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Sun, Jan 02, 2011

2010 Year In Review: Military Aviation

There Was A Tug-Of-War Over F-35 Engines, Replacement Tankers

The long-awaited F-35 flight test program got going in ernest in 2010, but there was still no agreement in Congress over whether there should be an alternative engine for the new fighters. Airbus and Boeing continued to spar over a replacement for the aging KC-153 tanker, and the military tested several aircraft on biofuel blends. Here's a sampling of some of the stories from ANN's year in military aviation.


  • The last operational UH-3H Sea King helicopter was retired from the U.S. Navy during a ceremony ending 50 years of service by the Sea King.
  • Pratt & Whitney delivered its final Conventional Take Off and Landing/Carrier Variant (CTOL/CV) F135 flight test engine to the F-35 Joint Program Office, completing another step as the program transitions from System Development and Demonstration to production.
  • The F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter engaged its STOVL propulsion system in flight for the first time. The successful test is the first in a series of planned STOVL-mode flights that will include short takeoffs, hovers and vertical landings.
  • Despite reports that EADS Airbus may be considering scrapping the project, the Airbus Military A400M airlifter has flown for the third time as the flight-test program for the type picks up pace after the year-end break.


  • The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrived off the coast of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to begin humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
  • Already years behind schedule and far over budget, Airbus says the A400M program will require an additional $7.3 billion in order to bring the aircraft to production. The figure was leaked by a French website as officials from several governments planned to meet for critical talks on the project.
  • Russia said it planned to test fly a new fifth generation fighter by the end of the month, and that the new aircraft will challenge U.S.-made aircraft for technical superiority.


  • New details emerged from the Air Force detailing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of USAF aircraft for Congressional Delegations (CODELs).
  • President Barack Obama said wasteful defense spending has been trimmed from the $3.83 trillion fiscal 2011 budget he submitted to Congress . Discussing the budget proposal at the White House, Obama said his push for a three-year discretionary federal spending freeze to begin next year doesn't apply to U.S. national security program funding.
  • Pratt & Whitney used the backdrop of the Singapore Air Show to announce that it has delivered the first F135 production engine for the F-35 Lightning II.
  • The C-5M Super Galaxy completed operational test and evaluation, releasing the aircraft for use in worldwide operations. The tests, which lasted nearly 4 months, measured key performance parameters to demonstrate the capabilities and reliability of the C-5M.
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation and Kaman Aerospace Corporation successfully demonstrated to the U.S. Marine Corps the capability of the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter to resupply troops by unmanned helicopter at forward operating bases in Afghanistan.


  • Piloted by Lockheed Martin F-35 Test Pilot Jeff Knowles, the third F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter landed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD.
  • EADS confirmed that it had received a letter from the customer nations of the A400M program summarizing the status of the negotiations and proposing a number of changes to the initial contract, the company said in a news release posted on its website.
  • The Pentagon has no plans to restore funding for Boeing's airborne laser program, despite a successful test of the system February 11th.
  • Both Boeing and Northrop Grumman said they received the final RFP for the Air Force KC-X tanker program, with neither company saying they are particularly pleased with the document that was released.


  • Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) made aviation history last month when it successfully completed its first roundtrip flight from the company's Palmdale, CA, manufacturing facility.
  • On the heels of the first flight of Russia's new T-50 Stealth Fighter, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the country will begin work on another new aircraft. "We must start work on a prospective long-range aircraft, our new strategic bomber."
  • Boeing Company said it will offer the Boeing NewGen Tanker in the competition to supply the U.S. Air Force with a multi-mission aerial refueling aircraft that will meet all the warfighter’s mission requirements for the next several decades.

    B767 Tanker

  • Col. Steven Pisanos (ret.) received the medal French Legion Of Honor Medal during a ceremony at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.  Pisanos, 90, flew a P51B during WWII wrote the book "The Flying Greek."
  • EADS North America' Chairman of the Board Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. released a statement on the heels of the announcement that Northrop Grumman had made good on its threat to withdraw from the KC-X tanker competition. The European Commission said in a statement that the decision by Northrop Grumman / EADS not to submit a bid to the US Department of Defense for the US Air Force's aerial refueling tanker contract is unfortunate.
  • The Navy has confirmed that two single seat, F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision while on a routine training mission flying in the Fallon Range Training Complex. Neither pilot was injured.
  • A supersonic Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter rode more than 41,000 pounds of thrust to a vertical landing for the first time, confirming its required ability to land in confined areas both ashore and afloat.
  • The Pentagon said that it had received a communication from EADS indicating that the company might reconsider its decision to not bid on a $35 billion dollar contract to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 tankers, and the Defense Department has indicated it might extend the deadline for delivering a proposal, according to multiple media sources.
  • Two of the Hawk jets from the RAF's Red Arrows precision aerobatic team collided during practice over Crete. Both pilots survived the incident.

    Red Arrows Aerobatic Team

  • An Air Force test pilot flew an A-10 Thunderbolt II jet aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on a blend of biomass-derived and conventional JP-8 jet fuel.


  • President Barack Obama said that his administration's future plans on energy security to include the Department of Navy's (DoN) biofuel program during a speech in Hangar 3 at Joint Base Andrews, MD.
  • The Defense Department has informed companies interested in bidding on the KC-X aerial refueling tanker contract that, if the European Aeronautics Defense and Space Co. formally expresses an intention to compete, the bidding deadline would be extended 60 days.
  • After an extensive search by military units, the Navy suspended search and rescue efforts on April 2 for the fourth crew member from the E-2C that went down March 31.
  • The first P-8A Poseidon test aircraft arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, April 10.

    P-8 Poseidon

  • Sikorsky is collaborating with the U.S. Army to develop an optionally piloted demonstrator Black Hawk helicopter.
  • Four Sailors were lost when a T-39N Sabreliner went down near Blue Ridge, GA.
  • EADS North America and its industry team of American Eurocopter and Lockheed Martin say they will independently fund and develop three AAS-72X helicopters for the U.S. Army's Armed Aerial Scout mission.
  • EADS North America said that it intended to submit a proposal on July 9, offering the KC-45 in the U.S. Air Force’s tanker modernization program.
  • The Navy celebrated Earth Day April 22 by showcasing a supersonic flight test of the "Green Hornet," an F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter jet powered by a biofuel blend.

    Green Hornet Earth Day Flight

  • Four of the remaining eight Doolittle Raiders, known for their nearly impossible bombing raid on Japan during World War II, reunited for the 68th year at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
  • The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41 Thursday. The OTV rode to orbit on board an Atlas V rocket at 1952 EDT, according to the U.S. Air Force.


  • Lt. Harry Wales, AKA Prince Harry, AKA His Royal Fly-ness, has earned his wings after passing his final exams to qualify him as an army helicopter pilot. The Prince said he hopes his career will take him back to the front lines in Afghanistan.
  • Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has authorized two Air Force Reserve C-130H aircraft to support the response to a massive oil slick that threatens wetlands and beaches along the Gulf Coast.
  • It looks like a fighter-sized version of the B-2, but the pilot stays on the ground. Boeing unveiled the Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system, a test bed for advanced technologies.

    Phantom Ray UAS

  • The carrier variant of the F-35 Lightning II underwent drop testing at the Vought Aircraft facility in Dallas.
  • The NTSB has finished its investigation of an accident which occurred on July 4th in Tehachapi, CA, in which an Aero Vodochody L-29 went down after a low pass over towns the 4th of July parade, fatally injuring both people on board.
  • The U.S. House Armed Services Seapower and Air-Land Forces subcommittees each marked up the National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 5136) on Thursday. Both subcommittees voted to authorize $485 million in continued funding of the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 engine for the JSF.
  • It was probably the last thing the pilot of an untralight aircraft expected, or maybe wanted, to see when he crossed the U.S. Border from Mexico into Arizona. Two NORAD F-16's were scrembled to intercept the ultralight, and shadowed it for about half an hour before it returned to Mexican airspace.
  • The Dutch government all but officially cancelled their participation in the F-35 JSF program. The Dutch parliament has debated proposals by the SP (Socialist Party), PvdA (Labor) and GL (Green Left) in recent weeks.
  • full U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense authorization bill for FY2011 that once again includes funding for the F136 alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. It is the 4th year in a row that the House has voted to maintain funding for the program.


  • The first S-70i Black Hawk helicopter built at PZL Mielec, Sikorsky's subsidiary in Poland, has entered the flight test program at the company's Development Flight Center (DFC) in Florida.
  • Boeing said it plans to dive into the competition to build a new Presidential helicopter, and that it plans to do so by securing a license from AgustaWestland for U.S. production of the AW101 medium-lift helicopter.
  • On the heels of test flights of the Air Force and Marine Corps variants of the F-35 JSF, the Navy's F-35C carrier-based version of the aircraft made its inaugural flight.

  • The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a three-year, $9.8 million contract to Boeing to further develop and demonstrate technologies that will enable multiple small unmanned aerial vehicles to coordinate with each other, along with a manned airborne control station to more safely and effectively carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
  • The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant flew faster than the speed of sound for the first time June 10. The aircraft accelerated to Mach 1.07 (727 miles per hour) on the first in a long series of planned supersonic flights.
  • Two Congressmen have taken the Department of Defense to task for its decision to purchase 10 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters next year as it helps to create an Afghanistani Air Force.
  • The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) says the world's only flyable B-29 Superfortress FIFI, will return to the skies on June 29, but  had to postpone the flight because of a delay in the issuance of an Airworthiness Certificate by the FAA.


  • DARPA awarded a $33 million contract to Northrop Grumman Corporation to demonstrate aerial refueling of a NASA Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by a sister ship.
  • The first S-70i Black Hawk helicopter successfully completed its first flight, officially launching an international variant and the newest Sikorsky Aircraft product to follow in the legacy of the Black Hawk helicopter.
  • On July 6, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Certificate allowing the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) B-29 Superfortress crew to begin Phase I flight-testing. The tests were scheduled to begin in the afternoon on Friday July 9th and continue through Saturday, July 10th, but were postponed a second time when the weather didn't cooperate, and the FAA has determined that the test flights crews would be limited to four, and the CAF has always flown with a crew of six, the number mandated by the FAA for the past 30+ years.

  • Aerospace and defense contractor U.S. Aerospace said that it has entered into a strategic cooperation agreement with Antonov to bid on the request for proposal to supply 179 aerial refueling tankers to the U.S. Air Force.
  • Zephyr, a solar powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) Unmanned Air System (UAS) has smashed a number of long-standing world records by flyin g for over a week, according to QinetiQ, which makes the aircraft.
  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) joined local leaders to unveil a sign designating the entire I-75 corridor in Kentucky as the ‘Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail’—a 191-mile stretch of highway from the Ohio to Tennessee borders.
  • The first flight of the Sikorsky Autonomous Formation Flying (AFF) system was carried out by Sikorsky Innovations, the company announced at the Farnborough International Air Show.
  • A C-17 went down at Elemendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, fatally injuring all four crew members on  board the aircraft. Three were attached to the Alaska Air National Guard, the fourth was on active duty at the Air Force Base.


  • The Air Force announced the preferred alternatives for operational and training F-35 Joint Strike Fighter bases.
  • Maintenance crews towed F-16 Fighting Falcons out of retirement from the "boneyard" at Arizona's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base last week and began preparing them to become the Air Force's newest platform for target training.
  • The all-composite wing of Airbus Military's new A400M airlifter has passed the ultimate-load up-bend test - the critical static test required for certification.
  • It was a long time coming, but the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) said that FIFI returned to flight. "The Queen of the Fleet" ... which is the world's only flyable Boeing B-29 Superfortress ... returned to the skies early Thursday morning for its first flight since 2004. Flight testing was suspended again after a roughness developing in engine #2. A timing issue was resolved, additional inspections and troubleshooting are taking place to see if there is a possibility of an additional cause.
  • A team hoping to recover a P-38 Lightning from under more than 260 feet of Greenland glacier ice  acquired a support aircraft they say will be perfect for the job ... a Russian-designed Antonov AN-2 biplane which was mouldering in Ovid, NY.

    Anotov AN-2

  • Amateur skywatchers, who had been tracking the Air Force's secret X-37B spacecraft since its launch in April, lost track of the mini-shuttle for a little over two weeks before it reappeared ... in a different orbit.
  • The Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard have each released reports concerning a mid-air collision last October in which a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft and a Marine AH-1W Cobra collided off the southern California coast. Nine service personnel were lost in the accident.
  • After 65 years at the bottom of Califorina's Otay Reservoir, an SB2c-4 Helldiver has made its way to Pensacola, FL, where it will be restored by the Naval Aviation Museum for display there.


  • For the past 55 years U-2 Dragon Lady crews have soared high above the earth collecting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information to aid in the fight against enemy forces. Throughout the years, even with the advances in technology, the mission remained the same.
  • The Air Force's ongoing alternative fuels certification efforts took another step forward when a C-17 Globemaster III from Edwards Air Force Base, CA flew on all engines using jet fuel blended with a combination of traditional petroleum-based fuel, or JP-8, biofuel derived in part from animal fat, and synthetic fuel derived from coal.
  • The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA), designed and built for the U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF), completed a successful first flight after being configured for its tanker transport mission.
  • Reports from the Pentagon indicate that two Russian aircraft made low passes over a U.S. Navy frigate in the Barents sea earlier in the month.
  • The first flight testing program for the support and attack version of Eurocopter's Tiger HAD helicopter began at the company’s Albacete facility in Spain.

    Eurocopter Tiger HAD

  • The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) said that the world's only flyable Boeing B-29 Superfortress has returned to the skies just in time for the 2010 CAF AIRSHO at Midland International Airport.


  • Naval aviation’s sole helicopter technology test bed recently completed its first technology project, according to information from Naval Air Systems Command. A traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) was evaluated in an effort to reduce the risk of mid-air collisions.
  • The U.S. Air Force took delivery of its first production C-5M Super Galaxy during a ceremony at Lockheed Martin's Marietta, GA facility.

    C-5M Super Galaxy

  • The Pentagon suspended flight testing of all variants of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter after problems were discovered with software that controls the airplane's three fuel boost pumps. An additional issue was discovered with the auxiliary inlet door hinge during a post-flight inspection of the BF-1 STOVL aircraft. Flight testing resumed after the software glitch was resolved.
  • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) unveiled an unconventional configuration for UAVs ... the "Panther" tilt-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for tactical missions
  •  After 173 days in orbit, and an unofficial cat-and-mouse game with amateur sky watchers, the X-37B dropped out of sight again.
  • The U.S. Army gave the go-ahead to Boeing to begin Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) for the U.S. Army’s AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter.
  • In a of the airborne laser being developed as part of a missile defense program, the target was successfully acquired and tracked by the equipment aboard a specially-modified B747 off Point Magu, CA, but the megawatt class lethal chemical laser fail ed to switch on to destroy it.


  • The U.S. military is increasingly relying on unmanned aerial systems for surveillance and combat, but with increasing concerns about the need to gather intelligence in more contested airspace, the Pentagon said it needs more technically advanced UAVs.
  • EADS and Airbus said they have concluded negotiations with OCCAR and the seven A400M launch customer nations.
  • A rare F4U-1 "Birdcage" Corsair was raised from the bottom of Lake Michigan. It will eventually be displayed at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL.

    Birdcage Corsair

  • The first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, the U.S. Navy’s first stealth fighter, arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, MD.
  • Alaska Air National Guard search and rescue crews have found the apparent wreckage of an F-22 Raptor that was assigned to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf in Alaska. The jet lost contact with air traffic control at1940 local time while on a routine training mission.
  • Moving closer to achieving the objective of decreasing its need for petroleum-based fuels, the Navy flew an MH60S Sea Hawk on a 50/50 biofuel blend in Patuxent River, MD.
  • A civilian airplane which went down while supporting a military exercise in Central Florida apparently lost its right wing prior to impact according to the NTSB.


  • The Navy is facing a significant challenge with the F135 engine developed by Pratt & Whitney for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ... they can't get spare engines to an aircraft carrier by air or sea.
  • The U.S. Air Force's first unmanned re-entry spacecraft landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
  •  After 37 years of service, the RAAF retired its fleet of F-111 fighters. The twin-engine swing-wing aircraft was introduced to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1973.
  • The Air Force announced the assignment of Senior Executive Service member and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John "Jack" L. Hudson as Director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
  • The second of three company-funded Armed Aerial Scout 72X Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA) completed its first flight. The flight took place at the company’s American Eurocopter facility in Grand Prairie, Texas and lasted 40 minutes.

    Armed Aerial Scout 72X

  • The first production F135 Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) engine for the F-35 Lightning II was delivered.
  • The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation announced its Board of Directors for the 2011 Centennial events.
FMI: www.aero-news.net


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