Tag Archives: Aircraft

Pakistan wants to buy Chinese stealth aircraft: Minister

By on Monday, November 24th, 2014

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has expressed interest in procuring fourth generation stealth fighter aircraft FC-31 from China.

Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain told Dawn.com on Friday the matter was being discussed with Chinese authorities.

It is for the first time that a senior government functionary has confirmed talks with China over purchase of the longer-range stealth aircraft — an issue that has been a subject of speculation in defence circles since the 10th edition of the Zhuhai Air Show (China) held earlier this month, when the aircraft was unveiled.

The Jane’s Defence Weekly had quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying that the PAF was holding talks with China for the purchase of 30 to 40 of the Shenyang FC-31 fighter planes and that discussions had gone beyond initial inquiries.

The FC-31 is being developed by China primarily for the export market. Chinese officials claim that several countries have expressed interest in the aircraft believed to be comparable to US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

A prototype of the aircraft, designated as J-31, has been flown by the Chinese aircraft research and development firm Shenyang Aviation Company for a couple of years now.

What particularly interests the PAF is that FC-31 prototype (J-31) and JF-17 use the same Russian Klimov RD-93 engines.

Pakistan is increasingly relying on China as a reliable source for its defence procurements.

Mr Hussain said that Pakistan was also interested in Chinese attack helicopter Z-10.

China and Pakistan had earlier co-produced JF-17 Thunder. Pakistan has been eagerly trying to market this fighter aircraft.

“We have nearly confirmed orders from seven countries for JF-17,” Mr Hussain said.

Pakistan, which is at present producing Block-2 of JF-17 at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, is eying orders from countries in the Middle East and Africa.

“The PAF has a requirement of 250 aircraft, but now we have decided that we’ll sell some of the JF-17 Block-2 to international buyers besides fulfilling our local demand,” the minister said.

The minister sounded upbeat about the upcoming four-day defence exhibition IDEAS 2014 beginning in Karachi on Dec 1.

Some 175 companies, including 34 local firms, are participating in the international event this year.

Mr Hussain said a few MoUs and agreements on joint ventures were expected to be signed during the exhibition, but no orders were expected at the event.

“The basic spirit behind the exhibition is to increase interaction with defence industry (officials) of other countries and provide exposure to our own industry,” he said.

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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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Wanted: Ideas for Transform Planes into “Aircraft Carriers in the Sky”

Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets-and their pilots-at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft.

These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach-one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch and recover multiple small UAS. Such an approach could greatly extend the range of UAS operations, enhance overall safety, and cost-effectively enable groundbreaking capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions.

To explore and expedite the possible development of these potential benefits, DARPA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (http://go.usa.gov/AWpm) seeking technical, security and business insights addressing the feasibility and potential value of an ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft, such as C-130 transport planes.

“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new UAS designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”

The new RFI invites short (8 pages or less) responses that must address three primary areas:

  • System-level technologies and concepts that would enable low-cost reusable small UAS platforms and airborne launch and recovery systems that would require minimal modification of existing large aircraft types. This area includes modeling and simulation as well as feasibility analysis, including substantiating preliminary data if available.
  • Potentially high-payoff operational concepts and mission applications for distributed airborne capabilities and architectures, as well as relative capability and affordability compared to conventional approaches (e.g., monolithic aircraft and payloads or missile-based approaches). DARPA hopes to leverage significant investments in the area of precision relative navigation, which seeks to enable extremely coordinated flight activities among aircraft, as well as recent and ongoing development of small payloads (100 pounds or less).
  • Proposed plans for achieving full-system flight demonstrations within four years, to assist in planning for a potential future DARPA program. DARPA is interested not only in what system functionality such plans could reasonably achieve within that timeframe, but also how to best demonstrate this functionality to potential users and transition partners. These notional plans should include rough order-of-magnitude (ROM) cost and schedule information, as well as interim risk reduction and demonstration events to evaluate program progress and validate system feasibility and interim capabilities.

