Saab opens Red Hawk production plant in Indiana

by Gareth Jennings

Saab will manufacture the aft fuselage of the T-7A Red Hawk at its newly opened West Lafayette facility in Indiana. (Boeing)

Saab officially opened the West Lafayette production facility in Indiana from where it will build its share of the T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft on which it is partnered with Boeing.

The Swedish manufacturer announced the event on 13 October, noting that apart from being the site for manufacturing the aft airframe section of the Red Hawk, the site will be used for research and development in autonomy, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing also.

“By 2027, Saab expects to hire up to 300 employees for this facility, including assemblers, engineers, system administrators, and more. The West Lafayette facility will also work collaboratively with Purdue [University in Indiana] on research and development in sensor systems, artificial intelligence, and more. Saab plans to export products and technology from this facility,” the company said.

With two production representative jets (PRJs) built and flying, the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract awarded in September 2018 covers five more aircraft for flight trials, plus one fuselage for static tests, and another for fatigue testing.

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USMC takes official delivery of Reaper UASs

by Gareth Jennings

US Marine Corps personnel control a government-owned and government-operated Reaper unmanned aircraft for the first time in late August. GA-ASO announced the official handover of ownership to the corps on 20 October. (USMC)

The US Marine Corps (USMC) has taken official ownership of two General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the manufacturer announced on 20 October.

The transfer of the Block 5 Reapers and their associated equipment was completed from GA-ASI to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 15 October, marking the transition from a contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) to a government-owned government-operated (GOGO) model of operation for the corps.

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US Army insists on human-piloted rotorcraft for armed reconnaissance mission instead of UAV

by Pat Host

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAV pictured on 5 August at March Air Reserve Base in California. The US Army insists on having a piloted rotorcraft perform the armed reconnaissance mission, though an expert said the service could do it, and do it cheaper, with an MQ-9. (US Air National Guard)

The US Army insists it needs a human-piloted Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) helicopter to perform the armed reconnaissance mission despite experts telling Janes the service could perform the mission with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Brigadier General Robert Barrie, programme executive officer for aviation, told Janes on 12 October that the existing technology requires the US Army to have a human-in-the-loop operating in the FARA for the decisions that would be required, and anticipated, for forward reconnaissance. A portion of this mission, he said, will be executed by UAVs, specifically with a combination of Air Launched Effects (ALE) and manned-unmanned teaming.

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USAF launches E-3 replacement effort, notes E-7 intent

by Gareth Jennings

Seen here in Australian service, the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail is being lined up by the US Air Force as a replacement for its ageing E-3 Sentry AWACS fleet. (DVIDS)

The US Air Force (USAF) has launched an effort to replace its ageing fleet of Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, with the intent of fielding the same company's E-7 Wedgetail.

The USAF issued a notice of contract action, titled ‘E-3 Replacement Aircraft Studies & Analyses', on 19 October, in which it announced it is to sole-source Boeing to perform studies, analyses, and activities required to ascertain the E-7A baseline configuration, and to determine what additional work the US government might need to accomplish meeting the USAF configuration standards and mandates.

“The Aircraft Rapid Prototyping Requirements Document has specifically called out the E-7A, and it has been determined that this is a sole-source requirement,” the USAF said.

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