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2 juin 2015 2 02 /06 /juin /2015 16:20
X-47B First to Complete Autonomous Aerial Refueling photo US Navy

X-47B First to Complete Autonomous Aerial Refueling photo US Navy

 

May 17, 2015: Strategy Page

 

The U.S. Navy’s X-47B UCAS (unmanned combat air system) continues to break or make records. Thus in 2015 this included the world's first fully autonomous aerial refueling in April, performed with a KC-707 tanker. During the last few years this unmanned combat aircraft has successfully carried out numerous operations aboard aircraft carriers. These tests were often firsts for UCAS. Thus an X-47B made its first catapult launch from an aircraft carrier on May 14th 2013. That was followed by several touch and go landings on a carrier. The first carrier landing, as expected, followed soon after. Later in the year more flight tests further stressed the capabilities of the automatic landing system, especially in high speed and complex (different directions) winds. The autolanding systems passed all these tests. The X-47B was also the first UAV to land and be off the carrier deck in less than 90 seconds, just like manned aircraft. There were a lot of other tests to see how effectively and reliably the X-47B could operate on the carrier and hanger deck and do it alongside manned aircraft. All this is part of a long-term navy plan to introduce an UCAS replacement for the F-35 (which is soon to replace the F-18s) in the 2030s. But if the UCAS progress continues to be swift and the costs low (compared to manned aircraft), the F-35 could find its production run much reduced to make room for an UCAS.

 

While software controlled landing systems have been around for decades, landing on a moving air field (an aircraft carrier) is considerably more complex than the usual situation (landing on a stationary airfield). Dealing with carrier landings requires more powerful hardware and software aboard the aircraft. The navy expected some glitches and bugs and appears to be rapidly catching up to the reliability of commercial landing software (which has been used very successfully on UAVs) within months rather than decades.

 

Rather than begin development on the slightly larger X-47C, which was be the first naval UCAV to enter service, the navy changed that plan and is now seeking new designs for a UCLASS (unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike) aircraft. There will be a competition by development aircraft in 2016. It’s likely, but not certain, that one of those 2016 competitors will be the X-47C.

 

All this comes after the navy rolled out the first X-47B in 2008. This was the first carrier-based combat UAV, with a wingspan of 20 meters (62 feet, and the outer 25 percent folds up to save space on the carrier) and stay in the air for up to twelve hours. The 20 ton X-47B weighs a little less than the 24 ton F-18A and has two internal bays holding two tons of smart bombs. It is a stealthy aircraft. As it exists right now the X-47B could be used for a lot of bombing missions, sort of a super-Reaper. The navy has been impressed with the U.S. Air Force success with the Predator and Reaper. But the propeller driven Reaper weighs only 4.7 tons. The much larger X-47B uses a F100-PW-220 engine, which is currently used in the F-16 and F-15.

 

The X-47C was expected to be closer to 30 tons and have a payload of over four tons. The X-47B was never mean to be the definitive carrier UCAV, but the navy hoped it would be good enough to show that unmanned aircraft could do the job. Normally, "X" class aircraft are just used as technology demonstrators. The X-47 program has been going on for so long, and has incorporated so much from UAVs already serving in combat that it was thought that the X-47 may end up eventually running recon and bombing missions as the MQ-47C. But in February 2015 the navy stated that the X-47B was too costly and insufficiently stealthy to become it's carrier UCAV, and the two prototypes will be turned into museum exhibits upon completion of all flight testing, extant and length of which is not ultimately decided yet.

 

The U.S. is far ahead of other nations in UCAS development, and this is energizing activity in Russia, Europe, and China to develop similar aircraft. A Chinese UCAS, called the Li Jian was photographed moving around an airfield under its own power back in early 2013, which is the sort of thing a new aircraft does before its first flight (which took place in November, 2013). Since 2011 the Li Jian has been photographed as a mock up, then a prototype, and now taxiing around and in flight. The Li Jian is similar in size and shape to the U.S. Navy X-47B.

 

It’s generally recognized that robotic combat aircraft are the future, even though many of the aviation commanders (all of them pilots) wish it were otherwise. Whoever gets there first (an UCAV that really works) will force everyone else to catch up, or end up the loser in their next war with someone equipped with UCASs. China may have just copied pictures of the X-47B, or done so with the help of data obtained by their decade long Internet espionage operation. Whatever the case, the Li Jian is not far behind the X-47B.

 

These aircraft are meant to operate like current armed UAVs or like cruise missiles (which go after targets under software, not remote, control). Enemy jamming can interfere with remote control and you have to be ready for that. This means pre-programmed orders to continue the mission (to put smart bombs on a specific target, the sort of attack cruise missiles have been carrying out for decades) or attempt that but turn around and return to base if certain conditions were not met (pre-programmed criteria of what is an acceptable target). Fighter (as opposed to bomber) UCASs can be programmed to take on enemy fighters (manned or not) with some remote control or completely under software control. This is the future and China wants to keep up.

 

The U.S. Navy has done the math and realized that they need UCASs on their carriers as soon as possible. The current plan is to get these aircraft into service by the end of the decade. But a growing number of navy leaders want to get the unmanned carrier aircraft into service sooner than that. The math problem that triggered all this is the realization that American carriers had to get within 800 kilometers of their target before launching bomber aircraft. Potential enemies increasingly have aircraft and missiles with a range greater than 800 kilometers. The X-47B UCAS has a range of 2,500 kilometers and is seen as the solution.

