Category Archives: Air

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».

Operational Assessment

The MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) built for the U.S. Navy by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) has successfully completed Operational Assessment (OA). Pending final data analysis, the completion of this milestone signals the maturity of the system and paves the way for a positive Milestone C decision. Milestone C will transition Triton into Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP).

MQ-4C Triton UAS Completes Operational Assessment
MQ-4C Triton UAS Completes Operational Assessment

As part of OA, an integrated test team made up of U.S. Navy personnel from Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons VX-1 and VX-20, Unmanned Patrol Squadron, VUP-19 and Northrop Grumman demonstrated the reliability of Triton over the course of approximately 60 flight hours. The team analyzed sensor imagery and validated radar performance of Triton’s sensors at different altitudes and ranges. The aircraft system’s ability to classify targets and disseminate critical data was also examined as part of the operational effectiveness and suitability testing. Successful evaluation of Triton’s time on station confirmed that it will meet flight duration requirements.

«Operational assessment for Triton included several flights which exercised the weapon system through operationally relevant scenarios that demonstrated its readiness to meet the U.S. Navy’s maritime Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (IRS) needs», said Doug Shaffer, vice president, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman. «As a result of the flight tests, the program moves one step closer to a milestone C decision later this spring».

 

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

 

Payload (360-degree Field of Regard)

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

 

FLA Takes Flight

They may not have zoomed flawlessly around obstacles like the Millennium Falcon did as it careened through the hull of a crashed Star Destroyer in Star Wars VII. But the sensor-loaded quadcopters that recently got tested in a cluttered hangar in Massachusetts did manage to edge their way around obstacles and achieve their target speeds of 20 meters per second. Moreover, the quadcopters were unmanned … and real. Thus was the initial phase of data collection for DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program recently deemed an encouraging success.

A FLA quadcopter self-navigates around boxes during initial flight data collection using only onboard sensors/software
A FLA quadcopter self-navigates around boxes during initial flight data collection using only onboard sensors/software

DARPA’s FLA program aims to develop and test algorithms that could reduce the amount of processing power, communications, and human intervention needed for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to accomplish low-level tasks, such as navigation around obstacles in a cluttered environment. If successful, FLA would reduce operator workload and stress and allow humans to focus on higher-level supervision of multiple formations of manned and unmanned platforms as part of a single system.

FLA technologies could be especially useful to address a pressing surveillance shortfall: Military teams patrolling dangerous overseas urban environments and rescue teams responding to disasters such as earthquakes or floods currently can use remotely piloted UAVs to provide a bird’s-eye view of the situation, but to know what’s going on inside an unstable building or a threatening indoor space often requires physical entry, which can put troops or civilian response teams in danger. The FLA program is developing a new class of algorithms aimed at enabling small UAVs to quickly navigate a labyrinth of rooms, stairways and corridors or other obstacle-filled environments without a remote pilot. The program seeks to develop and demonstrate autonomous UAVs small enough to fit through an open window and able to fly at speeds up to 20 meters per second (45 miles per hour) – while avoiding objects within complex indoor spaces independent of communication with outside operators or sensors and without reliance on GPS.

DARPA researchers recently completed the first flight data collection from the common quadcopter UAV platform that three research teams are using for the program. The flight test data validated that the platform – which uses a commercial DJI Flamewheel 450 airframe, E600 motors with 12″ propellers, and 3DR Pixhawk autopilot – is capable of achieving the required flight speed of 20 meters per second while carrying high-definition onboard cameras and other sensors, such as LIDAR, sonar and inertial measurement units. During the testing, researchers also demonstrated initial autonomous capabilities, such as «seeing» obstacles and flying around them at slow speed unaided by a human controller.

Through this exploration, the program aims to develop and demonstrate the capability for small (i.e., able to fit through windows) autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles to fly at speeds up to 20 m/s with no communication to the operator and without GPS
Through this exploration, the program aims to develop and demonstrate the capability for small (i.e., able to fit through windows) autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles to fly at speeds up to 20 m/s with no communication to the operator and without GPS

«We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection», said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. «The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAVs’ perception range and compensate for the vehicles’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds».

The three performer teams are Draper, teamed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Pennsylvania; and Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (SSCI), teamed with AeroVironment.

The test flight and data collection took place at Otis Air National Guard Base, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in a former aircraft hangar that was transformed into a warehouse setting with simulated walls, boxes and other obstacles to test flight agility and speed. The test run also resulted in several crashes. «But the only way to achieve hard goals is to push physical systems and software to the limit», Micire said. «I expect there will be more flight failures and smashed quadcopters along the way».

The FLA program aims to develop and test algorithms that could reduce the amount of processing power, communications, and human intervention needed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to accomplish low-level tasks, such as navigation around obstacles in a cluttered environment
The FLA program aims to develop and test algorithms that could reduce the amount of processing power, communications, and human intervention needed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to accomplish low-level tasks, such as navigation around obstacles in a cluttered environment

With each successive program milestone flight test, the warehouse venue will be made more complicated by adding obstacles and clutter to create a more challenging and realistic environment for the UAVs to navigate autonomously.

«Very lightweight UAVs exist today that are agile and can fly faster than 20 meters per second, but they can’t carry the sensors and computation to fly autonomously in cluttered environments», Micire said. «And large UAVs exist that can fly high and fast with heavy computing payloads and sensors on board. What makes the FLA program so challenging is finding the sweet spot of a small size, weight and power air vehicle with limited onboard computing power to perform a complex mission completely autonomously».

