Monday, March 30, 2015

Tamir Eshel

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The MML is designed to carry 16 missiles in sealed, ready-to-launch canisters. As a modular, open system, MML will be able to use different interceptors to provide the necessary protection, depending on the threat level encountered by the troops.

The U.S. Army successfully fired three missiles to verify tube integrity and missile stack integration of the Multi-Mission Launcher using a Launch Demonstration Unit. Photo: US Army
At less than 1 meter long, less than 50 millimeters in diameter and less than 3 kilograms mass at launch, the MHTK is extremely compact and very agile in flight. Photo: Lockheed martin
At less than 1 meter long, less than 50 millimeters in diameter and less than 3 kilograms mass at launch, the MHTK is extremely compact and very agile in flight. Photo: Lockheed martin

The US Army is seeking to field a new air defense system comprising two types of missiles, capable to protecting military forces against cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Rockets, Artillery and Mortars. The development of the truck mounted system is part of the ‘Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I) Program of Record, designed to improve force protection for rapid deployment forces on contingencies beyond 2020.

Last month the Army successfully tested the Multi-Mission Launcher (MML), launching three different missiles from the MML Demonstration Unit at the White Sands missile range in NM. The MML is designed to carry 16 missiles in sealed, ready-to-launch canisters. As a modular open system, MML will be able to use different interceptors to provide the necessary protection, depending on the threat level encountered by the troops.

The U.S. Army successfully fired three missiles to verify tube integrity and missile stack integration of the Multi-Mission Launcher using a Launch Demonstration Unit. Photo: US Army
The U.S. Army successfully fired three missiles to verify tube integrity and missile stack integration of the Multi-Mission Launcher using a Launch Demonstration Unit. Photo: US Army

Multi-Mission Launcher

The Army has already implemented the multi-mission launcher approach in the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and Avenger mobile air defense system. Once deployed, the new MML is expected complement the Avenger in the air defense units.

The recent test, conducted under IFPC Inc. 2-I, launched three different missiles – an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile, another missile carrying a ‘Low Cost Active Seeker’ developed by the US Army, and the Miniature Hit-to-Kill vehicle carrying semi-active seeker, developed by Lockheed martin under the Extended Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS) program. The AIM-9X missile was employed against a UAV flying in a pattern, the other two missiles launched from the MML flew ballistic trajectories.

The test verified the MML tube integrity and the systems’ missile stack integration. The full capability of the system, demonstrating the concept’s network performance is scheduled for 2016, using two MMLs against UAVs and cruise missiles. The Army plans to field the system in 2019.

Developed under the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Command (ARMDEC), the MML program is underway to deliver the two prototypes for integration into the IFPC Inc 2-I system during the forthcoming technology maturation and risk reduction phase of the development. “The IFPC system will close critical capability gaps for the Navy and the Air Force. Seeing the launcher come together is very rewarding.” Lt. Col. Mark Talbot, IFPC Inc. 2 Project Manager commented.

Sentinel is a mobile, tactical air defense and weapon coordination X-band radar that detects helicopters, high-speed attack aircraft, cruise missiles and UAVs. Photo: ThalesRaytheonSystems
Sentinel is a mobile, tactical air defense and weapon coordination X-band radar that detects helicopters, high-speed attack aircraft, cruise missiles and UAVs. Photo: ThalesRaytheonSystems

Sensors, Command and Control

MML is built on open architecture and will have the capacity to launch a variety of interceptors to provide 360-degree protection against simultaneous threats from rockets, artillery, mortars, precision guided ordnance, cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft systems. IFPS will become part of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IMAD) Battle Command System (BCS) which also follows open-system architecture. IMAD will be able to allocate target data through the Engagement Operations Cell which links to Sentinel target acquisition radars, acting as the integral fire control sensor for IFPS.

The Improved Sentinel (AN/MPQ-64F1) is a 3D phased array tactical air defense radar developed by ThalesRaytheon Systems. It automatically detects, tracks, identifies, classifies and reports airborne threats. It detects helicopters, high-speed attack aircraft and cruise missiles over 360°. IFPC Inc. 2-I will fund the software upgrades to support the current Sentinel’s counter UAS and CM mission.

More than 200 systems have been ordered worldwide, with more than 100 delivered or in production. Future enhancements currently in development include an 80 percent increase in the radar’s detection range.

