Pakistan national defense establishment celebrated yesterday the successful flight test of a new Air Launched Cruise Missile designated Raad/Hatf-VIII. The Raad that was a launched from a Pakistan Air Force Mirage III delivers precision strikes capabilities at ranges of 215 miles (350 km) with an estimated 9 ft (3 m) target accuracy probability (Circular Error Probability -CEP) carrying both conventional or nuclear warhead. This weapon complements stand-off missile launch capability within the Pakistani Air Force arsenal on the Mirage III/V platform aircraft and also presumably on the newer JF-17 and even Block 52 F-16s fighters.
Video footage of the launch depicts a PAF Mirage Iii releasing the 15 ft (5 m) long weapon slung underneath its fuselage. The indigenous weapon subsequently to clearing off the aircraft fuselage can be seen unfolding its wings while initiating a transition to cruise. The missile’s square-shaped cross section translates into stealth capability while a ventral air inlets at the rear of fuselage betrays the presence of a turbofan engine. The missile employs twin vertical tails terminating each horizontal stabilizer.
Advanced precision navigation and terminal Missile guidance capability is likely to be provided by the same combination of Global Positioning System / Inertial Navigation System -GINS- along with some implementation of Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching & Area Correlation (DSMAC) system as already observed on the Hatf-VII ‘Babur’ ground-launched cruise missile test-fired in February. The Pakistani indigenous TERCOM/DSMAC (see our Tomahawk entry) system which claims accuracy of 9 ft (3 m) (Circular Error Point -CEP) reportedly evolves from reverse-engineering efforts conducted by Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) on RGM/UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Tomahawk missiles fired by the US Navy during the August1998 strikes against Afghanistan were alleged to have been recovered intact after suffering malfunctions while overflying Pakistan territory.
The Raad enhances Pakistan Air Force ability to conduct precision all-weather strikes of strategic value on maritime and ground key command and control targets as well as ensuring the delivery of nuclear armed payloads.
Recent signing of the 2011 US budget is bringing relief to Israeli defense planners, executing US Congress Act HR 5327 that apportions $205 million for Israel to continue funding its Iron Dome Missile Interceptor System. In the words of US legislators, HR 5327 aims to assist the government of Israel for “procurement, maintenance, and sustainment of the Iron Dome Short Range Artillery Rocket Defense System with purpose of intercepting short range rockets, missiles, and mortars launched against Israel”. This budget appropriation package from the United States will allow procurement of an additional four Iron Dome batteries that will augment the two batteries deployed since March and early April to defend Beersheba and Ashkelon from Hamas launched rockets and mortars. A third battery is now likely to be available before the end of the year.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Corp claims the iron Dome system offers a low cost way to stop incoming 155 mm artillery shells with ranges of up to 70 km in all weather conditions using a special detonation warhead. The Iron Dome system uses a radar detection and ballistic computation facility to pinpoint the interception trajectory coordinates only a few seconds after a threat has become airborne. The interceptor uses a combination of in-flight target coordinates updated via data link communication along with a proximity radar to determine optimal warhead detonation timing. The system also factors in the presence of populated area in the vicinity to select a point of impact where damages to civilian can be minimal (ideally by engaging the threat at the earliest possible phase of flight). An entire system consists of the towed Missile Firing Unit (MFU), a truck-mounted Battle Management and Control (BMC) station and a the Detection and Tracking Radar (DTR) also truck-mounted. Janes identifies the Tamir interceptor as a 9.1 ft (3 m) long 200 lbs (90 kg) heavy missile with a 6.3 in. (16 cm) diameter using the powerful Elta Systems EL/M-2084 Multi Mission Radar (MMR), a phased array air defense radar capable of detecting and tracking up to 200 artillery shells and rockets per minutes at distances of up to 100 km. This set up forms a battery with 3 launchers of 20 missiles each capable of protecting up to 93 square miles (150 square kilometers) of ground. The peopledaily.com puts the battery unit price at $ 70 million dollar $45,000 per interceptor according to Janes).
The system now credited with having shot down 8 Grad Katyusha rockets in early April 2011 will bring relief to populated areas vulnerable to the 122mm Grad rocket, the smaller 107 mm and a variety of mortars.
With delivery of the first Boeing 787-8 aircraft scheduled for the third quarter 2011, Boeing Training & Flight Services is consolidating its global pilot training program around 5 campus housing various simulators and computer based training equipment. The program encompasses 20 certifications covered by several nations aviation regulatory bodies; Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on behalf of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) where 5 Boeing global training campus are located Seattle, Singapore, Tokyo, London Gatwick and Shanghai which only qualified last month.
For instance All Nippon Airways, the launch customer for the Boeing 787 has sent its first 10 pilots to undergo the training curriculum that began earlier this month in Tokyo in anticipation of their airline receiving its first aircraft latter this year as part of a 45 Boeing 787-8 and 5 Boeing 787-9 order. Pilots qualified on the Boeing 777 are reportedly capable of completing the full transition to 787-8 in as little as five days of training, against the 20 days that are normally required.
The flight training programs employ full-motion flight simulators, Flight Training Devices (FTD) and desktop simulation stations. The FTD deliver the entire suite of systems available on the aircraft without being enclosed in the full-motion powered cabin simulating the aircraft motion. The desktop approach brings introductory and intermediate familiarization with the aircraft systems which are faithfully replicated on PC type screens. Instructors and pilots can spend time walking through procedures and acquiring more knowledge virtually operating the aircraft various systems. The enclosed full-motion flight simulators are fully replicated 787 cockpit to practice various phases of flight maneuvers which Boeing describes more accurately as “visual maneuvers, instrument landing system (ILS) and non-ILS approaches, missed approaches using integrated approach navigation, non-normal procedures with emphasis on those affecting handling characteristics, and wind shear and rejected takeoff training”
The suite manufactured by Thales Training Systems in Crawley, England has achieved C-level certification with Federal Aviation Administration FAA (with D-level being the highest certification level) and European Aviation Safety Agency last year ensuring almost fully accurate replication of actual flights parameters on the 787-8. The 9 training suites supplied to Boeing Training & Flight services each includes a full motion flight simulator, flat panel trainers and Flight Training Devices along with desktop based simulation systems.
The FAA is currently holding records for one level C full motion flight simulator suite also incorporating its level 5 Flight Training Devices registered with Boeing United Kingdom Training & Flight services at Crawley, as well as another two flight simulators/FTD suites registered with Boeing US Training and Flight Service Seattle Campus.
