The Boeing X-51A WaveRider hypersonic vehicle, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne scramjet engine, achieved aviation history this week by making the longest ever combustion ramjet-powered supersonic flight. During its first jaunt, the craft reached 70,000 feet and an approximate speed of Mach 5 on a 200-second flight over the Pacific Ocean on May 26 at 10 a.m. before it was purposely crashed into the water.
Defense » Military Aircraft
News and issues relating to the defense aerospace business, with emphasis on current/in-use, in-development and prospective programs for manned military aircraft and unmanned combat aircraft vehicles (UCAVs).
Derivatives of the ScanEagle UAV are proliferating, as Boeing exploits its ownership of Insitu, the company that originally designed it for commercial applications. At the Navy League convention, Boeing Phantom Works unveiled the MagEagle, a UAV equipped with a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD).
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) chose the Navy League convention to introduce a carrier-capable version of its Predator C UAV. GA-ASI has proposed the Sea Avenger for the emerging U.S. Navy Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System (UClass). It is based on the jet-powered, stealthy development of the Predator series that GA-ASI has funded through design, development and into flight test.
Pentagon and Bell-Boeing officials have countered media reports that the V-22 Osprey has performed poorly in deployment. During a briefing at the recent Navy League Sea Air Space convention in Washington, D.C., they admitted to some serviceability problems, but insisted that the tiltrotor has met all its assigned operational tasks.
Germany is negotiating to reduce the number of A400M airlifters that it will receive from Airbus Military. Like the UK, it wants to take a cut in fleet size as its contribution to the €2 billion of additional A400M funding that was agreed in principle by the seven European customer nations last March.
The U.S. House armed services seapower and air-land forces subcommittees this week included $485 million in continued funding for the GE/Rolls-Royce F136, an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), in H.R.5136, the National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2011.
Attempts by India to fast-track the procurement process for its 126-aircraft Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft requirement have come unstuck as the evaluation process has taken far longer than initially expected.
Last month the U.S. Navy completed Phase One testing of a U.S. Marine Corps HC-130J Hercules outfitted with the Harvest Hawk system, which gives the tanker/transports weapons capability. Following initial tests at Patuxent River, Maryland, the HC-130J departed for further tests at China Lake in California, in preparation for an initial deployment to Afghanistan in the summer.
On April 19 Lockheed Martin rolled out from its Marietta, Georgia, facility the first of a new batch of special-mission Hercules for the U.S. Air Force. The company has a contract for 21 HC/MC-130Js, but this number is expected to rise to 31 (11 HCs and 20 MCs). They will replace ageing first-generation aircraft currently serving in Special Operations Squadrons.
Earlier this week at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter announced the joint development of a new high-capacity unmanned helicopter. Known as Fire-X, the machine is initially aimed at a U.S. Navy requirement for a medium-range unmanned air system that is expected to be announced next year. It has applications in several roles, including ISR and battlefield supply duties.