Saturday, 30 May 2020

A400M wins certification for automatic low-level flight


A400M wins certification for automatic low-level flight | News | Flight Global

By Greg Waldron

28 May 2020

The Airbus Defence & Space A400M tactical airlifter has received certification for its automatic low flight capability.

A test campaign took place in the Pyrenees mountains and central France during April, says Airbus. The work involved operations down to 500ft, as well as transitions from low-level flight to other operations, such as aerial delivery.

The certification covers operations under visual meteorological conditions, where the crew has visibility. A second phase under instrument meteorological conditions, without visibility, is expected to be certified in the second quarter of 2021, Airbus says.

“Inherent to the fighter aircraft world, and as a unique capability for a military transport aircraft, automatic low-level flight improves the A400M’s terrain masking and survivability, making the aircraft less detectable in hostile areas and less susceptible to threats when cruising towards key military operations like aerial delivery, air-to-air refuelling, logistic or other specific special operations,” the company says.

Cirium fleets data indicates that there are 93 A400Ms in service and 84 on order. Major operators include France, Germany and the UK.

China's new H-20 bomber raises US fears

China's new H-20 bomber raises US fears - Asia Times


MAY 29, 2020

Military planners will be keeping a close watch on the scheduled Zhuhai Airshow in November — depending on how things go with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why? It won’t be because they like airshows and the entertainment they offer. No, not quite.

Rather, it’s been rumoured that it is there that China will unveil its mysterious new Xian H-20 stealth bomber, an emerging platform expected to massively extend China’s attack range and present a rival to the US B-2 and emerging B-21.

“The Zhuhai Airshow is expected to become a platform to promote China’s image and its success in pandemic control — telling the outside world that the contagion did not have any big impacts on Chinese defence industry enterprises,” a source told Business Insider.

The H-20 could, of course depending upon its technological configuration, bring a new level of threat to the United States. According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, the new supersonic stealth bomber could “double” China’s strike range.

Scary scenario?

If the H-20 can extend beyond the first island chain, as the New Zealand report maintains, then it can not only hold the Philippines, Japan and areas of the South China Sea at risk, but also threaten Hawaii, Australia and even parts of the continental US, according to a report by Kris Osborn of The National Interest.

Interestingly, although much is still not known about the platform, its existence was cited in the Pentagon’s 2018 and 2019 annual “China Military Power Report.”  

The 2019 report specifies that the new H-20 will likely have a range of “at least 8,500 km” and “employ both conventional and nuclear weaponry.” 

The report cites 2016 public comments from People’s Liberation Army Air Force Commander General Ma Xiaotian announcing the development of the H-20, and saying the weapon could emerge some time in the next decades, National Interest reported.

Well, sure enough, the next decade is here and early renderings appear to parallel some of Xiaotian’s comments about Chinese intentions for the bomber. According to the Pentagon’s China report, the H-20 will “employ 5th generation technologies.”

This claim may remain to be seen to some extent, yet the Chinese have already engineered several potentially fifth-generation aircraft with the J-20 and J-31. It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe they have done it on the H-20.

It does appear to be stealthy; it looks like it has an embedded engine, blended wing body, absence of vertical structures and engine air ducts woven into the frame under the fuselage, National Interest reported.

A reported range of 8,500 kilometers appears slightly less than a B-2 bomber’s range of more than 6,700 miles, Pentagon reports have raised concerns that the Chinese may also be developing a refuelable bomber.

Of even greater concern, is that such a refueler could “expand long-range offensive bomber capability beyond the second island chain.”

A refueler could also substantially change the equation and enable it to rival the mission scope of a B-2 which, as many know, successfully completed forty-four-hour missions from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Diego Garcia during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“The Beijing leadership is still carefully considering whether its commission will affect regional balance, especially as regional tensions have been escalating over the Covid-19 pandemic,” another source told Business Insider.

“Like intercontinental ballistic missiles, all strategic bombers can be used for delivering nuclear weapons … if China claimed it had pursued a national defence policy which is purely defensive in nature, why would it need such an offensive weapon?”

Tensions in the region have worsened in the past month with a war of words between Beijing and Washington over the pandemic, and both sides increasing naval patrols of the Taiwan Strait and South and East China seas.

The H-20 will be equipped with nuclear and conventional missiles with a maximum take-off weight of at least 200 tons and a payload of up to 45 tons. It could also potentially unleash four powerful hypersonic stealth cruise missiles, each capable of destroying major targets.

Some Chinese publications also argue that the H-20 will do double-duty as a networked reconnaissance and command & control platform.

Theoretically, an H-20 could rove ahead, spying the position of opposing sea-based assets using a low-probability-of-intercept AESA radar, and fuse that information to a firing platform hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The H-20 could also be used for electronic warfare or to deploy specialized directed energy.

However, like China’s first active stealth fighter jet, the J-20, engine development of the H-20 bomber has fallen behind schedule, according to sources.

China’s long-range Xian H-20 stealth bomber could make its debut this year

F-35 costs falling, Pentagon estimates indicate

F-35C - SBGrad (flickr)

F-35 costs falling, Pentagon estimates indicate -

By Ed Adamczyk

May 29 (UPI) -- Acquisition of F-35 fighter planes will be less expensive, with development and procurement costs down 7.1 percent, a Defense Department assessment indicates.

The Select Acquisition Report, circulating on Friday but not yet released by the Pentagon, estimates that developing and maintaining the fleet of the planes, built by Lockheed Martin, will cost $1.182 trillion over the planes' expected 66-year useful lifespan.

It is a 7.8 percent increase from last year's cost estimate of the Defense Department's costliest program.The assessment also projects that 809 F-35s will be built for the U.S. military and its allies, compared to 764 projected in 2019.

The Pentagon also projects largely flat budgets,with minimal increases, through 2025, and 2,456 F-35s by 2025. The assessment was prepared prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed production of the plane.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft, and currently regarded as the world's superior fighter plane. It offers strike missions, electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in three variants.

The U.S. Marines, Navy and Air Force each have a variant, and 13 international partners either have or have ordered versions for their own militaries. The United States intends to purchase 94 F-35s in Fiscal Year 2022, a reduction by nine from its original plan, 94 more in each of 2023 and 2024, and 96 in 2025.

The plane has had a series of costly problems which have hampered its use and prompted $1.4 billion in retrofitting of equipment, but the Defense Department assessment notes that Lockheed Martin's on-time delivery issues have improved, in addition to a reduction of design and software flaws.

Additionally, the per-plane costs are declining. It notes that the "unit flyaway cost" [the complete plane minus the engine] of the Air Force version of the plane fell by $12.1 million to $57.4 million.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December, requires the Department of Defense to seek compensation from contractors for "costs related to the failure to deliver ready-for-issue spare parts" and better-identified sustainment cost data.

A General Accountability Office report to Congress in May said "the F-35 program produced more aircraft and negotiated lower prices in 2019."

"However, the program is not meeting standards aimed at ensuring consistent,high-quality products, and fielded aircraft do not meet reliability goals," the report said. "The cost to modernize aircraft systems went up about $1.5 billion [or 14 percent]since the program's May 2019 annual report to Congress."

Final US Navy active duty patrol squadron transitions from P-3C Orion to P-8A Poseidon

hondagl1800 (flickr)

Final US Navy active duty patrol squadron transitions from P-3C Orion to P-8A Poseidon | News | Flight Global

By Garrett Reim

30 May 2020

All of the US Navy’s (USN) active duty patrol squadrons have transitioned from the Lockheed P-3C Orion to the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Patrol Squadron 40, the Fighting Marlins, completed the final transition on 14 May, the service says on 28 May. The squadron started the transition in November 2019.

The squadron, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state, first began P-3C operations in 1968.

The first P-8A was delivered to the USN in 2011. The aircraft which is based on the commercial 737-800 airframe with -900 wings it is much larger and quieter than the four-engined P-3C. That aircraft was developed from the 1950s-era Lockheed L-188 Electra commercial airliner.

The P-8A can carry 126 sonobuoys internally, four Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles on hardpoints beneath its wings, as well as Mk 54 lightweight hybrid torpedoes and survival kits within an internal bomb bay. It can also fly higher and faster than its turboprop predecessor: up to 41,000ft and with a maximum speed of 490kt (908km/h).