Altogether we have been able to determine that Boeing actual Boeing 787-8 global flight training program delivered through Training and Flight Service 5 campuses has been arranged as follows:
Singapore Campus: 2 full motion flight simulators (C level) suites with flat panel trainers and Flight Training Devices along with desktop based simulation systems (with Thales manufactured full motion 6 degrees of freedom flight simulators)
Shanghai Campus: 1 Thales manufactured full motion flight simulator (C level) suite with flat panel trainers and Flight Training Devices along with desktop based simulation systems (with Thales manufactured full motion 6 degrees of freedom flight simulators) set up March 2 2011
Tokyo Campus: 2 Thales manufactured full motion flight simulator (C level) suites with flat panel trainers and Flight Training Devices along with desktop based simulation systems (with Thales manufactured full motion 6 degrees of freedom flight simulators)
London Campus: 1 Thales manufactured full motion flight simulator (C level) suite with flat panel trainers and Flight Training Devices along with desktop based simulation systems (with Thales manufactured full motion 6 degrees of freedom flight simulators)
Seattle Campus: 3 Thales manufactured full motion flight simulator (C level) suites with flat panel trainers and Flight Training Devices along with desktop based simulation systems (with Thales manufactured full motion 6 degrees of freedom flight simulators)
Airlines on the other end have turned to CAE Inc. based in Canada, the leading manufacturer of flight training and simulation systems for commercial operators. CAE has already become the main supplier for major Boeing 787-8 customer airlines like Continental, Air New Zealand, JAL, Qantas relying on its CAE 7000 line of full flight simulators, CAE Simfinity suite of desktop virtual simulator/ virtual maintenance trainer (VSIM / VMT) and various FTD (Integrated Procedure Trainers.
Beginning May 23rd, 2011, Japan carrier ANA and Scandinavian Airline Systems will begin honoring their new code-sharing agreement.
The agreement is articulated to permit ANA domestic flights operated out of Tokyo Haneda Airport towards Sapporo, Osaka and Fukoka to receive an SAS additional flight designation SK.
Reciprocally SAS flights linking Copenhagen to Tokyo will be conducted with the additional ANA flight designation NH. The agreement plans to introduce at a later date deeper code sharing with more SAS-operated flights receiving ANA’s NH call designation. The SAS flights that will be involved are the Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm flights to Frankfurt and London along with the Oslo and Stockholm flights to Munich. The code sharing agreements allow both airlines to profit by virtually deepening their network of destinations without having to provision new flights. For two airlines combining their network around their respective global hubs, the number of connections offered to passengers can increase significantly. European travelers find simplified access to Japan domestic cities and Japanese travelers see more efficient travel opportunities across Europe.
Air China is announcing the introduction of two new destinations in its western Europe network. A new Beijing-Milan route will begin service on June 15th, 2011. The three times weekly direct flights will be operated by an Airbus 330 on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday using flights number CA949 and CA950. The airline is pointing out the new route offers a greatly reduced travel time than previously required when connecting via Shanghai where a direct flight to Milan had existed since May 2008.
The Milan flight is being introduced in addition to a new Athens route. Beginning May 11th, 2011, the airline will serve Athens (Greece) as a continuation of the twice weekly Beijing-Munich flight, also an Airbus 330 operating as flights CA961 and CA962. These flights operate Wednesday and Saturday.
The airline is riding on soaring profits which doubled in 2010 to RMB 10.93 Billion ($1.67 Billion) to expand its network of European destinations from mainland China.
This is a follow up to our April 11th 2011 introductory part which described the AWACS AN/APY-1/-2 main radar tactical modes and hardware as well as supporting processing equipment aboard the aircraft. Systems upgrades implemented in an effort to meet evolving 21st century battlefield challenges involve; increasing the main radar ability to detect smaller radar cross section, stealthier aerial threats (cruise missiles, stealth combat aircraft and drones), improving precision navigation while complying with current air traffic regulations, improving secure tactical communications, better identification of radar emitting sources (Electronic Support Measures ESM), increasing crew effectiveness and also improving connectivity in the era of network centric tactical data links. Critical to improving the main radar sensitivity, the Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP), AWACS largest upgrade program ever was implemented across the entire AWACS fleet spanning six operators and more than seventy aircraft during the past decade. RSIP is our reference point for capturing the pace of systems evolution across the entire AWACS fleet.
I Upgrades leading up to RSIP; the block 20/25 configuration
Upgrades implemented on AWACS on the period leading up to the RSIP generally fell under the Block 20/25 baseline designation. The incremental nature of defense funding processes would sometimes force intermediate configurations designations like Block 0 and Block 1 to appear in records.
1. US AIR Force Fleet
The first upgrade for US AWACS was in an effort to bring the first 24 E3-A aircraft delivered in line with the E-3B configuration standard as implemented on NATO’s 18 aircraft and last 10 US AWACS delivered aircraft. The E-3B introduced the AN/APY-2 radar and its maritime capability thanks to dedicated maritime cabinet and circuitry that differentiated both E3-A and E3-B designations. Retro-fitting of the 24 early USAF aircraft also brought the E3-C designation interchangeably applied, along with -A-/B designation to the entire US/NATO AWACS force. These retro-fits also saw the installation of four additional operator consoles with accompanying computer memory upgrade. Tactical data link improvements were also available with NATO maritime Link 22 and Link 16 TADIL-J compliant Joint Terminal Information Distribution System JTIDS (replacing Link 11/ TADIL-A).
a. Block 20/25
By 1987 upgrades contracted to Boeing already improved the detection capabilities, data link communications, data processing and overall navigation capabilities. Also Electronic Support Measures (ESM) allowed the AWACS main radar receiver to detect sources of hostile radar activity. The ESM kits were procured at a pace of 6 in 93, 9 in 95 and the rest by the year 2001. In the meantime Have-Quick anti-jam radio were procured in 1989. The Have Quick A-Net UHF Line-Of-Sight tactical radios AN/ARC-164 frequency hopping provide secure, anti-jam communications with other AWACS, tactical aircraft and ground stations. Fleet-wide installation of the Have-Quick radios was completed in 1994.
b. Extend Sentry Program (1994-2025)
The Extend Sentry Program, set up in October 1994 by U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) and the Air Force’s Electronic Systems Center (ESC), aimed at prolonging the life of the fleet to 2025. Most critical of issues was the rapid obsolescence of parts for which an inventory of spare had deteriorated due to end of life cycle or manufacturer/supplier being out of business. The program would establish key management tasks and business processes required to minimize overall fleet downtime during depot maintenance, as these were the most pressing operational issues for the entire 552nd Air Control Wing. Engineering and testing would be incorporated into the overall processes. Most noteworthy system installation for the program was the High Frequency radio kits that were installed in 2001 by Raytheon Support Services. The 33 kits built by Rockwell Collins Government Systems used Boeing supplied installation kits.
