Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
An interesting week to say the least on the tech front:
- Claims four F-117A Goblins flew classified sorties in Syria, and Goblins observed practicing near Groom Lake;
- Reports that the US may return back to the intensive rapid prototyping model that worked so well during the golden age of the 1950s and 1960s;
- Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie RPV flown – the observables shaping is quite decent, like the Boeing ATS displayed last week, both are credible proposals but not as refined as the X-45 and X-47A/B were;
- A multiplicity of fighter reports – the F-15X proposal has produced an intensive information ops campaign by F-35 advocates – the proper solution is neither the F-35 nor the F-15X, rather a reboot and tech refresh of the F-22, and reboot of the FB-22;
- Laser DEW, AI, hypersonics, quantum, SpaceX Dragon reports;
- Miscellaneous program reports;
- Diego Garcia futures, and history reports;
Scramble Magazine, Luchthaven Schiphol. 48K likes. Every month we have an average of 112 pages with everything you want to know about civil and military…
The once famous F-117 stealth attack jets were decommissioned several years after one was shot down over Yugoslavia in March 1999 by a Soviet-made S-125 missile defence system and after the F-22 took over some of the F-117’s roles, when precision strikes were deemed essential for a mission.
Following reports at least one F-117 was spotted flying in Nevada and eastern California last week, Dutch aviation magazine Scramble is now reporting four
Scramble, a Dutch aviation magazine, has reported that four F-117 stealth fighters were secretly deployed to the Middle East in 2017. According to Scramble’s report, at least four F-117 ‘Nighthawk’ stealth fighters were deployed to the Middle East as an operational need emerged for the United States Air Force. “Back in 2017, and not published by any other source so far, Scramble received very reliable information that at least four F-117s were deployed to the Middle East as an operational need emerged for the USAF to resurrect the stealth F-117 for special purposes”, reported aviation magazine. Also added that one of the deployed aircraft was involved in an in-flight emergency and landed far away from its temporary home base that was likely located in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar. The worlds first operational stealth fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk made its maiden flight on 18 June, 1981. In the ensuing years, the project would be kept under the strictest of secrecy, with all training conducted at night, prepping the Nighthawk for its stunning debut over the skies of Iraq. Over the ensuring weeks, Nighthawks would strike with remarkable accuracy, helping bring the campaign to a successful end in just 43 days. The Nighthawk wasn’t revealed to the public until 1988. Although retired in 2008, the F-117 would be the basis upon which subsequent stealth fighters, including the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, would be designed. As remarked during a banquet celebrating the plane’s achievements in 2008, before the F-117, the question to ask was how many aircraft were needed to take out a target. After the Nighthawk, the question was how many targets could be taken out with a single aircraft.
It’s been 35 years since the F-117A Nighthawk entered service in the U.S. Air Force and almost 11 years after its official retirement in 2008, but the world’s first stealth plane (as far as we know it) seems to remain an important military option for the United States. In late February, photographer Dan Stijovich was able to photograph an F-117A flying over California’s Death Valley National Park. It was not the first time that the Lockheed Martin jet was seen flying after its retirement and the fact is not surprising since the USAF maintained most of the 64 aircraft constructed in conditions of flight. The new fact, however, was the claim of the renowned Dutch magazine Scramble which revealed that four F-117s were deployed in air strikes in Syria in 2017. Details were not reported, but the magazine had access to information that the USAF maintains some F-117s in flight conditions to be used when needed. The big question is why can an aircraft already considered obsolete be useful if there are more modern fighters like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightining II?
