Transport Aircraft Morphing
Sikorsky CH-53 being unloaded from a Boeing C-5 in Djibouti
The planning switch from a short central European war to protracted out-ofarea operations has raised logistic needs. Aside from requiring increased range, the aircraft to be purchased from now on will have to accommodate larger and heavier ground vehicles.
Roy Braybrook, inputs from Eric H. Biass
uropean armed forces will participate (whether under Nato, United Nations or European Union auspices) not only in peace-enforcing/keeping actions, but also in disaster-relief operations. Together with others, they represent a substantial potential market for both long-range and intra-theatre transport aircraft. Disregarding their cost, military transport aircraft are extremely efficient at moving dense loads such as armoured fighting vehicles, but generally cannot exploit their maximum payload when deploying troops, light ground vehicles and helicopters. The Boeing C-17, with a payload capacity of 77.3 tonnes (for a 2.25G load factor) can accommodate three Alvis Warriors (each 24 tonnes fully loaded), but only 154 troops or 13 Land Rover Defenders (1.8 tonnes each). It can take only a single Boeing CH-47 Chinook (twelve tonnes empty), or three of the same company’s AH-64 Apaches (5.4 tonnes each). Helicopters are a special problem; in that having been deployed they need to
be returned home relatively frequently for maintenance and repair. The unsuitability of conventional airlifters for transporting low-density cargo is encouraging studies of alternative concepts with a large payload volume and a higher speed than traditional surface transport. Under the Walrus programme Darpa funded studies of faster airship derivatives, combining buoyancy with aerodynamic lift, but this concept appears to enjoy little support.
been a batch of over 200 vehicles, which left Charleston aboard the 62,000-tonne USNS Pilalaau in December 2007. The US Transportation Command now plans to send 60% of Mraps to southwest Asia by sea and the remainder by air. Sealift is expected to boom with the development of fast logistic ships.The US Navy’s projected Rapid Strategic Lift Ship (RSLS) is intended to carry all the aircraft for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade: 20 Sikorsky CH-53s, 18 Bell AH1Zs, nine Bell UH-1Ys and ten Sikorsky
Where applicable, sealift is far less expensive than airlift. Flying an Mrap (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected) vehicle from the Continental US to Iraq by a Lockheed Martin C-5 or chartered Antonov An-124 costs in the region of $ 130,000, about 20% of the vehicle’s purchase price. Using a C-17, which can accommodate only three, evidently costs over twice as much. The corresponding sealift for an Mrap vehicle takes 22 to 30 days, but costs a modest $ 16,000. Until late 2007, the US Central Command relied on the C-5, C-17 and An-124 to deliver Mraps to Iraq and Afghanistan, sending around 360 per month. The largest sealift Mrap shipment to date has
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verb invented by the software community to describe the ability of ad-hoc computer programs to deform the morphology of photographed persons and faces CH-60s. Navsea studies point to a 35,600tonne vessel, combining a speed of 67 km/h and a range of 14,800 km. As discussed in Armada issue 1/2008, supercavitation offers the possibility of a major reduction in the drag of a surface vessel. Darpa’s Aircat programme employs large steps in the sides and bottom of a ship’s hull, to produce air cavities that would reduce wetted area by up to 80%. Since water is eight hundred times as dense as air (or water vapour), a major reduction in viscous drag is achievable, although coming at some penalty in pressure drag.
Most of America’s 1500-plus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (Mrap) vehicles in southwest Asia have been flown in. Here airmen of the 437th Aerial Port Sqn load Mraps into a C-17 at Charleston AFB, South Carolina. (US Air Force)
no need for an aircraft with a range anything like 20,000 km, half the world’s Equatorial perimeter. Operating from central Europe, an aircraft with a range of 10,000 km can reach anywhere in Africa, virtually all of Asia and North America and the northeastern part of South America. On the other hand, great circle routes may involve overflying countries whose governments could raise objections; hence the ability to carry a useful load over somewhat longer dogleg tracks is desirable. Assuming a 400-tonne gross weight is the maximum acceptable for this market sector means an aircraft such as a C-5B or an An-124 that can deliver a payload of more than 50 tonnes over 10,000 km. It may be noted that the US Air Force has chartered an average of 145 An-124 flights over the last six years, at $ 380,000 per mission. There is currently no move to develop a new aircraft in this class, and only limited support from the commercial freight sector for the new-build An-124-100M. Those nations that hope to acquire a strategic airlifter able to carry ‘outsized’
At the upper end of the transport aircraft range, the 380-tonne C-5 will be surpassed in size and performance by the commercial 590-tonne Airbus A380800F. Although not designed to use badly-surfaced, short military airfields, or be unloaded without ground equipment, the A380F does illustrate the maximum likely payload-to-range performance of a legacy wing-tube-tail configuration. It will carry a 150-tonne payload over a distance of 10,400 km. The US Air Force has reportedly requested data on the A380F as a possible C-5 replacement. Some increase in lift-to-drag ratio could be achieved by using a tailless blended-wing-body design, a concept being investigated with the Boeing X-48B drone. A paper on «Future Global-Range Transport Aircraft» presented in 2003 by two German academics (Martin Hepperle and Wolfgang Heinze) indicated an increase in cruise lift-to-drag ratio from a conventional 18.5:1 to 19.7:1, in the case of a blended-wing-body aircraft designed to carry a 150-tonne payload for a range of 10,900 km.This allowed a 26.5% reduction in take-off weight from 635 to 468 tonnes. However, in the absence of a trimming tail, maximum lift coefficient was reduced from a conventional 2.53 to 0.86. Relative to a wing-tube-tail design, take-off distance was increased from 2530 to 4380 metres, and landing distance from 1900 to 2960 metres. The tailless blended-wing-body with overwing engines offers reduced radar signature and the elimination of debris ingestion in rough field operation, but its poor conventional take-off and landing airfield performance probably eliminates this concept from strategic airlift considerations.
