Lockheed Martin delivered the first of five C-130J-30 Super Hercules tactical airlifters to the Indonesian Air Force (IDAF) during a ceremony here on February 21, 2023, commemorating a new era in Hercules operations for this longtime C-130 operator.
The IDAF’s new C-130J-30s offer increased cargo capacity, speed, range, power, performance and lower operating costs over its legacy C-130s to support the IDAF’s wide range of mission requirements for decades to come. These new C-130J-30s expand the IDAF’s ability to partner on missions and training opportunities with allies and regional forces that also operate Super Hercules.
«Indonesian Air Force crews have long trusted the C-130 to support the most challenging of missions facing Indonesia and other nations in the Pacific», said Rod McLean, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions programs at Lockheed Martin. «This new era of Super Hercules operations supports Indonesia in achieving mission success with a highly tailored airlift fleet that ensures IDAF crews can support any task – anywhere, anytime – with more power, strength and capability for decades to come».
Indonesia has operated C-130s since the 1960s, using its Hercules fleet for critical national and regional missions such as delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief, as well as providing military and peacekeeping support around the Pacific Rim.
The C-130J Super Hercules is the worldwide choice in tactical airlift, serving 26 operators in 22 nations. To date, more than 520 C-130Js have been delivered and the Super Hercules remains unmatched in its ability to support 18 different mission requirements.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, delivered two CH-53K King Stallion helicopters to the U.S. Marine Corps in the final quarter of 2022. These CH-53K heavy lift helicopters join the seven already in operation at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
«Sikorsky’s employees are using advanced technologies to manufacture the CH-53K helicopter, which increases capabilities and survivability to the U.S. Marine Corps», said Bill Falk, director Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion program. «With the CH-53K’s transformative technologies, more is possible for the Marine Corps and our allies when deterring threats in the changing battlefield landscape».
The CH‑53K’s heavy-lift capabilities exceed all other U.S. Department of Defense rotary wing platforms and is the only heavy-lift helicopter that will remain in production through 2032 and beyond.
Production Picks Up in 2023
Sikorsky is on track to deliver more multi-mission CH-53K King Stallion helicopters to the U.S. Marine Corps in 2023.
The U.S Navy declared Full Rate Production (FRP) for the CH-53K King Stallion program in December 2022; a decision that is expected to increase production to more than 20 helicopters annually in the coming years. The expanded production includes twelve (12) aircraft in various stages of production for the government of Israel.
Sikorsky is procuring long-lead items and critical materials to support ramping CH-53K King Stallion production to full rate production in its digital factory.
U.S. Marine on CH-53K King Stallion: «A Level of Safety You Can’t Get Anywhere Else»
The CH-53K King Stallion is an intelligent aircraft developed to 21st century standards, bringing improved safety and survivability to the warfighter. The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter will provide many decades of world-wide heavy lift and multi-mission service to the Marine Corps, the Joint Force and our Allies.
A full authority digital fly-by-wire Flight Control System (FCS) is one of many impressive capabilities setting the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter apart from any other heavy lift aircraft. «Full authority» means the FCS provides all the aircraft motion – not just supplementing the pilot for stability.
A digital fly-by-wire FCS is an electronic flight control system teamed with a digital computer that replaces mechanical control systems in an aircraft. It makes the aircraft easier to handle in degraded visual environments.
For pilots, like Marine Corps Captain Chris Vanderweerd, the system provides more predictable and stable control responses to improve safety and mission effectiveness.
«We will take up to 30 fully loaded Marines and are able to insert them into a zone in a timely and safe manner where they don’t have to risk going in via convoy», said Vanderweerd, who is with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461. «We can take them airborne and cut the time drastically that they are in enemy engagement zone essentially».
«The whole fly-by-wire system is awesome», said Staff Sergeant Dakota Schneider, crew chief with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS) 1, who is supporting the CH-53K King Stallion at MCAS New River. «It will bring a level of safety that you can’t get anywhere else».
Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully demonstrated its gateway technology in a flight test that proved the ability to connect airborne platforms with naval assets. The first-of-its-kind demonstration was conducted with Naval Air Systems Command, Office of Naval Research, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific and BAE Systems.
«Our gateways provide an open, secure and resilient solution needed to enable information advantage for our customers», said Ben Davies, vice president and general manager, network information solutions, Northrop Grumman. «This powerful combination expands the mission sets of maritime platforms to deliver a seamlessly connected fleet – a critical step as the U.S. Navy achieves its naval operational architecture to enable distributed maritime operations».
Equipped on Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton Flying Test Bed, the airborne gateway shared fifth-generation sensor data to ground-based simulators that represented an F-35 Lightning II, an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, U.S. Navy Aegis class destroyers and carrier strike groups. The gateway integrated with Triton’s radar and artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to significantly enhance situational awareness across previously disconnected platforms. The addition of the gateway on Triton expands data sharing and will improve the warfighter’s ability to stay ahead of the adversary and make decisions faster across a vast and diverse environment.
«Triton’s altitude, persistence, and robust communication links make it an ideal candidate to host the Gateway system», said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, global surveillance, Northrop Grumman. «This demonstration highlighted gateway technology enhancements to Triton that would enable information dominance across distributed maritime assets; including access to the F-35’s robust sensor suite and the E-2D’s battle management capabilities».
Northrop Grumman recently demonstrated another gateway solution and also unveiled Australia’s first Triton. Northrop Grumman’s family of systems brings enhanced interoperability between joint and coalition forces across air and sea.
The Lockheed Martin VISTA X-62A, a one-of-a-kind training aircraft, was flown by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent for more than 17 hours recently, representing the first time AI engaged on a tactical aircraft.
VISTA, short for Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft, is changing the face of air power at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
VISTA is a one-of-a-kind training airplane developed by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in collaboration with Calspan Corporation for the USAF TPS. Built on open systems architecture, VISTA is fitted with software that allows it to mimic the performance characteristics of other aircraft.
«VISTA will allow us to parallelize the development and test of cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques with new uncrewed vehicle designs», said Doctor M. Christopher Cotting, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School director of research. «This approach, combined with focused testing on new vehicle systems as they are produced, will rapidly mature autonomy for uncrewed platforms and allow us to deliver tactically relevant capability to our warfighter».
Recent upgrades by the U.S. Air Force include an updated VISTA Simulation System (VSS) provided by Calspan, and Lockheed Martin’s Model Following Algorithm (MFA), and System for Autonomous Control of the Simulation (SACS). The SACS and MFA systems integrated together provide new capabilities to the VISTA so it can be used to conduct the most advanced flight test experiments emphasizing autonomy and AI.
The 17-plus hour flight by an AI agent took place as part of a series of tests in December.
VISTA is a modified F-16D Block 30 Peace Marble Il aircraft upgraded with Block 40 avionics. Previously designated NF-16D, in June 2021 VISTA was recognized by the U.S. Air Force and deemed a national asset with a formal redesignation to VISTA X-62A.
This new mission system capability with VSS, MFA and SACS emphasize advancing autonomous aircraft algorithm development and integration. At the heart of SACS system is the Skunk Works Enterprise-wide Open Systems Architecture (E-OSA) which powers the Enterprise Mission Computer version 2 (EMC2) or “Einstein Box.”
Additional SACS components include integration of advanced sensors, a Multi-Level Security solution, and a set of Getac tablet displays in both cockpits. These components enhance VISTA’s capabilities while maintaining its rapid-prototyping advantage, specifically allowing for quick software changes to increase the frequency of flight test flights and accelerating the pace of AI and autonomy development to meet urgent national security needs.