As you probably already know by now, both on Feb. 26 and 27, 2019, an F-117 Nighthawk (or two?) flew very low over the flats in beautiful Panamint Valley in Death Valley National Park. Using radio callsign “Lehi”, the Nighthawk(s), chased by two F-16s (Groom Lake Vipers have been spotted chasing F-117s in the past), the stealth jet flew over the Death Valley and were shot by some lucky photographers over there. For instance, on Feb. 27, a low flying F-117 was filmed as it overflew a lucky bystander. The incredible video was later published across social media. Photographer Dan Stijovich was able to shoot some great close up photos that also allowed an identification of the F-117A: the iconic stealth jet was serial number 84-0824 and sported “49OG” flagship markings. Although we have published several photographs and videos of the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jets flying over or near Tonopah Test Range, those taken by Stijovich are surely the best we have seen since the aircraft was officially retired from active service in 2008. Here’s a chronicle of the sightings we have already posted in this detailed story and in this one too:
Ten years after retirement, at least two Nighthawks are still flying missions doing who-knows-what. The F-117 Nighthawk, the first purpose-built stealth aircraft to enter combat, was retired in 2008 after a relatively short but eventful flying career. Aviation enthusiasts still catch glimpses of the “retired” jet flying from time to time. The latest sighting took place last week in the skies over Nevada, prompting the question: What are they doing?
Military aviation forums are buzzing with reaction to a Facebook posting by the Dutch-based Scramble Magazine that four F-117 Nighthawk were pulled out of retirement and snuck into Syria to fly clandestine missions on behalf of the U.S. in 2017.
The “retired” stealth jet has been photographed in the air once again, but this time while ripping around down low over Death Valley in California. By Tyler Rogoway February 27, 2019
America’s best-selling military aviation magazine
The F-117 Nighthawk, arrived in the early 1980s and was retired in 2008, but the stealth aircraft keeps appearing in the skies over the West.
How did a “retired” plane make its way onto a flightline? The F-117 Nighthawk has been spotted over the Nevada desert occasionally in recent years, raising questions why a “retired” plane has made its way onto a flightline. Technically categorized as “flyable storage,” the remaining single-seat, twin-engine aircraft in the Air Force inventory are tucked away at test and training ranges in Tonopah, Nevada. But in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, passed Dec. 23, the Air Force will remove four F-117s every year to fully divest them — a process known as demilitarizing aircraft, a service official told Military.com on Monday. “Flyable storage” aircraft are not considered classified, said the official, who requested anonymity to free discuss the program. This is why aviation enthusiasts may have spotted the stealth aircraft flying in 2014 and again in 2016 and again as they were taken out for training flights.
The F-117A Nighthawk fleet is headed to a museum near you. Eventually.
The concept would allow Air Force leaders to hedge against the risk of future technology breakthroughs and surprise enemies with unexpected new capabilities. A specific new U.S. Air Force fighter designed and equipped to defeat theorized threats in the decades beyond 2030 is the popular vision for the final product of the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. As presented by the aerospace industry’s concept artists, the so-called sixth-generation fighter for the U.S. Air Force is often shown as a step beyond the Lockheed Martin F-22: a futuristic, tailless, super-dogfighter. But that vision of NGAD may never come into existence. A new concept for the project emerged from the Air Force’s top acquisition official at the Air Warfare Symposium on Feb. 28, and it calls for a radical break from conventional aircraft development programs.
The aircraft has flown just a week after Boeing introduced an unmanned sidekick of its own.
The U.S. Air Force has for the first time released video showing its latest long-range drone in flight. A newest long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, called the XQ-58A Valkyrie completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A. According to a statement released by the Air Force, this joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which has the objective to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. The objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost. Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems. “XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager. The newly UAV will have an impressive range of more than 4,800 kilometers. It also can carry a payload of 272 kg, including small-diameter bombs and missiles.
The United States likely won’t be far behind.
A single F-35 could have a flock of “loyal wingman” drones to carry weapons, jam radars, and if need be take a hit and die to save their human commander.
