The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Testing, Take 2. NASA will reschedule a static test of the first stage of the developmental Ares I moon rocket for no sooner than Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to the prime contractor for the rocket’s first stage. The stationary firing in Promontory, Utah, of the Ares five-segment solid motor, known as Development Motor 1, or DM-1, was scrubbed on Aug. 27 with twenty seconds left in the countdown. “Our investigation is still ongoing so we will not be able to test tomorrow,” ATK spokeswoman Trina Patterson said in a statement released the night of the failed test. “Right now we are targeting no earlier than Tuesday. By choosing to scrub today we have not compromised any of the components and preserved the ability to execute a successful test and capture all of the data. Tuesday gives us enough time to determine root cause and prepare the motor for test.” Constellation, a space-shuttle replacement effort intended to carry astronauts to the moon by 2020, for now includes the Ares I launch vehicle and Orion capsule, as well as the longer-term Ares V heavy-lift rocket and Altair lunar lander.

Tanker Progress Down Under. The second A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for Australia has completed its mission equipment outfitting with a successful “power on” milestone, and is being readied for pre-delivery flight testing, EADS announced last week. The aircraft underwent conversion to the A330 MRTT military configuration in Australia. Qantas Engineering performed the mission equipment outfitting with the support of Airbus Military, EADS announced in an Aug. 26 statement. One of the key achievements of the “power on” milestone is verifying successful operation of more than 400 installed wiring harnesses –with more than 35 miles of cabling and 1,600 connectors–that go into the MRTT as part of its military modifications. It is a key step prior to the commencement of ground and flight test of the aerial refueling systems and military avionics, the company says. Following flight test in Australia, the aircraft will fly to Madrid, Spain, for further modifications prior to joining the first MRTT in the certification and qualification flight program. The Royal Australian Air Force’s A330 MRTT is based on the same general configuration as the Northrop Grumman KC-45 being offered for recapitalization of the U.S. Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. Australia has ordered five A330 MRTTs. It has also been selected by the air forces of the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia’s original order for three A330 MRTTs was recently doubled to a total of six airplanes.

SBIRS Certified. Lockheed Martin says the second Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO-2) payload and associated ground systems are certified for missile warning operations by U.S. Strategic Command. SBIRS is designed to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness. The formal certification by USSTRATCOM completes the system development, operational activation and certification process, demonstrating the capability of the SBIRS HEO sensor and associated ground systems to provide timely, accurate and unambiguous warning data in support of USSTRATCOM missions. According to an Aug. 26 statement by Lockheed Martin, the team is now gearing up for one of the most significant program milestones–thermal vacuum testing–which consists of testing the GEO-1 satellite in a flight-like environment where the heating, cooling and vacuum conditions of space are simulated while the spacecraft is operated as it will be on orbit. Lockheed Martin’s SBIRS contract includes the two HEO payloads now on-orbit, two GEO satellites, as well as ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data. The team was recently awarded a $1.5-billion contract for the third HEO payload, the third GEO-3 satellite and associated ground modifications. A contract to include a fourth HEO payload and fourth GEO satellite is expected to be awarded later this year.

Bunker Budget. The Air Force hopes to buy 10 to 12 bunker-busting bombs as part of the program it wants to accelerate via a request to reprogram $68 million within Pentagon coffers. One congressional panel still has not responded to that money-shift proposal, says Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. The reprogramming would allow development work to begin in the near term on an air-dropped massive ordnance penetrator, allowing this capability sought via an urgent request from combatant commands to be used next summer. “The dollars associated with this reprogramming…[in part would support the] purchase of weapons beyond just those needed to go test a capability, in other words build a small inventory of weapons,” he tells reporters Aug. 27. “We’re in the area of I believe of 10 to 12″ bombs.”

Energizing KPPs. The Marine Corps is considering putting energy-related requirements on some programs of record, says Brig. Gen. Walter Miller, director of the Combat Development Directorate (CDD) at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. “If we don’t start taking a look at energy resources and how we can best fix our issues today, we’ll never get things through Congress,” he says at an Aug. 25 expeditionary-warfare wargame in Quantico, Va. “The CDD is looking at that now. Where we can with our [key performance parameters] KPPs we are taking a look at energy and making sure we’re carrying it in there. It was not a requirement previously; I believe it will be here in the very near future.”

