Monthly Archives: August 2017

Side View Of The First Bell V-280 Valor Next-Generation Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Prototype

From this point of view it appears even more futuristic….

As reported yesterday, the first prototype of V-280 Valor, Bell’s candidate to the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD), in the running to replace the service’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters as part of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, was spotted at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center attached to an engine test stand in preparation for the engine tests required ahead of its first flight scheduled next month.

In this post you can see a photograph, submitted by a source who wishes to remain anonymous, that provides a side view of the V-280 prototype, registered N280BH.

Along with the retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant fly by wire control system, and a V-tail configuration, the main V-280 feature is the futuristic tilting gearbox design where the output shaft is connected to the drive system through a spiral bevel gearbox that transfers power to the fixed gearbox and proprotor gearbox, which rotates on two big spherical bearings driven by a conversion actuator mechanism. In this way, the gearbox is the only thing that rotates whereas the engines do not. Moreover, a driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single engine in case of engine loss.

Side view of the V-280 prototype clearly visible outside Bell Helicopter/Textron Plant in Amarillo, Texas.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Stealth Fighters With Radar Reflectors Take Part In Latest Show Of Force Against North Korea

The U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II, joined United States Air Force B-1B Lancers for the first time in a show of force over the Korean Peninsula.

On Aug. 30, two B-1Bs from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam accompanied by two Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15Js and four Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15Ks took part in a joint mission over South Korea: a direct response to North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launch which flew directly over northern Japan on August 28 amid rising tension over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.

Even though such missions have become more or less a routine, what make the latest “show of force” a bit more interesting is the participation of four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II that joined the USAF Lancers for a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula to release live weapons at the Pilsung Range training area before returning to their respective home stations.

Although the F-35B is the most modern combat plane in the region and can theoretically be used as part of a larger package to hit very well defended North Korean targets in case of war, the presence of a handful stealth multirole aircraft is mainly symbolic.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing that achieved IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the JSF on Jul. 31, 2015, relocated to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017.

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016.

During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.

Escorted by ROKAF F-15s, the JSF dropped their internally-carried GBU-32s on a range in South Korea (all images via PACAF).

In case of war, the stealthy aircraft would only be part of a wider military force including U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers (that have already conducted extended deterrence missions over the Korean Peninsula in the past years) along with the B-1B Lancers already deployed to Guam to support the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission; as well as other USAF assets from land bases and U.S. Navy aircraft from aircraft carriers, such as the F-16 in Wild Weasel role and the EA-18G Growlers Electronic Attack, to name but few.

In fact, the F-35s would be involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

During the Aug. 30 mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars: a sign they didn’t want their actual radar signature to be exposed to any intelligence gathering sensor in the area. Furthermore , the Joint Strike Fighters also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range.

F-35Bs dropping their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs

With a “first day of war” configuration the F-35B would likely carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors as done during the mission flown yesterday. However, as a conflict evolves and enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft, are degraded by airstrikes the environment becomes more permissive and the F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capability for survivability. This is when the Lightning II would shift to carrying large external loads to accelerate the prosecution of ground targets in an effort to overwhelm an adversary with highly effective precision strikes.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

“The F-35 embodies our commitment to our allies and contributes to the overall security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” said Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific in a PACAF release. “By forward-basing the F-35, the most advanced aircraft in the world, here in the Pacific, we are enabling the Marine Corps to respond quickly during a crisis in support of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and all our regional partners.”

Four F-35s took part in the latest show of force against North Korea.

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Here Are The First Images Of The First Bell V-280 Valor Next-Generation Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Prototype

Bell V-280 Valor is a third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft being developed by Bell Helicopter for the United States Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. And here is the first demonstrator aircraft being readied for its maiden flight.

The V-280 Valor is Bell’s submission for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) phase, the technology demonstration precursor to Future Vertical Lift (FVL), a replacement for the service’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters.

The V-280 will have a crew of 4 (including two pilots) and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. Its cruising speed will be 280 knots (hence the designation V-280) and its top speed will be 300 kts. It’s designed for a range of 2,100 nautical miles and an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi although the Army’s requirements for the demonstrator call for hot and high hover performance (at 6,000 feet and 95 F), and the ability to self-deploy 2,100 nautical miles at a speed of at least 230 knots.

Featuring a triple-redundant flight-by-wire Flight Control System and cutting edge avionics, the first prototype of the next generation helicopter is expected to perform its first flight in the next few months. On Aug. 30, what looks like a 100 percent complete aircraft, sporting the registration N280BH, was spotted at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center (where the demonstrator aircraft began ground vibration testing with a 95 percent complete helicopter back in February 2017): the Valor is probably being prepared for engine tests ahead of its maiden flight (planned for Sept. 2017).

