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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eurocopter signs two strategic agreements with Kazakhstan

Two strategic agreements signed today establish the framework for Eurocopter’s creation of a 50/50 joint venture in Kazakhstan to assemble EC145 helicopters, along with the sale of 45 of these locally-assembled aircraft for government missions in the country.

The first accord is a framework agreement between Eurocopter and Kazakhstan Engineering to create a 50/50 joint venture to assemble and customise EC145s in Kazakhstan. The agreement also includes the development of local maintenance and training activities to support EC145 operations throughout the new customs union zone created this summer by Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus and the entire Central Asian region.

The second accord is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) – signed with Eurocopter, its parent company EADS and the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defence to confirm its intention to purchase 45 EC145 helicopters in the next 6 years.

The EC145 is at the top of its class in the medium-sized, twin-engine helicopter category. This multi-mission helicopter brings together Eurocopter’s latest developments in advanced cockpit design, avionics and rotor system. It is also perfectly adapted for demanding environments, especially in very low temperatures that can be found in Kazakhstan (certified at -45°). To date, 400 EC145s have been sold worldwide.

Both agreements were endorsed in Paris today during the visit of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev to France.

The Eurocopter/Kazakhstan Engineering joint venture calls for the assembly and customisation of EC145s in Astana, Kazakhstan. This organisation will be formally established by December of this year, allowing completion of the first in-country helicopters – to be called the KH145 – by late 2011. According to the MOU, the 45 KH145s acquired by Kazakhstan will be assembled during a six-year period, with an initial batch of six helicopters to be delivered next year.

“Eurocopter, together with its joint venture partner Kazakhstan Engineering, will develop a major aeronautical industry capability in Kazakhstan, thereby creating several hundreds of highly qualified jobs,” said Eurocopter President & CEO Lutz Bertling. “Moreover, this project will foster helicopter usage in Kazakhstan, making this country the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) showcase for governmental helicopter operations. This joint venture also positions Eurocopter for future business development in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Russia and Belarus, providing helicopters that are well tailored for applications in the oil and gas, parapublic and government sectors, as well as for other applications.”

About Eurocopter

Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 15,600 people. In 2009, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.6 billion Euros, orders for 344 new helicopters, and a 52 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Group’s products account for 30 percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 25 subsidiaries and participations on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centers. More than 10,500 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,800 customers in more than 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.

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Eurocopter/EC-145 Helicopter

Monday, November 29, 2010

Russia Sought Israeli Drones to Stop Iran Arms Deal, Leak Shows

November 29, 2010, 12:37 PM EST
 By Henry Meyer

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Russia told Israel it would cancel the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran in return for access to advanced Israeli drone technology, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable provided to Le Monde by

Russia also offered $1 billion for the technology, Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said during a Dec. 1, 2009, meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, Paris-based Le Monde reported today, citing the cable sent by an unidentified U.S. diplomat.

Israel declined to provide Russia with its latest unmanned aircraft, saying it was concerned the technology would end up in Chinese hands, Gilad said, according to Le Monde. Russia in September canceled an $800 million contract to supply an S-300 air-defense battery to Iran after the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions against the Persian Gulf nation.

WikiLeaks, a nonprofit group that releases information the government wants to keep confidential, has begun posting on its website what it says are more than 250,000 U.S. State Department documents written from December 1966 to February 2010. Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson declined to confirm information in the documents, saying it is the agency’s policy not to comment on specific leaked materials.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declined to comment when asked about the reported Russian offer. Netanyahu said at a news conference in Tel Aviv today that Israel “has not been damaged at all” by the material released by WikiLeaks.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s administration found “nothing interesting” in the cables published by WikiLeaks, Interfax cited Medvedev spokeswoman Natalya Timakova as saying. Igor Yevdokimov at the Foreign Ministry’s press service said he couldn’t comment on the WikiLeaks documents before tomorrow.

The Kremlin said in June that the S-300s were covered by the new UN sanctions, which banned sales of weaponry including fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships or missiles.

Delivery of the S-300 missiles would “represent a significant increase in the defense capability of Iranian forces,” U.S. Army General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 16, when he was commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed a defense cooperation agreement with Russia on Sept. 6. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at the time that Russia had already bought Israeli drones and it was interested in equipping the unmanned planes with Russian laser technology.

WikiLeaks provided advance access to the documents to news organizations including Le Monde, The New York Times, the London-based Guardian, Madrid-based El Pais and Hamburg-based Der Spiegel.

--With assistance from Lyubov Pronina in Moscow, Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv, and Viola Gienger and Miles Weiss in Washington. Editors: Willy Morris, Ken Fireman

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Willy Morris at

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Israeli Military Unveils Drone Fleet

Venezuela Buying 10-12 Chinese Medium-Range Transport Aircraft

CARACAS – Venezuela will purchase from China between 10 and 12 medium-range Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft, after taking delivery in recent weeks of 18 K-8 training aircraft previously acquired in the Asian country, a senior military official said.

