Category Archives: Air

Einstein Box

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently performed a series of flight tests demonstrating how a System of Systems (SoS) approach enables seamless – and rapid – integration across air, space, land, sea and cyber in contested environments.

DARPA, Lockheed Martin demonstrates technologies to enable a connected warfighter network
DARPA, Lockheed Martin demonstrates technologies to enable a connected warfighter network

The demonstrations held at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, were part of a five-year DARPA program called System of Systems Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE). The flight tests demonstrated interoperability between a ground station, flying test bed, a C-12 and flight test aircraft, and proved the ability to transmit data between those systems using STITCHES, a novel integration technology.

The test used the Skunk Works developed Enterprise Open System Architecture Mission Computer version 2 (EMC2), known as the «Einstein Box», as the open computing environment, providing security protections between systems. The Einstein Box enables rapid and secure experimentation before deploying the capability to operational systems. The team successfully demonstrated four key capabilities:

  • The ability to automatically compose and transmit messages between systems, including those using legacy datalinks;
  • The first use of Non-Enterprise Data Links to create new, rich information exchanges in-flight through Link-16, enabling greater speed, agility, modernization and effectiveness;
  • The ability to link ground-based cockpit simulators with live aircraft systems in real time to demonstrate how a SoS approach reduces the data-to-decision timeline;
  • Integration between the APG-81 radar, currently used on the F-35, and DARPA’s Automatic Target Recognition software to reduce operator workload and to create a comprehensive picture of the battlespace.

Demonstrating rapid and affordable integration of mission systems into existing and new architectures, SoSITE will help U.S. forces maintain their advantage in today’s dynamic world.

«The successful demonstrations focused on advancing integration technologies to increase capabilities of systems in operation today, enabling our warfighters to use those systems in unexpected ways», said Justin Taylor, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Mission Systems Roadmaps director. «The SoS approach is essential for allowing U.S. forces to rapidly reconfigure systems and prevail over any threat».

The project was led by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in partnership with the U.S. Air Force and support from industry partners Apogee Research, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, BAE Systems, Phoenix Flight Test, General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins.

Skunk Works’ expertise in open system architecture spans more than a decade. The success of SoSITE is a critical step to enabling multi-domain operations and maintaining superiority in the future battlespace. In its 75th year, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is proud to advance SoS integration in partnership with DARPA as they celebrate 60 years of creating breakthrough technologies and capabilities for national security.

Limited User Testing

Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered software to the U.S. Army for the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter to enter Limited User Testing (LUT) – a critical milestone leading into production.

As the supplier of the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter, Northrop Grumman has delivered software for the helicopter to enter Limited User Testing – a critical milestone leading into production
As the supplier of the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter, Northrop Grumman has delivered software for the helicopter to enter Limited User Testing – a critical milestone leading into production

Under a contract awarded in 2014, Northrop Grumman is partnering with the U.S. Army Prototype Integration Facility and prime contractor Redstone Defense Systems to modernize the Army’s fleet of UH‑60L helicopters through cost-effective cockpit upgrades, replacing older analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays.

Northrop Grumman is supplying the Integrated Avionics Suite for the upgraded aircraft, designated the UH-60V, which features one of the Army’s most advanced avionics solutions to enable the complex missions of the army aviation warfighter.

Through this latest milestone, Northrop Grumman has provided a digital cockpit software build that includes all the functionality required for LUT, which will evaluate the system’s operational readiness, capabilities and compatibility with the UH-60M Pilot-Vehicle Interface. This important test informs the Milestone C Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) decision. The UH-60V is scheduled to enter LRIP in 2019.

«This software delivery milestone is an important step forward in our journey to provide cutting-edge capabilities and mission-enabling solutions to warfighters through an affordable, low-risk digital cockpit upgrade», said Ed Griebel, director, land & avionics C4ISR division, Northrop Grumman. «Our mission solution preserves investment in the Black Hawk fleet while modernizing the aircraft to provide warfighters with a decisive advantage».

Northrop Grumman’s scalable, fully integrated mission equipment package enables enhanced pilot situational awareness and mission safety, as well as decreased pilot workload and life cycle cost. The UH-60V’s Pilot-Vehicle Interface (PVI) is nearly identical to the UH‑60M PVI, providing common training and operational employment.

