Category Archives: Air

Merlin maiden flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Initial
Operational Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

General Characteristics

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

* All Engines Operating

** Hover Ceiling In Ground Effect

*** Hover Ceiling Out of Ground Effect

 

Naval Aerial Drone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Osprey for Fire Scout

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persistent ISR

Northrop Grumman Corporation is set to build 10 additional MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopters for the U. S. Navy, giving maritime commanders persistent, real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).

MQ-8C Fire Scout’s on the assembly line at Northrop Grumman’s Manufacturing Center in Moss Point, Mississippi (Photo by Northrop Grumman)
MQ-8C Fire Scout’s on the assembly line at Northrop Grumman’s Manufacturing Center in Moss Point, Mississippi (Photo by Northrop Grumman)

The additional build will bring the total number of MQ-8C Fire Scout air vehicles procured to 29, extending the range and endurance of naval operations.

«MQ-8C is meeting all of its performance objectives, and the system is delivering a greater naval warfighting capability», said Captain Jeff Dodge, program manager, Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command. «We are looking forward to moving the MQ-8C operational testing and deployment as a part of surface warfare mission packages».

The MQ-8C Fire Scout airframe is based on the reliable commercial Bell 407, a mature helicopter with more than 1,600 airframes produced and over 4.4 million flight hours. Modifications to the MQ-8C’s airframes are carried out at the Bell Helicopter facility in Ozark, Alabama, while final assembly is performed in Moss Point, Mississippi.

«In partnership with the U.S. Navy, we are dedicated to fielding this state-of-the-art, ship-based ISR platform as part of a strategy that provides warfighters ISR», said Leslie Smith, vice president, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. «We are pleased to support the Navy with additional MQ-8C Fire Scouts with maritime dominance support through this procurement. Our team will strive to exceed expectations in affordability, quality and on-time delivery».

MQ-8C Fire Scout has completed operational assessment, a developmental flight test program and is now preparing for Milestone C. MQ-8C Fire Scout has accrued over 730 flight hours and flown 353 sorties.

 

Specifications

Length 41.4 feet/12.6 m
Width 7.8 feet/2.4 m
Blades Folded Hangar 7.8×34.7×10.9 feet/2.4×10.6×3.3 m
Height 10.9 feet/3.3 m
Rotor Diameter 35 feet/10.7 m
Gross Takeoff Weight 6,000 lbs/2,721.5 kg
Engine Rolls-Royce M250-C47B with FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control)

 

Performance

Speed 140 knots/161 mph/259 km/h (maximum)
Operational Ceiling 17,000 feet/5,182 m
Maximum Endurance 14 hrs
Maximum Payload (Internal) 1,000 lbs/453.6 kg
Typical Payload 600 lbs/272 kg (11 hrs endurance)
Maximum Sling Load 2,650 lbs/1,202 kg

 

Engine Specifications

Power 651 shp/485.45 kW
Pressure ratio 9.2
Length 42.95 inch/1.09 m
Diameter 24.81 inch/0.63 m
Basic weight 274 lbs/124.3 kg
Compressor 1CF (centrifugal high-pressure)
Turbine 2HP (two-stage high-pressure turbine), 2PT (two-stage power turbine)

 

LRIP approval

Following a successful Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) led review, the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) obtained positive Milestone C Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) approval. The decision marks the beginning of the production and deployment phase of the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition process.

Following a successful Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) led review, the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) obtained positive Milestone C low-rate initial production approval
Following a successful Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) led review, the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) obtained positive Milestone C low-rate initial production approval

«Triton’s critical technology is mature, and the system development and design review phases have been successful», said Doug Shaffer, vice president, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman. «Completion of the full system Operational Assessment (OA) testing exercised in various real-world scenarios validated the system’s ability to protect the Navy’s fleet from evolving threats. We are extremely pleased with the maritime domain awareness products and results coming from Triton».

An integrated test team made up of Navy personnel from Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons VX-1 and VX-20, Unmanned Patrol Squadron, VUP-19 and Northrop Grumman demonstrated the true reliability of Triton going into Milestone C. The team analyzed and validated sensor imagery and performance at different altitudes and ranges. The aircraft system’s ability to classify targets and disseminate critical data was also examined as part of the OA testing. Successful evaluation of Triton’s time on station confirmed that it will meet flight duration requirements. Triton also transferred full motion video to a P-8A Poseidon in flight, proving a key capability to significantly enhance its ability to detect, track, classify and identify maritime threats.

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.

 

MQ-4C Triton

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System provides real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance over vast ocean and coastal regions. Supporting missions up to 24 hours, the high-altitude UAS is equipped with a sensor suite that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings at a radius of over 2,000 NM/2,302 miles/3,704 km.

Triton builds on elements of the Global Hawk UAS while incorporating reinforcements to the airframe and wing, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems. These capabilities allow the aircraft to descend through cloud layers to gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea when needed. The current sensor suite allows ships to be tracked over time by gathering information on their speed, location and classification.

Built to support the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program, Triton will support a wide range of intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions, maritime patrol and search and rescue. The Navy’s program of record calls for 68 aircraft to be built.

The program portfolio includes the MQ-4C Triton UAS and the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D), advanced sensors and technology, and international programs
The program portfolio includes the MQ-4C Triton UAS and the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D), advanced sensors and technology, and international programs

 

Key Features

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

 

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

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

MTS-B multi-spectral targeting system:

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

AN/ZLQ-1 Electronic Support Measures:

  • All digital;
  • Specific Emitter Identification.

Automatic Identification System:

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

 

Specifications

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

 

Outstanding capabilities

The cooperation between Schiebel, manufacturer of the world’s most capable Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), the CAMCOPTER S-100, and the German company Diehl Defence has been strengthened recently.

The Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAS needs no prepared area or supporting launch or recovery equipment
The Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAS needs no prepared area or supporting launch or recovery equipment

«Celebrating a milestone like the 10th anniversary of the CAMCOPTER S-100 with more than 300 units sold is a good moment to reflect on where we are today and where we will go in the future. Today we are the world’s leading producer of unmanned helicopters and we plan on further strengthening our position», explains Hans Georg Schiebel, owner of the Vienna-based company.

«The renewal of the teaming agreement is the result of the longstanding cooperation between Diehl Defence and Schiebel. We consider Schiebel a highly competent partner and believe the CAMCOPTER S-100 is the best possible product for all remotely piloted aircraft operations of the German Navy», says Helmut Rauch, member of the Division Board of Diehl Defence.

Schiebel and its partner Diehl Defence represent a strong and complementary team, ideally positioned to meet the demanding requirements of the German customer. Diehl Defence possesses broad know-how in the integration of different defence systems and surveillance equipment into German Navy vessels while Schiebel produces the UAS.

With an impressive track record of supporting maritime customers, the CAMCOPTER S-100 system has meanwhile been successfully proven on over 30 different vessels on all the world’s oceans, demonstrating its outstanding capabilities day and night, in all weather conditions, a proven track record that is unmatched. It is currently deployed with a number of important naval clients in conventional littoral reconnaissance roles; however, the CAMCOPTER S-100 has likewise proven to be hugely successful in the Search and Rescue role. Working with the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the Mediterranean, around 25 000 migrants have been found and rescued since 2014.

In 2008, Schiebel completed extensive flight trials onboard the German Navy’s K130 Class Corvettes Braunschweig and Magdeburg in the Baltic Sea. The S-100 completed more than 130 takeoffs and landings in a total flight time of just 20 hours, achieving results well in excess of expectations and trial requirements. Since then – amongst others – several developments have since taken place to enhance the UAS further. Especially for naval use with the availability of a new heavy fuel engine.

