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Fri, Jan 04, 2013

ANN 2012 Year In Review: Military Aviation

Embraer Wins, Then Loses LAS Competition, The Air Force Clears The F-22, And The X-37B Makes Its Third Trip To Space

Embraer was on a roller coaster ride this year when it won the LAS competition from the Air Force, and then had the deal pulled after a protest from Hawker Beechcraft. That issue is still unresolved. The Air Force also said it had ironed out its problems with the beleaguered F-22 Raptor, but not before some pilots went public on national television. The X-37B returned to space, and the X-47B went to sea. those are just a few of the top stories in Military Aviation from 2012. 


Although it was pretty much a formality after the alternate engine program was scrapped last year by GE and Rolls-Royce ... the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Pratt & Whitney an undefinitized contract award (UCA) not to exceed $1,122,306,649 for F135 production engines to power the F-35 Lightning II.

The Air Force announced that the Super Tucano had been selected as its Light Air Support aircraft, and would be built at Jacksonville International Airport in Northeast Florida. Embraer has partnered with Sierra Nevada Corporation to build the airplane.

In an effort to save some $15 billion over five years, the Pentagon said it was considering a production delay for about 120 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the third schedule re-vamp in as many years.

The Inspector General for the Pentagon said that the recent purchase of a fleet of Mi-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan was mishandled by the Department of Defense.

With the Light Air Support (LAS) program on hold as a suit brought by Hawker Beechcraft makes its way through the legal system, both sides are taking the skirmish public, and both say the argument is principally over jobs.

The Air Force had reportedly decided to pull funding for the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk program, and extending the life of the cold-war-vintage U-2 through at least 2020.


The Pentagon announced that it had suspended high-speed ground and flight operations of more than 15 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets after discovering improperly packed parachutes under the pilot's ejection seat.

As the winner of the U.S. Air Force Light Air Support (LAS) competition, Sparks, NV-Based Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) issued a point-by-point rebuttal of what it says is misinformation being spread by the disqualified contender for the contract.

Bell Helicopter said it was updating its civilian helicopter line as a hedge against maturing military contracts, at the same time the Pentagon said it would cut 24 aircraft, worth $1.75 billion, from its five-year budget for the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey program.

The Air Force said that the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) has completed the key MDA Knowledge Points, and has transitioned into long-term storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, AZ.

After more than 40 years of service, the Marine Corps retired the aging CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter during a “sundown ceremony” at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

February 24th marked the first anniversary of the Boeing KC-46 Tanker program receiving a U.S. Air Force contract to build the next-generation aerial refueling tanker, the KC-46A.


Officials at the Aeronautical Systems Center a Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio issued a Military Flight Release that will allow the F-35A Lightning II fighter to begin initial operations at Eglin Air Force Base, FL.

Air Force Chief of Gen. Staff Norton Schwartz said that the service would move quickly to re-open the bidding for the LAS contract which was abruptly cancelled.

The first production P-8A Poseidon aircraft was handed over to the U.S. Navy in Seattle. The P-8A is the first of 13 anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft Boeing will deliver.

An X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle passed one year in orbit, with no indication from the Air Force when it will return the unmanned spacecraft to earth.

The U.S. Air Force modified the emergency oxygen activation system in the F-22 after some pilots have reported to have felt light-headed during flight, and one airplane went down during a training exercise in Alaska, fatally injuring the pilot.

Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt & Whitney’s Military Engines division, and Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice president and program manager, KC-46 Tanker Program, hosted a ceremonial engine contract signing event at Boeing’s Tanker Program Office in Mukilteo, WA, for contracts previously awarded to Pratt & Whitney.

The Senate confirmed Air Force Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger for promotion March 26, making her the first female four-star general in Air Force history.


Air Force leaders provided an update on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board study into the F-22 Raptor life support systems and flight operations during a briefing at the Pentagon.

More than 1,200 distinguished visitors filled the Patrol Squadron 30 hangar at Naval Air Station Jacksonville to celebrate the first fleet delivery of the P-8A Poseidon multi-mission aircraft.

The Airbus Military A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport made its maiden flight in service with the UK Royal Air Force.

An accident involving an MV-22 Osprey fatally injured two Marines, and left two others with severe injuries.

The USAF is exploring options in its effort to reduce the amount of fuel used across its 4,693 aircraft fleet. With the recent price increase in oil, the Air Force is seeing a $1 billion increase in fuel cost for 2012.


The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, announced the commanding officer for the 2013-14 seasons during a press conference at the National Aviation Museum.

Some Air Force pilots said they would not fly the F-22 Raptor while problems with the oxygen system remained unresolved, even though the move could cost them their careers. Pilots who refuse such orders face disciplinary action as severe as discharge from the service.

Airbus Military received the initial type certification for the A400M new generation airlifter, marking a key milestone on the road to first delivery around the turn of the year.

In an interview aired by the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, two of the pilots who refused to fly the F-22 due to concerns about the oxygen system spoke out about those concerns.

Air Force officials instituted measures designed to protect its pilots, ensure mission completion and assess the possible physiological effects of flying the F-22 Raptor, the command surgeon for Air Combat Command said.

The Marine Corps' fifth generation fighter, the F-35B Lightning II, made its first flight at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, signaling the start of the next era of Marine Aviation on the cusp of last weekend's Centennial of Marine Aviation celebrations in Washington D.C.


Boeing's Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system (UAS) completed its first autonomous flight June 1 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. The 28-minute flight began at 0622 PDT time as the liquid-hydrogen powered aircraft lifted off its launch cart.

U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, who became a symbol of the Cold War after being shot down while flying a mission over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star by the Pentagon.

The first major phase of flight testing the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft came to a successful conclusion when Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy wrapped up testing at Edwards Air Force Base, CA.

The wreckage of an airplane discovered on an Alaska glacier was determined to be that of an Air Force C-124A Globemaster which went down in 1952.


The U.S. military said it would go ahead with the deployment of a dozen MV-22 Osprey aircraft at American bases in Japan despite local protests and ordinances which strongly oppose the move.

In what officials describe as "a prudent measure," all military C-130 aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System were placed on operational hold after one of the aircraft went down Sunday, July 1. They returned to flight after a one-day standdown.

Despite an ongoing investigation and orders for F22 Raptor pilots to stay close to available emergency landing site, another pilot was stricken with hypoxia-like symptoms.

For more than 25 years, the Canadian government has been working to replace its aging fleet of Sea King helicopters.

On June 28, the 40th Flight Test Squadron flew the first aircraft to use a new fuel blend derived from alcohol at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.


The Navy made Pax River history with the historic first flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator. The tailless, unmanned aircraft launched from Patuxent River NAS in Maryland (Pax River) and flew for a planned 35 minutes.

Following months of life support systems components testing in the F-22 Raptor, officials had "determined with confidence" the source of previously unexplained physiological incidents, the director of operations for the Air Force's Air Combat Command said at a Pentagon news conference.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley announced that Luke AFB has been chosen as the location of the Air Force's F-35A Lightning II pilot training center.

The 302nd Fighter Squadron became home to a Congressional Gold Medal in Aviation. Tuskegee Airman retired Col. Charles McGee presented his personal medal to Col. Bryan Radliff, 477th Fighter Group commander during the 41st Annual Tuskegee Airmen Convention in Las Vegas, NV.

In its first flight, the Army's hybrid air vehicle known as the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV, stayed aloft over Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ, for more than 90 minutes.

Maj. Jay Spohn became the Guard's first F-35 Lightning II instructor pilot recently at Eglin's multi-service, multi-national F-35 Integrated Training Center.

The Marine Corps concluded its investigation into an accident involving a V-22 Osprey in the Kingdom of Morocco which resulted in the fatal injury of two marines in April of this year. Two others were seriously injured.


Diamond rolled out a new version of the DA42 Guardian at the ILA Berlin. Equipped with a COMINT system from Rohde & Schwarz the DA42 remote sensing platform reliably detects, identifies and locates radio signals.

Airbus Military reconfirmed that it will deliver the first four new generation A400M airlifters to customers in 2013 as planned, following the development of solutions to the recent engine issue, which prevented the A400M from participating in the Farnborough Air Show flying display.

Air Force officials began their F-35A Lightning II Operational Utility Evaluation September 10, an instrumental step in beginning Joint Strike Fighter pilot and maintenance training for the service.

Northrop Grumman Corporation and AgustaWestland signed a comprehensive teaming agreement to respond to anticipated requests for both the new Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter and the Navy’s recently announced program to develop a new “Marine One” Presidential Helicopter.

Photos leaked out of China suggest the country is developing a second stealth fighter that has similarities with both the F-35 Lighting II and the F-22 Raptor.

A Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper RPA successfully completed 106 full-stop Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) landings, a first for the multi-mission aircraft.

The Air Force KC-46A program director described the critical development phases of the next-generation refueling aircraft during the 2012 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The KC-46A tanker program could fall victim to automatic budget cuts that are possible this winter, but it is not certain that the program would be stopped.


The Army was refining an initial capabilities document for a new fixed-wing utility aircraft that is designed to replace more than 112 airframes with a common platform. The new platform should be able to perform a range of key mission sets and services, officials said.

Twelve TG-10B (L-23 Super Blanik) gliders from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs now belong to Civil Air Patrol. The recent Air Force transfer of the aircraft to CAP is a boost to the Air Force auxiliary’s glider program.

Northrop Grumman, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations, moving DARPA's Autonomous High-Altitude Refueling (AHR) program closer to demonstrating the first autonomous aerial refueling between two unmanned, high-altitude aircraft.

Engine core testing for the ADaptive Versatile ENgine Technology (ADVENT) program with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory got underway at GE Aviation’s headquarters in Evendale, Ohio.

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to negotiate with Sikorsky Aircraft for the helicopter that will eventually replace the country's aging fleet of Sea Kings.

A modified version of the Russian Kamov Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopter was undergoing flight testing and warfare trials with the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet.

Nearly 70 years ago, British forces buried dozens of Spitfire fighter aircraft in Burma to keep them out of the hands of invading Japanese forces. The aircraft, properly crated and preserved, have lain hidden underground in Burma ever since.

EADS searched for a U.S. defense contractor that will help the European aerospace giant pitch a new armed helicopter to the U.S. military, and says it had already spent tens of millions of dollars to develop the aircraft for a competition that has not yet been announced.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition has posted the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) Request for Proposal (RFP) to the Federal Business Opportunities website, signaling the official launch of this high priority Air Force acquisition program.


China's new J-31 stealth fighter reportedly flew for 11 minutes, according to reports from that country's state-run media. Deployment of the airplane is likely still years away.

The fifth production P-8A Poseidon aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Navy. The P-8A is one of 24 low-rate initial production (LRIP) maritime patrol aircraft that Boeing is building for the Navy as part of contracts awarded in 2011 and 2012.

The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron the Blue Angels held the squadron's change of command ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum on Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, FL, Nov. 4.

Boeing said the day after the election that it is rotating assignments for several executives in its Defense, Space & Security unit, and plans reductions in the number of executives on its payroll.

U.S. Air Force Academy Dean of the Faculty Brig. Gen. Dana Born plans to retire during the summer of 2013, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould announced Nov. 8. Born, a 1983 Academy graduate, has served as the Academy's ninth dean of the faculty since Oct. 1, 2004.

There was another delay in the scheduled launch of the third X-37B space plane mission, according to the United Launch Alliance website.

The U.S. Navy released a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) beginning once again the process of replacing the helicopters which transport the President under the "Marine One" call sign.

A team from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program office (PMA-268) embarked aboard the U.S.S. Truman to conduct tests and demonstrations of the X-47B unmanned aerial system.

China's new aircraft carrier reportedly saw its first flight operations recently as a J-15 aircraft was been shown taking off and landing on the deck of the ship.



The U.S. Navy, along with Northrop Grumman, conducted the first catapult launch of an unmanned system using the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator. Later in the month, the aircraft completed its first at-sea test phase aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

The British Spitfire airplanes that were discovered buried in crates in Burma could be flying again in three years, according to experts close to the recovery effort. The airplanes, thought to be rare Mark XIV Spitfires, were interred in August of 1945 as the Second World War was coming to an end.

Army officials are reportedly backing a plan to replace the long-serving OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter, rather than try to extend the life of the existing aircraft which first flew during the Vietnam era. If a new aircraft is pursued, it will be the Army's third attempt to procure a replacement.

The world's first production Optionally-Piloted Aircraft (OPA) system was delivered by Aurora Flight Sciences to Switzerland's Department of Defense.

In the skies east of San Jose, CA, a Black Hawk helicopter was seen flying low and slow. And while there were pilots aboard the aircraft, all maneuvers during this flight were being conducted autonomously.

The U.S. Air Force successfully launched its third X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. The launch from Cape Canaveral's (FL) Launch Complex 41 comes on the heels of the successful flight of OTV-2, which made an autonomous landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, June 11 after a record 469 days in space.

Five major defense contractors said they have pulled out of an Air Force competition to produce 112 new SAR helicopters, saying the bidding process is unfair. But the Air Force says the requirements for the helicopter will drive the competition.



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