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US Air Force’s next-generation fighter inches forward with a new program head
03 Oct 2019
By: Valerie Insinna  
1 hour ago

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This rendering of a Next Generation Air Dominance aircraft, by Lockheed Martin, shows a tailless stealthy future fighter. (Lockheed Martin)


OMAHA, Neb. — The U.S. Air Force is taking a gamble on its future fighter, with officials hoping to rapidly produce a family of jets known as the “Digital Century Series” using digital engineering and other technology breakthroughs. On Oct. 2, that effort took a step forward as the service stood up a new program office responsible for developing its next-generation fighter aircraft.

Col. Dale White, most recently the program executive officer for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and special operations forces, will be in charge of the new Program Executive Office for Advanced Aircraft, the Air Force said in a statement.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition executive, said White had been chosen to lead the program based on his out-of-the-box thinking.

“I am turning to this program and to Dale in particular to find a way to bring the best technical expertise that we have to bear, to understand industry’s business case — because if it’s not good for industry it’s not going to happen — to see if there’s a way we can continue innovating, doing things smaller, faster, more agile where you don’t have to necessarily be a company that can build a thousand things to work with us,” Roper said during a ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “I have the utmost confidence that if there’s a ‘yes’ to be found in this universe, [White] will find it.”

White formerly held assignments at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Headquarters Air Intelligence Agency and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, where he was the senior materiel leader and system program director for the B-21 bomber program.

“The mission placed before our team today will be tough, but is a must-do to keep this nation on solid footing on a global stage,” White said. “We are no longer assured the super power prominence we once held, and we are now forced to reach back to our roots and relearn those attributes that made us the nation we are today. For those that will be part of the new team, thank you for what you’ve done and what you will do.”

As head of PEO Advanced Aircraft, White will oversee not only the development of new airframes, but also a number of subsystems under development as part of the Next Generation Air Dominance program. While the Air Force hasn’t disclosed how it is investing funds for the NGAD program, officials have alluded to parallel development and prototyping efforts that could yield advanced new weapons, engines and mission systems.

Defense News was first to report on the Air Force’s new approach to fighter development. Instead of having fighter manufacturers compete for the opportunity to produce a single, exquisite air superiority platform, the idea is to fund the development of multiple fighters using new, cost-saving techniques like agile software development, open architecture and digital engineering, Roper said in a September interview. The Air Force would then choose one vendor to produce a small batch of the most viable aircraft, but keep the other manufacturer on contract to continue iterating on its design.

The benefit to such an approach? Increased competition among vendors and the ability to field a new fighter jet with the latest technology every five years or so.

“Based on what industry thinks they can do and what my team will tell me, we will need to set a cadence of how fast we think we build a new airplane from scratch. Right now, my estimate is five years. I may be wrong,” Roper said in September. “I’m hoping we can get faster than that — I think that will be insufficient in the long term [to meet future threats] — but five years is so much better than where we are now with normal acquisition.”

White’s first task will be to create an acquisition strategy that lays out whether the Digital Century Series is viable and how much it will cost to keep multiple fighter manufacturers — including incumbents like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, former builders of fighter jets like Northrop Grumman, and potentially new entrants — continually working with the Air Force on new designs.

In response to follow-up questions from Defense News, Roper said he would like to see an initial strategy in six months, with a final strategy coming three months after that.
 

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U.S. Air Force awards $600 million contract for next-generation area attack weapon
October 03, 2019

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The U.S. Air Force awarded Faxon Machining Inc. with a new $600 million contract for next-generation area attack warhead.
Per the contract, the U.S. defense contractor will provide “procurement of 15,000 BLU-136/B next-generation area attack warhead cases”.
Work will be performed at Cincinnati, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Indiana, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2026.

According to the current information, the BLU-136/B is a 2,000 lb.-class bomb designed to rain down metal fragments on enemy forces as a replacement for cluster munitions, without leaving behind unexploded ordnance. This weapon is four-times the size of the BLU-134/B Improved Lethality Warhead, which is now being put into production.

The publication UPI.com reported Wednesday that the next-generation area attack weapon is a replacement for cluster munitions, which are being phased out by the Pentagon, according to a 2008 directive, because they leave unexploded ordnance and can harm civilian populations.
Cluster munitions are a type of weapon that has been banned by 102 countries largely because of concerns that they armed and unexploded cluster munitions left on the battlefield pose a long-term hazard to civilians. A 2010 international treaty outlaws the use of cluster bombs, but the U.S. is not a signatory. Although, in practice, the U.S. rarely uses cluster bombs.
 