“These Y-8s will provide support for the operations of our C-130 Hercules transport planes...that have a range covering South America and to the north of Spain,” Maj. Gen. Jorge Oropeza said Friday.

He said that negotiations for the purchase of the Y-8s are in the hands of the Defense Ministry and it is hoped that these aircraft will be delivered to Venezuela sometime next year.

The Y-8 is a medium-size, mid-range transport aircraft with a capacity for carrying 88 passengers and 20 tons of cargo during 7.3 hours of autonomous, uninterrupted flight, Oropeza told the state-run ABN news agency.

Oropeza said that the 18 K-8s “will be on view tomorrow at the main ceremony of the 90th anniversary of the (Venezuelan military aviation),” along with the JL11 radars that were also purchased from the Asian giant earlier in 2010.

The defense minister, Gen. Carlos Mata, also told ABN that since President Hugo Chavez came to power in February 1999, Venezuelan military aviation “has made technological progress in terms of the defense of air space, being equipped with new aircraft and the modernization of this branch of the military.”

“Notable among the achievements of this military branch is its technological development and the acquisition of new aircraft and equipment,” he said.

About the cost of recent military purchases, the socialist head of state said at midyear that he had approved the spending of $82 million “to make a partial payment” for the 18 K-8 aircraft.

“This is an aircraft for basic training able to employ armament including light bombs, rockets and machine guns, while fulfilling all the requirements for training pilots,” air force commander Gen. Luis Berroteran said in October 2008.

The Venezuelan government recently purchased from Russia 24 Sukoi fighters, 50 MI helicopters and 100,000 AK-103 rifles, for some $3 billion, according to Russian sources.'s_Liberation_Army_Air_Force

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AC-130 Gunships

Saturday, November 27, 2010

ScanEagle keeps eyes in sky across Afghanistan

Story by Cpl. Derek Carlson
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan - Edinburgh is a small forward operating base, which lies surrounded by mountains and conflict in the northern region of Helmand province.

The three infantry units operating within the surrounding areas frequently engage with the enemy. These ground forces often look to one common aviation support element operating here, which plays a vital role in their safety and mission accomplishment.

Seven Marines and 14 civilian contractors work around the clock keeping eyes in the sky known as the X-200 ScanEagle, which provides overwatch for ground forces. The ScanEagle is a highly effective Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which can stay airborne for more than half a day and is almost completely silent.

“We are in a pretty hot spot out here, surrounded on almost all sides by enemy forces,” said Capt. Charles Higgins, the ScanEagle mission commander for the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 Detachment, with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). “ScanEagle provides the ground forces that we are supporting with that extra platform, filling in all the holes and gaps and provides a rapid-response eyes-on capability.”

The ScanEagle is not officially a Marine Corps asset; it is a leased program from the Boeing Corporation and is operated by U.S. civilian contractors. The contractors here, most of which are prior U.S. military, operate and maintain the aircraft while the intelligence Marines liaison with the infantry Marines on the ground and provide them with pertinent information and real-time intelligence.

The ScanEagle quickly wins the favor of the few Marines who receive the opportunity to work with the aircraft.

“I feel the ScanEagle is built on the same fundamentals as the Marine Corps, its capability makes it an invaluable asset to the Marine Corps arsenal” said Cpl. Anthony Willis, an intelligence analyst with VMU-2. “It is extremely expeditionary and requires very little manpower, maintenance or resources. These Boeing operators out here with ScanEagle are truly keeping these Marines alive, and without them, we would be in a different place entirely.”

The ScanEagle was originally designed to be launched and recovered by fishing vessels in order to track fish while out at sea. It is to no surprise that a UAV so amphibious and expeditionary would eventually find employment by the Marines.

Now, the ScanEagle has been modified into two models, day and night, both equipped with different cameras to better suit the needs of troops on the ground. The aircraft is roughly 40 pounds and can remain in the air for nine to 14 hours depending on fuel and weather conditions.

The ScanEagle requires no runway or arresting gear to operate. A pressure-controlled launcher is used to catapult the UAV into the air while a more unique method is used to recover the aircraft. A collapsible tower will extend 40 feet into the air with a cord running from top to bottom. The ScanEagle will then fly directly into the cord, clipping it with the far end of its wing. A small hook attached to the wing will then snap onto the cord and catch the aircraft, which ironically leaves the UAV dangling as a fish would from a fishing line. The aircraft is then lowered, unhooked and returned to the site for any necessary post-flight maintenance.

With the ability to operate in such a small space with less than a few dozen personnel, the Marines leased the ScanEagle to operate where the traditional Marine Corps UAV, the RQ-7B Shadow, could not. One contractor operating the ScanEagle here, who requested to remain anonymous, stated that in the past he had personally contributed to the development of a ScanEagle site, which was completed and operational within 24 hours.

Having the ability to erect ScanEagle sites in hostile and remote locations such as FOB Edinburgh has immensely contributed to supporting International Security Assistance Forces operations within the region.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the units we are supporting out here,” said Higgins. “It’s a great capability to have out here, and it has put us in high demand.”

Though the future of ScanEagle and the Marine Corps is still uncertain, one fact still remains – The team of Marines and civilian operators have contributed to numerous successful missions and saved countless lives here.

“We have a great crew out here, and I couldn’t have hand picked a better one,” said Higgins. “I’m really excited about finishing up the deployment with these guys and where we are going with [the future of] ScanEagle.”

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Scan Eagle in Afghanistan

NASA pushes for a green jetliner

They might be best known for space travel, but the folks at NASA are determined to shape the future of commercial aviation.
The agency says airliners need to be quieter, greener and more fuel-efficient.
To attain those goals, NASA handed out nearly $6 million in contracts this week to two defense industry giants: Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.
NASA’s goal is to develop technology that would enable future aircraft to burn 50% less fuel than current models, cut harmful emissions in half and shrink the geographic areas affected by obnoxious airport noise by 83%.
The agency hopes to develop concepts for airliners that could go into service by 2025.
Engineers from Lockheed’s famed-Skunkworks defense enclave in Palmdale won about $3 million to develop the concept. Northrop engineers, working out of the company’s space park in El Segundo, were given $2.65 million.
The engineers will have 12 months to develop a concept for an aircraft that can fly near the speed of sound at a range of 7,000 miles, carrying up to 100,000 pounds of either passengers or cargo.
But don’t expect the traditional “tube-and-wing” design for the aircraft’s wings and fuselage. This project is all about thinking outside the box.
When Massachusetts Institute of Technology's department of aeronautics and astronautics presented its vision of greener commercial planes to NASA earlier this year -- part of a $2.1-million research contract -– there were some bizarre designs.
The university said commercial aircraft design needed to change, much like the changes in automobile design over the last 50 years to become faster and more efficient.
NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project is sponsoring the study. The project is part of the Integrated Systems Research Program managed by the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.

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BWB Concept Aircraft

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pakistan Sought French Accessories, Settled For Chinese

November 25, 2010: After unsuccessful attempts to obtain Western electronics for its new JF-17 jet fighter, Pakistan has announced that it will use Chinese gear instead. China initially offered to fit out the JF-17s with electronics and weapons, but the Pakistanis were leery of the untried Chinese equipment. Meanwhile, India and the United States pressured France not to allow Pakistan to buy advanced radars and other electronics for the Pakistani built JF-17 jet fighter. This was because China did most of the development on the JF-17, and Chinese personnel would be involved in any effort to install French electronics in these aircraft. China has a brazen reputation for stealing foreign technology, and putting high tech French electronics into Pakistani JF-17s was seen as just giving the stuff to China. Pakistan also has a reputation for passing on military technology it had promised to hold close. These factors scared off other Western suppliers as well, leaving Pakistan with little choice but to accept Chinese gear.
While the Chinese steal a lot of technical information via Internet espionage, that's not as good as getting your hands on the actual hardware. Meanwhile, Pakistan still wants to upgrade up to a hundred of its JF-17s with non-Chinese electronics and weapons, to offer for export sales. France could not just blow off Indian protests, as India is a much larger customer for French military equipment than Pakistan.
Earlier this year, Pakistan activated its first JF-17 fighter squadron, which is stationed at an airbase outside Peshawar (the largest city in the tribal territories near the Afghan border.) The squadron, with twelve aircraft and twenty pilots, is the first of many. A year ago, Pakistan signed a deal to buy the next 42, of 300, of these jets from China. These 42 will cost $14.3 million per aircraft. The final 250 will cost $12 million each. The aircraft is assembled in both Pakistan and China, with the engines coming from Russia, and most of the other components from China (which calls the aircraft the FC-1). Several countries ordered the aircraft, or are negotiating to. Pakistan will replace its MiG-21s and Mirage IIIs with the low cost JF-17s.
When the first JF-17 fighter arrived in Pakistan three years ago, it ended over twenty years of development for what was first called the Super 7 fighter. The JF-17 was developed by China in cooperation with Pakistan, which originally only wanted to buy 150 of them. All this came about because Pakistan could not get modern fighters from anyone else, and turned to China. At the time, China had nothing comparable to the early model F-16s Pakistan already had.
The 13 ton JF-17 is meant to be a low cost alternative to the American F-16. The JF-17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16, but only 80 percent as effective as more recent F16 models. The JF-17 uses the same Russian engine, the RD-93, that is used in the MiG-29. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33.
The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of nearly 2,000 kilometers an hour, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 17,700 meters (55,000 feet). China has not yet decided on whether it will use the FC-1/JF-17 itself. This is apparently because China believes its own J-10 (another local design) and J-11 (a license built Russian Su-27) are adequate for their needs. The J-10, like the JF-17, did not work out as well as was hoped. China is still relatively new to aircraft design and development. To further complicate things, China is trying to keep up with aircraft technology that continues to advance, year by year. Thus both the J-10 and JF-17s are difficult and expensive to maintain, and do not function as effectively as the designers hoped. But both aircraft work, and can probably be more useful for ground support, than air superiority. Pakistan hopes to make the JF-17 more lethal by using more experienced pilots. That often works.

