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Sikorsky’s CH-53K Completes First Load Flight Test | USAF’s Selection Process to Replace Huey Invites Protests | Spanish Navy Considering F-35B to Fill in for Retiring Harriers

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Americas * A USMC test has seen a Sikorsky CH-53K complete its first external load flight test, lifting a 12,000 pound external load in a hover. The April 12 test will see further loads tried with external payloads of 12,000 pounds flown first in hover, then incrementally increasing speeds up to 120 knots, followed by 20,000 and 27,000 pound external payloads. The system features an electrical load release capability from the cockpit and cabin, and a mechanical load release capability at each of the pendant locations. An auto-jettison system is incorporated to protect the aircraft in the event of a load attachment point failure. * The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is now the first aircraft carrier to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) command center. Certified by the US Navy, the command center was installed during the vessel’s Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) in San Diego. The installation marks the start of a phased implementation of the MQ-XX Stingray system on an aircraft carrier, which will deliver a high-endurance unmanned aircraft that will replace today’s F/A-18E/F in its role as the aerial tanker for the Navy’s carrier air wing (CVW), thus preserving the strike fighter’s flight hours for its primary […]
Americas

* A USMC test has seen a Sikorsky CH-53K complete its first external load flight test, lifting a 12,000 pound external load in a hover. The April 12 test will see further loads tried with external payloads of 12,000 pounds flown first in hover, then incrementally increasing speeds up to 120 knots, followed by 20,000 and 27,000 pound external payloads. The system features an electrical load release capability from the cockpit and cabin, and a mechanical load release capability at each of the pendant locations. An auto-jettison system is incorporated to protect the aircraft in the event of a load attachment point failure.

* The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is now the first aircraft carrier to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) command center. Certified by the US Navy, the command center was installed during the vessel’s Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) in San Diego. The installation marks the start of a phased implementation of the MQ-XX Stingray system on an aircraft carrier, which will deliver a high-endurance unmanned aircraft that will replace today’s F/A-18E/F in its role as the aerial tanker for the Navy’s carrier air wing (CVW), thus preserving the strike fighter’s flight hours for its primary mission.

* Protests have arisen by some US lawmakers against the USAF’s UH-1N Huey helicopter replacement program. The helicopters, which protect US supplies of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), are to be replaced via a sole-source contract due to a new urgency felt by air force brass in fielding the capability favoring Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk. This in turn has caused a group in Congress to rail back who now want a fair and open competition for the Huey’s replacement.

Middle East North Africa

* It doesn’t look likely that the F-35 will be sold to any Gulf nation within the next decade, allowing Israel regional exclusivity to the fifth-generation jet fighter. The widely held, but not often articulated belief by many Israeli officials, is that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members will not have access to the fighter until Israel has fully integrated the F-35 into its arsenal. This belief has been given further weight after US Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work indicated such a move was unlikely, saying that “right now, we do not have any expectation for selling the F-35 in the near term, beyond the countries that have already bought into the program.”

Europe

* The Spanish Navy may look to adopt the F-35B in order to cover the shortage that will be left by its AV-8B Harriers, which are due to retire in the next decade. $54.1 million has been allocated by the Defense Ministry to cover the Harrier program from 2014-2024, but little has been planned for what comes after it. The Navy may look at the possibility of a joint strategy with the Spanish Air Force, which is set to retire their fleet of F-18s.

* Russia is to spend $35 million on procuring six new Niobium-SV mobile air defense radars. The first two sets are to be delivered next year, with the remaining four to follow in 2018. The tender was announced by the Russian Defense Ministry via its public procurement website. The system will be able to track objects at 1000 m/s, and is capable of detecting a wide range of air targets from aircraft to cruise and guided missiles.

* The UK government’s Centre for Defence Excellence (CDE) is supporting the development of payload projects, which will seemingly be adapted for use on its two new Airbus Defence & Space Zephyr high-altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS). Technologies that are being developed include lightweight optical systems, a proof-of-concept foliage-dispersing radar, software-defined laser radar (lidar), an infrared sensor, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) combined with tomography. The Zephyr 8, a lightweight, solar-powered, long-endurance surveillance aircraft will be used to provide persistent battlefield overwatch.

Asia Pacific

* Hanwha Thales has been selected by South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development (ADD) to supply the AESA radars for the country’s KF-X fighter program. The company beat off competition from rival bidder LIG Nex1 Co. for the contract, and will move into negotiations with the ADD with an aim to have contracts signed by June. Seoul is spending $1.6 billion to develop its indigenous fighter with domestic technology, and aims to have 120 of the fighters in total.

Today’s Video

* GoPro footage of the A-10’s GAU-8/A in action:

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