Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

Air Force Refines Pilot Candidate Selection Process in Support of Rated Diversity

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Several Air Education and Training Command initiatives to remove barriers for qualified candidates in the pilot candidate selection process were highlighted in the Air Force’s six-month assessment of its initial Racial Disparity Report Sept. 9.

Pilot Candidates may now:

– Use their highest composite scores from any Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) rather than the most current score. 

– Complete the Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS) up to three times, with the third requiring a waiver from the applicant’s wing commander or equivalent. 

– Re-take the AFOQT and TBAS after 90 days compared to the previous 150-day requirement for the AFOQT and 180 days for the TBAS.

– Participate in study sessions with other individuals who have not yet taken the test if the examinee has also never taken the AFOQT.

These changes came after extensive research conducted by the pilot selection process working group responsible for identifying potential barriers while upholding the standards of excellence in the Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) used since 1993.

“Our studies concluded that these changes will result in more qualified candidates of underrepresented groups being selected for training,” said Lt. Col. Brandi King, the working group’s Air Education and Training Command lead.

Prior flying experience a barrier to qualification

Prior flying experience, the second largest component of an applicant’s PCSM score, particularly poses a socioeconomic barrier to candidates without access to or financial means to pay for flying lessons.  To address this barrier, the Air Force now considers only a candidate’s initial 60 flight hours when scoring a candidate. 

“There is no evidence that more than 61 hours of flight experience poses a significant benefit to pilot training success,” said Dr. Katie Gunther, chief of strategic research and assessment at the Air Force Personnel Center. “The probability of success in flight training increases substantially from 0 hours to 60 hours, then relatively plateaus.”

The working group also found that removing the higher ranges of flight hours as part of the PCSM score would result in a more-diverse applicant pool.  According to the Validation of the Pilot Candidate Selection Method 2020 report prepared by the AFPC Strategic Research and Assessment branch, removing the four highest ranges of flight hour codes would have resulted in 69 more Hispanic, 47 more female, and 26 more Black/African-American qualified applicants over a 12-year period.

“Flying lessons are expensive and could potentially exclude qualified candidates from becoming pilots in the Air Force due to limited income or lack of opportunities,” said Brig. Gen. Brenda Cartier, AETC’s Director of Operations and Communications and the pilot selection process working group’s overall lead. “In order to ensure we do not eliminate otherwise qualified candidates, flight programs have been implemented at both The United States Air Force Academy and the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. Cadets receive free ground and flight training, and an opportunity to gain critical skills and directly improve their competiveness for pilot selection boards.”

Pilot selection process

A PCSM score quantifies a pilot candidate’s predicted aptitude for success at undergraduate pilot training. This score is comprised of the AFOQT and TBAS scores, previous flying experience, and other “whole-person concept” merits such as grade point average, physical fitness assessment scores and class ranking.

“Data supports that the PCSM is the best single predictor of pilot training completion. However, it is imperative that we continue re-evaluating our selection methods and remove barriers that hinder rated diversity without compromising test integrity or lowering standards,” King said.

Teaching the Commando New Tricks

Friday, September 17th, 2021


The C-130J is an incredibly versatile aircraft, and since it’s creation, it’s landed on rough fields, in arctic locations and even an aircraft carrier Yet, it cannot land on water, which covers about 71% of the planet. As national strategic objectives shift focus to littoral regions, Air Force Special Operations Command is advancing new approaches to expand the multi-mission platform’s runway independence and expeditionary capacity.

In partnership with the Air Force Research Lab’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (AFRL-SDPE) directorate, AFSOC is developing an MC-130J Commando II Amphibious Capability (MAC) to improve the platform’s support of seaborne special operations. “The development of the MAC capability is the culmination of multiple lines of effort,” said Lt Col Josh Trantham, AFSOC Science, Systems, Technology, & Innovation (SST&I) Deputy Division Chief. “This capability allows the Air Force to increase placement and access for infiltration, exfiltration, and personnel recovery, as well as providing enhanced logistical capabilities for future competition and conflict.”

