Category Archives: Air

The Latvian Brigade

The Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) Land Force Infantry Brigade Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) held their annual qualification development course March 20-29, 2018, at the Latvian Defense Academy, Riga, Latvia for both certified Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) and candidates for this position. This year, the ten-day academic refresher course – which meets the annual Joint Fires core competency requirements – is being attended by JTACs from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Canada, United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Spain, and Slovenia.

Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) from Latvia, Illinois, North Carolina and Michigan that are a part of the state partnership program worked together to direct air strikes to simulate suppressing the enemy with pinpoint accuracy during Operation Northern Strike at Grayling Air Gunnery Range in August 2014 (Photo Credit: Staff Sergeant Jason Boyd)
Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) from Latvia, Illinois, North Carolina and Michigan that are a part of the state partnership program worked together to direct air strikes to simulate suppressing the enemy with pinpoint accuracy during Operation Northern Strike at Grayling Air Gunnery Range in August 2014 (Photo Credit: Staff Sergeant Jason Boyd)

Latvian TACP instructors lead the course, augmented by State Partnership Program (SPP) colleagues from Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Lithuania – along with subject matter experts from Poland and France. This course is a knowledge-based academic refresher mandated by the U.S. and NATO JTAC Memorandum of Agreement.

JTACs – defined, as qualified service members who direct the action of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other offensive air operations from a forward position – are a crucial component of a nation’s modern war fighting toolbox.

«The Joint Terminal Attack Controller job is to integrate air power with the ground power. They are the nexus for combined fires», said Colonel Andrew Roberts of the Michigan Air National Guard, who was instrumental in the formation of the JTAC partnership in Latvia. «When we started out with the Latvians, a good way to explain it was, ‘Yes, you’re in the Army. Yes, you have this machine gun and that’s great. As a JTAC, your bullet weighs 500 pounds.’ That’s what you’ve got to think about – large impact, highly lethal, very precise ability to take on enemy forces».

Today, equipment is not always standardized across NATO, although similarities do exist. Conversely, the methods of controlling aircraft and calling strikes into tactical environments must be standardized. This course provides a forum for JTACs from each country to understand how operations are conducted with the additional aim of standardizing techniques, incorporating technological advances, and providing enhanced understanding of air support operations and communication procedures.

Even though this course is conducted in a classroom environment and not in the field, it gives each JTAC the ability to engage with one another, share thoughts on the training, and learn from mutual experience.

«The annual CAS Course offers our NATO JTACS, Joint Fires Observes (JFOs) and aspiring JTACs the opportunity to re-cage their knowledge in a multi-national classroom setting», said Major David Dennis, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard. «As the course has matured over the years, it has established itself as a premier education and standardization opportunity that is as deep with experience as it is broad in its understanding of the latest Close Air Support (CAS) tactics, techniques, and procedures».

The course also allows access to Latvia’s world-class JTAC training simulator, dually accredited by the U.S. Joint Fire Support executive steering committee and NATO air command. It is able to simulate a wide range of situations and is accredited to replace actual aircraft controls in all weather conditions and day-night operations from various platforms and functions. It also replicates the function of CAS-enabling equipment.

Just as the battleground and mission requirements are ever changing, so are the requirements of the JTAC and TACP. This recertification process helps JTACs continue to improve, which is vital in the theater of operations.

«Close Air Support is an essential part of every Joint Fires kinetic mission. It becomes even more important if one analyses the spectrum of synchronization that requires CAS experts to conduct every step from framing the request to commander’s approval and from coordination of all involved agencies down to control of an actual delivery of weapon or an effect», said Lieutenant Colonel Edmunds Svens, Latvian combat support branch chief. «The mere fact that in Latvia this time there are over 50 CAS experts: pilots, planners and controllers create great deterrence effect. No question that this course equalizes knowledge and experience across more than 8 nations taking part in CAS Course – all speaking same language and performing identical procedures – it is a unity of many into the strength on one organization».

