"The J-20 #2001 prototype was photographed when it was preparing for high-speed taxxing trial at the CAC airfield on December 22, 2010. The prototype features a pair of all-moving tailfins and ventral stabilzing fins, and the laters are expected to be removed on the production models. It also features F-22 style caret intakes but with DSI bumps installed at the upper corners, as well as a one-piece canopy."
December 2010 Archives
a. Igor Tkachenko
b. Sergey Bogdan
c. O.V. Gudkov
d. Alexander Yablontsev
2. What was the top speed reached during the maiden flight on 26 May of the Boeing X-51A Waverider?
a. Mach 3.5
b. Mach 5.0
c. Mach 5.5
d. Mach 7.0
3. What was the designation of the aircraft submitted by the US Aerospace/Antonov team on 9 July for the US Air Force KC-X contract?
4. How much of the 7.6 billion Euro cost overrun for the Airbus A400M was picked up by taxpayers under an agreement finalized on 5 November?
b. 2.51 billion Euros
c. 3.5 billion Euros
d. 7.6 billion Euros
5. Which UAV nearly strayed into restricted airspace around Washington DC after the US Navy temporarily lost a communications link with the aircraft?
a. Northrop Grumman X-47
b. Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle
c. AAI Corp. RQ-7 Shadow
d. Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout
6. How long did Maj Gen David Heinz serve as program executive officer for the F-35 joint program office until he was fired by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on 1 February?
a. 1 month
b. 10 months
c. 15 months
d. 3 years, 8 months
7. What is the name of the UAV "bomber" that was described by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a "messenger of glory and salvation for humanity" when it was unveiled on 22 August?
8. How much is the US Army paying to Northrop Grumman and Hybrid Air Vehicles to deliver, demonstrate and deploy a new hybrid airship under the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) contract awarded on 15 June?
a. $236 million
b. $517 million
c. $758 million
d. $902 million
9. According to a Eurofighter consortium press briefing at the Farnborough air show, how many Typhoon fighters would be needed to stop 85% of strikes on a ground base launched by eight Lockheed Martin F-35s?
10. Which country has NOT signed a letter of intent this year to help develop and order the Embraer KC-390 tanker transport?
c. Czech Republic
Answers are on the jump.
But I'm still skeptical.
It's that inexplicably over-sized red star -- which, to my eyes, resembles the roundel of the Russian Air Force more than the People's Liberation Army Air Force, although is representative of neither -- that has my senses on full "fake alert".
Judge for yourself.
The missing FIR prevented the board from determining the cause of the crash and fuelled a rare public dispute between accident investigators and the head of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) over opposing theories.
The president of the accident investigation board, recently retired Brig Gen Donald Harvel, believes chances are greater than 50% that the CV-22 crashed as a result of dual engine power loss.
AFSOC issued a press release on 16 December dismissing Harvel's theory as unsupported by a "preponderance of credible evidence", and the command's internal - and unreleased -- investigation report already blamed the crash on pilot error.
The truth about what happened on the night of 9 April in a wadi roughly 5,000ft above sea level near Qalat, Afghanistan, remains a mystery because the rescue crew failed to recover the FIR from the aircraft.
Asked about the puzzling omission, Harvel, currently a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777 captain, replied in an interview: "That's kind of a funny story."
AFSOC inherited instructional manuals - called "Dash-1s" - for the CV-22 from the Marine Corps' MV-22B units. It was necessary to translate the manuals from Marine piloting and maintenance jargon to USAF terminology, but the translators made a few mistakes, Harvel says.
"Somehow in that translation there was nothing in [the AFSOC manual] that showed this aircraft had a FIR," he says. "They had absolutely no idea."
As a result, he adds, the FIR "was never on the list to get that off the airplane" after a crash.
After recovering the 16 survivors and four bodies, plus other sensitive equipment, from the crash site, the remains of the CV-22 were destroyed by a bomb, the board's report says. Still, the FIR was designed to survive such an explosion, so it was possible the device was retrievable.
An army unit arrived at the site one day after the crash and recovered major pieces of the aircraft still intact, including the left engine nacelle, Harvel says. The army unit also took photos of items that would be retrieved the next day. Among the items photographed, Harvel says, one of the objects resembled the structure that contains the FIR. However, several of the items left behind on the first day were missing by the time the army unit returned, Harvel says.
The absence of the FIR means several theories about the cause of the CV-22 crash are possible, he says.
"I could understand how there could be people looking at the
same evidence and come to different conclusions," Harvel says.
How does the US military win friends and influence people? Very often, it's with free weapons. But sometimes that doesn't quite go as planned, according to a "secret" diplomatic cable newly-liberated by Wikileaks.
In Kazakhstan, the US Department of State orchestrated the transfer of eight Bell Helicopter Huey IIs -- highly modified, decommissioned UH-1Ns -- to
But the UH-1H transfer didn't go as smoothly as hoped.
First, instead of delivering eight aircraft, the US Army's security assistance budget provided the funding for only two, according to the cable. While State continued to pressure the Department of Defense to fund the remaining six, the operational readiness rate of the two UH-1Ns in Kazakhstan "have hovered at zero", US diplomats complained, explaining: "A prime example of the issues at hand - when the HUEY II s required routine 150 flight hour service, the initial parts package did not include all needed parts for the service, but did include over $160K in non-required or non-HUEY II parts."
Breaking from a book-writing holiday in Cabo, Mexico, yesterday, Nance told me the C-17 crash video and full report by the accident investigation board show the US Air Force leadership is broken.
"Here we go again," Nance said. "This is going to put aerial demonstrations for large airplanes under scrutiny. I think they need to stop."
The C-17 crash on 28 July at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, occurred as the pilot practiced a self-planned routine for the upcoming Arctic Thunder air show, according to the USAF AIB report. In an effort to "put on a good show", the pilot's routine pushed the aircraft to edge of its performance envelope, including a maneuver that required a 260-deg right turn with 80-deg of bank shortly after takeoff and well below the USAF's prescribed altitude for display profiles. On top of that, the pilot's approved flight profile deliberately called for ignoring the C-17's stall warning stick-shaker, which he determined by himself to be inaccurate, according to the report. (One former C-17 test pilot told me: "The stall warning system isn't inaccurate. That's why it's there.")
Moreover, the USAF's system of checks and balances intended to stop reckless maneuvering failed to work. The C-17 pilot's boss and peers considered him an excellent flier, requiring little supervision. It is not clear in the report if the pilot's flight profile had been approved, but several USAF pilots and safety experts have told me that is required. The co-pilot and safety observer on the flight deck, who were also killed, may have been trained by the pilot to also ignore the stall warning system, removing the last check and balance in the USAF system.
For Nance, who also developed an aircraft safety program for the USAF, display flying by pilots of large aircraft is asking for trouble. "We do not fly near to that envelope," Nance said. "We are trained to stay right in the middle of the envelope. This is not like a F-15 pilot. He is going to know where that edge is. He'll fly right up to where the test pilot stopped. But that's not transport people and that's not bomber people."
The C-17 crash is believed to be first loss of a large aircraft caused by a flying display routine since the 1994 crash of a Boeing B-52 at Fairchild AFB, Washington. In that example, there was the additional dimension of the pilot's character. Lt Col Arthur "Bud" Holland was considered by his peers to be a dangerous, egomaniacal flier. When Holland was scheduled to fly, his own fellow pilots evacuated their families from base housing, fearing they could become casualties of Holland's recklessness. No one has accused the pilot in the recent C-17 crash of being so dangerous. It appears he simply wanted to make the best airshow routine he could.
"But we have once again a massive lack of oversight," Nance said. "They have to stop this element of pushing [the envelope] regardless of whether the spirit and intent were pure or not."
I note a strong resemblance to the 1994 crash of the Boeing B-52 at Fairchild AFB, which occurred under similar circumstances. The C-17 crew was practicing for an airshow. The B-52 was performing for a small crowd witnessing the retirement ceremony of one of the officers onboard. Deja vu?
The GAO report is a critique of the Mobility Capabilities Requirements Study-2016 (MCRS-16), which published an unclassified executive summary earlier this year. The study considered how the US military's mobility fleet is prepared to handle three possible scenarios. In the most challenging set-up -- fighting an air/naval campaign simultaneously with managing a homeland defense "event" and a separate capaign against insurgents -- the study called for a force of 646 tankers, but the DOD has only 553, including KC-130Js. This seems to imply a tanker shortfall.
"However," the GAO's auditors write, "DOD officials responsible for the report told us that a tanker shortfall does not exist despite the language used in the report."
It's much too early to speculate on the PAK-DA's appearance, but that hasn't stopped many on the Internet from guessing. The PowerRussiya channel on YouTube earlier this week posted video showing showing a collection of renderings. Each artist's impression appears largely based on current models, including Sukhoi Su-34. Until more authoritative images emerge from the PAK-DA program, here's something to start the discussion on what might be. (The footage includes a brief clip showing a real wind tunnel test, but the aircraft model is almost certainly the Buran space shuttle and not PAK-DA).
O'Hanlon today published a policy paper titled "Defense Budgets and American Power", which contains a wide range of cost-reduction ideas that largely mirror the deficit panel's work. Here are excerpts from O'Hanlon's paper:
- Partial or even complete cancellation of the joint strike fighter or F-35. The type of stealth found in the F-35, and some short-takeoff capability, would be welcome, but the United States has aircraft ranging from F-22 fighters to drones that can also provide these capabilities to some extent. Depending on which approach was taken, the intended buys of F-35 planes would be replaced with F-16 and F-18 aircraft, at an annual savings of $1 billion to $4 billion.
- Replacement of the Marine Corps V-22 tiltrotor Osprey program with existing-generation helicopters at annual savings of about $1 billion
"Public opinion has swung away from the F-35 due to negative coverage," he wrote in a non-classified cable titled "Norway Fighter Purchase: High-Level Advocacy Needed Now".
The consequences of Norway selecting the Gripen gravely worried the US embassy, according to the cable obtained by Wikileaks and disclosed this morning by the Aftonbladet newspaper.
"Norway's decision on this purchase will either end or sustain one of the strongest pillars of our bilateral relationship and could impact subsequent Danish and Dutch decisions on the F-35, affecting NATO joint operational capacity and the vulnerability of the Northern Flank," the diplomat identified only as Whitney wrote in the cable.
It was an important decision, and the US had to play its cards carefully.
But the embassy had already acted to thwart Gripen's bid in Norway behind the scenes. Saab had previously requested that the US approve a Raytheon-made active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar -- a key upgrade as the non-stealthy Gripen competed against the stealthy, Northrop Grumman AESA-equipped F-35 in Norway. Because the AESA was American technology, the US was not obligated to release the radar to a foreign competitor.
So it didn't.
"Given this potential impact of AESA releasability on the Norway competition, and possibly the Denmark competition," says a US cable dated 8 July, "we suggest postponing the decision on AESA releasability for the Gripen until after Norway's decision in December."
On 20 November 2008, the Norway ministry of defense strongly recommended the F-35 and -- in a move that surprised even the US embassy, according to 25 November cable -- sharply criticized the Gripen's capabilities.
1. A cable on 31 March 2008 says the US Air Force briefed a Brazilian delegation led by Minister of Defense Nelson Jobim on the F-35. The delegation was "impressed" by the F-35's capabilities and cooperative production strategy. But Jobin noted concerns about cost, industrial participation and integrating Brazilian technology -- possibly the Mectron MAA-1 Piranha missile. The cable's author also wrote: "If there would be a possiblity for integration of Brazilian made hardware or weapons, the F-35 would be a leading candidate for Brazil's next-generation fighter". The F-35 was never formally proposed for F-X2, and Brazil rejected Lockheed Martin's bid based on the F-16. For nearly two years, Brazil has been considering three finalists -- Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. But US diplomats are not optimistic about the Super Hornet's chances. Another cable, dated 13 November 2009, concludes that Brazil "will most likely favor the French or Swedish offers".
2. "While we continue to push Spain to buy into the Joint Strike Fighter program, we know that Spain is very anxious to learn whether Spanish company EADS-CASA will get the Joint Cargo Aircraft contract," says a cable posted on 14 May 2007. Three years later, we know the L-3 Communications/Alenia team won the JCA contract, and Spain has not bought into the F-35 program, although it is expected to buy the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B eventually. The cable reveals that Spanish diplomats may have linked the JCA award to joining the F-35 program. Madrid "would appreciate a 'gesture' from the US so that it can show domestic audiences that Spain gets something out of the relationship", the cable continues. "We try to remind [the Ministry of Defence] that while there may be a dollar imbalance in the defense relationship, Spain benefits from the relationship in other ways."
The US Air Force inadvertently sent the file to EADS. Boeing received a similar file containing data about EADS' tanker proposal, but did not open it, according to the reports.
In statements to reporters since the USAF mix-up story broke, EADS NA officials have not been entirely forthcoming about the actions of their employees, but neither have they lied.
Last Tuesday, I asked EADS NA CEO Sean O'Keefe this question: "What is your process for dealing with this? Do you just hit the delete key and send it back?" [See full video clip here.]
O'Keefe replied: "It is a very clear proscribed effort when this kind of stuff -- when there is any kind of information that you know that isn't standard for issue in these kinds of circumstances, what you do is you immediately pack it up and send back to the contracting officer. And that's what we did."
That statement appears to be entirely true, but omits the essential fact that an EADS employee looked at Boeing's data. Is it possible to be truthful and misleading at the same time?
Immediately preceding that question, I asked O'Keefe if he is concerned that Boeing is now privy to EADS' proprietary bid data as a result of the mix-up. His response is perhaps more meaningful now as the new facts have emerged.
Said O'Keefe: "I suspect probably no more or no less so than they [Boeing] feel concerned about whatever exposure we may have received. And so I just won't speculate on that. Ask them."