2. NATO Fleet
NATO E-3C AWACS have maintained almost identical configuration with the US Air Force AWACS leading to increased numbers of joint procurement programs generating better cost and risk reduction.
a. Computer Memory Upgrade (1993)
Expanding the AWACS main computer processing capabilities allowed for correlating of a larger variety of parameters in order to produce a more complete profile of threats from an increasing number of integrated sensors. In 1993 a memory upgrade program for the IBM mainframe CC-2 computer led to its replacement by the more powerful CC-2E model.
b. Extend Sentry (1994-2025)
Extend Sentry program implemented in 1994 jointly with the US Air Force saw the delivery of 33 HF radio kit for the US Air Force fleet , we assume that commonality has also been achieved in that respect with the Rockwell Collins-built HF radio kits being made available on NATO aircraft.
c. Block 1 (1993-1997)
The Block 1 configuration baseline was contracted in 1993 to provide the ESM upgrade that would allow the aircraft to locate more effectively enemy radar. That contract also covered the installation of new color displays (supplied by GEC Marconi, formerly Hazeltine), Have Quick Line of Sight UHF ultra secure radios (with suppliers EG&G Almond, Magnavox and Xetron) and the ubiquitous tactical communication data Link 16-compatible JTIDS (from Rockwell Collins). The $294 million apportioned for the actual upgrade procurement included a $35 million supplement for testing before completion in 1997. In November 1997, main contractors Boeing Operations International (BOI)/Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa) team in Manching, Germany, completed retrofit of all 17 E-3 aircraft with Mod Block 1 and ESM systems.
3. United Kingdom Fleet (7 E3-D)
With Have-Quick anti-jam radio procured in 1989 upgrades to improve the Interrogator Friend-Foe IFF system aboard the AWACS were carried out between 1997 and 2000. Associated purchases worth $7 million with Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Washington were made on September 22nd,1997 providing 7 Improvement Kits, 8 Circuit Card Assemblies, and update of associated documentation.
4. France Fleet (4 E3-F)
French AWACS benefited from Have-Quick anti-jam radio being procured in 1989 along with the United Kingdom. On January 27th,1997 a $32.4 million contract with Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Wash., was later increased by $26.6 Million on March 30th 1998 for four new Electronic Support Measure systems applicable to the E-3F Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. With work expected to be completed by December 2000. Upgrade on the first plane was completed July 8th 1999 with the complete fleet ready by December 18th 2000.
5. Saudi Arabia Fleet (5 AWACS E3)
A $5.7 million contract with Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Wash., was awarded on September 16, 1997 for submitting engineering proposals for the Block 35.3 software upgrade to the Royal Saudi Air Force E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft and ground support equipment. The Block 35.3 software upgrade was complemented by increase of memory on the IBM CC-2Er main mission computer system designated Block 0.
The Block 0 portion initiated November 19th 1997 actually awarded Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Inc., Owego, N.Y., with $14 millions for study and engineering proposals for CC-2Er memory upgrade on five aircraft and was finalized on June 1st 1998 with a $33 million contract for 5 AWACS and 2 ground stations to be completed by 1999. Work for the total $60 million package deal with Boeing began August 22nd 2001 and was completed September 18th 2003.
The Saudi AWACS capabilities were expanded further by the improvement of tactical data communication systems when the Link 16 secure jam resistant upgrade worth $49.2 million was undertaken. The contract signed on September 20th,2007 saw the first aircraft upgraded by July 2008 with the remaining four aircraft slated to receive their new equipment at Al Salam Aircraft Co. in Riyadh.
II The Radar System improvement program (RSIP) in details
TheRSIP upgrade really began development in 1994 with Low Rate Initial Production reached in 1996 with the UK joining the program. Full production status ensued in 1997. According to Northrop Grumman the RSIP was the most significant effort to improve the performance of the AN/APY-1/-2 radar delivering greater radar range resolution (augmented six-fold) with azimuth and elevation accuracy doubling. Overall capabilities were enhanced in keeping with modern aerial threats requirements such as small cruise missiles and reduced Radar Cross Section (stealth) aircraft. The implementation of new signal processing facilities (advanced Pulse Doppler waveforms, pulse compression) supported by the main computer hardware upgrades and installation of modern Graphical User Interface-based operator display promised overall mission efficiency increase by a factor of 1.5.
1. USAF Fleet (January 13,1997 to April 5th 2005)
Because of the multi-national nature of the program the first RSIP contract installment procured only 4 retrofit kits assigned to the US fleet (with 18 kits for NATO as well as 8 for the UK all part of the same $482 million package). Additional options of 8 would be exercised by September 30th 1998. Software upgrades accounting for a $6 million support contract involving Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Washington (25%) and Westinghouse Electric Corp., Baltimore, Maryland (75%) involved the following deliverables: scoping of software related work inclusive of cataloging, prioritization, investigation, and analysis of software relevant problems, evaluation, coordination, implementation, and delivery of changes. More hardware memory increase on the legacy IBM mainframe-based CC-2E computer was key to unlocking further processing capabilities. Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Inc., Owego, N.Y., was contracted January 31,1997 with requirement to complete work by March 2000.
Below is a sample shopping list for $23 million to Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Washington, covering part of the RSIP upgrade work dated August-September 1997 procuring 15 Improvement Kits:
-30 Circuit Card Assemblies,
-upgrade of 32 Receiver/Transmitters
-upgrade of 5 Radar Target Data Processors applicable to the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system
-software upgrade Electronic Command Signal Program
Installation of Broadcast Intelligence capability as part of tactical data link real time networking required 32 communication kits and 8 processor kits ordered June 26th 1998. Core Radar computer required the installation of two 91MB disks for the Radar Disk Processor sub system worth $5.9 million contracted September 25th 1998. An additional October 28th 1998 shopping list with Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Washington, valued at $16 million ordered seven Electronic Command Signals Programmer replacement kits and seven A3 circuit cards, part of the new cost efficient Open Computing Architecture (and its Windows-like modern graphical interface). Core computer and signal processing components such as 31 digital multiplexer units, 15 monolithic memory units, and 11 circuit card assemblies supporting the CC-2E mainframe computer were ordered on September 16th 1999 toLockheed Martin Federal Systems, Inc.,under a $5.8 million contract. Two hundred and forty (240) Klystron tube high power signal amplifiers repair kits, the heavy component of the radar transmit assembly carried in the AWACS cargo hold were ordered on November 10, 1999 to Litton Systems, Inc., San Carlos, California valued at $20 million. Another element that was key to the upgrade was the Common Large Area Display Sets, 435 of which were ordered on May 19th, 2000 to Raytheon Corp., McKinney, Texas,for $6.58 million. The contract terms placed delivery rate at 45 units delivered each month.
Core Radar Components
Core Radar Component items involving RSIP modification work for the radar, part of a June 9th 2000, $45 million contract covered the modification of two Transmit Angle Controls with purchase of ten thermal assemblies, augmented on November 15th 2000 in the order of $62 million by:
-five radar kits
-ten in-flight maintenance spares,
-19 High Voltage Auxiliary spares kits,
-special test equipment for the Avionics Integration Support Facility
-six spare Transmit Angle controls
-15 spare Thermal Assemblies to be modified to the RSIP configuration.
