Monday, November 30, 2015

Single Aisle News - December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015

Airbus received joint type certification from the FAA and Europe's EASA this past week for its A320 NEO airline, powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine.  Certification opens the way for the first customer deliveries to airlines, expected in December.

Latvia's airBaltic welcomed a visit from a Bombardier C-Series prototype, as the airline contemplates a possible increase in its C-Series order.  AirBaltic has thirteen CS300 aircraft on firm order, with options for another seven.

Officials at Bombardier have indicating the documenting the C-Series software for regulators has become one of the last steps towards completing certification of the new aircraft type.  The C-Series is reportedly down to the final few hundred pages of certification documents that need to be improved, out of approximately 18,000 documents that needed to be provided to regulators.

China's Comac has delivered its first ARJ21 regional jet to its launch customer, several years behind schedule and with a Chinese type certificate that is not recognized by either the United States or Europe.  The ARJ21 has come to symbolize many of the hurdles that China's larger, C919 airline is expected to face as it approaches the launch of its flight test program next year.

Russia has begun flight tests of the Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine that is expected to equip military versions of the Irkut MC-21 airline.  All civil versions of the airline sold to date, however, are expected to be equipped with a version of the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) engine that also equips the Airbus A320 NEO.

Book Review: Israel's Air Force

Samuel M. Katz
Israel's Air Force
Osceola, WI: Motor Books International, 1991
Category: Israel Air Force - Aircraft

Rating: 2-Stars

Samuel Katz has written a number of remarkable books chronicling the elite of Israel's military, including Fire & Steel (the story of Israel's 7th Armored Brigade) and The Night Raiders (the story of Israel's naval commando unit).  Unfortunately, Israel's Air Force is not among them.

Israel's Air Force falls into that category of coffee table picture books, perhaps with a little more text than most, but without the level of detail that would be expected from a historical or technical volume.  The book offers some beautiful full color photography of Israel's aircraft - much of it taken in the 1980s during maneuvers with Israel's ground forces - and a general description for the organization of Israel's armed forces, and even a little of their training regimen.  What is lacking is either the pilot interviews, historical missions, or the detailed technical survey, that makes other books on the subject stand out.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review: Wings Over Suez

Brian Cull, David Nicolle and Shlomo Aloni
Wings Over Suez
London: Grub Street, 1996
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 4-Stars

A number of books have been written over the years that touch on the 1956 Sinai Campaign - most written from the perspective of the Israeli units that captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in a matter of days.  That relatively few books have been written about this war from the standpoint of the British or French troops that also fought should not be surprising.  For Israel, the 1956 war was a resounding success, bringing a decade of relative calm to Israel's southern border.  For Britain and France, the military successes of the war were reversed in an embarrassing political debacle that found both the United States and Soviet Union campaigning for a unilateral withdrawal of British and French forces from from the Suez Canal.

This book is therefore unusual, in that it attempts to compile a more comprehensive account of the allied air campaign over the Sinai and Suez, drawing on the accounts and official records of both Israeli and British pilots and squadrons.  The result is a fairly complete retelling of the chain of events, including squadron assignments, first-hand pilot accounts, and a wide array of black-and-white photographs from the war.  The book also provides a fair account for the diplomatic prelude to the war, including French and British attempts to reverse the nationalization of the Suez Canal.

All told, a good historical reference for what has often been a forgotten military campaign.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Review: The People's Liberation Army as Organization

James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang, Editors
The People's Liberation Army as Organization
Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2002
Category: People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)

Rating: 4-Stars

Although it has become somewhat dated, I would be remiss if I did not mention this particular volume on the history of China's armed forces.  The People's Liberation Army as Organization is a comprehensive collection on the development of the PLA as a fighting force: it's organization, history, and corporate culture.  Although this volume has been overtaken by events in the past decade, it nonetheless provides a touchstone for understanding how the PLA is structured, and how its modern military school of thought came into being.

Divided into sections that deal with individual chapters in China's modern military history, as well as sections that focus on individual branches of China's armed forces, The People's Liberation Army as Organization combines essays from an array of specialists on Chinese military developments to deliver a broad picture of where the PLA has been, and what direction it is heading towards.  At 634 pages in length, this volume offers the most comprehensive picture currently out there of the bureaucracy, history and corporate culture of the PLA.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Chinese Warfighting: The PLA Experience Since 1949

Mark A. Ryan, David M. Finkelstein and Michael A. McDevitt, Editors
Chinese Warfighting: The PLA Experience Since 1949
Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2003
Category: People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)

Rating: 4-Stars

It has often been said that generals have a tendency to re-fight the last war.  Human nature tends to drive us to become creatures of habit, re-visiting past episodes, good or bad, that we know so well.  This is why a book such as this, which reviews the history of China's war fighting experience, is crucial to understanding the corporate culture of China's military today.

China won the Great War against Japan, and indeed all of the smaller wars that it has fought since, as wars of attrition.  In these confrontations, it was a question of superior Chinese numbers that negated any technological advantage that China's adversaries (such as in the Korean War) may have possessed.  This was why, up until the early 1990s, the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) was so under-funded relative to similar armed forces abroad.  The value of a modern air force, equipped with modern munitions, was unrecognized.

All of this did, of course, change during the 1990s and afterwards, as the Chinese political and military establishments absorbed the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War and as China's burgeoning economy fueled its military expansion.  But the scars from those decades of neglect still remain.

In the Korean War, the first war that the PLAAF participated in, the purpose of the Chinese air force was to provide protection against opposing fighters.  The concept that air power might make a significant impact against opposing ground forces was never seriously considered.  This experience led directly to the lack of air power as a substantive component during the 1979 border war between China and Vietnam.  The PLAAF was charged with protecting Chinese skies from a potential Vietnamese counter-attack, not with assisting to prosecute the war on the ground.

How much this old mentality has truly been broken is still not entirely clear.  There has been significant investment in the past two decades in modern aircraft and missiles for the PLAAF, but whether the training, tactics and weapons employed have fully adjusted to new realities remains an open question.

Which is why, again, learning from history and understanding how the People's Liberation Army, and the PLAAF evolved into what they are today remains so vitally important.  This particular book contains a series of essays, collected from scholars in the field, examining China's individual wars and border skirmishes, as well as the evolution of different branches within China's armed forces.  Taken together, it's one of the best historical collections available on this subject.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fighter Jet Times - November 26, 2015

November 26, 2015

The UK has accelerated its purchase plans for the F-35B stealth fighter, announcing that a new squadron will be formed to help integrate the new airplane at a faster pace.

Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 strike jet his past week, after it strayed across the Turkish-Syrian border.  Both pilots successfully ejected from the airplane, although one was shot and killed by Turkish-backed, Syrian rebel forces while he descended on his parachute.

In response to the recent downing of a Russian strike jet over Turkey, Russia has announced that it will deploy its most advanced surface-to-air missile system, the S-400 to Syria.  Capable of detecting aircraft and missiles up to 250 miles away, the new missile is expected to be deployed near the Syrian air base of Latakia.

Israeli fighter jets reportedly struck a Hezbollah site on the border between Syria and Lebanon.  The Israeli government has repeatedly warned that it would not allow the Syrian civil war to be used as a cover for the transfer of additional heavy arms to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Pakistan has confirmed that it will continue to use Russian-made, RD-93 engines on its Chinese-designed JF-17 fighters, after concluding that the latest Chinese attempts to reverse-engineer an engine for the airplane had failed.  China continues to use Russian-supplied engines for its front-line fighters, including for the Chinese-produced Chengdu J-10, and for the experimental J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters.

The U.S. government has voiced additional reservations over the proposed transfer of technology to South Korea for the development of Korea's KF-X indigenous stealth fighters.  Lockheed Martin had agreed in principal to assist in the program and to transfer key technologies - similar to the assistance provided to develop South Korea's T-50 trainer and FA-50 lightweight fighter - provided that export approval could be obtained from the U.S. State Department.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Space Highlights - November 25, 2015

November 25, 2015

Japan's H-IIA rocket successfully launched Japan's first commercial satellite this past week: a Canadian Telstar 12V telecommunications payload.  All prior Japanese launches have been with government payloads.

China's Long March 3B booster has launched the first satellite on behalf of Laos: the LaoSat-1 communications satellite, built by the China Academy of Space Technology.

As time runs out for the solar-powered Rosetta comet mission, controllers at ESA have sent the space probe on a final attempt to locate its inoperative Philae landing probe.

NASA has released the first images of Ceres polar regions, as captured by the Dawn space probe.  The photographs portray a heavily cratered region.

As its orbit decays, the Martian moon Phobos is expected to eventually break-up, forming a rocky ring around the red planet.

NASA has released a collection of Pluto photographs that portray a full rotation or "day" on the dwarf planet, as it spins about its axis.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wide Body Report - November 24, 2015

November 24, 2015

After causing a flap last month - when he announced that his airline could readily obtain a 10-year old 777 for the bargain basement price of $10 million - Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson has revealed that the source for his quoted price (far below the official market value of $56 million typically quoted for a used 777-200ER) was an offer from Boeing.  Boeing officials have declined to respond to the report.

After 20 months of fruitless efforts, officials are focusing on a new area in the search for the remains of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared in what is believed to have been a suicide carried out by the airplane's pilot.  The new area is centered around Penang Island, and is based on a theory that the pilot may have circled the island in descent before making a crash landing into the sea.

Air Canada has taken delivery of its third Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines has confirmed plans to expand the airline's order for Airbus A350 aircraft from 14 to 25 aircraft.

Etihad, with the world's largest fleet of A380 aircraft, has begun service to New York flying the super-jumbo jet, replacing the 777-300ER on that route.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Single Aisle News - November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015

Bombardier has struck a deal to sell a 30% stake in its locomotive unit to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Quebec's second largest pension fund, in exchange for a $1.5 billion investment.  The cash influx was hailed by CEO Alain Bellemare as providing Bombardier the "safety net" needed to completed development and service introduction of the C-Series.

