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November 21, 2018 | International, Aerospace

With Glue, Japan Uses Composite For Fighter Substructure

TOKYO—Japanese engineers, working on replacing fasteners with glue, are applying composite to combat-aircraft substructure as well as the ...

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  • Rafale coming in! How Rafale fighter jets fare against the Chinese PLAAF fighters?

    July 23, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Rafale coming in! How Rafale fighter jets fare against the Chinese PLAAF fighters?

    Updated: Jul 22, 2020 8:43 AM The PAF had acquired the F-16 Fighting Falcons a couple of years before. This time around, with the induction of the Rafale, does the IAF need more than a catchy tag line to keep the PLAAF at bay? By Wing Commander Amit Ranjan Giri “The balance rests on us”–this was the catchphrase of the IAF when the first MiG 29 thundered down and took to the skies in Pune, in the mid-eighties, heralding the parity in new generation fighter jets between the PAF and IAF. The PAF had acquired the F-16 Fighting Falcons a couple of years before. This time around, with the induction of the Rafale, does the IAF need more than a catchy tag line to keep the PLAAF at bay? As Group Captain Harkirat and his boys land the latest fighting machines at Ambala, five in all, two twins seaters (RB series) and three single-seaters (BS series), they propel the IAF to another level of air fighting capability, one which would enhance itself with the acquisition of all 36 Rafales and associated weaponry in the near future. An interesting trivia about IAF fighters is that, Russian fighters generally come in huge crates and are assembled in India whereas most ‘western' fighters are flown in, from the OEM country. This, by no means, indicates that the incoming Rafales would be able to take on the enemy immediately, it would take the IAF a little time before these jets are operationalised with a plethora of weaponry, the earlier the better. How does the Rafale fare against the Chinese fighters? The Rafales' main contender in the PLAAF would be the Chengdu J-20 and if produced and operationalised the Shenyang J-31, both are highly rated by the Chinese media and pitched as fifth-generation stealth fighters against the Rafales' 4.5 generation lineage. That having been said, the Chinese fighters' capabilities are only on paper, much of them are yet to be demonstrated or proven. True, the Rafale lacks stealth but is built around the low RCS philosophy whereas, though the J-20 proclaims itself as a proponent of stealth the ‘canards' in front and additional external hardpoints for extra fuel tanks would shatter much of its claims in this department. Just to clear the air around stealth – absolute all aspect stealth is a myth, at least as of now. Aeroplanes claiming stealth are actually low observables depending on their aspect – the way they look to the enemy sensors- never invisible from all direction. The IAF has been known to pick up Chinese J-20s on their Su 30 radars earlier. Engine, weapons and avionics: who gets the better score? With limited internal capacity of weapons and no ‘supercruise' capability as yet, the Chinese contenders do have a lot to live up to. The Rafale, in this aspect, delivers what it promises – low RCS, excellent weapon carriage capability – albeit external and supercruise – the ability to go supersonic without afterburners. When it comes to avionics, all three aircraft would pitch ‘neck to neck'. All boast of one of the most advanced radars – the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and all three have equivalent avionics suites onboard. However, it is yet to be seen if the Chinese have been able to integrate these technologies to match, compute and present the desired data – a capability which leapfrogs an aircraft to the next level. The Rafale's SPECTRA defensive aids system is a classic example of this – processing and amalgamating information from various sensors to safeguard the aircraft. The SCALP and Meteor are some of the goodies in the Rafale package for the IAF. Whilst the former is a ground attack precision weapon, the latter, is one of the best BeyondVisualRange (BVR) air to air missiles available at present. The J-20 in comparison carries the PL series of missiles with the PL 15 matching up with the Meteor in terms of range. As per the last reports, the PL 21 with enhanced range was yet to be operationalised. Pedigree versus Pariah, who wins? The Rafale comes from an ancestry of well-known fighters which Dassault has produced and earned their place in the annals of history. If western intelligence reports are to be believed the Chinese fighters have been an attempted copy of the F 22 Raptor and the F 35 Lightning, curtsy hackers who had managed to steal substantial amount of data from the US servers. Apart from the privileged pedigree the Rafale is also combat-proven – Libya, Iraq and Syria were all contemporary conflicts wherein the French fighter has been able to earn a name for itself. The Chinese fighters, in contrast, are yet to be proven in battle, as far as the J-31 goes there are doubts if the machine has gone beyond the prototype stage as yet. The J-20, on the other hand, does enjoy an edge over its single-engined cousin, it has entered the production stage and rumours of about one squadron of this type with PLAAF has surfaced in the intelligence circle. All the above being said it needs to be appreciated that no comparison of fighting machines can be justified with data on paper – a lot goes in exploiting platforms during the war and a major portion of the winning effort comes from other non-tangible factors – the side which exploits the entire spectrum generally lands up on the victorious side.

