NORTHROP GRUMMAN successfully completed the maiden flight of the first US Navy MQ-4C Triton from its facility at Palmdale, California, on May 21. The UAV, Bu No 168457, took off at 07:10 and was airborne for an hour and 20 minutes, successfully demonstrating the control systems that enable the Triton to operate autonomously. During the flight, in restricted airspace, the MQ-4C reached an altitude of 20,000ft (6,096m) before returning to Palmdale. The first Triton, being developed under the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) programme, was rolled out at Palmdale on June 14 last year. Flight testing at Palmdale will continue for the next few months to develop the system before it is transferred in the autumn to the main flight test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, for continued testing. When operational, the Triton will complement the US Navy's manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon as it can fly for longer periods and transmit information in real time to units in the air and on the ground. It will be based at five locations around the world and be capable of flying 24-hour missions at altitudes greater than ten miles (16km), allowing its systems to monitor 2,000nm of ocean and coastal areas at any one time. The US Navy plans to eventually acquire up to 68 MQ-4C Tritons.
The first upgraded US Army Bell OH-58F Kiowa Warrior, 93-00960, performed its maiden flight at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, on May 26. The helicopter was then formally unveiled with a second, ceremonial 'first flight' there on May 30. The OH-58F is being produced under the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP), which converts old model OH-58D Kiowa Warriors to the new standard, addressing obsolescence issues and improving sensor capabilities. The first OH-58F, originally a 1968-vintage OH-58A airframe, was modified at the US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center Prototype Integration Facility at Madison County Executive Airport in Meridianville, Alabama, and handed over on October 24, 2012. It has been outfitted with flight test instrumentation. Although a second development OH-58F has also been completed at Meridianville, production models will be converted at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas. Another OH-58D, being used as a structural test airframe for the !F model, has been flying for several weeks, but does not incorporate the OH-58F!s new avionics.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 asserted its authority as soon as it appeared over the Channel Front in September 1941. It was so clearly superior to the Spitfire Mk.V that RAF Fighter Command curtailed operations twice - from November 1941 to March 1942, and again from 13 June 1942 - due to unacceptably high losses against the Luftwaffe's "Butcher Bird". The Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series engines would offer the Spitfire the essential edge it needed to balance the scales against this new foe, but the high altitude Spitfire Mk.VII and the unpressurised Mk.VIII were still many months away from production. An interim proposal was therefore made to provide a suitable solution in a more timely fashion. The Merlin 61 engine would be fitted to the existing Spitfire Mk.V airframe, matching the Fw 190s performance at medium and high altitudes. This aircraft was known as the Spitfire F.Mk.lX, Type No.361. The resulting Spitfire retained the clean lines of the earlier Mks. I, II and V, but featured a longer and modified fuselage to accommodate the bigger engine, revised intakes, radiators and oil coolers, and a four-bladed propeller to absorb the greater power.
I found out about Ma.K (Maschinen Krieger) kits by searching for sci-fi models on the net. I didn't know what I had just stumbled across but I knew I had to build it! With my love of Star Wars and fondness of old rusty WW2 tanks, this ticked all the right boxes. It was the 1:20 Großer Hund kit by Hasegawa. After a little researching and checking out other peoples builds I was blown away by the talent of these Maschinen Krieger modellers! To say I was a little apprehensive to start on this project is an understatement, but rather than get bogged down by the 'rivet counters' I thought I'd just roll with it and put my own stamp on it. On opening the rather substantial box I was greeted by lots of sprues (including a rubber one), instructions, a handy reference card, clear parts, decals and some lengths of rubber hose. I couldn't wait to get stuck in.