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20 mars 2014 4 20 /03 /mars /2014 08:20
VTOL X-Plane Program Takes Off

 

 

March 20th, 2014 By US Department of Defense  - defencetalk.com

 

For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work. DARPA’s VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities.

 

In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of VTOL X-Plane to four companies: Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation; The Boeing Company; Karem Aircraft, Inc; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

 

“We were looking for different approaches to solve this extremely challenging problem, and we got them,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager.

 

“The proposals we’ve chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in developing. We’re eager to see if the performers can integrate their ideas into designs that could potentially achieve the performance goals we’ve set.”

 

VTOL X-Plane seeks to develop a technology demonstrator that could:

    Achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt-400 kt

    Raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60 percent to at least 75 percent

    Present a more favorable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6

    Carry a useful load of at least 40 percent of the vehicle’s projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 pounds

 

All four winning companies proposed designs for unmanned vehicles, but the technologies that VTOL X-Plane intends to develop could apply equally well to manned aircraft. Another common element among the designs is that they all incorporate multipurpose technologies to varying degrees.

 

Multipurpose technologies decrease the number of systems in a vehicle and its overall mechanical complexity. Multipurpose technologies also use space and weight more efficiently to improve performance and enable new and improved capabilities.

 

The next major milestone for VTOL X-Plane is scheduled for late 2015, when the four performers are required to submit preliminary designs. At that point, DARPA plans to review the designs to decide which to build as a technology demonstrator, with the goal of performing flight tests in the 2017-18 timeframe.

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25 septembre 2013 3 25 /09 /septembre /2013 12:20
First Flight of the Orion Mega MALE Drone

September 25, 2013 defense-update.com

 

Aurora Flight Sciences Orion UAS has made its first flight last month, on August 24, 2013 the Orion took off from an unnamed airfield in the western test range, on a flight that lasted three hours and thirty-one minutes. The drone reached an altitude of 8,000 feet above mean sea level on that flight.

 

This mission was the first step towards demonstrating a 120-hr. flight at 20,000 ft. carrying a 1,000-lb. multi-sensor payload. Such extended endurance would allow the new drone to provide continuous surveillance carrying a Predator-class payload with fewer takeoffs and landings than current medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS flying 24-hr. missions, significantly reducing the manpower burden and operating cost.

 

Powered by a pair of fuel-efficient Austro Engine AE300 turbo-diesels, the aircraft flew for 3.5 hr., reaching an altitude of 8,000 ft. and airspeed of around 60 kt., says Tom Clancy, vice president of Aurora’s UAS business sector. Within the Defense Department, ownership of the Orion program has changed hands several times.

 

Aurora declined to identify its current customer, but Aviation Week understands it is the U.S. Air Force’s Big Safari program office, which manages the acquisition and modification of special-mission platforms. Using the composite wing and tail of the original HALL design, the Orion was rolled out at Aurora’s Golden Triangle, Miss., plant in November 2010, when it was expected to fly in August 2011.

 

In spite of program delays the basic objectives set at the beginning remain: a 120 hr. autonomous UAS carrying 1,000 lb. to 20,000 ft. There was no mission system on board for the Orion’s first flight, but there will be a payload on the aircraft for the 120 hr. demonstration flight, expected to be conducted by mid-2014. A number of different multi-intelligence payloads are potentially part of the program.

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23 septembre 2013 1 23 /09 /septembre /2013 17:20
Sikorsky S-97 Raider Begins Final Assembly

The Sikorsky S-97 Raider fuselage prior to departure from Aurora Flight Sciences in West Virginia last week. (Sikorsky)

 

Sep. 23, 2013 - By AARON MEHTA – Defense News

 

WASHINGTON — Sikorsky will begin final assembly of its S-97 Raider helicopter prototype this week, according to company officials.

 

That puts the helicopter manufacturer — which is competing for the US Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program — on track for a first flight at the end of 2014.

 

“It’s just a really exciting foundational milestone for us, and it’s great to be leaving the design phase of Raider and getting into the build phase,” Chris Van Buiten, Sikorsky Innovations vice president, said.

 

The Raider is based on the X-2 technology developed by Sikorsky in the late 2000s, but grows the size and weight significantly. Where the X-2 demonstrator was a one-person, 5,000-pound platform, the Raider will be roughly 11,000 pounds with room for six troops in its combat assault mode. In reconnaissance mode, that space could be used for extra equipment or ammunition.

 

Despite that growth, Sikorsky executives are confident the design will bring a mix of speed and maneuverability that helicopters have not yet achieved.

 

“This thing has to fly faster than 220 knots” at cruising speed, Van Buiten said when asked about key performance targets. “It has got to do more than a 3G turn at speed. It has to demonstrate hover at 10,000 feet and 95 degrees. Those are the non-negotiables.”

 

The fuselage, assembled by Aurora Flight Sciences in a West Virginia facility, arrived at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Fla., facility Sept. 20. A composite airframe, the fuselage has been tested to tolerate bird strikes at 230 knots and has shown very low drag, according to the company.

 

The Armed Aerial Scout program aims to replace the Army’s fleet of OH-58 Kiowa Warriors, in use since the late 1960s. The winner of the program is expected to last well past 2050, meaning the competition would be a long-term windfall for the winner.

