Airbus, Royole Technology sign MoU for new technologies in aircraft cabins

 Airbus China Innovation Centre (ACIC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Royole Technology – a global pioneer in flexible displays, flexible sensors and foldable smartphones. The two parties will collaborate to develop applications that implement flexible electronic technologies in cabin environments and investigate the possibilities for commercial cooperation.

Airbus has been dedicated to design and manufacture aircraft that provide a better cabin experience for passengers. By investigating the use of flexible displays and flexible sensors in the cabin, Airbus plans to cooperate with Royole Technology by building a futurized, digitalized and personalized cabin to further improve the cabin environment, cabin safety and energy saving.

Based in Shenzhen, Airbus China Innovation Centre is the first Innovation Centre set up by Airbus in Asia. Its mission is to fully leverage local advantages including innovative talents, partners and the eco-system, and combine this with Airbus' expertise in aerospace to explore breakthroughs in technologies, business models and new growth opportunities. ACIC is now fully operational with the official office opening ceremony due to take place in early 2019.


uShip unveils LIFT Aircraft

 Matt Chasen, founder of uShip, is unveiling a new venture today called LIFT Aircraft. LIFT has developed an electric, vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and plans to open up LIFT locations where anyone will be able to rent aircraft and experience an entirely new kind of flying - pilot's license not required.

"Flying is probably the oldest and most enduring of human aspirations. Personal aviation is available today but it's only accessible to the lucky few with the money, time and skill to get the extensive training needed to fly traditional aircraft. At LIFT, we're making flying so simple, safe and inexpensive that anyone can do it with very little skill or special training. We're truly consumerizing flying for the first time in history," says Chasen.

LIFT is launching the world's first experiential entertainment business leveraging eVTOL aircraft, and plans to own and operate fleets of aircraft in scenic and uncongested areas near major metro areas, tourist destinations and entertainment hubs. After training in their virtual reality simulators, anyone over the age of 18, and up to 6' 5" tall and 250 lbs, will be able to fly for up to 15 minutes at a time.

"LIFT is doing for flying what iFLY does for skydiving - making an expensive and inaccessible experience available to everyone," according to Alan Metni, the founder of iFLY Indoor Skydiving.

The aircraft, named Hexa™, resembles a large drone with 18 sets of propellers, motors and batteries. It has one seat for the pilot and weighs only 432 lbs - which qualifies it as a Powered Ultralight by the FAA so no pilot's license is required to fly.

Electric multirotor aircraft fly using something called distributed electric propulsion (DEP), which allows an aircraft to be controlled simply by varying the speed of multiple electric motors - a task that is accomplished by flight control computers.

"The pilot is not flying the aircraft in the sense of traditional helicopters and fixed wing airplanes," says Colin Guinn, a drone industry pioneer who has held leadership roles at DJI, 3D Robotics and Hangar Technologies. "With DEP aircraft, like with drones, the flight computer is keeping the aircraft stabilized and the pilot merely provides control inputs using a joystick."

Chasen believes that modern drone technology and autonomy can be used to make flying ten-times safer than with today's general aviation aircraft. "The vast majority of accidents are the result of pilot error - running out of fuel, controlled flight into terrain, flying in bad weather, etc.," said Chasen. Hexa is semi-autonomous so, regardless of what the pilot does, it will only fly in a safe manner within the limits programmed into the autopilot computer. 

"Autonomy is actually much easier in the air than for cars on the ground - there are far fewer obstacles, no roads, no traffic lights, and you have 3 dimensions to move around," says Chasen. "For example, the aircraft is continuously calculating the energy required to return to home' based altitude, wind speed and direction. Regardless of what the pilot does, the aircraft will automatically return and land when the battery approaches this level plus a reserve, and it can also automatically land in designated safe landing areas, if necessary."

Unlike traditional helicopters, Hexa can even fly with up to six of its eighteen motors out, has a ballistic parachute that autonomously deploys in the event of an emergency, has 5 floats to safely land on water, and can be controlled remotely by LIFT trained safety pilots in the event of an emergency.

