Friday, August 17, 2018

Pictures: Saudi Air Force CH-4 drones revealed

Photo: Mohammed bin Khalid
First pictures of the Chinese Chengdu CH-4 Rainbow combat UAV operated by Saudi Royal Air Force (RSAF) has surfaced online.

Saudi has been operating the attack and reconnaissance drone from the King Khalid air force base in the south-west of Saudi Arabia, near Khamis Mushait.

The fleet have seen considerable combat action especially in patrolling missions along the Saudi-Yemeni borders to counter Iran backed Houthi infiltration attempts.

The CH-4B is similar to the now retired US General Atomics MQ-1 Predator UAV with 4 under wing weapon pylons and a payload capacity of up to 250 to 345 kg.

Saudi Arabia struck a deal with China to buy unknown number of these combat drones in 2017 along with licensed manufacturing in the Kingdom. The production line will also cater to the needs of other operators of the type in the region, including Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.

Photo: Mohammed bin Khalid
The fleet were first spotted earlier this year, operating from the Jizan airport, close to the Yemen border. The CH-4 closely resemble the Predator UAV in weight and performance characteristics.

According to a Chinese govt progress report, over 30 CH-4 UAVs have been exported worth nearly $700 million. The fleet had accumulated over 1000 sorties, 10000 flight hours, firing over 400 missiles with accuracy reaching 96% in real combat. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

First Indian Apache attack and Chinook transport helicopter complete maiden flight

Boeing and India recently took a significant step toward modernizing the Indian Air Force’s helicopter fleet by completing the first flights of Apache and Chinook helicopters destined for delivery next year.

“We look forward to delivering this phenomenal capability to India,” said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift. “From coastal operations to high-altitude mountainous missions, these aircraft will play vital roles with the Indian armed forces.”

India ultimately will receive 22 AH-64E Apache attack, and 15 CH-47F(I) Chinook transport, helicopters.

The Chinook fleet will replace the ageing fleet of Mil-26 heavy lift helicopters operated by Indian Air Force.

Tata Boeing Aerospace (TBAL), a joint venture between Boeing and India's Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) is the sole global producer of fuselages for AH-64 Apache helicopter delivered by Boeing to its global customers including the U.S. Army. The facility also produce secondary structures and vertical spar boxes of this multi-role combat helicopter. The first fuselage was delivered in 2018.

More than 2,300 Boeing-made Apache helicopters are operated by customers around the world since the aircraft entered production.

The United States Army Apache fleet alone has accumulated more than 4.3 million flight hours, including more than 1.2 million in combat, as of January 2018. The helicopter has been fielded or selected for acquisition by the armed forces of 16 countries, including India.

UK-Qatar form joint Eurofighter squadron

As a part of the £5 billion-pound contract to supply Qatar with 24 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft and 9 Hawk T2 trainer aircraft, No.12 Squadron of British Royal Air Force will integrate Qatari personnel, including pilots and ground-crew, from 2019.

The personnel will be initially stationed at RAF Coningsby, and then in Qatar, undertaking a package of training and co-operation with their UK counterparts.

It represents a unique initiative, and not since the Second World War and the Battle of Britain has the RAF formed a squadron with another nation.

The Joint Squadron will provide the Qatari Amiri Air Force (QAAF) with valuable experience operating the aircraft and speed up their preparation for when the first QAAF Typhoon are delivered in 2022.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Airbus rolls out first BelugaXL transporter

The first Airbus BelugaXL outsized cargo transporter aircraft has rolled out sporting a special Whale livery from Airbus'Toulouse-Blagnac final assembly line in southwestern France.

The BelugaXL was launched in November 2014 to address the transport and ramp-up capacity requirements for Airbus beyond 2019.

Derived from the freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner, the BelugaXL is six metres longer, one metre wider and has a payload lifting capacity six tonnes greater than the current Beluga A300-600ST.

With a large re-use of existing components and equipment, the Beluga XL will be powered with Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines.

