The two huge hangars at Cardington airfield, 50 miles north of London, stand as witness to the golden age of the airships in the 1930s. Inside one of them, a successor to those giants of the sky is being prepared for flight. British company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) is pursuing the goal held by so many proponents of lighter-than-air (LTA) and related technology for so many years. The goal of revolutionizing the air cargo market–and maybe also the persistent surveillance market–with buoyant lift.
Defense » Military Aircraft
News and issues relating to the defense aerospace business, with emphasis on current/in-use, in-development and prospective programs for manned military aircraft and unmanned combat aircraft vehicles (UCAVs).
Roger Munk’s sudden and untimely death in February 2010 at the age of 62 robbed the airship industry of a true pioneer. He had led a series of British companies specializing in lighter-than-air technology (LTA) for nearly 40 years. HAV was his latest company, founded in 2007 to take forward the hybrid concepts that, he eventually concluded, offered more promise for the future than conventional airships. Before that, his life had been starred with technical success and marred with financial failure.
In recent years, major aerospace companies such as BAE Systems, Boeing and EADS have all expressed interest in lighter-than-air and hybrid air vehicles, for ISR and remote heavy airlift applications. But apart from HAV, only Lockheed Martin (LM) has progressed beyond the drawing board.
In the 1990s, prompted by Fred Smith of Federal Express, the renowned Skunk Works in Palmdale, California, studied concepts for a huge cargo-carrying hybrid named the Aerocraft.
Not to be confused with the Aerocraft that was designed by the Skunk Works in the 1990s (see box, “The Road Not Needed”), the Aeroscraft is promoted by Aeroscraft Corp., which is led by entrepreneur and inventor Igor Pasternak. It is a very large rigid airship for cargo transport that Pasternak proposes to build in two sizes. The ML866 would be 555 feet long and carry 66 tons; while the ML868 would be 770 feet long and carry 250 tons.
Alenia Aermacchi (Outdoor Exhibit 1) delivered the first two M-346 advanced trainers to the Israel Air and Space Force last week. The two aircraft were ferried from Alenia Aermacchi’s factory at Varese-Venegono, northwest of Milan, to their new home at the Hatzerim air base near Be’er Sheva in the Negev desert. Upon receipt of the aircraft, Israel became the third nation to operate the M-346, after Italy and Singapore.
The integration of new weapons on some combat aircraft has become so expensive that European Defence Agency (EDA) held a workshop to discuss the problem. But Saab (Hall 4 Stand E5 and Chalet C35) has some helpful suggestions, based on its experience with the Gripen. The Swedish fighter served as the development platform for the Iris-T and Meteor air-to-air missiles, and other weapons were successfully added on time and budget.
In response to increased scrutiny of armed UAV operations by human rights groups, British legislators and the United Nations, the British Ministry of Defence (UK MoD) has stepped up efforts to reassure the public. Late last year, it allowed media (including AIN) access to the Royal Air Force Reaper ground control station (GCS) at RAF Waddington for the first time. New documents describing UK operational procedures, including targeting, have been released. The UK is one of only three countries to have fired weapons from UAVs in combat, the others being Israel and the U.S.
Japan’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) has released images and footage of the ATD-X (advanced technology demonstrator-experimental), following the appearance of a privately taken blurred image a few weeks ago.
Made public this weekend, the new images were taken on May 14 and show the aircraft being moved out of the paint shop, resplendent in TRDI’s house colors and bearing the serial 51-0001. In April, Japan’s defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, told journalists that the ATD-X is scheduled to fly this year.
Northern Ireland-based Denroy Plastics (Hall 1 Stand B16) has won a new contract to supply plastic components to the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon program. The undisclosed contract adds further components to the ones already supplied by the company, which now provides 180 separate parts for the Typhoon. The contract announcement was accompanied by a visit from RAF Typhoon pilots to Denroy’s Balloo Road plant in Bangor.
Some seven months after Brazil’s selection of the Saab Gripen NG in December 2013 to fulfill the country’s F-X2 new fighter requirement, Embraer and Saab announced on Friday a memorandum of understanding to partner in delivering the program for the Brazilian air force.