Tactical Boost Glide

Raytheon Company won a $63.3 million DARPA contract to further develop the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic weapons program. The joint DARPA and U.S. Air Force effort includes a critical design review, a key step in fielding the technology.

Raytheon wins $63.3 million DARPA contract for hypersonic weapons work
Raytheon wins $63.3 million DARPA contract for hypersonic weapons work

«This latest contract adds to Raytheon’s growing number of hypersonic weapons programs», said Doctor Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. «Raytheon is working closely with our customers to quickly field these advanced weapon systems and provide our nation’s military with the tools they need to stay ahead of the escalating threat».

Hypersonic weapons will enable the U.S. military to engage from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current weapon systems.

Systems that operate at hypersonic speeds – five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and beyond – offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems. Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance.

The Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that aims to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable future air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost glide systems. In a boost glide system, a rocket accelerates its payload to high speeds. The payload then separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.

The TBG program plans to focus on three primary objectives:

  • Vehicle Feasibility – Vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic and aerothermal performance, controllability and robustness for a wide operational envelope;
  • Effectiveness – System attributes and subsystems required to be effective in relevant operational environments;
  • Affordability – Approaches to reducing cost and increasing value for both the demonstration system and future operational systems.

TBG is a two-phase effort that plans to include ground and flight testing to mature critical technologies, and aims to demonstrate the system performance achievable through the integration of those technologies. The program is using a disciplined systems engineering approach to define demonstration system objectives and identify enabling technologies needed for future systems. The TBG program is exploiting the technical knowledge and lessons derived from development and flight testing of previous boost glide systems, including the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2).

New H145

Airbus Helicopters is unveiling a new version of its best-selling H145 light twin-engine helicopter at Heli-Expo 2019 in Atlanta. Visible on the Airbus booth at the show, this latest upgrade brings a new, innovative five-bladed rotor to the multi-mission H145, increasing the useful load of the helicopter by 150 kg/331 lbs. while delivering new levels of comfort, simplicity and connectivity.

Airbus Helicopters unveils new H145 at Heli-Expo 2019
Airbus Helicopters unveils new H145 at Heli-Expo 2019

«We’re extremely happy to be able to showcase the new H145 to our customers here in Atlanta as this upgrade owes a lot to the feedback, they have provided us over the years about the aircraft», said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. «Our teams have worked hard to quickly bring to the market a set of innovations that we believe will contribute to the success of our customers’ operations. It is their trust in the H145 and all its predecessor variants over the last decades that have made it the fantastic helicopter it has become today, and I want to thank them for their continuous support».

The H145’s new five-bladed rotor brings a significant increase in overall performance, with a maximum take-off weight raised to 3,800 kg/8,378 lbs. and a useful load now equivalent to the aircraft’s empty weight. The simplicity of the new bearingless main rotor design will also ease maintenance operations, further improving the benchmark serviceability and reliability of the H145, while improving ride comfort for both passengers and crew. The reduced rotor diameter will allow the H145 to operate in more confined areas.

The new H145 introduces new levels of on-board connectivity to customers and operators through the integration of the wireless Airborne Communication System (wACS), allowing seamless and secure transmission of data generated by the helicopter in real-time, including in-flight.

European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification of the new H145 is planned for early 2020, with first deliveries to follow later that year. This upgrade will also be offered to current H145 customers as a retrofit option in order to deliver the same improvements in terms of useful load, simplified maintenance and comfort to the existing version of the H145.

Powered by two Safran Arriel 2E engines, the H145 is equipped with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) and the Helionix digital avionics suite. It includes a high performance 4-axis autopilot, increasing safety and reducing pilot workload. Its particularly low acoustic footprint makes the H145 the quietest helicopter in its class.

