Dubai Airshow in Pics

November 22, 2009

Patrouille de France at Dubai Airshow

F-15 at Dubai Airshow

F-22 flying at Dubai Airshow

F-22 over Dubai airport

Rafale takes off to join French air display team

Rafale leads Patrouille de France

RAAF Wedgetail at Dubai Airshow

A few fun memories of the just-ended Dubai Airshow.


Brazil Highlights U.S. Tech Transfer Concerns

November 8, 2009

The Brazilian fighter competition is proving how hard it is for the U.S. to make the case it will support technology transfer demands posed by potential buyers of U.S. equipment.

Brazil has been asking for extensive technology transfer as it considers buying the Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen or Boeing F/A-18E/F. Early in the competition, the knock on the U.S. campaign was that Washington wouldn’t let enough technology transfer take place to satisfy the Brazilian government. However, U.S. officials say that eventually changed, and that the U.S. put together an extensive tech transfer package.

But in Brazil there are apparently still questions about the U.S. technology release approach, as this article highlights. If Brazilian defense minister Nelson Jobim really doesn’t have confidence in the U.S. committment, then that’s bad news for Boeing, regardless of what promises may have been made when the aircraft maker, along with its rivals, submitted final bids last month.

Washington should get an answer soon, with Brazil promising to announce by year-end the winner of its muddled fighter competition — with President Lula having first announced Rafale had won, only for the military to say the competition was still open.

If Boeing can’t win, the Pentagon may want to undertake the kind of after action France undertook after Rafale failed repeatedly to secure export orders.

French launch missile warning sats

February 15, 2009

The French government on Thursday launched two satellites designed to serve as demonstrators for an eventual ballistic missile launch warning system.

The Spirale spacecraft also should provide France first-hand infrared data on missile plume IR signatures. Up to now, the Europeans have had to rely on U.S. data. That makes Spirale an important step not just for the French, but for Europe at large if it ever wants to become independent from U.S. for missile warning, a German military official points out.

An actual DSP/SBIRS-like constellation in Europe is still years off, and there are big questions whether the funding or cross-border interest is really there. But the French launch, on an Ariane 5 on Feb. 12, nevertheless marks and important step forward.

The spacecraft are to remain in operation until April. The IR detector is provided by Sofradir and Thales Alenia Space built the spacecraft. Astrium was charged with systems integration.

Thales says the spacecraft each are about 0.9 meter high and weeight 120 kg. “They will be positioned in an elliptical equatorial orbit to observe the earth’s atmosphere under a wide variety of conditions (mono or stereo mode, altitudes, bandwidths, local time, etc.). The telescope on the payload features advanced technologies, in particular a carbon-fiber reinforced silicon carbon (C/SiC) material known as Cesic, a ceramic matrix composite that offers the best combination of low weight and high performance.”

spirale-copyright-astrium[credit: Astrium]

French decision on Hermes in April?

February 1, 2009

For about nine months, the French government has had an unsolicited proposal on the table from Thales to provide Hermes 450s for Afghanistan operations, not unlike what the contractor is doing for the U.K. Now, a senior Thales exec says a decision on moving forward with the deployment could come in April.


Hermes 450 in support of UK forces (credit: MOD)

There are differences between the U.K. and French operation, if the latter gets the green light. The U.K. has about 10 Hermes 450s — they’ve amassed around 17,000 flight hours in Iraq and Afghanistan — on a lease basis. The basic French program is for three vehicles, probably purchased.

Thales officials believe France will suffer the same problems with the Sperwer UAV now in Afghanistan as other countries have had to deal with. That, they expect, will provide impetus to the Hermes 450 operation — the Hermes 450 also can stay aloft much longer.

Meanwhile, the contractor is hoping the Brit experience will help convince Paris. No Hermes 450s have been lost and the U.K. government just extended the fee-for-service deal by 18 months.

One issue in France is the budget. There is no clear funding line for urgent operational needs, although Paris is trying to improve the process to get equipment out to deployed forces.

Brazil, Turks eye surveillance sats

January 2, 2009

The number of countries in the overhead intelligence collection business is rapidly expanding.

Turkey has been interested in that capability for some time and has now named Telespazio to supply the electro-optical GokTurk system. It’s a turn-key contract, including launch. The 2 metric ton satellite should be launched in 2011 on a yet-to-be-named rocket. The system is supposed to be operational in 2012.

The exact system performance isn’t known, but Turkey wanted at least 0.8 meter resolution, with half-meter performance desired. In multi-spectral mode, resolution should be around 3.2 meters.

Meanwhile, Brazil also is ramping up its efforts. As part of a massive defense and aerospace agreement signed in December between Brazil and France, the French space agency, CNES, will provide assistance to a range of projects. One of the categories where the French are expected to assist is in the field of earth observation.

SAR-Lupe video

December 28, 2008

The German defense ministry a while back posted an interesting video of how it will be using the SAR-Lupe radar satellite system.

I’ve been meaning to post on this for some time, but like most satellite programs, this post has been running somewhat behind schedule. You can access the video here.

The video narration is only in German, but even if you can’t follow the words, the video still sheds a bit more light on the SAR-Lupe system.

The video doesn’t answer the biggest SAR-Lupe question, though. What’s the resolution? It only says the system can deliver better than 1 meter resolution.

Turn time to generate an image upon request is less than 24 hours.

Socom Seeks UAV Service

November 11, 2008

There’s been interest among U.S. special operations personnel for some time to field unmanned aircraft. In fact, even though the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) still is looking for a tactical or more capable system, other units have already been working with smaller UAVs. And that’s not even talking about the support the U.S. Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency have been providing specialops units.

Nevertheless, U.S. Special Operations Command is now turning to industry to see if they can deliver UAV services, rather than just air vehicles and ground stations. The service would have to be available on a worldwide basis. The mission is for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services; armed UAVs may still be a step-too-far for outsourcing.

It’s an interesting development and one wonders if Thales is looking to get into the game. The company has already been working with the U.K. military to provide Hermes-450s on an urgent basis to forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thales also isin talks with the French government to do the same as part of the country’s force commitment to Afghanistan. (Click here to read the earlier post on those activities)