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Monday, March 1, 2010

Industry Scan

FAA Proposes $1.1 Billion On NextGen Spending In FY2011 Budget Request

FAA has proposed spending $1.143 billion on Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) programs in its fiscal 2011 budget request, an increase of $275 million or 32 percent over the FY2010 enacted level.

FAA’s overall budget request for FY2011 is $16.5 billion, roughly 3 percent higher than the FY2010 enacted budget.

The NextGen portfolio includes $1.023 billion distributed among programs in the Facilities & Equipment (F&E) account a 30 percent increase over FY2010 $77.5 million for Research, Engineering & Development (RE&D) and $42.5 million for Operations.

“The FAA is moving forward with a dual-pronged approach for implementing NextGen,” the agency states in its budget summary.

“We are maximizing the use of untapped capabilities in today’s aircraft and ground infrastructure, while working aggressively to develop and deploy new systems and procedures that will form a foundation for more transformative capabilities that will be delivered in the mid-term.”

The F&E account contains $176 million for continued nationwide deployment of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) ground stations by prime contractor ITT Corp., with associated Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B) transmissions.

“Prior-year funding focused on competing and awarding the service contract for the National program, to include turning on options for implementation of limited areas of ADS-B in the Gulf of Mexico, Juneau, Louisville, Philadelphia, Ontario, and an expansion of the TIS-B and FIS-B services in the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Southern California areas,” FAA states. “Also included were activities focused on design reviews, testing and validation of the vendor designated architecture and acceleration of Future Applications development.

“For FY2011, activities will focus on continuing the National Airspace System wide deployment of ASD-B, the continuance of future application development and the monitoring of ADS-B equipage for compliance with the rule, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register in 2010,” FAA said.

Under the agency’s Operations account, $25 million is provided to design and implement new high-altitude, performance-based routes between 10 major metropolitan areas in the next three to four years, rather than the originally planned six-to-eight years.

The funding also will be used to develop new terminal procedures in major metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta and Denver.

The agency’s overall RE&D proposal is $500,000 lower than the prior year, but contains a 7.6 percent increase in NextGen research funding, supporting enhanced development efforts in air/ground integration, weather in the cockpit and environmental research for aircraft technologies, fuels and metrics, FAA said.

In explaining the budget Feb. 1, FAA said increased NextGen funding will begin to address recommendations of the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force, which released a series of recommendations Sept. 9 for achieving mid-term NextGen efficiencies.

“We believe that it is important for us to respond positively to the task force, and to continue the collaboration we have established this year,” FAA states. “The FY2011 budget supports recommendations from the RTCA Task Force in the areas of surface tactical flows, runway access, metroplex, cruise, NAS access, integrated ATM and data communications.”


Commerical

FAA Responds To TF5

FAA in late January responded to recommendations of the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force (also known as Task Force 5) with a 28-page document outlining steps it will take for each of the task force’s top-tier operational proposals.

The RTCA Task Force last September produced an industry-consensus report with recommendations for achieving “mid-term” NextGen capabilities — in the period 2015 to 2018. FAA issued its response in lieu of the 2010 NextGen Implementation Plan (NGIP) update, which was expected in January. The NGIP was postponed until March.

The task force “slate of recommendations is critical to the FAA’s approach to NextGen development and deployment,” the agency states. “… In response to the RTCA report, the FAA has adjusted its planning to address the Task Force’s Tier One recommendations.”

In what has been described as an “airport and metroplex-centric” approach, the task force produced recommendations in five operational “domains” of surface operations, runway access, metroplex, cruise and National Airspace System (NAS) access, as well as two areas considered cross-cutting: data communications and integrated air traffic management.

The task force also made “overarching” recommendations to incentivize equipage, streamline operational approvals and certification, achieve existing 3- and 5-mile separation standards and continue collaborating with industry.

On the overarching recommendation to incentivize equipage by airspace users, FAA says more time is needed to study the ramifications. Nevertheless, the agency in April is expected to issue a “performance-based” equipment rule mandating compliance by 2020.