Northrop Grumman’s open architecture approach provides greater flexibility and enables upgrades to be done with or without the original equipment manufacturer’s involvement. In addition to the UH-60V, Northrop Grumman’s scalable and fully integrated architecture is and can be applied to numerous platforms such as the E‑2D, AH-1F/S and other aircraft worldwide. The operators of these aircraft can reduce their logistics footprint by having common avionics in multiple platforms and avoid sustaining large component inventories.

The UH-60V meets the standards for safety-critical software development and is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements, enabling the system to traverse military and civilian airspace worldwide. It is also certifiable and compliant with safety-critical avionics standards such as DO-178C.

$4 billion contract

Bell Boeing Joint Program Office, Amarillo, Texas, is awarded $4,191,533,822 for modification P00008 to convert the previously awarded V-22 tiltrotor aircraft advance acquisition contract (N00019-17-C-0015) to a fixed-price-incentive-fee multiyear contract. This contract provides for the manufacture and delivery of 39 CMV-22B aircraft for the U.S. Navy; 14 MV-22B aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps; one CV-22B for the U.S. Air Force; and four MV-22B aircraft for the government of Japan.

The U.S. Navy will use its new CMV-22B for transporting personnel and cargo from shore to aircraft carriers, eventually replacing the C-2 Greyhound, which has been in service since the mid-1960s (Boeing image)
The U.S. Navy will use its new CMV-22B for transporting personnel and cargo from shore to aircraft carriers, eventually replacing the C-2 Greyhound, which has been in service since the mid-1960s (Boeing image)

«Bell Boeing is pleased to extend production of the V-22, supporting our warfighters with one of the most versatile and in-demand platforms in the U.S. arsenal», said Chris Gehler, Bell Vice President for the V-22 Program. «This multiyear production contract provides program production stability through at least 2024».

The U.S. Navy will use its new CMV-22B for transporting personnel and cargo from shore to aircraft carriers, eventually replacing the C-2 Greyhound, which has been in service since the mid-1960s.

«By combining aircraft for three services and a key U.S. Ally into one multiyear order, the U.S. Navy gets more capability for its procurement dollar», said Kristin Houston, Vice President, Boeing Tiltrotor Programs and Director, Bell Boeing V-22 Program. «It also enables the U.S. Navy to begin advancing its carrier onboard delivery fleet with modern tiltrotor aircraft. It’s a true win-win».

 

CMV-22B Specifications

Primary Function Airborne Re-supply/Logistics to the Seabase (AR/LSB)
Contractor Bell-Boeing
Propulsion Two Rolls-Royce Liberty AE1107C engines, each delivering 6,150 shaft horsepower/4,586 kW
Length 63 feet/19.2 m
Wingspan 84.6 feet/25.8 m with rotors turning
Height 22 feet, 1 inch/6.73 m with nacelles vertical
Weight Maximum gross, vertical take-off: 52,600 lbs./23,859 kg; Short take-off; 57,000 lbs./25,855 kg (testing in progress to increase)
Airspeed Cruise: 269 knots/310 mph/498 km/h
Ceiling 25,000 feet/7,620 m
Range 1,165 NM/1340 miles/2,158 km
Crew 4 – pilot, copilot, crew chief, second aircrewman; 23 passengers

 

Polar System

Northrop Grumman Corporation reached a significant milestone in the Enhanced Polar System (EPS) Control and Planning Segment (CAPS) program last fall when the U.S. Air Force signed the DD-250, representing formal acceptance of EPS CAPS by the customer.

Northrop Grumman Enhanced Polar System Control and Planning Segment Accepted by US Air Force
Northrop Grumman Enhanced Polar System Control and Planning Segment Accepted by US Air Force

This milestone marks the completion of a five-year effort to design, develop, test and deliver the EPS CAPS for the Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate (MILSATCOM) and the beginning of a new effort, valued at $23 million, to extend the company’s support role through December 2018.

«Our commitment to quality and performance underpinned our ability to deliver on a ground system of this complexity and strategic importance», said Kenny Robinson, vice president, strategic force programs, Northrop Grumman. «We worked closely with our customer to meet all acceptance criteria, leading to a high-quality product that meets, and in many cases, exceeds functional, performance and security requirements. We are proud to serve as a mission partner on EPS CAPS and committed to supporting the Air Force as we prepare for initial operating capacity».

