Chilean Air Force gets last Stratotanker

Boeing has delivered the last of the Chilean Air Force’s three KC-135E Stratotankers.

March 29: Boeing has delivered the last of the Chilean Air Force’s three KC-135E Stratotankers.

The aircraft arrived at Boeing’s San Antonio facility last June for maintenance work, which included a variety of depot-level inspections, repairs, maintenance, modification and repainting. The KC-135E was then flown to Santiago, Chile, by a crew from the US Defense Contract Management Agency’s 313th Flight Test Squadron on March 9.

“Boeing worked with the Chilean Air Force to incorporate lessons learned on the first and second aircraft to deliver the final KC-135 and return it to doing what it does best,” said Mike Wright, Boeing KC-135 programme director. “This highly dependable aircraft is a critical resource to Chile for refueling missions and humanitarian assistance.”

KC-135 aircraft receive Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) after five years of service or 20,000 hours of flight time. Boeing has been performing PDM for the US Air Force and other international customers at its San Antonio facility since 1998.

The first Chilean Air Force KC-135 to go through PDM was delivered on February 18, 2010, a week before an 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile. The aircraft was immediately put into use to conduct humanitarian missions. Delivery of the second aircraft took place on August 30, 2011, one day before the KC-135 marked its 55th anniversary of first flight.

The Chilean government purchased the three KC-135E-model aircraft on July 8, 2009 through the US Air Force Foreign Military Sales Office at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

A400M in South America

Airbus Military’s A400M has landed in Santiago, Chile during its first visit to Latin America.

March 27: Airbus Military’s A400M landed in Santiago, Chile on March 26 during its first visit to Latin America.

Flown by Experimental Test Pilot Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Lombo, ‘Grizzly 2’ landed at the FIDAE air show at approximately 13:15. One of the five development aircraft, Grizzly 2 will perform high-altitude flight tests at Cochabamba, Bolivia, where the airfield is located at 8,360ft (2,550m) above sea level. Flying from Cochabamba to FIDAE, the A400M reached another milestone in its flight test programme: the 1,000th flight.

After FIDAE, the aircraft will fly to Lima, Peru, for a visit and to La Paz, Bolivia, which is more than 13,000ft (3,960 m) above sea level for further flight tests. “I had the privilege to land the A380 for the first time at FIDAE in 2008,” said Nacho Lombo, “which was a proud moment. I am delighted to be back again at FIDAE and this time to bring the most versatile new generation airlifter: the A400M. It is an honour for us to bring the A400M and see it here next to the A380 – two new generation aircraft together.”

UAE completes A330 MRTT qualifications

Airbus Military has successfully completed Mirage 2000 and F-16 Block 60 receiver qualifications.

March 26: Airbus Military has successfully completed Mirage 2000 and F-16 Block 60 receiver qualifications from the A330 MRTT multi-role tanker transport.

Operating from Al Dhafra airbase, the aircraft performed air-to-air refuelling at speeds throughout the refuelling flight envelope, at a range of altitudes, and in turns, climbs and descents as well as level flight.

Other versions of the F-16 have already been qualified with the A330 MRTT, but the trials added the Block 60 variant used by the UAE, which features large conformal fuel tanks on the fuselage. The F-16 was refuelled using the A330 MRTT’s Airbus Refuelling Boom System (ARBS).

The Mirage 2000 was successfully tested in different configurations including the twin-seat version carrying two drop-tanks and two air-to-air missiles, and the single-seat version carrying six missiles and a centreline drop-tank. To refuel the Mirage 2000, the A330 MRTT used its two underwing refuelling pods, including demonstrations of refuelling two fighters simultaneously.

Antonio Caramazana, Vice President Programme Director Airbus Military Derivatives, said: “It is very satisfying to qualify another two aircraft types as receivers for the A330 MRTT and we look forward to entry into service with the UAE Air Force later this year.” The UAE has three A330 MRTTs on order.

Crew training with UAE pilots is currently underway in Spain and the first two A330 MRTTs for the UAE, including the one that took part in the trials, are due to be delivered before the end of the year.

Extended F-35 facility opens in UK

The latest phase of the new F-35 manufacturing facility at Samlesbury in Lancashire has opened.

March 23: Production on the F-35 programme reached another milestone at BAE Systems on March 22 with the opening of the latest phase of the new F-35 manufacturing facility at Samlesbury in Lancashire.

As part of the company’s £150 million investment in the F-35 programme at Samlesbury, when fully completed the facility will enable workers to produce one F-35 aft fuselage set every day, compared to the current rate of one set per week. The extension is the second part of a three-phase expansion plan to the facility as the programme gears up for peak rate production by 2016.

Chris Allam, Senior Vice President on the F-35 programme said “The facility opening is an exciting development in the F-35 story at Samlesbury. F-35 is an important programme for BAE Systems and the capabilities that this facility provides are equal to anywhere in the world. We’re using state of the art machines and manufacturing techniques to ensure we can meet the rates of production that the F-35 programme demands. It’s fair to say that this facility is proof that we’re standing up to that challenge and we’re keeping ourselves at the forefront of UK manufacturing.”

Along with being responsible for the design and delivery of the aft fuselage and empennage for each of the three F-35 variants, BAE Systems also plays a key role in other areas including vehicle and mission systems, life support system and prognostics health management integration. The Company also has significant work share in autonomic logistics and has a role in the Integrated Test Force in America including two BAE Systems pilots flight testing the F-35 as part of Team JSF. BAE Systems employs almost 2000 employees on the F-35 programme.

