Boeing awarded nearly $1bn for more A-10 wing replacements

The US Air Force (USAF) awarded Boeing a contract worth up to $999 billion for 27 wing replacements for the service’s Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, with the option to order 85 more sets over the contract’s 11-year period.

Some 173 aircraft out of the service’s fleet of 283 A-10s already have new wings retrofitted and this contract will cover replacements for the rest, says Boeing. The USAF said in early August that it had just recently finished installing those 173 sets of wings on its A-10s, completing the $1.1 billion Enhanced Wing Assembly replacement programme which started in 2011.

For this latest contract, Boeing will manage the production of up to 112 wing sets and spare kits. Some retrofit work will be performed by Korean Aerospace Industries in South Korea, with the rest done at Hill AFB in Utah.

The USAF introduced the A-10 in 1976 as a close air support aircraft. It is heavily armed, with one 30mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun and up to 7,200kg (16,000lb) of mixed ordnance, according to Boeing.

A-10 production ended in 1984, but the Enhanced Wing Assembly replacement programme was designed to prolong the lifespan of the aircraft into the late 2030s. Wings from that programme are supposed to last for 10,000h of flight before needing a depot inspection.

Work on the latest batch of A-10 wing retrofits is expected to be complete by 23 August 2030, says the USAF. The service says one other manufacturer unsuccessfully bid against Boeing for the contract, though it did not name the company.

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Sikorsky awarded $542m to build six ‘Marine One’ helicopters

Sikorsky was awarded a $542 million contract from the US Navy (USN) to build six production VH-92A Presidential Helicopters, an aircraft which will be known by the call sign “Marine One” when the president of the USA flies aboard.

The helicopters are part of low rate initial production lot 1. The total Presidential Helicopter programme of record calls for 23 aircraft to be managed and flown by the US Marine Corps (USMC). Sikorsky will deliver the first six production helicopters between 2021 and 2023. The contract also provides for spares and training support.

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VH-92A helicopter conducting test flights over the south lawn of the White House


The USN reached a Milestone C decision on 30 May to move from the aircraft’s development programme into production. Prior to that decision, the VH-92A test aircraft located at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland underwent Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) testing and operations assessments, including landing and taking off from the south lawn of the White House without damaging the grass, says the USN. The VH-92A has flown more than 520 flight test hours in total.

NAVAIR plans to continue to validate system performance and prepare for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in mid-2020 and Initial Operational Capability in late 2020.

The presidential helicopters are based on the commercial Sikorsky S-92A, a twin-engined, medium-lift helicopter. The new helicopters will replace the current USMC fleet of VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft.

Sikorsky’s parent company, Lockheed Martin, delivered and installed the first VH-92A training device at the Presidential Helicopter Squadron at USMC Base Quantico in Virginia, earlier this year. The flight simulator is a replica of the VH-92A cockpit that aims to give pilots mission-oriented flight training, says the company.

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General Atomics awarded $123m to produce four Dutch MQ-9 Reapers

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems was awarded a $123 million contract by the Pentagon to manufacture four MQ-9 Block 5 Reapers for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The contract has been anticipated for a while, as the US State Department approved the sale in 2015 and Amsterdam officially announced the order in July 2018 at the Farnborough air show in the United Kingdom.

The contract provides for four unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), four mobile ground control stations, spares and support equipment.

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General Atomics MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper

General Atomics

The Netherlands is interested in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the drone. Dutch crews began training on the Reaper in January 2019.

Work will be performed predominately at General Atomics’ headquarters and manufacturing plant in Poway, California. The UAVs are expected to be complete by the end of 2020.

In August, the US Air Force made its first-ever automated landing of the MQ-9 Block 5. General Atomics says automatic landing, as well as the UAV’s automatic takeoff capabilities, enhances safety and increase efficiency.

The sale to the Netherlands of the MQ-9 Block 5 comes as General Atomics has been having success in Europe selling another variant of the Reaper, the MQ-9B SkyGaurdian. That drone is designed to meet NATO standards and pending Federal Aviation Administration approval could eventually meet global civil airworthiness certification standards.