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Air Force Test-Launches Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
2 Oct 2019
The Associated Press
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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 2:42 A.M. Pacific Time May 1, 2019, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aubree Milks)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The U.S. Air Force has tested an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile with a launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The missile lifted off at 1:13 a.m. Wednesday from the base northwest of Los Angeles and sent a test reentry vehicle on a 4,200-mile (6,760-kilometer) flight over the Pacific Ocean to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

An Air Force Global Strike Command statement says such tests demonstrate the capability of the intercontinental ballistic missile system and are not a response to world events or regional tensions.

The launch was conducted by a team of airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
 

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At Least 22 Paratroopers Hurt in Parachute Training at Camp Shelby
3 Oct 2019
The Associated Press

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Jumpmasters with 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (A), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, hook-up their static lines to the steel wire as they practice actions-on-the-aircraft during airborne sustainment training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, 1 Oct., 2019. (U.S. Army photo/Alex Skripnichuk)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — At least 22 soldiers training at a Mississippi military base have been injured during a night parachuting exercise.

U.S. Army spokesman John Pennell tells WDAM-TV that at least 15 people hurt at Camp Shelby were treated by medics and another seven were hospitalized. Staff Sgt. John Healy says none of the injuries are considered to be life-threatening. Camp Shelby Cmdr. Col. Bobby Ginn says the troopers belong to the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division stationed at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.

Pennell says about 89 paratroopers were on the plane for the Wednesday night exercise. Ginn says the soldiers jumped from a C-130 aircraft and were blown off-course from their intended landing zone and into a group of pine trees. Several were entangled in the trees and had to be rescued.

Healy says about 650 soldiers were involved in the exercise. About 3,000 troops from the Alaska base are at monthlong training at Camp Shelby called “Operation Arctic Anvil.”
 

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USS Oregon, an Attack Sub, to Be Christened This Weekend
03 Oct 2019
The Associated Press

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The Virginia-class nuclear submarine USS John Warner navigates in the Mediterranean Sea on March 5, 2018, during an exercise. After completing this exercise, the submarine passed near the Bay of Naples, causing the city's mayor to complain that it had violated a nuclear-free zone. (U.S. NAVY)

GROTON, Conn. — When the USS Oregon, a Navy’s newest attack submarine, is christened this weekend, it will be splashed with liquids from Oregon.

The Pentagon says the submarine will be christened Saturday at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut.

Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, said he will attend as keynote speaker.
He said the submarine will be christened with water from Crater Lake and wine from Oregon.

Oregon, a Virginia-class submarine, is the third U.S. Navy ship to honor the state.

Virginia-class submarines are built to conduct anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operation forces support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. The Pentagon says they have stealth, endurance, mobility and firepower.
 

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US Approves $39M Sale of Anti-Tank Missiles to Ukraine
2 Oct 2019
The Associated Press | By Lisa Mascaro

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A U.S. Army paratrooper assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, fires an FGM-148 Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile during a combined arms live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, on Aug. 21, 2019. (Army photo by Sgt. Henry Villarama)

WASHINGTON -- Congress and the State Department have given initial approval to a $39 million sale of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to help the country battle Russia-backed separatists, officials said Tuesday.

Congressional aides said final approval of the sale of the Javelin missiles is expected to be announced soon after both Republicans and Democrats signed off on the proposal. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the sale is not final.

It was first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg News. The State Department declined to comment.

Ukraine requested the missiles earlier this year. It is not part of the aid that was delayed as President Donald Trump pressed the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival.

The Javelin missile is manufactured by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, based in North Bethesda, Maryland, and Raytheon Co., which has its headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The U.S. has been providing military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded following the ouster of a Kremlin-backed president in 2014.
 

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Multiple Fatalities After WWII-Era B-17 'Flying Fortress' Crashes in Flames
2 Oct 2019

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FILE -- In this photo taken June 2, 2018 photo, the Nine-O-Nine, a Collings Foundation B-17 Flying Fortress taxis after landing at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A restored World War II-era B-17 "Flying Fortress" crashed in flames Wednesday morning while attempting an emergency landing at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, resulting in what authorities described as multiple fatalities.

The crash at the airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, was the latest in a number of fatal accidents involving vintage aircraft. The aircraft participate in touring displays and air shows, sometimes offering rides to the public.

At a news conference, Connecticut authorities said there were fatalities among the crew of three and 10 passengers aboard the B-17, but did not say how many.

