Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, has demonstrated two capabilities that highlight the Bell V-280 Valor’s ability to execute mission relevant maneuvers, as well as integrate new technology. The demonstrations, held at the Bell Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas, included use of a newly installed Tactical Common Datalink (TCDL) from Team Valor member Lockheed Martin and completion of sling load sorties highlighting the V-280’s ability to carry external cargo.
In the TCDL demonstrations, Bell showed the ability of the V-280 team to design, integrate and test new mission equipment capability. During the initial testing, the team successfully transmitted information between the aircraft and the ground station including basic flight data such as airspeed, altitude, and attitude. TCDL is another operational capability being demonstrated on the platform because of its relevance to commanders as a method of supporting cross-domain fires. By employing on-board sensors and TCDL the V-280 showed it would be able to provide targeting information to enhance the lethality of precision long range weapons.
Additionally, the V-280 transmitted data collected by the Lockheed Martin Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) System that has been flying on the V-280 for nearly a year. This real-time transmission included video of the sling load cargo. This combination allowed pilots, crew, and supervisors to monitor the sling load demonstration as if looking through the bottom of the aircraft, whether on-board or on the ground, creating a common operations perspective.
The sling load demonstration itself continued to demonstrate the flexibility of this next generation tiltrotor for operational maneuvers and its relevance to support multi-domain operations. During a single sortie, the team performed multiple cargo lifts to demonstrate the procedure and coordination of ground crew, aircraft, crew chief, pilots and the behavior of the loads for the V-280.
These initial capability demonstrations added to the list of milestones achieved by the V-280 in three years of flight testing. During that stretch the aircraft has demonstrated speeds in excess of 300 knots, low speed agility and attitude quickness, autonomous flight, along with many other engineering and operationally relevant test points.
“Our team is proud to continue to provide evidence that government and industry partnerships deliver positive results,” continued Flail. “The V-280 demonstrates the potential to rapidly mature technology to deliver transformative capabilities and meet requirements.”
Boeing and NASA have successfully completed a critical design review for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), confirming the EUS design for continued development and transition to hardware build. Boeing has already started fabrication activities that will support building the first EUS at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The SLS rocket uses staged propulsion to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft and astronauts, plus supplies, to the moon and beyond. The Boeing-built core stage powers the SLS in early flight, eventually separating when the upper stage takes over and provides the power to send crewed vehicles, space habitats, and other payloads on to the moon or other deep space destinations.
To accomplish NASA’s Artemis I lunar mission, the Block 1 variant of SLS will use a Boeing/United Launch Alliance Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage with one RL-10 engine to take an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight to the moon. SLS Block 1 rockets will be used for two subsequent crewed flights, including the first human mission to lunar orbit since the Apollo program.
The next version of SLS, Block 1B, will use EUS, which has larger fuel tanks and four RL-10 engines to give it a performance boost. That will allow SLS Block 1B to carry an Orion with a crew of four, as well as more than 10 metric tons of co-manifested payload.
Steve Snell, EUS program manager for Boeing, said, “EUS was designed for crewed flights from the beginning, and the additional lift capability that comes with the EUS requires fewer flights to enable a sustained human presence in deep space sooner and more safely.
“The moon is 238,000 miles from Earth, and Mars at its closest has been 35 million miles away,” Snell added. “Transporting crews in the fewest flights, for shorter durations, is the safest approach to human deep-space travel. Only the EUS-powered SLS can carry the Orion, along with the necessary mission cargo, in one launch to the moon – or beyond.”
The 123rd aircraft is an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, built at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) facility and delivered to the Italian Air Force. In 2020, 74 F-35s were delivered to the United States military, 31 to international partner nations, and 18 to foreign military sales customers.
In response to COVID-19 related supplier delays, in May the initial annual delivery goal was revised from 141 to 117-to-123 aircraft to strategically avoid surging, which would increase production-related costs and create future delays and disruption.
“The F-35 joint enterprise team rapidly responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to deliver the unmatched combat capability the F-35 brings to the warfighter,” said Bill Brotherton, acting vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “Achieving this milestone amid a global pandemic is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the team and their commitment to our customers’ missions.”
Lockheed Martin took proactive measures to mitigate COVID-19 supplier impacts and position the program for the fastest possible recovery by adjusting employee work schedules, maintaining specialized employee skillsets, and providing accelerated payments to small and vulnerable suppliers. Lockheed Martin provided accelerated payments to more than 400 F-35 suppliers in 45 states and Puerto Rico.
Though COVID-19 will have short-term impacts on production, the F-35 program continues to work diligently and is on track to meet the joint government and industry recovery commitments over the coming years.
More than 600 F-35 aircraft operate from 26 bases and ships around the globe. Nine nations have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil, nine services have declared initial operational capability, and six services have employed F-35s in combat operations. More than 1,200 pilots and 10,000 maintainers are trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 350,000 cumulative flight hours. The United States Air Force deployed the F-35 for 18 consecutive months from April 2019 until October 2020 in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility with hundreds of weapons employments in support of U.S. servicemembers and their allies.
The year also included initial fielding of the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN), the follow-on to the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), with excellent initial results. The system will be fully operational in 2022. Mission capable rates for the aircraft continued to improve in 2020 with rates greater than 70% across the fleet, and even higher for deployed units. The F-35 also participated in Joint All-Domain Operations with multiple exercises that highlighted the aircraft’s ability to gather, interpret, and share information with various platforms.
Valencia, California-based Fralock, an engineering and manufacturing provider of specialty material solutions for high reliability and mission-critical applications, has completed the acquisition of Mapson Engineering Inc.
Mapson, based in Orange County, California, provides high-resolution, large-format precision graphic solutions for specialty electronic applications. Founded nearly 40 years ago by Jim Mapson and built through reputation for high-quality products, superior customer service, and technical expertise, the company provides specialized services in support of many prominent programs primarily in the aerospace and defense industries.
Fralock and Mapson have enjoyed a long association with each other, collaborating on many projects throughout the years, which has provided a unique opportunity to transition the business to Fralock as Jim Mapson moves toward retirement. The acquisition will allow seamless, ongoing support to the customers that are already active and common to both organizations.
Fralock’s CEO Marc Haugen said, “The addition of Mapson allows us to further develop upon what Jim and the entire Mapson team have built, and to expand Fralock’s offerings to our common customer base. The business is particularly synergistic with Career Technologies, a business that we acquired earlier in 2020, and we are pleased that Jim has agreed to play an active role in the transition during 2021.”
Jim Mapson said, “I am very pleased to be able to hand the baton off to Fralock. Our customers will benefit from this acquisition as Fralock has the same business philosophy in terms of providing exceptional quality and meeting customer expectations that we have always had at Mapson.”
Fralock, a portfolio company of private equity firm Arsenal Capital Partners, was established in 1967, and is a design, engineering, and manufacturing company focused on specialty materials components and subassemblies. The company – AS9100, ISO13485, ISO9001, FDA registered, and ITAR compliant – develops high-performance solutions in a variety of markets including aerospace, electronics, industrial, life science, medical, satellite, and semiconductor equipment manufacturing. Fralock is also the worldwide licensee of DuPont CIRLEX® polyimide laminates.
Fralock’s subsidiary, Career Technologies USA, established in 1998 and acquired by Fralock in 2020, specializes in the design and manufacture flexible, rigid, and rigid-flex circuits and related assemblies. Its capabilities range from connector fabrication to complete box builds. With ITAR, AS9100, ISO9001 certifications, Career has deep experience in medical, aerospace, military, and commercial applications.