Category Archives: Air

Add Muscle to Chinook

Boeing will build and test three U.S. Army CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopters as part of a modernization effort that will likely bring another two decades of work to the company’s Philadelphia site.

Boeing will build and test three U.S. Army CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopters as part of a modernization effort that will likely bring another two decades of work to the company's Philadelphia site (Boeing illustration)
Boeing will build and test three U.S. Army CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopters as part of a modernization effort that will likely bring another two decades of work to the company’s Philadelphia site (Boeing illustration)

A recent $276 million Army contract will fund those helicopters, which will validate technology advancements that will increase the iconic helicopter’s lifting power.

«The Army’s only heavy-lift helicopter exists to deliver decisive combat power for our ground commanders», said Colonel Greg Fortier, U.S. Army project manager for Cargo Helicopters. «The Cargo family is anxious to build upon Col. Rob Barrie’s efforts to establish this critical program and deliver an adaptive air vehicle. Increasing payload capacity today enhances battlefield agility and prepares the Chinook for even greater performance gains in the future».

An improved drivetrain will transfer greater power from the engines to the all-new, swept-tip Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades, which have been engineered to lift 1,500 additional pounds on their own. The current configuration of six fuel tanks – three on each side – will become two, allowing the aircraft to carry more fuel and shed weight. Additionally, the fuselage’s structure will be strengthened in critical areas to allow the aircraft to carry additional payload.

«This latest upgrade for the Chinook fleet is a tribute to the robustness of its original design and exemplifies its 55-year legacy of technological advancements», said Chuck Dabundo, vice president, Cargo Helicopters and program manager, H-47. «The fact that the U.S. Army continues to use and value this platform and they are intending to continue to upgrade it to keep it flying for decades to come is a testament of the capabilities the Chinook team continues to bring».

Boeing will begin building the test aircraft next year. The test program begins in 2019 and first delivery of the Block II Chinook is expected in 2023. Eventually, the Army will upgrade more than 500 Chinooks to Block II configuration.

Deep Space Gateway

Refurbishing a shuttle-era cargo container used to transfer cargo to the International Space Station, Lockheed Martin is prototyping a deep space habitat for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. This prototype will integrate evolving technologies to keep astronauts safe while onboard and operate the spacecraft autonomously when unoccupied.

Lockheed Martin artist rendering of the NextSTEP habitat docked with Orion in cislunar orbit as part of a concept for the Deep Space Gateway. Orion will serve as the habitat’s command deck in early missions, providing critical communications, life support and navigation to guide long-duration missions
Lockheed Martin artist rendering of the NextSTEP habitat docked with Orion in cislunar orbit as part of a concept for the Deep Space Gateway. Orion will serve as the habitat’s command deck in early missions, providing critical communications, life support and navigation to guide long-duration missions

Under a public-private partnership, NASA recently awarded Lockheed Martin a Phase II contract for the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) habitat study contract. As part of Phase II, the team will continue to refine the design concept developed in Phase I and work with NASA to identify key system requirements for the Deep Space Gateway. Included in this work, the team will build a full-scale habitat prototype in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and a next-generation deep space avionics integration lab near Johnson Space Center.

«It is easy to take things for granted when you are living at home, but the recently selected astronauts will face unique challenges», said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin NextSTEP program manager. «Something as simple as calling your family is completely different when you are outside of low Earth orbit. While building this habitat, we have to operate in a different mindset that’s more akin to long trips to Mars to ensure we keep them safe, healthy and productive».

A full-scale prototype of the deep space habitat will be built by refurbishing the Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM). Donatello was one of three large modules, flown in the space shuttle payload bay, that were used to transfer cargo to the International Space Station. The team will also rely heavily on mixed reality prototyping using virtual and augmented reality. Through this approach, the team can reduce cost and schedule, as well as identify and solve issues early in the design phase.

