First Flight

The new Boeing F-15EX Strike Eagle fighter jet completed its first flight on February 2, 2021, paving the way for the early delivery of the first two jets to the U.S. Air Force later this quarter. The jet took off and landed from St. Louis Lambert International Airport, completing a 90-minute test flight before returning to the airport.

F-15EX Strike Eagle
The F-15EX Strike Eagle fighter jet demonstrates a vertical «Viking» departure during its first flight on February 2, 2021 (Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower)

Boeing F-15 Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese checked out the multirole jet’s avionics, advanced systems and software. A test team monitoring the data collected during the flight in real time confirmed that the aircraft performed as planned.

«Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet», said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager. «Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture».

The fighter’s digital backbone means it can serve as a testbed for future technology insertion, a key capability for the Air Force. Modern variants of the F-15 also include fly-by-wire flight controls, an all-new digital cockpit, modern Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and the ADCP-II, the world’s fastest mission computer. The F-15EX Strike Eagle, the most advanced version to date, features the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System electronic warfare system to improve mission effectiveness and survivability for operators.

In July, the Air Force awarded Boeing a contract to build the first lot of eight jets. Future plans call for as many as 144 aircraft.

Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense, space and security systems, and global services. As a top U.S. exporter, the company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries. Building on a legacy of aerospace leadership, Boeing continues to lead in technology and innovation, deliver for its customers and invest in its people and future growth.

Combat Training System

The Naval Aviation Training System and Ranges program office (PMA-205) recently completed the first flight test of its next-generation air combat training system, the Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS II), on an F/A-18F Super Hornet at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland. The second flight test, the first for this system involving two aircraft, followed in quick succession using two F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft.

TCTS II
The Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS II) pod successfully completed its first single aircraft flight test at Patuxent River December 11, followed by its first two aircraft flight test on December 15

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 conducted the test flights and the PMA-205 test team collected and analyzed the data in real time with its industry partner, Collins Aerospace Systems, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Collins).

«Our team faced software, COVID, and platform challenges but worked with urgency to stay on track for low rate initial production decision in April. The fact that the date has not changed since contract award in 2017 speaks volumes of not only our team but also the level of support from the Navy to field this capability», said Captain Lisa Sullivan, PMA-205 program manager.

The TCTS II system, developed by Collins, is an open architecture system enabling highly secure air combat training between aircraft, replacing and advancing the existing range training infrastructure. The TCTS II system is the first certified encrypted, multi-level security training pod that communicates with both airborne and ground equipment.

«This is the first time the team has been able to see the system in use in a real-world environment using an operational platform. These tests provide valuable insight into system performance, including pod-to-pod and pod-to-ground datalink performance, positional accuracy, and weapon simulations», said Jake Kiehlmeier, PMA-205 TCTS II lead test engineer.

The U.S. Air Force joined the Navy’s TCTS II program, leveraging investments made by the Navy and delivering training capabilities sooner and at a lower cost. The services are working together to develop and use this system to train against real-world threats.

«This is just the beginning of how this system and integration of additional Live, Virtual, Constructive capabilities in the portfolio will revolutionize training for the U.S Air Force and the Navy alike», said Sullivan.

PMA-205 provides full life cycle acquisition of naval aviation platform and general training systems, training range instrumentation systems, and distributed mission training centers to provide U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots, naval flight officers, aircrew, and maintainers with the training equipment required to provide lethal capability and operational readiness.

Training devices include flight simulators, part-task trainers, maintenance trainers, airborne and underwater training range instrumentation, threat systems, and associated curricula to ensure optimum performance for naval aviation. Responsibilities include execution of naval aviation’s Live, Virtual, and Constructive training strategy, execution of the Navy Aviation Simulator Master Plan, commonality and interoperability across training systems, procurement and sustainment of training products and services to include equipment overhaul and/or replacement, engineering changes, modernization and technology refreshes, and future technology advancements for training systems and training ranges.

Maritime HAROP

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to Provide Loitering Munitions Systems to Asian Countries in Deals Worth Over $100 Million USD.

HAROP
HAROP System

Three recently-signed deals include the sale of ROTEM Vertical Take-Off & Landing (VTOL) Tactical Loitering Munition and Land and Naval version of the HAROP system announces the signing of three significant contracts valued at over $100 million USD, in which it will supply loitering munitions systems to several countries. The contracts include winning an international tender for the sale of the multi-purpose ROTEM system to a foreign country, sale of the naval version of the HAROP system to the navy of a country in Asia and sale of the ground version of the HAROP system to another customer in Asia.

