A look at the history of US Navy aircraft carriers and naval aviation.
Currently, India relies on its 1940s-vintage aircraft carrier the INS Viraat (ex HMS Hermes) . that will remain in service until at least 2018 (pos. 2020) when the INS Vikrant will be commissioned.
An additional aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya (ex Soviet carrier Baku) is currently undergoing sea trials and aviation trials with a mixed Russian/Indian crew and is expected to be handed over in November 2013… ish… provided the date doesn’t slip… again.
A second Vikrant class aircraft carrier, provisionally named INS Vishal, is in the design stage, pending funding… and, more importantly, a decision on whether further ships in the class will be conventionally or nuclear powered.
The former INS Vikrant (ex HMS Hercules) was decommissioned from the Indian Navy in 1997 and is alongside as a ‘sometimes open, sometimes closed’ museum ship in Mumbai and may be sent for scrap if funds are not found for her continued preservation. That would be a shame, as she’s the only Second World War era British aircraft carrier that is preserved as a museum ship.
Indian-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant launched
India has unveiled its first home-built aircraft carrier from a shipyard in southern Kerala state.
The 37,500 tonne INS Vikrant is expected to go for extensive trials in 2016 before being inducted into the navy by 2018, reports say.
With this, India joins a select group of countries capable of building such a vessel.
Other countries capable of building a similar ship are the US, the UK, Russia and France.
Monday’s launch of INS Vikrant marks the end of the first phase of its construction.
The ship will be then re-docked for outfitting and further construction.
The ship, which will have a length of 260m (850ft) and a breadth of 60m, has been built at the shipyard in Cochin.
It was designed and manufactured locally, using high grade steel made by a state-owned steel company.
Vice-Admiral RK Dhowan of India’s navy has described the launch as the “crowning glory” of the navy’s programme to produce vessels on home soil.
Yikes! A kick in the budgetary backside for the Pentagon as tough choices are being made between smaller forces, less new equipment, and reduced operations.
But this does not just affect the US military. There are 10 international partners involved in the F-35 boondoggle. In particular, Britain’s Royal Navy has predicated its entire 21st century naval aviation programme on the F-35B STVOL variant. Its new aircraft carriers are under construction without the cats & traps that would permit an alternative (such as the F/A-18E/F) to be substituted affordably.
Is it too late to restart the AV-8B production line?
Pentagon considers cancelling F-35 program, leaked documents suggest
Leaked documents from a Pentagon budget review suggest that the agency is tired of its costly F-35 fighter jets, and has thoughts about cancelling the $391.2 billion program that has already expanded into 10 foreign countries.
Pentagon officials held a briefing on Wednesday in which they mapped out ways to manage the $500 billion in automated budget cuts required over the next decade. A slideshow laid out a number of suggestions and exposed the Pentagon’s frustration with its F-35 jets, which are designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. based out of Bethesda, Md. The agency also suggested scrapping plans for a new stealthy, long-range bomber, attendees of the briefing told Reuters.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to reporters on Wednesday and indicated that the Pentagon might have to decide between a “much smaller force” and a decade-long “holiday” from modernizing weapons systems and technology.
Pentagon briefing slides indicated that a decision to maintain a larger military “could result in the cancellation of the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 program and a new stealthy, long-range bomber,” Reuters reports.
When officials familiar with the budget review leaked the news about the F-35s, the agency tried to downplay its alleged intentions.
The F-35 program is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system. A fleet of 2,443 aircraft has an estimated price tag of $391.2 billion, which is up 68 percent from the projected costs measured in 2001. Earlier this year, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program manager, condemned the manufacturer for “trying to squeeze every nickel” out of the Department of Defense.
Although the warplane is the most expensive combat aircraft in history, its quality is lacking. In February, the US military grounded an entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters because of a crack found on a turbine blade on one of the jets, marking the fourth time that a fleet was grounded because of manufacturing problems. In April, Bogdan told a Senate committee that he doubted the planes could withstand a sophisticated cyberattack.
But before the sequestration took effect this year, the Pentagon secured several contracts with Lockheed Martin to ensure the continued production and maintenance of the costly F-35s. This week, the Defense Department struck another deal with the company to produce 71 more jet fighters, claiming the costs per aircraft have been reduced by about 4 percent – an insignificant reduction when compared to the 68 percent price increase that has occurred since 2001.
After news broke of the Pentagon’s prospect to cancel the program, officials tried to control the damage of such an alarming statement that runs counter to the claims they publicly make.
“We have gone to great lengths to stress that this review identified, through a rigorous process of strategic modeling, possible decisions we might face, under scenarios we may or may not face in the future,” Pentagon Spokesman George Little told Reuters in an email when asked about the slides. “Any suggestion that we’re now moving away from key modernization programs as a result of yesterday’s discussion of the outcomes of the review would be incorrect.”
An unnamed defense official familiar with the briefing told Reuters that the leaked budget document indicated possibilities for a worst-case scenario. He admitted that the Pentagon considered scrapping the program, but said it was unlikely, since “cancelling the program would be detrimental to our national defense.”
Regardless of the Pentagon’s intent, Congress is responsible for authorizing Department of Defense spending, and has often forced the agency to make costly and unnecessary weapons purchases.
Last year, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that the US has no need for new tanks. But even though senior Army officials have repeatedly stated that there is no need to spend half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds on new 70-ton Abrams tanks, lawmakers from both parties have pushed the Pentagon to accept the useless purchases.
Earlier this year, an investigation revealed that lobbying efforts by Northrop Grumman have kept a costly Global Hawk drone flying, despite the Pentagon’s attempt to end the project. A defense authorization bill passed by Congress requires the Air Force to keep flying its Block 30 Global Hawks through at least 2014, which costs taxpayers $260 million per year.
The US spends more money on defense than any other nation, but lawmakers from both parties often insist that the agency continue to buy tanks and keep ships and planes it no longer needs. Although the Pentagon has expressed its frustration with the costly F-35 fighter jets, there is little the agency can do without congressional support.
Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UMO-18.
It’s called testing. Lord forgive them for not having every test go 100% perfectly every single time.
X-47B Fails Landing Attempt – Again
Unmanned Jet Was Trying To Repeat Last Week’s Success
WASHINGTON — The X-47B unmanned jet, which successfully landed twice last week on an aircraft carrier, was unable to repeat the feat Monday, U.S. Navy sources confirmed July 16.
The aircraft nailed its first two landing attempts July 10 on the USS George H. W. Bush, but a third landing that day was aborted when the aircraft’s systems detected a problem with an onboard computer. Following its programming, the aircraft then flew to a “divert” field at Wallops Island, Va., where it remains.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Northrop Grumman engineers were back on board the carrier Monday to try for a third successful “trap,” this time using the other of two X-47B aircraft.
But it didn’t happen. The aircraft developed technical issues while in flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to the ship and officials decided to abort the attempt before the X-47B reached the vicinity of the carrier, steaming off the U.S. east coast.
Nevertheless, officials have termed the tests “successful” in that the program’s objectives of demonstrating unmanned flight on and off an aircraft carrier were achieved. And at least in the case of the July 10 waveoff, the system’s ability to detect and respond to a problem was validated, if unintentionally. But the fact is that four times the Navy attempted to land the aircraft on the ship, and only two attempts were successful.
Officials point out that the program’s requirements called only for one successful landing, although testers targeted three at-sea traps.
“Initial parameters for the test required three traps on board the carrier,” a Navy official said Tuesday. “However, after two successful traps and two wave-offs, the Navy is confident it has collected the data necessary to advance this program and develop the requirements for UCLASS.”
The Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike Program is the follow-on effort to develop an operational unmanned aircraft using technologies and lessons learned from the X-47. Navy officials hope to field a UCLASS aircraft by 2019.
Underscoring the effort’s importance, the July 10 event was attended by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, and more than two dozen media representatives. The secretary and CNO were effusive in their praise for the program and the technological achievement, and of the historic nature of the events. The successful landing received extensive national and international media coverage, as did the first catapult launch from the ship on May 14.
With the failure of the July 15 test, the program’s flying days are all but over. The aircraft used on Monday, numbered 501, remains at Pax River, and no further X-47B flying tests are scheduled after 502 flies from Wallops Island to Pax River.
Funding for the X-47B, under the Unmanned Combat Air System Aircraft Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program, runs out at the end of September with the close of the fiscal year.
A statement was issued by NAVAIR late Tuesday afternoon about Monday’s incident, reproduced here in full:
“The Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program successfully completed testing with the X-47B aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) July 15, culminating a decade of Navy unmanned integration efforts that show the Navy’s readiness to move forward with unmanned carrier aviation, says Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons in Patuxent River, Md.
“On July 10, the X-47B completed the first-ever arrested landing of an unmanned aircraft aboard CVN 77. Shortly after the initial landing, the aircraft was launched off the ship using the carrier’s catapult and completed a second successful landing.
“ ‘We accomplished the vast majority of our carrier demonstration objectives during our 11 days at sea aboard CVN 77 in May,” said Capt Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. “The final end-to-end test of the UCAS including multiple arrested landings, flight deck operations, steam catapults, to include hot refueling procedures, was accomplished on July 10 and the procedures, the X-47B aircraft and the entire carrier system passed with flying colors.’”
“During its final approach to the carrier on July 10, the X-47B aircraft, “Salty Dog 502”, self-detected a navigation computer anomaly that required the air vehicle to return to shore, where it landed at Wallops Island Air Field. The X-47B navigated to the facility and landed without incident. Salty Dog 502 is scheduled to fly back to Pax River later this week.
“Aircraft “Salty Dog 501″ was launched to the ship on July 15 to collect additional shipboard landing data. During the flight, the aircraft experienced a minor test instrumentation issue and returned to NAS Patuxent River, where it safely landed. There were no additional opportunities for testing aboard CVN 77, which returned to port today.
“ ‘Completing the first-ever arrested landing with an autonomous, unmanned aircraft is truly a revolutionary accomplishment for the U.S. Navy,” said Winter. “This demonstration has successfully matured the needed critical technologies for operations in the actual carrier environment and has set the stage for Naval Aviation to blaze the trail for relevant unmanned, carrier-based warfighting capabilities.’”