US Air Force designates its hypersonic research rocket | Russia plans to launch a trainer competition | Japan will develop own CEC system
The US Air Force is designating its hypersonic research rocket. Formerly known as GOLauncher1, the vehicle now carries the official military designation of X-60A. The rocket is flown by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division and is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services. The X-60A is an air-dropped liquid rocket designed for hypersonic flight research, including testing of technologies like scramjet propulsion, high-temperature-resistant materials and autonomous control. The X-60A is a research vehicle designed to capture data complementary to AFRL’s ground testing capability. The captured data helps the laboratory to better understand how material and other technologies behave while flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. According to the Air Force, the X-60A “enables faster development of both our current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems.” The single-stage liquid rocket is powered by Hadley rocket engine and is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.
The Canadian government is requesting the purchase of three King Air 350ER aircraft in their ISR configuration. The State Department is determined to approve this possible FMS with a value of $300 million. The King Air 350ER is a multi-mission, twin-engine turboprop aircraft, which can be deployed to conduct SAR, ISR, transport, and monitoring operations. The aircraft is a derivative of the King Air 350 and incorporates advanced technology and a unique and flexible mission package. It is highly reliable and can last for more than 12 hours with extended range. Canada’s unique customer post-modifications for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations include three WESCAM MX-15D EO/IR sensors, three AN/AAR-47B(V)2 MWS, three AN/ALE-47 CMDS, three VORTEX Dual RF Ku LOS Transceivers and a number of different transponder sets. The DSCA release states that “the proposed sale improves Canada’s capability to meet current and future threats; strengthen its homeland defense and the combined defense of North America; and support coalition partners overseas.” Principal contractor will be Beechcraft (Textron Aviation).
The Marine Corps is experimenting with an innovative slew of ways to make its HIMARS more capable. During a recently held test, one of the USMC’s F-35Bs was able to connect with a HIMARS shot for the first time. According to Lt,. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, the F-35 used sensors to create a data link, and then pushed data about the location of the target to a HIMARS system. HIMARS is a highly-mobile artillery rocket system with the purpose to engage and defeat artillery, air defense concentrations, trucks, light armor and personel carriers. The Marine Corps is currently working on improving and extending its ability to rapidly move the HIMARS by air and destroy a target once landed. A tactic that could prove to be an advantage in the Pacific theatre where Marines will likely be fighting as a distributed force across ships, islands and barges.
Jane’s reports that the Brazilian Air Force is contracting Portuguese aerospace maintenance and aircraft modernisation specialist OGMA to maintain 12 Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. OGMA, a subsidiary of Embraer, will provide the Air Force with depot maintenance, replacement and repair of equipment and parts. The deal is valued at $98.9 million and covers work on eight C-130H, two C-130H2 and two KC-130H aircraft. The Brazilian Air Force is the biggest air force in Latin America; it operates more than 600 aircraft and has more than 50.000 personnel. The Hercules is its main heavy transport aircraft.
Middle East & Africa
The Marine Corps is gaining its first experiences with using the F-35B in combat. One of its JSFs recently conducted its first combat mission over Afghanistan. The F-35 is part of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 currently embarked on the USS Essex, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. The USMC was the first service to integrate the F-35 into its fleet, when it declared the aircraft operational in 2015. Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer of the 13th MEU told Military Times that “the opportunity for us [now, is] to be the first Navy, Marine Corps team to employ the F-35B in support of maneuver forces on the ground, demonstrating one aspect of the capabilities this platform brings to the region, our allies, and our partners.” The B variant of the F-35 allows for short takeoff and vertical landing which is a key requirement for the Marine Corps. Earlier this year, Israel confirmed that it used its F-35A ‘Adir’ for strikes in Syria.
French shipbuilder Naval Group confirms that the French Navy will soon receive a new anti-air warfare (AAW) frigate. The AAW configuration includes the PAAMS (E) area air defense system with the Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM). The Frégates de défense aérienne will feature an ASW sensor fit but will not be able to fire naval cruise missiles. The Alsace is set for launch in the first half of 2019 and will, together with its sister ship Lorraine, replace two F70 AA frigates. The new FREDAs are the last of eight Aquitaine-class FREMM frigates for the French Navy. The first six ships are configured to conduct anti-submarine warfare and land-attack missions. The Aquitaine class is a class of multi-mission stealth frigates. The general characteristics of the class is a displacement of 6,000tons, a length of 142m, a beam of 20m, a maximum speed of 28knots and a range of 6,000n.m. with a cruising speed of 15knots. International customers include the Royal Moroccan Navy and Egyptian Navy.
The Russian defense ministry is planning to launch a trainer competition. The ministry wants to procure up-to 230 turboprops for its flight schools. Government officials have yet not disclosed which platform they prefer, however General Alexander Akhlyustin told Mil.Press Today that the Yak-152 has good chances of winning the upcoming tender. The Yak-152 is new-generation primary trainer aircraft developed by Irkut. The aircraft is intended to provide primary pilot training, professional selection, and occupational guidance for future military fighter pilots. The aircraft performed its maiden flight on September 29, 2016. Irkut received a contract from the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) in June 2015 to supply approximately 150 Yak-152 aircraft by 2020.
Japan’s Ministry of Defense will develop its own “cooperative engagement capability” (CEC) system to strengthen its net-centric warfare capabilities. A CEC sensor netting system allows ships, aircraft, and even land radars to pool their radar and sensor information together, creating a very powerful and detailed picture that’s much finer, more wide-ranging, and more consistent than any one of them could generate on its own. With this system troops can share enemy information in real time and carry out joint counterattacks against enemy weapons. The ministry has earmarked about $60 million for the development of high-speed, high-capacity communications devices necessary for a CEC system in tis FY19 budget request. Japan’s Self-Defense Force plans to have a prototype system by 2022 and conduct its first operational tests in 2023. Japan is part of the US CEC system which is integrated on its two latest Maya-class destroyers. The decision to develop a Japanese system stems from concerns about the US system’s hefty price-tag.
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