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Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

USSOCOM’s Armed Overwatch Aircraft Designated OA-1K

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Earlier this year the United States Special Operations Command selected the L3 Harris AT-802U Sky Warden as their new Armed Overwatch aircraft. It has now been designated as the OA-1K. Aircraft officianados will recognize the OA designation which identifies the combined Observation Attack role.

The decision to reuse model 1 is an odd choice considering 7 is the next number in line for Observation aircraft and 14 is next up for Attack aircraft. It seems that they are attempting to assert some sort of SOF aviation heritage on this completely new airframe by reusing the model 1 designation shared with the Skyraider and assigning variant K to the Sky Warden.

Thousands of Douglas A-1E, A-1H and A-1J Skyraiders were operated by the US from 1946-1973 with significant service in AFSOC’s forebears, the Air Commandos, during the Vietnam War.

The Armed Overwatch program provides SOF with dedicated Close Air Support, precision strike, and airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) from austere locations in a permissive environment.

USSOCOM plans to procure 75 OA-1Ks and form then into four operational squadrons of 15 aircraft each and an additional 15 for use in training. Special Operations Squadrons operating U-28 Drago and MC-12W Liberty will replace their aircraft with OA-1Ks. However, AFSOC plans to keep some Dragos in service.

Liberty Lifter Aims to Revolutionize Heavy Air Lift

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Large seaplane concept envisions extended operations, affordable production, advanced controls

DARPA has launched the Liberty Lifter project to demonstrate a leap in operational logistics capabilities by designing, building, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical lift. The new vehicle concept seeks to expand upon existing cargo aircraft by proving revolutionary heavy air lift abilities from the sea.

The envisioned plane will combine fast and flexible strategic lift of very large, heavy loads with the ability to take off/land in water. Its structure will enable both highly controlled flight close to turbulent water surfaces and sustained flight at mid-altitudes. In addition, the plane will be built with a low-cost design and construction philosophy.

Although current sealift is very efficient in transporting large amounts of payload, it is vulnerable to threats, requires functional ports, and results in long transit times. Traditional airlift is much faster, but has limited ability to support maritime operations. Additionally, today, such aircraft suffer payload limitations or require long runways.

There is a history of attempting to develop aircraft created to fly with “wing-in-ground effect,” which means the aircraft is flying no more than the length of its wingspan above ground or water. The most well-known examples are the Soviet “ekranoplans.” These vehicles were high speed and runway- independent, but were restricted to calm waters and had limited maneuverability.

“This first phase of the Liberty Lifter program will define the unique seaplane’s range, payloads, and other parameters,” said Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Innovative advances envisioned by this new DARPA program will showcase an X-plane demonstrator that offers warfighters new capabilities during extended maritime operations.”

To address the shortcomings of existing vehicles and operational concepts, the Liberty Lifter program focuses on addressing three main challenges.

Extended Maritime Operations: Emphasis will be placed on operating in turbulent sea states by creating high-lift abilities at low speeds to reduce wave impact load during takeoff/landing, and innovative design solutions to absorb wave forces. In addition, the project will address risks of vehicle collision during high-speed operation in congested environments. Finally, the aim is for the vehicle to operate at sea for weeks at a time without land-based maintenance activities.

Full-Scale Affordable Production: Construction will prioritize low-cost, easy-to-fabricate designs over exquisite, low-weight concepts. Materials should be more affordable than those in traditional aircraft manufacturing and available to be purchased in large quantities.

Complex Flight and Sea Surface Controls: Advanced sensors and control schemes will be developed to avoid large waves and to handle aero/hydro-dynamic interactions during takeoff/landing.

Airmen Innovate, Ensure HH-60W’s First Deployment

Friday, November 25th, 2022

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) —

In preparation for the Air Force’s newest rescue platform’s first deployment, Airmen from the 41st Rescue and Rescue Generation Squadrons conducted extensive training to learn the intricacies of the new HH-60W Jolly Green II.

As a result of the increase in training, the 41st RQS expended more of the aircraft’s hoist cables than anticipated, lending to a potential shortfall. A team of 41st RGS maintenance Airmen, however, quickly recognized the need to replace these cables and jumped at the chance to accelerate change and make an Air Force-wide impact.

“Our maintenance Airmen have a won’t-fail mentality and are constantly working to make things better not only for the 23rd Maintenance Group but for the entire Air Force,” said Col. Jason Purdy, 23rd MXG commander.

These hoists are critical to the success of combat search and rescue operations. They are used in high-stakes scenarios to rescue individuals in dangerous or remote areas that aren’t accessible by ground transportation, or if the victim is trapped by fire or water.