The FLA program’s initial focus is on UAVs, but advances made through the program could potentially be applied to ground, marine and underwater systems, which could be especially useful in GPS-degraded or denied environments.

 

DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program recently demonstrated that a commercial quadcopter platform could achieve 20-meters-per-second flight while carrying a full load of sensors and cameras

 

Gliding weapon

Raytheon Company and the U.S. Navy have conducted a successful operational test of the new Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) C-1 gliding, precision-guided weapon. Conducted in a challenging flight environment, the test further demonstrated the capabilities of JSOW C-1 against a broad set of land targets.

In this file photo, an F-16 fighter launches a JSOW glide bomb (Raytheon photo)
In this file photo, an F-16 fighter launches a JSOW glide bomb (Raytheon photo)

Launched from an F/A-18F Super Hornet at approximately 29,000 feet/8,839 meters, the JSOW C-1 flew a flawless, preplanned route before destroying its intended land target with precision accuracy. The challenging battlefield scenario included a well-defended target that used tactical countermeasures.

«This test demonstrated yet again JSOW’s ability to deliver decisive battlefield effects with precision stand-off capability against some of the most challenging land targets facing our warfighters», said Celeste Mohr, JSOW program director for Raytheon Missile Systems. «Naval aviators also recently employed JSOW C in a tactically realistic, cave-defeat scenario that included heavy radio frequency countermeasures. The result was two direct hits».

The new JSOW C-1 combines the proven, precision, stand-off land attack capabilities from JSOW C, with the new, state-of-the-art Link 16 data link to also engage moving maritime targets. The JSOW C-1 variant adds a two-way Link 16 data link to engage and destroy moving targets, as well as stationary land targets.

This initial operational test shot was preceded by seven-for-seven, equally successful employments against both stationary land targets and maritime moving targets during the developmental and integration test phases. It paves the way for the next phase of operational testing against large and small maritime moving targets.

JSOW C and C-1 are designed to provide fleet forces with robust and flexible capability against high-value targets, at launch ranges exceeding 62 miles/100 kilometers.

 

About JSOW

JSOW is a family of low-cost, air-to-ground weapons that employ an integrated GPS-inertial navigation system with highly capable guidance algorithms. JSOW C prosecutes fixed land targets and uses an imaging infrared seeker for increased accuracy in the terminal phase.

JSOW C-1 adds the two-way Link 16 data link enhancement, enabling additional target sets with moving maritime target capability.

 

Ready for fleet

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ RQ-21A Blackjack Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) received the official green light for operation January 13, marking a major milestone for the program.

An RQ-21A Blackjack in flight during testing aboard USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) in 2015. The Marines will deploy with the unmanned air system for its first shipboard deployment in summer 2016 (U.S. Navy photo)
An RQ-21A Blackjack in flight during testing aboard USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) in 2015. The Marines will deploy with the unmanned air system for its first shipboard deployment in summer 2016 (U.S. Navy photo)

Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lieutenant General Jon Davis, announced the program has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC), which confirms that the first Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) squadron is sufficiently manned, trained and ready to deploy with the RQ-21A system.

«We are ‘go for launch,’» said Colonel Eldon Metzger, program manager for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-263) whose team oversees the Blackjack program. «Achieving IOC designation means the fleet can now deploy using this critical piece of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) architecture to enhance mission success».

Last month, the first system from Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lot 3 was delivered to VMU-2 and will be in direct support of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), based in Cherry Point, North Carolina. The Marines will make their first shipboard deployment with this system in the summer.

«The Blackjack team has endured many long hours seeing this program to fruition and I am very proud to lead such a dedicated team of professionals», Metzger said.

A Blackjack system is comprised of five air vehicles, two ground control systems, and launch and recovery support equipment. At eight feet/2.5 m long and with a wingspan of 16 feet/4.8 m, the air vehicle’s open-architecture configuration is designed to seamlessly integrate sensor payloads, with an endurance of 10-12 hours.

The expeditionary nature of the Blackjack, which does not require a runway for launch and recovery, makes it possible to deploy a multi-intelligence-capable UAS with minimal footprint from ships.

Standard Payloads: day/night, full-motion video; electro-optical/infrared cameras; mid-wave infrared imager; infrared marker; laser rangefinder; communications relay; Automatic Identification System receivers for shipping traffic data
Standard Payloads: day/night, full-motion video; electro-optical/infrared cameras; mid-wave infrared imager; infrared marker; laser rangefinder; communications relay; Automatic Identification System receivers for shipping traffic data

 

SPECIFICATIONS

DIMENSIONS
Length 8.2 feet/2.5 m
Wingspan 16 feet/4.8 m
WEIGHTS
Empty structure weight 81 lbs/36 kg
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 135 lbs/61 kg
Maximum payload weight 39 lbs/17 kg
PERFORMANCE
Endurance up to 16 hours
Ceiling >19,500 feet/5,944 m
Maximum horizontal speed 90+ knots/104 mph/167 km/h
Cruise speed 60 knots/69 mph/111 km/h
Engine 8 HP reciprocating engine with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI); JP-5, JP-8
PAYLOAD INTEGRATION
Onboard power 350 W for payload
Onboard connectivity Ethernet (TCP/IP), data encryption
STANDARD PAYLOAD CONFIGURATION
Electro-optic imager
Mid-wave infrared imager
Laser rangefinder
IR marker
Communications relay and Automatic Identification System (AIS)
The RQ-21A completed its first shipboard flight in February 2013 from USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19)
The RQ-21A completed its first shipboard flight in February 2013 from USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19)