All partners benefit from this course. It enables systematic and progressive development of military capabilities and capacity, providing added value to the training environment for units and countries taking part in the SPP.

«JTAC capabilities give a country like Latvia the ability to fight way above its weight class», said Major General Gregory Vadnais, Adjutant General of the Michigan National Guard. «I brag about Latvia’s JTACs all the time. They’ve got real deterrent, real fighting capability».

The SPP evolved from a 1991 U.S. European Command decision to initiate the Joint Contact Team Program in the Baltic Region with reserve component soldiers and airmen. With a subsequent National Guard Bureau proposal that paired U.S. states with three nations from the former Soviet Union, the SPP was created, becoming a key U.S. security tool that facilitates cooperation across international civil-military affair and fosters relationships at all levels.

Latvia and Michigan were the first official partnership established under the State Partnership Program umbrella with an agreement signed on April 27, 1993. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of that partnership.

«Without our state partnership, this course may not even be possible», said Major Armands Rutkis, TACP commander of the Latvian Land Force Infantry Brigade Combat Support Battalion. «If I didn’t know Lieutenant Colonel Bart Ward a Michigan Air National Guard subject matter expert it would be very difficult to make this happen».

There has been discussion to extend the course with two weeks of academics and a subsequent period of close air support operations in the Baltic region. While there are challenges, the planning, cooperation, and support from partnering states and countries is strong.

«We have over 50 JTACs here from nine different countries, said Rutkis, so the coordination to make all of this happen will take a lot of planning, but our partnership is growing every day and we are improving each year».

Drone swarms

Under DARPA’s Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, Raytheon BBN Technologies is developing technology to direct and control swarms of small, autonomous air and ground vehicles. The technology includes:

  • a visual interface that allows «drag and drop» creation and manipulation of drone tactics;
  • a game-based simulator to evaluate those tactics;
  • a physical swarm testbed to perform live tactics evaluations.
The Coyote UAS is a low-cost, expendable system with a broad spectrum of capabilities
The Coyote UAS is a low-cost, expendable system with a broad spectrum of capabilities

«Operators use speech or gestures to control the swarm. This is a tremendous advantage during operations», said Shane Clark, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and principal investigator on the program. «The system provides sensor feeds and mission status indicators for complete situational awareness».

The flexible, scalable programming software and simulation environment means users can coordinate drone behaviors in teams composed of different vehicle types that use various sensors.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is inviting additional organizations to participate in OFFSET as «sprinters» through an open Broad Agency Announcement. Sprinters can create their own novel swarm tactics and the Raytheon BBN team will work with them to evaluate the tactics in simulation, and possibly field them for live trials.

In 2016, Raytheon, as part of the Office of Naval Research Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program, conducted demonstrations that successfully netted together 30 Coyote Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in a swarm. Raytheon BBN Technologies is a wholly owned subsidiary of Raytheon Company.

Heavy Fuel Capability

Schiebel has successfully demonstrated the heavy fuel variant of the Camcopter S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) as part of its customer acceptance program with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Schiebel says that the heavy fuel variant of its Camcopter S-100 unmanned helicopter demonstrated its ability to deliver imagery from operational ranges of up to 108 NM/124 miles/200 km as well as altitudes above 18,000 feet/5,486 m (Schiebel photo)
Schiebel says that the heavy fuel variant of its Camcopter S-100 unmanned helicopter demonstrated its ability to deliver imagery from operational ranges of up to 108 NM/124 miles/200 km as well as altitudes above 18,000 feet/5,486 m (Schiebel photo)

Under the directive of the Navy Minor Project (NMP) 1942 to procure a vertical takeoff and landing Maritime Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System – Interim Capability (MTUAS-IC), RAN sought a platform for shipborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). Selected for its maturity and demonstrated capability, Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 UAS successfully completed its flying program for the RAN validation and verification customer acceptance program at the Jervis Bay Airfield facilities in New South Wales, Australia.

