While operational commanders try to target an elusive enemy from the air over Iraq and Syria, senior U.S. commanders and aerospace academics are wrestling with an associated question: how to take advantage of tremendous advances in information networking to prosecute modern air campaigns. During the recent Air Force Association (AFA) conference, the shortcomings of current military air systems networking were explored in some frank comments during a panel session entitled “The Combat Cloud,” and in other discourse.
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk
Grand Forks U.S. Air Force Base in North Dakota recently managed the simultaneous operation of two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in unrestricted airspace, the first such feat in the U.S., the Air Force said. Officers at the base said they are now developing procedures that would accommodate simultaneous operation of three or four UAS.
The U.S. Navy is advancing supporting elements of the planned Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UClass) program as it awaits direction on the air vehicle component of the system. The service had expected to issue a final request for proposals (RFP) for the air vehicle component soon, but release of the document has been delayed.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $240 million contract modification to build three more RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft, each with integrated sensor suite and signals intelligence (Sigint) payloads, plus two Sigint payloads as retrofit kits. The new aircraft will join 18 Block 30 Global Hawks the service earlier planned to retire.
U.S.-based UTC Aerospace Systems and Selex ES, a Finmeccanica company, have signed an agreement to offer a TacSAR (tactical synthetic aperture radar) to complement the proven DB-110 EO/IR sensor. The European company will adapt its Seaspray 7500 radar to fit in the center third of the pod that houses the UTC DB-110 on fighter aircraft.
Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that the RAF’s Raytheon Sentinel R1 fleet will be extended in service until at least 2018 has breathed new life into the program, and sparked real interest in further development.
One of the key features that could be added is a greater maritime capability. While the RAF is quick to stress that a maritime-capable Sentinel is not a maritime patroller, it could be used as a gap-filler in certain scenarios, and has considerable applications in littoral operations, such as amphibious landings or humanitarian missions.
Call it a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) or an RPA (remotely piloted aircraft), the unmanned aircraft has become an integral part of the operations of many air forces, navies and armies around the world. Despite the issues associated with integrating UAV operations into non-segregated airspace, the unmanned aircraft has become a vital tool for performing “dull, dirty and dangerous” missions such as persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
German aviation and electronic system house ESG has proposed a new Israeli SIGINT aircraft as a replacement for Germany’s cancelled Euro Hawk SIGINT UAV. ESG displayed a large model of IAI-Elta’s conversion of the Bombardier Global 5000 business jet on its stand at the ILA Berlin airshow this week. The Luftwaffe has been told to evaluate five alternatives to the Euro Hawk, but this is the only one that would abandon development of the Integrated Signals Intelligence System (ISIS) SIGINT that Airbus Defence & Space was developing for the Euro Hawk.
The U.S. Navy has not determined how to fit a “due regard” radar on its unmanned MQ-4C Triton, which will likely start initial operations in 2017 without the subsystem intended to help protect it from midair collisions. But the Triton will enter service with more capability than any other unmanned aircraft to “detect and avoid” other aircraft, the Navy’s program manager asserts.
South Korea’s arms procurement agency chose the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter for the re-competed F-X III fighter competition, announcing plans on March 24 to negotiate a foreign military sale (FMS) for 40 jets, 20 fewer than originally sought. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) also approved the acquisition of RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs, Yonhap News Agency reported.
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