“We are continuing discussions with the aviation community on what constitutes a ‘best-equipped, best-served’ strategy that will encourage NAS users to equip,” FAA said. “As we implement new technologies, procedures and avionics equipage in the NAS, the system has to accommodate aircraft with NextGen technologies as well as those that have not begun the transition. When we successfully resolve the mixed performance/equipage challenge, additional choices and improved levels of service will be available. ‘Best-equipped, best-served’ requires analyses to determine the risks and opportunities that must be considered as controllers and operators deal with this mixed-equipage environment.”

Further guidance on FAA’s plans to implement the recommendations is expected at the RTCA Spring Symposium, co-produced by Avionics Magazine. The symposium will be held April 6-7 in Washington, D.C. For more information, see www.RTCASpringSymposium.com.

Airbus RFID Order

Airbus in January placed a multi-year order to equip its A350XWB fleet with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for flyable components.

Memory chip developer Tego, Inc., of Waltham, Mass., and Paris-based firm MAINtag SAS will provide two designs of their jointly developed “FLYtag” product line, initially to tag some 1,500 parts on the new widebody.

Tego is supplying the 8 Kbyte memory chip specified by Airbus, which is designed to the Air Transport Association (ATA) Spec 2000 data standard. MAINtag provides the tags, conforming to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) AS5678 aerospace standard.

The order, announced Jan. 19, was described as a pioneering effort to introduce RFID tracking on aircraft. Airbus reports 505 orders for three variants of the A350, potentially representing hundreds of thousands of RFID tags.

“What Airbus has done here is provide a contract vehicle and a pricing model to allow the industry to get up and running pretty seamlessly without having to use a lot of contractual activities to make the whole thing work,” said Timothy Butler, Tego president and CEO.

RFID uses radio frequency waves to transfer data between a reader and the tagged components. The tags developed for use on aircraft are “passive,” without a dedicated power supply. The A350 widebody will be the first Airbus aircraft to use the passive RFID tags on flyable parts. Boeing has said it will use RFID tags for “maintenance-specific parts” on the 787 Dreamliner.

Airbus on Nov. 26 introduced a new maintenance, repair and overhaul strategy supporting RFID adoption for “value chain visibility,” with tracing of both flyable and non-flyable components over their total lifecycle.

The RFID tags on flyable parts will support improved aircraft configuration management and line maintenance, repair shop optimization, warehouse logistics, payload tracking and life-limited parts monitoring, the companies said.

“Broadly speaking what they’re looking to do is tag both pressurized and non-pressurized flyable parts,” Butler said. “Pressurized flyable parts are inside the cabin initially avionics equipment, audio visual equipment, seats, materials, life-limited parts like oxygen generators, potentially life vests where there’s not as much information required but there’s a need to maintain reporting requirements.

“In non-pressurized areas, you’re talking about major repair and overhaul areas [such as] jet engines, the wings, major components and subassemblies of those components,” he said. “It’s really permeating throughout the whole plane.”

Butler said Tego had already started shipping memory chips to MAINtag. The tagging of components is expected to begin later this year and in 2011. The A350 is expected to enter service in 2013.

Other aerospace manufacturers and suppliers have expressed interest in RFID tagging, Butler said.

“What we’ve heard from a lot of the manufacturers and the OEMs is that once this gets implemented, [they will] begin incorporating into the designs of all their parts going forward these sorts of tags,” he said. “In our conversations with the OEMs, virtually everyone that we have talked to and it’s over a dozen at this point are expecting privately to begin implementing and tagging virtually their whole inventory over the course of the next couple of years.” —Bill Carey

MC-21 Actuation

Goodrich Corp. was selected by Irkut and Aviapribor of Russia to provide the flight control actuation system for the new Irkut MC-21 family of single-aisle commercial aircraft, the company announced Feb. 1.

The MC-21 is being developed by Irkut as a family of short-to-medium range airliners, carrying between 150 and 210 passengers. Initial entry into service is planned for 2016.

Irkut has selected Rockwell Collins to provide communications, navigation and surveillance equipment and pilot controls.