Technology development beyond these three areas will be considered so long as it supports the RFI’s goals. DARPA is particularly interested in engaging nontraditional contributors to help develop leap-ahead technologies in the focus areas above, as well as other technologies that could potentially improve both the survivability and effectiveness of future manned and unmanned air systems.

Responses are due November 26, 2014 to DARPA-SN-15-06@darpa.mil by 4:00 PM Eastern Time. All technical and administrative correspondence and questions regarding this announcement and how to respond should be sent to DARPA-SN-15-06@darpa.mil.

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New Zealand Formally Accepts T-6C Training Aircraft

By on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) officially accepted ownership of the new pilot training aircraft, the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II in a ceremony at Base Ohakea this afternoon.

Currently there are four T-6C aircraft at Ohakea; two arrived in August and two earlier this month. In total RNZAF will own 11 aircraft, the remaining seven will be delivered in tranches by mid-2015.

Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley said the handover marked a significant milestone in the Air Force’s pilot training program.

“The T-6C Texans are specialist military aircraft built for the purpose of training military pilots how to fly. The T-6C will allow us to train our pilots more efficiently as they’ll use the same aircraft for their Wings course, compared to the two types of aircraft currently used.

“We’ll begin the first trainee pilot Wings course on the T-6C at the start of 2016 and these trainees will graduate at the end of that year,” said Air Vice-Marshal Yardley.

The handover ceremony consisted of a flypast by the T-6C aircraft and a ceremonial ‘wash’ by the RNZAF fire trucks.

The aircraft have been delivered by the manufacturer Beechcraft Defence Systems. The formal handover of the aircraft follows the completion of maintenance training in New Zealand and pilot conversion courses in the United States.

The RNZAF’s popular aerobatic team the Red Checkers currently fly the CT-4E Airtrainer in their displays. The aerobatic team will fly the T-6C aircraft instead and a competition has been launched to rename the team to fit their new aircraft.

“Our aerobatic team is one of the main ways the public see the Air Force flying. I’m encouraging people to put their name suggestions forward on our Air Force Facebook page,” said Air Vice-Marshal Yardley.

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UK MoD Set to Order Its First Batch of F-35 Lightning II Combat Aircraft

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon today announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has reached agreement in principle on an order for the first production batch of four Lightning II stealth combat aircraft – which will operate from both the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers and RAF land bases.

A formal contract is expected to be placed within weeks for the F-35B aircraft, which form part of the MOD’s investment in Lightning II over the next five years to procure an initial 14 of these multi-role fifth generation aircraft, together with the necessary support arrangements and infrastructure.

Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said:

“Today’s announcement is a major step forward. The Lightning II will equip the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force with a highly advanced multi-role stealth combat aircraft, operating from both our new Queen Elizabeth class carriers and land bases.

“These aircraft will form part of the first UK-based squadron of F-35s, which will take up station at RAF Marham in 2018. This programme is also bringing substantial industrial benefits to the UK, providing thousands of skilled jobs in the UK aerospace industry.”

Bernard Gray, the MOD’s Chief of Defence Materiel, said:

“I am delighted that this agreement prepares the way for the first batch of operational combat aircraft. It ensures the MOD remains on target for achieving both operational capability from land bases and the start of flying trials aboard the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018.”

Air Commodore Mark Hopkins, Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for Lightning II, said:

“Lightning II will be a genuinely transformational aircraft when it enters service with the RAF and the Royal Navy. With highly advanced sensors, systems and weapons, this fifth generation stealth aircraft will offer a quantum leap in terms of capability and, alongside Typhoon, will offer the UK flexible and adept Air Power for the foreseeable future.

“As the first batch order for aircraft to form part of our first operational squadron, this marks a very significant milestone in this programme.”

It is anticipated that the contract will be finalised in the coming weeks, which will allow deliveries of the aircraft, within the contract, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, to commence from mid-2016.

The aircraft provide an important step on the path to rebuilding the UK’s carrier strike capability. They feature short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) and the latest stealth and intelligence surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology.

