Category Archives: Air

View of Earth

Astro Aerospace, a Northrop Grumman Corporation company, has completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the AstroMesh radar antenna reflector for the NASA-Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite. The antenna reflector, furnished by Astro Aerospace, is part of the NISAR L-band synthetic aperture radar managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

NISAR will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual L-Band and S-Band frequencies, providing an unprecedented, detailed view of Earth (Credit: NASA JPL)
NISAR will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual L-Band and S-Band frequencies, providing an unprecedented, detailed view of Earth (Credit: NASA JPL)

Scheduled to launch in 2021, NISAR will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual L-Band and S-Band frequencies, providing an unprecedented, detailed view of Earth. NISAR is designed to observe some of the planet’s most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet dynamics, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides. Data collected from NISAR will reveal information about the evolution and state of Earth’s crust, help scientists better understand our planet’s processes and changing climate, and aid future resource and hazard management. The mission is a partnership between NASA and ISRO.

With 100 percent on orbit success since 1958, Astro Aerospace brings unmatched expertise in space hardware and deployable structures to NISAR. Astro Aerospace utilizes its proprietary AstroMesh deployable mesh reflector for NISAR’s 39.4-foot/12-meter aperture antenna, building an ultralight and extremely stiff reflector that is ideally suited for high frequency communications and radar applications.

The NISAR instrument design review represents a major program milestone. With the preliminary design review successfully completed, the program will move into detailed design and fabrication.

«We are proud to support JPL and the NISAR program on this important Earth science program», said John A. Alvarez, general manager, Astro Aerospace. «Thank you to the entire Astro NISAR team who worked tirelessly to ensure a successful PDR».

NISAR follows the successful engineering, deployment and spin up of JPL’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, launched January 31, 2015. Astro supplied the 19.7-foot/6-meter AstroMesh antenna for SMAP, the largest spinning reflector ever created.

Since 1958, Astro Aerospace, part of Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Products business unit, has helped enable complex missions to Earth’s orbit, Mars and beyond with its innovative deployable space structures and mechanisms. The business unit’s products have been successfully deployed on hundreds of space flights with a 100 percent success rate, a testament to Northrop Grumman’s commitment to reliability, quality and affordability.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide.

Growing UAVs
Through Chemistry

Ahead of this years’ Farnborough International Airshow, engineers and scientists at BAE Systems and the University of Glasgow have outlined their current thinking about military aircraft and how they might be designed and manufactured in the future.

Lifting the lid on future military aircraft technologies
Lifting the lid on future military aircraft technologies

The concepts have been developed collaboratively as part of BAE Systems’ «open innovation» approach to sharing technology and scientific ideas which sees large and established companies working with academia and small technology start-ups.

During this century, the scientists and engineers envisage that small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) bespoke to specific military operations, could be «grown» in large-scale labs through chemistry, speeding up evolutionary processes and creating bespoke aircraft in weeks, rather than years.

A radical new machine called a Chemputer could enable advanced chemical processes to grow aircraft and some of their complex electronic systems, conceivably from a molecular level upwards. This unique UK technology could use environmentally sustainable materials and support military operations where a multitude of small UAVs with a combination of technologies serving a specific purpose might be needed quickly. It could also be used to produce multi-functional parts for large manned aircraft.

Flying at such speeds and high altitude would allow them to outpace adversary missiles. The aircraft could perform a variety of missions where a rapid response is needed. These include deploying emergency supplies for Special Forces inside enemy territory using a sophisticated release system and deploying small surveillance aircraft.

«The world of military and civil aircraft is constantly evolving and it’s been exciting to work with scientists and engineers outside BAE Systems and to consider how some unique British technologies could tackle the military threats of the future», said Professor Nick Colosimo, a BAE Systems Global Engineering Fellow.

Regius Professor Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow, and Founding Scientific Director at Cronin Group PLC – who is developing the Chemputer added; «This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry. We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems».

BAE Systems has developed some of the world’s most innovative technologies and continues to invest in research and development to generate future products and capabilities.

During this century, scientists and engineers from BAE Systems and The University of Glasgow envisage that small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) bespoke to military operations, could be ‘grown’ in large-scale labs through chemistry, speeding up evolutionary processes and creating bespoke aircraft in weeks, rather than years

Path to Launch

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s delivery of the fully integrated Optical Telescope Element (OTE) for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope marks another major milestone toward the October 2018 launch of the largest telescope ever built for space.