The Hartford Courant, citing sources, said at least five people were killed and nine injured when the B-17 skidded while attempting to land. The plane crashed into an airport building shortly before 10 a.m., sending up a fireball and pillars of smoke. At least one person on the ground was reported to be injured, state public safety Commissioner James Rovella told the paper.

At the news conference, Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said the B-17 took off at about 9:45 a.m. About five minutes later, the pilot radioed the tower that he was experiencing an as-yet undefined problem, he added.

"We did observe that the aircraft was not getting any altitude," Dillon said.

The pilot swung the aircraft around and attempted to land but "obviously lost control" when the plane hit the runway, according to Dillon.

In a posting immediately after the crash, airport officials said, "We can confirm that there was an accident involving a Collings Foundation World War II aircraft [Wednesday] morning at Bradley Airport.

"We have an active fire and rescue operation underway" and "the airport is closed," the officials said.

A Hartford Hospital spokesman said the facility had received six patients injured in the crash, one by Life Star helicopter, but did not disclose their conditions.

The B-17 that crashed in Connecticut was part of a tribute to WWII veterans in the Collings Foundation's "Wings of Freedom" tour, which also features a B-24 Liberator bomber, a P-51 Mustang fighter and a B-25 Mitchell bomber.

The nonprofit Collings Foundation, based in Stow, Massachusetts, is dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage aircraft and automobiles.
"Such an unfortunate situation with an historic aircraft," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said via Twitter. He said several state agencies had responded to the scene.

The four-prop Boeing B-17s were a mainstay of the air campaign against Nazi Germany and became a symbol of U.S. air power and strategic bombing dominance.

The most recent fatal crash of a vintage aircraft occurred in Fredericksburg, Texas, in November 2018. The pilot and a passenger, a World War II veteran, in a P-51 Mustang fighter were killed when the plane, which had just participated in a flyby, crashed into the parking lot of a housing complex.

In September 2011, a P-51 Mustang participating in the Reno Air Races in Nevada crashed into the crowd, killing the pilot and 10 spectators and injuring 69.

Also in 2011, a restored B-17 known as the "Liberty Belle" made an emergency crash landing in a field near Oswego, Illinois, when one of its engines caught fire.

One person aboard was slightly injured, but another six managed to escape before the aircraft burst into flames, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

The "Liberty Belle" was owned by the Liberty Foundation, another nonprofit that participates in air shows and offers rides to the public on vintage aircraft.
 

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Lockheed nets $163.9M to support space-based infrared system
The SBIRS contributes to the missile defense system, contributing early warning, defense, awareness and technical intelligence to both the defense and intelligence communities.
Oct. 3, 2019
By Sommer Brokaw

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Lockheed Martin will continue to support the SBIRS system as the next-generation version -- the Overhead Persistent Infrared system -- is under development. Photo of SBIRS courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has been awarded nearly $163.9 million for support of the space based infrared system.

The contract, awarded specifically to the company's Lockheed Martin Space division on Wednesday by the Department of Defense, covers SBIRS contractor logistics support.

The SBIRS provides early missile warning for the U.S. military through infrared surveillance. It evolved from the Defense Support Program to meet requirements of defense and intelligence communities as part of the missile defense system. It also provides battlespace awareness and technical intelligence for both communities.

"The SBIRS program consists of space segment Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellites, Highly Elliptical Orbit sensors riding on host satellites, legacy DSP satellites, and the associated world-wide deployed ground systems," according to the U.S. Air Force Space Command.

The SBIRS will eventually be replaced by the Pentagon's Next Gen Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites, which will include large GEO satellites and cheaper, smaller satellite operating in low earth orbit, the Air Force's Space and Missile System Center confirmed a couple weeks ago.

The new OPIR system is under development by Lockheed Martin, as well as subcontractors Raytheon and Northrop Grumman-Ball Aerospace, and "the program remains on track to achieve a GEO space vehicle delivery by fiscal year 2025," the Air Force said in June.

Work under the new contract will be performed at Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, Greeley Air National Guard Station, all of which are in Colorado, in addition to work done in Boulder, Colo. and outside the continental United States.
 

