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RCAF Reveals CP-140 Aurora Upgrade

The Royal Canadian Air Force revealed the first flight mid-February of the upgraded CP-140 Aurora (serial 140108) as part of an initial flight test programme

The secretive Block IV-modified CP-140 made a test flight to verify the safety of the design for flight from Halifax to Greenwood (NS). The flight was carried out by a crew of the 14 Wing and was fully supported by the RCAF Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE).

The Block IV modifications - the last of the modernisation phases for the Aurora - include three major improvements; a beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communication (SATCOM), a link 16 Datalink, and a self-defence system. The initial operational capability (IOC) for the Block IV is expected in June 2020, followed by a full operational capability (FOC) in September 2022.

The Aurora Incremental Modernisation Project (AIMP) started in June 2015 and involved 23 individual projects to acquire, integrate and install new mission systems and sensors onto the aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. CP-140 104108 arrived for modification on 6 November 2017, while the actual work started on 10 October 2018. The integration testing of upgrades on this prototype aircraft began on 13 December 2018, and the ground test readiness review was conducted on 29 April 2019, clearing the way for the start of ground testing.

The modified aircraft are designated as CP-140M.

The RCAF operates a fleet of seventeen CP-140s in the primary airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) role of which fourteen are expected to be modified. Canada has planned two upgrade programmes for its fleet, the aforementioned AIMP and the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP).

The latter is to increase the aircraft’s capability and operational life respectively.

Both AIMP and ASLEP will cost the Canadian taxpayer USD 1,983 billion and this will extend the operational life of the CP-140 Aurora fleet to 2030.

New B-21 image shows subtle changes from

                           B-2A design

The image is only the second depiction of the B-21 to be released by the USAF.

The rendering shows an aircraft that looks very similar to the Northrop Grumman B-2A. Both aircraft are flying wings, a shape that is inherently less observable with radar because it lacks 3-D features such as a vertical stabiliser to bounce back radar waves to an adversary.

However, the B-21 seems to have a sleeker profile compared to the B-2A. The aircraft doesn’t have the same engine shoulders that the B-2A had. Engine air inlets have been push forward near its nose and are only visible as small shallow triangular scoops on either side of the cockpit.

Engine fan blades and inlets are highly visible on radar. Reducing the exposure of those features could help the B-21 shrink its radar cross section.

The aircraft also has an extended beak nose in front of its cockpit, compared to the B-2A. Presumably, this hides the cockpit hump behind the underside of the aircraft, further reducing its cross section.

The B-21 cockpit also has only two window panes, compared to the B-2A’s four windows.

The new aircraft also appears slightly smaller, though it is difficult to size as there are no objects nearby in the image for comparison. It is also an artist rendering so it is not clear how closely the 3-D image represents the aircraft’s true scale. A smaller air-frame inherently has a smaller radar cross section than a larger one.

The stealth bomber may also have a lower radar cross section because of other design features.

For example, the first B-21 image released several years ago showed the flying wing had a simpler backside, with just six trailing edges versus 10 on the B-2A. Fewer trailing edges presumably also gives the aircraft a lower radar cross section as there are fewer surfaces to bounce back the radar in the direction of an adversary’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile battery.

What is left unseen by the latest artist rendering includes any new radar absorbent coating materials on the B-21 or any engine heat suppression technology. Hiding engine heat would help the aircraft avoid detection from infrared sensors. If those improvements in those areas are readily available, Northrop Grumman would likely incorporate the technology as well.

The first B-21 is being built at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. The USAF plans to fly the aircraft for the first time in December 2021 about 22mi (35km) north across the Mojave Desert to its testing site at Edwards AFB.

Lockheed announces mega-contract for 50                       Super Hercules aircraft

Pentagon’s No.1 weapons supplier Lockheed Martin Corp announced on Monday that it will deliver 50 C-130J Super Hercules tactical airlifts to the U.S. government through a C-130J Multiyear III award, which was finalized by the U.S. government on Dec. 27, 2019.

The award comes as a delivery order under an existing Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract awarded in August 2016.

The Department of Defence awarded more than $1.5 billion in funding for the first 21 C-130J aircraft on the multiyear award. The overall award, worth more than $3 billion, provides Super Hercules aircraft to the U.S. Air Force (24 HC/MC-130Js), Marine Corps (20 KC-130Js) and Coast Guard (options for six HC-130Js). Aircraft purchased through the C-130J Multiyear III award will deliver between 2021-2025, and will be built at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Georgia, facility

Alaskan Aggressors fly south for mobile training

354th Fighter Wing maintainers inspect a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 6, 2020. The Airmen operated in a windchill factor of minus 54 degrees to ensure the F-16s were ready to depart for Sentry Aloha 20-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Larue Guerrisky)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

The 18th Aggressor Squadron departed Eielson this week to participate in exercise Sentry Aloha 20-1, which is scheduled to take place Jan. 8-22.

 

For more than 20 years, Sentry Aloha exercises have provided tailored, cost-effective and realistic combat training for the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and other military personnel. It provides U.S. warfighters with the skill sets necessary to perform homeland defence and overseas combat missions.

 

“Our very own 18th Aggressor Squadron has departed for this year’s mobile training across the Pacific,” said Col. Ben Bishop, 354th Fighter Wing commander. “These professionals will carry out our mission in the Pacific theatre and prepare our total force partners for 21st century combat.”

 

Sentry Aloha is the first stop of the year for the 18th AGRS Mobile Training Team. Their mission in the exercise is to replicate adversary tactics, techniques and procedures by creating a realistic combat scenario.

 

To support the exercise, 354th Maintenance Group professionals orchestrated a successful launch of F-16 Fighting Falcons in freezing temperatures, which reached negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the flight line.

