Author: rogalakibbler

C-5 Galaxy

C-5 Galaxy

The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is a heavy logistics military transport aircraft designed to provide world-wide massive strategic airlift. The CONUS based fleet can provide delivery of palletized, oversized and outsized cargo, as well as passengers or combat-ready troops, anywhere in the world on short notice. The aircraft can takeoff and land in relatively short distances and taxi on substandard surfaces during emergency operations. The C-5 also plays a limited role in the airdrop and special operations arenas.

Background

In 1963, realizing that they needed a jet-powered replacement for the exhausted, turboprop-powered C-133 Cargomaster, the United States Air Force began to study very large logistic transports. After reviewing several airframe designs, they eventually choose one similar to that of the C-141A Starlifter featuring a high-set wing (swept 25 degrees), four underwing jet engines and a T-tail.

This enormous aircraft, first known as the CX-HLS (Cargo Experimental-Heavy Logistics System) transport, was required to carry a payload of 125,000 pounds (56,700kg) over a distance of 8,000 miles (12,875km), or twice that load over a shorter distance. It also had to be able to operate, at maximum weight capacity, from the same runway lengths and semi-prepared runways as the C-141A (8,000 feet (2,438m) takeoff / 4,000 feet (1,219m) landing). Another major requirement, and the most controversial, was the design-life factor for the wing; it must survive for 30,000 flying hours.

The design competition was between Boeing (which entered its initial designs for the Model 747, before it was incorporated as a commercial passenger carrier), Douglas and Lockheed-Georgia. Lockheed won the contract in October 1965 with a design that was an extension of the company’s Hercules/Starlifter series. With a gross weight of 764,500 pounds (346,771kg), Lockheed’s Model 500, later designated C-5A Galaxy, dwarfed not only other Air Force transports but also every other type of aircraft in existence.

Construction of the prototype began in August 1966. The first C-5A Galaxy (#66-8303) was “rolled out” on 2 March 1968 and prepared for initial flight trials at Lockheed’s Marietta plant, located adjacent to Dobbins AFB in Georgia. The maiden flight took place on 30 June 1968 and lasted 94 minutes; Lockheed pilots Leo J. Sullivan and Walter E. Hensleigh were at the controls. (Note: This aircraft was lost following a ground fire on 17 October 1970.)

The first phase of manufacturer’s flight trials proceeded without major problems (except for the loss of a main wheel during a routine landing; the media had a field day with this event). In July 1969, full-scale structural ground static tests resulted in a premature wing failure at 84 percent of the scheduled maximum design load. Nevertheless, while corrective measures were devised, flight tests proceeded in Georgia and California, where the 2nd C-5A had been delivered to Edwards AFB on 4 June 1969 to take part in the 6-month joint Air Force/contractor Category I testing.

C-5A

Commonly described as, “The Box That The C-141 Came In,” the C-5A Galaxy was presented to the United States Air Force, for training purposes, in December 1969. The first operational aircraft were delivered to the 437th Military Airlift Wing (MAW), Charleston AFB, SC, in June 1970. In the mid-1970s, wing cracks were found throughout the fleet. Consequently, all C-5A aircraft were restricted to a maximum of 50,000 pounds (22,680kg) of cargo each. To increase their lifting capability and service life, 77 C-5As underwent a re-winging program from 1981 to 1987. (In the redesigned wing, a new aluminum alloy was used that didn’t exist ten years prior.) The final re-winged C-5A was delivered in July 1986.

C-5B

In 1982, a new production version, the C-5B, was authorized in which all modifications and improvements evolved in the C-5A program were to be incorporated, including upgraded TF-39-GE-1C turbofan engines, extended-life wings, Bendix color weather radar, triple Delco inertial navigation systems (INS), an improved automated flight control system (AFCS) and a new, more advanced Malfunction Detection Analysis and Recording System (MADAR II). The C-5B dispensed with the C-5A’s complex crosswind landing gear system. The first flight of the C-5B (#83-1285) took place on 10 September 1985. Delivery of the 50 new aircraft commenced in January 1986 and ended in April 1989. All C-5Bs are scheduled to remain in the active duty force, shared by comparably sized Air Force Reserve associate units.

C-5C

In the late-1980s, NASA had two C-5As (#68-0213 & #68-0216) modified to accommodate complete satellite and space station components. In each aircraft, the troop compartment, located in the aft upper deck, was removed and the aft cargo-door complex was modified to increase the dimensions of the cargo compartment’s aft loading area. Both aircraft are currently assigned to Travis AFB in Fairfield, California and have been redesignated as C-models. (Some unofficial sources claim this modification also enables the C-5C to be used for covert transportation of classified material between Lockheed’s Skunk Works in California and the test center at Groom Lake, Nevada, also known as Area 51.

Lockheed and the U.S. government will neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of this speculation.) Until the introduction of the Russian An-124 “Condor” (1982), the C-5A Galaxy was the largest and heaviest aircraft in the world. With its massive payload capacity, it has the capability to carry fully-equipped, combat-ready troops to any area of the world on short notice and provide the field support necessary to maintain a fighting force. Since 1970, it has opened unprecedented dimensions of strategic airlift in support of national defense and is invaluable to the Air Force mission and world-wide humanitarian relief efforts. Currently, there are six operational C-5 bases (all are located in the continental U.S.): Dover AFB, DE; Travis AFB, CA; Altus AFB, OK; Kelly AFB, TX; Westover ARB, MA; Stewart ANGB, NY.

Some Features

  • Exterior Setup: Four turbofan jet engines, high-set wing (swept 25 degrees), T-tail, forward and rear cargo loading assemblies, and a visor-type upward-hinged nose.
  • Upper-Deck Accommodations: The forward upper deck (flight deck) seats a cockpit crew of six, a relief crew of seven, and eight dignitaries or couriers; it also has two bunk rooms with three beds in each. The rear upper deck (troop compartment) seats 73 passengers and two loadmasters. Both upper deck compartments are fully pressurized, air-conditioned and incorporate galleys for food preparation and lavatories.
  • Cargo Compartment: Capacity: 36 fully-loaded 463L-type cargo pallets (88″ x 108″ @ 10,000 pound (4,536kg) capacity); 270 passengers in the air-bus configuration*; six transcontinental buses; two M1-A1 Abrams main battle tanks; seven UH-1 Huey helicopters; one U.S. Army 74-ton mobile scissors bridge. (A combination of pallets and wheeled vehicles can be carried together when required.)
  • Landing Gear: The enormous C-5 Galaxy has a very unique landing gear system consisting of a single nose strut, four main bogeys and a total of 28 wheels. The complex system offers “high flotation” capability for unpaved surfaces, freewheel castoring to facilitate ground maneuvering, and an offset swiveling capability (20 degrees left or right) for crosswind landings**. The landing gear system also has the capability of raising each set of wheels individually for simplified tire changes or brake maintenance. Size aside, the aircraft can takeoff or land just about anywhere in the world.

