Tag Archives: C-27J

The C-27J successfully performs air-to-air refueling from a Boeing KC-767A tanker

The following images show the first air-to-air refueling tests conducted by an Alenia Aermacchi C-27J with an Italian Air Force’s Boeing KC-767A tanker.

The testing campaign took place at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, in collaboration with the 14° Stormo (Wing), Alenia Aermacchi, Rolls Royce and Dowty, the latter two responsible respectively for the engines and propellers of the aircraft.

The flight tests were conducted at various altitudes, between 10,000 and 20,000 feet, and speed up to 220 knots, and also included night aerial refueling with the aid of Night Vision Goggles as well as plugs with the refueling basket in turbulence and during emergency descent.

The C-27J during AAR as seen from the KC-767 Air Refueling Station

According to Alenia Aermacchi “the preliminary results highlighted the exceptional flying quality of the C-27J, in both the day and night contacts. The test confirmed the high capability of fuel transfer (up to 2800 litersmin) predicted in the planning phase, allowing for a complete replenishment of the tanks in only 5 minutes. Also confirmed during these test was the superior quality of the C-27J as an aircraft receiver also in conditions of slipstream turbulence generated by the tanker.”

The aircraft used for these tests, piloted by Alenia Aermacchi test aircrew, was modified with the integration of a complex instrumentation dedicated to controlling the engine parameters, propellers, transfer of fuel and flight controls, in order to meet the requirements requested by the military certification.

The objective of these test was to achieve the certification of the in-flight refueling system, that has been adopted on the 12 C-27Js in service with the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade) in Italy and on one of the three examples in service with the Lithuanian Air Force.

Image courtesy: Alenia Aermacchi

Dealing the the KC-767, it proved its flexibility by refueling the Italian cargo plane with the hose and drogue system after it successfully completed buddy refueling tests using the flying boom.

Photo: C-17 creates a huge cyclonic twist during NASA test

There’s a certain interest in technologies capable to detect volcanic ash in flight since, in April 2010, the European airspace was almost paralyzed as a consequence of the eruption of the volcano Eyjafsallajokull, in Iceland.

Many airports were closed and thousands commercial flights cancelled whereas, on Apr. 15, melted ash was found on the inside surfaces of some Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornets  involved in a training mission few hours before the imposition of airspace restriction caused by the huge ash cloud.

Volcanic ash is extremely dangerous for both propeller and jet aircraft: volcanic dust is extremely fine and can easily invade the spaces between rotating machinery and jam it; furthermore, the silica melts at about 1.100° C and fuses on to the turbine blades and nozzle guide vanes (another part of the turbine assembly) which in modern aircraft operate at 1.400° C, with catastrophic effects.

When a volcano erupts, training activities are postponed, exercises are cancelled or scaled-down, but security air traffic, such as air policing and Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) sorties must be flown. With some risks.

That’s why, as done by other companies and air forces, NASA has partnered with the U.S. Air Force and Pratt & Whitney to develop and test technology for improved sensors that can detect changes in vibration, speed, temperature and emissions which are symptomatic of engine glitches and can alert pilots to the presence of destructive volcanic ash particles, before the engine is damaged.

During one of these health monitoring tests, water was intentionally sucked by a U.S. Air Force C-17 (tail #87-0025) with the impressive results you can see in the image below.

Next step is to “inject” cereal and crayons in the engines: they will leave a colorful trail of grains and wax that can be studied to evaluate if the sensors work properly.

Image credit: NASA / Tony Landis

Mexican Air Force C-27J makes its operational debut

The first C-27J wearing the Mexican colours has performed a series of flights over Mexico City during the traditional parade that celebrate the Mexican Independence’s anniversary.

Along with Alenia Aeronautica’s Spartan, the first of four Mexican C-27Js, selected on Jul. 6, 2011, has performed several flypasts in formation with many other aircraft of the Mexican Air Force fleet.

Coded 3401, the new aircraft will be used to troops, goods and medicines transportation, logistical re-supply, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), airdrop operations, paratroopers’ launches, search and rescue (SAR), fire fighting, humanitarian assistance, release of liquids dispersing hydrocarbons in the sea in the event of accidents on oil platforms, and homeland security support missions.

The C-27J is an extremely maneuverable aircraft capable of taking off from and landing on unprepared strips, less-than-500 m. long, with maximum take-off weight of 30,500 kg; it may carry up to 60 equipped soldiers or up to 46 paratroopers and, in the air ambulance version, 36 stretchers and 6 medical assistants. The large cross section (2,60 meters high, 3,33 metres wide) and high floor strength (4,900 kg/m load capability) allow heavy and large complete military equipment to be loaded. The C-27J can, for example, transport Hummer, engines of fighter and transport aircraft, such as C-130, Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16 and Mirage 2000, directly on their normal engine dollies without further special equipment.

Noteworthy, the C-27J is particularly suited for Special Operations. As I’ve already written on this weblog, at the end of June Alenia Aeronautica, announced that it is evaluating the feasibility of an aircraft for the Italian Air Force to support National Special Forces Operations. Withing the so-called Pretorian Programme, technical solutions for providing weapons and integrated weapon systems, Communications Intelligence (COMINT), EO/IR Sensor (Electro optical/Infra-red) to the C-27J are under evaluation.

The ItAF has a C-27J equipped with LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), a special equipement for the detection and measurement of airborne particles, and it could use the same aircraft for the BONAS  (BOmb factory detection by Networks of Advanced Sensors) cooperative project whose aim is to build up a sensor network that will help to geo-locate the vicinity of a “bomb factory” by detecting traces of chemicals used in IED production.

ItAF contributes to the "Bomb factory detection by Networks of Advanced Sensors" project to counter homemade IEDs

With the ItAF formally accepting into service the first two KC-767A tankers (that were delivered on Dec. 29, 2010 and Mar. 10, 2011), it went almost unnoticed the news that the air force contributes to the BONAS (BOmb factory detection by Networks of Advanced Sensors), a Collaborative Project financed by the European Commission that started on Apr. 1, 2011 and will last for 3 years. BONAS has the aim to design, develop and test a new network made of wireless sensors capabable of increasing citizen protection and homeland security against terrorist attacks, and in particular against the threat posed by IED devices. What are IED?

”Any device that is fabricated in an improvised manner, incorporating explosives or destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals, designed to destroy, disfigure, distract or harass” (NATO STANAG AAP6-6+Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism – From Enhancing the security of explosives – Report of the explosive security experts task force. Brussels, 28 June 2007).

The concept behind BONAS is to build up a sensor network that will help to geo-locate the vicinity of a “bomb factory” by detecting traces of chemicals used in IED production. The different sensors, deployed in sensitive locations and camouflaged, will focus on detection of particulates, gases and other products that can be bought without specific authorizations (as ammonium nitrate, black pepper, hydrogen peroxide, and others) used for homemade explosive devices in the air and waters. Detection of “bomb factories” is paramount to prevent terrorist activities and BONAS intends to intervene as earlier as possible in the first stages of IED assembly, that give more chances of success, since they usually take considerably more time as compared to the following phases of transportation to the target location and deployment. Hence, during the early stages of IED preparation of a terrorist attack, investigations can be conducted for a longer period of time and with greater accuracy.

BONAS aims also to investigate the potential deployment of sensor aboard a flying platform that would increase the network detection capabilities. Obviously, data collected by the entire network will be correlated by an expert system management system, in order to improve its effectiveness and reduce the false alarm rates.
A total of 12 partners participate in this project based in 9 different European Member States. Among them, some leading research groups (ENEA, QUB, CSEM, ONE, UCBL, UNIL, KCL) together with industrial organizations (CREO, LDI, SAB, TEK, EADS) and some other “expert users” as main European and Israeli police corps, and the Aeronautica Militare (ItAF).

Above one is an original BONAS infographic I slightly modified with two cliparts (aerial platforms).

BONAS will develop QEPAS (Quartz Enhanced Photoacoustic Spectroscopy) sensors; SERS (surface-enhanced Raman scattering) sensors; QCM (Quartz Crystal Microbalance) sensors, Immunosensor and Lidar (Light Detection And Ranging) /Dial (Differential Absorption LIDAR) system. As I wrote a few months ago in my article “The Italian Air Force launches LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) on board C-27J to check volcanic ashes” ItAF has already equipped with a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensor one of its C-27J “Spartan” to control of the amount of ash in the atmosphere as a result of volcanic activity; most probably, the same sensor and aircraft will be involved in the BONAS testing campaign to develop an aerial anti-IED platform.

Although usual, the “joint venture” in this field by research groups, industry and military could bring to important results.

Above pictures: ItAF

The Italian Air Force launches LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) on board C-27J to check volcanic ashes

Along with ENAC (Ente Nazionale Aviazione Civile, National Civil Aviation Authority) and the CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, National Research Council), on Jan. 31, 2011, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) presented the project LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) for the control of the amount of ash in the atmosphere as a result of volcanic activity. Developed following the paralysis of European airspace as a consequence of the eruption of the volcano Eyjafsallajokull, in Iceland, in April 2010, the system will have an active part in mitigating the inconvenience to air traffic caused by such events. In fact airplanes have to avoid any airspace “polluted” by volcanic ash because ash can wreck the function of propeller or jet aircraft. Being extremely fine, the volcanic dust can easily invade the spaces between rotating machinery and jam it; furthermore, the silica melts at about 1.100° C and fuses on to the turbine blades and nozzle guide vanes (another part of the turbine assembly) which in modern aircraft operate at 1.400° C with catastrophic events. One of the most famous incident occurred in 1982, when a British B747 flew through an ash cloud from the Galunggung volcano in Indonesia and experienced the flame out its 4 engines. The aircraft was able to relight them only after diving some 24.000 feet.
The LIDAR is a special equipment for the detection and measurement of airborne particles, installed on board an ItAF C-27J. In case of volcanic activity with release of smoke and ash, the system can be used to rapidly provide the Department of Civil Protection and ENAC all the data required to map the areas that meet the standards of flight safety and can be used safely by the air traffic. The system has been successfully evaluated on Jan. 14, 2011, during the last eruption of Mount Etna Volcano, in SE Sicily.

Picture below courtesy of the ItAF