AIR International – June 2018

(Jacob Rumans) #1

Dark Sword

An image was posted on the
Chinese internet in early June,
allegedly showing a mock-up of
the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation
Dark Sword unmanned combat
air vehicle. This system, designed
to be a highly manoeuvrable
supersonic unmanned aerial
combat or a deep strike platform,
first made an appearance in late

  1. However, the concept
    silently disappeared in 2014, so the
    emergence of the picture was a
    surprise. The main features of the
    unique design are a lifting-body
    featuring canard foreplanes, swept
    wings and a wide tail section with
    two canted vertical tails. Powered
    by a single engine of unknown
    type, it features a sharp, forward-
    swept, chin-mounted, diverterless
    supersonic intake. The air vehicle
    appears to be finished in a stealthy
    dark coating. Andreas Rupprecht

6 |


Ospreys on offer

An Estonian soldier is hoisted up to a US Air Force CV-22 Osprey, assigned to the 352nd Special
Operations Wing based at RAF Mildenhall, UK, during fast rope training. SSgt Matt Britton/US Army

This year’s Farnborough air show will
be an important one for the Bell-
Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor. At least
one Osprey is expected to be flying at
the show, operational requirements
and government clearances
permitting. The first international
sale, under the US Foreign Military
Sales (FMS) programme, is Japan’s
procurement of 17 MV-22s in two
batches. Japan’s procurement was
a response to potential threats to its
offshore islands. The first delivery is
scheduled for next November.
This year, the US Department of
Defense is expected to sign the
third (and likely final) multi-year
procurement (MYP III) contract for
Osprey production, which will see
completion of the planned deliveries
to the US Marine Corps.
MYP III will add a further five years of
production, enabling FMS customers
to buy Ospreys for a pre-negotiated
price based on economies of scale
afforded by the MYP.
Over the life of MYP III, aircraft
availability to international
customers is planned at ten aircraft
per year with more available based
on the number of V-22s ordered.
Previously, Israel had expressed
interest in six to nine Ospreys for
long-range special operations and
combat SAR tasking. High-priority
programmes consumed Israel’s
aircraft procurement budget. Now,
Israel is once again looking at
procuring Ospreys after Kia Green

in March 2018, a joint exercise that
included US Marine Corps MV-22B
Ospreys operating from the USS Iwo
Jima (LHD-7).
The Israelis have also seen the
effective use Air Force Special
Operations Command made of its
CV-22s supporting operations in
Syria. Israel is considering making
Ospreys part of a larger rotary-
wing procurement that will see
procurement of new heavy lift
helicopters from the United States.
The United Arab Emirates was
reportedly also interested in a small
squadron-sized force of Ospreys,
primarily for special operations, but
any deal has been postponed as the
fighting in Yemen absorbed a greater
share of the United Arab Emirates
defence spending and their armed
forces’ capabilities.
However, the highest-profile Osprey
buy would be an order from the UK
to support its new Queen Elizabeth
class aircraft carriers. Ospreys will
land aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth
(R08) later this year as part of the
UK’s F-35B first-in-class sea trials.
Some F-35 F135 engine servicing
has to be performed at centralised
facilities ashore. How the British
intend to sustain F-35 carrier
operations – with or without
Ospreys – has so far not been made
public but remains a necessity.
Speaking at the Navy League’s
annual Sea-Air-Space conference
in Ann Harbor, Maryland in April,

US Marine Corps Colonel Matthew
Kelly, Naval Air System Command’s
PMA-275 V-22 programme manager
said: “We have had discussions with
the UK and they are interested in
the Osprey’s capabilities, including
resupply for the Queen Elizabeth.
A blue-water capability cannot be
resupplied by a helicopter if up to
1,000 miles out at sea. The V-22 can
get there when nothing else will.”
Likely to be of interest to the UK
MoD is the investment made by
the US Marine Corps in a tanker kit
to enable its MV-22B Ospreys to
support F-35B operations. In the
longer term, the Marines are also
looking at other mission payloads
for the MV-22B that could provide
radar, sensors, electronic warfare
(including the Intrepid Tiger pod-
mounted system), and weapons
capabilities, based on the Harvest
HAWK programme.
British interest – and that of other
potential international customers –
is enabled by the US Navy’s decision
to procure 44 CMV-22B versions
to meet its carrier onboard delivery
requirement. Work on the first
Navy Ospreys is starting this year,
with the first deliveries scheduled
in FY2020 and final deliveries in
FY2024. Because the Osprey can
carry the power module of a Pratt &
Whitney F135 engine, the 40,000lb-
rated powerplant of the F-35, it is
considered vital to enable F-35C
carrier operations. David C Isby


widebody to

fly by 2023

The general configuration design
of the China-Russia Commercial
Aircraft Corporation (CRAIC) CR
widebody airliner, a joint venture
between China’s Commercial Aircraft
Company and Russia’s United Aircraft
Corporation, was approved on June
8, coinciding with Russian President
Vladimir Putin’s trip to China.
The fuselage will be 63.3m (207ft 8in)
long and 5.92m (19ft 5in) wide, with
a 63.9m (209ft 8in) wingspan. It will
have a passenger capacity of 281 seats
in a three-class configuration, with
a range of 7,500 miles (12,000km)
and a maximum take-off weight of
245,000kg (540,000lb).
Completion of detailed design is
on track for the end of 2019, first
flight in 2023 and service entry in
2025–2028, CRAIC announced on
May 31. The CR929 is planned to
achieve 10% of the single-aisle airliner
market, dominated by the Boeing 787
Dreamliner and Airbus A350.
CRAIC’s request for proposals (RFP)
for engines capable of delivering
78,000lb (347kN) thrust, increased
from the 75,000lb (333kN) previously
considered, was issued in December.
On May 31, CRAIC reported it has
received seven bids from international
suppliers to provide engines. While
the bidders were not identified,
Rolls-Royce previously announced
it intended to respond to the RFP.
General Electric is also considered
a likely competitor. A joint Russian-
Chinese team will evaluate the
proposals and decide on one before
the end of the year. David C Isby
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