A400M production ramps up

The Airbus Military A400M final assembly line in Spain has begun working on the second serial production A400M.

March 20: The Airbus Military A400M final assembly line in Seville, Spain has begun working on the second serial production A400M, MSN8.

The integration of the wings and central wing-box for this aircraft began in February. The rest of the main components have arrived in Seville over the last few weeks: the vertical tailplane from Stade in Germany; the nose from Saint Nazaire in France; the horizontal tailplane from the nearby Tablada site and the fuselage from Bremen in Germany.

As with the first production aircraft MSN7, the French Air Force will receive this second aircraft in 2013.

II(AC) Squadron Centenary tail

On May 13, three Royal Air Force squadrons will celebrate 100 years since being formed as Royal Flying Corps units.

March 15: On May 13, three Royal Air Force squadrons will celebrate 100 years since being formed as Royal Flying Corps units.

One of these, II(AC) Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk, has already prepared a Tornado GR4 with celebratory artwork on the tail. The aircraft will be centre stage for celebrations over the weekend of May 12/13.

Nr 3(F) Squadron at RAF Coningsby will also celebrate the occasion with a similarly adorned Typhoon FGR4, and it is expected that 1(F) Squadron will re-form at RAF Leuchars in time for it to celebrate its centenary the same weekend.

F-35A second training sortie successful

US Marine Corps Major Joseph Bachmann successfully piloted the second F-35 local orientation flight on March 13.

March 14: After last week’s aborted first training flight, US Marine Corps Major Joseph Bachmann successfully piloted the second F-35 local orientation flight on March 13.

AF-13, an F-35A, launched at 14:30 CDT from Eglin AFB in Florida and completed a 93-minute flight, landing at 16:03 CDT. The wing’s two F-35 pilots, in conjunction with its integrated team of military members, civilians and contractors, will begin to slowly build up their number of sorties with an initial goal of flying twice a week for the first couple of weeks and then steadily increasing the weekly sortie count.

Video: Boeing’s Phantom Eye taxies

Boeing has announced that its Phantom Eye unmanned aerial vehicle has conducted its first medium-speed taxi test.

March 14: Boeing has announced that its Phantom Eye high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle has conducted its first medium-speed taxi test.

The hydrogen-powered aircraft is designed for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and communications. The test was conducted on March 10 at Edwards Air Force Base, California in coordination with the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The aircraft, travelling atop its launching cart system, reached speeds of up to 30 knots as ground teams relayed directions and information using Boeing’s advanced Common Open-mission Management Command and Control (COMC2) software.

“The aircraft performed well and the data collected will help populate our models,” said Drew Mallow, Boeing Phantom Eye programme manager. “This test brings us one step closer to our first flight.” With its 150ft wingspan, Phantom Eye is designed to fly at an altitude of up to 65,000ft and stay airborne for up to four days while carrying a 450lb payload.

NZDF gets NH90

New Zealand gets its first NH90 helicopters.

March 12: The New Zealand Defence Minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman, officially welcomed the first of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s new medium utility NH90 helicopters at an event in Wellington on March 9.

The NH90 helicopters will be the most advanced and capable helicopter the Air Force has ever had,” he said. “They will considerably improve the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) ability to conduct military, counter-terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue, and other operations. This milestone illustrates that we are delivering on the plan laid out in the Defence White Paper. Like other defence forces around the world we are reprioritising our resources to provide up-to-date capability for a 21st century Defence Force. The NH90 is an outstanding example of the modernisation process so far.”

In total eight NH90s have been purchased for operations, with a ninth to be used for parts. The first two of these new helicopters is now ready for training. They will eventually replace the fleet of 12 Iroquois, which have been in use for more than 40 years.

USS Enterprise embarks on last voyage

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise has departed on its 22nd and final deployment.

March 12: The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departed Norfolk Naval Station on March 11 on the ship’s 22nd and final deployment.

Enterprise is slated to deploy to the US Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as part of an ongoing rotation of forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters.

The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group consists of approximately 5,500 Sailors and Marines who, during the last few months, successfully completed a series of complex training events and certifications to ensure they were capable of operating effectively and safely together. “This Strike Group is trained and ready for the full spectrum of operations,” said Rear Admiral Ted Carter, commander, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. “We’re ready to maintain freedom of the sea lanes, project power if directed to do so, and certainly perform a presence mission.”

For Enterprise, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the deployment represents the culmination of more than 50 years of distinguished service. Commissioned in 1961, Enterprise is both the largest and oldest active combat vessel in the Navy.

Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years,” said Captain William C Hamilton, Commanding Officer. “The ship and crew’s performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant.”

Enterprise was designed in the late 1950s for a 25-year lifespan, and the Nimitz-class carriers were designed for 50 years. “To effectively double the service life of a ship as complex as Enterprise speaks volumes about the design strengths of the world’s first nuclear-powered carrier, the Navy’s commitment to cost effectiveness, and our Sailors hard work and innovation throughout the last half-century to keep her going strong,” said Hamilton. Enterprise is scheduled for deactivation and eventual decommissioning following its anticipated return later this year, marking the end of the carrier’s legendary 50-plus years of service.

The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group is comprised of Enterprise, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS James E Williams (DDG 95).

CVW-1 is comprised of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 and Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 11.