Raytheon's AI3 uses a remanufactured Sidewinder body fitted with semi-active RF seeker. An improved version of this seeker was recently used to demonstrate an interception of a cruise-missile.  Photo: Raytheon
Raytheon’s AI3 uses a remanufactured Sidewinder body fitted with semi-active RF seeker. An improved version of this seeker was recently used to demonstrate an interception of a cruise-missile. Photo: Raytheon

Testing the Interceptors

For the C-RAM interceptor the Army evaluated two different approaches – a brand new Miniature ‘Hit To Kill’ (MHTK) interceptor, developed by Lockheed Martin and a weapon based on remanufactured Sidewinder missiles developed by Raytheon under the Accelerated Improved Interceptor Initiative (AI3). According to Lockheed Martin, The MHTK guided missile is about 675mm (27 inches) long, 40mm (1.6 inches) in diameter and weighs just 2.26kg (5 pounds). It is expected to cost below $16K. Raytheon did not publish cost estimates for its weapon. Both weapons were tested in 2012-2014 demonstrating their C-RAM capability against representative targets.

In the Summer of 2014 the AI-3 weapon conducted an intercept of a cruise missile, during the annual ‘Black Dart 2014 demonstration’. The missile used a new semi-active seeker and radar to acquire and intercept the target flying low over the sea in a high clutter marine environment.

Few months later the Army found that the latest AIM-9X with its passive imaging-infra-red seeker would best address the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and cruise missile threats. This has lead to the use of the Sidewinder in the current test. “The AIM-9X is primarily an air-to-air missile, but it has potential latent capability, and we’re using it here in a surface-to-air capacity. Additionally, this is the first time we’ve ever tried to launch it out of a tube,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Betts, US Navy AIM-9X Block II Integrated Product Team lead at PMA-259 China Lake that supported the test. “The Army needed to prove that the tube is reusable and that it could withstand the missile fly-out; making sure the missile didn’t act as a blowtorch, cutting the tube in half on the way out.”

New Active RF Seeker

For the C-RAM application the Army is planning to use a new, fully active RF seeker developed by AMRDEC. “We have gone from a semi-active seeker configuration to an active seeker configuration to eliminate the need for a ground-based illuminator,” Loretta Painter, AMRDEC EAPS program manager said. Testing of interceptors equipped with the fully active RF seeker is expected next year (2016).

The active RF seeker self illuminates the target, thus enabling any ground-based or airborne sensor capable of tracking rockets, artillery, or mortar to queue the interceptor. Once launched, and based on this queuing, the missile flies autonomously to engage and defeat the threat.

While more expensive than the semi-active seeker, the fully active seeker provides greater precision needed for other potential target sets. “Being able to hit a vulnerable part of the target as opposed to just hitting the target is a big advantage,” Painter said. “The active seeker will allow us to have aim point selection, to be able to select the place on the target that we want to hit to maximize lethality.”

As a miniature weapon, MHTK can quadruple the loadout, enabling each MML to load 60 interceptors. Photo: Defense-Update
As a miniature weapon, MHTK can quadruple the loadout, enabling each MML to load 60 interceptors. Photo: Defense-Update

In January 2015 the Army awarded Lockheed Martin a $46.5 million contract to conduct an integrated demonstration of its miniature missile, as part of the Army EAPS, demonstrating its C-RAM capability and cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) interception.

The main advantage of MHTK, besides its low cost, is the larger Load out it offers for each MML. With four MHTK missiles integrated into each tube, the system can hold 15 tubes – or 60 interceptors – a critical capability in combating saturation attacks, with multiple simultaneous engagements, characteristic of RAM threats. It also allows stacking few larger missiles with dozens of miniature interceptors.

Following the planned demonstration the Army expects to unfold EAPS into the IFPC Inc. 2-I program, meeting the systems’ Block-2 phase fielding credible C-RAM, in addition to Block I Counter Cruise Missile and UAV capability, to be fielded in two active duty and seven National Guard battalions beginning in 2019.

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Under Phase 2 of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) research and development program DARPA is funding risk reduction studies of a ship-launched unmanned aircraft that will enable the US Navy to deploy persistent ISR and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world.

