Welcome to The War Report, your Monday morning roundup of articles and posts by Aviation Week & Space Technology Defense Editor James Drew. Send your questions, comments or news tips to james.drew@aviationweek.com, but for an immediate response, dial the Bat Phone: +1 202 704 8852. For personal correspondence, email Secret Squirrel via james.drew.media@gmail.com. All exchanges are on deep background, unless otherwise expressed.

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Sierra Nevada Corp./TAI Freedom Trainer. Credit: SNC

Sierra Nevada/Turkish Aerospace Offer ‘Freedom Trainer’ For T-X

Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) are betting that the U.S. Air Force is seeking a fuel-efficient advanced pilot trainer to succeed the outdated Northrop T-38 Talon, like the one the companies plan to offer.

With the spotlight shining on the major primes until now, the two businesses have quietly set up shop in Centennial, Colorado, as Freedom Aircraft Ventures LLC, to develop a lightweight, all-composite trainer powered by two business jet-class engines.

The company tells Aviation Week in exclusive interviews that it intends to enter the jam-packed race for the T-X, offering an “economical” trainer alternative to those being pitched by rivals Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. The clean-sheet aircraft has been designed by an integrated team of engineers from SNC and TAI, who have been working for some time at the joint venture’s headquarters near Denver.

Better known for its satellites and Dream Chaser spaceplane, the Sparks, Nevada-based company’s Turkish-American owners Fatih and Eren Ozmen, CEO and owner/president, respectively, want to play in the big leagues and see military aircraft manufacturing as a key driver of growth… Read more at Aviation Week.

Lockheed Mid-Range Ballistic Missile Target. Credit MDA

Raytheon Missile Destroys Midrange Target

Raytheon’s Standard Missile-6 Dual I has successfully intercepted a medium-range rocket target off the coast of Hawaii in a much-anticipated validation test by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Navy. The “salvo” launch marks another significant step toward Washington’s construction of a multilayered missile shield to thwart new missile technologies being fielded by North Korea and Iran. It is also meant to defeat small-scale or limited strikes by regional superpowers Russia and China, who have far too many missiles in their inventory to knock out all at once.

Having already proven the SM-6 Dual I’s capability against short-range ballistic missiles (ranges under 539 nm/1000 km) and cruise missiles, on Dec. 14, the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53) fired two of the explosive interceptors against a “complex,” threat-representing a medium-range target rocket originating from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai… Read more at Aviation Week.

Boeing NATO E-3 Cockpit Upgrade. Credit Boeing

Cockpit Upgrade Lifts Airspace Restrictions On NATO AWACS

Boeing has completed its first major cockpit overhaul for the E-3A Sentry airborne early-warning-and-control aircraft and returned it to NATO in Germany for acceptance and eventual operational service.

The military alliance received 18 of the radar-equipped aircraft, based on the airframe of the Boeing 707 airliner, in the 1970s. One crashed, and current plans sustain only 14 of the surviving aircraft to the 2030 time frame, at which point they will need to be replaced.

NATO completed a major midlife upgrade of the Sentry’s mission system and operator consoles in 2008, under the Radar System Improvement Program, but the vintage cockpit has lagged technologically until now, with Boeing replacing obsolete avionics and installing new equipment to lift airspace restrictions on the fleet under a $257 million contract… Read more at Aviation Week.

f-16-cessna-collision-credit-us-air-force

Fatal Missteps Led To F-16 Collision With Cessna

The deadly midair collision between a Lockheed Martin F-16CM and Cessna 150M over South Carolina last year shows just how difficult it is for small aircraft to spot each other and deconflict under see-and-avoid rules.

Under aviation rules and regulations, it is the pilot’s primary responsibility to see and avoid other air traffic. But an accident investigation report released by the U.S. Air Force this month shows just how difficult that is for two small aircraft, even in fair weather conditions, and despite the best efforts of the F-16 pilot. With a closure rate of 300 kt. and no accurate radar returns, Air Force modeling shows how the tiny Cessna could have been obscured behind the F-16’s Head-Up Display symbology and how the F-16’s position could have been obscured by 150M’s strut. The two collided at 11:01 a.m. local time on July 7, 2015. Read more at Aviation Week.

Raytheon Meridian, Mississippi, FACO for T-100. Credit James Drew

Mississippi’s Political Heavyweights Back Raytheon’s T-100 For T-X

T-X fever has gripped Meridian, Mississippi, as the city backs Raytheon’s plan to build locally Italian training jets for the U.S. Air Force Advanced Pilot Training.