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Northrop Grumman to upgrade 17 Joint STARS legacy radar surveillance aircraft in half-billion-dollar deal
Joint STARS is a modified Boeing 707 single-aisle commercial passenger jet that detects, classifies, tracks, and targets hostile ground movements.
by John Keller


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ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Surveillance radar experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. will upgrade and maintain 17 E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft under terms of a contract announced Friday worth nearly a half billion dollars.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., are awarding a $495 million contract to the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems segment in Melbourne, Fla., to modernize and sustain 16 mission and one trainer Joint STARS aircraft.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Joint STARS, a modified Boeing 707 single-aisle commercial passenger jet that detects, locates, classifies, tracks, and targets hostile ground movements, and communications real-time information through secure data links.

Joint STARS uses a sophisticated radar system that can scan an entire region and then send the data to a computer which analyzes movement and alerts reconnaissance specialists of any suspicious activity in near-real time.

Operators onboard the aircraft can provide ground and air commanders with command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information on ground-based enemy activities from hundreds of miles away.

With the ability to see vehicle movement around the clock and in any weather conditions, the system provides information to ground and air commanders that enable friendly forces to delay, disrupt, and destroy their enemy.

The reliability, fuel efficiency, and increased operational effectiveness inherent in the engine upgrade translates to increased Joint STARS availability to the warfighter and decreased costs. Replacing all of the engines in the Joint STARS fleet will pay for itself through the reduced operation and maintenance costs of the current engines.

The Joint STARS aircraft started receiving new Pratt & Whitney's JT-8D-219 jet engines in 2008 to provide added power generation for future upgrades to the radar sensor and mission equipment. An Air Force study indicated the fleet could stay in service beyond 2050 because of the investment made when the airframes were refurbished during production.

Despite the upgrades to the Joint STARS over the past several years, some defense experts say the aircraft is a prime target for budget cuts in the 2021 U.S. defense budget, which should be presented to Congress next February.

The aircraft is based on an airframe from the 1950s and '60s, and is fantastically expensive to operate. With advances in electronics miniaturization and performance, the plane could be replaced with a new system based on a business jet configuration, which could help reduce costs and manning requirements.

On this contract Northrop Grumman will do the job at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and should be finished by September 2024.
 

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General Atomics awarded $12.5M for EMALS work on Navy's aircraft carriers
The contract covers repairs of electromagnetic aircraft launch systems and advanced arresting gear developed for the U.S. Navy's Ford-class aircraft carriers.
Oct. 4, 2019
By Ed Adamczyk

General Atomics received a $12.5 million contract on Thursday for repair work on the U.S. Navy's EMALS and AAG aircraft systems, including those aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, pictured. Photo by MCS2 Ridge Leoni/U.S. Navy/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- General Atomics won a $12.5 million contract modification for repairs to the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems and advanced arresting gear on Ford-class carriers of the U.S. Navy, the Defense Department announced.

The contract, announced Thursday, calls for "repair of repairables" and technical assistance regarding the return to operational status of aircraft carriers' EMALS and advanced arresting gear.

The new deal follows a series of contracts under which the San Diego-based company is involved in converting steam-powered catapults on Nimitz-class carriers to linear induction electric motors to launch aircraft. Tests have indicated that numerous modifications need to be made to the system.

EMALS was developed for the Navy's Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. The USS John F. Kennedy, USS Enterprise and USS Gerald R. Ford are scheduled to install and use the modification.

The new process of launching aircraft from aircraft carriers, and safely capturing them when they return in an "arrested landing," reduces stress on launched airframes, costs less to operate, is capable of launching a wide range of aircraft weights and reduces a need for desalinization to obtain fresh water.

The software-controlled AAG consists of energy absorbers, power conditioning equipment and digital controls, with lower maintenance and manpower requirements. It is designed to provide high reliability and safety margins, and allows the arrest of a greater range of aircraft and reducing the planes' fatigue impact load.

In tests aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, EMALS-equipped catapults failed 10 times in 747 launches, far below the threshold of acceptance, and tests were pushed back two years because of reliability issues.

The new contract specifies that work will be completed by September 2020.

 

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U.S. Air Force conducts first operational testing of newest air-to-air missile
October 5, 2019

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Fighter jet pilots from 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron and 433rd Weapons School participated in Combat Archer exercise for the first operational testing of the newest AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

According to a recent Air Force news release, Combat Archer, which is held at Tyndall AFB, Florida, is the Department of Defense’s largest air-to-air live-fire missile employment exercise and a portion of the 53rd Wing’s Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP).

“Historically, WSEP has always been focused on evaluating fielded weapons systems,” said Lt. Col. Vaimana Conner, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander. “However, in order to bring capabilities faster to the warfighter, WSEP has adapted to incorporate operational testing aircraft and weapons.”