Background Information

  • The UK has already taken delivery of three F-35B jets to date, which are based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, US, and an order was placed for a fourth UK aircraft in September 2013 which will be delivered early in 2016. These are for test and evaluation. The UK’s first operational Squadron will transition to RAF Marham in Norfolk in 2018, which will become their Main Operating Base.
  • The agreement is part of a larger contract award which will be let by the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office (JPO), based in Washington DC, with Lockheed Martin, and will procure a total of 43 aircraft for the Programme across six nations.
  • Significant UK sub-contractors to the programme include BAE Systems, Cobham, GE Aviation, Honeywell, Martin Baker, MBDA, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Selex Galileo, Ultra Electronics & EDM Limited.

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Engineers Harvest and Print Parts for New Breed of Aircraft

It’s more an engineer’s dream than nightmare – to rapidly prototype and redesign aircraft using 3-D printed parts. That’s just what a team of student interns and engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, got to do: custom-build aircraft by repurposing surplus Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Grafting fuselages side-by-side adds more motors, propellers and batteries to improve power and performance capacity.

By lengthening the wings, the team was able to improve aerodynamic efficiency and help extend the flight time of small, lightweight electric aircraft.

The prototype aircraft are constructed using components from Aerovironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye UAVs that NASA acquired from the United States Marine Corps via the General Services Administration’s San Francisco office. Unmodified, these small electric aircraft weigh 5.9 pounds, have a 3.75-foot wingspan and twin electric motors, and can carry a one-pound instrument payload for up to an hour.

NASA can use these Dragon Eyes to penetrate the dangerous airspace within the plume of the volcanoes because their electric motors do not ingest and are not affected by the contaminated air. The Dragon Eyes are proving to be an effective way to gather crucial data about volcanic ash and gas emissions.

The team – comprised of full-time students and summer interns from Stanford University, University of California (UC) Los Angeles, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Northeastern University, as well as Ames engineers – modified Dragon Eyes by harvesting spare parts from other Dragon Eyes and reassembling them along with specially designed 3-D manufactured parts to create new aircraft the team dubbed “FrankenEye.”

The NASA team created the name FrankenEye to reference “Frankenstein.” The student teams participating in summer activities harvested parts from surplus aircraft and reanimated them using new 3-D printed parts with the goal of increasing payload capacity and endurance for use in Earth Science missions.

“We essentially created two entirely new machines,” said Kevin Reynolds, principal investigator of the FrankenEye project at Ames.

“We worked alongside a group of students to rapidly prototype, manufacture, test and demonstrate key capabilities in preparation for next year’s volcano plume-sampling field work.”

The FrankenEye project team used 3-D printers at Ames and Stanford to create prototypes and make conceptual models. The donated stock UAVs did not come with any blueprints so 3-D scanning technology was essential to design the interface to existing hardware, and create mechanical drawings.

After finalizing designs that featured longer and more slender wings and dual fuselages, the teams printed new parts including wing sections, nose cones, winglets, control surfaces, wing ribs and even propellers using the NASA Ames SpaceShop.

The 3-D printed wing sections were reinforced using carbon fiber tubing or aluminum rods to give them extra strength without adding significant weight.

“The more weight we carry in material is less weight we can carry in sensors or batteries,” said Reynolds.

“Dragon Eyes can fly approximately one hour using the existing lithium-ion battery. But with two fuselages – meaning two batteries – and a more efficient wing design that allows it to fly slower and conserve energy, our variants can fly up to three times as long using electric power.”

Within two months, the student interns also customized open source flight and navigation software to conduct nine test flights of two variants of modified aircraft named “Chimera” and “Alicanto” at Stanislaus County’s Crows Landing Facility in California.

The teams demonstrated the ability of their aircraft to take off autonomously, navigate through a series of waypoints, enter into a glide and land at a predetermined location without pilot intervention.

“This project is very exciting for us because it has demonstrated a new capability for quickly and inexpensively modifying existing aircraft to tailor them to specific mission goals,” said Matt Fladeland, Ames co-investigator on the FrankenEye and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) validation projects.

“In this case the modified aircraft will be able to stay up longer while carrying more science payload over the volcano.”

