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Paris air show 2005; part I: European defense companies focus on the air-land battle.

The 46th International Paris Air Show hosted at Le Bourget, France, June 13-19, did not witness the debut of any new combat aircraft. The Russians were back in the air, having patched up their financial quarrel with the Swiss, flying a new version of the Su-27. The Americans were back in the air as well, flying F-16s and F/A-18s, a gesture toward thawing political relations with the French over Iraq. The mighty Airbus A380 darkened the skies over gaping crowds, but until such time as a "bomb truck" version is announced, discussion of that aircraft will have to occur outside these pages.

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While the absence of the F/A-22 Raptor was a disappointment, perhaps it was fitting, because the emphasis of the military aspects of the show was clearly on attack platforms and systems. The military part of static displays was dominated by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and helicopters. Many new technologies focused on how to detect, reconnoiter, and strike ground targets while surviving landbased threats. Even if the US-led campaign in Iraq is publicly unpopular and many outwardly dispute the US casting the global war on terrorism in military rather than law-enforcement terms, certainly US lessons learned are dominating the priorities of today's international military customer.

Passing the Baton

The only "new" combat aircraft at Paris was the Sukhoi (Moscow, Russia) Su-27SKM, another derivative of the Su-27SM (see "Red Fighters Revised," JED, August 2004, p. 43). This version, designed for the Russian Air Force, is the product of a modernization program for existing Su-27 fighters remaining in Russian service. The Su-27SKM, built by the KNAPO (Konsomolsk on Amur, Russia) factory of the Sukhoi consortium, is the latest export proposal as a newly built aircraft and should not be mistaken with an earlier modernization proposal also called Su-27SMK. The most recent Su-27SKM version received the new RLPK-27VEPI radar-control system for the retained NIIP N001 Mech radar and the improved OEPS-27MK optronic system, based on the previous OEPS-27 but with ground-target-distance-measurement and target-illumination capabilities. The new optronics enable the use of laser-guided missiles (but not bombs), and the Kh-29L missile has been integrated with the system. In the cockpit, the Su-27SKM received two MFI-10-6M 6X8-in. color multifunction liquid-crystal displays and a single, smaller MFPI-6 display in the middle. The navigation system was upgraded with addition of the A-737-010 Glonass/GPS receiver. Also, the self-protection system was upgraded with the addition of the L-150 radar-warning receiver (RWR), which also enables targeting of Kh-31P anti-radar missiles (see "Crimson SEAD," JED, January 2003, p. 54). The reach of the aircraft has been increased by Kh-29L/T missiles in both laser- and TV-guided versions: Kh-31A/Ps in both anti-ship (A) and anti-radar (P) versions; KAB-500Kr and KAB-1500Kr TV-guided bombs of 500- and 1,500-kg weight, respectively: and active-radar-guided R-77 air-to-air missiles. Sukhoi hopes to sell the Su-27SKM to Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as to upgrade Chinese Su-27SK to this standard.

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The most interesting display in terms of the future of airpower was the full-scale mock-up of the French Neuron technology demonstrator of the future European unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV). The Neuron is to be an advanced technology demonstrator, leading to the development of a UCAV, with performance comparable to current generation of manned strike fighters. The new vehicle is not intended to replace manned aircraft, but will be operating together with them, conducting the most critical precision-strike missions, as well as intelligence gathering. One of the reasons to develop such a UAV--besides the obvious requirement for ever-increasing strike capabilities in ever more sophisticated air-defense environments--was the need of the European aircraft industry to maintain its capability to develop and build combat aircraft. In the present situation, it is not expected that any new fighter-development program will be launched in any European country before 2030, so the concern is that the design and development capabilities of lead European companies could be lost in the interim.

