Author Archives: havepenwillingtotravel

Dubai Airshow 2017: Space race heats up

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As temperatures in the Middle East soar, the UAE and Boeing have further turned up the heat this week at the Dubai Airshow, courtesy of their mission to mars programmes.

Both projects were displayed at the DWC and have captured the imagination of attendees.

The UAE’s (Emirates) strategy to conquer Mars is something of a high-wire act which – according to the company’s website – will depend on precision and the ability of its aptly named Hope aircraft to be ready for launch when the alignment of the Earth and Mars’ respective orbits are closest together.

Such an occurrence happens once every two years, meaning that Hope has a particularly small launch window from which to make its maiden voyage in July 2020.

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The expectation thereafter is that Hope will arrive on Mars in 2021. Four years of scientific observation are provisionally planned after arrival.

Before then the aircraft is expected to spend approximately 200 days on its journey from Earth to Mars – reaching a cruising speed of 126,000Km/h.

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Not to be outdone, Boeing is supporting NASA to ready itself for a similar expedition, with the collaborative project being marketed with echoes of Neil Armstrong’s ‘one giant leap for mankind’ moon landing speech.

‘Today’s children will be the first explorers of our neighboring planet with help from Boeing technology to discover ground humans have yet to see.’

Boeing is a key collaborator on NASA’s Space Launch System – a project that seeks to create ‘robust human space exploration from the Moon to Mars.’ Essential to the project is their Deep Space Gateway, a habitable structure near the moon.

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In April this year, Pete McGrath, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing’s space exploration division, outlined that the Deep Space Gateway was in its infancy. ‘The ability to simultaneously launch humans and cargo on SLS would allow us to assemble the gateway in four launches in the early 2020s.’

Boeing envision the Gateway as the core base from which missions to Mars can be launched and similar in style to the docking system successfully used by NASA’s International Space Station for its commercial operations.

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‘The transport vehicle would be equipped with a habitat specifically designed to protect passengers from deep space’s harsh environment…’ Boeing said in a company statement.

Other than an estimate of completion of the Deep Space Gateway itself, no firm timeframe has been publicised by Boeing or NASA in relation to when a voyage to Mars can be expected.

For more stories from the Dubai Airshow this week please see our free news website with videos too.

The World According to Shephard: Week 45

This week the Shephard team were on the scene in Bangkok, reporting from Defence & Security 2017. Full coverage of the stories that made the headlines can be found here.

Thailand trucking along nicely

Among the highlights of D&S 2017 was the Thai Ministry of Defence (MoD) exhibiting its latest artillery project in the form of a 120mm truck-mounted mortar.  The model is the work of a joint collaboration between the MoD’s production centre and Elbit Systems of Israel.

Capabilities include a listed elevation range of 800-1,511 mils with a traverse of 800 mils in either direction. The mortar itself has a 6.5km range and ten rounds-per-minute rate of fire.

Thai artillery

Dubai for now 

As the curtain on D&S closes, the Dubai Air Show 2017 takes centre stage this week with Shephard again in attendance to provide on-the-ground reports. For breaking news, video content and regular updates take a look here.

Talk of BMD capabilities hard to miss

Beginning with the supposed missile attack on the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Richard Thomas sheds light on the growing need for countries across the Middle East to address the development of viable ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities. 

Further detailing recent land warfare contractual arrangements in the region, his report also references the US approved $15 billion potential sale of THAAD BMD systems.

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TAI attack the day

On the defence front, one highly anticipated presentation due to take place in Dubai will be Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) showcasing their T129 Atak helicopter. Live demonstrations of the type will be available as well as the company’s Anka-S UAV, Hürkuş turboprop and T625 helicopter being displayed.

TAI have cemented their influence domestically, most notably with 24 of 59 T129s  delivered to Turkish Land Forces Aviation Command, completing over 11,000 flight hours to boot.

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Connected helicopter cyber threats in focus

Casting a critical eye over cyber threats posed to connected helicopters, Gerrard Cowan hears from the experts as they outline how their ingenuity is winning the battle against hackers.

With examples such as Lockheed Martin’s ‘Cyber Inside’ initiative and Bell’s robust five step strategy, it’s clear OEMs are alert to the hacking issue and are prioritising preventive measures to safeguard their fleet – regardless of type.

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BHA chair sets sights on European defence axis

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Picking over the bones of the UK government’s recent bickering with Boeing, Sir Chris Coville, chair of the British Helicopter Association, makes one thing very clear: the issuing of threats to potentially end helicopter defence contracts are not in the least credible.

He’s unmoved and less than convinced the episode will have any lasting impact on current business arrangements between the two parties.

‘I think you should only issue a threat if you’re prepared to carry it out and in this case, neither side can honestly say they’re prepared to cut business ties with the other,’ he said.

To recap, relations between the opposing sides began to sour following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier.

That decision, as Shephard reported, centered on Bombardier’s 2016 deal with Delta Air Lines, as Boeing’s complaint alleged such a deal was improper and made possible by virtue of Canadian government subsidies.

Since the original ruling, the UK government has criticised Boeing for its role in the affair, holding the company accountable for instigating proceedings in order to push construction costs of C-series aircraft to $61 million per aircraft, a figure three times higher than Delta received them for.

Adding to the UK government’s opposition is the fact that 1,000 jobs at Bombardier’s Belfast base would be jeopardised in the event that the tariff was imposed long-term.

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Only last year the UK completed a $2.9 billion deal for the manufacturer to deliver 50 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to bolster UK defence capabilities.

Beyond the ramifications of any future problems between Boeing and the UK government, however, Coville is insistent that the more immediate concern for the BHA is overcoming a distinct lack of research and development domestically.

‘We must sustain a design and development capability of combat aircraft,’ he explains.

‘One of the problems we are currently having after following the [Lockheed Martin] F-35B route is that although we are going to build 15% of the global requirement, we are doing it the same way French and Japanese cars are made in the UK. In other words, the parts arrive and we put them together.’

He sees an inherent problem to working this way – falling victim to market forces.

The assembly of parts can be carried out anywhere and once another plant lowers its prices, there’s very little to stop contractors moving their business to a new base.

‘Think of it like building cars in Detroit. Once it becomes too expensive to do so you move production to Mexico City,’ Coville says.

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‘When that becomes too expensive you move again to Caracas and gradually – as happened in Detroit – you’re eventually at the bottom of the pile and out of business.’

The logic seems watertight. Leave yourself without the capacity to design products independently and sooner rather than later, you’ll be left treading water.

It’s for this reason as well as developing sustainable revenue streams that he wants to establish a meaningful dialogue with France and Germany, who he sees as the leaders in European attack aircraft platforms.

Even within the context of Brexit – the UK’s pending withdrawal from the EU – he envisions a venture where the UK can ally with France and Germany to create a collaboration of mutual benefit.

‘I don’t see why a working partnership couldn’t be successful post-Brexit. Mainly because we have gone down the F-35 route, the French have turned to Germany and together they will probably be developing some kind of first-class platform in the future,’ he explains.

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‘I see no reason why the UK shouldn’t be part of that. The ability to make things with partners is essential – ideally with European partners – otherwise, you are overwhelmed by the United States and making sure those capabilities have an attraction to the export market.’

Cynics will assume such an approach to be a precocious one – as political and economic links between the UK and the rest of Europe remain frosty at best – but the astute judgment of the BHA in determining that conventional and current strategies are not always having desired outcomes, clearly shows they are attempting to reshape the defence helicopter agenda through creativity and guile.