Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR March 2010 Contents approach meaning that the kit could be adapted to other torpedoes such
as the European MU90 or even the old Mk46 and could be launched from a
variety of aircraft. The idea of being able to attack underwater objects from
long range of 40+ kilometers is becoming more attractive as submarines
themselves will soon be able to deploy defensive sub-surface launched
In missile developments Raytheon detailed how the successful and
reliable AIM-9X has recently been upgraded so it can not only engage the
air targets for which it was originally designed but also those on water
or land – either stationary or moving. A motivation for this improved
capability seems to be that the sponsoring ser vice – the US Navy – wants
to have available a truly multi-purpose missile to use against targets of
opportunity. APDR assumes that such targets have previously presented
themselves in the Middle East area of operations but have remained
outside the engagement capability of a pure air-to-air combat weapon.
Those days now seem to be over.
The Haiti earthquake tragedy took place only a few days before the
show and that acted as the backdrop for an updated briefing on the civil
and military capabilities of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial system by
prime contractor Northrop Grumman. Apparently a Global Hawk was flying
to Afghanistan from its US base not long after the quake struck and was
redirected to assist in rescue and recovery efforts. The aircraft was able to
use its IR sensors to detect the presence of survivors and it was also able
to provide imagery of the extent of the devastation – a valuable tool for the
co-ordination of rescue missions. While it could have remained on station
for 28 hours this was reduced for practical purposes to an average mission
loiter time of 24 hours. Because it operates at an altitude of 60,000 feet it
presented no air traffic control problems and at that height the atmosphere
is apparently very benign, meaning that Global Hawk is an extremely stable
support operations, Northrop Grumman explained that the Global Hawk
a proper comparison with P-3s also made Global Hawk a far more cost-
effective option for many surveillance roles than a manned aircraft.
Israeli companies were a significant presence at the show with Elbit, Rafael,
IMI, Plasan and others showcasing their technologies. Elbit in particular are
very mindful of opportunities for regional military aircraft upgrade programs
and showcased 2 products of particular interest – their latest Helmet
Mounted Display and in addition a new central display unit optimized for
F-16s using a commercial processor. Elbit has long been a world leader in
HMD technology, evidenced by the fact that their products are on all US
fighter aircraft, including the JSF, through the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing
System. Elbit believes that the cost of the technology has been progressively
reduced to the point where it can now be considered for use on transport
aircraft and that systems will eventually permeate further and will be used by
emergency services personnel in addition to military users.
Elbit’s central display unit seems to have a great deal of potential for
upgrading F-16s and eventually other aircraft because it is low cost and
hosted on PC-based technology. This means that a highly capable, large, full
color display – compatible with GIS software such as Falcon View - can be
installed right in the centre of the cockpit without the extremely intensive
effort required to change the aircraft’s operational flight programme (OFP),
which is usually a major cost driver.
Of the senior industry figures to visit the show, prominent was
Eurocopter’s Lutz Bertling, who was extremely positive about the Asian
region and pointed out that even though the global financial crisis had
effected the civilian market, military orders were in good shape. He spoke
not only about the company’s organic products but also the “Surion”
utility helicopter developed in conjunction with South Korea’s KAI. This
aircraft will occupy a convenient niche in the spectrum of Eurocopter
products and so will not be a case of the company competing with itself.
Speaking of Korean Aircraft Industries, the company was extremely
guarded about saying anything connected with their bid in Singapore for
trainer aircraft or about their activities in the United Arab Emirates where
it is rumored that their T-50 might still be in the hunt, let alone their longer
term ambitions to break into the US market – all of which seems to defeat
the purpose of participating in a public air show.
Finally the daily flying program was marked by one of the last appearances
of a RAAF F-111, which made a series of spectacular contributions to global
warming until finally being sidelined by a technical problem.
Asia Pacific Defence Reporter | 37
AIM-9X now has expanded capabilities.
Credit: USN / James R. Evans
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