Friday, August 1, 2008
‘Game-Changing’ EO DAS Nears Action on Joint Strike Fighter
As a fifth-generation, multirole fighter, the F-35 Lightning II brings a lot to the table in terms of stealth, lethality and survivability. One "transformational" system that is quietly nearing flight on the aircraft is the Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO DAS).
Designated AN/AAQ-37, the EO DAS is comprised of six infrared sensors, flush-mounted around the aircraft to afford 360-degree, spherical coverage — in mathematical terms "4 pi steradian." The sensor array will provide the F-35 pilot with missile-warning, situational awareness and navigation FLIR, operating simultaneously, in one package. Integrated via the mission computer, the system will support target detection and identification functions of the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) and AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems Division is supplying both the EO DAS and AN/APG-81 radar for the F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The company in late June invited Avionics to its facilities in Linthicum, Md., near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, to discuss the status of the two core systems.
With the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the fighter having just taken wing ( see page 11) and with two F-35s now racking up flight hours, much of the discussion focused on the lesser reported EO DAS.
"Most people think of us as the radar company [but] this is the real game-changer for the F-35 that separates it from the F-22 and the F-18," said Dave Bouchard, director of JSF Programs. "The F-22 has a very basic missile launch detection system; this is a significant game-changing capability."
Said Pete Bartos, marketing director for Combat Avionics Systems, "People really don’t get what DAS does. It’s just one of those unknown, very core pieces of the JSF that, by the way, no other airplane in the world has."
Development of the system started in 2002, based on earlier technology. The program included flights of a F-16 equipped with a DAS sensor in a centerline pod to record data in a dynamic fighter environment. Live missile testing was conducted to collect data and validate models. The first flight of an EO DAS on Northrop Grumman’s BAC 1-11 testbed, initially fitted with three sensors, took place in November 2005.
Data collected during flight tests has been used to develop and optimize algorithms that process sensor data — where the real functionality of the system lies, Bouchard said. "In the algorithms, we seamlessly stitch together two or three cameras depending on the field of regard. Our requirement is to have seamlessly stitched, near 20/20 visual acuity," he said. Extremely fast update rates are required to prevent latency of the DAS imagery, which will be projected onto the pilot’s helmet-mounted display. "It has to be updated fast enough so the eye can’t tell it’s a video image as opposed to the real image," he said.
The Netherlands, a JSF program partner, has contributed to the EO DAS development. Northrop Grumman in 2003 contracted with the country’s Organization for Applied Scientific Research, Physics and Electronics Laboratory to provide signal-conditioning algorithms to enhance the clarity of DAS imagery. Thales Cryogenics, of Eindhoven, The Netherlands, is providing cryogenic coolers for the infrared detectors.
At this writing, Northrop Grumman’s BAC 1-11, mounted now with a full set of six sensors, had flown more than 100 hours with the EO DAS. The time flown is more impressive, Bartos said, when considering that DAS sensors collect a terabyte per hour of data. That information is archived by the company to check system performance. However, the baseline F-35 has no data storage mechanism, and using the system to track a missile, for example, "will be like taking a sip out of a fire hydrant," he said.
The company had delivered three sets of EO DAS sensors to JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin for its mission systems integration lab in Fort Worth, for the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird) aircraft, and for BF-4, the first F-35 slated to fly with the system. Bouchard said CATBird, a modified Boeing 737, will start flying with mission systems hardware this fall, including the AESA radar. The EO DAS "is about nine months to the right of radar," he said, putting its first flight on CATBird in latter 2009 and on F-35 in 2010.
In addition, Northrop Grumman had been awarded two contracts for Low-Rate Initial Production of the EO DAS — the first for two shipsets of six sensors each; the second for 12 shipsets. The first production delivery is slated for the end of the year.
The executives rolled a video that had been prepared for the Farnborough Airshow with previously unreleased EO DAS imagery. The narrator sings the praises of the system’s many capabilities, which include missile warning and launch-site detection, continuous tracking and ID correlation during aerial combat, day and night vision around the aircraft, including through the floor, and high off-boresight target designation.
"In the age of high off-boresight weaponry and highly maneuverable aircraft, hesitation means defeat," intones the narrator. "... With DAS, maneuverability is irrelevant. Instead of mutual kills, the F-35 simply exits the fight, and lets its missiles do the turning." — Bill Carey
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained Boeing’s protest of the KC-X tanker contract award to Northrop Grumman and EADS, likely delaying the priority tanker replacement program and calling into question the ability of the Air Force to manage large procurements.
GAO issued its decision June 18, responding to the March 11 protest filing by Boeing. Finding that the Air Force "had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome" of the tanker competition, the congressional investigative agency recommended the service obtain revised proposals and make a new source selection decision.
The Air Force by law was allowed 60 days to inform GAO of its actions in response to the decision. In a statement, Sue C. Payton, Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, said, "The Air Force will do everything we can to rapidly move forward so America receives this urgently needed capability. The Air Force will select the best value tanker for our nation’s defense, while being good stewards of the taxpayer dollar."
The competition pits Boeing’s KC-767 tanker against the KC-45A, a tanker based on the Airbus A330 proposed by Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent company EADS. In a surprising decision, the Air Force Feb. 29 selected the KC-45A for a requirement ultimately to build 179 aircraft for more than $35 billion.
GAO said its decision "should not be read to reflect a view as to the merits of the firms’ respective aircraft." The agency sustained several, although not all, of Boeing’s challenges to the contract award. Specifically, GAO upheld claims that the Air Force did not take into account Boeing’s offer to satisfy more non-mandatory technical requirements than Northrop Grumman; inappropriately considered a "key discriminator" for aerial refueling capability in favor of Northrop Grumman; did not reasonably determine the KC-45A "could refuel all current Air Force fixed-wing, tanker-compatible receiver aircraft... as required by the solicitation;" conducted "misleading and unequal discussions with Boeing;" overlooked Northrop Grumman’s "refusal to agree" to a requirement that it support depot-level maintenance within two years after delivery of the first production aircraft; wrongly evaluated military construction costs in calculating each aircraft’s probable life cycle cost; and improperly increased Boeing’s estimated non-recurring engineering costs.
The decision came just two weeks after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sacked Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley over lax oversight of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Responding to the GAO ruling June 19, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said in part, "this decision isn’t a surprise. Air Force and Pentagon officials have told me time and again that they followed the law and that the contract would stand up to review. But since the very beginning, it has been clear that the Airbus tanker did not meet the Air Force’s needs.... The process was clearly flawed. We need to know why. We shouldn’t buy more expensive planes built in France."
Should it eventually win the contract, Northrop Grumman plans to build a final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., which also would serve for A330 freighters. Since the Boeing protest filing, however, Northrop Grumman and EADS have been issued a stop-work order.
"I am obviously deeply disappointed — and surprised — that the GAO sustained Boeing’s protest of the Air Force’s decision to select Northrop Grumman/EADS to build its new tanker," stated U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (D-Ala.). "...I don’t believe this ruling signals the end of Alabama’s hopes for building tankers for the Air Force. It does mean, however, that we have more work to do."
First Flight of F-35B STOVL Variant
The F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter flew for the first time June 11 from Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility, completing a 44-minute flight. BAE Systems test pilot Graham Tomlinson performed a conventional takeoff, flew the jet to 15,000 feet, and performed a series of handling tests, engine-power variations and subsystems checks before landing.
Designated BF-1, the aircraft became the second Lightning II to enter flight test under the F-35 program’s System Development and Demonstration phase. It was preceded by the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A, which first flew Dec. 15, 2006. STOVL flight tests are expected to begin in early 2009 using a modified Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. The modification is required after turbine blades were lost in engine ground tests.
The F-35B incorporates a counter-rotating shaft-driven lift fan located behind the cockpit. The lift fan, produced by Rolls-Royce, is turned by a drive shaft from the F135 engine, which features a swiveling rear exhaust nozzle that vectors thrust downward during vertical flight. Rated at more than 40,000 pounds of thrust, the F135 is an evolution of the F119 engine used in the F-22 Raptor.
Pratt & Whitney is prime contractor of the F135 propulsion team, with responsibility for the main engine and system integration. Rolls-Royce provides lift components for the F-35B STOVL variant. Hamilton Sundstrand provides the engine control system and gearbox.
The F-35B will be the first of the three Lightning II variants to achieve initial operational capability, beginning with the U.S. Marines in 2012. The STOVL variant also will be used by the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and Italy’s Air Force and Navy.
DRS to Finmeccanica
Italy’s Finmeccanica S.p.A. and defense electronics supplier DRS Technologies, Parsippany, N.J., on May 12 announced a "definitive merger agreement" whereby Finmeccanica will acquire 100 percent of DRS stock in a transaction valued at $5.2 billion.