The U.S. Air Force’s EPS provides secure, jam-resistant satellite communications coverage to forces in the North Polar Region (above 65 degrees north latitude) in support of national objectives. CAPS is a next-generation ground system that receives telemetry and supplies configuration commands, mission planning and cryptographic planning for the two EPS polar-orbiting payloads.

Completion of the DD-250 milestone required meeting a set of rigorous acceptance criteria. This included complying with the Security Technical Implementation Guide, which is published by the Defense Information Systems Agency to help government and commercial computer networks achieve maximum security.

«Typically, ground systems take between 8-10 years to complete. However, in just under five years, the EPS CAPS team completed a full life-cycle of requirements, design, development, testing and acceptance to complete this effort», added Robinson.

The follow-on support contract started September 2017 and will span 15 months to include operations and maintenance of EPS CAPS during testing of the overall system.

Northrop Grumman was awarded the original contract in November 2012 to develop, build and deliver EPS CAPS. The MILSATCOM directorate at the Air Force’s Space and Missile System Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is acquiring EPS and EPS CAPS.

Primary design, development and testing was performed in Redondo Beach, California, with additional CAPS work performed in Orlando, Florida, and Needham and Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Full-rate production

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s center fuselage of the F-35 Lightning II recently entered full-rate production. This milestone marks the beginning of a 1.5-day Production Interval (PI) meaning a center fuselage will be produced every day and a half.

Northrop Grumman quality team performs final inspection of an F-35 center fuselage produced by the company at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence
Northrop Grumman quality team performs final inspection of an F-35 center fuselage produced by the company at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence

«Our customers and warfighters deserve the best», said Frank Carus, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. «Every efficiency, every minute, and every dollar we save reduces costs and speeds up the F-35’s availability to the warfighter. Achieving this pace is a testament to our employees, suppliers and teammates’ commitment to quality and affordability».

Carus also noted that the 400th F-35 center fuselage was completed and delivered to Lockheed Martin last month and production of the 500th F-35 center fuselage began last week.

«This pace of military aircraft production has not been seen in decades», said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our revolutionary approach on the integrated assembly line pairs advanced technology with data-driven analytics to manufacture advanced aircraft while delivering top quality products on time, and often ahead of schedule».

A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence. The IAL is a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to or pioneered by Northrop Grumman bringing together robotics, autonomous systems, virtual 3D and predictive automation to the forefront of center fuselage production.

«As we prepare for full rate production of the F-35, many of our teammates and suppliers are now transitioning to full rate, aligning their production lead times with the F-35 final assembly that supports increased warfighter demand», said Eric Branyan, vice president of F-35 supply chain at Lockheed Martin. «Northrop Grumman plays a critical role in the F-35 enterprise and we look forward to continuing to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and deliver transformational F-35 capabilities for the men and women in uniform».

Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development and production of the F-35 weapons system. In addition to producing the jet’s center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, the company develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

Australian Triton

The Australian Department of Defence officially announced its plan on June 26, 2018 to purchase the Northrop Grumman Corporation-built MQ-4C Triton aircraft system, further cementing the company’s commitment to a longstanding U.S. ally.

Australia to purchase MQ-4C Triton aircraft system, delivering unprecedented maritime domain awareness
Australia to purchase MQ-4C Triton aircraft system, delivering unprecedented maritime domain awareness

An unmanned aircraft system with an autonomous capability built for maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, MQ-4C Triton is the first Northrop Grumman-built aircraft system Australia has purchased. The system will be operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

«Northrop Grumman looks forward to bringing the MQ-4C Triton unmanned system with its autonomous capability to Australia», said Ian Irving, chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman Australia. «Working with the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy, we are confident that we can provide the best capability to fulfill Australia’s maritime mission».

Triton can fly at altitudes of 55,000 feet/16,764 m for 24 hours at a time and is equipped with sensors that provide high-resolution imagery and near real-time video. Pilots and sensor operators fly the Triton from ground stations, which can command flights all over the world.

