The Navy's drive to equip its units with new airframes took a step forward in 2009 with the electronic attack community gaining its first squadron of EA-18G Growlers, and the maritime patrol community's replacement for the aging P-3 Orion, the P-8A Poseidon, made its initial flight. In addition, the Navy's helicopter force continued its modernization with the addition of new MH-60R and MH-60S airframes into the inventory, and the Marine Corps sent the UH-1Y into battle for the first time. In the unmanned aircraft world, the RQ-4A Global Hawk Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator (BAMS-D) made its first Navy deployment, as did the MQ-8B Fire Scout rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
On the down side, the carrier-based sea-control community passed into history, ending a legacy reaching back to the World War II Battle of the Atlantic. Sea Control Squadron (VS) 22, the Navy's last S-3 squadron, passed into history officially on 31 March 2009, after its ceremonial demise on 29 January. The next day, Commander, Sea Control Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet followed suit with a ceremony on board Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida. The Navy's VS squadrons had not performed their original role of sub hunter for several years, but their sea surveillance mission will be absorbed by land-based P-3s, RQ-4A Global Hawk UAVs, and ship-based MH-60R helicopters. The aerial tanking mission that S-3s inherited in the 1990s has been taken over by carrier-based F/A-18E/F aircraft.
Also terminated during 2009 was the VH-71 presidential helicopter program after years of slowdowns and mission creep that added time and money to the final delivery.
The true scope of the events of 2009 cannot be fully appreciated without considering those of the first two months of 2010. With the release of the proposed budget in early 2010, several programs were dramatically restructured and others cut entirely. The EA-18G Growler program was restructured to include land-based expeditionary squadrons, the F-35 program was changed to slow down production and stretch out the test program, and the follow-on to the EP-3E ARIES intelligence-gathering aircraft, the EP-X, was recommended for termination. In addition, there were shakeups in the program management leadership of the F-35. The effects of these changes won't be fully felt for a few months, but in these times of shrinking budgets and rising costs, the services are having to make do with less than in years past.
- F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 started 2009 on a hopeful note with the first Marine Corps short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B in flight testing at the assembly plant at Ft. Worth, Texas. But delays sent shock waves through the program late in the year. According to an annual weapons survey by the director of Operational Test & Evaluation, only 16 of 168 planned flights took place in 2009, the second year of flight testing. The program experienced another shakeup early in 2010 as the program's Pentagon manager, Marine Corps Major General David Heinz, was relieved by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and replaced (pending congressional approval) by Vice Admiral David Venlet, former head of the Naval Air Systems Command. Citing the program's "troubling performance record," Gates also docked Lockheed Martin $614 million in performance fees.
The first F-35B (designated BF-1) was delivered to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on 15 November to begin test flights there. It first flew in mid-2008 and was operated in the conventional mode at Ft. Worth before being fitted with a vertical flight-rated engine. BF-1 is expected to concentrate on initial STOVL flight operations, including short takeoffs, hovers, and vertical landings and will conduct ship-suitability and gun-integration testing.
The second F-35B (BF-2) made its first flight on 25 February and was delivered to Patuxent River on 29 December. BF-2 will conduct flutter envelope expansion as well as testing of air-refueling, high angle-of-attack flight, general performance, propulsion, weapons, and radar-signature.
The Navy's shipboard version, the F-35C, made its debut on 28 July with a ceremony at the Ft. Worth plant. The C version is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2010.
Testing continued on the F-35 electronics suite, including the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The combined weapon system of the F-35 is mounted in a BAC 1-11 aircraft, which participated in the Joint exercise Northern Edge 2009, considered the United States' largest and most complex airborne electronic warfare exercise to date. Northrop Grumman demonstrated the electronic protection capabilities of the AN/APG-81 by successfully countering advanced electronic attacks intended to degrade, neutralize, or destroy its combat capability.
