Janardan Dalmia CEO of Trukkin Middle East

 An investment banker turned technology evangelist, Janardan Dalmia aka JD is on a mission to transform logistics industry. As CEO of Trukkin, JD is tasked with the mammoth responsibility of leading young, energetic and passionate team on to the next revolution in technology & logistics. 

Prior to Trukkin, JD was honing his corporate finance experience working with and advising on some of the very high profile M&A transactions over a decade at Barclays and Bank of America in Dubai and New York. JD is also the President & member of the Board at Aiwa.ae, an online business portal in the UAE. With the plethora of skillset & experience JD aims to make Trukkin the regional leader in the commercial transportation industry.

Recently, Trukkin raised $3.5 million in a funding round led by investors from the AL-Namlah Family Group, the Al-Madi Family Group, the Abanumay Family Group and Batic Investments and Logistics. The startup will use the investment to scale itsservices across the GCC region.

Launched in 2017, Trukkin operates throughout the GCC region and aims to innovate and simplify logistics and land transportation for long-haul trucking. The company claims to have shipped to more than 200 locations in the Middle East and to have completed over 10,000 long-haul, business-to-business truck movements in Saudi Arabia alone.  

“Trukkin is building up its marketplace to connect thousands of mostly independent truckers. The long-haul land transport market is highly fragmented and disorganized, and our aim is to institutionalize and professionalize this business”.

Through its app and online marketplace, the company brings together shippers who need more transparency and easier access to trucks with truckers who need better access to demand and higher fleet utilization.  Their client base ranges from businesses who order close to 100 trucks a day to ones with smaller needs who order as few as three trucks a month.

Mexico-bound business aircraft witness increase in ramp checks

 Foreign business aircraft arriving at Mexican airports have noted an increase in ramp checks by authorities. According to flight-planning firm OpsGroup, operators, particularly of N-registered aircraft, have reported being subjected to inspections at Monterrey, Loreto, Tampico, and Veracruz, while southern entry ports such as Tapachula and Cozumel are likely to be affected as well. The company advised, “If you are flying anywhere in Mexico over the next month or so, you should prepare for a ramp check!”

Mexican ground handler Manny Aviation Services has issued a memo to its customers warning them to ensure they are carrying their original aircraft and pilot documents, including airworthiness certificate, proof of insurance (when flying under Part 135 both worldwide and Mexican insurance is required), pilot licenses (with aircraft type ratings), pilot medical certificates, and if they are holding multiple-entry authorization, it must be onboard. Part 91 operators must also show a document stating the purpose of the flight, the name of the lead passenger, and declare their connection with the aircraft.

During charter operations, the list also includes an air operator certificate, the aircraft maintenance logbook, flight manual, minimum equipment list, preflight checklist, weight and balance manifest, FAA OST 4507 form, aircraft radio-station license, first aid kit, a liferaft and/or life jackets if a portion of the flight took place over the ocean, Jeppesen manuals (at least in electronic format), and a Mexican Indefinite Blanket Permit, if the operator has one.

While Manny Aviation believes the Mexican Civil Aviation Authority has instituted the inspections to ward off cabotage, Ops Group noted that the scrutiny comes in the wake of the fatal crash earlier this month of a US-registered Challenger 601.

The organization also advised that Mexico-bound operators check with their local handler before departure, as, in some cases, authorities have indicated in advance which incoming aircraft they are planning to ramp check.

 

Bombardier concludes sale of Q Series aircraft program to Longview

 Bombardier recently confirmed the closing of the previously announced sale of the Q Series aircraft program assets to De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (formerly Longview Aircraft Company of Canada Limited), an affiliate of Longview Aviation Capital Corp., for gross proceeds of approximately $300 million. Net proceeds are expected to be approximately $250 million after the assumption of certain liabilities, fees, and closing adjustments.

