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Friday, October 7, 2011

Lower-tech UAVs Boost Intel For British

Although the technology focus remains on the transition from Hermes 450 to Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), it is the subtler changes to platforms and operational concepts that deliver increased performance to the British Army. And while the tactical UAV continues to provide vital intelligence, it is the lower-tech, less glamorous platforms that are gaining in popularity with the troops whose missions they support.
The army’s UAV battery is based here, where a fleet of leased Hermes 450 aircraft is flown and maintained. But the battery, from 32 Regt. Royal Artillery, is also responsible for two other UAVs that deliver full-motion video (FMV) from forward locations. These are the hand-launched Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk III (DH3), and T‑Hawk, Honeywell’s vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAV, which is part of the Royal Engineers’ Talisman route-clearance system (DTI September 2010, p. 19).
Complementary to these are PGSS (Persistent Ground Surveillance System) aerostats, seven of which are deployed above bases in the British area of operations. These are operated and maintained by contractors, with support from 5 Regt. Royal Artillery liaison officers. The PGSS payload contains electro-optical and infrared sensors, which feed data into the Cortez network, permitting drag-and-drop viewing of multiple intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (Istar) sources for a location.
“The good thing about [Cortez] is it enables our cross-cueing piece,” says Capt. Alex Gray, operations officer of the UAV battery. “It could be that a base Istar asset picks something up then cross-cues a Hermes 450 onto it. It’s a useful and powerful tool.” Cross-cueing of layered assets generates detailed intelligence, showing information such as route obstructions and the type and size of structures, doors and windows.
DH3 also feeds FMV into Cortez. Eight of the battery’s 12 DH3 detachments are at bases across Helmand. Two more are on hand as a surge capability and to back-fill during deployment changeovers, while two others are mobile—one with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, the other with the Warthog group.
“The key with DH3 is it’s quick into action,” says Gray. “It can get into the air in 5-8 min., and we’ve flown almost 2,000 flights on Herrick 14,” the U.K.’s Afghanistan deployment, which began in April.
The aircraft is programmed to return to a given position using GPS. It flies a U‑shaped profile on its way in, enabling it to assess local wind conditions and minimize impact on landing. The modular airframe disperses impact forces by breaking apart.
The new assisted trim landing (ATL) system gives greater control to the user during recovery, including the ability to manually flare for a gentler touchdown. The system was fielded in July.
“With [ATL], we can use the Xbox 360 control pad, which is usually used to control camera movement, and land the UAV,” says Sgt. Matthew Trigg, a DH3 operator. “We’re getting a lot of good reports [from the detachments] and the attrition rate has started to go down.”
Improvements to the T-Hawk are restricted to operational concepts rather than hardware, but the results are impressive. The controversial platform had seemed something of an afterthought in Talisman, but transferring control from the Royal Engineers to 32 Regt. helped it find a niche.
“We overtook the amount of flights the engineers had done in our first month here flying it,” says Chris Darker, a bombardier and member of 32 Regt.’s two-man T-Hawk crews now embedded within Talisman squadrons. “The guys flying it had other jobs within the squadron—they could have been a Talon operator or a searcher—and were doing T-Hawk as a secondary job. But the more we use it, the more they want to use it. They’re adamant now that they want to bring two systems with them every time they’re out.”
Two of the aircraft’s perceived disadvantages—noise and the airflow generated in hover—are now considered pluses. When flown near the ground, it can be used to blow dust away from possible improvised explosive devices to aid visual checks, and the noise has a potent deterrent effect.
The platform’s FMV is considered superior to that provided by DH3, and its utility for Talisman’s route-proving task is undoubted. Darker, who has used Hermes, DH3 and T-Hawk, says: “I’ve probably enjoyed flying [T-Hawk] the most. I flew this 14 times on one op where we cleared a route in [the Nahr-e-Saraj district, Helmand Province], and that route is still being used.”
Photo: Crown Copyright

Frontier Says NEO Order Deadline Is No Issue

Frontier Airlines says it and parent company Republic Airways have “satisfied or amended” a contractual promise to execute a firm order for 80 AirbusNEO aircraft by Sept. 30, 2011, but will not elaborate.
The commitment to execute the firm order is (or was) in a commercial agreement Republic and Frontier signed with FAPAInvest, a limited liability corporation created to represent Frontier pilots employed by the airline as of June 24.
Under that deal—created to compensate pilots for the cost-cutting they agreed to in a separate but concurrent amendment to their collective bargaining agreement—Republic promised to do several things. Two of them had a Sept. 30 deadline: to raise more than $70 million in new financing and execute a “firm order” for 80 NEO aircraft. Republic signed a letter of intent for those aircraft in July.
Jeff Thomas, FAPAInvest’s manager and registered agent, told Aviation Week on Sept. 30 that the group “came to a resolution” with Frontier and Republic on the financing issue, although he declined to provide details and Republic referred questions about the financing issue to FAPAInvest.
Thomas added, however, that the deadline for a firm NEO order was not amended, and referred questions about the order to Republic.
Republic and Frontier refused to comment on the NEO order until Oct. 5, when a Frontier report on its September traffic included a two-sentence update that referred to it indirectly.
Ambiguous NEO Order
“Certain of Frontier’s restructuring agreements included conditions that were to be satisfied by Sept. 30, 2011. Those conditions have either been satisfied or amended, and Frontier is in compliance with all restructuring agreements,” the carrier reported. It did not immediately respond to a request for elaboration.
Presumably, if Republic finalized the NEO order, it or Airbus would have announced it. That has not happened, and Airbus is declining comment on the deal’s status.
One question is whether any of it matters because there is no real consequence to missing the deadline unless someone makes an issue of it.
The biggest potential consequence of missing the deadline is that, under the separate collective bargaining agreement with the Frontier Airline Pilots Association, some of the cost-cutting concessions are supposed to be negated if any of the conditions in the commercial agreement are not met. But Frontier pilots do not really have an incentive to enforce that—as long as they believe the financing and aircraft order eventually will come through—because the cost cuts have been declared essential for Frontier’s survival.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters does not seem inclined to make it an issue, either. The Teamsters became the union representative for pilots at Frontier and Republic’s three regional carrier subsidiaries just days after the former Frontier Airline Pilots Association ratified the cost-cutting collective bargaining agreement amendments and the newly created FAPAInvest signed the commercial agreement. The Teamsters union is challenging the legal validity of the entire FAPA and FAPAInvest agreements in court—not whether a condition in them has been violated.
“At this point, Republic Airways Holdings’ position is FAPAInvest controls whether the concessions are voided,” adds William Wilder, the Teamsters’ attorney for the case.
Republic says the uncertainty created by the Teamsters lawsuit has made it more difficult to obtain the new financing. That delay also could be a factor in firming up the aircraft order.

NEW VIDEO: 2nd Lightning II Strikes the Wasp's Nest

The second F-35B, tail number BF-4, has landed onboard the Navy's USS Wasp amphibious ship. The landing occurred today, according to F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Joe Dellavedova.

BF-4 joins its sister aircraft, BF-2, for a few weeks of shipboard trials designed to validate that the single-engine stealthy fighter can operate in and around the small deck of this amphibious ship class.