When operational, the fleet of five BelugaXLs will take over transporting complete sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s production sites around Europe and to final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain, providing Airbus with an additional 30 percent extra transport capacity.

The first BelugaXL’s first take-off is scheduled for next summer, ahead of a 10-month flight test certification campaign. The second aircraft is in final assembly process and the remaining three airlifters will be produced at a rate of one per year.

Beluga XL’s lower fuselage will be the same as the Freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner and is to be built on the A330 final assembly line adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southwestern France.

The Beluga XL’s other aerostructure-specific components are provided by external suppliers, including the significantly enlarged upper fuselage, the modified forward fuselage section with a lowered nose and cockpit, a large forward cargo door allowing “roll-on-roll-off” loading directly onto the main deck, and a pair of auxiliary vertical tailplane end-fins.

A large “bubble” airframe section added to the fuselage’s lower portion takes the Beluga XL’s diameter from 5.6 metres for an A330 up to 8.8 metres. The cockpit has been lowered to make space for a main deck with direct cargo loading/unloading capabilities above it.

Increasing the Beluga XL’s volume by 30 percent compared to the existing Beluga ST will make the new airlifter much more cost effective. Further enhancements are to reduce the time needed for unloading, refuelling and reloading the aircraft while making its stopovers at locations across the Airbus production network.

Among the physical differences between the Beluga ST and XL versions is the dorsal fin that connects to the vertical tailplane.  On the Beluga ST, this component is triangular and manufactured as a single part – but to ensure stability for the larger Beluga XL, it was increased in size and produced in three parts with a distinctive “kink” in the diagonal.

The need for stability also led to an updated horizontal tailplane. Also added ventral fins as a completely new feature of the Beluga XL. Located along the bottom of the aft fuselage, they have the same stabilising function as the dorsal fin.

Featuring one of the most voluminous cargo holds of any aircraft today, be it civil or military, the current fleet of five A300-600ST Super Transporter aircraft named Beluga, carries complete sections of AIRBUS aircraft, produced at various sites around Europe, to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, Hamburg and Seville.

The fleet of Beluga is operated by Airbus Transport International (ATI), an Airbus subsidiary airline. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Brand new HAL built Su-30 MKI crashes

A brand new Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter manufactured by Indian Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has crashed during a pre-delivery test flight.

Both pilots Wing Commander Prashant Nair and Squadron Leader L Biswal (Flight test Engineer) were able to eject safely.

The twin engined multi-role combat aircraft crashed after taking off from Nashik Airport, adjacent to HAL Nashik assembly line, at 11 hours in the morning.

The Su-30 MKI is the frontline air superiority and ground attack aircraft of Indian Air Force with over 200 in fleet of the 272 on order.

The aircraft is license manufactured in India by HAL since 2004.

Codenamed Flanker by the NATO, the Su-30 MKI can attain a maximum speed of Mach 2, up to 3000 km un-refueled range and up to eight tons of weapons including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and Mid-Course Guided munitions.

The twin-engined two seat Su-30 MKI is an all-weather day-and-night flying capable aircraft with very high manoeuvrability due to its thrust vectoring AL-31F engines. The Indian custom modified MKI variant integrates Russian, Indian, Israeli and French avionics and is most capable among the Su-30 variants.

India has also locally modified the Flanker to carry the potent and precise BrahMos supersonic missile which have a range of 290 km.

India is the first country to integrate a supersonic cruise missile on the Flanker. Presently BrahMos integrated flight trials are undergoing and around 40 Flankers are planned to modified to be carry the missile.

Boeing reveal hypersonic passenger jet concept

Boeing unveiled its first passenger-carrying hypersonic aircraft concept at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta this week.

Boeing says the passenger concept could have military or commercial applications and is just one of several hypersonic vehicle concepts spanning a wide range of potential applications company engineers are studying.

Engineers are working company wide to develop enabling technology that will position the company for the time when customers and markets are ready to reap the benefits of hypersonic flight.