It operates day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a range out to 200 km, both on land and at sea
It operates day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a range out to 200 km, both on land and at sea

 

TECHNICAL DATA

Autonomy fully autonomous take-off, waypoint navigation and landing
Navigation redundant INS and GPS
Power plant 50 HP rotary engine
Data/video link fully digital, compressed video (up to four simultaneous feeds)
Typical D/L range 27, 54 or 108 NM/31, 62 or 124 miles/50, 100 or 200 km
Dash speed 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h
Cruise speed 55 knots/63 mph/102 km/h (for best endurance)
Endurance >6 hours with 75 lbs/34 kg payload plus optional external fuel tank extending endurance to >10 hours
Typical payload 110 lbs/50 kg
Material Take-Off (MTO) weight 440 lbs/200 kg
Empty weight 243 lbs/110 kg
Maximum dimensions Length – 3,110 mm/122.4 inch
Height – 1,120 mm/44 inch
Width – 1,240 mm/48.8 inch
Main rotor diameter 3,400 mm/133.8 inch

 

Hybrid airship

Airlander 10 has successfully completed its first flight. All objectives of the planned flight were accomplished and the aircraft is now safely back at its masting site. Airlander 10 took off from the historic Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, England at approximately 19:45 on Wednesday 17th of August, after a short flight it landed at 20:00, before dark. The two Test Pilots were ecstatic about the flight and the flight performance of Airlander 10 during its time in the air.

The Airlander 10 made its 15 minute first flight on 17 August, 2016
The Airlander 10 made its 15 minute first flight on 17 August, 2016

Cardington, Bedfordshire, UK – The first flight of Airlander 10 is a historic success and marks the commencement of Airlander 10’s Flight Test Programme which is expected to last for a number of months. After this the aircraft will begin a series of Trials and Demonstrations with prospective customers.

Airlander 10 has been widely hailed as an innovation that will have a hugely positive impact on the world by providing low carbon aviation and brand new capabilities in the sky. Customer interest is strong due to these game-changing capabilities of the Airlander – it offers a stable platform with huge amounts of power and space for search & rescue or communications equipment, and also offers a unique passenger experience.

Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns said, «It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully. I’m really excited about getting it airborne. It flew like a dream».

A confirmatory Pre-flight test began at 09:00 this morning and once Technical Director Mike Durham, Chief Test Pilot David Burns and Ground Operations Chief Alex Travell were all in agreement, clearance was granted for First Flight to commence. These three have been working together for almost thirty years, which illustrates the depth of experience and know-how within Hybrid Air Vehicles.

The four massive but quiet engines were started approximately 30 minutes before takeoff. Once airborne, Chief Test Pilot David Burns, accompanied by Test Pilot Simon Davies, flew the majestic Airlander within a 5 nautical mile/6-mile/9.6 km area around Cardington Airfield, just to the south of Bedford, in England. Airlander climbed to a height of 500 feet/152 m and reached a maximum speed of 35 knots/40 mph/65 km/h. Due to a later than anticipated take-off time the Airlander was limited to a 19-minute flight so we could land safely before darkness fell.

All test objectives were met during the flight. These included the safe launch, flight and landing of the Airlander 10 and a series of gentle turns at increasing speed. Some technical tests on its hull pressure were also undertaken.

The Airlander is expected to be a showcase of UK innovation and is already being used in the UK Government’s «GREAT Britain» campaign to highlight the strength of the aerospace sector and the innovation in engineering this country is capable of creating. As the Airlander approaches first flight, customer interest has increased, particularly in the defence and security sector, and this, together with UK Government support should secure 400 new aerospace jobs as well as valuable export opportunities for the UK economy. The next step is to ensure the UK Government runs a trial in order to demonstrate the potential of this amazing aircraft to the world and secure the lucrative exports, and grow further jobs in Bedfordshire and in the supply chain across the UK (80% of Airlander’s supply chain is British). This will help ensure the £6m of UK Government grants received thus far lead to orders. Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd is also looking to raise equity through High Net Worth individuals and Institutional Investors to fund some aspects of the Flight Test Programme.

 

Technical Data

Envelope Volume 1,340,000 feet³/38,000 m³
Length 302 feet/92 m
Width 143 feet/43.5 m
Height 85 feet/26 m
Endurance 5 days manned
Altitude up to 16,000 feet/4,880 m
Cruise Speed 80 knots/92 mph/148 km/h
Loiter Speed 20 knots/23 mph/37 km/h
Total Weight 44,100 lbs/20,000 kg
Payload capacity up to 22,050 lbs/10,000 kg

 

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