09 Dec 20. Aussie businesses to benefit from new F-35 industry support program. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have announced the launch of a new industry support program to assist Australian companies in becoming established in the sustainment phase of the global F-35 Program.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds announced the Joint Strike Fighter – Industry Support Program (JSF-ISP) on Wednesday, with $4m initially available in grant funding to establish the program. As the F-35 program progresses, options to extend this funding will be explored.
“The JSF-ISP sustainment opportunity will support Australian companies that have been successfully appointed by the United States Department of Defense for component repair capability as part of the F-35 Global Support Solution,” Minister Reynolds explained.
“The JSF-ISP is another example of the government’s commitment to building a robust sovereign defence industry capability through our $270bn investment.”
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said grants would help companies become established in the F-35 production and supply chain.
“Since July 2011, the New Air Combat Capability – Industry Support Program has awarded 46 grants worth more than $21m to 25 Australian companies. This investment has helped more than 50 Australian companies win contracts worth over $2.7bn as part of the F-35 Program to date,” Minister Price explained.
Minister Price added, “The JSF-ISP has been developed to help keep Australian industry competitive within the global market, as F-35 Program contracts are awarded on a ‘best-value’ basis.”
Building on these announcements, Ministers Reynolds and Price detailed a plan that will see former Jetstar aviation workers have been recruited to start a new career in defence industry as part of the Morrison Government’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program.
The 25 former Jetstar workers have commenced their training with BAE Systems Australia to sustain Australia’s growing fleet of F-35A Lightning II and Hawk Lead in Fighter aircraft.
Following their training, 21 aviation technicians and logisticians will support the RAAF team at No 81 Wing in the ongoing maintenance of Australia’s F-35A fleet at RAAF Base Williamtown. Four technicians and logisticians will work on the Hawk at BAE’s facility.
Minister Reynolds CSC said this was a great outcome for the workers who were recently made redundant following Jetstar’s closure of its aircraft maintenance facility near Newcastle in NSW.
“I am proud of the way Defence and Australian industry have collaborated to identify new opportunities for these highly skilled workers. These workers, who will start their new roles in January, will be retained in the local aviation industry while simultaneously helping Defence build its sovereign F-35A sustainment capability.
“This is just another example of the way the Morrison Government is working with Australian defence industry to help the economy recover from COVID-19,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister Price added, “During my regular engagement with the sector this year, I have urged companies to take on as many displaced workers as possible.
“These are workers already extremely well-armed with great skills and experience and it’s fantastic that the defence industry sector has been able to recruit their expertise. Defence’s excellent relationship with Australia’s industry partners has enabled this solution.
“It not only offers employment stability for the affected workers, but assists Defence as it builds Australia’s F-35A maintenance capability,” Minister Price explained.
BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Gabby Costigan reinforced the comments made by Ministers Reynolds and Price, welcoming the announcement regarding former Jetstar workers joining the defence industry workforce, “I am delighted that we can provide highly skilled jobs at a time when so many industries have been impacted by the pandemic.
“The Defence industry can be an important economic catalyst, particularly with our increasing emphasis on developing Australian expertise and ensuring Australian industry is key to our supply chain. Over the next five years we expect to grow our Williamtown workforce significantly to support Australia’s growing F-35 fleet. The addition of 25 specialists to our workforce will ensure that we can continue to develop, grow and retain critical aerospace capabilities that will benefit both the Hunter region and the nation,” Costigan added.
JSF-ISP Grant application and sustainment guidelines can be found at: https://www.grants.gov.au/.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.
For the RAAF, the F-35A’s combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17bn AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985. (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Dec 20. Boeing’s Autonomous MQ-25 Completes First Test Flight with Aerial Refueling Store . Boeing [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Navy have for the first time flown the MQ-25 T1 test asset with an aerial refueling store (ARS), a significant milestone informing development of the unmanned aerial refueler.
The successful 2.5-hour flight with the Cobham ARS – the same ARS currently used by F/A-18s for air-to-air refueling – was designed to test the aircraft’s aerodynamics with the ARS mounted under the wing. The flight was conducted by Boeing test pilots operating from a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill.
“Having a test asset flying with an ARS gets us one big step closer in our evaluation of how MQ-25 will fulfill its primary mission in the fleet – aerial refueling,” said Capt. Chad Reed, the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager. “T1 will continue to yield valuable early insights as we begin flying with F/A-18s and conduct deck handling testing aboard a carrier.”