Intelligence – Analysis – Insight
On Feb. 28, 2019, F-22 Raptors from the 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd Fighter Wing, took part in a total force exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Both wings partnered with 633rd Air Base Wing during the Phase 1 exercise to showcase their readiness and deployability of the F-22 5th generation stealth jets. Interestingly, as part of the JBLE Total Force exercise, the Raptors also staged an “Elephant Walk”. Although not too large (“just” 13 F-22s took part in it) the Langley’s Elephant Walk is newsworthy as this kind of drills is not frequent for the U.S. Air Force’s premiere fighter. Actually, a quick search online did not return any photo of previous “walks” conducted by Raptors but this does not mean some squadron has not carried out a similar exercise in the past. Increasingly, “Elephant walk” exercises are conducted at airbases all around the world to test the squadrons ability to launch large formations of aircraft at short notice. As explained quite regularly here at The Aviationist, during this kind of drills, combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff; still, depending on the purpose of the training event, the aircraft can either take off or return back to their parking slots.
Yes, this might have happened.
The Su-57 might never enter service in meaningful numbers. But that’s not necessarily the fault of the plane’s design, which is sophisticated and well-rounded. Perhaps most notably, the Su-57 has a gun, just like American stealth fighters do. Alone among stealth fighters, China’s own J-20 does not have a gun.
And this is all we know.
And it might get even better.
PARIS — In its clearest admission to date that the system does not currently work as required, the Pentagon has decided to re-design the F-35 program’s Autononomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) “in accordance with current information technology and software development best practices.” The flaws in the ALIS, a computerized maintenance tool, are well-documented but persist, despite claims by Lockheed Martin that its reliability is improving. ALIS doesn’t “yet perform as intended,” as some data and functions deficiencies “have a significant effect on aircraft availability” and launching flights,” Bloomberg reported Jan 30 quoting the latest report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, due to be released this week. Maintenance personnel and pilots “must deal w pervasive problems w data integrity, completeness on a daily basis,” the report says.
It’s the most advanced weapon system ever made, and one F-35 pilot tells us what it’s like in the cockpit.
Fifth gen or fourth gen? F-35A or F-15X. Stealth, sensors and fusion or lots of missiles? Lockheed or Boeing? See what the Mitchell Institute says.
The Air Force needs to buy more new fighter planes. The constricted size and increasing age of the Air Force’s fighter inventory is the product of long-standing deferred investment; the 2009 decision to prematurely curtail the F-22 buy at less than half its required inventory; failure to boost F-35 productionto originally planned rates; and the fact that 234 of 1970’s era F-15Cs will be hitting the end of their service lives in the next decade. Maintaining the current fighter inventory size demands that the Air Force buy at least 72 fighters per year into the 2020s. Failure to meet this requirement is not an option given the burgeoning global threat environment. With the fiscal year 2020 defense budget set for release next month, Congress will prove critical in charting a prudent path forward.
Singapore plans to place a firm order for four Lockheed Martin F-35s, with options for an additional eight aircraft.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin are vying for India’s long-delayed fighter replacement program.
Now that the Air Force has chosen its new jet trainer, it’s looking at whether the T-X can fill requirements outside the training mission.
In February, the U.S. Defense Department issued a call for information in support of the aptly titled High Energy Laser Weapon Subsystem Technologies. According to a new request for information (RFI) published on 6 February, the Pentagon asked the defense industry to pitch a more compact and militarized laser weapon system for use on the battlefield. Reported that the directive was formulated by the U.S. Strategic Command Space and Missile Defense Agency. The Pentagon plans to improve the efficiency of high-energy laser (HEL) devices, which are particularly interested in controlling laser beams and cooling laser weapons. “High Energy Laser (HEL) and beam control technologies have matured over the past decades to become viable battlefield assets,” said in a request. “The second generation HEL systems are more compact and militarized for use on the battlefield, the HEL Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) will be integrated onto a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and the Multi-Mission HEL (MMHEL) on the Stryker platform.” According to expectations from the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, the next phase of HEL development is leaning towards ruggedized and condensed packaging of HEL weapon systems to be mounted on even smaller platforms used in future HEL platforms, along with improving their lethality. The new mobile laser weapon system will be designed to counter unmanned aerial system (UAS), and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) threats, as well as provide ISR. RFI highlights that the objective HEL subsystem must be capable of conducting a safe shutdown within 0.02 seconds, and commence firing within 0.02 seconds from cease fire. The objective beam control system will need to be agile, with low jitter and high slew acceleration.The objective HEL and BCS subsystems should support a startup time of less than 5 minutes, be operated by 2 persons or less, and have a magazine depth greater than 45 seconds. The threshold subsystems will support a startup time of less than 15 minutes, be operated by 3 persons or less, and have a magazine depth greater than 30 seconds. Also added that innovative technologies sought through this RFI are requested for 2025 and out-years; these technologies are not for and are not intended to affect current Army-funded efforts.