The aircraft is mostly used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance missions, such as anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and search and rescue roles.

The P-8A is also operated by the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Indian navy. Aircraft are also on order for the South Korean navy, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal Norwegian Air Force.

Boeing Lands $800M Navy Contract Modification for Lot 11 Long-Lead Poseidon Materials
Boeing sees P-8’s new capabilities expanding international market
US Navy plans to arm P-8A with cruise missiles, bombs, sea mines and decoys
Boeing awarded P-8A contract modification
U.S. Navy Plans To Stop Buying P-8 Poseidon Sub Hunters Despite Growing Undersea Threat

Sirkorsky awarded $17.9M modification for work on the H-53K


Sirkorsky awarded $17.9M modification for work on the H-53K -

ByChristen McCurdy

May 28 (UPI) -- Sikorsky was awarded a $17.9 million contract modification Thursday for work on the H-53K helicopter.

Under the modification Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, will provide logistics, program management, training, configuration management and sustaining engineering support for the H-53K system.

The CH-53K King Stallion, which has been in development since 2006, is a cargo helicopter currently being developed by Sikorsky Aircraft for the United States Marine Corps to replace the aging CH-53-E Super Stallion fleet.

The new aircraft are designed to be faster and more fuel-efficient than their predecessors.

Initially expected to reach initial operational capacity by 2015, but has been delayed in part due to defects like one addressed in December that allowed exhaust gases to get sucked back into the engine.

The modification includes pre-operational test and evaluation, maintenance and software updates and other maintenance work.

The contract can also fund procurement of support equipment and common support equipment.

More than half of work on the contract will be performed in Shelton, Conn., with other work being performed in New River, N.C., Patuxent River, Md., and Bohemia, N.Y.

Replacing US Marine’s CH-53K helos with CH-47F choppers is a poor idea

Friday, 29 May 2020

The F-22 imperative

M F Davis @flickr

The F-22 imperative:

By: David A. Deptula and Douglas Birkey, Mitchell Institute    

The loss of an F-22 Raptor during a training flight on May 15 serves as a wake-up call regarding the size of the Raptor inventory.

Tunnel vision over a decade ago related to counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq saw the nation buy too few F-22s, with just 187 purchased versus the 381 official military requirement. Now, with those wars largely in the rear-view mirror and a new National Defense Strategy, the capability attributes afforded by the F-22 are more important than ever.

These 5th generation stealth aircraft are the crown jewels in the nation’s military arsenal. The recent crash reinforces the need to double down on the F-22 force by fully funding necessary upgrades. No other capability — U.S. or foreign — will come close to the F-22 for years into the future. It is important that budget and inventory management decisions mirror that reality.

The F-22’s primary mission is to secure air superiority — a condition vital for any successful military operation. While the aircraft can also strike targets on the ground with great precision, and conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance inside contested airspace, at its heart the Raptor will remain an air-to-air champion. Because of its vast array of capabilities — not all known — the F-22 is our nation’s greatest conventional deterrent. While the current force size is small relative to other fighter forces, the F-22 has — at a minimum — an order of magnitude greater effect than any other fighter in the world.

The F-22 is a fundamentally unique airplane due to the unparalleled integration of stealth, sensor technology, processing power, and unrivaled flight performance. While many fighters have some elements of this mix, none possess the total package afforded by the F-22. Stealth makes it exceedingly difficult for an enemy to close the kill chain. Sensors and processing power allow it to understand the battlespace with tremendous acumen — allowing F-22s to be at the right place and time to achieve desired effects while minimizing vulnerabilities. Its flight characteristics of speed and maneuverability are simply unequaled by any other aircraft. Anyone questioning the value of the F-22 should consider why friends and foes alike are all pursuing options to develop like-capabilities — they are game-changing.