EFV Empathy. A Marine Corps official who has been in Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) deliberations on amphibious capabilities is expressing optimism in the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). And he notes the review has not rendered a decision on keeping or cancelling the once-troubled weapon program. “There’s been no decision or direction,” Brig. Gen. Timothy Hanifen, deputy commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command tells reporters Aug. 25 at the wargame. “We’re moving forward with the next stage of development. There’s always rumors, but we haven’t seen anything” from the QDR. While he can’t speak for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Hanifen says the Marine Corps fully supports the EFV, which it sees “as a cleanup program that has application across the range of military operations.” If the United States retains forcible-entry capability, he argues, the EFV is needed.

New Counter IED Test Range. NSWC Crane and the Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds have partnered to develop the Electromagnetic Environment (EME) Joint Experimental Range Complex-3 (JERC-3), the Navy reports. The site will better enable warfighters to test and evaluate counter IED technology and provide greater protection for service members. As the technical lead on the project, NSWC Crane is now proceeding with the component selection process and procuring EME system equipment for JERC-3, which is set for installation in Yuma later this year, the Navy says. Experts use EME-equipped ranges primarily to test Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare (CREW) systems that provide protection to the warfighter by affecting the ability of enemy forces to detonate RCIEDs. Funded by JIEDDO, the JERC-3 site will be an EME range expansion that provides additional capabilities to test and evaluate CREW systems. This higher fidelity system will give experts the ability to better adapt tests to the technology being tested, the Navy adds.

BMD MoA. NSWC Corona and the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) signed a MoA Aug. 26 at Barking Sands, Kaua`i, the Navy says. The agreement secures a decades-long collaboration between the two commands to strengthen the Navy’s future Fleet and ballistic missile defense (BMD), a core Navy mission and key warfighting capability of the U.S. Maritime Strategy, the Navy adds.

New Parts Plant For Virginia. Rolls-Royce, begins construction at Crosspointe, its new aerospace facility in Prince George County, Va. Following a rigorous and competitive selection process, the company has selected the design-build firm of Haskell to undertake construction of the first building on site, Rolls-Royce says. This first building at Crosspointe will be a 140,000 square foot disc manufacturing facility. Discs, the part of a turbofan engine that contains the blades, are considered one of the most critical components of the engine. Discs manufactured at Crosspointe will be used in some of the company’s newest civil aerospace products–the Trent 1000, Trent 900 and Trent XWB– optimized for the Boeing 787, Airbus A380 and A350 XWB respectively. Construction on this facility is expected to begin in late September or early October. This initial phase of work–disc manufacturing–will support roughly 140 jobs, Rolls-Royce says. Disc production at Crosspointe will begin as soon as possible once the site is operational, currently expected in the fourth quarter of 2010.

…JSF Engine Site. Plans are also proceeding for the second building on site–a blisk manufacturing facility. Blisks, or bladed discs, incorporating fan blades and discs into a single piece, are designed for use in the next generation of gas turbine engines. Blisks manufactured at Crosspointe will be used in the F136 engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. Crosspointe will be the largest Rolls-Royce site by area in North America, with ample space to accommodate suppliers’ and partners’ co-location in the future. It is also the first Rolls-Royce site built from-the-ground-up in the United States the company notes.

Keep It Running. Lockheed Martin selects GoAheadr Software’s SelfReliantr high availability middleware as a solution to help ensure continuous service of the combat system used on the Fort Worth (LCS-3). The company will help ensure Lockheed Martin’s COMBATTS-21 system can achieve continuous uptime via capabilities such as system modeling, clustering, stateful application failover, distributed messaging capabilities and a host of other services. These attributes, combined with sophisticated redundancy schemes, greatly enhance the software’s contribution to the system overall, GoAhead Software adds. Lockheed Martin had previously employed GoAhead Software on its Aegis Open Architecture and Cruiser Modernization programs.

Anti Torpedo Technology. Alion Science and Technology, receives a $48.5 million task order from the Navy to research, design, develop, prototype, integrate and test a new torpedo detection system in conjunction with the Navy’s new anti-torpedo countermeasure technology, demonstrating the improved performance and integration of the technologies in Navy fleet systems, the company says. The task order, awarded under the NUWC Division Newport SeaPort-e contract, supports NAVSEA’s Undersea Defensive Warfare Systems Program Office with Anti-Torpedo Torpedo Defensive System (ATTDS) Torpedo Detection, Classification and Localization (TDCL) technology. This work follows the successful demonstration of new TDCL technology developed by Alion and its team members over the past four years, which has been proven to outperform existing sonar systems on Navy ships.

