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May 14, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

RCAF working toward new sniper pod placement on CF-188 Hornet

Chris Thatcher

In a two-by-three metre wind tunnel at the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) aerospace research centre in Ottawa, aerospace engineers are gathering data for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) this week to validate the placement of the sniper pod on the centreline station of the CF-188 Hornet.

“For this configuration, we are running at close to takeoff and landing speeds to simulate the take off and landing of the F-18, about 100 metres per second or almost 200 knots,” explained Melissa Richardson, an aerodynamics research officer and the project manager for the testing process, as wind whipped over the inverted nose landing gear and sniper pod.

The CF-188 fighter jet has carried a certified sniper pod on the left side of the fuselage, below the engine intake, since the aircraft were upgraded in the early 2000. But lessons from recent operations over Libya in 2011 and Iraq and Syria between October 2014 and March 2016 convinced pilots they would have a better view of possible targets with the centerline placement.

“We found a lot of our missions revolved around looking at the ground, monitoring areas of interest and targets for missions that are four to five hours long,” said Capt Tom Lawrence, a CF-188 pilot and the project officer for fighter weapons and equipment.

“When [pilots] are manoeuvring their aircraft, there is a chance of the aircraft actually masking the targeting pod. Putting [it] on the centre of the aircraft allows a larger field of regard.”

Rather than bank left to maintain focus on a target, the new placement should ensure an uninterrupted view of the ground or target aircraft, “taking that frustration out of the pilot’s mind,” he said. “They can just focus on the imagery and the task at hand.”

Lawrence said it could also make it easier for pilots to employ weapons and assess battle damage effects.

The purpose of the wind tunnel tests is to measure the aerodynamics created by the nose landing gear on the sniper pod mounted behind it at times when it is most exposed to turbulence, said Richardson. Among concerns before the tests began were the effect of significant vibration on the pod and the possibility of debris being kicked up by the wheels and striking its protective glass shield.

“[We need to] make sure the aircraft is safe to operate with the sniper pod on this new location. That means it can take off and land without excessive vibration, that the loads are still within acceptable limits,” explained Capt David Demel, the certification authority with the RCAF’s Technical Airworthiness Authority.

“This is the goal of the current wind tunnel test, to confirm that before we move to the flight test phase in Cold Lake in the September timeframe.”

A second a high-speed equivalent test will be conducted by the NRC at its high speed trisonic wind tunnel in about three weeks, using a six per cent scale model, that will include ensuring engine intake airflow is not affected. Test pilots with the Operational Test and Evaluation Unit in Cold Lake will then recertify operational airworthiness of the sniper pod in its new placement.

While the testing facilities are being provided by the NRC, the vibration data is being gathered and analyzed by Bombardier, which has provided some of the instrumentation. The sniper pod and landing gear were installed in the wind tunnel by L-3 MAS, which will have the task of mounting the pods in the new location on the entire CF-188 fleet–including the 18 F/A-18 Hornets the government is negotiating to buy from the Royal Australian Air Force–once approved.
“We’re all collaborating on the project as it goes through each phase, from technical airworthiness to operational airworthiness,” said Lawrence.

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  • Canada’s New Drone Can Better Surveil Its Challenging Arctic Environment

