April's top stories: RAAF F-35JSF, India tests Akash nuclear missile

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is set to acquire an additional 58 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft, India's DRDO test-fired the domestically built nuclear capable Akash missile, and Alenia Aermacchi and ATK complete maiden test flight of a fully configured MC-27J multi-mission tactical transport aircraft. Airforce-technology wraps-up the key headlines from April 2014.


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RAAF confirms plans to acquire additional F-35 joint strike fighters

Raaf f-35

The Australian Government has authorised the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to acquire an additional 58 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft.

To be acquired for $12.4bn, the new fifth-generation fighters will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.

Around $1.6bn of the total capital cost is expected to be invested on construction of new facilities and infrastructure, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales, and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.

India's DRDO test fires Akash nuclear-capable anti-aircraft missile

India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully test-fired the domestically built medium-range anti-aircraft missile, Akash, from launch complex-III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur near Balasore, in Odisha.

Unnamed defence sources were quoted by Press Trust of India as saying that the missile targeted a toe body supported by Lakshya pilotless target aircraft (PTA), and flew a couple of minutes earlier from launch complex-II, at a definite altitude over the sea.

"The results are being analysed," the sources added, stating that the missile is scheduled to undergo additional trials in the next few days.

Alenia, ATK complete maiden test flight of fully configured MC-27J aircraft

Alenia Aermacchi and ATK have successfully completed the maiden test flight of a fully configured MC-27J multi-mission tactical transport aircraft from the former's Turin Test Flight Centre in Italy.

During test flight, the demonstrator aircraft flew with a chin-mounted L-3 Wescam MX-15HD electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret, and Link-16 datalink software and hardware provisions, which are expected to prepare the gunship for installation of the ATK palletised mission system.

In addition to this, the companies have built provisions for upgraded Selex ES communication systems with crypto capability into the aircraft.

USAF receives first CONECT-upgraded B-52 Stratofortress bomber

The US Air Force (USAF) has received the first upgraded B-52 Stratofortress bomber from the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), Louisiana, US.

The aircraft arrived at Tinker AFB in July 2013. It has been fitted with advanced displays, servers and communications uplinks by the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group (76 AMXG) as part of the combat network communications technology (CONECT) programme.

Carried out in collaboration with Boeing, the CONECT upgrade is expected to allow the aircraft to remain viable in the air force inventory until at least 2040.

USAF evaluates Google Glass for potential battlefield use

google glass

The US Air Force (USAF) is testing Google Glass and its head-mounted optical see-through display technology for possible use on the battlefield.

Jointly conducted by researchers of the 711th Human Performance Wing (711th HPW) and Battlefield Air Targeting, Man-Aided Knowledge (BATMA(N)) group as part of Google's Explorer programme, the trials are still in beta-testing stage and aims to make missions lighter and faster for airmen.

Based on Google's own Android operating system, Google Glass is a combination between a hardware and software product, and can use a great majority of modern smartphone capabilities, while enabling largely hands-free operation.

Japan boosts surveillance against China with new E-2C Hawkeye squadron

Japan has reportedly enhanced its military surveillance capabilities in Okinawa with the launch of a squadron of four E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft amid rising territorial tensions with China.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera was cited by Kyodo News as saying that the launch comes as Japan faces a 'dangerous situation' as China continues attempts to 'change the status quo by force and threaten the rule of law could trigger emergencies'.

In addition to this, Onodera told Jiji Press: "The squadron was newly established to firmly defend our country's territorial land, sea and air."

Raytheon secures first Paveway IV export contract

Raytheon has been awarded a contract for the supply of its Paveway IV precision-guided munitions (PGM) to an undisclosed international customer.

Valued at more than $200m, the deal represents the first sale of Paveway IV bombs outside the UK, and covers delivery of hundreds of the advanced munitions.

Raytheon UK chief executive said Richard Daniel said the contract is an export boost to the UK, and will help support hundreds of manufacturing and engineering jobs at Raytheon's facilities and in the supply chain across the country.

Northrop conducts flight tests of first production Smart Node Pod

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed a series of flight tests of the first production Smart Node Pod being developed for the US Air Force (USAF), in a bid to certify its performance characteristics in Virginia Beach, Virginia, US.

During the five flight tests, the pod demonstrated the ability to transmit full-motion video, imagery, voice and digital messages between soldiers both in the air and on the ground through various waveforms and datalinks and its interoperability with the proprietary and open source forward tactical handheld devices.

The Smart Node Pod is an aircraft-mounted airborne communications system designed to enable the exchange of real-time information among many disparate military and commercial radios and different datalinks, and relay full-motion video.

Saab test flights new IRST sensor for Gripen E aircraft

Gripen

Saab has successfully carried out the first flight test of the new infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, which has been designed for integration into the Gripen E fighter aircraft, according to schedule.

Conducted at an undisclosed location, the flight test was aimed at verifying the sensor's functions and the integration onto the aircraft.

Saab Wing Commander Flying Hans Einerth said the first flight in the Gripen E test aircraft with IRST has been performed with very good results.

Einerth said, "Multiple targets were detected, tracked and identified and the system works perfectly as expected.

"IRST is a new sensor on Gripen, which allows pilots to see great distances in several directions."

USAF receives first production lot of JASSM-ER missiles

The US Air Force (USAF) has taken delivery of the first production lot of joint air-to-surface standoff missile extended range (JASSM-ER) missiles from the Armament Directorate at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, US.

The missile was jointly developed, tested and fielded by the JASSM Program Office and contractor partner, Lockheed Martin Missile Fire and Control.

Fielding began in April after nine years of testing,

Major general Scott Jansson said, "The initial delivery of the extended range variant of JASSM gives the combatant commander the ability to reach far deeper into contested areas with lethal precision."