Category Archives: Helicopters

MV-22 Crashes Off The Coast Of Australia. Three Marines Missing.

Search and rescue operations continue for the missing Marines.

An MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit was involved in a mishap off of the east coast of Australia around 4:00 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2017. Twenty-three of 26 personnel aboard have been rescued. Research for the missing Marines is still underway.

The tilt-rotor aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and was conducting regularly scheduled operations when the aircraft entered the water.

According to the U.S. DoD, the ship’s small boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search and rescue efforts.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has recently completed the biennial Exercise Talisman Saber 2017, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Featuring 21 warships, including the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, and more than 200 joint aircraft, Talisman Saber 2017 was the seventh iteration of the exercise that focused on training a Combined Task Force of U.S. and Australian forces in a mid-intensity, high-end warfighting scenario, incorporating interagency participation, along with a command post exercise involving a transition between a 3 and 4-star Headquarters. U.S. Pacific Command units and Australian forces conducted live and virtual training exercises in multi domains on sea, land, air, cyber and throughout multiple training areas in and around Australia.

Another MV-22 Osprey was lost earlier this year: in the morning on Jan. 29, 2017, a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft, called in to evacuate American soldiers injured in a fierce firefight with Al Qaeda militants in Yemen, crash landed at Al Bayda, injuring 1 service members.

The damaged Osprey was later destroyed by an air-strike by an F-16.

Lockheed Martin S-97 Raider Light Tactical Helicopter Prototype Makes Hard Landing in West Palm Beach

An S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter hard landed at Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach.

A new S-97 Raider helicopter has made a hard landing at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in Palm Beach County earlier today.

According to WPTV, the prototype helicopter was conducting a test flight when the hard landing happened. Two people were on board and neither was injured, Lockheed Martin said.

Initially started to replace the aging OH-58 Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter under a then-$16 billion U.S. Army acquisition program named “Armed Aerial Scout” the S-97 Raider program, put on hold prior to the U.S. Presidential election due to budgetary constraints and then restarted by Sikorsky, the originator of the program, teamed with Lockheed Martin, is a next generation helicopter intended as a replacement of the U.S. Special Operations Command MH-6M Little Bird.

The Raider embeds a significant technology update over previous light attack/observation helicopters, including a mostly carbon fiber composite fuselage like the MV-22 Osprey, a unique co-axial rotor system and several additional technological advancements.

 

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Photos Of AH-64D Apache Armed With “Spike” Missiles Prove That The Weapon Is Operational For the Israeli Attack Helicopters

Recent photos show the Israeli Air Force AH-64D carrying Rafael “Spike” missiles.

Taken by Noam Menashe recently, the images in this post show IAF AH-64D “Saraf” of the 113 “Hornet” Squadron based at Ramon, Israel, carrying the indigenous Spike missile system in what appear to be the NLOS (Non-Line Of Sight) variant.

According to AFM, the photos have been cleared by the Israel Defense Forces censor proving that the missile system is now officially considered part of the Israeli “Saraf” armoury.

The NLOS is an ultra-long range version of the precision attack system believed to have a maximum range of up to 25 km and a weight of 70 kg.

According to Rafael, the SPIKE NLOS weapon system can be operated in either direct attack upon target detection using LOBL (Lock-on Before Launch) Mode or firing from stand-off in automatic navigation mode based on operator or target acquisition system provided coordinates (INS navigation).
A bidirectional RF data link enables transmission of the missile seeker video image to the operator as well as real-time updating or steering of the missile.

Indeed, along with the range and non-line of sight firing capability, the electro-optically guided Spike has the ability to switch between targets and abort its mission if the operator believes the initial target should no longer be engaged.

Spike NLOS can also receive target data from remote target acquisition systems, such as airborne UAVs, or remotely operated via networked command and control systems. The communications between the missile and operator is conducted over an optical fiber, enabling effective, broadband, secure two-way communications.

The AH-64D “Saraf” 743 with the Spike NLOS missiles. Image credit: Noam Menashe

 

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U.S. Army Successful Test Of Weaponized Laser on AH-64 Helo May Suggest A New Application In The Anti-Insurgency War

High Energy Weapon Shows Potential in Effectiveness and Precision In Anti-insurgent Operations But May Be Vulnerable to Countermeasures.