 

The Department of Defense leadership is backing the navy efforts and spurring the air force to catch up. At the moment, the air force is cutting orders for MQ-9s, which are used as a ground support aircraft, in addition to reconnaissance and surveillance, because American troops are being pulled out of Afghanistan, and it is believed Reaper would not be very useful against China, North Korea, or Iran. But, as the Navy is demonstrating, you can build UCASs that can carry more weapons, stay in the air longer, and hustle to where they are needed faster. The more the navy succeeds, the more the air force will pay attention and probably use a lot of the navy developed UAV hardware and software technology.

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10 décembre 2014 3 10 /12 /décembre /2014 17:20
X-47B May Begin Automated Aerial Refueling Demonstrations Next Year

 

08.12.2014 By Valerie Insinna - nationaldefensemagazine.org

 

The Navy’s carrier-based unmanned aircraft demonstrator is undergoing preparations for automated aerial refueling testing next year, including a possible flight demonstration using the aircraft itself, said officials from the service and X-47B manufacturer Northrop Grumman.

Thusfar, the Navy had used a surrogate aircraft for AAR testing.

The service in June 2014 awarded a contract modification to Northrop Grumman for aerial refueling research, development, test and evaluation efforts at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy’s X-47B program manager, wrote in an emailed statement.

 

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16 juillet 2014 3 16 /07 /juillet /2014 17:50
nEuron (Dassault) – Taranis (BAE System)

nEuron (Dassault) – Taranis (BAE System)

 
July 15, 2014 Thales Group
 

Thales and Finmeccanica – Selex ES welcome the signature of the FCAS Arrangement between the United Kingdom and France. Within the UK-French framework, the two companies will cooperate for the development of the multifunction sensor suite and the communication sub-system of the future Anglo-French Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS).

A two-year feasibility study, expected to be formally contracted before the end of 2014, will see the two companies work collaboratively in a 50/50 split to lay the groundwork for all the sensing systems required for a future UCAS.

In the airborne sensors domain, Thales and Finmeccanica – Selex ES are partners of choice of Ministries of Defence in the UK and France. The agreement will therefore create an unmatched European force in defence electronics, with a broad width of expertise and experience in Manned and Unmanned Aerial Systems technology.

The indisputable European leadership of the two partner companies in this domain is a guarantee that they will provide a fully integrated sensor suite able to meet the emerging customers’ requirements either for Unmanned or for Combat platforms.

The collaboration between the two national champions is articulated in two main streams:

 

Exclusive agreement for UK-French FCAS sensor cooperation: During the two year Feasibility Phase, the two companies will exclusively collaborate on all sensor requirements for the UK-French Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme. The two companies will lead the sensor and communication definition package for FCAS, involving other UK and French industry as appropriate. The cooperation also includes joint technology maturation

activities to inform the design activities.

 

‘‘PERFECTA” Project for the joint development of a digital backbone for the multifunction sensor: Thales and Finmeccanica – Selex ES will also jointly execute a contract from the French Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to develop the digital backbone (flexible multifunction sensor suite management and processing) for future advanced sensor systems.

By bringing together the sheer wealth of defence electronic expertise of the two respective companies, Britain and France will be able to operate UCAS effectively in a high threat environment. By providing innovative sensor solutions, the companies will also be sustaining and developing sovereign technologies and a critical skills base in the UK and France.

 

Norman Bone, Finmeccanica – Selex ES Managing Director, Airborne and Space Systems Division said “I am confident that this new collaborative programme, together with our partner Thales, will help to shape the future of the next generation of Combat Aircraft in Europe.”

Pierre-Eric Pommellet, Thales SVP, Defence Mission Systems noted that “The future of combat aircraft in Europe cannot be envisioned without strong cooperation between the key players. In this respect, this cooperation between the two European leaders in Airborne Systems is the insurance for the UK and French governments that this project will develop the sensors standards of the next decade by generating competitive and innovating solutions.”

 

Finmeccanica- Selex ES is a global technology provider delivering innovative systems, products and solutions to answer the growing demand for enhanced capabilities in the national security and military domains as well as in complex civil infrastructure management. Finmeccanica - Selex ES has a workforce of 17,000 people, main operations in Italy and the UK and a strong industrial and commercial footprint in the US, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India.

 

Thales is a global technology leader in the Aerospace, Transportation and Defence & Security & markets. In 2013, the company generated revenues of €14.2 billion with 65,000 employees in 56 countries. With its 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers and local partners.

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11 juillet 2014 5 11 /07 /juillet /2014 07:55
nEuron photo Dassault Aviation - A. Pecchi

nEuron photo Dassault Aviation - A. Pecchi

 

Jul. 10, 2014 By PIERRE TRAN and ANDREW CHUTER – Defense News

 

PARIS AND LONDON — Britain and France plan to sign a memorandum of understanding for the study of a combat drone, bringing their air forces closer to an advanced fighter program worth billions, defense ministry spokespersons of the two countries said.

 

On July 15, during the Farnborough International Airshow, Defense Ministers Philip Hammond and Jean-Yves Le Drian are due to sign the agreement to launch a two-year feasibility study for the high tech combat drone, the French spokesperson said.

 

The unmanned combat aerial system (UCAS) study is seen as a step toward preparing a successor to the Rafale and Typhoon fourth-generation fighters starting around 2035.

 

The memorandum lays the groundwork for a contract around September for an Anglo-French industry group to explore the technology and concepts, the French spokesperson said.

 

Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems will focus on the platform, Rolls-Royce and Snecma on the engine, and Selex ES and Thales on the sensors and electronic systems, the official said.

 

London and Paris have signaled high level political support for the planned UCAS. “Our target was set by our president and the British prime minister at the Brize Norton summit: to sign at Farnborough Airshow an agreement aimed at launching the feasibility stage worth more than €200 million (US $272 million),” according to prepared remarks for Le Drian on a June 12 visit to the Istres flight test center, southern France.