Hypersonic planes will be capable of flying at Mach 5 (6174 km/h) or 3,900 miles per hour, about eight times the present commercial airliner cruise speeds.

With a projected altitude of 95,000 ft, the hypersonic jetliner will be 2.5 times faster than the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner retired in 2003.

Boeing believes an advanced titanium airframe will be required to achieve the Mach 5 cruise speed, while the Concorde achieved Mach 2 with an aluminum airframe.

The propulsion system will be a turboramjet engine, a turbofan engine that can transition to ramjet mode.

With a common inlet and exhaust nozzle, turboramjet's turbofan engine will operate until the transition speed required for the ramjet to operate is achieved and will be restarted when the vehicle slows down for a runway landing.

Boeing says a hypersonic passenger vehicle could be airborne in 20 to 30 years.

Boeing, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems has invested about $37.4 million in the SABRE hybrid aircraft engine being developed by UK based Reaction Engines Ltd.

The SABRE engine would breathe air at lower altitudes for a top speed of around Mach 5, but then switch to a Mach 25 rocket mode when it reaches thinner altitudes at the edge of space.

Ground testing of SABRE is planned for 2020.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Lockheed awarded Bahrain F-16 Block 70 contract

Lockheed Martin received a $1.12 billion contract from the U.S. government to produce 16 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft for the Royal Bahraini Air Force.

The Undefinitized Contract Action award represents the first F-16 Block 70 sale and the first F-16 production program to be performed in Greenville, South Carolina.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is the first customer to procure the F-16 Block 70, the newest and most advanced F-16 production configuration.

The F-16 Block 70 features advanced avionics, a proven Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, a modernized cockpit, advanced weapons, conformal fuel tanks, an automatic ground collision avoidance system, an advanced engine and an industry-leading extended structural service life of 12,000 hours.

The combat-proven F-16 continues to prove itself as the world's most successful, combat-proven multi-role fighter. To date, 4,604 F-16s have been procured by 28 customers around the world. Approximately 3,000 operational F-16s are flying today with 25 leading air forces, including the U.S. Air Force.

Germany want nuclear role for Eurofighter Typhoons

Germany is looking to certify its Eurofighter Typhoon combats jets for carrying nuclear weapons.

German Defense Ministry has sent a formal letter to U.S. Defense Department in April, asking the feasibility, cost involved and time required for the certification, according to a Reuters report.

Currently German Tornado bombers are certified to deliver U.S. B61 nuclear warheads hosted by the country, under NATO's nuclear sharing policy.

Germany operates 89 Tornado fighters which are slated for phased out starting in 2025. A replacement aircraft is being sought with bids submitted in April 2018 by Airbus offering the Eurofighter and U.S. govt representing Lockheed Martin and Boeing offering F-35 and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters respectively.

Eurofighter Typhoon seems to be the obvious choice for Germany which will offer the reduced maintenance and operating cost as a fleet of 140 aircraft are operational with Luftwaffe, and will also sustain jobs and technology in Germany and Europe.

But downside is that the Eurofighter lacks stealth capabilities and is not nuclear weapon certified. Airbus says the certification can be achieved by 2025, but U.S. military experts say the process could take until 2030 or longer, which might force Germany to extend the life of some Tornados.

This gives the Lockheed Martin F-35 an advantage with its radar evading stealth capability that ensure survivability during a nuclear mission and is already slated to carry nuclear weapons beginning in the early 2020s.

There are an estimated 480 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, deployed at bases in Belgium (20), Germany (150), Italy (90), the Netherlands (20), Turkey (90) and the United Kingdom (110).

United States plans to deploy 180 of the improved B61-12 LEP precision-guided thermonuclear bombs to five European countries between 2020-24. The B61-12 has a “dial-a-yield” feature and is able to strike within 30 metres of its target.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A-29 turboprop crashes in New Mexico

A Sierra Nevada Corp A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico on Friday.