«Triton provides unprecedented endurance and 360-degree coverage through its unique sensor suite», said Doug Shaffer, vice president of MQ-4C Triton programs, Northrop Grumman. «Australia has one of the largest sea zones in the world over which it has rights to use marine resources, also known as an Economic Exclusion Zone. As a flexible platform, MQ-4C Triton can serve in missions as varied as maritime domain awareness, target acquisition, fisheries protection, oil field monitoring and humanitarian relief».

MQ-4C Triton builds on Northrop Grumman’s legacy of success in autonomous systems. The U.S. Navy recently acquired two operational MQ-4C Triton aircraft and is under contract for six more. These aircraft will go to Guam later this year and provide the Navy with an unprecedented common operating picture of the maritime environment. MQ-4C Triton can detect, classify and track ships over large swaths of ocean and littorals. The U.S. Navy program of record is for 68 aircraft.

Northrop Grumman has been building its presence Down Under for many years. The global aerospace and technology company will be the anchor tenant of an AUD $50 million Electronic Sustainment Centre of Excellence, to be established at the Badgerys Creek Airport precinct in western Sydney. The new centre will support advanced electronics such as communications and electronic warfare equipment and targeting pods. Northrop Grumman will bring together highly skilled technicians, engineers and other professionals whose work will be further supported by the company’s high-end technology and software expertise.

Through a Global Supply Chain Deed signed with the Australian Department of Defence in 2011 and renewed in 2017, Northrop Grumman is identifying opportunities for Australian industry to be part of the company’s global supply chain. For example, Northrop Grumman’s largest Australian F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter supplier, Quickstep Technologies, demonstrated that its new production facility is equipped and qualified to manufacture and deliver quality composite parts for the F-35’s centre fuselage. At a new facility opened in Bankstown, Sydney, in 2012, Quickstep is expected to manufacture over 36,000 parts for the F-35.

Northrop Grumman also works with CEA Technologies, one of Australia’s leading military electronic systems and radar companies, and Electro Optics Systems, which develops products incorporating advanced electro-optic technologies for the global aerospace market.

«Australia and the United States are celebrating 100 Years of Mateship this year, marking an alliance that goes back to the trenches of WWI. Northrop Grumman is proud to partner with such a loyal friend and provide this unprecedented capability to the RAAF», said Irving. «We consider Triton and its autonomous technology to be the future of the next centennial of aviation, and we are honored to be part of this century-long partnership».

 

Key Features

  • Provides persistent maritime ISR at a mission radius of 2,000 NM/2,302 miles/3,704 km; 24 hours/7 days per week with 80% Effective Time On Station (ETOS)
  • Land-based air vehicle and sensor command and control
  • Afloat Level II payload sensor data via line-of-sight
  • Dual redundant flight controls and surfaces
  • 51,000-hour airframe life
  • Due Regard Radar for safe separation
  • Anti/de-ice, bird strike, and lightning protection
  • Communications bandwidth management
  • Commercial off-the-shelf open architecture mission control system
  • Net-ready interoperability solution

 

Payload (360-degree Field of Regard)

Multi-Function Active Sensor Active Electronically Steered Array (MFAS AESA) radar:

  • 2D AESA;
  • Maritime and air-to-ground modes;
  • Long-range detection and classification of targets.

MTS-B multi-spectral targeting system:

  • Electro-optical/infrared;
  • Auto-target tracking;
  • High resolution at multiple field-of-views;
  • Full motion video.

AN/ZLQ-1 Electronic Support Measures:

  • All digital;
  • Specific Emitter Identification.

Automatic Identification System:

  • Provides information received from VHF broadcasts on maritime vessel movements.

 

Specifications

Wingspan 130.9 feet/39.9 m
Length 47.6 feet/14.5 m
Height 15.4 feet/4.6 m
Gross Take-Off Weight (GTOW) 32,250 lbs/14,628 kg
Maximum Internal Payload 3,200 lbs/1,452 kg
Maximum External Payload 2,400 lbs/1,089 kg
Self-Deploy 8,200 NM/9,436 miles/15,186 km
Maximum Altitude 56,500 feet/17,220 m
Maximum Velocity, TAS (True Air Speed) 331 knots/381 mph/613 km/h
Maximum Endurance 24 hours

 

F-35B Lightning II

The United Kingdom has welcomed home its first four F-35B Lightning II advanced fighter aircraft, which will be flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy.