Rheinmetall has tested a new laser weapon station that can carry laser weapons up to 100 kW power level and be integrated on combat vehicles. In recent tests, the system successfully engaged drones and mortar rounds at operationally relevant ranges. Equally suitable for ground, air and naval operations, the assemblies are modular and scalable in design, to meet different applications. – Defense Update:
The contract, worth $63.3 million, is part of an Air Force effort.
China, Russia, and the United States are approaching the long-term strategic potential of artificial intelligence very differently. The country that gets it right will reap huge military benefits.
The most common framing of the two countries’ artificial-intelligence development is dangerous.
The defense research agency also announced plans for an accelerator to help move new tech from idea to product.
The new office will help coordinate quantum efforts across the government and private sector.
A human being will still make the final decision to fire, the Pentagon says, even with autonomous targeting capability. Critics fear that won’t last forever.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after spending more than six days in space, U.S. space agency NASA said on March 8.
A new recovery vessel puts a 21st century spin on the Apollo-era return from space.
U.S. weapons maker Northrop Grumman Corp. is developing an advanced weapon system for engaging and destroying enemy air defenses and time-critical, mobile targets. The Pentagon announced Thursday that Northrop Grumman Corp. it had got a $322,5 million order for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) of the AGM-88G, Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER). The EMD effort includes the design, integration and test of a new solid rocket motor for the AARGM-ER for use on the F/A-18E/F, EA-18G and F-35A/C aircraft platforms. A statement from the U.S. Department of Defense claims that the work is expected to be completed in December 2023. The missile offers extended-range engagement, as well as organic, in-cockpit emitter targeting capability and situational awareness. New capabilities for the warfighter include: Anti-radar strike with advanced signal processing and vastly improved frequency coverage, detection range and field of view Time-critical, standoff strike with supersonic GPS/INS point-to-point or point-to-MMW-terminal guidance Missile-impact zone control to prevent collateral damage through tightly coupled, Digital Terrain Elevation Database-aided GPS/INS Counter-emitter shutdown through active MMW-radar terminal guidance WIA transmission prior-to-impact for bomb damage assessment
Made public thanks to Chinese hackers, the weapon is supposedly a new offensive missile.
A flashy new video shows off the Marker platform, a testbed for learning the lessons of robot war.
The Army is moving quickly to adopt new technologies. That comes with public relations pitfalls.
One of the assets flying missions from Al Dhafra Air Base, is the EQ-4 Global Hawk. This remotely piloted aircraft previously required coordination with other bases to control it while in the air. Now by utilizing technology this process can be conducted,
The U.S. Marine Corps is deactivating its last remaining EA-6B Prowler squadron on Mar. 8, 2019. Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 (VMAQ-2) was the last to fly the Prowler in combat, supporting troops who were taking on Islamic State group terrorists in the Middle East late last year. The EA-6B was born out of military requirements during the Vietnam War. It entered service in 1971 and 170 aircraft were built before the production was terminated in 1991. For more than four decades, the Prowler has been “at the forefront of military electronic warfare allowing high-profile air combat missions.” The squadron completed its last deployment in support of Operation Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan as well as Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria in October 2018
Will be taking a larger role in cyberwarfare, information and ‘influence’ operations, sources say By Carlo Muñoz – The Washington Times – Sunday, February 24, 2019 America’s elite special operations forces are getting new marching orders as the Pentagon moves away from its post-9/11 focus on radical terrorist groups and trains its eye on big-power rivals such as China…
Photographer Lance Riegle captured an interesting photo while sitting in the second floor of the B-17 display building at the Pima Air & Space Museum across the road from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Riegle was in Tucson to cover the first performance of the F-35A Lightning II at the Heritage Flight Conference along with other stories for TheAviationist.com. Riegle, 21, from Dearborn Heights, Michigan was watching a number of A-10s returning from training sorties in the late afternoon on Tuesday, a common sight near Davis-Monthan. The sharp-eyed Riegle noticed something different about one of the aircraft and, from inside the building nearly a mile away, he grabbed his Canon EOS-70D with a Canon 100-400mm lens and started shooting. “I was looking out the window, and I just noticed the large orange probe sticking out of the front of the plane. At first I thought it may be some kind of new refueling probe,” Riegle said. Most of the Warthogs commonly seen flying into Davis-Monthan, a hub of A-10 activity, wear the common “DM” tail code of the 355th Wing at Davis-Monthan. The aircraft spotted by Riegle wore a different “ET” tail code. Some quick research on the aircraft’s tail codes and markings reveal that the A-10 is from 46th Test Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida. That itself is interesting, but the unique test/instrumentation probe made the aircraft even more interesting.
A-10s are the preferred escort aircraft for the MV-22.
The Air Force is considering expanding the use of a unique communications technology that has helped soldiers stay in touch despite mountainous terrain to other areas where communications may be difficult.
The German government has released a draft tender for the Bundeswehr’s Schwerer Transporthubschrauber (STH) heavy-lift helicopter requirement that will mark another step forward for replacing the aging fleet of CH-53 heavy transport helicopters. Issued by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support on 28 February, a tender notice covers procuring 44-60 helicopters for the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) over an eight-year delivery period. According to tender documents, the future helicopter should be capable of transporting personnel and equipment and have a maximum take-off weight greater than 20 tons. Only two offers can meet these requirements: the Boeing with its CH-47E and Lockheed with CH-53K King Stallion helicopter. Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook, already used by eight other NATO countries, will compete against Lockheed’s Sikorsky CH-53K, a redesigned version of the CH-53G that Germany now flies. Israel is also considering buying 20 of the Lockheed aircraft. Some officials favor the CH-47 which they say is combat-proven and cheaper, but others say the larger CH-53K would allow growth in future missions. Bids for the nearly $6.4 billion program are due by May 27. The Luftwaffe — the German Air Force — is to field 44 to 60 STHs between 2023 and 2031 after a final contract award in 2021. Included in the contract value are some maintenance, repair, and overhaul, as well as the training of pilots and technicians.
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A proposed export-rules change has snagged over the question: is publishing such designs a boon to U.S. business or foreign terrorists?
It’s good news because we need them desperately.
The U.S. military might need to build up its base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, one American expert advised.
Five years ago, their loved ones boarded a plane and vanished.
During the spring 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and allied forces, U.S. Army Patriot air-defense missile batteries were so dangerously unreliable—and prone to firing on friendly planes—that they provoked a brief, and today largely forgotten, civil war between missileers and fighter pilots. “Many allied pilots believed that the Patriot posed a greater threat to them than did any [surface-to-air missile] in Iraq’s inventory,” Benjamin Lambeth wrote in his exhaustive Iraq war monograph The Unseen War. “The Patriots scared the Hell out of us,” one F-16 pilot remarked. As Army missiles downed two allied warplanes, killing three crewmen, fliers did their best to avoid the trigger-happy Patriot batteries—and in one case an Air Force pilot actually fired on a Patriot crew. When American and coalition armored battalions swept into Iraq in March 2003, 62 Patriot firing units followed behind them, maintaining a continuous air-defense screen just behind the front lines.
Inventor of Frequency Hopping