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Columbia and Piasecki To Upgrade Model 107 Helicopters – AIN – July 2

 Columbia Helicopters announced a partnership with Piasecki Aircraft to upgrade current Model 107-II tandem-rotor helicopters for better fuel efficiency, power and reliability like the new Columbia CHI-107-III model, AIN reported. Modifications cover installing an upgraded General Electric CT-58 turboshafts with 25 percent more power over the current T-58 engines, adding a new glass cockpit with improved autopilot, a new fuel system for longer ranges and a new rotor system with lower maintenance requirements. Modifications will be made and tested at Piasecki’s facility in Coatesville, Penn, which used to be Sikorsky’s production line for S-76 and S-92 single-rotor helicopters. The Model 107-II is the civilian version of the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter that served with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

The post Columbia and Piasecki To Upgrade Model 107 Helicopters – AIN – July 2 appeared first on Avionics International.

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L3Harris Electronic Warfare System Completes Rigorous Testing

MELBOURNE, Fla., July 10, 2024 — L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has completed testing on its latest Viper Shield Electronic Warfare (EW) system, which enhances protection for F-16 pilots, at the U.S. Air Force’s Integrated Defensive Avionics Laboratory.

The hardware and software testing, known as Drop 4, was on the AN/ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield suite, which identified and displayed threats of interest and sorted through them in challenging backgrounds to provide precise situational awareness. 

“Viper Shield demonstrated radar warning receiver functionality in dense background radio frequency environments, and successfully detected, identified, sorted and cued multiple threats,” said Air Force Col. Michael Rigoni, EW Program Manager, F-16 System Program Office, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The colonel attended the test and added that “completion of Drop 4 testing provides program risk reduction and marks an important level of system maturity.”

The Viper Shield Drop 4 capability uses production representative hardware and integrates fully with all F-16 systems. Drop 4 also ensures that the pilot has enhanced protection against threats through improved pilot-vehicle interface with the Countermeasures Dispensing System, which can release chaff and flares from the aircraft.

“Viper Shield is a virtual electronic armor that will improve the ability of F-16 fighter pilots to detect threats earlier so they can defend themselves and utilize that data to increase their survivability,” said Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. “We will continue to refine and advance this system for warfighters globally.” 

L3Harris designed Viper Shield as the baseline EW system for the global F-16 Block 70/72 fleet and can  enhance both offensive and defensive capabilities. The system has proven its performance with other important milestones, including seamless integration with the onboard APG-83 AESA radar. L3Harris can also install Viper Shield onto legacy F-16 configurations inside the aircraft or in fully integrated pod configurations utilizing the existing Line Replaceable Units mounted externally. 

The post L3Harris Electronic Warfare System Completes Rigorous Testing appeared first on Avionics International.

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Boeing Expanding Effort To Autonomously Inspect Aircraft – July 28

X10D small drone. (Photo: Skydio)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Using small third-party drones for high-resolution imaging and its own artificial intelligence-based software algorithms, Boeing is expanding an effort to speed the inspection of military aircraft exteriors and increase readiness while reducing costs and enhancing safety, a company official said.

Boeing has developed what it calls “automated damage detection software” that quickly analyzes video taken by a small drone hovering above and around an aircraft to automatically detect everything from chipped paint and exposed screws and rivets to missing seals and exposed composite fibers, Scott Belanger, who works contested logistics solutions for Boeing’s Global Services segment, told reporters.

The current manual inspections of large aircraft like a KC-46 tanker and C-5 transport, which have tails that stand 51-feet and 72-feet high respectively, are difficult to conduct and dangerous and “not accurate even when you try your best with the human eyeball,” Belanger said during a June 27 briefing in a hangar where the company does maintenance, repair, and overhaul work on military aircraft.

Officials from Boeing and its partner Skydio, a developer and manufacturer of small quadcopter drones, demonstrated the autonomous aircraft general visual inspection capability on a moveable step platform standing about 10-feet high representing a small aircraft. For the demonstration, a Skydio official remotely flew his company’s X10D drone out a few dozen yards and marked off a zone around platform, then touched the display screen on his controller to enable the small unmanned aircraft to autonomously fly above and around the platform at until it finished imaging with an onboard 64-megapixel Teledyne FLIR camera.