 

“The technology demonstrator project for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which aims to prepare together the generation of fighter aircraft after the Rafale and Typhoon, is without doubt the most ambitious cooperation plan on our road map in terms of equipment and defense industry,” he said.

 

The FCAS is a concept based on flying manned fighters such as the F-35 joint strike fighter and Rafale alongside unmanned combat aircraft.

 

“This is an important step in building the French-British UCAS project, which prefigures the launch of a program in two years’ time,” Dassault Chief Executive Eric Trappier said. “This combat drone could be an operational complement to existing fighters such as the Rafale.”

 

The feasibility study will work on “systems architecture, certain key technology and definition of the simulation methods,” the French ministry said on Jan. 31 after a letter of intent was signed at the Brize Norton meeting.

 

“The work consists of identifying the key technology and validating the technology through the use of simulation,” Trappier said.

 

Further tasks will be to examine the operational concept, set the specifications and estimate the cost of building a demonstrator, he said.

 

The study will also lay out the prospective FCAS program, including setting the role of each of the companies in the cooperative effort. There will be a search “for the most efficient cooperation possible,” he said.

 

One British executive said the study represented a step back from the more ambitious program that had originally been considered, but the curtailing of ambition was the right thing to do.

 

“Last year we were talking about a demonstrator program, now we have a study involving experimentation, trade-offs and other things that will inform a future demonstrator program. It’s building from the ground upwards,” he said.

 

A second British executive said the FCAS study was an important first step in a program critical to industry retaining the ability to produce combat-capable jets, a skill that was endangered by the partnership with the US in the F-35 program.

 

“The F-35 gave Britain great opportunities but also a huge problem as so many of the critical systems use US technology,” he said. “FCAS gives us a chance for some form of rebalancing. It’s a way back to the mainstream of systems development on combat jets.”

 

A joint FCAS program offers Britain and France the chance to retain industrial skills beyond Typhoon and Rafale, as well as improve operational sovereignty, he said.

 

The first British executive said the issue goes beyond the maintenance of skills and capabilities in France and the UK, but touched on the future of a number of leading aerospace suppliers across Europe.

 

“It’s vital for European aerospace as a whole,” he said. “There has been a lot of discussion about when or whether to involve other nations or continue to just align with France. My view, though, is that once we get beyond this stage we are going to need more money and more production volume than just two nations can supply.”

 

For now, though, prompted by defense ministers and others, industry from both nations are “working more collaboratively than ever before on this,” the second executive said. “There will be bumps along the road but the structure they have adopted with the industrial champions pairing off across the key sectors gives cause for optimism that we will get a balanced study which emphasizes the importance of systems, the power plant and weapons as well as the platform.”

 

If the studies across the industry partnerships goes well it could open the door to further collaboration outside of the FCAS program for companies that are normally bitter rivals, the first British executive said.

 

What happens after the study is delivered in 2016 prompts some uncertainty. “Where we go after the study is a good question. The French will likely want to get on and build a demonstrator whereas the British may want to go for an early assessment phase as they need to be confident they can justify the funding,” the second executive said.

 

Others disagreed, saying the British would likely also want to see a demonstrator as the next step, but that the strategic defense and security review set to follow next year’s May general election would set the tone for London’s future involvement in the program.

 

British Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne told Defense News that the two sides had moved forward on the unmanned air combat system study.

 

“Following the summit in January we are anticipating some further progress in the FCAS commitment and moving that on a step. That’s happening through the summer. We have a very strong relationship with France and it continues to grow,” he said.

 

Britain and France each has a technology base gathered from building and flying respectively the Taranis and nEuron UCAV demonstrators.

 

For the UCAS feasibility study, London and Paris will equally fund a total £120 million (US $205 million), and each country also will fund a total of £80 million for national studies on the unmanned fighter, a joint declaration from the Brize Norton summit said.

 

The study, which is predominantly technical, will involve the development and testing of elements of the systems required for a highly integrated vehicle like a UCAS.

 

Thales would supply the French components of the radar and electronic warfare, electro-optronics and sensors for targeting and situation awareness, line of sight and satellite communications, avionics sensors and computers, a company spokeswoman said.

 

Safran’s Snecma and Rolls-Royce have agreed on how to share the work if the demonstrator is launched.

 

Last year, the two companies handed a preparation phase report to British and French procurement offices. The report detailed how to mature and demonstrate key technology and operational aspects for a future combat drone.

 

“Each stage is important and this is starting to be significant, certainly on the financial front,” said Jean-Pierre Maulny, deputy director of think tank Institut des Relations Internationales.

 

Once the study is completed, an issue will be whether funds will be available to pursue the project, he said. Another question is whether the program will be opened to other European partners such as Germany and Italy.

 

The ministers are also due to sign an agreement for the exchange of British and French studies on an upgrade of the Scalp-Storm Shadow cruise missile, the French ministry said in a July 10 statement. MBDA builds the long-range weapon

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18 décembre 2013 3 18 /12 /décembre /2013 21:55
Les lauréats du prix armée de l’air 2013

 

18.12.2013 CESA

 

Prix Clément Ader : Monsieur Rémi Laplace est Docteur en informatique, doctorat soutenu à l’université de Bordeaux 1 sous la direction du professeur Serge Chaumette. Ses domaines de recherche sont la flotte de terminaux mobiles, réseaux DTN, les essaims de drones et la validation des preuves formelles d’algorithmes.