 

Other participating units include KC-135 Stratotankers from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, F-15 Eagles from the 144th Fighter Squadron California Air National Guard and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the125th Fighter Squadron Oklahoma Air National Guard as well as E3 Sentry aircraft from Oklahoma. The visiting aircraft will take part in simulated combat exercises with the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadron’s F-22 Raptors.

Following Sentry Aloha, the 18th AGRS will fly to Anderson AFB, Guam, to train with other U.S. and international partners in exercise Cope North.

Hill’s 388th fighter wing conduct F-35A combat power exercise Elephant Walk 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah: The active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th FW conducted a combat power exercise here Jan. 6, launching 52 F-35A Lightning IIs in rapid succession. An "elephant walk" refers to the close formation of military aircraft before takeoff.

The fighter wings are home to 78 aircraft. As the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35A units, the wings must be prepared to launch any number of aircraft to support the national defense mission at a moment’s notice. Last year, they began regularly supporting combat operations with the F-35A with consecutive deployments.

Currently, the wings fly 30-60 sorties per day from Hill’s flight line. During the exercise, Airmen launched roughly the same number of daily sorties, but they took off in quick intervals. 51 aircraft in 14 minutes

Launching aircraft from multiple squadrons simultaneously presents various challenges and allows the wings to evaluate the capabilities of maintenance professionals, as well as pilots and command and control teams.

The exercise was part of normal, scheduled training operations and not a response to any current events.

Ottawa advances FWSAR programme with C295 acceptance

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Canada has formally taken receipt of its first C295 fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) aircraft from Airbus Defence & Space, with the asset to be used in support of personnel training activities in Europe for the next several months.

Accepted at the manufacturer’s San Pablo site in Seville, Spain, the twin-turboprop is the first of an eventual 16 being acquired via Ottawa’s FWSAR programme.

Announcing the development on 20 December by Twitter, Airbus says that following additional testing and training the aircraft will be flown to its home base at Comox, British Columbia, “by mid-2020”.

The Royal Canadian Air Force will field the FWSAR-configuration aircraft – locally designated as the CC295 – as replacements for aged De Havilland Canada DHC-5s and Lockheed Martin C-130Hs flown during search and rescue operations.

Adaptations made for the Canadian programme have included installing Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion avionics, reinforcing the lower rear fuselage and adding an upper escape hatch for use in the event of ditching at sea, fully enclosing its main landing gear and incorporating vortex generators on the rear ramp.

Mission equipment includes a maritime search radar, turret-housed electro-optical/infrared sensor and enhanced vision system, plus two onboard operator stations, maritime automatic identification system equipment and large bubble observation windows.

The air force’s Comox base – which also will be home to a new FWSAR training centre – will eventually accommodate five CC295s. Three aircraft each will be stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Trenton, Ontario, and Greenwood, Nova Scotia, with the remaining two airframes to be positioned as required to support operations.

Iran Iraq Conflict

Due to the escalation of tension in Iran and Iraq the reports of combat aircraft leaving the US into this area will not publish as this could cause a security issues 

US Defence Budget 2020

The Trump Administration’s 2020 Budget, and the Pentagon is asking for 17 more aircraft than it received in 2019. A quick tally of the aircraft shows the number of fighter jets and unmanned aerial vehicles the services are asking for is down slightly, while the number of helicopters is up. Also, the Air Force is purchasing eight new F-15s in a deal that smells fishy, given the Acting Secretary of Defence's work career.

The tally, shared on Twitter by Aviation Week & Space Technology defence editor Stephen Trimble, shows a slight increase of 17 aircraft year over year, from 362 authorized in 2019 to 379 proposed for 2020.

The aircraft are broken down into a number a categories as follows:

Fighters:

DoD wants 110 fighters in 2020, down from 117 in 2019. The Air Force is asking for 48 F-35As, down eight from 2019. The Marines want just 10 F-35Bs, less than half their 2019 purchase. Only the Navy is buying more F-35s, with the service requesting 20 of the carrier-capable F-35C model. The Navy is also buying 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

The real wild card here: the Air Force is asking for eight F-15EX fighters, part of a goal of buying 80 through 2024.

At the same time, the Air Force is asking for eight less F-35s. The service has said in the past it would not spend money on F-15s at the expense of the F-35 program, but that appears to be exactly what happened.

Other Aircraft:

The Air Force is asking for 12 KC-46A Pegasus tankers, three less than in 2019. The service will eventually order at least 179 of the aircraft, and at this rate, it’ll take about thirteen years to buy them all. It’s also asking for another squadron of 24 MQ-9A Reapers and a dozen HH-60W combat search and rescue helicopters.

The Navy and Marines

Are asking for three more KC-130J tankers, six more P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and two MQ-4C Triton long-range unmanned aerial vehicles. The service also wants to purchase 22 F-5 Tiger IIs, recently retired from the Swiss Air Force, to act as aggressor aircraft for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter pilots to train against.

Helicopters:

More than half of the Pentagon’s aircraft request for 2020 consists of helicopters, with the U.S. Army taking the lion’s share. The Army will request 48 AH-64 Apache helicopters remanufactured to the new AH-64E Apache Guardian standard, enough for two attack helicopter battalions. It’s also asking for 73 UH-60M Blackhawk transport helicopters, about 15 more than it got in 2019. Nine CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters round out the Army’s request.

With a few exceptions, the rest of the helicopters go to the Marine Corps. The Marines are asking for six of the enormously expensive CH-53K King Stallion helicopter, ten MV-22 Ospreys, and six VH-92A helicopters, otherwise known as the new Marine One: the official vertical lift ride of the President of the United States.