The former Myasishchev design bureau that is now part of Russia's United Aircraft wants to convert a second M-55 into a civilian flying laboratory for high-altitude atmospheric research. It would complement a Yakovlev Yak-42D trijet that was delivered to the ministry of natural resources and its weather forecasting arm, RosHydroMet, on December 6 for such research at low and medium altitudes. Speakers at the Yak-42D handover ceremony recalled that the government previously planned two flying labs for RosHydroMet, but because of the worldwide economic crisis in 2008-09, funds were provided for only one airplane.
Myasishchev built a total of five M-55s in the late 1980s as reconnaissance aircraft for the Russian ministry of defense. One of them (airframe number two) went for structural testing; two crashed during flight-testing (number one crashed on takeoff, number five was lost to a spin); and two remain airworthy. The fourth airframe (S/N55204) was reworked into a purely civilian flying laboratory from 1993 to 1996. It then flew over Europe, Africa, Latin America, Australia, the Arctic and Antarctica and a number of remote islands, specifically to address scientific issues relating to the tropopause and the ozone layer. These flights were mostly for foreign organizations. But this airframe is nearly time-expired, leaving only number three as the potential new high-altitude research aircraft. It has logged few hours but still contains the original military mission equipment.
Myasishchev chief test pilot Oleg Schepetkov, who has done most of the M-55 flying so far, told AIN that airframe number three has been maintained in airworthy condition, with regular ground runs of the D30V12 turbofans. He claimed that the M-55 is better suited for atmospheric research work than the Lockheed U-2 design because of the latter's stricter flight envelope and regime limitations. NASA flies two ER-2 versions of the U-2 for high-altitude research work, based at Palmdale, Calif., as well as three WB-57Fs based at Houston, Texas. "The M-55 has proved itself capable of flying in highly turbulent atmosphere and also in the conditions of very cold ambient temperatures, down to -92 degrees Celsius," Schepetkov added.
The Russian air force still has one high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in service: the supersonic MiG-25R.
Vision system manufacturer Intevac Photonics of Santa Clara, Calif., planned to begin deliveries of new night-vision cameras for U.S. Army AH-64D/E helicopters this month, after receiving its largest-ever contract award from the service earlier this year.
The M611 camera, which contains the company's ISIE (intevac silicon imaging engine) 11 sensor for low light level detection, replaces the existing camera in the Apache's nose-mounted pilot night vision sensor (PNVS). The ISIE 11 sensor is also being integrated in the F-35 helmet-mounted display system (HMDS).
Under a $27 million contract the Army's Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., awarded to the company in June, Intevac will deliver 500 M611 cameras–one per helicopter–over three lots through 2015. The Army is providing the cameras as government-furnished equipment to Lockheed Martin, which will integrate them in the Apache's upper PNVS nose turret, which is used for pilotage. Separately, Lockheed Martin is upgrading the daylight camera in the lower turret, called the modernized target acquisition designation sight (M-TADS), with a high-definition, color-capable camera with improved field of view.
Drew Brugal, Intevac Photonics general manager, said Apache pilots will be able to use the M611 camera in two modes: with a thermal imaging sensor to provide a blended image, and by itself for image intensification. The Apache's integrated helmet and display sight system (IHADSS) can feed the imagery to a monocle positioned in front of the pilot's right eye, potentially providing an alternative to night-vision goggles.
Brugal said the ISIE 11 sensor, based on Intevac's patented electron bombarded activated pixel sensor (EBAPS) technology, has demonstrated "equal to or better than" the third-generation night-vision acuity the F-35 program requires for the Joint Strike Fighter HMDS. He said Intevac started delivering ISIE 11 modules to Elbit Systems of America several months ago for integration in the camera used in the F-35 helmet display system, replacing the current ISIE 10 sensor.
In October, the F-35 Joint Program Office announced that it had halted the development of an alternate HMDS by BAE Systems, a program that was started because of night vision, display jitter and image latency problems with the existing helmet system from Vision Systems International (VSI).
Brugal formerly headed VSI, the Elbit-Rockwell Collins joint venture that was dissolved in 2012 after his departure and replaced by a new organization, Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems.
The Elisra passive airborne warning system (PAWS-2) has been selected for the Gripen fighter. Elbit, Elisra's parent Israeli company, said that the system was selected "following a comprehensive in-depth evaluation and testing in various scenarios as well as in a comparative live fire test."
The missile approach warning function on the Gripen has previously been provided by Saab itself, as part of the Swedish company's Integrated Defensive Aids System (IDAS) that has also been installed on other combat aircraft, helicopters and airlifters. IDAS includes the MAW-300, which employs ultraviolet (UV) sensors, whereas PAWS-2 is an infrared (IR) system. Elbit said that PAWS-2 is based on years of experience and has growth potential "to cope with ever-growing future requirements expected during the life-cycle of the Gripen fighter system."
A Saab spokesman told AIN that PAWS-2 would be the baseline fit for all future Gripens but that individual customers would be free to select and integrate alternatives. The Gripen has just been chosen by Brazil, and Saab is currently campaigning to sell the fighter to Malaysia and Switzerland, having secured an order for 60 from the Swedish air force. The Swedish aircraft will be converted from Gripen Cs that are already in service. Switzerland will get 22 new aircraft, if a nationwide referendum next year confirms the purchase.
NetJets will import its first two aircraft into China this month in anticipation of securing a Chinese air operator certificate (AOC) around the end of the first quarter of next year. The U.S. company will base a pair of its Hawker 800s in China so it can offer charter services to local clients. The main business model for Zhuhai-based NetJets-China Business Aviation Ltd. will be to provide aircraft management services.
NetJets CEO Jordan Hansell told AIN in an interview on Tuesday that the first managed aircraft could follow soon after the AOC is issued. "One of the things that has made the Chinese government interested in us is that they can see that we've done aircraft management elsewhere and that we'll operate at a high standard," he said. "It's part of their five-year plan to develop this industry in the country and they seem to see that we can help to raise the standards there."
NetJets's local subsidiary, which is supported by a new sales office in Beijing, is a joint venture with a consortium of Chinese investors led by Hony Jinsi Investment Management (Beijing) Ltd.–a subsidiary of Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital–and Fung Investments, which is owned by the families of Dr. Victor Fung and Dr. William Fung.