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Australia commits to 100 F-35s in defence white paper

By Siva Govindasamy

Australia plans to buy up to 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (below) as part of a comprehensive plan to revamp its defence force capabilities and prepare for a changing security environment in the Asia Pacific over the next 20 years.

This announcement was part of the country’s long-awaited defence white paper, which spells out its military strategy until 2030. It projects that the defence budget of A$22.7 billion ($16.6 billion) will increase by 3% annually until 2017-2018 and then by 2.2% annually until 2030 to rectify the current “shortfalls and underinvestment”, says defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

The Royal Australian Air Force, he adds, will be “far more versatile and far more capable” with a “wider range of advanced surveillance, transport and air combat options” as a result. Much of this hinges on the acquisition of the F-35s, which have been confirmed as the backbone of the RAAF’s air strike capability in the future.

Canberra is likely to go ahead with the procurement of no fewer than 72 F-35s in the third quarter of 2009, when the aircraft’s delivery schedule will become clearer. A fourth squadron will bought later based on the timing of the withdrawal of the country’s fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets that will enter into service from later this year. Australia could convert half of the Super Hornets into E/A-18G Growlers depending on future strategic imperatives.

There was an emphasis on airlift capability with Australia buying another two Lockheed Martin C-130Js, bringing the total number in its fleet to 14. Up to 10 new tactical battlefield airlifters will be bought to replace the 14 de Havilland DHC-4 Caribous, and these will provide greater range, speed, payload and protection measures, says the minster. He adds that the troubled EADS KC-30A multi-role tanker transport programme is on track and that the first of five aircraft will be in service soon.

Eight new maritime patrol aircraft will be bought to provide advanced antisubmarine, anti-surface warfare, and sophisticated maritime search capabilities. These will be supplemented by seven new high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles to replace the Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orions.

Despite ongoing problems with the platform, Australia reaffirmed its commitment to the Boeing 737-based Wedgetail airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft. It has ordered six aircraft and the defence ministry says that they will be introduced into service from 2011 with potential upgrades. “The Government will investigate upgrading the AEW&C aircraft with Cooperative Engagement Capability to enable it to more effectively cue weapons systems and perform other functions in an air warfare information ‘grid’,” says Fitzgibbon.

The navy will get another six new NH Industries NH-90 multi-role helicopters to replace its Westland Sea King fleet, and there will be “added urgency” to buy at least 24 new naval combat helicopters. These will be equipped with dipping sonars that allow them to detect submarines at greater ranger and torpedoes that allow them to attack and destroy enemy vessels. “This project will be pursued as a matter of urgency to overcome the current deficiencies in the Navy’s aviation fleet,” says Fitzgibbon.

Additional emphasis will be placed on increasing the army’s unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities, and the service will also replace its fleet of six Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopters with a new fleet of seven Boeing CH-47F aircraft. “With a lift capacity of about three times that of a [Sikorsky] Blackhawk, the Chinook is a critical component of the Army Aviation fleet, providing support ranging from tactical and intra-theatre battlefield lift for our soldiers to regional humanitarian assistance” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The government says that it will prepare a new defence white paper at intervals of no more than five years to assess Australia’s defence requirements. The strategic imperative of the white paper is to prepare Australia for a time when the USA, its main ally, reduces its presence in the Asia Pacific region and as other countries like China and India increase their capabilities to fill the gap.

“As the Asia-Pacific region becomes more prosperous, we will see an increase in the region’s military capability,” says Fitzgibbon. “Intra-state conflict will be an enduring feature of conflict in the period to 2030 and the Australian Defence Force needs to be prepared to play its part in dealing with such contingencies.”


Hainan halves ERJ-145 order under new agreement

By Mary Kirby

Embraer‘s Chinese joint venture Harbin Embraer has reached an agreement with Hainan Airlines to halve the carrier’s original 50-strong ERJ-145 order and stretch out remaining deliveries.

Under the new arrangement, which has been under negotiation for months, a total 25 ERJ-145s will be delivered to Hainan subsidiary Grand China Express.

Grand China has already taken delivery of 12 ERJ-145s. Delivery of the remaining 13 aircraft has been rescheduled for completion by the first half of 2011 instead of the originally-contemplated plan of year-end 2010.

In early April Embraer warned that the Hainan backlog would be reduced to 10-15 aircraft.


Hainan halves ERJ-145 order under new agreement

By Mary Kirby

Embraer‘s Chinese joint venture Harbin Embraer has reached an agreement with Hainan Airlines to halve the carrier’s original 50-strong ERJ-145 order and stretch out remaining deliveries.

Under the new arrangement, which has been under negotiation for months, a total 25 ERJ-145s will be delivered to Hainan subsidiary Grand China Express.

Grand China has already taken delivery of 12 ERJ-145s. Delivery of the remaining 13 aircraft has been rescheduled for completion by the first half of 2011 instead of the originally-contemplated plan of year-end 2010.

In early April Embraer warned that the Hainan backlog would be reduced to 10-15 aircraft.


