The War Report Vol. 8, April 17, 2017

Welcome to The War Report, your Monday morning roundup of articles by James Drew, defense editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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Aurora Pitching Armed UAV For Marines

The odd-looking hybrid electric UAV that Aurora Flight Sciences is building for Darpa could be weaponized and adapted for the U.S. Marine Corps’ “MUX” mission. The Manassas, Virginia-based aerospace firm floated concept artwork of its XV-24A LightningStrike flying with weapons alongside Marine Bell-Boing MV-22s during the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition at National Harbor in Maryland on April 4…

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Bell To Test 407-Class FC-X Anti-torque System

Bell Helicopter’s FC-X mockup concept demonstrator is proving to be more than just a talking point. The company’s innovations team in Fort Worth is preparing to demonstrate a full-scale Bell 407/429-class cross-flow fan anti-torque system and hopes to switch it on this summer. A thrust-vectoring electric-driven fan embedded in the tail boom could someday replace traditional tail rotors on certain commercial and military helicopters, providing greater lateral and pitch control as well as improved safety and lower noise emissions…

Aviation Week Image from Aurora

Can Aurora Orion UAV Extend Trump Border Wall Over Water? 

President Donald Trump’s proposed  “great, great wall” along the 2,000-mi. U.S. border with Mexico could breathe new life into Aurora Flight Sciences’ “ultra-endurance” Orion UAV program. Conceived as a fixed-wing alternative to airships for surveillance and communications relay missions, a lone prototype was developed and flight-tested under supervision of the U.S. Air Force’s Big Safari special projects office. Designed to fly for five days carrying a 1,000-lb. payload, Orion broke endurance records on Dec. 8, 2014, when it flew for more than 80 hr. at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, and landed with 37 hr.-worth of fuel unspent…

Center Fuselage Rebuild Could Be F-15C/D Achilles’ Heel

The F-15C may still have an undefeated aerial combat record, but the 38-year-old aircraft could be slated for retirement if the U.S. Air Force decides not to fund a major structural life-extension program. Air Combat Command (ACC) chief Gen. Mike Holmes says it could cost $30-40 million per aircraft to keep the Eagle soaring beyond the late 2020s, including rebuilding the center fuselage section, among other refurbishments. “We’re probably not going to do that,” he tells Aviation Week. The better answer, he says, is to rapidly begin buying more fighter aircraft, at least 100 per year…

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MH-60 Midlife Upgrade Includes New Blades, Engine Changes

The midlife upgrade being planned for the U.S. Navy MH-60 “Sierra” and “Romeo” Sea Hawk fleets will include new rotor blades and an engine component improvement effort to boost speed, range and lifting capacity. Capt. Craig Grubb, head of the Navy’s H-60 multimission helicopters program office (PMA-299), says demands for greater range by the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific coupled with weight growth will require significant power and lift improvements. The smartest time to modify the helicopter’s blades and engines changes will be during the upcoming structural life extension and midlife upgrade programs, planned for the mid-2020s…

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Tomahawk Strikes Again, This Time Eroding Syrian Airpower

Raytheon’s long-serving Tomahawk cruise missile has been America’s weapon of choice for Day One of a conflict for almost three decades. The U.S. launched large numbers of Tomahawks in the opening salvo of the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 Libya campaign. The latest bombardment, of a Syrian airbase in response to the deadly April 4 chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun, highlights the continued relevance of the Cold War-era Tomahawk…

Tomahawks Pummel Syrian Airfield

The U.S. Navy under orders from President Donald Trump has launched the largest single Tomahawk cruise missile bombardment since strikes on Libya in 2011. Two guided-missile destroyers positioned in the eastern Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Raytheon-built Tomahawks against Syria’s Shayrat airfield at 8:40 p.m. EDT April 6 in retaliation for the Syrian military’s use of nerve agents in the town of Khan Shaykhun on April 4, which killed dozens of rebels and civilians, including children…

Pentagon Says All 59 Tomahawks Hit Syrian Targets

Pentagon officials say all 59 Raytheon-built Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles fired against a Syria’s Shayrat airfield on April 7 reached their intended targets and the 60th was waved off. One missile failed, but another was launched in its place. A surface-to-air missile site, radar and about 20 aircraft plus various ammunition bunkers and suspected chemical weapon storage facilities were damaged or destroyed in the attack…

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Tomahawk Milestones

1984: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile Block II initial operational capability (IOC)…