The development of a removable amphibious float modification for an MC-130J would enable “runway independent” operations, which, according to Trantham, would extend the global reach and survivability of the aircraft and Air Commandos. “Seaborne operations offer nearly unlimited water landing zones providing significant flexibility for the Joint Force,” Trantham said.

Utilizing the MAC capability may provide unlimited operational access to waterways to distribute forces if land assets are compromised. 

“MAC is vital to future success because it will allow for the dispersal of assets within a Joint Operations Area,” said Maj Kristen Cepak, AFSOC Technology Transition Branch Chief. “This diaspora complicates targeting of the aircraft by our adversaries and limits aircraft vulnerability at fixed locations.”

A task force of industry partners are closely collaborating with AFSOC and AFRL-SDPE to bring the vision to life. A five-phase rapid prototyping schedule will lead to an operational capability demonstration in only 17 months while de-risking the concept for a future potential MAC program of record that could field MAC for MC-130Js but also potentially field a similar amphibious capability for other C-130 variants with only minor variations.

AFSOC and private sector counterparts are currently testing MAC prototypes through digital design, virtual reality modeling (VR), and computer-aided designs (CAD) in a virtual setting known as the Digital Proving Ground (DPG), paving the way for digital simulation, testing, and the use of advanced manufacturing for rapid prototyping and physical prototype testing.

According to Trantham and Cepak, the DPG can deliver mission review, aircraft system analysis, design ideation, engineering risk-reduction, virtual reality, concept imagery, feasibility studies, and other deliverables.

“Being able to experiment with existing technology to evaluate design tradeoffs and test a new system before ever bending metal is a game-changer,” Cepak said. “AFSOC is evolving and experimenting in a smart way to reduce technical risk and deliver capability to the field more rapidly and efficiently than before.”

According to Trantham, while the MAC project demonstrates rapid capability development for AFSOC, the Air Force and the Total Force will also benefit.

“We believe MAC will be able to be used by our sister services, allies, and partners on various C-130 platforms,” he said. “Further, expanding the operational use of an amphibious aircraft alongside other innovative tools will provide even more complex dilemmas in future battlespaces for our strategic competitors.”

By SSgt Brandon Esau, AFSOC Public Affairs

Bell 360 Invictus Build Makes Significant Progress for US Army’s FARA Prototype Competition

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

Bell and Team Invictus are combining industry-leading technology with digital processes to improve manufacturing, testing, and integration schedules to deliver a high-performance attack and reconnaissance aircraft

Fort Worth, Texas (August 11, 2021) – Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, has released new data on the build and testing for the Bell 360 Invictus competitive prototype. The Bell 360 program is rapidly progressing through manufacturing, assembly, components testing, and systems integration work for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program. The team has completed multiple design and risk reviews with the Army and is on schedule for all program requirements. The Bell 360, a low-risk, high-speed platform with proven technology and inherently reliable designs, will deliver soldiers transformational operational capabilities at an affordable cost.

“This team is achieving great results responding to requirements, reducing programmatic risk, and delivering state-of-the-art capabilities for the Army,” said Chris Gehler, vice president and program director for the Bell 360 Invictus. “We are combining Bell’s unique knowledge of the demands placed on scout aircraft with engineering and technical expertise to give the Army a weapon system to dominate attack reconnaissance missions for decades to come.”

Since beginning the build in late 2020, Bell has made significant progress on the Bell 360 Invictus fuselage, main rotor blades, gearbox assembly, cases, and other high-value components. By implementing a design-as-built methodology that digitally connects the entire program throughout its lifecycle, Bell has increased its ability to collaborate in real-time with program partners and the Army. This method accelerates decision-making among distributed teams using a common, secure data environment that creates a singular source of data for the program leading to reduced assembly, rework time and cost.   

Along with assembling the Bell 360 Invictus, high-value components such as the main rotor gearbox, driveshafts and couplings are being tested at Bell’s Drive Systems Test Lab (DSTL). The DSTL is used to carry out risk-reduction efforts that ensure the program has accurate and verified data to qualify components in advance of flight test. 

A new FARA-specific Systems Integration Lab (SIL) is also operational at Bell. This facility allows Bell to integrate flight-critical components, software, and mission systems for testing, verification, and validation of functionality before they take flight on an actual aircraft. This approach reduces technical risk and aids in the safe, rapid, and efficient execution of flight test program.

