Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dassault cancels Falcon 5X program after engine developmental delay

Dassault Aviation has cancelled its twin engine Falcon 5X business jet program, after recurring technical issues experienced by Safran to develop the Silvercrest engine.

The ultra-wide business jet will be replaced by a new Falcon program with an entry into service in 2022. The new jet will powered by a Canadian PWC engine, rather than the 11,450 lbf (50.9 kN) thrust French engine.

The delivery of compliant Silvercrest engines was originally planned for the end of 2013 in accordance with the Falcon 5X flight test schedule.

In 2015 and 2016, major technical issues have led Safran to announce a new schedule leading to engines delivery for the Falcon 5X flight tests by the end of 2017.

Consequently, Dassault Aviation had to postpone the entry into service of the Falcon 5X from 2017 to 2020, a 3 year delay which also resulted in 12 customer cancellations in 2016.

Equipped with a preliminary version of the engine, not compliant with the specifications, the Falcon 5X performed its maiden flight, on July 5, 2017, and started a preliminary flight test campaign, limited by engines capacity.

In the fall of 2017, Safran experienced issues with the high pressure compressor and informed Dassault Aviation of an additional delay and new performance shortfall, making the 2020 entry into service of the aircraft impossible.

Considering the magnitude of the risks involved both on the technical and schedule aspects of the Silvercrest program, Dassault Aviation initiated the termination process of the Silvercrest contract leading to the end of the Falcon 5X program and plans to start negotiations with Safran.

The replacement program will be powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 engines, which have a thrust range of 10,000–20,000 lbf (44–89 kN). The aircraft will have a 5,500 nm range and is scheduled to enter service in 2022.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Aurora demonstrate autonomous UH-1 helicopter for Marines

Aurora Flight Sciences conducted a successful demonstration of a Bell UH-1 based autonomous helicopter for resupply missions, developed under the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program.

Held at Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Urban Training Center, the AACUS-Enabled UH-1H (AEH-1) conducted multiple flights, showcasing its ability to autonomously execute re-supply missions in relevant and austere settings.

AACUS is an aircraft-agnostic hardware and software suite which enables a Marine on the ground to
request a supply delivery via helicopter from a handheld tablet, requiring no advanced training to operate the system.

AEH-1 is fitted with onboard lidar and camera sensors that enable it to detect and  avoid obstacles and evaluate the landing zone. The system processes this information to perform onboard mission, route, and path planning to enable autonomous mission execution.

While previous demonstrations have showcased the system’s autonomy capabilities and interactions with trained operators, this is the first demonstration in which the aircraft performed cargo and utility missions in an operationally-relevant training environment with Marine interaction.

As part of the demonstration, Marines loaded supplies for the aircraft before clearing the autonomy system for autonomous takeoff.

Aurora has developed multiple technologies under the AACUS program: the digital flight control system which enables the UH-1 to fly autonomously; and the Tactical Autonomous aerial LOgistics System (TALOS) autonomy technology.

The AEH-1 was granted a Special Airworthiness Certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in October, allowing the aircraft to operate autonomous with only a safety pilot onboard to monitor the controls.

The flights served as the final demonstration to ONR, Department of Defense representatives and
other senior officials, the culmination of a highly successful five-year Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) 2 program.

Having completed the third and final phase of the program, AACUS will now transition to the Marine Corps for experimentation and potential acquisition.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pictures: Qatar A321 caught fire on ground

An Qatar Airways Airbus A321 passenger jet caught fire on December 8, while undergoing a maintenance at Hamad International Airport in Doha.

The fuselage of the aircraft was burnt after the In-flight Entertainment (IFE) Satellite Antenna caught fire during maintenance.

The fire was extinguished quickly but the roof and cabin suffered extensive damage. Reports identify the aircraft with registration A7-AIB, which was built in 2010 and powered by International Aero Engines V2500 engines.

UK-Qatar sign Eurofighter contract

BAE Systems and the Government of the State of Qatar have entered into a contract, valued at approximately £5bn, for the supply of Typhoon aircraft to the Qatar Emiri Air Force along with a bespoke support and training package.

The contract is subject to financing conditions and receipt by the Company of first payment, which are expected to be fulfilled no later than mid-2018.

The contract provides for 24 Typhoon aircraft with delivery expected to commence in late 2022.

BAE Systems is the prime contractor for both the provision of the aircraft and the agreed arrangements for the in-service support and initial training.

The deal will secure work for the BAE's production line at Warton into the next decade.

The contract comes a week after Qatar signed a contract with France to acquire an additional 12 Dassault Rafale jets in addition to the 24 aircraft already contracted.

Qatar Emiri Air Force which currently operates just 9 Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft, has also ordered 36 Boeing F-15 strike fighters from United States.