U.S. defense contractor Raytheon conducted a successful, highly publicized, precision firing of a weaponized laser weapon from a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on Jun. 26 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, western United States.

The test firing was conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This association may provide some insight into the intended operational role of High Energy Lasers in a tactical setting.

While the test itself is noteworthy since it is the first time a High Energy Weaponized laser has been fired from an attack helicopter to attack a target, the use of tactical lasers for range-finding, target designation and guidance are already commonplace in militaries around the world.

What makes Monday’s Raytheon test particularly interesting is the new ways a weaponized laser, not just a laser designator, could be used for precision attack and reduction of collateral damage.

Laser, or “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation” is effectively a narrow beam of powerful radiation that burns things. Think of it as a long-range, needle-nosed flame thrower but without visible fire, only heat (or light) energy. In fact, the Raytheon test was visibly quite unremarkable. There was no giant eruption of flames, no bright “death ray” and no explosions on glowing red targets. This invisible, silent, sinister quality may be what makes the laser Raytheon laser weapon fired from the Apache all the more menacing, especially to insurgencies that do not have effective technology to counter the weapon and can’t even tell when they are being targeted until it is too late.

Picture a lone insurgent trying to emplace an Improvised Explosive Device on a roadside. Without warning, the device simply incinerates before their eyes. No explosion unless the munitions are detonated by the laser energy, no sound, no trace of where the “weapon” came from. A mile away an attack helicopter or RPV (drone) silently hovers, firing its death-ray. The IED is simply rendered inoperable. Seconds later Special Operations personnel arrive to detain the insurgent bomber. There are no casualties and no collateral damage. Nearly all intelligence materials are preserved.

This high-precision capability is attractive to anti-insurgent operations that typically involve relatively close range engagements on very small targets, often as small as a brief case or even smart phone. If the targeting optics on the delivery vehicle, in this case an AH-64 Apache helicopter, can see a target, they can direct the laser weapon onto it precisely.

But laser weapons are not entirely infallible. Recall that laser is focused light, and that can be reflected or absorbed. The Chinese military has already devoted substantial research to both laser weapons and laser weapon countermeasures.

The Chinese developed and proven the capability of their own JD-3 and ZM-87 laser weapons. These weapons feature “less than lethal” capability at long ranges, and greater lethality at close range. The Chinese ZM-87 weaponized laser can permanently blind personnel at 2 to 3 kilometers and temporarily blind them out to 10 kilometers. Laser weapons specifically intended for blinding personnel were banned in a 1995 United Nations Protocol that may or may not be observed by nation-users in an armed conflict.

The Chinese JD-3 laser weapon is specifically intended to counter laser target designation and range finding from an enemy force- it fires a laser back at an attacking guidance laser to disrupt and destroy it. Both Chinese lasers have, according to recent intelligence, been ground vehicle mounted. But China is busy developing an indigenous attack helicopter capability with their new CAIC Z-10 and Z-19E Black Whirlwind aircraft, and it is reasonable to suggest both the ZM-87 and the JD-3 could be used from one of the new Chinese attack helicopters in a way similar to this week’s test in the U.S.

China has been particularly active in laser weapon development and deployment.
(Photo: Tiexue.Net)

Most recently the Chinese unveiled a promising new laser weapon at an arms trade show in Abu Dhabi in early March of this year. This new Chinese laser weapon follows their “Low Altitude Guard II” system deployed as an anti-drone weapon and is claimed to be able to intercept and destroy incoming mortar and rocket munitions in flight. These systems have been attributed to a combined research and development project of the Chinese Academy of Physics Engineering and the Jiuyuan Hi Tech Equipment Corporation.

In any conversation about laser weapons anti-laser defenses are among the greatest concerns, although likely not with insurgent adversaries who may lack resources to develop a fieldable anti-laser capability. Mirrors do little to reflect enough laser energy quickly enough to stop the weapons’ effects. Advanced composite material, heat and light absorbent coatings may provide additional protection but are expensive and difficult to field.