For decades, Lockheed Martin has been applying and deploying trusted AI technologies to help its customers maximize performance, safety, and situational awareness across all domains. Lockheed Martin’s implementations keep people in control while enabling them to be safer, more effective and better able to focus on higher-level tasks by empowering them to make more-informed decisions quickly.
VISTA will continue to serve an integral role in the rapid development of AI and autonomy capabilities for U.S. Air Force. It is currently undergoing a series of routine inspections. Flights will resume at Edwards Air Force Base throughout 2023.
Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) system has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC). With IOC, the U.S. Army demonstrated the ability to field, employ and maintain CIRCM in significant quantities on its rotary wing platforms. This milestone advances the accelerated fielding of CIRCM systems on more than 1,500 Army aircraft. CIRCM has met the IOC requirements for UH-60M, HH-60M, CH-47F and AH-64Es.
«CIRCM’s ability to track and rapidly defeat infrared-guided threats has been validated over thousands of hours of rigorous testing in laboratory, flight and live-fire test environments», said Bob Gough, vice president, navigation, targeting and survivability, Northrop Grumman. «Achieving IOC was made possible by the entire team’s dedication and our strong partnership with the Army. Together we’ll provide U.S. Army aircrews with CIRCM’s unmatched threat protection».
CIRCM protects against shoulder-fired and vehicle-launched anti-aircraft missiles that home in on the heat signature of an aircraft. The system helps ensure aircrew survivability, enabling the warfighter to focus on their mission.
Due to CIRCM’s reduced weight and increased power, system installs on the existing fleet will inform Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) requirements, making this critical life-saving technology a key enabler for Multi-Domain Operations and advancements in Army modernization.
As the next generation of laser-based infrared countermeasure systems, CIRCM’s modular, open systems approach works with existing hardware, simplifies upgrades, and keeps lifecycle costs low to provide flexibility and a solid platform to build upon in the future. Northrop Grumman continues to develop and improve CIRCM to overmatch current and future threats. One upgrade currently in test is an enhanced laser Line Replaceable Unit which will increase capability against near-peer threats.
Northrop Grumman has delivered over 250 CIRCM systems to the Army and over 100 aircraft have been equipped. CIRCM has accumulated more than 11,000 flight hours since its first field installation in December 2021.
Australia will acquire 40 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks, which are designed and manufactured by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company. The deal between the Australian and United States governments for a foreign military sale of 40 UH-60Ms for the Australian Army is valued at approximately $1.95 billion. Deliveries are slated to begin early this year.
«The multi-mission UH-60M Black Hawk provides the Australian Army with critical capabilities that will strengthen Australia’s readiness, interoperability and security for decades to come», said Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo. «We continue to invest in Black Hawk modernization to provide operators with the competitive edge they require to counter and deter threats today and in future Joint All-Domain Operations».
The UH-60M Black Hawks will replace Australia’s current non-Black Hawk multi-role helicopter fleet with a more reliable and proven system.
«We have proudly sustained Australia’s Black Hawk fleet for decades», said Nathalie Previte, Sikorsky’s vice president of Army and Air Force programs. «This experience coupled with Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s investment in our Australian team and local facilities strongly positions us to support the Australian Army’s operational and maintenance needs».
Sikorsky’s U.S. workforce and hot production lines are actively producing aircraft. The U.S. Government awarded Sikorsky its tenth multi-year production contract in 2022 to build Black Hawks for the U.S. Army and international militaries. These next generation aircraft will be in operation for the next several decades and alongside future fleets.
The Black Hawk is unmatched for durability, survivability, multi-role versatility, affordability and interoperability, and has proven to be a dependable battlefield and special forces aviation asset for Australia and 34 other countries around the globe.
Lockheed Martin sees strong international interest in the Black Hawk and continues to invest in the platform – from sustainment to digital transformation and modernization – to provide militaries with the competitive edge they require today and in the future.
«Investments are aligned with the Black Hawk’s largest operator, the U.S. Army, and their technology roadmap, while leveraging Future Vertical Lift technologies to ensure the Black Hawk will be a key player in the Joint All Domain Operations environment and FVL ecosystem», said Previte.
