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F-35C Completes First Night Flight Aboard Aircraft Carrier

By on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

The F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter conducted its first carrier-based night flight operations aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego Nov. 13.

Navy test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Ted “Dutch” Dyckman piloted F-35C test aircraft CF-03 for the inaugural night flight, taking off from USS Nimitz (CVN 68). At 6:01 p.m. Dyckman conducted a series of planned touch and goes before making an arrested landing at 6:40 pm.

The night flight was part of Development Testing I (DT-I) for the F-35C, which commenced Nov. 3 and is expected to last two weeks. The Nimitz is hosting the F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 during the initial sea trials of the F-35C.

During DT-I, the test team has conducted a series of events designed to gradually expand the aircraft-operating envelope at sea, including crosswind and low-energy, high-wind catapult launches and approaches to test the aircraft’s ability to perform in both nominal and off-nominal conditions.

Through Nov. 13, two test F-35C aircraft have completed 28 flights for a combined 34.5 flight hours and accomplished more than 75 percent of threshold test requirements. The aircraft also performed 108 catapult launches, 215 planned touch-and-go landings, two long touch and go landings, 110 arrested landings and zero bolters.

Testing thus far has demonstrated the aircraft’s exceptional handling qualities throughout all tested launch and recovery conditions. F-35C maintenance and operations have integrated well with standard Navy carrier procedures onboard Nimitz. The F-35C has proven its ability to operate in the carrier environment and has consistently caught the optimal three-wire during arrested landings. The test team successfully landed during every attempt, with zero hook-down bolters, or failures to catch an arresting cable on the flight deck.

The goal of DT-I, the first of three at-sea test phases planned for the F-35C, is to collect environmental data through added instrumentation to measure the F-35C’s integration to flight deck operations and to further define the F-35C’s operating parameters aboard the aircraft carrier. A thorough assessment of how well the F-35C operated in the shipboard environment will advise the Navy of any adjustments necessary to ensure that the fifth-generation fighter is fully capable and ready to deploy to the fleet in 2018.

The successful night flight of the F-35C represents a step forward in the development of the Navy’s next generation fighter.

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F-35C Initial At-Sea Testing Progressing Aboard USS Nimitz

By on Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The F-35C Lightning II, the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, continues initial sea trials aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) off the coast of Southern California.

Through Nov. 6, the fourth day of at-sea testing, two test F-35C aircraft have completed 12 flights. During those 12 flights, the aircraft flew a combined 12.7 flight hours and accomplished 203 test points.

The Navy’s newest fixed-wing fighter performed 55 catapult launches, 84 planned touch-and-go landings and 57 arrested landings. Through four days of at-sea testing, the test team successfully landed during every attempt, with zero bolters, or failures to catch an arresting cable on the flight deck.

With the last of the four test pilots completing carrier qualifications Nov. 6, all aircrew members are now carrier-qualified and able to fly the aircraft in test events.

During the first stage of developmental testing, the test team conducts a series of events designed to gradually expand the aircraft-operating envelope at sea. Events scheduled for Nov. 7 center on crosswind catapult launches and crosswind approaches to test the aircraft’s ability to perform in both nominal and off-nominal conditions.

At-sea test delivers the opportunity to conduct operations in preparation for Navy F-35C initial operational capability scheduled for 2018.

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US Navy to Deploy Electromagnetic Railgun Aboard JHSV

By on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

The U.S. Navy plans to install and test a prototype electromagnetic railgun aboard a joint high speed vessel in fiscal year 2016, the service announced today.

This test will mark the first time an electromagnetic railgun (EM railgun) has been demonstrated at sea, symbolizing a significant advance in naval combat.

EM railgun technology uses an electromagnetic force – known as the Lorenz Force – to rapidly accelerate and launch a projectile between two conductive rails. This guided projectile is launched at such high velocities that it can achieve greater ranges than conventional guns. It maintains enough kinetic energy that it doesn’t require any kind of high explosive payload when it reaches its target.

High-energy EM railguns are expected to be lethal and effective against multiple threats, including enemy warships, small boats, aircraft, missiles and land-based targets.

“The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,” said Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy’s chief engineer. “This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide-range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.”

EM railgun technology will complement current kinetic weapons currently onboard surface combatants and offer a few specific advantages. Against specific threats, the cost per engagement is orders of magnitude less expensive than comparable missile engagements. The projectile itself is being designed to be common with some current powder guns, enabling the conservation of expensive missiles for use against more complex threats.

