US Air Force to set up experimental squadron to refine Collaborative Combat Aircraft force structure
16 November 2023
by Zach Rosenberg
The Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat at MidAmerica Airport, Illinois. Boeing is using the MQ-28 to experiment UCAV-related technology, and the aircraft may find further use as tactics, techniques, and procedures testbeds. (Janes/Zach Rosenberg)
The US Air Force (USAF) is to set up an experimental squadron in 2024 to experiment with force structure in advance of the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) acquisition, Thomas Lawhead, the service's assistant deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration, and requirements, told at a Mitchell Institute talk on 15 November.
“We'll start up in an experimental [operations] unit beginning next year that really paws into, how do we actually go about operating our CCAs?” Lawhead said.
The CCA is to be an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) designed to fight in near-peer conflicts. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall revealed earlier in the year that the service intends to purchase 1,000 CCAs to fly alongside advanced fighters.
The US Air Force said that the Bell Boeing CV-22B involved in the mishap was an aircraft from the 353rd Special Operations Wing. The unit operates its CV-22Bs from Yokota Air Base near Tokyo. (US Air Force)
The US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy (USN) grounded their respective V-22 fleets on 6 December, the services said in separate statements. The grounding follows the 29 November crash of a USAF CV-22 near Yakushima, Japan.
“Preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the mishap, but the underlying cause of the failure is unknown at this time,” Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) said about the 29 November crash in a 6 December statement.
“Out of an abundance of caution, following the AFSOC operational stand down, NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] is instituting a grounding bulletin for all V-22 Osprey variants Dec. 6,” wrote the USN branch that oversees naval aviation, including the USN's and US Marine Corps' CMV- and MV-22s. “While the mishap remains under investigation, we are implementing additional risk mitigation controls to ensure the safety of our service members.”
A file photo of an Italian Reaper unmanned aircraft. The country is upgrading its fleet to the latest Block 5 standard. (GA-ASI)
The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) has flown its first Block 5 version of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
The manufacturer announced the milestone on 5 December, saying the first flight of the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) took place some weeks earlier on 9 November.
“The new RPA was delivered to the [AMI], along with a new mobile ground control station (MGCS), as part of a mid-life modernisation (MLM) update to the [Italian] fleet of RPAs from GA-ASI. The aircraft and MGCS are part of a Foreign Military Sales,” General Atomics said.
The Block 5 improves on earlier versions of the Reaper in that it provides a significant increase in electrical power generation, auto take-off and landing capability with improved landing gear and datalinks, and features the latest version of the GA-ASI Lynx multimode radar.
Wing Loong II UAV being developed for diverse roles
06 December 2023
by Akhil Kadidal
AVIC's unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) Wing Loong II (Gongji-2 or GJ-2). (Janes)
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is improving the capabilities of its Wing Loong II unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to handle multiple applications.
During a recent flight demonstration of the UAV for the state-owned newspaper,
, Li Yidong, chief designer at AVIC Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), said the applications of the Wing Loong series of UAVs “are still expanding”.
The demonstration showed the Wing Loong II's ability to climb, cruise, and operate at low altitude. Li said, “In the future, the [UAVs] will integrate with new technologies, including 5G+, industrial internet, artificial intelligence, and big data, and promote more highly efficient applications in more fields together with the whole industrial chain, such as scientific investigation, mapping, and logistics”.
The demonstration was conducted at AVIC's Zigong Aviation Industrial Park, according to state-owned media.
Claire Chu, Janes senior China analyst joins Harry Kemsley and Sean Corbett to discuss how China's economic activity projects influence globally and what she learnt as part of the recent US Congressional staff delegation to China.