The X-45A unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstration aircraft completed its first flight in late May at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, Calif. The 14-minute flight reached an airspeed of 195 knots and an altitude of 7,500 feet. The first flight of the Boeing-built vehicle exercised basic functions, such as the command and control link between the unmanned aircraft and the ground mission control station. The government team includes the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA.
UCAV might "be able to blur the boundary a little bit between mission processing and vehicle management [avionics]," says Don Winter, director of open systems architecture at Boeing’s Phantom Works Division. Such coupling, exploiting shared resources, isn’t possible with manned aircraft, where a "hard firewall" is required between safety-critical and mission-critical systems. UCAV, like the AV-8B, has adopted an open systems approach, using commercial software standards and tools for mission code, under Boeing’s Bold Stroke initiative.
The Air Force plans to fly a second X-45A later this year, leading up to multi-aircraft flight test demonstrations in 2003. Additional tests will explore the limits of unmanned, coordinated combat operations, culminating with a group UCAV/manned aircraft exercise in fiscal year 2006.
Dassault Falcon Jet has flight-tested high-speed satcom (via Inmarsat Swift64) in the manufacturer’s Falcon 900EX demonstrator aircraft. It plans to offer the Teledyne Controls/EMS Technologies high-speed data (HSD-128) configuration to corporate customers and the fractional market, as well as to develop customized solutions for in-service aircraft using Aero H/H+ antennas. The current configuration uses EMS’ AMT-50 high-gain antenna system. The HSD-128, with 64-kilobit/sec (Kbit/sec) and 4.8-Kbit/sec voice options, permits clearer calls, compared with current 2.4-Kbit/sec satcom technology. The installation also supports four simultaneous Internet users. Dassault is working with EMS Technologies to transition to next-generation Inmarsat services, offering connection rates of up to 432 Kbits/sec. Visit www.falconjet.com.
FAA Security Fund
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced plans in May to disburse the $100-million fund appropriated by Congress for security improvements to aircraft flight decks and cabins. Eleven carriers were to receive about $3 million under a pilot program to provide video and other technology in the cabin and to implement fixed or mobile (crew-carried) emergency alerting systems. Recipients were to be American Trans Air, Astral Aviation (Skyway Airlines), Chautauqua Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Pacific Southwest Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines and Vanguard Airlines. The remaining $97 million will fund carriers’ strengthening of flight deck doors. As of late May, FAA was expecting designs from Boeing and Airbus to be submitted for approval. Airlines face a deadline of April 2003 for door installations and a limit of about $13,000 per aircraft. Visit www.faa.gov.
Honeywell and Stratos Aeronautical have announced a new Mobile Connect airborne satellite telephone service that will allow business jet travelers unchanging personal phone and fax numbers, i.e., numbers that remain with the traveler on various airplanes. The move, which simplifies ground-to-air communications, targets fractional aircraft owners, who fly on different aircraft. Honeywell has completed system trials and says it will be the first to offer Mobile Connect, which will use the Inmarsat satellite constellation and ground infrastructure. Stratos Aeronautical is the only satcom provider that offers direct ground-to-air voice communications over Inmarsat for business aviation. Visit www.honeywell.com and www.stratosglobal.com.
Universal Avionics Systems’ five-instrument cockpit display suite has received supplemental type certification (STC) approval on King Air 200/300/350 aircraft. Performed by Elliott Aviation, the STC includes the replacement of King Air electromechanical or electronic ADI and HSI instruments with four Universal EFI-550 flat panel displays. Visit www.uasc.com.
NEXCOM Teams Form
Harris Corp. recently announced a team for a new phase of the Next Generation air/ground Communications (NEXCOM) program. Harris’ team members for the two-year, rapid preliminary development effort (RPDE) include Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins and Avidyne. ITT Industries also has formed an RPDE team and General Dynamics was believed to be doing likewise.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to award up to three RPDE contracts in October 2002. Last year FAA awarded a 10-year, $580-million contract to ITT for up to 37,650 ground-based multimode digital radios. RPDE winners will be eligible to bid on the follow-on, full-scale development (FSD) award in 2005. Harris estimates that the RPDE and FSD awards will be worth $500 million over 10 years. Visit www.harris.com, www.itt.com and www.faa.gov.
Jet Aviation opened a new maintenance, refurbishment and fixed base operation (FBO) facility at London Biggin Hill Airport. The facility comprises two renovated hangars and a recently constructed FBO building. The site offers aircraft maintenance, exterior painting, avionics installations, electronic system installations and refurbishment for aircraft such as Gulfstreams, Falcons, Hawkers and Citations. Visit www.jetaviation.com.
URET in D.C.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has installed a Free Flight air traffic management tool at the Washington air route traffic control center (ARTCC) in Leesburg, Va. The User Request Evaluation Tool (URET) helps controllers to manage pilot requests for changes in flight path or altitude. URET already is employed at Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago, Indianapolis and Memphis. Visit www.faa.gov.
South African ATC
South Africa’s air traffic services provider, Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), has signed on Thales ATM to modernize the country’s air traffic control (ATC) facilities. The contract is understood to be the largest ever awarded by ATNS for ATC modernization. The South African Advanced Air Traffic Control System (SAAATS) program involves the installation of two Eurocat ATC centers controlling three flight information regions (FIRs): the Johannesburg area, the Johannesburg Oceanic area, and the Cape Town area. SAAATS is a major building block in the South African Future Air Management Efficiency (FAME) program, which seeks to "rationalize" South African airspace. Visit www.thalesatm.com.
