Naval Air Power in the 21st Century

A new exhibition has opened at the Fleet Air Arm Museum to present development of the two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and their capabilities for the 21st Century.

The aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are expected to enter service in 2016 and 2018.

The vessels will continue the rich tradition of Royal Naval aircraft carriers and will be the largest warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy. They will measure 280 metres (920ft) long and displace 65,000 tonnes and will carry Lockheed Martin F35B Lightening II Fighters as part of their embarked air group.

The new permanent exhibition features films showing the unique ‘building block’ construction process along with interactive displays allowing the user to manoeuvre aircraft on a flight deck and take-off.

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Advanced Super Hornet Completes Flight Tests

During three weeks of flight testing, Boeing and Northrop Grumman demonstrated improvements that make the jet much harder for radar to detect and give it significantly more combat range.

Through 21 flights that took place in St. Louis and Patuxent River, Md., the team tested conformal fuel tanks (CFT), an enclosed weapons pod (EWP), and signature enhancements each of which can be retrofitted on an existing Block II Super Hornet aircraft or included on a new jet.

Improvements to the aircraft’s radar signature including the enclosed pod resulted in a 50 percent reduction compared with the U.S. Navy’s stealth requirement for the current Super Hornet variant. The tests also showed that the CFTs increase the jet’s combat radius by up to 130 nautical miles, for a total radius of more than 700 nautical miles.

“Even though we added components to the aircraft, their stealthy, low-drag design will enhance the combat capability and survivability of the Super Hornet on an aircraft that has a combat-proven history launching and recovering from aircraft carriers,” said Mike Wallace, the Boeing F/A-18 test pilot who flew the Advanced Super Hornet configuration.

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The improvements will ensure that the Advanced Super Hornet outpaces enemy aircraft and defenses through 2030 and beyond.

The companies, along with Hornet Industry Team partners GE Aviation and Raytheon, are investing in new technologies for the Advanced Super Hornet, including internal Infrared Search and Track, an enhanced engine and a next-generation cockpit.

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F-35B Ready For Sea Trials

The Lockheed Martin F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) completed its 500th vertical landing August 3.

Sea Trials, known as Developmental Test 2 (DT-2) are scheduled to begin for the F-35B variant onboard the USS WASP.

DT-2 is the second of three planned tests aimed at defining and expanding the F-35B’s shipboard operating envelope for the U.S. Marine Corps. The first shipboard testing phase was successfully completed in October 2011.

The successful completion of the upcoming Sea Trials is key to declaring F-35 Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the U.S. Marine Corps in 2015.

NAVAIR test GPS Anti-Jamming Device

Part of an initiative to protect GPS technologies on small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the Navy recently conducted tests to demonstrate how miniaturised GPS protection devices can prevent interruption of this mission-critical global positioning data.

From July 10 to 24, the Communications and GPS Navigation Program Office (PMW/A 170), headquartered in San Diego, mounted a Small Antenna System (SAS) on an Aerostar unmanned aircraft, then placed the small UAV in a room lined with signal-absorbent material at the FARM (Facilities for Antenna and RCS Measurements), where it was subjected to GPS jamming signals.

Equipped with model jammers, the FARM facility was used as a stage for the “enemy” to jam the GPS signal and try to knock the UAV off course, said Eric Stevens, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Communications and Navigation lead for PMW/A-170, which supplied the antenna system. Knocked off course, the UAV would not be able to relay critical intelligence back to the ground control station — disrupting communications among U.S. and allied forces’ ships, aircraft and submarines. In a worst-case scenario, GPS jamming could even cause UAVs to crash.

PMW/A-170, aligned under the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego partnered with Naval Test Wing Atlantic, which supplied the Aerostar, to conduct July’s testing. Personnel and teams from the Maritime Unmanned Development and Operations (MUDO); the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical

Unmanned Air Systems Program Office (PMA 263); and an engineering team from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s Radar and Antenna Systems Department also supported the event.

Personnel involved in the testing were optimistic about the results.

Equipped with the SAS, the Aerostar will be also used to support a U.S. Army pre-deployment war-game scenario conducted at Fort Polk, La., in August, said Donn Rushing, the project lead for MUDO. Rushing participated in the Fort Polk exercises last year and said the addition of the GPS anti-jamming antenna will give the “good guys” an edge this year.

“This new anti-jam system decreases the footprint normally required of such a system, which is now ideal for UAV incorporation and service,” Rushing said. “What makes us smarter is knowing our enemies are smart and that we have to stay one step ahead of them. The SAS development is the latest GPS anti-jam capability to aid the war fighter in combating the bad guys.”

Turkish Air Force A400M Takes Off

The first production Airbus Military A400M new generation airlifter for the Turkish Air Force (TAF) has made its maiden flight, marking a key milestone towards its delivery.

The aircraft, known as MSN9, took off from Seville, Spain, at 13:56 local time (GMT+2) on 9 August and landed back in Seville 5 hours and 30 minutes later.

The A400M programme for the TAF is also making good progress at the Airbus Military International Training Centre at Seville, where TAF pilots, loadmasters, and maintenance technicians have already begun their training. Turkey has ordered 10 A400Ms.

Disney’s Planes Exclusive! We talk to the Director

Disney’s Planes movie hits the UK cinemas on August 16 and is sure to be a hit with kids aged three to 103.

AirForces Monthly’s Editor, Gary Parsons, had an opportunity to speak with the movie’s director, Klay Hall, who has directed episodes of the Simpsons, King of the Hill and Disney’s Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.

Produced at Southern California’s Disneytoon Studios, Disney’s Planes tells the tale of a crop duster — named Dusty — who’s sure he’s capable of more than taking care of crops.

Klay Hall was into aircraft long before Planes ever got off the ground. “I’ve always loved airplanes,” he says. “My dad was in the US Navy and his dad was also a pilot. They flew all their lives and passed that love of aviation to me.

“When I was a kid in California my dad and I would grab some burgers and Cokes and go to the local runway to watch the planes take off and land. I’d sit there and sketch as he talked about the characteristics of the airplanes. I still have a couple of those drawings. So when this project came up, I was able to really jump into this universe.

“I think people will really relate to Planes because it’s a great underdog story. It has a lot of heart and a message we can all use – if we can believe in ourselves, step out of our comfort zones and get past whatever fear is holding us back, we’d be surprised with the results. And that’s exactly what happens to Dusty in this movie. He’s a crop duster who’s never flown above 1,000 feet, but he dreams of being the fastest air racer in the world. He has a lot of obstacles to overcome and needs to dig pretty deep to find the courage to become more than what he was built for.”

AFM: You must have been pretty excited when John Lasseter asked you to take on the movie?

Klay: “That’s an understatement! John tells the story that when I got back off the floor and the blood rushed to my head it was like ‘yea, I’m on it’! I was so excited – it was a great surprise and an honour.”

Does the genesis of Planes go back to the Air Mater short?

“We were involved with that, although it was strictly a Pixar short – we helped with art direction and character designs. It was a chance to weigh up our characters. Planes was in work before that short, but what we were able to do was tee-up the idea of Mater loving flying. Planes existed in the Cars franchise long before we came on the scene.”

Your scriptwriter, Jeffery Howard, has an air force background – was that deliberate?

“It was a coincidence – what we found out was that many of us on this movie had a lot of aviation background. It seems like it was set up that way – Jeff’s dad was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War – but it was almost like it was meant to be.”

There are a lot of ‘Top Gun’ references – did that movie inspire you 25 years ago?

“Yes, absolutely – who wasn’t inspired by that? When I knew I was going to have some sequences with naval aviation I picked the F4U Corsair to kick it all off – it’s probably one of the most iconic and best looking aircraft of the Second World War with its gull-wing, and the ‘Jolly Rogers’ squadron under Tommy Blackburn [has a great history]. I knew that was a great aeroplane to start with because of its historical significance and what’s cool about the ‘Rogers is that they currently fly F-18s. I wanted to get a contemporary feel into certain sequences and that whole Top Gun thing, so when the opportunity came to casting Goose [Anthony Edwards] and Iceman [Val Kilmer] they both responded with ‘absolutely!’ It was so cool as a fan of that movie to be working with those guys and almost resurrect those roles in [the characters] Bravo and Echo.”

Absolutely – perhaps two of the most iconic characters from the Top Gun movie. Did you approach Tom Cruise?

“We did, but he was doing Mission Impossible IV at the time.”

How much did the US Navy help with the production?

“They helped a great deal. They didn’t necessarily help with the design of the aircraft – that was art direction under Ryan Carlson and his team. Actually our F-18s are a mixture of three or four different types – F-18, F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle and MiG-29. We contacted the navy to let them know we would welcome their input and we had a guy from the Department of Defense who flew in with two navy commanders from the Pentagon to look at the movie in production. As a filmmaker I was nervous as here we have aeroplanes representing the US, but after they saw the screening they said they’d thoroughly enjoyed it and were very eager to help us in any way they could. What they were able to do was put us in contact with a couple of current Hornet pilots so we could get the proper jargon, but the icing on the cake was that they flew a small team of us out to the USS Carl Vinson 150 miles out to sea where we landed by arresting wire on the deck. Landing on deck was an unbelievable opportunity – we flew in on a C-2 Greyhound – it was beautiful! They were launching F-18s while we were there – it was right out of Top Gun with the steam rolling across the deck and the guys operating the catapults – just that whole thing was amazing to see. We spent two days with the crew and aircrew getting to know their way of life and were able to play my navy sequence back to the captain – overall they loved it, but we were then able to change a few specifics to make it more true.

“I was like a kid in a candy store – we were able to talk to aviation pioneers and fighter pilots, Korean War vets, civilian test pilots. We had special access to the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. It’s been amazing.”

What about the manufacturers, such as Boeing, did they get involved?

“We didn’t have to go to them – there’s so many flight experts out there. All of our team is familiar with flying in one way or another, but we brought in an ex-fighter pilot, Sean Bautista, as a consultant who had flown F-16s for the air force for 20 years. He was very familiar with all kinds of aircraft fight dynamics and characteristics. We also had a visual effects consultant, Jason McKinley, and he helped lead the team on flight dynamics.”

Making Planes fly — literally — called for a unique combination of research, collaboration and a lot of hard work. Jason McKinley, who had worked on ‘Red Tails’ was flight specialist for the film. He is the creator, producer and director of the ‘Dogfights’ series for the History Channel and specialises in designing flying effects for film and television. “With every flying scene, there’s a giant sky,” he says. “You’re flying around at 300-400 miles an hour and the space you take up is huge. So we wanted to get that massive feeling of space and speed to the audience.

“The planes have to be a real size, the set has to be real size and you have to fly the plane at the speed it can actually fly. The human eye is very attuned to motion — we’ve all seen a bird fly or thrown a ball. We’ve built in our brains a library of motions and how those motions are supposed to look. The second you veer from the laws of physics, everybody can tell that it doesn’t look right.”

Helping to ensure the authenticity was Sean Bautista, who became a licensed pilot in high school, went on to fly a variety of aircraft — from Cessnas and Pipers to F-4s, F-16s and commercial 747s — and has logged several thousand flight hours during his career. “I was able to answer technical questions like ‘How do you up the horse power on a PT6 powered turbo prop crop duster?’, he says.

He also helped authenticate some of the dialogue – “We’d go out to lunch and they’d flip on the tape recorder and ask me to talk like a military pilot or traffic controller. These guys don’t talk in normal jargon — it’s sort of shorthand and harder to understand. But incorporating the real thing really makes it feel right.”

AFM: You’ve got some fine old actors – Stacey Keach, John Cleese – it must have been a hoot to work with them?

Klay: “It was fantastic – both of those guys are legends. What Stacey brought was a salt-of-the-earth texture to his character, Skipper the Corsair, where he commands instant respect. Having John Cleese and knowing his Monty Python days, how magically funny he was, it was just great working with him.”

Did Stacey voice Skipper in the Air Mater short?

“Yes he did.”

How about a Planes 2 – could that be more military-minded?

[Laughs] “We’ve talked about ideas and that’s certainly one of them. The thing about this universe is that it’s wide open. But Planes 2 will be about fire and rescue – you know the first plane to drop water on a fire was a crop duster. The history of fire-fighting from an aeroplane’s point of view is the core idea of the story. But going back to the military, that’s something we need to explore.”

Will Planes fire and rescue be a full-length movie?

“A theatrical world-wise release for the summer of 2014.”

So the work never stops!

“Right now it doesn’t! It’s all good – it comes back to John Lasseter’s philosophy about these things – it’s all about the quality of the stories. Just as long as we’re focussed on great stories and characters.

“We’ve all been the underdog in our own lives – we’ve all been Dusty at some point. It’s that familiarity — paired with the authenticity we worked so hard to incorporate at every level — that’ll make audiences root for this guy. And I think that’s one of the best parts of going to the movies.”