The T64-GE-419 engines and gearboxes in the nacelles are clearly visible in the interesting images in this post obtained from a short video filmed by our friend Steve Douglass. Interestingly, unlike the V-22’s engines, that rotate with the gearboxes, in the V-280, the gearbox is the only thing that rotates. According to Bell “The output shaft is connected to the drive system through a spiral bevel gearbox that transfers power to the fixed gearbox and proprotor gearbox, which rotates on two big spherical bearings driven by a conversion actuator mechanism.” The Valor’s tilting gearbox design vastly simplifies the Osprey’s complex hydro-mechanical clockwork required for the tiltrotor action.

N280BH at Amarillo is being prepared for engine tests.

The U.S. Army plans to field distinct platforms: a utility helicopter and an attack helicopter. For this reason, a variant, dubbed AV-280, is expected to carry rocket, missiles and also small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) forward or aft with no rotor interference.

Noteworthy, also spotted at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center recently is the first V-22 Osprey for Japan.

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Here Are The Highlights Of Radom Air Show 2017 In Poland

Some Cool Photographs Of The Most Interesting Jets.

On Aug. 26 and 27, we attended the Radom International Air Show. Held biennially in Poland, the show has sparked a lot of controversy this year, due to the fact that the current MoD leadership in Warsaw has been changing its decisions concerning the organization of the event a couple of times. Nonetheless, ultimately, the Radom Air Show was organized, however the line-up was somewhat modest when compared to the previous editions. This may also have been caused by the fact that, on the very same dates, Slovakia organized the Slovak International Air Fest event at Sliac.

When it comes to the international dimension of the show, we could only witness a very modest set of dynamic displays. Among them, the one of the Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR a type of fighter that is slowly approaching the end of its service in the military, and is being gradually replaced by second-hand F-16s.

The RoAF LanceR

The Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker aircraft seemed to be the star of the show, nonetheless the display routine presented by the pilot is “on the reserved side”, meaning that the maneuvers are being performed with a significant safety margin. Having attended MAKS a month before, the Flanker’s show was definitely not a highlight of the Radom event for us.

Austria sent its SAAB 105, Italy its M-346 Master which staged a good show, along with Typhoon for static. The Luftwaffe also sent its Eurofighter Typhoon for static display. Eurofighter GmbH is trying to pitch its fighter jet as a potential offer in the Harpia program, the goal of which would be to find a replacement of the MiG-29 and Su-22 jets used by the Polish Air Force.

The Leonardo M-346 during its aerial display.

The Polish Air Force showed off almost all of its assets in the dynamic display.

This included both of the Polish Aerobatic Teams – Orlik Team (flying the Orlik turboprop trainers) and White-Red Sparks (flying the TS-11 Iskra jets). MiG-29 demo also performed a dynamic display. The F-16 Tiger Demo Team’s displays were quite spectacular too; however on Sunday the jet  suffered from a systems failure, which forced Major “Zippity” Duda to interrupt the show.

The F-16 Tiger Demo Team releasing flares.

The Polish Su-22 role demo team staged an interesting, somewhat unique performance in Radom, as the Fitter is a rare sight to be seen in the international air show scene.

The Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitter role demo during their display.

One of the Fitters rolling inverted.

Finally, the Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team, with Artur Kielak flying the XA-41/42 aircraft and Jacek Stolarek flying the MiG-29 (a unique, civil-military combo, the only team of this profile in Europe), performed an interesting display, portraying the differences between the two airframes.

The Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team.

The United States sent two aircraft for the Radom show – the B-1B and the B-52. Both bombers performed solely two flypasts over the runway at the Radom Air Base. The runway itself is said to be too short to accommodate airframes this large.

The Buff takes part to the airshow with a low pass.

The civilian highlights of the show included a performance by the Latvian Baltic Bees Jet Team, very common on the European Air Show Scene, as well as participation of the Red Bull’s Austrian Flying Bulls – here the B-25 and the T-28 Trojan were, undoubtedly, the stars and highlights of the civilian portion of the Radom Show. Other aircraft presented included Bo-105 helicopters, aerobatic pilots flying Extras, civilian-owned TS-11 trainer and aerobatic teams, such as Cellfast, 3AT3 or the Żelazny Team.

This year’s edition of the Radom Air Show was very modest, however the rumor is that next year the Polish Air Force is to organize a 100. Anniversary Event. The location is still unknown, as the former leadership of the MoD pinpointed Poznan as a place where the potential show should be held – after all the Polish aviation was born there.

