Aviation Technology Update

Aviation Technology Update

NASA’s X-43A hypersonic research aircraft marked a significant aviation milestone with its March 27, 2004 flight. The X-43A reached a speed of more than Mach 7, or about 5,000 mph, faster than any known aircraft powered by an air-breathing engine. NASA’s initial review, March 31, confirmed a treasure trove of flight data captured during the vehicle’s boost, stage separation and descent to splash down in the Pacific Ocean. “The data clearly shows…that scramjets work,” said Griff Corpening, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center’s X-43A Chief Engineer. “But we did see a couple of areas that differed from what was seen in the tunnels, thus reinforcing the need for flight testing,” he added. The flight was the result of a joint effort by NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Dryden, and their industry partners

BAE Systems has introduced a Day/ Night, All-Weather Capability designed to enable pilots of both fixed and rotary wing aircraft to navigate and land their aircraft through dust-outs, smoke, fog, haze, rain, snow, and complete darkness. The capability combines radar, infrared sensors, and low-light-level TV allowing pilots to see in extremely poor visual conditions. “One of the most dangerous challenges military aviators face is poor visibility, a fact that has been underscored by recent operations in unprepared environments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dutch Neilson, leader of the BAE Systems Platform Solutions team that developed the technology. “Our system provides the best and most affordable solution to the hazards caused by dust generated during landing and take-off, smoke in battlefield areas, and adverse weather.” The system consists of BAE Systems Radar-Enhanced Vision System, a multimode, millimeter wave radar, integrated with forward-looking infrared, low-light-level television, and proprietary sensor fusion technology to enable operation in zero-ceiling/zero-visibility environments.

Advanced Multi-Purpose Color Displays (AMPCD) have been implemented in Lemoore, California-based VFA-151 FA-18Cs, the first active squadron to receive the new gear. The delivery is a result of a three year joint development and testing effort by the Air Combat Electronics (PMA029), FA-18 (PMA265) Program Offices and Honeywell Industries. The NAVAIR team delivered the AMPCD, a formfit-function replacement to the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) based Multi-Purpose Color Display (MPCD) currently used by the FA-18C/D and AV-8 aircraft, three months ahead of its delivery date and under budget. VFA-151 pilots noted the improved resolution and color and related that the AMPCD was better than the best MPCD display they had ever seen. AMPCDs were also shipped to MCAS Miramar, California for installation in VMFA-323’s Hornets. AV-8 Harriers will also get the AMPCD.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will borrow a WWII innovation for production. Members of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production team are considering adopting the use of a moving assembly line for a combat fighter jet. “Affordability is the cornerstone on which the JSF program is built, and we’re beginning to see how a continuous moving assembly line could help us meet our commitment to keep costs low,” said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 JSF program general manager. In late January, members of the F-35 production team from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems gathered on the Lockheed Martin factory floor in Fort Worth, Texas to begin laying out a preliminary plan for a continuous moving line. Using a full-scale F-35 model, the team simulated processes for installing aircraft systems as the jet crept along an imaginary track. “The last time this plant saw a moving assembly line, it was pumping out B-24s at tremendous rates during World War II,” Burbage said. The concept has been greatly refined and is used in the assembly of some large, commercial airliners.”

U.S. Navy’s Tactical Air Combat Training System (TACTS) and the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Training System (ACTS) will soon be getting an upgrade, thanks to a $420,000 contract awarded to FAAC Incorporated, a subsidiary of Arotech Corporation. “This is the first of an anticipated four-year program to bring simulation architecture up to modern standards,” said FAAC President Al Jordan. “The legacy software, developed over 20 years ago, had become difficult for the government to maintain and was beginning to restrict long-term expansion.” FAAC has a 30-year history of providing weapon system simulations for the family of Air Force and Navy TACTS air combat training ranges. According to Arotech Chairman Robert S. Ehrlich, the new design will provide growth capability for more than 25 air combat training ranges located worldwide.

An Integrated Maritime Surveillance System has been demonstrated by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. and Lockheed Martin. It is a low-cost, low-risk, highly capable solution for the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program. During a recent flight exercise in San Diego, California Navy, Coast Guard and Homeland Security officials observed the demonstration at Lockheed Martin’s Global Vision Center or through a real-time secure webcast. The UAV is built around a proven, lowcost air vehicle system, established sensors and network communications capabilities. It is designed to expand the Navy’s ability to conduct broad area maritime surveillance and provide persistent lntelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). This flight was the first time a 360-degree maritime surface search radar was demonstrated on a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft.

Copyright Association of Naval Aviation Spring 2004

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