 

Army officials visited with competitors AgustaWestland, Boeing, EADS and Bell Helicopter during the summer of 2012, but the top acquisition adviser to the secretary of the Army told a congressional hearing in May that “we didn’t find a single aircraft that was out there that could meet the Army’s requirements.”

 

Sikorsky is confident is can fill that role — assuming the replacement program can get funding.

 

As with all programs in the Pentagon, the Armed Aerial Scout is facing budget challenges. Speaking Sept. 19 on the Hill, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno indicated the program is at risk if sequestration continues.

 

“In the event sequestration-level discretionary caps continue into FY14, we will assume significant risk in our combat vehicle development,” Odierno said. “In our aviation program, we cannot afford to procure a new Armed Aerial Scout program and we will be forced to reduce the production and modernization of 25 helicopters.”

 

Despite such warnings, Sikorsky remains confident the Army will find the money to fund the program, according to Steve Engebretson, the company’s Advanced Military Programs director.

 

“It’s a tough financial environment, but the fact Odierno highlighted this program reflects the level of importance the Army has in that mission,” he said. “To me, it’s at least a sign that if there is a way the Army can get that program going, they will find a way to do that.”

 

“We understand the climate we’re operating in,” added Van Buiten. “We’re committed to demonstrating this technology, but we understand the customer has a lot of priorities to balance. Our job is to open up the aperture of what’s possible with them.”

 

Both men can be sanguine, in part, because the development of the Raider has been entirely funded by Sikorsky and its industry partners. While the S-97 is being designed with Armed Aerial Scout in mind, it will also serve as a test bed for further X-2 technologies, which could then go onto future Sikorsky products. Additionally, the company sees the Raider as a demonstrator for a larger machine that would fit the Army’s Joint Multi-Role helicopter replacement program for the service’s Blackhawk fleet.

 

In other words, the company sees ways to recoup its investment in the prototype even if the program never comes through. That company investment is a point of pride for Van Buiten, whose team was responsible for the design and creation of the Raider.

 

“We’ve created this innovations group, and one of our charters is to demonstrate differentiating technology that creates competitive advantages for us or all new capability for our customers,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of using traditional timelines and budgets to do it.”

 

If the project continues on target, the Raider prototype’s first flight will take place roughly 48 months after its clean-sheet design, a much faster pace than the defense industry normally sees. While costs are not set, the company has estimated it could produce the platform in production quantities for as little as $15 million a copy, including mission system packages.

 

There is also a potential international market for the technology through the Foreign Military Sales program. The company has been in contact with “several very close allies of the US” about the technology, Engebretson said.

 

While declining to name which countries might be interested, he said the “international interest roughly equals the quantities the US government is thinking about, in the hundreds.”

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18 septembre 2013 3 18 /09 /septembre /2013 11:35
Aurora Skate UAV Deployed to Afghanistan

September 17, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Aurora Flight Sciences; issued September 16, 2013)

 

Aurora's Skate Supports Operational Missions In Afghanistan

 

MANASSAS, VA --- Aurora Flight Sciences announced that the Skate Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) was recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom missions. Aurora's role in supporting these military missions includes in-theatre training and logistics support.

 

Deployment of Skate to support operations in Afghanistan is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

 

Initial assessment of Skate's performance by military operational commanders has been exceptionally positive. They stated that Skate® provides an "incredible capability" and "is very user friendly", providing outstanding situational awareness of potential threats. Combat and security teams both noted that Skate® "launched flawlessly", was "very maneuverable", and is "a mandatory requirement for operations due to its effectiveness".

 

Skate is a man-packable, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition/asset designed for operation by small tactical units requiring airborne surveillance. Skate's unique thrust-vectoring system and near vertical take-off and landing flight envelope provides covert launch and recovery capability for use in tight, confined spaces.

 

Skate can be launched and controlled from a moving vehicle, a building window, or an observation tower. It can also be launched and recovered from the top of a small building or platform. Its Global Positioning System enabled ground control system/remote video terminal provides autonomous overwatch capabilities for moving patrols and security elements. Skate is a force multiplier that provides the warfighter with eyes-on-target for real-time situational awareness.

 

"Aurora is pleased that Skate is providing the warfighter with ISR capabilities not routinely available for small unit operations," stated Mark Cherry, Aurora's President and Chief Operating Officer. "Skate provides outstanding situational awareness to protect our warfighters and enhance their operational effectiveness."

 

 

Aurora Flight Sciences designs and builds aerospace vehicles for commercial and military applications. Aurora is headquartered in Manassas, VA and operates production facilities in Bridgeport, WV and Columbus, MS as well as a Research and Development Center in Cambridge, MA.

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17 septembre 2013 2 17 /09 /septembre /2013 19:35
Le drone Orion effectue son premier vol

17.09.2013 par Helen Chachaty - journal-aviation.com

 

 

Aurora Flight Sciences a annoncé ce 17 septembre lors de la convention de l’Air Force Association que son démonstrateur de drone Orion avait effectué son vol inaugural le 24 août dernier. L’appareil est resté trois heures et trente-trois minutes dans les airs et a atteint l’altitude maximum de 8 000 pieds.

 

Le drone MALE serait capable, selon les données fournies par le constructeur américain, de rester jusqu’à 120 heures en vol, soit cinq jours consécutifs. Il peut également voler jusqu’à 20 000 pieds et emporter Ses principales missions : surveillance, renseignement, information, relai de communication.

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