The fact that the nation needs more F-22s is not rocket science. However, since the F-22 production line closed years ago, this is not a feasible option. Ensuring the F-35 — a plane designed to complement the F-22 with a greater focus on ground attack — does not repeat this same mistake is certainly an important lesson. That aircraft is also an essential investment in our aerial arsenal. In fact, a greater F-35 annual buy-rate becomes more important given the small F-22 force. Future next generation air dominance concepts must also proceed. However, COVID-19-related budget pressures are likely going to delay meaningful advancement in this regard. Plans that exist at the PowerPoint level and theoretical operational concepts must not be confused with concrete capabilities that are able to meet current and future challenges. Further investments in aging designs like the F-16 and F-15, originally designed a half a century ago, simply fail to meet modern requirements. While these aircraft will remain an important part of the inventory out of necessity, their operational utility will diminish given they do not address the challenges that will increasingly dominate the security environment.

This leaves the F-22 as the nation’s keystone air superiority capability. Adversaries respect the aircraft and that is precisely why they are regularly deployed as a signal of resolve. If conflict erupts, F-22s will be at the forefront of operations. This places an extreme imperative upon funding Raptor upgrades to ensure they remain viable for years into the future. The most cost-effective way to increase the capacity of the F-22 force is to upgrade the 33 older block 20 F-22s used for training and test to full combat capability. This effects-based option would result in an additional squadron of F-22s for a minuscule fraction of the cost of attaining 5th generation fighter capacity any other way. For those who focus on cost, are they prepared to pay the price of not having the entire F-22 force at its peak potential? That bill would be measured in strategic objectives surrendered, significant force attrition, and lives lost.

Canceling the F-22’s production with half the military requirement unmet was a tragedy whose impact will be felt for years. However, that is runway behind us. What matters now is how we make the most of the F-22s we do have. Upgrading the older block 20 force of F-22s to full combat capability will deliver a very clear message to potential adversaries. It all comes down to real capability and capacity with the F-22s we possess. Let’s optimize that number. The security challenges of today and tomorrow demand nothing less.

David Deptula is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general with more than 3,000 flying hours. He planned the Desert Storm air campaign, orchestrated air operations over Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power Studies. Douglas Birkey is the executive director of the Mitchell Institute, where he researches issues relating to the future of aerospace and national security.

Air Force F-22 fighter crashes at Florida range, pilot ejected safely
USAF abandons 80% mission capability goal after three fighters miss target
Northrop to prototype communications gateway for fifth-generation fighters
Air Force and Honeywell make transition to full-scale development for GPS modernization in military aircraft
Did you know the US wanted to Export the F-22 Raptor but It wasn’t sold Abroad Because no Other Country Helped to pay for its Development?

F-22 Raptor: Details

Dump the F-35 program plagued with excessive costs and failing weapons

Adam D. Ince (flickr)

Dump the F-35 program plagued with excessive costs and failing weapons

by Kevin Mooney | May 28, 2020 06:00 AM

Wasteful, counterproductive spending is a threat to U.S. military readiness that should be rooted out now before taxpayers are saddled with “sustainment costs” that will burden future generations.

That’s just one of several takeaways from a just-released government accountability report analyzing the many defects of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. With government spending proceeding at an unprecedented and dangerous level in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time for the Trump administration to search for ways to offset the impact of future stimulus efforts.

While it’s important for our military to exploit its technological prowess with an eye toward China and other rising threats, there appears to be a misguided effort to pack everything into one plane ranging from stealth technology to vertical takeoff ability.

At a time when the economy is in recession and the national debt is rising, defense spending must be smart and efficient. But since its inception in 2001, the F-35 has been bedeviled with cost overruns that are coming back to bite taxpayers without delivering any return on their investment.

The major findings from the Government Accountability Office report should give defense planners good reason to hit the pause button. They don’t need to go back very far into the history of the program to see that it has gone sideways.

From 2018 to 2019, the GAO reports the total cost estimate of the F-35 acquisition program increased by $22 billion from $406 billion to over $428 billion.

These costs are supposedly tied in with needed hardware and software upgrades. But where does it all end? The answer seems to be that it doesn’t since the acquisition costs are just the beginning. The sustainment costs, the costs needed to keep the program running once it's activated for its planned 66-year life cycle, are eye-popping. GAO reports costs will hit $1.2 trillion, bringing the total cost of the F-35 program to more than $1.6 trillion.