Beginning in 2014 Israel showed it developed and successfully tested the “Iron Beam” anti-missile laser weapon built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The system compliments the highly successful Iron Dome anti-missile system already operational. Iron Beam has a reported range of 7 kilometers and has been successful in destroying incoming mortar rounds and artillery projectiles, particularly difficult targets because of their small size and high speed. No information has been recently published about the operational deployment, if any, of Iron Beam.

Finally, while the new Raytheon/AH-64 Apache laser weapon test is noteworthy, it is far from a first.

In 2002 a militarized Boeing 747 called the YAL-1 was equipped with a massive airborne laser weapon intended to destroy ICBMs in flight. The ambitious anti-missile laser system was first fired in 2007 but the program was ended in 2011 for a number of reasons including the unfeasibility of the large aircraft operating safely in close proximity to enemy ICBM launch facilities. The system simply made too large and vulnerable of a target since it had to be relatively close to the missile it was trying to destroy. It remains one of the most expensive defense projects in history.

On Feb. 14, 2012, this writer got to see the YAL-1 make its final flight into Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona for storage and dismantling at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), the famous “Boneyard”.

The Boeing YAL-1 airborne laser weapons system was an early attempt at high power weaponized lasers that ended its life here in the Boneyard in Tucson, Arizona as an unsuccessful operational project.
(Photo: USAF)

While laser weapons are not new this more recent test by Raytheon and the U.S. Army in cooperation with SOCOM may suggest a new niche application for laser weapons in the continuing anti-insurgency war. Depending on how quickly the capability can be fielded this may be a promising test result for the U.S. as it enters yet another chapter in the continuing Global War on Terror.

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China Debuts New Indigenous Attack Helicopter for Export Market in First Flight

New Z-19E Black Whirlwind Flies for First Time in Harbin, China.

Chinese aircraft company AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry Group debuted its new Z-19E “Black Whirlwind” attack helicopter during its first flight at Harbin Airport in Harbin, Heilongjiang, northeastern China.

The first flight of the Z-19E Black Whirlwind, also referred to as the AH-19E in Chinese media, was a basic lift-off to hover and then several basic low-speed flight maneuvers over the airfield. The aircraft was carrying eight large, white missiles that bear resemblance to the U.S. designed Hellfire guided missile along with what may have been a gun pod and a launch canister for high-velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs) possibly analogous to the U.S. 2.75” folding fin aircraft rocket (FFAR).

The crew arrangement seems to be similar to that of the U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters where the pilot sits in the rear and the weapons operator sits in the front of the helicopter.

A noteworthy feature of the Z-19E is the “Fenestron” protected, shaft-driven tail rotor assembly. This is different from many attack helicopters such as the U.S. AH-64 Apache, European Tiger and Russian Mi-28 that use conventional, exposed tail rotors mounted outside the fuselage tail boom. The Fenestron enclosed tail rotor reduces lost thrust by ducting the drive forces generated by the rotating blades, reduces audible signature (quieter) and is safer in ground operations.

Fenestron is also noticeably quieter than a conventional external tail rotor improving audible stealth. The most common Fenestron equipped helicopter in use today is the U.S. Coast Guard’s HH-65C Dolphin. Fenestron is also seen on the Russian Kamov Ka-60- and the Kawasaki OH-1 light observation/attack helicopter. Fenestron tail rotors are generally more expensive to manufacture and heavier than a conventional external tail rotor however.

This is China’s first attempt at a locally produced, advanced attack helicopter intended for the export market. Their current primary attack helicopter is the CAIC Z-10 or WZ-10, an indigenously produced attack helicopter of primarily Russian design. It is an older looking helicopter with external tail rotor and cockpit arrangement that resembles the European Tiger attack helicopters. It was originally developed under a secret contract with famous Russian helicopter builder Kamov. The program for the Z-10 began in the early 2000s; an unusually late arrival for China to attack helicopter development compared to the U.S. and Russia who have been building dedicated attack helicopters since the 1960’s.

Depending on cost, capabilities and import/export restrictions the new Chinese Z-19E Black Whirlwind could have interested export clients in African and Middle-eastern/Asian countries where there is no locally built, advanced, fully capable attack helicopter.



Top image credit: Reuters

 

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