The Neuron program, launched by the French government and originally contracted to Dassault, was officially announced in 2003 (also at the Paris Air Show). The first flight of the Neuron is planned for late 2009 or early 2010. As of today, the program has been joined by Greece, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain, with their industrial partners: Hellenic Aerospace Industry (Schimatari, Greece), Alenia Aeronautica (Rome, Italy), Saab Aerosystems (Linkoping, Sweden). RUAG Aerospace (Emmen, Switzerland), and EADS CASA (Madrid, Spain). Most recently, Dassault, as a prime contractor, was also joined by Thales Land and Joint Systems (Paris, France), tasked with developing two types of datalinks for the Neuron. The main goal of the program is to demonstrate a strike platform for the air-to-ground mission that is able to operate in the command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence ([C.sup.4]l)environment of modern network-centric warfare. The UCAV seems likely to be characterized by a low radar cross-section and infrared signature. Weapons are to be carried in an internal bay, although for the purposes of this program, the payload will be for demonstration purposes only. Currently, there are no plans to field a system based on Neuron.

Interestingly, despite joining Neuron program, also Saab and Alenia are also developing UCAV concepts on their own. In April 2005, Alenia rolled out its own Sky-X demonstrator, while SAAB is also working on its Filur stealth UCAV demonstrator. In addition, other companies, such as SAGEM, presented a wide range of tactical UAVs, intended mainly for land forces.

Among the other important European UAVs presented at Paris was the EADS Defense and Security Eagle 1 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) system selected by the French Air Force one year ago as a strategic intelligence-gathering platform. The first example will be delivered to the customer by the end of 2005. The Eagle 1 is based on the IAI Malat (Tel Aviv, Israel) Heron and can carry a payload of 250 kg. It can loiter for 12 hours 550 nm from its base. Total endurance approaches 24 hours, and the Eagle 1's speed is 110 knots. The payload consists of a day/night electro-optical (EO) turret under the nose and a 66-kg version of the IAI Elta EL/M-2055 synthetic-aperture radar (SAR).

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The ultimate system, called Eagle 2 or EuroMALE, is now in development. It is the first major European UAV program that is managed by OCCAR, the European Procurement Agency. The first EuroMALE is to be rolled out in 2008, and full operational capability is to be reached in 2011. The payload of new Eagle 2 or EuroMALE will consist of an optical turret with day/night sensors (TV and forward-looking infrared) and a laser rangefinder/target designator. The UAV will carry a modular pack with one of four different systems: SAR/moving-target-indicator radar, maritime-surveillance radar, and an electronics-intelligence (ELINT) or communications-intelligence (COMINT) system. Also, a communications-relay system can be carried instead of a reconnaissance payload. Both the Eagle 1 and Eagle 2 can be controlled via a line-of-sight radio datalink or by a satellite-communications (SATCOM) system. The Eagle 2 is to be much larger than Eagle 1 and will be able to loiter for 12 hours 800 nm from its base.

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More Capable Helicopters

European helicopters provided another area of interest. Eurocopter presented its Tiger HAP helicopter, the first NH90 for Sweden, and the EC 725 Cougar special-operations helicopter. The last was the one of the most interesting aircraft presented at the air show. It is part of the batch of 14 helicopters being built by Eurocopter for the French Armed Forces. Six of these helicopters are to serve with the French Air Force for the combat-search-and-rescue (CSAR) role (three have been already delivered), and the remaining eight are to be delivered to the French Army to carry out special-operations tasks. The helicopter has an interesting self-protection suite consisting of the Thales EWR 99 RWR; the Thales Damien millimeter-wave-radar missile-approaching-warning system (MAWS); a laser-warning receiver; and ELIPS chaff/flare dispensers, developed by Alkan (Valenton, France), with a total of 72 cartridges. Under the nose, a Thales Chlio EO observation system is mounted. The helicopter also has a GPS receiver and an Elbit (Haifa, Israel) moving-map generator. The EC 725's radio equipment covers a wide frequency spectrum (30-400 MHz) and includes two Saturn sets from Thales, an ARC-210 HF set from Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA), a SATCOM set, and a Cubic Systems (San Diego, CA) emergency radio locator.

