The Paris air show: while commercial aviation, and particularly Airbus, literally stole the show by announcing an incredible profusion of contracts for airliners, the defence aspect was comparatively dwarfed, particularly in terms of novelties in the military aircraft department contrasting, however, with the situation of new defence sub-systems.
The Camcopter, which is still the only European drone of its category to be in operational service in various parts of the world, is also the only one to have been granted authorisation thus far to operate in full drone mode at international air shows. It took off and landed in automatic mode and provided a good sample of its capabilities by transmitting the images it captured of the Bourget grounds in real time on large screens.
Vertilift drones of this size are still being eyed by various navies around the world, particularly in Europe, which is the reason why Hans Schiebel has embarked on 'dieseling' the original Austro AE50R engine (more correctly in fact, the engine is being redeveloped to enable it to operate on heavy fuel and will still use spark plugs). Thus reengined, the Cam-copter is expected to have its maiden whirl before the end of 2011.
Turning to one of the head-on competitors of the Camcopter, the Skeldar, Saab provided an update on the development of the second iteration of this Proto type, the Skeldar 200, the previous model being the Skeldar 150. While the figure suffix is supposed to indicate the maximum take-off weight of the bird, the '200 is in fact able to lift off at 220 kg, including a 40-kg payload. While the drone essentially differs from its predecessor by sporting larger main and tail rotors, it introduces a new scouting feature that will enable it to fly some 300 metres ahead of its mobile ground station (as indeed this will be able to operate on the move) and to stop when its control vehicle and trailer do so in the event a roadside bomb should be spotted.
Thus far (at the time or Bourget in June), the Skeldar 200 had reached a maximum speed of 150 km/h but, according to Saab, the flight envelope was far from being completely explored. The machine should be ready for demonstrations to potential customers in spring 2012. While according to Saab, the Swedish Army is currently involved (read busy enough) with the integration of fixed-wing drones and testing them in Afghanistan, the navy is showing a higher interest level in the naval version known as the Skeldar M - M for maritime - the 55-hp heavy fuel Hirth engine of which was being installed in view of a maiden flight by the time these lines are printed. However, the final configuration of the M has not yet been frozen, notably regarding its landing gear or skids.
While Cassidian had declined to make any comments to Armada about its drone programmes in spring, the company took observers by surprise by displaying both theTalarion male and a light helicopter drone demonstrator. Still unnamed, this vertilift drone project was a well-kept secret until the show, having had its maiden flight with a petrol-fed Hirth engine in December 2010. Based on a Cybaero Apid 60 backbone, the machine must be substantially beefed up, as it boasts a maximum take-off weight of 300 kg and was actually flown with a diesel engine shortly after the show.
Although Cassidian remains extremely discrete in terms of technical details, one can easily estimate that a good 80 hp is needed to comfortably move such a mass in the air, especially if one considers the ampler width of the fuselage compared with say, the Swedish Skeldar or the Iberian Pelicano (both Cybaero based), which have to contend themselves with 50 or 55 horsepower on tap.
However, Cassidian did say that the 'no-name' bird boasted a so-far unique capability for such a machine in that it is equipped with a dual datalink able to simultaneously transmit data from its gimballed high-resolution colour and normal resolution infrared sensors. Again no details were given, but the turret under the fuselage suspiciously looked like an item from L-3 So far, the newcomer has been test-flown with semi-automatic take-off and landing facilities.
The presence of the full-scale Talarion mock-up behind the 'no-name' vtol drone did not motivate Cassidian to be more talkative on that programme, saying that things on the European male drone front might clarify by the end of the year, the added political blur being caused, inter alia, by the recent Dassault-BAE Systems co-operation agreement on the Telemos.
The overall European new male for the 2020s is a subject on which a lot of ink has been dispensed so far, but largely on Anglo-Franco-German government speculations. Turkey's TAI has clearly shown its interest in buying an entry ticket to the Talarion development programme.