DARPA is expecting to complete risk reduction studies in September, and select one of two competing designs for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (MALE UAS), that will be capable to operate from small and medium naval vessels. As part of Phase 2 of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) research and development program the agency is funding risk reduction studies performed by Northrop Grumman Corp. and Aerovironment Inc., based on preliminary designs proposed by the two companies in the earlier Phase I. The program is jointly managed between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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“To offer the equivalent of land-based UAS capabilities from small-deck ships, our Phase 2 performers are each designing a new unmanned air system intended to enable two previously unavailable capabilities: one, the ability for a UAS to take off and land from very confined spaces in elevated sea states and two, the ability for such a UAS to transition to efficient long-duration cruise missions,” said Dan Patt, DARPA TERN program manager. “Tern’s goal is to develop breakthrough technologies that the Navy could realistically integrate into the future fleet and make it much easier, quicker and less expensive for the Defense Department to deploy persistent ISR and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world.”

The Tern program envisions using smaller ships of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) or DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (UAS), to provide long-range ISR and other capabilities from the decks of forward-deployed small ships. By 2017 DARPA aims to conduct full-scale, at-sea demonstration of the selected TERN prototype UAS from a vessel with the same deck size as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

The British Army will most likely cannibalize the 16 helicopters, providing key spare parts and subsystems to maintain the remaining operational fleet until the next major upgrade of the British Apaches.

An AH64 Apache helicopter in Afghanistan is dwarfed by the huge airframe of a RAF C17 as Joint Movement Unit (JMU) and Army Air Corps (AAC) personnel prepare to load it onto the transport for its return to the UK in July 2014. Photo: MOD, Crown Copyright by Cpl Daniel Wiepen .

The UK has mothballed a quarter of its AgustaWestland Boeing WAH-64 Apache Longbow AH.1 attack helicopters following the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. According to IHS Jane’s, 16 of the Army’s 66 Apaches were placed into storage, leaving a force of 50 helicopters.

The Army currently operates four squadrons at Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk, home for the 3rd and 4th Air regiments and 653 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). The Army has not announced yet, whether the reduction will draw the stand down of some operational units or implemented proportionally across the fleet. In its Strategic Defense & Security Review of 2010 and 2012 planning round the Ministry of Defense identified the need to reduce the number of Apache helicopters after completing the drawdown in Afghanistan, an action that has been implemented since January 2015.

Portrait of an Apache pilot, standing in front of his Apache attack helicopter, prior to a mission in Helmand, Afghanistan in 2013. Photo: MOD, Crown Copyright by Corp. Si Longworth.
Portrait of an Apache pilot, standing in front of his Apache attack helicopter, prior to a mission in Helmand, Afghanistan in 2013. Training operations have been curtailed by the high costs, and the Army is looking for alternative solutions, including the use of cheaper surrogate helicopters and mission simulation by synthetic means to lower training cost without hampering operational readiness. Photo: MOD, Crown Copyright by Cpl. Si Longworth.
Two Apache helicopters from 664 Squadron, Army Air Corps, perform landing practice onboard HMS Illustrious. Photo: MOD, Crown Copyright, by Dean Nixon .
Two Apache helicopters from 664 Squadron, Army Air Corps, perform landing practice onboard HMS Illustrious. Photo: MOD, Crown Copyright, by Dean Nixon

After their intensive operations in Afghanistan, Army WAH-64 Apache helicopters are often operated by the Army are often supporting naval operations attached to the Royal Navy helicopter carrier and assault ship HMS Ocean. Training operations have been curtailed by the high costs, and the Army is looking for alternative solutions, including the use of cheaper surrogate helicopters and mission simulation by synthetic means to lower training cost without hampering operational readiness.

While parts of the 16 helicopters are being used for the maintenance and support of the remaining 50 helicopters, the Army plans for further upgrades or ‘remanufacturing’ of those helicopters into the new AH-64E ‘Guardian’ model (formerly known as AH-64D Block III). The Army plans to maintain the Apache through the 2040s. The MOD plans to take a decision within a year.

The Apache attack helicopter is equipped to operate in all weather conditions, day or night. With the sensors it carries, Apache can and detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds. The most distinctive sensor is the Longbow radar, located above the rotor blades. The aircraft is also equipped with a day TV system, thermal imaging sight and direct view optics. It carries a mix of weapons including Hellfire missiles, guided and rockets, and a 30mm chain gun. The Apache is partly armored and is equipped with fully integrated defensive aid suite protecting it from small arms fire, missiles and Man Portable Air-Defense Missiles (MANPADS).