The Galaxy’s massive cargo compartment, with its upward-hinged visor in the nose and outward-opening “clamshell” doors in the rear, accommodates drive-through loading/unloading of wheeled or tracked vehicles using full-width ramps at each end. To accommodate faster, easier loading of outsized or unpowered equipment, each ramp contains an internally-housed winch. For rapid handling of palletized equipment, the forward and rear ramp assemblies can be repositioned to truckbed height, approximately 10 feet (3.0m) above the ground, and the entire cargo floor converted into a rollerized conveyor system.

Thirty-six standard 463L cargo pallets can be loaded aboard in about 90 minutes. When palletized cargo is not being carried, the roller conveyors can be turned over to leave a smooth, flat surface to accommodate wheeled or tracked vehicles. The C-5 Galaxy has a 121 foot long cargo floor (one foot longer than the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina) and nearly 35,000 cubic feet of available cargo space ? five times greater than that of the C-141A Starlifter! The entire cargo compartment is pressurized and air-conditioned.

The C-5 Galaxy is specifically designed to transport all types of military fighting equipment and associated personnel. The entire spectrum of military inventory, anything and everything that the Army ever intended to be airlifted – rolling and tracked armored equipment (including main battle tanks), bridge launchers, helicopters, bulk cargo, troops, etc. – can be transported swiftly and efficiently aboard the C-5. inflight refueling capability gives the aircraft nearly unlimited range and increases its flexibility for troop and cargo delivery.

In the airdrop arena, the C-5 Galaxy is capable of delivering up to 60,000 pounds (27,216kg) of equipment per drop. Standard airdrop operations include the following types of hardware: Hummers, Bradleys, tanks, road graters and Howitzers. The C-5’s aerial-delivery system is compatible with airdrop platforms of 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28 and 32 feet in length. Most personnel drops consist of 73 combat-ready troops.

In 1984, a re-winged C-5A flew at a then world record gross weight of 920,836 pounds (417,684kg) after being air refueled. Less than five years later, a C-5B set a new airdrop record of 190,493 (86,406kg) pounds. The drop, consisting of four 42,000 pound (19,051kg) Sheridan tanks and 73 combat-ready troops, occurred over Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 7 June 1989. The C-5 Galaxy also holds the “unofficial” world record for the heaviest drop over a single zone … two 60,000 pound (27,216kg) platforms.

The most dramatic display of the Galaxy’s capability and value was during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Galaxies comprised only 12 percent of the combined airlift fleet, yet they carried 44 percent of all airlift cargo and flew 23 percent of all strategic airlift missions. Ninety percent of Air Force C-5s were used in Desert Shield/Storm, the rest were flying high-priority missions elsewhere around the world.

Overall, the strategic airlift to the Persian Gulf was the largest since World War II. By the cease-fire, Air Force airlifters had moved 482,000 passengers and 513,000 tons of cargo. Viewed in ton miles, the airlift of Operation Desert Shield/Storm was equivalent to repeating the Berlin Airlift, a 56-week operation, every six weeks.

Since 1968, six C-5s have crashed, the worst occurred during Operation Babylift on 4 April 1975 near Saigon, South Vietnam. A C-5A (No. 68-0218) carrying 328 people (including 17 crew members), crashed immediately after takeoff from Saigon-Tan Son Nhut Airport.

The most recent crash was on April 3rd 2006 at Dover AFB in Delaware, 17 people were on board and all survived the crash.

1st Eurofighter with PIRATE IRST Radar Delivered to Italian Air Force

1st Eurofighter with PIRATE IRST Radar Delivered to Italian Air ForceThe first Eurofighter Typhoon with on board the radar PIRATE- IRST designed and produced by Galileo Avionica, a Finmeccanica Company, was delivered to the Italian Aeronautica Militare.

The aircraft is part of the Tanche 1 batch 5 of the international programme Eurofighter and is operational at the Grosseto base, in Tuscany.

The PIRATE performs the same tasks of a radar, working in a passive mode, without electromagnetic radiations, detecting instead the heat of the different targets. A very important feature that increases the overall performances of a combat aircraft, offering the tactical superiority of a complete operability in Stealth (technologies allowing the aircraft to be undetectable).

Leveraging state-of-the-art technologies, the PIRATE (Passive Infra-Red Airborne Tracking Equipment) combines the functionalities of a IRST and the ones of a FLIR (Foward Looking Infra-Red). The PIRATE is compact enough to install the electronics inside the aircraft, while the searching head of the sensor emerges on the left nose in front of the windshield.

Galileo Avionica is prime contractor of the EuroFirst Consortium which features Thales in the UK and Tecnobit in Spain. In 2006, the Consortium was awarded with a contract to supply 200 PIRATE systems for the Tranche 2 of the Eurofighter in the various nations involved.

The value for Galileo Avionica of the programme, which includes Tranche 2 and Tranche 1, is around 200 million euros.

Combining its experience and leadership in electro-optical and firing systems, with the knowledge acquired in the development of the PIRATE, Galileo Avionica has developed a commercial version of the PIRATE, named IRST-C for other fighters requiring the same technologies for passive tracking of the targets.

Galileo Avionica has also developed a Naval version of the IRST which is the SASS (Silent Acquisition Surveillance System) installed for a session of trials on board the EURO Fregate and which will equip the unit of the Italian Navy, Cavour. SASS has also been selected for the Italian fregates in the frame of the Franco Italian programme FREMM.— ends —

EADS Barracuda

Europe’s largest and most secretive UCAV program

In February 2006, unofficial photo’s emerged of the EADS Barracuda – sometimes referred to as Barrakuda – unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator. The picture above shows German and Spanish flags on the tail, indicating a joint venture between the two countries’ militaries on the project.

According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel the Barracuda is developed as a reconnaissance aircraft, but could be modified to serve as a fighter/ strike drone as well. The aircraft had been shown to the head of the German air force. EADS is eager to enter a business that is currently dominated by the United States and Israel, Spiegel said.

The drone is said to be modelled after the highly successfull American Predator UAV. According to the paper the Barracuda would have made it’s maiden flight in February 2006, in a remote part of the Iberian Peninsula.

May 11 2006 – EADS Details Barracuda Program

On May 11, 2006 EADS finally released more details about the program, the Barracuda completed the first test phase in Spain with a 20 minute test flight. There had also been extensive ground tests, as you can tell by images on the right.

“With the first flight of our technology demonstrator for unmanned high performance military systems we have thrust the door wide open to one of the most promising future global markets in our branch,” said Dr. Stefan Zoller, the EADS Executive Committee member responsible for the company’s defence and security business. “We now have an additional, more powerful test platform at our disposal for the further development of our core technological competencies in this extremely important field,” Zoller continued.