The spacecraft, or bus, of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is designed and developed at Northrop Grumman. The bus recently reached a major milestone, successfully completing first time power-on, showcasing the spacecraft's ability to provide observatory power and electrical resources for the Webb telescope
The spacecraft, or bus, of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is designed and developed at Northrop Grumman. The bus recently reached a major milestone, successfully completing first time power-on, showcasing the spacecraft’s ability to provide observatory power and electrical resources for the Webb telescope

Northrop Grumman delivered the OTE in March to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Northrop Grumman is under contract to Goddard and leads the industry team that designs and develops the Webb Telescope, its sunshield and spacecraft. Northrop Grumman has completed the integration, testing and delivery of the telescope.

The Webb telescope’s 18 hexagonal gold coated beryllium mirrors are supported by the telescope structure. The OTE hardware is made of the most precise graphite composite material system ever created, and contributes to the Webb Telescope’s ability to provide an unprecedented exploratory view into the formation of the first stars and galaxies formed over 13.5 billion years ago.

The precision manufacturing and integration of the 21.5-foot/6.5-meter telescope structure allow it to withstand the pressure and weight of the launch loads when stowed inside the 15-foot/4.6-meter-diameter fairing of the Ariane 5 rocket. The cutting-edge design and transformer like capabilities of the telescope structure allow it to fold-up and fit inside the launch vehicle, and then deploy once the Webb telescope reaches its ultimate destination, one million miles away from earth. Furthermore, throughout travel and deployment, the telescope simultaneously maintains its dimensional stability while also operating at cryogenic or extremely cold temperatures, approximately 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit/240 degrees below zero Celsius. The telescope is the world’s first deployable structure of this size and dimensional stability ever designed and built.

«The significant milestone of completing and delivering the OTE to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, marks the completion of the telescope, and attests to the commitment of our hardworking team», said Scott Texter, telescope manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. «The telescope structure is one of the four main elements of this revolutionary observatory. The other elements include: the spacecraft, sunshield and the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), the latter of which is also complete. All of the elements require a collaborative team effort. We are all committed to the cause and excited about the upcoming phases of development as we prepare for launch in October 2018».

The next step in the progress of the telescope structure includes its integration with the ISIM to combine the OTE and ISIM, referred to as the OTIS. The OTIS will undergo vibration and acoustic testing by the end of this year, and then travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, to undergo optical testing at vacuum and operational cryogenic temperatures, around 40 kelvin/233 degrees below zero Celsius. The OTIS will be delivered to Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach, towards the end of 2017, where it will be integrated with the sunshield and spacecraft.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb Telescope will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Proof-pressure test

The Lockheed Martin and NASA Orion team has successfully proof-pressure tested the Orion spacecraft’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) crew module. The crew module is the living quarters for astronauts and the backbone for many of Orion’s systems such as propulsion, avionics and parachutes.

Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

In order to certify the structural integrity of the crew module it was outfitted with approximately 850 instruments and subjected to 1.25 times the maximum pressure the capsule is expected to experience during its deep space missions. That means about 20 pounds per square inch/137,895 pascals of pressure was distributed over the entire inner surface of the spacecraft trying to burst it from within. As a next step, the team will use phased array technology to inspect all of the spacecraft’s welds in order to ensure there are no defects.

Once the primary structure of the crew module has been verified, the team will begin the installation of secondary structures such as tubes, tanks and thrusters. Once those pieces are in place, the crew module will be moved into the clean room and the propulsion and environmental control and life support systems will be installed.

«Our experience building and flying Exploration Flight Test-1 has allowed us to improve the build and test process for the EM-1 crew module», said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Orion vice president and program manager. «Across the program we are establishing efficiencies that will decrease the production time and cost of future Orion spacecraft».

During EM-1 Orion will be launched atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) for the first time. The test flight will send Orion into lunar distant retrograde orbit – a wide orbit around the moon that is farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft has ever traveled. The mission will last about three weeks and will certify the design and safety of Orion and SLS for future human-rated exploration missions.

First two K-MAX

The Marine Corps’ first two Kaman K-MAX Helicopters arrived at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, May 7, 2016. The Kaman K-MAX Helicopter is very unique in many ways, such as its purpose and design. It is a helicopter with interlinking rotors whose primary mission is to provide cargo load operations with a maximum payload of 6,000 pounds/2,722 kg.