The latest ‘Guardian’ variant is fitted with modern avionics and communications systems, enabling full integration with associated unmanned systems. The enhanced Longbow radar used in this model is better fitted for maritime operation. Composite main rotor blades, new transmission and improved General Electric T700-GE-701D engines have produced a more powerful Apache improving overall performance and payload carrying capability. Unlike an upgrading, remanufacturing refers to a more comprehensive build of the aircraft. It is estimated that about 12 percent of AH-64E components are remanufactured in the process. The British conversion could be streamlined with the US Army plan to remanufacture 634 AH-64Ds into AH-64E standard by 2020.

 

 

 

The US Army has deployed THAADs to Guam for the past three years, in response to a possible North Korean BM-25 Musudan Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles capability to target the island. South Korea where 28,500 US troops are stationed is much closer to North Korea and the THAAD systems are more likely to be needed there.

The Missile defense Agency is strengthening the 1st and 2nd THAAD batteries to the full six-launcher configuration. Photo: Lockheed Martin

The US Army has allocated its Continental-US (CONUS) Based THAAD to deploy to South Korea on emergency situations, a South Korean military source confirmed Sunday. Subscribe to read the full version

THAAD systems are able to deploy from their base at Ft. Bliss, Texas, US within hours, using C-17 Globemaster III military transport planes.

The first to deploy overseas was Alpha battery, that demonstrated its rapid deployment capability in 2013, as it deployed to Guan in response to a possible North Korean BM-25 Musudan Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles capability to target the island.

South Korea, where 28,500 US troops are stationed is much closer to North Korea and the THAAD systems are more likely to be needed there. However, South Korea is objecting to permanent deployment of these missiles on its soil, fearing escalation with China. The Korean ambiguity on this matter, and the temporary deployment of the THAAD will not enable full integration with Seoul’s own missile defense system, KAMD.

imageSouth Korea also opposes the permanent deployment of US AN/TPY-2, an early missile warning radar system that detects missiles up to 2,000 kilometers away, which would include China’s military facilities. “Our military has our own missile warning system, the Green Pine, which has a range of 600 km, so we don’t need AN/TPY-2,” a source within the South Korean government said.

The planned modernization work will enable Leclerc MBTs to employ its heavy, direct firepower and mobility as part of the future "SCORPION" joint tactical groups (GTIA). The contract provides for the delivery of 200 "upgraded Leclerc" tanks and 18 "Renovated DCL" recovery vehicles from 2020.

The French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) notified Nexter Systems of the Leclerc tank
renovation contract. This order constitutes the third operation launched by the French
Ministry of Defence under the SCORPION programme intended to modernise the French
Army’s contact forces.

The upgrade contract will include modernization of 18 armored recovery vehicles in addition to 200 Leclerc tanks. Photo: French Army
The €330 million upgrade contract will include modernization of 18 DCL armored recovery vehicles in addition to 200 Leclerc tanks. Photo: French Army

Valued at approximately €330 million, the contract provides for the delivery of 200 “Renovated Leclerc” tanks, representing half of the current inventory, and 18 “Renovated DCL” recovery vehicles. Deliveries of the upgraded Leclerc are expected to begin in 2020.

The planned renovation work will enable the Leclerc to make the best use of its fire power and mobility within future “SCORPION” joint tactical groups (GTIA). Thanks to the development of specific interfaces for the new CONTACT tactical radio system and the
SCORPION information and command system (), it will be able to effectively network
with all components of future “SCORPION” GTIAs. Moreover, the upgrade of its protection
through the development of specific armour kits will enable the Leclerc tank to deal more
effectively with new threats, such as improvised explosive devices.

A 3rd generation tank with a high degree of automation and diagnostic assistance, the Leclerc
tank currently gives the French land forces “first entry” capability as part of an international
coalition. The renovation operation launched aims to maintain this capacity beyond 2040.

Leclerc tank from the 2nd Armored brigade participating in the military parade on Republic Day in Paris.
Leclerc tank from the 2nd Armored brigade participating in the military parade on Republic Day in Paris.

The new vehicle will replace the current fleet of 257 Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) - based on General Dynamics' Piranha III. New 8x8 vehicle designs allow for significantly increased weight, supporting much improved protection protection, and electronic system architecture supporting advanced applications, a necessary step toward fully digitized Land Combat Vehicles that will be fielded as part of the follow-on Phase 3 - "Mounted Close Combat Capability", fielding a replacement for 431 Australian M113s.

