Tag Archives: Leonardo

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

Poland To Reinitiate Procurement Of Combat SAR Helicopters

A new procurement procedure would see a competition between S-70i, H225M and AW101.

According to the information circulated around the Polish defense media outlets, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD (which is the Polish defense procurement agency) eyes acquisition of CSAR helicopters for the Special Operations component. The 7th Special Operations Squadron based at the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force is the most probable user of the future rotary-wing aircraft. The plan is to procure 8 helicopters.

The recently opened procurement procedure involves all of the contractors that have submitted the offers, according to the Inspectorate – none of the offers was rejected.

Interestingly, the current procedure involves the very same contractors of the previous, cancelled tender: Airbus Helicopters that partnered with Heli Invest Sp. z o.o. company; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and PZL Mielec Sp. z o.o.; and “PZL-Świdnik” S.A. company, which is a part of the Italian Leonardo Group.

Due to the Polish national security interest, the negotiation is legally required to be carried out in strict secrecy and, until the moment the process ends, no information can be released.

Unofficial information, on the other hand, suggests that the new procurement procedure would see a competition between almost the same types of helicopters pitched in the former tender: Sikorsky is offering the Black Hawk, Airbus is offering the H.225M Caracal whereas PZL-Swidnik company, instead of proposing the lighter AW149 platform, is now rumored to try to pitch the AW101 helicopter which close in its specs to the Italian Air Force HH-101A Caesar.

HH-101A Caesar during a recent demo that took place at the Bemowo/Babice airfield in Warsaw

A source having an in-depth insight in the aforesaid procurement program who wishes to remain anonymous has told us that the technical requirements and spec-sheet remain almost identical to the ones defined for the former tender. The S-70i Black Hawk, according to our informant, would remain non-compliant with the requirements drafted by the Polish MoD for the CSAR platform. Any other Black Hawk derivative that could be pushed for the Polish Special Ops component (e.g. Pave Hawk) would require a consent to be issued by the Congress and such helicopter should be procured through the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process.

The Eurocopter EC-725 Cougar now called H225M.

Dealing with thePolish Navy‘s W-3 Anakonda and Mi-14 Haze helicopters replacement, the MoD still is inclined to press on and define requirements for a “joint, omni-capable” platform which would be suited to carrying out both ASW as well as SAR operations.

The maritime platform would be acquired within a separate procedure, as the facts and scarcity of information suggest.

The Sikorsky S-70i

Image Credit: Foto Poork/Wikimedia

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Dual-role M-346FT Fighter Trainer has completed first weapon tests. And here are some interesting images

The new multi-role version of the M-346 Master advanced jet trainer has completed first weapon tests to demonstrate its close air support capability.

The development of the dual-role variant of the Leonardo M-346FT continues.

Testing that took place in Italy in coordination with the Italian Air Force shown the successful deployment of two weapon systems: the Lizard LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and the Mk.82 ballistic bombs. Recce and cannon pods are already integrated and fully operational, according to company sources.

Unveiled at Farnborough International Air Show in July 2016, the M-346FT is the new low-cost, multi-role variant of the basic M-346 Master AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer), one of the world’s most advanced trainers in service with the Air Forces of Italy (18 ordered jets, performing training as well as aggressors tasks), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8)

The “FT” is intended to offer both advanced training as well as urban and battlefield close air support, tactical reconnaissance and homeland security tasks. For this reason the aircraft is going to be equipped with a TDL (Tactical Data Link) and a defensive aid subsystem, to provide SA (Situational Awareness) and self-protection; a multiband secure radio and networking suite. Leonardo is also working on one more version that would also include a radar. With such an addition, the aircraft, that could easily be converted from the trainer configuration to the light attack one, could satisfy the requirements of many air arms all around the world that are looking for tactical platforms able to carry a wide array of weapons and sensors at lower costs than the current 4th (and 5th) generation’s combat planes.

The “baseline” M-346 Master platform already offers digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide variety of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft: it’s considered one of the best LIFTs (Lead-In Fighter Trainers) to train pilots destined to the next generation aircraft, thanks to its performance and cutting-edge human-machine interface.

The “Master” is also one of the candidates to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s T-38 Talons as the next-generation U.S. Air Force training plane. Leonardo is offering a specific variant of the 346, dubbed T-100, for the competition as prime contractor.  The Italian company (initially by means of its subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi) teamed up with General Dynamics, between 2013 and 2015, and with Raytheon, between 2016 and Jan. 25, 2017, to offer the T-100 for the T-X. But both U.S. company withdrew as prime contractors for the T-100 offering, leaving Leonardo without an American partner in the program where it would face the competition of some clean sheet designs, such as the Boeing T-X, as well as some modified trainers, such as the Lockheed Martin T-X, an upgraded T-50A.

On Feb. 8, 2017, Leonardo eventually announced its decision to propose the T-100 for the U.S. Air Force T-X competition,  with its U.S. subsidiary DRS as the prime contractor. Leonardo DRS will be supported by CAE USA in the design and development of the T-100 Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) whereas Honeywell will provide twin F124 turbofan propulsion engines. The new T-100 aircraft is to be built at a U.S. manufacturing facility that has not been selected yet.

Image source: Leonardo

 

Cool air-to-air footage brings you up close and personal with the new dual-role M-346FT

An awesome new clip shows the new multi-role variant of the M-346 trainer.

Unveiled for the first time at Farnborough International Air Show in July 2016, the M-346FT (Fighter Trainer) is the new multi-role version of the M-346 Master, one of the world’s most advanced jet trainers.

The aircraft, whose characteristic is to pass very easily from the trainer aircraft configuration to an operational one thus “combining the operational and training requirements of the Air Forces all over the world, assuring top performances and remarkably lower costs” integrates a wide range of systems and sensors for tactical support and air defense: including a tactical data link, a self-defense system, reconnaissance and targeting sensors and a large array of weapons.

The M-346 Master platform couples impressive performance with cutting edge human-machine interface and features a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide variety of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft.

Indeed, with the advanced jet trainer version, 68 examples of which have been ordered and about 50 already in service with the Air Forces of Italy (18 jets, performing training as well as aggressors tasks), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8), pilots can learn to use the radar, drop LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) on moving ground targets designated through an Advanced Targeting Pod (TGP), and shoot radar-guided missiles against enemy aircraft, even if the plane is not carrying with any of these systems: the on-board computer generates the required HUD and radar symbology and offers a different weapons load out in accordance with the training goals of the mission.

Along with the ability of simulating some external payload, the M-346FT will carry electronic countermeasures and will employ several “real” air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, including air-to-air missiles (IRIS-T and AIM-9), a 12.7 mm gun pod, GBU-12 and GBU-49 laser-guided bombs, JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) and also the Raytheon Small Diameter Bomb and a reconnaissance pod (the RecceLite, based on the footage below).

Based on the M-346 is also the T-100, an advanced variant of the Master offered by Raytheon Company, with principal partners Finmeccanica (now Leonardo) and Honeywell Aerospace, as the next-generation training plane for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition worth 350 jet trainers to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s T-38 Talons.

H/T to Simone Raso the videomaker who shot the footage

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