In a comprehensive series of tests, the JP-5 (NATO F-44) heavy fuel powered Camcopter S-100, equipped with a Wescam MX-10S payload and at operational ranges of up to 60 nautical miles as well as altitudes above 10 000 feet, presented its ability to deliver world-class imagery to commanders.

As the RAN Contract Manager Kevin Beare noted, «The heavy fuel variant of the S-100 has performed very well during the validation and verification program and the RAN looks forward to utilising this platform to achieve NMP1942 project objectives over the coming years».

«The S-100 will prove to be an effective asset in enhancing the Navy’s ISR capabilities», said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group. «We are excited about the positive feedback we are receiving from RAN and are looking forward to continued cooperation in the future».

 

About Schiebel

Founded in 1951, the Vienna-based Schiebel Group focuses on the development, testing and production of state-of-the-art mine detection equipment and the revolutionary Camcopter S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS). Schiebel has built an international reputation for producing quality defense and humanitarian products, which are backed by exceptional after-sales service and support. Since 2010, Schiebel’s composite division supplies high-tech customers with products of supreme carbon fiber technology – all quality-controlled to meet ISO 9001 standards. With headquarters in Vienna (Austria), Schiebel now maintains production facilities in Wiener Neustadt (Austria) and Abu Dhabi (UAE), as well as offices in Washington DC (USA) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

 

About the Camcopter S-100

Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) is an operationally proven capability for military and civilian applications. The Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS requires no prepared area or supporting equipment to enable launch and recovery. It operates in day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a beyond line-of-sight capability out to 108 NM/124 miles/200 km, over land and sea. Its carbon fiber and titanium fuselage provides capacity for a wide range of payload/endurance combinations up to a service ceiling of 18,000 feet/5,486 m. In a typical configuration, the Camcopter S-100 carries a 75 lbs./34 kg payload up to 10 hours and is powered with AVGas or JP-5 heavy fuel. High-definition payload imagery is transmitted to the control station in real time. In addition to its standard GPS waypoint or manual navigation, the S-100 can successfully operate in environments where GPS is not available, with missions planned and controlled via a simple point-and-click graphical user interface. The high-tech unmanned helicopter is backed by Schiebel’s excellent customer support and training services.

Clean Room

All the major elements of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now reside in a giant clean room at Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Redondo Beach facility, setting the stage for final assembly and testing of the giant space telescope that will explore the origins of the universe and search for life beyond our solar system.

NASAs James Webb Space Telescope Optics and Science Instruments in Northrop Grumman’s Clean Room
NASAs James Webb Space Telescope Optics and Science Instruments in Northrop Grumman’s Clean Room

The Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) arrived at Northrop Grumman in February. It was previously at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it successfully completed cryogenic testing.

OTIS and the spacecraft element, which is Webb’s combined sunshield and spacecraft bus, now both call Northrop Grumman home. Webb is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana in 2019.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

External Lift

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion completed an external lift of a 36,000-pound/16,330-kg payload at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center, achieving a maximum weight on the single center point cargo hook. This milestone marks completion of critical flight envelope expansion activities for the CH-53K King Stallion as Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company prepares to deliver the first aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps this year.

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter achieves a 36,000-pound/16,330-kg lift for the first time at Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on February 10, 2018 (Image courtesy Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)
The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter achieves a 36,000-pound/16,330-kg lift for the first time at Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on February 10, 2018 (Image courtesy Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

The CH-53K King Stallion lifted the external load of 36,000 lbs./16,330 kg into a hover followed by flight demonstrating satisfactory handling qualities and structural margins. The gross weight of the aircraft topped out at just over 91,000 lbs./41,277 kg, making this the heaviest helicopter ever flown by Sikorsky.

«The successful completion of these last critical envelope expansion tests further demonstrates the maturity of the CH-53K aircraft», said Doctor Michael Torok, Sikorsky Vice President, Marine Corps Systems. «We look forward to bringing this unique and exceptional heavy lift capability to the United States Marine Corps and our international customers».

