Thursday, 30 May 2013

Stealth Drones: Taranis emerges

Taranis: A New Breed of Stealth UACV

It can fly faster than the speed of sound, cannot be detected by radar and has no pilot. 

Looking like something out of a SciFi movie head on, BAE unveiled it's stealth weapon a year or two ago. Now it's ready for testing in the Aussie outback, away from prying eyes...

This is the new robotic plane that will become the next generation of front line bombers for the British military.

The drone, which is named Taranis (Celtic Thunder God  - i.e Norse Thor) , has been designed to fly intercontinental missions to attack targets and can automatically dodge incoming missiles.
The aircraft, which has cost £125 million to build, is intended to be the first of a new generation of planes that will reduce the need to risk human lives on long, dangerous missions.
It is to be flown for the first time in a series of tests over the Australian outback in the spring in an attempt to demonstrate the technology to military chiefs.

Currently the Royal Air Force uses Tornado GR4 bombers as its front line strike aircraft, although the Typhoon Eurofighter is expected to replace it in the coming years.
Remote controlled drones such as the US Reaper are also used by the Ministry of Defence and US military to attack targets.
Taranis is expected to provide a prototype of a new kind of bomber that will replace piloted planes and the current drones.

With a shape more similar to the US B-2 Stealth bomber, it intended to fly automatically using an on-board computer system to perform manoeuvres, avoid threats and identify targets. Only when it needs to attack a target will it seek authorisation from a human controller.
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programs at BAE Systems, which has been developing Taranis, said the new drone could change the way aircraft are used by the MoD in the future, which currently uses manned planes for combat missions.
The Taranis uses stealth technology, including a highly secretive coating that helps it slip through radar undetected. It will be able to carry a series of weapons on board including missiles and laser guided bombs.

The use of drones, however, has come under intense criticism from human rights groups, who claim their use as weapons contravenes international laws as often innocent targets can be killed.
The Reaper and Predator drones currently used by the British and US military are operated by remote control using pilots based at a command centre. Although they fly relatively slowly, with a maximum speed of 287 miles per hour, less than half the speed of sound, their ability to perform “hunter-killer” missions or support ground troops in Afghanistan without risking human pilots has seen them increasingly used.

Unmanned aircraft are now being seen as a way of producing planes that can fly further, faster and higher than is currently possible with human pilots, who can grow tired or blackout in manoeuvres that produce high g-forces.
There are concerns, however, that as drones are made more autonomous, they will pose more of a risk if they go out of control and leaving computers to make life or death decisions is highly controversial.
Taranis, however, will still rely on instructions from a central command centre before attacking targets.
The tests on Taranis, which is powered by a Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine used on Hawk training jets, will see it flying a simulated mission where it must automatically avoid unexpected threats such as ground to air missiles and seek out potential targets.
Once identified, the operators will send instructions to Taranis to attack the targets before performing a flying past to confirm the damage and then landing safely.
Taranis is the first of its kind in the UK. Unmanned Air Vehicles play an important role on operations, helping to reduce the risks faced by military personnel on the front line.
  • Thrust: 6,500lbs
  • Max speed: Classified but supersonic
  • Length: 37ft
  • Wingspan: 32ft
  • Max Altitude: Classified

Taranis will explore and demonstrate how emerging technologies and systems can deliver battle-winning capabilities for the UK Armed Forces incorporating both an autonomous and survivable Unmanned Air Vehicle System (UAV) concept design. Any future in-service systems based on such a concept design will be under the command of highly skilled ground based operators who will also be able to remotely pilot the aircraft.
About the size of a BAE Systems Hawk Jet, Taranis is jointly funded by the UK MOD and UK industry and is managed by the UK MOD’s Unmanned Air Systems Project Team in the Defence Equipment and Support Organisation based in Bristol. Taranis was formally unveiled at a ceremony in July 2010.  Initial ground testing commenced in 2010 with flight trials planned for 2013.
BAE Systems formed a teaming arrangement combining Rolls-Royce, the Systems division of GE Aviation (formerly Smiths Aerospace) and QinetiQ to work alongside UK MOD military staff and scientists to develop and fly Taranis.
BAE Systems, as prime contractor, will provide many elements of the Taranis technology demonstrator, including the low observability, systems integration, control infrastructure and full autonomy elements (in partnership with QinetiQ).
Comparison with other similar aircraft:

Germano-Spanish Barracuda

US X-47 Project

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Tiger Meet 2

A second helping of Tiger Paint Scheme Aircraft:

I just love it when fighter jets (or any other aircraft for that matter) are painted in Tiger schemes.

I've recently trawled the internet, and came up with some lovely pictures. None of these were taken by me, and I hold no copyright for them. 

They are displayed on my blog purely for enjoyment of fellow aircraft nuts. I will be glad to attribute any photograph to its rightful owner if advised. (Or remove said photograph if you are not happy to share)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Stealth Aircraft: Fighters and Bombers, History and Conceptual planes

Stealth Aircraft

Stealth aircraft are designed to avoid detection using advanced technology to reduce reflection/emission of radar, infrared, visible light, radio-frequency (RF) spectrum, and audio signals.

Development of stealth technology likely began in Germany during World War II.
Well-known modern examples of stealth aircraft include the United States' F-117 Nighthawk (1981–2008), the B-2 Spirit, the F-22 Raptor,  and the F-35 Lightning II.

N aircraft is totally invisible to radar, but stealth aircraft make it difficult for conventional radar to detect or track the aircraft effectively, increasing the odds of a successful attack. Stealth is the combination of passive low observable (LO) features and active emitters such as Low Probability of Intercept Radars, radios and laser. These are usually combined with active defenses such as chaff, flares, and ECM. 

Complex design reduces the ability of an opponent's sensors to detect, track, or attack the stealth aircraft. This also takes into account the heat, sound, and other emissions of the aircraft that could be used to locate it.

Full-size stealth combat aircraft demonstrators have been flown by the United States (in 1977), Russia (in 2010) and China (in 2011). The US military has adopted three stealth designs, and is preparing to adopt the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Most recent fighter designs will claim to have some sort of stealth, low observable, reduced RCS or radar jamming capability, but there has been no air to air combat experience against stealth aircraft.


Germany developed the Horten Ho 229 flying wing fighter-bomber close to the end of WWII. In addition to the aircraft's shape, the majority of the Ho 229's wooden skin was bonded together using carbon-impregnated plywood resins designed with the purported intention of absorbing radar waves. 
(I intend to do a whole post on the Horten at a later stage)

Testing performed in early 2009 by the Northrop-Grumman established that this compound, along with the aircraft's shape, would have rendered the Ho 229 virtually invisible to the top-end HF-band at the time, particularly the 20-30 MHz primary signals of Britain's Chain Home early warning radar. Provided the aircraft was traveling at high speed (ca 550 mph (890 km/h)) at extremely low altitude (50–100 feet).

In the closing weeks of WWII the US tried to capture as much advanced German weapons research as possible, and also to deny that research to advancing Soviet troops. A Horten glider and the nearly complete Ho 229 V3 third prototype airframe were secured and sent to Northrop Aviation for evaluation in the United States, who much later used a flying wing design for the B-2 stealth bomber. 

During WWII Northrop had developed a large wing-only long-range bomber (XB-35) based on photographs of the Horten's record-setting glider from the 1930s, but their initial designs suffered control issues that were not resolved until after the war. Northrop's small one-man prototype (N9M-B) and a Horten wing-only glider are located in the Chino Air Museum in Southern California.

Modern History
Modern stealth aircraft first became possible when Denys Overholser, a mathematician working for Lockheed Aircraft during the 1970s, adopted a mathematical model developed by Petr Ufimtsev, a Russian scientist, to develop a computer program called Echo 1. 

Echo 1 made it possible to predict the radar signature an aircraft made with flat panels, called face. Lockheed Skunk Works found that an aircraft made with faceted surfaces could have a very low radar signature because the surfaces would radiate almost all of the radar energy away from the receiver. Lockheed built a model called "the Hopeless Diamond", so-called because it resembled a squat diamond, and looked too hopeless to ever fly. 

Because advanced computers were available to control the flight of even a Hopeless Diamond, for the first time by the late 70s, designers realized that it might be possible to make an aircraft that was virtually invisible to radar.

Reduced radar cross section is only one of five factors the designers addressed to create a truly stealthy design such as the F-22. The F-22 has also been designed to disguise its infrared emissions to make it harder to detect by infrared homing ("heat seeking") surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles. Designers also addressed making the aircraft less visible to the naked eye, controlling radio transmissions, and noise abatement.

The first combat use of stealth aircraft was in December 1989 during Operation Just Cause in Panama. On 20 December 1989, two USAF F-117s bombed a Panamanian Defense Force barracks in Rio Hato, Panama. In 1991, F-117s were tasked with attacking the most heavily fortified targets in Iraq in the opening phase of Operation Desert Storm and were the only jets allowed to operate inside Baghdad's city limits.

The  design of a stealth aircraft is always aimed at reducing radar and thermal detection. It is the designer's top priority to satisfy the following conditions; some of which are listed below, by using their skills, which ultimately decides the success of the aircraft:-
  • Reducing thermal emission from thrust
  • Reducing radar detection by altering some general configuration (like introducing the split rudder)
  • Reducing radar detection when the aircraft opens its weapons bay
  • Reducing infra-red and radar detection during adverse weather conditions
Operational Use: 

The U.S. is the only country to have used stealth aircraft in combat. These deployments include the United States invasion of Panama, the first Gulf War, the Kosovo Conflict, the War in Afghanistan the War in Iraq and the 2011 military intervention in Libya. The first use of stealth aircraft was in the U.S. invasion of Panama, where F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack aircraft were used to drop bombs on enemy airfields and positions while evading enemy radar.

