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Author: Subject: RAF 2017 onwards
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[*] posted on 22-5-2020 at 08:51 PM


Wedgetail conversion work was commercially unviable, says Marshall

22 May 2020

The UK’s Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group has confirmed that it withdrew from a project to convert five Boeing 737NGs into E-7A Wedgetail surveillance platforms for the Royal Air Force (RAF) due to commercial considerations.

Boeing Defence UK on 20 May announced that STS Aviation Services would conduct the work, despite Marshall having been awarded a risk-reduction contract last July in support for the effort. A commercial MRO specialist, STS secured the business following a tender process initiated after Marshall’s decision to withdraw its participation.


E-7
Source: Crown Copyright


“Despite the very best efforts of all parties, we have not been able to find a way to make the programme commercially viable for our business,” says Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group chief executive Alistair McPhee.

Voicing the military support specialist’s disappointment, he notes: “As a UK business we would have been incredibly proud to partner with Boeing to play our part in delivering such an important new platform for the RAF, however we have to balance that against what is right for the long-term future and financial security of our independent, private company.”

The UK Ministry of Defence in March 2019 signed a £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) contract with Boeing to replace the RAF’s 707-based E-3D Sentry fleet with five Wedgetail AEW1s. Deliveries are scheduled to occur between 2023 and 2026, with the programme’s first two airframes being refurbished second-hand examples sourced from the commercial sector.

“Our absolute priority now is to continue to support Boeing and the RAF over the coming weeks and months to ensure that the programme remains on track,” McPhee says. “We will, of course, collaborate closely with all parties and do whatever we can to affect a smooth and efficient transition.”

Marshall last July said that it expected the Wedgetail conversion work to be performed at its Cambridge airport site to “sustain hundreds of highly-skilled jobs in the area”.

Separately, Marshall in mid-May delivered the last of two ex-RAF Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports to have been acquired by the Bangladesh air force.

The airlifter – registered 99-5482/S3-AGF – arrived at Bangabandhu air base in Dhaka after stopping in Egypt en route, in order to repatriate a number of Bangladeshi citizens who had been stranded during the coronavirus crisis.
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[*] posted on 23-5-2020 at 06:11 PM


ELIX-IR Finds a New Home on the RAF Wedgetail

(Source: Thales; issued May 21, 2020)

Boeing has selected Leonardo and Thales in the UK to deliver a UK sovereign Defensive Aids System (DAS) for the UK’s new fleet of five Boeing E7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) MK1 aircraft, in another success for our world beating single-colour, Infra-Red, Threat Warner and our Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS).

Boeing’s selection builds on last year’s announcement that Thales’s Elix-IR Threat Warner and Leonardo’s DAS controller had been selected to equip the RAF’s fleet of Shadow R1 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft to protect against the latest-generation of missile and hostile fire threats.

Air platforms are fundamental in the support of war fighting, peace-keeping, peace-enforcement and humanitarian operations worldwide. These varied missions often present hostile and threatening conditions to the safety of the crew and passengers. In all operations, air platforms remain high value assets that present a prime target for conventional and unconventional adversaries alike.

Elix-IR is the world’s most advanced multi-function passive Threat Warning System (TWS), offering the core functionalities of a simultaneous Missile Approach Warner (MAW) and Hostile Fire Indication (HFI) solution to counter existing and future missile threats. It is suitable for use on a wide range of rotary and fixed wing platforms such as helicopters, transport aircraft, UAVs and VIP aircraft.

For the RAF’s Boeing Wedgetail Thales in the UK, under a subcontract from Leonardo, are providing the Elix-IR.

Threat Warning System (TWS) and Vicon XF intelligent Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS) into Leonardo’s Modular Advanced Platform Protection System (MAPPS). The integrated DAS is fully designed, developed, manufactured and supported in the UK.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 26-5-2020 at 08:05 PM




A Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft.

Sentinel R1 to be scrapped next year due to ‘obsolescence’ say MoD

By George Allison - May 26, 2020

The Ministry of Defence claim that the aircraft is “now increasingly obsolescent and will face increasing reliability issues as time progresses” and will still leave service in March 2021, as originally planned.

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, stated that Sentinel was introduced in 2008 in the knowledge that a significant equipment upgrade would be required in the mid 2010s.