Head of Operations at EADS Military Air Systems Dr. Rolf Wirtz details the demonstrator as followed: “The experimental system is eight metres long, has a wingspan of more than seven metres and a maximum take-off weight of just over three tonnes. The testbed is propelled by a jet turbine from Pratt & Whitney Canada which delivers 14 kN thrust. It operated entirely autonomously during its first flight, only being monitored for flight safety purposes from a ground station on the San Javier air base.”

With these specifications, the Barracuda UAV is Europe’s largest unmanned air vehicle.

Systems

The UAV uses many commercially available “off-the-shelf” components in it’s basic systems and many technological refinements.

A triplex flight control and navigation unit was developed to ensure failsafe and non-jammable data transmission between the UAV and the ground station.

With it’s modular structure, the Barracuda can carry a large variety of sensors, such as electro-optical (EO) and infrared sensors (IR), laser target designators, an Emitter Locator System (ELS) consisting of detectors for picking up radio-magnetic signals and also advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems, which can be integrated on the multisensor principle, being accommodated in the payload bay.

The Barracuda’s structure is made entirely from CFC’s and was manufactured on the basis of a new EADS patent at the company’s Augsburg plant.

EADS will put the Barracuda on display at the Berlin Air Show, which opens on Tuesday May 16.

September 2006 Crash & Future

During its second test flight the unmanned vehicle crashed as it was trying to land at the San Javier Air Force base, in Spain. A software problem was later determined to be the cause.

For a long time it was uncertain if EADS was going to build a new demonstrator. In early September 2007, chief executive of EADS’ Defence & Security division, Stefan Zoller, acknowledged they were not going to. However, a month later details emerged EADS was having discussions with the German Ministry of Defence to build an identical demonstrator vehicle.

“We will rebuild. It willl be the same configuration as the Barracuda I,” says Dr Peter Becher, vice-president autonomous airborne systems for EADS defence & Security.

Becher further detailed that the Barracuda II vechile will be used for the Agile UAV experiments and added they wanted to show that an UAV can be integrated into the command and control structure.

Defense bill provides $100M for FALCON hypersonic cruise vehicle – UPDATED

The Washington Post reports on a $100 million budget request for development of the FACLON hypersonic cruise vehicle (HCV) as part of the $459 billion defense appropriations bill.

Goal of the “prompt global strike” program, as the FALCON program is also known, is to provide the ability to deliver a conventional, precision-guided warhead anywhere in the world within two hours.

Funds from both the Navy’s Trident ICBM program and the USAF Common Aero Vehicle were taken away to support the FALCON program.

A summary of the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill can be downloaded here: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/DefenseSummaryFC.pdf (PDF). It includes a $4.1bn request for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development program, $2.4bn for the procurement of 12 F-35’s (6 for the Air Force and 6 for the Marine Corps) and a $3.1bn bill for 20 F-22 Raptors.

UPDATE: Section of the appropriations bill addressing the FALCON/Promt Global Strike (PGS) budget request:

The budget request included a total of $175.4 million for the Conventional Trident Modification (CTM), with $126.4 million in hard and deeply buried target defeat systems, PE 64327N; $36.0 million in Trident II modifications, Weapons Procurement, Navy (WPN) line 1; and $13.0 million in strategic systems missile equipment, Other Procurement, Navy (OPN) line 108. The budget request also included $32.8 million for the Common Aero Vehicle, PE 64856F.

The committee believes that a coordinated look at a variety of kinetic non-nuclear concepts is necessary to address the feasibility of a prompt global strike (PGS) capability and to review, in a coordinated fashion, technologies that would be common to such a capacity, including thermal protection, guidance navigation, and control issues. The committee recommends that the funds identified above be transferred to technical studies, support, and analysis, PE 65104D8Z, to be used to establish an integrated PGS research program. Requirements for the program should be provided by the United States Strategic Command as informed by the ongoing analysis of alternatives for PGS and the PGS technology roadmap.

In addition to the research areas mentioned above, research should include advanced propulsion, payload delivery and dispensing mechanisms, weapon system command and control, and advanced non-nuclear, kinetic, and other enabling capabilities.

The committee is aware of several potential options for non-nuclear prompt global strike, including the Army’s advanced hypersonic weapon technology demonstrator program, which is included on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s unfunded priority list in the amount of $41.7 million. The committee recommends that of the funds provided for PGS, $41.7 million be provided to begin sounding rocket and flight vehicle tests, and to support booster development for the Army’s advanced hypersonic weapon.

Other service program elements, including PE 63216F, aerospace propulsion and power technology, also include research and development areas that could be applied to the PGS mission. Included in the propulsion research and development efforts is the versatile, affordable advanced turbine engine high speed turbine engine demonstrator (HiSTED). The budget request included $2.5 million for this effort. The committee recommends an additional $10.0 million to allow the PGS effort to coordinate research and development activities with the Air Force HiSTED project.

The committee continues to believe that it is essential to maintain a bright line between legacy nuclear capabilities and any future PGS capability, and therefore recommends no funds for the CTM or other similar capability that could raise any nuclear ambiguity issues. The committee believes that PGS should be clearly and unambiguously non-nuclear.

The committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Commander of the Strategic Command, to submit a research plan for PGS for fiscal year 2008, including a funding plan, prior to initiating any PGS research.

FB-22 Fighter Bomber

FB-22 Fighter Bomber

The operational utility of bombers in the new, riskier battlefield of faster, smarter, and longer-ranged defences is one of the top reasons the Air Force is looking at the F-22 and a larger-winged, longer-ranged variant, the FB-22, as midterm strike possibilities, according to Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche.

“The F-22 … has about three times the range of any fighter-attack airplane, when loaded with weapons,” Roche said. Too often, he said, ranges are quoted for current aircraft that do not include the weight or drag of weapons carried externally. The F-22, with internal carriage of its full weapons load, can attack a target 600 miles away and return on internal fuel, Roche said.

Enhancing this capability by adding range and weapons load resulted in the idea for the FB-22, he said, describing it as a “regional bomber,” with a role comparable to that previously covered by the F-111.

The avionics are identical for the F-22 and an FB-22, said Roche, meaning that “one of the most troublesome things” about developing a new aircraft is done. Likewise, engines, the cockpit, and much of the airframe would be similar, and it would still be stealthy, dramatically reducing the cost to fill this new niche. Optimized for ground attack, though, the FB-22 would not be a dogfighter.

“Much bigger wing, more fuel, you can carry more things–but you can’t fight,” Roche summed up. The payoff would be “instead of carrying eight Small Diameter Bombs on the F-22, you can carry 30 on the FB-22,” with a range of 1,600 miles. Such a capability would, in a smaller aircraft, duplicate the fighting effectiveness of two B-2 bombers armed with 2,000-pound JDAM?s. Like the B-2, the FB-22 would carry two pilots, since missions could last more than 12 hours.