Longview will carry on the production of Q400 aircraft at the Downsview Facility in Toronto, and will continue performing aftermarket services for Q Series aircraft. Bombardier will provide transitional services and will license certain intellectual property to Longview to facilitate a seamless transition of the Q Series aircraft program.

“2019 a good year for business aviation,” says MEBAA’s co-founder and chairman

 All of the signs indicate a good year for business aviation in 2019, in particular in North Africa, according to Ali Alnaqbi, founding & executive chairman of the Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).

With the MEBAA Show Morocco set to take place 25-26 September at Marrakech Menara Airport, the show plans to showcase this success in the region.

The JSSI Business Aviation Index report showed business jet utilisation in Africa was 17.4% up in 2018 on the previous year, significantly larger than any other region. In the absence of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), business jet operators benefit from more agility than their commercial counterparts.  Rather than personal use or tourism, it is commerce and gaps from the commercial sector driving the African business aviation market.

The National Airports Authority (ONDA) in Morocco reports that the country’s airports manage 50% of North Africa’s business jet movements.  Given 1,200 business aircraft are expected to make 175,000 individual aircraft movements by 2020 in MENA, the Moroccan government’s strategy to attract the industry has significant forethought.

The MEBAA Show Morocco will again bring together the key players in business aviation in addition to featuring a static display of the latest business aircraft. Already committed to exhibit are local and international names including Air Ocean Maroc, XJet and Milano Prime, all of whom have exhibited before, plus new names who are keen to be involved in this burgeoning market, such as AMAC Aerospace.

“All the signs – plus of course the interest from the industry – point to a good year for business aviation in 2019 and I am very much looking forward to September when the show will take place - preceded by the MEBAA Conference where the market will be discussed in detail by representatives of key industry and government organizations,” said Alnaqbi.

ANZ purchases 8 787-10s with expected delivery in 2022

 Pacific carrier Air New Zealand (ANZ) is to bolster its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet after signing a letter of intent to purchase eight 787-10s, plus options for a further 12 examples. The firm commitment is valued at $2.7bn at current list prices, with first deliveries expected to start in late 2022, running through to 2027. The new jets will replace the carrier’s fleet of eight 777-200ERs, which the airline reports are due to be withdrawn from service by 2025.

Christopher Luxon, ANZ’s CEO, said, “This is a hugely important decision for [us]. With the 787-10 offering around 15% more space for both customers and cargo than the 787-9. This investment creates the platform for our future strategic direction and opens new opportunities to grow. The 787-10 is longer and even more fuel efficient. However, the game changer for us has been that by working closely with Boeing, we’ve ensured the 787-10 will meet our network needs, including the ability to fly missions like our current 777-200 fleet.”

The airline was the global launch customer for the 787-9 and currently operates a fleet of 13 aircraft – all powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines – the 14th and last example is due for delivery later this year. In what will be a blow to the UK engine manufacturer, ANZ has selected rival GEnx-1B powerplants to power its new fleet of 787-10s. At 224ft (68m) long, the 787-10 is the largest member of the Dreamliner family and can accommodate up to 330 passengers in a standard two-class configuration – about 40 more than the 787-9.

La Compagnie’s first A321neo makes inaugural transatlantic flight

 The first single-aisle A321neo destined for La Compagnie, an exclusively business-class French airline operating scheduled transatlantic flights, will commence transatlantic services on 6 June from Paris Orly Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport.

On lease from GECAS, La Compagnie’s A321neo is powered by CFM International LEAP 1A new generation engines and features a business class only cabin with 76 full flat seats, offering passengers unmatched comfort. The cabin also includes a high level of connectivity onboard.

Selected for their outstanding operational efficiency, comfort and range, these new-generation single-aisle aircraft allow the French carrier to benefit from better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs on its transatlantic New York-Paris route.

With this brand new A321neo, La Compagnie becomes the latest A321neo operator. 