The unsuitability of conventional airlifters for transporting low-density cargo is encouraging studies of alternative concepts with a large payload volume and a higher speed than traditional surface transport. Helicopters are a special problem, in that having been deployed they need to be returned home relatively frequently for maintenance and repair. At the upper end of the transport aircraft range, the 380-tonne C-5 will be surpassed in size and performance by the commercial 590-tonne Airbus A380-800F. Great circle routes may involve over-flying countries whose governments could raise objections; hence the ability to carry a useful load over somewhat longer dogleg tracks is desirable. The US Air Force has chartered an average of 145 An-124 flights over the last six years, at $ 380,000 per mission. Nations that hope to acquire a strategic airlifter able to carry ‘outsized’ loads should hope that the US Congress will keep the C-17 line open after 2009. In Afghanistan the An-124 can only use Kabul airport, and at the height of summer only at night. A wide-body derivative of the C-130J might further extend the Hercules family. The new Airbus A400M is a significantly larger aircraft with a gross weight of 136.5 tonnes (2.25G limit), over 70% more than the corresponding 79.38 tonnes of the C-130J-30. The AM General Humvee, which began life at 2.34 tonnes, has now spawned the armoured Humvee, which was originally expected to weigh 5.5 tonnes but actually weighs up to seven tonnes. Its replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, will be even heavier. Experience has demonstrated the need for a light transport to complement the Hercules category, hence the selection in 2007 of the 30.5-tonne Alenia C-27J Spartan as the JCA. In the context of a vtol tactical transport, the tailless blended wing design might be more acceptable, with its ability to accommodate lift-fans. This configuration might also have advantages in unconventional airdrop modes, such as the distribution of multiple packages using GPS-guided steerable parafoils. Improvements in aerodynamics, structures and powerplants will continue to provide range increases. However, unjustifiable range demands will always result in unnecessary penalties in aircraft size, flyaway price and operating cost.There is
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loads (bigger than the ‘oversized’ loads that the C-130 can accommodate) should therefore hope that the US Congress would keep the C-17 line open after 2009. Beyond that date, the only option will be the An-124, which is inferior to the C-17 in airfield performance. In Afghanistan the An-124 can only use Kabul airport, and at the height of summer only at night.