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An AgustaWestland (Yeovil, UK) Merlin HC.3 belonging to No 28 Squadron of the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) was another example of CSAR helicopter displayed, and its avionics and self-protection system was of a similar standard, equipped with a Northrop Grumman (Baltimore, MD) ALQ-24 Nemesis Directed Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system. The Italian branch of AgustaWestland (Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy) presented one of the first modernized A129 Mangusta CBT combat helicopters. Fifteen newly built A129 CBTs have already been delivered to the Italian Army. The 45 Mangustas delivered earlier are being upgraded to the same standard. The Mangusta shown at Paris was one of the first modernized to the new standard. In addition to the gun upgrade and many other changes, the A129 CBT was equipped with a new self-protection suite. It is composed of the Elettronica SpA (Rome, Italy) ELT-156 RWR and the BAE Systems Italia (Rome, Italy) RALM-101 laser warner. The helicopter's countermeasures systems include the Elettronica ELT-554 radar jammer, the BAE Systems IEWS (Rockville, MD) AN/ALQ-144A infrared (IR) jammer, and chaff/flare dispensers. The A129 CBT still uses the old sighting system: the Saab (Jarfalla, Sweden) HeliTOW, working in the 8-12[micro]m frequency band, with a laser rangefinder. The associated missile system is the Raytheon (Tuscon, AZ) BGM-71B/E TOW-2A. As soon as the Italian Army selects a new anti-tank missile system for its combat helicopters, the modernization will be completed. Among the missiles under consideration are the Lockheed Martin (Orlando, FL) AGM-114K Hellfire and Rafael (Haifa, Israel) NTD. If the first is selected, the helicopter will receive the Saab HeliTOW-Hellfire targeting system; in the second case it will be the Taman NTS system.

It seems that advanced, integrated self-protection suites comprised of RWR, laser warners, MAWS, chaff/flares dispensers, and IR jammers have slowly became standard on combat and battlefield-support helicopters. However, specialists have noticed that some future air-defense systems will use millimeter-wave fire-control radar or active radar guidance. Currently, helicopters are not protected well enough against such threats. Actually, one of the few K-band RWRs is the Thales EWR 99 system used on Tiger and NH90 helicopters, while the A129 is one of the few helicopters with a built-in radar-frequency jammer. It is expected that radar-guided anti-helicopter systems will be developed in the near future and that protection against radar-guided missiles, including those with K-band seekers, will have to be improved. The other newly emerging threat comes from laser-beamriding missiles. Laser-beamriding missiles, requiring only low-energy lasers, might pose a challenging threat for helicopters. Presently, EADS Defense Electronics (Ulm, Germany) is developing its Atlas-2Q advanced laser-warning system that is able to deal with various types of modern lasers. A version of it, the Atlas-2QL, is intended for transport aircraft (including the A400M), and the Atlas-2QLB for helicopters will be able to detect laser-beamriding systems.

In other developments, three surface-to-air missile systems with the ability to intercept tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) were presented on the show: the IAI Arrow, Eurosam (Paris, France) SAMP/T, and the EADS-LFK/Selex/Lockheed Martin MEADS. The SAMP/T, which uses the MDBA (Paris, France) Aster 30 missile, is to about enter service with the French and Italian armies, while MEADS will be fielded much later by the German and Italian air forces, as well as by the US.

EADS-LFK (Unterschleissheim, Germany) announced that it is developing new versions of its Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile. Among them will be the Taurus CL containerized ship-borne/land-based version, the nonlethal high-power microwave Taurus HPM intended for knocking out enemy electronics systems and power supplies, and the Taurus M with a multiple-warhead system to engage individual elements of a group-type target.

The 2005 Paris Air Show showed new trends in Europe. Industry and military forces are focused on the development of a wide range of UAV systems, including UCAVs. There are increasing requirements that modern helicopters be able to support expeditionary forces, with an attending focus on increased safety (e.g., stealth technologies, self-protection systems, CSAR). Trends on display indicate that Europe has ambitions to gain at least some of the capabilities that have heretofore been available uniquely to the US military.
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Author:Fiszer, Michal
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Words:2099
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