The Asian Aerospace beehive. (Shows & Exhibition).
At Asian Aerospace 2002, everyone could take a look at the JSF--in actual fact nobody could avoid seeing it, since the winner of the JSF contest was guarding the entrance to the main exhibition hall. This Lockheed Martin product, the Typhoon, the Rafale and the Gripen all made their presence strongly felt. We shall leave aside the verbal jousts, through press conferences, between some of the nations involved accusing one another of proposing paper aircraft (sic) only to emphasise the relatively large market that the whole of the Asian/Pacific region represents. The adverb "relatively" is important in this context because the "sizeable" (another buzzword) potential market is not as large as some may suggest, if one bears in mind that eventual acquisitions will take place over a very long period of time (see our "Complete Guide to World Armament Requirements" distributed with this issue). However, this kind of arguing keeps the journalists, particularly the local ones, busy. Furthermore, the final choice is often dictated by politics and offsets--the finalists not necessarily having to be able to offer the best aircraft, but the best overall weapons package. The mock-up of the Lockheed Martin X-35 had to be photographed by the author very early in the morning. Later in the day visitors, amongst which many officials in uniform, had to queue up to visit the cockpit.
In the new-generation twin-engine fighter aircraft category Dassault was particularly dynamic at Asian Aerospace, announcing that 137 pilots from the four corners of the world had already had a chance to fly the Rafale, and underlined the fact that the aircraft is in service with the French Navy with seven tail-hooked birds currently operating from the Charles de Gaulle carrier. Dassault was still putting great hopes of a victory in South Korea, but shortly after the show this nation placed its choice on the American F-15K.
BVR Systems, part of the Israeli Elisra Group, used the venue to announce that its embedded electronic warfare simulator had reached a milestone with the successful completion of the preliminary test flight of this system, aimed at providing what could be termed a most realistic training scenario. "The problem with traditional ranges is that once the pilots overfly the place for the second or third time, they know exactly where the threat will be coming from," Elsra Director of Marketing Nathan Catran told the author, "so we have developed a system that is mounted in the aircraft. It is controlled from the ground and can trigger any of the aircraft's electronic warfare alarm systems". The advantage of the device, which presents the pilot through his own electronic displays and audio warning systems wherever he might be flying, is that it can be trimmed to match the doctrine planned by the electronic warfare training officer during the mission planning phase, emulating the conditions of any required battlefield. Designated Ifews for "in-flight electronic warfare simulator" the suite includes an airborne internal line-replacement unit and a PC-based ground debriefing station. It evolves around a Pentium-based airborne computer and rapid datalink transceiver. Because it is coupled to the aircraft's existing electronic warfare suite, a navigation package is nevertheless available for aircraft (including helicopters, of course, with insufficient on-board navigation apparatus).
In the world of whirly wings, attentions in Singapore focused on that nation's helicopter requirement to equip its Lafayette class frigates. These are to start entering service by 2005 and Singapore is expected to make its choice by the end of this year (2002). The helicopters are intended to perform search and rescue as well as troop transport missions. Eurocopter seems optimistic for two reasons. The first is that it offers the short version of the Cougar, which fits into the ship's standard hangar (and there are not many that do). The second reason is that the company has a long-standing record with Singapore, which already runs the world's largest fleet of Cougars--32 in all. Another binding factor is that the European company's C120 was developed in co-operation with Esae (formerly Singapore's Samaero) and China. This company, in which Singapore Technologies has a 25 per cent stake, has so far sold 250 Eurocopter rotary wing aircraft in its area of influence.
The number of drones displayed--whether in the form of actual models, mock-up or illustrations--emphasized their serious belonging to the aviation world. While they will not altogether replace the manned aircraft in the near future, they are now part and parcel of the defence world. Pioneered by Israel more than two decades ago, their deployment generalised in the West during the Kosovo conflict and, more recently, played an instrumental role in Afghanistan.