IAG Launches Iberia Express

Iberia is setting up a new subsidiary for short- and medium-haul routes. The airline, Iberia Express, will be based in Madrid and is aimed at turning the loss-making short-haul business back into profitability.
The move was approved by the board of Iberia’s parent International Airlines Group (IAG) at a meeting on Thursday.
The airline will start operations in the summer of 2012 and will initially fly four Airbus A320s. The fleet will increase to 13 units by the end of next year. The aircraft will all come from Iberia’s current fleet. The carrier stated that its new subsidiary will hire employees at market rates, but that the decision will have no impact on terms and conditions of Iberia’s existing workforce.
The company hopes that Iberia Express will be able to operate at lower costs, particularly through the more efficient use of aircraft. Iberia Express is planned to fly domestic and European routes from Madrid and will also feed its parent’s long-haul network.
Iberia’s short-haul business has been loss making for years, like at most other European network carriers, and the airline has been indicating the move for some time. The decision is likely to cause union opposition, as aircraft are taken away from Iberia’s mainline fleet to be operated by pilots at lower wages.
The airline has also been moving to a more integrated relationship with its Barcelona-based low fare unit Vueling, which has also started code-sharing with Iberia and other Oneworld airlines. Iberia stated that the decision to launch the Express unit will have no effect on Vueling.

Boeing Studies X-37B Evolved Crew Derivative

LOS ANGELES — Boeing is studying scaled-up variants of the reusable X-37B orbital test vehicle (OTV) for potential delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS) and other low-Earth-orbit destinations.
The development plan is believed to be aimed at providing a larger cargo adjunct to the company’s CST-100 crew vehicle as well as a possible longer-term, crew-carrying successor. The plan builds on the ongoing OTV demonstration with the U.S. Air Force, the first phase of which ended when the classified, unmanned OTV-1 demonstration flight concluded in December 2010 with an autonomous landing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., following 244 days in orbit. A second mission, OTV-2, is under way.
OTV-2 has been in space since March 5, and assuming it has not already been covertly recovered, is expected to remain in space until at least mid-October. A landing around Oct. 15 will equal the OTV-1’s mission length. Given the 270-day mission endurance limit of the X-37B, as earlier described by the Air Force, the early March launch means the landing at Vandenberg can be expected on or before Nov. 30.
The X-37B evolution study, which harks back to the pre-military NASA origins of the OTV, envisages a three-phase buildup. The first would see the current 29-ft.-long vehicle used for demonstration flights to the ISS. In its current configuration, the X-37B launched inside the 5-meter (16.5-ft.) fairing of the Atlas V could already take bulky items such as the station’s control moment gyros, battery discharge and pump module, Boeing says.
The second phase would see the development of a 165% scaled-up version, roughly 47 ft. long and large enough to transport larger line replaceable units (LRUs) to the station. The larger version would demonstrate operations to and from the ISS, paving the way for a human-carrying derivative in the third phase. This would see a human-rated version transport “five to seven astronauts,” says Art Grantz, Boeing’s X-37B project chief.
Speaking at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space 2011 conference in Long Beach, Calif., Grantz says “the next step is a larger cargo vehicle that can deliver and return large ISS LRUs while retiring the risks associated with autonomous transportation of astronauts to and from LEO.”
Although many details of the OTV-1 flight remain unknown and with OTV-2 shrouded in even more mystery than the first flight, Grantz says the initial launch was aimed at “making it operate like an airborne test platform.” From a vehicle viewpoint, however, it also demonstrated autonomous de-orbit using “shuttle-style” trajectory and aero-braking manuevers as well as a “soft landing” on a runway. The test also validated the X-37B’s autonomous guidance, navigation and control system, electro-mechanical flight control system and thermal protection. During the X-37B’s eight months in space, Air Force controllers also demonstrated deployment of the solar wing, its subsequent stowage and return for reuse.
Photo: USAF

Major ERAM Target Slips To December

Although the FAA has missed a near-term milestone for deploying its new en-route air traffic control system, the agency says it will still make major progress by the end of December.
The en-route automation modernization (ERAM) program has been plagued by high-profile cost and timetable overruns (see related story). ERAM is to be the backbone system at 20 en route ATC centers, and an essential precursor to many NextGen technologies.
So far ERAM is only operational at its two initial sites, Salt Lake City and Seattle. Under its revised timetable, the FAA was scheduled to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) at five more sites by the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30. However, this goal was not met.
The FAA tells AviationWeek that it now expects to achieve IOC at six sites by the end of December. The deployment list has also changed somewhat. The earlier plan was for the next ERAM sites to be Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Chicago, Denver and Houston. But for the December goal, FAA has added Los Angeles and Oakland to the list, and removed Houston.
A government website that tracks federal projects had already classified the FY2011 goal as high-risk, and the FAA admitted in August that achieving the Sept. 30 target would be more challenging thanks to the agency’s temporary shutdown in July caused by congressional inaction on reauthorization legislation.
The FAA has rebaselined ERAM to be deployed at all 20 sites by the end of 2014, which would represent a four-year delay from the original schedule. However, the U.S. Transportation Department’s Inspector General believes the end date will slip to 2016. The FAA estimates a $330 million cost overrun, but the IG says this figure could balloon to as much as $500 million.
In congressional testimony on Oct. 5, the IG once again slammed FAA for mismanaging the ERAM program. Early in the program, FAA and contractor Lockheed Martin “significantly underestimated the complexity in fielding ERAM,” and “ignored early warning signs of trouble during initial site deployment,” the IG says.
While the FAA has made improvements in this area, the IG says “problems with ERAM are directly traceable to weaknesses in program management and contract oversight.”
Software-related problems force controllers to use “a large number of procedural workarounds” in ERAM, says the IG. This would be a major concern at more complex ATC centers such as Chicago and Los Angeles, where controllers do not have time “to use workarounds to compensate for ERAM’s deficiencies.”
The FAA says ERAM has been operational at its first two sites since late last year in what it describes as an operational suitability demonstration phase. The system was declared “in-service” in March this year.
Lawmakers have also been critical of FAA’s efforts on ERAM. In language accompanying its proposed FAA budget for FY2012, the House Appropriations Committee says that given ERAM’s problems, it “does not view the current projected cost and schedule for the program as being realistic.”
Fiscal 2012 will be “a pivotal year” for ERAM, the Committee says. “Absent real progress towards establishing true 24 hour, seven-day operations, in which controllers can safely rely on ERAM to separate aircraft with a system that provides the core functionalities expected of this multi-billion dollar effort, the Committee will be left with no choice but to recommend suspending the program or denying future funding to this effort.”
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Delta's Free Wi-Fi Content Could Boost Revenue