Raytheon has pledged to establish a final assembly and checkout facility (FACO) in the historic aviation town if it wins the T-X contract. But shortly before the Air Force has asked for bids, neither of the two Leonardo M-349 Master aircraft Raytheon is tinkering with in Italy as T-100 prototypes have flown in the U.S.

In fact, the only T-100 on show at a lively ceremony inside the Key Brothers Hanger at Meridian Regional Airport Dec. 12 was a small model. All other T-X contenders declared so far have aircraft in the U.S. The T-100’s absence did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the locals, who packed the small hangar and cheered as Richard Yuse, Raytheon vice president and head of Space and Airborne Systems, walked on to AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” A procession of Mississippi politicians followed, including the governor, applauding Raytheon’s selection of the town of Meridian, a decision they hope will bring hundreds of aircraft manufacturing jobs to the region… Read more at Aviation Week.

U.S. Marines Suspend MV-22 Flights In Japan After Crash

U.S. Marine Forces Japan has suspended Bell-Boeing MV-22 flying operations after one of the $80 million tiltrotor aircraft crash-landed off in shallow waters off the coast of Okinawa due to mid-air refueling mishap.  An MV-22 assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, was refueling behind a U.S. Air Force C-130 at about 10 pm local time on Dec. 13 when one of its rotor blades cut the drogue hose. The Osprey was in the process of unhooking when the hose was clipped.

Speaking at press conference at Camp Foster on Dec. 14, commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, said the MV-22 was “shaking violently” from the damage, but managed to limp back to shore, where it was placed down in the water near Camp Schwab instead of attempting to fly over homes to reach Kadena Air Base on the other side of the island. Five crew onboard survived the controlled crash and were airlifted to a local naval hospital by an Air Force Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter.

Nicholson says “several” investigations are now underway into the cause of the costly mishap, and all MV-22s assigned to Marine Forces Japan will be grounded until all checklists and safety of flight procedures are satisfactorily reviewed. The commander says it is clear what happened, but now “why and how.” Read more at Aviation Week.

f-16-thunderbird-crash-credit-us-air-force

Report Blames ‘Sticky Trigger’ For F-16 Thunderbird Crash

June 2, 2016, will forever be remembered as an unlucky day the U.S. military’s premier flying aerobatic demonstration teams, the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds.
On that day, Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Alex Turner of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was forced to crash-land his Lockheed Martin F-16CJ into an open field shortly after performing in front of President Obama at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs. He ejected safely, suffering only minor injuries.

The same day in Smyrna, Tennessee, Blue Angels pilot Marine Corps Jeff Kuss of Durango, Colorado, died while practicing for an upcoming airshow. He had incorrectly performed a “Split S” maneuver and crashed. Both pilots were assigned to No. 6 position on their respective teams. Kuss was buried in his hometown, and Turner has returned to flying with the Thunderbirds.

On Dec. 14, the Air Force released its investigation into the high-profile Thunderbirds crash, chronicling how a sticky throttle trigger resulted in the destruction of a $29 million warplane piloted by extremely qualified and capable pilot. Scientific analysis by Air Force Research Laboratory found that the throttle cutoff release or “pinky trigger” stuck 36% of the time, potentially caused by a clevis pin misalignment or a sticking/binding trigger… Read more at Aviation Week.

Canada Picks Airbus A295W As Buffalo Successor

Airbus has bested rivals Leonardo and Embraer to win Canada’s Fixed-Wing Search-and-Rescue (FWSAR) competition, landing a C$2.4 billion ($1.82 billion) deal to provide 16 C295W aircraft and five years of in-service support. The decision announced in Trenton, Ontario, on Dec. 8 comes 12 years after the government originally called for a modern SAR platform to replace six 40-year-old de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalos and 12 early-model Lockheed C-130 Hercules currently performing the mission over Canada’s cold, vast and hazardous wilderness.

Judy Foote, minister of public services and procurement, says that under the terms of the deal, C295Ws will begin arriving in 2019, with final delivery by 2022. A simulator-equipped training center will be opened in Comox, British Columbia. The aircraft are to be stationed at the same main operating base in Comox; Greenwood, Nova Scotia; Trenton; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Foote says the initial contract provides for five years of in-service maintenance and support, but includes an option for 15 years of additional service that would raise the total value of the package to $4.7 billion. Read more at Aviation Week.

Thank you for reading. Check back next Monday for the next edition.

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