Costly King Stallion ready for low rate production

Lockheed Martin on Tuesday announced the CH-53K King Stallion is ready for low rate initial production. The Pentagon is looking to buy at least 200 of these heavy lift helicopters, which at a unit price of 85 million USD is almost as costly as the F-35. 

Aircraft maturity has been established with well over 400 flight hours achieved, Lockheed Martin reports. An initial Operational Assessment by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in October 2016 fully established the ability of the King Stallion to achieve critical mission flight and ground scenarios in the hands of active duty Marines.

The CH-53K King Stallion provides heavy lift capability with three times the lift of the CH-53E that it replaces.  With more than triple the payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin compared to the predecessor, the King Stallion’s payload has increased significantly in size and volume. The CH-53K also offers enhanced safety features, including full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management that reduce pilot workload and enable the crew to focus on mission execution.  Other features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing that all permit the pilot to focus on the mission at hand.

Further, the CH-53K King Stallion has improved reliability and maintainability that exceeds 89 percent mission reliability with a smaller shipboard logistics footprint than the legacy CH-53E.

The US Department of Defense’s need remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft, Lockheed Martin claims. The first six of the 200 are under contract and scheduled to start delivery next year to the USMC. Two additional aircraft, the first LRIP aircraft, are under long lead procurement for parts and materials, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2020.

The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

First flight for ‘Saudi’ AN-132

Antonov’s new multipurpose AN−132D took to the skies for its maiden flight last week from the company’s airfield in Kyiv, Ukraine. The new aircraft flew for 1 hour and 50 minutes in the hands of a crew from Ukraine and  Saudi Arabia. The AN−132 is being developed in cooperation with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the Тaqnia Aeronautics Company, both based in Saudi Arabia.

The AN−132D multipurpose turboprop aircraft is intended for operation on short and medium−haul routes. The new aircraft will perform a variety of tasks, such as the transportation bulk cargo and vehicles weighing up to 9.2 tonnes. The aircraft is also suited for para drops.

The next important step will be the presentation of the AN−132D in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will be conducted after the completion of more aircraft tests, according to Antonov. After last week’s flight, the Center of King Abdulaziz City Science and Technology, emphasised the importance of the project to Saudi Arabia.

Aero Vodochody ready for new L-159 production

Czech company Aero Vodochody has produced is first L-159 light attack and trainer jet in 13 years, and is ready for more. The aircraft concerned is a L-159 two seater for the Iraqi Air Force. Aero Vodochody company says it will be turning its focus back on proprietary aircraft and the L-159 could become a flagship of this new approach. And perhaps even a condidate for the O-A competition in the US?

In the next ten years, there will be demand for hundreds of light attack aircraft on the market, Aero Vodochody claims, and the company wants its share.. “We know there is a relevant market and we know we have the right product. L-159 is the only aircraft in its category, that is currently on the market and it is proven in various types of missions. So now it is the right time to start offering L-159 again and giving a new future to this aircraft,” described Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Aero Vodochody.

Giordo later added that South America is an ‘important region’ for Aero Vodochody’s marketing activities for both the L-159 and L-39NG that is currently being developed. Also, Giordo seems to hint at the O-A competition in the US, which seeks a new light attack jet for the US Air Force.

During the last decade, the Czechs  primarily competed in the international market in upgrading, maintaining, repairing, overhauling of existing aircraft and collaborated with others on several projects.

Those collaborations allowed Aero Vodochody to maintain key capabilities, which the company days was recently was demonstrated in the production of the L-159 for Iraq, plus the installation of a brand new wing production facility.

L-159 aircraft is operated by four customers – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iraqi and US defense firm Draken International. Czech Army has the largest fleet and the aircraft in its service are serving in various missions around Europe and they are also actively participating on NATO exercises. In 2008-2010, Hungary Air Force leased L-159 for pilot training, it was the first deployment of the aircraft by international customer.

In 2014, Aero and Czech Ministry of Defence managed to sell some former Czech jets to Iraq and Draken International.

Swedish aviation icon SAAB turns 80 years, going strong

The Swedish aviation icon SAAB is celebrating its birthday on 2 April. In 1937 the company was founded after a decision by the Swedish parliament to have the country produce its own aircraft. Eighty years later the military aircraft made in Linköping are more popular then ever.

The newest combat aircraft made in Sweden is in service with five nations: Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Thailand. Two more nations will be flying the JAS 39 Gripen soon: Brazil and Slovakia; with Brazilian Embraer will even to produce the new and larger E-version supported by Saab engineers and technology. While the plant in Linköping will manufacture 60 of the Gripen E for its own Flygvapnet.

