Category Archives: Fighters

Mission with F-35C

The U.S. Navy and Boeing have used the MQ-25TM T1 test asset to refuel a U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II fighter jet for the first time, once again demonstrating the aircraft’s ability to achieve its primary aerial refueling mission.

MQ-25 Stingray
Boeing’s MQ-25 T1 test asset transfers fuel to a U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II fighter jet Sept. 13 during a flight-test mission. The U.S. Navy and Boeing have conducted three refueling flights in the past three months, including an F/A-18 Super Hornet and E-2D Hawkeye (Kevin Flynn photo)

This was the third refueling mission for the Boeing-owned test asset in just over three months, advancing the test program for the U.S. Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft. T1 refueled an F/A-18 Super Hornet in June and an E-2D Hawkeye in August.

«Every test flight with another Type/Model/Series aircraft gets us one step closer to rapidly delivering a fully mission-capable MQ-25 Stingray to the fleet», said Captain Chad Reed, the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager. «Stingray’s unmatched refueling capability is going to increase the U.S. Navy’s power projection and provide operational flexibility to the Carrier Strike Group commanders».

During a test flight September 13, an F-35C Lightning II test pilot from the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) conducted a successful wake survey behind T1 to ensure performance and stability before making contact with T1’s aerial refueling drogue and receiving fuel.

«This flight was yet another physical demonstration of the maturity and stability of the MQ-25 Stingray aircraft design», said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray program director. «Thanks to this latest mission in our accelerated test program, we are confident the MQ-25 Stingray aircraft we are building right now will meet the U.S. Navy’s primary requirement – delivering fuel safely to the carrier air wing».

The T1 flight test program began in September 2019 with the aircraft’s first flight. In the following two years, the test program completed more than 120 flight hours – gathering data on everything from aircraft performance to propulsion dynamics to structural loads and flutter testing for strength and stability.

MQ-25 Stingray is benefitting from the two years of early flight test data, which has been integrated back into its digital models to strengthen the digital thread connecting aircraft design to production to test to operations and sustainment. Boeing is currently manufacturing the first two MQ-25 Stingray test aircraft.

T1 will be used to conduct a deck handling demonstration aboard a U.S. Navy carrier in the coming months to help advance the carrier integration progress.

Milestone C

The U.S. Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) received Milestone C (MS-C) approval August 23, allowing the program to move into its first phase of production.

AARGM-ER
The U.S. Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER) completes its first live fire event July 19 off the coast of Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California (U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. Navy plans to award the first two low-rate initial production lots over the next several months.

«The combined government/industry team has worked tirelessly over the last few years to reach this milestone», said Captain Alex Dutko, Direct and Time Sensitive Strike (PMA-242) program manager. «We look forward to getting this new weapon with its increased capability and lethality out to the fleet as soon as possible».

The MS-C decision comes just over two years after the Navy awarded the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract to its prime contractor, Northrop Grumman. The team conducted the first live-fire event in July to verify system integration and rocket motor performance, as well as initiate modeling and simulation validation.

Captive and live fire flight testing is planned to continue through 2022 and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is planned for 2023.

The U.S. Navy is integrating AARGM-ER on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, and it will be compatible for integration on the F-35 Lightning II. By leveraging the U.S. Navy’s AARGM program, the AARGM-ER with a new rocket motor and warhead will provide advanced capability to detect and engage enemy air defense systems.

Rollout ceremony

Boeing, in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), celebrated the naming and rollout of Qatar’s advanced F-15, the F-15QA Strike Eagle.

F-15QA Strike Eagle
Boeing Unveils F-15 Qatar Advanced Jets

«The rollout of the F-15QA Strike Eagle is momentous, not just in terms of capability but also in terms of the enhanced partnership it represents. The relationship the United States shares with Qatar is critical to the stability and security of the central command area of responsibility, and we are grateful for our coalition partner’s continued focus on building interoperability and combined readiness», said Lieutenant General Greg Guillot, commander of 9th Air Force. «It is a privilege and honor to stand with our Qatari counterparts this day and every day».

The first set of F-15QA Strike Eagle jets will ferry to Qatar later this year following the completion of pre-delivery pilot training.

«The Qatar F-15QA Strike Eagle program further enhanced next-generation technologies in the advanced F-15 such as the fly-by-wire flight controls, an all-glass digital cockpit and contemporary sensors, radar and electronic warfare capabilities», said Prat Kumar, vice president of the F-15 program. «Driven by digital engineering and advanced manufacturing, these aircraft represent a transformational leap for the F-15. The F-15QA Strike Eagle will enhance the superiority of the QEAF with more speed, range and payload than any fighter in the world».