Boaz Levy, IAI’s President and CEO, said: «IAI is a global pioneer in developing the operational concept of a loitering munitions systems, which has ripened to a family of unique and accurate attack systems. These systems, which have added impressive achievements to the operational capability of fighting forces around the globe, constitute central and decisive attack components for advanced battlefields of the future. These contracts are further proof of the importance and confidence modern armies place in accurate munitions systems as part of their arsenal, and may be harbingers of additional business activity in this field. IAI will continue to develop and improve a range of strike systems in order to give its clients around the world a precise operational solution».

The Maritime HAROP system provides an operational solution for a range of vessels, from off-shore vessels to fighting frigates in the naval theater. In a complex naval theater, the HAROP system gives mission commanders in a fleet of ships the capability to independently and organically collect intelligence, assess targets and strike. The intelligence gathered by the HAROP is directly integrated in the vessel’s control room and allows for quick, accurate and lethal decision-making. Use of the HAROP on naval platforms is an operational alternative and complementary element to using sea-sea missiles, with a wide range of uses and with optimal cost-efficiency for the navy. The maritime and land combat-proven HAROP provides an operational solution for a range of low and high-intensity conflict scenarios and for anti-terrorism activity. The HAROP is equipped with day/night cameras and has the ability to search, find and attack with maximum precision both static and moving targets, on land or at sea and at a long-range. A strike can take place from any direction and at any angle of attack.

ROTEM is the first VTOL Tactical Loitering Munition combat-proven and used in operations by several of the world’s militaries as a small loitering device based on a drone platform and is a power multiplier for tactical forces in a range of fighting scenarios, including security operations and maneuvers. The system provides a reconnaissance, observation and attack envelope with maximum autonomous performance, integrating a simple and intuitive operation interface that can be used by a single fighter from a touchscreen tablet. The ROTEM VTOL Tactical Loitering Munition carries day/night cameras and a warhead weighing up to one kilogram and is optimally designed to carry out combined missions of intelligence gathering and attack. The system incorporates a unique safety mechanism that enables its safe return to the fighter on the ground if an attack was not carried out. The ROTEM system has proven its operational effectiveness for precise, surgical strikes against a range of different targets.

The loitering munitions family developed by IAI includes the Harpy-NG – a third generation of the system homing against radiating targets, the HAROP, a second-generation of a precision electro-optical attack system, the Mini-Harpy, dual (Electro-optical day & night + Anti-Radiation seeker) tactical advanced munitions system and the tactical loitering Green-Dragon system, as well as the ROTEM VTOL Tactical Loitering Munition. IAI is a focal point of national and global technological know-how in the field of attack systems, air defense, radars, satellites, remotely operated aircraft, civilian aviation and cyber.

12 Rafales

Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, on January 29, 2021 signed a contract for the sale of 12 Rafale aircraft with Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces.

Rafale
Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, on January 29, 2021 signed a contract for the sale of 12 Rafale aircraft with Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces

These aircraft will replace the 12 Rafales of the French Air and Space Force (FASF) sold to the Hellenic Air Force.

The contract was signed during a visit by the French Minister of the Armed Forces to the Argonay plant in Haute-Savoie which has produced the flight control systems for all Dassault aircraft since 1963.

Dassault Aviation and its industrial partners would like to thank the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, the French defense procurement agency DGA and the Armed Forces for their renewed confidence.

«This contract for 12 new aircraft will enable our Air and Space Force to continue the Rafale build-up while awaiting the fifth tranche, which is scheduled for delivery between 2027 and 2030. The contract is a great satisfaction for Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran and the 500 French companies involved in the program, in the particularly difficult conditions facing our aeronautics sector in the context of the Covid crisis», said Eric Trappier.

Moon Cruiser

Airbus has been awarded a CLTV (Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle) study for a «Moon Cruiser» by the European Space Agency (ESA). According to the study concept (two parallel Phase A/B1), the CLTV is a versatile, autonomous logistics vehicle that could, for example, provide timely and efficient support to NASA and ESA in the implementation of the future Artemis Moon missions. The spacecraft will be based on existing and proven technologies and will complement the multipurpose European Large Logistic Lander (EL3).

CLTV (Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle)
Versatile, autonomous logistics vehicle to support future lunar missions based on heritage from Orion ESM and ATV

The execution of lunar missions, including landing on the Moon and setting up upcoming lunar space station, Gateway, is a complex and challenging task for the international community. It requires a precisely planned chain of supply and logistics missions. The Airbus Moon Cruiser concept supports these challenges in several ways:

  • Gateway logistics: the CLTV can transport cargo or fuel for refuelling in lunar orbit and to the Gateway, the international project led by the two main contributors NASA (United States) and ESA (Europe), supporting a sustainable presence on the Moon and exploration beyond and a pillar of NASA’s Artemis programme.
  • Transfer of a large Lunar Module into Low Lunar Orbit: The CLTV is required to fly a lander or an ascent stage between the Gateway and the low lunar orbit, to perform landing and ascent missions with larger and more extensive services.
  • CLTV’s versatility will also allow it to support missions to post-ISS orbital infrastructure in LEO as well as missions in the field of GEO satcom servicing.

The CLTV’s design allows multiple mission types to be carried out with a single vehicle and is compatible with various launchers. Airbus’ solution is a mature, versatile and modular concept based on a large portfolio of mission and vehicle designs for Human Space-flight and Exploration built by Airbus for ESA including the Orion European Service Module (ESM), as well as five successful Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) space transporter missions, carrying a total of around 30 tonnes of cargo into space.

«With the Airbus Moon Cruiser concept for CLTV, we are establishing the first building blocks for humans and machines to work together all the way between the Earth and the Moon. CLTV can serve Gateway logistics and add value to the EL3 Large Lunar Lander by enabling additional missions, whether standalone for Europe or as part of wider international co-operation», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.

The CLTV can be launched on Ariane 6, and it could transport a module of over 4.5 tonnes to the Gateway. The European Space Agency ESA could deploy the CLTV in the second half of the decade and it is planned that the CLTV will literally «cruise» on a direct flight path to the Moon.

The target is to validate the following, implementation phase (B2/C/D) of CLTV at the next Ministerial Council in 2022, with the aim of launching in 2027.

Airbus is building the European Service Module for ESA for the new NASA spacecraft Orion, the central spacecraft of future NASA space exploration. The first service module has already been delivered to NASA by Airbus. A second service module is currently being built at Airbus in Bremen. The first launch for Orion – a test flight without astronauts – will take Orion into a lunar orbit and back to Earth under the Artemis I mission and is scheduled for 2021.

Laser system

Germany’s Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has awarded a consortium, or ARGE, consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH a contract to fabricate, integrate and support testing of a laser weapon demonstrator in the maritime environment. The order value is in the low double-digit million euro range.

Laser system
MBDA and Rheinmetall win contract for high-energy laser system

Work will be shared out on a roughly equal basis. MBDA Deutschland is responsible for tracking, the operator’s console and linking the laser weapon demonstrator to the command-and-control system. Rheinmetall is in charge of the laser weapon station, the beam guiding system, cooling, and integration of the laser weapon system into the project container of the laser source demonstrator.

The demonstrator is to be fabricated, tested and integrated by the end of the 2021. Trials onboard the German Navy frigate F124 Sachsen are to take place in 2022.

As Doris Laarmann, head of laser business development at MBDA Deutschland, notes, «The contract is an important step on the path to an operational high-energy laser system. Our two companies will apply their respective strengths to make this project a success on behalf of the German Navy. Once it’s installed, the demonstrator will also be used to test important aspects such as the interaction and function of the sensor suite, combat management system and effector as well as rules of engagement».

Alexander Graf, head of Rheinmetall Waffe Munition’s laser weapons programme, and Dr Markus Jung, who leads the company’s laser weapon development effort, both agree, adding that «The contract marks a systematic extension of the functional prototype laser weapon successfully tested in recent years, with the experience gained now dovetailing into one of the most ambitious projects in the field of laser weapon development in Europe».

A breakthrough development in the history of defence technology, lasers engage targets at the speed of light, operating with great precision and producing very little collateral damage. A demonstrator system featuring these capabilities will soon be put to the test under highly realistic operating conditions onboard a German frigate.

Evolution to Austria

The Austrian Ministry of Defense awarded a contract on October 30, 2020 to General Dynamics European Land Systems-Steyr (GDELS-Steyr) for the delivery of 30 Pandur 6×6 Evolution (Evo) wheeled armored vehicles. The new vehicles are designed as Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and can be quickly converted into other roles such as CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) due to their modular design.