This discussion has so far concentrated on the ability to deliver heavy and outsized
This A380 fuselage section in Airbus’ assembly hall in Hamburg helps provide an idea, if possible, of the vast volumes that the F (for freighter) version of the aircraft will be able to provide. (Airbus)
the C-130J-30, which has a gross weight of 74.393 tonnes (2.50G limit) and a corresponding maximum payload of 21,687 kg. It can carry a 13,600 kg payload over a distance of 5556 km. A wide-body derivative of the C-130J might further extend the Hercules family. The C-130J has a cabin width of 3.12 metres, allowing it to accommodate Mowag Piranha-derived vehicles such as the 19-tonne General Dynamics Land Systems M1127 Stryker, and various 105 mm guns. The C-130J-30 can alternatively carry eight standard military pallets, 97 litters, 128 combat troops, or 92 paratroops. Maximum cruise speed is 657 km/hr and initial cruise altitude at maximum weight is 27,000 ft. Although said to offer roughly the same internal capacity as the C-130J, the Embraer C-390 (which still is a project at the time of writing) will provide substantial advantages in terms of costs and running costs while offering higher speeds and longer ranges. The Brazilian Govern-
loads over extreme ranges (>10,000 km), to reach most likely emergency areas without in-flight refuelling. Following the US lead, Australia, Canada and the UK have all purchased C-17s. Some 15 Nato nations, together with Finland and Sweden, aim to buy four C-17s under the Strategic Airlift Capability initiative, with the US Air Force adding a fifth aircraft to the pool from its existing inventory. At a unit price of around $ 280 million the C-17 is too expensive for most nations, but further production and a new development (such as a stol C-17B) for the US Air Force cannot be ruled out. There is substantial interest in affordable aircraft that can deliver a useful payload over a distance of 3000 nm (5556 km), which would allow elements of a European rapid reaction force to be deployed non-stop to the Arabian Gulf without in-flight refuelling. The aircraft that has traditionally set the standard in this category is the C-130 Hercules. The latest stretched version is
The potential of the tailless blended wing-body configuration is being explored with this Boeing X-48B demonstrator, powered by three 220-Newton Jetcat P200 turbojets. (Nasa-Dryden/TL)
With its ERJ-190 airliners Embraer has demonstrated that it could now play in the ’big boy’s‘ courtyard. If the Brazilian firm manages to set up a team of risk-sharing partners (something that Brazil’s recent $ 200 million commitment to the project might encourage), it might soon be able to claim a similar status on military grounds with the 19-tonne payload-capable C-390. (Embraer)
ment has recently earmarked some $ 200 million towards the development of the new aircraft, and Embraer says that serious interest has recently been voiced by potential risk-sharing partners, particularly in Europe.The manufacturer’s aim is to throw the C-390 on the market with a price tag of about $ 50 million. In order to reach such high stakes, Embraer will draw from its parts bin: wing, nacelles, empennage, flight deck and flight systems, for example, are all ERJ-190 airliner items, including the engine although slightly modified. If one considers that the ERJ170 and -190 have cost $ 750 million to develop, this provides an idea of the savings such part transfer will allow. The new Airbus A400M is a significantly larger aircraft with a gross weight of 136.5 tonnes (2.25G limit), over 70% more than the corresponding 79.38 tonnes of the C-130J-30.Taking off at this weight, the A400M will begin its cruise at
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A 19-tonne General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker is delivered for a desert exercise by a C-130J-30 (s/n 04-8152) of US Air Force Reserve Command 815th Airlift Squadron ‘Flying Jennies’. (Lockheed Martin)
a 40-ft (12.2 metre) ISO container, or the 20 ft (6.1-metre) version mounted on a truck. The cabin roof of the A400M is much higher than that of the C-130 (3.85, compared to 2.74 metres), making it easier to accommodate vehicles such as the Mrap family, which are high off the ground. For example, the 8.4-tonne BAE Systems RG31 Mrap 4 4 vehicle is 2.70 metres high. In the 8 8 armoured personnel carrier category, Italy’s 21-tonne Fiat/ Iveco Centauro 8 8 is 2.74 metres high, and Russia’s 14.55-tonne Arzamaz BTR80A is 2.95 metres high. To digress, one interesting aspect of the twin-turbofan Indo-Russian MTA (Multirole Transport Aircraft), which is seen as replacement for older 70-tonne C-130s (in addition to India’s 28.5-tonne An-32 and Russia’s 61-tonne An-12), is that it has an unusually large cabin cross-section for this class, 3.45 metres wide and 3.4 metres
The Alenia C-27J has recently enjoyed a string of marketing successes, including selection as the US Air Force/Army JCA, due to engine commonality with the C-130J and its best-of-class cabin cross-section. (Armada/EHB)
29,000 ft and around 750 km/h. It can carry its maximum payload of 37,000 kg to a distance of 3150 km, reducing to 24,328 kg to 5556 km. It can airdrop 16,000 kg as a single load, or up to 116 paratroops. The A400M can carry nine 88 108-inch (2.23 2.74-metre) pallets. With its 14 wheels and low-pressure tyres, the Airbus A400M can perform 60 missions from naturally compacted sand of CBR-6 (California Bearing Ratio 6), or five missions from loose sand of CBR-4 as figuratively suggested by the simulated photograph on our cover. The four-metre width of the A400M cabin accommodates rather more types of vehicles than the C-130, including Piranha derivatives up to 32 tonnes, without removing lateral add-on slat armour. It can also take six Land Rovers with trailers in two rows, side-by-side. The A400M can transport helicopters such as the NH90 and the Boeing CH-47 and AH-64, with the same degree of stripdown as required by the C-17. It can take
The wide speed range of the A400M facilitates its use as a tanker. The aircraft can refuel fighters at 550 km/h IAS at 25,000 ft, and helicopters at 200 km/h at 5000 ft. (Airbus Military)
high. This may suggest it is designed to accommodate the 12.9-tonne BMD-3 tracked Airborne Combat Vehicle, which is 3.13 metres wide. Based on the 55-tonne Ilyushin Il-214, the Ilyushin/Irkut/Hal MTA will carry an 18,500 kg payload for 2500 km. It will accommodate 82 troops or 74 paratroops. Maximum cruise speed will be 850 km/h. The demands of urban warfare, coupled with threats to convoys in the form of roadside bombs, mortars, RPGs and anti-tank guided missiles, is leading to weight increases in many vehicle categories. The AM General Humvee, which began life at 2.34 tonnes, has now spawned the armoured Humvee, which was originally expected to weigh 5.5 tonnes, but actually weighs up to seven tonnes. Its replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, will be even heavier.The US Army’s FCS vehicles were to have weighed less than 20 tonnes, but some are now reported as ‘over 27’ or ‘approaching 30’ tonnes.
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Lockheed Martin is to build and fly the Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) X-Plane, basically a Dornier 328J with an advanced composite mid/rear fuselage and tail. (Lockheed Martin)
The upward weight trend is further illustrated by Britain’s Fres, which is being competed by three of the latest 8 infantry vehicles. The lightest 8 appears to be the 25-tonne Nexter VBC1, which is due to enter French Army service during 2008. The VBC1 is 7.80 metres long, 2.98 metres wide and 2.25 metres high. The 28-tonne Mowag Piranha V Evolution is 7.30 metres long, 2.80 metres wide and 2.25 metres high.The Artec consortium’s 33-tonne Boxer is 7.93 metres long, 2.99 metres wide and 2.37 metres high. Boxer deliveries to the German and Dutch armies will begin in 2009.
The US Air Force regards the eventual Hercules replacement, the strangely named Advanced Joint Air Combat System (Ajacs, formerly AMC-X) as its principal future intra-theatre transport, with initial operational capability scheduled for 2022. Current Ajacs planning calls for the ability to take-off and land in 460 to 610 metres with a 30,000 kg payload, and an undercarriage suited to soft field operation. The service is looking for a stall speed below 167 km/h, coupled with a cruise speed of 850 km/h.This wide speed range implies the use of jet lift for stol, as earlier explored through upper surface blowing (Boeing XC-14) and externally blown flaps (McDonnell XC-15). The cargo bay width is specified as four metres, like that of the A400M. Reduced observability is also required. Paving the way for an Ajacs technology demonstrator that is to fly in 2015, the US Air Force Research Laboratory is assessing proposals for a 34-month Speed Agile concept demonstration programme. Northrop Grumman is proposing a B-2like configuration with blown flaps and no vertical tail. How the pitching moment produced by the flaps would be trimmed (in the absence of a horizontal tail) has not been disclosed. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has also submitted a proposal, but has not published details. Various potential Hercules replacements were discussed in Armada 1/2008.
One subsequent project is the stretched Antonov An-148T-100, which will be powered by two 198 kN IvchenkoProgress D-436M turbofans, and deliver a 20,000 kg payload over 2400 km, or 10,000 kg over 6200 km. It will have a floor width of 3.1 metres and a cabin height of 2.7 metres (both smaller than for the MTA). It will have a maximum cruise speed of 850 km/h and will accommodate 104 troops or 92 paratroops. Experience has demonstrated the need for a light transport to complement the Hercules category, hence the selection in 2007 of the 30.5-tonne Alenia C-27J Spartan as the US Army/US Air Force Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA). At least 78 aircraft are to be acquired, with
L-3 Communications acting as contractor team leader. The C-27J can carry a 10,000 kg payload over a distance of 1850 km, and can accommodate 62 troops or 46 paratroops. For its class it has an unusually large floor width of 3.33 metres. Cabin height is 2.6 metres. Maximum cruise speed is 580 km/h. Turning to helicopters, being designed from the outset for use from hot, high (35° C, 4000 ft) sites, the US Army’s 24.5tonne Boeing CH-47 Chinook has excelled in Afghanistan. From 2015 the US Marine Corps will have the 38.4tonne Sikorsky CH-53K. France and Germany are studying a Heavy Transport Helicopter (HTH), while the US Army is leading a programme to develop an even larger Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) aircraft for delivery in 2020. The Army evidently favours a High Efficiency Tilt-Rotor concept for the JHL, and is shortly expected to award risk-reduction contracts to Bell Boeing (Quad Tilt-Rotor), Sikorsky (VariableDiameter Tilt-Rotor) and Karem Aircraft (Optimum Speed Tilt-Rotor). These will lead to a five-year, single-source technology demonstration programme to start in FY2010, with first flight around 2015. The JHL is required to carry a Future Combat System vehicle for 460 km from vto, or 925 km from a ‘rolling vto’. However, the high risk of operating expensive fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft at forward sites is obliging defence staffs to consider expanding the use of GPSguided paradrops and cargo drones (as a discussed in Armada 6/2007).
The Antonov An-148T-100, with stretched fuselage, rear loading ramp and powerful turbofans, will combine near-Hercules payload-to-range performance and cabin crosssection with a much higher speed. (Antonov)
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