The sale was expected to close in the fourth quarter, pending stockholder and regulatory approvals and review by U.S. antitrust authorities, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and the Defense Security Service.
Assuming approvals, DRS will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary, keeping its present management and headquarters, while Finmeccanica gains a foothold in the U.S. defense market. Europe’s EADS had also been eyeing DRS but passed.
DRS in late May reported consolidated revenue of $3.3 billion for fiscal 2008, 17 percent higher than the prior-year period. DRS said it secured a record $3.86 billion in new contracts for the fiscal year and ended the period with a funded backlog of $3.61 billion.
Recent contract awards include $62 million from the U.S. Army for battlefield digitization systems, and $24 million to provide airborne thermal imaging systems, threat warning detectors and FLIR sensors for OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and Apache helicopters.
The first C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) aircraft — H2 — completed its 100th flight, Boeing said in June. The upgraded aircraft first flew in September 2006.
Two C-130 AMP aircraft were located at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. A third, designated H3, was undergoing modifications and upgrades at Boeing’s San Antonio facility. The aircraft will receive an integrated, night-vision-goggle compatible, glass cockpit and a new digital avionics suite.
Boeing said it plans to begin Low-Rate Initial Production of the C-130 AMP next year (Avionics, Sept. 2007, page 42).
Honeywell in June announced a definitive agreement to acquire Intelligent Automation Corp. (IAC), Poway, Calif., a supplier of Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) for military and commercial aircraft.
IAC HUMS systems are deployed on some 500 aircraft and have been selected for military helicopters including the U.S. Army AH-64 Apache, C/MH-60 Blackhawk, C/M/HH-47 Chinook and OH-6 Little Bird. IAC also provides services for Singapore Air Force AH-64D Apaches.
"With the acquisition of Intelligent Automation Corp., Honeywell builds on our existing HUMS services to reach new customers around the globe," said Ed Wheeler, president, Honeywell Defense and Space.
Northrop Grumman renamed its German navigation systems subsidiary, LITEF, to Northrop Grumman LITEF GmbH. The name change is aimed at enhancing the subsidiary’s visibility in the international market, the company said.
Northrop Grumman LITEF GmbH, based in Freiburg, Germany, supplies inertial sensors, inertial reference and inertial navigation systems and computers to aircraft, land vehicles and ships.
Boeing, in partnership with ImSAR LLC, Salem, Utah, and Insitu Inc., Bingen, Wash., demonstrated real-time processing of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data aboard a ScanEagle unmanned aircraft equipped with a standard inertially stabilized, electro-optical (EO) camera.
Boeing said the tests marked the first time SAR and EO capabilities have flown together on such a small, lightweight platform. During test flights May 28, a ScanEagle outfitted with ImSAR’s NanoSAR radar flew over a variety of targets as real-time SAR processing was demonstrated with streaming radar images displayed at the ground station. The size of a shoe box, NanoSAR weighs 2 pounds, while standard SARs range from 50 to 200 pounds. The radar’s image processor is fully integrated and self-contained.
"This capability builds on our previous flight tests with the NanoSAR payload," said Carol Wilke, Boeing Scan-Eagle chief engineer. "With real-time streaming SAR imagery now available in the ScanEagle ground station, we can provide additional tactical, actionable intelligence to the warfighter.
"We expect to continue to mature this product in the coming months and hope to begin talking with potential customers in the near future."
The FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, of Graz, Austria, and TTTech Computertechnik AG, of Vienna, are cooperating on the COTS Airborne PMC card for Time-triggered Aerospace Interfaces and Networks (CAPTAIN) research project. The project aims to develop a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) embedded platform for low-cost flight control systems in UAVs and GA aircraft.
The PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC) standard is widely used in aerospace for rapid prototyping, testing and flight hardware in UAVs. Within the CAPTAIN project a Time Triggered Protocol (TTP) PMC Card will be developed, facilitating and accelerating the development of TTP-based onboard electronic systems for safety-critical applications, TTTech said.
The TTP-PMC card will be an essential part of the TTP-based fly-by-wire platform to be used in FH Joanneum’s JXP UAV project. "The developments that come out of CAPTAIN will simplify and accelerate the deployment of TTP-based systems in aerospace applications," said Reinhard Maier, TTTech aerospace engineering team leader and CAPTAIN project manager.
CAPTAIN, the first joint research project for FH Joanneum and TTTech, is co-funded by the Austrian national aerospace research program.