By June 28th 2001 the program was already beginning to generate results as 7 aircraft had reached Initial Operational Capability IOC. Soon after the USAF exercised its final option for 13 RSIP kits on November 19th 2001 with a $98 million contract.
On April 5th 2005 the 32 USAF operational AWACS completed RSIP ahead of schedule and on budget.
2. NATO Fleet RSIP Upgrades (1997-2000)
Again we find the NATO portion of the multi-national RSIP contract also involving the US Air Force and the United Kingdom. The same initial kit purchase allocating $482 million on January 13th 1997 for procurement of 4 kits for the US Air Force provisioned 18 kits for NATO as well as 8 for the UK. Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Inc., Owego, N.Y., was selected for the $30 million memory upgrade contract for the mainframe computer aboard thirteen E-3B NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. The first retrofit kit was installed on September 30th 1998. Additional contracting with Boeing Defense and Space Group, Seattle, Wash., was sought and finalized August 24th 1999 for $5 million in engineering and manufacturing development of multi-sensor integration of the Electronic Support Measures with improvements of the processing capabilities. By October 11th 1999, 11 aircraft had received the RSIP upgrade, until the entire NATO fleet of 17 aircraft was ready on February 3rd 2000.
3. United Kingdom Fleet (1997-2000)
The RSIP involving the UK fleet which was initiated in phase with the US Air Force and NATO fleets took place during the same period of time as the Block 20/25 upgrade (initiated January 13th,1997 completed December 18th 2000). Simultaneous to the RSIP, UK AWACS fleet also received new Global Positioning System and Inertial Navigation System GINS equipment equivalent to a Block 30/35. The $483 million multi sourced RSIP contract signed on January 13, 1997 also applying to the US and NATO fleets of AWACS with Boeing and subcontractor Grumman provided eight RSIP kits. As we have seen the sub contracted multi national agreements around which work upgrades would be shared involved companies such as BAE OGMA Industria Aeronautica of Portugal; TERMA Elektronik of Denmark; LOGIC of Italy; Advanced Technology Applications of Greece; TUSAS Aerospace Industries, Inc. of Turkey; and Litton Systems Canada, Ltd., SPAR Applied Systems and Computing Devices Canada of Canada. RSIP for the entire fleet was completed on December 18th 2000.
4. France Fleet (2002-2006)
The RSIP upgrade program would entail some amount of technology and work being transferred to France with the enrollment of Air France Industries and the use of a team of Boeing experts during the flight testing program at Avors AFB, AWACS home. The $133 million contract signed for France AWACS RSIP on February 8th 2002 would see work undertaken at AFI facility at LeBourget Military Airport north of Paris between 2004 and 2006. The first aircraft upgrade was completed on February 1st 2005. The program was successfully completed on June 28th 2006 after flight tests conducted by Boeing at Avors ended
5. Saudi Arabia Fleet (2008-present)
Saudi Arabia was the last AWACS operator to receive the RSIP upgrade thanks to an August 7th,2008 initial contract worth $42 million for scoping the engineering work required on the fleet and subsequent production of retro fit kits. This marked the phase I of the RSIP update program. The actual installation work was contracted as Phase II-A with a $73 million production requirement procurement portion followed by the Phase II-A actual installation work on a $20 million contract awarded September 16th 2010. On November 14, 2010 The Systems Group LLC of Bonaire, Ga was awarded a $7.87 million for technical support services to Air Force for Saudi AWACS program.
6. Japan Fleet (2007-2010)
The Japan-Radar System Improvement Program involving the four Japanese Air Self Defense Force Boeing E-767 was enacted in August 2007. The fixed-price contract worth more than $110 million mostly covered software-based upgrades. The E-767 that were delivered brand new in 1997, 1998 and 1999 had seemingly incorporated most of the hardware technological improvements that only became available to the E-3 Sentry family at a much later date. In 2010 the aircraft were slated to receive additional mission navigation systems enhancements, again it was to occur solely through new software code implementation.
III Block 30/35
The Block 30/35 generally complements the purely radar-based RSIP by extending improvements to the rest of the aircraft systems. We identify 5 distinct areas : implementing open architecture based systems, comply with modern precision air navigation standards requirements , improve radio communications (securely), tactical data links and further improve ESM capabilities via software upgrades. But because the Block 30/35 intervenes on the heels of the Block 20/25 the line between both configuration blurs easily.
USAF Fleet Communication and Navigation Improvements (2005-2009)
Following the RSIP upgrades, the AWACS fleet received additional upgrades whose scope covered a 2005 satellite communication improvement, air traffic management suite installation for compliance with FAA/ICAO/Eurocontrol requirements for unrestricted access to airspace. The DAMA (Demand Assigned Multiple Access) / GATM (Global Air Traffic Management) suite developed by Rockwell Collins was installed on the 32 US AWACS aircraft from 2005 to July 16th 2009. The DAMA multiple channel UHF voice communication system also improved overall communication. The navigation capabilities were extended to Traffic Alert Collision Avoidance System TCAS and Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum RVSM capable equipment.
NATO Fleet: The Mid Term Upgrade (1997-2008) was the repository of the Block 30/35 configuration described as “ Multi Sensor Integration (MSI), automated digital communications switching, new identification friend and foe capabilities, five additional display consoles, satellite communications and wide spectrum Very High Frequency (VHF) radios” by the Royal Air Force.
Initially contracted on November 12th, 1997 the $450 million Mid-Term Modernization Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) program lasted until 2008. By providing overall improvements in situational awareness, tracking capabilities, better integrated sensors and Windows-like human-machine displays EMD had strong similarities with USAF Block 30/35 configuration.
On December 3rd 1999 work began on the computer displays, navigation, target identification,new open architecture computer system and particularly the communication suite which needed over-the-horizon communication links (the Have Quick radio are restricted to Line-Of-Site communication) and VHF broad spectrum radios capable to inter operate with Eastern European nations. First test flight of prototype number one took place on January 30th 2000 with completion of European engineering tests and evaluation on October 24th 2002. Successful initial flight testing led to an August 2nd 2001 $24 million funding extension to continue the Mid Term Modernization EMD program.
Navigation Avionics Upgrades
Avionics upgrades that were designed to give AWACS unrestricted access to airspace in North America (FAA), Europe (Eurocontrol) and around the world (ICAO) comprised the Traffic/Aircraft Alert Collision Avoidance System (T/ACAS) and Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM). The TCAS/ACAS I which required a new Identification Friendly-Foe IFF based transponder system was funded December 12th 2001 with $37.5 million. Between 2003 and 2005 Rockwell Collins would deliver ACAS computer, antenna and integrated vertical speed / ACAS cockpit display. Honeywell was responsible for upgrading the air data computer and Innovative Solutions and Support delivering RVSM altitude alerter. EADS (Manching,Germany) provided the IFF upgrade.
Already these contracts required active management to continue to be funded while actual work could also deliver incremented value to the operators.
