Monday, September 25, 2017

Boeing delivers first 747-8 to Qatar Airways, announce more order

Boeing and Qatar Airways announced an order for two 747-8 Freighters and four 777-300ERs (Extended Range), valued at $2.16 billion at list prices.

The orders were previously unidentified on Boeing's Orders & Deliveries website.

The airline also received the first of its 747-8 Freighters at a delivery ceremony attended by His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive and Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister.

"The addition of our very first 747-8 Freighter is a significant moment for our Cargo division, and a welcome addition to our 20-strong cargo fleet of wide-body aircraft," said His Excellency Mr. Al Baker.

"As the world's third-largest cargo operator, Qatar Airways continues to invest in fleet expansion, with a second 747-8F due to be delivered in November. This reflects our confidence in Boeing to continue to deliver an outstanding product that meets our exacting standards. We expect no less than perfection, and we are confident that Boeing will continue to deliver that."

Today's announcement is the latest milestone in Qatar Airways' relationship with Boeing. The carrier became a launch customer for the 777X in 2013, was the first to operate the 787 in the Middle East and has 20 737 MAX airplanes on order.

"We are proud of our strong, enduring and growing partnership with Qatar Airways and we truly appreciate the value its business has brought to Boeing, its employees, suppliers and our communities," McAllister said. "As one of the world's largest international cargo carriers, it is heartening that Qatar Airways has selected the 747-8 Freighter to meet the needs of its growing cargo operations and to see the important role the 777-300ER continues to play in its long-haul fleet."

Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of nearly 100 Boeing widebody airplanes and has more than 100 additional Boeing airplanes on order.

The 747-8 Freighter gives cargo operators the lowest operating costs and best economics of any large freighter airplane while providing enhanced environmental performance. It is optimized to provide greater revenue cargo-carrying capability than the 747-400, offering 16 percent more cargo volume while keeping its unique nose door. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

India's Astra BVRAAM complete developmental trials

India has completed the developmental flight trials of the indigenous Astra Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM).

The final testing conducted from 11-14 September, involved a total of seven successful trials over the Bay of Bengal, against the Lakshya Pilotless Target Aircraft.

The missile were fired from Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jet against the PTA in various flight regimes. The missions included engagement of target at very long range, engagement of high manoeuvring target at medium range and multiple launches of missiles in salvo to engage multiple targets.

All the sub-systems including the indigenous RF Seeker performed accurately, meeting all the mission parameters and objectives. Two missiles were also launched in the combat configuration with warhead and the targets were neutralized.

The missile was developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), while the integration on to the aircraft was carried out by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Powered by a smokeless rocket motor, the 154 kg Astra carries a 15 kg warhead and can engage target at a maximum range of 75 km, while shorter range version has a range of 44 km.

Russian Tu-22M3 bomber involved in runway excursion incident

A Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber was involved in a runway excursion incident after landing at the Saykovka airbase on Sept. 14.

The supersonic bomber with registration RF-94233, reportedly veered off the runway after a hard landing and came to rest on ground nearby.

All the four on board, including the pilot, co-pilot, weapon system officer and navigator escaped unharmed.

The aircraft based at the Belaya Air Base, had been flying a mission as a part of the Zapad 2017 military exercise between Belarus and Russia.

The Tu-22 M3 is a variable sweep wing long range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed in the 1970s. Around 150 of them are operated by Russian Air Force and Navy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon Crashes in Yemen

The Joint Saudi-UAE coalition fighting the Yemen's Houthi rebels has lost their first fighter jet during combat operation in the Southern Yemen.

A Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Eurofighter Typhoon crashed in Yemen's Abhyan province while carrying out a combat mission, killing its pilot.

According to Saudi Govt press release, the Eurofighter crashed due to technical reasons and pilot Lt Col Muhanna Al-Baiz did not survive the crash.

This is the first crash of Eurofighter Typhoon during combat operations. In August a UAE Black Hawk military helicopter crashed in Yemen killing the four on board personnels.

Saudi Arabia received its last of the 72 Eurofighters ordered by the Kingdom in June 2017.

South Korea hone precision strike capabilities with Tauras KPED

Amid rising tensions with North Korea, South Korea conducted precision strike trials of its Tauras KPED 350K standoff cruise missiles on 12 Sept.

The Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) Boeing F-15K fighter launched the missile against a static target over the western coast of the country.

The high subsonic speed Tauras missile with a maximum range of 500 km self navigated around 400 km to strike the target.

The trials marks the integration of the missile onto the South Korean F-15K fighters after delivering the first batch of 40 missiles in October 2016.

The Tauras KEPD 350K is an enhanced and upgraded version of the TAURUS KEPD 350 missile, which has been in service with the German Air Force since 2005 and with the Spanish Air Force since 2009.

The 5 m long, 1400 kg KEPD 350K missile has been designed and developed to fly through dense air defenses at a very low terrain-following level and for the engagement of high-value targets.

The missile contains a highly effective dual stage warhead system weighting 480 kg, which combines excellent penetration capabilities for hard and deeply buried targets with blast-and-fragmentation capabilities against point and area targets.

The dual stage warhead called Mephisto has an initial penetrating charge to clear light surfaces like soil and penetrate the bunker and then a variable delay fuze trigger the main warhead to destroy hardened objects.

It is powered by a Williams P8300-15 turbofan engine and navigation system include inertial navigation, GPS, Terrain reference navigation and Image Based Navigation.

South Korea has ordered a total of 260 Tauras missiles to arm its F-15K fighters and is expected to order more following the tensions.

The TAURUS KEPD 350E is a product of TAURUS Systems GmbH, a joint venture between MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Saab Dynamics AB.

USAF awards contact for preliminary design of next Air Force One

U.S. Air Force has awarded a contract modification for just under $600 million to Boeing on Sept. 12, 2017, for preliminary design efforts for the next U.S. presidential aircraft, based on Boeing 747-8 aircraft.