La thèse de M. Laplace, Applications et services DTN pour flotte collaborative de drones, porte sur la mise en place d’une flotte de drones et le portage sur celle-ci d’applications distribuées utilisant des communications asynchrones, sans intervention du sol. L’étude concerne les drones à voilure tournante. L’objectif de ce travail est de montrer la faisabilité de la mise en essaim d’une flotte coopérative de drones autonomes communiquant par échanges de messages de type broadcast asynchrone et de référencer les problèmes techniques, humains et réglementaires soulevés par ce dispositif.

 

Prix René Mouchotte : Monsieur Kévin Martin est titulaire d’un master 2 professionnel « études européennes et internationales » spécialité "enjeux et dynamiques de l’intégration européenne". Dans le cadre de ses études, il a réalisé des stages au sein du groupe Safran-Snecma au département des affaires IES (information économique et stratégique) ainsi qu’au sein de la fondation pour la recherche stratégique (FRS) au pôle "industries de défense".

A travers son mémoire, La coopération des Etats et des industries aéronautiques européennes de la Défense à travers les démonstrateurs technologiques U.C.A.S, l’auteur se propose d’appréhender les coopérations européennes futures sur le segment des avions de chasse et plus particulièrement des drones de combat : il examine ainsi en quoi les programmes de démonstrateurs technologiques aéronautiques représentent un défi pour la construction de la politique et de l’industrie européenne de défense. Le mémoire dresse dans ce cadre un état des lieux de la coopération de recherche en matière de défense à travers les programmes aéronautiques. Il analyse ensuite plus précisément les démonstrateurs technologiques.

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26 septembre 2013 4 26 /09 /septembre /2013 07:20
Drone Warfare Version 2.0: Great Power Edition

September 26, 2013 By  Zachary Keck - thediplomat.com

 

The first decade of drone and unmanned warfare has been the exclusive domain of nation states like the U.S. and Israel using armed drones to target leaders of non-state actors like al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Hamas.

 

This type of drone warfare will almost certainly continue into the future, albeit at a reduced pace in the case of the U.S. targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Other nation states may decide to make similar use of drones, if reports that China considered using drones to target an international drug trader are any indication.

 

Meanwhile, a second generation of drone warfare is taking shape: one in which countries employ unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) against other nation states.

 

As the world's military superpower, it should come as no surprise that the U.S. is taking the lead in this endeavor. In May of this year, the U.S. garnered some headlines when it launched the X-47B drone from the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia. Many more heads were turned in July, when the X-47B drone became the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to make a landing on the same aircraft carrier.

 

Last week a X-47B drone marked the 100th flight in the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program, which is geared toward maturing the capability to operate combat UAVs from aircraft carriers.

 

A press release announcing the 100th flight stated: “The Navy UCAS program successfully completed all objectives for the carrier demonstration phase with the X-47B.” It went on to note: “The program is currently planning for continued carrier integration demonstrations and has also begun surrogate Learjet testing of the autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) capability.” Earlier this month, the Navy announced key successes in this latter, refueling objective.

 

This followed the Navy’s announcement in August that the two prototype X-47Bs would not be retired to museums as planned, but instead would continue to be utilized for the purpose of, among other things, “developing unmanned aircraft carrier fleet concept of operations.”

 

Also in August, the U.S. Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR), which is overseeing the efforts to develop a carrier-based UAV fleet, announced that it had awarded US$15 million Preliminary Design Review (PDR) contracts to four defense companies for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, which is designed to provide the U.S. Navy with its first deployed carrier-based unmanned air system.

 

As NAVAIR explained in a press release announcing the contracts, the carrier-based drone “will provide persistent, unmanned, semi-autonomous, carrier-based Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (ISR &T) with precision strike capability to support 24/7 carrier operational coverage.”

 

According to Defense News, the carrier-based UAVs will initially have a strike capability of around 2,000 km. This hints at a key purpose of the drones; namely, to allow the U.S. to continue to strike China with sea-based aircraft while keeping America’s aircraft carriers outside the range of the PLA’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). In other words, the sea-based drones will be a key component of America’s efforts to counter adversaries’ anti access/area denial (A2/AD) strategies.   

 

The U.S. is also putting together the larger infrastructure to execute this strategy. For example, in July Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, the Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers, confirmed that the Ford-class aircraft carriers, the next-generation U.S. carriers, are being built with the capabilities to launch large fleets of UAVs off them.

 

As Moore explained of the Ford Class: “The flight deck has been designed to be bigger and have a higher sortie generation rate. The ship itself is built with three-times the electrical generating capacity than the Nimitz {Ford predecessor} class has – so it is not hard to envision that we are going to be flying unmanned aircraft off that ship.”

 

One crucial difference between using drones against terrorists in areas where the air force enjoys air superiority, and in using them against peer-competitors in contested air space, is that the vulnerability of the drones to air defense systems becomes a key concern in the latter environment. Thus, whereas U.S. drones can loiter over Pakistani airspace for days trying to pinpoint the location of al-Qaeda operatives, they will enjoy no such luxury in trying to eliminate China’s land-based missile systems.

 

As such, the carrier-based combat drones that come out of the UCLASS will be unlikely to conduct their own surveillance in many of the missions in which they were operate. For that, the U.S. is developing different UAVs. As Foreign Policy reported last month, the U.S. Navy envisions “swarms of tiny drones infiltrating heavily defended skies at will.”

 

Summarizing a U.S. Air Force official, the report noted that “these bug-like surveillance bots will be particularly useful in the Pacific…. Because that represents the toughest challenge for American spyplanes: snooping on say, a China equipped with increasingly advanced air defenses.” Presumably, these nano-drones will collect intelligence on targets for the UCLASS drones.