By December 19th 2002, the Mid Term Modernization program was re-evaluated to $1.3 billion to extend retrofits to 17 AWACS with August 2003 as target completion date.
Again these contracts were further amended on April 29, 2004 with $524 million package for “procuring long lead items, initial spares, follow-on spares, resolution of diminishing manufacturing sources issues and time and materials support activities”.
The first Mid Term upgraded AWACS began mission system flight testing on October 14, 2004. It was successfully demonstrated that performance gains due to implementation of 5 new operator consoles allowed 2 AWACS to operate instead of 3 on some mission scenarios. Delivery of first fully ‘Mid Term’ upgraded NATO AWACS took place on December 21st 2006. All 17 aircraft were completed on November 3rd 2008. Mission simulators were also provided with their 14 consoles at Geilenkirchen Base in Germany. General Dynamic Canada had been subcontracted to supply the consoles, Thales provided the internal communication gear and EADS oversaw the multi sensor software/hardware integration.
At last the $1.32 billion program had delivered the following:
-advanced precision navigation and traffic management compatibility
-new situation display consoles with flat-panel displays and user-friendly navigation, -open architecture mission computing system (for easier cost effective hardware and software upgrades in the future),
-multi sensor integration for lower workload, better accurate reliable tracking,
-Digital communications systems for satellite communication,
-improved IFF with international air traffic management integration, more advanced GPS navigation,
-broad spectrum VHF radios for communication with eastern Europe military components.
Various contractors contributed in the following manner:
Mission Computing: General Dynamics Canada
Air vehicle mechanical/wiring Fiber optic cables: Intracom,Fokker Elmo,
TUSAS Aerospace Industries (TAI) ,Indra ,Spasa
Aircraft Retrofit: EADS Deutschland GmbH
Overall the mid term life upgrade program although using a different designation did bring the NATO fleet to a configuration again very similar to the US fleet Block 30/35, particularly when accounting for the avionics (TCAS, GATM, RVSM) and communication suites upgrades ( with exception for the Eastern Europe specific VHF radio capabilities).
A note on supporting the TF-33-PW-100A engines
The US air force and NATO have yet to replace the original TF-33 engines with the more powerful CFM-56 high by pass turbofans already on UK, France and Saudi Arabia AWACS. Although the TF-33 now seems likely to be around much longer on account of the higher acquisition cost of the very efficient CFM-56 flying on UK, France and Saudi Arabia AWACS. With the JT8D-219 Pratt & Whitney/Seven Q Seven venture on track to replace the TF-33 on the AWACS cousin E8 Joint STARS, a viable alternative may appear in the near future. Nonetheless the TF33 benefits from still being widely used by B-52 and KC-135 aircraft a steady flow of parts and critical components has remained open. In 2000 Pratt & Whitney (United technologies) was the recipient of $350 million for supplying the Air Force with TF-33 spare parts for 7 years. On June 18, 2007 additional $8.6 million for spare parts and 78 compressor case were provided to Electro-Methods Incorporated, South Windsor, Connecticut.
A Note On Subcontracting and Technology Transfer; The AMASSfacility
AMASS (AWACS Modernization And Sustainment Support) is the management facility providing contractual framework to AWACS-related Foreign Military Sales (FMS) for sourcing critical supplies and services throughout operational life. The process has been primarily used in support of AWACS fleet in the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and to some extent NATO. Through it, AWACS foreign operators were able to contract for more than $45 million value in 2002, 2003 primarily with Boeing defense Systems as main contractor. AMASS has greatly contributed to steering contracts requirements for some of the work to be conducted to foreign companies operating in some AWACS home nations. Procurement through FMS gave opportunity to expand the list of sub contractors to local provider such as UTA Industries (later Air France Industries), OGMA Industria Aeronautica of Portugal; TERMA Elektronik of Denmark; LOGIC of Italy; Advanced Technology Applications of Greece; TUSAS Aerospace Industries, Inc. of Turkey; and Litton Systems Canada, Ltd., SPAR Applied Systems and Computing Devices Canada of Canada. Transfer of technology was also adding value for subcontractors; German company ESW-EXTEL SYSTEMS WEDEL of Wedel received Boeing proprietary refurbishment process used on the AN/APY-2 radar domes.
Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG (Dasa) handling retrofit kits installation for NATO and British Aerospace doing the same for the U.K. AWACS. The overall list extended to Siemens Defense Systems, Germany; Kongsberg Defence Systems, Norway; Alcatel Bell NV, Belgium; Computing Devices Canada; Rockwell International and Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, United States; Computer Resources International A/S, Denmark; and Elmer S.p.A, and MID S.p.A., Italy.
On NATO AWACS we saw Rockwell Collins providing the JTIDS hardware; GEC Marconi formerly Hazeltine, delivering the color displays; and EG&G Almond, Magnavox and Xetron supplying Have Quick Radio equipment. Regarding Simulators delivered to NATO: Boeing assembled and integrated the mission simulators, General Dynamics Canada built the consoles, Thales provided internal communications and European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) provided the multi sensor integration hardware and software. In all more than 15 key sub contractors from 12 nations.
IV. Block 40/45 Block 40/45
The Block 40/45 configuration represents AWACS latest set of upgrades integrating the aircraft capabilities mostly through yet newer software based implementations. The New Generation IFF (NGIFF) provides more secure transponder-based Secondary Surveillance Radar SSR Mode 5 capabilities over longer range and with implementation of the Mode S civilian aircraft feature.
The Block 40/45 is also incorporating additional modern aids to navigation that will bring the aircraft always more in line with FAA/ICAO/EUROCONTROL safety of flight rules . The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS) Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation (DRAGON) initiative has been the driving force for the sourcing of a fully Components-Off-The-Shelf COTS Flight Management Systems avionics architecture. Funding for Required Flight Performance RFP capability in 2009 would allow pilots to conduct more fuel efficient computed take-offs, cruise, approaches and landings.
Net-Centric Capability (NCC) is finally merging with the Airborne Web Service data Access and sharing paradigm to enjoy greater benefits. In that logic connectivity is enhanced by fully IP-based Beyond-Line-Of-Site BLOS IP SATCOM. The introduction of robust chat services as the privileged medium of communication between war fighters is also mirrored aboard the aircraft. The new IP/ethernet connectivity architecture is reinforcing the open architecture solutions approach as well as providing incentive for cheaply interconnecting off-board and on-boards sensors via tactical data links. The well tested JTIDS is set to receive yet a newer Open Architecture based display employing a DII COE (Common Operating Environment) compatible Operating Systems (a choice from IBM AIX, HP-UX, Windows NT, Solaris 8, Red Hat Linux).
With Airworthiness Test successfully conducted using the TS-3 (AWACS test aircraft 3) in July of 2006 and Boeing 17-hangars sprawling new facility in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a $44 million Low rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract will see implementation through 2011.
