The cost of converting the UK’s fleet of 25 AW101 Merlin Mk3 transport helicopters for future use as Mk4s by the Royal Marines Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) will be £330 million ($545 million). British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the amount during a visit to AgustaWestland’s Yeovil factory, where much of the work will be done. He also announced that the Anglo-Italian company is receiving a five-year follow-on integrated operational support (IOS) contract worth £430 million ($710 million) for the British Army’s Apache AH.1 fleet.
The UK Royal Navy (RN) deployed its first maritime UAS this week, when an Insitu Scan Eagle system was added to RFA Cardigan Bay, which is supporting the EU anti-piracy patrols off Somalia.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will acquire through an intra-service transfer 14 Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartans that the U.S. Air Force planned to store. Congress directed the transfer in the Fiscal Year 2014 defense authorization bill, which President Obama signed on December 26.
The U.S. government said this week that it will expedite foreign military sales (FMS) to Iraq, including deliveries of small UAVs and Hellfire missiles, to help stem spiraling violence in Anbar Province. The weaponry is part of a “holistic” strategy the U.S. and Iraqi governments are pursuing to dislodge al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, officials said.
AINtv has been looking at new unmanned aerial vehicle designs in the works to meet evolving surveillance and other special-missions needs.
Online retailer Amazon said it is developing a delivery system that will use UAVs to fly packages to customers. The Seattle-based company said its goal is to deliver a package within 30 minutes of dispatching an aircraft from a fulfillment center.
France and the UK have agreed a common military staff requirement for a future medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS, according to Gen. Denis Mercier, commander of the French Air Force. However, he cautioned that the move would not automatically result in the development by European industry of a Male UAV “because there is no money available at the moment.” European aerospace leaders have been pressing for the launch of a “Euro-Male” development program.
Early next year Cassidian’s Sagitta unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research project should reach its critical design review. A range slot has already been booked for an August 2015 first flight, and the clock is ticking as the Sagitta team prepares to meet that deadline.
Some elements of the 3m x 3m tailless flying wing are already fixed, such as the outer shell shape, and the core elements have been tested independently. Now the process of integrating the elements together is being undertaken and should be completed at the end of next year.
Two UK airports announced earlier this year the creation of a National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) for the testing of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the first such nongovernment venture in Europe. West Wales Airport at Aberporth and Newquay Airport in Cornwall, southwest England, have linked up to jointly offer to UAS developers (Unmanned Vehicles area, Stand 645) their facilities and runways, along with access to large offshore testing areas.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of the MQ-8C Fire Scout on October 31. The unmanned helicopter, which is based on the Bell 407, flew twice that day at the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.
On the first flight in restricted airspace, the MQ-8C flew in a pattern around the airfield for seven minutes to validate autonomous control systems; on the second flight, it reached an altitude of 500 feet while flying in a pattern. The aircraft was operated by a combined Navy/Northrop Grumman flight-test team located at the naval base.