We at Airheadsfly.com say “Stort grattis på födelsedagen” (Happy birthday) Saab with a photo essay.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Frontal view of the legendary Saab Draken
(Image © Marcel Burger)

Royal Danish Air Force (Flyvevåbnet) Saab T-17 (MFI-17 Supporter) training aircraft at Fliegerhorst Wittmundhafen (Wittmund AB), Niedersachsen, Germany (Deutschland). The aircraft with serial T-428 serves with the Flight School (Flyveskolen) at Karup. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Royal Danish Air Force (Flyvevåbnet) Saab T-17 (MFI-17 Supporter) training aircraft at Fliegerhorst Wittmundhafen (Wittmund AB), Niedersachsen, Germany (Deutschland). The aircraft with serial T-428 serves with the Flight School (Flyveskolen) at Karup. (Image © Marcel Burger)
We’re on top of a lot of Saab Gripen news lately, but at AIRheads↑FLY we’re sure not to forget the original Saab – at least in our eyes: the Draken. It needs no words. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Saab S 100B Argus AEW&C aircraft of the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force), reg. no. 100002, with the Erieye radar (Image © Marcel Burger)
Saab S 100B Argus AEW&C aircraft of the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force), reg. no. 100002, with the Erieye radar (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Saab Gripen on patrol. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Saab Gripen on patrol. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Saab Gripens at Lion Effort 2015 (Image © Martin Král)
Saab Gripens at Lion Effort 2015 (Image © Martin Král)
An Austrian Saab 105 training aircraft in cool tiger livery (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The "office" of a Gripen C pilot (Image © Saab AB)
The “office” of a Gripen C pilot (Image © Saab AB)
A Czech Gripen on alert on Iceland (Image © Tomáš Maruščák)
A Swedish Air Force SAAB SK 60 after landing (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Swedish Air Force SAAB SK 60 after landing (Image © Marcel Burger)
The end is near for the Saab 2000 in Braathens service. Seen here landing at Stockholm-Arlanda in March 2015 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The end is near for the Saab 2000 in Braathens service. Seen here landing at Stockholm-Arlanda in March 2015 (Image © Marcel Burger)
Saab 91D Safir in the historic livery of the Rijksluchtvaartschool Holland. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Saab 91D Safir in the historic livery of the Rijksluchtvaartschool Holland. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Sweden is famous for its candy. Here's some eye candy in the shape of a Saab Sk37E Viggen. Nothing sweet about that, however. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Sweden is famous for its candy. Here’s some eye candy in the shape of a Saab Sk37E Viggen. Nothing sweet about that, however. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A restored Viggen flying from Linköping (Image © Elmer van Hest)
20140220_CASLAV_JAS39C_9238_FRONT-1024x682
Saab Gripen: a work of art and a Czech prize fighter. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Roll-out of the new, more capable Gripen E in May 2016 (Image © Saab)
Roll-out of the new, more capable Gripen E in May 2016 (Image © Saab)
Saab coops with Boeing on the possible future T-X advanced trainer for the US Air Force. It may even replace the SAAB SK60 of the Swedish Air Force (Image © Boeing)
Saab coops with Boeing on the possible future T-X advanced trainer for the US Air Force. It may even replace the SAAB SK60 of the Swedish Air Force (Image © Boeing)
Take-off! (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
Take-off! (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
One of the two US Air Force B-52s in formation with Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets passing by the USS San Antonio off the coast of Southern Sweden on 13 June 2015 (Image © US Navy)
One of the two US Air Force B-52s in formation with Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets passing by the USS San Antonio off the coast of Southern Sweden on 13 June 2015 (Image © US Navy)
For a long time Saab's first jet aircraft was the only Swedish made combat jet ever to have been deployed during war, when it was supporting the UN forces in Congo in the 1960s. The current Gripen has seen action over Libya. (Image © Marcel Burger)
For a long time Saab’s first jet aircraft was the only Swedish made combat jet ever to have been deployed during war, when it was supporting the UN forces in Congo in the 1960s. The current Gripen has seen action over Libya. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A SAAB J32B Lansen taking off from Linköping Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A SAAB J32B Lansen taking off from Linköping Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A very cool frontal view of a Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C showing off its missile defense suite (Image © Peter Liander / Saab AB)
A very cool frontal view of a Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C showing off its missile defense suite (Image © Peter Liander / Saab AB)

Poland orders three Boeing Business Jets

The Polish Ministry of Defense and Boeing on Friday 31 March signed a contract for the delivery of three Boeing Business Jets, otherwise known as 737-800. The aircraft are to be used by the Polish Air Force for VIP transport. The contract is worth 523 million USD.

The first aircraft will be a used example and is scheduled for delivery in November 2017. It will be delivered in standard passenger configuration and upgraded later to BBJ standard at a later stage. The other aircraft will be completely new and be delivered in BBJ2 configuration. The first of these should arrive in Poland in 2020.

Poland formerly operated Tupolev Tu-154s for VIP-duties. One of these aircraft crashed near Smolensk on 10 April 2010, killing all 96 occupants, including Polish president Lech Kaczyński.

Poland since already ordered two G550 business jets, the first of which is about to be delivered.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest & contributor Paweł Bondaryk