Recognizing the need to adapt, the Airmen came together and discovered they could circumvent the supply shortage by using the HH-60G Pave Hawk cables in the HH-60W with only slight modifications.

“We used our subject matter expertise to troubleshoot the issue,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cellini, 41st RGS flying crew chief. “We improvised and adapted to overcome the supply shortage, by using a cable that we know is reliable and the Air Force has plenty of.”

Cellini and his counterparts went to the field training detachment hoist trainer to test and write the operating procedures for converting the HH-60G cables for use in the HH-60W. The process ensured the safe use of the hoist cables by synchronizing the speed in which they extend at the appropriate points of the cable.

The 41st RGS submitted an engineer request and engineers from Warner Robins Air Force Base came to Moody AFB to provide safety checks and approve the process.

With the process approved and implemented, the rescue Airmen ensured the HH-60W was fully mission-capable and ready to deploy by Air Combat Command’s initial operational capability deadline.

“Finding and testing this information and realizing it can work for us is going to make a huge difference knowing there will never be a shortage of cables,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Holford, 41st RGS production superintendent.

Discovering innovative solutions for unpredictable circumstances is a testament to the Airmen who feel empowered to do so. The Airmen with the 41st RGS said they feel confident in providing creative solutions to these shortfalls thanks to their leadership.

“People say aircraft maintenance is pretty black and white, but some of it’s not,” Cellini said. “Our leadership is open to ideas; as long as it’s safe and we can effectively and efficiently accomplish it, our whole chain of command will back us.”

Holford attributed the success of the organization to this leadership philosophy and the teamwork mentality fostered within the unit.

“We encourage Airmen to solve problems,” Holford said. “We always want to afford them the opportunity to fail, but we fail together; we learn from it and continue to grow on what we learned.”

The mission relies on Airmen’s ingenuity and initiative to succeed, and Moody AFB Airmen have exemplified these traits throughout the transition to the HH-60W.

“I’m very proud of our maintainers for leading the way on the HH-60W fleet,” Purdy said. “Whether it’s been a hoist, a gun system, or a lapse in technical data, our Airmen developed ways to make the entire program better.”

Story Airman 1st Class Deanna Muir, 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Photos by Staff Sergeant Devin Boyer

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Navy Seawolves Task Force 116 Vietnam “Rowell’s Rats”

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

You have heard of the Seawolves if you have ever read any stories about the SEALs or The Brown Water Navy in Vietnam. The Navy Seawolves became the most decorated HELO squadron in the Vietnam war. The Navy Seawolves were stood up overseas, and they were decommissioned overseas.  They were set up to provide air support for Navy units fighting in the Rung Sat Special Zone, to support the SEAL Teams and Boat Units. They provide insertion and extraction platforms, close air support, medevac, and taxis from base to base. They did it all. They used hand me down aircraft from the Army and turned them into Navy Seawolves Helicopters. I love learning about the history of units like this, there will never be a movie about them, but the man that made up the Seawolves are the backbone of the U.S. and our military history.

Retired Army Major General Carl McNair, who commanded the 121st Assault Helicopter Company during the Vietnam War, once recalled a story about Army General Creighton Abrams—commander of all military forces in Vietnam—visiting an airbase for an awards ceremony for Army aviation personnel. Riding as a passenger in a jeep along what passed as a flight line, he noted a young man not wearing a cover and ordered his driver to pull over. Abrams had served under General George S. Patton during World War II, so he was tough. Questioning what he thought was a soldier out of uniform, he received a response that went something like: “Sir, I am not a soldier. I am a sailor and a Seawolf, and in the Navy, we don’t wear covers on the flight line.” Abrams responded, “Very well, carry on,” and proceeded on his way. There is nothing better than a General having no idea who you are.

www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2019/june/i-am-sailor-and-seawolf

video.kpbs.org/video/scramble-the-seawolves-yacuzi

MWW 22 – Northrop Grumman Hatchet

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

Northrop Grumman’s Hatchet is a lightweight Precision Strike Munition. At only 12″ in length, this six-pound glide bomb can be delivered via Class 3 sUAS and above as well as larger aircraft like USSOCOM’s new Armed Overwatch aircraft.

It features a Lethality Enhanced Ordnance (LEO) warhead which limits collateral damage while providing precision to one meter through multiple guidance technologies to include GPS/INS/EO/IR seekers.

