Tag Archives: BAe Systems

Let’s Have A Look At The “Tempest” UK’s 6th Generation Combat Aircraft Mock-Up Unveiled At The Farnborough Air Show

A concept model of the Tempest was unveiled yesterday. And here’s a first analysis.

On Jul. 16, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the development of a new combat aircraft that has been designed Tempest.

Announcing the publication of the new Combat Air Strategy at the Farnborough International Airshow 2018 (FIA 18), Williamson said he had taken action to strengthen the UK’s role as a global leader in the sector.

He outlined the Strategy in front of a mock-up of the Tempest, a next (6th) generation combat aircraft developed by Team Tempest, a consortium including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo and MBDA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence.

“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this Strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way. It shows our allies that we are open to working together to protect the skies in an increasingly threatening future – and this concept model is just a glimpse into what the future could look like,” Williamson said.

According to the first details unveiled so far the Tempest will feature all the most interesting (and cool) technologies currently being developed (and in some case already fielded): Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Drone “Swarming”, Direct Energy Weapons, etc.

Some of the features of the Tempest. (Image credit: BAe Systems).

The UK plans to invest 2 billion GBP in Combat Air Strategy and the Tempest. “Early decisions around how to acquire the capability will be confirmed by the end of 2020, before final investment decisions are made by 2025. The aim is then for a next generation platform to have operational capability by 2035,” says the British MoD in the official press release following the announcement. Considered the time required to develop 4th and 5th generation aircraft (and in particular the controversial F-35) an (initial) operational capability in “just” 17 years from now seems a quite optimistic (or “aggressive”) deadline. For sure the Tempest is intended to eventually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon by the late 2030s or early 2040s. Moreover, the current plan does not include the possible delays induced by negotiations and onboarding of other European partners: it’s not clear what France and Germany will do with their own 6th generation aircraft announced last April at ILA18, but Italy (already supporting the new UK’s aircraft by means of Leonardo, that will be responsible for avionics and EW suite), among the others, is a natural candidate to join the project and invest money and skills in the Tempest rather than the “système de combat aérien du futur,” or SCAF, that appears to be a more “closed” joint venture at the moment.

The artwork included in the Combat Air Strategy document. (Image credit: Crown Copyright).

Dealing with the shape of the Tempest concept model, it bears some resemblance with current stealth fighters, especially the American F-22 (the front section) and F-35: the aircraft features a cranked kite design similar to the one used by most of the UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) demonstrators such as the X-47B or the nEUROn, but the presence of the canted vertical stabilizers indicate “a preference for fighter-like agility since they aid horizontal stability during manoeuvres, especially in extreme flight regimes. However, they also limit the extent to which an aircraft’s radar signature can be reduced, especially against low-frequency ‘anti-stealth’ type radars,” commented Aerospace and defence analyst Justin Bronk from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). In other words, the Team Tempest seems to prefer agility against low-observability, as if stealthiness will become less important than ability to maneuver against future missiles and enemy aircraft in the future scenarios.

Generally speaking, the Tempest’s shape clearly reminds the BAe Replica, a British stealth aircraft model developed by BAe in the 1990s and used for radar testing for the FOAS (Future Offensive Air System) a study aimed at finding a replacement for the RAF Tornado GR4. After the program was scrapped in 2005, it was replaced by the Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability (DPOC) program that was itself cancelled in 2010, following the UK military’s spending review. The Taranis UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) a semi-autonomous pilotless system able to carry a wide variety of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles, emerged as the eventual successor of the FOAS.

A full-scale model of the BAe Replica became somehow famous when it was spotted being moved to be installed, inverted, on a pole (the typical configuration used for testing the radar signature of a plane) was filmed at BAE Systems facilities at Warton, in Lancashire, UK, in 2014.

BAe Replica on a pole at Warton, UK, in 2014.

Although the wings appear to be different, the BAe Replica model features twin engines, diverterless supersonic intakes and canted fins that can be found in the Tempest. Compared to the BAe Replica the Tempest appears to have a larger fuselage (along with the larger wing) that would allow for increased fuel and payload.

Noteworthy on the Tempest is also the presence of a cockpit to accommodate a pilot: the 6th generation aircraft will be “optionally manned”. Although next generation aircraft will be able to fly as drones, there is still a future for combat pilots as well.

Top image: composite using Reuters/Crown Copyright images

F-35B In “Third Day Of War” External Weapons Load Configuration Demonstrates Ski Jump Launch in U.S. for Royal Navy.

Check Out This Cool New Video of F-35B Doing Ski Jump Launch Trials for the QE2.

British Aerospace test pilot Peter “Wizzer” Wilson demonstrated the F-35B Lightning II’s capability to launch from a ski-jump style launch ramp during phase 2 testing with a heavy external weapons load last week in a series of capability flights at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical) variant was configured in a “third day of war” load-out with heavy external Paveway precision guided bombs and AIM-132 ASRAAM air-to-air missiles in addition to any internal load and the aircraft’s GAU-22A 25mm internal cannon.

The external weapons configuration demonstration (as the one done by the F-35C firing a missile while inverted) is interesting since it includes the broad capability of the F-35B across the entire tactical conflict spectrum. 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. 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 from F-35s in the low-observable configuration the environment becomes more permissive. The F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capability for survivability. It can 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, as already explained in previous posts on this subject, LO aircraft in un-stealthy configuration because of the external loads achieve stealthiness and can play a different role once their external weapons have been expended.

The F-35B in this series of launch tests is in the “third day of war” external load configuration.

The demonstration highlights the compatibility of the aircraft with the new Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers including the recently commissioned HMS Queen Elizabeth II (RO8) and the upcoming HMS Prince of Wales (RO9) to be commissioned in 2020. Both new carriers use the traditional ski-jump launch ramp as employed on legacy Royal Navy ships and also by the Chinese, Russian and upcoming Indian navy carriers. These aircraft carriers do not yet have, or need, launch catapults.

F-35B Test Pilot Pete “Wizzer” Wilson flew the ramp launch tests. (Photo: Wilts and Glos Standard)

The tests were conducted the week of August 14, 2017 in anticipation of upcoming trials on the HMS Queen Elizabeth II. BAE Systems ski jump project lead test pilot Peter Wilson, a former Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilot now living in the U.S. during the flight test program, told writer George Allison for the media outlet U.K. Defence Journal that:

“Friday’s F-35B ski jump was a great success for the joint ski jump team. I’m exceptionally proud of this team. Their years of planning, collaboration and training have culminated in a fantastic achievement that advances the future capabilities of the aircraft and its integration into UK operations.”

 

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British pilot performs first ever F-35B launch from ski-jump

F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performs first launch from ski-jump in the hands of a British pilot.

On Jun. 19, BAE Systems Test Pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson launched the Lockheed Martin F-35B from a land-based ski-jump for the very first time, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

The trials aim at validating the troubled fifth generation multi-role aircraft’s ability to take off safely and effectively from a ski-jump ramp similar to that which will be used on the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

Ski-jump ramps on aircraft carrier help the launching plane take off with an upward flight path. Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier, destined to receive the Italian Navy F-35Bs that will replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II is also equipped with a ski-jump.

 

Transformer jets, self-healing aircraft and UAVs printed with 3D printers: future of aviation unveiled

Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have released some interesting details about some futuristic technologies that could be operative by 2040. Or earlier.

BAE Systems has been studying futuristic aircraft shapes for quite some time.

The projects the British Defense company is  working on were recently unveiled through a series of animations which show how civil and military aviation of the future could be based on 3D printers capable to print UAVs on-the-fly during a mission; aircraft that can heal themselves; a Transformer long range aircraft which splits into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its target, and a directed energy weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light.

The Transformer is a flexible aircraft system that combines smaller jets: it’s a sort of mothership made of smaller sub-aircraft which can be combined together to increase the range, reduce the overall aerodynamic drag and save fuel during the transit to the area of operations.

Once the mothership has reached the target area, each single craft can split off to conduct its specific mission: attack, surveillance, airdrop to name but few.

The Survivor technology will be used to develop new aircraft and give them the possibility repair any damage sustained during the mission in flight.

The self-healing technology could improve survivability of the aircraft employed in high lethality scenarios. It is based on advanced materials: “a lightweight adhesive fluid inside a pattern of carbon nanotubes from which the aircraft is constructed and is released when damaged to quickly ‘set’ mid-flight and heal any damage,” according to BAE Systems.

Directed Energy Systems (something that has been studied in the U.S. for a long time)  is instead an on board weapon used to concentrate a low cost beam of energy at the speed of light against enemy aircraft, weapons (missiles, mortars, projecticles). In other words, it could be a laser cannon, used to hit and destroy ground and air targets with much accuracy.

Furthermore, BAE Systems foresees the use of hi-tech on-board 3D Printers that, via Additive Layer Manufacturing and robotic assembly techniques, could be used to create small unmanned aircraft on-the-fly, based on the inputs sent by a human operator from the ground control station. Needless to say, such a way to create drones could be useful in various types of mission, including air strike, surveillance or SAR (Search And Rescue) operations, during which drone copters could be created to rescue and recover single civilians or soldiers.

Even more interestingly, “after use the UAVs could render themselves useless through dissolving circuit boards or they might safely land in a recoverable position if re-use was required,” in order to prevent capture.

Even if these concepts may seem a bit futuristic and remind Terminator or Transformer movies, they will probably be the base of the future aerial warfare.

Close up video of the British Stealth Pole Model

Here’s an interesting video of the full size model of the BAE Replica mounted on a pole at BAe Warton facility, in the UK.

On Feb. 18, a full size model of the BAe Replica, a British stealth aircraft built in the 1990s for the development of the FOAS (Future Offensive Air System) was filmed at BAE Systems facilities at Warton, in Lancashire, England.

The aircraft was being moved to be installed, inverted, on a pole: the typical configuration used for testing the radar signature of a plane. Even the most secret planes have been their radar cross section tested while mounted inverted (and upright) on a pole, just like the British model.

The FOAS was a study aimed at finding a replacement for the RAF Tornado GR4 that was cancelled in 2005.

Whilst the F-35 is going to be replacement of the  Tornado GR4, the Taranis UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) a semi-autonomous pilotless system that will be able to carry a various types of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles, emerged as the eventual successor of the FOAS.

What remains unclear is what kind of tests the BAe Replica is supporting.

Considered that BAe is teamed with Lockheed Martin in the F-35 program, it may be something related to the Joint Strike Fighter: most probably nothing really sensitive, otherwise it would be done in the U.S. Or a domestic project for a low observable plane?

 

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