Goodrich will contract with Aviapribor to design, develop and produce primary and secondary flight control actuation for all variants of the MC-21. In addition, Goodrich will provide complete actuation system integration optimized for the aircraft.

“The new MC-21 aircraft will benefit from lower weight, enhanced reliability and ease of maintenance through the latest Goodrich fly-by-wire flight control technology,” said Jack Carmola, Goodrich segment president for Actuation and Landing Systems. “We look forward to developing a long and successful relationship with Aviapribor and Irkut.”

Aircell Funding

In-flight connectivity system provider Aircell said Jan. 21 it had secured $176 million in equity funding from new and existing investors, the proceeds of which will be used for network expansion and operating needs.

Aircell said its Gogo in-flight Internet service has been deployed on more than 700 commercial aircraft, with commitments from nine airlines.

“This substantial capital raise is a strong endorsement of our business achievements to date,” said Ron LeMay, Aircell president and CEO.

“Aircell is well positioned to continue its ongoing aircraft deployment and rapid acceleration in customer adoption of Gogo throughout 2010 and beyond.”

London WAM/ADS-B

Thales U.K. will provide a Wide-Area Multilateration (WAM) system to National Air Traffic Services (NATS) of the United Kingdom under terms of a contract announced Jan. 25.

The trial system will enable NATS to investigate the operational capabilities of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and WAM to support future en-route surveillance.

The contract also supports the Eurocontrol CASCADE program through the CRISTAL U.K. 3 project, Thales said.

The WAM installation will consist of a six-sensor active WAM/ADS-B system located around London and covering Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Luton and Stansted airports. The network will be used to validate multilateration against a proven radar surveillance picture.

The WAM system will use existing NATS sites and infrastructure to allow data to be collected and processed at the central processing station, which is based at the NATS Corporate Technical Center at Southampton.

A key outcome of the CRISTAL U.K. 3 project will be to validate the safety of ADS-B/WAM in meeting the current 3 nm separation standard.

“NATS is continually evaluating whether the latest technologies can support or improve its air traffic operations. Therefore, we are particularly interested in determining whether ADS-B and WAM can be used for surveillance to deliver the demanding 3 nm separation standard in high-density airspace,” said Mark Watson, NATS head of CNS/ATM research.

Low-Cost Surveillance

SRA International, based in Fairfax, Va., said Jan. 13 that it had completed factory acceptance tests under FAA’s Low-Cost Ground Surveillance (LCGS) program.

The company said the tests demonstrated the operational capabilities of its system using the Terma Scanter 2001 surface movement radar and the HITT A-3000 ATC Display and Surveillance Data Fusion System.

The LCGS program is aimed at reducing the number of runway incursions at small- to medium-sized airports where it is impractical to deploy expensive runway surface detection equipment.

SRA is one of four companies installing LCGS systems at U.S. airports under the FAA program. SRA’s LCGS system will be installed at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in California, and is scheduled to begin evaluation this month.

Other companies involved in the LCGS demonstration program include Thales, which is supplying its Surface Traffic Enhancement and Automation Support system at the Manchester Boston Regional Airport; Northrop Grumman, installing a system at the Reno, Nev., airport; and Sensis Corp., deploying a system at the Long Beach, Calif., airport.

Upon completion of pilot site evaluations, one or more LCGS systems may be selected for NAS-wide deployment at up to 30 locations, according to FAA.

Pilot airport site evaluations also will explore LCGS capability to provide the infrastructure for other applications such as Runway Status Lights, Final Approach Runway Occupancy Signal and Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System, according to FAA.

Military

Pentagon Budget

President Barack Obama on Feb. 1 sent a $549 billion budget request to Congress for the Department of Defense (DoD), representing a 3.4 percent increase over the current Pentagon budget. Another $159 billion is requested for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fiscal 2011 budget request includes $10.7 billion for continued development of the F-35 Lightning II and for the purchase of 43 low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 5 aircraft, 22 of which are slated to go to the Air Force.