Bombardier has announced that it has completed certification flight tests for the CS100 C-Series aircraft, and is awaiting final review by Transport Canada.

Bombardier is vieing to close a deal with United Airlines to supply United's next regional aircraft.  United is evaluating both the C-Series and Embraer's E198-E2 for the role.  Both aircraft are powered by Pratt & Whitney's Geared Turbofan (TM) engines.

CFM International has gained dual FAA and EASA (European) certification for its LEAP-1A engine, which is one of two engines offered for the Airbus A320 NEO aircraft.  The other engine option for the NEO, Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G Geared Turbofan (TM) engine was certified last year.  CFM International is a partnership between GE Aircraft Engines and Snecma of France.

An Airbus A320 NEO flight test airplane was tracked performing loops over Ireland, in what described as the pilots "having fun."  No confirmation was provided by Airbus as to whether the loops were part of the planned flight test.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: Chinese Military Modernization

Anthony H. Cordesman and Martin Kleiber
Chinese Military Modernization: Force Development and Strategic Capabilities
Washington, DC: CSIS Press, 2007
Category: People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)

Rating: 4-Stars

This book is in many respects the natural extension of earlier works, such as the Rand Corporation's study, China's Air Force Enters the 21st Century - featuring a wide selection of tables and charts illustrating the pace of China's military modernization over the past two decades.

Published by the CSIS Press (Center for Strategic and International Studies), and authored in part by Anthony Cordesman - who has written widely on military modernization and strategic studies issues focused on the Middle East and elsewhere - Chinese Military Modernization provides the larger picture to China's military recapitalization in the early 21st century.

At the time that this volume was published, the pace and focus of China's military modernization had become unmistakable.  China's military has been transformed from a force structure based purely around quantity, to one that has embraced modern technology and force multipliers.  These trends are clearly documented in this text.

What is lacking from this summary, of course, are the details behind individual weapons programs, training programs, and the capabilities that these translate into.  Cordesman's study was not intended to provide that level of granularity.  What it does do, however, is to provide the larger, strategic picture, documenting the rapid modernization of China's military that has alarmed many in the West and in the Far East - in some cases with due cause and in others without reference to the region's historic realities.

All told, Chinese Military Modernization provides an important reference for trends that continue to this day.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: China's Air Force Enters the 21st Century

Kenneth W. Allen, Glenn Krumel and Jonathan D. Pollack
China's Air Force Enters the 21st Century
Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 1995
Category: People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)

Rating: 3-Stars

Despite the fact that this particular Rand study has since been overtaken by events in the two decades since it was first published, it nonetheless stands out as an important document on the status and direction of the PLAAF at a crossroads in its modern development.

This particular study was published shortly after the PLAAF began the modernization push that has continued to be a feature on the global geopolitical stage even to this day.  In the mid-1990s, Western strategists were only just beginning to wake up to the implications of China's growing economic muscle - and its political and military ramifications.  China was, at the time, still widely derided by many as a backward, third world economy in the same vein as North Korea or other failed dictatorships.

To understand the importance of this transformation, it is essential, however, to understand the historic context of these events.  China was never, as some have attempted to portray it, a lesser clone of the Soviet Union.  Communist China did not have the same visions of world empire and domination that had led to decades of global Cold War between the Soviets and the West.  Historically speaking, China's focus has been most often internal - maintaining order across a vast territory with different regional and cultural challenges - or from time-to-time regional - as during China's border war with Vietnam in 1979.

Communist China's potential had long been hamstrung by a combination of bureaucratic ineptitude, combined with a fundamental lack of understanding for how modern technology - and air power in particular - had changed the face of war.  These two, historical limitations, however, came unhinged in the early 1990s.  Part of the story surrounded a series of economic reforms, which encouraged foreign investment and free enterprise as a means to jump-start the Chinese economy while retaining central control over select industries.  This economic boom was what provided the fuel for China's defense modernization at the turn of the century.  The other key component was the startling wake-up call that was provided by the swift U.S. and allied victory of the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait.  Up until this time, the Chinese military leadership had been confident that the U.S. and its allies would become bogged down in a prolonged engagement with Iraq: a war of attrition similar to the Iran-Iraq war of the preceding decade, and for which the U.S. was expected to have no stomach.  The decisive manner in which the U.S. defeated the Iraqi military, and the role that air power played in that victory, came as a startling wake-up call to the Chinese leadership.

By the mid-1990s when this particular book was published, therefore, the Chinese military had already begun to phase out its older aircraft types in favor of more modern jet fighters purchased from post-Cold War Russia.  The parallel efforts to develop indigenous Chinese warplanes and missiles, such as the J-10 fighter and PL-8 and PL-10 air-to-air missiles, were still only rumors, however, at the time that this particular Rand study was completed.

