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February 4, 2024 | International, Land

Lockheed Martin chosen to lead OSA study for NATO NGRC - Skies Mag

While the RCAF is closely monitoring U.S. Army programs, it has observer status to the European effort to develop a next generation tactical helicopter.

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  • Will this hybrid drone give Russia a high-altitude advantage?

    August 14, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Will this hybrid drone give Russia a high-altitude advantage?

    By: Kelsey D. Atherton Is it still a tiltrotor aircraft if the whole body tilts? The new “Fixar” drone, set to be presented at Russia's MAKS-2019 airshow in late August, is a hybrid of sorts, a quadcopter with fixed wings. With limited moving parts and a flexible design, it's the kind of dual-use technology worth watching and, perhaps, even imitating. “Many companies and UAV manufacturers will present their aircraft, concepts and models” at the MAKS-2019 airshow, said Samuel Bendett, an adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses. “This Fixar UAV is a ‘self-initiated' project by the manufacturer, with the hope of getting attention from potential civilian and military customers at the air show.” Unlike the more eponymous tiltrotor craft, which switch distinctly from rotor-powered takeoff and landing to propeller-driven level flight, the Fixar instead has its four rotors in a permanently fixed position. The engines remain in position while the whole frame of the aircraft can lean backwards for more traditional vertical flights or stay level to operate as a fixed-wing machine. While the Fixar's marketing photos show it working in fields of crops, manufacturer IKS also bills it as designed specifically to operate in windy conditions and in mountains, suggesting that the whole machine might have a role in ISR and cargo transport. “What caught my attention in particular was that the drone can operate in ‘mountainous conditions' due to its unique design,” said Bendett. “In fact, Russian military has been practicing the operation of different UAVs at high altitudes and in high wind — so this Fixar UAV can prove useful right away.” Like all duel-use platforms, a drone is only as useful as the payloads put on it. Cameras and supply storage are likely options, though nothing yet suggests any new demand on the airframe. An ability to fly fast and from small patches of land without a runway is valuable, but it needs to have a certain range and speed to be a better choice than the baseline low cost and simplicity of civilian quadcopters. A large internal security market might support that and could easily lead to the Fixar in police roles, as well. “At present, there is no UAV in the Russian military that has characteristics similar to the Fixar, but given a steady rate of UAS acquisition by the MOD — at 300 UAVs per year for the next several years — it's safe to assume that the Russian military is looking to diversify its UAV fleet beyond the workhorses like Eleton or Orlan," said Bendett.

  • Buy American: Biden sees industry pushback as allies warn of trade consequences

    November 1, 2021 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Buy American: Biden sees industry pushback as allies warn of trade consequences

    President Biden has taken executive action to boost Buy American requirements, but not everyone is happy about it.

  • Britain confirms talks with Boeing over potential $2.6B Wedgetail aircraft buy

    October 3, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Britain confirms talks with Boeing over potential $2.6B Wedgetail aircraft buy

    By: Andrew Chuter LONDON — Britain's defense secretary has revealed the government held discussions with Boeing over the purchase of a fleet of Wedgetail E-7 airborne warning and control aircraft. Discussions are also taking place with Australia about cooperating in the use of the aircraft, Gavin Williamson said. Williamson said the Ministry of Defence had undertaken market analysis and discussions with other potential providers, concluding “that the potential procurement of the E-7 represents the best value for money option for the U.K. against need, whilst representing a significant opportunity for increased defense cooperation and collaboration with our key ally Australia.” “The Wedgetail is the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlespace surveillance aircraft, and has already proved itself in Iraq and Syria,” Williamson said. The MoD said in a statement that further discussions are set to take place prior to an investment decision. “If selected, U.K. industry could be involved significantly with the program, from modification work to through life support,” the MoD said. Said Williamson: “The MoD will work closely with Boeing to ensure [exploration of] how Britain's leading defense industry could also benefit from any deal.” One company expected to benefit from any E-7 deal is the Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group. Marshall already builds auxiliary fuel tanks for the Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft program, and industry sources say the Cambridge, England-based company is set to convert 737 aircraft to the Wedgetail configuration as part of the deal. The talks with Boeing about raising U.K. content on the aircraft are an effort to head off likely criticism over handing yet another major contract to the U.S. defense giant without holding a competition and with little in the way of work coming to local industry. Boeing Apache attack helicopters and Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft have both recently been purchased without a competition. The U.S. contractor is, however, trying to nullify criticism over growing its workforce here to 2,300 and spending a sizable sum of cash building Poseidon support facilities at the aircraft's main Royal Air Force operating base at Lossiemouth, Scotland. “We work with our U.K. supply chain, government and military partners to provide critical capability, U.K. content, U.K. exports, skills and value for money to our armed forces,” a Boeing spokesperson said. The intention to undertake two large, sole-source deals in the armored vehicle sector U.S. and German companies have fueled anger from a number of British defense companies over the country's procurement policy. Any British Wedgetail deal would be done with Boeing and not through the U.S. government's Foreign Military Sales route. Williamson did not provide details on cost and aircraft numbers, but up to six aircraft are expected to be procured to replace the Royal Air Force's aged Sentry E-3D fleet. The cost is likely to be in excess of £2 billion (U.S. $2.6 billion), putting more pressure on Britain's overcommitted defense budget. The likelihood of Wedgetail being purchased as a single-source procurement has provoked anger among potential rivals like Airbus and Saab. The two European companies discussed joining forces earlier this year in a move to offer a credible and cheaper option to the Wedgetail. In June, parliamentary Defence Committee Chairman Julian Lewis wrote an open letter to then-Defence Procurement Minister Guto Bebb, urging him to hold a competition to replace the Sentry E-3Ds. Williamson's announcement is also notable for the increasing depth of cooperation emerging between Britain and Australia. Australia already operates a fleet of Wedgetails, and a small number of British Royal Air Force personnel have been training on the aircraft since mid-year. “Our future with Australia will already see us operate the same maritime patrol aircraft [the P-8], Type 26 warships and F-35 jets. Wedgetail may join that formidable armory and help us work together to take on the global threats that we both face,” Williamson said.

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