Made in Pakistan - Fighter Jet "FC-1/ JF-17"

First Chinese Aircraft Carrier almost Complete

November 24, 2010: Work is picking up on what appears to be China‘s first aircraft carrier, the Shi Lang. For eight years now, China has been tinkering with a half finished Russian aircraft carrier. Two years ago, this ex-Russian aircraft carrier, Varyag, was renamed the Shi Lang (after the Chinese general who took possession of Taiwan in 1681, the first time China ever paid any attention to the island) and given the pennant number 83.

Until last year, progress was slow. But there has been a lot of work lately. Early in 2009, China moved the Shi Lang into dry dock, where work is now obviously underway to install engines and other heavy equipment. A year ago, the radar mast was completed, and now there is a Chinese radar system being installed. Officially, the Chinese say nothing. But the dockyard workers keep at it, and it’s possible to take photos from a distance. It appears that the Shi Lang is a year or so from going to sea.

For a long time, no one was sure exactly what plans the Chinese had for the Shi Lang, although work had been going on for years. It’s long been believed that the carrier will eventually be used to train the first generation of Chinese carrier aviators and sailors. Or maybe not. No one who really knows anything about the plans for the Shi Lang, is speaking up. All is observation (from a distance, but good pix are numerous) and speculation.

The Varyag has been in a Chinese shipyard at Dailan since 2002. For a long time, few visible signs of work were visible; like a new paint job (in the gray shade used by the Chinese navy) and ongoing work on the superstructure (particularly the tall island on the flight deck.) Many workers could be seen on the ship, and material was seen going into (new stuff) and out of (old stuff) of the ship. Shipyard workers report ever tighter security on the carrier, and stern instructions to not report details of what is happening on the ship.

The Varyag is one of the Kuznetsov class carriers that Russia began building in the 1980s. Originally the Kuznetsovs were to be 90,000 ton, nuclear powered ships, similar to American carriers (complete with steam catapults). Instead, because of the high cost, and the complexity of modern (American style) carriers, the Russians were forced to scale back their plans, and ended up with the 65,000 ton (full load ) ships that lacked steam catapults, and used a ski jump type flight deck instead. Nuclear power was dropped, but the Kuznetsov class was still a formidable design. The 323 meter (thousand foot) long ship normally carries a dozen navalized Su-27s (called Su-33s), 14 Ka-27PL anti-submarine helicopters, two electronic warfare helicopters and two search and rescue helicopters. But the ship can carry up to 36 Su-33s and sixteen helicopters. The ship carries 2,500 tons of aviation fuel, allowing it to generate 500-1,000 aircraft and helicopter sorties. Crew size is 2,500 (or 3,000 with a full aircraft load.) Only two ships of this class exist; the original Kuznetsov, which is in Russian service, and the Varyag.

The Chinese have been in touch with Russian naval construction firms, and may have purchased plans and technology for equipment installed in the Kuznetsov. Some Chinese leaders have quipped about having a carrier by 2010 (this would have to be a refurbished Varyag), but now 2012 is more likely. Even that may be too soon, as the Chinese have been burned before when they tried to build new military technology in a hurry. The Chinese appear intent on getting it right the first time.

Two years ago, China announced that its first class of carrier aviators had begun training at the Dalian Naval Academy. The naval officers are undergoing a four year course of instruction to turn them into fighter pilots capable of operating off a carrier. China already has an airfield, in the shape of a carrier deck, built at an inland facility. The Russians have warned China that it may take them a decade or more to develop the knowledge and skills needed to efficiently run an aircraft carrier. The Chinese are game, and are slogging forward.

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China to build aircraft carriers

Russia sell Su-35 fighter jets to China

Russia's state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Tuesday it was ready to hold talks with China on the delivery of advanced Su-35 fighter aircraft to the Chinese air force.

"We are ready to work with our Chinese partners to this end [Su-35 deliveries]," Deputy General Director of Rosoboronexport Alexander Mikheyev said at the Airshow China 2010, which is being held on November 16-21 in Zhuhai.

The Su-35 Flanker-E, powered by two 117S engines with thrust vectoring, combines high maneuverability and the capability to effectively engage several air targets simultaneously using both guided and unguided missiles and weapon systems.

Russia's Sukhoi aircraft maker earlier said it planned to start deliveries of the new aircraft, billed as "4++ generation using fifth-generation technology," to foreign clients in 2011 and produce Su-35s over a period of 10 years up to 2020.

China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) is the only international aerospace trade show in China that is endorsed by the Chinese central government. The biannual arms exhibition has been held in Zhuhai since 1996.

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Su-35 BM Technology and Weapons

Westinghouse sells nuclear technology (and its future?) to China

By Ed Flanagan, NBC News

BEIJING – Lost in all the drama along the Korean peninsula was the news earlier this week that American nuclear power company, Westinghouse, had handed to China more than 75,000 documents related to the construction of their third generation AP1000 nuclear power reactors.