Israel Operationalise F-35 Stealth jets

Israel became the second country to declared Initial Operational Clearance for its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter fleet, less than a year after taking delivery of the first aircraft.

The IOC gives Israeli Air Force an strategic combat advantage over rival Arab Air Forces in the region, who operate fourth generation generation combat jets, while the F-35 is a fifth generation radar evading jet.

Since delivery of the first aircraft in December 2016, IAF carried out extensive training flights to quickly operationalise the aircraft and expand the flight envelope.

Based at the Nevatim Air Force Base, the Israeli F-35 fleet currently consist of 9 aircraft, of which five where chosen for the inspection. Eventually IAF will operate 50 aircraft.

Christened Adir in Israeli fleet, the F-35 will receive custom Israeli avionics modifications in the country, which will then be designated F-35I.

Unique features of the aircraft include, reduced radar signature, sensor fusion, supercruise, internal weapon bays and incredible 8 ton weapon payload including on external weapon stations.

Since 2006, more than 250 F-35 aircraft has been produced for US and its allies, with around 2,400 aircraft to be produced in total.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Qatar orders additional 12 Dassault Rafale fighter jets

Qatar has placed an additional order for 12 more Dassault Rafale fighters jets, in a move to considerably expand defensive/offensive capability of the country.

The deal is follow on to the contract signed on 4 May 2015 between Qatar and Dassault Aviation for acquisition of 24 Rafale.

The agreement was signed in the presence of the French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron, and his Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatar Armed Forces and Dassault Aviation.

Traditionally a French ally, Qatar has also bolstered its international ties by placing combat aircraft deal with United States and United Kingdom, amid an severed relation and blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and UAE.

The country has placed an order for 36 Boeing F-15QA strike aircraft from United States for 21.1 USD in November 2016.

In September 2017, a Letter of Intent for acquisition of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon jets were signed between British BAE Systems. The Eurofighter is a consortium of companies from UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The Eurofighter Typhoon was a pan European effort in the 1990s, but France exited the program and developed the Rafale indigenously.

Currently the Qatar Emiri Air Force operates just 9 single engine Dassault Mirage 2000 multi-role fighters, which will be replaced by 96 twin engined high performance jets from Europe and USA.

The first Dassault Rafale will be delivered to Qatar in mid-2018, with at least three aircraft undergoing flight testing in France.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

USAF KC-46A completes maiden flight

The first Boeing KC-46A tanker that will be delivered to the U.S. Air Force next year successfully completed its first flight and airborne tests today, taking off from Paine Field at 10:32 a.m. PST and landing approximately three-and-one-half hours later.

During the flight, Boeing test pilots took the tanker to a maximum altitude of 39,000 feet and performed operational checks on engines, flight controls and environmental systems as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved flight profile. Prior to subsequent flights, the team will conduct a post-flight inspection and calibrate instrumentation.

The newest tanker is the KC-46 program’s seventh aircraft to fly to date. The previous six are being used for testing and certification and to date have completed 2,200 flight hours and more than 1,600 “contacts” during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10, KC-10 and KC-46 aircraft.

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

The KC-46A is a multirole tanker that can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo and patients.

Air New Zealand 787 returns back after engine trouble

An Air New Zealand Flight NZ99 returned to airport after one of its engine performed abnormally after take off on Tuesday.

The Boeing 787-9 with registration ZK-NZE was climbing after departing from Auckland to Tokyo when the crew were alerted to abnormal indications on one of the two Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines.

Onboard passengers reported the aircraft began to shake violently, clunking sounds, and electrical power went temporarily out.

The accident engine

The crew shut the suspected engine down and returned back to Auckland. The aircraft landed safely on single engine power without any further issues after 50 minutes.

Air New Zealand operated 9 Boeing 787s and have 4 more on order.

This is the second engine vibration incident involving the Rolls Royce Trent series engines in 2017, after an Air Asia A330 returned to base after severe inflight shaking in August 2017.

Sukhoi Su-57 flies with new engine

Russian Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter has completed first flight with the improved Izdeliye 30 turbofan engine, featuring increased thrust and reliability.

The flight which took off on Tuesday, lasted 17 minutes and was flown by Sukhoi chief test pilot Sergei Bogdan from the M.M. Gromov flight test center.

The engine replaces the interim 117S or AL-41F1S engine, which was developed to power the Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role fighter.

The second prototype, with hull No. 52 is powered by the new engine, which is said to be a clean sheet design and drop-in replacement to the 117S with minimal changes to the airframe. The Su-57 flight testing is expected to continue through 2018, with first delivery to Russian Air Force expected in 2019.

The fifth generation engine have thrust increased to 11,000 kgf (~108 kN) without afterburner and 19,000 kgf (186 kN) with afterburner.