- EA-18G Growler. As 2009 came to a close, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132, the Scorpions, became the first squadron to operate the electronic-attack derivative of the F/A-18F-designated the EA-18G Growler-after being pronounced safe for flight on 2 October. Two additional squadrons, the VAQ-141 Shadowhawks and VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets, were in transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the Growler at year's end. VAQ-132 was initially assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, but that changed in early 2010 as the Scorpions were designated as an expeditionary squadron on 17 February 2010, replacing the VAQ-134 Garudas, who return to sea-going status with their EA-6B Prowlers. With that announcement, it was also revealed that the Navy is expanding the EA-18G buy to include 26 additional aircraft to support the land-based mission.
When the U.S. Air Force retired the EF-111A in 1998, the Navy, under a Department of Defense Program Decision Memorandum, undertook the Joint electronic-attack mission for both services. Initially there were five EA-6B Prowler squadrons slated for this role, but one was never activated, and one of the four that served was deactivated in 2004, leaving three active-duty squadrons handling the mission, with the help of detachments of the Navy's one Reserve EA-6B squadron, VAQ-209. The original scope of the EA-18G procurement was to only replace the EA-6Bs that deploy on board the Navy's aircraft carriers. The last Navy EA-6B is scheduled for replacement by the Growler in 2014, at which time the Marine Corps will be the only operators of the Prowler. Before the Navy's decision to purchase additional EA-18Gs, the future of Joint electronic attack by the Navy was in question, but that future now seems assured.
Another program milestone in 2009 was the decision to continue building beyond the low-rate initial production period of the EA-18G that began in July 2007. On 23 November, the Department of Defense approved the program for full-rate production for 88 aircraft. The events of early 2010 increased this number by 26 airframes.
The Growler currently makes use of an electronics suite derived from the ICAP III EA-6B's ALQ-128 receiver system. The Navy announced on 16 January 2009, the award of four technology maturation trade study contracts relating to the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) that will replace the EA-18G's ALQ-99 jamming pods. In December the program proceeded to the Analysis of Alternates (AoA) phase, which will be conducted by a government and industry team to further define the requirements of the new system. The NGJ AoA is scheduled to be released mid-2010. It is expected the system will debut on the EA-18G in 2018 and be modified for the F-35 at a later date.
- F/A-18 Hornet. The legacy Hornets (F/A-18A through D) still serve, and serve well, but the airframe's age presents problems for maintainers. The Navy's depot-level Fleet Readiness Centers (FRC) continue to refine the way inspections are performed on the Hornet. In addition, the centers have refined procedures to replace the aging Hornets' center fuselage, known as the centerbarrel section, that allows aircraft to return to service at lower cost with fewer man-hours expended in the process.
- F/A-18 Super Hornet. The Boeing Company delivered the 400th F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to the Navy in June. The first entered the Fleet in September 2001, and the Block II version, equipped with the Raytheon-built APG-79 AESA radar, debuted in 2005 and is in production today. Raytheon was awarded a contract to retrofit some of the early production aircraft with the advanced radar to replace the APG-73 and bring their capability up to a par with new-build Super Hornets.
The Navy is also considering a passive Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system for the aircraft. Boeing, along with partners Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control and General Electric, conducted initial testing in March of a unit that mounts in the front section of a modified 480-gallon fuel tank. IRST is a passive, long-range sensor system that searches for and detects IR emissions. It can track several targets simultaneously and provide air-to-air targeting capability, even against threats equipped with radar jammers.
- E-2 Hawkeye. The E-2C community celebrated a milestone on 21 September as the Navy accepted the last production Hawkeye at the Northrop Grumman St. Augustine Manufacturing and Flight Test Center in Florida. The E-2C is the follow-on to the W2F/E-2A, which entered service in 1964 and made the first deployments in 1966. The E-2A then gave way to the E-2B, which were As with upgraded electronics. The first E-2C entered Fleet service in 1973 and has undergone constant modification and upgrading since then. The E-2D, the newest in the Hawkeye line, is currently in flight test at NAS Patuxent River after preliminary testing at St. Augustine that began in August 2007. The first E-2D System Development and Demonstration aircraft, known as Delta One, arrived on 31 May for additional developmental testing in preparation for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation. The second E-2D arrived on 8 July at Pax River and is also in the test program. The program is on track for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation in 2011.