The UH-60M helicopter culminates decades of technological advancement, improved performance and real-world operational experience. Digital avionics and autopilot reduce pilot workload while enhancing situational awareness and improving survivability.
Previte adds, «We are confident that the Black Hawk, which is designed and built to meet the rigorous requirements of the U.S. military, is the most capable platform and the right choice to help fulfill the Australian Army’s rotary wing needs and that of our existing and future customers».
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) will manufacture and perform demonstration flights of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) unmanned Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) aircraft. Following a 12-month base period that culminated in a Critical Design Review (CDR), AFRL exercised a build and flight test option.
GA-ASI’s innovative Gambit Series aircraft will validate the “genus/species” concept first developed by AFRL as part of the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Platform Sharing (LCAAPS) program focused on building several aircraft variants from a common core chassis. LCAAPS is a major air vehicle effort under AFRL’s Autonomous Collaborative Enabling Technologies (ACET) portfolio, which is focused on developing technologies for Autonomous Collaborative Platforms (ACP).
«Throughout our 30-year history, GA-ASI has pioneered the advancement of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) that support our warfighters», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «AFRL is moving forward with GA-ASI because we have the right background and experience to develop the OBSS aircraft at scale and on time, and we look forward to working with them to deliver another game-changing UAS».
Two teams – General Atomics working with Maritime Applied Physics Corporation and Aurora Flight Sciences working with Gibbs & Cox and ReconCraft – will develop designs for DARPA’s Liberty Lifter Seaplane Wing-in-Ground Effect full-scale demonstrator. The Liberty Lifter program aims to demonstrate a leap-ahead in operational capability by designing, building, floating, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-Plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical heavy lift.
The planned Liberty Lifter demonstrator will be a large flying boat similar in size and capacity to the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. Goals include takeoff and land in Sea State 4, sustained on-water operation up to Sea State 5, and extended flight close to the water in ground effect with the capability to fly out of ground effect at altitudes up to 10,000 feet/3,048 m above sea level.
«We are excited to kick off this program and looking forward to working closely with both performer teams as they mature their point-of-departure design concepts through Phase 1», said Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Liberty Lifter Program Manager Christopher Kent. «The two teams have taken distinctly different design approaches that will enable us to explore a relatively large design space during Phase 1».
The General Atomics team has selected a twin-hull, mid-wing design to optimize on-water stability and seakeeping. It employs distributed propulsion using twelve turboshaft engines.
Aurora Flight Sciences point-of-departure design more closely resembles a traditional flying boat, with a single hull, high wing and eight turboprops for primary propulsion.
During Phase 1, DARPA will work with both performer teams and Department of Defense (DoD) stakeholders to refine the Liberty Lifter designs with particular attention to operational needs and operating concepts. The Phase 1 contract awards are for an 18-month period of performance with six months of conceptual design work and nine months of design maturation culminating in a preliminary design review. There will be an additional three months for manufacturing planning and test/demonstration planning reviews.
As scheduled, Phase 1 will transition into Phase 2 in mid-2024 with continued detailed design, manufacturing, and demonstration of a full-scale Liberty Lifter X-Plane. DARPA anticipates teaming with one or more DoD Service and international partners for those activities and further development of the Liberty Lifter concept into an operational vehicle.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a new survivable Air-Launched Effect (ALE) for the first time as part of a flight demonstration based out of the Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, on December 8, 2022. The ALE, known as Eaglet, was launched from a U.S. Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The Eaglet flight was jointly funded by GA-ASI and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and Aviation & Missile Center (AvMC).
«The first flight of the Eaglet was an important milestone for the GA-ASI/U.S. Army team», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «Eaglet is intended to be a low-cost, survivable UAS with the versatility to be launched from a Gray Eagle, rotary-wing aircraft, or ground vehicles. It enables extended reach of sensors and increased lethality while providing survivability for manned aircraft».
