Sunday, August 30, 2015

Monthly Archives: July 2011

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Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, now believed to be the 2nd in Command of Al Qaeda. Photo: FBI
David S. Cohen Photo: U.S. Treasury

The U.S. Treasury Department is accusing the Iranian authorities of aiding al Qaeda. The government has imposed financial sanctions on six people believed to be Qaeda operatives in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan. According to documents captured at the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the campaign against the international Jihadist terror group, that coordinated espionage and infiltration, targeted killing and financial pressure was highly effective in eroding the group’s fighting fore. Navy SEAL Adm. Eric T. Olson said recently that Osama bin Laden’s killing on May 2 was a near-fatal blow for the organization which is now ‘bloodied and ‘nearing its end’.

David S. Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Treasury said Iran entered a “secret deal with al Qaeda, allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory.” The new sanctions seek to disrupt al Qaeda’s operations between those countries and Iraq, by denying the terrorist group’s external financial support.

Iran and Al Qaeda have not been openly associated before, as the global Jihadist group is a radical Suni oriented organization, often denouncing the Shiite sect that holds power in Iran. Furthermore, a conflict raged between Al Qaeda branch in Iraq and the country’s Shiite majority has often escalated to mass killing. Yet, Teheran’s passive support to the ‘enemies of their enemy’ is not new and the U.S. has sanctioned Al Qaeda operatives seeking refuge in Iran before, without publicly highlighting such actions.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, now believed to be the 2nd in Command of Al Qaeda. Photo: FBI

According to the new announcement, the U.S. Government suspects that Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, described as a “prominent Iran-based Al Qaeda facilitator,” is operating in Iran under an agreement between Al Qaeda and Tehran. Another operative the Libyan born Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, formerly Al-Qa’ida’s emissary in Iran, believed to relocated to Pakistan, to man the second position in Al Qaeda, under the new leader Ayman al-Zawahri. News reports have indicated he was killed in a U.S. strike in October 2010, but Washington still has one million US$ prize on his head. However, Atiyah is not showing on their most wanted terrorists list. How long will he be able to keep his position is unknown, but Atiyah should be realistic about it. In a letter he wrote Bin Laden in 2010, he expressed his frustration with the CIA drone campaign, saying the men at the organization’s chain of command were getting killed faster than they could be replaced.
By the end of August 2011 new information released in Pakistan claimed again Atiyah was killed by a U.S. drone attack on August 22. U.S. sources have not confirmed these reports.

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Following exclusive displays to VIPs, the latest Russian 5th Generation Fighter, Sukhoi T50 (PAKFA) will make its debut at the MAKS Aviasalon in Zhukovsky, near Moscow in August. Photo: Sukhoi.

Russia’s Sukhoi T-50 fifth-generation fighter, also known as PAK-FA, will make its public debut at the upcoming MAKS 2011 airshow near Moscow in August, 2011, according to Nikolai Zanegin, Deputy General Director of Russia’s Aviasalon company, quoted by Russian News Agency Novosti.

The Sukhoi T-50 fighter is being developed by the Sukhoi design bureau and built at a plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia’s Far East. The first prototype conducted its maiden flight in January 2010 and has so far carried out over 40 test flights. Two more prototypes are at various stages of testing. The Russian Air Force has said it had plans to acquire over 60 T-50 fighters after 2015.

The MAKS-2011 air show will be held at Zhukovsky outside Moscow on August 16-21. In all, 627 companies, including 473 Russian and 154 foreign exhibitors.

Other Russian made modern fighters to be demonstrated in flight include the Su-35, MiG-35 and Su-30 MK2. The helicopter display will include the Ka-226Т and Mi-34S1 helicopters along with Ka-52, Mi-28NE and Mi-8.

Guest performers at MAKS 2011 will be the French Air Force rafale. The French fighter will be flown to Moscow from its home base at Saint Dizier, France. F-15E strike fighters from U.S. European command will also participate in the flight display, along with A-10, F-16s, B-52, KC-10 and KC-135 tankers, C-130J Super Hercules and C-5 Galaxy shown on the static park. Other aircraft on display will include the Airbus A380, Boeing C-17 and Alenia C-72J Spartan transport aircraft.

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The High Altitude Long Endurance Demonstrator (HALE-D) launched on its first flight from the Akron Airdock. Photo: Lockheed Martin

A large blimp launched by Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army, has crashed into a thick wood area in a rural section of Greene County, Ohio two days ago. Lockheed Martin said the blimp was launched from Akron, Ohio, at 5:47 a.m. and reached 32,000 feet before “an anomaly” stopped it from climbing to its target altitude of 60,000 feet. Snapshots of video footage taken by Sky 4 news network show the unmanned blimp in a crumpled heap atop some trees in the village of New Freeport. “A decision was made to bring the airship back down, and that’s what we did. We brought it down into a remote, lightly populated area,” said Jim Gring, of Lockheed Martin.

The High Altitude Long Endurance Demonstrator (HALE-D) launched on its first flight from the Akron Airdock. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Two hours after takeoff, the HALE-D blimp lies on the treetop in a remote area in Ohio, south of Pittsburg. The blimp was forced to land after an ‘anomaly’ prevented it from climbing to its target altitude of 60,000 ft. Photo: Channel 4/WATE.

The blimp known as Hale-D is a prototype for its high-altitude airship. A full-scale version would be used for military reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, and it could also be a communications platform. The airship can use solar power and is designed to remain at high altitudes for weeks autonomously.

Lockheed martin was awarded the HALE-D program by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT). Designed to demonstrate how such a high flying airship can improve the military’s ability to communicate in remote areas such as those in Afghanistan, where mountainous terrain frequently interferes with communications signals. According to the military’s plans, a larger airship will serve as a stationery, long-term overhead platform providing telecommunications relay system supporting battlefield communications in remote theaters.

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    With more F-35s joining the flight test fleets in Edwards AFB (CA) and Patuxent River Naval Air Base (MD), Lockheed Martin said today the F-35 flight test program moves closer to achieving year-end milestones. From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through July 25, 2011, F-35s flew 1,065 times, including the production-model flights and AA-1, the original flight test aircraft.

    The F-35C is undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River before eventual delivery to the fleet. Test aircraft CF-3 is seen here brought to launch position on a test catapult at Pax River, by Navy test pilot Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus. The test demonstrated proper catapult hook-up in preparation for the first launches at Lakehurst, N.J., scheduled for later this month. CF-3 is the designated carrier suitability test aircraft. The F-35C is the carrier dedicated variant of the F-35, destined for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Royal Navy. (Photo by Michael D. Jackson courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

    Overall, the F-35 program remains ahead of goals for test flights. As of yesterday, the program accomplished 518 flights versus a plan of 476. Since the last update issued June 13 the F-35 fleet performed 107 test flights, bringing the total number of flights for the year to 518. Two of the aircraft delivered earlier in the program have reached maturity record with AF-2 completing the 1,000th test flight for the F-35 System development Program (SDD) on July 6 and AF-3 completing the 500th SDD flight for 2011 on July 21.

    According to the developers, key milestones accomplished since June 13 include the delivery of the 5th F-35B (STOVL version). Overall, 122 vertical landings have been performed to date by the five F-35B models.

    F-35A over the test range at Edwards, the second F-35A performed the 1000th test flight earlier in July 2011 here at Edwards.

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    Lockheed martin released today its financial report for the second quarter of 2011, reporting net sales of $11.6 billion and earning of $742 million, from continuing operations, representing earning per share (EPS) of $2.14. After investing $1 billion in repurchasing 13 million of its stocks in the open market the company has increased its 2011 earnings outlook, with sales and operating profit estimated to hit closer to the upper limit of previous forecasts.