After successfully completing a Milestone C review in June, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program received a contract for two Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1 aircraft and an Advanced Acquisition Contract for two LRIP Lot 2 aircraft. This is a follow-on to the company's initial System Development & Design contract awarded in August 2003. Under the E-2D's low-initial-rate production, the Navy will procure two aircraft in both Fiscal Year 2009 and 2010. The program of record indicates the Navy will buy 75 total aircraft.
In preparation for its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, the first E-2D test aircraft completed its first land-based catapult launch tests in October.
After initial testing in 2004-05 to introduce air-to-air refueling to the E-2, a second round of flight testing was performed at Patuxent River by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20. These tests were designed to identify and develop a refueling technique specific to the Hawkeye and investigate any problems that may occur because of the rotodome. The program is scheduled to enter the preliminary design phase in 2010, followed by the system development and demonstration phase scheduled to continue through 2013.
- P-8A Poseidon. The first Boeing P-8A Poseidon test aircraft, designated T-1, completed its first flight on 25 April, taking off from its assembly plant at Renton Field, Washington, and landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. The P-8A performed a series of flight checks, reached a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet, and landed after three hours, 31 minutes in the air. The P-8A is a derivative of the Boeing's Next-Generation 737-800. The second test P-8A made its first flight on 5 June and is part of the five-airframe test fleet that includes three flight-test aircraft (T1-T3), one full-scale static-load test airframe (S1), and one full-scale fatigue-test airframe (S2). The Navy plans to purchase 117 P-8A long-range maritime reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare aircraft to replace its fleet of P-3Cs. Initial operational capability is slated for 2013.
The Navy announced in January its basing decision for the P-8A. The training squadron, also called the Fleet Readiness Squadron (FRS), along with five Fleet squadrons will be stationed at NAS Jacksonville, Florida; four Fleet squadrons will be at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington; and three fleet squadrons at Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Also announced is a plan for periodic squadron detachment operations at NAS North Island, California.
- EP-X. The program to replace the aging EP-3E ARIES fleet of electronic intelligence-gathering aircraft made it through 2009 with three contractors conducting preliminary studies, but as 2010 began, the program was left out of the initial 2011 budget and it is currently in limbo. One solution to the intelligence shortfall being looked at is the incorporation of the mission into the new P-8A and Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAV aircraft.
- E-6B Mercury. The Navy accepted the first modified E-6B Mercury Block 1 from Rockwell Collins and L-3 Integrated Systems Group on 25 February. The modification program corrected deficiencies identified during the E-6B (Airborne Command Post modification) operational test. The Mercury combines the Air Force's airborne command post and the Navy's submarine communication missions, both controlling the launch of ballistic missiles.
- C-2A Greyhound. On 18 November Northrop Grumman marked the 45th anniversary of the maiden flight of the C-2A Greyhound. A derivative of the E-2 Hawkeye, the Greyhound's primary mission is to transport cargo, aircraft parts, mail, and passengers to deployed carrier strike groups. After an initial build of 18 in the mid 1960s, the Navy procured an additional 39 in the late 80s and retired the aircraft from the first build. With time and high operations tempo taking its toll, the Navy is performing service-life improvements on the remaining Greyhounds, to include wing strengthening and a rewiring of the aircraft plus the addition of upgraded avionics. The C-2s are also receiving eight-bladed propellers that have been retrofitted on all the Navy's E-2 Hawkeyes. The move is being made to streamline the logistics chain and to provide the Greyhound with a more efficient propeller system with less vibration.