Lockheed Martin-Built F-35 Comes Home to RAF Marham
Lockheed Martin-Built F-35 Comes Home to RAF Marham

With the aid of air-to-air refueling, the aircraft flew non-stop across the Atlantic from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina where UK pilots have been undergoing intensive training on the aircraft in partnership with their USMC counterparts.

With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 Lightning II is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. More than a fighter jet, the F-35’s ability to collect, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace.

«This aircraft will truly transform how the UK conducts its defence operations and it is fitting that the next generation of combat air power has arrived as the RAF celebrates its centenary», said Peter Ruddock, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin UK. «As a key partner in the F-35 programme from its early stages, the UK has been instrumental in shaping the design and development of the aircraft, particularly in relation to the short take-off and vertical landing capabilities».

The programme has also greatly benefitted UK industry with more than 500 British companies involved in the supply chain. Around 15 percent by value of each of the more than 3,000 F-35 Lightning II aircraft projected on the programme is manufactured in the UK, and to date the programme has generated about U.S. $13 billion in contracts for British suppliers.

The aircraft have arrived two months ahead of schedule which will allow the UK’s Lightning Force to focus on achieving initial operational capability by the end of 2018. The first flight trials with the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are expected later this year.

Comprehensive sustainment support for the UK’s fleet of F-35 Lightning II aircraft based at RAF Marham will be provided by Lightning Team UK, which represents the blended industry team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce.

The UK currently has 15 F-35B Lightning II aircraft in total, the remainder of which are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort or Edwards Air Force Base in California, where they are involved in testing and training.

Around the world, there are now nearly 300 F-35 Lightning II aircraft operating from 15 bases globally and the programme has achieved more than 140,000 flight hours.

 

Specifications

Length 51.2 feet/15.6 m
Height 14.3 feet/4.36 m
Wingspan 35 feet/10.7 m
Wing area 460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span 21.8 feet/6.65 m
Weight empty 32,300 lbs/14,651 kg
Internal fuel capacity 13,500 lbs/6,125 kg
Weapons payload 15,000 lbs/6,800 kg
Maximum weight 60,000 lbs class/27,215 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-600
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 41,000 lbs/182,4 kN/18,597 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 27,000 lbs/120,1 kN/12,247 kgf
Short Take Off Thrust 40,740 lbs/181,2 kN/18,479 kgf
Hover Thrust 40,650 lbs/180,8 kN/18,438 kgf
Main Engine 18,680 lbs/83,1 kN/8,473 kgf
Lift Fan 18,680 lbs/83,1 kN/8,473 kgf
Roll Post 3,290 lbs/14,6 kN/1,492 kgf
Main Engine Length 369 inch/9.37 m
Main Engine Inlet Diameter 43 inch/1.09 m
Main Engine Maximum Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Lift Fan Inlet Diameter 51 inch/1,30 m
Lift Fan Maximum Diameter 53 inch/1,34 m
Conventional Bypass Ratio 0.57
Powered Lift Bypass Ratio 0.51
Conventional Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Powered Lift Overall Pressure Ratio 29
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6 (~1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h)
Combat radius (internal fuel) >450 NM/517.6 miles/833 km
Range (internal fuel) >900 NM/1,036 miles/1,667 km
Max g-rating 7.0
PLANNED QUANTITIES
U.S. Marine Corps 340
U.K. Royal Air Force/Royal Navy 138
Italy 30
In total 508

 

Flight Operations

Northrop Grumman Corp. joined the U.S. Navy in officially welcoming the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system to the fleet with a ceremony on May 31 to celebrate the commencement of flight operations.

The first two operational MQ-4C Triton aircraft at home in their newly refurbished hangar at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. The insignia of Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)-19, the Navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron, can be seen behind them
The first two operational MQ-4C Triton aircraft at home in their newly refurbished hangar at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. The insignia of Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)-19, the Navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron, can be seen behind them

Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu is home to the maintenance detachment of Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)-19 DET Point Mugu, the Navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron. Maintainers are conducting training and tests on the Triton aircraft before it deploys to Guam later this year.

