Northrop Grumman, Airbus developing prototype satcom capability

by Carlo Munoz

A company rendering of Airbus US Space & Defense's Arrow satellite platform. (Airbus US Space & Defense )

US defence company Northrop Grumman is teaming up with Airbus US Space & Defense to develop prototype satellite communication (satcom) platforms, in support of the US Department of Defense's National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), according to company officials.

Under the terms of the deal announced on 5 July, Airbus will provide 42 satellites “as well as assembly, integration, and test (AIT); launch; and space vehicle commissioning support services” to Northrop Grumman. The satellites and associated services will support Northrop Grumman's efforts to develop prototype space vehicles and datalink capabilities for NDSA's Transport Layer Tranche 1 (TLT1) variant.

The Airbus satellites will be derivatives of the company's Arrow low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite platform, outfitted with greater power capability and a larger payload accommodation, according to a company statement issued on 5 July. “This modular solution offers a scalable 300–500 kg bus for the Northrop Grumman payload” being developed for TLT1 as well as other future satcom systems being considered by the Space Development Agency (SDA) under the NDSA, company officials said in the statement.


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Details emerge on mesh hybrid networking system for EU's UGV programme

by Alexander Stronell

Three THeMIS UGVs pictured during iMUGS testing in Belgium in June 2022. (Janes/Alexander Stronell)

Details on the mesh communications system in development as part of the Integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System (iMUGS) programme, the European Defence Fund's (EDF) project for a common unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), have been revealed to Janes.

Speaking to Janes, an industry source familiar with the iMUGS communications effort provided details on the objectives and testing of the hybrid networking system.

The iMUGS sub-project for a mesh communications system is being undertaken by Finnish telecommunications company Bittium, part of the consortium of companies led by Estonia's Milrem Robotics.

“We are developing communications, which is based on mesh technology and which allows all the vehicles, the troops … [to be] part of one big network, and all the traffic is based on IP [internet protocol traffic],” the source told Janes. “There's no predefined structure, so you can add vehicles or nodes, and you can remove [them],” he added.


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China test-flies ‘improved' carrierborne UAV

by Akhil Kadidal

With several design changes and potentially a new engine, the AR-500CJ (depicted at the top) appears to be larger than the AR-500C variant, which first flew in 2020. However, AVIC has not disclosed the dimensions of the AR-500CJ. (Janes)

China has claimed the successful test-flying of a new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) intended for service aboard the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's larger surface vessels. This includes aircraft carriers.

In an announcement on its official blog on 10 August, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) said that its AR-500CJ unmanned helicopter had made its first flight at Poyang in Jiangxi province.

The aircraft was developed by the company's China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI). According to AVIC, the AR-500CJ is a “comprehensive improvement” over the earlier lightweight AR-500B shipborne UAV developed by the company.


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RAF continues roll-out of A400M capabilities with first operational aerial refuelling

by Gareth Jennings

The view of the A400M receiver aircraft from the Voyager mission controller console. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is continuing the process of rolling out the capabilities of the Airbus A400M C1 Atlas, announcing on 11 August the first operational aerial refuelling of the airlifter.

For the milestone, an A400M received fuel from an Airbus Voyager KC3 tanker via the centreline hose reserved for large aircraft receivers. The airlifter was refuelled 900 n miles southwest of Ascension Island, extending its 4,100 n miles range to accommodate the remaining 2,600 n miles to Mount Pleasant Airfield on the Falkland Islands.

“The execution of long-range air-to-air refuelling by front-line crews is a major milestone for Atlas. The ability of this aircraft to operate at significant range from the UK, demonstrates our enhanced and resilient force sustainment capabilities,” said Wing Commander Stuart Patton, Officer Commanding 30 Squadron.


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