- F-5N Tiger II. The Navy accepted delivery of the last of 44 former Swiss F-5 Tiger IIs in April at the Northrop Grumman facility in St. Augustine, Florida. In a reverse Foreign Military Sales program, the Navy bought the former Swiss Air Force F-5Es over a six-year period. The Swiss originally bought 110 of the aircraft from the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s. Forty-one of the Navy's acquisitions were modified into single-seat F-5Ns and three into two-seat F-5Fs to keep the Navy's adversary squadrons flying until at least 2015. The two-seat aircraft are a story in themselves. Called "Franken-Tigers," the final aircraft are the result of taking the two-seat cockpit sections and the tail sections of old Navy F-5Fs and bolting these on to the newer center section of the former Swiss F-5Es.
- T-45 Goshawk. The last T-45C Goshawk-of 221-was delivered to the Navy during a ceremony at the Boeing production facilities in St. Louis on 20 October.
- T-6 Texan II. The Navy has been operating the T-6A Texan II to train naval flight officers at NAS Pensacola since 2005, but on 27 August the first two T-6Bs arrived at NAS Whiting Field, Florida. This signals the official start of the Training Command's transition from the T-34C Turbo Mentor, which has been in the Fleet for more than 30 years, to the T-6B for primary flight training. The T-6B differs from the earlier A model by incorporating a heads-up display, electronic flight management system, and multifunction displays for the crew of two. After a period of training instructor pilots and installing a full suite of simulators at Whiting, the initial class of student naval aviators will begin training in the new aircraft sometime in 2010. The primary training squadron at NAS Corpus Christi is scheduled to begin transition in 2012.
- Super Tucano. Speaking at a conference in March 2009, Captain Mark Mullins, a naval special warfare officer serving as the deputy director of the Navy Irregular Warfare Office, revealed a few details on a classified program using a leased Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano to provide close air support for special warfare units. Under the name "Imminent Fury," the aircraft was used to develop tactics for counterinsurgency. After the announcement, there has been no further official word on the project, but the aircraft has been seen in Nevada, both at NAS Fallon and Nellis Air Force Base.
- S-3B Viking. Even though the sea-control community has died, a few aircraft soldier on. One S-3 was provided to NASA's Glenn Research Center near Cleveland, Ohio, after extensive modifications to transform it into a state-of-the-art icing research aircraft. Four others will soon join Naval Weapons Test Squadron (VX) 30 at the Naval Air Weapons Station, Point Mugu, California, to serve as range-clearance and surveillance aircraft.
- MV-22 Osprey. The Marine Corps continues to transition CH-46 squadrons to the MV-22B Osprey and deploy them to Iraq and Afghanistan. The squadrons had previously only operated in Iraq, but the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit flew 10 MV-22B Ospreys from the USS Bataan (LHD-5) to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on 6 November in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The MV-22 saw its first offensive combat mission, Operation Cobra's Anger, on 4 December when Ospreys assisted in inserting 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops into the Now Zad Valley of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan to disrupt Taliban communication and supply lines.
The fifth squadron to transition to the MV-22B was New River-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 365, which completed its training in January.
- VH-71. The first production VH-71 was delivered to Lockheed Martin's Owego, New York, facility on 9 January for outfitting. On 28 April, the ninth and final VH-71 Increment 1 helicopter was delivered to the United States. In somewhat of a surprise move, the program was cancelled on 1 June for the "convenience of the government." Under Secretary Of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) Ashton Carter issued a VH-71 program acquisition decision memorandum on 15 May, which directed the program be cancelled. The decision resulted from cost growth that breached Nunn-McCurdy thresholds and from a comprehensive program review that occurred during development of the President's FY10 budget submission.
The Navy will develop options for a Presidential Helicopter Replacement program. In the meantime, the FY10 budget includes money for service-life extensions for the current presidential helicopter fleet.