“The Sentinel R1 has been operationally deployed in support of a number of operations. Some operations are considered to be both conventional and counter-insurgency; for example operations in Afghanistan (Op HERRICK) and Iraq (Op SHADER). It has also been deployed on operations in Libya (Op ELLAMY), Nigeria (Op TURUS) and Mali (Op NEWCOMBE), all considered conventional operations.

Sentinel was introduced in 2008 in the knowledge that a significant equipment upgrade would be required in the mid 2010’s. The Defence Review in 2010 cancelled this expected upgrade bringing forward the likely out of service date. The SDSR 2015 determined that Sentinel should be retained for a further period and set a new out of service date of March 2021. While some work was conducted on the on-board equipment this fell well short of a full system upgrade.

The radar and mission system are now increasingly obsolescent and will face increasing reliability issues as time progresses. Retaining the capability would have required significant upgrade expenditure and the March 2021 out of service date has been retained.

No identical capability is operated by the UK (though similar capabilities exist in the NATO inventory). The UK does however have a number of other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that collect different types of intelligence information, including long-range strategic assets (Sentry, Rivet Joint and Poseidon) and shorter-range more tactically-focused assets (including Shadow, Reaper and Watchkeeper).”


Photo by Alan Radecki Akradecki. [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The aircraft, described on the Royal Air Force website as “the most advanced long-range, airborne-surveillance system of its kind in the world”, provides long-range, wide-area battlefield surveillance, delivering intelligence and target tracking information to British forces.

The aircraft has been operationally deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali, and is currently deployed in support of British and Coalition operations in Iraq and Syria.
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[*] posted on 10-6-2020 at 10:47 PM



An E-7 Wedgetail.

RAF to receive first E-7 Wedgetail AEW Mk1 in 2023

By George Allison - June 9, 202020

The first of the five E-7 Wedgetails purchased by the UK to replace the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control aircraft will arrive in 2023.

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, recently asked in a written Parliamentary question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the timescale is for the delivery of each E-7 Wedgetail aircraft.”

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, replied:

“The current forecast for delivery of the first E-7 Wedgetail AEW Mk1 aircraft to the Royal Air Force is 2023, with the last expected in 2026. However, I am withholding the detailed delivery schedule as this would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our Armed Forces.”

Quin also added in a response to another question:

“The E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft is produced by modifying and militarising a Boeing 737 Next Generation airliner. As has been stated previously, the first two airframes to be inducted into the modification process are low-hours, previously-owned aircraft. In preparation for modification, Boeing will undertake a thorough overhaul of these airframes to ensure a standard form, fit and function across the whole fleet. This will enable all aircraft to be operated and maintained by the RAF in the same manner.”

Recently, Boeing has selected STS Aviation Services and its Birmingham site for the conversion work on the United Kingdom’s fleet of five Wedgetail aircraft.

The conversion work – turning commercial 737 Next Generation airliners into Wedgetails – will create more than 100 highly skilled jobs in the West Midlands: 90 with STS Aviation Services and 30 more with Boeing, say the firm in a press release.
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[*] posted on 10-6-2020 at 10:51 PM


UK selects ELIX-IR threat warning system for E-7 Wedgetail aircraft

By George Allison - June 10, 20200

Boeing has selected Leonardo and Thales to deliver a UK sovereign Defensive Aids System (DAS) for the UK’s new fleet of five 737-based Boeing E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning aircraft.

Boeing say that their selection builds on last year’s announcement that Thales’ Elix-IR Threat Warner and Leonardo’s Defensive Aids System controller and Miysis Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure (DIRCM) had been selected to equip the RAF’s fleet of Shadow Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance aircraft.

“Air platforms are fundamental in the support of war fighting, peace-keeping, peace-enforcement, and humanitarian operations worldwide. These varied missions often present hostile and threatening conditions to the safety of the crew and passengers. In all operations, air platforms remain high value assets that present a prime target for conventional and unconventional adversaries alike.

Elix-IR is an advanced multi-function passive Threat Warning System (TWS), offering the core functionalities of a simultaneous Missile Approach Warner (MAW) and Hostile Fire Indication (HFI) solution to counter existing and future missile threats. It is suitable for use on a wide range of rotary and fixed wing platforms such as helicopters, transport aircraft, UAVs, and VIP aircraft.”

For the RAF’s Boeing Wedgetail, Thales UK, under a subcontract from Leonardo, is providing the Elix-IR Threat Warning System and Vicon XF intelligent Countermeasures Dispensing System into Leonardo’s Modular Advanced Platform Protection System (MAPPS).

The integrated Defensive Aids System is fully designed, developed, manufactured, and supported in the UK, say the firm.
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[*] posted on 16-6-2020 at 10:00 PM


UK’s unmanned Protector gains Brimstones, Paveway IV for ground test

By Craig Hoyle

16 June 2020

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is advancing weapons integration work in support of the UK’s Protector RG1 remotely piloted air system programme, with ground vibration testing now being performed.

The test activity is taking place in the USA using General Atomics’ first production example of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian; a platform with which the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) Protector shares 97% commonality.


Source: Crown Copyright
Ground vibration testing includes inert Brimstone and Paveway IV weapons


Air Marshal Sir Julian Young, chief of materiel (air) at the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support organisation, on 12 June posted a Twitter image showing the medium-altitude, long-endurance type fitted with three MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missiles and a Raytheon UK Paveway IV precision-guided bomb beneath its wing.

To enter frontline service from 2024, the RAF’s Protector fleet will replace its current Reaper inventory in the armed intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance role. The integration of UK-sovereign weapons will be a key advance from its previous reliance on US-developed munitions.

General Atomics last September was awarded a £100 million ($126 million) contract to complete test and evaluation work on the new platform for the UK.

In its Defence Equipment Plan 2019 publication, released in February, the UK Ministry of Defence detailed the total cost of the Protector programme at £1 billion.
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[*] posted on 24-6-2020 at 09:32 AM


23 JUNE 2020 00:00 GMT+0

UK renews GECO mission management for Puma Force

by Gareth Jennings

The United Kingdom has renewed for a further five years its Graphical Electronic Cockpit Organiser (GECO) Mission Support System (GECO MSS) contract for the Royal Air Force (RAF’s) Puma Force, manufacturer Inzpire announced on 23 June.


Inzpire’s GECO Mission Support System (GECO MSS) contract with Joint Helicopter Command’s front line Puma Force has been extended for a further five-year period, the company announced on 23 June. (Inzpire)

This contract extension with Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) will see RAF Benson’s 33 and 230 squadrons equipped with the system until 2025, with the Westland-Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2 fleet using GECO MSS on all flying operations in the UK and internationally.

“The initial contract started in 2015 after the invitation to tender [ITT] sought a 10-year contract broken into two five-year spells, with the latter being an optional extension which has now been accepted,” Inzpire said, adding that full operating capability on the system was declared in early 2017.

GECO Air, as the system is known in its airborne configuration, is designed to complement an aircraft’s existing onboard avionics systems by bringing commercial off-the-shelf hardware technology to the cockpit. As previously noted by Inzpire, it can be used as a standalone device (as is the case with the UK Puma Force) or integrated directly into an aircraft.

Usually strapped to the pilot’s knee, the GECO Air removes the need for numerous, unwieldy, and often out-of-date maps cluttering the cockpit. As an Inzpire official previously explained to Janes
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[*] posted on 24-6-2020 at 10:23 PM


24 JUNE 2020 00:00 GMT+0

UK may not upgrade all F-35Bs to Block 4 standard

by Gareth Jennings

The United Kingdom may not upgrade all of its early model Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning combat aircraft to the latest Block 4 standard later this decade, declaring it will decide numbers based on ‘military capability requirements’.


The UK government has said it has not yet decided how many of the 48 F-35Bs it will have received by 2026 will be upgraded to the latest Block 4 standard, noting any decision on numbers will be based on ‘military capability requirements’. (Lockheed Martin)

Answering a question in the House of Commons Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Jeremy Quin, said that, while the international Block 4 (full combat) upgrade has been costed into the UK’s procurement programme, the precise numbers of already-delivered jets to go through the retrofit process have not yet been decided.

“The F-35 Block 4 upgrade has been included in the UK F-35 programme budget since its inception. Decisions on the number of aircraft to be upgraded will be made on the basis of military capability requirements. The costs of the Block 4 upgrade are managed through the F-35 Joint Programme Office and, as one partner in the multinational F-35 programme, the UK is not in a position to share detailed cost information,” the minister said.
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[*] posted on 26-6-2020 at 10:00 AM


VIP Voyager touches down with Union Flag livery

By Craig Hoyle

26 June 2020

A UK Royal Air Force-operated Airbus Defence & Space A330 Voyager touched down at its Brize Norton home in Oxfordshire on 25 June sporting a new Union Flag livery to denote its tasking as a VIP transport asset.

The new scheme for the widebody (ZZ336, also named “Vespina”) was applied at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group’s Cambridge airport site.


VIP Voyager
Source: Crown Copyright
New-look widebody arrived at RAF Brize Norton on 25 June


The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) describes the new-look asset as a “secure, cost-effective and suitably profiled transport for government ministers and the Royal Family”. The widebody is “ready to represent the UK across the globe”, for example during “trade, diplomatic and other missions”, it adds.

Despite also referring to the aircraft as “The Prime Minister’s Voyager”, the MoD notes: “Alongside its VIP role, the aircraft remains certified for its original use, including air-to-air refuelling and personnel transport”.


Source: Crown Copyright
Union Flag livery adorns twinjet’s tail


Cirium fleets data shows that ZZ336 now features a 58-seat VIP configuration, including a 1-2-1 layout. Its refurbishment was approved as part of the Ministry of Defence’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

One of 12 AirTanker-owned Voyagers – including two held on the UK civil aircraft register – the Rolls-Royce Trent 772-powered twinjet was first flown in October 2012, Cirium data shows.


VIP Voyager
Source: Crown Copyright
ZZ336, alongside a standard Voyager tanker/transport
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[*] posted on 2-7-2020 at 11:03 PM


New Training Pathway Paves Way for Protector

(Source: Royal Air Force; issued July 01, 2020)

Personnel selected to fly and operate the Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) will now benefit from an improved training system which also paves the way for the arri-val of the new Protector RG Mk1.

Future Reaper pilots and operators will now spend six weeks at the General Atomics Aero-nautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) Flight Test and Training Centre in North Dakota undergo-ing ground school and learning basic aircraft operations. This training will initially run in parallel to training undertaken at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, home to the largest RPA training establishment in the world.

Students will then progress to Creech AFB where they will join 39 Squadron at the Neva-da base to undergo the more advanced training. The squadron has absorbed the 54 Squadron Reaper Training Flight which previously taught the UK specific aspects of oper-ating Reaper including rules of engagement and UK safety procedures.

At the conclusion of their Combat Ready work up training personnel can fly operational sorties without supervision.

“Using RAF and GA-ASI instructors enables us to have complete control over the syllabus and training objectives at every stage of the course negating the need for a conversion to UK specific tactics, techniques and procedures. This is a huge win for us.”

A similar training system will be used for the new Protector RPAS which will enter RAF service in the early-2020s. Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Sur-veillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly con-sistently for up to 40 hours, will offer vastly improved armed ISTAR capability. It would also be available, if requested, to support civilian agencies in the UK, for example in search and rescue or disaster response missions.

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[*] posted on 15-7-2020 at 01:58 PM


14 JULY 2020

UK receives upgraded Airseeker back into service

by Gareth Jennings

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has received back into service the first of its three L3 Technologies RC-135V/W Airseeker (Rivet Joint) intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft to go through a planned cockpit upgrade effort.


Airseeker ZZ664 has arrived back at RAF Waddington after receiving a major cockpit upgrade in the United States. (Crown Copyright)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 14 July that aircraft ZZ664 has been delivered back to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire following the modification work in the United States.

“Complete with its newly acquired world-leading technologies, ZZ664 has undertaken the first of a series of flight deck training sorties from RAF Waddington with the aim of shortly resuming exercises and operations covering a wide range of areas of interest for the UK,” the MoD said.

As noted by the ministry, the upgrade work has involved equipping the aircraft with a modern ‘glass’ flight deck in place of the legacy analogue deck of before. Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the MoD’s procurement arm, managed the programme of modifications and secured UK certification of the new flight deck.

“RJ-18’s (ZZ664) clearance for operations marks a huge milestone for the Delivery Team. As a culmination of four years’ work, the certification of this first-of-type flight deck is a brilliant achievement for a pivotal UK/US collaborative programme,” Air Commodore Mark Hunt, DE&S Air ISTAR Team Leader was quoted as saying.
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[*] posted on 15-7-2020 at 10:21 PM


UK signs £65m contract for first three Protectors

By Craig Hoyle

15 July 2020

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has ordered its first three of a planned 16 Protector RG1 unmanned air vehicles from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, with the £65 million ($82 million) contract announced on 15 July.