Eaglet fits into the ‘ALE Large’ category, which encompasses larger, more powerful sensors or payloads. Because of its design, Eaglet is capable of carrying a diverse range of payloads in support of multiple Army missions.
Eaglet design extends battlefield options for commanders while reducing their decision cycles. Gray Eagle can carry Eaglet for thousands of kilometers before launching it while being controlled through unmanned-unmanned teaming or as a component of advanced teaming command and control concepts.
Eaglet can work in concert with other long-range payloads carried by Gray Eagles, helicopters, or other platforms to support deep sensing in Multi-Domain Operations.
With this successful flight of the Eaglet, GA-ASI will work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to feature it in other exercises to further determine its potential. The Eaglet is the newest entry into GA-ASI’s Evolution Series of advanced UAS concepts.
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Boeing a $2.3 billion contract for the ninth production lot of 15 KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft, expanding its fleet of the world’s most advanced multi-mission aerial refueler. To date, 128 KC-46A Pegasus are on contract with the U.S. Air Force, with 68 delivered and operationally deployed worldwide.
«The combat-ready KC-46A Pegasus is transforming the role of the tanker for the 21st century», said James Burgess, vice president and KC-46A Pegasus program manager. «We’re proud to work side-by-side with the U.S. Air Force ensuring the KC-46A Pegasus provides unmatched capabilities and continues to evolve for the U.S. and its allies’ global mission needs».
The KC-46A Pegasus delivers crucial fuel and data for the fleet, as well as cargo, personnel and aeromedical transportation for joint force rapid mobility, global reach and agile combat employment.
Last year, the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command approved the KC-46A Pegasus for global operations including combat deployment. The KC-46A Pegasus continues to demonstrate its agile combat employment capabilities, recently completing a 42-hour endurance flight supporting a U.S. Air Force Bomber Task Force mission in the Indo-Pacific region.
During 2022, KC-46A Pegasus aircraft operating in a series of U.S. Air Force global employment exercises in the European theater, Indo-Pacific region and the Middle East performed at a greater than 95% mission capable rate, demonstrating the aircraft’s reliability and combat readiness.
Boeing builds KC-46A Pegasus aircraft on the 767 production line in Everett, Washington, supported by a supplier network of about 37,000 American workers employed by more than 650 businesses throughout more than 40 U.S. states. With Boeing’s in-line production, the KC-46A Pegasus is designed and built as a tanker from day one – not a post-production conversion – making the Pegasus uniquely suited to integrate advanced technology for fleet data connectivity and combat-ready defensive features, as well as new capabilities as the needs of the mission evolve.
Boeing is on contract for 138 KC-46A Pegasus tankers globally. Boeing has delivered two of six KC-46A Pegasus tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), and is on contract for four KC-46A Pegasus tankers for the Israel Air Force (IAF). The expanding global fleet creates commonality and interoperability efficiencies and mission-readiness advantages for the U.S. Air Force and allies.
Aerial refueling and airlift
The Boeing Company
2 × Pratt & Whitney 4062
62,000 lbs/275.790 kN/28,123 kgf – Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)
157 feet, 8 inches/48.1 m
165 feet, 6 inches/50.5 m
52 feet, 10 inches/15.9 m
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW)
415,000 lbs/188,240 kg
Maximum Landing Weight
310,000 lbs/140,614 kg
212,299 lbs/96,297 kg
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load
207,672 lbs/94,198 kg
Maximum Cargo Capacity
65,000 lbs/29,484 kg
360 KCAS (Knots Calibrated AirSpeed)/0.86 M/414 mph/667 km/h
43,100 feet/13,137 m
7,299 NM/8,400 miles/13,518 km
18 pallet positions
15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew
58 total (normal operations); up to 114 total (contingency operations)
58 patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory) with the AE Patient Support Pallet configuration; 6 integral litters carried as part of normal aircraft configuration equipment