General Dynamics Land Systems and Thales Australia are teaming to bid to the Australian Defence Land 400 Phase 2 – Mounted Combat Reconnaissance Capability (MCRC) Request For Tender. The Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) fleet will support seven mission roles identified within the LAND 400 Operational Concept Document (OCD). The Australian tender seek a military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) based capability, and maximise Australian industry content. Through-Life Support for the MCRC is being acquired under a collateral contract. First delivery of the CRV is expected in 2020 with first unit achieving initial operational capability (IOC) three years later.

The new vehicle will replace the current fleet of 257 Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) – based on General Dynamics’ Piranha III. New 8×8 vehicle designs allow for significantly increased weight, supporting much improved protection protection, and electronic system architecture supporting advanced applications, a necessary step toward fully digitized Land Combat Vehicles that will be fielded as part of the follow-on Phase 3 – “Mounted Close Combat Capability”, fielding a replacement for 431 Australian M113s.

The two companies have collaborated in the past on a number of international military vehicles programs including Canada’s LAV III Upgrade, the UK Foxhound and Scout SV Programs, Switzerland’s Piranha CBRN Program, and in Australia the ASLAV Program for Crew Procedural Trainer and electro-optics.

The current ASLAV has been upgraded to maintain  its combat capabilities but lacks the weight, power and  electronic infrastructure necessary for further modernization. Photo: Australian MOD
The current ASLAV has been upgraded to maintain its combat capabilities but lacks the weight, power and electronic infrastructure necessary for further modernization. Photo: Australian MOD

General Dynamics Land Systems is the manufacturer of combat-proven 8×8 and tracked Military Off The Shelf (MOTS) Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV), Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and Manoeuvre Support Vehicle (MSV) products, and has proven performance in delivering international programs in a timely and cost-effective manner.  Thales Australia has an established in-country industrial base of vehicle design, manufacture and through-life support and expertise in electronics, electro-optics, simulation and platform systems integration. The General Dynamics Land Systems / Thales team will offer Australia a compelling value-for-money solution comprising the complete suite of LAND 400 capabilities as required by the Australian Army.

General Dynamics Land Systems – Australia was established in 2000 to support the delivery of the ASLAV wheeled armoured fighting vehicles and has manufactured approximately 400, LAV-25 turrets, mostly for export.  General Dynamics Land Systems – Australia currently provides comprehensive support to the fielded fleets of M1A1 Abrams tanks and the ASLAVs.

“Our arrangement will maximise domestic and international opportunities for our Australian industry and builds on the success of our current platforms in protecting Australian soldiers.” Ian Cook, managing director of General Dynamics Land Systems – Australia, noted saying the companies’ proposal will be based on existing 8×8 platforms from GDLS, to be manufactured in Australia, with Thales providing integration, upgrade and through-life support, based on its experience with the Bushmaster mine protected armored vehicle.”

 

Unlike Rafale, which is an operational aircraft produced on a hot production line, the SU-50S is still in development and flight testing, let alone SU-50ES (FGFA) which is a high risk development product that has yet to be started.

What seems to be the final stage of negotiation between India and France over the procurement of 126 Rafale fighter jets is turning into a circus: New Delhi is walking on a tightrope, between approving the deal with a dramatic cost increase compared to the original budget, or ditching the plan, risking further delays in modernizing the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The current chapter in the three-year-long saga opens with orchestrated media reports auguring an accelerated induction of Russian SU-50E – an export version of the  – the Indian variant of the Russian T-50 PAK-FA – which would mean a ‘generation leap’ over the current IAF first line fighter jets as well as over the GEN-4.5 Rafale.

While delivery of 18 fighters from France can be expected in time, the orderly delivery of the follow-on 108 locally produced aircraft is more questionable. It was Dassault’s concern about the Indian competency to produce these aircraft at a reasonable quality which brought the negotiations with India to a standstill. Sukhoi sees this as an opportunity, since they have already paved the way with the SU-30 MKI currently produced in India. Sukhoi hopes the production of SU-50E and SU-55 (the two-seat Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft – FGFA) could continue where the production of SU-30 ends, providing a more manageable quality control process.

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If this deal goes forward, the SU-50E is expected to be delivered from 2017 onwards with the IAF expected to induct over 300 aircraft in the following two decades at a cost of US$25 billion. This is an extremely ambitious schedule, as the Russians themselves do not expect to receive their first SU-50 before the end of 2016. Currently undergoing flight testing as T-50 prototypes, the Russian Air Force expects forming 2-3 squadrons of fifth generation SU-50 by 2020.

