22.12.2008
FLUG REVUE

2008-12-22 - News in briefNews in Brief

Kurzmeldungen+++Lufthansa Technik officially opened its new overhaul center for engines in Hamburg, thus extending its production capacity in Germany. The first engines will be overhauled there in early 2009.

Kurzmeldungen
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Lufthansa Technik officially opened its new overhaul center for engines in Hamburg, thus extending its production capacity in Germany. The first engines will be overhauled there in early 2009. Nearly 50 million euros have been invested in the new building since the end of 2007. Hamburg's annual capacity for overhauls will increase from the present 320 to over 400 engines. By commissioning the new facility, the company is making a significant contribution to securing the more than 2,000 engine maintenance jobs at the Hamburg site over the long term. August Wilhelm Henningsen, Chairman of the Executive Board at Lufthansa Technik AG, commented: “In order to secure our profitable growth in the long term, we are making considerable investments in qualifying our staff and installing the latest production systems and processes, both of which are decisive foundation stones for future success on the market. The new engine overhaul center at the corporate headquarters in Hamburg is an important building block in the expansion of this high-turnover business segment.” The new centre specialises in overhauling engines of the type CFM56, one of the world's most successful engine models which is used to power such aircraft as the Boeing 737 and a large part of the Airbus A320 family. Up to 250 of these engines can now be serviced annually by Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg. Flexible working time models have been agreed upon with the works council, which – together with clearly structured processes and demand-oriented schedules – will play an important part in boosting productivity by up to 15 percent.
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The U.S. Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) testbed aircraft was unveiled on 17 December by the U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman with its new engines prior to beginning military certification flight tests. "Getting new engines on our Joint STARS test aircraft is a major milestone for the Air Force," said Col. Jim Lovell, commander, 751st Electronic Systems Group, which is responsible for the service's E-8C Joint STARS development program. "The reliability and fuel efficiency of these new engines will yield huge benefits to the warfighter -- it's all about improving operational capability." "We are another step closer to the benefits these new engines bring to our troops," said Tom Vice, vice president, Eastern Region, of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "The increased operational efficiencies inherent in this design translate to less money spent in maintenance and more time flying. Joint STARS will climb faster, fly higher, and require fewer inflight refuelings, which all translate to more time on station providing valuable information to our ground troops. We are committed to providing this new capability to the warfighter as soon as possible." The engine upgrade program is based on the Seven Q Seven Propulsion Pod System incorporating Pratt & Whitney's commercially-proven JT8D-219 jet engine.
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From December 15, 2008, Air China will flies passengers from four cities in Mainland China; Tianjin, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing, to Taipei directly. They will join Beijing and Shanghai, who have offered direct flights to Taipei since July 2008. After a historic agreement was signed between officials from Mainland China and Taiwan, from December 15th 2008 to March 28th 2009, Air China will offer passengers two direct flights from Beijing, and four direct flights from Shanghai, on week days, every week, to Taipei. Furthermore, every week, over the weekend, there will be several direct flights to Taipei from Beijing and Shanghai, as well as from Tianjin, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing. All these flights will be direct to Taipei and will not fly via Hong Kong, or detour over Hong Kong airspace. This will allow Chinese travelers from both sides of the Straits to travel more conveniently, and quickly, between the Mainland and Taiwan.
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Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract by the Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT) and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (SKY Perfect JSAT) of Japan to build their next geostationary broadcasting and telecommunications satellite. Designated BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R, the satellite will be launched in the second quarter of 2011 aboard an Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle provided by Arianespace. BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R's two independent Ku-band payloads incorporate 12 direct broadcast channels and 12 fixed direct communication channels with uplink and downlink coverage over Japan. The spacecraft will be located at 110 degrees East longitude after delivery in orbit. BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R is required to meet a 15-year service life and will be designed with over 95% flight-proven components integrated into the highly reliable A2100A platform manufactured by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems (LMCSS), Newtown, PA. BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R is the third consecutive satellite order B-SAT has awarded to Lockheed Martin, and the fifth consecutive satellite order from SKY Perfect JSAT. Lockheed Martin successfully built and launched BSAT-3a in August 2007 and is currently manufacturing BSAT-3b, which is scheduled to launch in 2010. Lockheed Martin is currently building JCSAT-12, which is scheduled to launch in late 2009, and previously built JCSAT-9 through JCSAT-11.