Boeing has been providing maintenance and logistics support for the QEAF during pre-delivery pilot training, which began earlier this year. In addition, Boeing will establish and operate an aircrew and maintenance training center for the QEAF at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar through 2024 while also providing in-country spares and logistics support once aircraft are delivered.

«Boeing is proud to provide a holistic solution to our valued Qatari customer through tailored training and sustainment», said Torbjorn «Turbo» Sjogren, vice president of International Government & Defence for Boeing. «We look forward to our continued partnership with Qatar and further supporting their mission readiness needs».

Passive Radio Sensors

KONGSBERG has placed an order with BAE Systems Australia to acquire an additional 180 Passive Radio Frequency Sensors (PRS) for its Joint Strike Missile (JSM).

Joint Strike Missile (JSM)
Australian technologies for Joint Strike Missile (JSM)

This completes the first full rate of production order for 200 PRS sensors and is the result of successful and efficient operations between the two companies over the past five years.

Following initial funding from the Australian Government, KONGSBERG and BAE Systems Australia have continued to invest in the development, qualification and integration of the Australian sensor providing additional capability to the fifth-generation, long-range, precision-guided, stand-off missile system.

KONGSBERG’s JSM is highly effective against maritime and land targets, and is the only anti-ship cruise missile that can be carried internally within the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

This allows the F-35 Lightning II to retain its range and stealth capabilities, making it highly suited to meet the RAAF’s F-35 Maritime Strike requirements under Project 3023 Phase 2.

The JSM is from the same family of missiles as the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) that was competitively selected by the U.S. Navy, and is also a candidate missile for Project SEA 1300 for the Royal Australian Navy.

This order demonstrates KONGSBERG’s willingness to work closely with Australian Defence Industry and BAE Systems Australia’s commitment to developing sovereign capability in Guided Weapons programs that will benefit the Australian Defence Force.

 

Kongsberg Defence Australia’s General Manager John Fry said:

«This latest export order with BAE Systems Australia further demonstrates KONGSBERG’s commitment to working with our Australian Industry partners on the development of world-leading sovereign guided weapon technology».

«The work that we are doing with BAE Systems Australia on JSM continues to build upon KONGSBERG’s legacy of collaboration with Australian companies on guided weapon production that commenced 25 years ago with the Australian manufacture of Penguin missile components».

«The global interest for JSM with the international F-35 Lightning II user community gives us confidence that the PRS will continue to be an outstanding export story for Australian Defence Industry».

 

BAE Systems Australia Managing Director Defence Delivery Andrew Gresham said:

«Achieving this major milestone in the JSM program provides an excellent example of how KONGSBERG, an international guided weapons provider and BAE Systems Australia, have successfully established an effective working relationship that supports design, development, integration and production activities in the field of guided weapons».

«This order demonstrates Australia’s ability to develop new, world leading sovereign technologies. The integration of this technology into a guided weapon will provide the Australian Defence Force with a leading edge defence capability».

«Our collaboration and success in developing this sensor for the JSM also showcases how Australia can compete on the world stage and export innovative defence technologies».

Flight Test Shots

The Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) joint program office completed the second live fire test of the new AIM‑120D-3 missile variant, incorporating upgraded hardware into the guidance section on May 12.

AIM‑120D-3
AMRAAM Completes Two Free Flight Test Shots

The weapon safely launched from an F/A-18F Super Hornet and flew the expected flight path over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California. Preliminary analysis provided by the prime contractor, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, indicates all primary and secondary objectives of the shot were met.

«Completing the first two free flight shots of upgraded hardware and software is a significant milestone in the integration and test phase of the new AIM-120D-3 missile», said Colonel Sean Bradley, AMRAAM Senior Materiel Leader at the U.S. Air Force’s Armament Directorate. «These successes are important to the overall execution of the Form, Fit, Function Refresh (F3R) program; a program implemented to address an increasing number of production challenges due to obsolescence of various electronic components within the AIM-120».

Combined with software upgrades, AIM-120D-3 will deliver advanced capabilities to improve missile effectiveness against advanced threats for Air Force, Navy, and Allied Partners. This missile shot from an F/A-18F Super Hornet tested the missile’s safe separation autopilot and free-flight navigation capabilities.

Together, with the first shot on December 9, 2020, these shots represent a critical first in a series of developmental flight tests that provides crucial data to assess the missile’s ability to acquire, track and guide to targets.