In a series or articles by Bill Sweetman for “Jane’s Defense Weekly” and Popular Science, the FB-22 s described as a tailless delta variant of the F-22. Yaw control would be provided by split flaps, or “decelerons” on the wings, while roll would be controlled by movable wingtips.

Rather than using the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney F119 engines, the FB-22 is likely to have either the new F135, which was developed from the F119 to power the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or the rival General Electric F136. In either event, the FB-22 would have greater speed than the B-1B, the fastest US bomber.

Because of the work already done on the F-22, developing the FB-22 might cost about $5 billion to $7 billion ? a fraction of the price for starting a bomber from scratch. FB-22 flights could begin by 2013. Starting a second final assembly line for the FB-22 at Boeing is under consideration, since Boeing makes the F-22’s wings.

United States of America USAF / DARPA FALCON Program

USAF / DARPA FALCON Program

In Nov 2003, DARPA and the USAF released contracts to start development for their FALCON program, which is an acronym for Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States.

It is to be developed in two parts with the SLV expected to be complete by 2010 and a HCV expected by 2025. Nine contractors were initially selected to perform a phase one level systems definition for the SLV.

Quick links:
Phase I – Phase II – Phase III }

The goal of the joint DARPA/Air Force Program is to develop and validate in flight technologies that will enable both near term and far term capability to demonstrate affordable and responsive space lift capabilities.

The SLV will be designed to place small satellites into a Sun Synchronous Orbit with a payload ranging from 200 Lbs up to 1000 Lbs at a 450 mile orbit at a 79 degree inclination.

In addition, a total launch cost of less than 5 million dollars or less is desired. Existing launch systems are costly and in limited supply so the solicitation specifically requested innovative technologies to reduce launch cost and improve launch responsiveness.

Emphasis will be on incremental flight-testing using a building block approach.

USAF wants to build the means to attack any target on the globe within 12 hours of an order to do so. That requirement stems from an April 2003 Air Staff study titled ‘Long-Range Global Precision Engagement.’ In it, the Air Force, working with the Joint Staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense, put strike capabilities into three categories: prompt global strike, prompt theater strike, and persistent area strike.

USAF believes the products of Falcon will fulfill, to a great degree, the prompt global strike element. The ability to conduct prompt global strike would dissuade or deter enemies because they would know that the US could ‘hold at risk or strike high-value targets anytime and anywhere on the globe,’ said the study. Such a technology would also eliminate the need for intratheater buildup before conducting a strike.

Phase I – System Definition (completed)

Task I – (SLV)

FALCON Phase I, Task 1 (SLV) contractors received between $350,000 and $540,000 each for their Phase I effort.
Task 1 contractors are listed below.

  • Air Launch LLC, Reno Nevada
  • Andrews Space Inc., Seattle Washington
  • Exquadrum Inc., Victorville California
  • KT Engineering, Huntsville Alabama
  • Lockheed Martin Corp., New Orleans Louisiana
  • Microcosm Inc., El Segundo California
  • Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles Virginia
  • Schafer Corp., Chelmsford Massachusetts
  • Space Exploration Technologies, El Segundo California

In FALCON Phase I Task 1 (SLV), contractors developed conceptual designs, performance predictions, cost objectives, and development and demonstration plans for the SLV. The SLV will provide a low-cost, responsive launch capability capable of placing a small satellite or other payload weighing approximately 1,000 pounds into a low Earth orbit at a total launch cost of less than $5,000,000 (excluding payload and payload integration costs).

Task II – (HWS)

FALCON Phase I, Task 2 (HWS), contractors received between $1,200,000 and $1,500,000 each for their Phase I efforts.

Task 2 contractors are listed below.

  • Andrews Space Inc., Seattle, Wash.
  • Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Palmdale, Calif.
  • Northrop Grumman Corp., Air Combat Systems, El Segundo, Calif.

In FALCON Phase I Task 2 (HWS), contractors developed conceptual designs, concepts of operations, and a demonstration plan and identify critical technologies for the Hypersonic Weapon Systems portion of the program, which includes the CAV, the ECAV, and the Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle.

The Common Aero Vehicle will be an unpowered, maneuverable, hypersonic glide vehicle capable of carrying approximately 1,000 pounds of munitions, with a range of approximately 3,000 nautical miles.

The Enhanced Common Aero Vehicle would be a more advanced design that offered substantially greater range and improved maneuverability.

The reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle will be an autonomous aircraft capable of taking off from a conventional military runway and striking targets 9,000 nautical miles distant in less than two hours.

Phase II – Design & Develop (2nd Quarter 2004 – 3rd Quarter 2007)Back to the top

Task I – (SLV)

In FALCON Phase II, the Task 1, SLV, objective is to demonstrate and flight-test all significant characteristics of the operational launch vehicle.

In 2005 competition for the Small Launch Vehicle program was narrowed to three companies: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), AirLaunch LLC, and Lockheed Martin Corp. A fourth Phase 2 competitor, Microcosm of El Segundo, CA, had broken up its subcontractor team on its assumption that it has lost out in the competition.

Phase II will develop an SLV design in parallel with CAV development. Coordination and information exchange between SLV and HWS contractors will take place during Phase II to integrate the physical and functional characteristics of the SLV and Enhanced CAV. Deliverables will include refinement of CONOPS for each SLV approach, a detailed flight demonstration plan of each booster system, and flight-test of a single low-cost booster design.

In June 2005 Lockheed Martin successfully test-fired a hybrid motor as part of the Falcon SLV program at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Edwards Air Force Base. It was the second SLV hybrid motor firing that Lockheed Martin had conducted.

In late September 2005, an AirLaunch LLC built mock QuickReach booster was released from an Air Force C-17A cargo plane. The C-17A flew to an altitude of 6,000 feet with the QuickReach booster inside the cargo bay resting on a pallet of upturned rubber wheels. As the aircraft turned nose up by six degrees, gravity pulled the test article across the upturned tires and out the aft cargo door. The test demonstrated the QuickReach release technology, including proof that the booster’s nose does not hit the C-17A roof as it leaves the aircraft. (Because the main body of the booster tilts down as it exits, this causes the portion of the booster still inside the C-17A to tilt up, but the flight test showed the nose does not tip up far enough to hit the cargo bay ceiling.)

In November 2005, Air Launch LLC announced that it had been selected for contract continuance by DARPA under Phase 2B of the Falcon SLV program. Valued at $17.8 million for a one-year effort, the Phase 2B contract activity enables AirLaunch and its team of contractors to continue development of the QuickReach small satellite booster.

Air Launch LLC completed a full scale stage separation test of its QuickReach small launch vehicle – the first major milestone of Phase 2B of the DARPA/Air Force Falcon program. This test convincingly demonstrated that the innovative gas pneumatic stage separation technique, pioneered by AirLaunch’s founder Gary C. Hudson, is practical and safe. Prior to this full scale test, AirLaunch performed detailed modeling and conducted a number of component and subscale tests.