What this particular book does do, is to document in meticulous detail trends in Chinese air force procurement and deployment, providing an essential piece of the historical record that later writers could draw upon as China's modernization efforts gradually came into the public view.  The graphs and tables of Chinese aircraft production, and the descriptions of the sometimes painful evolution of Chinese industry and know-how, mark this book as an exceptional document for its time.  This book therefore stands as an important resource for later researchers and writers to draw on, when attempting to place events in the early 21st century into a larger historic context - which again is why I have chosen to review this book here, rather than ignoring it entirely as so many of its contemporaries on this subject deserve to be.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Review: Fighter Performance in Practice: Phantom versus MiG-21

Predrag Pavlovic and Nenad Pavlovic
Fighter Performance in Practice: Phantom versus MiG-21
Belgrade, Serbia: Naucna KMD, 2009
Category: Aerospace Engineering

Rating: 4-Stars

The Pavlovic brothers have assembled a comprehensive, back-to-back comparison of the performance of the F-4 Phantom and MiG-21 - two of the most important Cold War fighters throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  Consisting primarily of tables and graphs, the book takes a minimalist approach to text and supporting equations.

This is the kind of engineering-derived assessment that is only rarely found in open publication - both due to the sensitivity of the data at the time that it was originally collected (back in the 1960s), and due to the lack of appreciation on the part of many readers for the implications behind the diagrams reviewed.  Take-off performance, time-to-altitude, acceleration and turn rate are all assessed under this small, paperback volume.

The few weaknesses in the book revolve around the lack of supporting description and text - which may be an obstacle to many readers not already familiar with the topic and the format in which the graphs are displayed - as well as the lack of a bibliography with complete citations.  Although the authors avow that "all data used are official and already available to public," they fail to cite the official publications (both Eastern and Western) from which the graphs are derived.  Despite these shortcomings, however, for someone with even a limited aeronautical background, this book becomes a treasure trove for invaluable insight.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fighter Jet Times - November 19, 2015

November 19, 2015

Cracks have been discovered in a wing spar of a heavily tested F-35C, requiring a design change and a retrofit package for the existing fleet.  The wing of the carrier-variant F-35C-model is distinctly different from the A and B-models of the aircraft, with a larger wing area and a folding wing.

Northrop Grumman has delivered the center fuselage section for the first F-35 airframe intended for delivery to Israel.

India's Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar reports that India is in the final stages of negotiations for the delivery of 36 Rafale fighters.

Russia has been developing plans for joint military operations in Syria in coordination with France.  Following an ISIS terrorist attack in Paris that left 129 dead, France has carried out dozens of raids on the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, flying Mirage 2000 fighters out of air bases in Jordan and Rafale fighter-bombers out of air bases in the United Arab Emirates.

France is deploying its aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle to the Eastern Mediterranean to reinforce their air power in operations against ISIS.  The Charles de Gaulle carries up to 40 aircraft and helicopters.

China has signed a contract for the deliver of 24 Su-35 fighters from Russia.  The Su-35 is the newest version of the Su-27 Flanker family of aircraft.

Argentina's military has suspended an agreement for the purchase 14 Israeli-built Kfir fighters, to allow the next national government to weigh-in on the decision.  Argentina is in the middle of national elections.  The 14 Block 60 Kfir fighters are refurbished examples that were originally operated by the Israeli air force.

South Korea is in the final stages of negotiations with Indonesia over a deal for joint development of Korea's next-generation KF-X fighter.  Under the proposed development program, Indonesia would contribute 20-percent of the development cost and would place an order for 50 aircraft, due to be available beginning in 2025.  Analysts, however, have questioned Korea's ability fo finance such an ambitious development effort, particularly after the U.S. denied the transfer of key radar technology from the F-35.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Space Highlights - November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015

SpaceX has won its first military contract for the launch of GPS satellites on behalf of the U.S. Air Force, after the only other competitor bowed out of the competition, citing a U.S. ban on business with Russia.  United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, had to withdraw from bidding due to the Russian rocket engines that have been used since the 1990s to propel its Atlas booster.

Russia launched an early warning satellite this past week from its Plesetsk spaceport.  Labeled Kosmos 2510, the spacecraft is intended to be the first of 10 new early warning satellites for detecting rocket launches.

NASA has released a stunning image of Saturn's moons Dione and Enceladus captured by the Cassini space probe as it winds down its mission to Saturn.

The Cassini space probe has detected a giant ice clous in Titan's lower stratosphere, hovering over the moon's south pole.  This is the first time that scientists have been able to observe the onset of winter weather on Titan's southern hemisphere.

The ESA's Rosetta mission recently celebrated its one-year anniversary of the landing of its Philae probe on Comet 67P.

Within a few days, NASA's Curiosity rover will become the first rover on Mars to visit a field of active sand dunes.  The rover is expected to visit the edge of the dunes on its way to higher elevations on Mount Sharp.

NASA has released a false color image of Pluto, used to highlight the different terrains on the dwarf planet.  The surprising variety of surface features underscores that Pluto has been geologically active to a degree that had not been imagined prior to the fly-by of the New Horizons spacecraft.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wide Body Report - November 17, 2015

November 17, 2015

KLM has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787.  The airline has a total of 20 on order.

El Al has selected the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 to power its recently ordered 787 Dreaminers.  The 787 comes with an option for either the Trent 1000 or GE's GEnx-1B.