Eads had an impressive display of models in front of its massive stand. A large number of these are known, being types developed by CAC Systemes; now brought into the Eads fold. The main subject of conversation at Eads concerned the EuroHawk programme on which a Memorandum. of Understanding was signed with Northrop Grumman at the last Paris air show (in June 2001). Nevertheless, and as always with multinational programmes--particularly in a field new to bureaucrats--decisions on one side seldom match schedules of the other, causing unnecessary delay. However, according to a Northrop Grumman spokesman, "it is certain to have the backing of both governments [German and American]". On the Eads side, Dr. Enno Litmann told Armada that 70 per cent of the payload had been identified for the German armed services with a definite emphasis on elint missions. This provides an answer at least for the short term, regarding the possible payloads envisaged, since Northrop Grumman declared to the author minutes earlier that "the aim is to provide Sar and sigint, but it is not certain yet whether Germany will go for all the sensors".
Israel had a massive presence at Asian Aerospace, unveiling numerous novelties like the Elbit Hermes 180 drone system. We shall not dwell on this programme here as it was extensively described in our recent Defence Industry Report in issue 2/2002, page 68. Likewise, Rafael's latest air-to-air weapons featured at the exhibition are covered in "A Decade of Opportunities" elsewhere in this issue.
Army systems would normally be regarded "out of place" at an air show, but exceptions are always around to confirm a rule, especially when these originate from the host nation. Singapore Technologies naturally had a huge display in the entrance hall and even the blind couldn't be forgiven for not noticing the prototype of STK's 155 Light Weight Self-Propelled Howitzer that was making its premiere there.
RELATED ARTICLE: Cobras to sting in bad weather.
A mock-up of a Cobra stub-wing on the Bell stand revealed that plans are on hand to further improve the attack helicopter's adverse weather combat capability. Occupying the place of a weapons store, the unit is in fact a repackaged Longbow millimetric wave radar which can be thus fitted to the F, S and W versions of the Cobra, as well as to the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, but in a different configuration. The system is in concept definition stage and awaiting a customer to see it move into a co-operative development phase, although laboratory testing has already been carried out. The radar has the ability to analyse signatures against an onboard database and display the threat in the cockpit. According to Longbow International, improvements have already been incorporated into the system compared with the `standard' longbow system and so has an embedded training facility. Should interest materialise from say, Taiwan, Turkey or Israel, the system could be readied for production in about 36 months
RELATED ARTICLE: EuroHawk to fly by end 2002.
Demonstration flights of the EuroHawk, which should involve a transatlantic flight, are due to take place with the Eads elint sensor package by the end of the year. A final decision regarding the payload to be used essentially aimed at meeting the German forces requirements for the time being) should be made by the time these lines are printed, or perhaps during the Farnborough Air Show. The Northrop Grumman-Eads EuroHawk is then expected to enter the normal competitive procurement phase. It will be equipped with a self-protection suite. Deemed a necessity since the aircraft is to fly at 60,000 feet, the self-protection has already been tested.
Turning to the Global Hawk (photo), from which the Euro Hawk is derived, the US Navy is now considering acquiring the system. Some $150 million has been earmarked to that effect in the FY2002 budget. Two systems would be catered for. Missions would include maritime patrol, targeting, strike support (target location and damage assessment), threat warning and communications relay.
RELATED ARTICLE: Fire scout on unstable route?
The Northrop Grumman whirly drone programme is funded up to operational tests onboard ships, but its future beyond this is uncertain since the US Navy is considering a review of its requirements. The Fire Scout is seen as a very important complement to the Global Hawk as it would be able to take over certain segments of the mission that require, for example, flying under the layer of clouds to properly read the name of a ship. Its laser designation accuracy is said to be 17 degrees at worse from a grazing angle of eight degrees. As this illustration shows, it is ideally suited for Ergm munition target designation.
RELATED ARTICLE: Self-propelled for projection.
The paint on Singapore Technologies Kinetic's new 155 mm howitzer was barely dry to the extent that it had not yet been tested by the time Asian Aerospace 2002 opened its doors. Based on a lightweight spaceframe chassis, the gun can be airlifted by a Chinook helicopter and is thus particularly suited for projection forces. First stages of testing will involve mobility trials, moving on to firing tests later this year. However, at the time of the show, no firm decision had yet been made on the type of fire control and positioning systems to be used. The manufacturer is aiming at a one minute into firing time from hand-brake pulling and a six rounds-per-minute rate of fire. The weapon carries 15 rounds on-board.
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|Author:||Biass, Eric H.|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2002|
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