«We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware, originally designed for low Earth orbit exploration, to play a role in humanity’s push into deep space», said Pratt. «Making use of existing capabilities will be a guiding philosophy for Lockheed Martin to minimize development time and meet NASA’s affordability goals».

The work will occur over 18 months and will build upon the concept study performed in Phase I. Phase II will also focus on mixed reality and rapid prototyping, and working on concept refinement and risk reduction. The new results, which will be provided to NASA, will further the understanding of the systems, standards and common interfaces needed to make living in deep space possible.

The Deep Space Gateway will rely on many of Orion’s advanced capabilities that can be used while astronauts are there, and utilizes capabilities common to Lockheed Martin-built planetary spacecraft like Juno and MAVEN while it’s unoccupied. Employing NASA’s space-proven Orion spacecraft as the Deep Space Gateway command deck early on allows for a safe and practical approach for the incremental build-up of deep space exploration capabilities.

Additionally, Lockheed Martin will build a Deep Space Avionics Integration Laboratory in Houston to demonstrate command and control between the Deep Space Gateway and Orion. The lab will help reduce risk associated with critical data interfaces between Deep Space Gateway elements and provide an environment for astronauts to train for various mission scenarios.

«Because the Deep Space Gateway would be uninhabited for several months at a time, it has to be rugged, reliable and have the robotic capabilities to operate autonomously. Essentially it is a robotic spacecraft that is well-suited for humans when Orion is present», said Pratt. «Lockheed Martin’s experience building autonomous planetary spacecraft plays a large role in making that possible».

Counter-UAS program

As the use of unmanned aircraft systems rises across the world, researchers from around the Defense Department are testing new ways to counter the new threats they could present.

Defenders from the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and a researcher from the Air Force Research Lab teamed up to bring a new program to Bagram Airfield (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sergeant Benjamin Gonsier)
Defenders from the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and a researcher from the Air Force Research Lab teamed up to bring a new program to Bagram Airfield (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sergeant Benjamin Gonsier)

The 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron (ESFS) teamed up with a researcher from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to teach Airmen how to pilot drones and use them to train coalition forces on how to react to them on the battlefield.

«This is a brand-new program for the 455th AEW, where we are able to test our counter-UAS systems coming into BAF, in addition to running base-wide exercises», said 1st. Lieutenant Ryan Wilkerson, a researcher attached to the 455th ESFS.

Wilkerson, who is not a defender by trade, is deployed out of the AFRL, Rome Research Site, New York, and came to test the program at Bagram Airfield, where the challenge is present in real-world scenarios.

A few defenders assisted Wilkerson, serving as drone pilots and using their own down time to practice piloting and learn tactics the enemy may use.

«It’s exciting to be able to pilot these aircraft for a program no one has ever been a part of before», said Senior Airman Christopher Gallman, with the 455th ESFS joint defense operations center. «I can’t wait to see where it is going and to be able to help out the total force».

The drone pilots wear aviator sunglasses and have an aura of swagger around them, as they take pride in being at the forefront of tactical development.

«It’s fun and enjoyable, and knowing how beneficial it is to not only the base, but all of the force, makes flying the drone worth doing», Gallman said.

Training never ends, and while service members train to deploy, training still continues while deployed.

«This allows us to be better prepared», Wilkerson said. «The best way to train is to actually put something in the air and see how people react. We train how we fight, so this is the most efficient way to counter this growing concern amongst coalition partners».

Tactics used by the enemy are constantly evolving, which is why Airmen are constantly adapting to face threats head-on, ready to engage anything that comes their way.

Flight Testing

On July 5, 2017, Lockheed Martin announced the CH-53K King Stallion program has successfully completed its first extended «cross country» flight from Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Florida, facility to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. This is the first of several such flights that will occur during 2017 and 2018 as the CH-53K flight test program transitions to the flight test facilities at Patuxent River (PAX).