New Systems Tested on Growler

The U.S. Navy has flown on a Boeing EA-18G Growler to test a new sensor system and data network upgrade.

The flight test demonstrated how the enhanced technologies would allow aircrews to locate threats more quickly and accurately.

The secure, high-speed network will allow aircrews to share targeting data in real time and the technology will be incorporated into deployed Growler electronic attack aircraft in 2018.

“These enhancements provide a significantly faster and more accurate targeting solution for the Navy and allied forces,” said Capt. Frank Morley, U.S. Navy F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager. “The result is a more capable EA-18G that is better able to control the EA spectrum.”

The demonstration took place July 15-19 during the Navy’s fleet experimentation campaign at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

The upgrades are planned to be retrofitted into existing Growlers and included as a standard offering for future new aircraft sales. Boeing and the Navy will work closely with supplier partners Northrop Grumman, Harris Corporation, L-3 Communications and Rockwell Collins to add system upgrades to the fleet.

US Navy Signs deal for additional P-8As

The Navy has signed a $2 Billion order with Boeing for 13 P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

The contract includes long-lead funding previously approved by the Navy.

The aircraft will be used for the continued modernisation of the U.S. maritime patrol fleet that will ultimately involve more than 100 P-8As, replacing the Navy’s current P-3 aircraft.

In total, the Navy has now ordered 37 of the 117 P-8As it is expected to purchase and to date, 10 have been delivered. The P-8As are based on the Next-Generation 737-800 commercial aircraft and will be used to provide anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Boeing assembles P-8As in the same facility where it builds all its 737s and the Poseidon team uses in-line processes that takes advantage of the efficiencies in the Next-Generation 737 production system. After initial assembly, the aircraft enter a separate mission system installation and checkout facility for final modifications and testing.

Initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) was completed in March; the Navy announced July 1 that the P-8A program had passed IOT&E and the P-8A was ready for fleet introduction.

Pirates of Culdrose

Lewis Gaylard reports from England’s most Westerly air show, the RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2013. All images by the author.

11 days later it was the turn of Yeovilton’s sister base in Cornwall, RNAS Culdrose, to open its arms to the public. After a year’s absence it was fitting Culdrose returned in this 60th year of Royal Navy Search and Rescue (SAR).

Despite the unfavourable weather, a large crowd of holidaymakers and enthusiasts witnessed what was a most enjoyable airshow. On static display was nice mix of modern and vintage aircraft which included a German Navy Sea King MK 41 from Marinefliegergeschwader 5, a rare appearance of a Dutch Navy NHIndustries NH90, a Dutch Air Force AH-64D Apache and a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina from the Catalina Society.

Although the RAF pulled a couple of display aircraft due to operational requirements, they did however delight the crowd by sending a 15 Sqn Panavia Tornado GR4 and a 6 Sqn Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4, which performed a couple of circuits before taking its place in the ‘live static’.

[img src=6781 align=full]The air display commenced with a salvo of Culdrose based aircraft which consisted of AgustaWestland Merlin HM1 and the new HM2, Westland Sea King ASaC Mk7 and MK5 along with a four-ship formation of 736 NAS Hawk T1As.

Amongst the many excellent displays were a couple of real gems. The Dutch Apache Demo team, having charmed the crowd on the ground with their static aircraft and trailer, put on a terrific display which, accompanied by many flare releases, was quite spectacular with many roles, loops and ‘hammerhead’ turns.

[img src=6787 align=left]With the sad cancellation of a display by the RAF ‘Red Arrows’ due to the low cloud base the crowd was thrilled by the explosive arrival of an old FAA legend. Making its 1st air display appearance of the season, the mighty deHavilland Sea Vixen FAW2 roared into the display circuit and in the hands of Matt Whitfield it performed a powerful display.

Amongst the other displays was the Vietnam veteran Bell UH-1 or ‘Huey’ which was dramatically displayed, Gloster Meteor T7 of the Classic Air Force, a Westland Wasp HAS1, flown by John Beattie in his second display of the day, the Blades Display Team and the Breitling Wing Walkers.

The airshow finished with Culdrose based aircraft performing an Anti-Piracy Demo which included a Sea King ASaC7, Merlin HM1 and some ‘Swashbuckling’ Pirates! Well done to all those who helped to produce two very different but highly entertaining air displays.

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