Delta Air Lines has launched new free inflight Wi-Fi options with a dual purpose: to make money from the activities people engage in once they are connected and to encourage more people to sign up for the pay-for-access content.
Delta, which offers Wi-Fi on all of its mainline aircraft and will finish installing it on most of its two-class regional jets by the end of this year, will not disclose what percentage of passengers pay for Wi-Fi access now. But it does disclose that some passengers are telling the airline they are reluctant to commit their money until they know how the inflight connection compares to the connection they get on the ground.
The new Delta Connect portal is designed to give them that experience—and provide some additional revenue to Delta in the process—by expanding the free Wi-Fi content the airline provides. Delta had a “soft launch” of the new content on selected aircraft types on Sept. 30, but did the full rollout on Oct. 4.
Delta already offered free Wi-Fi access for Delta website content, some Wall Street Journal content and shopping site The expanded free content includes features, such as OpenTable, which will enable passengers to make restaurant reservations in the city they are flying to, and for shoe shopping. It also includes StubHub and Eventful for finding events and buying tickets.
Featured partners have paid for their positioning on the free access site, a Delta spokesman said. He would not provide details on revenue-sharing aspects of the arrangement, if any.
Ultimately, whether Delta obtains more revenue from what passengers pay for Wi-Fi access or from what they do once they are connected will depend on how each traveler makes use of it, the spokesman says.
Also this week, Delta launched entertainment on demand via Wi-Fi on all 16 of its Boeing 757-300 aircraft, which do not have seatback inflight entertainment systems. Choices will include an introductory price for television programming starting at 99 cents and movies available for $3.99, and the TV show and movies the person “rents” will remain accessible on the customer’s personal device for viewing after landing for at least 24 hours after the flight.
The Wi-Fi entertainment on demand will be available for laptops initially and expanded to tablet and mobile devices by early 2012. There are no plans yet to expand the option to other aircraft that already offer more options via their seatback IFE, but Delta does plan to keep an eye on how much customers make use of the 757-300 offer.

Lockheed Developing Winglets For C-130, C-5

Lockheed Martin is testing winglets and other drag-reducing modifications to cut the fuel consumption of C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxy airlifters.
With large-scale wind tunnel testing completed, Lockheed is fabricating a shipset of winglets for flight testing on a C-130 in 2012. The modification could be available for both retrofit and forward-fit by early 2014.
Computational analysis and small-scale tunnel tests have been completed on the C-5 winglets. Large-scale tunnel tests are planned for 2012, leading to flight tests in 2014 “if the customer is interested,” says Jack O’Banion, director of advanced development programs at Lockheed’s Marietta, Ga., plant.
The 5-ft.-tall winglets are projected to reduce cruise fuel flow by 170 lb./hr. on the C-130J and “probably more” on older versions of the Hercules, he says. They are designed to be fitted to any C-130 with the beefed-up “enhanced service life” center wingbox. This has the extra structural margin to accommodate winglet-induced bending loads.
Winglets for the C-5M are 6 ft. tall and projected to reduce cruise fuel flow by 1,100 lb./hr. This is on top of the 8-20% improvement in fuel efficiency that comes with re-engining of the C-5 with General Electric CF6-80C2 high-bypass turbofans, O’Banion says, adding that the wing already has sufficient margin to accommodate the winglet loads.
Lockheed Martin in August flight tested an aft-body drag-reduction modification on the C-130. This comprises a series of 36 vortex generators mounted on the aft fuselage. These “microvanes” alter the aft-body flowfield to pull the underbody vortex closer in and reduce base drag, he says.
Results are still being analyzed, but indications are the microvanes will reduce total drag by up to 3.7%, O’Banion says, for a fuel-consumption reduction of 2-3%. No significant changes in aircraft handling have been observed, he says.
The vortex generators, mounted in rows on the aft fuselage on either side of the rear loading ramp, are planned to be available by the end of 2012 for forward-fit and retrofit to the C-130J and earlier Hercules.
Another fuel-saving modification being studied for older C-130s is an upgrade to the latest Series 3.5 version of Rolls-Royce’s T56 turboprop, coupled with Hamilton Sundstrand’s NP2000 eight-blade propeller.
For the C-5, Lockheed also is working on a drag cleanup that is expected to improve fuel efficiency by 2-3%. This would include new seals on the flight controls to minimize aerodynamic leaks that cause drag; and new seals in the pressurization system to reduce bleed-air demand on the engines and thus improve their fuel efficiency.
In addition, equipment installed on the C-5s over time — such as defensive systems — would be cleaned up to reduce parasitic drag. “We are in the process of laying out a detailed program for the Air Force, including the business case and potential benefits,” O’Banion says.
The C-130 and C-5 drag reductions are part of an initiative by the U.S. Air Force to cut its fuel consumption. Other elements include drag cleanups on the Boeing C-17 and KC-10 and engine upgrades on the KC-135.
Photo: Lockheed Martin

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

For Anyone Wondering About That Wasp Deck

"That is just the deck," says Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He provided this response to questions about the dark spot on the U.S. Navy's USS Wasp, the amphibious ship being used for ship integration tests with the F-35B. 

blog post photo
photo credit: JSF JPO

There has been much speculation about those dark spots, which are shown in the first photos released by the Joint Strike Fighter Joint Program Office of BF-2 conducting its first landing on the Wasp deck. Some wonder whether the decks of amphibious ships can withstand the hot exhaust from the F-35B. And, some suggest that there could be protective matting placed on the deck of the ship.

However, DellaVedova says that no special matting or coatings have been put down for the F-35B's shipboard trials. The only items added to the deck are sensors that are used to collect test data, he says.

Pentagon Searching for a Path Forward for Ground Vehicle Fleet

blog post photo

Breaking off a little chunk from my story in DTI's October issue:
Given all the unknowns in the budget situation, Army leaders are moving forward with three combat vehicle programs—two wheeled and one tracked. How many will actually make it to the fleet remains to be seen, though the service maintains that all three—the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), the (tracked) Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), and the Humvee recap program—are doable.
Others aren’t so sure. Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service recently told DTI that he thinks “the Army is going to give up the Ground Combat Vehicle and JLTV” in subsequent budgets, relying instead on recapped Humvees, Strykers, M-ATVs (MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles) and recapped M-ATVs.
In August, the Army awarded almost $900 million to two teams led by BAE Systems and General Dynamics for its GCV program, a move that appeared to be a big vote of confidence in the program. But then came the details.
In giving the green light to the program, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter instructed the Army to conduct two analyses of alternatives (AOA), which will come on top of the AOA the Army completed to ensure that no existing programs perform the tasks envisioned for the GCV. Army Col. Andrew DiMarco, GCV project manager, asserts that his office “looked at a variety of platforms,” including the Bradley and the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle, as well as several foreign programs such as the Puma infantry carrier, made by Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Land Systems. None had the capabilities that the Army believes it can achieve with a newly built vehicle.
The other sticking point in Carter’s memorandum was the issue of differing price estimates between the Army and the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office. While the Army is sticking to its average unit manufacturing cost range of $9-10.5 million, and its $11-13 million estimate for average unit production cost—which includes spare parts—CAPE estimates the average unit production cost to be $16-17 million, DiMarco reveals. He calls the discrepancy the result of “different methodologies” in estimating costs.
Click through to read the whole thing here...

Lawmakers Tear Into F-16 Upgrade Decision

House lawmakers skewered administration officials Tuesday on the decision to sell Lockheed Martin F-16 upgrades to the Taiwanese government, rather than brand-new F-16 C/D aircraft. But the officials indicated the story’s not over. They might be open to selling F-16 C and D aircraft in the future.
“The decision not to sell Taiwan the next generation of F-16 fighters is a decision with grave repercussions,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing. “Why must Taiwan depend on rickety old aircraft provided almost 20 years ago by the George Herbert Walker Bush administration to face state-of-the-art Chinese fighters?”
The upgrade deal was part of a $5.85 billion package announced last month. Administration officials including Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Peter Lavoy, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, stressed that U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan are at or near their peak under the Obama administration.
Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.), the committee’s top Democrat, indicated support for the administration, but says he is wondering when the White House will move forward with the sale of new-model F-16s.
The administration hasn’t closed the door to future sales. “We have not ruled out future aircraft decisions,” Lavoy says. “We understand Taiwan’s interest in F-16 Cs and Ds, and this is under consideration.”
Berman points out that the government and the contractor are at odds on how quickly Lockheed can deliver. The administration has “asserted” twice that Taiwan would receive greater capability more rapidly by purchasing the upgrades rather than the new aircraft. Lockeed, however, says the new F-16 C- and D-model aircraft would be ready two years earlier than the upgrades, according to Berman.
Lavoy, for his part, skirted a direct answer.
“It’s our conviction . . . that upgrading their existing fleet of F-16 A and Bs is the immediate priority,” Lavoy says. “We will make sure we work with the defense contractor to accelerate those upgrades.”
Lockheed F-16 file photo

Cessna Unveils New CJ1+ Variant

Cessna Aircraft on Sept. 26 introduced a new version of the CJ1+, which it calls the M2. It will have a Garmin 3000-based “Intrinzic” flight deck and a fiber optic “Clairity” cabin infotainment system with a wireless router, allowing passengers to use their iPads and other devices.
CEO Scott Ernest says he is pricing the first 47 aircraft at $4 million.
Deliveries of CJ1+ plummeted over the past three years, with 14 delivered in 2009, three in 2010 and only one in the first half of this year. The aircraft was hurt in large measure by the market arrival of Embraer’s Phenom 100, with a larger cabin and lower price tag. The initial surge of Phenoms has ebbed, however, and Cessna believes the time is right to regain share with the M2, which cruises faster, has more range and better hot and high performance.
Photo credit: Cessna

CANSO, ATCA Aim To Launch Largest ATM Show

The two leading air traffic management (ATM) industry groups are planning to launch an annual conference that they expect will become the major ATM meeting on the industry calendar.
The new conference and trade show is being organized jointly by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (Canso) and Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA). It will be called the Canso World ATM Congress and is set to debut Feb. 12-14, 2013, in Madrid. This will undoubtedly clash with the long-running ATC Global conference that is held every year in early March in Amsterdam, which promotes itself as the major global ATM event.
Canso has not set out to compete with ATC Global, the group’s director general, Graham Lake, tells Aviation Week. Rather, Lake says the focus is on Canso fulfilling its obligation to the ATM industry. “This is not about [competing with] another trades show,” Lake says. “This is about [doing something] that this industry needs.”
The decision to launch the conference was made in June. The involvement of ATCA is important because the group brings significant experience with conferences and exhibitions, says Lake. ATCA already runs an annual ATM conference in Washington, which is being held this week.
Lake says the impetus for the new conference came from Canso’s members, which are primarily air navigation service providers (ANSPs). “There has been a feeling among the members for some time that Canso should manage the big conferences and events for the industry,” he says.
A major aim in establishing the conference is to enable the industry to set the agenda and ensure that it generates the discussions it needs, says Lake. However, another factor is that conferences of this magnitude bring in a lot of revenue. “Our members feel that if they are to invest money in [a conference], it should go back into the industry.”
Lake points out that if Canso is to expand and do a better job of representing its members’ interests, it can either raise fees or look for other income sources.
Canso and ATCA say in a statement that they expect their conference to be “the definitive annual event for ATM.” Lake says the intention is for this to be the largest ATM conference, and “we would be disappointed if we didn’t achieve that.” However, he also notes that “it isn’t about size, it’s about doing the right thing for our industry.”
Madrid will be the location for the conference every year. Lake says that although it will be a global event, Canso decided it should be held in Europe because the region has a large number of ANSPs and because “there is so much change taking place there.” The intended size of the conference limited the number of host cities. As well as being a major air hub, Madrid has a modern exhibition center large enough to accommodate the trade show. Both the city and AENA, the Spanish ANSP, were extremely supportive, says Lake.
As well as ANSP CEOs, nearly 20 companies and ATM organizations have expressed their support or “registered an interest in exhibiting,” says Canso. All of the big aerospace manufacturers in Europe and the U.S. are on this list. The International Air Transport Association and Airports Council International have also made statements in support of the Canso conference.
Photo: Eurocontrol

B/E Aerospace To Develop Star Alliance Seat

Star Alliance has selected B/E Aerospace to develop the common architecture for a long-haul economy-class seat for its members.
The joint procurement program, which has been under development for several years (Aviation Daily, Jan. 9, 2010), will create a base and advance variant of the seat. Carbon-fiber components will be used to reduce weight, Aviation Week was previously told.
Air China, Lufthansa and the German carrier’s sister company, Austrian Airlines, are the first of Star’s members to choose the seats, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2012.
“Star Alliance has again set an industry trend by becoming the first alliance to partner with an airline seat manufacturer to deliver product innovation to its member carriers,” says the group’s VP-Legal and Corporate Services Jeffrey Goh.

AMR Attempts To Halt Bankruptcy Rumors

American Airlines’ parent company AMR Corp. late Oct. 3 tried to stem rumors of a pending bankruptcy that forced a temporary stop in share trading and at points reduced its market capitalization to less than $1 billion.
Speculation that AMR will file for Chapter 11 protection, while present for several years, increased in the past weeks as analysts and other industry observers began to note seemingly disturbing signs, such as increased pilot retirements and apparently ambiguous statements from executives.
This had already started to pressure AMR’s stock, but on Monday the company’s shares were affected by a concerted sell-off that pushed its stock as low as $1.75, about 40% below the morning’s opening price. This drop in turn prompted a halt in trading, albeit a temporary one, although shares failed to rebound beyond $2.00 when trading resumed.
“While we generally don’t comment on AMR’s share price performance, there is no company-driven news that has caused the volatility in AMR shares today. The pause in trading of AMR shares was due to automatic triggers established by the New York Stock Exchange (under Rule 80C) that pause trading based on share price volatility,” says AMR in a statement.
The company also took the opportunity to address talk of Chapter 11, noting, “Regarding rumors and speculation about a court-supervised restructuring, that is certainly not our goal or our preference. We know we need to improve our results, and we are keenly focused as we work to achieve that.”
Photo credit: American Airlines

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Sky Tractors (The Air Tractor series)


The Air Tractor was designed by company founder Leyland Snow who earlier designed the Snow S-2 (built by Rockwell and Ayres).
The initial Air Tractor model was the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial powered AT-301 which established the Air Tractor series' basic configuration. First flight was in 1973, and 600 were built. The PT6 turbine powered AT-302 introduced in 1977 was replaced by the AT-402. The R-1340 powered AT-401 introduced a greater span wing and increased chemical hopper capacity and first flew in 1986. The AT-402 is similar other than its 505kW (680shp) PT6A turboprop engine, the AT-402B has increased span wings.
The AT-502A (first flight Feb 1992) is based in the 402B but has a far more powerful 820kW (1100shp) PT6A-45R turbine driving a slow turning five blade prop. Its excess power reserves allow high speed or high altitude operations. The AT-502B has Hoerner wingtips and optional equipment including GPS.
The 5.4 tonne MTOW PT6 powered AT-602 first flew on December 1 1995 and became available for delivery in the second half of 1996.
The larger and heavier two seat AT-802 and single seat AT-802A are the largest purpose designed single engine ag aircraft in production. First flight was in October 1990. The AT-802F is a dedicated firefighting version.