German UAV Proposals
The German armaments agency has requested proposals from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for five Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles. The competition pits IAI’s turboprop Heron TP against General Atomics’ Predator B.
IAI in June announced an agreement with Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence to market the Heron TP. The Predator B is being offered under a collaborative agreement between General Atomics and Germany’s Diehl BGT Defence.
The MALE system will operate in conjunction with the German air force’s future fleet of five Northrop Grumman/EADS Eurohawk high-altitude, long-endurance signals intelligence aircraft. Requirements for the new system include wide-area, real-time surveillance and situation reconnaissance, target acquisition and battle damage assessment. Initial operating capability is planned for 2010.
IAI said growing global demand for MALE UAVs has prompted it to discuss possible co-production of the Heron TP with EADS. The companies already co-operate on the Heron 1 air vehicle used by the French army.
Rockwell Collins Control Technologies, formerly Athena Technologies, completed flight tests of a significantly damaged F/A-18 subscale model to simulate dynamic recovery from battle damage and in-flight failure. The demonstrations were sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
During the flights, held this spring at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, nearly 60 percent of the airplane’s right wing was ejected. Rockwell Collins’ Automatic Supervisory Adaptive Control technology reacted to the new aircraft configuration, automatically regained baseline performance, continued to fly the plane, and then autonomously landed it using internal Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System (INS/GPS) reference only, the company said. The flight tests followed a similar DARPA-sponsored demonstration in April 2007 during which an aileron was ejected in flight from the unmanned subscale F/A-18.
The latest demonstration "highlights the challenge and importance of autonomously controlling and landing an airplane that has sustained catastrophic damage or failure in flight," said David Vos, senior director of Control Technologies. "This powerful capability can save the military the expense of lost UAVs. When applied to both manned and unmanned aircraft, damage tolerance is a key technology that can facilitate the convergence of manned and unmanned aircraft in increasingly crowded controlled airspace; but more importantly, the solution can save lives."
France’s Thales and Dassault Aviation and Spain’s Indra have teamed to offer a Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV to the French and Spanish ministries of defense.
The solution is based on the turboprop Heron TP UAV developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The aircraft flies to 45,000 feet, with an endurance of 36 hours. Its maximum take-off weight is 4,650 kg, with a typical mission payload of 1,000 kg, according to IAI.
The first system offered to France and Spain could be operational by late 2012, the companies said.
"This pragmatic and competitive offer would match the operational needs of both countries, and allow the supply to both armed forces of long endurance UAVs for theatre surveillance within a very short timeframe," the companies said.
Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Malat Division unveiled its new Bird Eye 600 advanced Mini UAV at Eurosatory 2008, held in Paris in June.
The catapult-launched Bird Eye 600 can be operated by a crew of two. It has an endurance of 120 minutes, 14,000-foot ceiling and range in excess of 10 kilometers, IAI said.
The development of the system "was based on the lessons-learned from the operational use... and presents a substantial improvement in capabilities over past Mini UAV systems," IAI said.
BAE Introduces Armed ‘Fury’ UAS
BAE Systems in June unveiled its new "Fury" unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International convention in San Diego.
Powered by a pusher propeller, the Fury is designed for armed reconnaissance and close air support. It has a similar airframe and uses some components of BAE’s HERTI reconnaissance and surveillance UAS.
The Fury is armed with the Lightweight Multi-role Missile (LMM) system under development by Thales. The aircraft was developed and tested in partnership with Thales U.K.’s missile business in Belfast, Northern Ireland, BAE said.
Airborne trials of Fury have simulated remote firing of the missile toward a fixed target, BAE said. Future trials will demonstrate the guided launch of a live weapon from an airborne vehicle.
"Fury is an affordable and reliable platform that has the ability to perform a number of military roles. With a high degree of autonomy, it combines many of the already proven elements of our other unmanned platforms, including a small logistic footprint and low operator workload with a reliable and highly accurate weapon system," said Chris Clarkson, BAE Systems project director.
Flight Display Systems, Alpharetta, Ga., was granted FAA Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) for three cabin LCD monitors. The company said it now has the largest selection of PMA-designated LCD monitors in the industry, with a total of nine ranging in size from 7 to 42 inches.
The latest PMA monitors are the FD104CV, a 10.4-inch LCD (list price $2,989); the FD171CV, a 17.1-inch widescreen LCD ($6,094); and the FD260CV, a 26-inch widescreen LCD ($10,940).
The monitors feature triple video inputs, allowing passengers a choice between a moving map display, movie or the Pilot View camera.
