Mar 24, 2017 00:55 UTC
The US Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray
unmanned aerial tanker is likely to have a wing-body-tail design
after Lockheed Martin's Skunk Work division found that a flying wing design is not the best aerodynamic shape for the service's latest requirements. While the Navy had initially intended a surveillance and possible strike capability for the aircraft, the current requirements suggest a strong emphasis on a tanking role and less on ISR. As a result, competing firms Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Boeing are likely to redesign their bids for the competition.
UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
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Mar 22, 2017 00:29 UTC
Lockheed Martin has been given a $40 million contract modification
to strip and recoat F-22 coatings for the USAF's F-22 Raptor
fleet. Work on the contract will be performed at various locations in California, Georgia, Utah, and Texas, and work is expected to be completed by the end of June 2019. At the time of the award, the company received $6.4 million. The fifth-generation tactical stealth fighter has been in service since 2005 and designed to perform air superiority missions.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
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Mar 08, 2017 00:46 UTC
Germany did confirm plans to purchase
the high-altitude MQ-4C Triton
surveillance UAV from Northrop Grumman as a replacement to 2013's abandoned Euro Hawk program
. While the defense ministry failed to mention how many MQ-4Cs it was intending to buy, the Euro Hawk requirement had initially called for five systems to be delivered with $1.26 billion earmarked for the procurement. However the deal was scrapped when it became known that gaining aviation approval would cost in the hundreds of millions of euros. Ministry sources said the aviation approval for Triton would be less costly because it was baked in from the start of the program.
BAMS Operation Concept
The world’s P-3 Orion fleets have served for a long time, and many are reaching the end of their lifespans. In the USA, and possibly beyond, the new P-8 Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft will take up the P-3’s role. While the P-8’s base 737-based airframe offers strong service & maintenance arguments in its favor, the airframe is expensive enough that the P-3s cannot be replaced on a 1:1 basis.
In order to extend the P-8 fleet’s reach, and provide additional capabilities, the Poseidon was expected to work with at least one companion UAV platform. This DID FOCUS Article explains the winning BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) concept, the program’s key requirements, and its international angle. We’ll also cover ongoing contracts and key events related to the program, which chose Northrop Grumman’s navalized MQ-4C Triton Global Hawk variant.
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Mar 01, 2017 00:55 UTC
China has received their largest foreign order
for the indigenous next-generation Wing Loong II UAV. However, the report did not disclose the identity of the buyer or the size of the order. Beijing has been driving to increase their market share of the military drone market at the expense of US and Israeli products, by offering lower-cost technology to customers and a willingness to sell to governments to which Western states will not sell. The Wing Loong II's predecessor
is marketed for $1 million, while the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
, to which it has sometimes been compared, is priced at around $30 million.
The MQ-9 Reaper UAV, once called “Predator B,” is somewhat similar to the famous Predator. Until you look at the tail. Or its size. Or its weapons. It’s called “Reaper” for a reason: while it packs the same surveillance gear, it’s much more of a hunter-killer design. Some have called it the first fielded Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV).
The Reaper UCAV will play a significant role in the future USAF, even though its capability set makes the MQ-9 considerably more expensive than MQ-1 Predators. Given these high-end capabilities and expenses, one may not have expected the MQ-9 to enjoy better export success than its famous cousin. Nevertheless, that’s what appears to be happening. MQ-9 operators currently include the USA and Britain, who use it in hunter-killer mode, and Italy. Several other countries are expressing interest, and the steady addition of new payloads are expanding the Reaper’s advantage over competitors…
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Feb 27, 2017 00:48 UTC
After 21 years of service, the MQ-1 Predator
UAV will be retired in 2018
. The USAF will instead opt for a full MQ-9 Reaper
fleet citing better equipment and overall operational capabilities such as bigger payloads, higher flight ceilings, and top speeds. As a result, the USAF will no longer have to maintain a training pipeline or equipment on two separate aircraft, which eliminates the cost of operating two different airframes. Speaking on the Reaper, 432nd Operations Group commander Col. Joseph said in a statement "I think when we look at the legacy of the MQ-1 we're going to be scratching our heads wondering how we did so much with so little."
Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.
The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.
This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.
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