“The Bell 360 Invictus is an exciting aircraft that brings sophisticated digital systems together in a high-speed, reliable, maintainable vehicle for austere environments around the world,” said Jayme Gonzalez, program manager, Bell 360 Invictus. “The Bell 360 offers the Army the ability to modernize using simplified and inherently reliable designs to reduce costs and deliver enhanced effectiveness for the Army.”  

To learn more about Bell 360 Invictus and Future Vertical Lift (FVL), please visit the Bell FVL website, and follow us on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Schiebel Camcopter S-100 Successfully Completes US Navy Flight Trials

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 9 August 2021 – Schiebel Aircraft and Areté Associates, successfully showcased the CAMCOPTER® S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) combined with Areté’s Pushbroom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) sensor to the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

In a combined demonstration sponsored by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) on a commercial vessel off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Schiebel and Areté demonstrated the CAMCOPTER® S-100 and its capabilities, as well as Areté’s Push- broom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) system.

PILLS enables hydrographic mapping of ocean littoral spaces with a low size, weight, and power (SWaP) sensor that easily integrates into the S-100. PILLS has multiple military and commercial applications.

Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group, said: “We are proud that we could successfully showcase the outstanding capabilities and data-gathering features of our CAMCOPTER® S-100 to the US Navy. Globally, we operate extensively on land and at sea and we are confident that our unmanned solution is also the right fit for the US Navy.”

HENSOLDT Demonstrates Airborne SIGINT capabilities

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

Taufkirchen, 27 July 2021 – Technologies and deployment modes of airborne signal intelligence (SIGINT) have been successfully demonstrated by sensor solution provider HENSOLDT during a test flight campaign at Hohn Air Base in Schleswig-Holstein.

The aim of the six test flights carried out together with GFD GmbH on a Learjet was to give representatives of the German customer an overview of available technologies and their growth potential. The findings are to be incorporated into the planning of future SIGINT capability on a wide variety of flying platforms. 

In a so-called “expansion stage 1” of the demonstration, which was financed from company funds, the localisation, bearing, tracking and recording of signals was demonstrated, which located and tracked transmitters with frequencies in the communications range in scenarios of tactical signal reconnaissance. For the demonstration, a system concept was developed and realised that achieved a maximum of bearing accuracy and speed.

A later planned “expansion stage 2” of the demo campaign will highlight monitoring and pattern recognition procedures, possibly using AI techniques. Among other things, the findings are to be incorporated into the further development of the modular HENSOLDT product family KALÆTRON Integral® for the realisation of the future scalable ELINT reconnaissance container, which can be used on various platform types – including drones.

HENSOLDT HAS BEEN active in the electronic reconnaissance market for decades. The company has developed COMINT and ELINT sensors for the German Armed Forces and other NATO forces, among others, and integrates them into EW systems for the Air Force, Army and Navy.

MQ-9 Agile Combat Employment: A Big Step Closer to Reality

Saturday, July 31st, 2021


The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron proved the MQ-9 Reaper’s Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) is ready as of July 8, enabling crews to divert to airfields without traditional launch and recovery infrastructure or personnel. This capability is a key enabler for MQ-9 Agile Combat Employment and, combined with the MQ-9’s next software upgrade and receipt of the portable aircraft control station, will change how it will be employed in theaters worldwide.

Previously, all MQ-9 takeoffs and landings required a specialized launch and recovery crew located wherever the Reaper intended to land. But this time, with aircrew controlling the MQ-9 via satellite from their operating location at Nellis Air Force Base, the MQ-9 taxied to the runway and took off from Creech AFB, 55.6 miles away from the crew controlling it. The 556th TES recently proved this concept and landed at Creech AFB using ATLC while under satellite control from the aircrew at Nellis AFB, but this week’s sorties pushed the envelope much further.

On the first day of the two-day test, the 556th TES flew the MQ-9 from Creech AFB to Cannon AFB, New Mexico, landed, taxied, and took off again before returning to Creech AFB —  all under satellite control. In this instance, the aircrew used imagery in the cockpit to generate the reference points for the automated landing system. On the second day, the destination changed to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, and the team again proved the capability, this time using the targeting pod to survey the runway, feed the ATLC system the data needed to fly an airport traffic pattern, land, and take off again.

