4 août 2020 | International, Aérospatial

Future Fighter Factory Technology Will Make Tempest Low-Cost

August 04, 2020

BAE Systems is making investments in new production and assembly technologies to reduce costs and halve the time associated with producing a complex future combat aircraft. With the target of bringing...


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  • The Air Force made a surprise decision to sole-source the Long Range Standoff Weapon. Here’s who will move forward.

    21 avril 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    The Air Force made a surprise decision to sole-source the Long Range Standoff Weapon. Here’s who will move forward.

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — In a surprise move, the Air Force on Friday announced plans to continue its Long Range Standoff Weapon program with Raytheon as the prime contractor. The LRSO program, which aims to field a new air-launched cruise missile capable of both nuclear and conventional strikes, is currently in its technology maturation and risk reduction phase, with both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin developing their own versions of the weapon. Typically, the Air Force would downselect to a single company in fiscal year 2022, when it awarded the engineering and manufacturing development contract that precedes low-rate production. However, the Air Force decided to press ahead with Raytheon’s design after an “extensive evaluation” of the company’s technology as presented during the preliminary design review, said Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris, who leads the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. “Our competitive TMRR phase, which included both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon as the prime contractors, enabled us to select a high-confidence design at this point in the acquisition process,” he said, according to an Air Force release. “And this early off-ramp of a contractor is completely in line with the existing LRSO acquisition strategy, which included periodic reviews to assess contractor designs,” Morris said. “Lockheed Martin has been an excellent contractor and partner throughout the TMRR effort and this pivot to Raytheon does not represent a lack of effort or commitment on their part. Lockheed Martin has supported the nuclear enterprise for decades and we continue to value their expertise in sensors and nuclear certification and surety.” Elizabeth Thorn, the service’s program manager, characterized the decision as “not a downselect, per se,” adding that the Air Force will continue to work with Lockheed on specific technologies that could drive down risk to the LRSO design or otherwise be beneficial to the program. The Air Force noted that the company had begun the “closeout process” to stop work on risk reduction phase of the program, leaving Lockheed’s precise role in the LRSO program unclear. “We’ve supported our nation’s nuclear triad for more than 60 years and look forward to working with the USAF to support the LRSO mission, specifically leveraging our sensor technology and nuclear certification and surety expertise,” Lockheed said in a statement. LRSO is set to replace the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, but the program has come under intermittent fire from lawmakers who believe that arming aircraft with a weapon that could be either nuclear or conventional could unnecessarily raise the risk of miscalculation, triggering a nuclear war. The Air Force has argued that it needs a nuclear missile that can be fired from standoff distances to enable the non-stealthy B-52 to remain a credible deterrent to adversaries with advanced air defense systems. Due to the decision to select Raytheon early, the Air Force wants to shift funding that will allow the company to begin certain work early, such as flight tests, the service said. A contract award for the next phase of the program is still scheduled for fiscal year 2022. Morris added that the service was also confident in its ability to keep the program affordable in a sole-source environment, despite the lack of competition that usually helps the government negotiate a lower-cost product. Roman Schweizer, a defense analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, said the Air Force’s announcement prompts additional questions about Lockheed’s future role and the information both companies presented during the preliminary design view. “It’s possible the USAF made an industrial base/cost decision based on other long-range weapons,” he wrote in an email to investors. “Singling up on LRSO could have been an industrial base decision or a way to reduce cost and speed up development.” In a statement, Raytheon noted that the company is on track to complete risk reduction efforts by January 2022. “LRSO will be a critical contributor to the air-launched portion of America’s nuclear triad,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles and Defense. https://www.defensenews.com/smr/nuclear-arsenal/2020/04/20/the-air-force-made-a-surprise-decision-to-sole-source-the-long-range-standoff-weapon-heres-who-will-move-forward/

  • Northrop Grumman Expands Plant 42 as B-21 Continues Development

    27 août 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Northrop Grumman Expands Plant 42 as B-21 Continues Development