The Embraer A-29 was taking part in the US Air Force's Light Attack Experiment program when it crashed at the Red Rio Bombing Range which is located within White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

One of crew member died in the accident while the other sustained minor injuries, Holloman AFB said in a release.

The Red Rio Bombing Range is an active Air Force facility that encompasses approximately 196,000 acres on White Sands Missile Range.

The A-29 is a combat proven aircraft with precision ground attack capabilities built in Jacksonville, Florida by Sierra Nevada Corporation under license from Brazilian Embraer, The aircraft has been delivered to US allies including Afghanistan and Lebanon.

US Air Force is trialing the aircraft for a potential acquisition as a low cost light-attack and reconnaissance aircraft for a low threat environment.

The introduction of A-29 can bring huge savings to the Air Force, as the present fourth and fifth generation fighters are expensive to fly and maintain.

For instance the amount of fuel it takes to keep a light-attack aircraft in the air for an hour with weapons aboard is the amount the F-15E Strike Eagle uses taxiing down the runway in six minutes.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Boeing to deliver first KC-46A tanker in October 2018

Boeing will deliver the first new generation KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker aircraft to U.S. Air Force in October 2018, the company said in a tweet.

Boeing was contracted to deliver the first lot of 18 aircraft in August 2017, but missed the deadline after experiencing production and developmental issues.

The company now expects to complete delivery of the first lot by April 2019.

The KC-46 is derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe and is built in the company’s Everett, Washington facility. Boeing is currently on contract for the first 34 of an expected 179 tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

The aircraft will replace the USAF's aged 1950s era Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker tanker fleet.

The multi role aircraft can also configured to carry cargo and troops.The tanker’s aft mounted telescopic boom can transfer up to 4,540 liter (1,200 gal) of fuel per minute to other aircraft while in flight and its Cobham-supplied wing and centerline mounted hose and drogue systems enables the tanker to refuel probe-equipped aircraft with up to 1,510 liter of fuel per minute.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Germany selects Heron TP drones

Germany’s parliament approved lease of Israeli made Heron-TP surveillance drone in a deal worth an estimated €1 billion ($1.2 billion).

Airbus signed an operator agreement with German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) to operate the Heron TP unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The contract includes both the provision of Heron TP UAS as well as all operational services required for the system. In accordance with German budget law, the contract will become effective upon publication of the federal budget.

Heron 1 drones, which are currently deployed by the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali, are to be replaced by the more powerful IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) made Heron TP which is already fully operational with the Israeli Air Force, although the contract between the Bundeswehr and Airbus is based on this previously successful model. Industry will ensure system performance, flight hours and availability and enable soldiers to focus fully on their respective missions.

The project will have a two-year set-up phase, followed by an operational phase lasting a further seven years, thereby bridging the gap until a sovereign European drone will be developed.

Under the terms of the basic contract, the Bundeswehr will receive five aircraft equipped for reconnaissance missions and capable of carrying weapons, four sets of ground segments, training environments and all system operational services. The basic contract also includes preparing the drones for their use in future countries of operation.

The systems are equipped with electro-optic and infrared sensors and imaging radar systems to perform far-reaching reconnaissance tasks. Satellite communication systems and German data and voice encryption systems are also part of the configuration.

The UAVs are kitted out with a weather radar system so that they can operate in bad weather conditions.

The MALE HERON TP system will get military certification from the German Armed Forces aviation authority in accordance with STANAG 4671 allowing the system to be used around the world. This is supplemented by the integration of collision avoidance capabilities.

As was the case with the previous model, the Heron 1, Airbus as prime contractor will closely collaborate with Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI). Complementing its role as prime contractor, Airbus is already a Heron TP design organisation approved by the German Armed Forces aviation authority and will also become the approved Heron TP manufacturing and maintenance organisation for the project.

The 14 m long, 26 m wingspan Heron TP has a maximum take off weight of 5,400 kg and can carry a mission payload of 1,000 kg.

It is powered by a 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engine and have a top speed of 220 KTAS.