May’s top news stories

30 May 2019 (Last Updated June 11th, 2019 09:42)

The US approved a potential $3bn sale of 24 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Qatar, and the US Air Force conducted a test-launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Airforce-Technology.com wraps up key headlines from May 2019.

May’s top news stories
The US cleared a sale of AH-64E Apache helicopters to Qatar. Credit: US Army.

US clears $3bn sale of AH-64E Apache helicopters to Qatar

The US State Department approved a potential $3bn sale of 24 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and associated equipment to the Government of Qatar to help improve security in the region.

The possible foreign military sale is subject to review by Congress before being finalised.

Qatar previously reached a deal to procure 24 of these helicopters for use by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF). The first of the initial batch of 24 helicopters was delivered in March.


USAF test-launches Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile

The US Air Force (USAF) conducted a test-launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US.

Equipped with a test re-entry vehicle, the Minuteman III was test-launched by a team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile Wing at FE Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, US.

The objective of the operational test was to demonstrate the flexibility and readiness of the country’s nuclear deterrent against modern-day threats.


Boeing to develop virtual training system for RAF and USAF aircrews

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded a contract to Boeing Defence UK to provide a virtual training system for British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots and their USAF counterparts.

To be designed and built in the UK, the RAF virtual training system will allow crews and supporting ground forces to train together in multiple locations.

Flight simulator and synthetic training portfolio team leader Russ Cole said: “The award of this contract heralds a 21st-century capability that will transform the ability of the RAF to undertake collective operations, tactics and procedures training in the synthetic environment that cannot be performed in the live environment.

“We are looking forward to working with Boeing over the next few years to design, build, deliver and operate a state-of-the-art training hub at the centre of a collective training web capability.”


Sikorsky performs maiden flight of HH-60W combat rescue helicopter

Lockheed Martin Company Sikorsky completed the maiden flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter being developed for the USAF.

The first flight was performed at Sikorsky’s site in West Palm Beach, Florida, US, and marks a significant step towards making the helicopter a part of the USAF’s fleet.

During the test flight, the helicopter flew for just over an hour and performed hover control checks, low-speed flight, and a pass of the airfield.


RAAF’s EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft achieves IOC

Australia’s Department of Defence (DoD) announced that the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft has achieved initial operating capability (IOC).

Built by Boeing, the EA-18G Growler aircraft is in service with the RAAF and the US Navy.

The RAAF operates a fleet of 11 Growlers from Base Amberley in Queensland. The aircraft is designed to disrupt, deceive or deny military electronic systems, including radars and communications.


USAF’s F-35A aircraft conduct first air strike in Iraq

The USAF used the F-35A Lightning II aircraft for the first time to conduct an air strike targeting the terrorist organisation Islamic State’s assets at Wadi Ashai, Iraq.

Two F-35A conventional take-off and landing fighter jets performed the strike in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR).

The F-35As used a Joint Direct Attack Munition to conduct the air strike to take out an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains.


British Typhoon QRA fighters begin Nato Baltic Air Policing mission

RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft started a four-month Nato Air Policing mission in the Baltic region after taking over from Germany.

Last month, four Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon jets from XI(F) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire arrived in Estonia to support the Nato mission.

The British jets replaced the German Eurofighters flown by the Tactical Fighter Wing 71 ‘Richthofen’ of the Luftwaffe. The German Air Force was in charge of the mission for eight months.


Lockheed partners with Red Hat to deliver faster F-22 upgrades

Lockheed Martin partnered with Red Hat to create an open architecture to accelerate the delivery of software capabilities to the USAF’s F-22 Raptor fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

The open architecture created by the companies is based on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.

The companies worked together through an eight-week residency in Red Hat Open Innovation Labs to modernise the application development process for the service’s fleet of F-22 jets.


USAF tests laser weapon system to shoot down air-launched missiles

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has used a ground-based test surrogate laser weapon system to shoot down multiple air-launched missiles in flight.

The demonstration represents a key milestone for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) programme.

The service performed a series of tests of the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System (DLWS) at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range.


Olis wins USAF grant to study use of robots to service satellites

Olis Robotics secured funding from the USAF to evaluate the applicability of a robotics software platform to efficiently service satellites in orbit.

The initial small business innovation research (SBIR) grant will enable the company to work on increasing the capabilities and reducing the operational costs in Earth orbit.

If the company manages to impress the USAF, it could win as much as $1.5m in potential future funding.