MD Helicopters showed off its prototype MD540A armed scout helicopter last week at the Sofex show in Jordan, marking the type’s first appearance outside the U.S. The choice of venue was made to highlight the type’s credentials in an area where its hot-and-high performance is of considerable interest, at a show where its special-forces support capability is highly relevant, and in a country that has a requirement for a new armed helicopter.
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).
Sikorsky Aircraft rolled out the CH-53K, the U.S. Marine Corps’ future heavy lift helicopter, on May 5 at the company’s West Palm Beach, Fla. facility. According to Sikorsky, the mostly composite helicopter–dubbed the “King Stallion”–will fly by year-end, with operational service expected in 2019.
The U.S. Navy on May 7 announced a $1.24 billion contract award to Sikorsky Aircraft to begin engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) of the long-delayed VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program. The EMD contract calls for Sikorsky to modify and deliver six civil-certified S-92s and two trainer simulators by October 2020.
Guided rocket conversion competitors BAE Systems and Raytheon announced new milestones for their respective offerings. BAE’s Advanced Precision Kill Weapon (APKWS) and Raytheon’s Talon laser-guided rocket (LGR) convert standard 2.75-inch Hydra rockets into precision guided munitions by adding a semi-active laser guidance package.
Boeing said that it recently flew its AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter for the first time in production configuration. Flight status moves the program “another step closer to full-scale production,” the manufacturer said on May 1.
Alenia Aermacchi has flown its MC-27J multi-mission tactical transport in full mission specification for the first time. On April 25 the aircraft took to the skies at the company’s Turin-Caselle flight-test center with defensive aids fitted and an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical turret under the port side of the nose. The company demonstrator is also outfitted with the hardware necessary to accommodate palletized mission packages, and has Link 16 datalink software installed.
Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG and Aviadvigatel have confirmed that work continues on “radical modernization” of the MiG-31 Foxhound, with the focus on extending the performance of the aging, out-of-production Mach 3 interceptor so that it can carry out not only air-defense duties but also serve the recently established VKO, the Russian acronym for the country’s Air and Space Defense (Command). Under a directive from the Russian defense ministry, RAC MiG is working on new versions of the aircraft that are more capable than the current MiG-31BM.
Australia will order 58 more Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters for $12.4 billion, the government said on April 23. Including jets the country has already ordered, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be able to field three squadrons of the fifth-generation fighter.
Sikorsky Aircraft completed the first flight of an optionally piloted Black Hawk demonstrator last month in a joint effort with the U.S. Army, the company said on April 21. The Black Hawk serves as a second testbed (joining an S-76) for Sikorsky’s Matrix research program to develop and field systems for autonomous vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
In the light of growing Chinese incursions into Japanese airspace, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force has established a new permanent squadron of Northrop Grumman Hawkeye airborne early-warning aircraft on the island of Okinawa. The ministry of defense has also broken ground for a new radar site on Japan’s westernmost island, Yonaguni.