The CH-53K King Stallion arrives at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River on June 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)
The CH-53K King Stallion arrives at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River on June 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter flew on June 30 from Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach to PAX, a distance of approximately 810 miles/1,307.6 km. Total flight time was six hours, with two en route fuel stops at Naval Air Station Mayport, Florida, and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

«This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer’s facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing», said Doctor Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President, CH-53K Programs. «This has been the plan from the beginning and is another important step toward getting these fantastic aircraft into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps».

The four CH-53K Engineering Development Model (EDM) aircraft have already completed more than 450 hours of flight testing at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, and continue to drive to the edges of the operational envelope with both internal and external loads. The flight test program will continue to operate as it has from the beginning under an Integrated Test Team (ITT) that is comprised of Sikorsky, U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) personnel. Testing will continue in both locations, West Palm Beach and Patuxent River throughout the transition period.

«Bringing the CH-53K flight test program to PAX is an exciting milestone; many of the employees dedicated to its advancement now have the opportunity to work right down the street from it», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command’s Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.

In April, the CH-53K King Stallion Program successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) and achieved a Milestone C decision that approves funding for low rate initial production.

The CH-53K King Stallion provides unmatched heavy lift capability with three times the lift of the CH-53E Super Stallion that it replaces. With the increased payload capability and a 12-inch/30.5-centimetre wider internal cabin compared to the predecessor CH-53E Super Stallion, the CH-53K’s increased payload capability can take the form of a variety of relevant payloads ranging from multiple U.S. Air Force standard 463L pallets to an internally loaded High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or a European Fennek armored personnel carrier. In addition, the CH-53K King Stallion can carry up to three independent external loads at once providing incredible mission flexibility and system efficiency.

The CH-53K King Stallion offers enhanced safety features for the warfighter. Safety is enhanced with full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management that reduces pilot workload and enables the crew to focus on mission execution because the CH-53K King Stallion all but «flies itself». Features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing that all permit the pilot to confidently focus on the mission at hand.

Further, the CH-53K King Stallion has improved reliability and maintainability that exceeds 89 percent mission reliability with a smaller shipboard logistics footprint than the legacy CH-53E Super Stallion.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The first six of the 200 Program of Record aircraft are under contract and scheduled to start delivery next year to the Marine Corps. Two additional aircraft, the first low rate initial production 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.


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

CH-53K King Stallion Flight Testing Begins Transition to Patuxent River NAS

Five-Year Contract

On June 30, 2017, the U.S. government and Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, signed a five-year contract for 257 H-60 Black Hawk helicopters to be delivered to the U.S. Army and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. The multi-year contract will yield significant savings for the U.S. government compared with purchasing the same quantity across five separate annual agreements.

This image features the UH-60M Black Hawk and HH-60M MEDEVAC
This image features the UH-60M Black Hawk and HH-60M MEDEVAC

The «Multi-Year IX» contract for UH-60M Black Hawk and HH-60M MEDEVAC aircraft marks the ninth multiple-year contract for Sikorsky and the U.S. government for H-60 helicopters. The contract value for expected deliveries is approximately $3.8 billion and includes options for an additional 103 aircraft, with the total contract value potentially reaching $5.2 billion. Actual production quantities will be determined year-by-year over the life of the program based on funding allocations set by Congress and Pentagon acquisition priorities. The deliveries are scheduled to begin in October of this year and continue through 2022.

The UH-60M/HH-60M helicopters are the latest and most modern in a series of Black Hawk variants that Sikorsky has been delivering to the Army since 1978. They provide additional payload and range, advanced digital avionics, better handling qualities and situational awareness, active vibration control, improved survivability, and improved producibility.

«Four decades of production, strong program execution and delivery on behalf of the warfighter, coupled with great affordability for the taxpayer, have been the cornerstones of this program», said Sam Mehta, President, Defense Systems and Services, Sikorsky. «This contract allows us to continue supporting the important missions the Black Hawk performs as the workhorse utility and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopter in the U.S. Army inventory».