NAVAIR’s Nine. NAVAIR’s Avionics Component Improvement Program (AvCIP) recently completed another cycle of candidate proposal reviews and selected nine new projects to use $4.7 million in funding for FY ’10. The AvCIP projects selected to receive FY10 funding include: SH-60B AYK-14 Memory Upgrade (PMA-299), MH-60 Enhanced Software Configurable Air Data Unit (PMA-299), MATCALS Digitizer Switching Set (PMA-213), F/A-18/AV-8B ALR-67 (V) 2 RWR Oscillator (PMA-265), F/A-18/AV-8B APG-65-73 Transmitter HVPS (PMA-265), F/A-18E/F MAGR2K 24 Channel GPS Receiver card (for Lots 26-29) (PMA-265), E-2C Cockpit Overhead Lights Controller (PMA-231), E-2C Emergency Escape Hatch Lighting Sensor (PMA-231), and EP-3 Autopilot System Upgrade (PMA-290), NAVAIR says. “The nine projects were selected by a board representing a wide cross-section of the Naval Aviation Enterprise,” says Capt. Ralph Portnoy, Air Combat Electronics Program Manager, PMA-209. “They were evaluated and rated based upon executability, operational contribution, urgency, breadth of application across users, reduction of Fleet pain, and potential financial return-on-investment by a working group of NAVAIR experts and Naval Aviation Enterprise stakeholders.”

…Common EP-3 Autopilot. The AvCIP team recently engaged in a partnership between Norway and PMA-290 to replace the EP-3 autopilot system. AvCIP will match the funds provided by Norway to PMA-290, NAVAIR adds. These funds will support the development and test of an updated, more reliable autopilot system for two Norwegian P-3N and U.S. Navy EP-3 aircraft. As an additional benefit, after this initiative, all Norwegian P-3N and U.S. Navy P-3 variants will have the same autopilot system. AvCIP funding covers non-recurring engineering costs for solutions to problem components, focusing on top readiness degraders, critical obsolescence/sustainability issues, and top cost drivers. The data call for FY ’11 AvCIP projects will be released in December. Submissions will be evaluated and selected for allocation of nearly $5 million, NAVAIR says.

One Thousand And Counting. Raytheon delivers the 1,000th Evolved SeaSparrow Missile to a multinational consortium earlier this month, the company says. Deployed by the U.S. Navy and nine international fleets, ESSM defends the battlespace by delivering ship self-defense firepower against high-G maneuvering anti-ship cruise missiles as well as surface and low-velocity air threats. As a tail-controlled missile, ESSM utilizes recent enhancements to its guidance system to take advantage of improved seeker sensitivity, increased propulsion and greater weapon accuracy. Combined, these features result in ESSM arriving at the intercept point with more endgame speed and agility to counter the threat, Raytheon adds.

Plenty of Space. Lockheed Martin’s Airborne Multi-INT Lab has plenty of space to test more equipment, Jim Quinn, vice president of C4ISR Systems for Lockheed Martin’s IS&GS-Defense, tells Defense Daily in a recent interview. “Were so excited about it, I think we’ve got greater than 25 percent open rack space as currently configured, we can expand into things like that and explore multiple kinds of excursions for the customer.” The company wants to generate interest for R&D partners for opportunities to explore various needs, that it hopes eventually leads to contractual arrangements domestically and internationally that allow the company to serve those needs more broadly. “What that leads us to is an opportunity to be a thought leader in how do we shape not only the delivery of capabilities to meet customer needs and gaps in the current war on terror and consistent with what Secretary [of Defense] Gates has described about the importance and the need focus on ISR and the tactical implications of ISR. And we believe that this asset is principally focused and ready to achieve that objective,” Quinn says.

Rodeo Time. Boeing will demonstrate it’s ground robotics capabilities at the Army’s first Robotics Rodeo today through Wednesday at Ft. Hood, Texas. Boeing Combat Systems is developing several robotic solutions designed to protect soldiers. One is the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) 300 series of robots, designed in partnership with iRobot that will be shown at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and Fort Hood’s III Corps-sponsored event. SUGV is part of the new capabilities being developed for fielding to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams for potential fielding in 2011. Boeing and subcontractor Autonomous Solutions Inc. will also demonstrate semiautonomous navigation capabilities by using surrogate vehicles to simulate military convoy and route-clearance vehicles in war zones.

New Chief. Gen. Sir David Richards is the new U.K. Chief of the General Staff from Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt as of Aug. 28. Richards served as Commander of the International Stabilization and Assistance Force in Afghanistan between May 2006 and February 2007. In January 2008 he took over as Commander-in-Chief of U.K. Land Forces before assuming the appointment of Chief of the General Staff. Richards said he would continue to focus on meeting government needs in Afghanistan, taking care of soldiers– especially the wounded, and in the long term will focus on making sure that the Army is geared up for future conflict.