US-Saudi arms deal to go into effect


Barring unlikely 11th-hour objections, a 60-billion-dollar US arms sale to Saudi Arabia was set Friday to go into effect despite initial worries from US lawmakers over its impact on Israeli security.

The Pentagon unveiled plans for the sale on October 20, and the US Congress had 30 days to move to block or change the terms of the transaction, which partly aims to help Saudi Arabia counter Iran’s regional influence.

“Thirty days are up at the end of today, after which the administration may proceed. There is no sign that Congress will block the sale,” said a Senate Foreign Relations Committee spokeswoman, Jennifer Berlin.

House Republicans did not plan to object to the sale, aides said.

The plan allows for the sale of 84 F-15 fighter jets, 70 Apache attack helicopters, 72 tactical Black Hawk helicopters and 36 light helicopters, as well as upgrades for 70 used F-15s, according to the US State Department.

The F-15 is not the newest fighter out there but the Saudis will get the same specification as recent US sales of similar aircraft to South Korea and Singapore.

The delivery of the weapons to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, thought to be the largest ever single US arms sale, would be spread over 15 to 20 years.

US defense officials said the deal had been in the works for months with the Saudis, who have grown increasingly anxious about Iran’s missile arsenal.

The defense package also includes thousands of laser-guided smart bombs, including JDAMS, as well as Hellfire and Sidewinder missiles.


China: First AC311 Delivery In 2011

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Avicopter's AC311 helicopter

Helicopter manufacturer Avicopter aims to achieve certification next November and complete first deliveries for its light commercial helicopter, the AC311, before the end of 2011.

Avicopter President Wang Bin said the 2-metric-ton AC311 helicopter, which had its first flight on Nov. 8 near the Avicopter Tianjin assembly plant, has already secured orders from two Chinese police force customers. He said that the Guizhou city and Tianjin Binhai police forces have each ordered one AC311. Wang also says Avicopter plans to market the aircraft overseas. The multipurpose helicopter can also be used for law enforcement, search and rescue, flight training, tourism, VIP transport and aerial photography. The helicopter is designed for large-scale industrial production and will be competitively priced. It is the second civil helicopter produced by Avicopter.

Powered by one Honeywell LTS101-700D-2 turboshaft engine, the AC311 has a maximum takeoff weight of 2.2 metric tons and can seat six people. Avicopter says composite materials are widely used in “the design of the rotor head, main blades and tail blades.” Wang says the main cabin is made of composite materials, but the “tail structure is made of aluminum to keep the price down.”

In addition to the AC311, Avicopter is also designing a 1t helicopter, the AC310.

Navy to commission Newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer

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The Navy will commission its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, Gravely, during an 11 a.m. EST ceremony Nov. 20 in Wilmington, N.C.

Alma Gravely will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her late husband. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when she gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

Designated DDG 107, the new destroyer honors the late Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Gravely. Gravely was recalled to active duty in 1949. As part of the Navy’s response to President Harry S. Truman‘s executive order to desegregate the armed services, his initial assignment was as a Navy recruiter, recruiting African Americans in the Washington, D.C., area.

Gravely’s performance and leadership as an African American Naval officer demonstrated to America the value and strength of diversity. Gravely’s accomplishments served as watershed events for today’s Navy. He was the first African American to command a warship, USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD 717); to command a major warship, USS Jouett (DLG/CG-29); to achieve flag rank and eventually vice admiral; and to command a numbered fleet, which was U.S. 3rd Fleet.

Gravely is the 57th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The ship will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management, to sea control and power projection. Gravely will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” which postures the sea services to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests.

Source : US Navy

Falcon Aviation Services: The First S-76D Worldwide Launch Customer

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Last Nov. 17, Wednesday, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announced at the Dubai Air Show that Falcon Aviation Services (FAS) has contracted to purchase two Sikorsky S-76D helicopters, with options to purchase two more, becoming the worldwide launch customer for the new aircraft. Based in Abu Dhabi, FAS provides a wide array of helicopter and jet services, ranging from aerial tours to offshore oil and gas transport and corporate jet charter.

The delivery of the S-76D helicopters to FAS is scheduled in 2011. The aircraft will be configured for VIP corporate, helitaxi, and offshore oil and gas support missions. The S-76D helicopters will become the first Sikorsky aircraft in the FAS fleet, which currently numbers 21 helicopters and five corporate jets.