"LIFT's safety will come not just from the simplicity and redundancy of the design, but also from the fact that flights will take place in very controlled environments - 3D mapped areas where on-board sensors and ground based radars can track every aircraft and obstruction… and flights will only take place in good weather conditions," says Charlie Justiz, the former Chief of Aviation Safety at NASA.

Chasen and his international team of designers, engineers and flight technicians have been busy - in just the last year and a half they have designed, prototyped, manufactured, assembled and tested their first production design aircraft. After four months of unmanned flight testing, Chasen flew Hexa for the first time last month and says, "It was an absolutely thrilling experience - I think it will be the most exciting thing that most people do in their entire lives."

Chasen thinks leveraging Ultralight eVTOL aircraft for recreational flying is a necessary step for the nascent eVTOL industry before it's ready for commercial transportation. "Multi-seat eVTOL air taxis, especially those that are designed to transition to wingborne flight, are probably 10 years away and will require new regulations and significant advances in battery technology to be practical and safe." Hexa's "pure hover" design with rotors up high like a traditional helicopter was a result of Chasen's desire to develop an aircraft that is safe, stable and can fly using technology that exists today. "We didn't want to wait for major technology or regulatory breakthroughs to start flying."

Companies ranging from small startups to aerospace giants like Boeing and Airbus are pursuing opportunities in this new eVTOL industry, including Uber - who is developing an air taxi service. "What's unique about what we're doing is that we'll be flying years before anyone else - in fact, starting today we're letting people join our waitlist for flights in 25 cities and will open up locations based on where we get the most demand," said Chasen.


Chang’e-4 makes soft-landing on the moon

 China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft made the first ever soft-landing on the far side of the moon in a mission investigating the history of the solar system and paving the way for future exploration.

The 1,200-kilogram dry mass Chang’e-4 lander touched down at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south within Von Kármán crater at 9:26 p.m. Eastern, according to an announcement from the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The spacecraft began its descent at 9:15 p.m. from a perilune of 15 kilometers with a burn of its single main variable thruster before entering approach, hazard avoidance and slow descent phases, with a descent camera returning images of the approaching surface.

The lander and the companion 140-kilogram rover, who is expected to be deployed within the coming hours, will work toward science goals including analyzing the lunar surface and subsurface composition, assessing the radiation environment and its interaction with the regolith and low frequency radio astronomy, as well as returning high-resolution images from terrain and panoramic cameras.

The 186-kilometer-diameter Von Kármán crater containing the landing site is situated within the 2,500-kilometer-wide South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin, which is one of the oldest and largest impact craters in the solar system.

The basin could contain exposed material from the moon’s upper mantle and promises clues to the history and development of the solar system. A sample return from the SPA basin has been noted as a priority in past US Planetary Science Decadal Surveys.

The mission launched in December and had been in lunar orbit ever since, where it tested communications and refined its orbit in preparation for a landing timed to follow sunrise over the target site, allowing the mainly solar-powered craft to begin operations immediately.

Chang’e-4 is the repurposed backup spacecraft to the Chang’e-3 mission, which landed on Mare Imbrium on the near side in December 2013, making China only the third country to soft-land on the moon.

While the Chang’e-3 rover, on which the Chang’e-4 is based, traveled just 114 meters before being rendered immobile on Mare Imbrium in early 2014, officials with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the spacecraft’s manufacturer, have stated that the issue has been identified and addressed and that the new rover has been upgraded for greater reliability and longevity.

The landing comes ahead a wave of renewed interest in lunar exploration, with NASA, ESA, Russia, India and private companies working on a range of missions.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) also announced that it plans to launch the Chang’e-5 near side sample return mission with the second of two planned Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket launches in 2019.

The landing will also assist in the execution of the country’s future lunar exploration plans, including sample returns and polar landings in preparation for a potential human outpost.

Robert F. Wimmer-Schweingruber of the University of Kiel, Germany, which led the development of the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) experiment, told SpaceNews that LND can, “help us understand the radiation which lunar soils and rocks are exposed to and to detect sub-surface water.”