The move is a prelude to the planned sale of four nuclear reactors to an energy-hungry China that in recent weeks has shown increasing strains in its energy producing capacity. When completed, the Westinghouse reactors sale will represent over 30 per cent of Beijing’s planned nuclear power plant construction for the near future.

China currently has 23 reactors under construction and a further 120 proposed.

The move is a curious one, however, as it comes at a time when western companies from energy to biotech have been complaining about the technology transfers demanded by China in exchange for successful contract bids.

Chief amongst the western companies’ concerns are intellectual property protection and a recent trend which sees China attempting to nurture “National Champions” in key industries, often at the cost of foreign business interests.

Jack Allen, president of Westinghouse for Asia, did not seem overly concerned about being pushed out of China’s nuclear market in the near future, telling the Financial Times, “We don’t expect that we will walk away at the completion of these units and not participate in the [nuclear] program, but there are no guarantees.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Rajesh Panjwani, a Hong Kong-based analyst who said, “In a lot of other industries we have seen this strategy not work very well because China has emerged as a competitor. But for nuclear we don’t know how much time China will take to master the technology and emerge as a competitor.”

Indeed, this strategy of allowing transfer of critical technology to China and banking on its companies’ inability to master the skills and adapt the equipment to their needs has failed miserably, most notably in the railway industry.

Just this past week, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. put out a statement noting that years of unabated technology transfers to China by a host of major western train manufacturers including Bombardier Inc. and Siemans AG had helped create Chinese rail companies that could now compete abroad using their technology at a much lower cost base.

China argues that while the trains they are now attempting to export worldwide, including California, are based on technology acquired from abroad, their trains have simply been “re-innovated” and stand on the “shoulders of past pioneers.”

Foreign railway executives will almost certainly attempt to protect their intellectual property from being re-exported abroad under the name of a domestic Chinese rail company, but they will face an uphill court battle and will need to tread a very fine line, lest they also anger the Chinese government and jeopardize their own future sales on the mainland.

Westinghouse’s gambit that the Chinese will be slow to adapt to the technology and safety requirements of their plants might prove correct in the foreseeable future. However, if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that the company may very well have sold off decades of research and development and its future in the China market in exchange for a couple years of excellent profit.

Just call it the real “China Price.”

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Solar Energy Could Be Stored in Liquid ‘Battery’ (Video)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Chinese Drones

