Category Archives: Air

X-Plane

DARPA has selected multiple performers to continue the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. Aurora Flight Sciences and Lockheed Martin Corporation are now entering Phase 1, which includes system requirements development, initial design work, software development, and initial airworthiness activities that culminate in a preliminary design review.

Aurora Flight Sciences
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, was selected to continue to Phase 1 of DARPA’s CRANE program

«The Phase 1 researchers have completed conceptual designs of novel flight demonstration configurations with quantifiable performance benefits enabled by Active Flow Control (AFC)», said Doctor Alexander Walan, program manager for CRANE in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «Multiple AFC technologies will continue to be matured through advanced analytical and testing activities for incorporation in relevant demonstrator designs».

One of the primary objectives of Phase 0 was the development and maturation of AFC design software and databases for inclusion in future aircraft development activities. Georgia Tech Research Corporation’s Phase 0 effort has been extended to allow further refinement of these tools for transition to relevant military and government partners.

«In addition to its role in upcoming flight test activities, AFC design software is a critical piece for the inclusion of AFC technologies in future defense and commercial aircraft designs», said Walan. «The CRANE program is in a unique position to provide a comprehensive AFC database and the associated tools to future aircraft designers. The continuation of Georgia Tech Research Corporation’s work in this area will ensure this valuable capability is successfully transitioned to the aircraft design community».

DARPA has also selected another performer, BAE Systems, to initiate a Phase 0 conceptual design activity. Phase 0 is focused on AFC trade space exploration and risk reduction activities to inform this work. Under the recent Phase 0 award, BAE Systems will evaluate the benefits of using AFC integrated into different air vehicle concepts leading to a conceptual design review.

«All of the CRANE performers are exploring unique configurations and performance objectives; this additional performer adds to the diverse concepts and technologies being matured by the CRANE program», said Walan.

Milestone C

The U.S. Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) received Milestone C (MS-C) approval August 23, allowing the program to move into its first phase of production.

AARGM-ER
The U.S. Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER) completes its first live fire event July 19 off the coast of Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California (U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. Navy plans to award the first two low-rate initial production lots over the next several months.

«The combined government/industry team has worked tirelessly over the last few years to reach this milestone», said Captain Alex Dutko, Direct and Time Sensitive Strike (PMA-242) program manager. «We look forward to getting this new weapon with its increased capability and lethality out to the fleet as soon as possible».

The MS-C decision comes just over two years after the Navy awarded the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract to its prime contractor, Northrop Grumman. The team conducted the first live-fire event in July to verify system integration and rocket motor performance, as well as initiate modeling and simulation validation.

Captive and live fire flight testing is planned to continue through 2022 and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is planned for 2023.

The U.S. Navy is integrating AARGM-ER on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, and it will be compatible for integration on the F-35 Lightning II. By leveraging the U.S. Navy’s AARGM program, the AARGM-ER with a new rocket motor and warhead will provide advanced capability to detect and engage enemy air defense systems.

Transwing VTOL

PteroDynamics, an aircraft design and manufacturing company that develops innovative Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, is on August 23, 2021 announcing it has secured a contract with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) to deliver 3 VTOL prototypes for the Blue Water Maritime Logistics UAS (BWUAS) program.

Transwing VTOL
Transwing design solves the most critical challenge facing VTOL aircraft: substantially greater range for any given energy source and payload weight fraction. This is critical to unleash the market opportunity for advanced air mobility

In 2018, Military Sealift Command and Fleet Forces Command identified a need for the United States Navy to develop a capability to autonomously deliver cargo with an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to and from ships at sea. Their analysis found that 90% of critical repair cargo delivered at sea by helicopters and V-22 Osprey aircraft weighed less than 50 pounds/22.7 kg. A VTOL UAS can fill this critical need and free the manned aircraft to perform other higher priority missions.

«We are honored to be selected for this important project», said Matthew Graczyk, PteroDynamics’ CEO. «This contract is the start of an important partnership, and we look forward to delivering the prototypes to NAWCAD».

PteroDynamics is a US-based aircraft manufacturer headquartered in Southern California

«This is an exciting milestone for our distinctive VTOL aircraft», added Val Petrov, PhD, PteroDynamics’ founder and CTO. «Our design is well suited for operations on ships where windy conditions and tight spaces challenge other VTOL aircraft during takeoffs and landings».

«Using unmanned, autonomous aircraft for delivery of these critical payloads is an important capability for the Navy to have», said Blue Water’s project lead, Bill Macchione. «The innovative design of PteroDynamics offers significant potential for both military and civilian missions».

PteroDynamics
Transwing aircraft fold their wings during flight to transition between rotorcraft and fixed-wing configurations

Rollout ceremony

Boeing, in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), celebrated the naming and rollout of Qatar’s advanced F-15, the F-15QA Strike Eagle.

F-15QA Strike Eagle
Boeing Unveils F-15 Qatar Advanced Jets

«The rollout of the F-15QA Strike Eagle is momentous, not just in terms of capability but also in terms of the enhanced partnership it represents. The relationship the United States shares with Qatar is critical to the stability and security of the central command area of responsibility, and we are grateful for our coalition partner’s continued focus on building interoperability and combined readiness», said Lieutenant General Greg Guillot, commander of 9th Air Force. «It is a privilege and honor to stand with our Qatari counterparts this day and every day».

The first set of F-15QA Strike Eagle jets will ferry to Qatar later this year following the completion of pre-delivery pilot training.

«The Qatar F-15QA Strike Eagle program further enhanced next-generation technologies in the advanced F-15 such as the fly-by-wire flight controls, an all-glass digital cockpit and contemporary sensors, radar and electronic warfare capabilities», said Prat Kumar, vice president of the F-15 program. «Driven by digital engineering and advanced manufacturing, these aircraft represent a transformational leap for the F-15. The F-15QA Strike Eagle will enhance the superiority of the QEAF with more speed, range and payload than any fighter in the world».

Boeing has been providing maintenance and logistics support for the QEAF during pre-delivery pilot training, which began earlier this year. In addition, Boeing will establish and operate an aircrew and maintenance training center for the QEAF at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar through 2024 while also providing in-country spares and logistics support once aircraft are delivered.

«Boeing is proud to provide a holistic solution to our valued Qatari customer through tailored training and sustainment», said Torbjorn «Turbo» Sjogren, vice president of International Government & Defence for Boeing. «We look forward to our continued partnership with Qatar and further supporting their mission readiness needs».

Tanker for Japan

The first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker built for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) recently refueled another KC-46A Pegasus aircraft in the skies over Washington state. The Japan-bound tanker also successfully received fuel in return.

KC-46 Pegasus
The Japan-bound tanker recently refueled another KC-46A Pegasus in the skies over Washington state (Kevin Flynn photo)

«Refueling with the first Japan KC-46A Pegasus is an important milestone for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force», said Jamie Burgess, KC-46 Pegasus program manager. «KC-46A Pegasus is the world’s most advanced air refueling aircraft and has already transferred more than 42 million gallons of fuel to other aircraft globally through its boom and drogue systems».

Japan is the KC-46 Pegasus program’s first non-U.S. customer and is scheduled to receive its first aircraft this year.

«State-of-the-art refueling makes the KC-46A Pegasus a standout, but this tanker goes well beyond that», said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan. «The ability to carry cargo and passengers while maintaining tactical situational awareness makes the aircraft a critical tool in the security alliance between the U.S. and Japan».

The Japan KC-46A Pegasus is capable of refueling U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for the JASDF’s first KC-46A Pegasus tanker in December 2017. The agreement was completed through the Foreign Military Sale process between the U.S. government and Japan. A second Japan tanker is already in production.

Boeing is assembling the KC-46A Pegasus aircraft for both the U.S. Air Force and Japan on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16% of the KC-46A Pegasus airframe structure.

 

General Characteristics

Primary Function Aerial refueling and airlift
Prime Contractor The Boeing Company
Power Plant 2 × Pratt & Whitney 4062
Thrust 62,000 lbs./275.790 kN/28,123 kgf – Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)
Wingspan 157 feet, 8 inches/48.1 m
Length 165 feet, 6 inches/50.5 m
Height 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
Fuel Capacity 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
Maximum Airspeed 360 KCAS (Knots Calibrated AirSpeed)/0.86 M/414 mph/667 km/h
Service Ceiling 43,100 feet/13,137 m
Maximum Distance 7,299 NM/8,400 miles/13,518 km
Pallet Positions 18 pallet positions
Air Crew 15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew
Passengers 58 total (normal operations); up to 114 total (contingency operations)
Aeromedical Evacuation 58 patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory) with the AE Patient Support Pallet configuration; 6 integral litters carried as part of normal aircraft configuration equipment

 

Stingray and Hawkeye

The U.S. Navy and Boeing have completed a second carrier-based aircraft unmanned refueling mission with the Boeing-owned MQ-25TM T1 test asset, this time refueling a Navy E-2D Hawkeye command and control aircraft.

MQ-25 Stingray
Boeing’s MQ-25 T1 test asset refuels a U.S. Navy E-2D Hawkeye command and control aircraft August 18 during a flight test mission conducted from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. The flight followed the historic June 4 refueling of a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, the first time an unmanned aircraft had refueled another aircraft (Credit: Kate Lowry)

During a test flight from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport on August 18, pilots from the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-20 conducted a successful wake survey behind MQ-25 T1 to ensure performance and stability before making contact with T1’s aerial refueling drogue. The E-2D Hawkeye received fuel from T1’s aerial refueling store during the flight.

«Once operational the MQ-25 Stingray will refuel every receiver-capable platform, including E-2D Hawkeye», said Captain Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager. «This flight keeps us on a fast track to getting the Stingray out to the fleet where its refueling capability will greatly increase the range and operational flexibility of the carrier air wing and strike group».

The MQ-25 Stingray will be assigned to the carrier airborne early warning squadron within the carrier air wing, which currently operates the E-2 C/D Hawkeye aircraft – known as the «digital quarterback» of the fleet for its role in joint battle management and command and control.

«It was another great flight showing that our MQ-25 Stingray design is performing to plan», said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray program director. «These historic refueling flights provide an incredible amount of data we feed back into the MQ-25 Stingray digital models to ensure the aircraft we’re producing will be the U.S. Navy’s game-changer for the carrier air wing».

This is the second aerial refueling mission the MQ-25 Stingray team has conducted this summer. On June 4, the MQ-25 T1 test asset became the first unmanned aircraft to refuel another aircraft, a U.S. Navy Super Hornet. Both flights were conducted at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes, with the E-2D Hawkeye and F/A-18 Super Hornet performing maneuvers in close proximity to MQ-25 T1.

Boeing is currently manufacturing the first two of seven MQ-25 Stingray test aircraft and two ground test articles currently under contract. The Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset is a predecessor to these aircraft. The MQ-25 Stingray is leveraging advancements in model-based digital engineering and design, and ongoing flights are intended to test aircraft design and performance much earlier than traditional programs.

FARA Prototype

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, has released new data on the build and testing for the Bell 360 Invictus competitive prototype. The Bell 360 program is rapidly progressing through manufacturing, assembly, components testing, and systems integration work for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program. The team has completed multiple design and risk reviews with the Army and is on schedule for all program requirements. The Bell 360, a low-risk, high-speed platform with proven technology and inherently reliable designs, will deliver soldiers transformational operational capabilities at an affordable cost.

Bell 360 Invictus
Bell and Team Invictus are combining industry-leading technology with digital processes to improve manufacturing, testing, and integration schedules to deliver a high-performance attack and reconnaissance aircraft

«This team is achieving great results responding to requirements, reducing programmatic risk, and delivering state-of-the-art capabilities for the Army», said Chris Gehler, vice president and program director for the Bell 360 Invictus. «We are combining Bell’s unique knowledge of the demands placed on scout aircraft with engineering and technical expertise to give the Army a weapon system to dominate attack reconnaissance missions for decades to come».

Since beginning the build in late 2020, Bell has made significant progress on the Bell 360 Invictus fuselage, main rotor blades, gearbox assembly, cases, and other high-value components. By implementing a design-as-built methodology that digitally connects the entire program throughout its lifecycle, Bell has increased its ability to collaborate in real-time with program partners and the Army. This method accelerates decision-making among distributed teams using a common, secure data environment that creates a singular source of data for the program leading to reduced assembly, rework time and cost.

Along with assembling the Bell 360 Invictus, high-value components such as the main rotor gearbox, driveshafts and couplings are being tested at Bell’s Drive Systems Test Lab (DSTL). The DSTL is used to carry out risk-reduction efforts that ensure the program has accurate and verified data to qualify components in advance of flight test.

A new FARA-specific Systems Integration Lab (SIL) is also operational at Bell. This facility allows Bell to integrate flight-critical components, software, and mission systems for testing, verification, and validation of functionality before they take flight on an actual aircraft. This approach reduces technical risk and aids in the safe, rapid, and efficient execution of flight test program.

«The Bell 360 Invictus is an exciting aircraft that brings sophisticated digital systems together in a high-speed, reliable, maintainable vehicle for austere environments around the world», said Jayme Gonzalez, program manager, Bell 360 Invictus. «The Bell 360 offers the Army the ability to modernize using simplified and inherently reliable designs to reduce costs and deliver enhanced effectiveness for the Army».

Maiden Flight

The first of five Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft for Norway performed its maiden flight yesterday, August 9. The aircraft took off at 10:03 a.m. Pacific time and flew for 2 hours, 24 minutes, reaching a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet/12,497 m during the flight from Renton Municipal Airport to Boeing Field in Seattle.

P-8A Poseidon
Norway’s First P-8A Poseidon Performs Maiden Flight

The first flight marks the next phase of the production cycle of this aircraft as it is moved to the Installation and Checkout facility, where mission systems will be installed and additional testing will take place before final delivery to the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) later this year.

«This inaugural flight is an important milestone for Norway, and the Boeing team remains committed to delivering the P-8 Poseidon fleet to the NDMA on schedule», said Christian Thomsen, P-8 Poseidon Europe program manager. «The P-8 Poseidon is a capability that will help Norway improve anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and search-and-rescue missions, in addition to fostering valuable regional collaboration and interoperability with NATO nations».

The five P-8As will eventually replace Norway’s current fleet of six P-3 Orions and three DA-20 Jet Falcons. The Royal Norwegian Air Force currently operates its P-3s from Andoya Air Station. With the introduction of the P-8s, flight operations will move to new facilities at Evenes Air Station.

To date, Boeing has delivered 136 P-8 Poseidon aircraft to the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Navy and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. Norway is one of eight nations that have selected the P-8A Poseidon as their maritime patrol aircraft, along with the United States, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Korea, New Zealand and Germany.

 

Technical Specifications

Wing Span 123.6 feet/37.64 m
Height 42.1 feet/12.83 m
Length 129.5 feet/39.47 m
Propulsion 2 × CFM56-7B engines
27,000 lbs./12,237 kgf/120 kN thrust
Speed 490 knots/564 mph/908 km/h
Range 1,200 NM/1,381 miles/2,222 km with 4 hours on station
Ceiling 41,000 feet/12,497 m
Crew 9
Maximum Take-Off Gross Weight 189,200 lbs./85,820 kg

 

Flight Trials

Schiebel Aircraft and Areté Associates, successfully showcased the CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) combined with Areté’s Pushbroom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) sensor to the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

CAMCOPTER S-100
Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 successfully completes flight trials for U.S. Navy

In a combined demonstration sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) on a commercial vessel off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Schiebel and Areté demonstrated the CAMCOPTER S-100 and its capabilities, as well as Areté’s Push-broom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) system.

PILLS enables hydrographic mapping of ocean littoral spaces with a low Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) sensor that easily integrates into the S-100. PILLS has multiple military and commercial applications.

Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group, said: «We are proud that we could successfully showcase the outstanding capabilities and data-gathering features of our CAMCOPTER S-100 to the US Navy. Globally, we operate extensively on land and at sea and we are confident that our unmanned solution is also the right fit for the U.S. Navy».

 

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 by day and by 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 fibre and titanium fuselage provides capacity for a wide range of payload/endurance combinations up to a service ceiling of 5,500 m/18,000 feet. In a typical configuration, the CAMCOPTER S-100 carries a 34-kg/75-lbs. 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.

Design Concepts

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, announced on August 2, 2021 the unveiling of design concepts for new aircraft systems for military applications which would use Bell’s High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) technology as the company continues its innovation of next generation vertical lift aircraft. HSVTOL technology blends the hover capability of a helicopter with the speed, range and survivability features of a fighter aircraft.

HSVTOL
Bell Unveils New High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing Design Concepts for Military Application

«Bell’s HSVTOL technology is a step change improvement in rotorcraft capabilities», said Jason Hurst, vice president, Innovation. «Our technology investments have reduced risk and prepared us for rapid development of HSVTOL in a digital engineering environment, leveraging experience from a robust past of technology exploration and close partnerships with the Department of Defense and Research Laboratories».

Bell’s HSVTOL design concepts include the following features:

  • Low downwash hover capability;
  • Jet-like cruise speeds over 400 kts/460 mph/741 km/h;
  • True runway independence and hover endurance;
  • Scalability to the range of missions from unmanned personnel recovery to tactical mobility;
  • Aircraft gross weights range from 4,000 lbs./1,814 kg to over 100,000 lbs./45,359 kg

Bell’s HSVTOL capability is critical to future mission needs offering a range of aircraft systems with enhanced runway independence, aircraft survivability, mission flexibility and enhanced performance over legacy platforms. With the convergence of tiltrotor aircraft capabilities, digital flight control advancements and emerging propulsion technologies, Bell is primed to evolve HSVTOL technology for modern military missions to serve the next generation of warfighters.

Bell has explored high-speed vertical lift aircraft technology for more than 85 years, pioneering innovative VTOL configurations like the X-14, X-22, XV-3 and XV-15 for NASA, the U.S Army and U.S. Air Force. The lessons learned from the XV-3 and XV-15 supported the development of the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, an invaluable platform that changed the way the U.S. military conducts amphibious assault, long range infiltration and exfiltration and resupply with a cruise speed and range twice that of helicopters it replaced.