 

The U.S. is developing another unmanned system to counter China’s A2/AD strategy. Earlier this month, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicited bids from defense companies for its Hydra program, which will “develop and demonstrate an unmanned undersea system, providing a novel delivery mechanism for insertion of unmanned air and underwater vehicles into operational environments.” News reports suggest that submarines will also be launched from the Hydra system. This would give the U.S. the ability to launch carrier-based aircraft from devices that would be impervious to China’s ASBMs.

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN_77) May 14, 2013, in the Atlantic Ocean

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN_77) May 14, 2013, in the Atlantic Ocean

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5 septembre 2013 4 05 /09 /septembre /2013 16:35
X-47B Completes First-Ever Carrier-Based Arrested Landing USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)– photo US Navy

X-47B Completes First-Ever Carrier-Based Arrested Landing USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)– photo US Navy

Sept. 5, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: People's Daily Online; published Sept. 5, 2013)

 

What R&D Breakthroughs Are Required to Give China A Carrier-Borne UCAV?

 

Military experts are currently speculating on whether China's aircraft carrier may be equipped with unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV). This has not only increased public interest in these new "robot fighters", but also led China's military devotees to wonder whether China's forthcoming self-developed aircraft carrier will similarly be equipped with shipborne UCAVs.

 

The technical threshold of the unmanned air vehicle is relatively low. A company that can manufacture sophisticated model aircraft has the technology to develop a UAV. However, the threshold of a UCAV is more than 10 times higher than that of a UAV. The combat capability of UCAV requires particular abilities in target identification and autonomous attack. Thus the requirements of the observing and targeting system (eyes), the control system (brain), and the communication system (mouth and ears) of a UCAV are very high. On the one hand, the UCAV should be able to detect the target that is to be attacked, while transmitting images to remote controllers; on the other hand, the UCAV should be able to receive remote directions based on human judgment, and then launch attacks or engage in combat under remote control.

 

Shipborne UAVs were not manufactured specifically for aircraft carriers. It is already the case that some advanced modern destroyers and surface vessels have been equipped with shipborne UAVs.

 

But the greater platform size of an aircraft carrier creates the opportunity for large-scale UAVs with combat and attack capabilities. However, this presents a technical difficulty - carrier-borne UCAVs need all the functions of ordinary UCAVs, but also require an independent capacity to take off from and land on aircraft carriers. The requirements of carrier-borne UCAVs include not only attack and combat capability, but also the delicate maneuvers of 'intelligent' aircraft.

 

Therefore the development of a carrier-borne UCAV involves extremely high research costs and a complex development process. If China intends to commission UCAVs similar to the US carrier-borne X-47B, five technical breakthroughs must be made.

 

The first is advanced aerodynamic design. It can be seen from the shape of the X-47B that these designs improve stealth, increase flight range, and respond to the demands of air attack and combat. The X-47B, the UK "Taranis", and France's "Neuron" all feature a recessed rear inlet and flying-V wings.

 

The second step is advanced flight control technology. This is the real technical challenge for the UCAV. The carrier-borne UCAV requires a full range of capabilities covering takeoff, cruise, combat, withdrawal, and landing. The demands on the electronic take-off and landing systems for the moving deck of an aircraft carrier are significantly higher than the requirements for a land-based airport.

 

A UCAV's flight control equipment adjusts the craft in flight. This requires the flight control computer to implement planning and design according to a series of algorithms as quickly as possible after feedback, and update in response to environment changes detected by sensors.

 

Combat imposes high demands on the UCAV's flight control system. Whether in aerial combat or an attack on an enemy target, both the UCAV itself and the target can be moving at high speeds. The flight control system must be able to control the aerial maneuvers of the UCAV in response to a dynamic battlefield environment.

 

Returning to and landing on the aircraft carrier are the steps with the highest accident rate for both manned and unmanned combat aircraft. Therefore, China’s shipborne UCAV will require not only advanced satellite navigation, but also a higher specification of flight control system to achieve a safe landing.

 

The third element is intelligent attack-defense integrated firing control. The U.S. military classifies UAVs in levels ranging from ACL-1 to ACL-10 (totally autonomous). A relatively complete firing control system begins at level ACL-4. The more advanced generation of shipborne UCAVs such as the X-47B are classified at level ACL-6, that is a UAV with the capacity to deal with sudden threats and targets in the form of multiple drones. At this level, the shipborne UCAV is required to have an autonomous attack-defense integrated firing control system with a significant degree of “intelligence”.

 

The fourth feature is a high thrust-weight ratio turbofan, achieved at low cost. The turbojet/turbofan engines used on American UCAVs are always derived from civil engines or manned military planes. For example, the X-47B uses the F100-220U turbofan engine derived from the F-100, originally developed for the F-16. The characteristics and combat environment for a UCAV require that its engine should have a low fuel consumption rate, a high thrust-weight ratio, low R&D and purchase costs, convenience for maintenance, and fitness for long-term storage.

 

The fifth element is information security. Communications between the UCAV and the remote controller are very likely to be targeted for disruption by the adversary. Thus the UCAV must use the most sophisticated network security technology, and error-free self-destruct programs.

 

Although the UCAV is an excellent weapon, the technical difficulties cannot be ignored. UCAV development experts throughout the world have racked their brains in search of solutions to the problems posed by intelligent flight and firing control systems, and the need to guarantee information transmission security.

 

In the development of a carrier-borne UCAV, we need to exercise patience. If China intends to research and develop such an aircraft, then high-tech combat attributes should perhaps be considered as a second phase. Functions such as early warning, investigation, and relay-guidance of UAV can be executed as a first priority.