    Strong Q2 performance came from aeronautics and electronic systems while information systems and space declined slightly, compared to the same period last year, continuing a similar trend reflected in the ‘Year to date’ (YTD) report. Despite the slight reduction in sales, all segments maintained operating profit growth in the recent quarter and YTD.


    Aeronautics Segment

    The Aeronautics segment was increased in the recent quarter by $280 million (9 percent) over the quarter from the comparable 2010 period. The increase primarily was due to additional volume from work performed on the F-35 low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts of approximately $160 million and higher F-16 volume, primarily due to support activities, of approximately $70 million. These increases partially were offset by lower volume of approximately $180 million on the F-22 program, as production continues to wind down with final deliveries expected to be completed in 2012.

    Transport aircraft also performed better, increasing C-5 programs in about $100 million, and gains of $80 million due to accelerated deliveries of seven C-130J in the second quarter of 2011 as compared to six in 2010). Operating margin decreased from 11.5% to 11.1% in the first half of the year, as compared to 2010, reflecting the changing life cycle of significant Aeronautics programs. Since the Aeronautics segment sales are driven by a larger share of LRIP activities on the F-35 and C-5 modernization programs, less work is being performed on the mature F-22 program. LRIP contracts typically yield lower margins than mature production programs.

    Electronics Segment:

    The Electronic Systems segment increased by $221 million or 6 percent for the quarter and $430 million or 6 percent for the first six months of 2011 from the comparable 2010 periods. The programs contributing to this growth were Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) accounting for a $110 million increase, increase in tactical missiles (Hellfire) deliveries worth about $90 million and higher production volume of various radar system worth approximately $135 million.

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      With more F-35s joining the flight test fleets in Edwards AFB (CA) and Patuxent River Naval Air Base (MD), Lockheed Martin said today the F-35 flight test program moves closer to achieving year-end milestones. From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through July 25, 2011, F-35s flew 1,065 times, including the production-model flights and AA-1, the original flight test aircraft.

      Overall, the F-35 program remains ahead of goals for test flights. As of yesterday, the program accomplished 518 flights versus a plan of 476. Since the last update issued June 13 the F-35 fleet performed 107 test flights, bringing the total number of flights for the year to 518. Two of the aircraft delivered earlier in the program have reached maturity record with AF-2 completing the 1,000th test flight for the F-35 System development Program (SDD) on July 6 and AF-3 completing the 500th SDD flight for 2011 on July 21.

      According to the developers, key milestones accomplished since June 13 include the delivery of the 5th F-35B (STOVL version). Overall, 122 vertical landings have been performed to date by the five F-35B models.

       

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      A CH-47 Chinook helicopter downed by Taliban RPG fire in Eastern Afghanistan on Monday. The helicopter was hit by an RPG fired by Taliban, as it was descending, approaching to land at ‘Camp Joyce’ Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Eastern Afghanistan. According to the Start and Stripes, The helicopter was carrying about 20 U.S. and Afghan troops, two suffered minor injuries from shrapnel. The helicopter was hit shortly after midnight, when the rocket hit the rear of the helicopter on its descent into Nangalam Base in the Pech River Valley of Kunar province. A rescue team that responded to the crash came under small-arms fire, drawing return fire from U.S. and Afghan soldiers. No further coalition casualties were reported. In a statement released by the ‘Voice of Jihad’, the Taliban claimed credit for the shoot down, and said two of their fighters were killed during the operation. The Taliban announcement said its fighters “shot off rocket propelled grenades from a close distance to bring down the enemy helicopter last night at approximately 1:00 am local time”. The Pech River Valley and several adjoining valleys, including the Korengal and Shuryak, are considered Taliban strongholds. (For further insight on the situation read Bill Roggio, article in the Long War Journal‘.