Emirates to fly A380 to its shortest route

 Muscat Airport is set to receive Airbus A380s after Emirates announced it is to use the super jumbo on two of its three routes from Dubai effective July 1. The upgrading of the carrier’s EK862/3 and EK864/5 services creates the world’s shortest A380 route, with aircraft flying just 211 miles (340km) between the two cities.

Sheikh Aimen bin Ahmed Al Hosni, CEO of Oman Airports said, “Muscat International Airport has demonstrated its readiness for this extraordinary event, and the arrival of these scheduled flights for this giant aircraft is a gain to prove the large airport capacity to accommodate an aircraft of this size.”

Aircraft operating the hop from the UAE to Oman will be configured with a three-class interior, incorporating 14 First Class suites as well as seating for 76 in Business and 429 in Economy.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president commercial operations center, said, “Oman is an important destination for Emirates, and we will continue to look at ways to grow our operations in the market to best serve our customers. We thank Muscat International Airport and the government authorities for their support in making the A380 double daily operations happen.”

While the route is currently served by a thrice-daily Boeing 777-300ER operation, an A380 has previously connected the two cities – Emirates having used the super jumbo on a one-off service to celebrate 25 years of operations to Oman on July 1, 2018. The airline stated that using the type on Dubai-Muscat connections “demonstrate the airline’s agile approach to fleet deployment and its commitment to providing an enhanced on-board experience for its passengers”.

 

New Flying-V jet to take test flight in October

 Air France-KLM has collaborated with a Dutch university to fund research into a new aircraft design that could make long-haul air travel much more sustainable.

The Flying-V aircraft has massive wings and a unique two-prong design. The wings will be where the passenger cabins, cargo hold and the jet’s fuel tanks are placed.

Named after the Gibson guitar of the same name, the Flying-V is 55 metres in length, making it shorter and lighter than today’s most advanced aircrafts.

It has less inflow surface compared to its volume, meaning improved aerodynamics and much better fuel efficiency.

Funded by KLM-Air France and researched by Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), it’s hoped the design could reduce the impact of global air travel on the environment, a factor that currently accounts for 2.5 per cent of global C02 emissions. With fuel-saving capacity predicted to be around 20 per cent, the Flying-V could be revolutionary.

Although smaller that today’s planes, the jet can carry the same number of passengers with seats for around 314 travellers.

Critically, the Flying-V has the same wingspan as an Airbus’ A350, meaning it will be able to use existing infrastructure at airports around the world.

From a traveller’s perspective, the most radical change will be that seats are located in the wings, rather than the fuselage. New lightweight seat designs will offer more comfort and make the most of the new aircraft shape.

Considerations to recreate other passenger areas like a common area, resting space or buffet-style food hall are also in the works. Revamped on-board bathrooms will also be introduced.

Powered by today’s most fuel-efficient turbofan engines, the Flying-V is currently designed to be powered by kerosene but it can be easily adapted to incorporate advances in technology, such as transatlantic flight compatible hydrogen or electric-powered engines.

A scaled-down model of the design will take its first public test flight in October at Amsterdam Airport Schipol at part of KLM’s 100th anniversary celebrations. Passengers keen to see what things will look like on-board will also be able to see a full-size section of the interior at the Dutch airport.

Breakthroughs in aerospace industry to drive turbo-engine efficiency

 A series of breakthroughs in materials science are helping to drive efficiency in aerospace manufacturing, by improving material properties and reducing aircraft production times, whilst maintaining a low overall weight

Much of this is due to the use of advanced composites, which are now widely used in many parts of modern aircraft design – from the fuselage to the wings and control surfaces, and even cabin interiors.

One area of modern aircraft design that has changed comparatively little since its development in the early 1900s, is the jet engine. This is largely due to the extreme pressure and temperature constraints that apply when testing materials for use in this application.

Now, the latest ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) are beginning to demonstrate their suitability for turbo-engine applications and promising to bring significant gains. From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, a patent search has revealed some of the manufacturers leading the way.