    January 5, 2021 | Local, Aerospace

    Canada’s New Drone Can Better Surveil Its Challenging Arctic Environment

    BY KEVIN M. BAERSON After years of experimentation and analysis, the government of Canada has procured a new Hermes 900 StarLiner from Israeli UAV manufacturer Elbit Systems that can withstand and patrol its massive, inhospitable Arctic territory. Extreme weather with high winds and low temperatures, limited and unreliable satellite communication and navigation, and continuous darkness during the winter months make controlling UAVs in the Arctic especially challenging. Combined with a lack of ground infrastructure, both line of sight and satellite control of a UAV can become nearly impossible. The hope is that the Starliner can conquer these harsh Arctic conditions. This version of Elbit’s Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) military UAV is fully certified to operate in civilian airspace and will take off from and land on civilian airfields. It will perform myriad operations to reduce harmful environmental impacts, including detection of oil pollution and wildlife surveying, as well as ice patrol and reconnaissance. It will also support search and rescue, humanitarian efforts and illegal fishing enforcement, and will aid the development and regulation of Canada’s drone industry. The $36.16 million contract includes communication links, ground control stations, sensor packages, training and the optional purchase of spare parts. The Starliner is expected to be delivered by December 2022, but procurement has been years in the making. Arctic Takeoff In 2017, Canadian officials began research and development test flights using a Sea Hunter drone produced by Alabama-based Griffon Aerospace. The data collected, including BVLOS results, contributed to developing requirements for the eventual Hermes purchase. Timothy Choi, a maritime strategy expert and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, has said the Canadian government had limited options in its search for a proven maritime drone with Arctic capabilities. “Large maritime surveillance drones—that is, ones equipped with downward-looking radar and AIS [automatic identification system] receivers to detect shipping—have not been as prevalent in the global drone market as their land-centric counterparts,” Choi told the website Eye On The Arctic. “Of these, there are even fewer that have been tested in Arctic conditions.” The model Canada is acquiring has been undergoing operational trials in Iceland via the European Maritime Safety Agency since summer 2019. At 1.6 tons, the StarLiner includes detect and avoid (DAA) systems, redundant datalinks and an advanced terrain avoidance warning system. Its ability to automatically take off and land in near-zero visibility, and to sustain deicing procedures and direct lightning strikes, makes it ideal for the Arctic’s extreme weather challenges. According to Canadian officials, the new UAV can operate at up to 72 degrees north latitude and has a range of more than 1,400 nautical miles. It comes equipped with back-up command and control and navigation systems, electrical optical infrared camera, synthetic aperture radar and a mapping camera system. For now, the majority of Canada’s Arctic surveillance data will continue to come from RADARSAT, the country’s remote sensing earth observation satellite program. But while the satellites can detect emergencies such as an oil spill, their brief visits over the Arctic make it difficult to identify causes and consequences. The same is true for identifying nefarious activities such as illegal dumping and unpermitted fishing. “The ability of a drone to loiter for long periods of time with higher resolution sensors will help fill this gap,” Choi explained. “Operationally, the new drone will greatly help ‘connect the dots’ when it comes to surveilling Arctic waters and enforcing Canadian regulations.” Drone Diplomacy While this Hermes version will be used in civilian missions, its acquisition is just one part of Canada’s Arctic Unmanned Aircraft System Initiative, and it will join the country’s National Aerial Surveillance Program’s manned aircraft fleet. With 75% of Canada’s coastline and 55% of its landmass located in the Arctic, Canada and its main regional rival, Russia, potentially contest for resources and the new shipping routes being created by global warming. Russia is deploying a fleet of dual-use extreme-weather UAVs featuring a GIRSAM alternative navigation system. China, which is talking about a “Polar Silk Road,” also is developing dual-use UAVs optimized for Arctic conditions. “Canada is committed to protecting our endangered species and our marine environment,” Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement. “Integrating remotely piloted aircraft into Transport Canada’s fleet will make federal surveillance operations more robust than ever.”

  • After The Shock: Implications For M&A In The Aerospace & Defense Market

    June 29, 2020 | Local, Aerospace

    After The Shock: Implications For M&A In The Aerospace & Defense Market

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With travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders, carriers around the globe made unprecedented cuts to capacity, idled fleets, and began deferring or canceling new aircraft deliveries. Also, the MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) and aftermarket segments, which had benefited from the prolonged 737MAX grounding and high fleet utilization, suddenly faced stiff headwinds.   Thus far, the defense industrial base has not experienced a COVID-19 demand shock. There is no noticeable disruption in appropriations or major delays and cancellation of military programs. However, as in the commercial sector, defense contractors are actively monitoring their supply base and taking steps to preserve liquidity, minimize supply chain disruption, and taking measures to comply with CDC and local government guidelines. 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  • CAE appoints Todd Probert as group president, Defence and Security

    January 21, 2020 | Local, Aerospace, C4ISR

    CAE appoints Todd Probert as group president, Defence and Security

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