AFSOC Receives Final AC-130J

Friday, November 4th, 2022

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. —  

Air Force Special Operations Command received its 31st and final AC-130J Ghostrider, completing the command’s transition from the legacy AC-130W, AC-130U and AC-130H fleets.

Following a commemoration ceremony at the Lockheed Martin Gunship Modification Facility in Crestview Nov. 2, the final AC-130J was delivered to the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

During the AC-130J Ghostrider Dedication and Delivery Ceremony, Lt. Col. Joe Allen, Gunship Program manager and narrator for the event, briefly discussed the history of nose art and how it became a common way of depicting the name of an airplane. He also explained how pilots would stencil names or call signs on their aircraft, providing a sense of connection and further a feeling of pride for themselves and the crew that kept the airplane flying.

“Aircraft #31 is no different [than previous World War II aircraft] and is being named in honor of Mr. Stan ‘Sluggo’ Siefke who was instrumental in the developments of the precision strike package prior to cutting first metal on the MC-130W,” said Allen. “Sluggo’s impacts on Whiskey and Ghostrider have been nothing short of outstanding and we are honored to have him in attendance today.”

Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, AFSOC Commander, represented the command at the ceremony and spoke about his experience with acquiring and receiving the AC-130J.

Slife recalled that it had been “only a few years back,” when then Col. Slife working at the Pentagon for the Office of Secretary of Defense, began the messaging and formative language that initiated the program that he’s seeing come full circle.

“In the fall of 2009, the Secretary of Defense decided to recapitalize [the AC-130] with C-130Js to build the platforms we see behind us today,” said Slife.

He also spoke about seeing the first J model go into combat in the summer of 2019 while serving as the AFSOC commander.

“The airplane and its predecessors have exceeded all our expectations and kept more Americans alive than any other airplane on the battlefield,” said Slife.

“The future is going to be different than what we have experienced for the last 20 years, but one thing I’m certain of is this airplane will be relevant to whatever the future operating environment brings, so thank you all for delivering such a magnificent capability to today’s warfighters,” he said.

Capt. Katie Tiedemann, 73rd Special Operations Squadron Weapons Systems Officer, shared operational vignettes of the AC-130J during the event. She specifically shared her own experience deployed in Afghanistan when she supported Operation Allies Refuge.

“Over two weeks, my own crew, and two others, continued to employ our aircraft for countless hours, reopening the [Kabul] airport and evacuating 123,000 refugees,” said Tiedemann. “Much of the rest of the story you have seen and heard, but our two crews who flew during the evacuation will be recognized this fall with the MacKay trophy for accomplishing the most meritorious flight of the year.”

Following Capt. Tiedemann’s presentation, William Innes, Deputy Director for Acquisition, United States Special Operations Command, spoke about USSOCOM’s part in navigating the acquisitions process to get the weapons systems from industry to the warfighter.

“When we can see firsthand that it [the acquisition process] works, it delivers the best weapons system the nation can get, it is truly inspirational,” he said.

Vic Torla, Lockheed Martin Vice President of Special Operations Forces Global Logistics Support Services, expressed his gratitude for the partnership between Lockheed Martin and the Air Force.

“A great example of a government and industry partnership to stand up this facility,” said Torla. “A ten-year journey to deliver what is now 30 combat capable aircraft to Special Operations Command.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Gen. Slife along with aircrew stepped onto the new AC-130J and took off for Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., where the final AC-130J will become part of the 27th Special Operations Wing.

He concluded with his gratitude for all who contributed to making the AC-130J the success it is today.

“For the whole team today, for the team that maintained the airplane, that built the airplane, that acquired the airplane, that fly the airplane, that tested the airplane, thank you for what you’ve done.”

The AC-130J is a transport aircraft modified for special forces operations and has been used to support AFSOC in missions around the world. It is a fifth-generation gunship that can provide close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance.

By Capt Alicia Premo

Air Force Special Operations Command

Sikorsky and DARPA’s Autonomous Black Hawk Flies Logistics and Rescue Missions Without Pilots on Board

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

Uninhabited Black Hawk® helicopter lifts external cargo and
completes casualty evacuation and medical resupply missions


Sikorsky demonstrates to the U.S. Army for the first time how an optionally piloted
Black Hawk helicopter flying in autonomous mode could resupply forward forces. These uninhabited Black Hawk flights occurred in October at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Photo courtesy Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company.

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz., Nov. 2, 2022 – Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company (NYSE: LMT) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have successfully demonstrated to the U.S. Army for the first time how an uninhabited Black Hawk helicopter flying autonomously can safely and reliably perform internal and external cargo resupply missions, and a rescue operation.