The corrosion problem facing legacy Defense Department aircraft is tens of millions of dollars monthly and Boeing wants to help cut into those costs, said Belanger, who served in the Air Force and was a maintenance commander. A typical “home station” inspection by the Air Force of a large aircraft like a KC-46 or C-17 transport takes about six hours and Boeing and its partners are halving that time with the combination of the small drones and anomaly detection software, he said.

In 2023, Boeing’s autonomous aircraft inspection program collected over 4,000 images of different aircraft and achieved “a 93 percent true positive detection rate,” which means a human technician validated that the software correctly identified a corrosion issue in those instances, Belanger said. Depending on the experience of the personnel, an inspection team will miss about 50 percent of the damage, he said.

Moreover, the drones provide inspection angles that inspection teams cannot obtain manually and allow a customer to build a consistent and accurate digital record of the aircraft that they are not currently getting, Belanger said. And every time Boeing runs its software against the data, the company’s algorithm learns and gets better, he added.

Boeing initially partnered with Near Earth Autonomy, which provides small drones equipped with LiDAR sensors, for the autonomous aircraft inspection effort. Recently, Boeing expanded its partners to include Skydio, which has shipped more than 40,000 drones worldwide, including 2,000 to Ukraine.

Aircraft that have been examined with the drones and AI software include Boeing’s KC-46, KC-135 tanker, C-40, and the 737 commercial plane, and the Lockheed Martin-built C-17 and C-5 transports. This year, Boeing plans to use its automated technology to assess damage on the B-1 and B-52 bombers, C-130J transport, and P-8 submarine-hunting aircraft.

Belanger said the tools Boeing are developing will not replace maintainers but will better prepare them to do their jobs better. It only takes about 40 minutes for the drone to inspect an aircraft but if combined with the damage assessment software, it will help a maintenance team fine-tune their inspection plan and bring the right tools to look at a potential problem, he said.

Having the autonomous inspection capability can enhance readiness by helping maintainers quickly figure out whether an issue can be fixed on the spot or require an aircraft to be flown to a rear area for a more involved repair, he said.

Boeing plans to move “aggressively” in the next 12 to 18 months to further develop and demonstrate the automated aircraft damage assessment tools, he said.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post Boeing Expanding Effort To Autonomously Inspect Aircraft – July 28 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Sikorsky Receives GE’s New T901 Engines For Integration On Black Hawk – July 28

Sikorsky has received the first two GE Aerospace T901 new Army helicopter engines that will be integrated onto the UH-60M Black Hawk to support modernization efforts, the companies said on Thursday.

The delivery milestone for the T901, developed under the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), arrives as the Army is targeting early 2025 for the first flight of the Black Hawk with the new engine.

“This delivery represents the beginning of a new era and a pivotal moment in our ongoing work with the U.S. Army,” Amy Gowder, GE Aerospace’s president and CEO of defense and systems, said in a statement. “The T901 engine will ensure warfighters will have the performance, power, and reliability necessary to maintain a significant advantage on the battlefield.”

GE Aerospace was awarded a $517 million contract in February 2019 to develop its T901 engine for ITEP, which will eventually power the Army’s AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The T901 was also intended to power the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft platform before the Army announced in February its plan to cancel development of the program, which had been in a competitive prototype phase with Sikorsky and Bell.

Along with canceling FARA, the Army noted at the time it would also delay moving into production of the T901 engine and invest in further research and development efforts.

In late April, the Army confirmed it had recently conducted a “light off” of the T901 engine on Sikorsky’s Raider X prototype for FARA to reduce risk heading into Black Hawk integration efforts. 

“With that effort [on the FARA prototype], we gained a lot of data that will transition into the ITEP program. First into the Black Hawk program and then into the Apache,” Brig. Gen. David Phillips, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation, told reporters at the time. “[This summer,] we’ll get those engines integrated into the [Black Hawk] aircraft. We’ll do some power on checks later this year. Throughout the rest of this year, there will be planning in parallel. After we finish the preliminary flight rating testing on the test stands of the other engines that would feed right into the air worthiness release to do the first test flights and ground runs. Those will probably occur next year based on the schedule where we’re at today.”