Spesification :


AT-301 - One 447kW (600hp) Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine driving two blade Hamilton Standard or Pacific Propeller or three blade Pacific Propeller props.
AT-502 - One 507kW (680shp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A series turboprop, optionally a 560kW (750shp) PT6A, driving a three blade constant speed prop.
AT-802 - One 1062kW (1424shp) PT6A-67R or 67AF driving a five blade constant speed Hartzell prop.

Peformance :

AT-301 - Max speed 266km/h (144kt), econ cruising speed 225km/h (122kt). Initial rate of climb 1600ft/min.
AT-502 - Max speed at sea level 290kmh (155kt), typical operating speeds 195 to 235km/h (105 to 125kt). Initial rate of climb 1080ft/min.
AT-802 - Max speed 338km/h (182kt), max cruising speed 314km/h (170kt). Initial rate of climb 800ft/min. Range with max fuel 805km (434nm).

Small Nation, Big Idea

Cape Town, South Africa -- Almost 80 nations are represented here at the 62nd International Congress, including all the usual suspects.

NASA has 50 representatives and a large display devoted to past glories and tentative future plans. Russia's past and present agency heads are present, along with senior cosmonaut Valery Ryumin, who has spent time on Salyut and Mir and flown in the space shuttle. Europe's major space powers are well-represented in the exhibition hall, both by space agencies and companies looking for a piece of the emerging African market.

At the other end of the spectrum is tiny Finland. Its sole official representative is Mikko Suominen, a journalist who writes for the science magazine Tähdet ja avaruus (Stars and Space). Suominen represents the Finnish Astronomical Society and is also a member of the  Astronomical Association Ursa,. He arrived here with a large cardboard tube carrying his nation's contribution to the annual international discussion of the hows, whys and wheres of space travel - a poster presentation on a concept advanced by Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

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Dubbed the E-Sail, for Electric Solar Wind Sail, the idea would be to add the electrical charge of the solar wind to its photon pressure for propulsion. Long tethers would gather a positive charge from the solar wind that would  be  repelled by the same charge in the  wind itself. Janhunen and his colleagues that the technology could speed a 500-kg. payload to Neptune  in only 4.6 years, enabling detailed study of  the outer solar system for clues  to the formation of the planets from the early solar disk. Suominen says it could also be used  to move threatening asteroids out of Earth's path.

An added benefit of the technology is the ability to control the direction of travel by channging the charge on one side of the sail.

Suominen says the University of Tartu in Estonia has plans to begin testing the concept in space with a tether extended from a cubesat in low Earth orbit, gauging the ability of the tether to collect a change and to slow the satellite. That raises another possible application -- deorbiting satellites that have outlived their useful lives.

QuetzSat-1 Launched Atop ILS Proton Breeze M

PARIS — An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton M/Breeze M rocket launched the QuetzSat-1 telecommunications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, releasing the SES spacecraft into geostationary transfer orbit following a 9-hr. 13-min. mission, the companies announced Sept. 30.
QuetzSat-1, the fourth satellite SES has launched this year, is an all Ku-band, 20-kw broadcasting satellite contracted to EchoStar. Based on Space Systems/Loral’s 1300 satellite bus, it will cover Mexico, the U.S. and Central America with 32 Ku-band transponders providing advanced direct-to-home television over its 15-year design life.
Liftoff took place at 12:32 a.m. local time Sept. 30 (2:32 p.m. EDT Sept. 29). The ILS launch is the first for the Reston, Va.-based company since August, when a workmanship error caused a Proton M/Breeze M to deliver the Astrium-built Express-AM4 telecommunications satellite into the wrong orbit during a mission led by the Russian Federation. The Proton mishap delayed ILS’s launch of QuetzSat-1 by roughly three weeks.
“We are honored to partner with industry innovator SES in launching over one-third of their operational fleet on ILS Proton over the past 15 years,” ILS President Frank McKenna said in a statement. “QuetzSat-1 is a very important satellite to SES and their customer EchoStar, and ILS has worked in partnership to make this launch a success.”
SES plans to launch the SES-4 satellite atop an ILS Proton from Baikonur in late November.
QuetzSat-1 artist's concept: Space Systems/Loral

The Best Things In Life Are... time-lapse videos. Thanks, Airbus.

Eurocopter Reveals Hybrid-Helo Flight Trials

Eurocopter is finishing up flight trials of a hybrid helicopter concept that should aid pilots during autorotation and, potentially, ease regulatory concerns about single-engine helicopter operations.
Eurocopter has quietly been working on the technology that adds an electric motor and power supply to an AS350, with flight trials underway at its Marignane headquarters in southern France since July. Flight test personnel had enough confidence in the system to begin autorotation trials on the first flight, says Eurocopter’s technical director, Jean-Michel Billig.
The motor, which is powered by a chargeable lithium ion polymer battery, automatically kicks in when the turbine fails to minimize the loss of rotor speed. “It gives the pilot some time to react and keep control of the helicopter,” Billig says.
A second power input comes just before landing. The overall goal is to relieve pilot stress during the two most critical periods of an autorotation.
Eurocopter officials are guarded about elements of the technology, including the exact weight of the motor and the power output it can provide. Billig says it is adequate to assure safe touchdown and keep control of the horizontal speed and rate of descent.
With the basic technology demonstrated, much of the focus now is on whether the system can be engineered to be viable in a commercial operational setting. That means improving production maturity of the hybrid system, bringing the motor and battery weight down, and determining whether the supply chain is adequate for a commercial offering. Billig is optimistic that those boxes will be checked off in the coming months and that Eurocopter can then take a decision of how, when and on what rotorcraft the technology can be introduced. “It is not a matter of years,” he asserts.
But long-term, Eurocopter has ambitions beyond just aiding safety. Further evolutions of the hybrid technology could allow the electric motor to kick in at certain points in flight to reduce fuel burn and, consequently, carbon dioxide output, effectively performing some of the functions of a hybrid system now seen on cars.
The focus is squarely on single-engine helicopters, for Eurocopter the EC120, AS350, EC135. One goal is to also give regulators a greater comfort factor with single-engine helicopters, to expand their commercial appeal.