- H-60 Seahawk. The MH-60R helicopter continues to replace the SH-60B in Fleet service. On the West Coast, the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group deployed in January with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 on board. In the future, HSM squadrons will deploy as a squadron, instead of detachments as did the HSL squadrons they replaced. The main unit will be on board the carrier, with detachments spread out to the "small boys" in the strike group. The HSM squadrons will assume antisubmarine and surface-warfare duties, with the HSC squadrons doing logistics, special warfare and plane guard missions.
- CH-53K Super Stallion. Sikorsky continued to develop the CH-53K, which will maintain virtually the same footprint as the CH-53E, but will nearly triple the payload to 27,000 pounds over 110 nautical miles under hot-high ambient conditions. Features of the Super Stallion include a glass cockpit, fly-by-wire flight controls, fourth-generation rotor blades with anhedral tips, a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head, upgraded engines, a locking cargo rail system, external cargo-handling improvements, survivability enhancements, and reduced operation and support costs. The program conducted a successful Preliminary Design Review in September 2008, and is tracking toward a Critical Design Review in 2010 with an Initial Operational Capability milestone scheduled in early 2016.
- UH-1Y/AH-1Z. The upgraded UH-1Y completed its first combat deployment when three helicopters assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced) returned to Camp Pendleton, California, on 1 August from a six-month cruise to Iraq on board the USS Boxer (LHD-4). In addition, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 367 was the first "Yankee" squadron to deploy to Afghanistan, when it was flown to Bastion Airfield, Helmand Province, in Air Force C-17s in October.
The AH-1Z continues its slow development course to an anticipated 2011 initial operational capability with the Marines. The Corps plans to field 226 Zulus, with a final delivery date of 2021. A total of 123 Yankees are also anticipated, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2016.
- H-72 Lakota. EADS North America delivered the first of five H-72As for the Navy's Test Pilot School Patuxent River on 12 November. The helos will be used to train test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. The H-72A shares the same airframe and is manufactured on the same production line in Mississippi as the U.S. Army's UH-72A. The Navy's H-72As have several specific equipment additions, including jettisonable cockpit doors, a cockpit voice- and flight-data recorder, a main rotor blade folding kit, and an air-traffic advisory system. All five H-72As will be configured in the school's high-visibility white-and-orange paint scheme.
- H-3 Sea King. The Sikorsky H-3 Sea King helicopter celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight on 11 March, and exactly nine months later the last operational Sea King retired from Navy service. This last helicopter has not left government roles, however, as it was transferred to Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMX) 1 for use as a training and test aircraft for the presidential VH-3D fleet.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)
- BAMS-D/RQ-4A Global Hawk. The program, formerly known as the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration, is to develop Fleet user community familiarity and Navy doctrine, concepts of operations, and tactics, techniques, and procedures for long-range/high-endurance unmanned-aircraft systems. Since arriving at NAS Patuxent River, the system has provided Fleet support and familiarization opportunities through various naval/joint exercises and experiments with combatant commands and the Department of Homeland Security. The system is assigned to Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Two at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
The BAMS-D system in 2009 consisted of two Block 10 RQ-4A UAVs with electro-optical/infrared camera, synthetic aperture radar, automatic identification system receiver, and electronic-support measures payload capability. In February one aircraft deployed to Southwest Asia hosted by the Air Force's 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. The aircraft was controlled from Patuxent River, but was launched and recovered in-theater. Having the aircraft based with the Air Force with a minimum Navy and contractor crew allows for a smaller overall footprint, resulting in lower operating costs and less manpower costs.
The first aircraft returned to Patuxent River on 1 October after a successful first deployment to Central Command. During the eight-month deployment it flew more than 60 missions, totaling over 1,000 flight hours, and provided Commander Task Force 57 with thousands of images to support maritime intelligence and surveillance activities. Prior to the aircraft's return, a second BAMS-D was deployed to Southwest Asia. The returning aircraft then underwent depot-level maintenance and continued test operations.