EVA Air has added its 22nd 777-300ER to its fleet.

Etihad has signed a maintenance agreement with GE to service the GE90 engines which power its 777 fleet.

Ethiopian Airlines has announced that it will order at least 10 more Airbus A350-900s over the next two years.  The airline already has 14 aircraft on order.

Emirates, the largest operator of the A380 super-jumbo airline, is awaiting Airbus' decision on whether to launch a re-engined A380 NEO.  Airbus continues to hint that an A380 NEO is being seriously contemplated, as sales for the A380 slowly dry up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Single Aisle News - November 16, 2015

November 16, 2015

The first prototype Mitsubishi Regional Jet made its first flight this past week.  The MRJ is the first attempt to produce a Japanese-built commercial airline.  It is powered by the PW1200G Geared Turbofan (TM) engine, a version of which also powers the Bombardier C-Series and the Embraer E-Jet E2 family of aircraft.

Bombardier has likely lost its sole Canadian order for the C-Series, following the decision by the new national government in Ottawa not to reopen an agreement with the City of Toronto that would need to be renegotiated if they wanted to allow jet aircraft to fly out of Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport.  The provisional sale of a dozen C-Series aircraft to Canada's Porter Airlines had been made contingent on the ability to fly the ultra-quiet jet out of the downtwon Toronto airport.

Speaking at this week's Dubai Air Show, Airbus officials remain confident that they will be delivering the first A320 NEO aircraft on-schedule by the end of 2015.

TAP Portugal has signed a firm order for 14 A330-900 NEO wide-body aircraft, and 39 A320 NEO family aircraft - including 15 A320 NEOs and 24 A321 NEOs.  The A330 NEO order is being made to replace of a previous order for 12 A350-900s.  No engine selection has been announced for the A320 NEO aircraft - which has two available engines: the CFM International LEAP-1A and the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G Geared Turbofan (TM).  The A330 NEO is powered exclusively by Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

International Airlines Group (IAG) has firmed up a previous order for 15 Airbus A320 NEO aircraft.

Boeing has dropped GKN as the supplier for the inner wall of the thrust reverser for the 737 MAX, over concerns surrounding the ability of the GKN design to ramp up to production quantities.  Intitial aircraft will likely still feature the GKN thrust reverser, before production is shifted to another supplier.

India's second-largest airline, Jet Airways has announced that it has struck a deal for the delivery of 75 Boeing 737 MAX-8 airplanes.

Embraer has released new details surrounding its planned flight test program for the re-engined, E2 version of its E-Jet.  Current plans call for four E190-E2 and two E195-E2 aircraft to be built, to certify the larger members of the E2 family.  The first prototype is expected to enter flight test in the second half of 2016, with the first prototype airframe nearing completion, and engine delivery due this week.  Details surrounding the smaller E175-E2 flight test program are still being worked out.

China rolled out their first C919 single-aisle airline prototype this past week.  The new airplane, powered by the same CFM International LEAP engines that are an option under the Airbus A320 NEO, is expected to fly in early 2016.

Russian aircraft developer Irkut announced at this week's Dubai Air Show that they had closed on a deal with Egypt's Cairo Aviation for the delivery of six MC-21 aircraft, with options for another four.  The MC-21 is intended to compete with the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 NEO, and features the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G Geared Turbofan (TM) engine, similar to the version offered on the Airbus A320 NEO.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1948 War

Shlomo Aloni
Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1948 War
West Midlands, UK: Helion & Company Limited, 2015
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 5-Stars

Working from the official Israeli archives, Shlomo Aloni has brought the same level of rigor and detailed documentation to Israel's 1948 War of Independence that he has already brought to Operation Focus and the Six Day War.

This particular book is centered around the period from December 22, 1948 to January 7, 1949 - Operation Horev, the "Winter Offensive" wherein Israel pushed back the Egyptian armies from her borders and secured the Negev.  In contrast to the earliest phases of Israel's War of Independence, when Israel's armed forces were attempting to do little more than stem the invading Arab armies on all three fronts (four fronts if you count Lebanon and Syria separately), by December of 1948 the Israeli armed forces had absorbed sufficient weapons and resources to attempt a coordinated counter-attack.

By December of 1949 the Czech-built S199s that had been Israel's earliest fighter aircraft had been complimented by a fleet of four Spitfires and two P-51 Mustangs. Although half a dozen S199s continued to fly, the Spitfires and Mustangs providing the young Israeli Air Force with a far more reliable fighter fleet.  Added to this was a collection of three B-17 bombers, which together with three C-47 and two C-46 transports provided the air power necessary to support the ground offensive which eventually drove the Egyptian army back into the Sinai.

Aloni has collected details on every mission that took place as part of this offensive, including targets attacked, diagrams for Egyptian air bases that were bombed, the aircraft and pilots involved, photographs from the period, and first-hand pilot accounts wherever available.  Many of the bombing target sketches were actually drawn from the official debriefing records recorded by the pilots that conducted each mission.