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Top U.S. General Backs Navy’s Pursuit Of Tomahawk Successor

The Pentagon’s Tomahawk strike on a key Syrian airbase this month may have struck 57 out of 59 confirmed targets, but the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff believes the U.S. can and must do better. It took less than four days for the U.S. to respond to the Syrian military’s chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun and less than 24 hr. from the time President Donald Trump ordered the cruise missile strike to the Tomahawks hitting Shayrat Airbase…

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Aurora To Build ‘Block 1’ Long-Endurance Orion UAV

Aurora Flight Sciences has decided to design and build an improved, military-grade version of its Orion long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. The Orion set a world record in December 2014 when it flew for just more than 80 hr. under the supervision of the U.S. Air Force at China Lake, California. But until recently the program has lacked government funding and support to keep going…

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L3 Technologies To Be Kingmaker For Compass Call

Which new airframe should the U.S. Air Force’s “Compass Call” electronic warfare mission transition to? Facing a dispute with airframers, the service will let the intended prime contractor L3 Technologies decide. The longtime lead systems integrator for today’s Lockheed Martin EC-130H Hercules-based Compass Call, Air Force officials say L3 has the inherent expertise needed to lead the re-host program, which will transfer existing and planned mission systems developed by BAE Systems onto a more modern, higher-performance bizjet-class aircraft…

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TRANSCOM: Tanker Demand May Stall KC-10 Retirement

The head of U.S. Transport Command (Transcom) says the planned retirement of 59 Boeing KC-10 Extenders may need to be reconsidered, despite the high cost of maintaining the U.S. Air Force’s largest refueling aircraft. Gen. Darren McDew told a congressional hearing on March 30 that tanker capacity is one of his chief concerns due to the number of operations going on around the globe. He says if the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus cannot be fielded quicker and in greater numbers, the KC-10 sundown from fiscal 2019-24 “may have to be revisited…”

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Boeing Phantom Works Prepares For Future Fighter Bids

Boeing Phantom Works sees its joint development of the T-X next-generation training aircraft with Saab as the No. 1 example of how it would approach the development of future front-line fighters for the U.S. Air Force and Navy. The advanced prototyping arm of Boeing Phantom Works is leading the company’s development of future military aircraft and armaments, chiefly for the Air Force Penetrating Counter-Air (PCA) and Navy F/A-XX programs. David Bujold, the organization’s director of fixed-wing and weapons, singled out the T-X program—which rapidly designed and prototyped two production-conforming models—as an example of how the company will bid for PCA and F/A-XX…

CH-53K King Stallion Cleared For Production, Deployment

The Pentagon’s acting acquisition chief has approved the Marine Corps CH-53K King Stallion for production and deployment, a milestone that has been 11 years in the making. The CH-53K was spawned under the Heavy Lift Replacement helicopter program. Sikorsky received a contract to develop the aircraft in 2006 to succeed the CH-53E Super Stallion. After slogging through a jungle of programmatic and technical hurdles, which delayed the program by several years, the CH-53K emerged from the wilderness with a solid, demonstrated design that appears ready for full-scale production…

‘Capital Guardian’ F-16C Crashes Near Washington

A single-seat Lockheed Martin F-16C assigned to the U.S. homeland defense mission has crashed in Clinton, Maryland, six miles south of Joint Base Andrews. The aircraft belongs to the District of Columbia Air National Guard’s 113th Wing and was on a routine training mission, flying alongside other military aircraft. The aircraft went down at approximately 9.15 am local time April 5 and nearby residents were evacuated. “The pilot ejected and sustained non-life threatening injuries,” the wing says in a statement…

U.S. Stratcom Chief Warns Russia Against Using Tactical Nukes

The head of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) says he would consider any use of nuclear weapons against America and its allies by Russia, or any other nation, no matter the explosive yield, a strategic attack. “The Russian doctrine is not ‘escalate to de-escalate,’ it’s ‘escalate to win,’” Gen. John Hyten said at a Military Reporters and Editors Association conference in Washington on March 31. “It’s foolish to think that the third nuclear weapon deployment in history will be tactical. It’s strategic…”

Stratcom Wants Ship-Based Prompt Conventional Strike

The head of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) says the 21st Century security environment demands that new ship-based prompt conventional strike weapons be developed as a non-nuclear deterrent and complement to the longstanding nuclear triad. Speaking at a Military Reporters and Editors Association conference in Washington on March 31, Hyten says the U.S. can already conduct prompt global strike missions using Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bombers operating from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, as demonstrated by the recent attack on Islamic State terrorists in Libya. But those missions take up to 72 hr. to plan and about 24 hr. to fly, whereas Hyten wants the strike time compressed to hours or less…

Can Artificial Intelligence Protect U.S. Weapons From Cyberattacks?

