After 3 decades, maintainers keep B-1 on top


With a career that spans across three decades and a warfighting reputation that rivals nearly every aircraft in the Air Force’s arsenal, the B-1 Bomber has established itself as one of the United States’ most crucial assets to maintaining air and ground superiority.

This achievement was built on the backs of hundreds, if not thousands, of Dyess maintainers who have kept this Cold War bird fighting well into the 21st century.

With the bomber’s ever increasing role in today’s combat operations, pushing the airframe to the limits of its original design, skilled maintenance professionals are crucial to ensuring mission success.

Located within one of Dyess’ most prominent landmarks the “Global Power for America” hangar is the 7th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s maintenance flight – a group of roughly 40 maintainers who strip this aircraft down to its frame only to inspect it, repair it and put it back together.

“Most B-1 aircraft are around 26 years old and require a lot of maintenance to keep mission ready,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Mueller, 7th EMS maintenance flight chief. “The isochronal inspection, better known as ISO, is a vital part of this effort. With a keen eye and dedication to duty these inspections make the daily maintenance easier. The effort is about finding and replacing the parts that failed, or are about to fail, before they cause mission delays.”

Each year, this dedicated flight of Airmen inspect more than a dozen B-1s inside and out, manually removing approximately 215 panels just to begin the process. This is the beginning of a tedious and painstakingly complex list of tasks that ensure this heavily-employed bomber continues to provide constant overwatch for troops on the ground.

“ISO has a specific flow of how the maintenance is accomplished to make sure everything gets completed on time,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Johnson, 7th EMS. “Day one is our de-panel day and most of the time if the jet is playing nice, we can de-panel 90 percent of the aircraft in just one day.”

From there, thousands of items are inspected for any discrepancies the aircraft may have and are repaired or replaced. The quality assurance shop then performs a follow-up inspection to ensure any repairs made to the aircraft were done correctly.

Once again, the tedious process of re-paneling the aircraft takes place, manually reinstalling each individual screw by hand.

“We then apply hydro-power and preform an operational check out of the components that have been disconnected or replaced,” Johnson said. “QA performs one last follow-up inspection and run the engines to complete the rest of our operational check outs.”

The 7th EMS maintenance flight is allotted 15 to 18 duty days to complete this entire process, a objective that isn’t friendly to the personal lives of these Airmen.

“For us, the duty day doesn’t end until the job is completed. If we get behind for some reason or we find something that requires labor intensive disassembly we will work right through the weekend to ensure everything is done correctly,” Mueller said. “Our main objective is to keep the aircrew safe, keep the aircraft in the air and ensure freedom for everyone,” he added. “One mistake on our part and we jeopardize that objective.”

Furthermore, unlike many Airmen who move from station to station every few years, Dyess maintainers rarely leave the B-1 platform, some spending their entire Air Force careers mastering every inch of the super-sonic bomber.

“This is a blue-collar, down-in-the-weeds type mission we have here,” Mueller said. “The job we do isn’t glamorous nor is it in the spotlight, but I could not be prouder of the men and women of the 7th EMS maintenance flight and their contribution to the freedom of the United States.”


Northrop Launches CUTLASS, Next Generation Unmanned Ground Vehicle


Northrop Grumman Corporation has launched CUTLASS, its latest generation unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), expanding its range of industry-leading capabilities in unmanned systems for the remote handling and surveillance of hazardous threats.

CUTLASS has been designed, developed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman in the U.K., and includes significant advances in technology and performance and a range of features that provides state-of-the-art capabilities for national security and resilience applications.

“Our CUTLASS vehicle is setting new standards in the UGV market and significantly enhancing the ability of users to handle hazardous threats safely. It is more dexterous, cost effective and, as a package, four times faster than any other UGV,” said Greg Roberts, managing director, defence and security, Northrop Grumman Information Systems Europe. “The vehicle is already in service across the U.K. and has proven itself to be robust and capable in the most demanding environments. We look forward to exploiting the potential opportunities for exporting this capability into international markets.”

