Category Archives: Air

B-52 fleet

Rolls-Royce on March 01, 2023 announces it has launched F130 engine testing at the company’s outdoor test facility at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, U.S. Rolls-Royce F130 engines were selected by the United States Air Force to replace the existing powerplants in the B-52 Stratofortress fleet, with over 600 new engine deliveries expected. This milestone test program is the first time F130 engines have been tested in the dual-pod engine configuration of the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft. Each B-52 Stratofortress aircraft has eight engines in four pods.

Rolls-Royce F130
Rolls-Royce has begun testing two F130 engines for the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. F130 engines have been selected by the United States Air Force to re-engine the iconic B-52 Stratofortress aircraft fleet. The F130 engines for B-52 Stratofortress will be manufactured in the company’s facilities in Indianapolis in the U.S.

The engine testing will focus on crosswind aerodynamic flow as well as confirming the successful operation of the engine’s digital controls system. Early results from the testing have been very positive with additional test data to be analyzed over the next several months.

Rolls-Royce is collaborating very closely with the Air Force and Boeing, which is managing the overall engine integration and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft modernization program. The new engines will extend the life of the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft for 30 years. F130 engines are so durable they are expected to remain on wing for the remainder of the aircraft life.

Candice Bineyard, Director, Programs – Defence, said: «We are excited to begin this milestone testing program, the first step for what will be decades of successful engine operation for the United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress fleet. Rolls-Royce continues to work very closely with the Air Force and Boeing to ensure the engine testing and integration process run smoothly. This will result in higher fuel efficiency, reduced air refueling requirements, and significantly lower maintenance costs for the B-52 Stratofortress fleet. We look forward to sharing test results with the Air Force and Boeing as the test plan progresses at the NASA Stennis Space Center».

F130 engines will be manufactured, assembled and tested at Rolls-Royce facilities in Indianapolis, the company’s largest production facility in the U.S. Rolls-Royce has invested $1 Billion in recent years to completely modernize manufacturing and testing facilities in Indiana, as well as for advanced technology.

F130 engines were selected for the B-52 Stratofortress by the Air Force in September 2021 following a competitive selection process. The F130 is derived from the Rolls-Royce BR family of commercial engines, with over 30 million hours of operation and a high reliability rate. It’s a proven, dependable engine with a fuel-efficient design.

E-7 program

Boeing will begin development of two new U.S. variants of the E-7 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft through a $1.2 billion Undefinitized Contract Action.

An artist’s depiction shows the E-7A AEW&C in flight. The E-7A AEW&C will allow the U.S. Air Force to retain air dominance for decades to come (Boeing image)

The E-7 provides a fully integrated, combat-proven, flexible command and control node that delivers multi-domain awareness in the most challenging operational environments. The E-7’s open systems architecture and agile software design enable the aircraft’s capabilities to evolve and remain ahead of future threats.

«The E-7 is a proven platform», said Stu Voboril, E-7 program vice president and general manager. «It is the only advanced aircraft that is capable of meeting the U.S. Air Force’s near-term Airborne Early Warning & Control requirement while enabling integration across the joint force».

The E-7 tracks multiple airborne and maritime threats simultaneously with 360-degree coverage via the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) sensor. MESA provides the warfighter with critical domain awareness to detect and identify adversarial targets at long range and dynamically adjusts to emerging tactical situations.

Other E-7 operators include the Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Turkish Air Force and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.

The E-7 uses a well-established supply chain which significantly reduces maintenance and logistics costs and increases mission readiness on day one. Converted from the Next-Generation 737-700, the E-7 capitalizes on existing commercial derivative aircraft design, certification and modification processes, allowing E-7s to be fielded to meet Air Force needs.

Production Completion Date

Boeing expects to complete new-build production of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft in late 2025 following delivery of the final U.S. Navy fighters. Production could be extended to 2027 if the Super Hornet is selected by an international customer.

F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III
A Boeing-built F/A-18 Super Hornet takes off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. Boeing will continue to deliver new Block III Super Hornets to the Navy through 2025 (Boeing photo)

To meet demand for defense products and services, Boeing plans to continue hiring year-over-year for the next five at its St. Louis site. More than 900 people were hired in the region last year.

«We are planning for our future, and building fighter aircraft is in our DNA», said Steve Nordlund, Boeing Air Dominance vice president and St. Louis site leader. «As we invest in and develop the next era of capability, we are applying the same innovation and expertise that made the F/A-18 a workhorse for the U.S. Navy and air forces around the world for nearly 40 years».