  • Senate bill promises more funding for space-based hypersonic defense, but mum on details

    June 12, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Senate bill promises more funding for space-based hypersonic defense, but mum on details

    Nathan Strout An early version of the Senate's annual defense bill would provide additional funding for space-based sensors capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons, according to a summary released June 11. However, details on the proposal are scant. Congress has become increasingly concerned over the threat posed by hypersonic weapons under development by China and Russia. Too dim to be reliably picked up by current space-based sensors and able to maneuver around terrestrial sensors, hypersonic weapons make much of the current missile warning system obsolete, as it was designed for ballistic missile threats. To counter this threat, the Defense Department has proposed a solution: a proliferated constellation of satellites operating in low Earth orbit. Once a hypersonic threat is detected, the constellation tracks it while passing custody from satellite to satellite as the weapon moves around the globe. This Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, or HBTSS, will be part of the new National Defense Space Architecture, a proliferated constellation that will eventually be made up of hundreds of small satellites operating primarily in low Earth orbit. The Space Development Agency is overseeing this effort and plans to begin placing its first satellites on orbit in fiscal 2022. The Missile Defense Agency listed HBTSS as an unfunded priority during the prior budget cycle, and ultimately Congress did allocate $108 million to the agency for the program in FY20. Now the Senate Armed Services Committee says it will provide additional funding for the program for FY21, but it has yet to say by how much. The summary also does not note where the funding for HBTSS will go. Determining which agency would be in charge of HBTSS was a source of friction between the Pentagon and Congress in 2019, with the latter pushing for MDA to take primary responsibility for the effort, while the White House claimed it was too early to put one agency in charge. Ultimately, legislation passed by Congress in December directed MDA to be the lead agency for the development and deployment of HBTSS. However, the Missile Defense Agency's proposed FY21 budget transfers HBTSS funding responsibility to the Space Development Agency. At the same time, MDA awarded four $20 million contracts to companies to develop HBTSS prototypes in October. The four companies selected were Northrop Grumman, Leidos, Harris Corporation and Raytheon. The SDA recently issued a request for proposals for wide field of view satellites that references medium field of view satellites which are expected to be launched in 2023. According to SDA Director Derek Tournear, those will be the first space components of MDA's HBTSS. Still, it's unclear whether Congress will endorse moving HBTSS funding responsibility to SDA in FY21. When faced with criticism over that move from legislators at a March hearing, MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill assured them that his agency would remain in charge of sensor development for HBTSS, with SDA providing money to MDA for the effort. Hill said the decision to move the funding was made by Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin SDA is asking for $137 million for space technology development in FY21, which includes funding for space sensor technology. The agency expects to begin placing payloads on orbit in FY22. The budget request does not specifically break out funding for HBTSS. MDA has also asked for $207 million for hypersonic defense. That funding will help the agency develop a regional glide phase weapon system and maturing technologies for future hypersonic defense architectures. It does not include funding specifically for HBTSS, as that has transitioned to SDA. CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to show that the medium field of view satellites are not part of the SDA's wide field of view solicitation.

  • GA-ASI Plans to Demonstrate Maritime Capability in UK

    February 5, 2021 | International, Aerospace

    GA-ASI Plans to Demonstrate Maritime Capability in UK

    General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) announces its plan to take a company-owned SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft to the United Kingdom later this year to undertake a series of operational capability demonstrations for NATO allies, including the Netherlands. The UK's Protector program is a derivative of SkyGuardian with a range of UK modifications and the Royal Air Force (RAF) is supporting this visit. The GA-ASI aircraft will be configured with maritime capability, including a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System receiver, and a High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This will build on previous GA-ASI demonstrations showcasing the unmanned advantage, which include the transatlantic flight of SkyGuardian in 2018, maritime demonstrations in Greece in 2019 and last year's validation flights in Japan. “GA-ASI will work closely with multiple European allies to demonstrate the capabilities of MQ-9B, including in the maritime environment, and how MQ-9B can complement and team within a networked environment with other national assets,” said Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI. The series of civilian and military capability events is expected to kick off in July at the Royal Air Force's Waddington Air Base and will culminate with the MQ-9B's participation in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise that will showcase how maritime capabilities can be integrated with other air, surface and land platforms. SkyGuardian flights will further develop GA-ASI's revolutionary Detect and Avoid capability, which will enable Protector to fly in unsegregated UK airspace. It will also assist RAF Waddington, the future home of the RAF Protector fleet, to best prepare to integrate the new aircraft into its daily operations. MQ-9B represents the next generation of RPA system having demonstrated airborne endurance of more than 40 hours, automatic takeoffs and landings under SATCOM-only control and the Detect and Avoid system. Its development is the result of a company-funded effort to deliver an RPA that can meet the stringent airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities. MQ-9B has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world. The UK Ministry of Defence selected MQ-9B SkyGuardian for its Protector program, and in 2020 signed the production contract for deliveries to the Royal Air Force. SkyGuardian was selected by the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003, and the Belgian Ministry of Defense signed a contract for SkyGuardian.

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