Pandur 6×6 Evolution
GDELS awarded a contract for the delivery of Pandur 6×6 Evolution to Austria

In addition to the 34 vehicles purchased in 2016 and based in the center of excellence at the Jägerbataillon 17 in Straß/Styria, the Austrian Armed Forces will operate a fleet of 64 new Pandur 6×6 Evo. Deliveries will be made in 2022 and 2023.

Since 1996, the Pandur has successfully served in domestic and international peacekeeping missions. The significantly modernized version of the Pandur MTPzUN, the Pandur Evo, offers an unmatched compact vehicle design with a crew of 11 soldiers, superior mobility, and a significantly increased level of protection against mines and IED threats. The vehicles will be completely manufactured in Austria benefiting the local economy and securing hundreds of skilled jobs. More than 200 suppliers, mainly SMEs, are involved in this program.

«We are very proud that we have been awarded this important contract. The cooperation with the Austrian Armed Forces is excellent and underlines the great satisfaction with our products. In addition, this order secures hundreds of high-tech jobs due to the Austrian added value», explains Martin Reischer, Managing Director of GDELS-Steyr. «We would like to thank the Austrian Armed Forces very much for their high confidence in us and our vehicle systems. Austria is one of our home-markets and as a reliable partner, we are fully committed to deliver these vehicles on cost, quality, and schedule», Dr. Thomas Kauffmann, GDELS Vice President for International Business & Services, added.

Assault Helicopter

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, and Boeing on January 25, 2021 released details of its advanced helicopter for the U.S. Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft competition, known as FLRAA. The aircraft, named Defiant X, will be the fastest, most maneuverable and most survivable assault helicopter in history. Combined with the team’s unsurpassed experience in mission systems, training and sustainment, it will revolutionize the way the Army meets threats in 2035 and beyond.

Defiant X
Defiant X to compete for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft contract, a top modernization priority for the Army

Defiant X is a complete weapon system that builds on the handling qualities and transformational capabilities proven by the team’s technology demonstrator, SB>1 Defiant. With unmatched range and survivability, Defiant X will to fly low and fast through complex terrain, land quickly, deliver soldiers and equipment to the objective area (referred to as «the X») and get out.

Defiant X flies twice as far and fast as the venerable Black Hawk helicopter it is designed to replace. Currently undergoing testing in a digital combat environment, the aircraft continues to prove itself the most survivable platform for mission requirements.

«We are ready to deliver unparalleled capabilities backed by proven technologies that will truly transform the Army’s mission today – with room to grow and adapt to the missions of tomorrow», said Andy Adams, Sikorsky vice president of Future Vertical Lift. «Defiant X not only includes the transformational aircraft, mission systems and revolutionary sustainment solution, but also leverages Sikorsky’s and Boeing’s advanced manufacturing capabilities».

With its rigid coaxial rotor system and pusher propeller, Defiant X incorporates Sikorsky X2 Technology to operate at high speeds while maintaining low-speed handling qualities. This critical capability provides soldiers with increased maneuverability and survivability in high-threat air defense environments, allowing them to penetrate enemy defenses while reducing exposure to enemy fire.

«Defiant X is purpose-built for a modernized Army that requires expanded reach, survivability and lethality», said Steve Parker, vice president and general manager of Boeing Vertical Lift. «This weapon system will give soldiers unequaled technological advantage and connectivity over adversaries in a multi-domain battle space».

Defiant X will revolutionize the Army’s air assault capability with limited changes in tactics, techniques, procedures, training and infrastructure while maintaining the Black Hawk helicopter footprint and tight formation capability flown today.

The Army is expected to release a request for proposal on FLRAA later this year, with a contract award expected in 2022.

Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X Revealed

Metal Shark

Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark has been selected to develop and implement the Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel (LRUSV) System for the United States Marine Corps.

LRUSV
Metal Shark developing autonomous naval defense system for the United States Marine Corps

The LRUSV System will usher in a new era of naval technology while increasing the lethality of U.S. forces, with a network of unmanned vessels traveling autonomously for extended ranges and transporting loitering munitions to address targets at sea and on land.

This tiered, scalable weapons system will provide the ability to accurately track and destroy targets at range throughout the battle space. While fully autonomous, the vessels may be optionally manned and they will carry multiple payloads, which they will be capable of autonomously launching and retrieving.

Metal Shark has enlisted autonomous technology developer Spatial Integrated Systems (SIS), recently acquired by Huntington Ingalls Industries, to provide the autonomy solution for the LRUSV system. SIS is a leader in the development of multi-vessel collaborative «swarming» autonomous capabilities, sensor fusion and perception.

