Although the AgustaWestland AW101 VVIP helicopter is at the centre of a controversary in Italy and India regarding alleged corruption at parent Finmecanica, it is worth remembering that this helo is a damn fine ride. AgustaWestland passed me these images at last year's LIMA air show.
April 2012 Archives
The Aviationist blog has posted a video about an intriguing UAV with a submachine gun, apparently posted in Russia.
While the clip is certainly entertaining - "I don't think I recognise any of those guys, let's take them out" and "That was awesome! Look at the guy's head rolling down the hill" - I can't vouch for the authenticity of the of the UAV itself.
I cannot discern empty cartridges falling out of the UAV, and why do the mannequins explode? I also can't make out exactly how the ammo in the 100 round clip gets into the gun. The operator also seems fairly casual on the safety front. Say the thing flies out of control, gun blazing away at full automatic? And when he is casually shooting up that gasoline, he doesn't seem to worry that it will set off the explosive charges this thing allegedly carries - which are later demonstrated when he uses the UAV to blow up a car.
On the other hand, there does appear to be a distinct recoil when the gun is firing.
Anyway, the clip reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague at Flight a few years back about the possibility of mounting guns on UAVs. I have seen videos of shotguns and grenade launchers on smaller systems, such as the one depicted in this video, but as far as I'm aware there are no plans extant to mount a gun on a bigger system, such as a Scan Eagle or a Predator .
A gun-armed UAV would have some big advantages. The system would have more flexibility, capable of hitting a point target, such as a single person or the engine block of a vehicle, without expending large, expensive guided munitions. A sort of sniper in the sky.
The main challenge would probably be mounting it. The best option would to have a side firing system similar to the AC-130, operating on the principle that it is easier for an aircraft to blast a target while circling it rather than flying straight at it. Apparently the AC-130's software consistently achieves first round accuracy, something which could be scaled down for a UAV-mounted gun system.
While the Charlene UAV depicted in the video may not be the real deal, the 'guns on UAV' space is definitely one ripe for fascinating development.
I was intrigued to learn that UK farmer David Cundall may have located 20 or more Spitfires in Myanmar, buried in their original shipping crates. If the discovery turns out to be the real deal, it makes a fine counterpoint to Australia's decision last year to bury 23 F-111s beneath a landfill - apparently there is a very real concern with asbestos and other hazardous materials used in these old airframes.
Media reports suggest Cundall's plans are well advanced, with the aircraft having been located, and a camera shoved down a borehole to examine them. Cundall learned of the aircraft speaking to British vets of the Burmese front. They claimed to have buried the aircraft in 1945 following the end of WWII.
Though the aircraft are reportedly well packaged in wax paper and so forth, one wonders how well preserved they could be. Sixty years underground in the soggy climate of Burma is a very long time. There are very good reasons why the USA stores old aircraft in the arid climes of Arizona and California as opposed to the swamps of Florida or Louisiana. All it would take is a few broken seals to corrode these Burmese Spitfires.
In any event, the west is having a love-in with the Burmese regime, which these days shows signs of becoming more democratic. A more open regime could well see Cundall's dream come true. Perhaps the old aircraft will be excavated and shipped home - just the thought of the paperwork and expense involved gives one pause - with a few examples becoming airworthy again someday.
In 2072 will Asian Skies write about a plan to dig up 23 former RAAF F-111s?
This morning I came across some cool photos of Chengdu J-10As on a live fire exerecise in
the Chengdu Military Area Command (MAC) in China's southwest. According to PLA
story posted on China' s defence ministry site, the aim of the mission was to conduct
fighter operations at high altitudes in day and night conditions.
I was amused to read the Ria Novosti report that the China Sukhoi Su-35 deal is in trouble. Apparently the Russians want to sell China a large number of aircraft, while China would prefer just a handful. And so an impasse ensues.
"We have been promoting the Su-35 fighter on the Chinese market," Rosoboronexport deputy chief Viktor Komardin is reported as saying. "However, China only wants to buy a limited number [of aircraft] whereas we want [to sell] a large consignment to make [the deal] economically viable."
In this instance, how does one define 'economically viable'? The cynical part of me suggests that China wants to buy a handful (hints of Su-33?) and then reverse engineer the aircraft, eventually producing a Chinese clone, a follow on fighter to the J-11. This is economically viable for China, but not exactly ideal for Russia.
On the other hand, Russia would greatly benefit from a big Su-35 production run for China, lowering the cost per unit across the board.
Though China appears to have dug its heels in, I will be very curious to see how this proposed sale moves forward. If Beijing feels confident enough in its indigenous capabilities, perhaps it will indeed give the Su-35 a miss.
Otherwise, perhaps Beijing will back off a bit, wait a sufficiently face-saving amount of time, and then eventually agree to buy a larger number of Su-35s with a significant portion produced in Russia. In this case it would get the aircraft and technology transfer it needs, but at a substantially higher price.
It is worth remembering that in 2010, before Beijing surprised everyone with the appearance of the supposedly 'Fifth Generation' J-20, an alleged Chinese spy was caught smuggling parts for the MiG-29 and Su-27 across the Russo-Chinese border. Another similar heist was attempted in 2009 at the same checkpoint.
Such incidents would appear to suggest that China would be very interested indeed in the secrets of the Su-35.
When I first saw pictures of Eva Air's Hello Kitty jets, I wondered who came up with the brilliant marketing idea.
After all, this is Hello Kitty we're talking about - the famous cat that has fans young and old the world over.
And boy was I surprised when told at a recent Eva Air event in Taipei that the carrier's 42-year-old president K.W. Chang is actually the brain behind its Hello Kitty jets.
Last year, the Taiwanese carrier painted three of its new Airbus A330-300s with Hello Kitty themes and they proved to be a huge hit. The aircraft has since been flying from Taipei to Tokyo, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Guam.
In fact, they are so popular that the carrier last week added another two such jets to service flights to Tokyo and Shanghai.
So when we reporters had a chance to sit down for coffee with Chang, we couldn't resist digging deeper into this topic.
"This industry is so old, there's nothing very different you can do. In and out you just hear complaints about delays," jokes the very cheerful president.
He adds that most carriers pay big bucks to advertise their services, but that does little for its passengers.
"An airplane's image is very hard. Travel is not easy, not comfortable. So I want to make people feel like they are sitting on a sofa at home, we must make it enjoyable for them," says Chang.
"When we put the Kitty on the jets, passengers feel its very fun, very warm, very enjoyable. We must make travel like that."
And the famous kitty is not merely painted on the aircraft's exterior.
Step onto an Eva Air Hello Kitty jet and you'll be treated to the full experience. From headrest covers and seat pillows to the soap and hand lotion bottles in the lavatories, you find the famous cat printed on them on. Oh, and if that's not enough, you get Hello Kitty-shaped carrots and pasta in your meals too.
And of course passengers find it hard to resist bringing these in-flight items with them when its time to disembark, so the crew have to bring double the supply to restock the plane on every flight.
"If not, on the return leg, the Hello Kitty stuff will all be gone and it won't be a Hello Kitty flight anymore," quipped an airline staff.
I personally haven't been on one of these flights and do not feel especially for the world-famous cat but hey, anything to make a long boring flight a tad bit more interesting right?