The F/A-18 production decision allows Boeing to:

  • Redirect resources to future military aircraft programs: To support work on the next generation of advanced crewed and uncrewed aircraft, Boeing plans to build three new, state-of-the-art facilities in St. Louis. These facilities, as well as the new Advanced Composite Fabrication Center in Arizona, and the new MQ-25 Stingray production facility at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, represent more than a $1 billion investment.
    • Boeing has invested $700 million into St. Louis infrastructure upgrades during the past decade, enabling the introduction of new design and build techniques streamlining processes and improving first-time quality.
  • Ramp up production of critical new defense programs: Boeing St. Louis will increase production of the world’s first all-digital training system, the T-7A Red Hawk, and the world’s first carrier-deployed autonomous refueling aircraft, the MQ-25 Stingray, along with ongoing production of new F-15EX Eagle IIs and 777X wing components.
  • Focus on modernization and upgrade efforts: Boeing will continue to develop advanced capabilities and upgrades for the global F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler fleet. Throughout the next decade, all Block II Super Hornets in Service Life Modification will receive the Block III capability suite. Boeing will also continue to add advanced electronic attack capability as part of ongoing EA-18G Growler modifications.

Since the F/A-18 debuted in 1983, Boeing has delivered more than 2,000 Hornets, Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to customers around the world including the U.S. Navy, Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland.

Bahrain AH-1Z

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, has completed the AH-1Z Program of Record (POR) for the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bell delivered the final production aircraft to Naval Air Systems Command in December of 2022. The first Bahrain AH-1Zs made their in-country debut during the Bahrain Air Show and six have been delivered in country. The final six helicopters will be prepared for shipment to Bahrain with the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) before being transported to Bahrain in 2023.

AH-1Z Viper
Bell Completes Bahrain AH-1Z Program of Record

«Congratulations to the Kingdom of Bahrain on obtaining the latest generation of the AH-1Zs», said Mike Deslatte, Bell vice president and H-1 program director. «As a leader in the region, Bahrain’s defensive capabilities will be further bolstered by the advanced technologies of the AH-1Z Viper».

The completion of the Bahrain AH-1Z Viper program of record comes on the heels of Bell completing the U.S. Marine Corps program of record, signifying two major H-1 production milestones in one year. The AH-1Z Viper is Bell’s newest generation of dedicated attack helicopters manufactured by Bell. The U.S. Marine Corps currently operates the AH-1Z Viper around the world, taking advantage of the minimal logistics requirements for shipboard and expeditionary operations.

«Capabilities are only part of the equation when it comes to modernizing an aircraft fleet», Deslatte added. «By ensuring the aircraft can operate with minimal logistics support, the AH-1Z Viper enables leaders to react with greater speed and agility to rapidly evolving operations».

Bell continues to work with Kingdom of Bahrain on post-shipping inspections and re-assembly to guarantee configuration as defined in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case. In addition to manufacturing and delivering the new AH-1Z Vipers, Bell will support the lifecycle of the aircraft to ensure reliability, survivability and lethality on the modern battlefield.

Continues production of Foreign Military Sales Aircraft

Indonesian Hercules

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.

C-130J-30 Super Hercules
Lockheed Martin delivered the first of five C-130J-30s to the Indonesian Air Force on February 21, 2023 (Lockheed Martin photo by Thinh D. Nguyen)

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.

King Stallion

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.

CH-53K King Stallion
Sikorsky delivered two CH-53K King Stallion Helicopters to the U.S. Marine Corps in December 2022. The heavy lift helicopters will be based at Marine Corps Air Station 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».

Across Domains

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.

MQ-4C Triton Flying Test Bed
Northrop Grumman demonstrates its next generation gateway system on a Triton Flying Test Bed. This multi-platform, multi-domain capability on the Triton platform bolsters the Navy’s interoperability to help enable distributed maritime operations (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

«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.

Artificial Intelligence Agent

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.

The X-62A VISTA Aircraft flying above Edwards Air Force Base, California (Photo Credit: Kyle Brasier, U.S. Air Force)

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.

Infrared Countermeasure

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.

The CIRCM system has undergone thousands of hours of rigorous testing in laboratory, flight and live-fire test environments

«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.

Australian Black Hawks

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.

UH-60M Black Hawk
Government of Australia to acquire 40 UH-60M Black Hawks, which are built and produced by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

«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».