Also including three ground control stations and support equipment, the launch production order follows what the MoD describes as a “successful development phase” activity performed by General Atomics in the USA.


Protector
Source: Crown Copyright
New unmanned system is due for service entry by mid-2024


With its first production order now in place, the MoD says operations with the Protector fleet will start by mid-2024. The type will replace the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) current General Atomics Reapers.

Announced by defence secretary Ben Wallace during the RAF’s online Air & Space Power Conference, the production deal “also includes an option to build 13 more aircraft and four ground control stations”, the MoD says.

To be home based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, the Protector fleet will be capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks, including in adverse weather conditions. It will also be certificated to operate in non-segregated airspace, by using on-board sense and avoid technology.

Flight endurance is cited at up to 40h, with the aircraft to carry MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missiles and Raytheon UK Paveway IV precision-guided bombs.
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[*] posted on 15-7-2020 at 10:54 PM


MOD Signs £65m Contract for Protector Aircraft

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued July 15, 2020)



Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has signed a £65 million contract to build the UK’s first three Protector aircraft - the first UK operated system capable of strike missions anywhere in the world.

After a successful development phase Protector is set to enter service by mid-2024, meaning that the Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) will deliver a step-change in capability for the RAF.

Protector is the world’s first certified RPAS, enabling it to fly in busy, unsegregated airspace, including civilian airspace, thanks to its ground-breaking ‘sense and avoid’ technology.

The contract was announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at the virtual 2020 Air and Space Power Conference. He said: “The UK is proving once again that we are a world leader in defence technology. Protector will provide the RAF with vast global reach, meeting the UK’s defence and security needs for decades to come, and provides another increase to the unmanned inventory for the Armed Forces.

“This aircraft will upgrade a whole range of lethal capabilities allowing us to control, protect and manage the battlespace from the air for hours on end."

The cutting-edge aircraft, which will replace the current Reaper RPAS force, will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations from its base at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

Its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer the RAF vastly improved armed intelligence and reconnaissance sorties.

The innovative fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in extreme weather conditions.

VIDEO: https://twitter.com/i/status/1283316702265188356

Protector also comes with enhanced data links and will carry next-generation, low collateral, precision strike weapons – the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK).

The contract follows a successful development phase by manufacturers General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. which will build the first three Protector aircraft, plus three ground control stations and other associated support equipment.

It also includes an option to build 13 more aircraft and four ground control stations, which will complete the current planned fleet of 16 aircraft, more than doubling the capability currently provided by Reaper.

Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, said: “I am delighted to announce that we have got Protector production on contract. The DE&S team have demonstrated their remarkable resilience and overcome considerable challenges to ensure this significant programme remained on track.

“Their efforts and the collaborative commitment from industry means that the RAF can still look forward to the delivery of the cutting-edge Protector and the step-change in capability that it brings.”

Meeting stringent NATO and UK safety certification standards, the aircraft could, if requested, operate in civilian airspace to support civilian agencies in the UK, for example, in search and rescue and disaster response missions.

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[*] posted on 16-7-2020 at 11:50 AM


15 JULY 2020

RAF to trial unmanned aircraft from Royal Navy carriers

by Gareth Jennings

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to trial the use of unmanned aircraft from the decks of the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) disclosed on 15 July.


An F-35B launching from HMS Queen Elizabeth . In addition to its complement of manned aircraft, the carrier and its HMS Prince of Wales sister-ship are set to employ swarming drones and unmanned ‘loyal wingman’ depending on the results of upcoming evaluation trials announced by the RAF. (Crown Copyright)

Speaking at the ‘virtual’ Air & Space Power Association conference, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said that work to evaluate the use of swarming drones and unmanned ‘loyal wingmen’ from HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales had already begun, and that flight trials are expected shortly.

“We will expand 216 [Experimental - X] Squadron’s operational trials to evaluate the use of swarming drones from our Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, and we will do the same with our autonomous wingman programme too,” ACM Wigston said. “This is happening now, and further developments are expected towards the end of this year.”

The comments from the CAS came some three months after the RAF stood up 216 Squadron on 1 April for the purpose of developing and delivering an operational ‘swarming drones’ capability, and some 17 months after Janes first reported on 15 February 2019 that the UK was looking to create a carrier-capable unmanned aircraft as part of its wider efforts to develop the Tempest next-generation combat aircraft.
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[*] posted on 16-7-2020 at 11:55 AM


15 JULY 2020

RAF reveals ‘information node' plan for Voyager tanker-transport aircraft

by Gareth Jennings

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) plans to trial the use of an Airbus Voyager tanker-transport aircraft as an airborne information node for multidomain operations.


The RAF plans to trial the use of a Voyager tanker-transport aircraft as an airborne ‘information node’ under the wider Babel Fish VII experiment due in the coming months. (Crown Copyright)

Speaking at the ‘virtual’ Air & Space Power Association conference, a senior officer noted that the experiment is part of a wider drive to develop a ‘next-generation air force’ under Project ‘Astra’.

“In the next few months we will launch Babel Fish VII, looking to put Deckard, Nexus, and Raven onto a Voyager tanker – experimenting with multidomain integration to understand which areas we wish to further develop the full capability,” said Air Vice-Marshal Lincoln Taylor, Chief of Staff Capability, HQ Air Command.

Babel Fish is a series of tests in which different airborne systems are inter-connected and able to communicate. The Babel Fish events to date have dealt with sharing information between the ‘fourth-generation’ Eurofighter Typhoon and the ‘fifth-generation’ Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II combat aircraft. Deckard is a ‘cloud’-based app, Nexus is a data platform, while Raven is a micro digitalised server.

“The real turning point [in developing this next-generation information sharing capability] was the formation of the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office [RCO] RCO Air Information Experimentation [AIX] programme in 2019.
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[*] posted on 16-7-2020 at 01:10 PM


Glass cockpit update transforms RAF Rivet Joint

By Craig Hoyle

15 July 2020

A glass cockpit upgrade for the Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic intelligence aircraft has secured UK certification, with a first modified example close to being returned to operational use by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Detailing the flightdeck modernisation activity, the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation on 14 July said that RAF example ZZ664 is the first of 20 UK and US Air Force (USAF) Rivet Joints due to receive the enhancement.


Rivet Joint
Source: Crown Copyright
Modified UK aircraft has been returned to RAF Waddington


Now equipped with large-format digital displays following an upgrade activity performed in the USA, the Rivet Joint will provide increased situational awareness for pilots, “making flying operations easier and safer”, DE&S says.

“Integrating these enhancements onto a legacy jet was a technically ambitious achievement, which underpins Rivet Joint’s ability to deploy anywhere in the world,” notes Air Commodore Nick Hay, the RAF’s air ISTAR force commander.

A new simulator for the glass cockpit-equipped Rivet Joint has already been installed at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, DE&S says. “ZZ664 has undertaken the first of a series of flightdeck training sorties from Waddington, with the aim of shortly resuming exercises and operations,” it adds.


Source: Crown Copyright
Training flights have already been conducted using ZZ664


The RAF’s two additional RC-135Ws are also due to receive the update “in due course”. Acquired via its Airseeker programme, the surveillance fleet was delivered to the UK from November 2013.

Cirium fleets data shows that the USAF currently operates 22 RC-135s, with its oldest airframes aged 58 years.
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[*] posted on 17-7-2020 at 11:27 AM


GA-ASI and UK MoD Sign Contract for Protector RPAS Production

(Source: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.; issued July 15, 2020)

SAN DIEGO --- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) has signed a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the manufacture and delivery of Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS).

“This is a major milestone for the MQ-9B system and the Protector Program,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “We look forward to delivering this new generation of MQ-9 to the Royal Air Force (RAF).”

GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the baseline system that will become the Protector RG Mk1 when configured for the RAF. This configuration includes X-band satellite communications (SATCOM) and UK weapon systems.

The contract covers a total of 16 aircraft (initial order of three platforms with an option for an additional 13) and sevenGround Control Stations (GCS), together with associated ground support equipment. The first system will be delivered in 2021, though it will remain in the U.S. to be utilized in the test and evaluation program.

“Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer a vastly improved ISTAR capability. Given that it is designed to fly in non-segregated, civil airspace, the Protector RPAS will also be able to support multiple civilian missions, including search and rescue and disaster response missions,” said Group Captain Shaun Gee, the RAF’s Director Air ISTAR Programmes.

GA-ASI’s development of MQ-9B began in 2014 as a company-funded program to deliver an RPA that meets the stringent STANAG-4671 UAV System Airworthiness Requirements, which provide the basis for type certification by NATO member-state military airworthiness authorities. The MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) and is built for adverse weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and de-icing system. It features rapid integration of new payloads with nine hard points. The aircraft can “self-deploy” using SATCOM-enabled Automatic Takeoff and Landing, which eliminates forward-based launch-and-recovery equipment and personnel. In addition to the SkyGuardian, MQ-9B is also available as the SeaGuardian for maritime missions.

The MQ-9B has also been selected by the Australian Defence Force and received considerable interest from civil and military customers around the world. The Government of Belgium has also approved Belgian Defense to negotiate the acquisition of MQ-9B.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator RPA series and the Lynx Multi-mode Radar. With more than six million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike.

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[*] posted on 21-7-2020 at 09:22 AM


RAF Voyager tanker to support combat cloud connectivity trials

By Craig Hoyle

20 July 2020

A long-term UK effort to enhance in-flight data connectivity among multiple Royal Air Force (RAF) combat aircraft is to enter a new phase, with a series of demonstrations to be carried out later this year.

Speaking during the RAF’s online Air & Space Power Conference on 15 July, Air Vice-Marshal Linc Taylor, chief of staff capability at Headquarters Air Command, outlined a pending series of flight tests being organised by the service’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO).


Source: Crown Copyright
A330 tanker could act as a data network for types including stealthy F-35


During the forthcoming trials programme, a suite of networking technology will be employed by an Airbus Defence & Space A330 tanker/transport, bolstering connectivity between multiple platforms. The equipment includes a defence of the homeland app named Deckard, a Nexus data platform and the Raven micro server, all supporting a combat cloud architecture.

The RCO last year formed an Air Information Experimentation unit, and Taylor says: “Since then, our information advantage journey has accelerated.

“This year we will build our classified environment, and in the next few months we will launch Babel Fish VII, looking to put Deckard, Nexus and Raven onto a Voyager tanker, experimenting with multi-domain integration, to understand which areas we wish to develop to full capability,” Taylor says.

The activity will build on the results of connectivity trials performed through the Babel Fish programme’s third to fifth phases, which involved the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting. This work focused on “sharing data, allowing F-35 to operate ‘silently’, at the tip of the spear”, he notes.

Taylor also details the planned culmination of the multi-year activity, noting: “Our immediate aim point is Babel Fish X, where we plan to demonstrate true multi-domain integration. Our intent is to complete that within two years.”

Meanwhile, RAF chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston during the same conference revealed another forthcoming activity planned for one of the service’s trials units.

“We will expand 216X Squadron’s operational trials to evaluate the operation of swarming drones from our Queen Elizabeth-class [aircraft] carriers,” he says. The same unit will also explore the potential of operations using so-called “autonomous wingman” platforms, he says.
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[*] posted on 25-7-2020 at 03:28 PM


Scottish Home for Poseidon Fleet Reaches Major Milestone

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued July 23, 2020)

Facilities to house the Poseidon MRA Mk1 fleet have been handed over to Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), marking a major milestone in the Poseidon programme.

DE&S, the MOD’s procurement arm, will take control of the £100 million strategic facility at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland.

Clocking in at over 33,000 square metres, the facility includes a three-bay hangar and accommodation for two squadrons, as well as state-of-the-art training equipment and facilities for those working on the fleet of nine Poseidon aircraft.

Designed and built by Boeing Defence UK (BDUK) and local construction partner Robertson, more than 300 employees worked on the building at Lossiemouth during the peak of the two-year project.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The new Poseidon fleet will reassert the UK in the maritime patrol arena. It will play an invaluable role in our national security for decades to come. The state-of-the-art Lossiemouth facility provides the fleet with an ideal base while helping to create and sustain jobs in Scotland.”

Once operational in the autumn, the facility will be the workplace for 470 additional military and civilian personnel, taking the total number of people working out of the coastal base to about 2,200.

Michelle Sanders, P-8A Poseidon team leader at DE&S, said: “The new strategic facility at RAF Lossiemouth is a great example of successful delivery through co-operative working. DE&S, Boeing Defence UK and Robertson have worked closely since the project began in early 2018 and here we are, just over two years later, taking delivery of this splendid new building. The focus of our work now shifts to preparing it for handover to the RAF later this year.”

The first RAF Poseidon - named Pride of Moray - arrived from the USA and touched down at Kinloss Airfield in February 2020, followed by the second - named City of Elgin - in March. Both aircraft are currently flying from Kinloss until the Lossiemouth facility and runway are formally opened.