Future flights will continue to test the aerodynamics of the aircraft and the ARS at various points of the flight envelope, eventually progressing to extension and retraction of the hose and drogue used for refueling.
“To see T1 fly with the hardware and software that makes MQ-25 an aerial refueler this early in the program is a visible reminder of the capability we’re bringing to the carrier deck,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program director. “We’re ensuring the ARS and the software operating it will be ready to help MQ-25 extend the range of the carrier air wing.”
The Boeing-owned T1 test asset is a predecessor to the engineering development model aircraft being produced under a 2018 contract award. T1 is being used for early learning and discovery, laying the foundation for moving rapidly into development and test of the MQ-25. Following its first flight last year, T1 accumulated approximately 30 hours in the air before the planned modification to install the ARS.
Earlier this year the Navy exercised an option for three additional MQ-25 air vehicles, bringing the total aircraft Boeing is initially producing to seven. The Navy intends to procure more than 70 aircraft, which will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters.
08 Dec 20. Collins Aerospace upgrades US Navy’s E-6B Block I aircraft fleet. Collins Aerospace Systems, a Raytheon Technologies company, has completed the modernisation of the US Navy’s E-6B Block I aircraft fleet.
Collins Aerospace Systems, a Raytheon Technologies company, has completed the modernisation of the US Navy’s E-6B Block I aircraft fleet.
The fleet is a part of the Airborne Command Post and Take Charge and Move Out (ABNCP / TACAMO) Weapon System missions of the navy.
Under the modernisation, the aircraft is complete with a new command and control battlestaff, communications central control, multi-enclave voice/data/video distribution system and an Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) digital backbone.
Mission System Integrator (MSI) is responsible for the design, development, production, installation and qualification of the recapitalisation of the mission system.
Collins Aerospace Mission Systems Integrated Solutions vice president and general manager Heather Robertson said: “The Block I contract is an example and testament to Collins Aerospace’s ability to deliver comprehensive, integrated and durable solutions to the Navy and E-6B community.
“As a result of this upgrade, crews have a modern, multi-enclave mission system that provides a full picture of their operating environment.”
Under the ABNCP mission, the aircraft acts as an airborne command post and communications relay for the nuclear forces of the country.
The E-6B will offer survivable communications link to the submarine forces for the TACAMO mission, using Collins Aerospace’s Very Low Frequency (VLF) terminal. (Source: naval-technology.com)
08 Dec 20. Ukrainian enterprises put the lives of American and Afghan soldiers at lethality risk. Russian Helicopters Holding Company considers it necessary to warn that Ukrainian aircraft repair enterprises are carrying out illegitimate overhaul of Mi-17V-5 helicopters and thereby endangers the lives of the American and Afghan soldiers that are operating these helicopters.
According to the received information about the arrival of two Mi-17V-5 helicopters of the Afghan Air Force at the Ukrainian aircraft repair enterprises «Motor Sich» (Zaporozhye) and «Aviakon» (Konotop) for performing illegitimate overhaul, Russian Helicopters Holding Company disclaims all responsibility for further safe operation of mentioned helicopters and has every reason to deny services related to maintenance of these helicopters.
The overhaul of these helicopters will be carried out at the enterprises that have not mastered the overhaul of this type of helicopter in the prescribed manner, as no actualized repair and design documentation for the Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopter, spare parts or repair group sets were delivered to these aircraft repair companies. This overhaul must be considered as illegitimate since it will be performed without the participation and control of the Developer (The National helicopter center Мil&Kamov) and the Manufacturer («Kazan Helicopters» JSC) of this type of helicopters. Russian Helicopters Holding Company will notify all interested Russian and foreign organizations and authorities about the inclusion of Ukrainian companies in the list of aircraft repair enterprises carrying out illegal overhaul of Russian-made helicopters.
07 Dec 20. USAF to field interim ERVS solution for KC-46A tanker. The US Air Force (USAF) is to field interim enhancements to the problematic Remote Vision System (RVS) for its Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker-transport aircraft.
The Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) announced the move on 2 December, saying that demonstration flights conducted over the summer (third quarter) had validated the Enhanced Remote Vision System (ERVS) as a stopgap measure until RVS 2.0 is rolled out in late 2023. RVS 2.0 is the agreed final solution to resolve Category 1 deficiencies associated with the current RVS.
“The implementation of ERVS will provide some benefit to our ‘Total Force’ boom operators in the near-term, but most importantly will not delay the fielding of RVS 2.0,” General Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of Air Mobility Command (AMC), was quoted as saying.
While boom operators have traditionally been located at the back of the aircraft to manually ‘fly’ the boom onto the receiver aircraft, in the KC-46A the boom operator has been moved into the cockpit from where he or she interacts with the receiver aircraft via multiple 3D cameras and large screens. This RVS set-up has been experiencing problems with sun glare and other issues that have resulted in unintended boom contacts with receiver aircraft.
As noted by the AFMC, “the ERVS updates to try and solve these issues in the interim will include software-only improvements to help fix image distortion issues and tailor the display for each user’s specific vision characteristics on the fielded RVS on KC-46A aircraft. These updates are expected to be completed in late 2021.” (Source: Jane’s)
07 Dec 20. Taiwan aiming to complete upgrade of 22 F-16A/B fighters by end of 2020. Taiwan’s plan to complete the upgrade of 22 Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) F-16A/B multirole fighter aircraft to the latest F-16V configuration by the end of 2020 remains on schedule, Taiwanese media have reported referring to a RoCAF report submitted to the island’s Legislative Yuan.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported on 6 December that 19 of the 22 F-16 upgrades planned for this year under the RoCAF’s Peace Phoenix Rising programme have already been completed, with three more aircraft set to complete the upgrade later this month. These 22 platforms will add to the 15 that have been upgraded over the past two years, according to the CNA.
Under the Peace Phoenix Rising programme, which was launched in 2016 and is being carried out by Lockheed Martin and Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), about 140 F-16A/Bs are to be upgraded to the F-16V configuration by the end of 2023.
According to the media outlet, Taiwan plans to upgrade 35 more F-16A/Bs in 2021, an equal number of aircraft the following year, and the remaining 32 aircraft by 2023.
The latest developments come after the Pentagon announced on 5 November that Lockheed Martin had been awarded a USD53.2m contract modification to provide miscellaneous support for 50 F-16 “retrofit” fighter aircraft under the programme.
The US Department of Defense said the modification “provides for contractor over and above support, and acquisition of legacy aircraft hardware and equipment”, adding that work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas; and Taiwan, and is expected to be completed by 31 December 2023. (Source: Jane’s)
04 Dec 20. Air Safety Panel Recommends Flight Hour Increase, Emphasis on Maintenance, Steady Funding. Years of budgetary indifference has severely impacted military aviation causing a degradation of readiness and — tragically — a loss of lives.
The National Commission on Military Aviation Safety released its recommendations yesterday saying aviators need more flight hours, maintenance personnel need better training and manning and supply chains need more and faster throughput. The commission studied aviation safety from 2013 to 2018. During that time, there were 6,079 “incidents” resulting in 198 personnel killed, 157 aircraft destroyed and $9.41bn in losses. This does not include personnel and aircraft lost in combat.
Congress chartered the commission and retired Army Gen. Dick Cody chaired it along with Richard Healing, a renowned safety expert, as vice chairman. Over 18 months, the commission visited 80 different sites with more than 200 different units.
Cody and Healing didn’t sugarcoat their findings as they discussed the commission’s recommendations with reporters.
The men said the conditions that caused the problems are complicated and solutions will be equally complex. Both agreed that flying hours are not sufficient to foster proficiency in airmen. Part of that was cuts during times of budget uncertainty and/or sequestration, Cody said. But it is more than just putting people in aircraft and telling them to fly. The cuts also affected maintenance and the supply of spare parts. Airmen couldn’t fly — at times — because the aircraft could not fly.
Money has flowed into the system, but it takes time to correct.
“I would say what we’ve seen in terms of [continuing resolutions], and in terms of the sequestration, … it’s not just the military catching up in parts,” Cody said. “It’s about training and flying hours, and getting guys and gals past currency into proficiency for the new mission set that the national military strategy talks about: large scale contingency operations.”
And this will take time, also, because a myriad of problems need to be addressed, the general said.
