Category Archives: Inside the Air Force

Sample text and links to James Drew’s Inside the Air Force stories.

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NAVAIR Hunting For Foreign V-22 Sales To Beef Up Third Multiyear Buy

Air Force might order four aircraft

Naval Air Systems Command’s V-22 joint program office is looking to enlist as many foreign buyers as possible ahead of its third multiyear procurement in 2018 for Navy versions of the Bell-Boeing Osprey to drive down the unit cost. The command is also waiting on a funding commitment from the Air Force for more special operations CV-22s.

Air Force Special Operations Command has expressed interest in acquiring up to four extra tiltrotor transports as an attrition reserve, bringing the total Air Force purchase to 56. However, those additional buys are not funded in the fiscal year 2016 budget request being considered by Congress.

On April 14, NAVAIR V-22 Program Manager Col. Dan Robinson told reporters at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition that depending on when the funding comes through, those extra CV-22s might be tagged onto the latest multiyear procurement (MYP2) of 101 Ospreys, or beef up the base quantity in the next order slated to start in 2018.

The Air Force is more than 80 percent of the way through its V-22 procurement and the last of 52 aircraft deliveries are due in 2016 for a total of 50 aircraft, minus attrition.

MYP3 would buy 44 Navy variants to replace the C-2 Greyhound for the carrier onboard delivery (COD) mission. Deliveries would start in 2020, Robinson said.

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CSBA Study Finds Large, Long-Range Aircraft Would Do Better In Combat

Air combat going beyond visual range

A future fighter aircraft is likely to need more range and payload than speed and agility as countries like Russia, China and Iran invest in long-range air defenses that can keep high-value support assets including aerial refueling tankers up to 1,000 nautical miles away from their military installations, but stealth remains critical despite advances in radar technology, according to a new Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study.

Advances in beyond-visual-range weapons make it increasingly unnecessary to have highly maneuverable fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor, and first-strike aircraft are unlikely to have support of large, unstealthy bombers, tankers, and airborne surveillance and early warning aircraft, according to John Stillion, an air power analyst with CSBA.

Those are just some of the findings presented in Stillion’s new report on trends in air-to-air combat — unveiled at an Air Force Association event in Washington April 14.

The report comes as Air Combat Command explores its requirements for a sixth-generation air dominance platform to come after the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22. Senior service officials have emphasized that the future platform might not be another fighter jet, and that it could be manned or unmanned.

According to Stillion’s assessment, next-generation aircraft would benefit greatly from having a larger combat radius than current fighter designs, and an increased loadout of long-range, air-to-air weapons.

“The aerial combat lethality of large combat aircraft may be competitive or even superior to more traditional fighter aircraft designs emphasizing speed and maneuverability,” Stillion’s report states.

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F-35 PEO: Joint Strike Fighter To Escape Concurrency ‘Rut’ Around 2018

The head of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program expects the $400 billion fighter jet program to lift itself out of the concurrency “rut” by about 2017 or 2018 as the number of aircraft and engine faults discovered during developmental testing continues to decline.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office warned that the costs associated with retrofitting already-built Joint Strike Fighters will likely increase as the Defense Department ramps up procurement quantities over the next five years. The services plan to purchase another 339 aircraft through 2019 at a cost of $54 billion, despite 40 percent of the developmental test program remaining.

Speaking at the Norwegian-American Defense Conference in Washington April 17, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said the concurrency overlap and the number of new discoveries has come down significantly over the last few years, but conceded that the 130 airplanes already in the field will all need to be retrofitted at some point.

“This program started with an immense amount of concurrency,” the general said. “We are going to find other things wrong with this airplane because we have testing left. Our job is to figure out how, once we find those things, we get it into the production line and stop building airplanes that are not appropriate for what we found — and then putting a program in place to get all of the other airplanes out in the field upgraded to that new capability or to remove those deficiencies.”

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General Atomics Eying Gunship, Osprey As Future Laser Hosts

Scalable laser module fits Avenger UAV

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has improved upon the laser technology matured under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to create a tactical laser weapon module capable of deploying on an AC-130 gunship or V-22 Osprey.

The company displayed a mockup of the laser module at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition in National Harbor, MD, this week. Company officials claim the module was designed for carriage in the internal weapons bay of the Predator C Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle, but is easily reconfigurable to deploy on a tactical AC-130 or V-22 aircraft, and even a guided missile destroyer or Army ground vehicle.

The high-energy laser technology inside the weapon module is the product of two military programs: DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) and the Defense Department’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI). In fact, the HELLADS program is due to conclude later this year with a series of 150 kilowatt laser test shots at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

In an April 14 interview with Inside the Air Force, General Atomics’ chief laser engineer, Jim Davis, said the laser is scalable to 300 kilowatt, and has evolved from the HELLADS and RELI programs through internal investments.

Davis said the laser system has applications for the Air Force, Navy and Army, but which service carries the technology forward depends on who “writes the first check.” The design has been proposed for the Office of Naval Research’s Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program and the Army’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. The Air Force is pursuing airborne lasers to destroy missiles and ground-based electrical equipment like radars.

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