Eclipse Throttle AD
FAA on June 12 issued an emergency airworthiness directive requiring inspection of engine throttles on the twin-engine Eclipse 500 Very Light Jet, acting on "urgent recommendations" of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The Safety Board recommendations followed the June 5 emergency landing of an Eclipse 500 at Chicago’s Midway Airport. On approach, the aircraft "experienced a failure that resulted in uncontrollable maximum power thrust.... After referencing the emergency procedures of the airplane’s quick reference handbook, the pilots shut down one of the engines. However, following the shutdown of the engine, the other engine rolled back to idle power and continued to be unresponsive to the throttle," NTSB stated. The two pilots and two passengers landed without injury, although both main tires were blown.
FAA determined that the pilot had encountered windshear and "applied full throttle using enough force against the forward stops to exceed the design throttle position signal maximum range. The associated fault mode held the engine thrust settings at the last known throttle position, which was maximum.... Upon shutdown of one engine, the opposite engine thrust reduced to idle and was unresponsive to subsequent throttle lever movement." AD 2008-13-51, sent to owners and operators of some 200 delivered Eclipse 500s, requires pilot evaluation of the throttles and repair or replacement as necessary. Procedures for responding to dual engine control failure are to be added to the airplane flight manual.
Manufacturer Eclipse Aviation, Albuquerque, N.M., issued a statement June 13. "In advance of the premature National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation and the FAA’s issuance of the AD, Eclipse Aviation issued two communications proactively informing all Eclipse Aviation customers and Eclipse 500 operators of the occurrence in Chicago," the company stated. "As of this morning, all fleet operators using the Eclipse 500 already have complied with the AD inspection requirement, and their aircraft are in the air operating normally."
The company said the required inspection of the aircraft’s thrust quadrant assembly "can be performed by any licensed pilot and noted in an aircraft logbook. This inspection can be completed in less than 10 minutes."
Eclipse in late June said it was working with Pratt & Whitney Canada, manufacturer of the aircraft’s PW610F turbofans, and FAA to incorporate design improvements to the Full Authority Digital Engine Control software. The company said it will increase the range limit of the Throttle Quadrant Assembly, pending FAA approval. The change will be implemented as a software update.
Eclipse Aviation said it was taking orders for the new Eclipse 400 single-engine jet, a production version of the Eclipse Concept Jet (ECJ) first displayed at EAA AirVenture 2007.
Eclipse touts the aircraft as environmentally efficient, saying at an estimated 330 knots, the Eclipse 400 uses less than one pound of fuel per nautical mile. The four-occupant jet, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F engine, cruises at 41,000 feet. It is priced at $1.35 million.
"Ten months of quantitative and qualitative Eclipse Concept Jet research has convinced us that this is absolutely the right airplane for the emerging single-engine jet market," said Vern Raburn, Eclipse Aviation president and CEO.
On-demand air taxi operator DayJet Corp., Boca Raton, Fla., signed an agreement with FAA in June to begin a five-year implementation of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies in Florida.
The project will focus on the safe expansion of airspace outside metropolitan areas via small community airports using Very Light Jets.
Under the agreement, DayJet over the next five years will operate its fleet of Eclipse 500s with equipment that will provide FAA with data on key NextGen components.
The first phase of the project, from 2008-2010, will focus on Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).
The second phase, from 2009-2011, will implement System Wide Information Management (SWIM) for enhanced weather awareness and management.
The third phase, from 2011-2013, will deploy Performance-Based Communications for flight planning and flight plan management.
The new Gulfstream G650 large-cabin business jet will have an Emergency Vision Assurance System (EVAS) as standard equipment to protect against blinding smoke conditions.
Due to enter service in 2012, the G650 will be the first aircraft to offer standard smoke protection, according to the system distributor.
EVAS is manufactured by VisionSafe Corp., of Kaneohe, Hawaii, and sold by EVAS Worldwide, of Ramsey, N.J.
The EVAS unit measures 3 by 8.5 by 10 inches when stowed, weighs five pounds and has its own power supply. When needed, the pilot, still relying on an oxygen mask and smoke goggles, removes the Inflatable Vision Unit (IVU) from the case and pulls a tab to activate the system.
The IVU inflates with one lobe above and one below the glareshield. The clear EVAS "window" provides an unimpaired view of the instruments.
According to EVAS Worldwide, the whole process takes 15 to 20 seconds.