In February 3rd 2010 France $324 million installment covered upgraded IFF Mode S and Mode 5 capability and installation of 14 modern consoles employing the Open Architecture computing solution interfacing with better integrated sensors.
Effectively articulating AWACS upgrades program is rendered almost impossible by the high operational demands (constantly pulling aircraft away from depot) being compounded to ‘capricious’ pace of funding programs. We saw a case of a program taking almost 8 years to complete. Overall program management weaknesses are positively offset by vibrant sub contractors ecosystem created around programs. On the capability side the aircraft seems to have plenty of innovation and life ahead.
During last year Empire Challenge 2010 a NATO AWACS made use of its tactical data link to effect full control of a ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The fictitious scenario exercise required the ScanEagle low altitude/high endurance craft built by Insitu Inc. (a Boeing wholly owned subsidiary) to transmit real time video images of a ground target being monitored. The experiment provides a glimpse of future ground tactical reconnaissance capabilities to come on the AWACS enhancing its Command, Control, Communication & Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities.
The high frequency of operational demands will however continue to heavily tax the aircraft life, particularly US and NATO fleets which are still hard pressed to meet various contingencies.
On March 15th 2011, Geilenkirchen base officials announcement of the operating of AWACS outside standard hours Monday-Friday 8:00 am-10:00 pm in order to fulfill ‘operational requirements’ hinted at the current operation over Lybian sky.
Naval Air System Command announced April 20th 2011 deployment of 3 MQ-8B Fire Scout Unmanned Air Vehicle with US Central Command (CENTCOM) overseeing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MQ-8B Fire Scout is Vertical take-off and landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle VTUAV built by Northrop Grumman. The Fire Scout autonomous aircraft is derived from a civilian light utility helicopter Schweizer S-333 (Schweizer Aircraft is a Sikorsky Helicopter subsidiary) to provide enhanced battlefield surveillance and situational awareness. The deployment was articulated around airlifting more than 90,000 lbs of equipment, notably 3 MQ-8B aircraft loaded onto a Boeing C-17 military transport that flew out April 13th 2011 along with 2 Ground Control Stations GCS embarked on a C-5 Galaxy transport plane departing on April 8th 2011. The systems are expected to conduct first flight before the end of the month.
S-333 Light Helicopter
The basic S-333 light helicopter from which the VTUAV MQ-8B Fire Scout is derived normally carries 3 to 4 people including the pilot. With a fuselage length of 22.38 ft (6.82 m) and a main rotor diameter of 27.51 ft (8.39 m), the S-333 uses a Rolls Royce 250-C20W gas turbine delivering 280 shaft horsepower to fly at a speed of 120 knots (138 mph, 222 km/hr) at an operational altitude of 20,000 ft with a range of 303 nm (348 miles, 561 km). With its Maximum Take Off Weight of 2,550 lbs (1,157 kg) the aircraft has a hover ceiling of 8,700 ft (2,713 m). This forms the basis for the MQ-8B performance capabilities with the enclosed cabin housing avionics compartment and additional fuel resulting in an increase of Maximum Take Off Weight on the MQ-8B to 3,150 lbs (1,428 kg).
The MQ-8B Fire Scout
The MQ-8B Fire Scout program is managed by Program Management Acquisition PMA-266 at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent, Maryland. Under PMA-266 the Fire Scout was introduced to provide US Navy modern Combat Littoral Ships with an airborne tactical ISR/T (Intelligence Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting) platform as well as a communication relay node.
The Fire Scout version that will be deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan will be controlled via the modular Ground Control Station instead of the ship borne US Navy Tactical Control System part of the Integrated Communication Center on Navy ships. Flight control interoperability is made possible by compliance with NATO open standards STANAG 4585. The aircraft as operational aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG 40) uses a variety of sensors to act as a network centric force multiplier in modern anti-submarine, surface and mine warfare contingency.
Modular Mission Payload
A modular payload architecture allows the Fire Scout to scale its number of sensors depending on the mission requirement up to a maximum payload of 800 lbs. The baseline payload consists of the basic US Navy Baseline EO/IR-LRF (Electro-Optical/Infra Red-Laser Range Finding) reconnaissance pod mounted under the nose allowing both Beyond-Line-Of-Site and Over-The-Horizon (BLOS-OTH) surveillance while the Laser Range Finder (LRF) is a fully featured laser designator / target illumination for laser-guided ordinance. Non Navy operators have recourse to the Star SAFIRE III pod to conduct similar missions. Optional payloads will integrate a mine detector pod, a UHF/VHF communications relay and a Maritime radar with the additional weight impacting the aircraft range from 8 hours with basic load degraded to 5 hours.
A force multiplier conducting battle damage assessment real time transmission of video generated by the E/O and IR sensors. via the secure Tactical Common Data Link allows sharing of tactical relevant information in keeping with C4ISR operational role (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
Role in ground combats
In Iraq and Afghanistan the MQ-8B will act as a force multiplier increasing the situational awareness around small tactical US marine conducting security and stabilization patrols. The Beyond-Line-Of-Site and Over-The-Horizon real time reconnaissance capabilities as well as Battle Damage assessment will allow better coordination and employment of fire mission from supporting branches (artillery and air assets).
On Monday April 18th 2011 Air France announced that it was introducing a 60th Boeing 777 into its long haul fleet. This latest addition of a brand new Boeing 777-328ER brings the airline’s -300ER fleet to 35 aircraft that operate alongside 25 Boeing 777-200ER. It may come as a surprise to realize that these 60 Boeing 777s share among themselves no less than five different cabin configurations; three different cabin configurations are observed throughout the 777-300ER fleet and another two throughout the 777-200ER model. The different cabin products offered on board these aircraft help better understand how Air France differentiated cabin products have creating niche markets within its fleet. We will gain insight on key trends that are also likely to impact the airline near-future marketing initiatives.
I. The New Business Class on the five newest Boeing 777-300ER (383 passengers in 3 classes).
Of all the factors affecting Air France long haul fleet configuration and the products its aircraft incorporate is the new Business class. This new product has recently been deployed to the fleet with the acceptance of the five newest Boeing 777-300ER delivered between December 7th2010 and this week. The five aircraft played an experimental role for the new 6′ 6” ½ (200 cm) long, 24” (61 cm) wide, 180 degree fully horizontal recline seat supported by a 15” screen multimedia system. The flurry of superior reviews received from passengers (see our March 29th2011 entry) actually flown on three of the five aircraft available through March 2011 convinced the airline management to expand the new product deployment to 26 additional aircraft by this summer and 62 by the summer of 2012. The five aircraft involved can seat 383 passengers in three classes involving 42 of the ‘New’ Business class seats arranged 7 abreast in a 2-3-2 row configuration, 24 Premium Voyageur class (Economy Premium) seats, 24 in rows of 8 (2-4-2) and 317 Voyageur class (Economy) seats provisioned with a 17” width and 32” pitch, 10 abreast in a 747-like 3-4-3 row. The airline is now scrambling to deploy these aircraft with priority given to business travellers destinations likeNew York (Newark and JFK), Rio de Janeiro, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Osaka, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Santiago de Chile. Clearly these five new Boeing 777-300ER the youngest in the fleet are key to understanding the various configurations on board the entire Boeing 777 fleet. The new highly praised Business cabin is positioned to become the premium cabin aboard most of the long haul fleet into the near future.