For Nellis’ aircraft, this exercise was the first employment of the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, a technologically advanced version of its predecessor, the AIM-9. The new system includes infrared-tracking, air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities, making it a better fit for fighter aircraft. The 422nd TES aircraft capitalized on the exercise to complete test objectives focused on the compatibility of the F-15C and F-15E aircraft and weapons software programs.

The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is the most advanced infrared-tracking, short-range, air-to-air and surface-to-air missile in the world. It is configured for easy installation on a wide range of modern aircraft, including the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, E/A-18G, F-22 and F-35 fighters.

“The purpose of this exercise was to evaluate the full spectrum of air-to-air employment,” said Conner. “It included weapons loading, aircraft generation, weapons integration, aircrew employment and weapons effectiveness, ensuring streamlined efforts across the test and evaluation enterprise.”

F-15C and F-22 weapons officers employed their weapons and fired their guns against an Aerial Gunnery Targeting System towed by an 82d Aerial Targets Squadron QF-16 aircraft.

“Combat Archer is the only opportunity for units to load and employ air-to-air weapons – the test and training range near Tyndall is the only air space that can support this type of large-scale event,” said Conner. “It’s a critical element of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School syllabus. Future weapons officers are able to gain invaluable expertise they can take back to their squadrons.”

The 83rd FWS hosts approximately 38 air-to-air WSEP deployments annually to verify weapons system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, and maintain combat DoD-wide data in order to determine future firing requirements.
 

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Marine’s newest F-35B turns amphibious assault ship into light aircraft carrier
October 5, 2019

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The United States Marine Corps fighter attack squadron made history when its dozen new supersonic-capable F-35B Lightning II stealth jets landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during routine training in the Eastern Pacific.

F-35B jets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), completed a new milestone and confirmed its ability to turn amphibious assault ship into a light aircraft carrier.

3rd MAW demonstrated its capable of conducting missions across the range of military operations and showed that future air wing of amphibious assault ships will be far more versatile.

America is the fourth ship named “America” and the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships. It is optimized for aviation, and is capable of supporting the tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey and the Navy’s newest F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

According to the current information, the amphibious assault ship USS America designed as the flagship of an amphibious ready group, carrying part of a Marine expeditionary unit into battle and putting them ashore with dozen V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, supported by six F-35B Lightning II. But recently training showed that the 45,000 tons amphibious assault ship can be transformed into a light aircraft carrier when configured with 20 F-35B strike fighters.

The ship’s design features several aviation capabilities enhanced beyond previous amphibious assault ships which include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment, as well as increased aviation fuel capacity.

America, the first ship of its class, is an aviation-centric platform that incorporates key design elements to accommodate the fifth-generation fighter.
The combination of stealth tactics and fully-loaded strike aircraft increases the lethality of the F-35B, enabling greater contribution and combat effectiveness by the Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit Team.

Early, the service officials said that the F-35 Lightning II is the most versatile, agile, and technologically-advanced aircraft in the skies today, enabling our Corps to be the nation’s force in readiness — regardless of the threat, and regardless of the location of the battle.

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U.S. Air Force scientists developed liquid metal which autonomously changes structure
October 5, 2019

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As reported by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, military scientists have developed a “Terminator-like” liquid metal that can autonomously change the structure, just like in a Hollywood movie.

The scientists developed liquid metal systems for stretchable electronics – that can be bent, folded, crumpled and stretched – are major research areas towards next-generation military devices.

Conductive materials change their properties as they are strained or stretched. Typically, electrical conductivity decreases and resistance increases with stretching.

The material recently developed by Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) scientists, called Polymerized Liquid Metal Networks, does just the opposite. These liquid metal networks can be strained up to 700%, autonomously respond to that strain to keep the resistance between those two states virtually the same, and still return to their original state. It is all due to the self-organized nanostructure within the material that performs these responses automatically.

“This response to stretching is the exact opposite of what you would expect,” said Dr. Christopher Tabor, AFRL lead research scientist on the project. “Typically a material will increase in resistance as it is stretched simply because the current has to pass through more material. Experimenting with these liquid metal systems and seeing the opposite response was completely unexpected and frankly unbelievable until we understood what was going on.”

Wires maintaining their properties under these different kinds of mechanical conditions have many applications, such as next-generation wearable electronics. For instance, the material could be integrated into a long-sleeve garment and used for transferring power through the shirt and across the body in a way that bending an elbow or rotating a shoulder won’t change the power transferred.

