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Aerospace

NASA Crash Tests eVTOL Concept

NASA researchers recently completed a full-scale crash test of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept vehicle at the Landing and Impact Research (LandIR) facility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The eVTOL was a ‘Lift+Cruise’ test article developed by the Revolutionary Vertical Left Technology (RVLT) project in another effort for NASA to advance research for the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) mission.

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NASA’s vision for AAM is to help emerging aviation markets safely develop an air transportation system that moves people and cargo between places previously not served or underserved by aviation. Understanding how these future aircraft may act in a crash scenario is another key point of research. Hoisted into the air, then released with pyrotechnic cutters, the model swung forward and down back to the Earth with a loud crash.

A variety of experiments were included on the test article. These experiments included several seat configurations including a NASA energy absorbing concept, various sizes of crash test dummies to study the effects of the crash loads on all sizes of occupants, and a modular NASA-developed energy-absorbing composite subfloor.

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The first event was the floor crushing and seat stroking. The subfloor and energy absorbing seats functioned as intended and limited the effect of the impact on the crash test dummies. The second was the collapse of the overhead structure. The effect of the overhead structure collapse on the crash test dummies is still being determined.

For this test, an overhead-mass was designed to represent the wing structure, rotor and battery. The decision was made to assume that all the weight of the overhead structure was over the cabin. There are many other overhead-mass configurations which may behave differently in a crash.

The test data will be used to refine modeling techniques and reported to the AAM community so that it can be discussed.  The full-scale testing data will be used to improve the simulation models such that in the future, the predictions will be more realistic. The data will further be used as the basis for evaluating potential test conditions and configurations that will be used during a drop test of a second Lift+Cruise test article, tentatively scheduled for testing in late 2023.

Aerospace

Pakistan’s Ambitious Plan to Acquire and Produce Chinese FC-31 Stealth Fighter

Pakistan’s Ambitious Plan to Acquire and Produce Chinese FC-31 Stealth Fighter

Pakistan is embarking on an ambitious endeavor to bolster its air defense capabilities with the acquisition and potential local production of the Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter jet.

Talks are reportedly underway between the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the developer of the FC-31, signaling a significant leap forward for Pakistan’s military aviation prowess.

The FC-31, a mid-sized, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter, promises advanced air combat capabilities, including stealth technology that surpasses anything currently in the PAF‘s fleet. With plans to retire the JF-17 production line by 2030, the FC-31 could emerge as the new flagship aircraft, offering unmatched performance and versatility.

Experts speculate that Pakistan’s interest in the FC-31 could also signal broader implications for the international market. As China develops both land and carrier versions of the FC-31, analysts foresee it becoming a cost-effective alternative to pricier options like the F-35, potentially challenging the dominance of the US aerospace industry and reshaping global strategic rivalries.

Adding complexity to the deal is China’s push for the WS-13 engine, previously rejected for the JF-17 but now under consideration for both the FC-31 and future JF-17 variants. Engine standardization could streamline logistical and maintenance processes for the PAF, further enhancing the appeal of the FC-31.

While negotiations continue, the success of the FC-31 acquisition and local production hinges on several factors, including the outcome of the WS-13 engine discussions. Pakistan’s pursuit of the FC-31 comes amidst its eagerness to replace its aging fleet, with previous attempts to upgrade its F-16s by the United States due to geopolitical pressures.

Amidst these developments, Pakistan previous interest in the Turkish-made Kaan fifth-generation fighter underscores its eagerness to replace its aging fleet. Despite previous attempts to secure upgrades for its F-16s from the United States, Pakistan’s quest for advanced aerial capabilities has led it to explore alternative avenues, with the FC-31 emerging as a promising contender in its pursuit of air superiority.

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Aerospace

Airbus presents new Wingman concept at ILA Berlin Airshow

Airbus presents new Wingman concept at ILA Berlin Airshow

At the prestigious ILA aerospace trade show in Berlin, Airbus Defence and Space made waves by introducing its pioneering Wingman concept, marking a significant leap forward in military aviation technology.

Teaming up with Helsing, Europe’s leading defense AI and software company, Airbus showcased a framework cooperation agreement aimed at revolutionizing the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) in defense.

Airbus Wingman

The Wingman concept represents a paradigm shift in aerial warfare, introducing unmanned platforms equipped with advanced AI capabilities to augment the capabilities of manned combat aircraft. Pilots in command aircraft such as the Eurofighter command these autonomous drones, positioning them to undertake high-risk mission tasks that would traditionally pose a significant threat to manned-only aircraft.

Central to the Wingman concept is Manned-Unmanned Teaming, wherein manned aircraft serve as “command fighters,” retaining ultimate control over mission decisions while delegating tactical tasks to unmanned systems. This synergistic collaboration promises to enhance mission flexibility, increase combat mass, and minimize risk exposure for pilots, thereby bolstering overall operational effectiveness.

The capabilities of the Wingman extend across a diverse spectrum of mission profiles, ranging from reconnaissance and target jamming to precision strikes against both ground and aerial targets. Equipped with advanced sensors, connectivity solutions, and a diverse array of armaments, the Wingman stands poised to redefine the operational landscape of modern air forces.

While the Wingman model showcased at ILA Berlin represents the pinnacle of current technological innovation, it also serves as a catalyst for future design iterations. As with any pioneering concept, refinement and evolution are inevitable, with each generation of the Wingman poised to push the boundaries of aerial warfare even further.

MQ-28 Ghost Bat

Boeing introduced the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), which made its maiden flight in February 2021. Developed by Boeing Australia, the MQ-28 leverages artificial intelligence to serve as a force multiplier for manned fighter jets.

The Ghost Bat is engineered to operate in tandem with existing military aircraft, enhancing and extending the capabilities of airborne missions. This cost-effective UCAV is designed to work as an intelligent teammate, complementing and amplifying the effectiveness of manned operations in various mission profiles.

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Aerospace

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber
Image:USAF

The United States Air Force (USAF) has unveiled the first photographs of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber in flight.

These images were captured during test flights conducted by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a significant milestone in the development of this sixth-generation aircraft.

Currently undergoing flight tests in California, the B-21 Raider represents the next generation of stealth bombers. With an estimated cost of around $700 million per aircraft, the B-21 Raider is poised to become a crucial component of the USAF’s arsenal for conventional Long Range Strike missions.

According to Air Force briefings, the B-21 Raider will form part of a comprehensive family of systems, encompassing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities, electronic warfare, communication systems, and more. Notably, the bomber will be nuclear-capable and adaptable for both manned and unmanned operations.

It boasts the flexibility to deploy a wide array of stand-off and direct-attack munitions, ensuring versatility in various combat scenarios. One of the B-21’s distinguishing features is its extensive integration of digital technology, as highlighted in discussions held during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Designed with an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider is built to swiftly incorporate emerging technologies, ensuring its effectiveness against evolving threats over time. The B-21 Raider is slated to replace the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, bolstering US national security objectives and providing reassurance to allies and partners worldwide.

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