Just 820 More Boeing 787s To Go

With All Nippon Airways (ANA) in possession of the first 787-8, Boeing is upbeat about taking the first steps in its next big challenge—a production ramp-up—but hesitates about when the industry’s first composite jet will begin to pay off.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO James Albaugh says production rates will notch up to 2.5 airplanes per month from the current two in November and reach 3.5 per month in “late winter or early spring.”
The bulk of that immediate expansion, maybe all of it, will come entirely from the company’s main 787 final assembly line here at its widebody headquarters north of Seattle. Line No. 46 is now being assembled in Boeing’s newest factory in North Charleston, S.C., but officials are not saying when the aircraft will roll out. However, 787 General Manager Scott Fancher says, by mirroring Everett’s line, the new plant will have the capacity to assemble at a higher rate than the three per month it is initially being called on to achieve.
Boeing Chairman and CEO James McNerney says the 787 will be cash-positive before 2020, a reference to cash flow on a unit basis and not to the program’s overall profitability. In the 787’s early days, when orders were piling up and schedule slips had not arrived, Boeing was estimating its backlog would last until 2015-17. A company official said it does not have an estimate of how far its current 820-aircraft backlog will last.
Although the company does not reveal program research, development and production costs, various analysts have called the 787 a $40-50 billion program for Boeing and its suppliers. They also have put its cash-positive break-even point at 1,200-1,900 airplanes.
The first 787-8—the eighth from Boeing’s production line—arrived in sunny skies in Tokyo on Sept. 28 after a rain-soaked celebration here for Boeing and ANA employees.
The 787 is the first airplane that ANA has launched, and the carrier’s executives have enthusiastically embraced it, despite waiting an additional 39 months to receive it. Boeing first promised a May 2008 delivery date.
“I cannot wait to see the day when the skies of the world are filled with 787s,” ANA President and CEO Shinichiro Ito declared. Taking note of ANA’s patience, McNerney said, in Japanese, “Thank you for waiting for this day.”
“I’ve dreamed of this moment for a long time—actually, for longer than I’d have wanted,” quipped Pat Shanahan, Boeing’s head of aircraft programs. The comment drew laughter from hundreds of mechanics and engineers as well as quality control, systems and test employees who gathered to celebrate the delivery. “As we all know, the journey here wasn’t easy or smooth,” he said.
Program slips are one thing, but technology gains are another. At Jefferies & Co., analyst Howard Rubel sees the company as ready “to convert its technology developments into a competitive and operating performance edge.”
Achieving a 10-per-month build rate will be a “substantial challenge” and one not achievable until final engineering changes related to the 787’s certification last month are incorporated into its supply chain, notes Rubel.
For suppliers, certification is a milestone that outshines the more transient celebration of a first delivery. The document is an official approval stamp of build processes and helps Boeing and suppliers establish what Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Jeff Turner calls “a drum beat” that continues regardless of block upgrades. At this stage, “the risks of getting to rate are more known than unknown,” says Rubel.
Beyond the 3.5-per-month assembly rate that Albaugh forecasts for early next year, Rubel forecasts a monthly pace of five by the end of 2012. But that is just half of what Boeing wants by the end of 2013. “I don’t think there’s a chance whatsoever of getting to that rate,” says Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia.
He acknowledges that 787 production “is on the mend,” but says the company still must incorporate design improvements in Block 1 aircraft (through Line No. 21) as it matures an “entirely new supply chain and entirely new technologies.” Ten per month will be a record assembly rate for widebody jets, he notes.
On top of that, Aboulafia takes a wait-and-see approach to what adjustments Boeing might need to make with the airplane in service. “You don’t know how well it will perform until it does,” he declares.
If its service entry is as smooth as the 777’s, then Boeing will be OK. Fleet managers routinely refer to the 777 as having the least number of squawks (complaints) of any aircraft they have ever received.
Boeing is boosting 777 assembly rates to 8.3 per month in 2013 from the current seven. But the company has had nearly 20 years to perfect 777 final assembly. It redesigned the entire factory in the last decade and has more than halved total production days. But the 777’s mainly aluminum body has more in common with the 1980s technology 767 than it does with the 21st century 787.
Only recently has Boeing been able to step into the accelerated final assembly process it envisioned at the 787’s 2004 launch. The schedule slip is the result of some need for redesign, plus supply-chain issues. But the airplane’s most notable feature, its composite airframe, has not been a hurdle, says Fancher. “Filament-wound, single-piece composite fuselages have actually gone quite well for us,” he says. “We’re very happy with how strong they are and what they’ve brought to us.” He expects the 787’s technologies to be “the backdrop [for Boeing’s] airplanes for the next 30 years.”
But schedule slips have underscored the need for a focus on program management. “We’re working more closely with suppliers than we have in the past,” says Fancher. “It’s much more of a shoulder-to-shoulder approach.”
Boeing is starting production of initial parts for the first stretched 787-9, and is “on track” to achieve payload-range and empty-weight targets after completing the critical design review for the second airplane in the company’s new family in mid-September. The 787 is the 11th new jet that Boeing has introduced since the 707, which was the industry’s first successful commercial jet a half-century ago. McNerney proclaimed the new jet the biggest advance for commercial aviation since those days.
First deliveries of the 787-9 are set to begin in only 27 months, and long-lead items such as the production tooling are already under construction. These include the fuselage assembly mandrels for the two stretched sections of the ­787-9 which is 206 ft. in length, or 20 ft. longer than the 787-8.
Although Boeing says its Block 1 versions will all meet the performance guarantees to individual customers, it acknowledges that the aircraft are overweight and suffering fuel-burn shortfalls.
ANA Senior Vice President Sutoru Fujiki says the heavier aircraft will be reserved for domestic operations, although the company has set the beginning of long-haul operations for early in 2012 with flights from Tokyo to Frankfurt. By the end of its current fiscal year next March 31, ANA expects to receive 12 787s. It is to add another eight by the end of fiscal 2012. This year’s delivery rates have been revised downward slightly to reflect softness in the Japanese air travel market since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The Japanese carrier is one of Boeing’s biggest customers and relies heavily on 767s for domestic and regional operations. In December 2003, “the timing was right” for their replacement, Fujiki says. That was when Boeing made its initial offer of the 7E7, later renamed the 787. At first, ANA expected a large portion of its fleet to be the short-range 787-3, which would seat more than 300 passengers. Initially, Boeing expected the -3 to appear as early as the standard-size 787-8, which nominally seats 210-250.
But only ANA and Japan Airlines (JAL) showed interest in the 787-3 and Boeing dropped the model. Of the 55 787s it eventually ordered, ANA has set aside 15 in the stretched 250-290-seat -9 version. JAL is to receive all 35 of its 787s as -8s.
ANA bought the 787s as it was expanding well beyond its traditional role as Japan’s biggest domestic airline. The 787’s schedule slip forced the carrier to turn to 777s and 767s as substitutes. The 787s are to replace the latter. ANA is now the industry’s ninth largest airline by revenue and 13th largest by traffic. It has 126 domestic and 62 international routes, including nine added since 2010.
Both ANA and JAL are accustomed to using long-range aircraft to fly short-range domestic routes simply to take advantage of their high seat counts. One of Japan’s highest density and busiest city pairs, Tokyo to Sapporo, takes only 40 min. and was immediately assigned the 747 Domestics that Boeing introduced with ANA and JAL in mind soon after the initial 747-100/-200s arrived in the 1970s.
On its domestic routes, ANA has configured the 787 with only 12 business seats out of a total of 264. But for long-haul flights, it is seating 46 in its premium section and 112 in coach.