Selex Galileo, on the other hand, announced its clear intention of developing a new drone derived from the Falco, with a view to increasing pay-load and endurance. The potential result was unveiled on the Bourget's static display in the form a life-size mock-up. The Falco Evo (an apocope of evolution) uses the same core airframe as the original Falco, the major change being in the wing, which has a 12.5-metre span versus the original's 7.2. The conversion kit also comes with longer tail booms and increases the all-up weight from 420 to 650 kg; the Pay load capacity is substantially upped from 70 to 100 kg.
The Falco Evo can thus be equipped with three different payloads, typically the Sage elint system (with sensors in the wingtips), the belly-mounted gimballed Eost 46 and the Picosar (with aerial in the nose). With its full load the Falco Evo will have an 18-hour endurance, compared to the current eight to 14 hours of the Falco N/XN (Nato or Extra Nato), some 36 aircraft at those standards having been produced for three different customers. Other benefits of the longer wing are lower operational speeds (80 to 60 knots) and higher ceiling (from 5000 to 6000 metres). The first Falco Evo flight is expected in early 2012 from an Italian air base.
Thales showed work underway to further improve safety conditions for helicopters flying in difficult situations, particularly when brown-or white-out conditions occur. Known as 'augmented reality', this facility is injected into the Top Owl helmet's display, effectively superimposing a grid of the terrain configuration ahead of the pilot's gaze on the existing projected data. The three-dimensional geographical grid information is thus merged with the helmet's infrared and image intensification imagery.
The concept still needs to be flight tested on a helicopter, but the principle is to load the concerned geographical database into the helicopter's flight system and present the pilot with a view of the terrain he cannot see in spite of existing viewing aids.
The subject of the Top Owl provides us with a natural transition to one of its many users, namely the US Marine Corps who, in conjunction with Bell and L-3, presented the work carried out on the control panels of the Bell AH-1Z and UH-1Y as part of the US Marine Corps H1 programme. As a Corps official told Armada, [much less than]Some 189 Zulus have been acquired and 15 delivered [to date] and 160 Yankees with 45 delivered [to date][much greater than].
Quite apart from upgrading airframes that started to get pretty long in the tooth, the main aim of the overall programme was to give a maximum level of commonality to the two types to reduce both development and maintenance costs. The goal was pretty well achieved with a figure of 85% in terms of parts and logistics. This was also extended to the software, which is identical on both the attack and utility machines, and the next step in that department would be to give them a networking capability.
The aircraft, both of which were present on the static display, feature the same drivetrains and bearingless rotors, but perhaps most astonishing is that their avionics are also pretty identical but of course 'redistributed' to suit the rather different configurations of their respective cockpits. These include two Northrop Grumman flight computers, large L-3 multiple function displays and Flir Brightstar II gimballed electro-optical turrets. Some of the Yankees are already operational in Afghanistan where they will be joined by a first set of Zulus later in 2011.
Afghan rebels do not use particularly sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons, but the war has demonstrated that low-flying and slow aircraft like helicopters were particularly vulnerable to unguided rocket fire, which is profusely used there. This has prompted ATK to introduce a Hostile Fire Indication upgrade to its AAR-47 missile warning system. Approved by the US Department of the Navy earlier this year, this new capability--achieved by software tweaking to better exploit the signals picked by its ultraviolet sensors - enables the system to detect small-calibre fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
This year's MBDA in-house Concept Visions contest: involves maritime strike.The selected study was the Perseus, a multi-role missile the dimensions (five metres) and weight (800 kg) of which have been kept compatible with platforms carrying heavy anti-ship missiles. To hit naval and ground time-sensitive targets at long range - 300 km - an engagement time of less than 20 minutes is required. The Perseus was thus designed for a speed of Mach 3 adopting a CDWE (Continuous Detonation Wave Engine) that ensures supersonic speed while maintaining the size of subsonic missiles.
The CDWE is still in the very early stages of development, the Meteor ramjet has been considered for the early development stages. To further reduce engagement time an advanced operations and mission planning system able to handle simultaneously surface, air and land tactical situations and to provide automatic mission shaping data in less than one minute is being developed.
At Mach 3 the Perseus will reach the target in less than seven minutes, leaving some seven to eight minutes to the engagement decision process.The top-attack mode will allow it to fly well above the shorad-firing envelope and to dive over a naval target in the blind detection cone. A sea-skimming medium-range Mach 2 option is also envisaged.