After it is activated, the system is continually pressurized with filtered cockpit air to maintain volume and preserve a clear view. EVAS systems are designed to run for at least two hours, and filter down to.01 microns, the company says.
"Finally after more than 15 years since the FAA recommended smoke protection — Gulfstream will make it standard," said Jonathan Parker, EVAS Worldwide COO.
West Star Aviation, East Alton, Ill., received a supplemental type certificate (STC) to install the GH-3100 standby instrument and a magnetometer on Cessna Citation 550 and 560 aircraft.
The STC is applicable to Citation 500 S/N 550-0809 and up and Citation 560 aircraft S/N 560-0401 to 560-5000. The L-3 Avionics GH-3100 replaces all three traditional standby instruments: attitude, altitude and airspeed in one solid-state package.
Avionyx, San Jose, Costa Rica, an avionics software engineering support firm, recently added a 28-week Private Pilot Ground School as an elective course in its internal engineering training curriculum. The company said the first 20-student class was filled in less than a day.
The company said the ground school complements its philosophy of training DO-178B software engineers in all aspects of software engineering and aviation in general. Larry Allgood, Avionyx president, said the company also would offset some of the cost of flying lessons if interest was high enough.
JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV LLC, Melbourne, Fla., said it had reached agreement to acquire the Verizon Airfone network, which it will use to expand its in-flight e-mail and messaging service. The June 9 announcement did not include a purchase price.
LiveTV’s "Kiteline" service will replace the MagnaStar air-to-ground phone service, which ends Dec. 31. Verizon Airfone was required to vacate the spectrum used for MagnaStar following a 2006 frequency auction by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
According to LiveTV’s announcement, the Airfone network of 100 base stations still supported 2,400 MagnaStar customers flying business and government aircraft. While Kiteline is targeted for the airline industry, the company said it would continue to support the general aviation market with a "next-generation radio" providing voice and data services.
LiveTV purchased 1 MHz of air-to-ground spectrum from FCC in June 2006 to develop the Kiteline service. Last December, the company launched an e-mail and messaging service on "BetaBlue," JetBlue Airways’ first Airbus A320 equipped with Wi-Fi access points and an air-to-ground antenna and radio.
Using the Airfone network, BetaBlue became the first commercial aircraft to offer free in-flight connectivity in the United States, LiveTV said. As of June, BetaBlue had transferred more than 100,000 messages.
LiveTV said Continental Airlines and Frontier Airlines have committed to deploying Kiteline across "significant portions" of their fleets when the service becomes commercially available.
"Airfone was the pioneer of in-flight connectivity," said Nate Quigley, LiveTV CEO. "We look forward to building upon the foundation they have laid to bring email and messaging to all air travelers."
Southwest Airlines said it has committed $175 million over the next six years to implement Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures at the 64 airports it serves.
Southwest’s Boeing 737-700s already are capable of flying RNP approaches. The airline said it is investing to upgrade its 737 Classic fleet and incorporating RNP processes into its Flight Operations training.
The Dallas-based carrier said it has worked with RNP consultant Naverus, Kent., Wash., and FAA since May 2007 to gain Air Traffic Control support, train pilots, equip the 737 fleet and produce RNP charted procedures.
"Our goal is to begin flying RNP procedures in fall 2009, with a ramp up through 2013 as our classic aircrafts are modified," said Jeff Martin, Southwest senior director of Flight Operations. "We are currently exploring the benefits of several airports for RNP implementation, including a few in our own backyard."
Copa Airlines, based in Panama City, Panama, is the first Latin American carrier to begin certification for Required Navigation Performance (RNP) operations, according to RNP consultant Naverus. The airline flies 126 daily scheduled flights to 41 destinations in 22 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Naverus in June said it completed a RNP Readiness Assessment project at Copa, which operates a fleet of Boeing 737NGs. The assessment addressed forecasted RNP financial benefits, compliance with RNP regulatory requirements, an evaluation of network-wide operational and safety enhancements and an overview of the operational approval process. It included a flight crew survey.
"Copa Airlines is the established leader in Latin America for technological innovation," said Larry Ganse, senior vice president of operations. "Our early adaptation of blended winglets, HF datalink and the Boeing Vertical Situation Display were natural precursors to our move into RNP. These advances will allow Copa Airlines to obtain the most fuel-efficient operations possible, thereby reducing our impact on global warming."