The Costa Rican Airborne Research and Technology Application 2015 mission will be the latest in a series of deployments of small unmanned aircraft (UAVs), led by David Pieri, volcanologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and is supported by the NASA Earth Surface and Interior Focus Area, the ASTER Mission and a consortium of NASA centers, including Ames, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia and the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, as well as the University of Costa Rica (CICANUM) GasLab.

Flying as high as 12,500 feet above sea level, multiple small converted Dragon Eye UAVs, including the specialized and highly modified “FrankenEye” platform, will study the chemistry of the eruption plume emissions from Turrialba volcano, near San Jose, Costa Rica.

The goal of the activity is to improve satellite data research products, such as computer models of the concentration and distribution of volcanic gases, and transport-pathway models of volcanic plumes. Some volcanic plumes can reach miles above a summit vent, and drift hundreds to thousands of miles from an eruption site and can pose a severe public heath risk, as well as a potent threat to aircraft.

“The use of UAVs to carry out potentially hazardous sampling of volcanic gas emissions sharply reduces risk to volcano researchers,” said Pieri. “Such data also will be used to help mitigate risk for people living on or near active volcanoes and for passengers and crews flying over them.”

The project directly supports the current Terra and ASTER missions and NASA’s planned Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI) mission by improving satellite data-based observations of gases and aerosols associated with volcanic activity as well as volcanic emission transport models.

Turrialba was chosen because the continuously-erupting volcano has a relatively minimal updraft and wind shear with minimal ash content. In addition, commercial and private air traffic is very infrequent in the airspace around and over Turrialba volcano.

During the research flights in 2013, the team coordinated its data gathering with the ASTER instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft, allowing scientists to compare sulfur dioxide concentration measurements from the satellite with measurements taken from within the plume.

Through the fall, the FrankenEye project will continue to develop the aircrafts’ capabilities by focusing on sensor integration and a larger triple-fuselage design. This research effort seeks to show that FrankenEye is more than the sum of its parts and can be optimized to be more capable than its individual units.

Next spring, members of the FrankenEye team will witness their creations take flight over Turrialba volcano. Working alongside NASA Earth science researchers, they will fly the aircraft over and into the volcano’s sulfur dioxide plume.

Scientists believe computer models derived from this study will help safeguard the National and International Airspace System, improve global climate predictions, and mitigate environmental hazards (e.g., sulfur dioxide containing volcanic smog or “vog”) for people who live around volcanoes.

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NATO Air Policing Fighters Intercept Russian Aircraft over the Baltic Sea

By on Monday, October 27th, 2014

NATO radars detected and tracked one unidentified aircraft flying in the vicinity of Allied airspace in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, 21 October at approximately 9 a.m. CET. Fighter jets from NATO Ally Denmark (F-16) were scrambled, as were Portuguese F-16 aircraft from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission in order to identify the aircraft and maintain the security of Allied air space. Non-NATO fighters from Sweden were also involved in the intercept.

The aircraft was identified as a Russian IL-20 (intelligence collection aircraft). The Russian IL-20 took off from Kaliningrad and commenced flying over the Baltic Sea towards Denmark. The Russian aircraft was first intercepted by Danish F-16’s and as the IL-20 headed further north it was intercepted by fighters from Sweden. The Russian aircraft headed south again and Portuguese F-16’s were scrambled. At 12:53 p.m. CET the IL-20 approached Estonian airspace from the northeast. The Russian aircraft entered Estonian airspace near the island of Saaremaa for a period of less than one minute, which represented an incursion of about 600 meters into NATO airspace.

Portuguese F-16s made visual contact with the IL-20 and escorted it until it was further away from NATO airspace. NATO jets assigned to the Baltic Air Policing Mission were available throughout the duration of the Russian flight and the IL-20 was continually tracked using Allied assets on the ground and in the air.

Scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches NATO airspace. However, such flights pose a potential risk to civil aviation given that the Russian military often do not file flight plans, or use their on-board transponders. This means civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic. NATO Allies protect their airspace on a 24/7 basis and NATO tracks all flight activities over Europe.

NATO air defence efforts are focused on stopping unauthorized incursions into NATO airspace and on preventing acts of airborne terrorism.

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