May's top stories: WaveRider and X-47B successes

Experimental US Air Force programmes made steady progress, with the X-51A hypersonic WaveRider jet successfully completing a test flight and the X-47B drone launching from the USS George H W Bush. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from May 2013.


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USAF's fourth X-51A WaveRider jet completes successful test flight

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The US Air Force's fourth and final experimental X-51A WaveRider hypersonic jet successfully completed its test flight, reaching speeds of Mach 5.1 over the Pacific Ocean.

The unmanned vehicle flew for three and a half minutes after its release from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber, accelerating to Mach 4.8 within 26 seconds. The X-51A accelerated to Mach 5.1 before making a controlled ditch into the Pacific Ocean.

Boeing Phantom Works president Darryl Davis said: ''This test proves the technology has matured to the point that it opens the door to practical applications, such as advanced defence systems and more cost-effective access to space.''

WaveRider's third test flight carried out in August 2012 ended in failure due to problems with one of the cruiser control fins, while a similar testing in June 2011 brought disappointment for the air force as the jet could only attain a speed of Mach 5.

TAI unveils Turkish TF-X fighter's preliminary conceptual designs

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Turkish Aerospace Industries unveiled three conceptual designs for the nation's fifth generation jet fighter development programme, dubbed TF-X.

The designs include a single-engine aircraft with and without canards, as well as a twin-engine fighter, and programme chief engineer Huseyin Yagci was quoted by Flightglobal as stating that all three concepts feature a design optimised for low radar cross-sectional density, internal weapons bays and the ability to super cruise.

The designs will now be validated against air force requirements, and the resulting report is scheduled to be submitted to the Defense Industry Executive Committee for approval of the development phase budget and framework by the end of September.

Northrop-built X-47B UCAS-D conducts carrier-based catapult launch

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Northrop Grumman's X-47B UCAS-D demonstrator successfully completed its first carrier-based catapult launch from the US Navy's Nimitz-Class super carrier USS George H W Bush.

The successful launch proved the team's ability to accurately navigate the aircraft within controlled airspace surrounding an aircraft carrier, while seamlessly passing control between mission operators aboard the ship and Mission Test Control Center at NAS Patuxent River.

Navy UCAS programme lead test engineer Matt Funk said: "The flight today demonstrated that the X-47B is capable of operation from a carrier, hand-off from one mission control station to another, flight through the national airspace, and recovery at another location without degradation in safety or precision."

As UCAS Carrier Demonstration programme's prime contractor, Northrop has designed, manufactured and is currently flight testing two X-47B air vehicles, in collaboration with other UCAS-D industry team partners.

UK RAF conducts first air-to-air refueling flight of Voyager tanker

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The UK Royal Air Force conducted the first air-to-air refuelling training flight with the A330 Voyager future strategic tanker aircraft at RAF Brize Norton.

Aircrews from the RAF's 10 Squadron also completed simulator-based training at the same location to conduct the actual AAR sortie.

Release to service approval for Eurofighter Typhoons is expected to be granted later in 2013, while full service capability with a core fleet of nine tankers is scheduled to be declared by April 2014.

A derivative of Airbus Military's A330 multirole tanker transport (MRTT), the Voyager is designed to replace the RAF's existing L-1011 and VC10 tanker / transport aircraft, which are approaching the end of their service life, for air transport and tanker operations.

Northrop completes third gate review of modular space vehicle

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A Northrop Grumman-led team successfully completed the third gate review of its modular space vehicle bus, currently in development for the US Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space-2 satellite.

Involving hardware integration and testing, the review will enable the team to perform comprehensive 'day in the life' testing of the ORS-2 bus, eventually leading to hardware acceptance by the air force's ORS Program Office.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Missile Defense and Advanced Missions vice president Doug Young said the completion of test processes demonstrates that the company's design addresses ORS's programme objective requirements and brings the government closer to the launch of the vehicle that could change the way satellites are manufactured.

"We are bringing network avionics technology to spaceflight and giving the nation an affordable option to respond to rapidly changing, multimission needs," Young added.

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