9 avril 2018 | International, Aérospatial

How stealthy is Boeing’s new Super Hornet?

By: 

WASHINGTON — The Block III Super Hornet is getting a marginal increase in stealth capability, but if you’re expecting the invisible aircraft of President Donald Trump’s dreams, think again.

Building a “stealthy” Super Hornet has been one of Trump’s talking points since he was elected to the presidency. During a March trip to Boeing’s plant in St. Louis, he claimed the U.S. military would buy Super Hornets with “the latest and the greatest stealth and a lot of things on that plane that people don’t even know about.”

Trump was referring to one of the Super Hornet’s Block III upgrades slated to be incorporated on jets rolling off the production line in 2020: the application of radar absorbent materials or RAM, also known as stealth coating.

But far from being “the latest and greatest,” the company has already used the exact same materials on the on the Block II Super Hornet to help decrease the chances of radar detection, said Dan Gillian, who manages Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and E/A-18G Growler programs.

Block III jets will get “a little more” of that coating applied to them, “and in a few different areas to buy a little bit more performance,” Gillian told Defense News in a March interview.

All in all, those improvements will reduce the aircraft’s radar cross section by about 10 percent, and with very low risk, he said.

Although the general public tends to think of stealth like the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter or Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, stealth is more of a continuum that is enabled and affected by many factors, experts told Defense News.

“It’s not a Romulan cloaking device,” said Richard Aboulafia, a Teal Group aviation analyst, referencing a technology from Star Trek that allowed spaceships to be invisible to the naked eye and electro-optical sensors.

“It’s about reducing the likelihood that an adversary will see you first. And seconds count, so if it buys a little extra time, then it helps.”

The most important contributors to low observability are the aircraft’s shape and the use of LO coatings, with airframe shape commonly seen as twice as important as the coatings, he said.

Stealth fighters from the oddly angled F-117 to the F-22 and F-35, with their rounded edges, were all designed to bounce radar waves away from an aircraft, sometimes at the expense of aerodynamic performance or other attributes, said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian and author.

That being said, the Super Hornet, with it’s external stores and pylons, is not going to replicate the low observability of the joint strike fighter, which was designed from the beginning with stealth in mind.

“But just because it’s not a pure LO aircraft doesn’t mean that the designers weren’t concerned with the radar return,” said Laslie, who added that it’s “reasonable” to expect a 10 percent decrease to the aircraft’s signature by augmenting Block III jets with additional RAM coating.

Shining a spotlight on the Super Hornet’s low observable attributes may have helped sell Trump on future orders, Aboulafia speculated.

“It might be useful in the real world too, but in a much more marginal way,” he said.

One of those benefits, according to Laslie, is that the LO performance upgrade could also enable the Navy to be more flexible in its mission planning. An aircraft can be more or less easily detected by radar depending on how it is positioned or the route used by the plane, so having more radar-absorbing materials on the Super Hornet could give the pilot more options.

“I think what the Navy is doing is trying to maybe reduce enough of the cross section of the F-18 in high intensity combat scenarios,” Laslie said.

“I don’t think they’re trying to make the F/A-18 a stealth aircraft,” he continued. “But if they can reduce the radar cross section enough that in certain scenarios it is more difficult to pick the Super Hornet up, that would be of benefit to the Navy.”

While the president has done much to focus public attention on the Super Hornet’s upcoming LO upgrade, the Block III actually offers a relatively modest increase in stealth compared to earlier concepts floated by Boeing.

In 2013, when the company began evaluating how to attract future sales from the Navy as production slowed, it started promoting an “Advanced Super Hornet” configuration that would have improved the aircraft’s signature by 50 percent. That version of the jet included structural enhancements and an enclosed weapons pod, but Boeing ultimately stepped away from that concept.

“Those big compromises you have to make to get the higher levels of stealth like putting your weapons in a bay, we don’t think that’s a necessary part of the Block III story for the Super Hornet,” Gillian said.

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/navy-league/2018/04/09/how-stealthy-is-boeings-new-super-hornet/

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  • It’s official: US Air Force to buy Turkish F-35s

    22 juillet 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    It’s official: US Air Force to buy Turkish F-35s