But what about military readiness? Is there an argument to made that the F-35 will give the United States the critical edge it needs in 21st-century warfare that justifies its exorbitant costs? Once again, GAO findings strongly suggest otherwise. In fact, the F-35 program is beset with thousands of “deficiencies” that directly affect its fighter capabilities.

“Through 2019, F-35 program test officials had identified over 3,200 deficiencies,” the GAO report says. “Deficiencies represent specific instances where the weapon system either does not meet requirements or where the safety, suitability, or effectiveness of the weapon system could be affected. The test officials categorize deficiencies according to their potential impact on the aircraft’s performance.”

The prospects for improving and altering the F-35 to the point where it can be transformed into a lean, mean fighting machine are bleak. A $17 billion Lockheed Martin Corp. diagnostic system used to analyze the F-35 and detect potential flaws in need of repairs is itself laced with flaws. Maintenance crews at military bases reportedly said they spent an average of 5,000 to 10,000 hours each year tracking information that the diagnostic system should have tracked automatically.

The runaway costs of the F-35 have not escaped the notice of President Trump, who tweeted about the fighter jet's many problems. Now is the time for him to pull the plug on the costly mess that subtracts needed resources away from other vital projects.

Kevin Mooney (@KevinMooneyDC) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an investigative reporter in Washington, D.C., who writes for several national publications.

Russia began construction of the first strategic stealth bomber

Russia began construction of the first strategic stealth bomber - Army and MIC - TASS

Translated by google

One of the aircraft factories in the structure of the United Aircraft Corporation will be engaged in the manufacture of glider elements of the first car, TASS sources said.

MOSCOW, May 26. / TASS /. Russia has begun construction of the first prototype strategic stealth bomber as part of the Advanced Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA, product 80). This was reported by TASS two sources in the military-industrial complex.

"One of the aircraft factories in the structure of the United Aircraft Corporation will be engaged in the manufacture of glider elements of the first machine, the development of detailed design documentation has been completed, and the supply of materials has begun," the source said.

As another TASS source specified, the aircraft cockpit is already being manufactured. "The final assembly of the entire machine should be completed in 2021," he said.

The Tupolev press service did not comment on TASS information about the start of production of the first PAK DA.

In December 2019, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Alexei Krivoruchko in an interview with the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper said that the outline design of the aircraft was approved, PJSC Tupolev began to develop working design documentation, and the creation of parts and components of prototypes PAK DA was started. In February 2020, Krivoruchko said that the first engine for the PAK DA this year will be transferred to bench tests.

The new "strategist"
PAK YES is designed according to the “flying wing” scheme. In the design of the machine, technologies and materials that reduce visibility will be widely used (stealth technology). The aircraft will be able to carry existing and promising strategic cruise missiles, high-precision bombs, hypersonic weapons, and will be equipped with the latest communications and electronic warfare equipment. The machine will receive subsonic flight speed.

The terms of tests and the start of serial production of the PAK DA bomber are announced

Taiwan eyes further U.S. arms purchases with new anti-ship missile

Taiwan eyes further U.S. arms purchases with new anti-ship missile - Reuters

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan plans to buy land-based Boeing-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles as part of its military modernisation efforts, its defence ministry said on Thursday, the latest purchase from the United States to deal with a rising threat from China.

The United States, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the democratic island with the means to defend itself.

China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own territory, routinely denounces U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Answering questions in parliament, Deputy Defence Minister Chang Che-ping confirmed that Taiwan was planning to buy Harpoon missiles from the United States to serve as a coastal defence cruise missile.

If the United States agrees to sell the Harpoons, Taiwan should receive them in 2023, Chang added.

Taiwan has been bolstering its defences in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air force and naval exercises near Taiwan.

While Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment of its own such as stealth fighters.

The U.S government last week notified Congress of a possible sale of advanced torpedoes to Taiwan worth around $180 million, further souring already tense ties between Washington and Beijing. [nL4N2D31SL]

China has denounced the Trump administration’s increased support for Taiwan. Beijing believes Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is a separatist bent on declaring the island’s formal independence.

Tsai said Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gareth Jones