The contract modification includes the design to incorporate a mission communication system, electrical power upgrades, a medical facility, an executive interior, a self-defense system and autonomous ground operations capabilities into two commercial Boeing 747-8s.

These aircraft will replace the two aging VC-25A (747-200) presidential support aircraft.

These aircraft will provide the president of the United States with safe, reliable and affordable air transportation equipped with all mission capabilities necessary to continuously execute the constitutional responsibilities of commander-in-chief, head of state, and chief executive.

Under this contract action, Boeing and their suppliers will complete the initial design of the future Air Force One. The Air Force is committed to working with Boeing to ensure the PAR program meets presidential airlift mission requirements, as well as the president's affordability expectations.

The Air Force is also working with Boeing on a follow-on contract modification, referred to as the Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract modification, which will continue the program through detailed design, aircraft modification, test and delivery of two presidential mission-ready aircraft.

The EMD contract modification is planned to be awarded in the Summer of 2018. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Russian TV7-117ST turboprop engine commence flight testing

The United Engine Corporation has began flight tests of the upgraded Russian TV7-117ST turboprop engine developed by Klimov to power new turboprop aircraft.

The engine is intended to power the IL-112V military transport aircraft and the IL-114-300 regional airliner, while its turboshaft variant powers the Mi-38 helicopter.

The engine is flight tested on board the IL-76LL flying laboratory, with one of its inner starboard PS90 turbofan engine replaced with the TV7-117ST turboprop.

The advanced engine has a maximum takeoff power of 3000 hp, and can deliver 3,600 hp in emergency conditions. It is paired to a six bladed AV-112 propeller developed by Aerosila NPP.

The engine is equipped with FADEC control system that can control the engine speed and propeller pitch to achieve the max fuel efficiency.

United Aircraft Corp is planning to resume the production of the IL-114-300 aircraft with the new engine, which will improve its take off performance.

The IL-112V is a new generation turboprop military airlifter intended to replace the An-26 operated by Russian Armed Forces.

The first prototype of the aircraft has completed final assembly and is planned to achieve first flight in the coming months. With a maximum take off weight of 21 tonnes, the IL-112V can carry a payload of 5 tonne.

US clears F/A-18 sale to Canada

United States has cleared a 5.23 billion dollar deal to supply Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets to Canada.

The deal for 18 Super Hornets include 10 single seat E versions and 8 twin seat F fighter/trainer versions, along with support, spares and weapons.

The order is an stopgap measure until a permanent replacement to the present Canadian F/A-18 (locally called CF-18) hornet fighter fleet acquired in the 1980s, following cancellation of acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter by the present Trudeau government.

The aircraft will be equipped with AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, M61A2 20MM gun systems, AN/ALR-67(V)3 Electronic Warfare Countermeasures Receiving Sets, AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods, Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems–Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS), Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS), AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Countermeasures Systems, LAU-127E/A and or F/A Guided Missile Launchers, AN/AYK-29 Distributed Targeting System (DTS) and AN/AYK-29 Distributed Targeting Processor (DTP).

Weapons include AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II Tactical Missiles, AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II Special Air Training Missiles (NATM), AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II Tactical Guidance Units and AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II CATM Guidance Units.

The principal contractors will be:  Boeing Company, St. Louis, MO; Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles, CA; Raytheon, El Segundo, CA; General Electric, Lynn, MA; and Raytheon Missile Systems Company, Tucson, AZ.  Canada will also negotiate offset agreements with key U.S. contractors.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Saab unveils Gripen Aggressor concept at DSEI 2017

Swedish Saab has unveiled an aggressor variant of the Gripen multi-role fighter jet for the first time at DSEI 2017, London, UK.

Based on the Gripen C variant, the Gripen Aggressor is intended for the adversary air combat training market, with its unique mix of high performance, mission flexibility and availability combined with a low life cycle cost.

An aggressor, or adversary, aircraft, is used to act as an opposing force in advanced military combat training. Aggressor squadrons use enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures to provide a realistic environment for the fighter pilots to train against.

There is a growing segment within the adversary air combat training market for highly advanced aggressor capabilities to be able to perform realistic combat training. Gripen Aggressor provides an exceptional, dissimilar opponent aircraft system against which pilots will sharpen and refine their combat skills so as to fight and win against an advanced enemy threat.

Saab sees potential for the platform as a high-level aggressor option within both the United States Air Force’s Adversary Air (ADAIR) and UK MOD’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) requirements.

The aircraft has been customised for the aggressor role. It has all the renowned handling and flight characteristics associated with the Gripen C and its advanced sensor and datalink capabilities, but will not carry live armament.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mitsubishi MRJ resume flight testing after short grounding

The Mitsubishi MRJ passenger jet has resumed flight testing from Moses Lake, Washington following a brief pause after an in-flight engine failure incident.

The four aircraft flight test fleet were grounded on August 21, following an uncommanded engine shutdown during a test flight.

The left Pratt & Whitney PW1200G geared turbofan engine of the MRJ FTA-2 experienced an uncommanded engine shut down with out any prior indication to the pilots.

The aircraft was immediately diverted to Portland International Airport and carried out a single engined landing without any further incidents.

The left PW1200G GTF engine involved in the incident

The FTA-2 returned to its flight test center at Grant County Airport in Moses Lake, after the engine was replaced.

Flight testing was resumed with the FTA-4 aircraft, flying out of the Phoenix Mesa airport in Arizona on September 6.

The aircraft has since then completed multiple flights, with one flight lasting more than 3.5 hours.

Mitsubishi said the FTA-4 engines were inspected with the help of a team from Pratt & Whitney prior to commencing the flight test. The company said the exact cause of th FTA-2 engine malfunction is under investigation.

The MRJ 70-90 seat regional jet is the first commercial airliner design from Japan. After numerous delays, the MRJ is now poised to achieve certification in 2019 and enter service with All Nippon Airways in 2020.

To fasten the flight testing process, Mitsubishi is carrying out the flight testing from Moses Lake.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

First Phénix A330 MRTT tanker for France takes off

Airbus Defence and Space has completed the maiden flight of the first A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport for France.