In 1990 the F-117 Nighthawk was used in the First Gulf War, where F-117s flew 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq while accumulating 6,905 flight hours. Only 2.5% of the American aircraft in Iraq were F-117s, yet they struck 40% of the strategic targets, dropping 2,000 tons of precision-guided munitions and striking their targets with an 80% success rate.

In the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia two stealth aircraft were used by the United States, the veteran F-117 Nighthawk, and the newly introduced B-2 Spirit strategic stealth bomber. The F-117 performed its usual role of striking precision high-value targets and performed well, although one F-117 was shot down by a Serbian Isayev S-125 'Neva-M' missile commanded by Colonel Zoltán Dani. The, then new, B-2 Spirit was highly successful, destroying 33% of selected Serbian bombing targets in the first eight weeks of U.S. involvement in the War. During this war, B-2s flew non-stop to Kosovo from their home base in Missouri and back.

In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, F-117 Nighthawks and B-2 Spirits were used, and this was the last time the F-117 would see combat. F-117s dropped satellite-guided strike munitions on selected targets, with high success. B-2 Spirits conducted 49 sorties in the invasion, releasing 1.5 million pounds of munitions.

During the May 2011 operation to kill Osama bin Laden, one of the helicopters used to clandestinely insert US troops into Pakistan crashed in the bin Laden compound. From the wreckage it was revealed this helicopter had stealth characteristics, making this the first publicly known operational use of a stealth helicopter.
A recent use of stealth aircraft was in the 2011 military intervention in Libya, where B-2 Spirits dropped 40 bombs on a Libyan airfield with concentrated air defenses in support of the UN no-fly zone.

Stealth deployment in Guam during North Korean Sable rattling

Stealth aircraft will continue to play a valuable role in air combat with the United States using the F-22 Raptor, B-2 Spirit, and the F-35 Lightning II to perform a variety of operations.

 Sukhoi PAK FA fifth-generation stealth multi-role fighter

The Russian Sukhoi PAK FA stealth multi-role fighter is scheduled to be introduced from 2015, to perform various missions.

The Sukhoi/HAL FGFA, the Indian version of the PAK FA is scheduled to be introduced from 2017 in higher numbers, also to perform various missions.

The People's Republic of China plans to introduce the Chengdu J-20 stealth multi-role fighter round 2018. A prototype was flown in early 2011

Sources: Various internet, including Wikipedia
No copyright infringements intended

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Vertical Take-off Car a viability? Terrafugia thinks so...

The US Terrafugia company based in Massachusetts has just unveiled the TF-X, a car that comes with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability with electric motors and custom-made quiet rotors.

While the electric motors provide the vertical liftoff, a powerful turbine engine produces the go forward in flight mode.

Terrafugia are the same company that unveiled the Transition prototype last year which was effectively a folding-wing aircraft that required a runway of 500 metres for take-off, but with the wings folded away, it could be driven on the highway, despite looking like a duck out of water.
The Transition, which is struggling for certification in the US but the company has around 100 orders for, currently has a price tag of US$279,000 (NZ$330,000) and the TF-X - which is at least 10 years away from becoming a production reality - is likely to top that.

 Terrafugia Transition:

"The final pricing will not be set until we are much closer to delivery,'' according to Terrafugia.
"The biggest price driver is the cost of production. It is likely that TF-X will be more expensive than a 'normal car' due to the higher costs of the enabling light-weight materials, but with investment in automotive scale production, early studies indicate that it is possible that the final price point could be on-par with very high-end luxury cars of today."
Terrafugia claims the TF-X will be capable of carry four people in car-like comfort, have a non-stop flight range of at least 800 kilometers and be able to fit inside a standard single car garage - although if you buy one you might like to leave it parked outside to show it off.
Powering the TF-X is set to be a plug-in hybrid propulsion system that pairs a 300-horsepower main engine with two 600hp electric motors to drive the outboard propellers. It will be able to recharge its batteries either from its engine or by plugging in to electric car charging stations.
Learning to fly the TF-X is said to be about five hours for the average driver and will come with both manual or automatic modes "between approved landing zones or airports".
The company says that it will be capable of taking off from a clear site of at least 30 meters in diameter and provide true door-to-door convenience.

Amelia Earhart's sad demise

Dozens heard Amelia Earhart's final, chilling pleas for help, researchers say Distilled from 2 posts in the  Washington Post a...