Boeing researches “dynamic bumps” for drag reduction

By John Croft

Boeing is investigating the use of oscillating jets of air at certain locations on an aircraft wing to significantly reduce drag and consequently boost speed or fuel economy for high speed cruise, including transonic or supersonic regimes.

Analysis presented as supporting material for a US patent titled “Dynamic bumps for drag reduction at transonic-supersonic speeds” (application number 20090084906) shows overall mean drag reductions as high as 7.3% relative to a normally configured wing.

At transonic or higher speeds, air flowing over a swept wing is accelerated causing drag producing a “normal” shockwave that extends upward from the rear portions of the aerofoil. The “dynamic bumps” system proposes a grid of oscillating jets, some that suck air and some that expel air, to create a recirculation pattern with magnitude and frequency that acts to weaken the normal shock wave by creating an oblique wave that acts to reduce aerofoil drag.

The picture below, submitted by Boeing with the patent, shows the oblique wave ahead of the normal shock, with dynamic bumps in action on a cross section of a wing. Below that is a picture showing the typical location for a grid for the oscillating jets.

©Boeing

©Boeing

The practice of locally modifying wing shape to reduce the wave drag is not new as manufacturers have experimented with static bumps on a wing or other innovations. Research by Airbus, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and the French Aerospace Lab (Onera) presented in a 2004 report revealed that drag reductions as high as 2.9% could be achieved by locating “bumps” on the wing.

The researchers concluded that shock intensity could be reduced “for off-design conditions” and that fuel consumption “should be reduced on a typical long range mission.”

Boeing notes that the static physical bumps, while indeed reducing drag during certain design conditions, “at different but otherwise useful Mach number and angles of attack…can be shown to penalize the aerodynamic performance of the wing.”

Another competing technology, which involves a blowing jet located upstream of the normal shockwave can also reduce drag, but at the cost of reducing the lifting capability of the wing, says Boeing.

“There remains room in the art for improvement,” the airframer states in the patent application.

It’s not clear if Boeing had performed the research for its M0.98 Sonic Cruiser program, cancelled in late 2002, or if the company continues to have transonic or supersonic ambitions for future models.


Mexicana to formally join Oneworld in October

By Brendan Sobie

Mexicana has pushed back its ascension into the Oneworld alliance from May until October.

Earlier this year Mexicana began the process of planning a ceremony in Mexico City for May to mark its official entrance into Oneword. But a Mexicana spokesman says this ceremony has been postponed by five months, and the carrier is now planning to officially join the alliance in October.

October 2009 still meets the original deadline set by Oneworld last year when the alliance’s board agreed to add Mexicana as its latest full member. Oneworld formally announced Mexicana as a member-elect in April 2008 at a ceremony in Los Angeles. At the time it said the joining process would take 12 to 18 months to complete.

While that gave Mexicana until October 2009 to formally join, the carrier was hoping to join earlier and complete the process in only 12 months. In November Mexicana said it was on pace to formally join in April, and in late February it said it was on pace to join in May.

But over the last couple of months Mexicana, which has been overhauling its IT systems in anticipation of joining Oneworld, decided it wasn’t quite ready to formally join the alliance. The decision to delay was made prior to the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico.

A Oneworld spokesman was unavailable to comment.


Embraer Lineage 1000: Where modest meets magnificent

By John Croft

The Embraer Lineage 1000 experience begins on the ramp, where the polished leading edges of wings and engine inlets differentiate this long-legged $41 million executive jet from its commercial service 100-passenger Embraer 190 brethren. With three-tone choices of livery, the aircraft at rest is at once understated in its potential and overstated in its countenance, an airframe unlikely to be mistaken for the handiwork of any another manufacturer.

Flight International in April was given access to the second of four Lineage aircraft under construction or newly finished in the USA, providing a rare glimpse into some of the gourmet ingredients of the Brazilian airframer’s newest high-end recipe.

As one ascends the retractable forward stairs (No 21 in our cutaway) of Lineage number two, polished chrome external handrails lead upward on 11 lighted stairs to the main entry on the forward left side of the twinjet. A warm reception welcomes up to 19 passengers at the main cabin door thanks to radiated heat below the Kalogridis 100% New Zealand wool and silk carpet at forward cabin entry.

Embraer
© Embraer

Carpet throughout the 25.9m (85ft)-long cabin is padded below with multiple layers of sound-dampening insulation, creating a cushioned sensation that at least one customer has compared to “walking in the clouds”. Emblazoned into the carpet at the centre of the 1.98 x 2.68m wide cabin in zone 0, the forward-most modular section, is the Embraer logo.

Baggage and cargo is loaded in the rear port-side door and placed in a heated and pressurised 9.14m3 (322ft3) storage section (105) at the aft end of the cabin, accessible during flight. Storage volume is decreased to 6.37m3 for Lineage number 2, however, as it is equipped with the optional shower (101) in the VIP lavatory of zone 5, the rearward-most compartment of the modularly designed interior.