SpaceX’s entry in the SLV competition is the Falcon 1, the smallest rocket of their Falcon family of launch vehicles. It’s first flight was sceduled in late 2005, but has been postponed several times. Finally on March 24, 2006 it was destroyed soon after take-off from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Task II – (HTV)

In FALCON Phase II, the Task 2, HTV, objective is to flight-test a CAV and develop critical designs for Enhanced CAV and HCV demonstration systems incorporating flight-ready hypersonic technologies.

After a Phase I evaluation of four competing CAV/HTV design proposals, Lockheed Martin received the sole Phase II contract in August 2004 to develop and build the HTVs for the Falcon program.

The initial HTV design (HTV-1) is to be flight tested using an existing booster in September 2007, and is planned to reach a speed of Mach 19 at 30-45 km (19-28 miles) altitude.
At the Arnold Engineering Development Center’s Tunnel 9 facility in White Oak, Md. mission-critical tests on the

TV-1 were completed in November 2005.

“The Tunnel 9 facility exactly duplicates the HTV-1 flight Reynolds number at Mach 10, and the large model size permits accurate flow field resolution…Tunnel 9 will provide the best quality data and the best return on the investment of test dollars and effort,” said Dr. Peter Erbland, the AFRL Air Vehicles scientific advisor.

Phase II will execute an integrated plan to evolve both CAV and HTV designs and mature associated critical technologies.

This task will mature key enabling technologies applicable to both the Enhanced CAV and the reusable HCV design.

Extensive analytical and experimental effort will be conducted to bring a suite of these technologies to flight-readiness (TRL = 6). The HTV design will be evolved further and performance predictions made based on the revised design.

The CAV, Enhanced CAV, and HTV demonstrator preliminary and critical designs will be developed and risk mitigation plans enforced for all flight experiments planned.

Coordination and information exchange between SLV and HTV contractors will take place during Phase II to integrate the physical and functional characteristics of the SLV and Enhanced CAV in preparation for an integrated SLV/Enhanced CAV flight test in Phase III.

The government’s decision to progress from Phase II to Phase III will, in part, be based on the delivered Phase II products which best address the below combination of information or events to meet the stated objectives:

  1. Successful flight demonstration of an affordable, responsive booster SLV.
  2. Successful 3,000 nautical mile, 800-second flight-test of the CAV demonstration system with a simulated unitary penetrator payload.
  3. An Enhanced CAV critical design that will demonstrate a 9,000 nautical mile, 3000 second mission capability.
  4. A HCV demonstrator critical design that incorporates at least three hypersonic technologies identified in Phase I; these three technologies will be developed to at least TRL = 6.

Phase III – Weapon System Demonstrations (3rd Quarter 2007 – 2009) Back to the top

Phase III will consist of a single task identified as Weapon System Demonstrations.

The objective is to flight-test an integrated SLV/Enhanced CAV system, and flight-test Enhanced CAV and HCV demonstrators to validate system and technology performance.

Phase III will be performed over a 30-month period during which the Enhanced CAV will be flown integrated with the SLV.

The CAV payload flown in the integrated CAV/SLV flight demonstration may be scaled relative to an operational CAV commensurate with the capabilities of the SLV flight demonstration system.

The balance of the Phase III effort will focus on demonstration of reusable technologies that are considered key to enabling future development of a hypersonic cruise vehicle.

Many of these same reusable technologies are expected to benefit Enhanced CAV designs as well. Key technologies will be integrated into an HCV demonstrator and flight-tested using a similar test approach taken in demonstrating the CAV.

Powered as well as unpowered versions of the HCV demonstrator may be tested to permit technology validation for longer duration flights and assessment of the implications of integrating propulsion systems with the vehicle design.

   

Boeing EA-18G Growlers Deployed by US Navy

Boeing EA-18G Growlers Deployed by US Navy

ST. LOUIS, Feb. 17, 2011 — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced that EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft have been deployed for the first time by the U.S. Navy.

“The men and women of Boeing are honored to see this new capability directly benefit the nation’s brave servicemembers around the world,” said Kory Mathews, vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs for Boeing. “The airborne electronic attack capability that the EA-18G brings to the fight is in high demand, so we are committed to continuing to deliver these aircraft to the Navy on budget and on schedule, just as we have with every F/A-18E/F.”

The EA-18G is the only air combat platform that delivers full-spectrum airborne electronic attack (AEA) capability along with the targeting and self-defense capabilities derived from the Navy’s frontline fighter, the F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet. A derivative of the two-seat F/A-18F Block II, the EA-18G’s highly flexible design enables warfighters to operate either from the deck of an aircraft carrier or from land-based airfields. It is replacing the Navy’s current AEA platform, the EA-6B Prowler, which has been in service since 1971. The EA-18G joined the Navy’s aircraft fleet in 2008, when it was introduced to fleet training squadron VAQ-129.

Boeing, acting as the weapon system integrator and prime contractor, leads the EA-18G Growler industry team, which also includes Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Electric Aircraft Engines.

Su-30MK

Su-30MK

The Su-30MK is a two-seat multirole fighter and air superiority aircraft. It is derived from the Su-27 Flanker family, and is comparable with the American F-15. According to the Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-30 can perform all tasks of the Su-24 and Su-27, while having around twice the combat range and 2.5 times the combat effectiveness.

Background

While the original Su-27 had good range, it still did not have enough range for certain air-defense tasks required by the PVO, and so prototypes were built of Su-27s featuring a retractable inflight refueling probe, similar to that fitted on the Su-27K / Su-33. The probe was offset to the left side of the nose, and to accommodate it the IRST was offset to the right. One single-seat prototype was built and designated “Su-27P”, and one twin-seat prototype was built and designated “Su-27PU”.

An Su-27UB dressed up as a demonstrator for the Su-30MK was displayed at the Paris Air Salon in 1993. It featured twelve stores attachments, including wingtip AAM launch rails, three pylons under each wing, a pylon under each engine nacelle, and two pylons in tandem in the “tunnel” between the engines. It was advertised as being able to carry 8 tonnes (8.8 tons) of external stores. Along with conventional dumb high-explosive and fuel-air explosive bombs, cluster munitions, and unguided rocket pods, it was to be able to carry:

  • Electro-optic guided munitions, such as the Kh-29T long-range air-to-surface missile (ASM); the Kh-59T short-range ASM; and the KAB-500Kr or KAB-1500Kr glide bombs.
  • The Kh-31P ramjet-powered antiradar missile, and potentially the Kh-31A antiship variant.
  • Laser-guided munitions, such as the Kh-29L ASM and the KAB-1500L glide bomb, with the aircraft carrying a targeting pod to guide these weapons.
  • Typical warloads would be four Kh-29, Kh-31, or KAB-500 class munitions; or a single KAB-1500 class munition.

A much more optimized Su-30MK demonstrator, rebuilt from the first production Su-27PU / Su-30, was displayed in 1994. Although Western observers shrugged it all off as an attempt to sell “old wine in new bottles”, the aircraft has proven to be a success.