The Perseus will feature a dual-mode sensor package built around an advanced aesa radar seeker with a sar and Doppler-beam sharpening mode. A ladar will also be available for high-resolution target imagery when operating against land targets, but a semi-active laser receiver is also considered for very fast engagement against time-sensitive targets.
The lethality package will weigh around 200 kg and will feature a main warhead guided by the main sensors. To maximise damages, increase kill probability or allow multiple target engagement, two additional effectors of about 40 kg each can be ejected in the very last seconds of the attack. Fitted with an inertia guidance system they can be aimed at different parts of the ship, or against nearby land targets. The secondary warheads can be kept in the missile body when a single high-power effect is needed.
The type of warhead was not announced since the overall Perseus concept is based on modularity, various configurations have been envisaged. The missile features a modular composite structure to trim its overall mass according to needs and leave the door open to capability enhancements.
In a shorter-term realm, and in the surface-to-air field, MBDA aims at a short-to-medium-term market in Eastern European countries by offering an upgrade for the SA-6 Gainful proposing its Aspide 2000 as a replacement for current 3M9M missiles the shelf life of which will expire in 2015-18. To do so MBDA has teamed with Retia, a Czech company that is already proposing an SA-6 upgrade package to its national armed forces.
MBDA is also looking at other nations, the Gainful is also in use in Poland, the Ukraine, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria, while outside Europe Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tchad, Mozambique, Syria, Myan-mar, Vietnam and Cuba are also users of that Soviet-era system. According to Antonio Perfetti, Executive Director Sales & Business Development and Managing Director Italy, the aim is to provide a low-cost solution that would inject new technologies in the system.
The Retia package replaces surveillance and firing systems, the target illuminator, communication systems and workstations, reducing the operators' workload. The Aspide 2000 will provide performances similar to those of the 3M9M, as it can be launched at a higher elevation, reaching the same operational ceiling, its range being slightly shorter compared to the 25 km of the Soviet missile; its dynamic performance is similar while it has a better resistance to countermeasures.
The MBDA missile was chosen by Retia following a competitive process. To reduce risks MBDA will provide the illuminator transmitter, the antenna remaining the original unit. The missile integration should be finished by year-end while complete system integration will be reached in 2012. A first firing will depend on the Czech Armed Forces decision to continue the programme, as the feasibility study was financed by the military.
Numerous nations have already asked for information on the programme, among them Slovenia, Hungary, Egypt and Algeria, which fosters optimism for the industrial team/Hie missiles could be new or taken from Italian stockpiles and refurbished.
Still in the air-defence field, Raytheon provided an update on its Nasams programme. Currently the system remains in use with the US Army for contingency missions in the Washington DC area and is deployed by Spain, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, the latest user is Finland since 2009, although a sixth operator has remainedundisclosed. Greece and Turkey are looking at an upgrade of their Hawk XXI that might include Nasams components.
The overall success rate in real firing exceeds 91%. Recent trials in Norway showed that the system can carry out an engagement with the electro-optical sensor, which includes a laser rangefinder, although it was not designed to be used in such way; skilled operators managed to link with remote data and successfully engage the target (Norway regularly testing modes that are way out of specifications).
The system's open architecture allows it to use different missiles: the Aim-120 Amraam is fully validated as well as the Aim-9X, which is fully compatible with the launcher rails. The ability to operate the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile was proven and demonstrated that this missile needs an illuminator and provides a range comparable to that of the Hawk, the launcher elevation remains at 30[degrees] to fully exploit the missile's thrust.
Raytheon counts on the numerous users of this missile (twelve nations), to extend the types of missiles used. For instance, two weeks prior to Le Bourget Raytheon, in co-operation with Diehl BGT Defence, fired an Iris-T from a canister launcher.
In the meantime, the company is also working on sensors, the most recent add-on being the installation of a radar on a 20-metre mast, to better counter incoming cruise missiles. The company is also adding Link 16, testing of this new datalink has been planned before year-end in El Paso.