The K-MAX will be added to MCAS Yuma's already vast collection of military air assets, and will utilize the station’s ranges to strengthen training, testing and operations across the Marine Corps
The K-MAX will be added to MCAS Yuma’s already vast collection of military air assets, and will utilize the station’s ranges to strengthen training, testing and operations across the Marine Corps

«The most unique thing is this aircraft can fly itself», said Jerry McCawley, a Chief Pilot and Flight Safety Engineer with Lockheed Martin. «These two particular aircraft were over in Afghanistan for almost three years flying unhanded, and moving almost five million pounds of cargo, keeping numerous convoys off the road, preventing any roadside attacks».

The K-MAX will utilize MCAS Yuma’s training ranges in both Arizona and California, and will soon have an integral part in testing and operations.

As MCAS Yuma continues expanding its scope of operations, the K-MAX will continue revolutionizing expeditionary Marine air-ground combat power in all environments.

«It’s very resilient and can fly day or night», said McCawley. «It’s out here in Yuma for future test and development with the Marines. It’s great now, and it’s only going to get better».

The K-MAX will be added to MCAS Yuma’s already vast collection of military aircraft, strengthening training, testing and operations across the Marine Corps.

The rugged K-MAX multi-mission helicopter that Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace have transformed into an Unmanned Aerial Truck proves why it is the best for unmanned battlefield cargo resupply missions

 

K-MAX Unmanned Aerial System

Lockheed Martin Corporation and Kaman Aerospace Corporation have successfully transformed Kaman’s proven K-MAX power lift helicopter into an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) capable of autonomous or remote controlled cargo delivery. Its mission: battlefield cargo resupply for the U.S. military.

The K-MAX UAS is a transformational technology for a fast-moving battlefield that will enable Marines to deliver supplies either day or night to precise locations without risk of losing life in the process. The aircraft can fly at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary wing UAS. With its four-hook carousel, the K-MAX UAS can also deliver more cargo to more locations in one flight

The team has flown the K-MAX UAS more than 750 hours in autonomous mode since joining forces in 2007. The rugged system can lift and deliver a full 6,000 lbs/2,722 kg of cargo at sea level and more than 4,000 pounds/1,814 kg at 15,000 feet/4,572 m density altitude.

The K-MAX continues to exceed expectations as an unmanned platform. The aircraft has met all unmanned milestones to date and continues to excel in the commercial logging and firefighting industries. The aircraft will remain optionally piloted for ease of National Airspace Operations, occasional manned mission flexibility, ferry flights, rapid integration of new mission equipment, and allow rapid return-to-service activities.

The manned version of the K-MAX is used for repetitive lift operations by commercial operators for the construction and logging industries. To date, the fleet has accumulated more than 255,000 flight hours since 1994.

In January, 2010, the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter demonstrated autonomous and remote control flight over both line-of-sight and satellite-based beyond line-of-sight data link

 

Technical characteristics

Weights and Measurements
Max gross weight (with external load) 12,000 lbs/5,443 kg
Max take-off weight 7,000 lbs/3,175 kg
Empty weight 5,145 lbs/2,334 kg
Useful load 6,855 lbs/3,109 kg
Cargo hook capacity 6,000 lbs/2,722 kg
Lift Performance – ISA (International Standard Atmosphere) +15°C (59°F)
Sea Level 6,000 lbs/2,722 kg
5,000 feet/1,524 m 5,663 lbs/2,574 kg
10,000 feet/3,048 m 5,163 lbs/2,347 kg
15,000 feet/4,572 m 4,313 lbs/1,960 kg
Hover Performance – 4,000 feet/1,219 m, 35°C (95°F)
Hover IGE (In Ground Effect) 12,000 lbs/5,443 kg
Hover OGE (Out of Ground Effect) 11,500 lbs/5,216 kg
Powerplant
Model Honeywell T53-17 gas turbine
Thermodynamic rating 1,800 shaft horsepower
Maximum Airspeed
Without external load 100 knots/115 mph/185.2 km/h
With external load 80 knots/92 mph/148.2 km/h
Fuel System
Total usable fuel 219.5 gal/831 liters
Average fuel consumption 85 gal/hr/321.7 l/hr
Jet A fuel 557.6 lbs/hr/252.9 kg/hr
Maximum endurance 12+ hr
Maximum range 1,150 miles/1,852 km (est)
Maximum speed with external load 80 knots/92 mph/148.2 km/h
Maximum speed without external load 100 knots/115 mph/185.2 km/h
Internal fuel endurance 2 hr 41 min
Range with external load 246 miles/396.3 km
Range without external load 307 miles/494.5 km
Approved fuels Jet A/A-1, JP-5
Jet B/JP-4
JP-8

 

Lockheed Martin-Kaman’s unmanned helicopter successfully completing the Navy’s Quick Reaction Assessment

 

Bell completes Valor

Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, has successfully joined the V-280 Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) wing and nacelles to the aircraft fuselage. The milestone occurred last week at the company’s aircraft assembly center in Amarillo, Texas.