Su-MKI

The Indian Air Force ordered 40 Su-30’s in 1996, which they though was cheaper than the Mirage-2000-5. The Su-30 was designed and optimised for an air defence role, and had to be modified to meet India’s requirements. The Indian Su-30 “MKI” version had to have further updated avionics, including a much improved radar and a high proportion of non-Russian kit; canard fins; and thrust-vectored engines. The deal also included the Russian Akash air-to-air missile.

The full-specification Su-30MKI did not even exist at the time the deal was cut, and so the 40 aircraft were delivered in what amounted to “blocks” of increasing capability, with early aircraft to be upgraded to full specification later. The initial block was punctually delivered in 1997 and consisted of eight “Su-30K” machines, which were basically similar to the Russian Su-27PU / Su-30.
While these deliveries were in progress, the Sukhoi organization was putting together the first Su-30MKI prototype, a conversion of an Su-27PU / Su-30, with this aircraft performing its first flight on 1 July 1997. It was essentially an airframe demonstrator, featuring:

  • Canards along with the appropriate leading-edge wingroot extension. The canards could move from +10 to -50 degrees and provided much improved control authority at high angles of attack.
  • New “AL-31FP” engines with 142.2 kN (14,500 kgp / 32,000 lbf) afterburning thrust each, and two-dimensional thrust vectoring. The exhausts were able to move 15 degrees above and below the central thrust line.
  • A new FBW system that made the best use of the canards and thrust vectoring.

The original Su-27 was agile for its size, but these improvements took the agility to a new level. Test pilot Vyacheslav Averyanov flew the prototype at an airshow in Bangalore in December 1998, but the demonstrator was lost in an accident in June 1999 in an appearance at the Paris Air Salon. A second Su-30MKI prototype, another conversion of an Su-27PU / Su-30, had performed its first flight on 23 March 1998, and the loss of the first prototype did not delay the program.

Instead of moving through successively improved blocks of machines, the IAF wanted to go straight from deliveries the Su-30K configuration to deliveries of the full Su-30MKI configuration. Since the full configuration wasn’t ready at that time, in the fall of 1998 India ordered another ten Su-30Ks, similar or identical to the original batch of eight, with the new batch delivered in 1999. This new batch was in addition to the original order for 40 machines, bringing the total to 50.

The first preproduction Su-30MKI performed its initial flight on 26 November 2000, with three more preproduction machines completed in 2001, with all four used in test, trials, and evaluation. A fifth preproduction machine was built but only used for ground tests. The first full production Su-30MKI performed its initial flight in late 2001, and the first batch of ten was delivered by An-124 in the summer of 2002. Deliveries were completed in December 2004.
Hindustani Aeronautics (HAL) is also contracted to build 140 aircraft in India between 2003 and 2017, under a licensed production agreement. The first indigenously assembled aircraft was delivered in November 2004.

Su-MKK/ Su-MK2 (J-11)

In December 2000, Russia announced it had supplied China with 10 two-seat Su-30MKK fighters. The MKK version is not similar to the Indian MKI version, it has, for example, no thrust-vectoring enginges and no canards.
The Su-30MKK has a modernized Russian-built avionics suite, including:

  • A Tikhonravov NIIP “N001VE” radar, an updated export version of the original N001 radar with air-to-air, air-to-ground, and navigation modes.
  • An OLS-30 optical sensor system and Sura-K helmet-mounted sight.
  • An L-150 Pastel ELINT set to provide radar warning and emitter targeting capabilities. Incidentally, one of the few distinctive recognition features of the Su-30MKK is that the tailfins have been increased in height and have flat, not angled, tips, with antennas for the Pastel set mounted in near the top rear of the tailfins.
  • An A-737 satellite navigation receiver, compatible with both the US GPS and Russian GLONASS satellite navigation systems, linked into a comprehensive navigation system. The Su-30MKK also carries modern radios, a datalink, and a video recorder system.
  • A glass cockpit, with a wide-angle HUD and two 15.8 x 21.1 centimeter (6.2 x 8.3 inch) flat panel displays for the pilot, and two similar flat-panel displays for the back-seater.

The avionics is linked together with considerable processing power using a digital databus scheme, with the aircraft’s fire-control system integrating the radar, optical sensor system, helmet-mounted sight, and IFF interrogator. The Su-30MKK also has slightly increased internal fuel tankage, as well as stronger landing gear and airframe reinforcement to handle increased takeoff weight.

Following the flight in March 1999 of a modified Su-27PU / Su-30 prototype to evaluate the new avionics suite, the first production Su-30MKK performed its initial flight on 19 May 1999, with Averyanov at the controls. The first ten machines were delivered in a block on 20 December 2000.

The remaining 28 in the order were delivered through 2001. The Chinese were very impressed with the fact that the contract had been fulfilled so well and quickly, and a year later China ordered 38 more Su-30MKKs, which were delivered during 2002 and 2003.

These 76 Su-30MKKs were for the Chinese air force. In January 2003, the Chinese navy ordered 28 more, with a modified radar and fire-control system for launching the Kh-31A antiship missile. These machines were given the designation of “Su-30MK2”. Deliveries may have begun in 2003 and more may have been ordere. All the Chinese Su-30MK derivatives are candidates for upgrades, such as improved radar or engines.

Su-MKM

In the spring of 2003, the Malaysian government signed an agreement to obtain 18 “Su-20MKM” fighters similar to the Indian Su-30MKI. They are expected to be much like the Su-30MKI, with canards and thrust-vectoring engines, but with a completely or largely Russian-built avionics suite. Deliveries of the MKM slipped from 2006 to early 2007, because Malaysia’s late selection of multifunction displays from Thales.
Sukhoi’s deputy general director Alexander Klementiev said Sukhoi plans to hand over Malaysia’s first batch of six Su-30MKMs next March and Klementiev says all 18 aircraft will be delivered “within one year”. Sukhoi will deliver ground support equipment, technical papers and training equipment by the end of this year.

Klementiev says Sukhoi is in discussion with several customers potentially interested in acquiring a similar configuration to the Su-30MKM, including Indonesia, which is negotiating the purchase of up to 14 aircraft.

RQ-4 Global Hawk

RQ-4 Global Hawk

Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4A/Global Hawk was selected in May 95 after a 6-month design competition among five vendors for DARPA’s Tier II+ High Altitude Endurance (HAE) UAV Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration.

The RQ4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial reconnaissance system designed to provide military field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas.

Northrop Grumman Corporation, Ryan Aeronautical Centre is the prime contractor of the Golbal hawk . The principal suppliers include Raytheon Systems (sensors), Rolls-Royce Allison (turbofan engine), Boeing North American (carbon fibre wing) and L3 Communications (communications system).