Ronald Czarnecki.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Western defense officials and experts worldwide were surprised to see the drone capabilities displayed by the Chinese at this week’s Zhuhai Air Show. The Chinese displayed more than 25 different unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at this year’s air show after showing only a few of them in 2008. The surprise registered by Western officials pales in comparison to the shock and awe felt by North Koreans, South Koreans, the Taiwanese, and even the Japanese. They look at them in fear and see them as the perfect tools for the Chinese to drive the final nails into their future coffins. The stresses felt by Chinese neighbors will no doubt build as drone technology in China advances.
As China’s economic power grows so will its investments in its massive and dated military machine. The time and money being invested by the Chinese in its drone technology will be returned tenfold when the international markets come knocking with Antonov AN-225 and Boeing 747s filled with money. The big question is “Where will these huge planes be coming from?” Will they be coming from Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and India? Or, will Chinese ships be floating the drones across the seas to smaller countries like Lebanon, Somalia, or Yemen where they can be quietly exchanged for boatloads full of dirty money?
Drone technology, thus far, has been led by the U.S. and Israel. The pilotless weapons have been a major force of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Some believe that drones may someday replace the role played by fighter jets in today’s defense systems. The Chinese displayed several drones capable of missile warfare. The WJ600, produced and shown by China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp. (CASIC), is the drone that inspired the greatest fear at the show. The WJ600 can fly faster than the propeller-driven Predator and Reaper drones currently flown by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It is capable of stealth flight and can carry several laser-guided missiles. Details of the operational aspects of the Chinese drones were shrouded in secrecy, but a video of the WJ600 being used in a simulated attack on a U.S. aircraft carrier steaming toward Taiwan struck fear in visitors who were able to view the two-dimensional display.
The Wall Street Journal article by Jeremy Page described many other drone technologies the Chinese are working on. CASIC, a major player in China’s space program, is developing an attack drone capable of “air-to-ground-missiles.” ASN Technology Group displayed 10 of their drone aircraft, a couple of which are already being used by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). ASN displayed a model of the ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV which is “designed to carry air-to-ground missiles, and to use a satellite link to locate and attack targets over a radius of 2,000 kilometers.” The company’s various drone options even include a drone designed for reconnaissance behind enemy lines. It is the size of a duck (ASN-211) and it has flapping wings. ASN claims that their models are all in production, but some are not on the market yet.
The Chinese are not talking about their technology exports overseas but their displays at the Zhuhai Air Show strike fear into the hearts of all of their neighbors. The Chinese have plans to “crush” America’s power and influence in “their” region of the globe. According to, our “military planners have discovered that China’s current arsenal of non-nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles could probably knock out five of six major American air bases in Japan and South Korea.” China has an obvious interest in controlling North Korea when its government falls. China has also deployed many of their 1,300 ballistic and cruise missiles to the coast opposite Taiwan whose air and naval defenses pose a threat to a future Chinese attack. While the Chinese have been expressing their ire at U.S. sales of weapons to Taiwan, especially the recent Patriot missile deal closed in January, the Chinese have, for years, been improving their military capabilities through their arms relationships with the Israelis.
When the U.S. gives aid to Israel, and more than 65% of it (amounting to almost $70 billion from 1949 to 2009) goes to the military, Israel reverse engineers U.S technology and sells it to nations who are often hostile to U.S. interests. Her list of customers include: Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the South Lebanon Army, India, China, Burma, and Zambia. Israel and the Chinese are particularly close as Israel is China’s second largest supplier of arms. China’s F-10 fighter was an almost identical version of the Israeli Lavi (Lion). The Lavi was a joint Israeli-US project based on the F-16. The current Chengdu J-10 “had direct input from Israel’s Lavi programme,” according to Russian aerospace engineers. A Navy EP-3E surveillance plane, forced to land in China in April, 2002, took pictures of Israeli built Python 3 missiles under the wings of the Chinese F-8 fighter that flew into the propeller of the EP-3. A 1996 Register of Conventional Arms disclosed the fact that China sold over 100 missiles and launchers to Iran, along with combat aircraft and warships. The New York Daily News reported in 1997 that Iraq had deployed Israeli-developed Chinese PL-8 missiles in the no-fly zones of Iraq jeopardizing U.S. pilots, igniting fires of Sino-Israeli ties.
blog post photoSome of the Chinese UAVs resemble U.S. models and some are using Israeli technology. attributes the Israeli influences to Chinese drone technology to the Israeli drone manufacturer, E.M.I.T., who was “caught shipping UAV technology to China” four years ago. The firm was struggling to stay in business at the time, and the Chinese provided cover as well as money necessary for their survival in the highly competitive drone industry. In the 1990s Israel sold China antiradar drones which infuriated Pentagon officials. Israel has since agreed to consult with the U.S. before transferring technologies to China in the future, but China has the persuasive economic clout to vigorously pursue its objectives.
The Zhuhai Air Show has, without a doubt, resulted in agreements to purchase drone technology and products from China. Pakistan confirmed at the air show that it will buy Chinese missiles and flight systems for its 250 JF-17 Thunder fighter planes which are manufactured jointly with the Chinese. Rao Qamar Suleman, air chief marshal of the Pakistan Air Force, announced that they may also purchase Chinese surface-to-air-missiles, according to a report filed yesterday in There were no reports, however, of the new drones displayed at the Zhuhai Air Show and none are expected. A spokesperson for ASN Technology Group said, “I can’t tell you which models we have sold overseas, as that’s secret, but of course we’re interested in exporting them. That’s why we’re displaying them here.”
blog post photoThe new Chinese drones are sure to bring sleepless and tired nights to China’s neighbors as they fear the final nails pounding their coffins closed. China’s neighbors may not be the only countries fearing the ominous sounds coming from the Zhuhai Air Show. Her secret customer base for weapons able to attack from thousands of miles away and, possibly, from outer space, will include some of our most dedicated enemies. It’s time for our sleep walking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “take their hands off our junk,” and to place them instead into the baggy pants of Chinese drone sales. Who knows what they’ll find down there?

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                                                 China Supplying Arms To Maoists 

Russia to create 'Titanium Valley'

Russia will create a Titanium Valley economic zone around VSMPO-Avisma, the world's biggest producer, to tempt in foreign companies, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

Putin, on a trip to the Ural Mountains home of the company, said he will sign a decree in two weeks to set up the zone, which will include at least 40 billion roubles (USD 1.29 billion) in investment.

VSMPO-Avisma is little known outside of Russia despite its role as a key supplier to both Boeing and EADS.

It produces 25% of the world's titanium, a high strength metal used in aerospace and defence as well as golf clubs, medical equipment and nuclear energy.

Titanium Valley is part of a bid to accelerate economic growth and create jobs focussed on natural resources, Russia's main exports.

"It will give enterprises the opportunity to develop and produce value added products and also bring our partners here," Putin said at VSMPO-Avisma's core plant in Verkhnaya Salda, about 1,700 km east of the Russian capital.

Russian Technologies head Sergei Chemezov said that aerospace firm Rolls Royce and Goodrich may set up shop in Titanium Valley. The state-owned technology company owns more than 70% of VSMPO-Avisma.

The scheme, which hopes to create 20,000 jobs in the town, mirrors Russia's much-hyped Skolkovo centre, where the Kremlin hopes to foster local technology companies in a hub modelled on California's Silicon Valley.

A number of industry leaders, including Finland's Nokia, have already jumped on board.

Key customer boeing

Putin toured the VSMPO-Avisma plant and praised management for investing in production.

"I have had a look how the enterprise works -- it is stable, and lots of money is being invested in modernisation," Putin said, adding that USD 700 million would be invested over the next three years.

VSMPO-Avisma, which does not have an international stock market listing, said 70% of its aviation titanium is sold to Boeing, and that EADS's Airbus buys the rest.

The US aerospace firm already has a significant presence in Verkhnaya Salda via the Ural Boeing Manufacturing (UBM) joint venture launched in 2009. Putin also visited that plant.

The state-of-the-art facility manufactures titanium forgings for Boeing's troubled 787 Dreamliner plane, as well as its 777 and 737 aircraft.

When UBM opened last year, Boeing said it expected to spend up to USD 27 billion on Russian titanium over the next three decades.

VSMPO-Avisma in August said it expected 2010 revenues to exceed an earlier USD 976 million target.

It produced 24,400 tonne of titanium sponge in January-October, up 7% from last year.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Electric Airplanes, Coming to a Flight School Near You

By Jason Paur

Range. It seems to be the word that is in the middle of any debate about electric vehicles. As we discovered in our short flight in the E-Spyder, electric airplanes won’t be crossing the country any time soon on battery power. But there is already plenty of interest from pilots who look forward to the quiet, smooth flight, even if the early electric aircraft won’t provide anything close to the range of traditional small airplanes.

But flight schools are showing a strong interest, liking the low cost and simplicity of electric flight.

Flight times for two-seat electric aircraft in development already exceed 90 minutes. That might not be enough for a long cross-country flight, but it’s longer than the typical flight lesson lasts. And this is what has caught the attention of flight schools.

The commercial side of electric airplanes may be less about going places, and more about teaching student pilots how to fly. And the first electric student pilot has already flown solo, learning the basics entirely in a battery-powered airplane.

The history of electric aircraft is a relatively short one. At least the list of aircraft is short. Sure, the Tissandier brothers flew an airship flying under electric power in the 1880s. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that electric airplanes started to take flight, and it was far from commonplace.

Many of those early electric airplanes flew on solar power, such as Larry Mauro’s Solar Riser, Paul MacReady’s Solar Challenger and Eric Raymond’s Sunseeker, which he flew across the United States in a series of 121 flights during the summer of 1990.

But these aircraft were pioneering, experimental airplanes, not the kind of airplane an average pilot could hop into and take off for an easy flight.

The short history of electric aircraft aimed at pilots who could buy one and fly only started in 2007 when Randall Fishman first flew his battery-powered trike hang glider and unveiled it to the world at Airventure Oshkosh.

Randall Fishman's ElectraFlyer-X
Since 2007, Fishman has gone on to build and fly an single-seat electric airplane based on a motor glider design and is currently finishing the design and construction of a two-place composite airplane he believes will compete with similarly sized light sport aircraft.

And Fishman isn’t alone. EADS, the parent company of Airbus, has converted the tiny Cri-Cri to electric power. And an Italian team flew the electric SkySpark at more than 150 miles per hour in 2009.

Airplanes closer to production include the E-Spyder ultralight we described yesterday and its big brother, Yuneec’s E430.

With a serious commitment of funds, China’s Yuneec appears poised to be the first company to sell an electric powered airplane to the public. Five of the two-seat E430s undergoing flight testing already include a pair here in the United States.

The company recently opened a 270,000-square-foot factory near Shanghai dedicated to electric aircraft manufacturing and will add another 200,000 square feet this spring.

Yuneec’s managing director Clive Coote says after first unveiling the E430 in Oshkosh last year, they received a lot of interest from pilots and flight schools. The company listened to the feedback and made several changes to the design.

The updated E430 includes easily removable wing tips that allow it to be stored in standard aircraft hangars, and the batteries can easily be swapped in less than four minutes. Coote says several flight schools were impressed by the design and, perhaps more importantly, the operating costs he says will be less than $10/hour.

“I think the flight school side in the states is going to be very, very big for electric.”

Coote says the two-seat E430 will sell for just under $90,000, tens of thousands of dollars less than many traditional gas-powered light sport aircraft. He says Yuneec is set to begin production next year and deliver the first models to customers in early 2012. With the swappable battery, Coote believes a flight school can operate the airplane all day with just two batteries. A boost charger can refill the electrons in less than 90 minutes and he adds the batteries can be balance-charged every night to increase longevity.

With more than 1500 cycles per battery, each battery pack should last between 2,000 to 3,000 flight hours, more than the typical gasoline engine the electric-power system replaces. An additional battery pack isn’t cheap though, they cost around $20,000 each.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently does not have any rules in place for electric aircraft. The FAA says before regulators could recognize electric propulsion systems for certification, several standards including performance, installation and maintenance would have to be developed in order to certify an electric airplane.

ASTM International, the standards organization that oversees the light-sport-aircraft industry is in the process of drafting documents for electric light-sport aircraft that it will present to the FAA. These standards could cover aircraft such as Randall Fishman’s ElectraFlyer-X and Yuneec’s E430.

The E-Spyder is able to fly under the regulations outlined for ultralight aircraft weighing less than 254 pounds empty that have been in place since the ultralight boom of the 1980s. And the small airplane has already served as the learning platform for the first student pilot flying electric.