The Indian export variants of the SU-50/55 are the biggest-ever bilateral Indo-Russian defence cooperation project. The preliminary design agreement on SU-50ES (FGFA), signed in 2010 between HAL and Russian Sukhoi Design Bureau, was to build the jet for use by both countries, with India investing 50 per cent of the cost of the multi-billion dollar programme.

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According to expert assessments, if the Iranians had access to the Russian current TRDD-30 engine or the original R95, produced in the Ukraine, the missile could be able to carry a warhead of 410 kg to hit targets beyond 2,000 km. The strategic version of the missile (Kh55) used by the Russian Air Force carries 200-250 Kt nuclear warhead.

Iran unveiled yesterday a new, long range surface-launched land attack cruise missile. The new missile called ‘Soumar’ was presented yesterday to the Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier general Hossein Dehqan. Unveiling the missile developed by Iranian scientists Dehqan said the new weapon ‘will increase Iran’s deterrence might’.

Radug Kh555 cruise missile loaded onto a Tu-95 bomber.
Radug Kh555 cruise missile loaded onto a Tu-95 bomber.

No details about the weapon’s specifications, performance or payload were provided but according to the Iranian media, Tehran plans to introduce an enhanced model of the missile this year, that will increase the range, accuracy and warhead capability of the current version.

The missile seems to be one of the variants of the ‘Meshkat’ cruise missile, announced by the director of the Iranian Defense Ministry’s Aerospace Organization, Brigadier General Mehdi Farahi three years ago. “Meshkat cruise missile, which God willing will be unveiled soon, has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers.” Farahi told the Iranian media in 2012, “it will be the upper hand of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

A line of completed Soumar cruise missiles displayed to Defense Minister Brig. General  yesterday at the
A line of completed Soumar cruise missiles displayed to Defense Minister Brig. General Hossein Dehqan yesterday by Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO). Photo: Mehr News Agency

As mentioned above, most of the Iranian coastal and naval attack missiles are based on Chinese C-series (C-701, 704, and 802). Unlike these, Soumar do not resemble any Chinese weapon, but bears close similarity to the Russian Kh55SM cruise missile. Iran acquired 6 such missiles from the Ukraine in 2001. These missiles were also sold to China in 2000 and more were delivered to an undisclosed customer, assumably North Korea.

The Saturn TRDD-50 miniature turbofan engine was designed specifically for cruise missiles.
The Saturn TRDD-50 miniature turbofan engine was designed specifically for cruise missiles.

One of the factors determining the missile’s range is likely to be the miniature turbofan. The original weapon delivered to Iran was powered by the Russian designed, Ukraine made R95-300 mini-turbofan, but in the mid 2000s, as Russia transferred the production of critical systems to its industry, equipping its new production missiles Kh55 with TRDD-50 turbofans made by the Russian Saturn company. According to expert assessments, if the Iranians had access to the Russian engine or the original R95-300 produced in the Ukraine, the missile could reach an operational range of 2,000 km, carrying a warhead of 410kg weight. The strategic version used by Russian Air Force carries 200-250 Kt nuclear warhead.

This small, fuel efficient turbofan delivers the thrust and size class required to power cruise missiles, standoff missiles and UAVs. The cited thrust rating is 400 to 500 kp (880 to 1,000 lbf), with a dry mass of 95 kg (210 lb), a Specific Fuel Consumption of 0.65, a length of 0.85 m (33.5 in) and diameter of 0.33 m (13 in).

Russia is not likely to allow the export of such engines to equip foreign weapons programs, since it will be considered a violation of the MTCR regime. But Moscow agreed to supply such engines to power the Indian target drone ‘Lakshya’. However, the mini turbofans are believed to have also powered the Indian cruise missile Nirbhay on its maiden flight in October 2014.

soumar_with_general_Dehqan725
Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier general Hossein Dehqan (right) with IRGC’s aerospace commander, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh at the new missile. “It will be the upper hand of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran”
Launched from land-based or naval surface based platform, Soumar uses a booster to accelerate for cruising speed. The folded lattice tail controls are used to stabilize it as it accelerates from zero to the cruising speed, when the missile gain enough speed to enable efficient use of conventional control surfaces.
Launched from land-based or naval surface based platforms, Soumar uses a booster for the initial acceleration. The folded lattice tail controls are used to stabilize it as it accelerates from zero to cruising speed, when the missile gain enough speed to enable efficient use of conventional control surfaces.