AMRAAM is the world’s most sophisticated, combat-proven air dominance weapon. With AIM-120D-3 production deliveries beginning in 2023, the AIM-120 missile will continue to meet warfighter requirements in all weather and beyond visual range engagements. Its capabilities have been fully demonstrated in over 4,900 test shots and more than 13 air-to-air combat victories.

Anti-Radiation Missile

The U.S. Navy completed an Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) captive carry flight on an F/A-18 Super Hornet April 22 at Patuxent River in support of the first live fire event this spring.

AARGM-ER
An F/A-18 Super Hornet flies with an Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) during a captive carry flight test at Patuxent River Air Station in Maryland. The U.S. Navy is integrating AARGM-ER on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, and will be compatible for integration of the F-35 Lightning II (U.S. Navy photo)

This flight marked the first time the AARGM-ER weapon demonstrated it could communicate with the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet aircraft. The Separation Test Vehicle (STV) used its hardware and software to facilitate the controlled free flight.

«Data collected from this testing will support expansion of flight testing with AARGM-ER to the full performance envelope of F/A-18 Super Hornet», said Captain Mitch Commerford, program manager for Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program office (PMA-242). «This flight represents a significant step in the AARGM-ER engineering and manufacturing development phase».

During the test, the F/A-18 Super Hornet conducted a series of aerial maneuvers in order to evaluate compatibility of the AARGM-ER with the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The test points completed during this flight test event substantiated F/A-18 Super Hornet carriage compatibility.

AARGM-ER is being integrated on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, and will be compatible for integration of the F-35 Lightning II. By leveraging the U.S. Navy’s AARGM program that’s in Full Rate Production, the AARGM-ER with a new rocket motor and warhead will provide advanced capability to detect and engage enemy air defense systems.

Project Hydra

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the U.S. Air Force successfully linked a U-2, five F-35s and an F-22 in air and provided real-time 5th Generation data to operators on the ground, introducing greater mission flexibility across domains and an enhanced total operational picture for the joint warfighter.

Project Hydra
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Project Hydra Demonstrates 5th Gen To 5th Gen Communications Across Domains

Named Project Hydra, the latest flight test leveraged an Open Systems Gateway (OSG) payload aboard the U-2 to connect an F-22 to five F-35s via native Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) and Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), successfully sharing data between all airborne aircraft and with nodes on the ground. The target tracks were also transmitted by and through the U-2 into the fighter avionics and pilot displays.

«Project Hydra marks the first time that bi-directional communications were established between 5th Generation aircraft in-flight while also sharing operational and sensor data down to ground operators for real-time capability», said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «This next-level connectivity reduces the data-to-decision timeline from minutes to seconds, which is critical in fighting today’s adversaries and advanced threats».

The Project Hydra effort also marked the first time F-35 sensor data was delivered to an operational ground system over a Tactical Targeting Network Terminal (TTNT) link using an airborne gateway. This data was then sent to the US Army Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) Airborne Sensor Adaptation Kit (A-Kit), also developed by Lockheed Martin. The A-Kit then transmitted data to the IBCS Tactical System Integration Laboratory (TSIL) at Fort Bliss, Texas. IBCS used the F-35 sensor data to conduct a simulated Army fires exercise.

The core of the Hydra payload leverages the Open Mission Systems (OMS) compliant Enterprise Mission Computer 2 (EMC2), facilitating F-22, F-35, TTNT and Link-16 connections.  By leveraging both Line-Of-Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) datalink capabilities of the U-2, data can now be shared directly to tactical users and globally to Command and Control (C2) nodes like the Common Mission Control Center (CMCC). During this demonstration, both the CMCC and Shadow Operations Center at Nellis Air Force Base were able to view the sensor and platform data to enable situational awareness for operational command and control of highly capable air assets.

Bringing the power of 5th Generation data and exposing new C2 opportunities across multiple domains continues to demonstrate Lockheed Martin’s readiness to provide unmatched battlespace awareness and rapidly field capability today. This demonstration is another key step forward in Lockheed Martin’s support for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System and the Army’s Project Convergence, supporting the goal of providing commanders critical tools for the joint all-domain battlespace environment.

Egyptian Rafales

The Arab Republic of Egypt has decided to purchase an additional 30 Rafales to equip its air force.

Rafale
Egypt acquires 30 additional Rafale fighters

This new order complements the first acquisition of 24 Rafales signed on February 2015 and will bring the number of Rafales flying under Egyptian colors to 54, making the Egyptian Air Force the second in the world after the French Air Force, to operate such a fleet of Rafales.