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25 juillet 2013 4 25 /07 /juillet /2013 14:55
Le premier vol du demonstrateur nEuron - photo Dassault Aviation

Le premier vol du demonstrateur nEuron - photo Dassault Aviation

July 25, 2013 defense-aerospace.com



SAINT-CLOUD, France --- The Board of Directors, chaired by Mr. Éric Trappier, closed yesterday the financial statements for the first half-year 2013. These consolidated condensed interim financial statements were reviewed by the Statutory Auditors who expressed an unqualified opinion.

Éric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, stated:

“After its maiden flight, last December, nEUROn demonstrated the exceptional know-how of France and Europe, but the Public Authorities are looking overseas to purchase MALE drones.

We have to obtain the launching of a UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air Systems) program and a European MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) program. (Emphasis added—Ed.)

…/…

Concerning UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles), it should be noted that:
- the Radar Cross Section measurement campaign of the nEUROn demonstrator and the display of the aircraft at the Paris Air Show. Dassault Aviation is prime contractor of this program, with five European industrial partners;
- the pursuit of the preparatory study for the launching of an Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator, in cooperation with BAE Systems.

Concerning MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAV, we have started discussions with European industrial partners to examine the possibilities of designing and producing together a European MALE drone. A common declaration of intent was made at the opening of the Paris Air Show.


Click here for the full statement, on the Dassault Aviation website.

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12 juillet 2013 5 12 /07 /juillet /2013 07:20
US Navy details X-47B navigation system malfunction on 3rd carrier landing attempt

July 11, 2013 by Zach Rosenberg – FG

 

Washington DC - The Northrop Grumman X-47B landed twice aboard the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, but a malfunction with one of its three navigation computers prevented a third landing. The aircraft subsequently diverted to Wallops Field, Virginia, as programmed, for a safe recovery.

 

"There are three redundant navigation computers on the X-47," says Capt Jaime Engdahl, the US Navy's programme manager for unmanned systems. "We saw an issue on one of those computers and decided we had done enough for the day, flew the aircraft back and landed it."

 

The aircraft makes its approaches autonomously, without human interference. The computers onboard the aircraft noted the anomaly affecting one of the three precision GPS computers, and though capable of landing using only one, the aircraft is coded to abort landing under those circumstances. After the automatic abort, the human controller elected to divert the aircraft instead of continuing.

 

"They're working through the data right now," says Carl Johnson, Northrop Grumman's programme manager. "In terms of a malfunction it's probably a minor issue, that when we reset the computers everything will be up and running and we'll have a fully functional aircraft."

 

Two X-47Bs are flying. The aircraft used for the test has the tail number 502. An identical aircraft, tail number 501, will likely be used for the next aircraft carrier test series on 15 July. If all goes well in the second series, the X-47B's tests will be completed and the aircraft retired. A manned Learjet using X-47B's software will conduct autonomous air-to-air refueling trials in 2014.

 

The lessons learned from the X-47B demonstrations will be used to address the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) programme, meant to essentially create an operational production UAV for aircraft carriers. Four companies - Northrop, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems - have been selected to perform design work.

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11 juillet 2013 4 11 /07 /juillet /2013 11:20
First X-47B Trap - U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Jane E. Campbell 10-07-2013

First X-47B Trap - U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Jane E. Campbell 10-07-2013

7/10/2013 Strategy Page

 

ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 10, 2013) An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) makes a carrier-based arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia. The successful landing marks the first time a tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft landed on a modern aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Jane E. Campbell)

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11 juillet 2013 4 11 /07 /juillet /2013 07:20
X-47B Completes First-Ever Carrier-Based Arrested Landing USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)– photo US Navy

X-47B Completes First-Ever Carrier-Based Arrested Landing USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)– photo US Navy

A BORD DE L'USS HW BUSH (Etats-Unis), 10 juil 2013 marine-oceans.com  (AFP)

 

Le X-47B, un prototype de drone furtif, a apponté sur le porte-avions américain USS George HW Bush mercredi, une première ouvrant un nouveau chapitre dans l'histoire de l'aéronavale, a annoncé l'US Navy.

 

L'appareil, contrôlé à distance mais plus autonome que les drones actuels comme le Reaper ou le Predator, avait décollé quelques dizaines de minutes auparavant de la base aéronavale de Patuxent River, dans le Maryland (est), pour rejoindre le porte-avions croisant au large des côtes de Virginie (est).

 

Le X-47B "opère de façon autonome lors de son vol et lors de l'approche du navire mais l'officier d'appontage a un contrôle numérique direct grâce à un bouton" d'interruption en cas de problème, a expliqué le capitaine de vaisseau Jaime Engdahl, responsable du programme.

 

Le démonstrateur, destiné à développer les technologies pour les futurs drones de l'US Navy, avait déjà été catapulté du pont du George Bush le 14 mai.

 

Le X-47B, qui n'a pas d'empennage arrière, est doté d'un moteur à réaction, et a une forme dite en "aile de chauve-souris" pour accroître ses capacités furtives. Il a été conçu depuis 2007 par la firme américaine Northrop Grumman, qui construit également le drone d'observation Global Hawk.

 

L'appareil a une envergure de 19 mètres pour une longueur de 12 mètres. Ce n'est à ce stade qu'un démonstrateur et il faudra de nombreuses années de mise au point avant l'entrée en service opérationnelle de drones dans l'US Navy.

 

Sa portée de 2.100 miles nautiques (3.900 kilomètres) en fait un potentiel bombardier à long rayon d'action.

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9 juillet 2013 2 09 /07 /juillet /2013 14:20
X-47B UCAS - Aviation History Under Way - Video

9 juil. 2013 Northrop Grumman

A musical revue of the historic first catapult of a U.S. Navy unmanned aircraft system from a carrier, May 2013.

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28 mai 2013 2 28 /05 /mai /2013 16:20
X-47B Carrier Suitability Testing Spring 2013 - video

Northrop Grumman's X-47B completing carrier suitability testing at NAS Patuxent River in Spring, 2013.