      A CH-47 Chinook lands on Forward Operating Joyce to drop off soliders and supplies in Kunar province, Afghanistan, March 9, 2011. Note the close proximity of the elevated area . Photo: U.S. Army by Pfc. Cameron Boyd
      A CH-47 Chinook prepares to drop off a sling- loaded container on a night drop at Forward Operating Base Joyce in Kunar province, Afghanistan. (left photo). When approaching the ground the pilot lights up the infrared beam to avoid ground collision. The reflections from the rotor are clearly seen on the right photo. U.S. Army photo

      Chinook helicopters operated by the U.S, Canadian, Australian, British, Dutch forces in Afghanistan have suffered heavy losses in Afghanistan since the first deployment of coalition forces in the country in 2002. Considered a highly reliable workhorse, crashes involving the Chinooks have often resulted from enemy fire – man-portable anti-aircraft missiles, small arms and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). (see our 2007 news analysis, posted by Col. David Eshel) To protect the helicopter from small arms fire all Chinooks has undergone extensive up-armoring, comprising installation of armor plates protecting sensitive elements, cockpit and cargo compartment. In addition, electronic countermeasures systems were installed, providing early warning on imminent missile attacks, triggering the activation defensive measures to divert guided missiles. However, large targets such as the Chinook remain vulnerable to the the RPG, an unguided weapon that can be fired from distances of few hundred meters. While the RPG can hit a target from up to 900 meter range, even at 500 a direct hit is considered a ‘lucky shot’.

      In Afghanistan, insurgents try ambushing helicopters as they descend for landing at known landing zones (such as those adjacent to FOB) or on takeoff, particularly when flying over elevated terrain, which maximizes their vulnerability to such attacks. Protecting helicopters under these circumstances require the FOB to maintain peripheral security prior to the planned arrival of helicopters. According to the Stars and Stripes, the base at Nangalam, formerly known as ‘Forward Operating Base Blessing’ was handed over to Afghan forces earlier this year.

      CH-47 offload troops at Camp Joice in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Flare dispensers stacked at the rear of the fuselage provide effective protection from some shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles but, unfortunately, are useless against RPGs. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade.

      Chinook CH-47_Helicopters Combat_Losses_in Afghanistan

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        Two of Israel’s defense industries – Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Aeronautics will acquire the ownership in Controp Precision Technologies for an estimated amount of about $90 million. Aeronautics already owns 18 percent of Controp’s stocks and following the current transaction will obtain 50% of its shares. Rafael will acquire the remaining 50% from the founders.

        Controp Vice President Johnny Carni briefs Defense Minister Lt. General (Ret.) Ehud Barak at the company's display at the paris Airshow 2011. Photo: Tamir Eshel, defense Update

        Controp became one of Israel’s leading electro-optics manufacturer, specializes in the development and manufacturing of customized electro-optical systems for the military and homeland security markets. The company has about 180 employees and its annual sales are about $60 million.

        The company was founded in 1988 as an electro-mechanical system engineering specialist, the company developed complex Pan-Tilt platforms for antennae and electro-optical payloads, moving later into the design, development and manufacturing of stabilized Electro-Optical systems, and was the pioneer in the development of continuous zoom assemblies for thermal imagers. In recent years the company also focus on the development and production of complete thermal cameras (FLIR), both cooled and uncooled. system engineering company. Among the company’s products are advanced, stabilized EO payloads used on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aerostats, helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft, mast-mounted observation towers and reconnaissance vehicles as well as naval platforms. The company has developed a line of miniaturized, stabilized EO payloads, selected as the standard issue for all the mini-UAVs used by the Israel Defense Forces.

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        The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) is scheduled to deploy tomorrow from its homeport of Bremerton, Washington. The aircraft carrier is on its way to the western Pacific Ocean and the Persian Gulf for a seven-month deployment. Her last voyage in the Western Pacific was in 2009. The Stennis is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 3, (CSG-3), and commands the group’s air wing Carrier Air Wing 9. CSG 3 also operates five surface combatants, including the CG-47 class missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) and the DESRON-21 squadron operating four DDG-51 type destroyers – USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108), USS Dewey (DDG-105), USS Kidd (DDG-100), and USS Milius (DDG-69) as well as the USS Jarrett (FFG-33) frigate.