The Izdeliye 30 also features fewer parts, lower maintenance costs and increased fuel efficiency.

Like the AL-41FS, the Izdeliye 30 is also equipped with the 3D thrust vectoring nozzles and is capable of attaining supersonic speed without using the afterburner (Supercruise).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hybrid-Electric Airbus EFan-X demonstrator to fly in 2020

Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have formed a partnership to develop a near-term flight demonstrator of an hybrid-electric propulsion commercial aircraft.

The E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator is anticipated to fly in 2020 following a comprehensive ground test campaign, provisionally on a BAe 146 flying testbed, with one of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor.

Provisions will be made to replace a second gas turbine with an electric motor once system maturity has been proven.

The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, such as thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues.

The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technology. The programme also aims at establishing the requirements for future certification of electrically powered aircraft while training a new generation of designers and engineers to bring hybrid-electric commercial aircraft one step closer to reality.

The EFanX will be a four engine aircraft, with its turbofan engine being a 2 MW Siemens motor coupled to a Rolls Royce AE3007 turbofan engine's fan and nacelle.

The hybrid aircraft will be equipped with a 2 MW generator powered by a Rolls Royce AE2100 turboprop engine. 

As part of the E-Fan X programme, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens will each contribute with their extensive experience and know-how in their respective fields of expertise:

  • Airbus will be responsible for overall integration as well as the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, and its integration with flight controls.
  • Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics. Along with Airbus, Rolls-Royce will also work on the fan adaptation to the existing nacelle and the Siemens electric motor.
  • Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system. This comes on top of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, launched in 2016, which aims at development and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial demonstraion across various power classes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

US Navy C-2A crashes in Philippine Sea

A United States Navy C-2A Greyhound aircraft carrying 11 crew and passengers crashed into the ocean approximately 500 nautical miles southeast of Okinawa at 2:45 p.m. today.

The aircraft was en-route to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which is currently operating in the Philippine Sea.

Search and rescue operations recovered eight personnel and were transferred to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) for medical evaluation and are in good condition at this time

Search and rescue efforts for three personnel continue with U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships and aircraft on scene.     

The aircraft was conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).  Reagan is operating in the Philippine Sea as part of an exercise with JMSDF. 

The C2-A is assigned to the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Three Zero, Detachment Five, forward deployed in NAF Atsugi, Japan. Detachment Five's mission includes the transport of high-priority cargo, mail, duty passengers and Distinguished Visitors between USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and shore bases throughout the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia theaters.   

Indian Su-30 MKI fires 2.5 ton BrahMos supersonic cruise missile

India became the first country to test fire a supersonic cruise missile from an aircraft, with the test firing of the air-launched version of the BrahMos cruise missile on Tuesday.

The BrahMos-A was successfully flight-tested from an modified Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet against a sea based target in the Bay of Bengal.

The missile carried on a centerline fuselage pylon, was gravity dropped from the Su-30, and the two stage missile’s engine fired up and straightway propelled towards the intended target at the sea in Bay of Bengal.

The successful maiden test firing of Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) from Su-30MKI will significantly bolster the IAF’s air combat operations capability from stand-off ranges.

Brahmos ALCM weighing 2.5 ton is the heaviest weapon to be carried by the Su-30 MKI, and the aircraft wings and fuselage has been strengthened by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to carry the weapon.

With a range of 290 km, the BrahMos can carry out precision strikes against ground targets within seconds, as speed can reach close to Mach 3.

This will enable IAF Su-30MKIs to strike precisely from standoff distances, high-value strategic infrastructure and terrorist camps etc.

The test complete the tactical cruise missile triad for India, with the Brahmos now having the air, naval(both submarine and ship) and land based versions developed.

The land attack and ship borne versions are already operational with Indian Army and Indian Navy.

Compared to its land/naval variants, the air launched missile have reduced weight and is shortened to 8 m and have additional fins for stabilization during horizontal flight.

Brahmos was developed as a joint venture between DRDO of India and NPOM of Russia, based on the Russian P-700 Onik supersonic missile.

Captive flight trials commenced in June 2016. Two Su-30 MKI fighters has been modified to carry out the flight trials.

Indian Air Force plans to modify 40 of its eventual fleet of 272 Su-30 MKIs to carry the BrahMos ALCM.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Indian Air Force C-130J clocks longest flight time

An Indian Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules airlifter has clocked the longest flight time by the type on November 18.

The aircraft flew 13 hours and 31 minutes non-stop without any aerial refueling, setting a global endurance record for the type.

The Crew got airborne from Hindon Air Force in Delhi and circumnavigated the Indian Subcontinent.

Indian Air Force currently operates 5 C-130Js of the 6 six delivered, after one crashed in 2014. IAF is also acquiring a replacement plus an additional 6 C-130Js to augment its tactical airlift capabilities.