“You can’t just go to one silver bullet and say ‘this is going to fix it,'” he said. “I don’t have a timeline on how they will recover. I just know that the optempo, the unpredictable funding, the force structure cuts that have gone in all the military aviation units across the services have made aviation units high-demand, low-density assets.”
This has an effect on morale.
“What we found was that morale was generally degraded,” Healing said. “First of all, pilots were demoralized by not being able to fly enough, and the maintainers were demoralized by not having parts and the things that they needed to make those airplanes fully mission capable.”
The commission calls for the services to restore flight hours to the fiscal 2010 levels in training and operationally.
Another recommendation is for the services to have standing authority to increase aviation bonuses from up to $35,000, to up to $100,000 per year to improve pilot retention, in exchange for a commensurate additional service commitment.
Another recommendation is to ensure aviation units administrators to allow aviators and maintainers to concentrate on their primary missions. They do not want trained aviators or maintainers to be assigned jobs not germane to their primary occupations.
Safety experts for years have asked for better ways to monitor the physiological needs of aviators. The commission wants the Defense Department and the services to adopt “an aggressive, proactive and coordinated approach to understanding and meeting” these physiological needs.
Maintenance personnel often feel ignored. The commission calls for the services to better reward and incentivize the professional achievements of aviation maintainers. It specifically calls for greater professional development for maintainers including opportunities to obtain their airframe and powerplant licenses.
The commission also recommends a defense-level joint safety council, reporting directly to the deputy defense secretary. The council would coordinate service safety centers’ efforts to identify and mitigate risks to reduce the number of aviation mishaps.
Finally, the commission wants leaders to “stop using continuing resolutions to fund national security, military readiness and aviation safety.”
This needs to happen quickly, Cody said. In the time the commission conducted its work, another 26 service members were killed in mishaps and another 29 aircraft destroyed.
Click here to view the full report. For more information, the full report is here https://www.militaryaviationsafety.gov/newsroom/NCMAS_Final_Report.pdf (Source: US DoD)
03 Dec 20. Ukraine upgrades BTS-4 armoured recovery vehicle. The Lviv Armored Plant, part of Ukraine’s state-owned UkrOboronProm (UOP), has upgraded and delivered an improved version of the BTS-4 armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) to the Ukrainian armed forces, according to a 26 November UOP statement.
The new ARV is based on the hull of a T-54 or T-55 tank and retains the large snorkel carried on the roof of the vehicle that makes the original BTS-4 so distinctive. However, it has been upgraded through the addition of a hydraulic crane, dozer blade, a pair of winches, and a new engine.
UOP said the upgraded crane, installed at the front left of the hull, has a lift capacity of 12 tonnes. This enables the vehicle to lift and dismantle armoured vehicle components such as engines, turrets, and transmissions. There appears to be a small space on the roof of the vehicle, beneath the snorkel, to carry a spare engine or other components, as ARVs are often required to do.
A traction winch with 200 m of cable and a payload of 100 tonnes is installed, and the main winch is supported by an additional winch, which is used to help issue the main winch’s cable, UOP explained. It is understood that the winch can only be used over the rear of the vehicle, as was the case for the original BTS-4. However, a large dozer blade installed at the front of the hull gives the vehicle the ability to clear debris and other obstacles to vehicle recovery, which was not available on the original. (Source: Jane’s)
03 Dec 20. SAC to decide on extending Heavy Airlift Wing, adding new aircraft and members. The NATO supported Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) is to decide in the coming months whether or not to extend the current 30-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) that is currently due to expire in 2038, with potentially additional aircraft and new members also being added.
Speaking at the virtual SMi Military Airlift and Air-to-Air Refuelling 2020 conference, the commander of the SAC’s Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW), US Air Force (USAF) Colonel James Sparrow, said that with the capability’s three Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft now set to remain in USAF service for a lot longer than originally anticipated, consideration is being given to extending the programme at the same time as potentially adding new airframe types and members.
“The MoU is a 30-year agreement that started in 2008. This timeline was based on the original lifespan of the aircraft, but as it will now be around a lot longer than that – the USAF is talking about operating it through into the 2080s – in the next year the 12 participating nations will start a discussion on whether to extend the MoU beyond 2038,” Col Sparrow said on 2 December, adding, “When the MoU extension comes up, that will be the perfect time to maybe add more nations.” (Source: Jane’s)