TIM ROBINSON and BILL READ provide a look at some of the most exciting news and highlights of the second trade day, 12 July, of Farnborough International Air Show 2016.
Tuesday saw the F-35B wow the crowds with a vertical flight demo.
While the Tuesday saw showgoers enjoy better weather than the freak downpour of the first day, there were still logistical grumbles to be had as visitors faced a shortage of buses, traffic jams and one hour queues to get actually on site. However, once inside these were forgotten as the day unfolded in a blitz of announcements, orders, briefings and air displays. While defence deals had dominated Day one, the second day saw Airbus and Boeing rack up some $31.1bn in airliner orders, with Airbus flying ahead in the traditional order race and ending with a giant Air Asia deal for 100 A321neos and another 100 options on top.
Let's take a look some of the top news from Day Two.
Don’t let Sentinel wither on the vine, warns RAF ISTAR commander
A strategic ISR asset - but underappreciated? (RAF)
Reducing the RAF’s Sentinel R1 fleet from five to four aircraft would be a major blunder and lead to a loss of critical and much needed UK ISR capability, warned the commander of the RAF’s ISTAR fleet. Speaking passionately and frankly at a Raytheon briefing, ISTAR Force Commander Air Commodore Dean Andrew, vowed he would be talking hard to decision-makers and others to reverse the decision set out in last November’s SDSR to reduce the Sentinel fleet from five to four aircraft and keep this, small but critical UK defence capability. Said Air Cdr Andrew of Sentinel, who also oversees Reaper, RC-135W, E-3D as well as upcoming platforms like P-8 and Protector said that Sentinel, which provides long-ranger swath and spot SAR and GMTI radar mapping, is the: “Number one requested [RAF ISR] capability from our coalition partners” adding “It’s the Prime Minister’s go-to aeroplane” in its role as a strategic ISR asset. However, despite its hard working aircraft and crews, who have seen operations in recent years in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, the UK (mapping floods) and now anti-ISIS operations in the Middle East, the platform has always seemed to be under threat from early retirement: “many people don’t understand the platform” said Air Cdre Andrew. Meanwhile, industry partner Raytheon stand ready to help the Sentinel fleet continue in service with a Focussed Asset Availability Contact and funded (Satcom, integrated radar programme) and potential (ELINT, LOROP) upgrades to keep the fleet viable beyond 2021.
With a responsibility that includes Project Athena, the RAFs ISR revamp to match budgets and resources, Air Cdre Andrew also had frank views on the challenges of SDSR, noting that while new equipment (such as P-8 and Protector) is on the way, “there was no uplift in manpower to support SDSR”. He also questioned the small size of the P-8 Poseidon buy, saying nine aircraft are “not enough” and would be “only enough to do over the sea” missions. Indeed, while Raytheon refused to be drawn on an overland radar capability for UK P-8s, the MoDs own press release earlier this week, confirming the Poseidon purchase, indicated that it would carry out an “overland surveillance” mission. Is the UK’s overstretched ISR force set to be overstretched again, even when the first RAF P-8 is delivered in April 2019? What is true is that this ISTAR Force commander is prepared to fight ISR’s corner and press his case to keep the maximum numbers of this critical Sentinel asset available saying, it is “"unthinkable that we would let this [capability] wither on the vine”.
Neo backlog increases
AirAsia now has 575 A320 family aircraft on order (Airbus)
Airbus continued to announce a spate of new orders for over 200 new A320 family aircraft. The orders included a $12.6bn order from AirAsia for 100 A321neos and 100 options which brings the total number of A320 family aircraft ordered by the Asian carrier to 575. Meanwhile, Indian low-cost airline Go Air signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for 72 A320neos, following an earlier 72 A320neo order placed in 2011. Germania Group ordered 25 Airbus A320neos while Icelandic low-cost airline WOW air signed a firm order for four Airbus A321s.
Farnborough kicks off KC390 demo tour
Muscling in on the militray transport market.
With visitors at this year’s Farnborough spoilt for choice in aircraft making their debuts, one of the stars of the static display has been Embraers KC390 tactical transport, one of two prototypes now undergoing flight testing. Though the programme has been by budget woes in Brazil, flight testing is now back on track with the company expecting certification for IOC in 2017. Some 350hrs of flight testing has been flown, including paratroop and cargo drops, – with the KC-390s demonstrating “unpresented availability” according to Embraer. The aircraft has also extended wing refuelling pod hoses, with a dry contacts to start later this year. A tour of the inside of the airlifter also highlighted its large cabin, able to transport 80 troops and thanks to a higher roof than rival C-130J able to take wheeled armoured vehicles with turrets.