Tom Peghiny who has been flying ultralights for more than 25 years began carefully instructing one of his employees in the E-Spyder during the past month. Mathew Fortin is an experienced pilot of remote-controlled aircraft and competes at the national level in r/c aerobatics.

Before his first taxiing lessons down the runway in the E-Spyder, Fortin had only flown a few times in small aircraft with no formal instruction.

“This is my first real experience with takeoffs and landings,” he said of flying the E-Spyder.

Student pilot Mathew Fortin learning to fly in the E-Spyder
With Peghiny’s instruction and supervision, Fortin made several trips up and down the runway before making his first small hops off the ground. In the end, he estimates he made around 25 trips up and down the runway without flying more than just a few feet above the runway.

With this experience under his belt, Fortin made his first flight to altitude last Thursday and says it was an incredible feeling to pilot an aircraft for the first time. And he does think the electric motor makes learning to fly more enjoyable.

“It was less intimidating having the electric motor, not some loud clanky gas engine” Fortin says. “It really makes it easy to focus on flying.”

There are still no electric airliners on the drawing boards, or even an airplane capable of a long cross-country flight. So, until the much dreamed of super batteries are developed, student pilots learning to fly in an electric airplane will of course need some transition training to fly normal gas-powered aircraft.

But in the near term, there could be a generation of pilots who not only learn to fly, but learn to enjoy the pleasure, and challenges, of flying with only the flow of electrons powering their flight.

Photos: Yuneec International, Electric Aircraft Corporation, Mathew Fortin

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Story of Boeing's Hydrogen Fuel Cell Aircraft

Heavy Lift

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NASA wants more hypersonic spaceship research

NASA looks to develop Mach 20 spacecraft

By Layer 8 

NASA today said it was looking for more research and development of hypersonic spacecraft that could travel at incredible speeds - in the neighborhood of Mach 20 -- in space and land on other planets.

Specifically, NASA issued a call for research on what it called "air-breathing access to space and entry, descent and landing of high-mass vehicles in planetary atmospheres."

The research falls under NASA's Hypersonics Project and according to NASA:

"It is envisioned that airbreathing propulsion will dramatically increase the reliability and safety of future launch vehicles and ultimately lower the cost of delivering payloads to orbit. The design of these reusable airbreathing hypersonic vehicles is challenging in several critical technology areas. The severe heating environment encountered during hypersonic flight dictates the shape of the vehicle. The development of hypersonic-unique air breathing propulsion systems that operate efficiently and effectively from Mach 0 to 20, and the efficient integration of the airbreathing propulsion system with the airframe are critical to both integrated vehicle performance and controllability. Since these vehicles fly from the Earth's surface at low speeds and enter space and re-enter the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, the vehicle performance, controllability, and energy management across the entire Mach range is another significant challenge requiring rapid and accurate computational tools for vehicle design...Further research is required to integrate these discipline tools in a multi-disciplinary design environment."

NASA stated that the Hypersonics Project also has a goal of developing and maturing fundamental technologies required to build future planetary atmospheric Entry, Descent and Landing systems that will enable large science missions and human exploration of Mars. In addition, the Project is interested in those technologies that are crosscutting and may be applicable to a range of other decent and landing systems (including non-Martian planetary entry and Earth return) as well.

NASA earlier this year announced a $45 million contract with longtime partner ERC Inc., to research hypersonic space vehicle research. According to NASA's Ames Research Center which has a hypervelocity research facility and has built and flown prototype hypervelocity vehicles in the past, ERC will help the space agency:

- Understand the chemistry and physics of hypersonic, reacting and radiating flows;

- Analyze the aerothermodynamics of entry systems, aeronautics and space vehicle trajectories;

- Developing, modifying and applying computational fluid dynamics tools and quantum computing capabilities;

- Engineer ablative, reusable and multi-functional thermal protection materials and conducting materials science research;

- Plan, execute and analyze experiments and testing the thermodynamics of materials.

NASA has other ongoing hypersonic research as well. For example, the space agency is working with the Air Force to develop aircraft that can fly at over five-times the speed of sound or faster. When NASA and the Air Force announced their work they said hypersonic aerodynamics research is critical to the Air Force's interest in long-range and space operations.

The Air Force has successfully tested its hypersonic aircraft - the Mach 6 capable X-51A WaveRider. While the X-51 looks like a large rocket, its applications could change the way aircraft or spaceships are designed, fly into space, support reconnaissance missions and handle long-distance flight operations.

DARPA has had a long history of trying out hypersonic aircraft. The most recent, the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) launched earlier this year but was lost soon after it took off.

NASA has built hypersonic aircraft in the past. In 2004, its X-43A research vehicle demonstrated an air-breathing engine that flew at nearly 10 times the speed of sound. Preliminary data from the scramjet-powered research vehicle show its revolutionary engine worked successfully at nearly Mach 9.8, or 7,000 mph, as it flew at about 110,000 feet.

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