The aircraft, which will be known in French service as Phénix, is the first of nine ordered by the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA, plus another three expected to be confirmed.

It is the second new standard A330 MRTT to fly, featuring structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements giving a fuel-burn reduction of up to 1%, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems.

The aircraft was converted in Getafe from a standard A330 assembled in Toulouse. The crew reported that the aircraft performed in line with expectations during the 3h 25min flight.

The Phénix fleet will be equipped with a combination of the Airbus Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods, and can carry 272 passengers or be configured for medical evacuation.

First delivery is due in 2018. Fifty-one A330 MRTTs have been ordered by eight nations of which 28 have been delivered.

Photo: Pablo Cabellos / Airbus

Leonardo Vixen AESA radar selected for upgrading IAR-99 TD trainer jet

Leonardo’s Vixen 500E AESA radar has been procured by the National Institute for Aerospace Research “Elie Carafoli” (INCAS), Romania’s leading aerospace research and development establishment, for its new trainer technology demonstrator programme IAR-99 TD.

The project is based on a Romanian Air Force IAR-99 Soim trainer jet (prototype no. 7003) which will be modified by INCAS together with aircraft manufacturer Avioane Craiova.

Leonardo has worked with INCAS previously, providing its Seaspray 5000E AESA surveillance radar for INCAS’s special mission BN-2 Islander aircraft.

This is currently being used for scientific and environmental monitoring missions. It is hoped that the sale of the Vixen 500E could lead in future to Romania’s fleet of IAR-99s being retrofitted with the new radar as part of a wider upgrade program.

Dr. Catalin Nae, General Manager of INCAS, said: “It is a dedicated development program towards a new generation trainer we develop at INCAS, as a follow-up on the current IAR-99 Soim in service for the Romanian MoD. IAR-99 TD is a technological demonstrator to fully test and further develop new technologies for advanced trainer, with enhanced sensing and combat capabilities. The Vixen 500E radar system will bring the capability that we consider critical with respect to the operational environment for our future trainer.”

Vixen 500E is one of Leonardo’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems, meaning that instead of physically pointing the radar’s antenna at its target, a matrix of miniature radar modules are used to steer the beam electronically.

This technology allows Vixen to combine high performance with reliability and a low cost of ownership, as well as being easy to install and operate. The prototype aircraft with the radar on-board is expected to be ready for testing by the end of 2017.

The contract with INCAS follows Leonardo’s recent provision of the same Vixen 500E radar to the US Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) in Patuxent River, Maryland, where students will use the radar while training on-board the school’s C-26 aircraft. Previously, Leonardo has also sold the Vixen 500E to the United States for the Department of Homeland Security.

Leonardo is Europe’s leader in fire control radar. The company provides the Raven ES-05 AESA radar for Saab’s Gripen E combat aircraft (which will go into service with both Sweden and Brazil) and leads the pan-European Euroradar consortium in the development of the Typhoon’s new Captor-E AESA radar

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rolls Royce UltraFan engine development reach new milestone

Rolls Royce's under development UltraFan® geared turbofan engine have reached a new developmental milestone, almost a year after commencing testing in October 2016.

The planetary Gearbox for the engine successfully reached 70,000 horsepower while on test at Rolls-Royce’s dedicated facility in Dahlewitz, Germany.

Eventually the gearbox will reach up to 100,000 horsepower – the equivalent of more than 100 Formula 1 cars.

UltraFan is one of the two new generation engines which Rolls Royce is developing. Equipped with a intermediate gear box, the UltraFan will offer a 25% fuel efficiency improvement over the first generation Rolls Royce Trent 700 engine and will be available from 2025.

While the Advance engine will offer 20 percent fuel efficiency improvements from 2020, without the geared architecture. It relies on the material advancements to achieve the efficiency, like advanced lightweight alloys and a new carbon titanium fan system, comprising the fan blades and fan casing.

UltraFan's Power Gearbox, introduced between the fan and intermediate pressure compressor, enable the fan, engine compressor and the turbine to run at their optimum speeds.

The carbon titanium fan system is further developed to allow the removal of the thrust reverser, enabling a truly slim-line nacelle system.

Rolls Royce is working in partnership with Liebherr-Aerospace, through their Aerospace Transmission Technologies joint venture, to develop manufacturing capability and capacity for the new power gearbox. RR is leading the design definition and design integration of the power gearbox, as well as testing activities.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sikorsky CH-53K enters low rate production

Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, has awarded Lockheed Martin a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1 contract to build two production CH-53K King Stallion helicopters for U.S. Marine Corps.

This contract follows the April 4, 2017, Milestone C decision by the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) approving LRIP production.

Under the $303,974,406 million contract, Sikorsky will deliver two production aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps in 2020 along with spares and logistical support. Aircraft assembly will take place at Sikorsky's headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut.

The CH-53K King Stallion provides unmatched capability with three times the lift capability of its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion.

The helicopter cabin, a full foot wider, gives increased payload capacity to internally load 463L cargo pallets, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) or a European Fenneck armored personnel carrier while still leaving the troop seats installed.

The CH-53K's external hook system provides the capability to lift three independent external loads simultaneously. These true heavy lift internal and external cargo improvements give the Marine Corps tremendous mission flexibility and efficiency in delivering combat power in support of the Marine Air Ground Task Force or in delivering humanitarian assistance or disaster relief to those in need.

The King Stallion also brings enhanced safety features for the warfighter. Full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management reduce pilot workload enabling the crew to focus on mission execution.

Features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing.

These features permit the pilot to focus confidently on the mission at hand while operating in degraded environments.

The CH-53K's internal health monitoring systems with fault detection/fault isolation, coupled with a digital aviation logistics maintenance system that interfaces with the Fleet Common Operating Environment for fleet management, provides improved combat readiness for the Marine Corps.