Once again, Aloni has prepared the definitive account for this chapter in Israel's Air Force history, preserving this chapter of Israel's national heritage for future generations, and for English language audiences.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: Ed Heinemann - Combat Aircraft Designer

Edward H. Heinemann and Rosario Rausa
Ed Heinemann: Combat Aircraft Designer
Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980
Category: Aerospace Engineering - Biography

Rating: 4-Stars

Ed Heinemann was the chief designer at Douglas Aircraft's El Segundo division from 1936 to 1960, responsible for leading the design of every Douglas attack aircraft from the SBD Dauntless dive bomber - which played a decisive role in the Battle of Midway - to the A-4 Skyhawk, as well as such experimental aircraft as the D-558-2 Skyrocket - the first airplane to exceed Mach 2.  Decades later famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan, known for the design of Voyager - the first airplane to travel non-stop, unrefueled around the world - and SpaceShipOne, would describe Ed Heinemann as one of a handful of engineers who were “the pioneers who provided my inspiration.”

Ed Heinemann's autobiography provides unique insight into the life of a leading engineer during these pivotal years for aircraft development, as well as lending his voice of experience and wisdom to future generations.  In my own experience as an engineer and manager, I have often reflected back on some of his words of wisdom:

  • Tell people what is expected of them.
  • Tell them in advance about changes that will affect them.
  • Let those working for you know how they are getting along.
  • Give credit where credit is due, especially for extra effort or performance. Do it while it's hot. Don't wait.
  • Make the best of each person's ability.
  • Beware of office politicians.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Do what is right rather than who is right.
  • A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices. Beware of these.
  • Respect the specialists - those who are masters of a particular phase of the operation. But be wary of allowing them to make big decisions.
  • Avoid lengthy committee meetings.

Ed Heinemann was a legend of the early era of aircraft, the lessons of which are still equally alive and relevant today.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lavi Book Trailer

Just posted my first trailer for the book release.  Looking forward to seeing it in print.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fighter Jet Times - November 12, 2015

November 12, 2015

Budget analysts have acknowledged that the cost of developing and procuring the newly awarded LRS-B bomber contract will likely challenge the ability of the US Air Force to procure the F-35 in the numbers proposed.

The USAF recently completed a successful AMT (accelerated mission test) of the F135 engine, accumulating 5210 cycles - the equivalent of seven years of operation.  The F135 engine powers the F-35 fighter.

The U.S. Air Force is proceeding with an upgrade program to bring its F-15C air superiority fighters into the 21st century, including a new electronically-scanned array radar, and a new electronic warfare system, as well as a communications pod that would allow the F-15C to directly exchange target data with the F-22.  The F-15Cs were originally intended to be phased out when the F-22 entered service, but too few F-22s were procured, and the Air Force is expected to be flying at least some of its F-15Cs for another twenty years.

The U.S. has deployed F-15C fighters to Turkey, to provide air cover in the event that U.S. strike aircraft operating in Syria encounter Russian fighters.

China and Pakistan have reportedly found their first export customer for the JF-17 fighter - an aircraft developed in China and largely produced in Pakistan for service in the Pakistani air force.  The deal was announced at this year's Dubai Air Show, although the customer's identity has not been revealed.

Also at this year's Dubai Air Show, China showcased its new J-31 stealth fighter, and touted it as being available for export - although unit costs and delivery dates were not disclosed.  The J-31 is the smaller of two Chinese developed stealth fighters now in flight test.

The Philippine Air Force is expected to receive its first two, out of twelve FA-50 fighter jets on order.  The FA-50 is produced in South Korea, and features a U.S.-supplied General Electric F404 engine.  It was developed with assistance from Lockheed Martin as a smaller, shorter-range alternative to Lockheed's F-16 fighter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Space Highlights - November 11, 2015

November 11, 2015

The European Space Agency is preparing for the launch of two communications satellites on its next Ariane 5 rocket on Wednesday: India's GSAT-15 and Saudi Arabia's Arabsat-6B.

China launched the Yaogan 28 surveillance satellite aboard a Long March 4B booster this past Sunday.  The Yaogan satellites carry a high resolution optical payload.

The European Space Agency is preparing its Sentinel 3A satellite for launch in December, the seventh member of the ESA's earth observation satellite network.

Data from NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe has confirmed speculation over the effect of solar wind on the Martian atmosphere.  The rates of observed erosion of the Martian atmosphere confirm previous speculation that much of the early Martian atmosphere was likely stripped away due to the effects of solar wind (a stream of charged particles emanating from the sun).  Billions of years ago, it is known that the Martian atmosphere was thick enough to permit rivers, lakes and oceans of water on the Martian surface.  However, without the protection of a strong magnetic field, such as the Earth enjoys, much of the Martian atmosphere was gradually lost.

Researchers reviewing images from the New Horizons space probe have identified features on Pluto that appear to be cryo-volcanoes in Pluto's southern hemisphere.  The geometry of the observed features strongly resembles large "shield volcanoes", such as those observed on Mars - except that on Pluto, the volcanoes would likely have spewed a slushy water-ammonia mix rather than molten rock.  At least two such volcanoes have been identified, although it remains unclear as to how recently they were active.

