load over 110 nautical miles/126.6 miles/204 km under «high hot» ambient conditions. The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter provides unmatched heavy lift capability with reduced logistics footprint and reduced support costs over its entire life cycle. CH-53K King Stallion pilots can execute heavy lift missions more effectively and safely in day/night and all weather with the King Stallion’s modern glass cockpit. Fly-by-wire flight controls facilitate reduced pilot workload for all heavy lift missions including external loads, maritime operations, and operation in degraded visual environments. With more than triple the payload capability of the predecessor CH-53E Super Stallion, the King Stallion’s increased capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from an internally loaded High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) to up to three independent external loads at once which provides outstanding mission flexibility and system efficiency. A locking, U.S. Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system reduces both effort and time to load and unload palletized cargo.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The first four of the 200 «Program of Record» aircraft are scheduled for delivery next year to the U.S. Marine Corps, with another two aircraft to follow. Two additional aircraft are under long lead procurement for parts and materials, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2020 The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

This press release contains forward looking statements concerning opportunities for development, production and sale of helicopters. Actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to changes in government procurement priorities and practices, budget plans, availability of funding and in the type and number of aircraft required; challenges in the design, development, production and support of advanced technologies; as well as other risks and uncertainties including but not limited to those detailed from time to time in Lockheed Martin Corporation’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

U.S. Marine Corps aircrew load the King Stallion’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle cargo with ease
U.S. Marine Corps aircrew load the King Stallion’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle cargo with ease

 

General Characteristics

Number of Engines 3
Engine Type T408-GE-400
T408 Engine 7,500 shp/5,595 kw
Maximum Gross Weight (Internal Load) 74,000 lbs/33,566 kg
Maximum Gross Weight (External Load) 88,000 lbs/39,916 kg
Cruise Speed 141 knots/162 mph/261 km/h
Range 460 NM/530 miles/852 km
AEO* Service Ceiling 14,380 feet/4,383 m
HIGE** Ceiling (MAGW) 13,630 feet/4,155 m
HOGE*** Ceiling (MAGW) 10,080 feet/3,073 m
Cabin Length 30 feet/9.1 m
Cabin Width 9 feet/2.7 m
Cabin Height 6.5 feet/2.0 m
Cabin Area 264.47 feet2/24.57 m2
Cabin Volume 1,735.36 feet3/49.14 m3

* All Engines Operating

** Hover Ceiling In Ground Effect

*** Hover Ceiling Out of Ground Effect

 

Naval Aerial Drone

DCNS, a world leader in naval defence, and Airbus Helicopters, the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer, are joining forces to design the future tactical component of France’s Naval Aerial Drone (Système de Drones Aériens de la Marine – SDAM) programme. By pooling naval and aerospace skills and expertise, the teaming of DCNS and Airbus Helicopters will be equipped to address all technical challenges arising from the naval integration of the drones through the creation of a robust system architecture that can evolve and adapt to meet every need.

DCNS and Airbus Helicopters join forces to design the French Navy’s future tactical VTOL drone system
DCNS and Airbus Helicopters join forces to design the French Navy’s future tactical VTOL drone system

For DCNS, drones are the roving eyes of the battle system; their missions are overseen by each ship’s combat management system, ensuring increased effectiveness in real time in support of naval operations. Offering a genuine tactical advantage, the VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) drone is an organic component of warships and augments the operational potential of naval forces.

DCNS CEO Hervé Guillou said: «We will continue to innovate in these areas and give drones the capability to perform increasingly complex missions over greater distances and timeframes in an interoperable environment with increased digitalisation of resources. Such digitalisation hinges on the roll-out of cybersecurity solutions that offer better protection of data and communications between drones and ships».

DCNS’s role in the partnership will be to design and supply the entire warship-integrated VTOL drone system. DCNS will design and develop the solutions for the ship-based operation and integration of the drone, including the specification and validation of the payloads and mission data links. DCNS will also produce the drone’s mission system, which will enable real-time management of its operations and allow its payloads to be controlled through the combat management system.

Over the last ten years, DCNS has successfully overseen the French armaments procurement agency (DGA) and French Navy’s main aerial drone study and trial programs, operating both on its own and in partnership. In the process, the Group has acquired know-how that is unique in Europe and possesses solutions for integrating aerial drone systems in warships or enabling them to operate on ships. These solutions have been tested at sea.

A versatile and affordable platform, the VSR700 has been developed by Airbus Helicopters with a view to providing military customers with a solution that leverages a tried and tested civil aircraft and strikes the best possible balance between performance, operational flexibility, reliability and operating costs. Harnessing autonomous flight technologies that have been tested by Airbus Helicopters through a range of demonstration programs, the VSR700 is derived from a light civil helicopter, the Cabri G2 (developed by the company Hélicoptères Guimbal), which has proven its reliability and low operating costs in service.

Under the terms of the partnership, Airbus Helicopters will be responsible for designing and developing the VSR700 drone as well as the various technologies needed for drones to perform aerial missions, such as data liaison, payload and a “see and avoid” capability enabling the drone’s integration into airspace.

«Rotary-wing drones will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s air/sea theatres of operation, performing the role of a roving eye and extending the coverage of surface vessels over the horizon», said Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury. «This partnership will see Airbus Helicopters pool its expertise in vertical flight and autonomous flight technologies with the skills DCNS possesses in naval combat systems, allowing us to respond to the emerging needs of our customers».

Thanks to the VSR700’s specifications, the system boasts superior endurance and payload performance to any comparable system used to date. The device offers big capability with a small size and logistics footprint, resulting in less maintenance and straight forward integration to a broad range of surface vessels.

Osprey for Fire Scout

Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s Osprey Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar has been picked to serve as look-out on-board the US Navy’s newly-upgraded unmanned helicopter, the MQ-8C Fire Scout. The helicopter will be launched from the decks of U.S. naval combat vessels to keep watch for distant threats.

The AESA radar will be carried on the unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter, helping expand crews’ surveillance capabilities aboard U.S. combat ships
The AESA radar will be carried on the unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter, helping expand crews’ surveillance capabilities aboard U.S. combat ships

The contract will see Leonardo delivering an initial batch of 5 radars to the U.S. Navy’s procurement organisation, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), for testing and evaluation work. NAVAIR then has an option to buy a larger quantity of the radars for use in real operations. Leonardo has already built a number of Osprey AESA radars so the primary task under this contract is integration with the MQ-8C Fire Scout in time for first production deliveries.

Using its electronic beam technology to scan from high in the sky, crews back on-board will be able to spot even those threats who think they are hiding safely beyond the range of standard ship-based sensors. Employing high-frequency radio waves to ‘see’, an Osprey-equipped MQ-8C Fire Scout can detect targets at extremely long ranges, at night and even in stormy weather conditions when visibility is extremely poor. The radar’s world-first flat-panel technology also means it can be installed within the mould line of the helicopter rather than having to use an underslung belly-pod.

Leonardo is an international leader in radar technology and the Osprey was selected in part because it is the world’s first radar to provide the needed coverage without moving parts or the need for a bulky external radome, all in a package light enough to fit on an MQ-8C Fire Scout. The MQ-8C Fire Scout is expected in future to be fully integrated with both variants of the U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ship and be used extensively on operations.

The U.S. Navy has chosen the 2-panel version of the Osprey which will provide a 240-degree instantaneous field of view and a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI). The lack of moving parts inherent in the ‘E-Scan’ design means that repair and support costs are vastly reduced compared to alternative radar options. Osprey also provides an open architecture, meaning the U.S. Navy can insert new software independently.