Point Mugu has also completely refurbished an existing hangar that will accommodate up to four Triton aircraft with its 130.9-foot/40-meter wingspan. The first two Triton aircraft are located at Point Mugu.

Brian Chappel, sector vice president and general manager, Autonomous Systems, Northrop Grumman, joined Doug Shaffer, vice president, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman, and Rear Admiral William Wheeler III in cutting the ribbon on the refurbished hangar.

«With each new part of the Triton infrastructure that the Navy stands up, we move closer to making Triton operational and showing the fleet what this remarkable aircraft system can do», Shaffer said. «I look forward to the day when this hangar is full of activity leading up to the Guam employment».

«As Naval Base Ventura County’s representative in Congress, I am proud to support the MQ-4C Triton aircraft system», said U.S. Representative Julia Brownley, Ventura County. «The Triton is an essential component of the Navy’s future intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, and a critical program for the continued strength of Naval Base Ventura County and our national security. I have made funding for research, development, and procurement of the Triton a top priority. When fully developed, this program will bring jobs and an economic boost to Ventura County».

Built by Northrop Grumman, the MQ-4C Triton is an unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft system with an autonomous capability that is piloted from a ground station. Triton can fly for up to 24 hours and reach altitudes of up to 55,000 feet/16,764 m. Flying high above the battle space, Triton provides a critical common operating picture, disseminating images and near-real time video to commanders around the world.

 

Key Features

  • Provides persistent maritime ISR at a mission radius of 2,000 NM/2,302 miles/3,704 km; 24 hours/7 days per week with 80% Effective Time On Station (ETOS)
  • Land-based air vehicle and sensor command and control
  • Afloat Level II payload sensor data via line-of-sight
  • Dual redundant flight controls and surfaces
  • 51,000-hour airframe life
  • Due Regard Radar for safe separation
  • Anti/de-ice, bird strike, and lightning protection
  • Communications bandwidth management
  • Commercial off-the-shelf open architecture mission control system
  • Net-ready interoperability solution

 

Payload (360-degree Field of Regard)

Multi-Function Active Sensor Active Electronically Steered Array (MFAS AESA) radar:

  • 2D AESA;
  • Maritime and air-to-ground modes;
  • Long-range detection and classification of targets.

MTS-B multi-spectral targeting system:

  • Electro-optical/infrared;
  • Auto-target tracking;
  • High resolution at multiple field-of-views;
  • Full motion video.

AN/ZLQ-1 Electronic Support Measures:

  • All digital;
  • Specific Emitter Identification.

Automatic Identification System:

  • Provides information received from VHF broadcasts on maritime vessel movements.

 

Specifications

Wingspan 130.9 feet/39.9 m
Length 47.6 feet/14.5 m
Height 15.4 feet/4.6 m
Gross Take-Off Weight (GTOW) 32,250 lbs/14,628 kg
Maximum Internal Payload 3,200 lbs/1,452 kg
Maximum External Payload 2,400 lbs/1,089 kg
Self-Deploy 8,200 NM/9,436 miles/15,186 km
Maximum Altitude 56,500 feet/17,220 m
Maximum Velocity, TAS (True Air Speed) 331 knots/381 mph/613 km/h
Maximum Endurance 24 hours

 

Commando Merlin

On May 24, 2018, Defence Minister Guto Bebb announced the delivery of the first of a fleet of new helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations.

Defence Minister Guto Bebb announced the delivery of the first of a fleet of new helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations (Crown copyright)
Defence Minister Guto Bebb announced the delivery of the first of a fleet of new helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations (Crown copyright)

The helicopter, known as the Commando Merlin Mk4, has been upgraded to a faster and more powerful aircraft than its predecessor. It now sports a maritime grey coat, has a folding main rotor and tail, upgraded flight controls and a tactical computer. The modifications are designed to ensure it can now operate from sea, and it will take off from ships including the UK’s new 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08).

A total of 25 Commando Merlin aircraft will be delivered to the air wing of the Royal Marines – the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) – who will use them to deliver troops and supplies from sea to land.

Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: «This new version of the Merlin will provide an essential bridge between sea and land for our Marines operating from ships, including our brand-new aircraft carriers. This fleet will deliver troops and supplies to the centre of the action, be that a conflict zone or the site of a humanitarian disaster, as well as providing search and rescue cover. Flown from the Yeovil factory to now be homed here, this is another way defence is supporting the South West, where we spent over £5bn last year – more than any other region in the UK».

