Monthly Archives: November 2012

U.S. Navy catapults X-47B combat drone for the first time

On Nov.29, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator successfully completed its first land-based catapult launch from Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

Hence, as China greeted the first successful landing on a combat plane on its Liaoning aircraft carrier, the U.S. Navy has made another significant step toward the future integration of drones on the carrier deck.

A step that will make naval aviators as we know it no longer sitting in the cockpit of an embarked plane but piloting killer unmanned planes from a more comfortable chair inside a ground control station.

Ground-based cat launches and recoveries will continue in the future at Pax River before the X-47B embarks on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) later this month for its initial sea trials.

First carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, unmanned aircraft are expected in 2013.

Image credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki

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New (still quite secret) Hit-to-Kill missile for the F-35 unveiled: the Lockheed Martin “Cuda”

Until a photo with an interesting caption appeared on the November 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine, few people had noticed that an F-35 display model at the Air Force Association Technology Expo 2012, had its weapon bays loaded with a brand new type of air-to-air missile: the Lockheed Martin “Cuda”.

Image credit: Air Force Magazine

“A Lockheed Martin model shows how its “’Cuda” concept for a small AMRAAM-class radar guided dogfight missile could triple the air-to-air internal loadout on an F-35. The missile is about the size of a Small Diameter Bomb and fits on an SDB-style rack.”

Photo caption aside, almost nothing is known about the “Cuda” missile.

“We are having some challenges getting information on Cuda cleared for public release,” Cheryl Amerine, Cuda POC at the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, told The Aviationist.

“Cuda is a Lockheed Martin multi-role Hit-to-Kill (HTK) missile concept.  Lockheed Martin has discussed the missile concept with the United States Air Force. The Cuda concept significantly increases the internal carriage capacity for 5th generation fighters (provides 2X to 3X capacity).  Combat proven HTK  technology has been in the US Army for over a decade.  Bringing this proven HTK technology to the USAF will provide potentially transformational new capabilities and options for new CONOPS.”

The Hit-to-Kill missile technology Lockheed is designing for the USAF is still classified and some of the capabilities of the Cuda missile are being reviewed for public release. Still, something can be said based on the few details available.

First of all, the F-35 will carry kinetic energy interceptors: “hit-to-kill” weapons rely on the kinetic energy of the impact to destroy their target. That’s why some HTK missiles don’t carry any warhead (others use a lethality enhancer warhead).

Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin

HTK technologies can be used for missile defense (Scuds, rockets or even ballistic missiles). Is someone at the Pentagon studying the possibilty to use F-35s carrying clusters of Cudas as aerial anti-missile systems to intercept small rockets, SAMs (surface-to-air missiles)?

Second, that unlike Sidewinders, Cuda missiles, rather than being equipped with an IIR (Imaging Infra Red) seeker, will be radar-guided. This means they will be ejected from the internal bays in such a way the exposure of the stealth plane is reduced.

Third, the possible integration of the Cuda with the F-22: since a Raptor can carry eight SDB, it can theoretically carry up to eight Cuda, even if the perfect air-to-air loadout could be mix of AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X and Cuda missiles.


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Surveillance camera video shows F-18 crashing into Virginia Beach apartments

On Apr. 6, 2012, a U.S. Navy F/A-18D Hornet crashed into Mayfair Mews Apartments off of Fleming Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA..

Fortunately, no one was killed in the accident even if several people were treated for injuries, including both pilots, a student pilot and an instructor, which ejected safely at low altitude.

Photos of the crashed Hornet (Bu.No. 163452/AD-410), flying with the NAS Oceana-based VFA-106 “Gladiators” were published by U.S. and foreign media outlets but the images released by WTKR Television on Nov. 26 are the first ever recorded of the doomed plane slamming into a Virginia Beach apartment complex.

Actually, little of the plane can be seen: the doomed plane was flying so fast it can be (more or less) on two frames only. The first frame shows something grey on the upper left corner. The subsequent one shows what seems to be a wing tip launcher. Then, the camera shakes as a consequence of the impact and debris invade the parking lot.

According to the Navy, the mishap was caused by an extremely rare dual engine failure: with a flamed out engine the remaining F404-GE-402 experienced a failure and did not generate sufficient thrust to keep the aircraft in the air.

When the F-18 dropped to 50 feet the crew successfully ejected.

H/T to Moreno Aguiari for the heads-up

Image credit: U.S. Navy

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First there was Iron Dome. Now ADAM shows how to intercept rocket rains without missiles

Rafael’s Iron Dome has become famous all around the world after being extensively used to face Hamas rockets during the 8-day military operation in the Gaza Strip known as Pillars of Defense.

More recently, its successor, known as David’s Sling has been test fired.

On Nov. 27, Lockheed Martin has announced that it has successfully demonstrated a portable, ground based military laser system against several airborne targets. Known as Area Defence Anti-Munitions (ADAM) system, the new system aims to provide a defense against short-range threats, such as rockets and unmanned aerial systems.

Doug Graham, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President of advanced programs for Strategic and Missile Defence systems said: “Lockheed Martin has invested in the development of the ADAM system because of the enormous potential effectiveness of high energy lasers”. He went on to add “We are committed to supporting the transition of directed energy’s revolutionary capability to the war fighter.”

ADAM system is designed to defend high-value areas. It has a 10-kilowatt fibre laser which has an effective range of 1.2 miles (2 kilometres): since August the system has destroyed unmanned aerial targets at around 0.9 miles and small-caliber rockets at a range of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

According to the company’s press release, Lockheed Martin’s Paul Shattuck, director of directed energy systems for Strategic and Missile defence Systems also said: “Lockheed Martin has applied its expertise as a laser weapon system integrator to provide a practical and affordable defence against serious threats to military forces and installations. In developing the ADAM system, we combined our proven laser beam control architecture with commercial hardware to create a capable, integrated laser weapon system.”

Richard Clements for

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Photo shows pilots ejecting from their jet moments before it crashed into the ground

The following image was taken by Erwin Fuguet Gedde at Maracay-El Libertador airbase, Venezuela, where the Venezuelan Air Force was celebrating its 92 Anniversary with the Día de la Aviación.

It depicts a Hongdu K-8 Karakorum (a two-seat intermediate jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed in China) about to crash into the ground near the airport, moments after the two pilots onboard had safely ejected from the doomed jet.

Image credit: Erwin Fuguet Gedde

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