II. The 21 mainline Boeing 777-300ER (303 passengers in 4 classes)
The 21 mainline Boeing 777-300ER configured with 303 passengers in 4 classes have been as important to showcasing Air France already established products, as have been the 5 youngest 777-300ER that now showcase the new Business class seats. The 21 aircraft involved, delivered between 2004 and 2009 have been the only 777-300ER aircraft offering passengers exposure to Air France highly coveted and exclusive ‘La Premiere’ (First) class along with the innovative Premium Voyageur (Premium Economy) class. These two cabin products became value differentiators in the airline marketing strategy as the old Business class seat also available on these aircraft, along with the more traditional Voyageur (Economy) cabin retained limited appeal. The old Business cabin seat now slowly being phased out had limited competitiveness due to its inability to lay horizontally when reclining into a fully flat bed. Having business travellers resting at an angled position to the cabin floor was a clear disadvantage in that market segment. The Voyageur cabin with 10 narrow 17”-wide seats had a pitch limited to 32” exacerbated by the presence of In-Flight-Entertainment equipment underneath each individual seat limiting leg room.
The highly exclusive First Class cabin implementing a private space/suite has been strategically placed on those aircraft offering 8 passengers the unique service of a 3-wines, 3-menus selection with 24” wide, 6′ 7” long seat, offering 79” pitch transformable into bed, along with various amenities such asreading light, storage drawer, laptop power ports in a partitioned private personal quarter.
The 28 new Premium Voyageur cabin seats (8 passengers seating abreast on a 2-3-2 layout) deliver ‘enhanced’ economy class service with 40% additional leg room compared to the standard Voyageur economy class (space-constrained by the In-flight-Entertainment equipment underneath each seat in front of the passenger). This product was aggressively introduced on the premium Tokyo and New York routes in 2009 until being retrofitted to the rest of the long haul fleet. The 17” (48 cm) wide seat uses a sleeping pod approach when reclined to 123 degree. They also provide a 38” (100 cm) pitch. Individual LED light, power plug, headphone and 500 hours of multimedia entertainment are supplemented by wine and champagne.
These aircraft, by accommodating 67 ‘old’ Business Class seats and 200 Voyageur (Economy) Class seats offered Air France’s entire long haul line of products available at that time.
III. The 9 High Density 777-300ER (472 seats in 3 classes).
These aircraft also acquired from 2004 on have characteristically inherited old cabin products from the 747-400 fleet they intended to replace. But these cabin products and configurations were primarily dictated by the market for which they were intended. Air France niche market destinations in the Indian, Caribbean and Pacific ocean French overseas territories had long shown tremendous leisure passengers density. The French ‘Tropical’ destinations had long been operated by high density 747-400 capable of squeezing 474 passengers per trip. However Air France also demonstrated the 777-300ER prowess as a high density passenger aircraft capable to accommodate 472 passengers in a 3 classes configuration. These aircraft are configured to achieve such high capacity by altogether eliminating the Premiere and Premium Voyageur cabins in favor of the Business and ubiquitous Alize cabins. The Business seats are limited to 14. The Alize class which offers a more economical approach to the Premium Voyager class uses only 36 seats. Being narrower than Premium Voyageur seats (18” versus 21.5”), they only occupy 4 rows of 9 seats abreast in a 3-3-3 layout. This permits both cabins to aggregate seats into only 6 rows, leaving the rest of the 777-300ER cavernous interior available for another 422 Tempo (the designation replacing Voyageur on these aircraft) seats. In this role the 777-300ER is proving very effective as proven by three of the oldest Air France 747-400 long assigned to those routes recently being spotted awaiting dismantling (F-GITA, F-GITB and F-GITC).
IV. Other Factors
The overall picture indicates that since 2004 when the new 777-300ER aircraft began arriving there has been a constant struggle to innovate. The 777-300ER had key marketing selling points of its own but at that time Air France was hampered by its lack of a truly strong Business Cabin offering. The Premiere (First) Class cabin had limitations inherent to its exclusive character. Things began to improve in 2009 when a very aggressive Premium Voyager Cabin was implemented as part of Air France new brand identity. In that sense the 2010-2011 introduction of the new Business class cabin in the 3-cabins, 383-seats newer aircraft cemented the re-branding initiatives with very robust product offerings in the 777-300ER fleet. All along the three different configurations and four cabin products difficulties were the signs of a re-branding transition phase in which different products lacked complementarity. This was exacerbated by the traditionally high passengers density pressure on Air France niche market in the Indian, Caribbean and Pacific oceans routes. The 777-300ERs, Air France flagships reflected these contradictions during that time. Fleet wide repercussions ensued naturally primarily across the 25 Boeing 777-200ERs component of the fleet.
There we found two familiar configurations;
-11 aircraft flying 309 passengers in 3 cabins with 35 Business seats, 24 Premium Voyageur seats and 250 Voyageur seats.
-14 aircraft accommodating 247 passengers in 4 cabins comprising 4 Premiere seats, 49 Business seats, 24 Premium Voyageur seats and 170 Voyageur seats
In similar fashion to the Boeing 777-300ER, the 4-cabins 777-200ER intended to expose primarily the Premiere and Premium Voyageur products, complemented with Business and Voyageur. The 3-cabins layout maintained some edge with the somewhat less competitive (but soon-to-be-replaced) old Business Class being paired with the very aggressive, innovative Premium Voyageur cabin. Naturally with the Boeing 777-200ER being a smaller aircraft, a high density configuration for the Caribbean, Indian and pacific destinations was absent.
The near future for the Boeing 777 and long haul fleet is clearly giving pre-eminence to the two marketing weapons consisting of the new Business class and the Premium Voyageur class. Together they will consolidate Air France newly acquired brand in a rational way. We now understand that the Premiere class will only be available on the Airbus A380. This will probably lead to the 25 Boeing 777-200ER being rationalized to the 3 classes layout. The 777-300ER fleet, given the diminishing role of Boeing 747-400 will remain Air France most effective high density utility aircraft (with the exception of the A380) in the 472, 3 classes format. However most of the 4-cabins/303 seats 21 Boeing 777-300ER are likely to be re-configured into the more viable 3-classes 383 seats standard that generated so much rave.
The Chinese Chengdu J-20 stealth aircraft took to the sky a second time this past weekend from an airfield in Chengdu. What appears to be a second test flight (after the initial January 11th 18-minutes flight) also coincided with the 60 years anniversary of China’s aviation industry. The 85 minutes flight took place in front of crowds of people allowing more photographic images of the aircraft to emerge. The plane stealthy look is undisputed although it appears remarkably bigger (probably as long as 75 feet) than the US F-22. Experts now concede that it is a an actual prototype of a fifth generation fighter aircraft and not a technology demonstrator. Here are some of our observations.