AFRL researchers also evaluated the material’s heating properties in a form factor resembling a heated glove. They measured thermal response with sustained finger movement and retained a nearly constant temperature with a constant applied voltage, unlike current state-of-the-art stretchable heaters that lose substantial thermal power generation when strained due to the resistance changes.

This project started within the last year and was developed in AFRL with fundamental research dollars from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. It is currently being explored for further development in partnership with both private companies and universities. Working with companies on cooperative research is beneficial because they take early systems that function well in the lab and optimize them for potential scale up. In this case, they will enable integration of these materials into textiles that can serve to monitor and augment human performance.

The researchers start with individual particles of liquid metal enclosed in a shell, which resemble water balloons. Each particle is then chemically tethered to the next one through a polymerization process, akin to adding links into a chain; in that way all of the particles are connected to each other.

As the connected liquid metal particles are strained, the particles tear open and liquid metal spills out. Connections form to give the system both conductivity and inherent stretchability. During each stretching cycle after the first, the conductivity increases and returns back to normal. To top it off, there is no detection of fatigue after 10,000 cycles.

“The discovery of Polymerized Liquid Metal Networks is ideal for stretchable power delivery, sensing and circuitry,” said Capt. Carl Thrasher, research chemist within the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at AFRL and lead author on the Journal Article. “Human interfacing systems will be able to operate continuously, weigh less, and deliver more power with this technology.”

“We think this is really exciting for a multitude of applications,” he added. “This is something that isn’t available on the market today so we are really excited to introduce this to the world and spread the word.”
 

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U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons take to the sky in massive aircraft launch
October 4, 2019

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U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons have demonstrated an “Elephant Walk” as they taxi down a runway during an exercise at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

The air crews assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing participated in a Show of Forces training event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Oct. 1, 2019, which displayed the rapid mobility capabilities and teamwork of the men and women at the 52nd FW.

“AMXS is tasked with generating all available aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Klucar, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. “We are prepared to showcase to our allies and adversaries what our capabilities consist of.”

This event exhibited the 52nd FW’s ability to generate large number of aircraft, and is an effective deterrent to emerging competitors by demonstrating a show of force.

“This is an opportunity for us to show the force we have and how fast we can get our aircraft prepared,” said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Yates, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron/480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit lead production superintendent.

Aircraft taxied in waves of two to four in order to ease congestion at the end of runway after launching out of the protective aircraft shelters located on the flight line.

Many different squadrons were involved in the planning and execution of this training event to make it a success.

“This event took a lot of coordination and it’s fulfilling to see multiple sections work together as a cohesive machine to make the mission successful,” said Klucar. “Figuring out the parking plans, recovery plans, and aircraft coordination all play a part.”

All available aircraft were able to taxi onto the runway and prepare for takeoff. The joy of completing the mission had many Airmen feeling accomplished.

“This training had a great positive impact on all the Airmen that participated,” Klucar continued. “The goal we set out for everyday is to see the jets taxi on their way to complete the mission. Many don’t know the amount of hard work it takes to get a jet in the air, so an achievement such as this, getting that many jets generated to launch, gives us great satisfaction.”

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Khafee

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U.S. Navy says goodbye to a legendary F/A-18C Hornet jet aircraft
October 5, 2019

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For decades, the F/A-18C Hornet aircraft was the primary fighter and attack aircraft of the U.S. Navy. The aircraft was used in the Navy as a fighter escort and for fleet air defense; in its attack mode, it is used for force projection, interdiction and close and deep air support.
On 2 October, the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station.

“Today marked the final United States Navy F/A-18C Operational Hornet flight,” said the Commodore, Command Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Capt. Brian Becker.

The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.

This legendary aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its’ entire 31 years of service. Aircraft number 300, assigned to VFA 106 at Cecil Field Florida, completed it first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988.

Becker said the F/A-18C aircraft has served admirably for over 30 years and highlighted its history in naval aviation.
“Its technological innovation was continued on the F/A-18 E/F/G aircraft and helped the U.S. Navy transition from 4th to 5th generation aircraft,” said Becker.

During the last year, VFA-106 has transferred over 50 F/A-18 Hornets to various Navy Reserve and U.S. Marine aviation commands, as well as, being placed in preservation for future use if needed.

Both the F/A-18A and F/A-18C Hornet variants have been replaced by the updated F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

For reference, the last Navy squadron flying the legacy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft has stood down at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., Feb. 1. The Blue Blasters of VFA-34 were the last squadron in the Navy flying the Hornet.
 

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