Driving this innovation activity is the push from governments around the world to improve fuel efficiency and reduce air pollution, which is in part a response to growing consumer concern for environmental protection.

The EU’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA 2050) has set a target to achieve a 75% reduction in aviation CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2000 levels. This needs to be achieved whilst reducing NOx emissions by 90% and reducing noise pollution by 6% over the same time period. To date, the main focus for innovators has been reducing the overall weight of the turbojet engine, whilst maintaining its reliability and enhancing its thrust per fuel consumption.

Currently, turbojet engines use a wide variety of materials. Fan blades are typically made from aluminium, titanium or stainless steel, whereas compressors are mainly made from nickel-, cobalt- or iron-based alloys. Superalloys made using refractory metals such as tungsten, molybdenum, niobium and tantalum tend to be used in the combustion chamber, where temperatures can reach 1,700 degrees centigrade.

Turbine blades are commonly made from a nickel-based superalloy, where the temperatures and pressures are so high that the turbine blades need internal cooling channels in order to operate at temperatures that exceed the melting temperature of the superalloy.

Despite the obvious strengths of nickel-based superalloys, there is always a drive to develop lighter materials that perform better, and this has resulted in the generation of new ceramic matrix composite (CMC) turbine blades.

However, these materials can be extremely difficult to manufacture, due to their complex architecture, and until recently, they were only used on static parts of the engine, such as the turbine shroud.

However, engine manufacturers such as GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce have begun exploring their use in even more demanding applications, such as turbine blades.

The redesign of turbine blades, from nickel-based superalloys to CMCs, brings with it many challenges that need to be overcome before we are likely to see the widespread adoption of this technology in the moving parts of aero engines. For instance, despite being able to withstand higher temperatures than nickel-based superalloys, CMCs have a lower thermal conductivity that requires new methods of cooling to be developed.

As a result, Siemens Energy has recently applied for patent protection for an innovative hybrid turbine blade comprising a ceramic composite leading edge and a nickel-based superalloy trailing edge, which is lighter and stiffer than a non-hybrid design, whilst tackling difficulties in cooling the blade.

Typically, these material systems involve enveloping the ceramic portion to create a permanent interlock. A further patent application by Siemens Energy for a mechanical interlock system is currently pending, which allows these two components to be joined, whilst still allowing future retrofitting and repairs to be undertaken. This hybrid approach is a great compromise that allows the two materials to complement each other.

Vienna Airport expands training center to fit more modern training tech systems

 Lufthansa Aviation Training Austria GmbH has announced it will be growing its Vienna training center at a ground-breaking ceremony attended by Elisabeth Landrichter, head of the aviation department at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology, Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech and Julian Jäger, joint CEO and COO of Vienna Airport.

The construction of new buildings at the center has been designed to house modern high tech pilot training systems, including three additional full-flight simulators and two flight training devices (FTD) including the accompanying briefing rooms.

After the building extension has been put into operation, the new simulators will help enable the facility to offer a total of 36,000 full flight simulator hours. This roughly corresponds to all officially relevant recurrent training of 360 short- and medium-haul aircraft (e.g. the Airbus A320) annually.

Ongoing training operations during the construction phase will continue as scheduled.

“Making further investments on this scale only twelve years after the opening of the simulator centre in Vienna fills us with pride and joy. Our objective is to be able to continue offering a modern training environment to our airline customers in the future featuring even higher simulator capacities and the latest devices alongside our customized training solutions,” stated Christian Korherr, managing director of Lufthansa Aviation Training Austria.

“The Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology welcomes today’s ground-breaking ceremony for the extension of the pilot training centre in Vienna. This is positive from three points of view: Well-trained pilots strengthen the high safety standards, they help to create capacities and thus avoid bottlenecks and the training in Vienna also strengthens Austria as an aviation location,” said Elisabeth Landrichter, head of the Aviation Department at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology.

Julian Jäger, joint CEO and COO of Vienna Airport, said, “The expansion of the pilot training center strengthens the role of Vienna Airport as a competence hub for the Lufthansa Group and many other airlines. We consider this project to be an upgrading of the airport as an international training location and are delighted with this decision on the part of Lufthansa.”

Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech, added, “The timing of the investments is just right. We will expand our Airbus fleet from 36 to 46 aircraft over the next two years in exchange for our turboprop fleet and will require about 120 new pilots.”

Turkish Airlines chooses BAA Training for Cadet training program

 Turkish Airlines, has signed a contract with BAA Training for a Cadet training program. One of the TOP 3 biggest independent aviation training centers in Europe, BAA Training, is proud to announce that it will deliver training to almost 300 cadets for the airline in 3.5 years.

Having one of Europe's youngest fleets with an average age of 8,2 years, Turkish Airlines has a total of 335 aircraft, of which 224 are narrow, 88 are wide bodies, and 23 are freighter. To operate the current fleet, the number of which is set to increase over 500 in 2023 per the carrier's growth targets, the airline has now almost 5000 pilots on its team.

 

“Being chosen to provide pilot training for one of the leading airlines in the world once again allows us to contribute to the growing aviation market, thus – the growing pilot demand. With strategic investments into the infrastructure and the proven experience providing cadet training programs, we are capable of providing the high standard pilot training and together building a safer tomorrow of aviation”, comments Egle Vaitkeviciute, CEO at BAA Training.

Since 2016 BAA Training has started six different cadet training programs and currently has over 250 students at its Ab Initio school. With the growing training capability needs, the company invested over 12M Euros into its training equipment and facilities in 2018. Ab Initio school fleet was expanded by 40% and will continue increasing following the needs of Turkish Airlines. In addition, the flight base in Lleida Alguaire International airport was added to ensure all-year-round flight training. To fulfill global type rating aviation training needs, BAA Training extended its network of full flight simulators up to 105 units in 40 locations worldwide. Meanwhile this April the academy announced the launch of its first MPL training, which will be conducted in cooperation with Avion Express.

CAE signs new training agreement with AirAsia for the use of the CAE Rise™ training system

 CAE announced at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) the signing of a new five-year training agreement for AirAsia’s A320 pilots in the Philippines. The agreement extends the use of the CAE Rise™ training system to a third AirAsia affiliate. As part of this agreement, CAE will continue to provide initial training for the airline’s pilots and will soon undertake recurrent training at CAE Clark – Philippine Academy for Aviation Training (PAAT) in the Philippines, starting in July 2019.

“AirAsia has embarked on a mission to digitize every aspect of their business and by implementing the CAE Rise™ training system they are better able to train and develop their pilots using real-time insights alongside a new level of training data analytics,” said Nick Leontidis, CAE’s Group President Civil Aviation Training Solutions. “Just recently AirAsia extended the use of the CAE Rise™ training system on the Airbus A330 platform and it’s an honor to see them extend this training system on the Airbus A320 platform with a third airline affiliate.”

The CAE Rise™ training system was launched in 2018 and is a great illustration of a technology innovation enabling the translation of simulator training data into valuable insights for instructors and training managers. This new training system arms instructors with the capability to provide objective assessments of pilot maneuvers in real-time and can equip training managers with a new level of insights into the performance of their entire pilot pool. CAE Rise™ augments instructors’ capability to identify pilot proficiency gaps and evolve training programs to the most advanced aviation safety standards including AQP, ATQP and EBT methodologies.

 

Boeing to provide WPS to US Air Force

 Boeing, through its subsidiary Tapestry Solutions, received a 10-year contract from the US Air Force to provide Weapon Planning Software (WPS) for numerous aircraft and weapons platforms used by US military and allied forces. The mission planning software is designed to help military customers plan every detail of a mission, including routes, threats and points for weapons launches.