- MQ-8B Fire Scout. The MQ-8B Fire Scout made naval aviation history when the USS McInerney (FFG-8) deployed to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility on 12 October with the rotary-wing unmanned aircraft system on board. This was the first deployment of unmanned rotary-wing aircraft since the demise of the QH-50 DASH program in the 1970s. The Fire Scout supported counter-narcotics trafficking operations by providing situational awareness in the form of video and other sensor information to its host. Two of the three production Fire Scouts were deployed on board the McInerney to complete a Fire Scout military utility assessment. Before the deployment, Fire Scouts have been on board the frigate four times since December 2008, completing 110 takeoffs and landings and accumulating more than 47 hours of flight time.
Northrop Grumman completed the first three MQ-8B production deliveries on 24 November, which finished the first year of low-rate initial production for the Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle program.
- X-47B UCAS-D. Northrop Grumman unveiled the first X-47B air vehicle for the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program on 7 January. The aircraft, powered by a Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U engine, is designed to operate above 40,000 feet, fly at high-subsonic speeds, and have a combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles. In addition, it has an internal payload capacity of 4,500 pounds and provisions for a variety of sensors. X-47B and shipboard systems began testing on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), using a modified Beech King Air as a surrogate for the X-craft, performing flight paths similar to the drone and engaging in digital communications with the ship. An F/A-18 is scheduled to act as a high-speed surrogate in 2010, and the UAV is scheduled to make its first carrier landing sometime in late 2011.
- Upgraded BQM-34. Northrop Grumman Corporation delivered two retrofitted BQM-34 Firebee aerial targets to the Navy, the first delivery in a series of the targets retrofitted with current production avionics hardware and software capability from the BQM-74E product line. The retrofit addresses avionics obsolescence issues of the older targets. Included are fully autonomous waypoint navigation and improved low-altitude performance using the same mission planning system and vehicle avionics suite currently used by the BQM-74.
- Marine Corps Unmanned Resupply. Three contractors are competing for a contract to deliver an unmanned resupply helicopter. The Boeing Company is offering its A160T Hummingbird, recently designated MQ-18, and a Kaman/Lockheed Martin team completed a flight demonstration of the K-MAX under a contract awarded in August. Meanwhile, a third contender could re-emerge if the Corps decides to open the contract to all bidders. Although the Marines rejected the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout team's proposal in August, the company has recently demonstrated autonomous resupply capability with the drone for the Army.
- Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). Northrop Grumman-Newport News hosted a keel laying ceremony 14 November 2009, for the Gerald R. Ford, with Susan Ford Bales, the daughter of the former President, as the ship's sponsor. Bales authenticated the keel by chalking her initials onto a metal plate, and the initials were welded onto the plate, which was permanently affixed to the ship. The ship is the first new-design U.S. aircraft carrier class in more than 40 years. Enhancements incorporated into the new ship include an improved flight deck layout and weapon handling systems, and a redesigned island. She will also incorporate new-design nuclear power plants, increased electrical power-generation capacity, allowance for future technologies, and reduced workload for the crew, translating to less manpower requirement and reduced operating costs. Delivery is scheduled for 2015.
- CVN-79. Northrop Grumman received a contract award on 15 January 2009 for construction preparation of the second ship of the Ford class, CVN-79, which has yet to be named.
- USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77). After commissioning ceremonies on 10 January, at Norfolk Naval Base, builder's sea trials of the tenth and last Nimitz-class carrier were completed on 16 February. She then successfully completed acceptance sea trials 7-9 April off the Virginia Capes and the Navy took delivery of the carrier on 11 May. Her first recovery of a fixed-wing aircraft occurred eight days later when an F/A-18F Super Hornet flown by Lieutenant Patrick McKenna and Commander Beau Duarte from VX-23 landed.
- USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). The Navy's last conventionally powered aircraft carrier decommissioned on 12 May after nearly a half-century of service. She had been commissioned on 29 April 1961.
- USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). The Vinson was redelivered to the Navy on 4 December following the completion of Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH). She entered the Newport News dry dock four years ago and since has been refueled and modernized. Each Nimitz-class aircraft carrier will undergo the procedure at approximately the midpoint in her lifetime.
- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). With the return of the Vinson to active service, the next ship in line for RCOH was the Roosevelt. On 29 August she moved into the Newport News facility to begin the procedure scheduled for completion in 2013.
- Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG). Currently in development by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Division, the AAG will be installed on board all Ford-class aircraft carriers, and retrofitted in Nimitz-class ships beginning with the USS Abraham Lincoln. The system, which will replace the current MK7 arresting gear, consists of energy absorbers and power conditioning equipment, and operates by a digital control system to provide greater control of the arresting forces. The aircraft energy is absorbed by a combination of hydraulic shock absorbers, water twisters, friction brakes, and electric motors. The AAG is designed to provide higher reliability and safety margins with less manpower, while also allowing arrestment of a broader range of aircraft, from the lightest unmanned aerial vehicles to the heaviest manned strike fighters. General Atomics completed the first phase of extended reliability testing at its Rancho Bernardo, California, facility in October.
- Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). The next-generation launch system-to replace steam-powered catapults-slated for the Ford class took one step closer to launching aircraft with the completion of the first phase of highly accelerated life testing and the second phase of system functional demonstration commissioning in 2009. On 12 November, congressional, Navy, and industry leaders gathered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to initiate a launch of the EMALS armature, which ceremonially cut through a ribbon. The program had recently completed installation of the full-scale carrier representative catapult exhibited at the ceremony.
EMALS launch capability is based on linear induction motors. The shuttle is attached to rollers on the catapult and is propelled down the length of the track by the electromagnetic field produced by linear induction motor stators. The force moving down the catapult allows the attached aircraft to reach the necessary speed for take-off. Because of its high power consumption, EMALS will only be installed in Ford-class carriers, which will be built to handle the expanded electrical load.
- Thermal Management System. As a result of lessons learned over the past two years of operating the MV-22 Osprey on board ship, and the projected operation of the F-35B, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a request for proposal in November for a thermal management system to dissipate heat from aircraft exhaust on the flight deck. Current technology requires heavy structural modification of the ships, a path that the Navy does not want to take. DARPA is looking for a two-prong solution, merging a thermal-management system that incorporates an advanced heat spreader with a high-temperature, high-endurance non-skid surface.
- AGM/RGM/UGM-84 Harpoon. In September the Navy dropped its plans to procure the Harpoon Block III. The program was to add a Rockwell Collins datalink designed to provide in-flight targeting updates and improved algorithms for destroying shipping targets. The inability to deliver the datalink as needed was cited for the program's termination.
- Paveway II Plus. Lockheed Martin completed the first in a series of flight tests of the Paveway II Plus laser-guided bomb guidance kit on 29 October. Its enhanced laser-guidance package significantly improved precision when compared to existing Paveway IIs.
- AGM-154 JSOW-ER. Raytheon and the Navy completed the first free-flight demonstration of the Joint Standoff Weapon Extended Range (JSOW-ER) air-to-surface precision-guided missile-a powered variant of the standard gliding JSOW-in November. It combines existing GPS-inertial navigation system reliability with the network-enabled maritime-interdiction capabilities currently in development for the JSOW C-1. The ER version also integrates the Hamilton Sundstrand TJ-150 engine, in production for Raytheon's Miniature Air-Launched Decoy and extends the range from 70 to 300 nautical miles.
- AGM-114 Hellfire. Lockheed Martin's multi-functional AGM-114R Hellfire II missile scored a direct hit during its first proof-of-principle flight test at Eglin AFB, Florida, in October. The new version, now entering the qualification phase, features a multi-purpose warhead that enables a single missile to cover all of the target sets of the current laser-guided Hellfire II variants. The Hellfire can be fired from both rotary-wing and unmanned platforms, and a new inertial measurement unit allows properly equipped platforms to launch missiles at targets behind them without first having to turn the aircraft around.