Colonel Billy Jackson, the Utility Helicopters Project Manager stated that, «This contract will provide our Army, sister services and allies with state-of-the-art modernized helicopters to complete crucial missions and save lives. Moreover, this effort will stabilize our manufacturing base and control long-term costs, and ultimately provide significant savings to the taxpayer».

Laser system onboard

Raytheon Company and the U.S. Army Apache Program Management Office, in collaboration with U.S. Special Operations Command, recently completed a successful flight test of a high energy laser system onboard an AH-64 Apache at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The demonstration marks the first time that a fully integrated laser system successfully engaged and fired on a target from a rotary-wing aircraft over a wide variety of flight regimes, altitudes and air speeds.

Raytheon, along with U.S. Army and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), demonstrated the first-ever helicopter-based firing of High Energy Laser
Raytheon, along with U.S. Army and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), demonstrated the first-ever helicopter-based firing of High Energy Laser

The test achieved all primary and secondary goals, providing solid experimental evidence for the feasibility of high resolution, multi-band targeting sensor performance and beam propagation supportive of High Energy Laser (HEL) capability for the rotary-wing attack mission. Additionally, the system performed as expected while tracking and directing energy on a number of targets. The design of future HEL systems will be shaped by the data collected on the impact of vibration, dust and rotor downwash on HEL beam control and steering.

«Our goal is to pull the future forward», said Art Morrish, vice president of Advanced Concept and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. «This data collection shows we’re on the right track. By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS, with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later».

In this test Raytheon coupled a variant of the Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS), an advanced electro-optical infrared sensor, with a laser. The MTS provided targeting information, situational awareness and beam control.

ballistic missile

President Moon Jae-in observed the test-firing of the nation’s new ballistic missile with a maximum range of 497 miles/800 kilometers, Friday, on June 23, sending a strong warning to North Korea over its provocations.

A Hyunmoo ballistic missile with a maximum range of 497 miles/800 kilometers is launched from a mobile launch vehicle during a test-firing observed by South Korean President Moon Jae-on June 23
A Hyunmoo ballistic missile with a maximum range of 497 miles/800 kilometers is launched from a mobile launch vehicle during a test-firing observed by South Korean President Moon Jae-on June 23

The test of a Hyunmoo-type ballistic missile, which puts the whole of North Korea within striking distance, took place at the Anheung test site of the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) under the wing of the Ministry of National Defense in Taean, South Chungcheong Province.

«The missile fell precisely onto a designated target after flying a prearranged distance», presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said at a media briefing.

As core assets forming the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, the new strategic weapons will be used to attack the North’s nuclear and missile facilities in the event of war, Park noted.

The military plans to complete the development of the new missile and deploy it by the end of the year.

Spokesman Park said the latest test was the fourth of its kind. «The new missile will be operationally deployed after two more test-firings», he said.

President Moon said his visit to the test site was meaningful in that the people as well as the President could affirm the nation’s missile capabilities amid the North’s evolving missile threats.

«The people are now convinced South Korea is not behind the North in missile capabilities», Park quoted Moon as saying. «I am an advocate of dialogue with the North, but pushing for such dialogue and engaging Pyongyang will be only possible when the nation has strong national defense, which overwhelms that of the North».

Park said there had been some concerns over Moon’s visit to the test site as it could provoke the Kim Jong-un regime and complicate the situation ahead of the South Korea-U.S. summit scheduled for next week.

«The first vice chief of the National Security Office was originally planning to supervise the test-firing, but after receiving a report, Moon showed willingness to observe it in person», Park said.

If the new missile is fired from the southern resort island of Jeju, it is theoretically capable of reaching Sinuiju, a North Korean city bordering China. If fired from Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, the missile can reach anywhere in North Korea.

The military has been developing ballistic missiles with extended firing ranges since Seoul and Washington revised the guidelines on such weapons for the South in October 2012. The revision allowed Seoul to extend the maximum range of its missiles to 497 miles/800 kilometers from the previous limit of 186.4 miles/300 kilometers.