The award, potentially valued at $259 million, includes the development, enhancement and support of the WPS suite – a core component of the Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS) architecture, which enables collaborative mission planning and data sharing capabilities between military services. The WPS suite supports JMPS requirements related to precision-guided munition planning for A-10, B-1, B-2, B-52, F-15E, F-16, F-22, F/A-18 and F-35 operational units worldwide.

“We are looking forward on building on our partnership with the US Air Force as we help to fulfill their mission planning needs with the WPS suite,” said Debbie Churchill, vice president, Mission Products and Services, Tapestry Solutions. “It will ensure our customers have the critical data they need to get from mission plan to execution more efficiently with the use of faster, more powerful and intuitive weapons planning capabilities.”

Tapestry, which is part of Boeing’s services business, brings decades of experience developing mission planning software solutions for military aircraft including the F-15, F/A-18, F-22 and T-38, as well as weapons systems software for the Tomahawk missile and Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) program.

 

Airbus, Spanish Air Force to develop drone and AR inspections for military aircraft

 The Spanish Air Force has become the first air force worldwide to support the development of Airbus’ drone and augmented reality-based maintenance inspection services, with the aim of drastically reducing maintenance inspections for large military aircraft and increasing overall fleet availability. 

This digital innovation technology will initially be trialed on Spanish Air Force A400M aircraft based at Zaragoza Air Base (31st Wing), with options to extend the technology to other aircraft, including the C295 and the CN235. 

General José Luis Pardo Jario, Head of the Spanish Chief of the Air Staff office, said: “This technology has the potential to make a major contribution to maintenance tasks for our fleet. Not only is it more time and cost efficient, above all it allows the up skilling of aircraft maintenance personnel, in accordance with the new digital era we all need to contribute towards in order to reap its benefits.”

The technology relies on drones equipped with sensors and high-definition cameras to scan, in a matter of hours and not days, the exterior of an aircraft undergoing a maintenance inspection.  A secured connection allows data and information generated to be displayed on tablets and augmented reality glasses, allowing staff to quickly identify and apply maintenance procedures and corrective actions while ensuring all inspection and maintenance procedures are formally and fully recorded on the maintenance log.  Not only does this technology reduce the maintenance inspection time, it supports the early detection of defects and helps guarantee quality and post-maintenance airworthiness.

José Antonio Urbano Torres, Military Aircraft R&D Chief Engineer, said: “Innovation and technological development are part of our DNA. Airbus invests considerable human and economic resources in the research and development of new processes, products and services to meet the current and future needs of our customers. We would like to thank the Spanish Air Force for its contribution and commitment to the development and maturity of this system, which is sure to revolutionise military aircraft maintenance.”

The tests with the Spanish Air Force A400M will allow Airbus to use real user data, not only to consolidate the algorithms for safe autonomous flight of the drone around an aircraft thus avoiding the use of scaffolding and heavy mobile equipment that risks damaging the aircraft, but also to process the terabytes of images and data as a deep learning library that allows for the development of a robust Artificial Intelligence-based defects detection system.

Through its SmartForce portfolio, Airbus is continuously developing new technologies and innovative services to help military customers assess, predict and anticipate the needs of their fleets by leveraging big data analytics coupled to secured connectivity to ensure the highest mission readiness.

 

Taiwan transforms highway into fighter jet runway

 Taiwan staged a unique set of wargames designed to ensure it can put fighter jets in the air long after military air bases have been closed by enemy action. The country’s air force closed a major stretch of highway and launched and recovered three types of fighter jets, each armed with weapons. The exercise was designed to show the country’s determination to defend itself from armed attack, particularly from China.

The Han Kuang exercises took place on the Huatan section of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway, a highway that runs north-south along the island’s west coast. According to Taiwan News, it’s one of four stretches of highway on the island that are designated as emergency airfields. Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau stated that 1,375 median barriers, 111 street lights and 77 road signs were removed from the highway to ensure aircraft could operate from it safely.

The Republic of China Air Force sent four types of aircraft to participate in the exercise: a F-16V Fighting Falcon, a Mirage 2000-5 multi-role fighter jet, and Taiwan’s own Indigenous Defense Fighter. The jets took off and landed with weapons onboard—the F-16 carried two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles. The same jet or another jet later landed on the improvised airstrip, minus the two Harpoon missiles.

In addition to the fighter jets a E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft similar to those based on US Navy aircraft carriers took off and landed from the highway. Taiwan’s Hawkeyes would be used during wartime to coordinate defense against enemy air attack, detecting incoming fighters at longer ranges and vectoring the island’s fighters to intercept. A CH-47 Chinook transport hauled in supplies and ground crew practiced refueling and rearming jets that had landed. All in all, 1,600 soldiers participated in the exercise.

Taiwan, just 100 miles off the coast of China, is in a vulnerable strategic position. China considers it a breakaway province that is technically still part of the country. China has threatened numerous times to reclaim the island, by force if necessary, and much of the country’s military buildup seems aimed at enabling it to do so.

Taiwan has only a limited number of air bases, and those could expect heavy bombardment in the early days of a conflict. As a backup measure the country plans to close the highways and use them as improvised airfields. In the event of conflict Taiwan plans to hold out until international pressure halts an attack or outside intervention—in the form of the US military.

 

Next-gen OPIR declared fully operational by Air Force

 The fourth satellite of the Space Based Infrared System constellation has been declared fully operational, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced.

The billion-dollar SBIRS GEO-4, built by Lockheed Martin, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 411 rocket on January 20, 2018.

“The satellite is healthy and sending data to the Mission Control Station, operated by the 460th Space Wing located at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado,” the Air Force said in a news release.

At this point, the Air Force Space Command is accepting the SBIRS GEO-4 satellite into the missile warning architecture for real-world operations, said Col Ricky Hunt, senior materiel leader and overhead persistent infrared satellite systems chief.

Four SBIRS GEO infrared surveillance satellites and Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) sensors provide worldwide coverage to help detect and track missile launches. The first three SBIRS satellites were launched in 2011, 2013 and 2017.

Lockheed Martin is manufacturing SBIRS 5 and 6, scheduled to be delivered in 2020 and 2021.

The Air Force in 2018 decided to cancel the procurement of SBIRS 7 and 8 satellites and transition to a new program, the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared. Lockheed Martin is developing the so-called next-gen OPIR satellites on a faster timeline.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced that Lockheed Martin in March completed a Next Gen OPIR GEO system requirements review for the three space vehicles of the constellation. Separately, two system design reviews were completed in April for the mission payloads with Lockheed Martin’s subcontractors Raytheon and a Northrop Grumman-Ball Aerospace team.

The payload subcontractors are developing competing missile warning sensors.

Next-gen OPIR is one of the Air Force’s largest satellite procurements. The Air Force is requesting $1.4 billion for the program in fiscal year 2020 — $817 million for the development of Lockheed’s three GEO satellites, $107 million for two polar-orbiting satellites to be made by Northrop Grumman, $264 million for ground systems and $205 million for studies of future parts and material obsolescence.

But the program is still $632 million short of what it needs in fiscal year 2019 to stay on schedule, Air Force leaders told Congress in April. They have asked for the money to be reprogrammed into the 2019 budget.

“Subject to funding decisions, the program remains on track to achieve a GEO space vehicle delivery by fiscal year 2025,” the Air Force said in a statement.

Of the $632 million reprogramming request, more than half is for payloads. The other half is to increase spacecraft development personnel to support systems engineering, procurement of long-lead components and the designing and building of bus components, an Air Force spokesman said.

Compared to SBIRS satellites, next-gen OPIR spacecraft have more powerful sensors and other features that make them more resilient for operations in contested environments, said Lt Col. Leroy Brown Jr., deputy chief of SMC’s Space Development Corps’ Next Gen OPIR Division.

 

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