Prior to the 36,000-lb./16,330 kg lift, the CH-53K King Stallion lifted various external payloads up to 27,000 lbs./12,247 kg including a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). The CH-53K can carry a 27,000 lb./12,247 kg external load over 110 nautical miles/126.6 miles/203.7 km in high/hot conditions, which is more than triple the external load carrying capacity of the legacy CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft. Other flight envelope accomplishments include tethered hover demonstrating flight speeds to 200 knots/230 mph/370 km/h, angle of bank to 60 degrees, takeoffs and landings from sloped surfaces up to 12 degrees, external load auto-jettison, and gunfire testing.

«The payload capability of this helicopter is unmatched, triple that of its predecessor and better than any other heavy lift helicopter in production», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps Program Manager for the Naval Air Systems Command’s Heavy Lift Helicopters Program. «The CH-53K program continues on pace to deploy this incredible heavy lift capability to our warfighters».

The CH-53K King Stallion is also garnering international interest. Rheinmetall and Sikorsky recently signed a strategic teaming agreement to offer the CH-53K King Stallion for Germany’s new heavy lift helicopter competition. Additional teammates will be announced in the coming weeks leading up to the aircraft’s debut at the ILA Berlin Air Show in April.

 

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

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion completed an external lift of a 36,000-pound/16,330-kg payload at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center, achieving a maximum weight on the single center point cargo hook

InSight Spacecraft

NASA’s latest mission to Mars took its first trip on its long journey to the Red Planet. On February 28, Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight Mars lander to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The lander will now undergo final processing in preparation for a May 5 launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.

Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight spacecraft to its California launch site on February 28, 2018. The Mars lander was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado to Vandenberg Air Force Base where it will undergo final processing in preparation for a May launch
Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight spacecraft to its California launch site on February 28, 2018. The Mars lander was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado to Vandenberg Air Force Base where it will undergo final processing in preparation for a May launch

The InSight lander will study the deep interior of Mars and will address one of the most fundamental questions of planetary and solar system science: how do terrestrial planets form? By mapping the basic structure of the planet, the mission will help scientists understand the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system more than four billion years ago. Lockheed Martin designed and built the spacecraft and is responsible for testing, launch processing and spacecraft flight operations.

«InSight is an amazing spacecraft and we can’t wait to see it on the surface of Mars later this year», said Stu Spath, InSight program manager and director of Deep Space Exploration Systems at Lockheed Martin Space. «We’ve worked closely with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to design and build this spacecraft. Its environmental testing is complete, and now the launch team is moving to California to perform final preparations for a May launch».

The 1,380-pound/626-kg spacecraft, consisting of the lander, aeroshell and cruise stage, was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane, courtesy of the Air Force Air Mobility Command, in an environmentally controlled container. The plane, spacecraft and support personnel took off from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado and touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While at Vandenberg at the Astrotech Space Operations facility, the spacecraft will undergo final processing including system-level checkout, propellant loading and a final spin balance test.

The InSight mission’s principal investigator is JPL’s Bruce Banerdt. The Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are each contributing a science instrument to the two-year scientific mission. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

JAGM test

Aviation testers at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona are deep into testing the latest Army aviation missile, known as the JAGM (Joint Air-to-Ground Missile).

Pilots fire the new Joint Air-to-Ground Missile being tested at Cibola Range, Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in support of deliberate attack mission against armor ground vehicle targets (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
Pilots fire the new Joint Air-to-Ground Missile being tested at Cibola Range, Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in support of deliberate attack mission against armor ground vehicle targets (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

The complex JAGM test was a collaborative team effort between the West Fort Hood, Texas-based Aviation Test Directorate (AVTD) of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, Yuma Test Center (YTC) at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), Arizona, and Redstone Test Center (RTC) based at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

AVTD coordinated multiple efforts to assure a successful test as JAGM moves towards its next major milestone, a low-rate initial production decision.

«The close cooperation between YTC and the Operational Test Command during the short duration was critical», said Lieutenant Colonel Karsten Haake, Chief of the AVTD Rotary Wing Test Division. «Without the professionalism and the mission dedication of the YTC range support team, test completion would have been significantly delayed. This was truly a team effort».

Participating pilots give the new weapon’s versatility high marks.

«One of the things that sticks out to me is the simplicity for the crew in terms of how they select weapons for their missions», said Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Bilton, the first non-experimental test pilot to fire the missile, a milestone that took place at YPG in the fall. «Before, we had to put a lot of thought into, ‘What do I need?’ As soon as I launch, I don’t get to come back and change out my missiles», Bilton said. «In combat, you don’t want to encounter a target you need to hit and not have on-board the right missile for the job».

The JAGM boasts the ability to use semi-active laser or radio frequency as a means of guiding it to target.

Moreover, the crew can switch modes within seconds as a combat scenario evolves.

«Using a Semi-Active Laser (SAL) missile, the last six seconds of the missile flight is the most critical to keep your laser sight on target», explained Michael Kennedy, Experimental Test Pilot, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, RTC. «If you’re getting shot at and your line of sight goes off the target, your missile misses. JAGM can start off using the laser, then transition to the radar portion and still hit the target if the crew has to use evasive maneuvers», he added.

More capable in adverse weather conditions and boasting a longer range than the older Hellfire, the JAGM can now be fired and aircrews can retreat to a safer standoff distance, but also can be aimed without pointing the laser directly at the target.

«You aren’t required to have your laser sight on a target to hit it», said Kennedy. He also said the ability to off-set lasers, a capability that defeats potential laser countermeasures, has distinct tactical advantages.

«The ability to not have to put the laser directly on the target and let the adversary know that you are about to kill him is a tremendous benefit», added Al Maes, Aviation weapons technical advisor for the Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manager Recon Attack. «Once you have the missile off the rail and encounter smoke or dust or fog, a regular laser missile could lose that target. With JAGM, I have a pretty good guarantee that I am going to kill that target with a single missile instead of multiple missile shots», he said.

YPG’s vast ranges and variety of realistic targets is a great location and allows the Apache equipped with JAGM to operate in a variety of situations and altitudes that resemble an operational environment.

«We’re out here shooting at real targets», said Scott McLendon, AVTD Operational Test Officer for JAGM. «It’s a real T-72 driving down the road, not a burnt-out hulk with a million holes in it sitting out on the range. To me, the real targets provided at YPG are really a value-added».

To make the testing as realistic as possible, YPG personnel installed remote-control kits on four separate target vehicles, allowing pilots to fly scenarios where they engaged multiple moving targets at once.

«It’s difficult and unique», said Kennedy. «Having real moving targets adds good operational flavor to the test».

YPG’s natural desert environment also contributed significantly to the test’s realism.

«In an active combat zone or engagement area, you have multiple targets, half of which could be burning», said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Scott Jackson, AH-64D/E Recon and Attack Standardization, TRADOC Capability Manager Recon Attack. «The other half could be evading. Then you have wind shift and wind flow that could kick up obscurants and make it more difficult to determine a clean target set».

«We also get more battlefield realism in that we get dust as well as smoke, so we get a two-for-one here in terms of the environmental piece», added Maes.

Information gathered during the operational test not only validates the weapon, but also contributes new insights for training pilots on how to use the JAGM for maximum effect.

Though the operational test is now complete, further developmental testing, including integrating new software to support the JAGM into the Apache, will continue at YPG.

Yuma Proving Ground has nearly 2,000 square miles/5,180 square km of restricted airspace, a vast and precious asset used to test manned and unmanned aircraft – and their weapons – in all stages of the development cycle.

The clear, stable air and extremely dry climate – which makes inclement weather a rarity – as well as YPG’s isolation from urban encroachment, makes it highly coveted for this type of testing.

«YPG is way less restrictive than some other installations», said McLendon. «We can put the missile through all the parameters we need to, including high-altitude shots. It’s really user-friendly here».

YPG can conduct multiple tests concurrently and without having to compete for runway and airspace with manned fighter jets, a limitation at other installations.

The close coordination, professionalism and favorable test locations assured the success of this critical test as this new capability moves towards fielding for Soldiers.

Test unit pilots for the JAGM LUT are (left to right): Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Porter, Master Gunner, Gunnery Branch, Directorate of Training and Doctrine (DOTD), Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Bilton Brigade AH-64D/E Subject Matter Expert, 110th Aviation Brigade, Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Scott Jackson, AH-64D/E Recon and Attack Standardization, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager (TCM) Recon Attack, Fort Rucker, Alabama; and Mr. Michael Kennedy, Experimental Test Pilot, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, Redstone Test Center, Alabama (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
Test unit pilots for the JAGM LUT are (left to right): Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Porter, Master Gunner, Gunnery Branch, Directorate of Training and Doctrine (DOTD), Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Bilton Brigade AH-64D/E Subject Matter Expert, 110th Aviation Brigade, Fort Rucker, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Scott Jackson, AH-64D/E Recon and Attack Standardization, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager (TCM) Recon Attack, Fort Rucker, Alabama; and Mr. Michael Kennedy, Experimental Test Pilot, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, Redstone Test Center, Alabama (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Tad Browning, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

 

About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC)

As the Army’s only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer – the American Soldier.

The Aviation Test Directorate at Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.

400th Super Hercules

Lockheed Martin reached a major milestone with the delivery of its 400th C-130J Super Hercules aircraft on February 9. This Super Hercules is an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations aircraft that is assigned to the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

Lockheed Martin delivered the 400th C-130J Super Hercules aircraft on February 9, 2018. This milestone Super Hercules was delivered to the U.S. Air Force, which is the largest C-130J operator in the world (Photo by Amanda Mills, Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin delivered the 400th C-130J Super Hercules aircraft on February 9, 2018. This milestone Super Hercules was delivered to the U.S. Air Force, which is the largest C-130J operator in the world (Photo by Amanda Mills, Lockheed Martin)

The C-130J Super Hercules is the current production model of the legendary C-130 Hercules aircraft, with operators in 17 nations. To date, the global fleet of C-130Js has surpassed more than 1.7 million flight hours supporting almost any mission requirement – any time, any place.

«We celebrate this accomplishment with our employees, industry partners and the Super Hercules operator community that spans 17 countries», said George Shultz, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions at Lockheed Martin. «These first 400 C-130Js meet a global demand for the proven performance and unmatched versatility found only in a Super Hercules. Its durability, relevancy and capability will continue to set the C-130J apart as the world’s choice in tactical airlift for decades to come».

The C-130J is defined by its versatility. To date, the C-130J supports 17 different mission configurations to include transport (military and commercial), firefighting, search and rescue, Special Operations, weather reconnaissance, and aerial refueling.

This aircraft has another distinction in addition to being the 400th C-130J delivered: it is the 13th MC-130J to be converted into an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship. It will be assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The AC-130J is a highly modified C-130J that provides close-air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance.

The U.S. government operates the largest C-130J Super Hercules fleet in the world. This delivery represents the U.S. government’s continued transition to the C-130J as the common platform across Air Mobility Command, AFSOC, Air Combat Command, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Marine Corps. The Air National Guard and Reserve still operate a mixed fleet of C-130J and legacy aircraft.

James Webb

The two halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now reside at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, where they will come together to form the complete observatory.

The Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS) container enclosed with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) arriving at Northrop Grumman Redondo Beach, California facilities on Friday, February 2
The Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea (STTARS) container enclosed with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) arriving at Northrop Grumman Redondo Beach, California facilities on Friday, February 2

«This is a major milestone», said Eric Smith, program director for Webb at NASA. «With the arrival of the science payload at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility, we will now carefully test the observatory to ensure the work of thousands of scientists and engineers across the globe is ready for launch and will enable people to seek the first luminous objects in the universe and search for signs of habitable planets».