South Korea is currently operating Hyunmoo 2A and 2B short-range ballistic missiles with maximum ranges of 186.4 miles/300 kilometers and 310.7 miles/500 kilometers, respectively; and Hyunmoo 3 cruise missiles with a range of 621.4 miles/1,000 kilometers.

Observers expect the new missile to be named the Hyunmoo 2C.

The North has conducted five missile provocations since Moon was sworn in, May 10, including a test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile, June 8.

Before this, Pyongyang fired a Scud-type ballistic missile from Wonsan, May 29, which was later assessed as an anti-ship ballistic missile. At the time, the North claimed the missile featured a new high-precision guidance system and a faster launch process.

The Kim Jong-un regime also fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile on May 14, a medium-range ballistic missile May 21 and a KN-06 surface-to-air guided missile May 27.

Final land test

The U.S. Navy successfully executed a test of the surface-to-air Standard Missile-6 Block IA (SM-6 Blk IA) at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico, June 7.

A SM-6 missile is loaded into a specialized container at the Raytheon Redstone Missile Integration Facility for delivery to the U.S. Navy
A SM-6 missile is loaded into a specialized container at the Raytheon Redstone Missile Integration Facility for delivery to the U.S. Navy

This test demonstrated SM-6 Blk IA’s improved capabilities and integration with the Aegis weapon system. The event was the third of three required flight tests successfully executed at WSMR. At-sea testing of the SM-6 Blk IA is planned to commence in the fall of 2017.

«This final land test is a critical milestone which demonstrates Blk IA’s improved capability», said Captain John Keegan, Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) major program manager for surface ship weapons. «I am very proud of the entire test team for their extensive planning and technical rigor that went into execution of this event».

The SM-6 Blk IA provides an over-the-horizon engagement capability when launched from an Aegis-equipped warship and uses the latest in hardware and software missile technology to provide needed capabilities against evolving air threats. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for SM-6 Blk IA is planned for the end of 2018.

PEO IWS is an affiliated program executive office of Naval Sea Systems Command. PEO IWS is responsible for spearheading surface ship and submarine combat technologies and systems, and for implementing Navy enterprise solutions across ship platforms.

Combat King

Airmen from the Alaska Air National Guard on Jun 1, 2017 accepted the first HC-130J Combat King II assigned to an U.S. Air National Guard unit at the Lockheed Martin facility here.

The U.S. Air National Guard received its first HC-130J Combat King II on Jun 1, 2017 (Photographer Amanda Mills, Lockheed Martin)
The U.S. Air National Guard received its first HC-130J Combat King II on Jun 1, 2017 (Photographer Amanda Mills, Lockheed Martin)

This HC-130J will be operated by the 211th Rescue Squadron (RQS), 176th Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The 211th RQS previously operated legacy HC-130P aircraft to support personnel recovery missions in Alaska and the Pacific Theater. These aircraft also act as aerial refuelers, providing support to the HH-60 Pave Hawk search-and-rescue helicopters that are also assigned to the 176th Wing. This is the first of four HC-130Js that will be delivered to the Alaska Guard.

«The delivery of this HC-130J Combat King II represents a new era for both the Air National Guard and the Alaska Guard. This aircraft provides the increased capabilities and enhanced performance that is essential for these Airmen to support their search and rescue mission», said George Shultz, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions at Lockheed Martin. «These men and women live their motto – ‘That Others May Live.’ We’re proud the HC‑130J Combat King fleet plays an essential role in supporting this commitment».

The HC-130J replaces HC-130N/P aircraft as the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. The HC-130J supports missions in all-weather and geographic environments, including reaching austere locations. The HC-130J is also tasked for airdrop, airland, helicopter air-to-air refueling and forward-area ground refueling missions. It also supports humanitarian aid operations, disaster response, security cooperation/aviation advisory, emergency aeromedical evacuation and noncombatant evacuation operations. The HC-130J is also operated by active duty Air Combat Command personnel recovery units.