F-35B Lands On USMC Amphibious Ship

The F-35B, which a year ago was in the midst of major scrutiny for dismal testing performance, has taken a major step with its first landing on the U.S. Marine Corps’ USS Wasp amphibious ship.
The F-35 Joint Program Office confirmed the landing Oct. 3. A second short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) Joint Strike Fighter is expected to arrive on the ship within days, kicking off a series of ship trials designed to ensure the F-35B can operate on the Marine Corps’ amphibious ship decks.
The trials will include 67 vertical landings as well as a variety of tests to ensure operators can move the aircraft on deck as well as operate around them; the deck space is limited.
Only a year ago, Lockheed Martin was under severe pressure to improve testing on the Stovl jets, owing to delayed deliveries of test jets to the fleet and a standstill on vertical landings. At the time, BF-1 was the only aircraft outfitted for vertical landing testing and it encountered reliability issues. Since then, however, the Stovl fleet has regained steam with a turnaround in vertical landing testing.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, commandant for aviation, says he hopes to declare initial operational capability in 2015 if possible; that was originally slated for 2012 and then later slipped to 2014 due to delays in development. The Marine Corps Aviation Plan, signed last year, calls for 10 F-35Bs equipped with Block IIB software, with six capable of austere and/or ship-based operations, and a flight envelope of 7g and 50-deg. angle of attack before initial operational capability can be declared.
The first F-35B is slated to be delivered to Eglin AFB, Fla., in advance of pilot training in November. However, actual pilot training operations could take until next spring to begin.
As of Oct. 1, the F-35 test fleet is outpacing its schedule for 2011, according to Lockheed Martin, having conducted 701 flights against a plan of 645. The stovl variant has flown 244 flights, the F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant 347 flights, and the F-35C carrier variant 110 flights. The F-35B has performed 183 vertical landings this year, the company says.
Lockheed file photo of an F-35B

MD-80 Drag-Reducing Kit Wins FAA Approval

A drag-reducing upgrade kit developed for Boeing MD-80 operators has received supplemental type certification from the FAA.
Developed by Long Beach, Calif.-based engineering company Super98, the first part of the kit is initially designed to reduce fuel burn by 2.5% or more, with a further 1% benefit available from a more extensive upgrade. Fuel savings were verified in flight tests of an instrumented MD-83 in late 2010 and early 2011.
Fuel savings from the Phase 1 kit are estimated at more than $236,000 per aircraft per year based on a $3/gallon oil price, says Super98. The Phase 1 kit is divided into two sub-kits, the first of which includes flap hinge fairings forward and aft, aileron and elevator tab hinge covers, wing-body sealing and wing trailing edge seals. The second sub-kit includes flap segment seals, a windshield fairing, rudder lower gap seal, aileron edge seal, a main landing gear door skid, refaired tail skid and a horizontal stabilizer tip seal.
The additional modifications that will deliver a further 1% drag reduction require more time to install than overnight maintenance stops. They include slat lower trailing edge seals, slat segment gap seals and spoiler trailing edge extensions.
“We’ve got the first parts assembled and they’re ready to go,” says VP-Sales and Marketing Rolf Sellge. Production plans are currently based on providing up to six shipsets per month. Although MD-80s are being replaced throughout the type’s main operating arenas in the U.S. and Europe, Sellge says the wait list for newer Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 models means many will remain in service well into the decade and beyond. Breakeven for the drag kits comes in a year for Phase 1 and a year-and-a-half for the full kit, he adds.
Super98 expects to have the first kits installed around year-end and the first customer for the full package to be on contract in the first quarter of 2012. Overall, more than 700 MD-80s remain in service.

Global ATM Initiative Lags Behind Schedule

ICAO’s target of having satellite-based approaches at every qualifying airport by the end of 2016 will not be met at the current rate of deployment, industry experts say.
Only a few years into the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) time line, deployment already is well behind schedule. There would have to a significant acceleration in the rollout of these procedures for the ICAO goal to be met, says Steve Fulton, technical fellow with GE Aviation’s PBN Services. Fulton was speaking at GE’s annual Global PBN Summit in Seattle.
This performance-based navigation (PBN) initiative stems from an ICAO resolution in 2007, reinforced by another resolution last year. The requirement is for every instrument-capable runway to have satellite-based approach procedures with vertical guidance (APV) and lateral guidance. APV falls under the broad definition of required navigation performance (RNP).
The first deployment target was for approaches to be installed at 30% of airports globally by the end of 2010, but to date this has occurred at just 15%. The next milestones call for 70% of the procedures to be implemented by 2014, and 100% in 2016.
“We are not really seeing the sort of progress we’d like” on PBN overall, says Graham Lake, director general of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. Lake says it is not a question of funding, because PBN “is about implementation of existing technologies.” He notes that it is widely recognized that PBN can increase safety and efficiency, and help address noise concerns at airports. “So why is it not being deployed more widely?”
Robert Kennedy, a PBN advisor, agrees that ICAO members are “struggling to achieve” the PBN milestones. But while the current deployment level is low worldwide, the rate of introduction is picking up, Kennedy says. Despite these signs of improvement, “we all realize we are at the tip of the iceberg [with deployment] and there is so much more work to be done.”
There are more than 1,500 runways in North America that are candidates for APV approaches, and so far about 30% have them, Fulton says. Latin American deployment is in the 10%-20% range, but no other region has reached 10% deployment.
Fulton says showing aviation authorities that implementing APVs is not difficult or prohibitively expensive will help spur deployment. New aircraft already are equipped, and ICAO offers support to regulators that want to begin implementation. However, the lack of qualified procedure designers is problem.
Gaining airline support for PBN is crucial, Fulton says. This can be achieved by ensuring there are operational benefits from new approaches and procedures, instead of just focusing on quantity.
In the U.S., for example, many carriers are disenchanted with APV initiatives, Fulton says. Survey responses show that airlines often do not use APV approaches because many offer only limited efficiency gains. The airline calls for added value are “not unrealistic or out of line with the ICAO goals,” says Fulton. “If [APVs] continue to not meet expectations, [the ICAO initiative] will fail.”
Image: AviationWeek

JLTV Draft RFP is Out, Finally Sets Cost Goals

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It’s here! (Kind of!) The long-awaited (Draft) Request for Proposals for the next phase of the Army/Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program came out today, and we finally know how much the Army wants each vehicle to cost, and how many vehicles it wants to buy. The cost: $230,000 - $270,000 per base unit, with an extra $65,000 for the b-kit armor, comes in right about where many expected it to, and the Army has also put of cap of $52 million on this phase of the competition, which will end in May, 2012. A single contract award is scheduled for 2015.  
The documents also state that the Army is looking for 20,750 vehicles across the family of six variants, which include the Utility/Shelter Carrier (JLTV-UTL), two seat; Close Combat Weapons Carrier (JLTV-CCWC), four seat; General Purpose (JLTV-GP), four seat; Special Purpose (JLTV-SP); Heavy Guns Carrier (JLTV-HGC); and the Command and Control on the Move (JLTV-C2OTM). 
As far as a build schedule goes, once the final contract is awarded, the draft calls for 450 vehicles in the first year of production, 1,200 vehicles in the second year of production and 2,300 vehicles in the third year of production, with “a steady-state production rate of 3,360 JLTVs per year for the next 5 years.”
All of this information comes out a full five years after the program officially kicked off, and a few weeks after a Senate panel voted to do away with the program altogether. The Army also finally managed to cough up these unit cost numbers at a critical time for the program, given that the Humvee Recap program has stolen quite of bit of the JLTV’s thunder in recent months, and even stole $50 million in fiscal 2011 funding from the JLTV’s coffers. 
So here we are. Can the Army afford both vehicles? Does it want to? Will Congress and the White House allow both programs to continue? Is there really a competition between the two vehicles, or can they compliment one another in a shrinking Army/Marine Corps arsenal? Lots of questions, and lots of hopeful-sounding draft RFPs floating around out there…

NEW VIDEO UPDATE: F-35B Finally Lands on the Wasp!