As a variant of the Kh55, the Iranians could also pursue the course the Russian designers paved, turning their cruise missile into a versatile strike weapon launched from submarines, surface ships and ground based launchers. Unlike the fixed engine configuration of the Kh55, the 3R-54 ‘Club’ uses a ‘drop down’ engine, thus packing the cylindrical missile more efficiently in storage canisters, ensuring unobstructed launch procedure, particularly from the confined space of submarine launchers.

An interesting capability introduced by the missile manufacturer ‘AGAT’ is the containerized version – Club K, enabling the launching of cruise missiles from ‘innocent looking’ cargo ships, rail cars or trucks, a practice the Iranians, Syrians and their Hezbollah proxy have practiced many times in the past.

The Air Force command said the elimination of 18 A-10s from the current force will not impact planned A-10 deployments through the end of fiscal year 2018. Converting aircraft to BAI status will free up experienced maintainers so they can be integrated into the F-35 Lightning II program.

An aerial shot taken by Glenn Watson of Mach Point One Aviation Photography during the Heritage Flight Certification Course over Davis Monthan . Photo: Glenn Watson

A P-47 Thunderbolt, two P-51 Mustangs and F-16 Fighting Falcon fly in formation during the 2015 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2015. USAF photo by Chris Massey
A P-47 Thunderbolt, two P-51 Mustangs and F-16 Fighting Falcon fly in formation during the 2015 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2015. USAF photo by Chris Massey

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (D-M) is known mainly for its role as the boneyard for combat and civil aircraft that reach the end of their service life. New arrivals expected here soon are 18 A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft, to be removed from active units and placed here in ‘Backup-Aircraft Inventory’ (BAI) status with the possibility to convert another 18 at a later date in fiscal year 2015. The A-10s will join thousands of other aircraft parked here, slowly disintegrating into scrap under the desert sun.

But for some there is resurrection. One of the lucky ones was B-52 Stratofortress called ‘Ghost Rider’ took to the sky after spending seven years in the boneyard. Tail number 61-1007′ Ghost Rider’ was not the average ‘guest’ at D-M. It was maintained at 1000-type storage, which is the most preserved level of aircraft storage. In late 2014, seven years after arriving at D-M, this bomber was chosen to rejoin the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

“It was chosen after thorough inspections and extensive engineering analysis,” said Capt. Chuck McLeod, the B-52 System Project Office team lead. Although well preserved, the blazing hot Arizona sun took its toll on the dormant aircraft bleaching sections of its exposed aluminum skin almost white, and causing the tires and major fuel lines to dry rot.

ghost_riderb52_fly1021
A B-52H Stratofortress takes off after being taken out of long term storage Feb. 13, 2015, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft was decommissioned in 2008 and has spent the last seven years sitting in the “Boneyard,” but was selected to be returned to active status and will eventually rejoin the B-52 fleet. The B-52 was flown by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)

Through the return to flight process technicians at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group replaced fuel bladders and lines were replaced, and by the end of January the crew successfully ran of all eight engines.

“I’ve been flying the B-52s since the 80s and it surprised me that after almost seven years… she cranked up just fine and we had no issues with the flight control systems.”said the pilot Col. Keith Schultz, 307th Operations Group commander and the most experienced B-52 pilot still flying in the Air Force.

The "Ghost Rider" is prepared for an early morning taxi test on Feb. 12, 2015, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The B-52H Stratofortress was decommissioned in 2008 and has been sitting in the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group's "Boneyard,” but is being restored to join the active fleet of B-52s. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
The “Ghost Rider” is prepared for an early morning taxi test on Feb. 12, 2015, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The B-52H Stratofortress was decommissioned in 2008 and has been sitting in the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s “Boneyard,” but is being restored to join the active fleet of B-52s. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
An aerial shot taken by Glenn Watson of Mach Point One Aviation Photography during the Heritage Flight Certification Course over Davis Monthan . Photo: Glenn Watson
An aerial shot taken by Glenn Watson of Mach Point One Aviation Photography during the Heritage Flight Certification Course over Davis Monthan Photo: Glenn Watson
Two F-86 Sabres and an F-22 Raptor fly in formation during the 2015 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2015. (USAF photo by Chris Massey)
Two F-86 Sabres and an F-22 Raptor fly in formation during the 2015 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2015. (USAF photo by Chris Massey)

Another recent celebration at D-M was the Heritage Flight Training Certification Course (HFTCC), held Feb. 27 – March 1. HFTCC provided an opportunity to see WWII, Korea and Vietnam veteran planes flying with the latest air force jets. This annual aerial demonstration training event has been held at D-M since 2001, providing civilian and military pilots the opportunity to practice flying in formation for the upcoming air show season.