The HC-130J is one of eight production variants of the C-130J Super Hercules, which is the world’s most proven and versatile airlifter. The C-130J is the airlifter of choice of 17 nations.

HC-130J Combat King II
HC-130J Combat King II



The HC-130J Combat King II replaces HC-130P/Ns as the only dedicated fixed-wing Personnel Recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It is an extended-range version of the C-130J Hercules transport. Its mission is to rapidly deploy to execute combatant commander directed recovery operations to austere airfields and denied territory for expeditionary, all weather personnel recovery operations to include airdrop, airland, helicopter air-to-air refueling, and forward area ground refueling missions. When tasked, the aircraft also conducts humanitarian assistance operations, disaster response, security cooperation/aviation advisory, emergency aeromedical evacuation, and noncombatant evacuation operations.



Modifications to the HC-130J Combat King II have improved navigation, threat detection and countermeasures systems. The aircraft fleet has a fully-integrated inertial navigation and global positioning systems, and Night Vision Goggle, or NVG, compatible interior and exterior lighting. It also has forward-looking infrared, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, satellite and data-burst communications, and the ability to receive fuel inflight via a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI).

The HC-130J Combat King II can fly in the day; however, crews normally fly night at low to medium altitude levels in contested or sensitive environments, both over land or overwater. Crews use NVGs for tactical flight profiles to avoid detection to accomplish covert infiltration/exfiltration and transload operations. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, crews employ tactics that include incorporating no external lighting or communications, and avoiding radar and weapons detection.

Drop zone objectives are done via personnel drops and equipment drops. Rescue bundles include illumination flares, marker smokes and rescue kits. Helicopter air-to-air refueling can be conducted at night, with blacked out communication with up to two simultaneous helicopters. Additionally, forward area refueling point operations can be executed to support a variety of joint and coalition partners.



The HC-130J Combat King II is a result of the HC/MC-130 recapitalization program and replaces Air Combat Command’s aging HC-130P/N fleet as the dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. The 71st and 79th Rescue Squadrons in Air Combat Command, the 550th Special Operations Squadron in Air Education and Training Command, the 920th Rescue Group in Air Force Reserve Command and the 106th Rescue Wing, 129th RQW and 176th Wing in the Air National Guard will operate the aircraft.

First flight was 29 July 2010, and the aircraft will serve the many roles and missions of the HC-130P/Ns. It is a modified KC-130J aircraft designed to conduct personnel recovery missions, provide a command and control platform, in-flight-refuel helicopters and carry supplemental fuel for extending range or air refueling.

In April 2006, the personnel recovery mission was transferred back to Air Combat Command at Langley AFB, Va. From 2003 to 2006, the mission was under the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Previously, HC-130s were assigned to ACC from 1992 to 2003. They were first assigned to the Air Rescue Service as part of Military Airlift Command.


General Characteristics

Primary function Fixed-wing Personnel Recovery platform
Contractor Lockheed Aircraft Corp.
Power Plant Four Rolls Royce AE2100D3 turboprop engines
Thrust 4,591 Propeller Shaft Horsepower, each engine
Wingspan 132 feet, 7 inches/40.4 meters
Length 97 feet, 9 inches/29.57 meters
Height 38 feet, 9 inches/11.58 meters
Operating Weight 89,000 pounds/40,369 kilograms
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 164,000 pounds/74,389 kilograms
Fuel Capacity 61,360 pounds/9,024 gallons/34,160 liters
Payload 35,000 pounds/15,875 kilograms
Speed 316 knots/364 mph/585 km/h indicated air speed at sea level
Range beyond 3,478 nautical miles/4,000 miles/6,437 km
Ceiling 33,000 feet/10,000 meters
Armament countermeasures/flares, chaff
Basic Crew Three officers (pilot, co-pilot, combat system officer) and two enlisted loadmasters
Unit Cost $66 million (fiscal 2010 replacement cost)
Initial Operating Capability (IOC) 2013


Enhance the Swordfish

Defence and security company Saab continues to enhance the Swordfish Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). Detailed design studies have expanded operational capabilities, adding new mission equipment and a significantly expanded operational payload. The Swordfish MPA is the smart solution for the full range of real-world maritime missions that modern customers demand.