Aircraft destined to be Lineage 1000s are pulled from the Embraer line late in the commercial airline production process in São José dos Compos, Brazil, but not before receiving the brackets and structural attach points needed for the “monuments”, cabinets, credenzas, desks, etc, that will later be installed as part of the completion process.

Click on image for full size cutaway drawing

Once interiors are complete, each Lineage receives Embraer-made auxiliary fuel tanks in what were previously the forward (F13) and rear cargo (F14) compartments. The auxiliary tanks boost fuel capacity by 69%, up to 21,867kg (48,165lb) or 27,232 litres (7,185USgal) from the standard fuel load of 12,972kg in the wing tanks (F2) of the E-190, providing for an intercontinental range of 7,780km (4,200nm). The completion process is expected to take roughly six months, starting with the “green” aircraft once Embraer applies lessons learned from the first four aircraft going through the process.

Starting with the six modules, zone 0 at the front of the cabin and zone 5 at the rear, customers either work with Embraer designers or bring in their own consultants to customise each zone, the process culminating in a customer specification that generally is kept to a succinct 30 pages. Embraer offers more than 700 options in fabric for the divans, panels and curtains and more than 400 choices in leather. Lineage number 1 has an interior that would be called “contemporary”, while number 2 is finished in veneers and blue-hue colours.

ELEGANT AND PRACTICAL

Along with the elegant, Embraer does not lose track of the practical. A crew divan (17) in zone 0 proves the point. Although stylish, the 173cm (68in) couch doubles as a crew rest area that can accommodate a 95th percentile male through a design that features recesses in the forward and aft end caps. The trimming provides for an extra 15cm length once the fore and aft cushions are pulled free of their Velcro attach points.

Forward of the divan is the crew lavatory, one of three. At the front is the cockpit, equipped with a Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite that includes a combiner for the Rockwell Collins Flight Dynamics head-up display (E51). Embraer is now certificating the Kollsman EVS II system for the Lineage, which will give pilots an infrared view in the forward direction, allowing for increased safety and potentially lower landing minima.

Embraer
© Embraer

The galley (29), located between zone 0 and the remainder of the cabin, must be aesthetic as well as functional given that all passengers pass through its centre. Design features to make it visually appealing while maximising counter top space include a custom sink faucet that swivels out from behind sliding doors. A curtain separates the galley from the crew rest area to the fore; a pocket door isolates the work area from the zone 1 to the aft.

A touchscreen controller gives the flight attendant full control of video and music, lighting, pleated curtain window shades and temperature in any or all zones. Cabin lighting – accents, downwash and styling lights – use LED lights, with red, blue, green tint options available. Cabin air refresh is designed so that air circulates without drafts, a task handled by careful attention to the environmental control system diffuser.

Zone 1, the forward conference room (32), features club seating for four, pull-out side ledge tables and an LCD monitor on the forward left wall. Monitors are available in standard sizes up to 42in diagonal. Individual seats (34) have been designed to handle passenger sizes from the 95th percentile male down to the 25th percentile female, using computerised pressure mapping of test subjects to develop the optimum density and layering of foam cushioning.

More individual seating is available in zone 2 (51), the forward-most section of the main cabin, where customers often elect to have four seats in club arrangement with pull-out side ledge tables. Connectors for power and signal are located behind outlet covers that recess into the lower side ledge deco panels using custom-designed hinges. All eight executive seats, four in zone 2 and four in zone 1, have built-in controls for sound and audio on the arm rests, located under self-opening lids that click and rise with a damped motion. Forward of Zone 2 is the mid-cabin lavatory on port side and an in-flight entertainment cabinet on the starboard that comes standard with three DVD/CD players and sound systems by Audio International or DT Sound.

Zone 3 features a large entertainment area with 42in LCD atop a credenza, two adjacent chairs and a “wow” divan, named for its long length, on the opposite side of the mid-cabin zone. Theatre sound is assured from custom built speakers systems crafted by Dennis Tracy, including subwoofers hidden beneath the divan. External noise is minimised by a sound insulation upgrade that makes use of multiple layers of insulation around the fuselage and on the floor, the amount tuned to satisfy customer audio needs while minimising impact to aircraft weight and range.

An executive office area (93) with VIP desk typically caps the main entertainment area, with voice connectivity through an on-board Air Cell system. Embraer is also developing a voice option that will use the Iridium satellite constellation and is in the process of certificating a Thales-built wireless internet data connectivity solution, work the company says will be completed by summer.

Located rearmost in the cabin is the VIP bedroom and lavatory, complete with an optional shower. The bedroom wardrobe (97) across from the starboard-side bathroom, features anti-slam door hinges and an interior lined with Grosse Point fabric.

A warm floor awaits the passenger who has bathed in the optional shower, again owing to radiating heat unit under the floor. Total indulgence will allow for 93min of bathing, not considering other uses such as the crew, mid-cabin and VIP lavatories or wet galley (29).

Embraer
© Embraer