Carey Bond, President of Sikorsky Global Helicopters and Chief Marketing Officer, said “We are thrilled to become part of the FAS fleet and to have the opportunity to demonstrate the ability of the S-76D helicopter to excel in the Middle East environment.” Bond also said “This multi-mission helicopter represents the very latest in the long and highly successful line of S-76 aircraft.”

The S-76D helicopter’s features include all-composite, flaw-tolerant main rotor blades; an advanced Thales avionics system and autopilot; dual speed rotor with active vibration control; powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada 210S engines; a quiet mode for enhanced public acceptance; and an optional Rotor Ice Protection System (RIPS) for all-weather capability.

Formed in early 2006, Falcon Aviation Services was under the initiative of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan with the prime objective of filling the significant gaps in the aviation market through the provision of innovative products and services.

FAS also serves as a Sikorsky Service Center and is committed to delivering the highest level of aviation services that establish benchmark standards in terms of safety, quality and customer service. FAS is a founding board member of the Middle East Business Aircraft Association (MEBAA).

RAF received its seventh C-17 Globemaster III

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Boeing delivered the United Kingdom’s seventh C-17 Globemaster III to the Royal Air Force (RAF) last Tuesday during a ceremony at Boeing’s final assembly facility in Long Beach.

“The addition of a seventh C-17 to our fleet is a significant milestone that strengthens our support of operations worldwide, especially in Afghanistan,” said Peter Luff, UK Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology. “And next year, in May, we’ll mark the 10th anniversary of the delivery of the RAF’s first C-17, which continues to perform superbly — anytime and anywhere.”

The United Kingdom’s fleet of C-17s has logged more than 60,000 flight hours, and this year supported humanitarian and disaster-relief missions to Pakistan, Haiti and Chile. Assigned to 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton near Oxford, C-17s provide critical airlift capability for the nation’s Joint Rapid Reaction Force. Brize Norton is the RAF’s main operating base for strategic air transport and air-to-air refueling.

The C-17 is the world’s only tactical airlift aircraft with strategic capabilities that allow it to fly between continents and land on short, austere runways.

“The C-17 provides rapid-response capability for relief missions where no other strategic airlifter can land,” said Rick Heerdt, Boeing vice president and C-17 program manager. “We are proud to be your partner on every one of those missions.”

In a related topic,Barack Obama announced this month that India and the United States have reached a preliminary agreement for the Indian Air Force to acquire 10 C-17s.

- Boeing -

Missing F-22’s Crash Site Found

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Another USAF F-22 was lost due to an accident, this one crashing during a training mission while operating from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The fate of the pilot was not yet known. The F-22, on a nighttime training mission, lost contact with air traffic control around 7:40 p.m. local time. The crash site was found 100 mi. north of Anchorage, the USAF says.

This is the fourth loss of an F-22 airframe. The last F-22 crashed on March 25, 2009 when the Lockheed Martin test pilot, while flying at Edwards AFB, California, almost lost consciousness during a high-g maneuver and failed to pull the aircraft out of a steep, high-speed dive in time to recover. The pilot was killed immediately by windblast forces when he ejected from the F-22 at 765 knots equivalent airspeed, roughly 150 knots above the Aces II ejection seat’s design limits, U.S. Air Force accident investigators said.

The 2009 mishap occurred on the third of three high-speed, high-g test runs to evaluate how opening the side weapons bay affects aircraft performance. The tests involved rolling inverted at Mach 1.6 and 25,000 feet, performing half of a split-S maneuver, then rolling upright and pulling out of the dive. Investigators believe that because of inadequate anti-g straining the pilot suffered “almost” g-induced loss of consciousness (A-LOC) and lost situational awareness, allowing the aircraft to enter a steep, high-speed dive from which recovery was not possible. Anti-g straining squeezes the heart and keeps blood flowing to the head. The pilot’s technique was evaluated as ineffective based on an audio recording. While he did not lose consciousness, his attention became focused on fighting off the symptoms of A-LOC.

Relatively incapacitated, the pilot did not begin the recovery immediately on completing the third test. The F-22 rapidly lost altitude as the dive angle steepened. At 14,800 feet, 83 degree nose-low and Mach 1.49, the pilot rolled the aircraft upright, but it was too late. Investigators say the escape system functioned as designed, but the ejection speed was beyond anything seen even in sled testing. The ACES II seat is designed for a maximum 600 knot ejection speed, but there is an 80 percent chance of major or fatal injury above 550 knots.

The first F-22 airframe loss occurred in 1992, when a prototype YF-22 crashed at Edwards, during which the pilot survived without ejecting. The second was during the aircraft’s test and evaluation period in December 2004, at Nellis AFB, Nevada, during which the pilot ejected safely. In January, the F-22 fleet was briefly grounded when rust was discovered in components of the ejection seat system.

Growlers began validation with NSAWC

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Two airborne electronic attack aircraft, EA-18G “Growler,” recently began validation with Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center’s newest training department, the Airborne Electronic Attack Weapons School (AEAWS) .

NSAWC’s  AEAWS department will provide training to the fleets electronic attack squadrons with the techniques, tactics and procedures to ensure aviation superiority in the electronic attack and air-to-air arena.

“NSAWC has been working closely with Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Wash., and Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific (COMVAQWINGPAC) toward the goal of establishing a training center here in Fallon since 2006,” said Cmdr. Peter Fey. “Commander Chris Bieber spearheaded most of this, but it’s really come to fruition in the past year,” said Fey.

Since October 2009, we’ve had the instructors show up to start working issues. Now we’ve got the airplanes to validate all the work they’ve done including building scenarios, flights, simulations and lectures.”

Growler training at NSAWC will be similar to the older EA-6B “Prowler” training program, with emphasis on electronic attack protection and the inclusion of Top Gun lectures covering the air–to-air arena. Because it is now at NSAWC, vice Whidbey, the style of training will be run similar to the Top Gun program.

The Growler is the Navy’s replacement aircraft for the Prowler as it is enters its fourth decade of service. Its many capabilities include achieving optimum flight speed of Mach 1.8, offensive electronic jamming, electronic emission detection, monitoring, classification and electronic suppression of enemy air defenses.

“The Growler is basically an ICAP III Prowler stuffed inside an FA-18F,” said Fey. “Boeing and Northrop Grumman essentially combined the two proven systems to make this airplane. It has the same functionality of the latest and greatest Prowler, coupled with the great airframe provided by the FA-18.

Along with its state-of the-art weapons systems, it is highly economical by retaining 90 percent common parts with the F/A-18/F Super Hornets and reducing the operating crew size by 50 percent.

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Egyptian Air Force F-16s Going to be Powered by Pratt and Whitney

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A contract for $46 million to provide F100-PW-229 Enhanced Engine Package (EEP) engines to power the Egyptian Air Force’s new fleet of 20 F-16 aircraft was awarded to Pratt & Whitney. This contract covers engines to support the initial aircraft production for the Egyptian Air Force’s F-16 Block 52 aircraft purchase. The F100-PW-229 EEP is the latest evolution of Pratt & Whitney’s F100 family and plans to begin deliveries of the said engines will be in 2011.

Bill Begert, vice president of Business Development for Pratt & Whitney, said “We are honored The Egyptian Air Force has chosen to return to Pratt & Whitney to provide power for their new F-16 fighters.” Begert also said “We believe the capability, safety and reliability of the F100-PW-229 EEP engine, coupled with Pratt & Whitney’s commitment to the readiness of the Egyptian Air Force, offer unmatched operating performance. We look forward to continuing our long and successful relationship.”

The F100-PW-229 engine provides the Egyptian Air Force a lower total cost of ownership and an outstanding record of safety. Incorporating the latest technologies, this propulsion system provides advanced, dependable power for F-16 fighter aircraft around the world.

To date, the F100-PW-229 powered aircraft fleet has logged more than 1.7 million flight hours in more than 18 years of operational service. Incorporation of the F100-PW-229 EEP increases the engine depot inspection interval from seven to 10 years, providing up to a 30 percent life cycle cost reduction over the life of the engine. The EEP offers significant safety benefits; reducing the predicted in-flight shutdown rate by up to 25 percent. The F100-PW-229 is the only fighter engine funded and qualified by the U.S. Air Force to the 6,000 cycle capability.

Navy’s P-8 order gives new life to old bomber plant

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A Seattle building in which Boeing once churned out B-29 Superfortress bombers and early 737 airliners is now combining those defense and 737 heritages, serving as the production facility for Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-based P-8 program.

“Six months ago this was an abandoned warehouse,” Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president and manager of the company’s P-8A Poseidon program, said in formally opening the plant Thursday. “We’ve gone full circle with bringing the 737 conversion back into this space.”

The Navy is slated to buy 117 P-8As to replace the Lockheed Electra-based P-3 Orion, a turboprop aircraft that has been the Navy’s frontline, land-based maritime patrol aircraft since the 1960s, taking on anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Boeing also has a contract to sell eight P-8I variants to India and is talking with other potential buyers, including Saudi Arabia, Canada, Singapore and Italy.

“This is one of the most important and formidable weapons systems that our Department of Defense is developing right now,” Navy Rear Admiral Steven Eastburg, program executive officer for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs, said Thursday.

“This program is well-positioned to deliver on its promises,” Eastburg said, noting that the latest cost projection is 3 percent below initial estimates. “The P-8 program is very quickly becoming the DoD and industry standard for how to do acquisition right.”

Boeing builds the P-8s at a 737 production line in Renton and sends them to the new facility, at Boeing Field, for systems installation and testing.

A first phase, finished about a month ago, created space in the new plant for two aircraft. The second phase, set to start in January, will expand the capacity to 10, although the plant will probably have seven at a time, spokesman Chick Ramey said.

Boeing expects to move 15 to 18 P-8s a month through the plant, including 13 for the Navy and others for foreign customers, and could go up to 24, Dabundo said. The plant’s workforce will expand from about 160 to around 600 at full capacity, including P-8 program offices.

The new building obviously wasn’t purpose-built for the P-8. One giveaway is the extremely tight clearance between the vertical tail and ceiling and between the wings, walls and beams running down the middle of the plant.


China Challenges Boeing and Airbus with Its Own Large Jetliner

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Next week, Beijing will show off a full-scale mockup of its 156-seat C919 passenger plane at an air show hoping to compete with Boeing and Airbus, the world’s only manufacturers of large commercial aircraft. Some well-known U.S. companies are already offering help.

Slated for production by 2016, the 156-seat, single-aisle C919 passenger plane would have its fuselage emblazoned with Comac, the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China.

But inside, the most crucial systems would bear the trademarks of some of the biggest names in Western aviation. Honeywell International Inc. will supply power units, on-board computing systems, wheels and brakes; Rockwell Collins Inc. will handle navigation systems; GE Aviation is building the avionics; Eaton Corp. is involved with fuel and hydraulics; and Parker Aerospace of Irvine is responsible for flight controls. Powering the aircraft will be two fuel-efficient engines built by CFM International, a company co-owned by GE and French conglomerate Safran.

However, this has placed U.S. and European suppliers in a tough spot: Be willing to hand over advanced technology to Chinese firms that could one day be rivals or miss out on what’s likely to be the biggest aviation bonanza of the next half a century. Honeywell alone has snagged contracts worth more than $11 billion for the project.

A C919 jumbo jet model displayed at Hong Kong's Asian Aerospace International Expo

Roger Seager, GE Aviation’s vice president and general manager for China, said he was confident that his company could protect its intellectual property. But the rapid rise of another Chinese transport industry — high-speed rail — challenges that notion. After sharing technology and expertise to help China develop a network of gleaming bullet trains, Japanese and European rail firms now find themselves competing with their former Chinese joint-venture partners for new contracts, both inside and outside China. Still, Seager said it’s crucial for his company to get into China now.

“If they launch a commercial aviation industry, you’ve got to be part of it,” said Seager, whose company has garnered contracts worth about $6 billion for the C919. “You can’t take a pass and come back in 10 years. You’ve got to jump in with both feet now…. We would be remiss if we weren’t trying to be part of their growth.”

The aircraft’s builders are so confident; the first “9″ in the jetliner’s name was picked because it sounds like “forever” in Chinese. Also, China is already a major assembler and parts supplier for some of the world’s best-known aircraft. Airbus’ A320s reach their final assembly in the northern port city of Tianjin. Half of Boeing’s fleet of 12,000 airplanes includes components made in China. About 600,000 Chinese workers are employed in aerospace, about as many as in the United States.

Still, the C919‘s success is anything but assured. Japan, South Korea and Indonesia all failed in their attempts to build large jets. Repeated delays in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and recent problems with the Airbus A380‘s engine show that even the most experienced players can stumble.

China has struggled to build its own aircraft for decades. Comac will soon roll out its first regional jet, the 78-seat ARJ21 Soaring Phoenix. Chinese officials have hailed it as a breakthrough. But experts said the ARJ21 could have a tough time competing outside China against cutting-edge models from Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer.

Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing, said “I don’t think there’s any question Comac will deliver a successful airplane,” later adding “How successful? It’s hard to say. Clearly there’s room for us to grow, Airbus to grow and one or more competitors…. We have an advantage. We have built more airplanes than anyone else.”


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