Initially published ATLC procedures required an MQ-9 to be at the airfield of operation to taxi down the runway and have the aircrew electronically mark reference points when the aircraft was physically in position on the runway. The sorties proved that requirement obsolete. The technology and 556th TES-derived tactics are ready today for the aircraft to divert to a foreign field where an MQ-9 has never been before, and there is no longer a requirement for specialized infrastructure to land the unmanned aerial vehicle.

“We’re taking up the chief of staff of the Air Force’s charge to accelerate change,” stated Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, 556th TES commander. “This is a clear win and I couldn’t be prouder of the team that put this test together, this quickly, to include the support we received from Air Force Special Operations Command and the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon (AFB), as well as Air Education and Training Command and the 49th Wing at Holloman (AFB). Their support and patience made the impact of this test what it needed to be and we are grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”

According to Chmielewski, the ATLC capability will shift the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Enterprise’s mindset. It sets the enterprise up to become more agile with the next scheduled software release in spring 2022.

556th Test and Evaluation Squadron

Photos by photo by A1C Jessica Sanchez

Canadian Department of National Defence Awards Tulmar Safety Systems for Emergency Passenger Oxygen Systems

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Tulmar Safety Systems is pleased to announce the award of Contract No. W8485-216379/001 by the Canadian Department of National Defence for the exclusive supply of  Essex Industries Emergency Passenger Oxygen Systems (EPOS) to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Air Forces such as the USAF and RCAF utilize the EPOS smoke hood for trained individuals in military aircraft emergencies such as decompression, fire, evacuation, rescue, smoke-filled cabins, toxic fumes or hazardous cargo spills.  The EPOS smoke hood utilizes compressed aviation grade oxygen and CO2 scrubbers to furnish up to 60 minutes of oxygen for someone at rest.

Founded in 1992, Tulmar has become Canada’s leading supplier of Aviation Life Support Equipment for defence and commercial aviation markets.

AeroVironment Selected by U.S. Special Operations Command for $22 Million Beyond Line of Sight ISR Services Award Under Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems IV Program

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

• First award for satellite communications-enabled beyond line of sight (BLOS) on competitive Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems (MEUAS) IV program

• AeroVironment receives task order to provide ISR services at additional customer location

• AeroVironment JUMP 20 is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), fixed-wing unmanned aircraft that AeroVironment uses to provide advanced multi-sensor intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) services

JUMP 20 is a VTOL, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system that can be deployed quickly and requires no launch equipment or runway. (Photo: AeroVironment, Inc.)

ARLINGTON, Va., July 13, 2021 – AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in intelligent, multi-domain robotic systems, today announced it was awarded a competitive task order valued at approximately $22 million on May 21, 2021 from the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for ISR services using JUMP® 20 medium unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at an undisclosed customer location. The ISR services include the first SATCOM-enabled unmanned aircraft system for beyond line of sight operations as part of the existing Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) MEUAS IV contract. The task order specifies a 12-month period of performance and multiple follow-on option years for ISR services.

“The JUMP 20 delivers an unmatched level of versatility, with runway and infrastructure independence, multiple payload configurations, class-leading endurance and a track record of reliability and ruggedness,” said Gorik Hossepian, AeroVironment vice president and product line general manager for medium UAS. “The inclusion of a SATCOM payload adds beyond line of sight operation to the JUMP 20, providing our customer with expanded reach and situational awareness, and representing another game-changing, market-leading capability.”

The AeroVironment JUMP 20 is the first fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) to be deployed extensively in support of U.S. military forces. Ideal for multi-mission operations, JUMP 20 delivers 14+ hours of endurance, a standard operational range of 185 km (115 mi) and is runway independent. The system can be set up and operational in less than 60 minutes without the need for launch or recovery equipment and has a useable payload capacity of up to 30 pounds. The JUMP 20 also features a common autopilot and ground control system architecture providing a highly customizable, modular platform which can be custom-configured to meet operational or customer requirements.