Tag Archives: Boeing

Rare glimpse into a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker flight simulator

KC-97 Simulator

This is the flight simulator used by KC-97 tanker pilots 60 years ago.

In 2012 the he 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard published an old press release, dated around 1968 touting the latest addition to their unit, a KC-97 flight simulator!  The used simulator came from the 116th Military Airlift Group out of Dobbins, Georgia that was converting from C-97Fs to C-124Cs and did not need the old Stratotanker simulator.

This behemoth simulator, built in 1953 was one of eleven ever made. Prior to the 116th using it, it was training pilots at Randolph AFB, Texas and also spent time at another air base in Florida. Weighing in at nine tons and costing $850,000, the simulator took three techs to maintain and program the analog computers for each training session.  The KC-97 simulator had 604 tubes, 117 motor-driven resistors, and 200 resistance cards to feed data into four computer racks. The press release states that the “power equipment around the device generates enough heat each hour to warm two small homes”.

These simulators were able to replicate normal flight and emergency situations like engine fires/failures, loss of altitude, and wind buffering.  Before receiving the simulator, the 128th had to send their pilots out of state for training.  Having one on base would save time and money for the Air Guard unit.

The 128th ARW flew KC-97s up until around 1977 when they were converted to KC-135As.  In the early 90s their fleet of 135A’s were upgraded to the current airframe, KC-135Rs.  The 128th still has a dedicated training simulator located on base, though now it is an all digital, full motion KC-135R simulator made by Boeing.

KC-97 Simulator front view

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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U.S. Navy’s new surveillance plane is full of flaws and not yet effective

P-8A Jacksonville

Although it has not been released yet, the outcome of the annual report on major weapons, by Michael Gilmore, chief of the Pentagon testing office, has already made the news.

Even if the report does not use the word “flop”,  it depicts the new Boeing P-8A Poseidon as just not yet effective in two of its main missions: anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and wide area reconnaissance.

Flaws in the multi-million program (actually, a 35 billion USD endeavour) are almost everywhere: radar, sensor integration, data transfer.

According to Bloomberg News, Gilmore said the new aircraft shows “all of the major deficiencies identified in earlier exercises when subjected to more stressful realistic combat testing from September 2012 to March 2013.”

For this reason the P-8A “is not effective for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission and is not effective for wide area anti-submarine search.”

Obviously, at least “some” of the issues will soon be fixed, but the reports highlights that the B737-800 packed with sensors aren’t ready to be deployed and used in combat simply because they would fail in tracking Chinese subsmarines.

Still, the U.S. Navy has already deployed six P-8As (out of 13 delivered so far) to Japan to perform that mission.

So far Navy’s comments on the plane have always been positive and this is also the official stance of Boeing, that has also said it they will closely work with the service to solve any issues that come up.

Although the test office found that, currently, the P-8A provide the same small-area search capabilities of the older P-3C Orion it is slightly replacing, the Poseidon is a quite young weapons system, hence it is provides the U.S. Navy a higher reliability, maintainability and availability with an increased range, payload and speed.

The problem is not with the airframe, but with the costly sensors that should be the real added-value of the new aircraft: radar and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) that make both ASW and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions possible.

These will be fixed in the next months.

The U.S. Navy plans to operate a fleet of 113 P-8A Poseidon next generation maritime patrol aircraft.

Image credit: U.S. Navy


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50 years ago a B-52 lost its tail over New Mexico. But managed to land.

B-52 no tail

On Jan. 10, 1964, a B-52H flown by Boeing civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three man crew lost its tail at about 14,000 ft over northern New Mexico’s Sangre de Christo Mountains.

The aircraft was involved in a test mission whose purpose was to shake, rattle and roll the Stratofortress bomber at high speed and low altitude to record sensor data on how such a profile could affected the plane’s airframe.

The crew did their job: the vertical stabilizer detached from the B-52.

Six hours later, with support from the ground, Fisher successfully performed the first and only Stratofortress‘s tailless landing!

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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SAAB Gripen wins Brazil fighter jet bid. Boeing Super Hornet victim of NSA scandal?


Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has announced that the SAAB Gripen NG fighter jet has been selected for the FX-2 program of the Brazilian Air Force.

The decision to buy 36 Swedish jets has come after 10 years of negotiations and speculations.

Along with the eventual winner, other two contenders took part to the bid: the French Dassault Rafale and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The Rafale was discarded for its higher cost, causing an angry reaction by Dassault, that in a subsequent press conference said: “We regret the choice has gone in favor of Gripen, an aircraft provided with many items of equipment of 3rd party origin. [...] “This financial rationale fails to take into account either Rafale’s cost-effectiveness or the level of technology offered.”

Boeing Super Hornet was considered the favorite until the Snowden scandal brought to light that the NSA (National Security Agency) had been spying on Brazilian companies, agencies, officials and the president herself: in a direct attack on US electronic surveillance at the UN general assembly, Rousseff accused Washington of breaching  international law.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries suddenly worsened and the chances Boeing could win the Brazil’s bid became paltry.

Marcelo R Silva contributed to this post

Image credit: MBDA


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Star Wars Era to come: US Air Force to employ laser cannons on jets by 2030


According to the recently published RFI (Request for Information), the ARFL (Air Force Research Laboratory) is looking forward to development of the laser weapons for next generation fighter jets.

Even if this is an Air Force initiative, it is possible that the Navy and US Army will run similar independent research programs.

The U.S. Air Force plans to employ laser based weapons by 2030.

Based on requirements weapon elements will have to be ready for laboratory test by October 2014, while they must reach readiness for test on a plane and in simulated operational environment by 2022.

Three new laser devices are to be created: small power marking laser, that would act as a marker and as a blinding weapon against the optical sensors of the enemy planes; medium power laser that is to be used against air-2-air missiles; and a high power device to act as an offensive weapon.

The weapon is to be operable up to 65,000 feet of altitude and within a speed envelope of Mach 0.6 – 2.5.

Northrop Grumman is developing a solid state laser for the U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin is on a 30-month contract to develop a prototype turret in an aircraft for the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) system, while Boeing works on ground forces solutions, including HEL MD cannon that is to be vehicle mounted. Some solutions have been tested already, e.g.  USS Ponce self-defense system against small vessels.

It must be remembered though, that the laser program is not going to be the first USAF experience with this kind of weapon, since the U.S. Air Force already used ABL on a 747.

That laser was anti-tactical missile weapon, based on Chemical Oxygen Iodine laser, developed within a Boeing program.

Cancellation of that program does not mean nothing has survived. NOTAMs issued since the YAL-1 was retired prove that airborne laser testing has not ceased.

ABL used a laser range finder, tracking laser (TILL – Track Illuminator Laser) and finally BILL (Bacon Illuminator Laser) and it was after that when the target was finally destroyed by the main weapon.

USAF tested a chemical-laser weapon using Lockheed C-130H back in 2009.

The laser weapon that is to be developed will probably be employed firstly on the F/A-XX aircraft, that is to constitute a replacement for the Super Hornet.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Top image credit: ARFL

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