The Chinese have learned very well their lessons on American Stealth technology from the F-22 and F-35 programs, but are also celebrating their heritage of 60 years aerospace industry. Stealth is primarily provided by careful shaping of control and fuselage surfaces as well as internal carrying of weapons as articulated by mature American stealth designs on the B-2, F-117, F-22 and F-35. The ability to appropriately deflect incoming radar beams is increased when weapons bay and landing gear doors edges show the characteristically stealthy saw-tooth shapes. The sleek F-22 forward fuselage section, nose and even canopy are incorporated to the Chinese design. The horizontal bi-section of the fuselage along the chine that extends from the J-20 canard roots to the nose are direct incorporation of the F-22 design except that on the F-22, the chine actually extends from the wing root to the nose. The result is the diamond shaped fuselage structure and frontal cross-section of the aircraft which -just like the F-22, offers a greatly diminished radar cross section. The air intakes seen frontally again have maintained the trapezoidal shape similarity with the F-22. And this is where the F-35 engine air intake design also comes into play: the air intake lateral edges are sweeping slightly forward maintaining the jagged ‘stealthy’ look. The J-20 also seems to have ‘cannibalized’ other parts from the F-35. The aft fuselage all-moving twin dorsal fins/vertical tails are very short and have with a pronounced sweep backward identical to the F-35.
The Indigenous Fighter Programs
Despite the air intake similarity of look with both the F-35 and F-22, the J-20 air intake shows the presence of Divertless Supersonic Inlet DSI which are ‘bumps’ on the fuselage adjacent to the air intake edges. They provide adequate air flow separation to the engines during maneuvering in order to prevent engine compressor stalls. Their presence on the indigenous JF-17 fighter aircraft produced in large number for Pakistan is also the tell-tale sign of the WS-13 Taishan family of engines developed from Russian technology.
The flight control surfaces except for the vertical fins which -we have seen, originate from the F-35 are derived from another successful Chinese program, the Chengdu J-10. The Chengdu J-10 employs both the delta-shaped canard design and double-delta wing design. This double-delta wing design had first been adapted to the F-7 Chinese production of the Russian MIG 21 sold to Pakistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe etc. For the J-20, these control surfaces guarantee very high agility in flight maneuvers. On the J-10 the combination delta-shaped canards plus double-delta wings led to a highly maneuverable, high angle of attack, Mach 2 capable multi role fighter. The aft fuselage ventral fins providing additional control during aircraft roll are present on both J-10 and J-20 designs.
Finally the exhaust nozzles of the J-20 are anything but stealthy. The large metallic circular nozzles are both electromagnetic and infra red signature prone to detection. A pair of pictures suggested that they were tilting in flight. If that is the case we are seeing Thrust Vector Controlled nozzles whose non-stealthy attributes suggest their interim presence for purely testing purpose. This also makes clear that the engines currently involved in the J-20 are the WS-10B Taihang engines developed from the Russian Lyulka Saturn AL-31FN. The Saturn engine was part of the J-11 program that locally manufactured the Russian Sukhoi-27 for the People Liberation Army Air Force. The Saturn has been further developed into the WS-10A Taihang for the Chengdu J-10. The WS-10B Taihang on the stealth prototype delivers up to 30,000 lbs and implements Thrust Vectored Control and digital engine control technology (similar to western engines FADEC Full Authority Digital Engine Control) but its circular nozzles makes it an unlikely candidate for an operational stealthy aircraft. We maintain thus that the J-20 is employing those engines as an interim measure until the better 35,000 lbs thrust-vectored WS-10G Taihang engines implementing stealthy shaped nozzles outlets become ready.
Overall the J-20 materializes the big and dominant aircraft that the a frustrated Chinese Defence Establishment always fantasized about, which at some point was embodied by the powerful MIG 31 aircraft that the Russians never let them acquire. But clearly the J-20 is much more than fulfilling a dream of grandiosity. We are seeing emerging stealthy capability from a Chinese Aerospace industry which has struggled for 60 years to achieve world recognition. Its activities for the main part of its history have been restricted to reverse-engineering Russian designs and building large number of locally built clones or hybrid aircraft like the F-7 and J-8/F-8 interceptors. Its ability to produce very large numbers of aircraft at very low unit cost could compensate the total absence of state-of-the-art technology and dubious quality control processes. However tremendous advances with programs implemented since the early 90’s (the J-11/ Sukhoi-27, the J-10 indigenous fighter, the JF-17 with Pakistan) seem to pay off. The J-20 latest flight confirms that we are indeed witnessing a bona-fide prototype testing program now gathering even more momentum. The J-20 is not a technology demonstrator. The aircraft design features shows that stealth and maneuverability (thrust-vectoring) are primary goals. We do not believe that Super Cruise capability will be significant in this current design, at least not in the way that the American F-22 is able to perform (sustained cruise to Mach 1.7 without using afterburners) even though powerful engines with digital engine control will be available. The stealth attributes as implemented along the lines of American stealth philosophy are valid. Achieving a real fifth generation fighter aircraft will take China a few more years as mature multiple sensor integration and integrated data communication networks are necessary. But already the prospects of a stealth aircraft likely to appear in very large numbers will tip the balance in the region.
The airline announced April 20th 2011 its first quarter results marked by modest improvements over last year’s first quarter. The $436 million quarterly net loss compared favorably to last year first quarter loss of $505 million. This latest result is taking place in a high fuel price environment which is negatively impacting a noticeable global recovery industry-wide. The airline encountered a 24% increase in fuel price that translated to a $351 million surcharge for the quarter alone.
In an effort to address soaring fuel prices and aggressively control costs the airline is proceeding with the retirement of 25 older MD-80s. The resulting decrease in capacity is in keeping with the 0.5% fall in domestic market capacity observed compared to last year.
The planned introduction of 2 Boeing 777-300ER as announced in a January 2011 order with manufacturer Boeing has now been increased to 5 aircraft due for delivery in 2012 and 2013. The introduction of the larger fuel efficient aircraft is indicative of the airline fleet renewal program as well as the pursuit of business opportunities on international markets. In fact American Airlines which has operated 47 Boeing 777-200ER beginning in 1999 is the first US based airline to order the 777-300ER version. The boost in capacity that the 777-300ER can provide particularly on pacific routes will allow the aircraft to offset the limited number of slots resulting from bilateral agreements with China and ‘anti thrust immunity clause’ partnership with Japan Airline. Fundamentally a 6.2% rise in capacity on international routes (year-to-date), increasing partnership with foreign airlines (Qantas, Japan Airline) and more direct flights to international destinations will sustain the airline recovery.