RAF Air Cdre Richard Barrow said: “The strategic facility at RAF Lossiemouth is going to be an outstanding working environment optimised to support the RAF’s new Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

“But, more than that, it is going to be the home of our new capability where our crews, engineers, mission support staff and contractors will work together to deliver this essential Defence output.

“Delivered by Defence Equipment and Support and Boeing Defence UK, the project has progressed at impressive speed and will deliver exactly what we need in time to meet the arrival of our new aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth in the autumn.”

Terence Bulloch, the third aircraft in the fleet, is named after the highest-scoring pilot in Coastal Command during the Second World War. It has completed the painting stage and is having its mission equipment fitted at the Boeing Defence facility in Seattle.

Anna Keeling, managing director of Boeing Defence UK, said: “We are incredibly proud to be handing over this state-of-the-art facility to DE&S after two years of hard work and investment, and we are excited to begin a new phase of Boeing’s partnership at RAF Lossiemouth.

“It’s a further sign of our more than 80-year commitment to the UK and we could not have done it without the support of the local Morayshire community, both on and off base.”

In the coming months, DE&S will oversee the installation of computers, audio-visual technology and the IT network to ensure the facility meets the RAF’s requirements.

Simulators and training devices for the Poseidon air and ground crews will be delivered and their installation will begin, while a separate ground support equipment (GSE) hangar will also be built by Robertson.

All nine Poseidon aircraft, which are based on the Boeing 737 Next-Generation airliner, are expected to be in the UK by the end of 2021.

UK Government minister for Scotland David Duguid said: “This new £100 million strategic facility at RAF Lossiemouth is a further investment from the UK Government in the area’s economy, and demonstrates the important role Scotland plays in our defence network.

“We look forward to seeing the facility put to good use playing an essential role in our national security and creating sustainable jobs for the future of the area.”

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[*] posted on 30-7-2020 at 09:46 AM


Combat Air Choices for the UK Government

(Source: Royal United Services Institute (RUSI); issued July 28, 2020)

The UK faces fundamental questions about its identity, global strategy and ambitions as a medium power, having left the EU against a backdrop of an economically devastating global pandemic, an increasingly unpredictable US administration that has abandoned many of the previously assumed tenets of the international system, and aggressive competition by major powers in the shape of Russia and China.

Under the banner of ‘Global Britain’, the government has made clear its ambition to remain an influential actor able to exert soft and hard power around the world, while also revitalising its long-standing commitments to both NATO and the so-called ‘special relationship’ with the US.

At the heart of the UK’s relationships within NATO, and with the US specifically, is an ambition to remain the ally of choice for the US as a ‘tier one’ military. However, the US Department of Defense is increasingly focused on the growing military threat from China in the Indo-Pacific, at the expense of traditional areas of focus in the Middle East and Europe.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded that European NATO members do more to modernise and enhance defence capabilities in Europe itself, in order to reduce the burden placed on US forces by the threat of Russian aggression against the Alliance’s eastern flank.

At a national strategy level, therefore, the UK is unlikely to reduce overall defence spending (at least as a proportion of GDP), since that would weaken its position as both a global power projection partner for the US, and within NATO. However, at 2% of pre-coronavirus GDP, the UK armed forces are struggling with an ‘overambitious and underfunded’ equipment programme, long-overdue modernisation requirements from the British Army and Royal Navy, and an incoherent force structure that is neither well-optimised for NATO deterrence against Russia, nor for sustained operations far afield at any significant scale.

During the upcoming Integrated Review, the government will either have to significantly raise defence spending or make some hard decisions on what the armed forces are optimised for in the 2020s and 2030s, as well as the future of the UK’s military aerospace industry within the broader prosperity agenda.

Against this backdrop, this paper sets out to examine the choices facing those attempting to narrow down options for the future of UK combat air through 2020 and 2021 in the context of renewed budgetary pressure on defence and the Integrated Review.

How can a coherent force be generated and sustained during the next two decades, while also maintaining a viable domestic combat air design and manufacturing capability for the long term? It is intended to help inform and suggest options for policymakers, rather than present findings in the format of a more traditional research paper.

Click here for the full report (38 PDF pages), on the RUSI website.

https://rusi.org/publication/occasional-papers/combat-air-ch...

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