 

The Polish Fulcrum during its solo display.

Airshow Insider: Behind The Scenes with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

A Lot Goes Into Making a USAF Thunderbirds Flight Demo Happen; Here is Some of the Advanced Preparation.

Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mt. Clemens, Michigan in the U.S. celebrated their 100th Anniversary with the Team Selfridge Open House and Air Show on Aug. 19 and 20. As a major U.S. airshow the event featured displays celebrating both U.S. Air Force history that showcased current and future operations at Selfridge and throughout the Air Force. As with many important airshows at Air Force facilities throughout the season the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were the headlining performers at the show.

We got an insider’s look at the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds, arrival and preparation for the big weekend prior to the show. Selfridge Air National Guard Base Public Affairs team, including USAF MSgt. David Kujawa, worked hard to get TheAviationist.com access to the Thunderbirds and a unique, behind-the-scenes look at their support team days before the airshow.

Thunderbird ground crew closes up on the jets prior to more rain on the Thursday before show weekend at Selfridge.

The Thunderbird’s arrival at Selfridge ANGB on Thursday, Aug. 17, two days before the show was unique since the team faced the combined challenges of flying all the way from their home base at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada and arriving at Selfridge ANGB in bad weather.

Thunderstorms and high winds buffeted the base and airshow venue early on arrival day. A KC-135T Stratotanker from the 171st Air Refueling Squadron at Selfridge ANGB launched early on Thursday from Michigan to support the Thunderbirds flight from Nevada to Michigan. After their rendezvous over the western U.S. the Michigan based tanker crew conducted three midair refuelings for each of the five Thunderbird F-16’s on their way to Selfridge. The sixth aircraft was already on station at Selfridge.

Thursday was a combined media day for the Thunderbirds and Selfridge along with crew orientation to the venue; rehearsal and planning for the numerous appearances and activities the Thunderbirds participate in while at a demonstration venue.

Traveling with a massive amount of parts and equipment to insure the show launches all aircraft in a high state of readiness, Thunderbird team members discuss the maintenance schedule.

One mission of the Thunderbirds during their visit to Selfridge was a Hometown Hero flight with Dr. Brian Smith of Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Smith was chosen for a Thunderbird Hometown Hero flight for his unselfish service to community and his lifelong commitment to education. He has received Congressional recognition for his efforts to steer young people to a career in aviation. Dr. Smith is the First African American to get a Ph.D in biomedical engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit. He also studied the effects of IEDs on soldiers in conflict zones and the effects of aircraft ejection on pilots. Smith’s family has a long history of selfless service to the U.S. military. His father served in World War II including spending time in a prisoner of war camp.

“I was up all night, couldn’t sleep, I am so excited.” Dr. Smith told us. “I tried to take a nap earlier today. No luck. I just want to get up there. I’m hoping they let me control the aircraft briefly. I’m a licensed pilot. Maybe I can experience the high roll rate of the aircraft myself.”

Dr. Brian Smith of Detroit, Michigan was fortunate enough to be selected as a Thunderbird “Hometown Hero” and flew with the team on Saturday after Thursday’s flight was weathered out.

Dr. Smith’s flight was scrubbed on Thursday due to bad weather but he did fly on Saturday morning with the Thunderbirds.

During the ground rehearsal for the weekend’s demonstrations the Thunderbirds would be parked across the field from the show line and spectators at Selfridge. TSgt. William Russell, a Thunderbird Crew Chief from Burlington, Vermont, told TheAviationist.com, “We’re going through the grey launch process rehearsal. It’s what we use to prepare aircraft for arriving at or leaving a show state.

TSgt William Russell, a Crew Chief on swing shift for the Thunderbirds, from Burlington, Vermont helps prepare the team by going through the grey launch process. (Photo: TheAviationist.com)

A significant amount of time on Thursday was spent with Thunderbird crews drilling on the ground demonstration portion of their show. The choreography and precision you see with the ground crew is difficult to achieve and requires frequent practice to maintain, so Thunderbird personnel are constantly training the procedures that are more regimented versions of the same launch protocols used for a combat F-16 unit in the Air Force.

Thunderbirds rehearse the precision drill and ceremony launch procedure of their show constantly.

A Thunderbird team member stows pilot gear for the team as the rain approaches.

The day was quiet as weather moved in and the Thunderbirds closed up their aircraft after performing regular maintenance and their training on the tarmac. Pilots in ready rooms held meetings for the flight demo and made plans for interfacing with the public throughout the demanding show weekend. It was an interesting look inside the process of the team getting ready for a typical Thunderbird airshow weekend.

H/T to Lance Riegle for the help with the video