Daily News
by Gail Helmer

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Friday March 01, 2002

PC News
New Screens: Combat Flight Simulator 3
MS has sent us these screens from the soon to be released Combat Flight Simulator 3. Set from 1943 to the end of the war, "Combat Flight Simulator 3" puts players in the role of a fighter, ground attack or bomber pilot for the U.S. Army Air Force, Britainís Royal Air Force (RAF) or the German Luftwaffe. Gamers feel the heart-pounding rush of low-to-the-ground air combat over the European countryside while flying missions focused around air superiority, close air support and low-altitude tactical bombing.

HOTAS Cougar Manual Released
Cougar World has announced that the HOTAS Cougar manuals are available for downloading from their downloads section. These manuals are an updated version since they first appeared on the European Guillemot/Thrustmaster site.

VR1 Launches Fighter Ace III
Colorado-based VR1 Entertainment has announced the launch of Fighter Ace III, its latest online flight combat simulation. The game is set during World War II, and it features 80 different classic warplanes, five world powers, and support for 250 players per arena. It includes an improved terrain and graphics engine, full squadron support, and an improved interface. In addition, the game features aircraft carriers, transport ships, trains, and tank columns. The Fighter Ace III free trial version is now available for download. VR1 plans to launch the full version of the game in April.

MechWarrior 4 Inner Sphere Revealed
Yesterday, Microsoft revealed details about the Inner Sphere 'Mech Pak, a forthcoming expansion to MechWarrior 4. Shortly thereafter, the company also revealed some information about the Clan 'Mech Pak, another upcoming MechWarrior 4 expansion. Like the Inner Sphere 'Mech Pak, the Clan 'Mech Pak will feature four additional BattleMechs that players will be able to add into MechWarrior 4. Neither product will have any original single-player content beyond that, so the purpose of these add-ons is really to give hard-core MechWarrior 4 players more fodder for their multiplayer skirmishes. Release Date: May 2002.

New Screens: MechWarrior 4 Inner Sphere
Microsoft has sent us screens from the latest MechWarrior 4 expansion pack, Inner Sphere.

Military News
Osprey To Resume Flight Testing
The V-22 "Osprey" aircraft, championed in theory as an aircraft that would have massive ramifications for the future of combat operations, but more of a liability in practise, is to resume flight testing toward the end of April. The return to the air was authorised by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in December last year. The V-22 Joint Programme Office must now implement its plans to correct the aircraft's deficiencies and resume testing.

Over an 18-month developmental flight test period, two MV-22 Engineering, Manufacturing Development (EMD) aircraft and three MV-22 low rate initial production aircraft will return to flight with improvements in routing of hydraulic/electric lines in the nacelle as well as an upgraded software system. The developmental flight testing is designed to validate these engineering and software changes and further test vortex ring state boundaries, dynamic shipboard compatibility, formation flying, combat manoeuvrability, and low speed hovering and landing conditions when the prop rotors blow up dust and debris.

A total of 1800 flight test hours are scheduled for the programme, which also includes testing of the aircraft's icing, cargo handling, and radar warning systems. Senior Defense and Navy officials will assess the testing programme at various points and have said that new areas of performance will not be addressed until engineers fully understand the results of earlier testing. In July, the Air Force is expected to resume flight testing of the CV-22 at Edwards Air Force Base, using two EMD aircraft that have been configured with Special Operations equipment.

"Now that we have an approved way ahead plan, we will return to flight with a methodical and event driven flight test programme that will deliver an aircraft to the fleet that is safer and more capable than ever before, " said Col. Dan Schultz, V-22 joint programme manager. "Event driven means the V-22 programme progress is based on a clearly articulated set of accomplishments, not a date, "We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the V-22 is a reliable, operationally suitable and safe replacement for our ageing medium lift helicopters."

Schultz further added that the V-22's comprehensive developmental flight test programme will put "X's in the outer corners of the flight envelope" and be the most extensive testing undertaken of the vortex ring state phenomenon. "In this regard, we will dedicate one aircraft for one year of high rate of descent testing and set the standard for flying every conceivable approach to this kind of situation," said Schultz.

The V-22 is the first production tiltrotor in existence, designed to combine the hovering characteristics of a helicopter with the speed, range and fuel efficiency of a turboprop aeroplane. It entered low rate initial production in 1999. The programme was due to enter full rate production when a MV-22 suffered a fatal accident during a routine training mission in December 2000. Since that time, two independent reviews conducted by a Department of Defense Blue Ribbon Panel and NASA Ames Research Centre have assessed the safety of the aircraft and the maturity of the technology to carry out the missions of the user services. Both reviews have recommended that the programme move forward with specific engineering changes and improvements that will result in a safer and more operationally capable aircraft. They also concluded that there are no inherent flaws in the tiltrotor design or known aeromechanics phenomenon that would stop the safe and orderly deployment of the V-22, and that the programme should proceed with a phased approach in return to flight and fleet introduction.

Demand For Predator Continues To Rise
US Air Force innovation and the desire to push the "envelope" has expanded the role and capabilities of the RQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

"Predator was originally intended to be an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform," said Lt. Col. Douglas Boone, chief of the Air Force's reconnaissance systems division at the Pentagon. "Its key sensor is the optical and infrared camera that it carries in a ball turret under its nose.

"In Bosnia and Kosovo, commanders would direct Predator to a location and monitor any situation on the ground as it unfolded in real time," Boone said. "It served as their 'eye in the sky."

With this real-time video feed, commanders could keep abreast of events on the battlefield just as easily as someone turning on their television to watch the traffic report live from a helicopter camera could.

"Although we were able to find targets, it would take a while for the manned aircraft loaded with munitions to be directed against enemy targets," Boone said. "Often they would have to be redirected to the new target from another pre-planned attack, wasting valuable time."

Besides timing, Boone said commanders faced further frustration trying to talk the pilot in on the new target approach. While Predator, cruising at 84 mph, may easily spot a target, it was often difficult for the pilot, travelling over the battlefield at several hundred miles per hour, to locate it.

"Determined to overcome this, we literally strapped a laser-targeting designator on the Predator's nose ball-turret camera," Boone said. "This modification now allowed the Predator to designate the target for the fast-mover's precision-guided munitions."

This innovative solution worked so well that all new Predators in production will have a laser designator included in their standard sensors packages.

Having overcome target-designation obstacles, the Predator community set out to reduce the time problem, finding a fleeting critical target but having to wait for a manned aircraft to deliver ordnance on target.

According to Boone, they wondered what would happen if they were to put weapons on the Predator; could they even do it? To answer that, Air Force officials began test launching Hellfire-C laser-guided missiles from the Predator in February 2001.

"The tests were a great success," he said. "Their focus was two-fold," Boone said. "First, we wanted to determine if we can actually point the Predator at something and hit the target. Second, considering the Predator is a small aircraft similar to a Cessna 172, we wanted to find out what stresses were induced on the wings by strapping two 100-pound missiles to the wings and launching them.

"As a result of the experiments, we found out that, yes, we could hit a target, still control the aircraft and there were no stress fractures found in the wings' composite materials," he said. "The biggest challenge now facing Predator is the demand for it has grown exponentially," said Maj. Christina Morris, manager of the Predator programme element at the Pentagon.

"We are in the process right now of trying to meet the needs of all the theatre commanders for Predator," Morris said. "It is really a special capability that has gone within the space of one year from being the commander's real-time eye on the battlefield to now also being able to employ weapons. They see that capability as something they need."

"We aren't trying to stem an armoured attack with a handful of Predators," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper. "The intent is to give the theatre commander that option to destroy a target of opportunity once detected, such as a tank or mobile missile launcher emerging from a forest, instead of giving them the opportunity to escape during the time it takes to call for a manned airstrike."

Once the Air Force routinely does forward air control and adds weapons to do strike missions with the Predator and other UAVs, then these advancements will be a real revolution in air power, Boone said. Boone said he sees the Predator and other UAVs now at the same stage of development as aircraft were in the 1920s and 1930s, initially employed as battlefield observers performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Then, people experimented with arming aircraft with guns and giving them the ability to drop bombs. The culmination of these efforts can be seen today in the F-22 Raptor and Joint Strike Fighter. "I think you're seeing that (same evolution) with Predator as the starting point," Boone said.

UK MoD Prepares To Jettison Sea Harriers - Pilots Protest
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed its plans for the future of the Harrier as it looks toward the future with the procurement of two new Type 45 aircraft carriers and the joint combat aircraft. The upshot of its overhaul is the demise of the Sea Harrier, a decision that has not found favour with naval chiefs or their pilots.

An MoD statement revealed: "At present, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots in Joint Force Harrier fly a mixture of Harrier GR7 and Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft. It has been decided to withdraw the Sea Harrier from service in 2004-6, but upgrade the Harrier GR7 to a new GR9 standard, to be flown by pilots from both Services."

The decision is based on the fact that the Sea Harrier, which first entered service in 1978 is due for some much needed, and expensive engine overhauls of its own that the MoD cannot afford to complete. Moreover, with the JSF on the horizon, Defence chiefs clearly feel that the revitalising of the Sea Harrier is not necessary anyway. Added to this is the notorious drawback of the ageing Naval aircraft that it cannot operate effectively in hot climates, which given the current state of world affairs is pertinent.

However, the solution that Defence chiefs have offered provokes significant questions. Firstly, the new GR9 standard aircraft lacks certain key capabilities afforded by the Sea Harrier. They do not possess radars to detect airborne threats and enabling them to activate counter-missiles. Naval chiefs have therefore raised doubts that they would be an effective substitute in a naval combat situation, and could therefore compromise vessel safety.

Secondly, the decision to put the 24 Sea Harriers out to grass, and send the pilots off to RAF bases has not met with approval from the Naval Officers themselves. The immediate response was to suggest that if they are not be part of the Navy they could equally look for more financially rewarding service outside the armed forces.(Source: DSD)

TRW Begins Hunter UAV Automatic Landing Testing
TRW has begun the flight testing stage for the UAV Common Automatic Recovery System, which will allow the Hunter UAV aircraft to take off and land automatically, even in zero visibility conditions. Ground testing was completed last month.

The new system eliminates the need for an external pilot to 'fly' the UAV from the runway, with the craft controlled instead by an air vehicle pilot inside the ground station. Sierra Nevada Corporation is the developer of the automatic take-off and landing equipment, similar to the system being developed by them for the Shadow TUAV.

The latest improvements to Hunter, the US Army's only operational UAV, include modified payloads that provide higher resolution and allow the air vehicles to fly higher, day or night, and at a greater stand-off distance.

Last December, three communications payloads were installed in Hunter UAVs serving as surrogate Shadow TUAV systems at Fort Lewis, Washington. These radios flown on a Hunter provided communications connectivity at distances four to five times the normal range. Delivery was made three months ahead of schedule to allow soldiers time to train and prepare for an upcoming exercise at Fort Lewis this month.

Testing has also been done on a prototype deicing payload. the first time a TUAV was flown using an electro-expulsion system rather than a traditional liquid antifreeze system to remove ice from wings. With the electro-expulsion system, high voltage and high current pulses run through a rubberised cuff that covers the leading edge of the wings and pulverises the ice into crystals. Wing sections were tested in an environmental wind tunnel to verify predicted performance. Actual de-icing test flights will be flown within the next few months.

"Hunter completed its third successful tour supporting missions overseas last year," said Otto Guenther, vice president and general manager, TRW Tactical Systems, "including a mission in which it played a pivotal role in getting soldiers safely back to base under dangerous circumstances."

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