NASA has announced that data from the recent flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft indicates that unlike virtually all other moons in the solar system, four of Pluto's largest moons do not rotate in sync with the dwarf planet.  Earth's moon, for example, rotates synchronously with the Earth - with one face always pointed towards the Earth's surface and the other face pointed away.  This is also true for Pluto's largest moon Charon, but not for Pluto's other moons.  Scientists speculate that Pluto's smaller moons may have been produced by a series of collisions - making them relatively young additions to Pluto's collection.

The New Horizons spacecraft has completed the last of four course corrections, realigning its trajectory for its next Kuiper Belt fly-by target: an object labeled 2014 MU69.  The space probe is expected to fly by the object, 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond the orbit of Pluto, in 2019.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wide Body Report - November 10, 2015

November 10, 2015

Etihad Airways has announced that it will take delivery of two additional Boeing 777 freighter aircraft, exercising options under its 2013 deal that included 199 aircraft on firm order.

Airbus is expected to decide soon whether to build an even larger version of its A350-1000 transport.  The largest version of the A350-1000 seats up to 369 passengers, placing it in a class similar to the Boeing 777-300ER.  However, the new Boeing 777X is expected to seat up to 406 passengers.  Airbus has not yet decided whether the market would support another aircraft in this seating class.

Boeing has announced at this year's Dubai Air Show that it will be dropping the "X" from individual models of its new stretched 777 family now under development, although the "X" designation would still be retained for the overall family of aircraft.

Qatar Airways has taken delivery of their 24th and 25th Boeing 787 aircraft, in advance of this week's Dubai Air Show.

Emirates has announced that it will delay any new A350 order until Airbus has sufficient aircraft in service, and can demonstrate its claimed advantage over the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Emirates cancelled a previous order for 70 A350 aircraft in 2014 after concluding that they wouldn't meet the proposed performance requirements.

Airbus reports that it is in negotiation for up to 32 additional A380 orders with two airlines, but is unlikely to close on the deals in time for this week's air show in Dubai.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Single Aisle News - November 9, 2015

November 9, 2015

Officials at Bombardier have confirmed that the C-Series flight test program is "nearly 100 percent done" and on-track for certification by the end of 2015.  Bombardier's FTK-5 prototype is currently attending the Dubai Air Show.

Pressure is mounting for Canada's national government to match the $1 billion cash infusion supplied by the government of Quebec to help rebalance Bombardier's struggling finances.  Bombardier is currently attempting to complete C-Series certification and transition into production.

Bombardier is attempting to close on final terms for a deal to sell up to four C-Series aircraft to Petra Airlines, which is now part of Air Arabia Group.  Petra had signed a letter of intent for the four aircraft in 2014, before Air Arabia purchased a 49-percent stake in the airline.

India's Jet Airways has confirmed an order for 75 Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft at this year's Dubai Air Show.  The order had been previously reported under Boeing's backlog as being made to an undisclosed customer.  Jet Airways has options and purchase rights for an additional 50 aircraft.

After a record-breaking series of orders at the last Dubai Air Show in 2013, this year's air show is expected to see no new orders announced, as the airline industry slows its pace of growth following several years of ground breaking orders.

Embraer has forecast a market for 220 additional regional jet aircraft in the 70 to 130 seat class in the Middle East over the next 20 years.  This compares to a projected global market for 6,350 regional jets worldwide.

Pratt & Whitney has begun flight testing for its PW1900G Geared Turbofan (TM) engine, which is expected to power Embraer's E190-E2 and E195-E2 aircraft.  The test engine was flown aboard the manufacturer's 747SP flying test bed at the company's Mirabel Flight Test Center in Quebec, Canada.  The PW1900G is a derivative of the manufacturer's PW1500G engine which powers Bombardier's C-Series.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review: Israeli Fighter Aces

Peter Mersky
Israeli Fighter Aces
North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, 1997
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 4-Stars

Peter Mersky's book traces the history of the Israeli Air Force from the latter 1940s through the early 1980s, utilizing a combination of archival resources and first-hand interviews.  Where Mersky's book truly stands out, however, is in its vivid, first-hand accounts from Israeli fighter pilots.  There is nothing that can compare to this kind of from-the-cockpit perspective.  Mersky's accounts from such pilots as Rudy Augarten, Aharon Yoeli, Yiftach Spector, and Giora Rom are what make this collection such an exceptional treat.

There have of course, been a variety of first-hand accounts published from Israeli pilots over the years, including individual biographies, as well as the many interviews collected by Shlomo Aloni.  The vast majority of these accounts focus on the 1967 Six Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War, with occassional accounts from the 1948 War of Independence and 1956 Sinai Campaign.  One of the elements that makes Mersky's collection stand out, therefore, is his inclusion of accounts from the 1982 Lebanon War, to help round out the volume.