FedEx Express STC
FAA has awarded a supplemental type certificate to FedEx Express for installation of an enhanced vision system on the carrier’s MD-10 fleet integrating a Honeywell Head-Up Display with an infrared sensor from Elbit Systems’ Kollsman business unit.
Combining the HUD and infrared Enhanced Flight Vision System (EFVS) technology into a single system increases the margin of safety in all aircraft operations, especially during reduced visibility conditions, FedEx Express said.
"It enables a pilot to see approach and runway lights in difficult environments, which means our aircraft will be better adapted to fly into and out of airports experiencing poor visibility," said FedEx Express crew member Bob Moreau, a pilot with more than 350 hours testing the system. The MD-10 modification program for HUD/EFVS will begin this summer and is expected to be completed in 2012. FedEx Express said it anticipates seeking FAA approval to expand installation to its entire trunk fleet.
Francois Quentin, Thales senior vice president of Aerospace, announced the reorganization of the company’s Aerospace division, effective June 1. The division’s activities have been regrouped into the following three sectors.
Emmanuel Grave was appointed senior vice president of Solutions for Aircraft Sector. The sector covers activities that concern all cockpit and cabin electronics systems along with electrical systems. Grave will handle the interface with aircraft manufacturers, operators and airlines.
Pierre-Yves Chaltiel was appointed senior vice president of the Solutions for Governments Sector. The sector encompasses electronic combat activities (airborne radars and electronic warfare), mission aircraft systems (SIGINT, maritime surveillance), UAVs and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) systems activities, mainly located in the U.K. and France. Chaltiel will handle the interface with combat systems integrators and platform manufacturers, and defence ministries.
Pierre-Eric Pommellet was appointed vice president of the Services and Business Transformation Sector. The sector comprises customer service and support activities, in civil and military fields.
In addition, Alain Paul was appointed director of operations, bringing together the division’s Supply Chain and Purchasing departments, Program Management, and Quality and Continuous Improvement initiatives.
Phoenix-based Honeywell Aerospace agreed to sell its Consumables Solutions business to B/E Aerospace for $1.05 billion, including $800 million in cash and the rest in B/E stock, according to a June announcement. The Honeywell division makes fasteners and hardware for aerospace applications, and performs custom logistic services for repair shops, OEMs, airlines, distributors and flight service centers. Pending regulatory approval, the companies expected the deal to be finalized in the third quarter.
US Airways selected the Rockwell Collins MultiScan Hazard Detection System and other avionics to equip its Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft.
The WXR-2100 MultiScan radar is "the first and only" radar that analyzes and determines actual weather hazards, not just atmospheric moisture content, according to Rockwell Collins. It has four years of operational experience.
Other Rockwell Collins equipment chosen by US Airways includes the DME-900 Distance Measuring Equipment, HFS-900D High Frequency System, and the VOR-900 VHF Omnidirectional Radio.
United Airlines said it will offer iPhone and iPod connectivity to its Panasonic Avionics Corp. in-flight entertainment system.
The system, accessed via a 30-pin connector, allows passengers to view content from their iPod on the IFE system’s 15.4-inch seatback display. The iPod connectivity will be available primarily on trans-Atlantic routes, the airline said.
"Our guests may now watch or listen to what they want, when they want with programming they choose," said Graham Atkinson, United Airlines, executive vice president and chief customer officer.
Tensolite Name Change
Tensolite, St. Augustine, Fla., changed its name to Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, the company announced in June.
The name change comes on the heels of Tensolite’s acquisition in April of Carlyle Inc., of Tukwila and Kent, Wash., a manufacturer of wire and cable harnesses, rack and panels and cable assemblies for inflight entertainment systems and specialty avionics applications.
The parent company of Carlisle Interconnect Technologies is Carlisle Companies, Inc. The new Web address is www.carlisleit.com.
Boeing Powers on Dreamliner
Boeing in June said it completed the "Power On" sequence for the first 787 Dreamliner, marking another milestone toward the first flight of the aircraft later this year.
The Power On sequence began in early June with a series of pretest continuity checks to verify that the wiring installed in the aircraft had been connected properly. Upon completion of those checks, the Boeing team plugged in an external power cart and slowly began to bring full power into each segment of the system, beginning with the flight deck displays. The pilot controls then were used to direct the addition of new systems to the power grid.
"In completing the Power On sequence, we have verified both that the electrical power distribution system is installed as designed and that it functions as intended," said Pat Shanahan, Boeing vice president and 787 program general manager.
Production problems have caused Boeing to postpone the first flight of the Dreamliner several times. First flight of the aircraft now is expected in the fourth quarter, with first customer deliveries in 2009.
Northrop Grumman Corp. received a 56-month contract from Lockheed Martin worth up to $240 million, with all options exercised, to provide critical technologies for the Airborne and Maritime/Fixed Station (AMF) Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS). Northrop Grumman has the responsibility for leading the JTR integrated product team and co-development of the JTR small airborne hardware and software. The company also will provide common JTR software for two JTR form factors, wideband power amplifiers and the use of its Advanced Communications Test Center in San Diego.
Boeing, in partnership with Insitu Inc., was awarded a $65 million contract to provide continuing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services through the ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system. The contract, awarded by U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, at Patuxent River, Md., runs through May 2009 with options for extensions.
Raytheon received a $62 million order from the U.S. Navy to provide the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod to the air forces of Australia and Switzerland. The order calls for the delivery of 18 ATFLIR systems to Australia to equip its new F/A-18F Block II+ Super Hornets. Raytheon also will provide one ATFLIR pod to Switzerland as part of an upgrade program for its F/A-18C Hornets.
ViaSat, Carlsbad, Calif., was awarded a delivery order from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) in San Diego valued at $52 million for Multifunctional Information Distribution System terminals. The Lot 9 order includes LVT(1) airborne and LVT(2) ground-based Low Volume terminals.
Boeing was awarded a $28.9 million contract from the U.S. Navy for engineering, installation, and test of the Internet Protocol and Bandwidth Expansion Phase 1 on one E-6B airborne command platform. In Phase I, Boeing will install commercial satellite and line of sight radio equipment to allow for global communications, navigation, surveillance and Air Traffic Management on the E-6B. Work is expected to be completed in 2010.
Israel Aerospace Industries said its ELTA Systems Group subsidiary was awarded four contracts for EL/M-2022A Airborne Maritime Surveillance radars from unspecified Far-Eastern, European and South American countries. The value of the four contracts is $27.3 million.
Boeing was awarded a $14.9 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to develop and mature technologies required to enable airborne electronic attack from long distances. The contract includes systems engineering studies focusing on potential pod installation on the B-52H, as the designated demonstration airframe, and will advance the technology required for the planned Core Component Jammer. After successful completion of the initial three-year contract, a follow-on effort to demonstrate in-flight, stand-off jamming on the B-52 is scheduled for 2011-2012.
ITT Corp., White Plains, N.Y., won a $14 million contract from ARINC to provide 16-millimeter image intensifier tubes to be integrated into the Panoramic Night Vision Goggle (PNVG) and the Quad-Eye. The PNVGs will be used by the U.S. Air Force and Army; the Quad-Eye will serve Navy aviators as part of the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System.
Rockwell Collins, through its acquisition of Athena Technologies, was awarded a follow-on production order for Athena’s integrated inertial navigation, GPS and air data attitude heading reference systems for the Watchkeeper UAV. The systems will provide guidance and navigation, including dual redundant INS and quad redundant air data. UAV Tactical Systems Ltd., the joint venture of Thales U.K. and Elbit Systems based in Leicester, U.K., awarded the contract to Rockwell Collins. System flight tests of Watchkeeper began in June.
Boeing selected Elbit Systems as chief supplier of the Virtual Mission Training System (VMTS), which will integrate radar training in the U.S. Navy’s T-45 Training System. VMTS simulates via data link an unclassified, mechanically scanned tactical radar. Functions can be networked between participating aircraft and instructor ground stations. The T-45 Training System is used at Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Texas; Meridian, Miss.; and Pensacola, Fla. The system comprises the two-seat T-45 Goshawk jet trainer, instrument and visual flight simulators, computer-assisted classrooms and courseware. Boeing is under contract to develop the VMTS capability. Subsequent phases will provide for two test aircraft and retrofit of 18 existing aircraft with VMTS by 2012.
DiSTI, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a contract to develop the MK88A Cockpit Procedure Trainer (CPT) Instrumentation and Instructor Operator Station for ESG Elektroniksystem und Logistik GmbH of Germany. The latter company won the contract for the SeaLynx MK88A Helicopter CPT from the German Navy and will deliver within the year, DiSTI said.
Rockwell Collins will provide avionics for 12 Boeing 737NGs for Xiamen Airlines. Systems selected include the WXR-2100 MultiScan Hazard Detection System, ADF-900 Automatic Direction Finder, DFA-901 Direction Finding Antenna and GLU-925 GPS unit.