Bell Helicopter completes successful V-280 Valor wing and fuselage mate
Bell Helicopter completes successful V-280 Valor wing and fuselage mate

«The V-280 wing, nacelles and fuselage are now assembled into the aircraft we’ve designed as the next generation tiltrotor», said Lisa Atherton, executive vice president of Military Business Development for Bell Helicopter. «This is a major milestone. The attention to detail from our employees, our suppliers and from all of Team Valor, today and throughout this entire process, has been astounding. Their efforts have resulted in an aircraft that is coming together quickly and according to schedule. We are excited and counting down to the first flight in 2017».

The V-280 Valor is a next-generation tiltrotor that is designed to provide unmatched agility, speed, range, and payload capabilities at an affordable cost. The V-280’s tiltrotor technology converts Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capability into a tactical, operational and strategic advantage. The revolutionary aircraft capitalizes on the more than 300,000 V-22 fleet flight hours, and leverages Bell Helicopter’s decades of tiltrotor experience.

Once the aircraft achieves a successful first flight in September 2017, program leaders are confident Bell Helicopter will have the data required to go into the full scale Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase.

«The V-280 tiltrotor is designed with technology advancements that significantly reduce risk and cost, allowing the Department of Defense to field Future Vertical Lift (FVL) to the warfighter far earlier than previously anticipated. We have improved the manufacturing processes to arrive at a revolutionary aircraft with reduced sustainment costs and simplified maintenance procedures. This technology will provide the Department of Defense with the overmatch requirements to win in a complex world», said Atherton.

The V-280 has an anticipated cruise speed of 280 KTAS/322 mph/518 km/h, with a 500-800 NM/575-921 miles/926-1,481 km combat range and 11 to 14 operators. The Valor benefits from a flexible design, matching multi-mission versatility with exceptional 6K/95 hover performance. Tiltrotor is the only vertical lift technology which can rapidly self-deploy to any theater, and can cover more than five times the area of current MEDEVAC platforms. The V-280 provides the low-speed hover agility of a helicopter with fixed wing range and efficiencies.

In the coming weeks and months work on the V-280 will involve preparing for verification work leading to a tethered power-up at the Bell Helicopter facility in Amarillo in the first half of 2017. Development continues in the company’s flight control systems lab in Fort Worth. The lab integrates pilot inputs with flight control computers and flight controls, providing data for software that works with the hardware controlling flight loads and hydraulic performance. The T64-GE-419 engines and gearboxes are expected to be installed in the nacelles this November.

Next generation tiltrotor progressing, on track for 2017 first flight
Next generation tiltrotor progressing, on track for 2017 first flight

First External Load

April 20 Lockheed Martin announced the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has achieved its first external lift flight by successfully carrying a 12,000-pound/5,443-kg external load.

As testing ramps up both of the current flying prototypes will be exercised to expand the external load envelope
As testing ramps up both of the current flying prototypes will be exercised to expand the external load envelope

«Achieving our first external lift signifies another milestone for the CH-53K program», said Mike Torok, Sikorsky’s Vice President of CH-53K Programs. «Our flight envelope expansion efforts remain on track, and we continue to make good progress toward our initial operational test assessment later this year, and ultimately full aircraft system qualification».

The first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopters achieved their first flights on October 27, 2015, and January 22, 2016, respectively. To date these helicopters have achieved over 50 flight hours combined including one flight at speeds over 140 knots/161 mph/260 km/h. The third and fourth King Stallion aircraft will join the flight test program this summer.

As the King Stallion flight test program proceeds, both of the current flying aircraft will be exercised to expand the external load envelope. Initial external payloads weighing 12,000 pounds/5,443 kg will be flown first in hover and then incrementally to speeds up to 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h. The aircraft will then carry 20,000 pound/9,072 kg and 27,000 pound/12,247 kg external payloads.

