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News Letter 27 September 2018

Good day all

Now that AAD 2018 is done a dusted and the date for AAD 2020 is set in stone, I feel we need to ask a few pertinent questions.

Is there a need for Aerospace and Defence show in South Africa?

I believe there is definitely a need for the show as it is a perfect opportunity for local companies to showcase their products, not mention the influx of foreign currency that the show brings to South Africa.

Were the exhibitors happy with the turnout of trade visitors?

I spoke to many of the exhibitors, both local and international, they all seem to be in consensus that the number of visitors was much the same at previous shows but the calibre of visitor was definitely more in line with their target market. I did note that there were many high ranking officers from international defence forces, many of them have major influence over very large defence budgets.

Why were there so little general aviation related companies exhibiting?

AAD was never intended to be a GA show, it has always been aimed at the defence market rather than the general aviation market. Many GA companies may have decided to opt for exhibiting at the upcoming Aero South Arica Show instead of AAD, Aero SA will take place at Wonderboom in July 2019.

How did exhibitors find the accreditation process?

The exhibitors that I spoke to say it was well handled and was better than most shows they have attended in the past. I personally found the process seamless I was in and out of the accreditation centre within 15 minutes, granted I did go 3 weeks before the show so I may have missed the crowds.

Why is there a decrease in foreign military aircraft on display from the shows in the 90’s?

In the 1990’s South Africa was in the market for new military hardware, currently there is no market here so spending exorbitant amounts of money to exhibit their products with no hope of return is a pointless exercise.

Will exhibitors be back in two years?

Unfortunately I never got a straight answer to this question, many of the exhibitors say that their return will be decided in the next few months, many of the exhibitors confirmed that the networking alone is well worth being there.

How do the exhibitors feel about the public airshow being part of the expo?

The general feeling is positive, some exhibitors opted not to display on the public days as the general public are definitely not their target market.

The AAD organisers have released the attendance figures for the three trade days and it shows an improvement in all sections of the show over previous years.

My personal view of the expo is very positive, every aspect was well managed and from the registration, parking arrangements, refreshments availability (although a bit pricey) and toilet facilities to the cleanliness of the venue, everything just got done without any hitches that the visitors could notice. A Big WELL DONE CAASA !!

AAD 2020 will be organised by South African Aerospace & Defence Industries Association (AMD)

Please have a look at our reports on both Saturday and Sundays AAD Airshows

If you feel like testing you flying and Navigation skills against the best South Africa has to offer be sure to join the Secunda Speed Rally. There are still 12 slots available so please visit to sign up.

The South African Glider National Championships will be getting underway on 30 September and will finish on 6 October once again Potchefstroom Gliding Club will host the event .

Boeings new Navy's MQ-25 Stingray Carrier-Based Tanker Drone

The U.S. Navy has selected Boeing to build the service’s first operational carrier-based drone. The MQ-25 Stingray will be a tanker with some ability to conduct intelligence-gathering missions that will extend the range of the rest of the carrier’s aircraft, allowing them to fly and fight at greater distances than before. The decision follows years of infighting over what sort of aircraft the Navy’s first drone should be, with some arguing a long range bomber would be a better choice.

Boeing was awarded a $805 million Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development contract to, in the words of the Naval Air Systems Command, “design, development, fabrication, test, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing for an initial operational capability by 2024.” Ultimately the Navy will probably buy somewhere around 100 of the drones to outfit all eleven Nimitz and Ford-class supercarriers.

The Cold War supercarrier USS Forrestal could strike targets at 1,200 miles.

For decades, the range of carrier-based aircraft gradually increased as aircraft development progressed. As a 2015 CNAS report pointed out, in 1944 an Essex-class aircraft carrier could send 90 aircraft carrying an average of 1,800 pounds of bombs to strike targets up to 748 miles away. By 1956 a carrier could send 46 planes, each armed with 4,600 pounds of bombs, to strike targets 1,210 miles away—and up to 1,800 miles away if the KA-3 Skywarrior aerial refuelling tanker was involved.

The end of the Cold War prompted a shift in the makeup of a carrier air wing. A drop in the number of carriers from 14 in 1988 to 12 in the 1990s meant the remaining carriers would have to work harder. The Navy gambled that, in future conflicts, range would have to take a backseat to aircraft reliability and sortie generation. The range loss would be offset by the U.S. Navy’s total domination of the seas, allowing its carriers to operate closer to shore.

By 2006, a Nimitz-class carrier could send 62 aircraft each armed with 12,040 pounds of bombs just 495 miles. More bombs, less range. Super Hornet fighters could extend that range by carrying a buddy tanking system, allowing them to refuel other Hornets and Super Hornets, but that job put unwanted pressure on the Super Hornet fleet and removed aircraft from the strike role.

The growth of the Chinese military—which has oriented itself to specifically counter American military power—has made the old carrier air wing dangerously obsolete. The DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, designed to attack American aircraft carriers at sea, has a 300 to 500 mile range advantage over the current carrier air wing. In other words, if a carrier wants to bring its fleet of combat aircraft to bear against land-based DF-21D mobile launchers, it has to operate within the Chinese missile’s range envelope—a dangerous prospect for a ship with 5,000 souls on-board.

A carrier-based drone is one way to get a carrier air wing’s range back, but proponents bickered over exactly how to do it. One group wanted an unmanned, long range strike aircraft similar to the 1980s-era A-6E Intruder. Another group pointed out that an unmanned bomber was just an unmanned bomber, but enough unmanned tankers could extend the range of the entire carrier air wing, five squadrons of strike fighters and electronic attack aircraft. A refuelling tanker would also be cheaper and quicker to field, and eventually pave the way for a more complex strike aircraft. Refuelling backers won, and the MQ-25A Stingray was born.

The $805 million dollar contract not only includes design and construction of the four aircraft but also the means to operate and maintain them from carriers. Figuring out how to maneuver them on the flight deck is a major obstacle—there is no pilot to take hand and signal cues from flight deck personnel. The contract also specifies equipment necessary to control Stingrays from an aircraft carrier including radio antennas, terminals, networking hardware and so on.

The pace of the MQ-25A program, just four aircraft in six years, is relatively slow considering DF-21D missiles are operational now. But it’s important to get the first carrier-based drone right the first time, both to instil confidence in the program and to pave the way for future carrier-based drones. An actual long range strike drone wasn’t cancelled, it was merely delayed. There’s no stopping the drone revolution on carrier flight decks at sea.


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