From its space satellites to underground missiles, the U.S. military is coming under attack as never before from cybertheft and sabotage by both self-motivated and state-sponsored hackers. In this 21st-century digital battlefield, where borderless threats move at the speed of photons and electrons, almost every system that relies on computer technology is vulnerable to data theft or attack—not just information technology products, but machines of war, including aircraft, engines, radars, bombs and missiles. As the first commander of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (Aflcmc) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, put it: If zeros and ones are being passed between systems, there is a potential vulnerability…

U.S. Africa Command Wary Of China’s New Djibouti Base

As global superpowers jostle for influence on the African continent, the U.S. military is having to learn to share Djibouti with China. Beijing is set to open a naval support facility just a stone’s throw away from the U.S. Navy’s Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. military base on the continent and the primary operating location of U.S. Africa Command (Africom). The military significance of China’s new facility is being played down by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, but the Pentagon takes issue with the facility’s proximity to Camp Lemonnier…

Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks Competitive Production Of Next-Gen Missile

To prevent a missile gap, the industry teams vying for the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) project must be capable of churning out 60-80 missiles per year in the late 2020s and early ’30s. Building this new nuclear-armed Goliath in the time line specified by the Air Force will require every ounce of talent and production capacity available within the industry. The four-stage rocket, known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), will be comparable in size and weight to the Boeing LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM it replaces, standing approximately six stories tall and weighing over 79,000 lb. (36 metric tons). The Air Force wants to see first delivery in 2027, with initial operations following in 2029…

P-8A Request Restored To 117 Operational Aircraft

The U.S. Navy has bumped its P-8A Poseidon procurement objective back up from 109 operational aircraft to the original “warfighting requirement” of 117. The force structure change is behind the Trump administration’s request for six additional aircraft in fiscal 2017 for $920 million, as sought in the Pentagon’s supplemental request in March. The six is in addition to the 11 already in the original fiscal 2017 budget request, announced in February 2016, bringing the total request for the fiscal year 17 aircraft to $2.9 billion, less $243 million already appropriated for long-lead parts…

U.S. Army Could Adopt Kinetic Energy Projectile

While Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Kinetic Energy Projectile might not be as devastating as a tactical nuclear weapon, the U.S. Army believes it could have the same deterrent effect. The new warhead was developed as a so-called conventional prompt strike capability and is designed to rain down thousands of cube-shaped metal objects over the battlefield at high velocity. The warhead detonates at a preset altitude above the target area, spraying down hot metal fragments that tear through flesh and metal over a wide area. This special-purpose weapon would devastate the mechanized advance of an opposing army, without requiring common cluster munitions that often leave unexploded ordnance on the battlefield…

USAF Wants Return To ‘Century Series’ Glory Days

The U.S. Air Force is trying to unshackle itself from the typical all-or-nothing way of buying exquisite stealth fighters and return to the glory days of the “Century Series,” when new makes and models were fielded in rapid succession. Modern combat aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35, F-22 and Northrop Grumman B-2 suffer from compounding capability growth, in which the packaging of ever-more advanced capabilities exponentially drives up aircraft weight, density, complexity, and therefore, cost and schedule. Named for the F-100-series designation, the Century Series of the 1950s and ’60s spawned thousands of new fighter-bombers and interceptors that would serve throughout the Cold War, from the North American F-100 Super Sabre to the Convair F-106 Delta Dart…

USAF’s Future ‘SiAW’ Strike Weapon To Arm F-X, B-21

The U.S. Air Force is moving forward with two new weapons for its future fighters and bombers, the previously undisclosed Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) and Small Advanced Capabilities Missile (SACM). SiAW is an air-to-surface weapon, designed to “hold at risk the surface elements that make up the anti-access/area-denial environment,” the service says in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 29. SACM is a miniature air-to-air weapon that will cost less and can be carried in greater numbers than today’s radar-guided Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and heat-seeking AIM-9X Sidewinder…

Thank you for taking notice! See you again next week.

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