Tuesday, May 28, 2013

AV-8B Still a Marine Corps Mainstay

With the F-35B Lightning II program trundling along,the US Marine Corps is very glad it has the AV-8B Harrier II jump jet to rely on for fire support,close air support and interdiction missions.The Harrier is to be in service till 2030.
Several upgrades over the years have kept the Harriers in fighting trim,such as equipping 74 of them for night operations with a Forward-Looking Infrared senso;,APG -65 radar;and night-vision-goggle-compatible cockpit.
The Lintening targeting pod gave the aircraft a video downlink capability for improved close air support;time-sensitive targeting;and intelligence,search and rescue.The latest upgrade,6.0 Block,provides a new bomb rack;countermeasure dispensing system;and advanced radar software.
In their essential role with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force,these short-takeoff,vertical-landing warplanes offer the fastest response time of any fixed-wing aircraft.From both austere forward operating bases and amphibious assault ships,the AV-8B has been critical to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan,as it was to Operations Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and Operations Oddysey Dawn/Unified Protector in Libya.
The Marines had 117 of the Harrier jump jets as of late 2012.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nature Note:Helping an Eastern Box Turtle

An eastern box turtle(Terrapene carolina) crossed the street on a recent spring morning in far Northern Maryland.To ensure it got to a suitable habitat in one piece,I picked it up and walked it about a quarter of a mile,or a half a kilometer, to a nearby patch of  streamside woodland.From its red eyes,I saw it was a male-probably a young male searching for his own territory.
It was at risk from inattentive motorists and children looking for an attractive pet.These are the species' biggest problems,along with habitat loss,which have caused it to be listed as threatened by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species,or CITES.
Consequently,Maryland has outlawed the sale of box turtles by pet stores and sends officers on raids to enforce the statute.These threatened reptiles really belong in nature where they can live their intended lifestyle and breed.
Few Mid-Atlantic predators can crack the turtles' shells,but Eastern coyotes(Canis latrans var.),with their powerful jaws,sometimes prey on turtles.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Northrop Drone Makes Naval Aviation History

It was a smooth engineering event.There was no drama at all.The deck crew,some of them taking cell phone photos,almost seemed irrelevant as Northrop Grumman's X-47B was launched from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush(CVN 47) off the coast of Virginia Tuesday.It wasn't Top Gun,yet it was an historic flight nonetheless as the first drone to be launched from a US aircraft carrier signaled the dawn of a new era in naval aviation.
This drone landed at nearby Naval Air Station Patuxent River Maryland-again without incident;but the next step for the Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstrator,or UCAS-D, program will be to land one on the deck of a moving aircraft carrier later in the year.Eventually,the Navy will arm drones and be able to fly them anywhere in the world without the need for an air base in a distant land:a new degree of independence for unmanned air combat operations.
What is more,the X47-B doesn't need human controllers with a joystick.Its flight is totally computerised.
The Top Gun era is by no means over,however.The Navy's manned F-35 Lightning IIC Joint Strike Fighter program is barely off the ground and will be the standard of aircraft carrier combat operations for many decades into the future.Drones will be a valuable tool,but just one of a range of options for theater commanders.Land-based drones haven't replaced land-based US Air Force fighter or bomber aircraft in the Iraq and Afghan Wars.
Combat air drones are slated for deployment aboard carriers by 2020.
Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Australia Moves Ahead With F-35 Program,EA-18G

The Australian government has reaffirmed its plan to purchase up to 100 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters under its long term defence strategy.Australia intends to have the advanced technology fighter in service by 2020.
Lead F-35 contractor Lockheed Martin said it was honoured by Canberra's trust and confidence.The first two of its stealthy warplanes are in production and slated for delivery in mid-2014.Lockheed will work closely with the government to support the purchase of their remaining 100 F-35 aircraft.
In contrast,Italy,Canada and Denmark are reducing their F-35 purchases.Costly delays and reworking have marred the transformative Joint Strike Fighter program to this point.More than 3,000 of the aircraft are to be produced over the life of the program,the bulk of them for the US armed forces.
Australia also said it would buy 12 Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force.They had initially planned to modify 12 of their 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters with EA-18G technology;but have now decided to purchase the new Growlers instead,fearing any future delays in the F-35 program.They will keep their two dozen Super Hornets as they are.
Australia is the only other country besides the US to acquire the EA-18G,which are fully in production and qualified for immediate service.The Growlers are used to detect,identify,locate and suppress hostile emitters;the F-35s will project power over long distances from any point on the globe,integrating advanced payloads today and beyond,Lockheed says.
Australia's advanced aircraft purchases reflect growing unease in Asia over China's ongoing military buildup.
Lockheed Martin(LMT),Boeing(BA)