The U.S. Marine Corps has deployed the new RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to Afghanistan through an early operational capability. The 135-pound-mtow aircraft is undergoing initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), a phase the service expects to complete this year.
Airbus has suggested civilian operation of the A400M airlifter for disaster relief flights. At a media briefing during the ILA Berlin airshow last week, Norbert Kolvenbach, vice president for public affairs Germany, noted that the aircraft is already certified by EASA. He floated the idea of a “supranational” operator, such as the United Nations. “The A400M could be interesting,” said Birgitte Stalder-Olsen, head of logistics for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), at the same briefing.
The tri-national Medium Extended Air Defense System (Meads) remains in limbo, with the $3.4 billion nine-year development program scheduled to conclude this year and no production order in sight from the U.S., Germany or Italy. But at a briefing last week during the ILA Berlin airshow, program officials said that Meads meets Poland’s stated air and missile defense (AMD) requirement. The Meads International industrial consortium, which currently comprises Lockheed Martin and MBDA’s German and Italian companies, is offering to make Poland an equal partner.
Airbus Defence & Space (D&S), Alenia and Dassault Aviation have proposed a Project Definition (PD) study for a future European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV to the governments of France, Germany and Italy. At the same time, however, Airbus D&S may be working with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to develop what it describes as “bridging solution” for the German armed forces, using the Heron TP. Meanwhile, General Atomics–Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) is quietly confident that Germany may join the European “Reaper Club” that already comprises France, Italy and the UK as members.
Northrop Grumman and Yamaha Motor USA have partnered to develop and market an unmanned “autonomous” rotorcraft system based on Yamaha’s RMax agricultural helicopter. The Rotary Bat (R-Bat) is targeted for search and rescue, power line inspection and forest fire observation missions.
The Russian unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) program revealed as long ago as 2007 may have reached the flight test phase. The evidence comes from a near midair over Arkhangelskoye on February 17, reported by the pilots of two L-29 jet trainers belonging to a civilian flying club based at the Barataevka airfield near Ulyanovsk. The L-29 pilots rapidly altered heading and altitude to escape collision with an unidentified flying object that they described as “a heavyweight unmanned air vehicle”.
As part of enhanced collective measures agreed to by member countries in April, NATO has deployed more fighters to eastern Europe in response to the continuing crisis in Ukraine. France and Canada have dispatched aircraft this week, while a new NATO multinational team is taking over the enhanced air defense detachment in the Baltic republics.
For the second time in less than a month, a major Internet-related company has acquired a firm developing a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which could serve as a node to provide Internet connectivity from the stratosphere.
The fraud trial of Flying Tigers and its president, Jay Stout, began last Friday in Philadelphia federal court before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III. One of the prosecution’s primary witnesses is Stout’s son Joel, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in March last year to one count of fraud and six counts of mail fraud. Both Stouts, the company and mechanic/inspector Howard “Bud” Gunter were indicted in August 2012 for allegedly charging aircraft owners for inspections that were not conducted by FAA-certified inspectors.
Europe’s first purpose-built center for UAV research activities has opened in Spain. Known as Atlas (air traffic laboratory for advanced unmanned systems), the facility was officially opened on March 21 by the president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, whose regional government has funded much of the €4.5 million implementation of the project from EU allocations. Additional funding has come from national government, and the site has been developed in close cooperation with potential customers, such as Boeing.