The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

A Super Delivery. The U.S. Navy delivers five F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornets to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the first for that country. The RAAF has been flying the F/A-18 legacy Hornet since 1984, the Block II Super Hornet will give added capabilities to the country’s warfighters, the Navy says. The Block II improvements give the aircraft upgrades including sensors, data links, open computing architecture and an arsenal of precision weapons, the Navy adds. “The U.S./Australia relationship will grow and deepen around the Super Hornet, whose network centric warfare capabilities, sensor-rich avionics and lethal arsenal can now provide Australia with the next generation in air supremacy,” Capt. Mark Darrah, F/A-18 & EA-18G (PMA-265) program manager says. The RAAF Super Hornets have the same features as the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18F multi-role strike fighter, performing a variety of missions, including precision day and night strike, fighter escort, close-air support, aerial refueling and suppression of enemy air defense. Its weapon stations carry a wide and lethal array of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, increasing firepower as well as mission flexibility. The RAAF Super Hornets will also include the APG-79 AESA radar, the Navy adds.

…More On The Way. On track to deliver a total 24 F/A-18F aircraft to the RAAF by the fall of 2011, seven aircraft are expected to ship this summer. The remaining 12 RAAF aircraft will ferry in three deliveries in 2011, the Navy says. Twelve of the F/A-18F aircraft on order will be wired on the production line for potential future upgrade as airborne electronic attack EA-18G aircraft, pending a positive releaseability determination for the AEA capability, the Navy adds.

New Arrival. The world’s busiest air/sea rescue unit–U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami–receives its second HC-144A Ocean Sentry, following delivery of the facility’s first Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) in March, EADS says. A third MPA will be transferred in July. Air Station Miami will have its full complement of HC-144As by early 2011. Miami’s first Ocean Sentry initially went operational at Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., in February 2009. Even before it formally entered service there, the HC-144A had performed its first Coast Guard search and rescue operation, playing a key role in locating a downed Air Force F-15 pilot from the Gulf of Mexico following a January 2009 mishap. The service dispatched a total of three HC-144As from its Aviation Training Center after the January 12 quake. The service dispatched a total of three HC-144As from its Aviation Training Center after the January 12 Haiti quake. They operated as mobile communications command centers, while also using their modern sensor systems to collect intelligence on ground operations and conduct critical infrastructure surveys, EADS says.

A Ship By Any Other Name. Chilean navy supply ship Almirante Montt (AO-52), a former U.S. Navy replenishment oiler, sailed away from Atlantic Marine Alabama shipyard in Mobile Ala., March 29, to her new homeport in Valparaiso, Chile. The former fleet replenishment oiler USNS Andrew J. Higgins (T-AO 190) officially transferred to Chile in May 2009 under a foreign military sales agreement, and was re-commissioned by the Chilean navy, Feb. 10, the Navy says.

Fifth-Gen Only. The Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, said last week that the Air Force will continue plans for service life extension programs for aging F-15 and F-16 fighter jets as a bridge to delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. “We do not think it is wise to dissipate the limited pool of resources that we have available for F-35 by procuring new, lesser capable aircraft that will last as long,” Schwartz told reporters at a March 29 event sponsored by the Air Force Association. The general said service officials are in the process of analyzing which airplanes are eligible for the SLEP. The Air Force recently announced that the operational capability of its F-35s has been delayed by up to two years. “We do not think it prudent to utilize precious procurement dollars for anything but fifth-generation aircraft,” Schwartz said.

Minding Mobility. Schwartz also said that the Pentagon’s latest mobility requirement study, recently sent to Congress, shows that the current airlift force structure is “more than adequate” to meet the Air Force’s needs. He said the analysis demonstrates that C-5 and C-17 airlifter numbers in “the low 300s” is sufficient and that the service’s fleet will exceed need when ordered quantities are delivered in the coming years. He said the Air Force is asking Congress for authority to retire 17 of the oldest C-5s based on that analysis. Defense Secretary Gates has said he would urge President Obama to veto any legislation calling for the purchase of additional C-17s. “Sometimes too much aluminum is worse than not enough,” Schwartz said.

Armor Walls For Mexico. Dynamic Defense Materials, LLC (DDM) receives a contract award valued at more than $1 million to supply its patent pending portable armored wall system- -McCurdy’s Armor–to the Mexican Federal Police. The police will use the gear as rapidly deployed guard posts for their missions in the war on drugs that has taken many lives and progressively expanded throughout Mexico in recent years. These posts are to be delivered in DDM-205 trailers and once fielded can be used for vehicle checkpoints and guard posts. McCurdy’s Armor is a fully fortified guard post that can be set up by three individuals using no hand tools or heavy equipment in about ten minutes. “DDM is very proud to be given this opportunity to help protect those who are in harm’s way throughout Mexico,” says Joe Dimond, DDM’s product specialist and 10-year Marine vet.

Add On Kits. Oshkosh Defense receives an order valued at more than $41 million from the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) to supply more than 1,000 add-on rocket- propelled grenade (RPG) protection kits for the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The work is expected to be completed by September and installation will occur in theater. “The M- ATV provides exceptional protection capabilities for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan,” says Kenneth Juergens, Oshkosh Corporation vice president and general manager, Joint Programs, Defense.

New Director. Former DARPA chief joins advisory board. Tony Tether, former DARPA director was recently named to the advisory board of SYNEXXUS, Inc, a service disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, based in Arlington, Va.

Record Books. QinetiQ products–Dragon Runner(tm) robots and Earsr SWATS(tm) sniper detection systems–have made the Guinness World records 2010, the company says. Dragon Runner and Ears SWATS are listed on the Engineering and Technology–Weapons” page. Dragon Runner is listed as the “Most Durable Military Robot.” The small, rugged robot weighs between 10-20kg depending on the configuration. Almost 100 Dragon Runners have recently been purchased by the U.K. MoD and shipped to support of current military operations in Afghanistan. This variant has a manipulator arm to assist with the disarming of improvised explosive devices. QinetiQ’s other entry, Ears SWATS (shoulder-worn acoustic targeting system), and described as the “First Wearable Sniper Detector.” An Ears unit can detect and pinpoint hostile gunfire in a fraction of a second and audibly report the range and bearing of the shooter so the soldier can hear it. Ears SWATS units were first fielded in Afghanistan in 2009.