Sikorsky said in April it had received authorization from the Army to now run the T901 engine up to full speed on the ground, while confirming there were no plans to actually fly the company’s Raider X prototype with the new engine.

“We view this [Black Hawk effort] as an extension of the work we’ve completed on ITE[P] with our Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft prototype and are even better positioned for a timely and simplified integration of the engine into the H-60M, due to data and insights we’ve retrieved from successful ITE[P] tests completed to date,” Hamid Salim, Sikorsky’s vice president of Army and Air Force systems, said in a statement on Thursday.

Sikorsky noted the T901 engine is designed to increase the UH-60M Black Hawk’s performance to include improving fuel efficiency, adding 50 percent more power and extending “lift capability and range, providing Army commanders more options for planning and executing missions.”

The first two T901 engines delivered to Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Florida facility will be installed in one Black Hawk for ground runs and future flight testing, the company noted, with delivery of two additional engines expected for testing on a second helicopter.

The House this week adopted an amendment to its fiscal year 2025 defense appropriations bill, passed on Friday, that shifts $63 million to the Army’s research and development account for the ITEP engine program.

“We applaud the House for passing the Fiscal Year 2025 Defense Appropriations bill and appreciate the bipartisan support for funding that will equip the U.S. Army with cutting-edge T901 engines to power its Black Hawk and Apache helicopters. We encourage the Senate to act to ensure the U.S. Army can fly higher and carry more payload sooner to meet the missions abroad and at home,” a GE Aerospace spokesperson said in a statement. 

Earlier this month, the Army awarded GE Aerospace a new contract for T700 helicopter engines worth more than $1.1 billion.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

 

The post Sikorsky Receives GE’s New T901 Engines For Integration On Black Hawk – July 28 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Marine Corps Commandant Says MQ-9 Has Cloaking Pod

A U.S. Marine Corps MQ-9A with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 3, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, launches on Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, June 21, 2023. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps by Cpl. Christian Tofteroo).

The commandant of the Marine Corps Tuesday said the service’s MQ-9 Reaper drones have an electronic warfare pod that makes it “mostly undetectable” to opponent radars.

“What they bring with them is a sensing and making sense capability…some of the programs are classified. Some of the pods that go on our MQ-9s are classified, it’s called a T-SOAR pod. And what it does is it, I guess in the unclassed world…it can mimic things that are sent to it that it detects, turn it around and send it back so it becomes a black hole. It becomes mostly undetectable,” Marine Commandant Gen. Eric Smith said during an event at the Brooking Institution on July 2.

Smith was speaking in terms of how the MQ-9s aid the new Marine Littoral Regiments.

When pressed on what this means, Smith later said, “without crossing classification levels, it has the ability to somewhat disappear off of an enemy radar. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Smith declined to provide further details.

This system is seemingly related to the MQ-9’s Scalable Open Architecture Reconnaissance (SOAR) pod payload. MQ-9 builder General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) describes the SOAR pod as providing long-range detection, identification, and location of radar and communications signals of interest.

“SOAR enables MQ-9 or other aircraft operators to provide standoff surveillance—seeing threats before threats can see the aircraft—and communicate actionable intelligence,” the company said on its website on the payload option.

An L3Harris Technologies fact sheet said it and GA-ASI jointly developed SOAR for use in Predator drones to provide long-range surveillance from persistent and low-cost unmanned aircraft systems.

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post Marine Corps Commandant Says MQ-9 Has Cloaking Pod appeared first on Avionics International.