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The first Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO-1) payload and ground system, built by a Lockheed Martin team, has been certified for operations by U.S. Strategic Command. SBIRS is designed to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness. The formal certification by U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) completes the system development, operational activation and certification process, demonstrating the capability of the SBIRS HEO sensor and associated ground systems to provide timely, accurate and unambiguous warning data to National Command Authorities in support of the USSTRATCOM missions.
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Rolls-Royce has signed a $131 million contract with Pratt & Whitney to supply LiftSystems for the first six Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant F-35B Lightning II aircraft. This order is significant and represents the first production contract for Rolls-Royce as part of its involvement in the world's biggest-ever defence procurement programme. The Rolls-Royce LiftSystem comprises a LiftFan, Roll Posts and 3 Bearing Swivel Module. Rolls-Royce will provide these through the propulsion system prime contractor Pratt & Whitney, with parts deliveries beginning as early as next month. The scope of the contract also includes spare hardware, production investment and sustainment planning. Orders for the LiftSystem are expected to total over 600, with leading customers including the US Marine Corps, The UK Armed Forces and the Italian Navy. The F-35B variant is expected to remain in service well after 2050.
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EUROCONTROL's Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre has implemented a next-generation interoperable Flight Data Processing System (FDPS) to manage one of Europe's busiest and most complex airspaces, located above the Benelux and North-West Germany. Delivered by Spanish systems provider Indra, the system supports both civil and military operations and provides a set of leading-edge tools to handle future traffic growth in a safer, more expeditious and environmentally efficient manner. "Our ability to meet the challenges facing the air transport industry is closely linked with the implementation of new technologies, which must be harmonised and fully interoperable. The new Flight Data Processing System at Maastricht provides an excellent technology base for effective trans-national air navigation services, a key element in the Single European Sky," said David McMillan, Director General of EUROCONTROL. "It will contribute to meeting the objectives for a less fragmented, and more performance-driven air traffic management system, in line with the long-term objectives of SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research), Europe's infrastructure modernisation programme."
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Pilatus Aircraft announced that it has selected Pro-Star Aviation of Londonderry, New Hampshire as its new dealership for the northeastern United States. Pro-Star Aviation is part of a well established group of aviation companies with significant experience operating in and around the territory. The new dealership will be responsible for sales, marketing and service of the PC-12 NG in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan.
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The UK Competition Commission (CC) has confirmed that, subject to final consultation, it will require BAA to sell both Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as Edinburgh airport. It also proposes to introduce measures to ensure that investment and levels of service at Heathrow, and possibly Gatwick and Stansted, meet more effectively the needs of airlines, passengers and other airport users. At Aberdeen airport, it is proposing measures to promote investment linked to rebates on charges. The CC also intends to make recommendations to the Government on a more effective, and ultimately more flexible, system of airport regulation and also on aspects of government airports policy. The CC will now consider responses to its provisional decision document published today at www.competition-commission.org.uk.  It expects to publish its final report on BAA's seven UK airports, and the appropriate remedies, in late February or early March 2009. Christopher Clarke, Chairman of the BAA Airports inquiry, said: Having provisionally identified competition problems at each of BAA's seven airports, we are proposing remedies which address them directly and comprehensively through a combination of divestment and other measures to improve investment and levels of service. The most effective way to introduce competition in the South-East and in lowland Scotland is to require the three London airports and the two principal Scottish airports to be separately owned. Hence we are proposing the sale of Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports to new independent owners with the operating capabilities and financial resources to develop each of them as effective competitors. Under the common ownership of BAA, there is no competition. Under separate ownership, the airport operators, including BAA, will have a much greater incentive to be far more responsive to their customers, both airlines and passengers.
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Elbit Systems announced that it was selected by the Israeli Defense Ministry to answer the battalion-level IDF tender, calling for a wide procurement of mini-UAVs for all IDF Ground Forces battalions, including training and logistics support. The procurement potential is evaluated at dozens of million USD, in accordance with IDF's requirements and procurement process. Elbit Systems' Skylark(R) I LE has been selected by the IDF following an extensive evaluation process, including operational ability to answer the high requirements of the IDF, based on its rich operational experience.
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Sweden's carrier Golden Air took delivery of its first new ATR, a 72-seat and PW 127 M-powered ATR 72-500. The airline, which currently operates a fleet of 5 Saab 340B, 5 Saab 2000 and a second-hand ATR 72-500 recently acquired, becomes the first Swedish carrier to introduce the '-500 series' ATRs in its fleet.  Commenting on this delivery, Anders Kallsson, Managing Director of Golden Air, stated: “We are delighted of being the introducers of the ATR '-500 series' in Sweden, and to propose to our passengers the aircraft which features the lowest CO2 emissions and the highest standards of comfort of the regional aviation. We are also very proud of introducing an aircraft well proved and reputed by its reliability and lowest operating costs.”
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NASA and Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas, have signed a Space Act Agreement that could lead to the testing of a new plasma-based space propulsion technology on the International Space Station. The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine initially was studied by NASA and is being commercially developed by Ad Astra. This is the first such agreement for a payload on the station's exterior and represents an expansion of NASA's plans to operate the U.S. portion of the space station as a national laboratory. This effort follows the success achieved by the agency last year in reaching multiple agreements to utilize internal station sites for this endeavor. "Ad Astra's Space Act Agreement with NASA offers an example of just the kind of research and technology development that we should be doing on the International Space Station, can do there, and cannot easily do anywhere else," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said. "Dr. Chang-Diaz's VASIMR engine concept has long held great theoretical promise for future high-efficiency space propulsion. With this agreement, we are taking the first steps down the road to its practical realization. I am grateful to the teams on both sides who have worked to develop a plan that yields a near-term step forward for both Ad Astra and NASA on this exciting prospect."
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On 8 th December the Peruvian Navy successfully launched an Otomat missile from the Aguirre frigate, hitting a target at a range in excess of 150 kilometers. The launch, which confirmed the performance and reliability of the Otomat missile, was carried out at the Cruz de Hueso firing test range. The Peruvian Minister of Defence, Antero Flores-Araoz, was present at the launch expressed his satisfaction with the missile and the Navy's performance. The Otomat firing formed part of the “Angamos” exercise and was intended to be particularly challenging for the Peruvian Navy. The challenge lay in the fact that it was the first launch carried out at such a distance and represented an absolute record for a South American Navy. The Otomat missile carried out its mission successfully, hitting the target as intended by the launch plan.
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oneworld has become the first in the travel industry to sell multi-airline round-the-world air tickets on-line with its new internet booking tool for its oneworld Explorer fare.  This also makes oneworld the first global airline alliance to offer any of its public fares for sale through the worldwide web.
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Cessna completed the first Citation XLS+ retail delivery to an undisclosed customer based on the East Coast of the United States. The XLS+ is the latest version of the world's best-selling business jet model. First announced in October 2006, the Citation XLS+ achieved Federal Aviation Administration certification on May 30; European Aviation Safety Agency certification is in process and expected to be complete in early 2009. The order book exceeds 200 for the XLS+, an upgrade of the mid-size XLS. The original Citation Excel was delivered in July 1998, followed by the Citation XLS in July 2004. The series has accumulated a global fleet of nearly 680 planes and more than 1.5 million flight hours.
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Heli-One, an operating division of the CHC Group, announced it has been awarded a new contract by FMV (the Swedish Defence Material Administration) to complete avionic upgrades on two Eurocopter AS332M1 Super Puma helicopters. The helicopters will receive avionic upgrades and Night Vision Goggle ("NVG") installation at Heli-One's facility in Stavanger, Norway. The upgrades are expected to commence in the Spring of 2009 and represent approximately CDN 11.2 million in revenue. The Super Pumas are two of nine operated by the Swedish Armed Forces. Heli-One's relationship with FMV spans more than 15 years, and Heli-One has already completed upgrades on three other Super Pumas for the Swedish Armed Forces. This contract further reinforces Heli-One's commitment to building lasting relationships with its customers.
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Bombardier Aerospace welcomes the announcement that LAM-Mozambique (Linhas Aereas de Mocambique) will take delivery of a previously owned Q400 high-speed turboprop airliner this week, and will acquire another in the near future. The aircraft are being acquired from a third party and the airline will use them for its domestic and regional services on the African continent. LAM-Mozambique is among 30 operators worldwide that have Q400 airliners in service or on order to meet their requirements for economical and efficient air travel.
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Interface Displays & Controls, Inc. (Interface), commenced production deliveries of its newly developed Radar/Navigation Control Display Unit (CDU) to the US Navy F-5N Program. Interface's touch-screen color AMLCD CDU will act as the radar target information display, as well as the bus controller, for Northrop Grumman's LN-260 fiber optic gyro inertial navigation (INU) system. The CDU and INU utilize new technology that significantly improves performance and reliability to increase F-5N aircraft mission availability, while considerably reducing maintenance costs.
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Airbus has started flight-testing of Blended Winglet devices on an Airbus A320. The Blended Winglet technology, developed by Aviation Partners Inc. (API), has been specially adapted for these tests on the A320 Family. The objective of these tests and the subsequent evaluation is to identify both the performance and economic benefits that these devices could offer for Airbus aircraft. In conjunction with follow-up analyses, they will provide data on the overall viability of the devices and help to determine whether API's technology could be considered for an integrated Airbus programme. Furthermore, this evaluation is being carried out as part of our wider goal of extending the market-leading eco-efficient credentials of Airbus aircraft. Research flight testing of two different winglet designs was performed two years ago and valuable experience was gained. Since that time, Airbus has been working to absorb and build on these lessons.
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Uzbekistan's national carrier, Uzbekistan Airways, signed a firm contract for the purchase of four A320 aircraft as part of the modernisation of its medium range fleet. In addition to six A320s already acquired by the airline in June 2007, this order will further enlarge the airline's A320 orders up to ten aircraft. Uzbekistan Airways currently operates three A310s on the routes to Europe and East Asia.
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Saab has received two orders from the Swedish Defence Material Administration, FMV, for continued development, support, and maintenance of the Swedish armed forces air defence system StriC and the simulator system Strics. The total value is SEK 117 million. The system is developed in close collaboration with the customer and is adapted for the specific requirements of the Swedish air force. Different versions of the system has also successfully been exported Peter Wimmerström, business unit manager Saab Systems, is pleased with the continued confidence from FMV and emphasizes that the collaboration between Saab and FMV has given very good results.
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The SAS Group has reached an initial agreement with a group of investors from Catalonia, lead by the Consorci de Turisme de Barcelona (the "Consorci") and Catalana d'Iniciatives ("Iniciatives"), for their incorporation as new majority shareholders into SAS' subsidiary Spanair S.A. In the proposed transaction structure, SAS will remain as a core shareholder in Spanair, and act as its industrial partner to assist in the implementation of the Strategic Plan and further strengthen Spanair's position in Spain and its position as leading carrier in Barcelona. The agreement is conditioned to the completion of the ongoing final negotiations, and SAS the Consorci and Iniciatives have the target to sign a definitive agreement before January 31, 2009.
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The SAS Group has signed an agreement to sell its 47,2% holding in airBaltic to the management of airBaltic. The sales price amount to MLAT 14 (approx MSEK 220) will be paid in cash no later than 31. January 2009. The transaction results in a capital gain of approximately MSEK 175 for the SAS Group. SEB Enskilda has been acting as financial adviser for SAS Group in this transaction. "This divestment is in line with our strategy not to maintain minority holdings in our airlines. We are pleased to have built airBaltic to a strong Baltic airline in SAS ownership and we are confident that the new owners will continue to develop the company in a positive direction", says Mats Jansson, SAS Group President & CEO.
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Ryanair welcomed the European Court of First Instance (CFI) decision to dismiss the EU Commission's flawed 2004 Charleroi case which wrongly claimed that Ryanair's low cost agreement at Charleroi was a subsidy or was State Aid. Today's CFI ruling proves that Ryanair did not receive any subsidy or State Aid from Charleroi or the Walloon region. The CFI's decision is a vindication of Charleroi Airport, which has been transformed from an unused facility in 2001 into a growing profitable airport, with over 2m passengers annually, providing competition and choice to the high cost Brussels Zaventem Airport. It also means the Commission's 2005 “Airport Guideline” which were based on this flawed Charleroi case are now null and void. Ryanair today called on the European Commission to drop the 8 other State Aid cases that the Commission has brought against similar secondary airports in Alghero, Aarhus, Bratislava, Frankfurt Hahn, Hamburg Lubeck, Pau, Berlin Schonefeld and Tampere and to focus instead on the real and blatant breaches of the state aid rules by Europe's biggest flag carriers, such as the most recent illegal bailout of Alitalia by the Italian Government, and the €500m. state aid by the Austrian Government to Lufthansa as a 'sweetener' to persuade them to buy Austrian Airlines.
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Saab signed a long-term contract with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) regarding an overall support commitment for the SK 60 aircraft system. The contract is valued at approximately SEK 900 million. The contract means that as the main supplier, Saab is responsible for operating, supporting and maintaining all SK 60 aircraft for the Swedish Armed Forces. Saab will further ensure that the aircraft system is airworthy and is available in accordance with the requirements of the Armed Forces regarding the Swedish aircraft fleet.
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Australia's Project AIR 9000 achieved another significant milestone when the Australian Defence Force (ADF) formally accepted from leading regional defence contractor, Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace Limited, the first locallyassembled MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter. .The MRH-90 is the Australian variant of the NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH), the other version being the NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) developed by NH Industries. A total of 46 MRH-90s are being acquired under Project AIR 9000 Phases 2, 4 and 6. The first four aircraft fully-assembled in Eurocopter's facilities in Europe have been delivered to the ADF over the past year, paving the way for today's acceptance of the first locallyassembled MRH-90, aircraft #005. The remaining 42 MRH-90s are being assembled by Australian Aerospace in Brisbane and will progressively be delivered until the end of 2014. The MRH-90 fleet will ultimately replace Australian Navy Sea King and Army Black Hawk helicopter fleets. The Commonwealth of Australia selected the MRH-90 not only to modernize but also to rationalize its military helicopter fleets with the aim of reducing the cost to Defence and generating leading-edge combat capabilities.
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Boeing announced that its A160 Turbine (A160T) Hummingbird unmanned rotorcraft has achieved two key milestones: using its two-speed transmission to change gears in flight, and passing the 100-flight-hour threshold. "Being able to shift gears in flight is the final significant step in realizing the full potential of our optimum speed rotor technology, which enables game-changing capability for the warfighter," said John Groenenboom, A160T program manager for Boeing. "It allows us to significantly expand the flight envelope at higher gross weights and at higher speeds, while maintaining the A160T's world-record-setting endurance. We now have an unmanned air system with the performance of a fixed wing and the precision and versatility of a rotorcraft." Breaking the 100-flight-hour mark shows how much the A160T has matured since its first flight in June 2007. That first 12-minute flight set the stage for multiple endurance flights, including an 18.7-hour world record, flights carrying multiple payloads of up to 1,000 pounds, a hover-out-of-ground-effect flight at 20,000 feet, and flights with the FORESTER foliage-penetrating radar antenna. The A160T's predecessor, the gasoline-powered A160, made its first flight in 2002 and accumulated 63 flight hours.
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ATR achieved an important milestone with the start of the ground tests of the '-600 series' pre-series aircraft. The aircraft manufacturer started testing the right functioning of the electrical systems and the equipments of the New Generation Avionics Suite, while integrating the first software package provided by Thales. The achievement is in line with the original development plan scheduled for the '-600 series' ATRs. Commenting on this important milestone, Luigi Lombardi, ATR SVP Operations, declared: “We are proud of starting the ground test of the aircraft, which represent the result of a very strong work done in the last months, in partnership with Thales. We congratulate our teams, which are working around the clock.” He concluded: “Thanks to such efforts, we are complying with the development calendar of the '-600 series' ATRs.” The ATR '600 series' pre-series aircraft, configured as an ATR 72, will do its maiden flight in summer 2009. The entry into service of this very last member of the ATR aircraft family is scheduled for the beginning of 2011.
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Boeing, through its commercial launch business, has received a contract to launch the fourth satellite for the COSMO-SkyMed (Constellation of Small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation) program for Thales Alenia Space Italia, prime contractor of the Italian Space Agency. The COSMO-SkyMed spacecraft is expected to be launched in 2010 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Delta II vehicle in the 7420-10 configuration. To support a rapid initial operating capability, Boeing successfully launched the first three COSMO-SkyMed satellites from Vandenberg within the 17-month period between June 2007 and October 2008.
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Boeing began final assembly operations Dec. 9 in St. Louis on the first of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The Super Hornet multirole fighter aircraft will be delivered to the RAAF from the first quarter of 2010 through late 2011. The Super Hornet being produced for Australia is based on the F/A-18F operated by the U.S. Navy. The Block II Super Hornet is the first operationally deployed strike fighter that incorporates next-generation capabilities. The Australian government announced in March 2007 that it would acquire 24 F/A-18Fs, making Australia the first international Super Hornet customer.