Performed Oct. 12, 14 and 18 as part of the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence 2022 (PC22) experiment, the flights show how existing and future piloted utility helicopters could one day fly complex missions in reduced crew or autonomous mode. This would give Army commanders and aviators greater flexibility in how and when aircraft and pilots are used, especially in limited visibility or contested environments.

Why It Matters

Sikorsky is partnered with DARPA to develop autonomy technology that will exponentially improve the flight safety and efficiency of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. Sikorsky’s autonomy system, known as MATRIX™ technology, forms the core of DARPA’s ALIAS (Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System) project.

“We believe MATRIX technology is ready now for transition to the Army as they look to modernize the enduring helicopter fleet, and acquire Future Vertical Lift aircraft,” said Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky Innovations. “In addition to increasing flight safety and reliability, MATRIX technology enables survivability in high tempo, high threat 21st Century Security environments where Black Hawk helicopters operate today, and DEFIANT X® and RAIDER X® helicopters could operate in the future. Uncrewed or reduced crewed helicopters could safely perform critical and lifesaving missions day or night in complex terrain and in contested battlespace.”

The Yuma Details

During PC22 Technology Gateway, the Sikorsky and DARPA team showed how the optionally piloted Black Hawk helicopter with no humans on board can deliver a large quantity of blood product unharmed by flying low and fast above ground level using the terrain to mask its signature; resupply troops with an external load; and re-route mid-flight to evacuate a casualty.

To begin the flight demonstrations, pilots flew and landed the Black Hawk aircraft, then activated the MATRIX system to give full control to the flight computer. When the pilots exited, the helicopter autonomously completed the following mission demonstrations: 

• Long-endurance Medical Resupply: The Black Hawk aircraft flew 83 miles while loaded with 400 units of real and simulated blood – totaling 500 pounds. On reaching 40 miles from its initial take-off point, the helicopter descended into a valley as low as 200 feet above ground level at 100 knots.

• Cargo Delivery and Casualty Evacuation (combined mission): The helicopter lifted off with a 2,600-pound external load attached to a 40-foot sling, and flew at 100 knots for 30 minutes toward a designated landing zone. While in flight, the helicopter was redirected, simulating a scenario in which a threat needed to be neutralized near the primary landing site. Sikorsky demonstrated how a ground operator with a secure radio and tablet can take control of the uncrewed helicopter, command it to release its sling load, and then land to evacuate a casualty from a nearby location. Once the manikin on a litter was secured inside the cabin, the ground operator launched the aircraft. During the return flight, a BATDOK health monitoring device integrated with the helicopter’s communications system relayed the patient’s vitals in real-time to a ground-based medical team.

What’s Next

The PC22 demonstrations were the second set of uninhabited Black Hawk flights this year. Sikorsky and DARPA will continue to work toward the transition of this technology for military operations, such as aircrew support and operations, logistics and medical resupply, casualty evacuation, and commercial applications such as firefighting, cargo and urban air mobility.

CV22 Osprey Recovered in Norway

Saturday, October 22nd, 2022

While participating in a training exercise in Norway, a CV-22B Osprey experienced an inflight emergency, requiring the pilots to land immediately. After six weeks of being grounded on the island of Senja, the 352nd Special Operations Wing’s Osprey was recovered via crane barge, Sept. 27, 2022.

The aircraft is now at a Norwegian military base where 752nd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers will perform repairs to get the aircraft flying once again.

The Norwegian Armed Forces, along with the Norwegian Environmental Protection Office, developed the plans for recovering the Osprey in concurrence with the U.S. Air Force.

“It [was very] demanding,” said Royal Norwegian Air Force Command Sergeant Major Odd Helge Wang. “The challenge [was how] shallow [the area was], and the machine weighs 20 tons.”

Many obstacles stood in the team’s way to recovering the CV-22, including weather delays and the more sensitive hurdle of preventing damage to the local fauna.

“[We’ve brought] 430 tons of equipment in to carry this out, so there will be some wear and tear,” Wang said. “We have tried to do everything as gently as possible.”

Now nestled in a military hangar, the maintenance crews will work to repair the aircraft so it may fly again. When accomplished, the Osprey will return to its home station in the United Kingdom.

“I’m so impressed by all parties involved who came together to make this recovery operation a success,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Westerman, recovery mission commander for the 352nd Special Operations Wing. “This monumental operation wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication from our allies and our Air Commandos, and we are immensely grateful for everything the Norwegians have provided our team during the past weeks.”

By TSgt Westin Warburton, 352nd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs