Posts Tagged ‘Northrup-Grumman’

Inside Whiteman AFB, home of the B-2

Northrup B-2 Stealth Bomber

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

I came across two articles on-line from the week before last this morning. Both were written by a British journalist who got permission to visit Whiteman AFB – the home of the B-2 ‘Spirit’ Stealth Bomber.

Here is the article that got published – Daily Mail [] and the overflow material that was published in the journalist’s blog [].

Both articles are worth reading. One of the highlights of the Daily Mail article was the too small picture of the cockpit (which basically looks like the glass cockpit in any modern airliner). The 2nd story was a closer look at the people who are involved with the B-2, including two RAF exchange pilots (one who is just joining the squadron, and one about to rotate out – and the justification for allowing a British journalist to come onto the base).


UAV’s in the news

Several interesting stories have been published in the last week about UAV’s (Unmanned Air Vehicles).

MSN/New York Times – Military is deluged in intelligence from drones Duh – I think the NSA has suffered from this for years.

AviationWeek/Ares – Caught on Film: UCAS Taxi Test (UCAS is Northrup-Grumman’s X-47 which is being designed to work from the Navy’s Carrier’s)

Combat Aircraft/ – RQ-170 Clear Daylight Photo (the RQ-170 is the UAV that was nicknamed ‘the Beast of Khandhar’)

If all of this doesn’t show that we are inevitably moving towards the an unmanned air force – I don’t know what will.


So what’s going on with the Tanker buy?

The President’s first 100 days are over – and still no word on what is going to happen with one of the most watched Pentagon acquisition programs in years.

The Air Force tanker program (to replace the aging KC-135’s).

SecDef Robert Gates has said he opposes a ‘dual buy’ (some from Airbus and some from Boeing) option.

There isn’t a even a concrete ‘dual buy’ proposal on the table, only suggestions from some Senate subcommittee chairmen as a way to break the impasse. And even then – the actual committee chairmen have not yet decided other than to wait to see what the Pentagon proposes.

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Mystery plane revealed

Ok – I have kept everyone in suspense for long enough. Here is a side view of the same plane – and you can start answering some of the questions I posed.

This was a flight demonstrator for the Shaped Sonic Boom program. The thought was that a modified underside of the aircraft’s fuselage could potentially reduce the sonic boom that an aircraft made when going supersonic (Mach 1+) speeds.

[The newest jet engine’s – i.e. the F119 on the F-22 Raptor – no longer has to go to afterburner to get to supersonic speeds. One of the reasons that the Concorde wasn’t able to make money (and got retired) was because it was constantly on afterburner (and burned a huge amount of jet fuel). Beyond the fuel costs – the other reason that the Concorde wasn’t successful – was because it was restricted to overwater flights. Because on an overwater flight – there was no homeowner’s association or EPA to complain about the noise pollution].

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Global Hawk – High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV

Earlier this summer – published a story saying the Air Force was not ready to retire the U-2 in favor of the Global Hawk.

The key argument – was that the U-2 could collect more info during a single flight – due to a larger payload and more electrical power (more sensors) – than the Global Hawk.

The Pentagon has said it will not retire the U-2 at least until the Global Hawk Block 30, which will carry the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload, is flying.

According to a Northrup-Grumman press release back in January 2008 – the first Block 40 fuselage was supposed to come off the assembly line back in September.

The fact that the Air Force transferred two early model Global Hawk’s to NASA earlier this year – seems to indicate that that some serious fuselage changes are needed for the later modifications (and that these changes cannot be retrofitted to the earlier models).

Additionally – the on again off again potential sale of the Global Hawk to Korea – maybe back on again. I bet it will only be a Block 20…..


B-2 Spirit – pretty cool

B-2 Spirit on IR

B-2 Spirit on IR

This picture was supposedly taken by a Eurofighter Typhoon.  Obviously from below the B-2.  Pretty cool overall.  If you look to the trailing edge of the wing – near the center – you will see white lines – which is probably the heating from the engines.

I bet the same shot from overhead – would show a more dramatic rise in the exhaust signature.

I have to wonder though – why this image got out anyway.  It shows me – that the best way to look for a B-2 – would be from above.  Very high altitude a/c – or even an orbit IR sensor.

Unless it is time to illustrate the B-2’s shortcomings – so the NGB can get more $$$$.


X-37 – ready for a real test?


Originally uploaded by ryanclark75

AviationWeek’s Ares blog reported yesterday that the X-37 unmanned space plane – has been scheduled to be launched later this Fall – for an on Orbit shakedown.

The X-37 was originally built for NASA by Boeing, but when NASA’s funding was cut the project was taken over by DARPA. DARPA in their cost cutting best – brought Scaled Composite (now owned by Northrup-Grumman) on-board.

[Scaled Composite used White Knight (the same mothership for the SpaceShipOne effort) to perform the drop tests. It turns out that Scaled by using WK – was able to conduct the drop tests for 1/10th what it was costing NASA to use their B-52

SpaceflightNow’s launch schedule is already showing the LRO launch being pushed back to the Spring (2009) – but doesn’t yet show the new Atlas launch for the X-37 demonstrator.

Stay tuned.

[Update – Mon, Aug 4th – Aviation Week has published a broader article listing some of the milestones of the project, as well as the expected goals from the on orbit shakedown flight]


Scaled Composite’s A-10-like bird: The Ares

This is interesting….this thing already flew…YEARS ago.


Why is the Tanker contract such a big deal?

KC135 refueling EC135

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or completely oblivious to Defense mattters, you know that the GAO overturned the landmark KC-X aerial refueling (tanker) contract that the US Air Force awarded to the Northrup-Grumman/EADS (Airbus) team.


The Air Force has needed to replace the KC-135 (based on the original Boeing 707 prototype) for the last 10 years. But the controversy around this contract was thrown into the spotlight right after 9/11 (2001).

Boeing proposed a lease of converted 767’s to the US Air Force at a reduced rate (Boeing would benefit by keeping its 767 production line open, and the Air Force would get needed planes). But the scrutiny of this deal – by none other than Republican Presidential contender, John McCain – killed this deal, and resulted in the resignations/indictments of several Air Force and Boeing officals.

When the Air Force was forced to put the contract out for bid, there was a surprise bidder. EADS (Airbus) in partnership w/ Northrup-Grumman. Initially – no one thought NGA had a chance.

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