Added to this is a collection of photographs, most of them in black-and-white, that add to the historical picture.  Taken together, a slim, but well rounded account from the front lines of the Israeli Air Force.  Well worth adding to any Israel Air Force collection.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Review: Jane's Aero-Engines

Bill Gunston, Editor
Jane's Aero-Engines, Issue 11
Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2001
Category: Aerospace Engineering

Rating: 5-Stars

Everyone who follows aviation should, of course, be familiar with Jane's All the World's Aircraft, the most complete and authoritative single-source for information on all aircraft in production today.  What many may not be aware of is that Jane's also publishes a series of annual reference books on a variety of other topics, including one devoted to aircraft engines.

I'll use my own copy of the 2001 edition of Jane's Aero-Engines as an example.  Including the appendices it spans 637 pages in length.  Organized by nation of origin, and manufacturer, it spans every aircraft engine produced from Belgium's TechAerospace (which has license-produced a variety of jet engines over the decades) to the United States' Wright Aeronautical and its J65 (still flying!).  For the major aircraft engines in production today, Jane's Aero-Engines will provide a long list of the known statistics, as well as a brief history of the engine type, variants produced, and a description of key technologies.  Everything from the number of fan and compressor stages, overall pressure ratios, number of turbine stages, operating temperatures if available, all of that under one set of covers.  At the beginning of the volume, Jane's Aero-Engines also includes an overview of the jet engine industry, including a historical depiction of trends and technologies.

There really is no other resource comparable to Jane's Aero-Engines.  It's one of the first places that any engineer will turn to when evaluating a competitor engine, or when referencing the prior state-of-the-art in jet engines.  An incomparable resource.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fighter Jet Times - November 6, 2015

November 6, 2015

The F-35A has undergone its first in-flight live-fire exercise for its 25-mm cannon, during flight test over Edwards Air Force Base in California.

A former Connecticut resident accused of attempting to smuggle blueprints and technical data connected with the F135 jet engine to Iran has been sentenced to 97 months in jail.  The F135 is the engine that powers the F-35 fighter.

Reports continue to circulate suggesting that Russia is having difficulty funding the many weapons programs now in production or development, including a variety of upgraded Su-27 models (Su-30M2, Su-30SM, Su-35S and Su-34), models of the MiG-29 (Mig-29SMT, MiG-29K and MiG-35), as well as the T-50 stealth fighter.  Most recently, Russia cut its planned initial order for the T-50 from 50 to just 12 jet fighters.

Despite claims in the Russian press, expressing confidence that India would indeed purchase the full batch of 154 T-50 stealth fighters outlined in an agreement reached this past July, analysts continue to question whether India will be willing and able to purchase this many copies of the expensive warplane.  The T-50 has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, making the final production cost for the program unclear.

As part of the compensation package being negotiated with Israel, in return for Washington's recent agreement lifting sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, the Israeli government is reportedly requesting the supply of additional F-15 fighters.  Israel is already expected to be among the first customers for the new F-35 stealth fighter, making the new-build F-15 order somewhat of a surprise.  The Israelis are reportedly interested in a version of the F-15 featuring some or all of the elements of the proposed "Silent Eagle", which was intended to reduce the massive radar signature of the legacy F-15.

Lockheed Martin recently completed over 27,700 equivalent flight hours of testing on a Block 50 F-16 airframe, as part of a life-extension plan to prolong the useful life for late-model F-16s from 8,000 to 12,000 flight hours.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Space Highlights - November 5, 2015

November 5, 2015

The first attempted satellite launch from Hawaii failed this past week, after the first Super Strypi rocket broke apart soon after launch.  The launch, funded by the U.S. Air Force, was aimed at developing a lower cost approach for sending small satellites into orbit.

China successfully launched a new Chinasat-2C communications satellite this past week, aboard a Long March 3B booster.  The launch was the second for a new generation in Chinese military communications satellites.

Satellite images of ancient mounds scattered across the remote steppes of Kazakhstan have revealed a pattern of ancient man-made structures which are barely visible when viewed from the ground.  Archaeological expeditions are being planned to understand when the buried structures were originally built and what their purpose might have been.

NASA has released the first images from the recent flyby of the Cassini space probe across the icy surface of Saturn's moon, Enceladus.  The images depict the moon's grooved surface, as well as the bright streaks of ice plumes from geysers at the moon's southern pole.  Scientists hope that the space probe's sensors might have detected any complex organic molecules thrown into space by the eruptions.  The probe came within 30 miles (50 km) of the moon's surface.

NASA also released new radar images captured by Cassini depicting the dunes of Saturn's giant moon, Titan.  Titan's dunes are composed of hydrocarbon sands, which are normally hidden from view by Titan's dense atmosphere and clouds.

As the Rosetta comet mission winds down, the European Space Agency is planning to have the probe crash into comet 67P before the solar powered spacecraft runs out of power.  The crash-impact is expected to occur in September 2016, providing a final opportunity to capture up-close data.

China has announced plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020.  A model of the rover was revealed at the recent China International Industry Fair.

National Geographic Channel is expected to premier a documentary on India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on November 5th.  The announcement follows the release of photographs collected by the MOM spacecraft, including the first Hindi atlas of Mars.