In his last act as British Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves le Drian, signed an agreement at the Farnborough Airshow yesterday to launch a two-year co-operative feasibility study for an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV). The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) deal is worth £120 million (more than $180 million) for six industry partners: BAE Systems, Dassault Aviation, Rolls-Royce, Safran, Selex and Thales.
Voss Industries is displaying examples of its high-performance coupling devices, bulge-formed ducting components and fabricated subassemblies at its Farnborough Airshow exhibit (Hall 4 Stand C11). The company, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, specializes in the aerospace and industrial markets and is the parent company of Voss Aerospace.
If you build it, they will come. The UK National Aeronautical Centre (Hall 1 Stand C9) has answered the first part of that challenge by making available the facilities to fly large unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, in an environment that also accommodates manned aviation. The center now awaits a response from what is expected to be a boom market for commercial UAS.
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.
The UK’s new military air safety regime has contributed to the delayed entry into British service of some new platforms, such as the Airbus A330MRTT Voyager tanker, the Thales Watchkeeper UAS and the L-3 Integrated Systems Airseeker (the UK version of the USAF’s RC-135 Rivet Joint SIGINT aircraft). As a result, some UK aerospace industry managers have expressed dissatisfaction with the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), in off-the-record comments to this editor and others.
Advanced Jet Training at RAF Valley was the first “training service package” to be signed by Ascent–the contractor that is taking over the UK Military Flying Training System–with the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Another to train the Royal Navy’s rear aircrew (“observers”) followed. It was implemented in 2011-12 at RAF Barkston Heath on the MoD’s pre-existing contract-provided Grob 115E elementary trainers, and at RNAS Culdrose, where four King Air 350ER twin turboprops acquired by Ascent are based.
Fast-jet pilot training in the UK has been thoroughly modernized, thanks to the introduction of new simulators, courseware and the BAE Systems Hawk T.2 trainer. Ascent, the contractor that is taking over the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS), says the new set-up is “affordable, and demonstrably good value for money.” Still, there are grumblings from those opposed to the commercial provision of British military flying training, on either philosophical or practical grounds.
Farnborough airshow attendees who want to indulge in the creative experience of light and sound that is the Wind Tunnel Project (www.thewindtunnelproject.com), can visit the old tunnel sites during the airshow.
TAG Aviation is providing shuttle buses to the site for visitors this week. There is parking near the wind tunnels for those who want to make their way there independently. The address is: Buildings Q121 and R52, Hall Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7JP.
Airbus Defence and Space Military Aircraft is scheduled to deliver the first of 22 A400M airlifters to the Royal Air Force in September. The delivery of aircraft MSN15 not only will mark the start of operations by a third country, but also represents the introduction of new capabilities as an important step along the type’s development roadmap. To get those capabilities into service has necessitated an intensive flight-trial campaign in the first part of this year.
Multi-role functionality has been a long time coming for the Eurofighter Typhoon. But the four-nation industrial consortium building the combat jet says the Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) package that is now entering service represents a “paradigm shift” in capability.
The commander of the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon force, Air Cmdr. Gary Waterfall, said the new package allows the RAF to drop 500-pound Paveway IV “smart” bombs “at the moment of our choosing, on targets of our choosing, with a multitude of fuse settings, impact angles and arrivals.”