The Global Hawk air vehicles are built at the Northrop Grumman (formerly Teledyne Ryan) Aeronautical facility in San Diego.

Although the global hawk is build by Northrop Grumman at Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical center in San Diego, Raytheon developed the reconnaissance sensor suite for this high altitude endurance UAV. The suite includes a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors. Raytheon also supplies the mission control element (MCE) and launch and recovery element of the ground segment for the program.

Sensors

The Global Hawk Sensor Suite is able to operate for more than 40 hours from an altitude of over 21,000 meters, day and night, in any weather. The SAR can operate simultaneously with either the EO or the IR sensor to enable coverage of wide geographic areas. This capability provides commanders with situational awareness, targeting, and bomb damage assessment.

The EO sensor incorporates a third-generation IR sensor and a Kodak digital charge coupled device (CCD) visible wavelength camera. They provide image quality that enables users to distinguish types of vehicles, aircraft, and missiles.

The sensor system makes it possible to distinguish types of vehicle, aircraft and missile and it can look through adverse weather, day or night. It can search a 40,000-square- nautical-mile area in 24 hours with three-foot resolution, or search 1,900-two-kilometre-square spots with one-foot resolution.

The SAR has three imagery collection modes: a 0.3-meter resolution spot mode, a 1-meter resolution wide area search mode, and a 4-knot minimum detectable velocity moving target indicator (MTI) mode.

The MTI mode provides the position and speed of moving targets. SAR imagery, which is processed on board the Global Hawk UAV, and EO/IR imagery are transmitted via data link in near real time, over satellite or line-of-light communication paths, to the MCE of the ground segment.

The “bulge” at the top front surface of the fuselage which gives Global Hawk its distinctive appearance, houses the 48 inch Ku-band wideband satellite communications antenna.

Ground Stations

Global Hawk ground stations include the MCE and the LRE. The MCE is the Global Hawk’s ground control station for reconnaissance operations. It contains four workstations: mission planning, sensor data and processing, air vehicle command and control operator (CCO), and communications.

The LRE includes a mission planning function as well as air vehicle command and control. The complete MCE and the LRE is transportable in a single load on the C-5B transporter aircraft and in less than two loads on the C-17 transporter.

A differential GPS system permits precision take-off and landing to an accuracy of approx. 30 cm. The Global Hawk’s mission is to provide commanders in the field with near-real time high-resolution images.

In April 2001, Global Hawk made aviation history when it completed the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean by an unmanned, powered aircraft, flying from Edwards AFB, California, to the Royal Australian Air Force Base, Edinburgh, South Australia. Global Hawk successfully participated in a series of exercises with the RAAF, the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy.

Global Hawk can carry out reconnaissance missions in all types of operations. The 14,000 nautical mile range and 42 hour endurance of the air vehicle, combined with satellite and line-of-sight communication links to ground forces, permits world-wide operation of the system.

Versions

The first air vehicle in a new production lot of upgraded (Block 10) RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles made its maiden flight on July 1, 2004.

Designated AF-3, the newest Global Hawk flew from Northrop Grumman Corporation’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to the Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

“The first flight of AF-3 is a significant milestone for Global Hawk because it will be the first air vehicle from Lot 2 to be delivered to the Air Force with several combat-proven upgrades integrated into the system,” said Carl O. Johnson, Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk vice president and integrated product team leader.

AF-3 is part of Lot 2 of Global Hawk low-rate initial production and was delivered in July 2004.

In June 2006 the last RQ-4 Block 10 version was delivered to the 452nd Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base. The aircraft will undergo a series of acceptance and operational check flights before flying to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., to take its place as a fully operational reconnaissance aircraft.

In August 2006, the Air Force announced the Global Hawk achieved 10,000 flight hours by late June, with a ratio of combat flying hours to non-combat hours increasing to 63 percent of total flight hours.

RQ-4 Block 20 (RQ-4B)

The Block 20 Global Hawk represents a significant increase in capability over the Block 10 configuration. The larger Block 20 aircraft will carry up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload and will operate with two-and-a-half times the power of its predecessor. Its open system architecture, a so-called “plug-and-play” environment, will accommodate new sensors and communication systems as they are developed to help military customers quickly evaluate and adopt new technologies.

“Our Global Hawk customers, employees and industry teammates are committed to continuously deploy increased combat capability to the fight,” said Scott Seymour, Northrop Grumman corporate vice president and president of the Integrated Systems sector. “Production Global Hawks are serving in combat with distinction today, and the addition of the Block 20 to the fleet will build upon this success and pave the way for the ever increasing capabilities currently in work for future block deliveries.”

Following a final series of systems tests and a flight test program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the new Block 20 air vehicle will be delivered to the Air Force’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif.

The RQ-4B will accommodate a 50 percent increase in payload weight, and will feature a larger wingspan (130.9 feet), a longer fuselage (47.6 feet) and a new generator that can deliver 150 percent more electrical power.

The first Block 20 is the 17th Global Hawk air vehicle to be built. Northrop Grumman produced the first seven air vehicles under the advanced concept technology demonstration phase of the program. Nine Block 10 aircraft have been produced, including the two aircraft supporting the war on terrorism and two U.S. Navy aircraft operated under the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration program.

In late May 2006, Northrop was awarded $60 million for the low rate initial production lot 6. This includes five RQ-4B vehicles, three mission control elements, three launch recovery elements and support segments/spares.

 F-117A Nighthawk

F-117A Nighthawk

The Lockheed F-117A “Stealth” fighter in one of the most sophisticated warplanes ever built, almost invisible to radar, the F-117 has revolutionized air warfare.
At first, the aircraft was operated under conditions of total secrecy, but during the US intervention in Panama in 1990 and during the first Gulf War in 1991 the U.S. Air Force deployed it openly.

History

In 1974, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated a program known as PROJECT HARVEY, after a well-known comedy about an invisible giant rabbit, that requested designs of an “experimental survivable testbed (XST)” aircraft with a low RCS. Lockheed was not among the companies contacted by DARPA with this request, but in 1975 Ben Rich, an engineer who had worked on the secret Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft, got wind of the project and lobbied the government successfully to have Lockheed included.

Rich had the services of two Lockheed employees, mathematician Bill Schroeder and computer scientist Denys Overholser, to work on the XST program. Schroeder realized that it would be much easier to compute RCS if the shape of an aircraft could be reduced to a set of flat surfaces, or “facets”. Schroeder approached Overholser with the idea, and within five weeks Overholser had written a computer program named “Echo I” that could determine the RCS of a “faceted” aircraft. Armed with Echo I, Schroeder came up with an initial XST design that he called the “Hopeless Diamond”, and handed Ben Rich a sketch of it in May 1975.

In response, Rich asked how big the RCS of a practical version of the Hopeless Diamond would be: As big as a T-33? A Piper Cub? A condor? An eagle? An owl? Schroeder shot back: “Ben, try as big as an eagle’s eyeball.”