The new version of the H145 flies in the Pyrénées region of France
The new version of the H145 flies in the Pyrénées region of France

Active Protection

Lockheed Martin and industry partners supported U.S. Army integration of three countermeasures and a cueing sensor into the Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) framework for a six-week «rodeo» conducted at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

MAPS-enabled countermeasures integrated by Lockheed Martin defeat threats in U.S. Army field tests (city road viaduct streetscape of night scene in Shanghai)
MAPS-enabled countermeasures integrated by Lockheed Martin defeat threats in U.S. Army field tests (city road viaduct streetscape of night scene in Shanghai)

In a series of live-fire tests, the MAPS-enabled systems defeated 15 out of 15 anti-tank guided missiles by jamming their signals, causing them to fly off-target.

«The success of the Army’s testing shows the effectiveness of an active protection system that can rapidly refresh with new components to meet specific mission and platform requirements», said Michael Williamson, vice president of Sensors & Global Sustainment at Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin engineers led hardware and software integration of an Ariel Photonics countermeasure into the MAPS framework ahead of the tests. They also supported U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center efforts with BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman in integrating two other countermeasures and a cueing sensor.

Lockheed Martin was awarded the initial MAPS prototype controller contract in 2014 and continues to manufacture and deliver base kits to MAPS stakeholders. The base kit consists of a controller, user interface, power management distribution system, network switch and application software. It provides processing power to MAPS-enabled sensors and countermeasures and directs them in defeating incoming missiles and rockets.

The base kit supports the rapid integration of MAPS framework-compliant sensors and countermeasures to detect and defeat threats targeting MAPS-equipped vehicles. It is designed to protect current combat vehicles, as well as support future vehicle protection system capabilities.

Modular Handgun

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units (U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein/Released)
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units (U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein/Released)

The M18 replaces the M9, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11 used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the M15 used for Military Working Dog training.

The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability, and durability to increase shooter lethality.

A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.

«This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter», said Staff Sergeant Richard Maner, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Armory at the 37th Training Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. «The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol».

«The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting», said Master Sergeant Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JBSA-Lackland. «It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before».

So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to Joint Base Andrews, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JBSA-Lackland, two Regional Training Centers (Guam and Fort Bliss), Malmstrom AFB and F.E. Warren Air Force Base (AFB). All Security Forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.

«Once all Security Forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare Airmen, Guardian Angel/Office of Special Projects (PJ) communities, Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and other high-level users», said Master Sergeant Shaun Ferguson, Air Force Security Forces Center (AFSFC) Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements Program Manager. «Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements».

Safe-For-Flight

The Commander, Naval Air Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation jointly announced that the aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, met all requirements and achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft attached to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the «Rough Raiders» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the «Grim Reapers» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, all attached to Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, February 1, 2019. Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at NASL ensures that each F-35C Lightning II squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C Lightning II will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe/Released)
Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft attached to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the «Rough Raiders» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the «Grim Reapers» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, all attached to Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, February 1, 2019. Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at NASL ensures that each F-35C Lightning II squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C Lightning II will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe/Released)

The February 28 announcement comes shortly after the Department of the Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, completed aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C Lightning II aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).

Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office, industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations.

«The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win», said Commander Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller. «We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force».

Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore is the home-base for the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing, Navy F-35C Lightning II fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VFA-125 that trains Navy and Marine Corps CVN-based Joint Strike Fighter pilots. To accommodate the F-35C Lightning II program at NAS Lemoore, several facilities were built or remodeled to facilitate specific F-35C Lightning II requirements with regard to maintenance and training, including a Pilot Fit Facility, Centralized Engine Repair Facility, Pilot Training Center and a newly-remodeled hangar. Future projects are planned as additional Navy squadrons transition into the F-35C Lightning II. The Marine Corps plans to transition four F-35C Lightning II squadrons that will be assigned to Carrier Air Wings for deployments.

«We’re very proud of what our Sailors have accomplished in the Joint Strike Fighter community», said CAPT Max McCoy, commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing. «Their commitment to mission delivered fifth generation capability to the carrier air wing, making us more combat effective than ever before. We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment. The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future».

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Dale Horan, director, USN F-35C Lightning II Fleet Integration Office said, «The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments», adding «This accomplishment represents years of hard work on the part of the F-35 Joint Program Office and Naval Aviation Enterprise. Our focus has now shifted to applying lessons learned from this process to future squadron transitions, and preparing VFA-147 for their first overseas deployment».

The mission-ready F-35C Lightning II is the latest addition to U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing. With its stealth technology, state-of-the-art avionics, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the aircraft carrier-based F-35C Lightning II provides unprecedented air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close-air-support as well as advanced command and control functions through fused sensors. These state-of-the art capabilities provide pilots and combatant commanders unrivaled battlespace awareness and lethality. The F-35C Lightning II is the final U.S. Joint Strike Fighter variant to declare IOC and follows the USAF’s F-35A Lightning II and USMC’s F-35B Lightning II. IOC declaration is a significant milestone.

 

F-35С Lightning II specifications

Length 51.5 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.7 feet/4.48 m
Wing span 43 feet/13.1 m
Wing area 668 feet2/62.1 m2
Horizontal tail span 26.3 feet/8.02 m
Weight empty 34,800 lbs/15,785 kg
Internal fuel capacity 19,750 lbs/8,960 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound (907 kg) GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-400
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Propulsion Length 220 inch/5.59 m
Propulsion Inlet Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Propulsion Maximum Diameter 51 inch/1.30 m
Propulsion Bypass Ratio 0.57
Propulsion Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6/1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h
Combat radius (internal fuel) >600 NM/683.5 miles/1,100 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Max g-rating 7.5

 

Planned Quantities

U.S. Navy 260
U.S. Marine Corps 80
In total 340

 

Medium Tactical Vehicles

Oshkosh Defense, LLC, an Oshkosh Corporation company, announced on February 27, 2019, that the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) has placed orders for 354 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) A1P2 trucks and trailers at a value of $75 million.

Whether it’s moving troops and supplies, recovering vehicles and weapon systems, or hauling equipment, the highly capable FMTV has proven itself time and time again to be a reliable asset for the U.S. Army
Whether it’s moving troops and supplies, recovering vehicles and weapon systems, or hauling equipment, the highly capable FMTV has proven itself time and time again to be a reliable asset for the U.S. Army

«Whether it’s moving troops and supplies, recovering vehicles and weapon systems, or hauling equipment, the highly capable FMTV has proven itself time and time again to be a reliable asset for the U.S. Army», said Pat Williams, Vice President and General Manager of U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Programs for Oshkosh Defense. «Together with the U.S. Army, we have established a robust FMTV program. We look forward to successfully completing the remaining FMTV A1P2 deliveries and seamlessly transitioning to FMTV A2 production without interruption».

Oshkosh Defense was first awarded the FMTV A1P2 contract in 2009 and to date, has delivered more than 38,100 trucks and trailers.

In February 2018, Oshkosh Defense was awarded a production contract for the next generation FMTV, the FMTV A2. Since receiving the award, Oshkosh has started building vehicles in support of Production Verification Testing (PVT), Live Fire Testing (LFT) and logistics development. Oshkosh expects the FMTV A2 program to transition to low rate production in FY21.

Laser weapons

Rheinmetall continues to make steady headway in the world of laser weapons, having recently completed a successful serious of comprehensive trials with a weapon station. In combination with a laser, the weapon station demonstrated its speed and precision in tests conducted in December 2018. The weapon station can be armed with lasers in the 100 kW output power range.

Rheinmetall has tested its laser weapons station mounted on a container, but it also can be fitted to an armored vehicle such as the Boxer 8×8 in service with the German Army (RhM image)
Rheinmetall has tested its laser weapons station mounted on a container, but it also can be fitted to an armored vehicle such as the Boxer 8×8 in service with the German Army (RhM image)

During the tests, which were conducted in Switzerland at the company’s Ochsenboden test centre near Zürich, drones and mortar rounds were successfully engaged at operationally relevant ranges.

The laser weapon station is the latest stage and logical continuation of the process in which Rheinmetall has transformed laser weapon technology into a fully functional weapon system. It consists of four main components: the laser source, beam director with the telescope, and coarse tracker (weapon station).

The mobile weapon station performs the task of mechanically aiming the laser toward the target. Now that a weapon station specially designed to meet the requirements of a laser weapon station has been successfully realized, Rheinmetall has all of the principal assemblies for a future laser weapon system at its own disposal.

The laser weapon station was combined with a beam director – successfully employed in multiple tests – and high-performance Rheinmetall lasers. It is also designed to be combined with a soon-to-be-available 20 kW laser source, likewise made by Rheinmetall.

Equally suitable for ground, air and naval operations, the assemblies are modular and scalable in design, and can be deployed regardless of the threat situation on military platforms of all types.

Among the laser weapon station’s outstanding performance parameters are its extremely accurate mechanical aiming function, coupled with an unlimited, 360° traversing zone and an elevation range in excess of 270°. The system architecture (EN DIN 61508) is closely oriented to the Modular, Automatic and Network capable Targeting and Interception System (MANTIS) air defence system now in service with the Bundeswehr, and thus also offers interfaces for connecting it to higher-echelon air defence systems.

Charleston Commissioned

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the USS Charleston (LCS-18), during a 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday, March 2, at Columbus Street Terminal in Charleston, South Carolina.

Navy commissioned Littoral Combat Ship Charleston
Navy commissioned Littoral Combat Ship Charleston

U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina delivered the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. Charlotte Riley, wife of former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony was highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Mrs. Riley gives the first order to «man our ship and bring her to life»!

«The future USS Charleston is proof of what the teamwork of all of our people – civilian, contractor and military – can accomplish together», said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. «This ship will extend the maneuverability and lethality of our fleet to confront the many challenges of a complex world, from maintaining the sea lanes to countering instability to maintaining our edge against renewed great power competition».

The name Charleston has a long and storied history in the U.S. Navy. The first Navy ship to bear the name Charleston was a row galley that defended the coast of South Carolina during the Quasi-War with France. The second Charleston (C-2) was a protected cruiser that received the surrender of Guam during the Spanish-American War. The third Charleston (C-22) was a St. Louis-class protected cruiser that performed escort and troop transport duties in World War I. The next Charleston (PG-51) was an Erie-class patrol gunboat that earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one battle star for her service in the northern Pacific during World War II. The fifth Charleston (AKA-113/LKA-113) was an amphibious cargo ship that served during the Vietnam War.

The USS Charleston (LCS-18) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric «anti-access» threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ship will be homeported in San Diego, California.

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin, Marinette, Wis., (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA, Mobile, Alabama, (for LCS-6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).

 

The Independence Variant of the LCS Class

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Construction Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 421 feet/128.3 m
Beam overall 103 feet/31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum) 14.8 feet/4.5 m
PAYLOAD AND CAPACITIES
Complement Core Crew – 40
Mission crew – 36
Berthing 76 in a mix of single, double & quad berthing compartments
Maximum mission load 210 tonnes
Mission Bay Volume 118,403 feet3/11,000 m3
Mission packages Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Surface Warfare (SUW)
Mine Warfare (MIW)
PROPULSION
Main engines 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster Retractable azimuthing
PERFORMANCE
Speed 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range 3,500 NM/4,028 miles/6,482 km
Operational limitation Survival in Sea State 8
MISSION/LOGISTICS DECK
Deck area >21,527.8 feet2/2,000 m2
Launch and recovery Twin boom extending crane
Loading Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Launch/Recover Watercraft Sea State 4
FLIGHT DECK AND HANGER
Flight deck dimensions 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53 or multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs/VTUAVs)
Hanger Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60
Launch/Recover Aircraft Sea State 5
WEAPONS AND SENSORS
Standard 1 × 57-mm gun
4 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber guns
1 × Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher
3 × weapons modules

 

Independence-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Independence (LCS-2) 01-19-2006 04-26-2008 01-16-2010 San Diego, California
USS Coronado (LCS-4) 12-17-2009 01-14-2012 04-05-2014 San Diego, California
USS Jackson (LCS-6) 08-01-2011 12-14-2013 12-05-2015 San Diego, California
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) 06-25-2013 08-06-2014 09-10-2016 San Diego, California
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) 04-16-2014 02-25-2015 06-10-2017 San Diego, California
USS Omaha (LCS-12) 02-18-2015 11-20-2015 02-03-2018 San Diego, California
USS Manchester (LCS-14) 06-29-2015 05-12-2016 05-26-2018 San Diego, California
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) 01-11-2016 03-16-2017 02-16-2019 San Diego, California
USS Charleston (LCS-18) 06-28-2016 09-14-2017 03-02-2019 San Diego, California
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) 04-10-2017 05-22-2018
USS Kansas City (LCS-22) 11-15-2017
USS Oakland (LCS-24) 07-20-2018
USS Mobile (LCS-26) 12-14-2018
USS Savannah (LCS-28)
USS Canberra (LCS-30)
USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32)
USS Augusta (LCS-34)
USS Kingsville (LCS-36)
USS Pierre (LCS-38)

 

Teaming System

Boeing has introduced its newest unmanned platform, the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

A model of the unmanned Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow February 27. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide multi-mission support for air control missions (Boeing photo)
A model of the unmanned Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow February 27. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide multi-mission support for air control missions (Boeing photo)

Designed for global defense customers by Boeing Australia, it is the company’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft program outside the United States.

The aircraft will complement and extend airborne missions through smart teaming with existing military aircraft.

A model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow by the Australian Minister for Defence, the Honourable Christopher Pyne Members of Parliament (MP). As a research and development activity, the Australian Government and Boeing will produce a concept demonstrator called the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program that will provide key learnings toward the production of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

«The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions», said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. «With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power».

The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will:

  • provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 metres) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles/2,302 miles/3704 km;
  • integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare;
  • use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.

«This aircraft is a historic endeavor for Boeing. Not only is it developed outside the United States, it is also designed so that our global customers can integrate local content to meet their country-specific requirements», said Marc Allen, president, Boeing International. «The Boeing Airpower Teaming System provides a transformational capability in terms of defense, and our customers – led by Australia – effectively become partners on the program with the ability to grow their own sovereign capabilities to support it, including a high-tech workforce».

First flight is planned for 2020.

500th center fuselage

On February 21, 2019, Northrop Grumman Corporation has completed the 500th center fuselage for the F-35 Lightning II – ahead of schedule.

An F-35 technician performs a skin assembly process with work instructions projected on the structure as one of the innovative solutions for high rate military aircraft production. A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman's integrated assembly line at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence
An F-35 technician performs a skin assembly process with work instructions projected on the structure as one of the innovative solutions for high rate military aircraft production. A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman’s integrated assembly line at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence

«We deliver an F-35 center fuselage every 36 hours and I am very proud to say we have made all our deliveries since the inception of the program», said Frank Carus, vice president and F-35 Lightning II program manager, Northrop Grumman. «Our dedicated team works closely with the customer and suppliers to improve quality and affordability in support of the warfighter».

Designated AU-18, the 500th F-35 Lightning II center fuselage is for a conventional takeoff and landing variant for the Royal Australian Air Force. Northrop Grumman began production on the AU-18 center fuselage in June 2018 and completed work on February 21. Northrop Grumman has been producing center fuselages for all three F-35 Lightning II variants since May 2004.

«We have set the standard for the production of military aircraft», said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our teams and suppliers are constantly finding better, more affordable ways to deliver a superior product on-time, at-cost and, as with this center fuselage, ahead of schedule. When you couple this level of commitment with advanced manufacturing technologies, it’s just a win-win situation for us, our customer and the warfighter».

A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is designed and produced on Northrop Grumman’s integrated assembly line, a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to or pioneered by Northrop Grumman bringing together robotics, autonomous systems, virtual 3D and predictive automation to the forefront of center fuselage production.

Lockheed Martin is the industry lead for the F-35 Lightning II program and Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35 Lightning II. In addition to producing the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, the company develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.