Saab Swordfish MPA delivers true multi-role maritime air power
Saab Swordfish MPA delivers true multi-role maritime air power

Saab’s Swordfish MPA is a strategic, multi-role asset that combines the latest, operationally proven sensors with Bombardier’s ultra-long range, Global 6000 platform. It is a MPA system that can fly further, stay longer on station and deliver superior results in every task that MPAs are required to fulfil across the complete spectrum of national, international and coalition missions.

Recent product development milestones at Saab and Bombardier have validated a significant increase in the available payload carried on Swordfish’s four, NATO-compatible hard points. Swordfish can now be armed with up to six lightweight-torpedoes for the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role. Swordfish can also carry the Saab RBS 15EF anti-ship missile or a mix of missiles and torpedoes to assure total sea control in every aspect. The Swordfish can equally carry a load of four search-and-rescue pods underlining its true multi-mission capability across the maritime domain.

Another capability that sets Swordfish apart from competitors is its ASW suite with a world-leading acoustics processor, Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD), gravity-launching systems and an operational load of around 200 A, F and G size sonobuoys. This complete and highly-capable ASW suite enables Swordfish to locate, track and classify the most advanced, high-threat sub-surface targets for several hours, with a higher probability of detection.

«We have invested heavily to produce an MPA at the peak of operational capability today and future-proofed for decades to come when new technologies, such as unmanned systems, come online. Anti-submarine warfare is the cornerstone of any MPA and we can draw on Saab’s unique design insight into submarines and airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), underwater weapons and sensors, together with decades of experience from our valued partners including GDMS-Canada, CAE and leading sonobuoy specialists Ultra Electronics UK. The result is an MPA optimised for the demands of ASW, especially at low-level, which is where the game is truly won or lost. The need to classify targets from a passive source remains as relevant as ever and is enhanced by confirmation from other sensors such as the MAD», says Gary Shand, sales director at Saab business unit Airborne ISR.

In parallel with Swordfish, Saab’s multi-role and swing-role GlobalEye AEW&C system continues its successful progress with three units in production and scheduled for on-time delivery. Swordfish shares around 70 per cent commonality with its GlobalEye sistership including the Global 6000 platform, mission management system, electronic warfare and self-protection systems, Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, electro-optics, Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the majority of communications systems.

Swordfish was launched at the 2016 Singapore Air Show and Saab has since received substantial interest from potential users in every corner of the world, many of whom are already experienced MPA operators.

«We are very encouraged by the increasing interest shown in the Swordfish MPA. We have a fantastic product that offers a high-end, strategic capability with much lower acquisition and operating costs compared to airliner equivalents. Our dialogue with the market and the wider anti-submarine warfare community shows there is a clear requirement for a fast, long-range, multi-mission MPA that performs across a range of profiles with smarter ways of operating to reduce costs. Saab continues to invest in this programme and we know that we can deliver a system that will change forever the way users think and act in in the maritime domain», says Emilien Saindon, head of sales and marketing, Saab business unit Airborne ISR”

The proliferation of submarines around the world continues to increase and many countries have a growing need to replace existing, ageing MPA platforms. Regional maritime disputes, anti-piracy, terrorism and security of national waters, borders and lines of commerce mean that the demand for multi-role ISR air power has never been more pressing. Saab is committed to expanding its presence in Asia Pacific and working with local industries in the region to deliver, support and sustain the Swordfish MPA far into the future.

The Swordfish MPA is a high-end, multi-role platform that offers strategic ISR capabilities over both sea and land
The Swordfish MPA is a high-end, multi-role platform that offers strategic ISR capabilities over both sea and land