One of the most important, and eagerly awaited, elements of the biennial Paris Airshow is its military sector. This year's show hasn't disappointed, with Airbus's A400M making a surprise acrobatic performance and Dassault's Rafale fighter jet also wooing the crowds.
American industrial conglomerate Textron is showing off Fury, its small, lightweight glide weapon designed to be carried on platforms ranging from small unmanned aerial systems to light attack aircraft. Textron says Fury utilizes semi-active laser (SAL) and Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance and has proved accurate within one meter of a designated target.
Fury's small size means that six of the missiles can be fitted onto an aircraft, allowing it to engage multiple targets. According to Textron Vice President for business development for weapon and sensor systems, Vince Logsdon, "the Fury is a 12.7 pound, 27 inch, highly compact glide precision munition. It was developed primarily to be utilized on manned and unmanned aircraft because of its size and its weight. It's very effective in doing so."
He added: "One of the very nice things about a weapon that weighs as much as this does and as small as the weapon is that you can engage multiple targets and multiple different kinds of targets with one load out. It makes it very affordable and it makes it very useful for the war fighter. Not only that but collateral damage is minimized with such a small weapon and a warhead being the size that you would utilize for a smaller type of target. Very accurate, very precise, and very lethal."
Fury can be integrated onto tactical unmanned aircraft system (TUAS) platforms, including the Textron Systems Unmanned Systems Shadow 200 and Shadow M2. During two demonstration live-fire drops from a Shadow 200 at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona last August, Fury engaged and detonated a variety of targets.
Also on display is Textron's prototype Scorpion fighter jet. At 44 feet three inches long, with a 47 foot 10 inch wingspan, it is smaller than most fighter jets but analysts believe it could generate interest from the United States (US) government among others.
Dan Hinson is the Scorpion chief pilot and has been at the controls for many of the 400 or so hours it has spent in the air. Hinson says it's an adaptable jet. "It was built around 79 cubic feet of empty space in the belly of the airplane. That gives you the capability to put anything that the customers want to put in there," he said. "The skin of the airplane on the belly is non-stressed, so it's open and available to cut holes into for antennas and for sensors to look out. So right now we have two fully retractable sensors in the belly of the airplane. We have brushless starter generators on the airplane to provide a lot of power, so it's built to go out and go a long way, stay out on station for a long time and come back."
Textron's Shadow M2 UAV, its eventual successor to the Shadow V2 - dubbed the 'workhorse of the US army', having flown almost one million miles during its military service - is also on display. In conjunction with Airbus, the Shadow M2 will be tested in Arizona shortly for the French DGA defense procurement agency.
According to Henry Finneral, "we're doing a demo currently for the French DGA. One of the key aspects of the Shadow M2 is for the payload capability and the endurance it provides is still a tactical system. It's able to utilize all the same ground support equipment and control station that the Shadow V2 uses, that has a million hours of flight time on it. It is launchable via catapult, so you don't need a large footprint or a large airfield to set up."
Finneral says the M2 has already clocked up more than 300 hours of flight tests and is an improvement on the V2. At around 750 pounds in weight, compared to the 450 pound V2, it is capable of carrying two payloads and can stay airborne for 12 hours, compared to the nine hours of the V2.
Airbus is showing off its A400M military transport aircraft, under scrutiny following the plane crash last month of one in Seville, Spain, after three of its huge turboprop engines froze just minutes into a routine, pre-delivery test flight, killing four of its six crew members. This time round, the big bird displayed its capabilities with sharp maneuvers and taking tight corners.
Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said he expects the A400M to be a success, despite its recent travails. "There is no competitor to the A400M which is by far the most modern military transport aircraft. So there will be a big export market, I'm convinced of it," said Bregier.
Another star of the show is Dassault's Rafale jet fighter which took to the sky on Monday (June 15) with a roar. Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation which produced the Rafale, said it was superior to its competitors. "The Rafale is better than the others because it is doing everything," said Trappier. "It is good in doing each mission, but it is doing every type of mission - air-to-air, air-to-ground, air-to-sea, recce mission, even nuclear mission for France and this capability to replace all types of aircraft, making one aircraft, all what you can do from an air force base or from the aircraft carrier which I think leaves Rafale to be the only one of its type omnimodal capabilities for addressing all types of missions."
The international show is the biggest of its kind, with 2260 exhibitors from 47 countries.