Production, however, will be delayed 13 months to extend the test program to November 2015, a move reflecting new data on cost and performance, according to defense officials.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Feb. 1 said he was replacing Marine Corps. Maj. Gen. David R. Heinz as head of the F-35 program and withholding $614 million in fees to prime contractor Lockheed Martin due to unexpected cost growth and performance problems. Lockheed Martin officials acknowledged the program is running about six months behind schedule.

Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, will be nominated to succeed Heinz as F-35 program executive officer.

“The reality is it’s a good airplane. It’s meeting the performance parameters,” Gates told the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 3.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, reported to the committee that DoD will get its first F-35 training squadron in 2011, followed by delivery to the Marines in 2012; the Air Force in 2013 and the Navy in 2014.

The president’s budget also calls for the elimination of the F136 alternative engine for the F-35, developed by General Electric and Rolls-Royce. Gates said he would oppose any bill that includes money for the congressionally backed alternative engine. That veto threat would apply to an extension of the C-17 production line.

Obama on Feb. 1 singled out the C-17 Globemaster program as an example of government “waste.”

“I am fully aware of the political pressure to continue building the C-17 and to proceed with an alternative engine for the F-35,” Gates said. “Let me be clear: I will strongly recommend that the president veto any legislation that sustains the unnecessary continuation of these two programs.”

In conjunction with the president’s budget, the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which identifies military priorities of prevailing in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; preventing and deterring conflicts; preparing the department for a range of contingencies; and preserving and enhancing the all-volunteer force.

The QDR also identified enablers to these priorities, including increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, more helicopters and increased emphasis on special operations forces.

Following is a breakdown of budget requests by military branch:

Air Force: The Air Force’s $170.8 billion budget request for FY2011 includes more money for unmanned aircraft systems.

The service’s $15.4 billion aircraft procurement budget covers 149 new aircraft 97 manned and 52 unmanned. The base budget provides for 36 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs; 22 F-35A Lightning IIs; 15 Light Mobility aircraft; eight C-27J Spartan mobility aircraft; four RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs; five CV-22As for the Air Force Special Operations Command and three HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, among others.

The budget request doubles procurement funds for the MQ-9 Reaper in order to increase combat air patrols from the current target of 50 to at least 65 by 2015.

The budget foresees a contract award for the KC-X tanker requirement this summer, with initial purchase in 2013. The drawn-out competition pits Boeing against the team of Northrop Grumman/EADS to design and build 179 KC-Xs to replace aging KC-135 tankers.

Army: Aviation got a boost in the Army’s budget request. The budget seeks $143.3 billion for the Army and $102 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), primarily those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The request includes $1.4 billion for 72 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks, and $1.2 billion for upgrading CH-47 Chinooks from the D to the F model. The Army has requested $887 million for modernization of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The EADS-built UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter will receive $326 million.

The service seeks $459 million for the General Atomics MQ-1 Sky Warrior unmanned aircraft system. Another $505 million is set for modifications to AAI Corp.’s RQ-7 Shadow UAV.

The OCO request includes $187 million to replace OH-58 Kiowa Warrior battle losses and to make modifications. It includes $198 million for aircraft survivability equipment, including infrared countermeasures.

Navy: The Navy will purchase 206 aircraft in FY2011, one fewer than in FY2010, according to the service’s $160 billion baseline budget.

The $46 billion procurement budget includes 12 Boeing EA-18G Growlers; seven P-8 Multi-Mission Maritime aircraft; 22 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets; 13 F-35B short takeoff vertical landing variants; seven of the Navy carrier variant, the F-35C; 28 Bell Helicopter AH-1Z/UH-1Ys; 30 Bell-Boeing MV-22B tiltrotors; 24 Lockheed Martin MH-60R and 18 MH-60S helicopters; and three Northrop Grumman Fire Scout UAVs.

The Navy’s EP-X program to replace EP-3E surveillance aircraft is terminated.

Sources including our sister publication, Defense Daily, were used for this report.

ARGUS-IS Flights

BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H., completed initial flight tests of the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System, or ARGUS-IS, on a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter. The tests demonstrated the system’s multiple video windows for persistent area surveillance and tracking capabilities for vehicles and dismounted soldiers.

BAE said the airborne processing system can simultaneously and continuously detect and track the presence and motion of thousands of small or large targets over an area covering tens of square miles. BAE Systems equipment for ARGUS-IS consists of a high-resolution, extreme wide-area, real-time video sensor; an on-board processing system; and ground processing for interactive multi-target designation, tracking and exploitation.

“The ARGUS-IS system overcomes the fundamental limitations of current airborne surveillance systems,” said Steven Wein, BAE Systems director of optical sensor systems. “Very high-resolution imaging systems required for vehicle and dismount tracking typically have a ‘soda-straw’ view that is too small for persistent coverage. Existing wide-area systems have either inadequate resolution or require multiple passes or revisits to get updates.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded BAE Systems an initial $18.5 million contract to lead the ARGUS-IS effort in late 2007.

The system is intended for use in manned and unmanned aerial surveillance platforms.

Retrofit AESA

Northrop Grumman demonstrated its Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) on an F-16 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in support of the Air Force’s F-16 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) feasibility study, the company said Jan. 25.

SABR is an AESA radar designed for retrofit in current F-16s and other legacy fighter, attack and training aircraft, according to Northrop Grumman.

“This officially marks the first time a retrofit AESA has ever flown in a legacy F-16,” said Arlene Camp, director of Advanced F-16 Radar Programs with Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector.

“This demonstration validated our goal of developing an AESA that can be easily installed on the flight line and integrated with existing power and cooling provisions of currently fielded F-16s. … With regard to installed performance, SABR’s air-to-air and air-to-ground detection and tracking and Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping performance met or exceeded our predictions.”

B-52H Flight

Boeing’s B-52H bomber upgraded with new communications technology completed its first test flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Jan. 17. The Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) upgrade allows B-52H crews to receive and send real-time digital information during their missions.

The three-hour test flight included an initial system build-up test, interphone test, communication test and power-on of each system in flight to determine that there were no adverse effects on flight-essential systems, Boeing said.

“Completion of the first test flight brings us one step closer to giving command centers and troops on the ground the ability to communicate with the B-52 through the military’s digital information network,” said Jim Kroening, Boeing B-52 Development Programs manager.

“Augmenting current voice-based communication gives B-52 crews greater situational awareness and significantly enhanced mission capabilities.”

EADS Acquisition

EADS North America Test and Services, based in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 11 announced plans to acquire Trig-Tek, Inc., of Garden Grove, Calif., a manufacturer of precision, dynamic test and measurement instruments for the U.S. aerospace and defense markets.

EADS said the acquisition is “consistent with our strategy to provide our customers with the most advanced automatic test solutions. It also supports EADS North America’s goal to grow our business in the U.S. and to enhance our global test and services offering.”

Lyle Wells, who was the president and owner of Trig-Tek, will remain involved with the day-to-day operations of the company in a consulting role.

“Trig-Tek is an excellent acquisition and good fit for our engineer-to-engineer culture,” said Jim Mulato, EADS North America Test and Services president. “Its complementary product line will enable us to provide even more complete, tailored, test solutions to our military, semiconductor and engine test customers.”

Unmanned K-MAX

Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace in February demonstrated to the U.S. Marine Corps the capability of the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter to resupply troops at forward operating bases.

During a series of test flights at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in early February, the Unmanned K-MAX demonstrated autonomous and remote controlled flight over both line-of-sight and satellite-based beyond line-of-sight data link.

The aircraft demonstrated hovering at 12,000 feet with a 1,500-pound sling load; delivering 3,000 pounds of cargo within the six-hour required time frame to a forward operating base, involving two 150 nm round-trip flights; precision load delivery by a ground-based operator in day and night conditions; and uploading a new mission plan to the aircraft’s mission management system during flight.

“The unmanned system performed operationally representative cargo resupply scenarios, and each time the system delivered as promised,” said Sal Bordonaro, Kaman Helicopters president.

“Team K-MAX” had flown the Unmanned K-MAX nearly 400 hours in unmanned mode since 2007, the companies said. The demonstration fulfilled an $860,000 Marine Corps contract awarded to K-MAX manufacturer Kaman Aerospace last August.

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