Among its missiles, guided bombs and optronic systems, Rafael was exhibiting the latest version of its Trophy active armour system - a few months after the baptism by fire of its original Trophy Heavy Vehicles (HV) system which, on 3 March destroyed an R.PG aimed at a Merkava Mk 4.
This version of the Trophy has an overall weight of 850 kg and is based on a radar sensor that detects the threat and provides the data to the system computer that launches a multiple-explo five-formedpenetrator against the incoming object. To access the medium-weight vehicle market Rafael engineers have worked on a lighter version. The resultant Trophy MV thus tips the scales at 520 kg, making it compatible with 6 x 6 or 8 x 8 vehicles.
Shown for the first time in public at Le Bourget was an even lighter iteration known as the Trophy LV (Light Vehicles) for Hummer class vehicles thanks to its overall weight of 200 kg. Although it retains the Trophy name, the LV draws on different technologies and provides a different level of protection. While HV and MV ensure protection against anti-tank missiles, RPG-type weapons and Heat tank rounds, the LV system is designed to cope only with rocket grenades at short ranges, including the tandem warhead types.
It uses an energy blade that is generated by downwards-looking boxes located around the vehicle roof to enable the blade to cut the nose of the incoming missile without triggering its warhead. The effector is activated by a two-layer sensor system - an alert sensor installed on the roof and secondary sensors installed on the vehicle sides.
The system is currently starting testing and is considered at TRL 5-6 (Tactical Readiness Level is based on a 1 to 9 scale where 9 is ready for production). Rafael will bring it up to TRL-8 on company funds, but will await a customer to complete development and start industrialisation.
RELATED ARTICLE: X3, The Star
The only all-new aircraft with a potential defence application that took part in the flight display in the Bourget skies was the hybrid Eurocopter X3 - hybrid because it mixes rotary wing and propeller propulsion. Based on a Dauphin airframe, but sans tail rotor of course (torque effect being harnessed by differential pitch on the propellers), the X3 receives a large horizontal tail, twin vertical fins and a five-blade main rotor. By show time, the X3 had reached a speed of 232 knots, although the aim is to establish an economical cruise speed of 220. To put this into perspective, a conventional helicopter cruises at a maximum of 150 knots at the best. The X3 is powered by a pair of 2300-hp RTM322s manufactured by Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca. Some may think that Eurocopter is trying to re-invent the wheel, since many attempts to create compound aircraft have been made in the past, and recently by Sikorsky with the X2. However, Eurocopter breaks new ground with the X3 in that it has stub-wings to provide some of the lift in horizontal flight and that its propellers are driven directly from the main gearbox (as opposed to dedicated engines in older designs). Transition to 'plane flight' is effected by progressively adding pitch to the propellers while reducing collective main rotor pitch. Obviously, Eurocopter will amass a lot of new data in flight tests, which will all determine the balance between fuel consumption, cost per seat and maintenance cost per flight hour (if mission time is reduced by speed, maintenance time and costs might be reduced and, conversely more missions can be flown). Obvious applications are search-and-rescue and special operations, but the concept could be transposed to a Cougar-sized design.
RELATED ARTICLE: Air Display
The Italian Air Force Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale (seen here) gave bold flight displays, but the most staggering flight demonstration was probably given by the Spartan C-27 J, which was trying to be as manoeuvrable as the two fighters. Seeing the transport aircraft going into severe tail slides just after take-off was quite staggering (see the position of the rudder, knowing that the plane is actually travelling straight from right to left), but showed the ability of the Spartan to cope with strong side winds. Alenia's boss, Giuseppe Giordo, announced that a development programme for an armed version of the Spartan was underway, this version being considered by the Italian Air Force for special forces support. Moreover, Selex Sistemi Integrati presented its Flexmis system, a palletised command and control suite that can be linked up to the aircraft aerials and eventually to optronic sensors, effectively transforming the Spartan into a C2 aircraft. Two consoles are available with three seats (one for the supervisor) while power could be provided by the aircraft by a battery with a six-hour autonomy. The Flexmis has a weight of less than 300 kg, and can be quickly installed or removed, allowing the C-27J to maintain its transport capacity.
Visited and photographed by E.H. Biass & P. Valpolini
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|Title Annotation:||Shows & exhibitions|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2011|
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