CUTLASS will be on display in Northrop Grumman’s exhibit at the Counter Terror Expo, where it will also show its range of capabilities in daily live scenario-based demonstrations. The international exhibition and conference Counter Terror Expo takes place at the National Hall, Olympia, London, April 24-25.

CUTLASS offers the latest technology in a modular design, enabling the user to deal safely with the full range of hazardous threats from a distance, including the detection and disposal of explosive ordnance. Its highly versatile design means that it is capable of accommodating a wide range of payloads, sensors and tools. It carries all of the tools and sensors it needs to perform the full range of operations required for explosive ordnance disposal and other applications, avoiding the need to deploy two standard UGVs. CUTLASS saves up to 50 percent on the through-life costs when compared to owning and operating two standard UGVs.

The manipulator arm is equipped with a three-fingered, state-of-the-art gripper and has nine degrees of freedom for greater movement and agility inside limited spaces. With a specialised sensing system it provides a high level of control and dexterity to minimize damage to property and preserve forensic evidence.

Using CUTLASS, a hazardous situation can be restored to normal up to four times more quickly than with any other UGV. The combination of the speed of the wheeled platform, which can reach speeds of up to 12 kph, and the ability of CUTLASS to carry multiple tools and sensors negates the need to return to the incident control point, thus saving considerable time. The robot is able to creep along at deliberately slow speeds for delicate operations and may accelerate to high speeds to enable rapid travel. The six-wheeled design offers mobility on all types of hard and soft terrain and in all weather conditions.

Northrop Grumman’s unmanned ground vehicle business has been established in Coventry, U.K., for more than 20 years. Today, the company designs, develops and manufactures in the U.K. some of the most capable and reliable unmanned ground vehicles available, from the Wheelbarrow bomb disposal robot to the latest vehicle, CUTLASS.

Northrop Grumman has more than 2,000 unmanned ground vehicle systems in operation around the world.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cybersecurity, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide.

Israel tests CH-53 safety enhancement

The Israeli air force is to upgrade the automatic hovering system installed in its Sikorsky CH-53 “Yasur” transport helicopters within the coming months, following successful initial tests performed by its flight-test centre.

Test pilots at the centre report that the new equipment, which is based on the DRS-developed altitude hold and hover stabilisation (AHHS) system, is easy to operate and “helps to perform the missions”, by providing a more stable hover.


israeli air for ch-53 carmel horowitz/israeli defence ministry

 Carmel Horowitz/Israeli defence ministry  

Activated by one button push, AHHS provides hands-free cyclic and collective control for cruise and low-altitude hover operations, as well as during automatic landing, precision hover and drift control. It enables pilots to operate safely in challenging conditions, such as brown-out or white-out, over-water operations and in tight landing zones.

The new equipment is integrated with the aircraft’s existing flight control systems and data bus architecture.

AgustaWestland Unveils the AW169 AAS

By on Monday, April 15th, 2013


AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, has officially unveiled the latest generation AW169 AAS military helicopter during a dedicated ceremony held at the Army Aviation Association of America Annual Professional Forum and Exposition in Fort Worth, Texas (April 10th-13th) today.

The AW169 AAS is an advanced twin-engine helicopter with the capability to meet all US Army Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) mission requirements and provides a new-design, new-technology helicopter for the current and future battlefield. With two enhanced PW210A engines operating in challenging ‘hot & high’ conditions and advanced technology embedded into an efficiency main rotor system, the AW169 AAS delivers high performance and enduring capability at long range with engineered-in growth potential.

With a comprehensive set of available mission equipment the AW169 AAS is uniquely adaptable to support all US Army Aviation Armed Aerial Scout mission requirements cost effectively making it the prerequisite to defense readiness. The AW169 AAS features high performance, advanced safety features and outstanding cost/effectiveness. Combined with open systems architecture, integrated controls and displays, flight management systems, mission equipment and weapons – it is the only solution that meets the AAS requirements of today and tomorrow.

R. Scott Rettig, CEO AgustaWestland North America, said “We are very excited and proud to be unveiling the AW169 AAS helicopter today at Quad-A’s Annual Forum and Exposition. We believe it sets the new standard for Armed Reconnaissance helicopters.” Adrian Board, SVP Products, AgustaWestland added “The only new generation helicopter in its category in 40 years provides an insight of AgustaWestland design and development ability to offer the US Army levels of cost effectiveness and mission capability the service deserves to successfully and safely accomplish the mission for decades to come.”