By October 1975, the DARPA XST competition had been reduced to two finalists: one from Northrop, and a refined version of the Lockheed Hopeless Diamond. The Northrop entry was a delta with a faceted fuselage, with the jet engine mounted on the back and the intake above the cockpit.

The Lockheed design had a tenth of the RCS of the Northrop design. It was so invisible to radar that a radar operator performing tests on the model at White Sands, New Mexico, thought it had fallen off the pole. Bird droppings increased the RCS by 50 percent, and so the model had to be regularly cleaned. Lockheed won the competition in April 1976. The Northrop team was heartbroken, even though their engineers admitted Lockheed had the better design. They returned to their calculations and would eventually catch up with Lockheed at the stealth game, with the B-2 Spirit bomber.

Have Blue

When the Carter Administration took office in early 1977, Bill Perry, an influential defense undersecretary for research and engineering and later defense secretary in the Clinton Administration, learned of how dramatic the results of the model tests had been. Perry immediately saw to it that program became secret. Responsibility was transferred from the mostly-civilian DARPA to the USAF Special Projects Office, and funding was increased. Orders went out stating that the word “stealth” was not be used in unclassified documents, and the program was assigned a meaningless two-word codename: HAVE BLUE.

The first of the two HAVE BLUE demonstrators was intended for aerodynamic tests. Faceting had an interesting consequence: unlike almost every other aircraft ever built, HAVE BLUE’s wings did not have a curved cross-section, being composed instead of flat planes. Its aerodynamics were suspicious, and in fact the machine was so unstable that it had to be controlled by a computerized fly-by-wire system. The first prototype was needed to ensure that the design could fly at all. The second would be a more finished product that would be used for stealth demonstrations.

The HAVE BLUE prototypes were 17.25 meters (38 feet) long, with a wingspan of 10.2 meters (22.5 feet) and a weight of 5.67 tonnes (12,500 pounds). Each was powered by a pair of General Electric J85-GE-4A engines with 13.1 kN (1,340 kgp / 2,950 lbf) each, obtained from Navy T-2B Buckeye trainers. Other scavenged equipment included the fly-by-wire system, modified from the F-16A fighter; and ejection seat, landing gear, and cockpit instrumentation taken from an F-5 fighter.

Senior Trend

The Air Force was impressed by the flight tests of the HAVE BLUE 1001 test aircraft, and in mid-1978 Lockheed suggested two designs for an actual weapons system: a medium bomber with four engines and a two-man crew, and a single-seat twin-engine strike fighter. The Air Force preferred the strike fighter concept, and issued a design contract to Lockheed for such an aircraft in November 1978. The aircraft was given the code name ‘Senior Trend’.

The Senior Trend aircraft was a direct outgrowth of the HAVE BLUE prototypes, with many changes to turn the design into a practical combat aircraft. HAVE BLUE’s wings had a sharp sweep of 72.5 degrees, which gave it the flatiron flight characteristics that had led to the loss of the first prototype. As a result, the sweep of Senior Trend’s wings was reduced to 67.5 degrees, and the wings were extended as far back as possible.

Senior Trend was about twice as big as HAVE BLUE. It was 20 meters (65.9 feet) long, with a wingspan of 13.2 meters (43.25 feet), and an empty weight of 13.6 tonnes (30,000 pounds). The canopy was heavily framed and had poor visibility. The mid-air refueling receptacle was positioned behind the cockpit. The door over the receptacle had serrated edges to reduce radar reflection, as did the landing gear doors and canopy leading edge.

Senior Trend was mostly built out of aluminum, though titanium was used around the engines. It was powered by twin General Electric F404-GE-F1D2 turbofans, like those of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter but without afterburners, providing 48.1 kN (4,900 kgp / 10,800 lbf) thrust each. The intakes were covered by grilles, which were electrically heated to prevent them from icing up. The pilot could also activate lights on either side of the cockpit to allow him to check the intake grilles for icing.

The first production aircraft, number 785, was delivered to Groom Lake in the spring of 1982. It crashed and was destroyed on take-off on 20 April, badly injuring the pilot, Bob Ridenauer of Lockheed, who never flew again. The accident was traced to reversed wiring in the flight control system. Number 786 was delivered to Groom Lake in June and used for flight testing.

Senior Trend 787 was the first of the black aircraft to be flown by the 4450th Tactical Group, making its first operational flight on 15 October 1982. By Christmas, several more Senior Trend’s had been delivered to TTR, and the F-117A Nighthawk, as the aircraft had been formally named, was in business.

F-117A Nighthawk

As the F-117s trickled into Tonopah, operations evolved into a schedule. Flight crews were shuttled there each Monday afternoon on a chartered airliner from Nellis Air Force Base, after spending the weekend home with their families. On arriving at Tonopah, they would be given a briefing on the night’s mission.

Hangar doors were not opened until an hour after dark. For the first year of operations, flight operations were restricted to the Nellis range. Permission to perform off-range operations had to be given by the President himself. Flight routes were defined to avoid populated areas, and some routes were not used if the Moon was more than 50% full. Pilot communications and transponder signals were defined so that the aircraft mimicked an A-7.

Training flights were conducted in two waves, one early and one late in the night. The missions simulated precision strikes on local targets, such as the crossroads of two dirt roads or a shanty in the wilderness. The missions ended before sunrise, since it was found that a pilot found it hard to go to sleep if he went to bed after sunrise.

The enthusiasm for the F-117 grew to the point where the Air Force wanted more of them. The original plan had been for a single squadron of 18 aircraft, organized for special operations, but the plan was expanded to an entire wing, with three 18-aircraft squadrons. Lockheed would build a total of 59 production F-117s, with the second squadron activated in July 1983, and the third going into operation in October 1985. A total of over $6 billion USD would be spent building the F-117s.

Desert Storm

During Operation Desert Storm F-117’s were stationed at King Khaled Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Their new home was at the southern tip of Saudi Arabia, well out of range of Iraqi Scud tactical ballistic missiles, and was well-equipped with hardened shelters. It became known as “Tonopah East”, with the similarities in environment possibly being a factor in the selection of the name. The F-117 pilots soon began an intensive training program, since few of the pilots had combat experience in any sort of aircraft.

On 12 January 1991, the US Congress voted to allow the use of force to remove the Iraqis from Kuwait, in support of a UN resolution demanding that Saddam pull out of the country. On 15 January, the deadline specified by the UN resolution expired. The next day, F-117 pilots were briefed for their strikes. During the operation, the 40 assigned F-117’s flew almost 1,300 combat sorties. They dropped almost 2,000 tons of bombs, during 6,900 flight hours.

Retirement

In February 2006, the Pentagon proposed to speed up retirement of the F-117 Nighthawk and U-2 spy plane to save about $2 billion. To make room for the new F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, and the unmanned reconnaissance drone RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Pentagon wil retire all 52 F-117s in 2008 and the U-2s by 2011.