It reflects the strategic relation between Egypt and France. It emphasizes also the confidence of the highest Egyptian authorities in Dassault Aviation and their satisfaction with the effective execution of the first contract.

«This new order is proof of the unfailing bond that unites Egypt, the first foreign user of the Rafale, as it was for the Mirage 2000, with Dassault Aviation for nearly 50 years. It is also a tribute to the Rafale’s operational quality, as this is the second time an export customer has chosen to order additional aircraft. Dassault Aviation and its partners would like to thank the Egyptian authorities for this new mark of trust and assure them of their total commitment to meeting their expectations once again», stated Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

This contract confirms the Rafale’s technological and operational excellence and its export success.

F-35A For Denmark

L-001, Denmark’s first F-35A Lightning II production aircraft flew its inaugural flight. Denmark is the fifth European NATO nation to fly and operate an F-35, strengthening NATO’s 5th generation airpower foundation. Denmark is joining four other European nations who already operate the F-35 Lightning II: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway and Italy.

F-35A Lightning II
Denmark’s first F-35A Lightning II takes to the air for its first flight

Like the F-16 Fighting Falcon before it, the F-35A Lightning II is spearheading NATO’s air power and ensuring strategic integration of allied combat airpower. The vital interoperability of the 5th Generation F-35 Lightning II binds 13 allies and partners with the United States in air dominance and enabling critical joint capabilities. The F-35A Lightning II will serve as a force multiplier for Denmark, allowing the Royal Danish Air Force to train and fight alongside NATO allies and create a strong deterrent.

«Achieving the first flight of Denmark’s first F-35 is major milestone for the Denmark F-35 program and a testament to the outstanding abilities of our dedicated and highly trained joint industry and government team», said Bill Brotherton, acting F-35 vice president and general manager. «This team’s focus on delivering the most effective, survivable and connected fighter in the world will ensure the sovereign protection of Denmark and strengthen allies and partners through the NATO F-35 coalition».

L-001 is scheduled to be delivered to the Royal Danish Air Force in April and will be flown to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, later this year for pilot and maintainer training. F-35s will arrive in Denmark in 2023 and be based at Royal Danish Air Force’s Fighter Wing Skrydstrup where it will safeguard the skies over Denmark and its NATO allies.

Survivability System

«The start of EPAWSS production marks a critical milestone and is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our industry team», said Jerry Wohletz, VP/GM of Electronic Combat Solutions.

EPAWSS
Electronic warfare system production starts for U.S. Air Force F-15s

BAE Systems has received a $58 million contract from Boeing to start Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the F-15 Eagle Passive Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) for the U.S. Air Force. The Electronic Warfare (EW) and countermeasures system provides advanced electromagnetic capabilities that protect pilots and help them maintain air superiority during their toughest missions.

«The start of EPAWSS production marks a critical milestone and is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our industry team», said Jerry Wohletz, vice president and general manager of Electronic Combat Solutions at BAE Systems. «Our technology is cutting-edge, our factories are world-class, and our people are innovative and mission-focused».

The all-digital EPAWSS enables pilots to monitor, jam, and deceive threats in contested airspace. The system combines multispectral sensors and countermeasures, industry-leading signal processing, microelectronics, and intelligent algorithms to deliver fully integrated radar warning, situational awareness, geolocation, and self-protection capabilities.

The successful completion of a series of rigorous flight tests, ground tests, and intensive technology demonstrations led to the U.S. Air Force decision to proceed with LRIP. During the program’s Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase, BAE Systems is delivering incremental updates to the EPAWSS flight software with new geolocation and threat identification capabilities. As a result, system performance continues to improve in ground/flight test and in dense signal environments in Hardware-in-The-Loop (HiTL) tests at the U.S. Air Force’s Integrated Demonstrations and Applications Laboratory.

«I’m proud of the overall team for their incredible effort on this program», said F-15 Eagle EPAWSS program manager Lieutenant Colonel Dan Carroll. «The LRIP milestone is the culmination of years of hard work by a lot of great people within the government and our Boeing and BAE Systems industry partners. EPAWSS will significantly improve the survivability and utility of the F-15 Eagle, and will be a great complement to what is already a very capable and lethal aircraft».

BAE Systems has also demonstrated EPAWSS’ hardware maturity and manufacturing readiness. In anticipation of EPAWSS LRIP and other critical EW production needs, the company has invested more than $100 million in world-class EW laboratories and factories, and has grown its workforce of innovative, mission-focused experts.