        The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) seen underway in the Pacific Ocean during a simulated strait transit. U.S. Navy photo, by Kenneth Abbate)

        The 97,000 ton Nimitz Class carrier is powered by two nuclear reactors accelerating the vessel to speeds up to 30 knots. The ship carries about 90 aircraft assigned to nine squadrons operating under ‘Carrier Air Wing 9’ (CAG-9). The wing operates four F/A-18C/D Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons, EA-6B electronic combat aircraft, E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft, C-2 Tracker transport planes and MH-60S/R Sea Hawk maritime helicopters.

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        A podded IRST carried by a Super Hornet

        The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Infrared Search and Track (IRST) program has been authorized to proceed to the engineering and manufacturing development phase, clearing Milestone B Acquisition Decision Memorandum from the U.S. Navy last week. The pod-mounted IRST system is developed for the Boeing Super Hornet by Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business unit.

        IRST is a critical element of the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet Flight Plan, a series of planned capability enhancements planned to maintain the Super Hornet ahead of emerging threats over the coming decades. According to the Navy’s plans, up to 150 IRST systems could be procured to support the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F fleet.

        The F/A-18E/F IRST is a passive, long-wave infrared sensor system that searches for and detects heat sources within its large field-of-regard, enabling long-range detection and track of enemy targets under normal and electronic attack environments. Photo: Lockheed martin

        Housed at the tip of the centerline fuel tank, the F/-18E/F IRST employs a passive, long-range infrared sensor that searches for and detects infrared emissions over a wide field of regard. The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology.

        The system enables the pilot to detect, discriminate targets and initiate engagement of hostile targets from extended range, using only passive means, therefore denying the enemy an early warning of such action. The system’s high-angle accuracy also provides the ability to track closely-spaced targets at maximum ranges. The high resolution characteristics of IRST provide dramatically improved raid cell count (40 times more accurate than radar) at maximum declaration ranges – information that can be used stand alone for threat assessment or be fused with other sensor data to enhance situational awareness, ensuring first-to-see, first-to-shoot capability.

        “In air-to-air engagements, IRST provides a discriminating capability to counter threats at greater standoff distances enhancing survivability,” said Paul Hey, IRST senior program manager in Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business. “The successful Milestone B achievement sets the foundation for delivering IRST capability to the warfighter, and is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of the U.S. Navy and industry team.”

        According to the manufacturer data, the IRST scan volume is comparable to radar, with selectable scan volumes in azimuth and elevation. It can operate in either track-while-scan or single-target-track modes. Additionally, IRST provides autonomous, passive range on targets to develop a weapon-quality solution, as well as track data to enhance target engagement. “The IRST sensor system will expand Super Hornet detection and targeting capability in multiple mission profiles, including electronically denied environments,” explains Tim Adrian, Boeing F/A-18E/F IRST program manager. The system will also offer advantages as a stand-in sensor detecting ballistic missiles ascending through their boost phase, offering other ballistic missile defense assets an early warning on such missile attacks.

        “The F/A-18E/F features a balanced approach to combat survivability and lethality, employing a variety of onboard sensors that provide aircrews with unmatched situational awareness. The new IRST system will continue to expand the Super Hornet’s advanced capability.”

        IRST subsystems include the Long-Wave Infra-Red (LWIR) sensor head with a three-axis inertially stabilized gimbal unit that scans the optics and detector assembly, a COTS processor that hosts the algorithms and a high density digital recorder.

        The IRST is compact enough to be mounted in various locations, from a conformal fuselage mount to a pylon. Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, and the U.S. Air Force are also developing a different IRST pod for the F-15C, which will be transportable across a wide range of platforms. Program members include the Boeing Company the aircraft manufacturer and system integrator, Lockheed martin developing the sensor, GE Aviation [NYSE: GE], delivering the container pod and assembly, and Meggitt Defense Systems Inc providing the power and cooling systems. Lockheed Martin is currently subcontracted to the Boeing Company to supply IRST sensor systems in support of the U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F and U.S. Air Force F-15C IRST programs. In November 2011 Boeing received a $135 million contract by the U.S. Navy, to develop an IRST solution for the F/A-18E/F, to be operational by 2016.

        The company maintains an active IRST production line, supporting international variants of the F-15. Among these customers are the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force, which opted to include the AN/AAS-42 on its latest F-15SA; AN/AAS-42 is an earlier generation of the IRST being developed for the Super Hornet. It was developed and employed with the the U.S. Navy F-14D Tomcat swing-wing fighters aboard U.S. carriers. The AN/AAS-42 has accumulated over 200,000 flight hours with the Tomcats.

        IRST subsystems include the Long-Wave Infra-Red (LWIR) sensor head with a three-axis inertially stabilized gimbal unit that scans the optics and detector assembly, a COTS processor that hosts the algorithms and a high density digital recorder. The IRST is compact enough to be mounted in various locations, from a conformal fuselage mount to a pylon. Photo: Lockheed Martin

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        The first high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) Euro Hawk Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) unmanned aircraft platform has landed today in Manching Air Base, southern Germany. The unmanned aircraft flew directly from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., landing in Germany after a 23 hour flight. On a typical mission the Euro Hawk has an endurance of 30 hours, flying at a maximum altitude of more than 60,000 feet.

        The aircraft will soon be fitted with the European made mission systems developed by EADS Deutschland GmbH (Cassidian) and integrated in Manching, Germany. Delivery of the first Euro Hawk demonstrator to the Bundeswehr is scheduled for mid-2012, with four follow-on systems scheduled tentatively between 2015 and 2017.

        Northrop Grumman built Euro Hawk unmanned SIGINT aircraft lands at Manching Air Base in Germany, where it will be mated with SIGINT mission systems developed by EADS Deutschland GmbH (Cassidian). The unmanned aircraft is scheduled to begin flight demonstration wit its SIGINT payloads next year, leading for the deployment of up to five platforms replacing a fleet of manned Breguet Atlantic aircraft later in the decade. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

        “Soon, the Bundeswehr will be able to independently cover their needs for SIGINT data collection and analysis, thus contributing to NATO, European Union and United Nations operations,” said Neset Tükenmez, chief executive officer, EuroHawk GmbH. “Euro Hawk will also serve as a working model for other programs and countries.”

        Euro Hawk is an interoperable, modular and cost-effective replacement to the fleet of manned Breguet Atlantic aircraft which was in service since 1972 and retired in 2010. The system represents the first international version of the RQ-4 and the first HALE SIGINT UAS in Europe. Another platform based on the RQ-4 to be deployed by NATO is the airborne segment of NATO’s AGS.

        The Euro Hawk comes to a landing at Manching today, escorted by a PC-9 chase plane. Photo: Northrop Grumman

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        The France Government plans to acquire or lease yet unspecified number of ‘F-Heron TP’ Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial systems, to be developed jointly by Israel Aerospace Industries and Dassault Aviation. F-Heron TP will be based on the Israeli Heron TP currently operational with the israel Air Force. According to the French requirement F-Heron TP should be ready to replace the Harfang (Heron I) by 2014, when the Harfang is scheduled to retire. Harfang, was also built by IAI and equipped by EADS with various mission systems, is currently operational with the French Air Force in Afghanistan, in providing near-term Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability.

        Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense-Update
        Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense-Update

        F-Heron TP is expected to remain in service at least until the early 2020s, as the new Telemos matures. Telemos, a bilateral research and development program launched in November 2010 by the governments of the U.K. and France is a development program shared by BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation. France is hopeful the cooperation with IAI will open opportunities for French industrial participation in the program, paving the way for wider French involvement in the development of the future Franco-British MALE UAV.

        The French decision, published yesterday by Gérard Longuet, French Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs, represents a major setback for EADS, that was counting on a possible French endorsement for further development of its own Talarion MALE UAV. It also diminishes the probability of acquisition of a competitive Off The Shelf system from the U.S. company General Atomics, which was earlier this year was considered imminent, at the time when negotiations between the French Ministry of Defence and Dassault Aviation were at a dead end.

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          The first pair of production Lightning II aircraft deployed this week to join the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The aircraft, known as AF-9 and AF-8, will be used to assist training F-35 pilots and maintainers who begin coursework at the base’s new F-35 Integrated Training Center this fall. Over the lifetime of the program, a total of 59 F-35s will compose the fighter fleet at Eglin AFB.

          Home at last! A crew chief from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, FLA the first production a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft to its final parking position. Photo: Lockheed Martin

          The two aircraft are the third and fourth production aircraft of the F-35 family. Both are the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) ‘A’ versions of the Lightning II. Overall, the jet is the third production-model F-35 delivered to the U.S. Air Force, with the first two assigned to Edwards AFB, Calif. It is the first aircraft delivered from Low Rate Initial Production lot two and the seventh F-35 delivered in program history to the Air Force.

          U.S. Marine Corps pilot Maj. Joseph T. “OD” Bachmann takes off from Ft. Worth today, delivering the second production F-35A to join the 33rd training wing at Eglin AFB, FLA. At Eglin the Lightning II is joining AF-9 delivered earlier this week. Photo: Lockheed Martin by Angel DelCueto.

          Located at Eglin AFB, the fully-integrated F-35 pilot-and-maintenance training center includes pilot and maintenance training equipment, support, systems and facilities for all three aircraft variants. The center will be home to a full spectrum of the latest courseware, electronic classrooms, simulators and flight events ensuring superior training for the next generation of pilots and maintainers. Another base preparing for the F-35 deployment next year is the Nellis AFB near the city of las Vegas, in Nevada. The Air Force plans to deploy 36 F-35 fighter aircraft at the base, starting 2012 through 2020 supporting the Force Development Evaluation and Weapons School programs.

          The F-35A CTOL variant – designed to meet U.S. Air Force requirements – is also the primary export version of the Lightning II. This model will serve with the U.S. Air Force and with most foreign air forces, including Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Israel.

          The fifth Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) flight test aircraft delivered to the Marine Corps arrives at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., Saturday, July 16. Photo: Lockheed Martin

          To date, the three versions being tested with the F-35 program have accomplished more than 925 flights since late 2006. The latest addition to the test fleet was the fifth F-35B Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) flight test aircraft, delivered to the Marine Corps on Saturday this week. The aircraft is joining the the test fleet conducted by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md. The carrier variant aircraft CF-2 began performing Jet Blast Deflector (JBD) tests at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. JBD testing is one portion of the tests required to ensure the F-35C is compatible aboard the aircraft carrier. Testing continues with varying distances between the aircraft and JBD, and at power settings up to and including maximum afterburner power.

          F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft CF-2 is performing Jet Blast Deflector (JBD) tests at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The JBD, located behind the catapults aboard aircraft carriers, deflects high energy exhaust from the engine to prevent damage and injury to other aircraft and personnel located in close proximity. JBD testing is one portion of the tests required to ensure the F-35C is compatible aboard the aircraft carrier. It is a critical step prior to actual catapult launch and arrested landing testing. Testing continues with varying distances between the aircraft and JBD, and at power settings up to and including maximum afterburner power. CF-2 arrived at Lakehurst on June 25 for JBD tests. (Lockheed Martin photo by Andy Wolfe)

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