    By BRIAN EVERSTINE PALMDALE, Calif.—Northrop Grumman is expanding its side of the secretive Plant 42 facility here and hiring thousands of employees while development of the new B-21 bomber remains largely under wraps. An older tan hangar-turned-production facility sits next to recently built white and blue buildings. Another large hangar is still under construction, and trailers serving as offices are lined up on-site.  Heavy equipment dug through the dirt as speakers praised the evolution of the legacy B-2, which is helping lay the foundation for its next-generation successor, at a recent birthday ceremony at Northrop’s facilities. The company won’t specifically say whether the growth is driven by the B-21 Raider, only that the new construction is for “programs.” But it has funneled “multiple hundreds of millions” of dollars to improve Plant 42, according to Janis Pamiljans, the president of Northrop’s aerospace sector. The company has also grown from about 25,000 to 28,000 employees in California alone since 2015 and continues to hire. “We’ve been on a tremendous hiring spree ... and you can see the kind of structures being built,” Pamiljans said. Northrop moved some of its other systems, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the MQ-4 Triton, to new locations so it can better serve production of those aircraft. The shifts also free up space for other endeavors. Reporters were not allowed near the new facilities during an escorted visit throughout the Southern California site earlier this week. No other companies that are involved in B-21 development were visible on the premises. The promise of a new design remained even as Northrop and the Air Force celebrated the B-2 turning 30 years old at an Aug. 20 event. The “Spirit of Missouri” was parked in front of a hangar that is now partially used to produce F-35 jet fuselage and is partially dedicated to “other programs,” Pamiljans said. The B-21 is eventually expected to replace the stealthy B-2 over the coming decades. Northrop plans to use the Spirit program’s focus on supportability, sustainability, and mission-capable rate as the blueprint for maintaining the B-21 as well. Northrop officials say they are taking lessons learned in the development and sustainment of low-observable technology, a key to the B-2’s stealth, and applying them to these “other programs,” Pamiljans said. “The B-2 is setting the path, course for the B-21,” Pamiljans said. “What we’ve learned on B-2, we’re finding baselined into the design of the B-21.” Eighth Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. James Dawkins told reporters in Palmdale that aspects of B-2 sustainment like computers, maintenance, and materials can naturally be leveraged for the B-21. He said the platform’s cost and schedule performance are “right on expectations.” “From that standpoint, it’s been very successful so far,” he said. “We’re really happy about the way Northrop has approached this.” The Air Force remains mum about the state of B-21 production, other than to occasionally say it is going well. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said last month the service is planning first flight of the B-21 in December 2021. The service is so far sticking with its plan to buy at least 100 of the bombers to go with 75 B-52s that will remain in service. The Air Force and Northrop continue to crunch overall production numbers, and haven't settled on an exact strategy for phasing out the B-2 as the B-21 comes online. There will be a transition period when both the B-2 and B-21 will be part of the strategic bomber fleet, Dawkins said. “I’m optimistic they will take lessons learned” from the B-2 for “any type of program” the company is developing, he added. http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2019/August%202019/Northrop-Grumman-Expands-Plant-42-as-B-21-Continues-Development.aspx

  • Northrop to build 3D-printed scramjet engine for Raytheon hypersonic weapon

    19 juin 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Northrop to build 3D-printed scramjet engine for Raytheon hypersonic weapon

    By: Valerie Insinna  LE BOURGET, France — Raytheon has partnered with Northrop Grumman on its air-breathing hypersonic weapon, which will be powered by a Northrop-made scramjet made entirely of 3D-printed parts, the company announced Tuesday. Raytheon and Northrop’s weapon is one of the competitors in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s HAWC project, short for Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept. The companies’ offering — which comprises Northrop’s scramjet engine and Raytheon’s air vehicle — is ready to make its first flight, said Tom Bussing, vice president of Raytheon’s advanced missile system segment. “We have a flight test planned for the near future where we will begin flying this particular class of weapon system,” he said during a briefing at Paris Air Show. While the exact schedule is classified, Bussing noted that the companies have already conducted “significant” ground tests “The combustor, everything that we do now is done by additive manufacturing, so its driving affordability into the hypersonic boost missile’s scramjet engine. We are also looking at ways to reduce the weight so we can have more fuel, more payload,” he said. The entirety of Northrop’s scramjet is 3D printed using advanced materials, said John Wilcox, the company’s vice president of advanced programs and technology. “There gets to be points where you have to weld additive manufactured parts, but right now even the full combustor [is printed],” he said. “We think we’re the first to ever 3D print a full combuster for an air-breathing scramjet engine. That’s what’s going to drive the affordability for air-breathing scramjet missiles.” According to Raytheon, scramjet engines use high vehicle speeds to then compress air moving into its inlets before combusting it. The process allows a vehicle to maintain hypersonic speeds — more than five times the speed of sound — over longer periods of time. The Raytheon-Northrop team is competing against Lockheed Martin for the final HAWC contact. https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/paris-air-show/2019/06/18/northrop-to-build-3d-printed-scramjet-engine-for-raytheon-hypersonic-weapon/

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