Embraer is coy on the exact price of the KC-390 versus rival transports, only saying it is “very competitive" but adding the aircraft has a "real and huge advantage in lifecycle costs". With only one firm customer so far in the Brazilian Air Force, but commitments from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic and Portugal, the next stop for the KC-390 in a demonstration tour of Europe and North Africa.
UK aerospace industry strategy updated, post-Brexit
Speakers at the AGP briefing included Tom Williams, CEO of Airbus and a video message from Government Business Secretary Sajid Daved.
The UK government-industry Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) held a presentation on Tuesday to launch its new ‘Means of Ascent’ Industrial Strategy for UK Aerospace 2016. The meeting outlined the progress of the AGP in promoting UK aerospace and its future strategic vision following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. Government funding for UK research and development for 2013-2026 now totals £1.96bn which, matched 100% with industry, comes to £3.9bn. The AGP is keen to ensure that the UK retains and expands its export base in the years to come, by helping suppliers, encouraging innovation in SMEs, investing in skills and improving productivity. The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) is to invest in developing new technologies such as additive manufacturing, through-life service and the digital economy, particularly in the UK’s core aerospace areas of expertise in wings, engines and advanced aircraft systems.
Boeing wins MAX sales, finalises 747-8F deal
TUI signed for ten 737 MAXs. (Boeing)
Boeing also had a good day with the announcement of a MoU for ten 737 MAX 7s from Kunming Airlines and a commitment for 30 737 MAX and 737NGSs from an unidentified Chinese customer. Boeing also finalised an order for ten 737 MAX 8s and one 787-9 Dreamliner for the TUI Group, an order for six 737 MAX 8s from Air Lease Corporation (three of the orders are new and three were previously attributed to an unidentified customer)
In addition, Boeing finalised the terms of an agreement with heavy air cargo specialist Volga-Dnepr Group for the acquisition of 20 747-8 Freighters and signed an agreement with AirBridgeCargo Airlines and Volga-Dnepr Airlines to provide long-term logistics.
Reaction Engines gets ESA funding boost
We've got the bucks, now for Buck Rogers
The Tuesday of the show also saw significant space announcements, including €10m funding boost from ESA to support further development of Reaction Engines’ revolutionary hybrid SABRE engine. With this latest milestone a ground demonstrator engine is scheduled to be built by 2020.
Bell Valor demos cockpit of the future
Although this looks like one single display, it consists of several so that it can take battle damage and still show flight information.
While the mood over at Bell Helicopters was sombre following the recent crash of its 525 helicopter prototype, which killed two of its test pilots, it had brought along to Farnborough for the first time the full-size mock-up of its third-generation tiltrotor, the V-280 Valor. Designed to replace the ubiquitous Blackhawk and is Bells (and partner Lockheed Martin) entry in the Joint Multi Role competition, for which it is competing with Boeing/Sikorsky. While the external form of the futuristic high-speed rotorcraft is impressive enough, inside the cockpit the giant single display is like something out of the Star Trek reboot, and puts even Lockheed’s own F-35 wide screen to shame.
Keeping the wheel of R&D funding going
IAT provides a valuable R&D interface between academia and industry. (IAT)
Over on the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Aerospace Technology (IAT) was highlighting one of its 70 externally funded research projects – a new electric green wheel taxi motor, which it had delivered to Safran as part of the EU’s Clean Sky project. This, in comparison with the previous system, trialled on an Airbus A320, uses a direct drive motor to produce high levels of torque to get the airliner moving on the ground, especially on slight inclines found at some airports. It is also, says IAT researcher Professor Pat Wheeler, “considerably lighter” than the earlier system – a key requirement for this fuel saving technology which has to earn its way on the aircraft. Will these R&D opportunities into Europe continue, post-Brexit – especially for the IAT, which is the biggest university partner in Clean Sky? “It is business as usual” said Professor Herve Morvan, Director of IAT, “it is our understanding that our European partners want to continue working with us”. The IATs links with other bodies like the ATI and industry such Rolls-Royce, he noted, makes it a highly attractive partner for international R&D collaboration.
Bravo One-Zero Zero
Bravo, Herc (Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin announced that Brazilian logistics and defence group Bravo Industries has ordered ten LM-100Js, the civil version of the C130 Hercules military transport aircraft. Bravo is due to receive its first LM-100J commercial freighter by the end of 2019. Currently being manufactured, the LM-100J is due to fly next year with FAA certification to follow in early 2018. Lockheed says that currently has orders and letters of intent for 15 of the aircraft
Team partner to offer Scorpion Jet as UK EW Red Air
First sale for the Scorpion Jet?
QinetiQ, Thales and Textron have come together to propose the Textron AirLand Scorpion Jet as a electronic warfare and Red Air training support aircraft for the UK MoD. The Air Support to Defense Operational Training (ASDOT) project, expected to be selected in September 2018 would see a number of military and civilian assets (such as Cobham Aviation’s Falcon 20s) replaced by one 15-year umbrella contract to deliver training such as adversary EW jamming, or anti-ship missile profiles.
Airbus to slash A380 production
Slowing production will keep the A380 alive - but for how long?
With Airbus struggling to land superjumbo orders, it has been reported that Airbus is to halve its production of the A380, down to only 12 deliveries per year from 2018. Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier describes the move as a ‘prudent and proactive’ measure but added that Airbus will continue to invest in the A380 programme. At the show, the manufacturer launched a new A380-focused travel search engine, iflyA380.com designed to connect passengers with A380 flights.
‘Cognitive EW’ will counter enemy radars in real-time
Smart missiles will use EW to hunt down the most dangerous threat.
Over at BAE Systems the company was giving a rare public insight into the ‘dark arts’ of electronic warfare (EW). While EW has a long history (In WW2 the Blitz saw both sides play cat and mouse as Britain attempted to foil German bombing navigation aids), BAE’s EW history, via a US legacy company goes back almost as far, to 1951. BAE Systems EW systems have now been installed on over 80 platforms, including F-15s, EC-130H Compass Call, F-22s (the first digital EW system) and the latest AN/ASQ-239 suite on the F-35. One clue to the sophistication and accuracy of the F-35s EW system was a comment by an F-35 pilot at RIAT last week who said “the radar isn’t even the primary sensor anymore”.
Particularly interesting was BAE’s thoughts on future trends for EW, including smaller equipment to go on missiles and UAVs, network centric EW and ‘cognitive EW’. More compact and lighter EW systems, says BAE means it is now possible to out EW on smaller platforms – including missiles. The DARPA/Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) will carry a BAE EW kit that will locate and classify threats and then attack the most promising target. 'Cognitive' EW which BAE is working on with a DARPA project, would allow EW systems to counter previous unseen emitters. Previously in the Cold War, detecting a new hostile threat emission, like a radar and then developing countermeasures to jam or spoof it, would take ‘weeks’. Cognitive EW aims to do this in real-time, in flight.
ARJ21 picks up sales
Chinese manufacturer COMAC has received orders from two Chinese lessors for 90 ARJ21 regional aircraft. The first deal is for 30 ARJ21s for AVIC Leasing while the second is a collaboration between Comac and China Aircraft Leasing which will lease the aircraft to an undisclosed Indonesian airline owned by Freidmann Pacific Asset Management for 60 ARJ21s.
Scaling up additive manufacturing
Component manufacturer Norsk Titanium has announced plans to build the world's first industrial-scale aerospace metal additive manufacturing plant. The factory which will open in Plattsburg, New York at the end of 2017, will be equipped with 20 Merke IV rapid plasma deposition machines which use plasma torches to turn titanium wire into components. An additional 20 machines may be added later.
Wow – more A321 sales
Icelandic low-cost airline WOW air signed a firm order for four Airbus A321s. The carrier already operates 11 all-Airbus aircraft.
US Coast Guard HC-27J on show
USCG Aviation also celebrates its centennial this year.
Making its European debut at the show was a US Coast Guard (USCG) Leonardo-Finmeccanica HC-27J complete with its crew. The USCG is using the two-engined ex-US military HC-27Js to replace four-engined HC-130J Hercules. What will eventually be a 24 aircraft fleet of USCG HC-27Js are already being used for such missions as medium range maritime patrol and surveillance, oil spill detection and search and rescue missions. The aircraft are to be upgraded with surface search radar, electro-optical/infrared sensors, C4ISR suite and the Minotaur mission system which will be tested on a prototype HC-27J at the US Navy’s Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
Get your A350 spares here
Airbus and Rolls-Royce have created a new integrated parts availability service for the Cathay Pacific Airways A350 fleet which encompasses both airframe and engine line-replaceable-unit (LRU) components. The service integrates Airbus’ Fleet Hours Services (FHS) and Rolls-Royce’s TotalCare Availability service.
Download your copy of July AEROSPACE
Sample a taste of RAeS Membership with a free PDF download of the June issue of AEROSPACE magazine here.
No head for heights?
Spotted on the Saab Experience was two headless pilots. Executed for blabbing to the press? Or did they get a bit ‘ahead’ of themselves? Answers on the usual postcard.
Stay ahead of all the news!
To follow all the news at Farnborough don’’t forget to bookmark www.aerosociety.com and follow the daily airshow news on the Insight blog. For those on Twitter, follow @AeroSociety and use the hashtag #FARN16. Editor-in-Chief Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR