United States Current Affairs - 2019

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NASA unveils its first electric plane

The United States space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled an early version of its first all-electric experimental aircraft, named as  X-57 “Maxwell” at its aeronautics lab in the California desert, US.

About X-57 “Maxwell”

It was under development since 2015 and remains at least a year away from its first test flight in skies. NASA targets to fly this airplane in late 2020.

It will be the NASA’s first crewed X-plane to be developed in two decades. It is adapted from Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller plane.

Features:

NASA’s X-57 venture is aimed at designing and proving technology as per the standards that commercial manufacturers can adapt for government certification. These will include standards for airworthiness and safety, as well as for energy efficiency and noise.

Its final modification (Mod IV) will feature narrower, lighter-weight wings fitted with total 14 electric engines- 6 smaller ‘lift’ props along leading edge of each wing. It will also have 2 larger ‘cruise’ props at tip of each wing. Lift propellers will be activated for take-off and landings, but retract during flight’s cruise phase.

The plane will be propelled by 14 electric motors powered by specially designed lithium ion batteries. Since electric motor systems are more compact with fewer moving parts than internal-combustion engines (ICE’s), they are simpler to maintain and weigh much less, thus requiring less energy to fly. Moreover they also are quieter that conventional engines.

Challenge: To improve battery technology to store more energy to extend plane’s range, with faster re-charging. At present due to plane’s battery limitations, the Maxwell’s design is intended for use in short-haul flights as an commuter plane/ air-taxi for a small number of passengers.

Malabar Exercise 2019: India, Japan, US Naval Exercise begins

The Malabar Exercise 2019, the trilateral maritime exercise between navies of India, Japan and the US began off the coast of Japan. The year 2019 is the 23rd edition of Malabar Exercise.

Key Highlights

Indian Navy: Two frontline indigenously designed and built Indian naval ships participating in exercise are- INS Sahyadri, a multi-purpose guided-missile frigate and INS Kiltan, a ASW (anti-submarine warfare) Corvette. In addition to ships, a P8I (Poseidon Eight India) Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft has also reached Japan for the exercise.

The US Navy: It is being represented by USS McCampbell (DDG-85), a Los Angeles-Class Attack Submarine, and a ‘P8A‘ Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

Japan Navy: known as The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF). It is participating with its JS Kaga, a Izumo class helicopter destroyer, JS Samidare and Choukai, a guided-missile destroyers and a ‘P1’ Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

During the harbour phase, the three partner navies would conduct sports fixtures, official protocol visits, reciprocal ship visits, professional interactions in subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) and social events.

Significance

Malabar 2019 exercise seeks to further strengthen India-Japan-US naval cooperation and enhance interoperability, based on shared values and principles. The exercise involves complex maritime operations in surface, sub-surface and air domains. It also focuses on maritime interdiction operations (MIO), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-air and anti-surface firings. Apart from these it also includes visit board search and seizure (VBSS) and tactical scenario-based exercise at sea.

Thus the participation of Indian naval ships and aircraft in the trilateral exercise would significantly bolster strong maritime bonds of friendship between three participant countries and at the same time it would contribute towards security and stability in region.