The CH-53K King Stallion is equipped with single, dual and triple external cargo hook capability that will allow for the transfer of three independent external loads to three separate landing zones in support of distributed operations in one single sortie without having to return to a ship or other logistical hub. The three external cargo hooks include a single center point hook with a 36,000 pound/16,329 kg capability and dual-point hooks each capable of carrying up to 25,200 pound/11,430 kg.

The system features an electrical load release capability from the cockpit and cabin, and a mechanical load release capability at each of the pendant locations. An auto-jettison system is incorporated to protect the aircraft in the event of a load attachment point failure.

«It is exciting to have achieved our first external lift, another important step towards fielding the most powerful U.S. military helicopter», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps Program Manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters. «Our program continues on pace to deploy this incredible heavy lift capability to our warfighters».

Sikorsky Aircraft, a Lockheed Martin company, is developing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps. The CH-53K King Stallion maintains similar physical dimensions and «footprint» as its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, but will more than triple the payload to 27,000 pounds/12,247 kg over 110 nautical miles/126.6 miles/204 km under «high hot» ambient conditions.

Features of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter include a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking, United States Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.


The CH-53K King Stallion achieved its first external lift flight, successfully carrying a 12,000 pound/5,443-kg external load

 

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

 

Apache Remanufacturing

Boeing continues its role as the United States’ leading provider of attack helicopters with a contract to remanufacture 117 AH-64D Apaches to the new, more capable AH-64E model. The agreement, which also includes the acquisition of Longbow Crew Trainers, logistical support and spares, carries a total contract value of about $1.5 billion.

The AH-64E Apache continues to provide U.S. Army soldiers and allied defense forces with capabilities to meet combat and peacekeeping requirements with extended range sensors and weapons, off-board sensors and increased aircraft performance (Boeing photo)
The AH-64E Apache continues to provide U.S. Army soldiers and allied defense forces with capabilities to meet combat and peacekeeping requirements with extended range sensors and weapons, off-board sensors and increased aircraft performance (Boeing photo)

The U.S. Army has stated it plans to acquire 690 AH-64E Apaches, 290 of which are now under contract with this latest award.

«The AH-64E Apache continues to meet the requirements of aviators, battlefield commanders and soldiers deployed on missions worldwide», said U.S. Army Apache Project Manager, Colonel Jeff Hager. «The Army, Boeing and Team Apache suppliers continue a valuable collaboration that ensures soldiers have the latest technologies to succeed in defending freedom with this outstanding weapons system».

«With our integrated production, services and training teams, Boeing is able to affordably support the Army through each phase of the Apache’s lifecycle», said Kim Smith, vice president, Attack Helicopter Programs, Boeing Vertical Lift. «The dedication and commitment to first-time quality by Boeing teammates and suppliers combine to deliver an Apache that is ready to meet the rigorous demands of the men and women who depend on it».

The agreement modifies an existing contact among Boeing and the U.S. Army for the full-rate production of lots 5 and 6 Apache helicopters. The Army will return 117 AH-64D Apaches to Boeing’s Mesa, Arizona production center to be remanufactured into the AH-64E configuration. The Army followed a similar model when the AH-64A Apaches were remanufactured into AH-64Ds.

The AH-64 Apache is the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter and is used by the U.S. Army and a growing number of international defense forces. Boeing has delivered more than 2,100 Apaches to customers around the world since the aircraft entered production. The U.S. Army Apache fleet has accumulated (as of Jan 2015) more than 3.9 million flight hours since the first AH-64A was delivered to the U.S. Army in 1984.

 

Technical Specifications

Length 58.17 feet/17.73 m
Height 15.24 feet/4.64 m
Wing Span 17.15 feet/5.227 m
Primary Mission Gross Weight 15,075 lbs/6,838 kg
Vertical Rate of Climb More than 2,000 feet/610 m per minute
Maximum Rate of Climb More than 2,800 feet/853 m per minute
Maximum Level Flight Speed More than 150 knots/172.6 mph/279 km/h

 

The second King

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, announced on March 14 the second CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has joined the flight test program and achieved first flight. In addition, the first aircraft into the test program has achieved flight envelope expansion to 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h for the U.S. Marine Corps’ CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter program.