The AW169 is uniquely suited to perform and safely accomplish the widest range of US Army’s present and future Armed Reconnaissance missions including aerial escort, command and control, security operations, deep operations, target acquisition and targeting, fire support coordination. The AW169 AAS offers high maneuverability, power margin and demonstrates a forgiving aircraft in all flight and mission conditions.

A damage and ballistic tolerant fail safe airframe and rotorcraft system features multiple redundancies of all critical systems, excellent one engine inoperative (O.E.I.) capability, a 30 minutes ‘run-dry’ capable transmission, self-sealing crashworthy fuel system, crashworthy airframe and seating, heavy duty landing gear and armor protection for crew, fuel system and vital components as well as an advanced integrated self-defence suite. Also, the AW169 AAS modern design for engines and blades reduces heat and noise signature further contributing to mission effectiveness and survivability.

A fully integrated aircraft and mission management system is based on latest generation technology and avionics comprising a low workload/high situational awareness single pilot IFR and NVG compatible glass cockpit with an integrated control and display system. This features three large multifunctional displays and touch screen technology. Excellent ergonomics in the cockpit allows an outstanding external visibility too. Avionics also includes an integrated 4-axis digital AFCS, advanced communications and data management system, a comprehensive sensors suite, synthetic vision and Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) / Head-up Display (HUD). A combination of weapon systems comprise machine guns, rocket launchers and air-to-ground missiles.

The AW169 AAS is designed to maximize operational effectiveness and reduce time and cost of maintenance, thanks to a reduced number of components compared to older or existing platforms, easy accessible and with an extended life cycle for many key components as well as advanced diagnostics devices. A comprehensive package of advanced dedicated training solutions and devices, including a Level D full flight simulator, will be immediately available when the AW169 enters the market.

With all 4 prototypes already exceeding a total of more than 200 flight hours in just nine months for development testing, the AW169 program is on time to enter the market in 2014.

British intelligence MI5 admits to wrongful surveillance of innocent people

The UK’s Security Service wrongly gathered information about innocent telephone users during criminal surveillance, a report into the interception of communications has said.
The MI5 acquired data belonging to subscribers of 134 telephone numbers following a failure in software, Sir Paul Kennedy, Interception of Communications Commissioner, said.
“These errors were caused by a formatting fault on an electronic spreadsheet which altered the last three digits of each of the telephone numbers to ‘000’,” Sir Paul said in his annual review of how law enforcement agencies use legal powers to intercept communications in 2010 (63-page / 2.3MB PDF).
“These unfortunate errors were identified by the Security Service and duly reported,” he said.
“The subscriber data acquired had no connection or relevance to any investigation or operation being undertaken by the Security Service,” the review added.
Sir Paul said that the intelligence agency destroyed the material and fixed the “technical fault” within the spreadsheet. All Security Service requests for data are now checked manually before being sent to communication service providers to help reduce the likelihood of future errors, he said in his review.
Rules set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) state that law enforcement agencies, including the police and the MI5, can tap into phone, internet or email use to protect the UK’s national security interests, prevent and detect terrorism and serious crime or to safeguard the UK’s economic well-being.
Under the powers of the Act the Interception of Communications Commissioner must review how law enforcers use their RIPA powers.
Sir Paul also reported that information about 927 internet connections had been obtained by the Security Service despite being approved by insufficiently senior staff. He said the information gathered was about the history of internet use from those connections and had been approved for surveillance by officers ranked lower than the law demands because of an incorrect setting on the system used by the agency.
“This data was not obtained fully in accordance with the law and these errors were duly reported to my office,” Sir Paul said in his annual review.
“The Inspectors were satisfied that these errors had no bearing on the actual justifications for acquiring the data (i.e. the requests were necessary and proportionate),” Sir Paul said.
“The Security Service has corrected the setting on their system and this should prevent recurrence of such errors,” Sir Paul said.