NASA Sponsors Advanced Aircraft Concepts Study

Last week NASA has awarded two contracts for studies designed to identify advanced concepts for commercial airliners that could enter service in 2025. Main goal of the new airliners is that they need to be quieter, greener and more fuel-efficient.

Lockheed Martin (Skunk Works) was selected for a contract worth $2.99 million.
Northrop Grumman was selected for a contract worth $2.65 million.

Both teams will define a preferred system concept for an aircraft that can fly up to 85 percent of the speed of sound; cover a range of approximately 7,000 miles; and carry between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds of payload, either passengers or cargo.
Both contracts have a performance period of 12 months, beginning in November.

MIT Future Aircraft Concept

The NASA project is working to develop technology that would enable future aircraft to burn 50 percent less fuel than current models; reduce harmful emissions by 50 percent; and shrink the geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent.

Earlier this year MIT already presented its own vision of future commercial planes to NASA. This research contract was sponsored by NASA with $2.1 million.

Source: NASA
Image: MIT/Aurora Flight Sciences

Northrop Grumman Drops Out of Air Force Tanker Competition

Unfortunately Northrop Grumman today announced that they decided to drop out of the U.S. Air Force tanker bid because of the clearly unfair nature of the competition.

The following statement was released by Northrop Grumman Corporation:

“After a comprehensive analysis of the final RFP, Northrop Grumman has determined that it will not submit a bid to the Department of Defense for the KC-X program. We reached this conclusion based on the structure of the source selection methodology defined in the RFP, which clearly favors Boeing’s smaller refueling tanker and does not provide adequate value recognition of the added capability of a larger tanker, precluding us from any competitive opportunity.

Northrop Grumman KC-45 Tanker

“Northrop Grumman fully respects the Department’s responsibility to determine the military requirements for the new tanker. In the previous competition, Northrop Grumman was selected by the Air Force as offering the most capable tanker for the warfighter at the best value for the taxpayer. However, the Northrop Grumman and EADS team is very disappointed that the revised source selection methodology now dramatically favors Boeing’s smaller refueling tanker. We agree that the fundamental military requirements for the new tanker have not changed since the last competition, but the Department’s new evaluation methodology now clearly favors the smaller tanker.

“We continue to believe that Northrop Grumman’s tanker represents the best value for the military and taxpayer – a belief supported by the selection of the A330 tanker design over the Boeing design in the last five consecutive tanker competitions around the globe. Regrettably, this means that the U.S. Air Force will be operating a less capable tanker than many of our Allies in this vital mission area.

“Our prior selection by the Air Force, our firm belief that we provide the best value offering, and the hard work and commitment of the many individuals and communities on our team over many years made this a difficult decision for our company. But we have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders to prudently invest our corporate resources, as do our more than 200 tanker team suppliers across the United States. Investing further resources to submit a bid would not be acting responsibly.

“We have decided that Northrop Grumman will not protest. While we feel we have substantial grounds to support a GAO or court ruling to overturn this revised source selection process, America’s service men and women have been forced to wait too long for new tankers. We feel a deep responsibility to their safety and to their ability to fulfill the missions our nation calls upon them to perform. Taking actions that would further delay the introduction of this urgent capability would also not be acting responsibly.

“We recognize that our decision likely creates a sole-source outcome for Boeing. We call on the Department to keep in mind the economic conclusions of the prior round of bidding as it takes actions to protect the taxpayer when defining the sole-source procurement contract. In the previous round, the Air Force, through a rigorous assessment of our proposal, determined that it would pay a unit flyaway cost of approximately $184 million per tanker for the first 68 tankers, including the non-recurring development costs. With the Department’s decision to procure a much smaller, less capable design, the taxpayer should certainly expect the bill to be much less.” (…)

It’s a shame that the lobbyists once again have been able to abuse their power.

A330 MRTT First Time Boom Refueling of F-16

The EADS A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) – currently in production for four allied nations – marked another major performance milestone with the first in-flight refueling performed from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) A330 MRTT utilizing its integrated Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS).

The contacts and subsequent fuel transfers were made with two F-16 receiver aircraft and validated the advanced ARBS handling qualities, precision, and stability on the A330 MRTT, as well as the capabilities of its 3-D vision system. The flight lasted four hours and 30 minutes, with more than 3,300 pounds of fuel transferred during 13 contacts.

EADS A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Boom Refueling
A330 MRTT Tanker Boom Refueling of F-16

EADS’ fly-by-wire ARBS is one of the key technological discriminators for the A330 MRTT and Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 offering to the U.S. Air Force, providing the only digital, all-electric fly-by-wire refueling system available today.

The ARBS has already made more than 250 wet and dry contacts with a wide range of receiver aircraft, in a full range of operating conditions and throughout the flight envelope, while the boom was deployed on an EADS test-bed aircraft.

The RAAF’s A330 MRTT is similar in configuration to Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 Tanker offered for the U.S. Air Force to recapitalize its aging aerial refueling fleet. Both aircraft are equipped with the EADS ARBS, plus a pair of all-digital Cobham 905E refueling pods under the wings. This mix of boom and pod refueling technologies ensures the A330 MRTT and KC-45 can transfer fuel to all types of receiver aircraft during a single mission without reconfiguration. The KC-45 also offers a centerline hose-and-drogue fuselage refueling unit.

The boom’s maximum nominal fuel flow rate is 1,200 U.S. gallons per minute, while the pods can deliver up to 420 gallons of fuel per minute. Aerial refueling operations are controlled from a state-of-the-art Remote Aerial Refueling Operator console in the cockpit behind the pilots, incorporating the enhanced vision system with laser infrared lighting and high-definition digital stereoscopic viewing.

EADS North America is a principal teammate on Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 Tanker program, and is responsible for delivering the aircraft platform, which will be produced at a new aerospace center of excellence to be built in Mobile, Ala.

Airbus Military, an EADS company, is responsible for the design and production of the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport for international customers, which today includes Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Orders from those countries total 28 aircraft. The A330 MRTT has won all of the international competitions for new-generation aerial tankers since 2004.

The RAAF will receive its first of five A330 MRTTs in 2010, two of which have completed conversion and currently are in flight test. Upon delivery to the RAAF, they will be designated the KC-30A.

Source: EADS
Photos: EADS

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Completes First Catapult launch tests

In preparation for its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E), Northrop Grumman’s first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye test aircraft, known as Delta One, has successfully completed its first land-based catapult launch tests. Both E-2D System Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft, Delta One and Delta Two, are currently undergoing shore-based carrier suitability testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., conducted by the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20).

Prior to joining the carrier fleet, all naval aviation aircraft undergo carrier suitability testing. The bulk of this testing involves catapult and arrested landing structural tests, as well as the interoperability between the aircraft and the carrier.

Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Delta One

Introduced in 2007, and built on the E-2’s strong legacy of providing world-class airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) capability for more than 45 years, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the sixth generation of the E-2. While its external appearance is similar to the E-2C, the internal systems of the Advanced Hawkeye have been completely redesigned and the capabilities vastly expanded. With its newly developed, more powerful AN/APY-9 Electronic Scan Array (ESA) radar, the E-2D will provide the warfighter with the expanded battlespace and situational awareness required for today’s and tomorrow’s missions.

Under a $408 million contract awarded in July 2007, Northrop Grumman is producing three E-2D pilot production aircraft which are on-track for delivery to the U.S. Navy in 2010. Following the successful completion of a Milestone C review, a $432 million contract, awarded in June, kicked off Low-Rate Initial Production. The Navy’s Program of Record is for 75 total E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.

Source: Northrop Grumman
Photo: Northrop Grumman