“Energetic weapons, such as EM railguns, are the future of naval combat,” said Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, the chief of naval research. “The U.S. Navy is at the forefront of this game-changing technology.”
This demonstration is the latest in a series of technical maturation efforts designed to provide an operational railgun to the fleet. Since 2005, the Navy and its partners in industry and academia have been testing railgun technology at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., and the Naval Research Lab where the service has a number of prototype systems.

The final operational system will be capable of launching guided, multi-mission projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles against a wide range of threats. The series of tests are designed to capture lessons for incorporation into a future tactical design and will allow the Navy to best understand needed ship modifications before fully integrating the technology.

The Navy is using JHSV as a vessel of opportunity because of its available cargo and topside space and schedule flexibility. Because JHSVs are non-combatants, there is no plan to permanently install a railgun on any ship of the class. A final decision has not been made on which ship classes will receive a fully operational railgun.

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X-47B Operates Aboard Theodore Roosevelt

By on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) conducted flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Nov. 10.

The event, the most-recent in a series of carrier-based tests, demonstrated the integration of the latest in naval aviation technology with the most advanced and capable carrier.

This weekend’s tests demonstrated the X-47B’s ability to integrate with the carrier environment. The aircraft performed precise touch and go maneuvers on the ship to generate data that characterizes the environment in close proximity of the carrier flight deck. In addition, the aircraft took part in flight deck handling drills, completed arrested landings and catapult launches. Mission operators monitored the aircraft’s autonomous flight from a portable command and control unit from Theodore Roosevelt’s flight deck during each of its 45-minute flights.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for the ‘Big Stick’ to be a part of the development and testing of the future of Naval Aviation,” said Capt. Daniel Grieco, Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer. The UCAS is an impressive system that gives us all a glimpse into the support and strike capabilities we can expect to join the fleet in the years to come. The tactical and support possibilities for such platforms are endless, and I know the crew of TR are proud to be able to be a part of that development.”

A major objective for the UCAS-D program is to demonstrate a digitized carrier controlled environment to allow for robust communications between the aircraft and all carrier personnel involved with launching, recovering and controlling the aircraft. A digitized carrier environment will ultimately increase flexibility and improve safety.

“This weekend’s resumption of carrier-based flights for the X-47 continues our efforts to mature critical unmanned enabling technologies and reduce the technical risk for the follow-on Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system,” said Capt. Beau Duarte, the Program Manager for Unmanned Carrier Aviation.

Current and future test events will continue to mature unmanned technologies and refine concept of operations to further inform unmanned carrier requirements. These program successes represent significant advancements in naval aviation technology and provide a glimpse into the future integration of manned and unmanned aircraft aboard the carrier fleet.

“Today, we took another significant step toward integration of unmanned capabilities into our carrier airwings and aircraft carrier environments,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter. “The Navy remains steadfast in its commitment to maturing today’s technologies which have established a realistic path to tomorrow’s affordable, flexible unmanned carrier aviation capabilities for our warfighters.”

Carrier-based tests of the X-47B began in December 2012 with flight deck operations aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Carrier testing resumed in May 2013 aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), where the X-47B completed its first carrier-based catapult launch, followed by its first carrier-based arrested landing in July.

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China’s J-15 Fighter jets Conduct First Successful Operations Aboard Aircraft Carrier Liaoning

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Skid marks left on the flight deck of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning could verify the recent operations of J-15 naval fighter jets during the vessels’ recent mission in November 2012. as seen on this Eros B satellite images taken November 6 and November 12, 2012. Photos: Imagesat

China’s Xinhua News Agency, commonly recognized as the nation’s official news service, announced on 25 November that a J-15 carrier-based fighter-bomber of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) made a successful landing aboard the nation’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. This landing represents the first known landing of a jet aircraft aboard China’s one and only aircraft carrier and marks a major stride forward in Beijing’s efforts to field a combat-capable aircraft carrier.

The Shenyang J-15 is a Chinese-built carrier-borne multi-role fighter-bomber based on Russia’s Sukhoi SU-33. The Xinhua News Agency claims that the J-15 is capable of carrying air-to-air, anti-ship, and air-to-ground missiles as well as an array of precision-guided munitions. According to Xinhua, the J-15’s performance is comparable to that of the Russian SU-33 and the American F-18.

In all, the Xinhua News Service reported that five J-15 fighters successfully landed aboard the Liaoning after conducting touch-and-go exercises on 4 November. Other news sources reported that a new two-seat J-15S completed its first test flight on 3 November.

According to the Xinhua News Service, this operation symbolizes the debut of the J-15 and claimed that the aircraft and ship demonstrated “good compatibility.” Xinhua also provided several undated high-resolution photographs of the landing and the Internet is now featuring several videos of the event as well.

A video broadcast by the China Central Television network clearly shows a J-15 landing on the Liaoning, dropping a tailhook, catching a deck-mounted arrestor cable, and slowly coasting to a halt.

Chinese pilots have been preparing for carrier operations for years. Particularly, pilots were trained on a land-based carrier mock-up runway built at the Chinese Carrier Aviator Center at Huludao, in the Liaoning provinde shown in this Eros B satellite image. Photo: Imagesat

After the successful landing, the aircraft is seen folding its wings and horizontal stabilizers as it taxis forward on the flight deck. Folding wings are crucial capability for aircraft operating within the restricting confines of an aircraft carrier. Additional video and photos also show a J-15 performing a successful take off from the carrier. Until now, many analysts were skeptical that China possessed the technical know-how to field an operational arrestor-cable system capable of withstanding the rigors of multiple carrier landings. Chinese pilots have been preparing for carrier operations for years. Particularly, pilots were trained on a land-based carrier mock-up runway built at the Chinese Carrier Aviator Center at Huludao, in the Liaoning provinde.

In addition to the international surprise expressed following the successful landings, many analysts were also taken aback by the appearance of a functioning arresting gear system aboard the Liaoning. Arresting gear technology is highly prized and closely guarded. Only a very few nations possess the technology to produce a functioning system and none of them have ever expressed the slightest willingness to share this technology. The question now being asked is how China was able to produce a functioning arresting-gear system in such a short time and seemingly without any previous experience in such a difficult engineering feat?

The Liaoning was initially laid down as the Admiral Kuznetsov-class multi-role aircraft carrier Riga in Mykolav, Ukraine in 1985 for the Soviet Navy and was formally launched in late 1988 and renamed the Varyag in 1990. Work on the ship was discontinued in 1992 at a time when the ship was structurally complete, but lacked electronics and other necessary equipment.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, ownership of the ship was transferred to the Ukraine. At this time she was laid up, stripped of most vital equipment, and allowed to languish with no maintenance being performed. By 1998, she was little more than a hulk lacking engines, without a rudder or required onboard operating systems, and in a deplorable state of disrepair.

The ship was bought from the Ukraine in 1998 for $20 million by a Chinese firm ostensibly for the purpose of transforming her into a floating hotel and tourist attraction. After being towed to the Dalian Shipyard in northeastern China, she underwent an extensive refit and emerged in 2006 in the form of a PLAN aircraft carrier. The Liaoning was formally inducted into the PLAN in September 2012. This event marked China’s first foray into the rarified world of aircraft carrier operations, a highly complex endeavor mastered by only a handful of nations. Only five other nations are presently able to deploy full-size aircraft carriers capable of conducting sustained fixed-wing flight operations.

In its present configuration, Liaoning is believed to be capable of operating an air wing of 30 fixed-wing aircraft and as many as 24 rotary-wing aircraft.

A cursory glance at the new J-15 leaves little doubt that the aircraft is a close copy of the Russian Sukhoi-33. Negotiations between Russia and China for the sale of an undisclosed number of SU-33s for use by the PLAN collapsed in 2009 as a result of Russian concerns that China intended to reverse-engineer the aircraft and produce a domestically-manufactured clone. Unfortunately for the Russians, China was able to obtain an SU-33 prototype from the Ukraine and now we have an operational Chinese J-15.

Chinese representatives have adamantly denied that the J-15 is an SU-33 clone. While China admits the J-15’s airframe is similar to that of the SU-33, Xinhua claims that the J-15 is the result of Chinese ingenuity and innovation.

With the PLAN’s first carrier landings and take-offs, China has taken a critical step forward in its efforts to develop a credible naval force able to project Chinese power far beyond its own shores – a “blue-water” Navy so to speak. Although this latest development does not, by any means, indicate that China is now prepared to carry out full-scale naval operations combining all elements of a “traditional” carrier strike group, it does represent a significant step in that direction. Carrier-borne operations combine some of the most complex seaborne activities known to man with intricate shipboard maneuvers that sometimes seem to move with lightning speed and China still has much to learn before she will be able to deploy a combat-ready carrier strike force.

As a side note, the China-based SINA website reported that Luo Yang, the senior engineer in charge of research and development of the J-15, died suddenly of a heart attack while aboard the Liaoning for the test flight operations. Yang was chairman and general manager of AVIC Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and devoted most of his time to the development of the J-15 according to SINA.

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MV-22 Osprey Flight Operations Tested Aboard USS Nimitz

By on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) received and refueled an MV-22 Osprey, a potential replacement for the C-2 Greyhound, for the first time Oct. 6.

The Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165, was the first from (VMM) 165 to make a carrier-based landing and was part of an on-going initiative from the Joint Program Manager Air (PMA) 275 office to increase the number of available platforms.

“This was a first for our squadron,” said Capt. Patrick Johnson, of VMM 165. “We recently made the switch from helicopters to the Osprey so it was a new experience for most of us.”

Johnson embarked Nimitz as a liaison between the pilots of the MV-22 and Nimitz’ primary flight control. As the subject matter expert, Johnson was able to provide the Nimitz crew with information about the MV-22 to aid in the recovery of this aircraft.

Since this was the first time the Osprey landed on Nimitz, though similar to standard Navy aircraft, there were some things the flight deck crew had to be mindful of.

“With the Osprey you have to be careful because the ‘down-wash’ [the air that comes from the aircraft’s rotors] is a lot more than a helicopter,” explained Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Andre Taylor, a flight deck director on board Nimitz. “This aircraft has a larger landing area so we have to make sure anything around the landing area is secure and make sure everything is out of the way.”

Nimitz sent some of its flight deck crew to Marine Corp’s Air Station Miramar, Calif., for training on how to handle the Osprey.

“We were taught how to properly chock and chain the aircraft along with how to turn, ‘taxi’ (move an aircraft without having to use a tractor or a tow bar), and stow it on the flight deck,” said Taylor. “Basically, we learned the ins-and-outs of the aircraft. We got inside all of the batteries and oxygen tanks and learned what to look for in case the aircraft crashes and where to go to pull the emergency door in case a fire broke out.”

This training played a key part in allowing the Osprey to make its first carrier-based landing on Nimitz and turned out to be a unique experience for the crew.

“We all took turns landing the aircraft because it was something new that we had never seen,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Ricardo Camposflores, a flight deck leading petty officer on board Nimitz who assisted with the Osprey landing. “We all got a chance to learn something new from this landing.”

Landing the Osprey will be another memory Nimitz’ crew will be able to add to the long history of the ship.

“I will remember this experience for a long time,” Taylor smiled. “I was more excited than I was nervous. It’s a different feeling. Most people don’t get a chance to be a part of these experiences.”

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Lockheed Led Team To Develop New Autonomous Technology Aboard Unmanned Aircraft

By on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The Office of Naval Research has awarded a $13.5 million contract to an industry team led by Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] to explore highly advanced autonomous technologies aboard an unmanned vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin and a team of industry, government, and academic partners will develop a technology that will enable aircraft to operate under supervisory control. A human operator will interact with the system at a high level while low level control is left to the automation.

The resulting technology will have the potential to improve the utility and effectiveness of current unmanned vertical take-off and landing aircraft, as well as offer pilots supplemental decision aids on legacy manned platforms.

“This contract provides our team the opportunity to demonstrate how far we can expand the technology envelope,” said Roger Il Grande, director of Airborne Systems for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Sensors business. “Some of our cutting edge technology has already been demonstrated on K-MAX for the Army’s Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Air System program, and is now deployed with the Marine Corps on the aircraft in Afghanistan.”

During this first, 18-month phase of the five-year effort, the team will demonstrate the capabilities of its Open-Architecture Planning and Trajectory Intelligence for Managing Unmanned Systems (OPTIMUS) architecture. OPTIMUS is designed to be platform-agnostic, drawing from Lockheed Martin’s experience with the unmanned K-MAX cargo resupply program and the combined teams’ expertise in the fields of sensing, autonomy and human-machine interaction.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2011 were $46.5 billion.

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