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by Gail Helmer

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Thursday April 4, 2002

Military News
Navy Pilot Killed in Aircraft Collision at Pax River
Lt. Cmdr. Christopher C. Tragna, a Navy pilot, was killed April 2 when two contractor-owned, two-seater airplanes collided during a formation takeoff at 2:50 p.m., at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Tragna, 32, was a flight instructor from Long Island, N.Y.

Lt. Kevin Quarderer, 35, a systems flight instructor from Midland, Texas, and two civilians, Karl Schlimm, 37, and Paul Molnar, 38, of Fighter Combat International, were treated and released from the Air Station Medical Clinic. NAS Patuxent River fire and rescue units immediately responded.

Both planes are owned by Fighter Combat International. The two Extra 300L propeller planes were operating at NAS Patuxent River under a contract with the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

The Navy is investigating the cause of the mishap.

F-117 Test Force Expanding Fighter's Capability
With its low-observable stealth technology, the F-117 Nighthawk has proven its ability to fly deep into enemy territory and unleash an array of weapons with pinpoint accuracy.

In an effort to improve the combat effectiveness of the stealth fighter, test experts from the F-117 Combined Test Force at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., are working to expand what it brings to the fight.

On April 2, developmental test experts in Palmdale teamed up with their operational counterparts from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to complete the second phase of a demonstration project designed to provide the F-117 and its pilots with the ability to receive and transmit mission and target data in real-time from the air.

Phase one tests, completed in October of 1998, allowed a pilot to receive live-threat information and manually replan a mission from the cockpit. The second phase completed the test cycle by demonstrating the transmission of real-time mission and target data out of the cockpit and into the hands of command and control forces on the ground.

F-117 pilot Lt. Col. Phil DeLillo from Holloman flew the final test flight April 2 over the Naval Air Warfare Center's China Lake test range in California.

Soon after takeoff, DeLillo received new target information, which required him to replan the mission from the cockpit and attack a new target in a different location. After successfully replanning the mission, DeLillo identified and simulated an attack on the new target. Within minutes he transmitted real-time battle damage assessment data back to command and control forces working inside the CTF.

Until this testing, the potential time-critical combat capabilities of the F-117 had not been explored, said DeLillo, who serves at Holloman as the commander of Detachment 1 of Air Combat Command's 53rd Test and Evaluation Group. The group is located at Nellis, AFB, Nev.

Test pilots at the CTF previously flew test missions similar to DeLillo's using laser-guided bombs to destroy new targets and provide real-time battle damage assessments back to ground forces. Building on the work of the CTF, DeLillo's operational review served as the final chapter in the overall test project.

With modern enemy forces getting better at moving and hiding critical targets, DeLillo said the Air Force has to improve its time-critical targeting capabilities.

"We have to reduce the timeline of detection, targeting and weapon impact," said DeLillo. "The inherent surprise offered by stealth can enhance our response to time-critical targets. Without this type of capability, the F-117 can't be considered the weapon system of choice against time-critical targets."

The target data technology works by allowing the aircraft to receive and transmit tactical information on targets or pop-up threats via satellite communication, said Mike Seelos, the testís project manager.

"We know the stealth fighter is very capable as a weapon delivery platform, but now we've seen that it has the potential to play a reconnaissance role in a combat environment," Seelos said.

The fighter's ability to send and receive text and images enhances its combat flexibility yet does not compromise its stealth configuration, Seelos said.

Experts from test, operational and acquisition communities are working to include the F-117's time-critical targeting capabilities in the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment, or JEFX, in August. This year's chief of staff-sponsored experiment will focus on new integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies.

Dassault Goes To Court Over Korean F-X Selection Process
French manufacturers Dassault are pursuing legal avenues in a last ditch attempt to secure the lucrative South Korean F-X fighter contract. The strong links between the US and Korean government's look likely to sway the final judgement on the tender the way of Boeing's F-15K rather than Dassault's Rafale, but the French insist that changes to the selection process have been unfair and are seeking to delay the final decision.

The $4 billion project to acquire 40 new fighter aircraft has run into difficulties since the bidding process was begun in 1997. Civilian analysts and politicians alike have questioned the transparency and legitimacy of the selection process, and leaks regarding the relative merits of the competitors have appeared in the press. The final straw for Dassault seems to have been the decision to add "political and defence considerations" into the selection criteria.

Dassault Aviation" Rafale Mk2

"I question the fairness of the results, the fairness of the process and the fairness of the position of the Korean authorities," said Dassault's Vice president for international relations Yves Robins. He announced that Dassault would be seeking an injunction from the District Court to stop the second phase of the process. The first phase was concluded last week when the bids from Eurofighter and Sukhoi were eliminated.

Robins further stated that his company had not even been officially informed of the results from the first phase. "Everything we have found out has been through the press," he said. Dassault are requesting that the Korean government hand over information on how the contest has been judged and the scores for the relative bids.

Boeing's F-15

Dassault have repeatedly claimed that their bid is superior to Boeing's. The Rafale would be $350 million cheaper than the F-15K and Dassault have also offered an offset programme worth $1 billion to Korean businesses. Furthermore, a leaked document is alleged to have revealed that the Korean Air Force pilots testing the aircraft, marked the French plane higher than its American rival.

However, with political considerations taken into account there can only be one winner. The US has a considerable association with South Korea and the two governments have been in talks over the situation with regard to North Korea. There are 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.

If Dassault's legal bid were to be successful it would mean another costly delay to a programme that has been beset by problems since its inception and this seems unlikely given that the South Korean government still insists that the process has been conducted above board. Failure to secure the contract for either Boeing or Dassault would have significant repercussions. The Rafale has not found a buyer outside of its native France, while Boeing lost out to Lockheed Martin on the Joint Strike Fighter and defeat here would spell the end of the F-15.

Eurofighter Continued Success In Flight Test Programme
Eurofighter DA4's latest test flight after a series of electro-magnetic compatibility tests and a double engine change, achieved three successes in one sortie, the longest ever Eurofighter flight (four hours and 22 minutes), the first ever air-to-air refuelling by a Eurofighter with external tanks and the first night air-to-air refuelling of a Eurofighter.

The twin-seat development aircraft is based at BAE SYSTEMS Warton, from it took off to rendevous with a VC-10 Tanker, crewed by Boscombe Down test aircrew, over the Irish Sea, where the refuelling took place.

Pete Travis, Flight Development Integrated Product Team Leader at BAE SYSTEMS, said: "The sortie was also important in the fact that it was a pre-requisite flight for another major milestone in the flight test programme - the live AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) firing which will take place later this month in the Hebrides."

Eurofighter Test Pilot, Craig Penrice who piloted DA4 during the flight, with RAF pilot Flt Lt Will Jonas in the rear, added: "The flight went extremely smoothly and the air-to-air refuelling, which can be very tricky during daylight, never mind in darkness, went without a hitch. To be in the cockpit for over four hours usually takes its toll, but this aircraft is so pilot-friendly that missions of this length are not a problem."

Agile, stealthy, twin-engined and designed to operate from hastily prepared bases and small runways and for world-wide operations, Eurofighter is equipped with advanced multi-mode, pulse-Doppler Radar and an extensive range of sensors and electronic countermeasures.

The Eurofighter partner nations will take delivery of 620 aircraft: 232 for the UK, 180 for Germany, 121 for Italy and 87 for Spain.

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