The Royal Air Force has ordered the MQ-9B SkyGaurdian as part of its Protector RG Mk1 programme, and is scheduled to receive the aircraft in the early 2020s. Belgium also chose the SkyGuardian and the UAV is being considered by the Royal Australian Air Force.

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Global 7500 awarded European type certification

Bombardier has secured European type certification for the Global 7500, clearing the way for deliveries of the ultra-long-range business jet to begin in the region.

The aviation authority issued the validation on 6 February, three months after US certification was awarded for the 7,900nm- (14,200km)-range flagship, and seven weeks after the first example entered service.

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The Canadian airframer has over 110 orders for the GE Aviation Passport-powered Global 7500. Although it is unclear how many of these are destined for European operators, Bombardier brand ambassador and former Formula 1 racing driver Niki Lauda is believed to be an early recipient.

Production is sold out through 2021. The company forecasts deliveries of between 15 and 20 aircraft in 2019 and 35-40 in 2020.

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Sikorsky awarded $717m to maintain CH-53 heavy lift helicopters

Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky was awarded a $717 million contract to maintain the US Navy and Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallions and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter fleet.

The performance-based logistics contract includes repairs, overhauls, spares, obsolescence mitigation and asset management services over 50 months, ending in December 2022, according to a Department of Defense notice last month and the company’s website on 5 November. Sikorsky’s contract performance will be judged on material availability metrics with additional incentives added for demand reductions, maintainability enhancements and aircraft readiness contributions.

The contract covers logistics and repair support for 98 components, including main and tail rotor blades, main gearbox, main rotor head, flight control components as well as accessories such as refueling probe and cargo system components, according to the DoD notice.

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Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion


Sikorsky expects the performance-based contract to improve material availability and reduce support cost while increasing overall aircraft readiness, says Pierre Garant, Sikorsky senior program manager for USMC in-service programmes.

The CH-53E Super Stallion is compatible with most of the USMC’s amphibious class ships and is designed to transport heavy materials and supplies. The MH-53E Sea Dragon performs long-range mine-sweeping missions, in addition to heavy-lift duties, for the USN.

There are some 144 CH-53E Super Stallions in service with the US military, almost entirely with the USMC, and have an average age of 32.6 years old, according to Flight Fleets Analyzer. The USN has 27 MH-53E Sea Dragon in service with an average age of 31.7 years.

The maintenance contract is aimed at sustaining the USMC’s fleet until it can be replaced by Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion, a larger and more powerful version of the CH-53E Super Stallion. The first of the type was delivered to the USMC in May 2018, a second delivery is expected in early 2019, with 200 of the helicopters anticipated to be delivered in total.

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P&W awarded $437m for further development of adaptive jet engine

Pratt & Whitney was awarded a $437 million contract modification by the US Air Force to further develop its adaptive jet engine design, a propulsion system for a future sixth-generation fighter.

The contract comes after the United Technologies-owned manufacturer’s competition for developing the new engine, GE Aviation, was awarded a $437 million contract modification on 29 June by the USAF. The two companies are competing in the Adaptive Engine Transition programme, an effort to develop a sixth-generation fighter propulsion system, which might also be used to replace the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine in the F-35 in the mid-2020s.

An adaptive turbine jet engine can change the volume of air that flows to its core or bypass by opening and channeling air from a third stream. The USAF believes such a design can improve fuel consumption of an engine by 25%, increasing range and reducing in-flight refueling requirements. It also could deliver additional air flow through the core for higher thrust and cooling air.

“In addition to providing a seamless transition between high thrust and fuel efficiency, adaptive propulsion can enable an unprecedented range of capability growth in mission systems and heat dissipation capacity at the air vehicle level,” says Chris Flynn, vice president of military development programmes at Pratt & Whitney.

The USAF has been developing the technology behind the adaptive engine concept since 2007 when it launched its Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology programme. Pratt & Whitney said it is using knowledge gained from design and test activities completed as part of that programme to push forward its current efforts.

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