The Commando Merlin Mk4 aircraft, an upgrade from the Merlin Mk3 standard, are being delivered through a £388 million contract between the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Leonardo Helicopters, supporting 175 skilled jobs at Leonardo in Yeovil, and a further 500 across the UK supply chain.

Last year the MOD’s highest spend per person in the UK was in the South West, where £920 was spent for each member of the population – totalling around £5,079,000,000. Defence spending in the region also supported one in every 60 jobs there – the highest proportion of jobs support by MOD expenditure in the UK, totalling 33,500 jobs.

DE&S Director Helicopters Air Vice-Marshal Graham Russell said: «DE&S is proud to have delivered the first Merlin Mk4 to the Royal Navy. Today underscores that DE&S and their industrial partners are delivering. And delivering more with less, thanks to our effective change programme and fantastic staff. We look forward to all 25 aircraft being fully operational by 2023. DE&S will also ensure the Commando Merlin are supported with a full training and support solution, so they are always available to be deployed across the globe».

The delivery will allow air crews to familiarise themselves with the Commando Merlin before they enter service, expected in the summer. They have been acquired to replace the veteran Sea Kings.

When not deployed on operations the helicopters will be based at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, the home of CHF since the unit was formed in 1997.

CHF, known as the ‘Junglies’, have served in a commando support role in theatres of operations including Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s the ability to fold the tail section – which has been completely rebuilt for the Mk4 – and the rotor heads which assist flying from Royal Navy carriers in particular.

Colonel Lenny Brown RM, the Officer Commanding Commando Helicopter Force said: «Commando Helicopter Force provides aerial support to the Royal Marines, be they at sea, in an assault ship or in the sand and dust of Afghanistan. My air crews will soon begin training to fly the Commando Merlin from the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, marking the start of a new era of Commando support operations».

Environment Test

Lockheed Martin recently put its fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) satellite through its paces in realistic simulations of its future launch experience. The satellite completed the tests successfully and is now in system-level testing in preparation for delivery to the U.S. Air Force in 2019.

AEHF-4 (foreground) with the antenna wings extended and AEHF-5 (background) visible in the open DELTA chamber
AEHF-4 (foreground) with the antenna wings extended and AEHF-5 (background) visible in the open DELTA chamber

For the 39 days of Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVAC) testing, AEHF-5 was subjected to extreme cold and heat in zero atmosphere, to simulate its upcoming on-orbit life. TVAC is a part of a battery of tests that ensure a satellite will arrive in space functionally sound and ready to operate through the extreme temperature changes of space.

Following the TVAC test series, AEHF-5 completed acoustic testing, where the satellite was subjected to high intensity, low frequency sound waves that simulated the vibrations generated by a rocket propelling its payload from zero to over 17,500 miles/28,163.5 km per hour in under eight minutes.

«TVAC and acoustic tests are critical milestones in the production cycle of a satellite, where we have one shot to get it right, so we take every precaution to ensure the vehicle is ready for the harsh space environment. We design and build our AEHF satellites to serve our military’s strategic and tactical protected communications needs. The team and the satellite performed flawlessly, and AEHF-5 is now in system level testing», said Michael Cacheiro, vice president for Protected Communications at Lockheed Martin Space.

Following its anticipated 2019 launch, the satellite will join the AEHF constellation that continues to provide global, highly-secure, protected and survivable communications for U.S. and allied warfighters on ground, sea and air platforms.

In addition to AEHF-5, the fourth AEHF satellite is rapidly nearing the end of its production journey. AEHF-4 will be shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station later this year in preparation for a launch on an Atlas V launch vehicle. Once on-orbit, AEHF-4 will complete the minimum constellation of AEHF satellites needed to bring global Extended Data Rate (XDR) connectivity to warfighters and international partners.

«XDR adds an unprecedented protected communication capability, providing 10 times more communications throughput than the legacy MILSTAR (Military Strategic and Tactical Relay) constellation», stated Cacheiro.

The AEHF team is led by the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the AEHF prime contractor and system manager, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California, as the satellite payload provider.