The F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing Joint Strike Fighter has taken a step forward in its testing program today with the first landing onboard the USS Wasp, a Marine Corps amphibious ship, in preparation for shipboard trials.

The landing was confirmed by Joe DellaVedova, the F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman. 

New pics are expected to be released shortly and I will post when I get them.

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photos: F-35 JPO

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A second F-35B is expected onboard within days; two aircraft were outfitted with monitoring equipment for this test period. A test phase will follow including roughly 67 vertical landings. Marine Corps officials will also explore how to operate the aircraft on the tight decks of their ships. 

This milestone comes on the most recently announced schedule, an accomplishment that officials are likely to underscore as lawmakers and Pentagon bean counters continue to comb through the program in search of budget cuts.

U.S. Army Vehicles Meet Fiscal Reality

When the U.S. Army released its fiscal 2011 Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy in January, the service was lauded for a forward-looking approach in defining and addressing needs that also laid plans to reduce its fleet of 260,000 trucks 15% by 2017. The Army is “at a strategic crossroads,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of force development, said at the time, since it “cannot afford to sustain and modernize a fleet of the current size, given future budget expectations.”
But those plans have since been mugged by budget realities. As it stands, the Pentagon is set to absorb at least $350 billion in cuts over the next decade, with deeper reductions looming as Congress seeks an additional $1.2 trillion in government cuts.
Given all the unknowns in the budget situation, Army leaders are moving forward with three combat vehicle programs—two wheeled and one tracked. How many will actually make it to the fleet remains to be seen, though the service maintains that all three—the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), the (tracked) Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), and the Humvee recap program (DTI June, p. 41)—are doable.
Others aren’t so sure. Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service recently told DTI that he thinks “the Army is going to give up the Ground Combat Vehicle and JLTV” in subsequent budgets, relying instead on recapped Humvees, Strykers, M-ATVs (MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles) and recapped M-ATVs.
In August, the Army awarded almost $900 million to two teams led by BAE Systems and General Dynamics for its GCV program, a move that appeared to be a big vote of confidence in the program. But then came the details.
In giving the green light to the program, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter instructed the Army to conduct two analyses of alternatives (AOA), which will come on top of the AOA the Army completed to ensure that no existing programs perform the tasks envisioned for the GCV. Army Col. Andrew DiMarco, GCV project manager, asserts that his office “looked at a variety of platforms,” including the Bradley and the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle, as well as several foreign programs such as the Puma infantry carrier, made by Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Land Systems. None had the capabilities that the Army believes it can achieve with a newly built vehicle.
The other sticking point in Carter’s memorandum was the issue of differing price estimates between the Army and the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office. While the Army is sticking to its average unit manufacturing cost range of $9-10.5 million, and its $11-13 million estimate for average unit production cost—which includes spare parts—CAPE estimates the average unit production cost to be $16-17 million, DiMarco reveals. He calls the discrepancy the result of “different methodologies” in estimating costs.
Asked if there might come a time when the GCV program is abandoned because of rising expenditures or better alternatives, DiMarco replies that “certainly there’s a point where you’re paying money for a capability that might not be any better than what you have today.” In the next two sets of analyses, “we’ll be more focused on looking at requirement trades for affordability,” he says.
Overall, the GCV program is estimated to be worth $40 billion, and the Army wants more than 1,800 GCV infantry carriers to be fielded beginning in 2017, with each incorporating enough modularity for armor and armament to be swapped out for different mission sets while delivering up to nine infantrymen to the battlefield. Now, $40 billion is nothing to take lightly—especially at a time when big contracts like this will likely be few and far between. The leaders of the winning teams are BAE Systems, which received a $450 million contract, and General Dynamics, which was awarded $440 million for work during the two-year technology demonstration (TD) phase. SAIC submitted a variation of Puma but was denied a contract, even though the Army budgeted money for up to three TD contracts, and subsequently filed a protest in August. A company representative tells DTI via email that “we believe the government relied on evaluation criteria outside its published request for proposals. We also believe several aspects of the bid may have been discounted because of a lack of familiarity with their non-American origins.”
One thing is certain: the $890 million investment in GCV development isn’t a guarantee of anything.
Meanwhile, plans for the joint Army/Marine Corps JLTV, which could cost $70 billion, seem to be missing in action. While the program has been active since 2006, nobody knows how many trucks the Army and Marines want (or if the Marines want any), how much each will cost, or what the final design requirements will be. Eyebrows were raised earlier this year when the House and Senate Armed Services committees agreed to cut $50 million from the requested $172 million fiscal 2012 budget for the JLTV, moving that cash to the Humvee recap program. But that was only the beginning. “We’re looking to take more money out,” Col. David Bassett, the Army’s project manager for tactical vehicles, tells DTI.
The way to do that is to push back the award date for the JLTV’s engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, while shortening that planned four-year phase to accelerate the program schedule. The EMD competition should also be open to all bidders, not just the teams led by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and General Tactical Vehicles, a joint venture between General Dynamics and AM General, which already won development contracts. Bassett expects to issue a draft request for proposals (RFP) this fall. “And, assuming that we get approval for the updated program, we would be looking at the spring of next year for the next round of contract awards,” he says.
In the time since the three JLTV industry teams started building their trucks in 2008, the program—and the Army’s wheeled vehicle fleet—has gone through changes. MRAPs, MATVs and up-armored Humvees have come on line by the thousands, and the Stryker has become a big part of the Army’s future. Through it all, the JLTV remained an enigma. With so many different armored vehicles, and with the GCV and recapped Humvees looming on the horizon, will the Army finally define the goals—and cost—of the JLTV program? The RFP slated for this fall is critical to the program’s future.
With GCV and JLTV competitions well under way, the next box to be ticked off for the Army is the Humvee recap program. While no RFP has been issued, Bassett says a draft will be out in fall, followed by an industry day.
While a recap of the iconic Humvee will give the vehicles better armor, improved suspension and other upgrades, it will also extend vehicle life into the 2030s—a long haul from its birth in the 1980s. The recap of 50,000-100,000 Army Humvees, and at least 3,400 Marine Corps trucks, has created tension with the JLTV program, with some wondering if the Pentagon can afford both programs at a time when budgets are shrinking. Bassett, who manages both programs, is quick to say, “we’ve structured these as two mutually supportive programs, where Humvee recap is intended to demonstrate for the Army exactly how much improvement they can gain in their light fleet through an upgrade of the truck they have, at a cost that the Army would be willing to invest.”
Bassett stresses that the recap must “be cheap enough where there’s no confusion in the strategy between the role of a Humvee recap and the role of a JLTV. There is clearly going to be a difference between the Humvee and JLTV.” In other words, while the Army is looking for the recap program to use existing technologies to refit the fleet, it is looking to JLTV for new communication and weapon systems and armor solutions that will make it a leap-ahead truck. Still, while the Army has established a base price of $180,000 for each recapped Humvee, after five years of development, there’s still no hard cost projection for the JLTV, something Bassett chalks up to changing requirements, threats and evolving technology.
Despite contract awards and reassuring words, the Army’s combat vehicle program is in flux. Once Congress makes its decision later this year, the Army’s ground vehicle road map will come into sharper focus.
Photo: US Army