The Sky Is The Limit At The Paris Air Show
The Paris Air Show held from 19 – 25 June 2017, kicked off with French President Macron landing in an Airbus A400-M military transport aircraft at Le Bourget airport. The air show is the largest aerospace event in the world showcasing the likes of established players like Airbus, Boeing, Embraer as well as innovative startups such as Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft, who is offering electric aircraft and Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) options.
Boom Mach 2.2
The Concorde dream continues to be pursued by Boom, an American company set to build the world’s first commercially viable supersonic aircraft. The 55-seater, Mach 2.2 jet may be available by 2023. The XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, a one-third scale model of the passenger aircraft is scheduled to fly in 2018 followed by testing and the relevant certifications. The original Air France and British Airways Concorde fleet retired in 2003 due to a number of factors such as high maintenance costs, falling passenger numbers, and the Paris crash. Technological advances in composite fuselages and high temperature material systems may just make this model viable for economical and safe supersonic flight.
Airbus Helicopters Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) the VSR700 (jointly developed with Helicopteres Guimbal) made its debut at the static display. The VSR700 (derived from the Cabri G2 helicopter), was developed to meet navy requirements for a shipborne rotary-wing tactical UAV. With lower operating costs than a helicopter, the VSR700 will be capable of carrying up to 250 kg of equipment. The UAV could also be used in land based military operations for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions with its optical sensors and maritime or land radar.
Drones have progressed to offer varying functionalities as is evident in Kratos Defense & Security’s XQ-222 Valkyrie, an Unmanned Tactical System (UTS) designed as a wingman to manned aircraft. The UTS combines high speeds and manoeuvrability with fighter capability of being able to deliver a varying payload from its internal bomb bay and wing stations. Its runway independence and range offer operational flexibility.
Eviation’s fully electric Orca was on view at the static display. Orca is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAS with a maximum takeoff weight of 250 kg requiring only a 30m runway. The platform offers a low operating cost solution that can remain airborne for more than eight hours with a 50 kg payload. Eviation has partnered with established manufacturers for production and certification risk sharing such as Magnaghi Aeronautica S.p.A (manufacturer of the SkyAero aircraft) and FBM, an Israeli carbon-based composite producer who manufactured the all-composite prototypes.
Italian company Leonardo’s Falco model in partnership with Heli Protection Europe (a company specialising in airworthiness management, training, and operations) is designed to provide police and rescue operators with an all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance capability for a number of missions ranging from border patrol, coastal watch, environmental monitoring, migration flows management to humanitarian emergencies.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) showcased a weaponized version of its multi-role and autonomously capable ANKA, an advanced MALE UAS able to perform various missions at all times and in all weather conditions such as reconnaissance, target detection or identification, and intelligence with EO/IR and SAR payloads. TAI is set to develop a commercial variant of the ANKA in 12 to 18 months. The first four of ten ANKA-S aircraft will be delivered to the Turkish Air Force by the end of 2017 with the final six in 2018.
China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation’s (CATIC) multi-role, MALE Wing Loong 2 (WL-2) made its debut at a Western air show in an impressive static display. It’s not hard to see that the WL-2 resembles General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. The UAS is a weaponized reconnaissance system that can be equipped with various sensors and weaponry. The WL-2 prototype took to the skies for the first time in February this year.
Proudly on display was French aerospace company Dassault Aviation’s Rafale omnirole combat fighter. The Rafale F3R standard will undergo qualification trials next year, which will include testing of AESA RBE2 radar software configuration (AESA radar is manufactured by Thales). The new standard will also include integration of MBDA Missile Systems Meteor air-to-air missile. In the air, the Rafale impressed with bold manoeuvres along with Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
The very first Japanese military aircraft to land at Le Bourget, Kawasaki’s P-1 maritime patrol aircraft attracted much attention at the show. Japan developed the aircraft (of which 11 are currently in service) to replace its Lockheed P-3 Orion fleet. The four-engine P-1 can be airborne for an extensive period and is used to patrol the sea areas surrounding Japan. A purely Japanese product, the P-1 was developed and manufactured in Japan (including the airframe, engines, and patrol systems).
Decades of a self-imposed ban on arms exports was lifted in 2014 to allow Japan’s producers to export arms and defence equipment following a meticulous screening process. The transfer of arms must contribute to the active promotion of peace and international cooperation or Japan’s security. Potential customers would have to meet these requirements.
Boeing Versus Airbus
The competition between Boeing and Airbus was fiercer than ever. Boeing’s single-aisle 737 MAX 10 acquired 361 orders at the show however almost 60 percent were swaps from other variants of the upgraded 737. In competition was Airbus’s A321NEO, which offers airlines configuration options for seating. According to Airbus, the wings with “Sharklets” and two new engine choices deliver per seat fuel improvements and an additional range of up to 500 nautical miles/900 km or 2 tonnes of extra payload. Airbus focused on promoting the A380plus with improved aerodynamics and 13 percent cost per seat reduction.
The new member of the Airbus A350 XWB family, the A350-1000 was on display. Able to carry up to 440 passengers, it offers better efficiency (25 percent lower operating costs, fuel burn, and C02 emissions) and cheaper maintenance costs (due to new engines and a lighter cabin built from composite materials). The first delivery to Qatar Airways is set for October 2017. Ethiopian Airlines is considering the aircraft and evaluating whether it can perform under Addis Ababa’s 2,400 m altitude conditions. Airbus has a total order backlog of 6,700 aircraft, which includes the A380-800, A350-1000, A350-900, A330-900, and A330-800 passenger aircraft.
According to USA Today, Boeing recorded 571 new orders compared to 326 for Airbus. Airbus signed deals with AirAsia, Zargos Airlines (Iranian), and Iran Airtour. Boeing received an order for 125 737 MAX 8 with an undisclosed customer. Further, it will be converting 15 AerCap MAX 8 orders into the MAX 10. A memorandum of understanding was signed with Chinese Riuli Airlines for 20 737 MAX 8. Boeing revealed at the show its 797 New Midsize Airplane (NMA) project. The aircraft will be a twin-aisle aircraft consisting of a composite fuselage with a hybrid cross-section and fifth-generation composite wings. The new aircraft would fit between the 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner range.
Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA