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.

Airbus details H160M for French Armed Forces

Airbus Helicopters revealed more details about the Airbus Helicopter H160M military helicopter selected for the French Joint Light Helicopter Program (HIL).

The H160M was selected by French Defense Ministry to replace six different helicopters in service with French Army, Air Force and Navy.

The helicopter is a militarized version of the new generation commercial H160 medium weight utility helicopter being developed by Airbus. The three services will receive specific variants with custom features.

The H160M will feature larger windows for increased visibility, an IFF+ interrogator, , external sling, hoist, self protection system, infra-red suppression in engine exhausts, anti-sand engine air intake filter, canted fenstron tail rotor for improved stability and low vibrations, in-flight refueling system, 20 mm canon, side-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun and electro-optical system.

The medium weight helicopter will have a maximum take off weight (MTOW) ranging from 5,669 kg to 6,050 kg, a 400 NM (741 km) range and a 5 troop/2 stretcher capable cabin.

The Army variant will come equipped additionally with a datalink and TDA Armements Aculeus  laser guided ground attack rocket firing capability, while the Navy variant will have anti-ship missile capability, a datalink, tactical radar and manually foldable main rotor blades and tail fin for ship-board operations.

The H160M can be flown under pilot autonomy for 50 hours with out any checks. It is powered by two Safran Helicopter Engines Arrano turboshaft engines rated at 1,100 shp each.

The commercial H160 is undergoing flight testing and is scheduled to enter service in 2019.

French sources reported that H160M will make maiden flight in early-2020 and commence delivery by 2023.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Qatar equipping Rafale with Sniper targeting pod

The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) selected Lockheed Martin's Sniper® Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) for its Rafale aircraft, marking continued growth and platform expansion for the precision targeting capability.

Under this contract announced during the Eurosatory exhibition, Lockheed Martin will provide the QEAF with pods, spares and deployment support for the Rafale – the 10th platform to fly with Sniper ATP. Integration efforts are ongoing, with flight tests currently in progress.

"Platform expansion on the Rafale aircraft is a testament to Sniper ATP's proven performance, ease of integration and open architecture," said Kenen Nelson, director of Fixed Wing programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "We continuously invest to ensure that Sniper ATP is the most capable targeting pod available for our allies worldwide."

Pod deliveries to the QEAF will begin in 2019.

Sniper ATP detects, identifies, automatically tracks and laser-designates small tactical targets at long ranges. It also supports employment of all laser- and GPS-guided weapons against multiple fixed and moving targets.

Sniper ATP has been integrated across multiple platforms, including U.S. Air Force and multinational F-2, F-15, F-16, F-18, A-10, B-1, B-52, Harrier and Typhoon aircraft. 

Cost reduces as Lockheed delivers 300 th F-35

The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin delivered the 300th production F-35 aircraft, demonstrating the program's continued progress and momentum. The 300th aircraft is a U.S. Air Force F-35A, to be delivered to Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The first 300 F-35s include 197 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variants, 75 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variants, and 28 F-35C carrier variants (CV) and have been delivered to U.S. and international customers.

As production volume increases and additional efficiencies are implemented, Lockheed Martin is on track to reduce the cost of an F-35A to $80 million by 2020, which is equal to or less than legacy 4th generation aircraft.

With the incorporation of lessons learned, process efficiencies, production automation, facility and tooling upgrades, supply chain initiatives and more, the F-35 enterprise has already significantly reduced costs and improved efficiency. For example:

  • The price of an F-35A has come down more than 60 percent from the first contract.
  • Touch labor has been reduced by about 75 percent over the last five years.
  • Production span time has decreased by about 20 percent since 2015.

The F-35 enterprise met its 2017 delivery target of 66 aircraft, representing more than a 40 percent increase from 2016. In 2018, the team is targeting 91 aircraft deliveries and is preparing to increase production volume year-over-year to hit a rate of approximately 160 aircraft in 2023.

More than 620 pilots and 5,600 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 140,000 cumulative flight hours.