“Its main purpose, however, is to prepare for human exploration of the moon by measuring the radiation to which astronauts will be exposed,” says Wimmer-Schweingruber, and specifically the neutron dose rate on the surface of the moon.

James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, told SpaceNews in December that the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), an instrument also aboard the Chang’e-3 rover, will provide images of the structure of the lunar soil layers and any subsurface lava flow units.

The Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), likewise installed on the mobile rover, will allow analysis of the mineralogy of the floor of Von Kármán crater and ejecta delivered by later, nearby impacts, according to Head.

The Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS) payload on the Chang’e-4 lander will make astronomical observations in low frequency bands in a unique radio-quiet environment free of interference from the earth.

Another payload included in the mission through an outreach initiative is a small biosphere containing Arabidopsis and potato seeds along with silkworm cocoons, designed and developed in collaboration with 28 Chinese universities.

The experiment will be a pioneering test of photosynthesis and respiration in the one-sixth Earth gravity lunar environment, with a possible live steam to the 3-kilogram, 0.8-liter capacity canister.


NASA sends CubeSats to space on first dedicated launch with Rocket Lab

 A series of new CubeSats now are in space, conducting a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, following launch of Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract.

“With the VCLS effort, NASA has successfully advanced the commercial launch service choices for smaller payloads, providing viable dedicated small launch options as an alternative to the rideshare approach,” said Jim Norman, director of Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first mission is opening the door for future launch options.”

At the time of the VCLS award in 2015, launch opportunities for small satellites and science missions were limited to ridesharing - flying only when space was available on other missions. Managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, VCLS awards are designed to foster a commercial market where SmallSats and CubeSats could be placed in orbits to get the best science return.

This mission includes 10 Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 payloads, selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The initiative is designed to enhance technology development and student involvement. 

 “Low cost launch services to enable expanded science from smaller satellites are now a reality.  NASA's Earth Venture program and indeed our entire integrated, Earth-observing mission portfolio will benefit greatly from the ability to launch small satellites into optimal orbits, when and where we want them,” said Dr. Michael Freilich, Director of Earth Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  “Our partnership with LSP on the VCLS effort is helping both NASA and the commercial launch sector.”

CubeSats are small satellites built in standard units of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, or in configurations of two, three or six units. These small satellites play a valuable role in the agency’s exploration, technology, educational, and science investigations, including planetary exploration, Earth observation, and fundamental Earth and space science. They are a cornerstone in the development of cutting-edge NASA technologies like laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement.

NASA will continue to offer CubeSats an opportunity to hitch a ride on primary missions in order to provide opportunities to accomplish mission objectives, and expects to announce the next round of CubeSats for future launches in February 2019.


Women in Aviation on a mission to motivate women into the aviation industry

 Women in Aviation-Middle East, the regional branch of the global non-profit Women in Aviation International (WAI), was on a mission at MEBAA 2018: “Our mission is to empower and motivate women and invite them to be a force in the aviation industry,” said Mervat Sultan, president, Women in Aviation Middle East. The effort has gained traction over the past decade. “In the last ten years the numbers of ladies [in the aviation field] has increased a lot,” she said. “We have women at ATC, on the ramp, pilots and in engineering.” 

However, “It’s not about gender, about female or male,” she said of her group’s efforts, noting their membership includes both. “It’s about expanding knowledge of aviation in the region.” 

Sultan launched WAI’s Middle East branch in 2013, which today has more than 500 members from the Middle East, as well as throughout Africa.

As for the requirements to become part of the field, “The first is education,” she said. “You cannot be in aviation without education. You need to get a license,” whether that certification is for dispatch, performing maintenance, piloting an airplane, or any other technical job. “Second, you need to get your experience,” she said. “Third, expand your network. Aviation is a small community, and everyone knows everyone.”

Sultan herself at age 16 ‘was dreaming to be a pilot,’ but upon her family’s advice initially followed a more traditional career path, earning an MBA and a degree in accounting. But she never gave up her interest in aviation, and in 2001 became one of the first women in the Middle East to earn a dispatch license. That same year she co-founded Ras Al Khaima-based RamJet, the UAE’s first aviation support company. She also earned a private pilot license along the way.

“Everything is possible,” Sultan said. “Don’t say, ‘I’m too old.’ Money also is not an obstacle. If you ask you may get help from chapters or from companies. Work hard and you get money.”

The Middle East branch is asking for such help on behalf of its member now, seeking more support from companies and institutions within the industry to “provide discounts on courses, or any licenses [students are] training for,” and other support. 

 For those already in the industry who want to help the next generation join them—whatever the prospect’s gender—Sultan stresses the importance of mentorship.

“If you mentor [only] one person, that’s enough,” she said. “It’s not about quantity, it’s quality. You have the ability to help others. Don’t keep the knowledge you gain over the years to yourself,” she continued. “You should pass it to others. If you want to be really happy from inside, [it will happen] when you see others happy because of you.”

Sultan practices what she preaches. “I now have a girl in Canada, she works in a coffee shop and she helps her family, and she lately finished her PPL. I’m very proud of her. I monitor her, send her emails, motivate her to keep looking to see her way to the sky.”

The Middle East chapter is now preparing for the General Assembly for Women in Aviation at Dubai’s Airport Show (April 29 – May 1, 2019) at Dubai International Convention Centre, held under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, which is expected to draw hundreds to share the message of empowerment and inclusion.


Edmonton International Airport focuses on more women-oriented training programs

 A learning center opening at Edmonton International Airport early this year will include a program focused on drawing young women into the aviation industry.

The program will help girls and women ages 15 to 24 find opportunities in the industry and connect with employers.

It's the first program of its kind in Canada, the learning center's founder said in an interview.

"There's a huge shortage in the aviation industry right now," said Kendra Kincade, an air-traffic controller and founder of Elevate Aviation.

"We personally want to help women succeed and offer careers where they can have economic security."

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Women are under-represented in Canada's aviation industry. Fewer than five percent of commercial pilots are women. Sixteen percent of air traffic controllers are women. Women make up 11 percent of aerospace engineers, Kincade said.

Kendra Kincade, founder of Elevate Aviation, says the learning center wants to help women succeed in aviation careers.

Kincade expects hands-on learning may get young women interested in aviation when they enrol.

They will be able to "actually sit and play at a radar screen and let them practice being an air traffic controller," Kincade said. "Let them get in behind the actual scenes of the airport and I think that will just ignite some excitement."

Syona McClean, a pilot for the past decade, currently flies a 737 for Canadian North. McClean is planning to be one of the mentors involved in the center's program for women.

"There's not too many of us out there," McClean said. "You see a few more now. It's pretty amazing. You get to be one of the few females that are working in aviation in a male-dominated industry and you know what? The guys treat you like one of the guys and it's pretty awesome."

She said it wasn't easy to become a pilot, and thinks prospective employees will benefit from the new program.

"When I was younger it would have been nice, for sure, to have a learning centre where I could go up and say, 'Hey, what am I getting myself into?"

The Elevate Aviation Learning Centre will be located in a hangar next to the Edmonton International Airport. It's expected to open in March.


Airbus secures EASA approval for new pilot-training program

 Airbus has secured European certification for a cadet pilot training program jointly developed with the French university Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile.

The program will initially be introduced at the Mexican flight school Escuela de Aviacion Mexico early next year.

Airbus says the scheme, approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency, will provide a ‘complete and fully integrated’ airline transport pilot license program, which will take advantage of the airframer’s ‘extensive’ experience and its ‘high safety and reliability standards’.

It adds that cadets will be provided with the skills required to become an ‘operationally-ready pilot’, with a focus on crucial technical and behavioral competence.

“The program reflects, not only Airbus’ commitment to supporting the safe operation of all its aircraft, but also supports airline customers in contributing to the long-term availability of qualified pilots,” says the airframer.

Eligible candidates will be provided with 750h of ground school and 200h of flight training.


CAE introduces CAE Rise™ for the defense market

 CAE recently made an announcement at Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) the launch of training program CAE Rise™ for the defense market.

CAE Rise™ is a data-driven training system designed to enable defense and security organizations to deliver standardized training and give instructors a new approach to objectively assess pilot competencies using live data during training sessions. The system leverages big data analytics to reduce subjectivity in pilot assessment, allows instructors even greater focus on teaching, and helps create more efficient and continually improving training programs. CAE Rise™ is one of CAE’s latest digital innovations and has already been deployed for training CAE’s airline partners.

During I/ITSEC, CAE conducted demonstrations with CAE Rise™ integrated on a T-6C simulator. The demonstrations showed how CAE Rise™ gathers data during simulator training sessions, and then provides an instructor with real-time, objective assessments of student performance against pre-determined criteria for specific training tasks.

“CAE Rise™ is a prime example of CAE’s commitment to investing in the development of digital technologies to revolutionize pilot training,” said Gene Colabatistto, CAE’s Group President, Defense & Security. “The aviation industry – both military and civil – faces the long-term challenge of producing sufficient numbers of highly-qualified pilots to meet demand. CAE’s focus on aviation training and innovations such as CAE Rise™ will contribute to making pilot training more efficient, standardized and objective, which ultimately helps produce higher-quality and better prepared pilots.”

Some of the key features, capabilities and benefits of CAE Rise™ for military pilot training include:

1 - Facilitating student-centric learning by providing digital lesson plans, real-time feedback and ability to tailor training to each student;

2 - Improving instructor performance by facilitating student interaction and reducing administrative burden; and, 

3 - Enabling training organization efficiencies such as maintaining electronic records, identifying performance gaps, and implementing closed-loop, adaptive training.


Etihad Aviation Training awarded EASA certificate

 Etihad Aviation Training, part of Etihad Aviation Group, has become the first full European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Approved Training Organization (ATO) for the transport category in the United Arab Emirates.

This significant achievement reinforces the organization’s position as a world-class aviation-training center, located in the Middle East.

The certification is a clear indication of the quality and standard that has been developed at the training organization as well as the cooperation between the UAE Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and Etihad Aviation Group over the last few years.

Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said, “Etihad Aviation Training is an ambitious enterprise, pursuing its mandate to provide outstanding training services to a global audience. The growth of the business will mirror the expansion of the global training market and the entire group is excited about the expanding portfolio of programs and products.

“The support of the wise leadership and the forward-thinking strategy that has been adopted in Abu Dhabi has fast tracked this achievement. Abu Dhabi will now be able to welcome and train pilots globally, wishing to achieve EASA type rating.”

Etihad Aviation Training’s EASA ATO approval covers the Airbus A320, A330 and A340, with ambitions to extend this certification to include the Boeing fleet as well as the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL) courses in 2019.

Based at two locations in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Etihad Aviation Training is a commercially focused business open to external customers, while retaining the operational and safety values that have underpinned Etihad’s training services to date.

This full EASA ATO certification will enable the organization to take advantage of the increasing global demand for aviation training. EASA’s globally recognized certification is expected to attract clients from Europe, as well as demand from the GCC, Africa, Indian sub-continent and South-east Asia. 

Captain Paolo La Cava, Director Etihad Aviation Training, said: “The organization is always looking for ways to expand its operations and activities, and this new approval is the perfect platform for growth.

“EAT operates two facilities, one adjacent to Abu Dhabi International Airport, and a flight training facility based in Al Ain. The Al Ain facility is our ab-initio school teaching cadets, while Abu Dhabi is a training academy primarily responsible for delivering advanced flight training for airlines.”


China Eastern partners with AFI KLM E&M for new-generation aircraft expertise

 Only a matter of months after turning over its 787 component support requirements to AFI KLM E&M, China Eastern has signed a new contract covering its fleet of Airbus A350-900s, ultimately set to number 20 aircraft. The bespoke A350 contract covers repairs, access to a regional spares pool, and the provision of a Main Base Kit (MBK). The agreement also includes complementary training services and engineering development assistance.

Executive Vice President of Air France KLM Engineering & Maintenance, Anne Brachet said, “This is an honor for us and we are proud to support the development of China Eastern, a great airline that never rests on its laurels and is intent on continuously renewing itself, especially as regards its ambitions to operate a young fleet - one of the youngest in the global airline marketplace. We want to provide China Eastern with component support that lives up to those ambitions.”


Wizz Air, Lufthansa Technik sign AVIATER agreement for digital fleet solutions

 Wizz Air and Lufthansa Technik have signed a ten-year AVIATAR agreement to provide one of Europe's fastest growing airlines with innovative digital fleet solutions.

Key element in the partnership approach is to further improve efficiency of Wizz Air's technical operations by using AVIATAR's modular solutions in the areas of predictive and preventive maintenance and reliability management. This happens in direct connection to the Maintenance Control Center (MCC) in Budapest. In addition, Wizz Air will also benefit from all other innovative offerings by Lufthansa Technik and third parties on AVIATAR.

 Christian Ambiehl, Wizz Air's Head of Maintenance, said, "We have selected AVIATAR after a detailed analysis of the offerings available. The open and modular architecture of AVIATAR together with the strategic decision of our long-term partner Lufthansa Technik to neutrally offer access even to its competitors makes it a unique platform. Competition and access to new markets has been key to Wizz Air's success in the past 14 years and our digital vision requires a neutral platform, which enables us to cooperate digitally with our MRO and technical operations partners within our growing route network. AVIATAR also allows us to control our fleet's operational data for the co-creation of new digital solutions to generate additional values for Wizz Air's operation and beyond. It is our objective to grow our fleet faster than our Technical Operations team."

AVIATAR allows operators and other participants in the MRO market to collaborate on an open and neutral platform. It applies analytical models to provide new insights, recommendations and notifications, enabling users to simplify their decision processes. AVIATAR rewards its users through the optimization of operating hours, reduced consequential costs and safer as well as more reliable fleet operations, serving airline passengers around the world.

AVIATAR is an OEM-spanning platform, independent of Lufthansa Technik or any MRO service contracts. It serves as a central and connecting hub for digital products and services for the aviation industry.


HAECO Xiamen partners with Xiamen City University

 HAECO Xiamen, a member of the HAECO Group, announced recently that it has signed a collaboration agreement with Xiamen City University (‘XMCU’). The agreement formalizes co-operation between the two organizations in developing talented individuals for the aircraft maintenance industry.

 Students who enroll in the joint XMCU-HAECO Xiamen program will receive basic skills training in aircraft maintenance at the HAECO Xiamen Technical Training Centre over the course of their three-year academic studies at XMCU. This will give them exposure to the aircraft maintenance industry and, upon graduation; students will receive higher diplomas from XMCU and training certificates from HAECO Xiamen. The integrated program will fast-track the process of developing high-quality aircraft maintenance mechanics by six months. The partners will continue to refine the program's curriculum, assessment criteria, and develop student recruitment plans.

 Summit Chan, CEO of HAECO Xiamen, said, "It is a key mission to nurture sufficient high-quality technical talents to cater for our business growth and to meet the demands of the growing aviation industry. HAECO Xiamen has over two decades of experience in technical training to develop our homegrown workforce as well as for the industry in China, having delivered some 250,000 student-courses since its inception. We look forward to broadening and deepening our collaboration with XMCU in the future."


SpaceX unveils powerful GPS satellite ever built

 SpaceX has recently launched the US Air Force’s most powerful GPS satellite ever built.

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, recently, hoisting the satellite toward orbit.

Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force, says this next-generation GPS satellite is three times more accurate than previous versions and eight times better at anti-jamming. It's the first in a series and nicknamed Vespucci after the 15th-century Italian explorer who calculated Earth's circumference to within 50 miles (80 kilometers).

It was SpaceX’s 21st and final launch of the year, a company record.


Japan seeks more jets, subs, UAVs as part of $243b defense-spending plan

 Japan intends to procure more F-35 fighter jets, shipborne unmanned aircraft and submarines, according to newly released midterm defense guidelines and an associated defense plan.

The long-awaited documents, recently released and formally approved by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, would see Japan spend almost $243 billion on defense over the next five fiscal years, which in Japan begins April 1 and ends March 31 the following year.

Known as the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Plan, or MTDP, the documents outline Japan’s defense policy and outlook for the next five fiscal years as the country grapples with the rising economic and military power by regional rival China and the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The biggest news to come out of the MTDP was the confirmation that Japan will seek to add to its buy of an additional 105 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, which would include 42 F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft, although this was not much of a surprise, as Japan’s Ministry of Defense had briefed a number of reporters about the details prior to the guidelines' release.

The F-35s will allow the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to up its number of fighter squadrons by one, to 13 total, most likely by converting the JASDF’s photo-reconnaissance unit into a fighter squadron as it retires the Mitsubishi RF-4 Phantom aircraft sometime in 2020.

The MTDP also said Japan will seek to introduce three shipborne unmanned aerial systems during the next five years, although details were scarce. These will likely take the form of vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAS for operations onboard a new class of eight multipurpose destroyers Japan is currently building.

Japan’s defense industry is set to benefit from the procurement plans outlined in the MTDP, with several projects being handled by local companies.

In addition to modifications of two Izumo-class helicopter destroyers to operate the F-35B, Japan will also bulk up its maritime patrol aircraft fleet with 12 more Kawasaki P-1s expected in the next five years. This will mark resumption in Japan’s procurement in the type after not having done so in the past four budget cycles.

Under the MTDP, The P-1s would be joined by a more modest increase in airlift capabilities, including three more Kawasaki C-2 airlifters and a similar number of CH-47JA Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which are locally assembled by Kawasaki under licence from Boeing.

The government’s plan also seeks an increase in the country’s defense-related footprint in space and improved cyber capabilities, as well as a buildup of multi- and cross-domain capabilities.


France orders Airbus A330 MRTT tankers

 Airbus Defense and Space has received a firm order from the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) for a further three A330 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft.

The aircraft, known as Phénix in French service, constitute the third and final tranche of the multi-year contract for 12 A330 MRTTs signed by the French Ministry of Defense in 2014.

The first of the fleet was formally handed over in October and the remainder will be delivered by the end of 2023 under an accelerated timescale requested by France.

In French service the A330 MRTT will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with a combination of the Airbus Refueling Boom System and underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods. The aircraft can be configured in a variety of layouts carrying up to 272 passengers as well as medevac arrangements including the French MORPHEE intensive care module carrying up to 10 patients as well as 88 passengers.

The combat-proven A330 MRTT has been ordered by 12 nations, which have now placed firm orders for 60 aircraft, of which 34 have been delivered.


Lockheed Martin receives $1.8b contract for PAC-3 missiles

 The United States and allied military forces will upgrade their missile defense capabilities under a $1.8 billion contract for production and delivery of Lockheed Martin Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) interceptors.

The contract includes deliveries for the US Army and Foreign Military Sales of PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE interceptors, launcher modification kits and associated equipment.

"PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE give our customers unmatched, combat-proven hit-to-kill technology to address growing and evolving threats," said Jay Pitman, vice president of PAC-3 programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE are proven, trusted and reliable interceptors that employ hit-to-kill accuracy, lethality and enhanced safety to address dangers around the world."

The family of PAC-3 missiles are high-velocity interceptors that defend against incoming threats, including tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft. Thirteen nations – the U.S., Germany, Kuwait, Japan, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Romania, Poland and Sweden have chosen PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE to provide missile defense capabilities.

Building on the combat-proven PAC-3, the PAC-3 MSE uses a two-pulse solid rocket motor that increases altitude and range to defend against evolving threats.


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