Under an «Other Transaction Authority» (OTA) Agreement with Marine Corps Systems Command, Metal Shark will design, build, test, and implement the vessels and will handle the integration of the autonomy system and an advanced Command and Control (C2) software suite.

In addition to the autonomous LRUSV, Metal Shark will also produce manned support vessels for the LRUSV system utilizing its 40 Defiant military patrol craft platform, which the builder is currently producing to create the U.S. Navy’s new «40 PB» patrol boat fleet.

«The LRUSV program represents a significant milestone for autonomous technology, for the defense world, and for the entire shipbuilding industry», said Metal Shark CEO Chris Allard. «We are thrilled to be integrating advanced autonomy and Command and Control capability into these highly specialized surface vessels to provide the Marine Corps with a next-generation system».

Under the OTA, Metal Shark will also provide the Marine Corps with associated program management, system engineering, configuration management, quality assurance, logistical support, and the development of technical publications and manuals in support of the LRUSV program.

The LRUSV program is the latest success for Metal Shark’s Sharktech Autonomous Vessels division, a wholly-owned subsidiary launched in 2018 and specifically focused on the advancement of unmanned vessel technology. In September, it was announced that the United States Coast Guard had selected a 29-foot/9-meter Sharktech autonomous test vessel equipped with autonomy by Boston-based technology developer Sea Machines for evaluation by the USCG Research and Development Center. In 2019, Metal Shark was selected by US Navy PMS 406 (Naval Sea Systems Command’s Unmanned Maritime Systems division) for the Unmanned Family of Systems Multi Award IDIQ, a blanket Navy contact covering multiple topics in the autonomous space. As a brand-agnostic technology integrator actively engaged with multiple developers in the unmanned space, Metal Shark’s Sharktech division has also produced and delivered autonomous vessels equipped with autonomy solutions from L3 Harris (previously ASV Global).

«Metal Shark has designed, built, and delivered over 400 autonomous and remotely operated vessels to date», said Mr. Allard. «As we develop and deploy the LRUSV system for the Marine Corps, we will continue to work with clients across government and commercial markets, integrating the systems of multiple technology partners into our boats, solidifying our leadership position in the autonomous vessel space, and streamlining the path to autonomy».

Metal Shark is a diversified shipbuilder specializing in the design and construction of welded aluminum and steel vessels from 16’ to over 300’ for defense, law enforcement, and commercial operators. Key customers include the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, foreign militaries, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, passenger vessel operators, pilot associations, towboat operators, and other clients worldwide. With three fully self-contained shipbuilding facilities in Alabama and Louisiana USA plus a dedicated engineering facility in Croatia, Metal Shark’s 500+ employees produce over 200 vessels per year with a proud and proven track record of high quality, on time deliveries.

Metal Shark Developing Autonomous Naval Defense System for the US Marine Corps

Visby Generation 2

Saab and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, (FMV), have signed two agreements concerning the next generation of surface ships and corvettes. A Product Definition Phase for the Mid-Life Upgrades (MLU) of five Visby-class corvettes, as well as a Product Definition Phase for the next generation; Visby Generation 2 corvettes. The collected value of the contracts is 190 MSEK.

Visby Generation 2
Saab Signs Two Contracts for Next Generation Corvettes for Sweden

The contracts include requirements’ analysis and are respectively the start of the modification work of the five corvettes and the acquisition of the Visby Generation 2.

«The contract is a major step forward for Sweden’s surface combat capability, with the upgrade of current corvettes and the creation of the next generation vessels. The Visby corvettes have been pioneers for 20 years, and after Mid-Life Upgrades they will be well equipped for future assignments. The experience and knowledge that the Visby class has gathered over the years will feed into the development of Visby Generation 2», said Lars Tossman, Head of Business Area Kockums.

The Visby Generation 2 is a development of Visby-class version 5 and will be equipped with a modern anti-ship missile system, torpedo system and air defence missile system.

The first Visby-class corvette was launched on June 8, 2000 and today five corvettes are in operational service. The product definition phase regarding Mid-Life Upgrades, aims to make the five ships in the class operationally relevant beyond 2040. In addition to modifying the ships’ existing systems, an air defence missile system will be added as a new capability. The RBS15 anti-ship missile system will be upgraded to the latest version as well as will the torpedo system with the new Saab Lightweight Torpedo.