The aircraft that participated in this year’s HFTCC were the historic P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-86 Sabre. Air Combat Command aircraft included the F-22 Raptor and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Established in 1997, the HFTCC features aerial demonstrations from historical and modern fighter aircraft which will fly in formation together during air shows across the country.

Check more excellent photos and live reports on D-M facebook page.

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Sitting in a wheelchair with images of airplanes on his shirt and a U.S. Army Air Corps hat on his head, 92-year-old retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel was reunited with the P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course here Feb. 28. Hertel flew the legendary Thunderbolt while stationed on Iwo Jima, Japan, during World War II. He had not seen the aircraft since retiring from the military in the 1960’s. The log book presented to him showed Hertel’s flights over Iwo Jima, during World War II. The P-47 pilots ended WWII with 3,752 air-to-air kills while flying more than 423,000 sorties. (Photo: USAF by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

 

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Developed in partnership with Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the P.1HH HammerHead UAS is currently going through a comprehensive development and certification flight test campaign, conducted at the Trapani Birgi Italian Air Force base. The maiden flight was completed last December at Trapani Birgi.

The aerodynamic configuration of the P.1HH Hammerhead unmanned aircraft has a new, extended span main wing, an autonomous flight control and modular mission payloads, adapted for specific mission profiles. Photo: Piaggio.

The Italian Air Force will be the launch customer of the P.1HH HammerHead Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The manufacturer, Piaggio Aerospace will deliver three UAS systems – 6 air vehicles and 3 ground control stations – complete with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) configuration to the Italian Air Force in early 2016.

“We are truly delighted about this decision. It confirms the strong partnership we have with the Italian Air Force and showcases the P.1HH as one of the most advanced systems to enter the market.” Carlo Logli, CEO of Piaggio Aerospace said. “We have very concrete reasons to believe that P.1HH will become the first European state-of-the-art MALE UAS, uniquely suited to perform a wide range of surveillance and security missions at the highest technological level”, Logli added. Piaggio Aerospace announced today at the IDEX defense expo in Abu Dhabi, in the presence of the Italian Air Force Chief, Lt. Gen. Pasuquale Preziosa.

The P.1HH HammerHead is a derivative of the Piaggio Aerospace P.180 twin turboprop aircraft, designed with a variety of operational capabilities that can be tailored to specific customer requirements, enabling the UAS to perform a wide range of ISR missions. The P.180 has a proven service record of over 20 years and more than 800,000 flight hours, providing a proven, reliable platform for the new UAV derivative.

Developed in partnership with Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the P.1HH HammerHead UAS is currently going through a comprehensive development and certification flight test campaign, conducted at the Trapani Birgi Italian Air Force base. The maiden flight was completed last December at Trapani Birgi.

Project Pilot Sergio Paloni, who led the flight crew said, “We are very pleased with the result of the maiden flight. The aerial vehicle was seamlessly operated remotely with no experienced flaws. We were also able to gather significant data which will enable us to forge ahead with our ambitious development roadmap”.

This achievement came after the completion of the P.1HH UAS demo program and represents the starting point of a comprehensive development and certification flight test campaign. It will enable Piaggio Aerospace to soon deliver to the market one of the most advanced MALE UAS.

The Prototype 001 is representative of the final aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft including the new, extended span main wing and the control systems on board. During the first flight, the Prototype 001 performed a shakedown flight over the Mediterranean Sea at a significant range of speed and altitude. The main flight objective was to conduct a first check of all the essential functions of the Air Vehicle and Ground Segment. The aerial vehicle management and control system, data link and ground control station are developed in partnership with Finmeccanica – Selex ES.

The Prototype 001 is representative of the final aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft including the new, extended span main wing and the control systems on board. During the first flight, the Prototype 001 performed a shakedown flight over the Mediterranean Sea at a significant range of speed and altitude. Photo: Piaggio
The Prototype 001 is representative of the final aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft including the new, extended span main wing and the control systems on board. During the first flight, the Prototype 001 performed a shakedown flight over the Mediterranean Sea at a significant range of speed and altitude. Photo: Piaggio

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