The Optical Telescope and Integrated Science instrument module (OTIS) of Webb arrived at Northrop Grumman on Friday, February 2. It was previously at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it successfully completed cryogenic testing.

In preparation for leaving Johnson, OTIS was placed inside a specially designed shipping container called the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea. The container was then loaded onto a U.S. military C-5 Charlie aircraft at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, just outside of Johnson. From there, OTIS took an overnight flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Upon its arrival, OTIS was driven from LAX to Northrop Grumman. OTIS and the spacecraft element, which is Webb’s combined sunshield and spacecraft bus, now both call Northrop Grumman home.

«It’s exciting to have all three Webb elements – OTIS, sunshield and spacecraft bus, here at our campus», said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager for Webb at Northrop Grumman. «The team is excited to begin the final stages of integration of the world’s largest space telescope».

During the summer, OTIS will receive additional testing before being combined with the spacecraft element to form the complete James Webb Space Telescope observatory. Once the telescope is fully integrated, the entire observatory will undergo more tests during what is called observatory-level testing.

Webb is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, in 2019.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Vehicle lift

CH-53K King Stallion successfully lifted (and set down) a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) during a demonstration, January 18.

A CH-53K King Stallion lifts a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during a demonstration, January 18. Using the single point hook, the helicopter hovered up to 100 feet/30.5 meters for approximately 10 minutes while carrying the 18,870-pound/8,559-kg vehicle (U.S. Navy photo)
A CH-53K King Stallion lifts a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during a demonstration, January 18. Using the single point hook, the helicopter hovered up to 100 feet/30.5 meters for approximately 10 minutes while carrying the 18,870-pound/8,559-kg vehicle (U.S. Navy photo)

Using the single point hook, the helicopter hovered up to 100 feet/30.5 meters for approximately 10 minutes while carrying the 18,870-pound/8,559-kg vehicle.

«This was a first-of-its-kind event for both the CH-53K and JLTV programs», said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Hank Vanderborght, program manager for the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters program office, PMA-261. «Watching these two high priority programs come together on the flight line was an exceptional sight».

The JLTV family of vehicles are the Army and Marine Corps’ replacement for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and the CH-53K King Stallion is replacing its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion. The specific JLTV used for the demonstration was the four-seat model, known as the Combat Tactical Vehicle.

Prior to using the JLTV, the program tested various external payloads on the CH-53K King Stallion using representative concrete slabs, up to 27,000 pounds/12,247 kg. This year, the test team will expand that external weight envelope up to 36,000 pounds/16,329 kg.

«The payload capability of this helicopter is unmatched, triple that of its predecessor and better than any other heavy lift helicopter in production», said Vanderborght.

The demonstration was a collaborative effort among the CH-53K Integrated Test Team (Sikorsky, NAVAIR and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21), the NAVAIR Internal Cargo Lab and PMA-261.

In addition, the Helicopter Support Team from Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 25 traveled to NAS Patuxent River to support the demonstration, providing key ground support in the hook of the JLTV to the aircraft. It was the first time this unit had an opportunity to support both platforms.

«The biggest thing my unit noticed was the stability of it», said Corporal Ronald Fritter, CLB-25. «Safety is paramount while underneath the bird because you have so many variables with the down wash of the aircraft to the hook … with the hook not moving around at all, little to none, it makes our jobs easier».

There are four Engineering Development and Manufacturing Model aircraft and a Ground Test Vehicle in test. In addition, a sixth aircraft, known as a System Demonstration Test Article, joined the test program this month. To date, the program has logged more than 700 cumulative flight hours.

CH-53K demonstrates vehicle lift
CH-53K demonstrates vehicle lift

 

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