The U.S. Department of Defense's Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

HAL bags new order for 41 ALH Dhruv helicopters

Indian Army and Indian Navy has placed an additional order for the indigenous ALH Dhruv multi-role helicopters with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

HAL and Indian Ministry of Defense signed the contract for the supply of 41 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), including 40 ALH to the Indian Army and one to the Indian Navy.

The contracts worth Rs 6100 crores ($951 million) will be executed in a period of 60 months. The 40 Army ALH order also include 18 armed variants dubbed the Rudra, which are integrated with 20 mm turret guns, rocket pods and anti tank missiles.

In March 2017, HAL had signed a contract for supply of 32 ALH to boost the maritime security capabilities of the Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

The 5.5 tonne Dhruv twin engine helicopter entered service in 2002, and is flown by Indian armed forces in utility and combat roles. The type has won more than 300 orders, largely from armed forces.

Powered by two Turbomeca Ardiden turboshaft engines, the Dhruv can operate to altitudes higher than 6 km, making it a valuable platform for Indian Army for resupplying its forward military posts in the Siachen glacier bordering Pakistan.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bell V-280 tiltrotor prototype revealed undergoing ground trials

The first prototype of the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft has been revealed undergoing ground trials at Bell Helicopter' Amarillo Assembly Center in Texas.

The next generation tiltrotor is being developed for U.S. Army's Future Vertical Lift program that intends to replace service’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility and Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

The aircraft sporting registration N280BH is in its initial configuration, and is undergoing tethered ground trails ahead of first flight expected later this month.

Weighing half the 60,000 lb Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, the V-280 offers twice the speed and range of present generation helicopters.

The Valor is designed to have a cruise speed of 280 knots (320 mph), range of 2,100 nautical miles (2,400 mi; 3,900 km), and a combat range of 500 to 800 nm (580 to 920 mi).

It features a V-tail, a large cell carbon core wing with a composite fuselage, triple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system, conventional retractable landing gear, and two 6-foot (1.8 m) wide side doors for ease of access.

One of the unusual feature of the V-280 is that, the engine and rotor are in parallel axis, and only the rotor and gearbox system rotates vertical for takeoff/landing, while the engine remain horizontal.

The engine output shaft is connected to the drive system through a spiral bevel gearbox that transfers power to the fixed gearbox and proprotor gearbox, which rotates on two big spherical bearings driven by a conversion actuator mechanism. This new design is claimed to be lot simpler than the complex hyrdo-mechanical system used on the V-22 Osprey.

The demonstrator aircraft is powered by two GE T64 turboshaft engines, while production version will be powered by an advanced engine.

The fixed engine also enable reduced ground clearance, maximizes cabin ingress/egress clearance.

Unlike the V-22 Osprey, which uses the rear ramp for fast rope and hoist ops due to high rotor downwash while using the starboard doors, the Valor has reduced downwash which facilitate rappelling and hoisting through side doors.

The Valor will be manned by four crew members and can carry 14 troops. It can carry a useful load of 12,000 lbs or 10,500 lbs load on external sling.

Monday, August 28, 2017

HAL commence serial production of LCH attack helicopter

India's state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has commenced serial production of the HAL designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter.

The 5.8 tonne twin engined attack helicopter is based on the 5.5 tonne Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv developed by HAL.

The helicopter was also granted Initial Operational Capability (IOC) following extensive flight testing carried out in extreme weather conditions at different altitudes from sea level, hot weather desert, cold weather and Himalayan altitudes.

HAL is initially building 15 LCHs for Indian Army and Air Force for $ 450 million. Both of them will eventually acquire 114 and 65 of them respectively.

One of the unique feature of the LCH is its ability to provide fire support to ground troops at mountainous high altitude regions of above 6,000 m, and is hence ideal to operate across India's border with China and Pakistan.

The LCH has demonstrated capability to land and take off from icy Siachen Range, the hotspot between India and Pakistan, with considerable load, fuel and weapons that are beyond any other combat helicopter.

The LCH features a stealthy narrow fuselage along with other features that suppress visual, aural, radar and IR signature. The armored cockpit have tandem seating configuration for pilot and co-pilot/ weapon system operator.

It is equipped with indigenous state of the art technologies like integrated dynamic system (transmission), bearing less Tail Rotor, anti-resonance vibration isolation system, crash worthy landing gear, smart glass cockpit, hinge less main rotor, and stealth features from visual, aural, radar and IR signatures.

Armament include nose mounted 20 mm Turret gun, stub wing borne 70 mm Rocket pods and Air to Air missiles and anti-tank guided missiles.

Other features include electro-optical pod for all weather target acquisition, laser designators, helmet mounted cueing system and electronic warfare protection suite.

The LCH is powered by to HAL/Turbomeca Shakti/Ardidhen turboshaft engine rated at 895 kW each.

Military variant of Mi-38 enters assembly

Russian helicopters has commenced assembly of the first militarized version of the Mi-38 medium lift helicopter.

Designated Mi-38T, the Kazan helicopters plant (KVZ) is assembling the developmental prototype under a contract from Russian Ministry of Defense.

The prototype is scheduled to commence flight testing in 2018 to prove its adaptability for military roles like medevac, search-and-rescue and as a assault troop transport helicopter.

First flown in 2003, the medium weight Mi-38 is a more capable follow on to the famous Mi-17/Mi-8 helicopter. It has a sleek and aerodynamic design due to its primary civilian transport role.

Weight saving composite materials has been used in construction of the helicopter, including in airframe, main and tail rotors.

It is powered by two new TV7-117V turboshaft engines rated at 2500 shp each, and is integrated with a advanced glass cockpit featuring five LCD screens.

The Mi-38 is one of the most automated helicopters in the world: its navigation system allows to engage an automatic mode for flying, landing, hovering, and leveling in various flight modes.

The military variant will be equipped with self sealing fuel tanks and additional fuel tanks to extend reach.

With a payload of 5000 kg, the Mi-38 can fly to a distance of 420 km, while flight range with a normal 2,700 kg cargo is 1,200 km.

Max payload in the cabin is 6,000 kg while external under sling payload can reach up to 7,000 kg.

With a max take off weight of 15,600 kg, the Mi-38 commercial transport version can seat 30 passengers and have an operational ceiling of 5,900 m.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trent engine fan blade failure caused Air Asia X A330 in-flight vibration

The aircraft making a single engine landing following the incident at Perth.

Australian Transport Safety Board has confirmed that the June 25, 2017 in-flight vibration incident of the Air Asia X Flight D7237 was indeed due to an engine fan blade failure.

The  Airbus A330 aircraft which departed Perth, Western Australia carrying 359 passengers, bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia experienced moderate in-flight jerking following the failure.

The incident happened while the aircraft registered 9M-XXE was climbing from flight level (FL) 380 (37,000 ft) to FL 400 near Carnarvon, Western Australia.

The Airbus A330's port Rolls Royce Trent 700 engine fan blade failed resulting in engine damage and significant airframe vibration. The failure resulted in rotational imbalance to the fan, causing the vibration.

The flight crew conducted an in-flight engine shutdown and returned to Perth with out any further events. Despite the shutdown, the vibration continued, as the airflow kept the rotor rotating.

The blade section and associated engine debris were retained within the engine cowls. Examination of the retained fan blade section identified that the separation was likely due to metal fatigue that originated within the blade’s internal structure.

Rolls Royce investigation found a section of the fan blade separated at about one quarter of its length from the blade base.

ATSB is continuing the investigation into the incident and is expected to release the final report in the coming months.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mitsubishi MRJ 90 flight test aircraft suffer engine failure

One of the Mitsubishi MRJ 90 regional jet flight test aircraft (FTA) has suffered an mid-air single engine failure on August 21, during a test flight from Moses Lake Airport in Washington, United States.

The second prototype JA22MJ's port Pratt & Whitney’s PW1200G Geared Turbofan engine flamed out and sustained partial damage to the engine core.

Mitsubishi said the engine experienced an uncommanded shut down with out any prior indications to the pilots.

The incident happened at 8:35 AM local time after taking off from Moses Lake at around 6 o'clock and while the aircraft was flying above sea, 170 kilometers east of Portland, Oregon.

The contained engine failure resulted in the aircraft being diverted to the Portland Airport in Oregon.

As a safety precaution, Mitsubishi has grounded the flight test fleet and plans to resume only after determining the cause of the incident.

The incident marks the second engine failure involving the Pratt & Whitney's new generation geared turbofan engine family. In May 2014 a PW1500G engine powering the Bombardier CS100 aircraft suffered an uncontained engine failure during ground testing.

The PW1100G engine that powers the Airbus A320neo is also experiencing teething issues, which has resulted in restricted flight envelope and grounding of the aircraft powered by the engine.

MRJ's PW1200G engine had acquired type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of United States in May 2017.

The 17,000 pounds thrust engine has accumulated more than 6,000 hours and 15,000 cycles as part of development, certification and flight testing activities.

PW's GTF engines contributes the major share of fuel efficiency increase in new generation jetliners like the MRJ, Bombardier CSeries, Embraer E-Jet E2, Airbus A320neo and the Russian Irkut MC-21.

The engine features an intermediate gear between the Core and Fan, that allow each to rotate in their respective optimum speeds.

Mitsubishi is carrying out majority of the aircraft certification from the Grant County International Airport at Moses Lake, using four of the five FTA.

Design changes have caused numerous delays to the MRJ program, which is the first Japanese commercial airliner design in 50 years. The latest delay caused due to need for relocation of components in avionics bay and rerouting of wiring harness, has pushed the certification to 2019 and first delivery to 2020, a two year delay.

With two variants, the aircraft offer seating capacity between 90 to 70 seats. The first prototype completed maiden flight on November 11, 2015.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Israeli F-35I fighters perform aerial refueling trials

Israeli Air Force has commenced a series of aerial refueling trials with the newly inducted F-35I stealth fighter, as a part of achieving initial operational capability (IOC).

The IAF Flight Test Squadron is carrying out the tests from Tel-Nof air force base, using the "Re'em" (Boeing 707) tanker aircraft operated by the “Desert Giants” Squadron based at Nevatim AFB.

The trials which are in its final stage, will clear the F-35I to carry out day and night aerial refueling missions at all speed and altitude approved by the aircraft software.

The F-35 uses the boom and receptacle method for aerial refueling and is equipped with a special flight mode for the process.

The capability is crucial for IAF's long range arm to perform stealthy offensive missions.

IAF is the second Air Force to operate an operational fleet of the F-35 stealth fighters after United States Marine Corps and Air Force.

Since December 2016, IAF has took delivery of five F-35I fighters of the 50 ordered and 75 aircraft planned for acquisition.

Locally called the “Adir”, the F-35I is a Israeli customized version of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter equipped with local electronic warfare systems, counter measure system and weapons.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bombardier Global 7000 FTV2 suffer in-flight engine flameout

A Bombardier Global 7000 flight test aircraft made an emergency landing on August 15 after experiencing an in-flight engine flame out.

The right GE Passport engine of the Flight Test Vehicle 2 (FTV 2) suffered the flame out while flying at 41,000 ft and 290 km from the Bombardier flight-test center at Wichita airport, Kansas.

The flight crew immediately declared emergency and carried out an single engine landing at Wichita airport, without any further events, according to a incident report by National Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The NTSB says the flame out was preceded by “high vibration and high inter-turbine temperature readings”.

Despite the incident, Bombardier says the Global 7000 program’s flight test vehicles (FTV) continue to perform certification testing activities on schedule.

The flight test program recently surpassed the 500-hour milestone and involves three flight test vehicles (FTV1, FTV 2 and FTV3). FTV4 and FTV5 are on track to join flight testing shortly.

Bombardier says the first six customer aircraft are now in production and final assembly line activities are ramping up.

The ultra long range $73 million business jet with a 7400 nm (13,700 km) range is targeting an entry-into-service in the second half of 2018.

The 18,000-pound thrust GE Passport engine achieved FAA certification in April 2016, after accumulating more than 2,400 hours and 2,800 cycles in ground and flight testing.

It is an integrated propulsion system comprising the engine and cowling nacelle blended together, in a unified design. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Oldest Boeing 747 may have flew its last flight

The oldest Boeing 747 in active service could have completed its last flight. Operated by GE Aviation as an engine flight test bed, the Boeing 747 most likely flew her final flight on January 25 from GE Aviation’s Flight Test Operation in Victorville, California.

Rolled out from Boeing's Everett assembly line on October 17, 1969, the 747-100 made its first commercial flight with Pan American World Airlines on March 3, 1970.

Named the Clipper Ocean Spray, Pan Am flew the aircraft for 21 years, accumulating more than 86,000 flight hours and 18,000 cycles before GE acquired the aircraft in 1992.

After undergoing modifications like removing seats, strengthening the left wing and tail for flight testing and installing data systems, the Flying Test Bed began operations with GE in 1993 at its Flight Test Operation facility, which was then located in Mojave, California.

With GE, the historic 747 aircraft completed more than 3,600 flight hours and 775 cycles before its final January flight.

The aircraft provided critical flight data on more than 11 distinct engine models and 39 engine builds, including widebody engines likes the GE90, GEnx and the Engine Alliance GP7200, CF34 engines for regional jets, narrow body engines like CFM56 and LEAP, and the Passport for business aviation.

Gary Possert, retired Chief Test Pilot at GE Aviation, was part of the original B747-100 Flying Test Bed flight crew and flew on 705 flights, “The 747 is one of the best airplanes made in the history of mankind in my opinion. Very stable, easy to fly and extremely reliable. I will definitely miss the 747-100 Flying Test Bed.”

While the aircraft heads to storage, GE Aviation has acquired a B747-400 aircraft from Japan Airlines in late 2010 and turned it into its new Propulsion Test Platform (PTP).

Powered by GE’s CF6-80C2 engines, the new PTP offers better capabilities and improved integrated systems compared to the older flying test bed.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

U.S. to supply A-29 turboprops to Nigeria

U.S. State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of twelve A-29 Super Tucano light air support aircraft to Nigeria.

The deal including weapons, all associated training, spare parts, aviation and ground support equipment, and hangar, facilities, and infrastructure required to support the program is estimated at $593 million.

These aircraft will support Nigerian military operations against terrorist organizations Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa, and Nigerian efforts to counter illicit trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.

The Super Tucano is a sustainable platform for counter terrorism, counter-insurgency, border surveillance, and illicit trade interdiction operations.

The proposed sale, and associated training and engagement, is one piece of broader U.S. security cooperation to help professionalize, modernize, and build the capacity of Nigeria’s armed forces and strengthen the U.S. security relationship with Africa's largest democracy.

The prime contractor is the Sierra Nevada Corporation, headquartered in Centennial, Colorado who is building the aircraft in United States under license from Brazilian Embraer.

On Feb. 27, 2013 the U.S. Air Force had awarded the Light Air Support contract to SNC to supply 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano to the Afghanistan military, to be used for light air support, reconnaissance and training missions.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 pilot awarded for safe landing despite severe injury

Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter pilot has been awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for safe recovery of his aircraft despite incapacitating injury.

On 26 July 2016, Wing Commander Ravinder Ahlawat was authorized to carry out a 'Range Instructional Technique' (RIT) sortie over Pokharan Range in Dassault Mirage 2000 Trainer aircraft as the captain of the aircraft, occupying the front cockpit.

While carrying out "Pull Up Attack" circuit, at 500 ft above ground level at high speeds and in a turn, the aircraft experienced a bird hit.

The severity of the impact shattered the canopy perspex completely and the bird hit Wg Cdr Ahlawat, damaging his helmet, breaking his visor and injuring his face, neck, arms and chest resulting in profuse bleeding and nearly incapacitating him.

The bird also broke the glass separator between the front and the rear cockpit as well. The impact also damaged the front pilot ejection system.

Due to the injuries, blood streaming down his face and bird remains, Wg Cdr Ahlawat had limited vision available from his left eye only.

Despite the nature of his injuries, shock of impact, high wind blast and minimal reaction time since the aircraft was flying at low level, he took all the emergency actions correctly to save the aircraft and people of a village in close vicinity of the Pokharan range.

During recovery, the rear pilot could not see the runway due to the perspex being obscured. Without the front pilot taking over and landing, the aircraft would have to be abandoned.

There were significant chances of ejection system failure due to damage to the same. Displaying gallantry and upholding the virtues of "service-before-self", Wg Cdr Ahlawat used his one hand to open his left eye, took over the controls with the other hand and despite incapacitating injuries, limited binocular vision and with the canopy perspex blown off, he executed a safe landing on the nearest runway of an Indian Air Force Base.

New Indonesian N219 turboprop complete maiden flight

Indonesia's State owned PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) has completed maiden flight of the indigenous N219 twin turboprop commuter aircraft.

The first prototype completed a 30 minute test flight and landed back at Husein Sastranegara International Airport in Bandung on Wednesday.

The test flight was piloted by PTDI's chief test pilots Captain Esther Gayatri Saleh, and Captain Adi Budi Atmoko.

The 19 seater aircraft will be certified conforming to the CASR Part 23 airworthiness standards for small aeroplanes.

Including the aircraft, two prototypes will be used to carry out the 300 hour flight test program, while two aircraft will be used for ground tests.

The design and development of N219 is based on PTDI's experience on license production of CASA C-212 Aviocar and joint development of C-235 turboprop aircraft with Spanish airframer CASA.

The aircraft is designed to operate from unpaved grounds and need minimal ground support equipment to operate.

The N219 features an all metal high wing design, equipped with a fixed landing gear and an un-pressurized cabin.

The aircraft is 54 ft 1 in (16.49 m) long and have a wingspan of 64 ft 0 in (19.5 m) and a height of 20 ft 3 in (6.18 m).

With a Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) of 7,030 Kg, the N219 can carry a maximum payload of 2,300 kg.

