Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On the Show Floor at Quad-A

On the Show Floor at Quad-A: "The Army Aviation Association of America (Quad-A) has been having its annual bash in Nashville. Here are some shots from the show floor..

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Sikorsky's high-speed, coaxial-rotor S-97 X2 Raider (above) has changed slightly as it moves from full-scale mockup towards two flying prototypes. The latest artwork shows changes to the glasswork and the switch to a taildragger configuration with the retractable main gear upfront. The private-venture prototypes are scheduled to fly in 2014 and Sikorsky says an aircraft meeting the US Army's Armed Aerial Scout requirement would be ready to enter service in 2025.

If the Army can't wait that long to replace its OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, EADS says it will complete the company-funded demonstration of its EC145-based AAS-72X by year-end. The model at Quad-A (below) shows the upturned-exhaust infrared suppressors planned for the production version. If the Army's requirements grow, EADS says it could move to basing its AAS bid on the new EC145T2 with its more-powerful engines and more-effective Fenestron anti-torque system.

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While it decides what to do with AAS, the Army is also getting started on the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) program to demonstrate technology for a next-generation rotorcraft to enter service by 2030, most likely a medium-sized family to replace the AH-64 and UH-60. Up to five configuration study contracts are to be awarded in May. Among the bidders is Piasecki, which is proposing the Pathfinder IV compound-helicopter based on its X-49A Speedhawk. On display is a model (below) of the smaller Pathfinder IV-2, sized for shipborne operations.

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A couple of interesting design points. Firstly, the wings are hinged to tilt vertical in the hover to reduce the downforce from rotor downwash. Differential tilt (one slightly forward, one slightly back) can offset rotor toque in the hover. Secondly, engine exhaust is ducted to the tips of the V-shaped tail surfaces for stealth and to avoid hot gasses entering the vectored-thrust ducted propeller.

Among the many unmanned aircraft on show, and making its first public appearance, is AeroMech Engineering's flying-wing Fury B (below), now in flight test. The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded AeroMech a $13.1 million contract last year to develop the Sand Dragon anti-IED route-clearance Class 2 UAV for evaluation in Afghanistan. Sand Dragon comprises four rail-launched, multi-sensor Fury Bs.

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Also making its first appearance, on an AH-64D Apache on display at Quad-A (below), is the Ground Fire Acquisition System (GFAS), which will be fielded to Afrghanistan beginning in August. The system comprises pods on the tips of the stub wings that each carry three Radiance Technologies WeaponWatch cameras. These can detect, classify and locate the flashes of gunfire and RPG launches and provide threat indications on the Apache's tactical situation display.

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