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Vice President of Kansas Company Pleads Guilty to Crimes Related to Scheme to Illegally Export U.S. Avionics Equipment to Russia and Russian End Users – July 11, U.S. Justice Department

Seal of the U.S. Department of Justice

Douglas Edward Robertson, 56, of Olathe, Kansas, the former vice president of KanRus Trading Company Inc., pleaded guilty today for his role in a years-long conspiracy to circumvent U.S. export laws by filing false export forms with the U.S. government and, after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, continuing to sell and export sophisticated and controlled avionics equipment to customers in Russia without the required licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Robertson, by his own admission, conspired to sell advanced U.S. avionics equipment to Russian customers in violation of U.S. law,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen. “The Justice Department will not tolerate those who seek to undermine the effectiveness of export controls that protect critical U.S. technology and deter Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

“Robertson’s guilty plea is reflective of the strong evidence gathered against him by federal investigators and the solid case presented by federal prosecutors,” said U.S. Attorney Kate E. Brubacher for the District of Kansas. “Our nation is both proud and grateful to these men and women at the Department of Justice who seek to protect the United States and our national security interests from adversaries both foreign and domestic.”

“Those who seek to profit by illegally selling sophisticated U.S. technology to our adversaries are putting the national security of our country at risk and that cannot be tolerated,” said Executive Assistant Director Robert Wells of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “It is appalling that the defendant schemed to smuggle avionics equipment to customers overseas including Russia, a nation engaged in a long-running military conflict with Ukraine. The FBI will work with our partners to stop the illegal flow of sensitive U.S. equipment and technology to foreign adversaries.”

“You might think that smuggling sensitive U.S.-origin technology to Russia, including to their Federal Security Service (FSB), means we’re not in Kansas anymore. Unfortunately, in this case, we were,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew A. Axelrod. “We will continue to hold individuals everywhere, including those at the highest rungs of the corporate ladder, accountable when they violate our laws by lying on forms and transshipping items through third countries.”

According to court documents, as part of his guilty plea, Robertson admitted that between 2020 and when he was arrested in March 2023, he conspired with others – including co-defendants Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky of Lawrence, Kansas, and Oleg Chistyakov, aka Olegs Čitsjakovs, of Riga, Latvia, – to smuggle U.S.-origin avionics equipment to end users in Russia, as well as Russian end users in other foreign countries by, among other actions, knowingly filing false export forms and failing to file required export forms with the U.S. government. In these forms, Robertson and his conspirators lied about the exports’ value, end users, and end destinations.

Robertson further admitted that on at least one occasion in 2021, he, Buyanovsky, and Chistyakov smuggled a repaired Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) to the FSB by removing the FSB sticker from the device before sending the device to a U.S. company to be repaired and then exporting the TCAS back to the FSB in Russia. At the time, the FSB was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for its interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.  

Robertson further admitted that after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and the U.S. government tightened export controls concerning Russia, he, co-defendants Buyanovsky and Chistyakov, and other conspirators continued to purchase and export U.S.-origin avionics equipment to customers in Russia and took numerous steps to hide their illegal activity from law enforcement, including by lying to U.S. suppliers about the intended end users; shipping goods through intermediary companies in Armenia, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, and Cyprus; continuing to file false export forms with the U.S. government; and using foreign bank accounts in countries other than Russia, such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, and the Czech Republic, to promote their illegal export activity.

On Dec. 6, 2023, the U.S. Department of Commerce added many of the entities and individuals involved in KanRus and Robertson’s illegal export scheme to the Commerce Department’s Entity List as part of the U.S. government’s interagency efforts to dismantle Russian procurement networks designed to circumvent U.S. export controls and sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Entity List imposes specific license requirements on all listed individuals and entities.

In December 2023, Buyanovsky, the former President and owner of KanRus, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering and consented to the forfeiture of over $450,000 worth of avionics equipment and accessories, and a $50,000 personal forfeiture judgment.

On March 19, Chistyakov, a former KanRus broker, was arrested in Riga, Latvia, for his role in the illegal smuggling scheme. Chistyakov remains detained in Latvia pending extradition proceedings.

As a result of today’s guilty plea, Robertson faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each of the two Export Control Reform Act counts, and 20 years in prison for the money laundering count. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The FBI and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement are investigating the case. The Latvian authorities are assisting the investigation. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided substantial assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Rask and Ryan Huschka for the District of Kansas and Trial Attorney Adam Barry of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs is providing valuable assistance.

The investigation was coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls and economic countermeasures that the United States, along with its foreign allies and partners, has imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine. Announced by the Attorney General on March 2, 2022, and under the leadership of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the task force will continue to leverage all of the department’s tools and authorities to combat efforts to evade or undermine the collective actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression.

The post Vice President of Kansas Company Pleads Guilty to Crimes Related to Scheme to Illegally Export U.S. Avionics Equipment to Russia and Russian End Users – July 11, U.S. Justice Department appeared first on Avionics International.

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GE Teams with NASA on Hybrid-electric Passport Engine – AIN, June 20

GE Aerospace is working with NASA to modify the company’s Passport 20 engine with hybrid-electric components to test under the NASA Hybrid thermally Efficient Core project that aims to reduce fuel burn, AIN reported. GE hopes to use these engines on next generation single-aisle airliners. This work builds on GE Aerospace and NASA’s concurrent work on the NASA Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration program, which itself looks to rapidly mature electric propulsion technologies to start electrifying commercial airlines in 2035.

The post GE Teams with NASA on Hybrid-electric Passport Engine – AIN, June 20 appeared first on Avionics International.

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MagniX Enters Energy Storage Race with Samson Batteries – AIN, June 25

MagniX, a U.S. electric propulsion systems developer, revealed plans to produce the new lithium-ion Samson range of batteries for aviation applications, AIN reported. The new batteries are expected to deliver an energy density of 300 watt-hours per kilogram, with a service life of over 1,000 discharge cycles. MagniX intends to use these batteries in energy storage for its family of electric propulsion systems with power ranging from 350 to 650 kilowatts.

The post MagniX Enters Energy Storage Race with Samson Batteries – AIN, June 25 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Airbus Study: Fleet Upgrades Motivated by Sustainability, SAF – AIN, June 25

An Airbus business unit commissioned a study that found 79 percent of senior U.S. business executives from companies that lease or own private jets see sustainability and sustainable fuels as a top reason for considering upgrading fleets in the next few years, AIN reported. The study found the second biggest factor driving upgrades is increased emphasis on operating costs but only 14 percent cite range as a reason to upgrade.

The post Airbus Study: Fleet Upgrades Motivated by Sustainability, SAF – AIN, June 25 appeared first on Avionics International.

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Army Plans To Field More Than 1,000 Switchblade 600 Attack Drones For Replicator

Switchblade 600. (Photo: AeroVironment)

The Army plans to buy and field more than a thousand Switchblade 600 loitering munitions over the next year for the Pentagon’s Replicator initiative, a senior service official has said.

Gen. James Mingus, the Army’s vice chief of staff, provided an update on quantities for the AeroVironment-built attack drone during a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee field hearing at the Defense Innovation Unit’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., on June 21.

“That was an innovation that we had worked collectively together, it’s a loitering munition, which we then included as part of Replicator Tranche One,” Mingus said. “We are now going to scale and scope that to over 1,000 [systems] here in the next year or so.”

The Pentagon in early May confirmed that AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600 was one of the capabilities selected for mass production under the first tranche of its Replicator initiative.

“U.S.-supplied Switchblade drones have already demonstrated their utility in Ukraine, and this system will provide additional capability to U.S. forces,” the Pentagon said in a statement at the time.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks first announced the Replicator initiative in late August 2023, detailing the effort to produce and field thousands of “all-domain attritable autonomous systems, or ADA2 capabilities, over the coming 18-24 months “to help us overcome [China’s] biggest advantage, which is mass.”

Hicks last month confirmed the Pentagon recently began delivering the first unmanned systems for its Replicator initiative. 

DoD has declined to disclose many details on Replicator, to include naming specific systems involved or breaking down funding lines, with the department having reiterated that the first tranche involved “certain capabilities that remain classified, including others in the maritime domain and some in the counter-UAS portfolio.”

A version of this story originally appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

The post Army Plans To Field More Than 1,000 Switchblade 600 Attack Drones For Replicator appeared first on Avionics International.

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