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28 mai 2013 2 28 /05 /mai /2013 14:50
Le premier vol du demonstrateur neuron - Rafale photo Dassault Aviation 01.12.2012

Le premier vol du demonstrateur neuron - Rafale photo Dassault Aviation 01.12.2012

28/05/2013 Mer et Marine

 

Les premières manœuvres d’un UCAS (Umanned Combat Air System) sur un porte-avions américain ouvrent la voie au développement de futurs drones de combat embarqués. Une évolution désormais considérée comme naturelle pour les marines disposant d’une force aéronavale. Pour l’heure, seuls les Etats-Unis se sont lancés dans cette technologie, le programme X-47B, porté industriellement par Northrop Grumman, constituant un indéniable succès.  Même si l’aviation embarquée pilotée a encore de belles années devant elle et n’est pas prête de tirer sa révérence au profit d’engins contrôlés à distance, les militaires savent très bien que les systèmes de drones ne peuvent que se développer à l’avenir. En Europe, la question se pose de plus en plus sérieusement, notamment dans le cadre des réflexions et travaux initiés autour de la succession des actuels avions de combat, comme le Rafale, qui interviendra vers 2030/2040.

 

Le X-47B américain (© : US NAVY)

 

Le X-47B américain (© : US NAVY)

 

Le Neuron, premier UCAS européen

 

Bien moins avancés que les Etats-Unis dans ce domaine, les Européens rattrapent actuellement une partie de leur retard en matière d’UCAS. Piloté par la Direction Générale de l’Armement, le programme de démonstrateur Neuron, conçu et réalisé par un consortium international emmené par Dassault Aviation, a vu s’envoler fin 2012 le premier UCAS européen. Mais ce projet est pour le moment purement expérimental et ne répond pas à un besoin opérationnel. Son objectif est, uniquement, d’entretenir et développer les capacités européennes sur des systèmes complexes, comme le pilotage à distance, une furtivité très poussée et la mise en œuvre d’armements par un drone. Il vise, aussi, à construire une coopération intelligente entre pays, le choix des industriels impliqués dépendant de leurs compétences et non de considérations politiques. En cela, le travail mené autour du Neuron par Dassault et ses partenaires Alenia Aermacchi (Italie), Saab (Suède), EADS/CASA (Espagne), HAI (Grèce) et RUAG (Suisse) est présenté comme très concluant. Alors que le Neuron en est aujourd’hui à une phase d’étude de sa furtivité et volera de nouveau pour aboutir au tir d’une bombe en Italie, le premier UCAS européen n’est pas conçu pour embarquer sur un porte-avions. On ne le verra donc jamais sur le Charles de Gaulle, même pour une campagne d’essais.

 

Le Neuron (© : DASSAULT AVIATION)

 

La nouvelle coopération franco-britannique

 

La navalisation d’un drone de combat pourrait, en revanche, naître d’une nouvelle coopération franco-britannique initiée suite aux accords de Lancaster House, en 2010, et confirmée en 2012 par le gouvernement français. A ce titre, Dassault Aviation et BAE Systems ont été chargés d’oeuvrer ensemble pour développer un UCAS répondant aux besoins des forces armées. L’engin bénéficiera du retour d’expérience du Neuron, mais aussi des travaux effectués par BAE Systems sur son propre design de drone de combat, le Taranis, qui n’a toujours pas volé. Cette coopération franco-britannique doit déboucher sur un nouveau démonstrateur ayant cette fois une vocation opérationnelle. Alors que les échanges entre industriels ont débuté, notamment pour déterminer les compétences apportées par les uns et les autres, les militaires doivent, dans les prochains mois, exprimer un besoin opérationnel qui déterminera les capacités, et donc les caractéristiques, du futur drone. Dans ce cadre, il ne serait pas étonnant que la possibilité de navaliser le démonstrateur soit demandée. Les Français pourraient, ainsi, le tester sur le Charles de Gaulle. Pour le moment, rien n’est décidé, mais il serait étonnant que Paris se prive d’une telle opportunité. Comme ce fut le cas pour le Rafale, la France pourrait en effet profiter d’un même programme pour développer une plateforme commune aux forces aériennes et aéronavales.

 

Le Charles de Gaulle (© : MARINE NATIONALE)

 

Apte au tremplin, aux catapultes et aux brins d'arrêt

 

Pour le Royaume-Uni, il y a également un intérêt, même si les contraintes ne sont pas les mêmes. Ainsi, la Marine nationale dispose d’un porte-avions à catapultes et brins d’arrêt, ce qui implique un drone du type du X-47B américain, doté d’une structure et d’un train avant renforcés, ainsi que d’une crosse d’appontage. Les Britanniques, en revanche, font construire de nouveaux porte-avions appelés à mettre en œuvre le F-35B, un appareil à décollage court et appontage vertical. Reste que techniquement, les deux concepts de mise en œuvre ne sont pas rédhibitoires. En effet, un drone pouvant être catapulté est aussi en mesure de décoller au moyen d’un tremplin. Les porte-avions britanniques devraient en revanche, pour accueillir un UCAS, être dotés d’une piste oblique avec brins d’arrêt. Ce ne sera pas le cas au moment de leur mise en service mais cette option a été intégrée lors des études et le design des futurs HMS Queen Elizabeth et HMS Prince of Wales leur permet, en cas de besoin, d’embarquer les équipements nécessaires à la récupération d’appareils dotés d’une crosse d’appontage.

 

En termes de calendrier, le programme d’UCAS franco-britannique pourrait être lancé en 2014, avec pour objectif de faire voler le démonstrateur vers la fin de la décennie ou au début des années 2020. Les financements inhérents à seront normalement inscrits dans la nouvelle loi de programmation militaire qui couvrira la période 2014-2019.

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16 mai 2013 4 16 /05 /mai /2013 11:20
NGC, US Navy Catapult X-47B From Carrier Into History Books

May 15, 2013 ASDNews Source : Northrop Grumman Corporation

 

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy today launched a new chapter in the history of unmanned systems – carrier-capable unmanned aircraft – by successfully catapulting the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush(CVN-77).

 

The launch occurred at 11:18 a.m. Eastern time while the carrier was under way off the coast of Virginia. The tailless, strike-fighter-sized aircraft flew autonomously back to Naval Air Station Patuxent River where it landed safely 65 minutes later.

"Today's catapult launch of the X-47B is a momentous feat for naval aviation," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command. "It proves that the Navy's goal of operating unmanned systems safely and effectively from aircraft carriers is well on its way to becoming a reality."

 

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's prime contractor for the UCAS Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The company designed, produced and is currently flight testing two X-47B air vehicles for the program. Air Vehicle 2 completed the catapult shot.

 

"Catapulting the unmanned X-47B off the USS George H.W. Bush is an event as historic as the Navy's first catapult of a manned aircraft, which occurred in Nov. 1915 from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12)," said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman. "We are delighted to help launch this new era of naval capability."

 

The X-47B catapult launch occurred just one day after the USS George H.W. Bush had departed from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.

 

The current at-sea period is the second such test period for the UCAS-D program. In December 2012, the program hoisted an X-47B aircraft aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), then demonstrated that the aircraft could be maneuvered safely and precisely on the ship's flight deck, in its elevators and in its hangar bay.

 

In preparation for the launch, the UCAS-D program successfully completed a series of shore-based catapult shots at Naval Air Station Patuxent River between November and March. The air vehicle was transported by barge from Patuxent River to Naval Air Station Norfolk in early May, then hoisted aboard the ship.

 

Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, GE Aviation, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Lockheed Martin, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins. The latest news and information about the UCAS-D program can be found atwww.northropgrumman.com/X-47B.

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9 mai 2013 4 09 /05 /mai /2013 07:20
X-47B Completes Key Milestone As It Prepares for Carrier Tests At Sea

May 8th, 2013 By US Navy - defencetalk.com

 

The Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first-ever arrested landing here May 4, another key step to mature the system for its historic carrier-based tests later this month.

 

“Landing an unmanned aircraft on an aircraft carrier will be the greatest singular accomplishment for the UCAS demonstration and will serve as the culmination of over a decade of Navy unmanned carrier integration work”, said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. “Shore based arrested landing testing here at NAS Patuxent River is our final check that the X-47B can meet that objective.”

 

During Saturday’s test, the X-47B used a tailhook on the aircraft to catch a carrier representative cable, known as the MK-7 arresting gear, to quickly stop the aircraft. This is known as an arrested landing, the type of recovery required aboard aircraft carriers. The MK-7 arresting gear is an underground installation of actual carrier equipment that accommodates structural tests and aircraft/arresting gear compatibility studies with all models of U.S. Navy carrier aircraft.

 

“Shore-based testing allows our combined Navy/Northrop Grumman team to control test conditions before taking the aircraft to the ship,” said Matt Funk, Navy UCAS test team lead. “We are gradually building up to the maximum load conditions we expect to see during an arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier.”

 

This month the aircraft will undergo sea-based carrier testing, catapulting from the carrier deck and potentially completing landings aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

 

“The entire system has performed very well across a large set of shore-based testing events including aircraft performance, flying qualities, navigation performance, catapult launches, and precision landings designed to stress system operation,” Engdahl said. “Our final carrier-landing software simulation shows excellent performance, flight test results are very good, and we are confident the X-47B will perform well on the ship.”

 

The X-47B is a tailless, autonomous aircraft designed with unique features for an unmanned aircraft, such as carrier suitable landing gear and structure. While the X-47B itself will not be used for operational use, the UCAS-D program is developing a concept of operations and demonstrating technologies for use in follow-on unmanned carrier based aircraft programs.

 

“This actual demonstration of the X-47B unmanned carrier operations is a first, essential step toward developing a carrier-based unmanned system for the U.S. Navy,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who leads the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. “A carrier-based unmanned aircraft will increase carrier strike group relevance, provide opportunities for training and readiness cost avoidance and enable our future forward deployed carrier air wings to provide continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.”

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7 mai 2013 2 07 /05 /mai /2013 17:20
P&W's F100U Engine Powers 1st Arrested Landing of X-47B Unmanned Demonstrator

May 7, 2013 ASDNews Source : Pratt & Whitney

 

Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy have conducted the first fly-in arrested landing of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator.

 

Conducted May 4 at the Navy's shore-based catapult and arresting gear complex, the test represents the first arrested landing by an unmanned aircraft. It marks the beginning of the final phase of testing prior to carrier-based trials planned for later this month.

 

Pratt & Whitney's F100-PW-220U engine and exhaust system successfully powered the X-47B during the shore-base test.

 

"Our team worked closely with the Navy and Northrop Grumman to get ready for this important test and Pratt & Whitney's propulsion system performed well, allowing the aircraft to launch and complete planned activity during the fly-in arrested landing," said Jimmy Reed, director of Advanced Engine Programs for Pratt & Whitney. "We look forward to making history when our engine powers the aircraft during the first unmanned carrier trials later this month."

 

The arrested landing test culminates more than three months of shore-based carrier suitability testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The testing included precision approaches, touch-and-go landings, and precision landings by the X-47B air vehicle.

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