The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NavAir) announced that it is equipping the E2-C Hawkeye 2000 with the new Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system, furthering the concept of network-centric warfare. CEC, already operational on some Navy ships, networks combatant radars and other sensors, allowing surface platforms to see an accurate single integrated air picture (SIAP) of potential threats in real time. The Navy conducted tests in May on the airborne early warning and control aircraft to evaluate the interoperability between CEC and data links. Additional testing will continue at the Patuxent River, Md., NAS through the fall of 2002; the system is expected to be deployed with the Nimitz battle group later this year. Visit http://pao.navair.navy.mil.
Denmark Joins JSF Program
Denmark will participate in the estimated $200-billion Joint Strike Fighter program, becoming the third non-U.S. participant–after the UK and Canada–to do so. Denmark will add $125 million to the project’s development and demonstration phase but has not committed to buying the aircraft. The country employs a fleet of 70 Lockheed Martin F-16s, one of the aircraft types that the JSF is intended to replace. Visit www.lmaeronautics.com and www.lockheedmartin.com.
BarcoView has been tapped by Thales ATM to provide 28-inch (71.1-cm) ISIS flat panel liquid crystal displays (LCDs) for The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAATS). BarcoView’s ISIS LCDs will be used in the TAAATS executive planner workstation, replacing the cathode ray tube (CRT)-based main displays in the Melbourne and Brisbane air traffic centers. Under TAAATS, en-route ATC is being consolidated at the two centers. Visit www.barco.com.
Compass Call Upgrade
BAE Systems has received a $53-million contract to modernize equipment on the U.S. Air Force EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, supporting the service’s Block 35 upgrade. Compass Call is a version of the C-130 Hercules airlifter modified to conduct tactical command, control and communications countermeasures (C3CM). BAE Systems’ Information & Electronic Warfare Systems unit, based in Nashua, N.H., won a $59-million award in May 2001 under the same production contract. A third production lot could be initiated in 2003. Two squadrons of EC-130H aircraft are stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. Visit www.iews.na.baesystems.com.
Boeing has selected Kaiser Electronics, a Rockwell Collins unit, to provide the cockpit display suite for South Korea’s new F-15K multirole aircraft. Included in the suite are three 5-inch (12.7-cm) flat panel color displays (FPCDs), four, 6-inch (15.2-cm) multipurpose displays (MPDs) and a wide field-of-view head-up display (HUD). Visit www.rockwellcollins.com and www.boeing.com.
ARINC has received a one-year extension to the Aeronautical Communications Services (ACS) contract it holds with the Federal Aviation Administration. ARINC will provide continued network support for services such as flight planning, predeparture clearance, departure clearance, terminal/en-route weather, notices to airmen (NOTAMS) and flight delay programs. Visit www.arinc.com.
The Pitch for PRMs
If we installed the precision runway monitor [PRM] at 12 airports, we could realize 35,200 hours of delay savings a year," said Duane Orth, Raytheon’s business director-air traffic and tactical terminals, in a Washington briefing. "Over 20 years, that’s a savings of 700,000 delay hours and $4.7 billion in costs. The payback for a PRM is about 14 months." PRMs cost about $8 million, plus installation, spares and training, he added. The delay savings largely would come from facilitating parallel approaches to closely spaced runways.
Raytheon already has orders to install PRM systems at six airports in the United States. The company believes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should buy more of the surface surveillance radars, arguing that the record number of flight delays of 2001 prior to Sept. 11 probably will return sooner than the 18 months (from 9/11) that has been estimated.
"The issues that prevented closely spaced parallel approaches have been resolved," Orth added, referring to decisions made by the Closely Spaced Parallel Approach (CSPA) steering committee, led by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA). Procedures for these approaches, which the committee has been working on since late 2000, have been established and agreed upon by ATA, FAA, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).
FAA requires that, under instrument flight rule (IFR) conditions, runways must be separated by 4,300 feet (1,310 meters) to allow parallel approaches. However, with a PRM on the airport and a 3-degree ILS offset, the separation can be reduced to at least 3,000 feet (914 meters). This, Raytheon contends, would greatly increase capacity at airports, such as New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Philadelphia, and already increases capacity at Minneapolis and Sydney, Australia.
Gene Austin, Raytheon’s PRM program manager, described other procedures that could be performed with the surface radar, including triple simultaneous approaches at, for example, Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. He said the PRM would allow simultaneous offset instrument approaches (SOIA) and along-track separation (ATS) at airports with parallel runways that are as closely spaced at 700 feet (213 meters). SOIA will first be applied at San Francisco Airport (SFO), which will start operating a PRM this year, according to Austin.
Other PRMs will become operational in 2002–Philadelphia (scheduled for July) and JFK (third quarter). They will join systems operating in Minneapolis, Sydney, St. Louis and Hong Kong. Other PRM targets are Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, Newark, Chicago, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Detroit, Miami, Charlotte and Baltimore.
How can the PRM support closely spaced approaches? The key is rapid radar return updates–up to five times faster than conventional radar systems–using electronically scanned radar technology. "A controller can literally ‘see’ the airplane fly," as opposed to viewing intermittent, five-second updates, Orth claimed. With about a 32-nautical mile range, the radar creates "non-transgression zones," Austin added, referring to them as "guardrails in the sky." With the rapid updates, controllers can give pilots a 10-second advanced warning of a possible transgression, or "blunders," he said. Visit www.raytheon.com.