    By: Valerie Insinna Updated 7/21/20 at 1:25 p.m. EST to add more information about the status of the eight Turkish F-35s. WASHINGTON — After a year of speculation about what would happen to Turkey’s F-35s after the country was ousted from the joint strike fighter program last year, the Defense Department gave its definitive answer Monday evening in a characteristically anticlimactic manner — through its daily contract announcements. The U.S. Air Force will officially buy eight F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets originally built by Lockheed Martin for Turkey as part of a $862 million contract modification. The deal also contains an additional six F-35As built for the Air Force and modifications that will bring the Turkish jets in line with the U.S. configuration. A defense official told Defense News on Tuesday that the contract modification fulfills stipulations in Congress’ fiscal year 2020 defense policy and spending bills. It “addresses the eight production Lot 14 F-35A aircraft originally planned to be delivered to Turkey in 2022-23,” and redirects those jets to the U.S. Air Force when they roll off the production line. The six other F-35As reflect aircraft added to the FY20 defense budget. The contract modification uses funding from the FY20 budget to pay for the Lot 14 jets. The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin finalized a deal for lots 12, 13 and 14 in October 2019, which set the price of an Lot 14 A model at $77.9 million per copy. Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35As over the course of the program, but was ejected from the program last July after accepting the S-400 air defense system from Russia after repeated warnings from U.S. officials. At that point, Turkey’s first F-35s had already rolled off the production line and its pilots and maintainers were training to fly and fix them stateside alongside U.S. personnel at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. However, the aircraft were never officially delivered to Turkey. Since then, the fate of Turkey’s jets had been an open question. In January, Defense One reported that 24 Turkish F-35s were in some stage of production, but top Pentagon weapons buyer Ellen Lord told reporters then that Washington and Ankara had not come to an agreement on what would happen to them. In the FY20 version of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Pentagon permission to spend up to $30 million to fly the first six Turkish F-35s to a location where they could be stored and preserved until the department came up with a plan for their use. Those jets, which were produced in Lots 10 and 11, are currently being held “in long-term storage in the United States pending final decision on their disposition,” the defense official said. The Senate’s version of the FY21 NDAA, which is still working its way through Congress, contains additional language that would allow the Air Force to accept, operate or even modify the first six Turkish F-35s. https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/07/20/its-official-us-air-force-to-buy-turkish-f-35s/

  • Raytheon and C3.ai announce alliance on artificial intelligence solutions

    1 décembre 2020 | International, C4ISR

    Raytheon and C3.ai announce alliance on artificial intelligence solutions

    Andrew Eversden WASHINGTON — Raytheon’s intelligence and space business is partnering with C3.ai, a software company known for its predictive maintenance business with the U.S. Air Force, the companies announced Monday. The alliance between C3.ai and Raytheon Intelligence and Space aims to speed up artificial intelligence adoption across the U.S. military. The partnership will pair Raytheon’s expertise in the defense and aerospace sector with C3.ai’s artificial intelligence development and applications. “The military and intelligence community have access to more data now than any time in history, but it’s more than they’re able to make quick use of,” said David Appel, vice president of defense and civil solutions for space and C2 systems under Raytheon Intelligence and Space. “Artificial intelligence can be used to help them make sense of that data, which will allow them to make smarter decisions faster on the battlefield. And that’s just one of the benefits.” In recent years, C3.ai has positioned itself as a trusted partner of the Air Force, providing predictive maintenance capabilities for the service’s E-3, C-5 Galaxy, F-15, F-16, F-18 and F-35 aircraft. The Pentagon’s Silicon Valley arm that helped bridge C3.ai into the Pentagon, the Defense Innovation Unit, estimated that the program could save the service $15 billion annually in maintenance funds if it was scaled to the Defense Department’s entire aircraft fleet. In January, DIU awarded a five-year, $95 million contract to C3.ai for predictive maintenance. The alliance between the two companies will also focus on helping the intelligence community. “Raytheon and C3.ai are driven by similar purposes: Anticipating and solving our customers’ most difficult problems,” said Thomas Siebel, CEO of C3.ai. “Together, we offer an end-to-end enterprise AI platform and mission-tailored applications that will dramatically reduce cost and risk, accelerate adoption and deployment of AI solutions, and scale the impact of AI across any organization.” In September, the Air Force’s rapid sustainment office selected C3.ai’s C3 AI Suite platform and C3 AI Readiness product to support predictive maintenance across the service’s enterprise. “Raytheon and C3.ai represent key partners for the U.S. Air Force, and specifically the Rapid Sustainment Office, in realizing the vision of harnessing AI to transform the military into a digital organization,” said Nathan Parker, deputy program executive officer for the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office. “Fulfilling this vision of broad implementation requires identifying applicable use cases for AI across the Air Force, rapidly piloting solutions, and scaling successes across our enterprise to accelerate the transformation.” Also on Monday, C3.ai announced that it will be launching an initial public offering. It expects shares to be valued between $31-$34. https://www.c4isrnet.com/artificial-intelligence/2020/11/30/raytheon-and-c3ai-announce-alliance-on-artificial-intelligence-solutions/

  • Air Force Lacks ‘Adequate’ Plan For Next-Gen Reaper: HAC-D

    14 juillet 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    Air Force Lacks ‘Adequate’ Plan For Next-Gen Reaper: HAC-D

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