Powering the N219 is two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6 turboprops, rated at 850 SHP each and driving a Hartzell 4-blade metal propeller.

With the max internal fuel of 1,600 kg, the twin prop can fly to a max distance of 828 NM (1533 km), while max range with max payload is only 149 NM (275 km).

Due to its short take off and landing capability, the aircraft require just a 500 m airstrip for landing and take off.

The N219 have a economy cruise speed of 190 knots (350 kmph), while the stall speed is 59 knots (109 kmph).

Besides its commuter role, the aircraft can also configured for troop transport, search and rescue, medical evacuation, and cargo transport roles.

Swiss retires BAe Avro RJ100 fleet

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has retired its last Avro RJ100 short haul airliner from service, after 15 years of operation.

The last of a total of 21 aircraft took off from Geneva on Tuesday morning and made its last official landing at Zurich airport.

Immediately after landing in Zurich, the aircraft registered under HB-IYZ received the traditional water fountain salute by the airport fire brigade before being officially taken out of service to loud applause from a crowd of employees and aviation fans.

The Avro RJ100 and its smaller version, the Avro RJ85, formed the backbone of the SWISS European fleet since the company was founded in 2002.

The Avro fleet has completed over 700,000 hours in the air. During that time SWISS made over half a million flights with this British Aerospace (BAe) aircraft.

With their record for excellent maintenance quality, these former SWISS aircraft remain in high demand despite their age, and will go into service with other airlines.

SWISS continues to push ahead with the program of fleet modernization which it commenced in early 2016.

By the end of 2018, another 20 Bombardier C Series aircraft will join the existing fleet of 10 currently deployed on our short and medium-haul routes.

On the long-haul routes, two further Boeing 777-300ERs will replace part of the Airbus A340 fleet by spring 2018.

Powered by four Lycoming ALF 502 i turbofan engines, the BAe 146/RJ100 was known for its quiet operation and was widely used from small city airports. Production ran from 1978 to 2001, manufacturing 387 aircraft, making it the most successful British commercial aircraft program.

Monday, August 14, 2017

AFRL developing high efficiency diesal engine for unmanned aircraft

 (Courtesy photo/AEDC)

U.S. Air Force is developing an advanced high efficiency diesel engine, as a potential replacement for current manned and unmanned aircraft internal combustion engines.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Power Technology Office, along with Engineered Propulsion Systems and the Arnold Engineering and Development Center, recently concluded ground-based testing of the engine.

Designed by Engineered Propulsion Systems as part of an AFRL effort, the Graflight V-8, 4.3 liter engine is a “clean sheet” design specifically intended for aircraft use. It is liquid-cooled and capable of using either a composite or aluminum propeller.

The compact engine is built to use up to 40 percent less fuel than typical aircraft engines, with less vibration. This increased efficiency extends operational range and loiter time by up to 50 percent.

The one of the major advantage of the engine is its multi-fuel capability. Using a innovative control unit, the engine can run on diesel, Jet-A or military fuel JP-8 that are readily available in theatre. Hence it reduce the need to transport specialized fuels to operating bases, enabling operation from remote regions currently impractical.

Since the engine require considerably less fuel, it can extend reach of the aircraft or enable more weapon payload capability.

The first step in turning this innovative design into reality was proof-of-concept testing, beginning with the recent ground tests conducted at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex. Here, the development team performed simulated flights at altitude in the facility’s Propulsion Development T-11 Test Cell, which was reopened for this test effort after not being used for a decade. The T-11 test cell simulates airflow at a variety of altitudes.

During the ground testing, the EPS Graflight engine was taken through a range of operational flight conditions, from sea-level to 30,000 feet and back, successfully meeting performance expectations and generating valuable data on performance factors such as fuel consumption, calibration, vibration and power output.

Once the proof-of-concept is fully demonstrated, it will be considered for use in several Air Force manned platforms. Designers will also work to scale the engine down to a smaller variant, better sized for current Air Force unmanned aircraft.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Modified X-47B unmanned aircraft breaks cover

A modified version of the Northrop Grumman X-47B stealthy unmanned carrier capable aircraft has been revealed being prepared for testing from a U.S. Air Force facility in Palmdale, California.

The aircraft, according to Aviation Week, is the flight test bed for US Navy's MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tanker contest.

Flight testing of the two X-47B prototypes as a part of US Navy's Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) program was completed in 2015.

According to the Aviation Week report, the aircraft has been integrated with an wing air refueling pod (WARP) under the left wing (seen in the photo) and a drop fuel tank under the right wing.

Even though not visible from the the picture, the report identifies the X-47B as the second prototype 502 Salty Dog due to presence of the aerial refueling drogue. The Salty Dog performed the first autonomous aerial refueling by an unmanned aircraft using Navy's drogue and chute method, in April 2015, completing the program.

The WARP is powered by a RAM Air Turbine

The MQ-25A will be the first operational unmanned carrier borne aircraft of US Navy and is intended to carry fuel and perform autonomous aerial refueling to extend reach of Navy's manned aircraft.

In 2013, these X-47B were used to demonstrate the first ever carrier-based launch and recovery of unmanned aircraft.

The tailless bat winged aircraft is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PW F100 turbofan engine, with a central upper fuselage air inlet. Excluding the engine configuration, the X-47B resemble an subscale version of the U.S. Air Force B-2 Stealth Bomber.

F-35B perform maiden Ski Jump with ASRAAM and Paveway IV weapons

The Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II test aircraft has performed maiden land based Ski Jump with on board UK specific weapons.

The BF-2 aircraft piloted by Peter "Wizzer" Wilson performed the Ski Jump with Paveway IV LGB & MBDA ASRAAM short range air to air missile, from the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, United States.

Four 500 lb Paveway IV laser guided bombs and two MBDA ASRAAM were integrated on external under wing pylons. Both of them can also carried in the internal weapon bay.

This external weapon load out will be employed when payload outweighs the stealth requirements of a mission.

Photo : Arnel Parker

The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) already uses ASRAAM and Paveway IV on its existing Tornado and Typhoon combat jet fleet. The successful tests are a step towards full interoperability between the current and future fast jets that will be used by the RAF and the UK’s Royal Navy from 2018.

Flight trials with these UK made weapons were commenced in 2014. The first guided Paveway IV release from F-35B was achieved in December 2016, while the F-35A fired the ASRAAM for first time in March 2017.

Both of them will be certified as a part of the Block 3F software release scheduled for May 2018. UK also plan to integrate the MBDA Meteor long range missile and the Spear anti-tank guided missile on to its F-35B fleet in future.

The STOVL F-35B is the most expensive variant of the F-35 family costing about 135 million each and also the least capable of the three.

UK plans to procure 138 of these world's first supersonic STOVL aircraft, for operating from the two under construction ski jump equipped Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (Royal Navy) and land based bases (RAF).

For more than 30 years, the U.K. has used the ski jump approach to carrier operations as an alternative to the catapults and arresting gear used aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.

The shorter UK carriers feature an upward-sloped ramp at the bow of the ship. Curved at its leading edge, a ski-jump ramp simultaneously launches aircraft upward and forward, allowing aircraft to take off with more weight and less end-speed than required for an unassisted horizontal launch aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.

The F-35B STOVL operation is made possible through the Rolls-Royce patented shaft-driven LiftFan® propulsion system and an engine nozzle that can swivel 90 degrees when in short takeoff/vertical landing mode. Because of the LiftFan®, the STOVL variant has smaller internal weapon bay and less internal fuel capacity than the F-35A. It uses the probe and drogue method of aerial refueling.

The UK will declare F-35 maritime Initial Operational Capability in 2020. Each HMS Queen Elizabeth can embark up to 36 F-35B aircraft, which is 280 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet long, and displaces up to 65,000 tons of water. It is so big that each of its two propellers weigh 33 tons.

Friday, August 11, 2017

India flies AESA radar equipped Jaguar fighter

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has successfully test flown an AESA radar equipped SEPECAT Jaguar fighter-bomber aircraft operated by Indian Air Force.

Part of the indigenous DARIN III avionics upgrade, the aircraft has been integrated with a ELM-2052 Active Scanned Electronic Array radar developed by Israeli Elta.

The aircraft is the first AESA radar equipped fighter in Indian Air Force fleet.

 The AESA radars enables the fighter to track multiple targets; communicate in multiple frequencies through high bandwidth apart from offering high accuracy and resolution, an official said.

Unlike a mechanically scanned radar, the AESA can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antenna mechanically.

AESA radars can spread their signal emissions across a wider range of frequencies, which makes them more difficult to detect over background noise, allowing ships and aircraft to radiate powerful radar signals while still remaining stealthy.

The Elta ELM-2052 fire control radar have air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-sea operation modes, and weapon deployment.

In the air-to-air mode, the radar delivers very long-range multi target detection and enables several simultaneous weapon deliveries in combat engagements.

In air-to-ground missions, the radar provides very high resolution SAR mapping, surface moving target detection and tracking over RBM and SAR maps in addition to A/G ranging.

In air-to-sea missions the radar provides long-range target detection and tracking, including target classification capabilities (RS, ISAR).

Currently operated only by Indian Air Force, the Anglo-French Jaguar was designed in the 1960s and first introduced to service in 1973. Hence integrating the latest Active Scanned Electronic Array radar with a third generation fighter is a remarkable achievement.

The Display Attack Navigation III upgrade is part of IAF's plan to extend service life of the 120 strong fleet of Jaguars, which serves in the deep penetration strike role, for another 15-20 years.

IAF plans to upgrade 61 Jaguars to the Darin 3 standard and re-engine all the aircraft with a more powerful Honeywell F-125N engine.

DARIN 3 incorporates new state of the art avionics architecture including the Open System Architecture Mission Computer (OSAMC), Engine & Flight Instrument System (EFIS), Fire Control Radar, State of the Art Inertial Navigation System with GPS and Geodetic height correction, Solid State Digital Video Recording System (SSDVRS), Solid State Flight Data Recorder (SSFDR), Smart Multi-Function Display (SMD), Radio Altimeter with 20000 ft range, Autopilot with Alt Select & HNAV and Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF). 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Australia retire Heron RPAS system

Australia has withdrawn the IAI Heron remote piloted aircraft system, following 8 years of service. 

The aircraft which can relay real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information, flew its last mission from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Tindal during Exercise Diamond Storm on June 23.

During the exercise, Heron completed 17 sorties in support of the Air Warfare Instructor Course in an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance electronic warfare (ISREW) role.

The aircraft had played a pivotal role in Air Force’s ability to deliver air-land integration effects in support of national security interests including in Afghanistan, where it completed more than 27,000 mission hours during Operation Slipper.

After its last operational mission from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on November 30, 2014, Heron then made history by flying in civilian airspace for the first time out of Rockhampton airport during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015. This led to the commencement of operations from its home base at RAAF Base Amberley in 2016.

From January 2010 to November 2014, 5FLT, operating as Task Unit 633.2.7, provided ISREW support to Australian forces and International Security Assistance Force partners in southern Afghanistan. About 500 personnel who were deployed as part of the task unit were recognised.

Air Force has regularly operated the Heron aircraft in restricted military air space from RAAF Base Woomera. 

Australia leased two of these Israeli built RPAS from MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates (MDA) in 2009.

A replacement armed medium altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft system capability is being acquired through Project AIR 7003 and is scheduled to be delivered after 2020. General Dynamics is offering its proven and widely flow MQ-9 Reaper, while IAI is pitching the Heron TP.

RAAF has taken steps to retain and further develop knowledge and experience, including embedding personnel in the US Air Force flying the MQ-9 Reaper. These personnel will form the core of the future ADF capability to be delivered by AIR 7003.

The 1.1 tonne Heron can conduct single missions in excess of 24 hours, with a maximum speed of more than 100 knots (180 km/h) at altitudes of up to 10,000 metres.