The second CH-53K aircraft achieves its first flight at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Florida
The second CH-53K aircraft achieves its first flight at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Florida

«Adding a second aircraft into flight status signifies another milestone for the CH-53K program», said Mike Torok, Sikorsky’s vice president of CH-53K King Stallion Programs. «With both aircraft in flight test, our flight envelope expansion efforts will accelerate as we continue to make good progress toward our initial operational test assessment and full aircraft system qualification».

The first and second CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter Engineering Development Models (EDM) achieved their first flights on October 27, 2015, and January 22, 2016, respectively. To date these helicopters have achieved over 35 flight hours combined including multiple flights with an active duty USMC pilot at the controls. As the flight test program proceeds, these two flying CH-53K helicopters will be joined by two additional aircraft to complete flight qualification of the USMC’s next generation heavy lift capability over an approximately three-year flight test program.

These first two aircraft are the most heavily instrumented of the Engineering Development Models (EDM) and will focus on structural flight loads and envelope expansion. When the other two EDM aircraft join the flight line in 2016 they will focus on performance, propulsion and avionics flight qualification.

«It is exciting to have two CH-53K helicopters flying», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters. «Our program continues on pace to deploy this incredible heavy lift capability to our warfighters».

Sikorsky is now developing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps. The King Stallion maintains similar physical dimensions with a reduced «footprint» compared to its predecessor, the three-engine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, but will more than triple the payload to 27,000 pounds/12,247 kg over 110 nautical miles/126.6 miles/204 km under «high hot» ambient conditions.

Features of the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter include a modern glass cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking, United States Air Force pallet compatible cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and improved reliability, maintainability and supportability.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s program of record remains at 200 CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

The first CH-53K aircraft achieves 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Florida
The first CH-53K aircraft achieves 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Florida

 

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

 

Marines Take to Sky

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (VMM-365) conducted section confined area landings and a M2 Browning .50-Cal machine gun shoot from Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, February 10. Marines with the unit flew two MV-22B Ospreys to a landing zone for familiarization flight training, which allowed pilots to practice landings. After practicing CALs, the crew flew off the coast to a safe distance in order to practice shooting the machine gun from the back of the aircraft.

Lance Cpl. Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, fires a mounted M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun from the back of the MV-22B Osprey
Lance Cpl. Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, fires a mounted M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun from the back of the MV-22B Osprey

Prior to their flight, the pilots and crew gave a brief which covered information about the aircraft’s capabilities, as well as factors that may affect the flight, such as current and expected weather conditions. The crew conducted a thorough inspection of their Osprey and after the aircraft was deemed safe and ready for flight, they took to the sky. «Section CALs is just one of the biggest basic building blocks into what we do», said Captain Edward K. Williams, a pilot with the unit. «You have got to master that before you can get three or four aircraft into a zone and then move on to doing that at night».

The pilots and crew traveled to a nearby landing zone to practice landings and take-offs. For this part of the flight there were two MV-22B Ospreys landing within close vicinity. «The purpose of the training today was mainly proficiency», said Lance Corporal Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with the unit. He explained how of the two aircraft, one had fairly experienced pilots and crew but the other aircraft had a newer pilot who was getting his initial code.

Smith explained that pilots acquire different codes for the flights they conduct. Once the initial CALs flight was completed, the Marines returned to the hangar to refuel and then flew out for a .50-caliber machine gun shoot. «The tail guns are important because they are our primary weapon», said Williams. «If there is a threat in the zone the crew chiefs need to be proficient to be able to engage a threat without prior notice».

The .50-caliber machine gun was mounted on a pivot in the back of the Osprey. The pivot allows the weapon operator to take advantage of a wide angle to effectively engage any target. Smith explained how firing these larger rounds offer more penetration than other munitions and allow the gunner to engage enemies at greater distances.

The Osprey made several passes allowing each of the crew members in the back to practice firing the weapon system. Each pass involved firing into an area of the ocean while keeping a tight group on the rounds fired.

Williams explained how despite this training being conducted on a regular basis it is still not routine. Every time Marines fly, the training requires the same amount of preflight planning and briefing. A lot of work goes into preflight planning as well as debriefs.

Debriefs allow pilots and crew chiefs to assess their flights and determine how to improve their next flight. Even if the flight goes according to plan, Marines always look for ways to improve for future operations. «Training is important because as Marines we pride ourselves in readiness», said Smith. «We need to be proficient in confined area landings because that is what you’re going to conduct when you’re anywhere».