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Lockheed Martin received a $147.5 million contract to provide the U.S. Coast Guard three HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircraft and five Mission System Pallets (MSPs). Once delivered, the new aircraft will bring the Coast Guard's fleet inventory to a total of 11 aircraft and eight MSPs in service. "The addition of these aircraft and Mission System Pallets to the Coast Guard's fleet will provide significant capabilities for the Coast Guard when responding to critical missions," said Mike Fralen, Coast Guard Aviation lead for Lockheed Martin. The roll-on, roll-off MSPs, built by Lockheed Martin, provide the HC-144A aircraft crew with extensive capabilities for interpreting and responding to real-time information from advanced onboard sensors and communications gear. The suite of electronic equipment enables the aircrew to share compiled data from the aircraft's multiple integrated sensors with surface assets, other aircraft, shore stations and land-based assets. The MSPs also allow for the transmission and receipt of classified and unclassified information to assure the necessary collaboration during challenging, all-weather and day-night missions.
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The last three out of 48 F-16 multirole aircraft purchased by Poland arrived at the 31st Tactical Aircraft Air Base in Poznan on 11 th December. The purchase agreement for F-16 was signed in April 2003.  Now the Polish Air Force operates 36 F-16C Block52+ and 12 dual seat F-16D Block 52+ aircraft. After Acceptance Procedure Inspection in the 31st Airbase, “Fs” will be operated by 10th Tactical Squadron (10 ELT) in £ask. The following day, the airbase was visited by Minister Bogdan Klich, accompanied by civilian and military authorities. Minister was acquainted with the level of training and infrastructure of the airbase. He met as well with pilots serving in both airbases.
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From now on, the two engine specialists MTU Aero Engines in Munich, Germany and Atelier d'Industriel Aeronautic (AIA) in Bordeaux, France will be in charge of maintaining the MTR390-2C engines of the Franco-German Tiger combat helicopter, having been approved as “revision centres” by the engine manufacturer, the European consortium MTU Turbomeca Rolls-Royce GmbH (MTR). “We congratulate the two companies on their successful certification,” said MTR Managing Director Clemens Linden as he handed over the certificates. “The Tiger engines can now be revised (Maintenance Level 3) in Germany and France. This complements the European defence concept as the national maintenance centres are best able to cater for the logistical needs of their respective armed forces,” Linden continued.  Every Tiger is powered by two MTR390-2Cs, and about 20,000 engine flight hours have been clocked up with the helicopters delivered so far. This means that the maintenance centres in Germany and France have been completed at just the right time and can now back the logistical support service.
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The Slovak Ministry of Defence has selected the C-27J as future transport aicraft for the Slovak Air Force. Negotiations will start soon and Alenia is confident to reach an agreement in short terms.
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The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer made its first supersonic flight, reaching Mach 1.15 in the “supersonic corridor” off the Italian Riviera coast. The first prototype M-346 reached this important milestone during a 75 minute flight which began and ended on the company airfield at Venegono Superiore. «Breaking the sound barrier shows the great growth potential of our M-346 – commented after the flight Quirino Bucci, Alenia Aermacchi Chief Test Pilot. – The flight went as planned. The aircraft showed excellent controllability as it exceeded the speed of sound and maintained its pleasant handling throughout the deceleration phase. All aircraft systems performed regularly throughout the acceleration and deceleration phases».
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On 20 December, Arianespace completed its ninth year of Ariane 5 operations with another successful dual-payload mission of the workhorse commercial vehicle, orbiting two telecommunications satellites for Europe's Eutelsat telecommunications operator. The heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana at 7:35 p.m. local time, and deployed its HOT BIRD 9 and W2M passengers during a 32-minute flight. Payload lift performance for tonight's launch was approximately 8,340 kg. for the combined weight of the two Eutelsat satellites.  It brings the total payload mass lofted by Ariane 5's six missions in 2008 to more than 56,700 kg. – including the 10 civilian and defense telecommunications spacecraft carried to geostationary transfer orbit, as well as the large Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which was placed in a 260-km. circular orbit to service the International Space Station. Arianespace will continue its sustained launch pace in 2009, with the first flight in the New Year planned for February 12.  This will use another heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA version, and is to carry Eutelsat's HOT BIRD 10 along with the NSS-9 satellite for SES.  In addition, the upcoming launch will orbit two Spirale auxiliary payloads – which are demonstrators for a space-based defense optical early warning system.
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